Daily grace or grind

Simple topics about daily acts and situations that connect us, in so many ways.

Feeling a body… such a sacred task.  To live here in this flesh and feel all of it’s beauty, it’s flaws, the presence of age unfolding.  To cast eyes on those parts that don’t measure up, and yet to wear it fully with every step.  To wear it naked, clothed, in a bridesmaid dress or a swimsuit.  A task, and one that sometimes feels more like pain than pleasure.  But why?

The truth is we are beautiful.  Fat, wrinkles, moles, hairs, skin weathering time…. we are so beautiful.  Why are we taught otherwise?

As a girl I was so ashamed of my body.  I tortured it as a teenager.  Ugly stuff… and all out of anger and frustration about a sense of not being enough.  But yet… I was.  Enough.  We all are.  More than enough.

More than beautiful, really.  We are amazing…. like the way love wraps you up and melts your knees, or the way sadness melts every organ in your torso.  We have this humanity that hurts because it loves… we get angry because we love, we get in pain because we love, and we get into such crazy joy because we love.  Sometimes we get into wide peace because we love.

It’s true, losing 20 pounds in the last couple of years has made me love my body more.  I didn’t try to lose it – I have all these theories, but they are just that.  Somehow it happened after I fell in love.  My favorite theory is that it’s the feeling of safety that let me drop it away.

But as a teenager I was this size too, and that was not enough.  We have all these images that we overlay, all these expectations.  Why are we so hard on ourselves?  Why, when we have this one chance to explore this beautiful body that breathes us and beats our hearts and feels emotions so expansively?  Why can’t we just love this gift and revel in it?

Obviously we are trained to care – by pictures and standards.  And it’s reinforced constantly, almost everywhere we look.  And yes, I do support healthy living.  But that is not the picture you’ll see on most magazines – most models are not healthy.  They are not living healthy lifestyles.  So it’s one thing to get out and move and try to eat more healthy.  It’s another to starve yourself to a standard.

So what can we do, to love this beautiful body like it is?  Once a lover told me that the sexiest thing in a woman is when she loves her body.  Whether this is true for all men or not, I will certainly say that it feels good just to sit or walk with someone who loves being in her skin.  It’s a good practice.  So how to be more confident in your skin?

Moving my body always makes me feel really good in my skin afterward.  Whether it’s a long walk, dancing, Yoga, a leisurely bike ride, sex, or whatever you choose…  There are so many ways to move and feel great in your body.  And afterward there is that grace that radiates from your center, and it just feels so good to be alive.

I don’t know the answers to this one, I only know what I have tried over the years.  I have overcome the most impossible things through practices like Yoga, meditation, Nature time, and breathing mostly.  I overcame tremendous depression and fear.  Many years ago I arrived at this place of such deep gratitude and love for life that almost nothing could improve it.  That has stayed mostly steady for the last 8 or 10 years.  But this one thing was still a challenge…. even in years of contentment and a glow living through me, I could still find myself shy and uncertain in my skin.

But one day at a time, for 15 years or so now, I have been on a journey to love my body.  To overcome all the damage I did and carefully repair the tissue and the emotions of a teenage girl not being enough.  As an adult I see too many women living in a similar sense of feeling unhappy in their skin.  I’m sure men go through this too… I can only speak for my own experience, really.

For me it has been one day at a time, one decision to take care of my body at a time, and momentary choices to notice how good it feels to FEEL in this body.  Yoga has helped tremendously.  Yoga helps me become more aware of my body, and as I feel it more clearly I just love being in it more by the day.  Flesh is a gift to move in, and breathe in, to heal in.  We are so fortunate.  So so fortunate, in countless ways.

I’ve watched over the years, and even before this recent weight loss I really was getting close.  I was loving it almost completely.  I was enjoying being in my skin in whole new ways.  I was still shy at the beach, but I was generally enjoying and loving the experience of my body.  Now it’s even easier.  And I do love it.  I just feel like I finally have a great relationship with my skin, my food, movement, and my heart in the middle of it all.

