Posts Tagged ‘opening’

“One Small Year”

April 2, 2013

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The evolution of self doesn’t end. I thought I had done a lot of it, but now that I’m a mother (12 months to the day,) something fundamental in me has changed, deepened. My heart feels broader. On Shawn Colvin’s album “Whole New You” which she released after becoming a mother, she sings, “One small year… It’s taken all of me to get here.” The first year of my son’s life has indeed taken all of me and more, a good bit more.

Through the ups and downs of gaining a new equilibrium, I’ve become a better person. Perhaps only perceptible to me, but I feel more whole and more humble. Because of my immense love for son, I’ve surprised myself with the level of selflessness and responsibility I’ve been able to sustain. While I’m far more caffeinated, scattered, overwhelmed and quick to resentment, I’ve also experienced far more joy than I’ve ever known before.

Strangely, during this most precious year of my life, I’ve felt less connected with God. I don’t have a lot of time anymore to sit with God in silence, yet I’m also pretty sure God has been powering my mothering. There is no way I could have done this on my own.  Perhaps this year was more about doing God’s work than feeling God. Even though, every single day, I am amazed at and indescribably grateful for the gift we have been given from the Lord Almighty.

Recently after a particularly challenging week of our baby son being sick at the same time my husband was working nights, I sat on my yoga mat and didn’t do anything except breathe and “be”. I was relieved and grateful to set down my screw-ups for a few minutes. I felt calm, strong and myself – the me that exists underneath all the striving to be a good mother, wife, leader and employee. The me that needs a break sometimes. The deep me I’ve always been and the one I’ve become over the past year. These few moments were a respite from thinking I need to be anything other or more than who I really am.

My dad told me once during a difficult life transition to “lighten up,” and not take myself so seriously. Last year comments in an anonymous work survey said that my “intensity” might be intimidating for others.  My sister likes to tell me to “relax!” While it is still a beast I battle, motherhood has lessened my perfectionism, and I’m grateful to be easier on myself and others. I do, however, like the part of me that takes my life seriously. I consider my time on Earth, and with those I dearly love, to be short and precious. I know that my way of being and what I write about isn’t comfortable for some, but I’m not sure I can or want to change that part of me.

I will acknowledge, though, that one of the most wonderful things about motherhood is that around my son, I “lighten up” naturally. It comes without effort. He is so joyful and so much fun, I can only respond in kind. Sometimes the tables are reversed, he needs me to be that way first. And… he thinks I’m hilarious! So I milk it and I love it. I enjoy the fun part of me. It is my husband who is really the funny one in our family, but my son laughs at my jokes and slapstick comedy as if I’m the funniest person on Earth!

Becoming a mother and a wife have been the two largest “need to step up my game” events of my life. Despite the saying that we are all replaceable, I don’t believe we are all interchangeable. There is something I’m supposed to give my son, my husband, and the world that only I can give. These two people I love the most make me want to become the very best me I can be.  Working motherhood doesn’t leave a lot of time for all of the supports I used to use to de-stress and center myself, but I have learned that it is essential to make time for those that most influence my ability to be loving and happy for my husband , my son and myself – yoga, meditation, prayer, listening to others’ spiritual journeys, and writing. I like myself more when I love them well, or at least try.

This piece doesn’t feel too polished or quite finished, and I’m not sure I’ve accomplished Benjamin’s Franklin’s “write something worth reading,” but it is my baby son’s first birthday and I have to sweep before his party. I just wanted to acknowledge my gratitude for this sweet boy and my amazement at this “small year” by posting today.

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The Energy Between Us

April 18, 2010

A young woman recently told me she believes God is the energy between two people. Such wisdom and awareness! I appreciated the reminder that I must take responsibility for the energy I give to another.  
 
It isn’t easy. I quite regularly catch myself holding back or feeling competitive when interacting with someone new, as if the person across from me must prove herself trustworthy, before I will “love my neighbor as myself.”
 
