Featured

The Art of Respectful Disagreement

If we’ve lost the ability to listen or question,

what have we really lost?

Hanging out with Beedibaba at Hard Core in Sebastopol, while taking life on the road last week.

I just lost my first friend because I am choosing to question.

While I don’t want there be more than one, I write “first,” because I sense this isn’t going be the last and I want to prepare myself. This has been a shocking experience. And, to further clarify, I did not question her, she questioned me — about whether or not I was getting…you know. This is not the first time I’ve been point-blank asked that question, this year as if it is the person asking’s right to know. I’ve been caught off guard and not answered the way I wanted to. I’ve tried to prepare myself better, to be more articulate, explain my own medical conditions better — as if it’s anyone’s business. Yet, this was the first time I felt interrogated. It was the first time I felt afraid.

Raised by parents inoculated by the culture of free speech against the infectious thinking of tyranny (the biggest threat of their day), I was raised to keep certain things very sacred. Personal freedoms are high on the list. So, when I found myself sitting in my Vallejo apartment last year pondering whether this — I don’t want to use the word for my own fear of censorship, but you know….was an extenuating circumstance, I recognized that I might be going down a slippery slope. Nonetheless, I want to be a good person. I want to do the right thing. So, I stayed with the main stream narrative. And, I also began seeking out ways to stay informed of all other opinions — especially when I began seeing censorship. Albeit, what was being censored in the beginning, was justify-able. And, my education has taught me…that’s how it always begins. We cannot have free speech and have censorship at the same time. It’s virtually impossible. 

During my own exploration of sitting with the question: Would I actually concede to believe forcing others would be for the greater good? I found myself frightened by my own willingness to justify. Bearing witness to that inner process of inquiry was a trip. But, people were dying. Fear can be a powerful motivator. Maybe it was my own training I just laid out, but hearing that question reverberate in my own mind was enough to scare me into beginning my own grueling (and ongoing) process of investigation. If I was even going to consider those thoughts, I decided I needed to do a thorough investigation. Was this a situation that could over-ride individuals rights? Would this be a moment to where we would collectively weight out the cost of individual freedom and right to privacy over such a “greater good? “

History teaches us how this goes though. Something terrifying happens that challenges our beliefs enough to create an exception. We voluntarily hand over our rights, our liberties  — and even the way we treat each-other. Feeling myself on the receiving end of such “othering,” recently through my “friend,” was painful. I experienced someone who previously prioritized my opinion and valued our shared time with a sense of mutual respect, shift her tone of voice and her etiquette instantly upon hearing I had a different belief from her. After a couple of days of uncomfortable radio silence, she informed me she could no longer even know me…All because I shared that I have questions. To me, normalizing that type of behavior is far scarier than the topic of whether or not I have or will put certain things into my body. 

Such questioning is not new to me, as I shared early on values that were instilled within me during my upbringing. In my family of mostly working-class of mixed ethnicities and creed, healthy debate and privacy were sacred. In fact, it is those ideals that led me to challenge notions of things like “race,” as I got older. I began refusing ‘to check a box,’ — since there’s only one  the human one (this has since been empirically proven; Check out Race: the Power of an Illusion) in high school and instead offered a short paragraph about how I didn’t believe in “race.” (It’s always been my belief that act was apart of what led to my acceptance to UC Berkeley, the Mothership of free speech). Over the past 20 years, since then I’ve watched notions of healthy debate, the right to privacy — and now even the right to question become taboo.

It was actually at that institution, I learned about the concept of “othering.” That once we’ve entered into the dangerous territory of separating our humanity from others in a way that justifies treating them less than human, that is often “the beginning,” of how it happens. If you want to know what it is I would suggest you research the propaganda posters portraying the Japanese as evil that began circulating in America during WWII that led to internment camps. I encourage you to open your heart to the way that Jewish people were required to identify themselves with yellow stars in the beginning. It always begins with a justification. Or consider the notions that led people to trap and sell people from Africa like cattle. It’s almost too much to bear that at various points in history, our own ancestors may have even agreed that some of these horrific acts were “logical,” or for the “greater good.” Yet, anytime one group becomes less deserving of basic human decency, we have slipped into dangerous territory.

Read that again.  

For some of us the generational trauma is on the other side — I can still remember hearing stories my grandma would share about my own Native American ancestor, who was hidden. It took me many years to fully grasp and understand the reason was because there was genocide going on. I’ve often wondered how deep that need to hide goes in our genetics, when I’ve faced my own fear of speaking up.