And I’m aging.  And that’s amazing to watch!  Ask anyone over 30, if you haven’t gotten there yet.  And Loving my body as my skin changes and I heal more slowly, that’s a beautiful process.  It’s going to be a task, this growing older thing.  I get that.  I couldn’t be more grateful that I’ve stumbled across Love in so many forms right now.  And as I love my body more than ever, I am so enjoying tending to my aging body and doing more to feel even better by the day.  It will not get easier – this I see.  But quality of life is worth it.  And everything that feels like work initially (Yoga, flossing, cooking food from scratch) becomes a sweet practice with time, patience, and grace.

I’m going to continue to make decisions that feel really good in my body, and I’m going to strive to enjoy feeling every stretch, every walk, every breath, as if it’s a whole new high.  Aging in a body that I have slowly learned to love is really a gift, and one I would wish for everyone.  It just feels good to love your own own flesh.  And it’s all one step at a time, one bit of forgiveness and release of expectation at a time.  Maybe one Yoga posture, extending into goodness, at a time.  What will you do to love your body a little bit more today?

It’s been awhile since I’ve touched a brush to a page and let my heart spill through color into the world.  Sometimes in my Yoga practice I am so taken by the amount of love pressing through me into a vast fullness of stars and people and galaxies, and I wonder why it’s so easy to stumble over these little things that show up on this winding path of living.  I think expressing art, on a screen like this or on a page with a brush or however you choose to show your love and intrigue, is the most natural way to check back IN with the center that leads and guides and re-minds us what is True.  And what is true is all of it, right?  The questions of a human stumbling along, the flight of an angel expanding through a star, the meandering of an ant taking over the world…

I wonder how to love a little more fully in a world where we are taught to close our doors.  We are taught to follow along, or if not then to watch our backs because stepping out of line is a big steady risk… But the act of Love is worth it.  It’s what makes us happy, and so much more aLive!  Alive.  We are just so blessed to feel blood moving slowly and swiftly through the highways of our veins, absorbing our slow deep breaths and feeding our minds to witness Color, children, clouds, curbs.  It’s all really amazing to wander through and touch with your heart, consider your capacity to Love.

Why do we forget?  Why get caught up in social games and concerns?  Why not re-member that feeling of being a child exploring a new place to play and dream, why not write a new Now to Fall in Love with all over again?  Why not take the time to put Color to the page, in the midst of busy moments or instead of the drone of a hypnotizing electric box or page?  Why not take a deep breath and think of how grateful you are to be able to Read, to Love, to Breathe all on your own?  Life is a Gift of a magnitude we so quickly forget.

Thank you for living here with me, in this palace of curiosity, on this globe of inhales and exhales.

What is the last time you took a leap of faith?  What does that question even mean?

I started writing a blog weeks ago, that I will finish sometime, about how I learned and learn to love my body.  THAT, in this culture, is a leap of faith.  To believe that every hair on my body, every inch of my body, every bit contained within, is beautiful… well, for most of us this is a leap of faith.  But if you just imagine, and consider, and take that leap, the reward can be worth far more than the effort to get there.

Tonight I realize part the reason I get so much out of my Yoga and nature practices is that I am willing to take these leaps of faith.  In fact, I would argue that in some ways, the leap of faith – and leap of imagination – is at the heart of what practice is.

Can you imagine, right now, feeling the light in the room land on your skin and soften it?  It doesn’t have to be logical, but can you imagine how it feels?  Can you imagine it so vividly that you begin to actually feel a softening on your skin?  And maybe in your heart?  Can you take the leap of faith that is is physically possible to experience things that are not rational, and may not fall into any of your beliefs, but that may be extraordinarily beautiful, and insightful?