The instruction, “So glorify God in your body,” (1 Corinthians 6:20) helps me in my quest to remain open-hearted in my interactions. When I allow God to course through my whole being – heart, mind, strength, and soul – I am much more able to extend “God-like” energy to others.
 
The yogi Paramahansa Yogananda writes in his mind-opening book, The Yoga of Jesus, “When one actually perceives the Divine Presence in his own soul, he is inspired with love for his neighbor – Jew and Christian, Muslim and Hindu – in the consciousness that one’s true Self and the Selves of all others are equally soul-reflections of the one infinitely lovable God.” (pg. 99)
 
Can I recognize God in another? Would I even try to see God in my enemy? What kind of energy would I create with her if I did? I find it hard enough to be conscious about my energy with those I love – to love them as completely as I would like to love myself. Therein lies the problem. If I love myself conditionally, I will love others the same way. Similarly, the judgment I feel toward others often reflects hostility within me toward myself.
 
In interpreting the gospel writer John’s account of Jesus speaking to a Samaritan woman (which a Jewish man at the time would not have done), contemplative priest Cynthia Bourgeault illustrates beautifully what can happen when two people recognize each other as Divine:
 
“Something he sees in her gives him the confidence to be so nakedly vulnerable; and something she sees in him gives her the confidence to follow his lead, to go higher and higher and deeper and deeper in herself, knowing far beyond what she could know from ordinary knowingness, knowing fully in the immediacy of her own heart. This quality of awareness is not something that comes from outside the moment. Rather, it grows up in the moment itself through the quality and energy of the heart connection.” (The Wisdom Jesus, pg. 11)
 
May we all give to each other and experience that kind of God energy.

Peace

April 5, 2010

Of all the devotion, betrayal, strength, fallibility, sadness, and glory I heard and read about during Holy Week, the line that moved me the most was this: “Peace is my last gift to you, my own peace I now leave with you; peace which the world cannot give, I give to you.” (The Book of Common Prayer)
 
I’ve written often about doubt and uncertainty on this winding path of mine. It is challenging, at times, to feel lasting peace about earthly matters such as money, love, work, health insurance, family misunderstandings, and social injustice. Yet, in the midst of all or any of those, I’ve come to recognize the kind of peace that is a gift from God – “peace which the world cannot give.”
 
This peace I feel in my body. When the core of me is open, breathing, and calm, my mind feels safe to follow suit. In this state, I trust the peace of the certainty I feel – certainty that it all means something and God is there for me to lean on. It is the deep peace of forgiveness after confessing “things done and left undone.” It is the peace of saying, “Yes, I do believe in this mystery that ‘passes all understanding.'”
 
When watching and participating in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services last week, I had to acknowledge that I believe in what this sacred practice represents. Seeing my clergy dressed in black with their backs turned to the congregation as they prayed was incredibly moving for me. I believe in the underlying story. So I say the words; I sing; I kneel; I eat the spiritual food. On Easter, it sank in deeper.
 
The judgmental, exclusionary, violent, sexist, neighbor-against-neighbor interpretations of Christianity have made me wary of Christianity as a whole. I’m grateful now to be learning a profoundly different take on what Jesus was teaching and to have found an understanding of God’s kingdom that I want to be a part of.
 
My mind still asks, “Am I for real? Is this devotion to and worship of God coming from my heart or my head?” I trust my body when she replies, “Yes. This is real for me. I feel this deeply. It has integrity.” Writing about and saying “Jesus” out loud is, at times, uncomfortable for me, yet being with him in private always feels natural. When I meditate, I invite him to sit with me.  He offers his hands. I take them. This is complete peace for me.
 
What brings you peace? If you’d like to share your own practice, please do so.

Wow, what a sight!

February 15, 2010

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of participating in WomanKind, an interfaith exploration of women’s spirituality hosted by the visionary St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. It would not do the experience justice to recount all of the nuances here (such as the gorgeous Botticelli-inspired décor). However, I will share the most memorable moment for me.
 