In her later years, my grandma used to to love lengthy philosophical conversations and healthy political debate. We never engaged in character assassination or accusation — it was simply “off the table.” This was an important point she would express many times. She would also say, “once we’ve lost our free press, we’ve lost our democracy.” She lived through the Great Depression, the invention of personal televisions, WWII, microwave meals, the Cold War, the Women’s Movement + Vietnam. Sometimes I wonder what she would think of what’s happened to our world. Then, I wince because I’m pretty sure she’s rolling over in her grave. Though, lately I have felt her with me more than ever. She was intelligent + outspoken — but only after my grandpa died. It’s crazy how much a bright woman dims her light to conform to a patriarchal culture. (and, my grandpa was relatively good). When I feel my grandma these days, I see her with tears and hear her say, “I had no voice!” As, she nudges me to use mine. 

While I used to believe I was more outspoken, it’s been struggle for me recently, I admit. Not only am I juggling my own stuff — these past two pictures were taken while I spent a week on the road recently to get a break from the fires + smoke — a reprieve from the extreme heat, which I believe is from climate change as I hear person after person in the Mt. Shasta area testify that this is so “unusual,” to have this intense of heat for so long. I’ve been struggling with my own health issues, which flared up because of the stress of the first evacuation combined with some family challenges I was navigating at the same time. I don’t share about it, but I manage two autoimmune disorders. And, usually I do pretty well. 

But, this has been a lot.

I feel shame I haven’t been able to speak out more. But, I’ve been trying to prioritize myself and that has required me to pull back and go more inward. I’ve been inquiring if the voice I’ve spoken from in the past was truly coming from me — my essence. I’ve been trying to get more deeply in touch with what it is I want to say….What is it I am here to do. Yet, as I have been feeling the anger well up, lodged in my own throat with the overwhelm of what I am watching happen “in the meantime,” I think of my grandma. I think of her bottled up, choosing compliance over her own authentic voice. I think of the regrets she shared with me from her younger years — like certain medical procedures she allowed to happen to my own mother without speaking up more. I felt her pain and saw her tears, as she admitted the choices she made caused harm she struggled to accept, she could not undo. 

I may not say it “right,” but I’m going to begin speaking up, because I have to. For me the intersection of the issues that have been coming to a head the past couple of years is glaringly obvious — BLM didn’t happen over-night. It is a long history in this country that includes awful compliances and shunning from painful generational truths such as the Tuskegee experiment. The state of our health didn’t happen over night — or the fact that we care less about truly living truly healthful lives and more about having access to “healthcare,” that aims to keep us profitable. (and, we’ve stopped carrying so much about those who don’t have access) The loss of our privacy didn’t happen over night, it has been happening in many ways ever since the assassination of our great leaders in the 1960s, who were moving civil liberties and a culture of true unconditional love forward. We can see milestone moments however along the way, whereby we have compromised ourselves through justifications and reasonable responses to outrageous acts. 

Things I can share with you from my “ivy league” education coupled with being raised by those who lived through persecution and shared their wisdom are this: Whenever we’ve lost the ability to “question,” we’ve lost. Whenever there is censorship, we’ve lost our free press. When we’ve lost our free press, we’ve lost our democracy.

So I guess I’ve come to see “loss,” as relative. These past few years have been excruciating for so many. There’s been a tremendous amount of suffering and death, which is important to feel and grieve. And, at the end of the day…I am reminded of lessons I gleaned on my own spritual journey through India: We’re all going to die. It’s apart of the deal. I actually came to see that my own Americanism sheilded me from accepting this on some level. With the advent of so many advancements in medicine — alternative and alopathic, I think many of us feel entitled to live long, healthy, and happy lives. Yet, there are no guarantees. And, I’ve further witnessed myself in the several moments when I’ve come face to face with my own mortality, one of them even recently as I watched fire pour down the mountain towards my house…Or when, my doctor thought I might have a third autoimmune disorder, I’m just as afraid as the rest of us. I do not feel ready to die yet. Though, if/when I do, I’d rather die — whenever that time comes — knowing I had the courage to speak, rather than allow myself to wrangle my own regrets from fear of being judged, abandoned or persecuted. 

I don’t have any answers right now. But, I will continue to ask questions. 

And, I hope you do too. Because like it or not, we are in this together. 

Things I’m currently questioning: 

— Who are the money interests behind each news source I consume?

— What does it look like to actively listen?

— What does basic human decency look and feel like? Do I offer that to others? Do those I engage in dialogue with offer that, in return to me? 

— What does actual “health,” look like? 

Featured

The Wounded Healer + Trauma

Navigating the Changing World, Trauma-Triggers + PTSD

A week ago today, I chose to evacuate from my home from the threat of wild fire. I didn’t need to wait to be told — I knew it was time to go. I recognized it in a way that is quite ineffable and only comes with lived experience from surviving natural disasters. That night, I felt the familiar decisiveness; A transient moment of knowing. Turning my gaze to Mama Shasta, with a cylindrical tube of smoke surging toward the heavens and filling the sky, I knew evacuation would be imminent.

