Sexy Teachers

I spent the weekend at a retreat where we allowed ourselves to ask deep, beautiful (and for me, often frightening) questions about the nature of love, intimacy, self-care, sexuality and spirituality. As I “re-enter” the world where these aren’t the most common topics of conversation, I want to remind myself of these questions I’m exploring, and perhaps some of the answers I’m receiving.

What is Sexy?

People who know deep in their core that they are beautiful, and have absolutely no interest in convincing me of that, are a profound embodiment of luscious sexiness. People who have forgotten their own beauty and are hell bent on convincing me that they aren’t beautiful are the embodiment of unsexy.  And the paradox – people who have caught a glimpse of their beauty and are hell bent on convincing me to also see it, are in the ugliest part of the process. I’ve been in all three states, and know that how one gets from one of these states to another is a deeply personal journey. Love helps it along the way. For many of us, sex and love are so intertwined, that we get caught in this trap of it seeming like the only way to connect to feeling sexy is to have sex, but if we aren’t having a connection to our beauty, the opportunity for that becomes extremely scarce. Isn’t life a funny teacher!

How are Security and Self-Consciousness Connected?

I used to use the word “self-conscious” to mean “insecure,” as in “I’m self-conscious about my body,” or “I’m feeling self-conscious about the poem I just performed.” I’m gaining a new relationship to this word. I’m understanding that there are moments in our lives when something is worthy of bare attention – it can be when I’m on the edge of a beautiful new discovery about my truth, or when I’m on the edge of something that is powerful, or even when there is danger of harm near by. In these moments, a sharp and intense consciousness of Self arises to offer me the invitation to become present to my wisdom and to act from that place. This Consciousness of Self guides me – to garner the courage to walk away from negative mind chatter towards something more meaningful, to engage the powerful situation with appropriate and focused respect and care, or to move away from harm.  In this context, what I want is more self confidence, coming FROM the security of deep self consciousness, not to be “less self-conscious” because I’m feeling insecure. Fear is like this too, but I don’t fully understand that yet.

When to Teach?

I am so grateful for the teachers who have left breadcrumbs for me. And I’m deeply appreciating that there are breadcrumbs on every trail, each calling to me to go in useful and non-useful directions. When I choose for myself a painful path, I’m still learning. They are all teachers. My job is to feel myself drawn to the breadcrumbs that are healthy for me.

I love so much to be both the student and the teacher. I love the productivity of shared wisdom and workload. I love the way someone else’s journey can help me make a quantum leap on mine. But I struggle with knowing when to ask for help and when I’ll benefit most from the muscle growth of helping myself. I also struggle with knowing when to offer a hand forward vs. letting those I love find their own answers. The easy answer is to always ask permission before offering help, and I practice that daily. Yet, I notice in myself that I love best those relationships in which we know and love one another and have tacit permission to “cross the boarder” into one another’s hearts. When I’m a mess, I usually want my people to reach in and grab me be the shoulders, look me straight in the eyes, give me a little shake and say “get back into yourself!” Yes, I’ll get back to myself either way, but the process of going it alone often wastes needless time and effort. And I love the moment when I can offer an intuition to someone I love that helps them connect point A and B in their own journey.

 

So what is the toggle point of knowing when to cross the border? For me, sometimes NOT sharing that wisdom (in either direction) can feel like abandonment.  And also, I have stories of feeling invaded by other folks with helper tendencies like mine. I’m feeling like the toggle for me in deciding when to cross the border has to do with intention. Is it to serve my own agenda, or to help my beloved redirect towards their own good? And when someone is coming into my heart space — same question.

 

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On Feeding My Whole Self

One of my (beloved) on-line communities has been discussing addictions, including over-eating.

Here is what I want to share about my compulsive eating:

Eating and feeding has been a primary communication mechanism for my whole life.

I may not have know how to feel, or what to say, but I knew how to eat.

When I was depressed, I couldn’t ask for help, but I could have another serving and that would feel like SOMETHING.

When I haven’t been able to tell my family how I really feel, I could cook for them and watch my effort go into their bodies and believe that was some kind of connection.

As I’ve woken up, gotten connected to myself, community, love, I’m learning so many more forms of communication, and the food just gets less and less important in my life. I still slip, but every atom in my body that I allow to start feeling unconditional love for myself becomes one less craving.

My beloved housemate brings “God food” into the house – raw greens, protein powder, frozen organic fruit for smoothies. Even if I didn’t like the taste of these foods (lucky, I DO), I know how much love comes attached to them
and they feel amazing to put into my body. I let myself eat these and feel love. I used to not think I was worth the added expense of these types of foods, and now I know instead that those french fries aren’t worth the way they will make me feel. And this type of eating is so much less work! I used to spend 15 hours a week doing food prep, cooking and cleaning, and now I have an extra 13 hours to spend actually connecting.