Let’s simplify it a bit.  Think of someone you love.  Can you imagine softening your heart just a bit more and feeling your love just a bit more deeply for that person?  Maybe by remembering something especially wonderful that she or he did?  Can you take the leap of faith that it may be safe to open your heart that much more, and that the experience of loving itself will make that risk worth it?

Maybe practice is as simple as that – taking a leap of faith by imagining something  new is possible, or that something beautiful can stretch a bit further, and acting on it.

Part of my daily practice is this leap of faith that something gracious and Light actually does live me, and stands me, and breathes me.  And if I trust enough to take that leap of faith every day, maybe it acts through me and unfolds something radiantly beautiful for a client, a student, a friend, or myself.

Another leap of faith is forgiveness.  Who can stretch so far to deeply and fully forgive when it has hurt so deeply?  Some of the most radical freedom and joy in my life has come from such leaps of faith.  From forgiving the impossible-to-forgive, I have found deep joy.  And am so grateful.  What are we forgiving anyway, except someone else’s story?

And yet another difficult leap of faith is letting go of expectations.  It’s one thing to forgive, but to forgive and love people without expectation.  How to do that?  I mean really…. we are so deeply programmed to have expectation.  Actually, it is impossible to let go of all of them.  But can we begin to just enjoy the beingness no matter what the flavor?  Can I love you even when you are being the most difficult, stubborn, crazy person?  Can I love the weather when it’s cold and rainy and I dressed for sunshine and 80 degrees?  Can I surrender my preferences and really radically love it all as it is?  Sure I can, but it takes that leap, over and over.  It takes surrendering my own story about it all SO well that I can really let go and love anyway.  It’s tricky.  It’s full life practice.

How do we take these leaps in small ways every day?  Maybe by noticing the narrative in your head that is angry or frustrated…. you could take the leap of letting that one story go… really let it go, and consider letting it be beautiful, just as it is.  Even if only for one day of freedom from that story, one day of a bit more satisfaction, and maybe more smiles…

It’s amazing how smiling can actually soften your heart.  Have you tried smiling more?  It really does lift your mood.

So we all have leaps of faith and imagination, and they are all risky… but maybe a daily practice can be as simple as beginning to recognize these opportunities and taking small leaps.  And trying out one extra smile a day… and see what happens.

What happens for you?

I can’t imagine how much beauty must exist in this world.  It’s overflowing.  How can we miss it, ever?  I know we do miss it often, just don’t see it in the most mundane of places, but how can that be?  A paradise of misery and love and curiosity acting through every form we encounter…

I just heard that Mars is now going out of retrograde, after being retrograde for a very long time.  I don’t know much about it, but I can tell you that I am thankful for the stars and what they are bringing right now.

When I started this blog a few weeks ago, it was because I woke up one day feeling something stirring in me that I hadn’t felt in ages, but used to always be there.  What is it?  I have no idea, but I am quite clear that when I was a kid I called it the Holy Spirit, and as an adult I always assumed it was just that flow of divine grace that illuminates every one of our lives.  It’s not that it has ever been gone, but it kicked back up a notch about then… like a knock on the door inside my head sweetly but strongly calling me to wake back up…

This Mars retrograde thing… maybe someone will leave a comment and tell us about it.  Maybe it has made lots of work for me in the challenging ways, maybe not.  I do know that I have never been so happy for spring.  Every few days a new view of stunning clarity that I had been missing before.  Suddenly those things that have been spinning around reminding me of the humbling sides of being human, have started to fall away and become a garden of clear pathways and I can look up and see entire mountains that were missing just days ago.  Life is so beautiful.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up?  Do you notice how beautiful this world is?  Can you feel deep inside you that the day is amazing, and the world around you is welcoming you?  Do you smile?  If not, I highly recommend these practices.  Over the last few years I have been shaken out of these most simple morning experiences by a series of moves and changing of daily patterns.  While my days are still filled with beauty, I realize that my morning moments have shifted a bit, and I am so glad to invite them back.  We can all benefit by a few moments of pure unrestricted gratitude to start the day.  Sometimes as I woke feeling all warm and fuzzy about living in such beauty, I would begin to imagine the day ahead of me.  Now at these times, my days were crazy too – not tranquil like my old mountain homes, but bustling with madness as I drove into the the cities.  So I would just scan over the day and imagine it filled with good things and graceful flow pervading my day.  It would be hard to now convince me that these moments didn’t improve the quality of my days.  I think I’ll do it tomorrow.  How about you?

