Ghosting

“I drove by your house,” Jeff said, “but the light wasn’t on, so I didn’t go in.”

After Jeff died, I left the light on for years. Nearly a decade.

Jeff had hazel green eyes, large and liquid, fringed with thick lashes like a deer. He had sensitive hands, calloused from his love of welding, work, painting, building, creating; but long-fingered and inclined to go in funny muppet-shapes when he was caught up in the description of something that ignited him; I loved him fiercely. I loved him in the blind, all-encompassing way that only young children or parents can love.

He struggled with depression, and I felt he needed me. I was running around the world raw, with no counseling under my belt to teach me where I ended and a person I loved began. So I broke off pieces of myself to try to heal him; I could see his magnificence, and didn’t understand why he couldn’t. To me, that was love- with no end to the love I could give another, not myself.

Jeff’s death was sudden, incomprehensible, unexplained, and cataclysmic to all who loved him. It changed us forever. I am not sure how I interacted with others for about 5-8 years; I hope I didn’t hurt anyone, because I wasn’t even there.

I finally encountered a rabbi in a way that felt like fate; he offered to counsel me, and it didn’t feel scary-he felt like a gentle father figure, so I gratefully opened the painful, acid-burned scar that was a decade of lost love, and asked him for guidance. I knew I needed to regrow my life.

After a year, he told me he was jealous of my ghost, of the unwavering love I had for him, and that he was in love with me. Well, not me – to be precise- he said he was in love with my “light” and my “heart.”

It felt authentic- because never before had I shown anyone my “true” self, the depth of this grief. At the time, I thought my grief was myself. I have compassion for this sweet girl running around the world in need of a counselor, but I wish I could tell her she chose the wrong counselor, and that predators will find people who are shattered, because broken winged birds are easy to catch and keep.

It was an affair; there is no way to gloss that over. Yes, I believed him when he painted a picture of entrapment and coldness, a story of terror and victimization straight out of Castle Otranto; I believed him because my protective instincts were stronger than my reasoning capacities, and I needed to feel like I was rescuing someone.

Not myself. Someone else.

It was a tormented, dramatic and toxic situation. It was harmful to two good-hearted, trusting women. It’s a novel in itself. (reader, I made amends with her as best I could. That awesome, ill-treated woman. I mourn her still.)

And then came the day when the man I had committed to in a (secret) engagement with betrothal ceremony (useful to be a rabbi, I guess?) with religious hoodoo-voodoo that had the added bonus of I’d already bought into the religious trappings with the naive and wholeheartedly I’m-drinking-this-punch commitment of a zealous brand-new believer,

the man I was going to go to nursing school in order to conduct my future life as a proper caretaker for,

swore to me on the Torah he wasn’t leaving me,

kissed me on the lips and said “I can’t wait to kiss these lips again,”

walked away,

cut off his phone line, his email, erased all tracks of himself,

and (I later found out), moved to Bali.

I waited for him, and finally a year later, I cleared myself of the vows I had made. Yes, I was that naive. I am inclined that way still, and have to work hard to break vows, words, ties.
So forgive me if I can no longer believe.

Forgive me if I can no longer leave the light on.

Forgive me if my loyalty now has a time limit.

This heart still runs deep and loyal. I protect it better now. I bestow it better now. I value it more now.

I have had years of counseling now, with two incredible, kick-ass women who have taught me that my life is valuable. That my life and energy and heart are more valuable than anything else, because my life and energy and heart are the only things that are mine. I get to nurture them and use them to create a story with my time here in this life. It’s the only thing of my choosing, the story I write while I’m here, the actions, words and choices I make.

I don’t get to choose for anyone else. That no one else’s life, story, heart or energy comes first, is very foreign to me and extremely difficult. I struggle with it daily.

But two good rabbi-teachers, (one male and one female,) a Maggid-teacher (female) and two life coaches (female) and the aforementioned counselors later,  I have learned how to release ghosts.

Do not carry the departed, no matter in what way they left. The dead would not want you to waste your life carrying them, and the living made their own choice. Let their absence teach you how to live more brightly. Let their absence turn your story into a wing, a torch, a promise.

We’re all going to have to leave, at some point – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this life. So don’t waste a moment carrying someone else’s life or leaving.

How magnificently the trees blaze as they let go; I wish to burn as brightly.

Expand into the unknown with fierce courage – it is all we have, and anything else is an illusion.

Ghosting is a choice that says nothing about you or your worth. As Brene Brown says, “We are not here to negotiate our worth with other people.”

For a still-living person to ghost another is a choice they make which expresses their own life story in this world. It has nothing to do with you.

IF they have told you why, learn what you can, know they’re taking care of their needs, and move on. If they haven’t, learn what you can, and move on.

I myself have cut off contact with three people in my life- and I gave them plenty of warning before I had to take that step. I asked for what I needed; I communicated clearly and respectfully. I told them what step I would need to take, and I took it. The behavior was severe and grievous that caused me to choose to leave no door open. There does come a time when we have to “bless and release,” even the Dalai Lama does that.

But people who abandon without the respect of communication? They have chosen to become ghosts, no longer a part of your story. I don’t really feel the need to make any judgment statements about it- just know they aren’t your people, and move on with your awesome life. Don’t leave the light on. Don’t waste a month, let alone a decade.

Mourn, excavate the story of what/who you believed they were, and release. If they have passed away, know that moving forward doesn’t equal forgetting. Grieving is a process of unraveling everything they were to you and knitting yourself back up together again. It takes a long time; it takes love and patience. But while you give yourself that grieving space and time, also release fast! Do the grieving for your own healing, and let them go. You can still love, and let go. Life is waiting for your heart and the light, undimmed, that you alone can give.

Choosing the Warrior’s Path…again

When times get a little rough, when we have chronic strife, we can choose to complain about another person and make them wrong, make them small in any way our brain chooses to present evidence for that – or we can choose to learn. We can choose curiosity.

I know which I choose.

I have to actively make the choice; as I sit with anger coiled like bitter fire in my belly, the anger resolves into words – it recites the wrongs to me. It recites the good things I’ve given and the wrongs I’ve perceived and received, in my imagination. As I breathe and listen, I start to hear a pattern. The self-righteous bluster is flat, like the old-time stage scenery that was painted skillfully on plywood, shaded to look like structures of depth and substance. The more I look at it, the more I see deep grief underneath. The grief of a dream tarnished, a dream I’ve rebuilt, a dream I’m afraid of losing- a dream that was created by a child, a very young me.