Experience navigating this type of trauma, also informs one on the importance of staying calm (if at all possible). Being mindful of unnecessary energy expenditures is crucial. Allowing oneself to go into a full-blown panic eats up a lot of juice. As began to feel light-headed, I knew I had to ground fast. I I took deep breaths. I gathered information. After scouring Next-door (seemingly the only place to find it, as even the local Police Chief was issuing his press releases through that outlet). Within a few hours, I knew my hunch was right. Combining the constant drone of helicopters, the knowledge winds would be kicking up the following day, the fact that flames had begun peppering the hillside coming toward my home was all the validation I needed.

This is functional fight or flight, a mode I know well. Concentrating all incoming information into step-by-step focus: What needs to happen right now. And, for me, it culminated to evacuating early, on my terms. By the time I was securely in the Bay Area, and waking up to check the news the following morning the official order was given by officials. Though so much was unknown and worry over loosing my home was at the forefront, I had so much gratitude I had listened to my gut and left early. As I read my neighbors posts, new to this type of experience, in the throws of massive evacuation from what they began calling the Lava Fire in Siskiyou County, California, I knew my nervous system really couldn’t take that kind of stress.  

Being that I live with PTSD —  how and where I evacuated mattered. Though I had no idea this fire would result in the evacuation of 8,000 people from the Lake Shastina area of Northern Mount Shasta, I knew that being in a highway of evacuees would be triggering (which, when it did happen, was also  in 100 degree weather). I knew I would need somewhere safe to come down once the fight or flight wore off, because what happens next is the processing of emotion. And for that, I would need a quiet space and the ability to rest in gentleness to digest the waves of saddness, grief, and anger that can come. That meant being far enough away from the helicopters (and looming smoke my experience also told me, was coming). 

Those who have experienced evacuation understand the value of these things. It isn’t as if I would spontaneously combust if I didn’t have access to them, it is that the reality that being in fight or flight for longer periods of time, makes coming down harder. This is especially true for those of us who have had multiple experiences of this type of trauma. If at all possible, prioritizing procuring a safe place is crucial. At least, to my ability to living the way I want to live — which, is being able to be clear, compassionate and kind to myself and others. 

A four and a half hour drive in the middle of the night wasn’t ideal, but in weighing my options it was the best one. My friend, who lives in Sebastopol offered me her place while she was gone for the week. The space was a gift. Dividing my time between resting, tending to and harvesting plants in Sonoma Country was what brought me back on line. Over the coming days, I would help out at the Sonoma County Herb Exchange, which I have been a member of for our a decade, and would spend time tending the garden I manage in Sonoma.

While harvesting the likes of Grindelia, Yarrow, Tulsi, and St. John’s Wort. I felt myself settling back into my body. Grindelia or gumweed a lung ally, fastened my fingers in resinous goop as I picked her, taking patience to clean after and reminded me to breathe. Achillea millefolium, in her virtue gave me permission to pull back and create the boundaries I needed to arrive. St. John’s Wort and California Poppy, nudged me to feel my pain. Tulsi…sweet holy basil, filled my sphere with the knowing that somehow whatever happened it would be okay. Arriving felt like I was falling from the sky through layers of clouds, landing back into myself. While evacuating days prior, I had felt numbness settling in as I struggled to decide “what else to take,” but instead found myself just staring at my belongings unable to move or discern what was important from what was not. Yet, it wasn’t until I felt myself viscerally returning, I had realized how far I had gone away.

While I wasn’t present in the flesh, I had gone through an array of experience in spirit that had helped clarify on a deep level aspects of my own human experience I had previously struggled to understand. Trauma can be like that— though deeply unsettling on one plane, completely clarifying on another. Spiritual awakening is initiatory for many survivors of trauma. Being able to connect those dots is what integrates the experience to one of manageability.

Once I felt capable, I felt inspired to share some of my experience. There’s something deeply rewarding about sharing wisdoms gleaned from a traumatic experience. It’s being able to help others share in the benefit without necessarily having to experience the pain. As I shared a decent amount of my experience on social media through my Instagram stories, I had a new realization however. The world has changed so much in the past few years since I last used social media as a connection point in this way (2014 Napa Earthquake and 2017 Napa Fire). Sharing about my experience may actually be triggering some people into their own trauma response. (this was just a subtle intuition — another gift trauma brings survivors extreme sensitivity to pick up on not only what is said, but often what is not).