We are so fortunate to have this gift of choice.  No matter what we are stuck in, we can make small important choices to change the situation for the better.  For me, the most important thing is to make time for the practices that make me feel good.  No matter what is going on or how urgent it is, I can always take time – even if only a few minutes – and come back to my center.  Life can be full, and brutal, and can kick your ass at every corner.  And it is the perfect school to keep finding the path back to your personal love.  That love that emanates from feeling good in your own heart, your own body, your own wandering mind, your own gentle and strong spirit.  And this path is the hardest to find when we get stuck in our own stories about what is important, and shoulds verses choices.  The idea that there is no time for any practice… the lack of motivation.  Motivation comes from action too.  Beginning it will bring the motivation.  It’s a choice.  A choice to fall into that love inside you… that love that bursts through you as a kid, and just wants to fall all over you and your life as an adult… despite popular belief.  That love that existed before you were told you are imperfect.  But hey, maybe you are perfect after all….  A perfect expression of life looking out into possibility, and looking in to find that infinite reservoir of love that lifts your smile another notch…

I love you so deeply it’s almost painful to feel my gratitude, just to know you are sitting here and maybe feeling something sweet inside, pressing your heart and mind out in the world through your body, gracing these words with your eyes or ears… It’s a favorite thing to love humanity this deeply… whether for a moment or a lifetime… to feel flesh in love with all that flesh yearning to express and find truth around the corner…. before we all find it was inside all along….

What part of you feels the same as when you were 5 years old?  It’s fun to feel that, isn’t it?  And kind of strange…

Remember being a child and having the sense of people not really seeing you?  Remember knowing that you are quite capable, but being treated like less because you were small and immature?

I think about this as I visit with my grandmother and I notice how I speak to her so differently than I would my friends.  I think about this as I speak to children and likewise take a different tone, approaching them as more different than another adult.

Who drew the line that said “adult” anyway?  How have I changed since I was a child?

In some ways I was smarter then.  Children have fantastic perception, you know.  They can see through things and have very clear priorities.  I could tell things to my teachers about myself, but they wouldn’t believe me – they had to wait and see for themselves.  So interesting.  Why don’t we listen to children with a little more attention, or respect?

I remember that I always felt the same at the very center of “me”.  That part that watches when you strip away the rest of the story and all its layers of clothing concealing the hidden treasures of us.  That part that is the same as it always was.  And it doesn’t change, does it?

So what does that mean as we age?  What about the elders, those amazing people that our culture is so lost without?  What about how much my grandma knows about life?  Is it lost in the race for technology?  What about the 8 year old still inside her that wants to laugh and play and move a little easier in her challenged body?  How can I help bring a little more light to her life, from so far away?

She is amazing.

My nephews are amazing too.  And my little niece.  Trying to make sense of a political technical world.  The oldest two engaging in the fiercest game of politics I know.  I am so glad to be past adolescence.  Aren’t you?  Kids are savagely mean.  Why?  I wonder about this.  What makes teenage girls so mean?  And why didn’t I believe people when they told me it would be different after high school?  So glad to be older!

But still me.  Still the two year old with insights into my parents as I watched them and smiled because they thought I didn’t know anything.  Still the 12 year old awkwardly trying to fit in.  Still the 18 year old angrily leaving my parents’ home.  Still the 25 year old gratefully loving my family and walking a long path of deep love and curiosity.  Still the same as when I was born – the same center eyes looking out.