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The grief turns into questions. “Was it real? Am I a fool?” and flashes quickly into labels like “Betrayal.” Then it moves to list what I did wrong, where I messed up. It holds some truth, here – I could have done better. I can do better. But the self-hatred that shows up is a twisted form of the “bargaining” stage of grief. I breathe and observe.

Then anger begins again. The list starts repeating itself. I don’t do or say anything; I used to journal, but I found that writing gave the anger more substance. I am a storyteller; when I write things, I paint them in great detail in my mind, most of which are edited off the page. The world takes on life; the things I write breathe in me, and grow. I do not wish to feed and give life and substance to this bitter dragon, so I watch, and wait.

I consider compassion. Not empathy-that isn’t a road to take here – identifying and plunging in with a heart all to ready to imagine, feel, and perhaps project, is not wise in this instance. Compassion is bigger than that. Compassion breathes and says “Yes.” Yes, what you are experiencing is valid. Yes, you are held and supported. Support doesn’t mean I agree with the stories that create what I’m experiencing, or what you are experiencing – it means that beyond the stories and the pain, there is support that sees my, your, brightest light. Support can also mean taking no action at all. Compassion doesn’t seek to control. It simply IS, and I breathe it in.

I stop writing stories about what the other person is thinking, feeling, choosing. I stop trying to follow the labyrinth of “WHY” to find some way to comfort my rational mind, which seeks to understand and seeks to answer every criticism it can imagine is leveled in my direction. Trying to understand, or think I understand, is a form of control. I breathe again and feel the knot loosen.

I survey the future I had built for myself: the vision, the lovely castle in my mind and heart. I breathe in again when a knot of grief, followed by resentment, quickly followed by story (“can’t they see what I saw?”)  forms. It loosens quickly, almost sheepishly. Good.

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This is the warrior’s path. This takes patience, self-compassion, and commitment.

I have this commitment to myself, and to the life I have been given. I made this commitment years ago, when I put on boxing gloves for the first time in earnest, and chose healing instead of despair. When I chose to walk on coals far hotter than anything I’m experiencing now. When I chose every day to face violent storms again, and again, and again – choosing day after day, even though my legs would freeze up and refuse to carry me some days; even though my hands would shake and refuse to hold my pen; even though the symptoms of the war I fought sometimes showed up in humiliating ways, stripping me in public, rendering me unable to hide PTSD; even when the symptoms made each miniscule step forward an enormous effort- an effort that took everything I had. I have often made mistakes, been unskillful and emotionally irresponsible, but I showed up. I learned to deeply celebrate the smallest of victories. I fell into self-reproach when I stumbled, but I kept showing up. I got myself to the counselor. I got myself to the boxing bags. I made the healthy food. I walked away from abuse. I chose myself. I apologized and took responsibility. I suited up, wrapped my hands, allowed my tears to fall in prayer, and showed up with relentless determination.

From that time, I know a core of strength lives in me that nothing can destroy. I’ve obscured it lately with self-reproach and unkind words, self-blame. I have assaulted myself, as though if I could figure out what was wrong with me and uproot it at the source, I would finally be chosen. I would finally be seen.
I kept learning, kept taking responsibility, kept building more lesson plans for myself and seeking out what I had done wrong. thinking I was still on the warrior’s path, the path of wisdom.

Do you see the disconnect, here? I only saw it this morning. The ego got fairly tricky on me, and decided to disguise itself as betterment. As “healing.” As thinking I know what someone else is choosing, and what they’re experiencing. “This person is angry at you because you are flawed and you messed up.  You messed everything up. Again.” There are so many flaws in this belief. This is all a form of control. It’s ego, thinking I know what is going on in someone else. Seeking to control someone else’s choices and the perception *I invented*, by changing myself. It’s choosing an imaginary someone else before myself, my real self.

It’s Black Panther’s brother, choosing death “instead of slavery,” when really, he was choosing death instead of the firewalk that is swallowing pride, making peace, honoring himself, and choosing to live. Choosing to learn. Choosing the fight towards freedom that comes with walking the warrior’s path. pri_66417644

Other people’s choices HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. Others’ perceptions aren’t my business. And so I release it.
I return to my power by realizing my worth. By focusing on myself again, my own life, and what a deep gift it is, and has been. I return to my power by focusing on what I choose. By choosing my own life.

I ask a question: If what someone else chooses for their life has nothing to do with me, and “self-improvement” is not what I thought it was, how, then, can I transform this? I thought I had let go. Apparently, it’s a matter of letting go, then letting go again. Maybe we’re never really “done” with releasing. Maybe that’s one of the most important lessons to learn in this life.
Love and release. Love and release. Love doesn’t seek to bind. Love allows. Even when my mind doesn’t comprehend another’s choice, love says “Good. Choose. Choose for you. If you don’t choose me, it isn’t personal.” Release. Love myself.

This is what I can learn, here. Lessons and self improvement that come with a sense of self-compassion, love and curiosity, those are the lessons I will follow, now.
Because how can I be walking the warrior’s path of love, if I refuse compassion to myself? So I just gently bring myself back to the path. This time, I feel so much lighter. I feel joy – this will be a dance.

I breathe again. I hold the fluttering bird that is wounded me in this instance. Her eyes are dull with pain, and she’s thrashing around a bit, one broken wing trailing stiffly through my fingers. I can feel her heart stuttering wildly, panicked, in my palm. She’s nearly incoherent – “he was- I thought – we had- he said – he hasn’t – he chose – but I brought – I was- why can’t -” these are the words that she gasps. I just hold her, breathe, soothe her. I imagine her surrounded in warmth, safety, comfort, and also freedom- I don’t restrain her with my hand. She is free to fly at any time.

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I whisper to her, so gently, the way I’d talk softly to a child who had awakened from a nightmare – “it is all unfolding as it should. whatever you are trying to make happen, release your hold. come back, now. Come back to my heart, and when you are ready, open up again with me. believe again with me. trust again with me. love again with me. it is all unfolding as it should. You will see; the painting of this life will be a beautiful masterpiece, when we are done.”  I stroke her feathers, and feel her calm. “I know it hurts. It is okay. Let it hurt. Let go of blame. Let go of reasons. Let it hurt, accept the hurt, and let go of any thought of why or predictions of what. Just be.”