We’ve now had too many traumatic incidences to even count. And, a big part of understanding trauma is acknowledging that not everyone will find the same things traumatic. It is so specific and dependent upon someone’s upbringing, collective life experience, I would even say DNA and bodily constitution…and of course, access to education and health-care. The understanding that sharing these experiences could actually create distance rather than connection was a powerful revelation. At first I felt waves of disappointment and upset, that certain people I would have expected to respond to my posts or direct text messages seemed incapable of showing up. It was like they were… I remembered the the word, “numb,” roll off my tongue with familiarity. 

I felt I had felt numb only a couple of days ago. As a wellness professional, I feel inspired to share what my story for those who may benefit. Though, my commitment to my work keeps me curiosity about the times sharing isn’t a benefit. My own continued interest in understanding all aspects of trauma, leads me to draw this perception closer rather than push it away. Which means, I had to allow myself to feel that anger, grief and frustration about the seemingly growing numbness of my community. And, then allow it to transmute into compassion. With compassion, I also see now the sensitivity that will be required to share in our current-day-life with layered and diversified experiences of trauma, to allow such sharing to be unifying and not dividing.

A factor to consider, the word “trauma,” actually encompasses a full-spectrum of experiences ranging from to physical to the emotional and psychological. Culturally, we are more comfortable hearing about the wonder-woman-like ability to over-come physical trauma, than we are in hearing about the riggors of emotional pain. The vulnerability and presence necessary to overcome emotional and psychological traumas can be triggering in its own right. And, let’s face it most of the traumas that have been compounded in the more recent years are of the latter vein. As one of my spiritual teachers says, we live in a very emotionally repressed society. So, how do we move through intense emotional experiences when we have yet to create a culture that values emotions?

Some find it reassuring to know their practitioner has experience navigating such challenges. Others prefer to keep things “clean,” and don’t want to hear about such messy things — I have found this more in the baby boom generation where beliefs like “don’t air your dirty laundry,” are still surprisingly alive. Yet, in this world, those types of sentiments that were once valuable survival skills are now quickly becoming hampering ones. The world is forcing us to evolve, whether we like it or not. And, we will all need resources to navigate better.

Since I was diagnosed with PTSD long ago, before it was a way of life for so many, I have found some ways to be with the difficulty that can come up. Learning to identify healthy coping from unhealthy coping is relative (if you come from a long line of alcoholics, having a cocktail probably is a slippery slope during a crisis). I found making a list helpful. Years ago, when I struggled to heal from my own eating disorder, I made a list of five things that I could choose from whenever I felt a trigger come on. The list had things on it like, take a walk, take a bath, watch a light-hearted movie, call a friend, make a cup of herbal tea. (my favorite quickly became the bath and the herbal tea).

It doesn’t really matter what’s on your list, as everyone will have a different one. What matters is that you actually do them when it counts. In time, I realized I had to even make a list of what my trigger symptoms were too — shallow breathing (or no breathing even for periods of time), nausea, manic feelings of dissociation, like suddenly wanting to clean things with vigor or do something “productive,” when I really needed to curl up and cry. Sharing that, I can already feel the shame-hang-over looming. Yet, accepting that is my work too. Some will judge, some will attach, some will avoid. I’m becoming more and more at peace with other people’s reactions, because I know in my heart there’s no way I could have experienced the sheer load of trauma I have in this lifetime if I am not here to help others with it in some way shape or form. Essentially, what you think about it…or me, really isn’t any of my business.

And, it was my trauma that initiated me into this work in the first place. It’s the classic myth of the wounded healer. After all, most of us that do this kind of work do so because we’ve found ways to heal ourselves. Maybe in the beginning there was a moment of healing, but we learn over time, it is a constant as long as we are alive. Healing isn’t a box you check off your list, its a way of being, relating and living with ones own humanity — including the wounded aspects. I think of it more akin to what in spiritual circles is called practice. It’s knowing yourself well-enough to know “what perpetuates your wounding?” and, “what doesn’t?” Those can be vital knowings, as life is continually happening, sometimes faster than we can keep. Being able to touch into healing states when possible, long enough for our wounding to evolve to the next stage, is what helps us to evolve with the ever-changing world. It is through this process of learning to dance with our pain, we learn to show up from a place of more wholeness….For whatever is coming next. Being able to drop-in and find calm is what helped me ultimately prepare myself for the varied possibilities.

I find myself hopeful that in even a decade’s time, we now have so many accepted modalities for coping with trauma. As our world is now becoming a somewhat traumatic place to live, we actually need all of them. We will never be fully “healed.” As a wellness professional it’s about knowing yourself enough to know when you are on-line and off-line. When do you need to step back and only care for yourself? When do you have space to hold for others? And, in the moments of self care, what are your tools? What helps your nervous system regulate? Over the years, I’ve leaned into yoga, talk therapy, tapping, energy work, and of course…Being with the plants…the earth. It’s my favorite and most effective way to bring myself back online these days. I know this and prioritize making that happen. And, there’s the added magic of surrender. Somehow, when I turn to her, Mama Earth always puts exactly the plants I need to sink my hands into, on my path.