It happened at the beginning of Saturday afternoon’s healing service. As I watched a parade of women, old and young, black and white, clergy and attendants make their way up the center aisle to the front of an estrogen-filled church; my eyes grew big as did my smile. Soon, the altar filled with women ministers and priests. I swallowed hard in disbelief and tears filled my eyes at the sight. There it was – ancient wisdom in feminine form. 
 
After years of wondering if I would find a resonant place in a tradition about a man, a doctrine historically dictated by men and churches led predominantly by male clergy, the altar scene yesterday was startling and life-changing. I have been greatly inspired by masculine messengers and interpreters of God, including a recent embrace of the Ultimate Messenger. Nothing, however, has ever moved me more than this scene of my own kind – woman kind – delivering spiritual guidance in Christ’s name.
 
I know it sounds predictable coming from me to want to see women clergy. I wonder what it was like for the other 399 or so women in attendance – many of whom seemed to be followers of the Christian tradition. I believe that few would deny the lack of feminine spiritual role models held up for us to learn from, respect, and revere. The dearth of women spoken about in the Christian church was a major stumbling block for me in surrendering to this path, until I realized that Christ himself is the embodiment of what I consider most gorgeously feminine: care, love, compassion, service and community. 
 
It isn’t that I don’t value what men bring to relationship, leadership and spiritual practice – I do, very much. Yet to surrender my heart, body and will to God is such a personal, vulnerable experience. If I am to do it within a particular tradition, I need to trust that I and all women are considered as valuable and valid as men in the eyes of the church. I’ve no doubt that we are equal in the heart and mind of Jesus, yet much of what has been built in His name has called into question the institution’s reverence for women.
 
Nothing can adequately convey the heart-opening power of seeing wise, white-haired female ministers with their warm smiles and distinguished voices sitting amongst an interracial mix of intellectually fabulous, young priestesses. Garbed in white robes with beautiful stoles, these women shared delivery of the Gospel and God’s spiritual food.   The first prayer began, “O God, Mother of endless generations” – that alone would have sold me. The service went on to speak of “God in the midst of her” in Psalm 46 and to analyze the unconditional, deeply intuitive understanding of Christ’s power by a very poor, very sick woman as written in Mark 5:25-34. (Thanks to the flawlessly crafted and moving sermon of Dr. Linda Powell Pruitt.)
 
I had the intimate joy of witnessing this with my mother, an early 70’s feminist, who raised my four sisters and me to believe that something different from what she had lived as a young woman of the 50’s was possible for us. We both wondered how much more welcoming church might have felt to her as a girl and to independent young women today were this service their first experience of Christianity.
 
Even when the Christian church develops more balance of spiritual leadership, I will never forget my first time – yesterday at WomanKind – realizing what is possible and being sure that I belong.

Palms Up

January 26, 2010

As a former fundraising professional, I feel compelled to give you – my investors of the heart – a progress report on my Year of Love as there have been some fabulous first quarter results! Here’s how things are stacking up:
 
1. “Contribute love to my community”: Launching 150 girls on 15 GFC Girl Action Teams next week!
2. “Create love through my work”: Come to WomanKind, the Women’s Circle or the GRCC Pink Bag Seminar to let me know how I’m doing!
3. “Love my body”: Continuing my hurt-so-good, hip-opening yogic pursuit!
4. “Express and experience fabulous love with a man”: In a Q2 report perhaps…
5. “Channel love to family and friends”: Gladly, this is an ongoing practice.
 
You know what though? The most impactful Q1 outcome was not part of the original proposal. I do indeed have a new love… God. I know; I know you were rooting for a real, live, in-the-flesh man. (And I know some of you may think I’ve gone off the deep end.) There may indeed be a he; however, what I’m writing about is He. The He that had to (and for me, has to) come first.
 
My God is a combo of Divine Masculine, Feminine and That-Which-Can’t-Be-Defined. For this Year of Love, it was God in masculine form that I needed. Unbeknownst to me, this is what I have hungered for, a hunger that no mere mortal could satisfy (and isn’t meant to.)
 