When I want more connection with my kids, I am learning to ask “What do you want to do together?” rather than “What can I feed you?” And I do notice their programming, the way they get bored and wander to the kitchen. I’m
trying to find the right way to have that healthy choice conversation without shaming.

But I still feel the “Hunger.” Daily.
When I feel that deep empty ache in my gut, I ask myself if I’m HUNGRY or just feeling EMPTY?
If the answer is EMPTY, I’m trying to learn to feed something other than my taste buds and stomach – like feeding my other chakras (first, I had to learn that I HAVE chakras).

Here are some of my new “comfort foods” starting from the top:
– I stimulate my crown & third eye with meditation/contemplation/music (If I think about it, this probably feels better than a martini!)
– I feel richness in my throat chakra by singing cheesy love songs or chanting kirtan too loudly and out of tune. (This feels like a VERY creative fusion recipe to me.)
– I exercise my heart by expressing my love unabashedly by regularly saying stuff like this: I love you and it feels good. (This feels so much better than my Grandma’s “Clean Plate Club.”)
– I take my fabulous body to yoga and feel my core getting stronger every time. (Meat and potatoes, got NOTHING on being able to do the triangle pose properly or that feeling I get when my spine cracks back into place!)
– I don’t leave ANY chakras out – with a regular practice of self pleasure whether I’m partnered or not. (Expensive one-time meal out? No thanks, I’ve got this awesome handy purple vibrator I got at CVS for $35 and some
environmentally friendly rechargeable batteries!)
– And then the root. This was why I needed to eat so much for so long – because I couldn’t feel my own base, my own connection to the people and places of this earth. I hear some folks can hear trees, I’m working on
that. I’ll keep you posted.

Sometimes the Answer is a Question

 

 

I have a story that sometimes my take on reality doesn’t align with others. Sometimes it’s just a very different memory of what words were said; sometimes it’s remembering meeting someone in one place or time, while they remember the meeting in a slightly different place or time; sometimes it is about having a completely different take on the emotional context of an interaction. I expect this is a universal experience, and I’m curious about what other folks do when they have this experience.

For me, a common strategy is to request validation or reality checking; I am trained as a scientist, and the inquiry process is important to me. When my understanding of reality is divergent with the “common” or at least an “other” view, I like to ask my partner, family, or co-observer(s) this fundamental questions:

IS THERE TRUTH TO MY OBSERVATION AND UNDERSTANDING OF THIS REALITY?

In a more simplistic way, the question is:

IS THIS TRUE?

Again, my story is that the answers I have gotten often in the past, at least the ones I am coming to realize I have most deeply internalized are three pretty cumbersome answers:

  • No, that’s not true.
  • I don’t want to talk about it
  • What the hell is wrong with you?

Now, I’m certain I’ve gotten lots and lots of other good answers, but these three stones are the ones I’ve let most deeply into my heart, and they are the ones I use to beat myself with when I am in my quietest self reflection and I ask MYSELF “Is this true?” Here is a certainty: this is not a useful conversation to have with myself. And, I love myself unconditionally, so I am ready for a broader spectrum of answers to my question.

Luckily, my life is filled with beautiful people who also like to answer and ask all sorts of questions, with whom I have discovered and have witnessed so many other answer choices. So here are some other possible answers that I like, and I love that most of them are questions. And I am enjoying the process of internalizing these, and also sharing them with you. I welcome additional contributions to this list!

So, the question is: IS THIS TRUE?

Frankly, I think this would work with any question.

And here are some PRIME CHOICE ANSWERS:

  • That is a beautiful question.
  • Yes.
  • No.
  • I don’t know.
  • I don’t know, yet.
  • What’s the evidence?
  • It is not my understanding of truth, but I believe you.
  • What does your mind believe?
  • What does your heart say?
  • How does your body feel about it?
  • What does your intuition know?
  • Is your truth coming from spirit?
  • Are you sure that is the right question?
  • What is under that question?
  • Do you know why you are asking that question?
  • What is your deepest need?
  • I have no answer, but I am curious about how can I be of service to you in your exploration of your answer?
Human Awareness
Human Awareness

This isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life

At Kirtan on Saturday, for the first time, I reached a stillness so deep, that I could feel the clarity and intensity of my own heart beat like I was being rocked by a wave. I found a deep slow breath, a gentle placement of my closed eyes slightly up and centered. I felt my heart open. I became presence.