The choice I make again: what can I learn from this? What can I learn in curiosity and playfulness, without reproach to self or others; how can I expand from this, how can my life and my heart become a bigger place?

This is the warrior’s path. It is deceptively gentle at times. It seeks stillness in the midst of story, talk, jagged energies that blame and criticize, rumor, choices not made from the highest self – and, as I just learned, it also recognizes self-harm in the seductive form of self-reproach and self-blame; it walks back to center, takes responsibility, which doesn’t look like shame- it looks like a gift. The gift of learning and improving.
How wonderful, really – the opportunity to see where my aim was off, my arrow didn’t fly true, and improve my aim,

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The warrior’s path winds to the center of the labyrinth and tries again. Patiently, without pride, without carrying anything but determination and curiosity, slow step by slow step, firmly, never giving up.

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Leap

“What if I fall?
but oh, my darling…what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson

When did you stop dancing?

 I once asked Baryshnikov how he leaped, so high and so free. How he broke the chains of gravity.

He said (and it’s the only thing he’s ever said to me, so listen up:) “When I leap, I do not think about the ground.”

So today in crossfit I had a crazy experience.

This was coming on the heels of an emotional drive there, in which I gave myself a pep talk. “It’s time for you to stop hiding,” I decided. “You thought it served you. It doesn’t. You put on weight, you slouched, you did everything you could in order to hide. You thought it would make you safe; that people wouldn’t look at you, then.
But safety isn’t going to help you rise. You’ve got to leave it behind now. Time to hold your head up. Expand. You’re afraid the scary men will come for you if you shine too brightly, aren’t you. Let them- you are strong now. You can defend yourself.”

There’s this thing called box jump. It seems a bit silly and not very difficult – you just jump onto a box. that’s it. with both feet at the same time. I couldn’t do it – I could do one foot at a time. I’d go as fast as possible; I’d alternate legs – I made it challenging for myself to make up for the fact that I was too afraid to take both feet off the ground at once.

 Now – I can jump rope, and I can do it fast. Both feet at once. But I can’t go very high, or so I told myself, which kept me from progressing to more advanced moves…

 today, my trainer Aaron Anderson said : try with both feet.

I said no, Aaron, this is a mental thing. I truly can’t .

 He said, okay, so just stack two weights on the ground. Start low. do it with both feet.

 So I did …

and I encountered a young me who used to fly. She was a dancer. She broke the chains of gravity and she really flew. She was proud of her leaps… I had forgotten all about her, and how those moments off the ground felt like the reason I was living. How flying became an obsession. How, in my pre-Juilliard days, my joy, my reason for living, was dance. I felt my spirit unleashed when I danced – I felt set free.

 and then, I fell.

It’s not the falling that is the hard part. injuries heal, though my knee will never be the same …

it’s the fear that stays with you.

 I was in a show – I had to dance, something I had choreographed myself, on a little walkway that was built around a live orchestra. The audience and orchestra were below me – and they seemed so FAR below me… and I fell one night.

 It wasn’t a big deal. After that, I was more careful. But something happened …

 I apparently wrote stories in order to protect myself.

 “you are too heavy.”

“you are a more earthy dancer. Do modern, Stick to the ground.”
“you have big, strong legs. You weren’t made lightly – you weren’t made to fly.”

 Now I know what it was that came up and choked me, when I spoke to Baryshnikov.

 That longing came up again today. So silly – so small…. jumping on to a stack of weights, and jumping off again.

 Every single jump (there were about 150 total, then I added another weight and did more)

 I was terrified. Paralyzed. Legs shaking.

 I was sobbing in crossfit; I could hear myself over the music, my breathing fast, panting like a terrified little girl.

 I kept going.

 This is a small thing….but each jump, I was taking that little girl by the hand and asking her to choose.

 Leave the ground.

Leave the ground.

Don’t think about falling.

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photo by Mark Edward Lewis

IT’s not the falling itself or the injuries – it’s the feeling of terror that shocks through your entire body when you feel the unknown, the loss of control. Unsure where you’ll land or what will happen next.

 That blind panic has kept me grounded for so many years. In trying to protect myself from ever feeling that fear again, I was actually living inside it. I was knee-locked, grounded, weighted down, my wings clipped, never to feel the joy of reaching as high as I could again…

 I had thrown stones at my own mockingbird, and I had killed her with the relentless weight of my fear.

 So, here’s the thing: a big step can look ridiculous to anyone on the outside. Those weights looked like nothing. People thought I was injured; they were kind –

They didn’t know I was forcing myself through the scariest thing I have experienced in years.

 But I did it.

 It doesn’t matter how low that leap was. I did it, over and over until the little girl inside me released her stranglehold on the ground.

 Leap. Leap. Do not think about the ground.

 We are not here in this life to be as safe and comfortable as possible until the day we die.

 Leap. For your dreams, for your crazy desire to feel free of this earth for one moment, for the thing your heart yearns for that comes up in your throat and chokes you with tears when you try to speak it aloud —

 Leap.

 And do not think about the ground.

Power of a Word

(*note: if you use this facebook app thingy, after you’re done, go right away into settings – apps – and delete it, because apparently it accesses a ridiculous amount of information.)

I did that Facebook word collage thing. My most used word was “love.” It’s a pretty nifty way to check in with the “word of the year” one-word new year resolution.

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Yes. 2015 has been about love. Finding out what love is. Learning what love feels like (dear wounded young-me: it doesn’t feel unsafe. It doesn’t feel like longing. It doesn’t feel like lack or pity or regret. It doesn’t feel like fear and danger, scrambling to prove your worth, make up for someone else’s accusations and blame. It doesn’t feel like lack or  inadequacy. You only thought it did, so you found, allowed, and created those things. Love feels like safety, peace and growing. Love feels rooted in honor. Love feels like questions and risking only in that it might be time to shift the status quo, It might be time to leap and listen to someone else’s perspective. Love feels like respect – for one’s self and one’s own needs and boundaries, and for the other and their needs and boundaries. Love feels like home. Love isn’t the games you thought you had to play in order to be interesting, or the manipulations and power plays that left you so confused, shaking and dizzy.  Love feels intrinsically interesting in simply being authentic with another, and learning their true self. Love feels like trust – and when the Demons of fear come up to tell you to distrust, love feels like completely knowing those are just fear and damage voices from your own past. Of your own creation. Love feels like being trusted, and holding your head up with shining heart, knowing your lover believes in you – love feels like choosing actions that show love and gratitude for his belief in you. love feels like abundance. Love feels like an energy flow of giving and receiving, not hanging on and holding back. Love feels like loving yourself, nurturing the relationship entity, and loving him are all in harmony and a constant flow.)

