Because Change Is Possible


Truth telling

Weaving together embodied life, spirituality, herbs, yoga, nature, 

parenting, &​ human-being-ness...

Fall down 6 times, Get up 7

January 15, 2018

I am not a blogger. I am a writer, a journal-keeper, and at times, a deep thinker. It's been tough to maintain the habit* of writing on-line. I have considered whether my problem is time management, lack of discipline or simply an absence of deep thoughts with sharing. Here's the big ah-ha-- it doesn't matter. 

I am built to seek the why in pretty much any situation, and yet, the truth is, the Why is maybe a helpful flashlight on the THE issue, but the why will not resolve THE issue.

I can't remember the source of the eastern wisdom saying at the start of this entry-- basically, it doesn't matter how many times I fall down from writing or any other "good habit." What matters is getting up. It sounds trite as I type it. And, right, what's the big deal? Will the world be deprived by the lack of one more blogger? Probably not.

But, I do think the world is deprived of the many sparkly gifts of many of us who get stuck in the Why, and lose track of the What.

So, join me, and get up again, yes, you. Leave the Why questions for teatime or that walk you've been meaning to take. Do the thing, and savor the delight of doing even though you don't really know why you weren't doing it before.

*On the subject of habit, I'm dropping the word from my vocabulary. New word: orientation. It speaks of a persistent nudge in a certain direction without falling victim to perfectionism. Perfectionism LOVEs habit, and the mental beat-down one might give herself for breaking a habit is too soul crushing for this one precious life. 

Doing What's Right Doesn't Always Feel Good

February 14, 2018

This is a story about a time when doing the right thing felt particularly bad, and I wanted the right thing to be the wrong thing, if only to make my heart hurt less for a little while. 

"This is the most difficulty thing I've ever been through. Death is slow and terrible in its coming, but I thought I was okay with that until doubt about our choices started to fester."

That was my journal entry the day before my dad died in November 2011. I was sitting at his bedside on night 8 of a 9-day vigil, waiting, when I had my first willingness to acknowledge that we, as a family, might have made a mistake in choosing not to go with more invasive interventions every step of the way. Yet at night, I was haunted and bruised by shadows of imaging that I was in control of the movements of life and death, as though any of our small choices would have averted the final outcome. 

 Note to self: beware the If Sisters...

"What IF...and "IF only..." 

Doing what's right doesn't always feel good. This has been true for me in leaving jobs, leaving relationship, and leaving friendships that didn't fit anymore. Every leaving has had its sadness as well as its hope.

The curvy road of life sometimes obscures what's around the next corner, so we have to listen slow and deep for the small voice that says, "Yes, it is the right thing." And if you bear with it, the same Voice will send you more assurances... eventually.

A Month of Uncertainty (Scan Scan Biopsy)

May 15, 2018

Remember Duck Duck Goose? There is a grown up version, I’ve found, and it’s not so much fun.

Here’s how it went (in fast-forward abbreviated style):

I found a lump.

I ignored the lump.

The lump couldn’t be ignored any more.

I went to a doctor in my doctor’s practice. She was short. I was up on a high examination table and she said, with her arms stretched their full length to reach me, something like “Well, it’s too low to be a lymph node and too high to be your thyroid. We should get an ultrasound to see what it is.”

I got an ultrasound. It was a lump (a nodule) in my thyroid, which is apparently right where it’s supposed to be.

Then I had to have a radiated scan to see whether the lump was hot or cold. (You can look this up if you’re that interested.)

Then I got blood work to see if my thyroid was working well. It seems to be.

Then I saw a specialist who scared the crap out of me.

Then I had more blood work to see if I have an autoimmune disorder. I don’t seem to.

Then I got a call from someone in my doctor’s practice who left a message to call back, saying she had good news. I had no idea which test she was reporting on.

Then I talked to the crap-scaring specialist who said things appear to be fine (benign she said, though she also re-iterated how important it is for doctors to be humble about how much they can’t really understand. I don’t want a humble doctor at this time, by the way.), but get it checked out again next year.