Featured

The Wisdom of the Fertile Void

When the pandemic hit a year ago, I…like everyone else, didn’t know what was going to happen. As we’ve all been reflecting upon this past year (whenever your own personal world-stopping-anniversary occurred — Mine, was March 12th, the day I canceled all my massage clients with the famous last-words “let’s just see what happens.”) I too would like to commemorate my own year-in-review. And, especially share some of the deep wisdoms I’ve personally uncovered. As promised in my last post, there has been so much about surrender + being in the wonder that has emerged for me during this time. And, as I am preparing to head back to work in April, I am coming to appreciate how much my work will be influenced by these gems. While, I had a deep sense my work was about to change, I had no idea exactly “how.” That question — not the answer has turned out to be the golden ticket.

How often are we all focused on the result, not the process? It truly is a practice to even contemplate being in the watery space of divine mystery — especially in a culture like ours, that puts so much more value on what we produce than who we are.

In journeying through my past year, I feel like it was a year of recovery in more than one way. Yes, I do work a recovery program, which this potent time allowed me the ability to sink into deeply. And, amidst the wildly chaotic atmosphere we were all swimming in, it really turned up the heat. Though, similarly to everyone else, in the beginning stages of the pandemic I felt mixed with anger, despair, and confusion. As time progressed however, I felt a rising intuition that my only power in the situation was in focusing my energy on better self-care + surrendering everything else.

Before my program work, the concept of surrender first came to me through my studies in yoga. While I longed to understand, I also felt myself dancing with one foot in and one foot out — hesitant to, well…surrender. In general, I think Americans are pretty uncomfortable with the idea of surrender. Can you blame us? There’s a part of me that still hears the words “surrender Dorothy,” in a cackle when I hear the notion. Those words etched in broom smoke in The Wizard of Oz, (which I definitely grew up watching) conjure fear, loss, submission, and weakness for our culture.

I don’t think any of us wants, to surrender. Like my first yoga teacher Sharron Dawson shared with me several years back amidst of my own attempt to “hang on,” to what I knew deep within I needed to release, “I think surrender is kind of like shit, It just happens.” Her words became eternal in my mind. I didn’t totally get it then, but what I came to realize she offered me was the idea that surrender didn’t require me to do anything. There was no noble act required of me — all I had to do was become willing. Time would provide me the opportunity. And, often it happened when I least expected. (So un-American —  surrender refused to be controlled, manipulated, rushed or coerced). As I pondered the concept through dandavat pranam, which had become a vital part of my yoga practice with my teacher Janet Stone, I was planting seeds.

As Krishna Das says, planting seeds is what we do in our practice. Sharing my trip to India deserves a post I have yet been able to write. Though for the purpose of this blog, I think there are a couple of nuggets worthy of sharing. One, a conversation with a dear client who spent much time in India during the 70’s. Before I left, he gave me this advice: “if you approach the airplane to return home,” pausing for a good 10 seconds, as his eyes followed his gesturing hand lifting up into the air symbolic of a take off, “And, you get the feeling you shouldn’t get on it… Don’t,” he said rotating his head to look me squarely in the eyes with a mystic twinkle. He was completely serious and I was admittedly curious. Though, my heart I knew there would be no way I could even entertain the intriguing possibility. It’s hard to know how tied down anyone is at any given time in this life. Some commitments are real and some are simply beliefs we’re not ready to release. I had both.

Unlike most of my colleagues in the alternative wellness field (Most bodyworkers and yogis are notorious for moving through life like a leaf being blown wherever “the universe,” wants them to be — whether it was showing up for work or getting tickets last minute for Burning Man and canceling everything) I was staunchly loyal + dependable. It was a huge part of the reason I was successful with my business ventures. Someone’s gotta drive the ship. And, I also longed to let go…to be that free.

Though without the grand aforementioned gesture, the experience of “being moved,” through India in my travels, still showed me an inkling of what it meant to “let go.” Amidst the beautiful tapestry I was bamboozled for in Hampi, and the sweet murtis, from Varanasi, I also brought home an understanding that the amount of energy wasted in clinging to things that have already happened (the buss ticket me and my traveling partners bought for a buss that probably never existed) or for things that may never happen — our plan of traveling to the Ajanta caves after bragging that we could “handle,” the rough travel, but ultimately balked — is vital life force best used in being present to navigate the twists + turns of each unraveling moment. The adage, “the past is but a memory and the future is but an idea,” really comes alive when you only have so many rupees in your pocket, don’t speak the language, are exhausted, and need to find a place to sleep before impending nightfall.