I’m so grateful to the counselors, healers, teachers, hard work, and examples in life who all helped me see completion of that particular broken place, that Groundhog Day lesson on endless repeat. Over. Finally.  2015, thank you for realizing my one-word intention in life. I taught myself how love feels through the long, slow and difficult process of becoming whole. Of loving this flawed being that I am – as I am.

look- I’m not perfect in this. I’m still struggling with the idea that I can be beautiful to him even though I’m not blonde and tall. I still struggle with perfectionism and fear. I always will, because I am human. The difference is, I am now safe to know I’ll be true to myself  I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to crumble my self-worth by telling me I’m not honorable and not trustworthy. I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to tell me I deserve unkindness and lack-mentality living. I love my life and myself enough to let go of anything that dims my light  and doesn’t appreciate my heart.

When the self-talk becomes kinder and more compassionate, what we accept and allow in our lives shifts, too.

This is how to make room for love. Teach ourselves how love feels by having the courage to practice love-in-action.

2016: I’d like to see love still infusing the collage, of course; it’s a garden that needs watering, and it’s a joy to nurture. I’d like the central word to be: writing. Completion. It’s time to see my novels, my babies finally born. I’ve worked on them so long. Time to laser focus. Love makes this possible – it’s a solid foundation from which to build. Success will be what form it needs to take. I don’t know what it looks like, but I know what it feels like: completion.

What will your collage look like in 2016? What is your central word intention?

Apparently, we don’t have to know how to do it, or what it will look like. We just have to set the intention and leap.
Loving and living into it : now. Today.

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Hope Farm

“Fall has arrived at Hope Farm…”

With these words, something rises in my spirit, just a little. There’s a glimmer like the reflection in a pond of a leaf shifting, caught just in the corner of my eye. Barely noticeable, except that my stillness in this moment is so profound, any shift is enormous.

If I move, will I break, shatter, be consumed with rage or grief or both?

No. I will not break. I have been there before, and this is not like that. This is sadness, yes, but it’s also the deep serene knowledge that I made the right choice.

When I consciously set out to heal, to learn to love myself; when I began to speak up, I also began a relationship.
During that relationship, I kept learning, growing, fighting the old shadows – and he was with me, though he didn’t always understand – he stuck with me. He allowed.
But the growth itself caused it to become apparent that there was a dynamic in our relationship that served neither of us.
It’s so ironic and so horribly sad that the growth itself that I did with him – the lessons his presence in my life sparked – those very lessons meant that eventually this had to end.

I have grown to see that the love I want has to begin with me – that the healing I have to do in order to call that love into my life is healing I have to do alone now.

It is a truth that we will accept harshness from others only equal to that we give ourselves. When the self-talk changes, the level of acceptance changes, too. This is the work, now – having the quiet strength to lovingly say no. No, I will not accept unkindness.

One day what I envision is this: a love that is solid, rooted in honor. Honorable behavior toward the world and toward each other. Trust. There will be no distrust from the beginning – that shattering wondering if my computer was searched or wondering why he’s hiding his phone … there will be no explaining old relationships or constant defending. There will be no asking who he was with- that simply will not exist because Honor will be the foundation of both of our intended energy in this life, a shared core value.

Further, arguments will be in order to reach understanding. They won’t be unpredictable storms out of nowhere with the object to quickly wound – wound first! – they won’t be power struggles or fear-based manipulations. They will be arguments with a solid foundation of knowing we love, knowing we are committed to continuing to nurture a relationship – arguments with the knowledge underneath -always the knowledge – that we love and therefore will not want to say things to hurt. There will be a kind of sparkly glue that holds us together. There will be no question of leaving, no fear of continued harm or deprivation causing doubt; no constant tests. That un-pin-downable, indefinable thing that is enduring, patient, joyful, trust-based, nurtured love.
There will be celebrations of each other’s strengths. Honoring and lifting up the good things- That is what I intend for my future relationship.

I don’t know how it will come about, but I am learning that when I set an intention I must let go of the “how.”  “How” seeks to control— and it limits.  If I let go of the knowing, if I let go of the worry of HOW I will meet this future person, I can focus on nurturing this intention. I can knit up my ragged edges with a lot of self-compassion, I can take responsibility for the ways in which I made choices that weren’t great, or caused harm; I can own my part of things and learn how to do better, and I can love myself as a person who is owning her sh*t and truly growing.

After a breakup, however it happens, the ego can get very loud and hungry. It screams at us to blame the other person – to list the ways in which they were wrong, the times they hurt us, the cruel things they said- it will even urge us to twist things around so that we might still appear in the right, no matter what! Memory shifts solidly in our favor – when in truth, everyone remembers things differently – our memories are not real. They only exist in our own minds and can transform, like the refocusing of a lens shifts a photograph. The problem is, if we give in to that, we put ourselves in the “victim” chair.  “That person did this, and this and this! and said this!” then we are in a place of reaction and anger, telling over the old perceived harms like toxic, poisonous little thorny rosary beads.  Each time we go over the cycle of harmful thought, the ego is fed but it wants more; the ego has a bottomless hunger. It makes things worse. If we look for “evidence,” whether for good perceptions or bad, we can always find it.
IN reaction, there is no empowerment.  We are at the mercy of others’ actions and choices – we are basically saying that we did nothing, could do nothing.

In a place of pain, it can feel like the right choice; it can FEEL like self-empowerment to say “I was right, he was wrong.” but if we listen to the ego and actually are tempted to think it’s showing us the “truth,” we are in for a painful road ahead and a longer time spent healing. Some people actually never really heal.

So: here’s a way to find out whether it’s true or not: simply check to see how it feels.
When I am in hurt and anger, remembering perceived harms, I feel small, tense, ready to spring; my stomach hurts, I cannot rest – there is no peace, I feel sick, and my energy drains away.