And so different.  Who is that me?  Who goes through all of that, and still stays the same?  What is this spark that animates us unchanged despite the madness, the beauty, the brutality, the impossibility, the raw fresh possibility, the walking through fear and ceremony, and remains the same?

It is a gift to be human.  No matter the face or lack of face of your God, no matter the realism you endure, this is a precious thing, to love and to ache.  And to remain seeing it from that same space, over and over and blessed all over again….

I think we should all spend more time with our elders and our children.  So much matters in this race for success, and go rock it out!  I dare you to be all you want to in every way!  But take time for those beautiful people.  They have so much to teach us.  And we have so much love and gratitude to open up to them.  And when that innocent beautiful center shines out as we get older, looking through the same eyes rich with wisdom, we’ll be glad for what we heard from those older and younger.

The voices we don’t take time to hear are often the ones that teach us the most.

A little Hafiz for you…

~You Have Never Been Lost~

I wanted

to put something on this page that might

make your heart see as

mine,

for the Truth lives in me now;

its ways I

know.

When God flowed into Himself, He made the mill happy.

These words, light ground,

hold them.

Every world sent out its scouts looking

for a merchant who can say,

“You have never been lost dear;

it is God who became

confused.”

When He returns home

the mill will

sing.

Existence leans its mouth

toward me,

because my love

cares for

it.

I recommend reading that one a few times….

God love Hafiz….

So loving you…

I’ve just been reading all sorts of wonderful and terrible things on this fantastic website called the Good Men Project – http://www.goodmenbook.org, and (ironic or no?) it makes me think about being a woman.

I remember a time when I learned about feminism and a glass ceiling, and I was quite certain that this is only true for women who let it be true. While I had my share of insecurities, I never felt slighted by being a woman (and that remains true). I am so thankful to be a woman – it seems to suit me well.

And what were the messages of my generation? I remember being ten years old and getting out of the bath, and looking in the mirror. This was the first time that I noticed my thighs touching each other as I stood with my legs together. While I was always a very thin child, I was also quite aware that I needed to maintain this in order to fit the cultural norm. Barbies or not, the message was clear all around me. Thin, beautiful, and very sexy. At 10 years old I had no idea about sexiness, but I could try hard to be thin and beautiful.

Over the next few years I spend more hours pouring over teen magazines than I can even imagine… It was amazing how I learned everything about putting on makeup, to obsessing about boys, to being increasingly insecure and dependent on the opinions of others, all largely from these magazines. And this was my transition into womanhood.

In those years, to be a middle-aged woman was to be past prime. Clearly everyone beautiful was young, thin, and sexy. While I had no fear of aging, I didn’t really pay much attention to older women. I didn’t look up to them like I do now….

Women and girls today are taught to be strong like men, and to look a certain way, and to speak out loudly and clearly, and to excel at sports, and drugs, and sex, and school, and fashion, and.. and… and it’s all quite confusing.

What about being a lady? Now at a ripe 31 years old, I am SO happy to be older. I am so happy to be in my thirties! Life seems to get more delicious by the year. One of the great joys has been having a partner who opens my doors and carries my bags and lets me be soft and sweet. And it’s almost as if I should feel bad for this, being a modern woman educated in feminism! But yet he lifts me up.

When I lived in the mountains of Colorado, I was a firefighter and a Yoga teacher. I threw away all of my heels, proclaiming that they are bad for my back (true, they are). I never wore makeup, and I finally learned to enjoy hiking uphill (a story for another time). It was good. I was happy.

When I moved to California, things were difficult. It must have been in the stars! But one thing I really gained from living in the San Francisco area is how to really enjoy being a woman. One by one, I put the stereotypes back on, and relished them. I bought heels again, and discovered how incredibly sexy they make my legs look. I bought low cut shirts and noticed that as I age my breasts continue look great. I started wearing make-up again, and felt sexy, beautiful, and vibrant. And the people around me responded. When I would dress a little up, people literally responded to me differently. And you know what? I liked it. It could be the Leo in me…. there’s plenty of it! But seriously, who doesn’t love positive feedback? Who doesn’t want approval? We are trained to crave it by our beautiful, albeit, far from perfect, culture.