Then I went to see my actual primary care doctor who asked me how I was. That was a very long conversation.

In the children’s game, Duck Duck Goose as I recall it, everyone sits in a circle and then one person walks around the outside of the circle tapping heads and declaring each in turn a “Duck” until suddenly she taps one person and screams “Goose!” and then runs like crazy to go around the circle and beat the person back to the empty spot without getting tagged or tackled.

I had spent a month running from a diagnosis. Every test along the way ended up being a “Duck” but still I ran from the “Goose” of possibility.

Along the way of that very scary month, a friend died. I spent a week on the west coast with family. I had to stop breastfeeding for days, and ended up patching together childcare for my not-quite-one-year-old so I could be simply the absent mom instead of the present-and-with-holding-mom. And more.

I really can’t say how much life I missed while running around in circles about this. But there were moments when I considered that THIS day, every day I thought of it, was the absolute most important one. THIS day when I held the possibility of a long life or a short one, and prayed for the long one while I lived for the short one. 

Yoga is the Door

June 1, 2018

“Yoga gives you a portal to knowledge that you have stored in your bodies but have not known how to access.” – Becky Thompson

Trauma is such loaded word. It can be off-putting, because those of us who have experienced it often have an inner scale that either makes our trouble SO big that no one could possibly help, or diminishes our trouble, saying, “Oh, it’s not a big deal really. There are much worse things than what I’ve been through.”

In its essence, trauma, like grief, is an experience that comes to us all. The difference in how we name it comes from the after effects we experience. How long does it last? How long will this loss or this pain be the primary lens through which I see myself and my life?

Two buzz words have a place in this conversation. Resilience and witness. Resilience is the capacity to return to shape after being misshapen. Bend a wire, and see if it can bend back into something resembling its previous state. Hearts, bodies, and minds also have a version of resilience that comes into play after a physical injury, an emotional loss, or a course-correction in thinking. The gap between the moment of bending out of the familiar shape (like the wire) and finding ease in a new shape can be a time of loneliness, despair and even anger.

All of those responses, and all other emotional responses are fine. Really. It’s probably even safe to say, they are normal. I didn’t say pleasant. I said normal.

Yoga and bodywork are practices I have clung to in the gap in between the trauma (or the loss, the shock, the injury) and the re-formed me. 

I cling to them like a life line to love, a commitment to hope. Both bodywork and yoga have helped me cultivate my inner witness and she has become my inner Guide. 

When crappy stuff happens, whether events that hurt in the body or in the heart, what we most need is to see someone who sees us. “Did you see that bad stuff? Did you see what things were like before? Do you see how much I long for something I’ve lost?” The witness says simply, “Yes, I see you. I see that you have been through something that has changed you.” And the witness does not look away.

A primary goal in yoga is to cultivate your inner witness, the part of you that sees, accepts and in response exercises self-compassion, without being carried away in despair and grief. The witness does not negate these feelings. She stands outside of them, seeing and allowing and loving.

“Yoga gives you a portal to knowledge that you have stored in your bodies but have not known how to access. It gives you ways to handle difficulties that may be clouding your eyes and silencing your tongue, creates a certain distilled awareness that allows you to unscramble your brain, and when the time is right, let go of the burden you have carried so long.” 

-- (Becky Thompson in Survivors on the Yoga Mat)

Curious Yoga

July 1, 2018

I can't tell you how often I find myself in that familiar awkward moment that comes when I try to explain my yoga teaching style. It’s hard to speak about hiding and freedom so plainly when are conditioned to show (only) our best parts to the world. What I’m proposing is radical, and probably a little stressful at first.

Most of the trouble I’ve gotten into in my life has been because I didn’t want some part of myself to be visible to others, or I didn’t want some true thing to be true.

So simple. I’ve run away, I’ve covered over, I’ve out and out denied, and probably I’ve lied in there somewhere. (She hedged, for the sake of irony.) I’ve certainly behaved badly in my attempts to manage your impressions of me. I’ve done addictive things from excessive exercise to binge watching TV shows to drinking alcohol too much at the wrong times to eating … pretty much everything. I have compulsively checked email and social media, looking always for distraction or better yet, some little ping from the outside to make me think I’m okay, in spite of my own uncertainty. It’s a horrible cage to live in, but we each have our very own key.