When I move away from that, distance from the ego and away from focus on whatever anyone else did, and when I focus on my own choices, I feel expanded, powerful, serene, peaceful. Even in the sorrow of loss, of endings, of breaking up — the wish that it didn’t have to be this way — the undeniable longing that somehow I could stay – there is still a kind of peace. We can choose this at any time! We can breathe, tell the ego, “Thanks, but this isn’t helping me,” and re-focus the lens. Refocus the lens to the beautiful memories, or the times in which we felt held and loved. Refocus the lens toward gratitude for those times, and the knowledge that by struggling through the hard things, by engaging in the discipline of saying “no” to toxic things, we are moving TOWARD, not away from, that beautiful feeling of wholeness, peace, love, happiness.

When I focus on the good, on love and continuing with compassion for both myself and him, I feel healthy. The energy returns.

Thus in a “growth” mindset rather than a “fixed” one, the mistakes are not things to hide from or fear to face: they are enormous, beautiful opportunities for growth and learning.

I believe we are here to grow, so I do much of my learning “out loud” in the world these days…it is my gift to my fellow humans.  Look – I have flaws, lots of them. If I can show the process of seeing them, having compassion for myself within that, owning them, learning from them and moving forward,
maybe then I can help others have self- compassion too. I think this is where much of our healing as a society will begin.

We are here to learn. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so. I am grateful for this relationship, for the companion who held up a mirror and showed me my ego, so i could do battle with it. Ultimately, it does not matter what he did or chose, or whether he can take responsibility or seeks to blame… that is his lesson to either learn or encounter again. That is where the healing comes in. In the distance from someone else and what they choose; the letting go.

I am grateful that I have grown so much in self-love and loving self-talk that my “limit” has raised – that I will no longer tolerate certain energies in my life, but will, with loving compassion, release and build a strong protective wall around my life.

I used to think that being loving meant allowing all – Chesed (in Jewish mysticism, one of the sefirot, a kind of holy chakra) – lovingkindness —
but Chesed must be balanced with, on the other side, Gevurah – discipline/strength.

sefirot

This was always my struggle.  I was never able to say a loving “No.”  No, I do not accept that kind of talk toward me. No, I do not accept this kind of arguing for the sake of wounding. No. I love you, but no – this is not the way I intend to spend my life.

And so, with a loving “No,” we both are lifted up, though we cannot maybe see it yet past the pain of change and loss.  My dear friend and companion – so much laughter. Incomparably beautiful times under the stars, the trees, seeing the magic in the world – on a beach sparkling in the moonlight –
painfully, I give us both this gift. with gratitude, I let go.

HopeFarm

this is a real farm, and it’s really called Hope Farm. with thanks to Rebecca Larken

Fall has arrived at Hope Farm. The trees magnificently blaze as they begin to let go… the chlorophyll that masked their true colors has drawn inward, revealing the rich hues of gold, amber, crimson – and so, may drawing inward for a time of healing allow each of our true colors to blaze forth as we release what no longer serves us.
There will follow a time of emptiness – barren branches –

and then: Spring.  Spring will come softly in to Hope Farm, and she will bloom as she has never bloomed, abundant and joyful with fragrant blossoms.

Parting in gratitude now for the loveliness that was you in my life, making space, examining my own stuff, drawing inward, releasing the past, and sitting bravely with the emptiness in prepation for the glorious, rioting Spring.

On “Fatness” (and the Words We are Feeding Ourselves)

A little backstory: I was an actress, long, longlong ago. I constantly battled with bad body image – I got to the point where I would allow myself a little milk in my breakfast of coffee, because that was the protein for the day…
I never ever got thin; this is not a story of anorexia…it’s a story of wasting time and energy with self-hatred and REALLY bad self-talk.

I got in a car accident. I stopped acting. I was in a toxic relationship. With these factors at play, I gained 30lbs. for the first time in my life, I was not muscular or fit…and for the first time since I was 10 years old, I felt really good in my body.

…what? Yeah. I know. crazy. As soon as the toxic partner left my life, I began to cook simple meals of salmon, kale, rice. I began to make smoothies. I bought a juicer and learned about juicing. I began to simply nourish myself as a way to heal the broken emotions. I was still 30lbs heavier than my usual weight, but I felt absolutely incredible. I felt beautiful, sensual, accepting of myself.

awesome2

I began to box, which made me stronger and healed me emotionally and physically. I lost 30lbs (or some weeks, 25.) my former “thin” clothes are baggy. I am strong, which feels good.

I was asked to act again, and this time I agreed without even thinking twice about it – for sentimental reasons. It’s a show which is not a big deal in the world of performing, but it’s an awesome project and it was a big deal to me, because I’d been talking to the producer for about seven years, and it’s a return to something I said I would never do again. It turned out to be an extremely beautiful experience. Acting. I had forgotten why I loved it so much all those years. I felt very much in my power and whole, doing something that makes me come alive, and working with incredible people.

And here’s the thing…with the acting, the body-hating has come rushing back, like an old, familiar, dysfunctional relative that I just can’t shake.

I am the same measurements as Jennifer Lawrence, whom I read is “obese” by Hollywood standards. This has made me spin out quite a bit. “Obese.”

I notice the softness of my belly when I sit up in bed, and I think, “that’s going to go.” I see photos of myself from the shoot, and I think “wow, I look fat. If I’m going to continue, I need to lose 15-20lbs.” I notice my arms when they aren’t boxing, and I think “Body, we are going to be eradicating this excess gunk.” I look at myself in the mirror at boxing class, and I think, “I am the biggest girl in here.”

These thoughts are as bad for me as a huge serving of McDonald’s.

My self-talk has become militant, grim, almost violent. This is SUCH a huge change…when I look back at my year of healing from The Most Unbelievably Awful Relationship, the energy I had back then was allowing. nurturing. forgiving. calm. serene.

So the Inner Health Coach has to step up now and coach herself…and because I want to help my clients, I’m doing this publicly.

First of all, let’s talk about Obesity. It dismays me to see an actress like Jennifer Lawrence called “Obese.” There are comments by people who say she’s “fatter,” or the supporters who seem to think they’re being very generous, saying “she’s just a little soft and feminine, that’s all.” When I look at her, I see a person who is in a very healthy place and shape for her own body. Different bodies are going to have different versions of “healthy,” and it can be a heck of a lot of work to maintain the fighting-fit, very trim version that Ms. Lawrence has, that is still somehow considered “obese” in Hollyweird.