Going alone to my sister’s for Christmas one more time had brought me to my spiritual knees. I was offered a hand and I surrendered. I leaned in and against. I trusted. I had no other choice.
 
Sure enough, when I yearn to be held, I feel His arms. When I need to talk, He’s completely there. To this Being, I open my heart. I’ve fallen in love.
 
I thought I had “let go and let God” before (oh, about 500 million times!) Yet this is different. I knew it immediately. For the first time, I feel free from the pursuit of perfection. For the first real time, I’ve let go of the reins.
 
With each passing day, I trust more. When I start grasping onto the earthly good this reordering has brought, I remember the wise words of a friend: “Palms Up”. With palms up, I release that which isn’t mine and I receive that which is.
 
Many of you wrote me of your own proclamations including “The Year of Financial Security” and “The Year of Healthy, Happy Family.” What I offer for your quest is simply, “palms up, my friends, palms up.”

Let It Out! A Story of Hips, Drama and PMS

January 10, 2010

As you can imagine, I’m a big believer in the potential of aches and pains to reveal more than physical ailments. It’s no surprise that my sister thinks I do a lot of navel gazing. I’m trying to figure out what’s in there! What am I storing in that tight, lower left back of mine? I’m quite sure my body is trying to speak (sometimes scream!) some fabulously useful information to my heart and mind. I, for one, think it’s imperative (and fascinating) to listen. 
 
And let me tell you, my hips have been doing some talking lately. Despite regular yoga classes, I haven’t been able to discern on my own what they were saying. So yesterday I had the great fortune to experience the gifts of Bev Johnson, a practitioner-in-training of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT). “Through assisted yoga postures and non-directive dialogue, PRYT guides clients to experience the connection of their physical and emotional selves.” (Contact Bev this month for a half-priced session!)
 
Boy did that little right hip flexor have a lot to say! In 90 minutes, out came pouring a virtual storehouse of vision, emotion and deep knowledge about who I am, what I’m becoming, and what I need to leave behind.
 
I’m sure you know by now that I’m also a big believer in the transformative power of tears. Let that river flow, I say! So many women try to tamp down their sensitivity. They apologize for their emotions. Perhaps you are one of them. Perhaps you believe your God-given, feminine, feeling self is an unwelcome burden on loved ones, colleagues, and pets (I’m no dog expert, but the few I’ve come to know are pretty amazing in the face of a crying human.)
 
You may believe that others are not interested in the depths of your heart. Well, I am! Your body is! And I’m quite sure God is. I’d venture to guess that those who love you most are too – even if they’re unsure of their own capacity to be your witness.
 
In the online dating world, there are some men who profess rather loudly that they want “NO DRAMA” (and they usually capitalize it!) To that, I respond with a DELETE! I believe these men would be better off dating their own kind for a while. In my opinion, an evolved man has grown his ability to hold space for a woman’s emotions. While he might not understand or even like her in that state, he honors the part of her that feels deeply, the same part that has the capacity to love him without end. Stuff one; you stuff the other.
 
I’m not advocating reckless wielding of the emotional torch; yet, I am encouraging all women to feel. It is just fine to do so. Really, you were made this way. Who cares if it is PMS induced? Open the flood gates! We can do our best to consciously minimize the impact of our darker emotions on others, yet by some means, we must let them out. Otherwise, they get stored. We’re going to feel them one way or another.
 
I used to cry a lot more. My Colorado friends lasted through many a tear-streamed hike up and down Arbaney Kittle Trail. There are pews across America soaked because I was moved by words, ritual, and the coaxing open of my heart by a power greater than I. Nowadays, I can predictably count on at least one massive bawl-my-eyes-out session per month. It usually happens in the car. Sometimes mildly prompted by the day’s events; more often brought on by a good country song like Keith Urban’s “Thank You“. Sometimes I think I’m losing it; until two days later when I remember it is part of the territory of me as a woman. Part of the territory of me as woman.
 