In my yoga classes, through the usual teachings of yoga, I lead students toward a handful of concrete practices to prevent hiding and all the poor choices we make while attempting to deny some part of ourselves. These practices are about creating new habits, new orientations. It’s about changing your mind in the pre-cognitive parts of it. That takes practice and repetition, and gentle encouragement.

  1. Exhaling. Extending the exhale signals to the nervous system to rest from the fight-or-flight (-or freeze) mode into rest and refresh. Fight-or-flight is unnecessarily in play for many of us because of chronic (emotional) stress and poor nutritional choices, excessive caffeine, sugar, etc. It’s a vicious cycle for stress eaters like me.
  2. Moving the whole body, sometimes powerfully and sometimes gently. And learning the names of things, or at least where they are what they do—be it sit bones or ischial tuberosities, they are the same by any name, but how do they feel when you do that?
  3. Pausing to notice. Often. Noticing thoughts and judgments, physical, emotional and energetic sensations. This is the pearl. The pause allows the noticing. The noticing opens up your inner landscape for a 360 view like no other! The pause is where decisions are made, so it’s good to have a luxurious and familiar pause space.
  4. Accepting what is noticed. Practicing interested curiosity about your inner sensations. “Close your eyes, pause, notice” is a common set of instructions in this class. Acknowledging yourself at every level is like a causal wave or head nod to say, “Yep, I see you over there.”

I was reminded in class with the amazing Angela Farmer, of a story she’s told about seeing two adults and their kids out at a party. When I’ve heard it, I imagine that the adults might have had more fun if they hadn’t brought their needy, sad, weak kids along, but that’s kind of the deal. 

We, each of us, contains sad, needy, weak “children” -- be they knee injuries, pelvic floor weakness, addictions, unhappy circumstances. And these are the very things that need to be acknowledged, loved, brought into the circle of our wholeness. Pretending they aren’t there doesn’t make is so. 

And when they come into our awareness, we know more, are more, and best of all, can truly be free of the urge to hide parts of ourself through denial, addiction, superficial living, and fearful choices.

Inner freedom can change everything, from the inside out.

The Nature Connection

August 1, 2018

I see the date coming on my calendar for the 31st annual Women's Herbal Conference, and I'm not going this year. I'm sad about that, but finding joy in remembering the last time I went, in 2016.

Before I went, I had been traveling several weekends in a row, and was quite honestly not sure that I would really enjoy a weekend camping with a few hundred women, sharing portapotties and a very few showers. I wasn’t sure that sleeping on the ground in cooling weather would “work.” I wasn’t sure that I could keep pace with attending back-to-back workshops all weekend. I simply wasn’t sure that I would feel good deep in my bones, physically, energetically or emotionally after so many weeks of travel. For so long, I “drank the koolaide” of cultural expectations for women, and would easily fall into comparative, evaluative ways of being when entering a group of powerful, beautiful, intuitive women, especially if I wasn’t feeling energized. 

“Where do I fit? Am I better, smarter, taller, thinner, … insert self-judging word… than that other person?” How many moments of my life did I completely miss because I was worried about what other people thought of me, or about where I fit? Some of those thoughts were with me in my depleted, exhausted, over-busy state as I made preparations for the trip.

But, the weekend conference was amazing. As I think about what besides the event itself was so nourishing to my spirit, I’m reminded of “Nature Deficit Disorder,” a term coined by the author of Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv, to describe the phenomenon of children (and adults too) spending more time in front of computer and television screens than out in nature. Louv attributes many behavior problems to NDD. My experience that weekend affirmed for me that even as an adult, I can miss too many doses of nature and fall into unhealthy mental patterns and bodily states, including disconnection from my body’s wisdom, my sense of vitality, and my creativity.

I have to log off now. I need to take my shoes off and stand in the grass.