So what concerns me is this: when I have a client who is struggling with weight gain, or wants to make a big change and is carrying around a lot of excess; when that client is needing to start small (thus building sustainable change by creating good habits!), how do they continue if they are bombarded with this crap about a very fit person being “obese”?

One of the reasons people need health coaches is that what can happen in the beginning (and sometimes creeps back in from time to time, though it gets easier to work through it) is hopelessness and giving up. Our mind “gremlins” (the harmful “voices” or self-talk) want us to stay where we are. There is a big part of us that resists change, even if that change is a huge improvement to our lives. So the self-sabotage begins.

A person may get up to go for their 15-minute walk, and say to themselves, “I just feel so tired. The weight isn’t coming off. This is useless.” …and BAM, they sit on the couch, grab the chips, and push down the feelings of hopelessness with food. They give up.

This cycle takes time to break – a little change, and sticking with it every day until it becomes a habit. That creates the positive momentum. The cycle is a powerful gravitational force, and The ONLY way to beat it is with self-talk, with affirmations.

Because before we feed our bodies, we need to feed our minds.

Every time I pick up on a flaw and say “THAT is going to go,” I am keeping myself stuck in a place of victimhood and health-lessness. I feel the energy drain, and I feel the dragging sadness set in. Without the energy, how can I prepare healthy meals? How can I exercise?

So the shift that needs to happen is this. First, a big shift in self-talk.

Notice the harmful thought, “My belly is too soft.” “I am fat.” and tell yourself, “You know what, that thought isn’t helping me.”
Then feed your body and mind a good thought to counteract it. “I am strong.” “I feel good after that workout.” Don’t use negating words or try to do something like “I am not fat,” because the focus in that statement is still on the harmful word “fat,” and you’ll just get into a pointless argument with your gremlin. Use positive language that builds. Focus on the things that feel deeply true; the things you feel grateful for.

Gratitude is a HUGE antidote to toxic self-talk poison. “I am grateful to you, body, for getting through that workout. I am grateful you are strong.”

or even start very small: “I am grateful to be able to walk.” I had a therapist tell me once to start really REALLY small…to go for a walk and start with my feet. “thanks, feet, for carrying me.”

Seriously- how much do we take for granted? Our feet…The ability to breathe…

Then it’s time to begin again, to revise the vision.

If I look too far ahead and create goals like “I need to lose 20 lbs and be thinner,” I will look at the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and I’ll just feel overwhelmed.

So what I do is shift the thinking. The goal is now “Today, I will drink more water, do my best in boxing class, and make some healthy meals.” I will plan the meals- miso soup, kale stir fry, isagenix shake… I have a few standbys I have learned how to make quickly, so I never get into that I-don’t-know-what-to-eat,-I-guess-I’ll-just-grab-processed-food rut.

THEN, (and here’s the huge thing that this entire article is about)
I learn once again to love myself as I am, in this moment, right NOW.

That’s the thing that concerns me about all this Hollyweird stuff people are reading. If we are comparing ourselves to someone else and reading criticisms given to that person and taking those criticisms, multiplying them by whatever our differences might be and then applying them to our own bodies,
how can we love ourselves as we are?

Hilda

this is Hilda, the first illustrated “plus-size” pinup. She’s by Baron von Lind.

Sustainable, long-term change begins with acceptance right NOW.

I have experienced this firsthand, and know it to be so so so deeply true. If I could only tell ONE thing to everyone in this world who feels they want to work their way to a more healthy body, mind, and spirit, I would say just this one thing —
First, love yourself as you are right now.

Because what happens then is that the Grim, battling, self-hating, rigid, angry determination to CHANGE goes away.

What comes in its place is peace, allowing, the feeling that you CAN, patience, and steady perseverance.

What comes in when you take deep breaths and love yourself as you are right NOW, is that the body feels safe, no longer chastised, and it’s more ready to listen.

It’s more able to release the unwanted weight when it is being treated with kindness.

This is the foundation for lasting, sustainable, non-painful, joyful change.

It takes a lot of work to love ourselves as we are right NOW and to silence the self-hating thoughts; if those thoughts have become deeply ingrained habits, carving new thought pathways will be like trying to get the deer to walk along a different track so your grass can grow back…it might feel impossible.

Just breathe deeply, and take it slow. Take it with a sense of humor and self-love. Approach it with a sense of adventure. This can actually be fun!
Think some good and loving thoughts; wake up in the morning and think of three things you are grateful for, create an affirmation for the morning or the whole day, and watch as the self-hating thoughts dwindle and eventually grow silent.

And then, do what needs to be done to feel good TODAY. learn to massage kale, and make a stir fry. Tell yourself when you prepare it and when you eat it, that you are feeding yourself nutrients because you are worth it!

Will I continue to act? I do not know. But I do know that whatever work I do, I want to have a solid foundation of self-confidence and I want to celebrate my life! Let’s do this!

Hilda2

Hilda lighting the way…

Holy Sh*t. The Biggest Challenge Of Your Life. (You May Need Goggles For This One)

I think maybe our minds are wired for hypervigilance- after all, it’s not the relaxed and “it’s all good” happy-thinking ones who survived in the jungles and forests. Maybe it’s encoded in our DNA to worry, to focus on the problems or small hints of possibly-approaching-trouble and develop those hints into stories of What Might Be. So it takes a lot of work to train the mind away from this stuff -and it’s easy, in times of illness, weariness, hunger or stress, for the mind to slip back into those old worn pathways. The “What Ifs” —

I made the worries and upsets large in my mind, and forgot my sense of humor. I left it behind somewhere lost in a pile of emails, to-dos, cold remedies and grim watching of the numbers on the scale-

I forgot the simple joy of being alive in this beautiful world;

I forgot to celebrate my strong body, and instead I began to watch it suspiciously for signs of weight gain…

I forgot, even, the joy of boxing; I made it a task, a thing I had to do. On the days I would miss, I would get on the scale four or five times in order to “make sure” my weight hadn’t gone up.  I made myself a Project. To Be Completed. To Be Perfected.

I forgot why I was in nutrition school… I forgot why I was in a Maggid program…I forgot the heart, the reason that drove me to seek to learn these healing arts, and they became a To Do List, a Must-Do, Have-To-Do List that had drained away my joy completely.

I forgot that people cared about me – and I forgot to look at those people and see how incredibly dear they all are.