A year ago this March, I was hardly thinking about India. I had just completed a sold-out Acroyoga + combined massage workshop for Valentine’s Day in Santa Cruz, had several international yoga retreats in the works for the coming year, and was splitting my time between Santa Cruz + Napa where I had two small massage practices. As all was beginning to take shape again after taking time to re-invent my career after Zen Lot, everything came to a screeching halt: Covid. Do not pass “go,” do not collect $200.

Viscerally being in such a huge place of not knowing — not knowing what was happening with the virus in the US…Future travel. Not knowing what was happening with our president…our democracy. Not knowing if the Black Lives Matter movement was going to create the justice I knew in my heart was needed in the face of the growing racism I was watching gain momentum under a “leader,” who embodied all the aspects of the patriarchy that I knew were wrong with this country. Not knowing if I would actually receive unemployment benefits after waiting for many months. And, so much more — falling in love with someone deeper than I had ever experienced, and then realizing that it was entirely possible I didn’t actually know how to truly love at all. It felt like every time I even thought there might be solid ground under my feet, the rug was pulled out. So, what’s left to do at that point? When you’re loosing nearly everything you think you need, including your idea of who you are…and the only thing you have left is uncertainty — embrace it. Embrace uncertainty with your entire being.

Leaning into that, is the wisdom of the fertile void. It’s so much easier to “figure it out.” Get a plan, go through the steps of the plan and be done with it. Busy work — even when we piss and moan about it — is still saving us from the discomfort of not knowing. Because in not knowing, we truly have to let go of all control of outcomes. Things can work out, or not work out — or sometimes work out in a way we never considered. But, in releasing ourselves from the responsibility of how it turns out, we free ourselves to be more present to each passing moment. It’s truly a practice.

Respect for that process, is accepting that true power comes from being willing not know. Like you, am a product of a patriarchal culture. While that is a very big topic, in this moment what’s relevant is that our patriarchal + capitalist system only celebrates the bounty, with no appreciation for the time it takes to germinate. That time of gestation is where the maturation, the ripening, and the evolution happens. In some ways, we all subconsciously have adopted this value in the way our competitive culture functions, only highlighting and celebrating our achievements, not the time it takes for them to happen. We collectively have become both sensation chasers + people who turn away from pain and suffering — both in others and in ourselves.

Noticing what’s wrong is only part of the way to heal things. Remembering what’s right is vitally important too. Just like my trip to India, the question became potent last year — do I want to spend my energy fighting what I don’t want (bureaucratic systems that require me to spend literally *days* on hold with no recourse or answers)? Or, pouring my energy into what I want to save and protect (finding out who my allies are in growing plant medicines)? That became the question as I was sitting in my then Vallejo apartment trying to figure out my next steps. When the opportunity to leap into a live-work exchange in Mendocino arrived, I took it. No work, no relationship, a pet that traveled well — life was different from the time I wasn’t so foot-loose + fancy free.

Just before my move to Mendocino, I had enrolled in an online Gestalt coaching program (ironically, procuring an internet connection would be a challenge I had not anticipated, but that’s apart of the story — I ended up disconnected, ultimately to get connected –ha!). Taught by two of my long-time favorite massage instructors at Esalen, the arrival of the concept of “inquiry,” couldn’t’ have arrived at a better time. With a new herbal medicine garden project underway with a yoga friend in Sonoma, I planned to continue our venture as I packed up my little apartment into storage + let myself be transported to a place both new and familiar…Little River. While the place was new, I spent a lot of time in the surrounding area as a child. The sweetness of familiar helped me soften into all the discomfort of unknown — both around me and within me, as I ventured into learning new skills outwardly and inwardly. I allowed myself to be held in the sweetness of the plants. The steadiness of the earth. She made no promises…but one: That of reciprocity.

While my intention was learning all aspects of making medicine, with the focus on growing my own plants, what can next was unexpected. I thought deepening my understanding of herbalism would be about the medicines the plants produced. Instead, I found the medicine was in being with the plants themselves. And, beyond that, the land too.

There’s a learning that happens while tending to plants, the earth, the creatures. It’s an intimacy I can’t quite explain. You begin to learn what they like and don’t like. Slowly, you begin to notice the conditions they thrive in, which ones they don’t. You begin to hear her whisperings even…as she tells you how to tend to her she simultaneously teaches you her medicine. Soon you find yourself going to outrageous lengths to care for her — which is when you realize it’s true love. She reminded me of all I had forgotten…Filled in my cracks and wounds, through my loving of her. And, when I allowed myself to open my heart to her — resting my bare feet into the dust of the earth’s flesh, allowing myself to receive her bounty. I came to understand, her promise of reciprocity came only the way Mother Nature could love — in the rhythms and cycles ruled by mystery and wonder. It didn’t even matter where exactly I was anymore, because I learned caring for any of earth’s majesty she feels it all the same. It ripples. I tended the cypress along the coast and the trees of the high dessert felt my caress. Like true love, it doesn’t return your love exactly as you offer it. It returns it to with authenticity, often in the way that both celebrates your wholeness + encompasses your blind spots…offering you the love you didn’t know you needed.