From there, I could open my eyes, smile, and see. Not look around – See.

There were children dancing joyfully, some were rambunctious, some cooperative, some silly. There was a flow to their play, coming together, and pulling back into their individual trajectories. The young warrior fathers danced with the children, gently powerful and potent. The young mothers held hands and danced and spun, or sat strong and ready as their little ones flitted over for a pat before going back to the celebration of movement. This observation landed in me as a very simple statement. I could see these families choosing to spend their Saturday evening together in loving joyful tribal community.

I felt these words: They are doing this right.

My lover danced in the joy of feeling his body. He invited me to dance, and I knew my place in this moment was to witness. He danced a lyrical communication of the mystery of spirit and love which I don’t yet understand. I feel honored to be his student in this. And he danced the longings in his heart, longings I also know well, and I feel honored to be one of his teachers in this. I felt sadness at my recent struggles with seeing him as a gift for me, rather than for this truth.

Again, words arrived: Hold this one lightly.

The older people and the young seekers, the guides and the musicians, were the roots of the room. I could feel them each, and I could feel them all, and I could begin to understand the mystery that I’ve always had, and always will have, a place in this continuum. Even before this understanding, I have offered myself in service as the child, the seeker, the lover, the mother. With this awakening, I will now be able to offer myself as the guide and some day, as the elder. And always as the seeker and the lover and the mother, and as the student and the teacher.

Here more words: I belong.

I reached these words in the stillness.
In these words, the stillness reaches me.
My mind is not here to make these words, it is here to understand them. I felt tender and naked from this human awareness, electrified and alive from my loving relationships, and harmoniously connected to myself. And I could see with clarity. I could feel what matters, how what matters is always in abundance, and how little the rest matters.

This landed in me as this simple mantra:
This isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

Holding the stillness and this mantra together, I allowed it to become an exploration.

This relationship isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

This child isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

This role isn’t something to work on, it is a celebration of life.

My work isn’t even something to work on, it is a celebration of my life.

The tears that accompanied this truth poured gently from my eyes, and I felt no need to hide them or wipe them away, so they created a sweet stream that caressed my face, my chin, my neck, and pooled in my heart.

This was gift enough, more than I had expected would happen, and then I received even more. As the evening began to come to a close, the last mantra was an invitation for each of us to envision the way in which we can use a portion of our lives in service to one another, to our families, to our communities, to spirit, to the earth. It wasn’t a call, or an order, it was an offering of the gift of knowing. In this sacred space, I received a clarity.

First and foremost, my service is love, and absolutely nothing else matters. Any detail of location, destination, logistics, who is there, what shape it takes, is secondary, or even insignificant.

I explored this.

What of my adult loving relationships? The answer was Love. Who to love and what it means for my future, is secondary. Because there is always enough love, and if this one beautiful person has his or her own calling, my love gives only one choice: joyous celebration. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

What of my children? Love. This, so simple. Nothing to engineer, nothing to do right or wrong. Lovingly witnessing their becoming and joyously celebrating their choices and empathetically holding them in their struggles, even if their struggles include me, is all I’m required to do. Loving is doing it right. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

What of home? Also simple. My home has spaces for stillness and spaces for joyous celebration for me, for my children, for whomever feels drawn to join us here. My home will be a place of refuge and community. For love. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

What of work? This one particular ego struggle became the lightest and most insignificant of my mysteries to understand. My employment can be my work, or it can be the source to fund my work. If it is the source to fund my work, it can also be an opportunity to live lovingly in every one of those interactions. This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

This isn’t something to work on; it is a celebration of life.

So I set an intention to reconnect to this stillness, this mantra, during the next day, to allow it to become familiar, a new form of muscle memory. I realize this will be a practice. The next day turned out to be a day, precisely like every day, in which I was invited to contemplate connection, commitment, the preciousness of time, and living with purpose. It was a day in which I was invited to ask how I will choose to live this one life. And I know. And this knowing isn’t something I needed to invent or create or work on. It was given to me.

So, during the day, I experienced sadness about the times when I believed there was not enough. I felt the pull to drop back into that familiar story of scarcity and grief. And also, I breathed, I found the stillness. And I felt gratitude for this moment when there is enough.

And I experienced regret for my past actions when I was disconnected from living love, when I was driven by neediness or ego or my unreliable thoughts. I felt the pull of self-pity. And also, I breathed, found the stillness, listened to this awakening heart, and found gratitude for having made my own discoveries of doing it wrong.

And I experienced a joyful noticing of how the abundance I receive when I stopped trying to collect, is a profoundly infinite abundance my egoic mind never could have imagined in that misguided desire to control and predict. I found surrender.