I forgot to look with fresh eyes and see how incredibly full and rich my life is.

I mean…not too long ago, I thought everything would be perfect “If only I could lose that weight.” I was so happy with my amazing, kick-ass life, but not happy with my weight, which had gone about 20lbs beyond my body’s normal “set point” during a difficult relationship. The relationship ended (whew!); I lost the weight.

Soon, I got used to my old “skinny clothes” being a bit baggy, and the gratitude feelings shifted – I started to nitpick every flaw, wish my muscles would be larger, more defined, wish I could box faster, stronger, longer — it became “If only I could lose MORE weight…”

Then, I woke up, and realized that if I didn’t change my thinking, this would continue indefinitely.  I would never be satisfied. I’d never reach a moment where everything was perfect.  As soon as I realized that, I noticed most of the people around me carrying on a similar theme.

The What-Ifs and If-Onlys and But-I-Don’t-Haves were the bulk of conversations.  They seem to be huge occupiers of many of our time, thoughts, and energy.

Say I gave a present to someone and they didn’t appreciate it. Worse, what if they saw it, shrugged, and then started talking about all the things they DON’T have. I dunno about you, but I wouldn’t really want to give that person a present again — or if I did, I’d be prepared for the reaction and wouldn’t, maybe, put as much loving energy into the finding, choosing, and joyful giving of the present as I had before.

I think that’s how it is when we forget gratitude for what we have. When we instead focus on what we lack…why would the universe want to give us more of the juicy good stuff, if we can’t appreciate what we have been given?  And anyway, where is the fun in complaining? yecccchhhh.

I dunno about you, but I don’t want to be a  party pooper in my own LIFE.  It’s like showing up to a birthday party the Universe is holding in my honor, and having atrocious manners the whole time, or sitting and moping about a Past Life and reading its old letters, listening to its old droopy love songs, and generally missing the entire party by behaving like a wet sock! ew!
I don’t want to live with lack-goggles on any more. They’re so dreary. It took me a little while but my sense of humor is back, and I found a pair of hope-infused gratitude goggles and they’re back firmly in place.

 

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Here’s all it took :  laughter (someone called when I was in the midst of a Very Grim Day with a to-do list a mile long, and made me laugh…)
Somehow that particular moment, that laughter and lighthearted exchange shook the Grim Goggles off my face, and I saw the sun on the trees across the street. I saw the loveliness of the world on my way to complete my errands, and I even saw how blessed I was to be on such an errand – voting!! – for which privilege women in the past had fought a really tough battle.

Then I entered into a conscious effort to change my thinking with these tools: Medition. Writing. Self-care. The practice of awareness- of truly being right here right now, one breath at a time, and seeing my world with new, fresh, conscious eyes.

I might be half asleep,  and my mind is spinning off on Floyd Mayweather the boxing champ, and his tactics in the ring. I’ll be going over boxing moves in my mind, and thinking how to be better, faster, stronger — and that’s when I’ll realize my mind is monkeying away. I’ll breathe deeply into my belly. I’ll notice and name the beauty around me. I’ll say to myself “Be here now. I am here, breathing the crisp air that’s coming through the window. The sun is shining in a patch on the ceiling, I’m looking at the green, sunlit leaves of a tree.”  I’ll name the things I experience.  I’ll drop back again into the present.

That’s the practice  of waking up. That’s the practice of becoming present — it’s what meditation teaches us. It’s like a heavy bag workout for the mind…and I think it’s going to be a constant practice for me.

You think Floyd Mayweather is a champ? You think boxing is tough? This is gonna be the biggest challenge yet,
being here for your own life!  Actually being in it. Think you can do that? 
I ask myself,
and then I grin.  I always did love a challenge.  (It also cracks me up that my inner voice sounds, sometimes, a lot like Rocky’s trainer.)

So. Are you ready for this challenge, Dear Reader?

All we have to do is begin to be aware of what we’re grateful for, and it’s like our eyes are opened and we can actually see more clearly the people in our lives we are so blessed to have, the moments of peace, the beauty.  (and of course, the cats.)

From there, once I “woke up,”  I saw what I had been doing to myself.  I had utterly forgotten to enjoy being alive. I had gotten so caught up in trying to achieve and trying to reach a specific goal, I had forgotten to be grateful for living, and enjoy it.

And here’s a thought: what if I never achieved this “important goal”?  What if THIS is my great life’s work, just the every day living that happens in between trying to achieve things?  Wouldn’t it be better to do my best to be present, right here now, if this in-between-on-the-way-to-a-goal-place is my life? And I’ll take that one step further — what if the struggles, the small frustrations, the striving itself is the Big Work I am here to do?

What if.

It pays to be present in the small things, rather that get through them as quickly as possible so that the real business of living might finally, finally begin —

the real business of living is now. and now. and now!  And with all its imperfections, with the feeling of being left out sometimes, and the feeling of sometimes not communicating clearly with our partner, and the feeling of tiredness and wishing we could just catch UP for once…

This business of living is a really lovely, fun thing.  I’ve got my Gratitude Goggles on now, and I can see it so clearly.

Do find yourself a pair – they’re all the latest rage in Paris, I hear…  :o)

Imagesyllabus (this is stolen from some cool teacher on tumblr, by way of a cool teacher on Facebook. O, modern times, you do leave me breathless. I shall have to loosen my stays.)

One or Three Ways to Get Over Yourself (and other people): On becoming a Maggid

I found a very very silly story for the Maggid concert. I spent a few days brushing it aside, cutting it down, making fun of it…and still it hung around. I’d swing at it and it would bob away, only to come fluttering back like a gentle, idiotically persistent moth.

It’s a very silly story.

Just today while I was boxing, sweating out some frustrations and some chattering mind-gremlins, the story grew fangs. It grew arms laced into hard little boxing gloves. It hit me. It bit me. It gave me the reason I was telling it… and I had to stop, breath coming hard, and drop into some pushups and laugh. Okay, and maybe cry a little.