Rather than enjoy a season of bounty in Mendocino “as planned,” I was literally redirected to Mt. Shasta. It happened rather abruptly, but we had developed trust at this point — Mama Gaia and I -and dare I say God. I knew my time in Little River had come to a close. I knew there was something for me to learn, something for me to offer…in this other place. And of course, my Gestalt training became easier with internet again, so that was a relief. Finding myself nestled amongst the wisdom of the junipers and Artimesia tridendata, I practice keeping my heart open in a new and yet familiar place once again. With a new understanding of presence, this place helped me dive even deeper. If you read my last blog post, then you know what I spent my time doing. This fills in the “spirit of it” beyond reading of books and playing the harmonium.

Emerging from this experience, I now feel a sense of protection of the void itself. It has been presented to me recently that the void is representative of feminine wisdom, feminine ways…ancient ways. It’s all the same and I couldn’t agree more. Within that void, I’ve found a place of deep honesty that will not be manipulated, dominated or controlled. It has nothing to prove. Allowing myself to be incubated there was the medicine. Helping me to heal my own wound to the feminine, I emerging from that place with new understandings, values, and wisdoms. And, perfectly apropos the process of inquiry I’ve learned in Integrative Gestalt Coaching is a sister to this concept.

Can we just be in a space without the need to wrap it up differently than it is…to allow a deeper truth, understanding, and maybe wisdom to emerge? Again…that is the golden ticket question. So, while I plan for yoga classes to begin in April…. For Inquiry sessions, medicines, and classes on the medicines to follow…I’ve got to admit, I’m not in a hurry to leave the fertile void. It’s been such a gift to me I’m lapping up every rich moment of juicy intimacy with myself…with nature. I’m gleaning a deeper understanding of exactly what it is that is most true + honest in my heart that I yearn to share most with you. So, stay tuned….more coming from the fertile void…to a town near you… soon.

Featured

Time, Solitude + Going Within

I never intended so much time to pass before my next blog post. Yet, as John Lennon said, “Life is what’s happening while we make other plans.” Life has taken me on an unsuspectingly journey during this pandemic. Since my last post, I spent the summer in Mendocino living on a permaculture farm and then moved to Mount Shasta this fall.

There’s a story in all of that (future post about surrender, healing, wonder and so much more) but for now, I want to share about the profound ways that being here, in this magical place has supported me going within. I don’t think I truly realized how much the hustle-and-bustle of Bay Area life had become ingrained in my body. Even being in Mendocino, a very busy place with tourism coupled with notoriously bad internet service along the ridges (where most people live) that forces everyone into town to use wi-fi, true pauses were non-existent. It wasn’t until I landed in the rural part of Mount Shasta, where I found an incredible opportunity to hunker-down just as we headed back into the second wave of Covid, that I realized how much solitude I needed. 

My favorite place to sip tea + reflect

Since deciding to move here in early fall, I’ve meditated well over 5,000 minutes (150 consecutive days). I’ve read 4,866 pages in 18 books. I’ve completed a distance-learning Gestalt Coaching program, learned to play a musical instrument, began writing a book — and so much more. (including creating this new website;) This is not shared in the spirit of competition, like “what have you done” with your shelter-in-place, time? It is shared in the spirit of awakening us all to ask ourselves What are we doing with our time and energy? This grand pause has been the silver living for me, in this incredibly challenging time, providing just such a space to answer that question.

In watching the Social Dilemma just before my move, it was a question for which I was well-primed. Several years ago, In trying to separate myself from a life I never intended to create, I found myself hooked into using technology more than I ever planned. Using it both to schedule every moment — and using it to unplug whenever possible. Instagram became a guilty pleasure, as I began fantasizing about my “exit,” from the life that not only, was no longer nourishing me, but I became painfully aware that it was going to kill me. What began as a search for inspiration and connection — okay, maybe a distraction too — ultimately took me to a place that felt “off,” and empty. (You know, like you feel yourself just looking for a better hit of “I want to feel anything but what I’m currently feeling?”) Like any worth-while addiction, this is a painfully familiar and predicable cycle. And, for any of us who have done healing work in this realm, we get better and better at recognizing the signs whether your “drug of choice is,” a behavior, a substance, a person…it’s all the same. I know my own dabbling in Insta-addiction keeps me in good company. And, it wasn’t all bad. I found AcroVinyasa on Instagram, who I trained with in Bali. I kept in touch with so many international travelers…And, I also started feeling myself need to check it incessantly, at the bank, gulp…while driving, which is ultimately what made me pause and reconsider my own usage. (seeing what social media is doing to our brains helped this decision).