Being a woman is not something to be contained, altered, fixed, or managed. In the words of our esteemed 43rd President, bring ’em on! Bring on the PMS tears, the church tears, the weeping at family goodbyes and the moving realizations of greater truth. Trust their capacity to cleanse and inform. Trust that your rawest self is a grace and power to behold.

Anticipating a Lottery Win

October 19, 2009

How many of you think that if you prepare yourself for disappointment, you lessen the potential for being hurt or embarrassed? Well, let me tell you flat out, it is a sucky way to live! I know; I’ve been doing it for years. Preparing for disappointment.

What happens when we do that? In my experience, my heart closes just enough to stay safe (not going to let you in fully if you’re going to leave me tomorrow), my light dims (not going to show you all of me – who knows which part will scare you away… my tenderness? my openness? my power?) and my trust level in any remotely vulnerable situation is one foot in, one foot out (not going to be a fool again; I’ve been here before!)

Sounds welcoming doesn’t it?!? Would you want to be involved with someone like that? Why would the Universe bring in full-on happiness, when fear wouldn’t even let it fully permeate?

Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m done with that! For now on, instead of anticipating disappointment, I’m anticipating a lottery win! As if I have an endless supply of “Ace in the Hole” scratch-off cards and I know for sure that one of them is a winning ticket. It’s just a matter of patience, persistence and belief in the possibility.

When I lived in Colorado, my girlfriend Megan said to me, “When you meet you meet your man, I want you to feel like you’ve won the lottery.”

I’ve kept that little ditty in my back pocket with each new date and each passing relationship. A winning ticket doesn’t mean he has to be perfect (to quote Brad Paisley how boring would that be!), yet he does need to be perfect for me. Our pairing needs to serve his Highest Good, mine and, ideally, the Greater Good. Now, that would be a lottery win!

My heart always knows when there’s no BINGO (sometimes only admitting it to myself after the fact). It could be a B3, an N25 or a G54 that completes my winning card. I don’t know exactly which (that’s the fun of playing!) but I believe it’s just about to be called.

What if we approached all of life anticipating a lottery win? While job searching, baby making, or creating affordable health care for all people (couldn’t resist a little plug!) … What kind of energy would we put into the world? How would others experience us? What kind of possibility would we see right before our very eyes? How much would we be willing to open our hearts?

I’m ready! Are you?

Opening to ourselves

September 2, 2009

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few years thinking about and practicing opening my heart. To others, to God, to possibility, within new relationships and old, during life on the upswing or in the middle of a downward spiral. It has required moment-to-moment awareness and perception of whether I am opening or closing.  (and sometimes I am completely clueless to either!)
 
This week one of my teachers asked me, “Is your heart opening to you?” I could tell this was a novel concept by the lump in my throat, tears welling in my eyes and the light bulb going on in my head.
 
Such a profound and necessary gesture. Beginning all the good we want to be and do for others by gently opening to ourselves first. You can try it if you’d like. Simply breathe into the center of your heart and feel it softly, subtly opening, like your favorite flower, to yourself.  The you that only you know.
 
For me, it is palpable and shifts me into a vulnerable place that is beautiful rather than scary. My shoulders relax, my chest exhales, my hips feel more grounded and I let go of efforting. 
 
Recently, the entire New York Times Magazine was dedicated to the empowerment of women and girls and its necessity for a healthy world.  (Thanks to the tireless Nicholas Kristof!!)
 
One Pakistani woman is quoted as saying A woman should know her limits, and if not, then it is her husband’s right to beat her.” Acknowledging that I am no cultural expert, I will boldly say that this woman could benefit from a little heart opening. Obviously, and likely unconsciously, she doesn’t feel it for herself much less her daughter-in-law.
 
In my opinion, all the empowerment programs and policies on the planet won’t make a real, lasting difference for girls and women until we open to that inward feeling of tenderness towards ourselves. That, I believe, will change the world.