I experienced longing for home. And in my breath, in my stillness, gratitude for the chance to create.

And I lived this one day as true to my calling as I ever have.
I honored love. I honored the struggle. I honored the path –
For myself, for my family, for my community.

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Truth & Reconciliation

Notice the title of this post, and the concept it conveys? Truth & Reconciliation. It’s not justice. It’s not winning. It’s not even forgiveness.
It’s reconciliation. To reconcile. Requires the truth.

But is there ever really a single “The” truth? My truth right now is that each of us has in common a desire to be seen, to feel part of a collective that is more than self serving, and to love.

Stan Dale, founder of the Human Awareness Institute said that everything is either love, or a cry for love. Damn straight truth there. So I find myself trying to reconcile the truth of my own actions. I find myself sorting my past actions and behaviors, choices and non-choices into these two buckets:
“Good, that was love.” and “Ooops, cry for love.”
And then wanting to come clean, to move forward with a greater intention to check my future actions against this litmus: Are you loving, or are you crying out for love? Will this action/request/word cause connection or harm? It’s like a mini version of the recovery Step 4. In that step, you make amends with those you have harmed, with the important disclaimer that you do so ONLY when doing so does not cause greater harm.

And there is the rub. That judgement of knowing, before hand, whether I am acting from a place of giving or taking. There are specific people I love who I long to provide with an explanation, an apology, a promise for something better in the future, but I have not been invited to do so. Without the ask, without specifically asking or being asked, stomping in to make these declarations is a dump, a taking, an attempt to spackle over my own wounds. It would not be an act of love, even if my intention was to do good.

So perhaps a review, a breathing into the truth of my own actions with the honesty of the impact it has had on others, a quiet contemplation of what could have been an alternative choice. Perhaps this internal investigation will acclimate me to the process and next time it can run through the steps before I act, or fail to act.

Here’s the truth: I’ve loved, lied to, tried earnestly to help, over-shared with, and hurt the people in my village. I acted. Someone was hurt. From the perspective of the person who was hurt, that certainly may have felt like abuse. Does this mean I have been abusive? I guess it does. Strong word there. Maybe abusive comes from an INTENTION to cause pain, and I’m fairly certain that the vast majority of my actions have come from a misguided attempt to help or be helped. Or my utter inability to know what was the right thing to do. My abusive behavior has been a cry for love. That doesn’t justify it. But perhaps it saves me the label of “Abuser.” Perhaps, at least in my own mind, it negates the power of that word applied anywhere to anyone. Perhaps all abusive acts are committed by people who are miserably failing in their longing to be seen, to figure out how to be part of a collective that is more than self serving and to love? I know so many tales of abuse that are hard to filter through that lens, but perhaps that is the work of truth and reconciliation.

And what of NOT acting? That can cause harm as much as harmful actions can. I have avoided, walked away from, failed to share, failed to see and love people in my village. I failed to act. Someone was hurt. From the perspective of the person who was hurt, that certainly may have felt like abandonment or neglect. Does this mean I have been neglectful. Absolutely. And I have a story of having been abandoned by others. When I run that through the “Stan love filter,” I arrive again at truth and reconciliation. I can see that neglect or abandonment as a cry for love, by someone who is failing to have enough love, not someone who is intentionally withholding it for some nefarious purpose.

I’m going to hold onto my faith and belief that each of us does our best with what we have. Some of us, for some time, just don’t have what is required to show up, stay, deliver, or do anything but self serve. I’ve done this. People I love have done this. I want to stop seeing the world through the victim/abuser binary. I want to see the world through the lens of love, or not enough love. I guess the opportunity to shift this thinking is to stop using language that actions and neglect are done “TO” someone. The action happened. That is the truth. Assuming that I can understand another’s motive is a path of great suffering for me. But asking myself if this feels like love, and walking towards it, that is something I can do. Asking myself if this feels like a cry for love, and then ASKING if there is some way I can be of service, that is something I can do.

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44

“ I need you to grow up into what you used to be.” – Antonia Lassar, in letter to her future 45 year old self

At 42, that line haunted me.
I’d strayed so far from who I suspected I was in the beginning.
So in 2012, I got busy, mindfully (and sometimes frantically) working on getting back to “me” by 45. I have one last year to pull that off. So to mark progress, here is my “inverse bucket list” – the things that were really important to me that I DID accomplish.