I’ve heard many people share that the isolation of shelter-in-place has been difficult for them. I’ve felt some shame in the fact that I’ve had the opposite reaction. Turning the perspective to see the gem in this situation — it will not always be this way. How many times did you just want the time for this or that…and many of us just happen to have such time. Yes, there have been myriad challenges for us all within this wildly stressful past year that has included loss of loved ones, loss of business, money, relationships, opportunities, and more. Yet, I choose to stay focused on what I’ve gained: time to do the healing work the hamster wheel of life kept me from, time to learn new skills, time to reappropriate my time, my habits, my thoughts, beliefs, relationships…all of it. This IS an incredible opportunity to reset so much. It is reprogramming, which we simply cannot do if we are constantly filling ourselves up with noise from the intake of the outside world. I know not everyone is living in an isolated space, but choosing what to engage in or not engage in can be a small decision with a big effect. In this way we can direct this time of disconnection, to serve as a re-connection.

Finding myself under the dark expansive sky, without the oppressive lights and pulse of city life that I craved long ago, I felt the invitation to just be. With Mama Shasta, looking over my shoulder in her impressive, love-filled presence, I found so much solace in this place where I could hear myself think + feel. It was a long-over due reunion. In that space, with the Divine support and guidance that arrived through my enrollment in the Gestalt Coaching program, which emphasizes personal inquiry, I ventured more deeply inward for myself.I’ve personally remembered parts of myself that fell away not because I wanted them to, but because life was moving so fast I just couldn’t maintain everything. (anyone feel me on that?) That’s certainly one way. Another is to give ourselves the space to asses and evaluate these choices consciously; to inquire more deeply into if these choices align with our higher self. This all takes time, which just has to be created, carved out and prioritized.

I don’t know that I’ll always crave this much solitude, but the lessons its given me have been profound. Connection to nature daily has been a huge part of supporting me in my remembering ~ nature holds the keys to so much for us if we take the time to listen. For me, one of the keys in metabolizing my experiences, was adequate space to just be. And, being in nature to allow the natural unfolding of an internal process required for shifts in consciousness is essential. I’ve gained greater control over my mind, my capacity to focus my energy, ultimately feeling greater autonomy in my life.

In our world where everyone is up in everyone else’s business, and everything feels like it has impending urgency, a “pause,” felt virtually impossible (aha..and virtually it might be) But, turning away from the devices, (or learning boundaries with them) and stepping bare feet into the dirt, turning toward the plants, trees, the rising + setting sun it is not. It is very much alive, accessible, and crying out for attention…for a listening heart to be with, I believe. With all the ways the world seems to be whirling out-of-control, maybe the solutions aren’t in more talking. Maybe they are in better listening.

We think that stillness and meditation is about the mind only, but in settling the mind, we can drop into the heart. And, this we need more than anything. Because, no matter what we are faced with, the heart can hold it all.

There will be time…For Now, just feel.

There will be a time to understand a deeper spiritual reason for all of this. There will be lessons learned + gleaned. There will be changes made as a result. But for now, it’s enough to just feel. In fact, trying to over-understand steals from this moment. Being presented is the opportunity to feel some of what maybe, was not yet felt. Some of it is beyond our mental comprehension anyway — at least right now. The generational, inherited, and ancestral pain, along with our shadow aspects all have the potential to transmute when we have the courage + compassion to feel what, for probably good reason, wasn’t before felt.

When I first starting using yoga to move energy, I think it was exactly so that I wouldn’t have to feel things I didn’t want to feel. Just move ‘em on out! Time + life experience has shown me what I don’t feel, will wait for me, giving me chance upon chance in the future. You know, through those surprise repeat patterns that show up in unexpected places? This collective trauma, is precisely such a place. It doesn’t make “sense,” why random feelings from the past may come up. And, it doesn’t have to right now. Just staying present to the sensations in the body is what matters. Learning to recognize the turning away from our unpleasant feelings as an expression of the Klesha Dvesha. And, that avoidance is also, a form of self-abandonment that will only perpetuate our pain.

What I have found is in giving myself permission to feel what I have judged as “bad,” + avoided, usually brings me a gold nugget. “The feeling,” is the catalyst for the releasing. And, the universe doesn’t work in a vacuum. Whenever I release old emotions or stories, I miraculously get back more of myself in exchange. It’s This body certainly remembers. There will be a time to understand more. But for now, just committing to stepping on this mat every day. Moving as s l o w l y as I need…so that, I can stay present in this human heart and deeply feel what she has to say. Because this heart, truly can hold it all 💓🙏🏽✨