So. this is being a Maggid.  Wait – is this being a Maggid? It’s like I am my own court jester. A part of my mind sees my struggle (maybe a struggle I haven’t even admitted to myself yet), comes up with an analysis, sees past it to the heart of the matter, puts on a motley cap and bells and THEN- and only then- brings a story to my attention; but it doesn’t explain it. It just gives me the story so I can (maybe) figure out my own sh*t. Then it hands me the cap with bells and tells me, “Wear this, dance around, tell a story and stop being an idiot.” Also, it reminds me I don’t have to battle other people’s opinions of me..because other people’s opinions are reflections of themselves. (It usually says this while holding up a very useful fun house mirror.) 
It says other people’s actions and choices have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with themselves.
It says my own actions and choices have nothing to do with other people, so I’d best own the choices I make, (and love them, or make better choices) because those actions are reflections of who I am.

It says we can change the reflection at any time, but only when we realize that no one else is responsible for it.

Awesome.

If I were writing a Mind Body Green article right now, it would be called “5 steps to realizing that other people’s dumb behavior is not about you, and your dumb behavior is not about other people.” (because apparently more people read things if they have numbered steps.)  

 

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The Distance

The Distance

My ancestor was named “Gentleman Jim” because not only was he one of the first to wear gloves, he was one of the first to box in a new form that had something called “the distance.”

The distance: a specified number of rounds. A stopping point, even if no one had fallen. To “go the distance” meant you had boxed all the rounds and you were still standing.

It’s my hardest lesson right now. When to stop boxing. I’ve hammered it into my very bones – my guard is up, that glove next to my cheekbone so familiar I don’t think about it now – my body knows what to do – and I love it. My gloves are a part of me. They feel like home. I feel strong; I feel ready.

But the distance is a new, scary, unfamiliar lesson… and it’s a hard one. I was not prepared for my next challenge to be… stopping.

To take the gloves off and leave the fight… go the distance, and then stop – that’s going to be the toughest fight yet.

Put down the gloves. Let down my guard. I’ve forged a soul of steel and now
softness is the scariest thing imaginable.

love – it is the only match I fear – he will still come in past my guard patiently, though my glove has stung him a few times. I don’t know how to do this anymore; I was never going to allow this again- So I slip. Feint. Even pull out the “Ali Shuffle,” then jab with a slip so I can load my uppercut, just outside his view …

but this is not how to win this kind of match.

Pause…and learn something new: perhaps this man is different. There is a good man out there, who doesn’t deserve to stand in the ring, to fight a battle and take the blows meant for a far lesser man. It’s time to stop that fight – that creep is long gone, banished with a hundred thousand hits over the course of a year, when I watched my sweat form pools drop by drop on the floor and knew it was my body’s way of weeping – knew I was washing him away in a tide of salt- I could see his weakness, his lies, his toxicity leaving me with every drop. I forgave myself for allowing him into my life- I learned to trust myself again, to trust that I would never again allow someone to treat me badly.

It’s exciting, really – it’s the one thing we can say “never” about; I will never allow someone else to treat me badly. I will never again experience that particular kind of life-wrecking pain.

As I became stronger, he became…utterly ridiculous.

Eventually, after 20lbs had been sweated away and my boxing gloves had faded, were worn and cracked with use, his face no longer swam in front of my glove as a target on the heavy bag. If he came into my mind at all, it was with surprise, and “what on earth was I thinking?”

Every time I wrapped my hands in preparation for another bout, binding my hands and arms like tefillin, I told myself I was binding my heart to my own power and locking that loser OUT. Then twenty pounds shed turned into thirty pounds; I dropped the weight of him I was carrying like a rancid crucifix across my back – left it behind in drops of sweat on the floor measured over the course of a year. Shed the way he had aged me, found joy again and youth again in new companions and new life — I stopped being a victim.

Every painful fight was a triumphant step forward.

Waiting for a good man to walk into my life, I met a few who made me realize that I had forgotten how to put down the gloves and open my arms. That I can fight may still be a good thing, however – there IS a time to fight – to ensure I will never be treated badly again…

But even so, I believe that not all men are untrustworthy. That not all men seek to control; that not all men will try to chip away at me until I am small enough for them to feel bigger – I still believe there are men out there who deserve all the love a woman can give, though I have yet to meet him, and though it’s scary, so scary, to open this heart –

I’d best accept it. Go the distance. Leave the ring. Learn what true courage is and be vulnerable sometimes, be open again; only this time, with a power that nothing can shake. This time, there is a difference. I bring more of myself when I love that self for the first time in my life – and no one can take that from me.
What I have to give I can give freely now, knowing that there is a solid core of strength in me that no one can diminish.

I don’t need to fight because I am now a warrior. It’s a paradox that comes when you’ve fought your way out the other side – the deepest strength is required for not fighting. The biggest fight any of us will ever face is : no fight at all.

My ancestor did it. He wore gloves in a world of bare-knuckle boxers; he went the distance in a world of “fight until someone is down,” though it was a new thing and I bet he came under much criticism. Perhaps his nickname “Gentleman” began as a mockery, schoolyard bullies giving him a title to wear through the ages – he turned it into fame. His courageous blood lives in my veins. I can do this.

Maggid process- Finding a Story–Letting Go

Maggid process- Finding a Story--Letting Go

With such a magnificent blaze the trees let go – I wish to burn as brightly.
Sometimes when I’m supposed to find a Maggidic story, the story finds me.
Often, it’s something I don’t really want to examine all that closely- so I might push it away for a time, but always it comes back, standing outside my door, wagging its tail,
and I have to say…all right. Come in. I’ll learn you, story, and I’ll tell you to others.
The pain that comes with the kind of clarity this requires is not small…
sometimes it involves facing things I’d rather not face, letting go of things in my life that I’d rather were “Forever,”
but when I finally sit down, let the story come fully, crack my heart open and let it really feel, there’s a cleansing that happens with the burn of loss. There’s the feeling that I am open, clear, and living absolutely fully again without blockages of things that aren’t really in alignment with my chosen expression in this life. There’s an immense feeling of power, as though my life force is no longer diluted…

but it’s hard to remember that, and hard to let go when the heart is aching with loss.

That’s when I look to the trees in the fall and winter as guides. How they celebrate the letting go–and how dignified they are when they are bare; what courage it takes to sit with emptiness for a time, to allow the barren branches to be, rather than trying to cling to the old simply so we won’t have to experience the pain of loss…
when we truly let go, and stand with open heart and bare branches, that’s when there is room for the new, beautiful, pure life to grow.

Let go…let go…let go, and feel with what radiant light you burn – glow, like the trees, with magnificent fire, and trust that something new that is good for your heart will grow where there are now empty branches.