I have encountered the glass ceiling.  I have encountered just as much classism and ageism.  I see that what I was taught is true – that women are not valued in the same way as men.  I also believe that I am an incredibly fortunate human being.    I am sitting here in the computer lab at one of the finest schools in the world, with a wide vocabulary at my fingertips, graced by education and life experience abound, with a cozy home and a bright future.  And even more simply, I have heat.  I have hot water.  I have a home.  I have amazing supportive people that love me.  I am deeply blessed.  And so are you.

Above and beyond being so blessed, as a woman I am not ready to throw out the advantages of my sex appeal.  Granted, I don’t often realize that I am using it… sometimes people think I am flirting when I am just being the kind farm girl I was raised to be!  But seriously, if I can dress and present myself in a way that is a bit more appealing, and use that to give me a bit of a leg up, then so be it!  I’ve had plenty of disadvantages over time, why can’t I use this one?  And it’s fun.  Why not enjoy?  I was always an artist at heart, and I like letting my art show through my dress and presentation.

And as women, why would we deny the beauty that comes from our sweetness?  I like that my heart is super soft underneath it all.  I like that I love honestly and vigorously, even if it has kicked my ass in the past.  I like getting all emotional every month as my hormones spike, because that emotion all flows from such deep love for a beautiful experience.

And on the backside of it all, I enjoy stepping into the role of homemaker more deeply than I might have thought possible.  I am a nurturer.  Why would I reject that just to be modern?  Can’t I be modern and bake and cook and nurture and succeed and be sexy and be professional and be intelligent and be my own flavor of feminist all at once?  Can I just enjoy that I do enough, and I am alright with letting him carry the bags and open the doors?

My mother is an amazing woman.  She is stronger than any woman should have to be.  She held us together through the worst of times, and she has taught me a few things about being a woman.  My mother doesn’t wear much make-up, and used to give me a hard time in high school for the thick layers I would wear on my face (in retrospect, yes – I wore too much make-up!).  She has always been a bit more simple, and refreshingly real.  She does what needs to be done, in the face of any challenge.

As an adult woman so shaped by those early magazines, I think one of the most challenging things has been to learn how to stand in what I know, regardless of the feedback from others.  It’s been confusing enough figuring out how to be an adult, and be a woman but be strong like a man but be soft and vulnerable so men are not intimidated but keep going for success but you should stop and have a family soon but what’s the point of dating if you know he’s not the one?  And where did I learn it had to be a he to be my partner anyway?

So over the last year and a half I have been gifted (I use this word carefully) with situations where I have had to learn how to care less about the opinions of others.  Maybe the hardest was letting go of pleasing Mom.  Sometimes people will not agree with our decisions.  But if your heart is true and your intention is pure, then maybe it’s time to learn to stand it the center and let go of the child that wants to please.  I think my mother taught me this best, by staying on her course despite the intense challenges she faced as a young mother.

I believe it has been this lesson, this ongoing lesson (smile) of learning to stand in the center and stay on my course despite others’ opinions, that has shaped the latest in my journey to understanding how to be a woman.  Something feels a bit more mature, a bit more like a capable light in the world, because I have weathered through one of these deepest of challenges.  A challenge that had no opportunity to present itself until this ripe decade of thirty-something.  And now I know a little more about how others view me, and I care a bit less.  I know a bit more about the passion that drives me, and I am humbly surrendering to it a bit more.  I enjoy dressing up, in a way that may not be so different than the 5 year old, but I like it on the cover of the woman I am now.  Pure heart, clear intentions, a bit more sure, with big plans to keep pressing love out into a world that likes to think it is bleak…. and if the sparkle of my smile, the joy of my heart, or the tastiness of my fresh baked cookies can make someone’s day a little sweeter, then hey – always glad to be that woman.