1 – I stood naked in front of an entire room full of beautiful people.
2 – And the second time, it felt good.
3 – I went on a lot of first dates.
4 – I learned how to make the first move.
5 – I learned how to break up.
6 – I got better at breaking up.
7 – I experienced breakup as a “shift in relationship,” rather than an ending.
8 – I drank a medicinal dose of cacao and danced around a fire circle all night long.
9 – I did my first yoga class.
10 – I did many more yoga classes.
11 – I learned that there are 7 chakras.
12 – I felt ALL SEVEN of my chakras.
13 – I got a little better at knowing when to shut up.
14 – I watched a lot of TedTalks.
15 – I was a good friend. And sometimes a lousy one.
16 – I expanded my friend circle to – probably to more than I have had in my entire life.
17 – I am learning better how to be a friend.
18 – I befriended me.
19 – I got better at expediently and gracefully exiting unhealthy situations.
20 – In which, sometimes, I was the only one being unhealthy.
21 – I learned to meditate.
22 – I found that before meditation makes me happy, it makes me sad.
23 – I kept meditating anyway.
24 – I made love. A lot.
25 – I learned that I don’t fall out of love as easily as I fall in love.
26 – I decided that’s a good thing.
27 – I experimented with alternative relationship models.
28 – I didn’t find one that fits (yet).
29 – I performed poetry – without looking at the page.
30 – I learned how to be alone.
31 – I learned I don’t like to be ALL alone, but I’m not afraid of it anymore.
32 – I went to a Kirtan.
33 – I went to a bunch more.
34 – I gave more time to aimless art.
35 – I helped my Dad cross something off his bucket list.
36 – I went kayaking alone.
37 – I experienced several forms of energy healing.
38 – I still have no idea what that means, but I surrendered to that being okay for now.
39 – I made progress on “alone and at peace with an open heart.”
40 – I worked on “healthy, whole hearted, and graceful.”
41 – I let my kids see me, the real me, hopefully without exposing too much.
42 – I got my angel wings.
43 – I published my blog.
44 – I started to let in the mystery, including the truth that I won’t be done at 45.

I didn’t mail cards this year. Let’s pretend like that is some sort of reducing my carbon footprint “value action” instead of just me being too robustly engaged in life to keep up with the little details.
So, here’s the holiday letter. Hope it finds you well and that you appreciate lugging one less piece of paper to the recycling center. I shall now execute the requisite parts of the holiday letter, also known as the well wishing, the bragging, and the preaching.

First – the generic wish you well.
But seriously, I wish you well. If you are unwell, I wish you the resources to mitigate your suffering as expeditiously as possible. If that isn’t possible, I wish you complete enjoyment of the growth that results from your suffering. (And that I in no way contributed to said suffering.)

Second – the bragging.
From where I sit, the kids are doing great. I may be wrong about that, because they are teenagers and they can be a bit mysterious at times. But I see them laughing and treating one another with compassion, no limbs have fallen off this year, and the only time school calls is to tell us that there is some opportunity to drive a field trip or lunch money or something else that is misplaced, so that says to me everything is exactly normal.
If you want more specifics, you should totally ask them (they will probably tell you more than they tell us). Let me give you some question prompts, the salient details you could ask about: James kicked the PSAT’s ass, did a cool nerdy intern thing at MIT Media lab last summer, and has a really great girlfriend; Max transitioned from Elementary school to middle school like this is NOT his first time at the rodeo, did some horseback riding and drama stuff, and is serving on the school Justice Committee. Each of them are doing a really gracious job of watching their mom go through her mid life hippy phase. The title of the Christmas Card is their doing.

Third – the plug.
Over the years, I’ve gotten my fair share of holiday letters from loved ones who hope that I am squared well with Jesus, or other such religious well wishes, so I’m going to grant myself permission to do a bit of prosthelitizing (I have NO idea how to spell that word). This year, I discovered my heart and spirit in a way that I have never imagined possible. As these things go, there is no one single thing that got me here, and part of my “awakening” is to let go of the myth that there is only one way. And yet, I feel drawn to end my letter with a mission statement from the Human Awareness Institute, and an invitation to you: it would bring me great joy if you choose to reach out to me and ask why this has been so meaningful to me. If you are someone I’ve ever said “I love you” to, then I a have certainly thought of you in the context of the HAI community either because you are a participant, or because I hope you will be!!

    “The Human Awareness Institute (HAI) empowers individuals to be potent, loving, contributing human beings. HAI promotes personal growth and social evolution by replacing ignorance and fear with awareness and love. HAI aims to create a world where people live together in dignity, respect, understanding, trust, kindness, compassion, reverence, honesty and love. The Human Awareness Institute is committed to creating a world where everyone wins.”
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Merry Krishna