Student of Surrender

StudentofSurrender

I’ve been a student of academia, the streets, the law of attraction, yoga, Chiropractic, Lord of the Rings, much that is spiritual and unseen and many more avenues of learning. I’ve been in relationship school, sobriety school, business school, technical school, and nature school. Yes, I love learning and I’m a lifelong gatherer of information.

Wisdom and learning are fun for me and keep life interesting. For the most part, I haven’t been too resentful about all the “schooling,” that life has required of me. Considering the number of hard knocks that I took, I feel I’m pretty open to growing into my full potential throughout the rest of my life.

However, one of the greatest lessons that I didn’t quite master, was the art of surrender.

I’m more of the action, visualize, meditate, say affirmations until I’m blue in the face, make a map, make 25 lists, and boss the Universe around type of gal. No matter how many times, this way of being, “sort of” worked out for me, I kept on doing things the same ol’ way and expected different results.

To be fair, why wouldn’t I operate this way? There is loads of evidence, books, movies, and wildly successful people that follow this system and get great results.

As recent as last month (March 2019) I wrote about “Plan A,” as the way to invite your true purpose to fully materialize. While I still believe this to be true, depending upon the timing and situation, as I wrote in that blog, in order to feel safe while letting your dream life arrive, you may want to have some safety nets in place.

Why?

Because solely committing to one way for my good to arrive worked for about 60 days. There I was, giving my all to my purpose work, marketing, emailing, working with clients and waiting for people to flock to my programs.

Crickets.

I’ve been known to boss my body around as well, with punishing workouts and restrictive diets, all the while holding fast to outdated ideas of how I should look and feel. And, what about the romance department? While I’d much rather be alone than with the wrong person, what if I’m missing out on the right person by demanding that they show up in a certain pair of pants?

Frankly, I felt exhausted. I’m tired of pushing and prodding and ordering the Universe to serve me my dreams on a silver platter.

So, while I hadn’t quite been brought to my knees, I found myself at a proverbial crossroads.

I began to ask.

What if, my plan for my life, is not the plan that God (or the Universe or Source) has in mind for me? What if my idea of how life is “supposed” to be, is just not my Dharma (life path)?

What if I just begin to do the work that is given to me to do? What if, I do what is mine to do, the learning, the laughter, the experience that is right in front of me?

What if I breathe, relax and let God and life lead?

The jewel of surrender, Ishvara Pranidhana, presupposes that there is a divine force at work in our lives. We begin to let ourselves be used by the Divine. We offer ourselves, our work, money, creativity, relationships and life path to God. There is a distinct shift from, “mine, mine, mine,” to “it’s all yours anyway, what do you want me to do?”

To be fair, most of us don’t just one day wake up, having been transformed into masters of surrendering. There is usually a process, a slow awakening, that we go through.

In the story of Plan A, being the way, you can see a glimpse of a subtle change. My way (the way of the ego), was to determine that just because I said so, because I wanted it to be, I could make my fledgling business support all my needs. Even though my faith and trust were strong, and the desire to serve pure, there was grasping energy; an ordering of how this was going to look.

I certainly have been served a big lesson of surrender to what my body needs to do during this last winter, with pain and injury forcing me to slow down, rest, and honor a giant time of healing. And, that different pair of pants? Haha, God has a sense of humor in that department for sure.

And, I do not believe that I didn’t want certain things bad enough, or I failed at manifesting! There comes a point when we must realize that we are doing all the “right” things, and if what we are asking for, isn’t coming through; it’s a signal to unhook our claws and take another look.

Maybe you’re being prepared for a completely different plan, relationship, or timing.

What if the Universe has a different plan then yours?

We begin to shift from grasping, from having to have things be a certain way, to beginning to let go.

Then, there is a new noticing of all the preferences we have to life being a certain way. These preferences show up in many forms, thoughts, emotions, and likes and dislikes. You may relate to them as addictions and attachments.

For me, in my story, I began to notice I was very attached to ideas about where I “should” be in life. I should be self-employed and not having to rely on side jobs. I’m too old and too educated to be in food and drink service. My body image was stuck at about age 35 which is inappropriate and disheartening. And, I was pushing away a wonderful man, that has continued to show up for me, in really big ways, for over a year, just because he is in a completely different package than I had planned. Here I was, telling myself more “should” statements, “I should be in better shape.” “I shouldn’t be dating this man, he’s too young.”

Is any of this even true? No. There is no shame in service. Our bodies age and transition and sometimes we just don’t get to choose who shows up with kindness and affection.  The problem begins in our thoughts.

What if God wants me exactly where my feet find me on any given day? Who am I to question the wisdom of this?

Whew. From grasping to letting go, to detachment, to surrender. Simple, not easy. I began to let go of all the ways I physically and mentally fight with life.

What a poignant journey it’s been.

The moment I surrendered – shift happened.

First the breath. The sweetness of release and the joy of allowing alignment of a plan for me. Suddenly, the universe righted itself. I could feel the support all around.

Shifts were offered, dog sitting jobs arrived, new and former clients showed up and the online course began to fill up. A very old tax bill was settled, and debts will be cleared. My body is breathing a huge sigh of relief at not being hated and pushed around all of the time. I can let the relationship be just how it is, without pushing away a really great guy. New friends and opportunities are appearing, none of which I could have dreamed would be possible.

Who am I to question how my good is to arrive?

I cannot pretend that the past month and this story has transformed me into a master student of the art of surrendering. I’ll be a lifelong student.

What I have learned is that I am done with telling God how I want my life and dreams to be. I am content to allow the magic of what the Universe has in store for me, show up, exactly when and how it is supposed to. I am prepared to practice daily the art of non-grasping, detachment and the jewel of surrender. Challenges are good teachers and this lesson plan has been one with much grace. One that I won’t soon forget.

I will breathe, relax and let life lead.

How do you try to control and boss life around? Where can you begin to let go, and offer your life and plans to a power greater than yourself?

If you would like to explore this subject in greater depth, I found much wisdom and support from the following resources.

The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer

It’s Not Your Money by Tosha Silver

The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele

Human Unsuccess

Human Unsuccess

 As long as we try to transcend ourselves,

reach for the sky,

pull away from ground and into spirit,

we are heroes carved in stone.

We stand atop the pillar alone

blind to the pigeon’s droppings.

 

Do not try to transform yourself.

Move into yourself.

Move into your human unsuccess.

Perfection rapes the soul.

Marion Woodman

The mind and it’s endless thinking; is often trying to convince us that perfection is the answer to all of our problems. If I just get a better grade, work-out harder, date the right person, drive the fanciest car; I’ll be ok.

Spending all of our time in meditation, visualization, psychic work and learning, or conversely, numbing and escaping; in an attempt to transcend ourselves can also be an attempt to dissociate from our very human existence.

I know what it’s like to use all of the above methods to avoid being present within myself. I made the unconscious choice to become a doctor; in a desperate attempt to make myself ok. Yet, year after year, I would starve myself, make myself sick with drugs; embrace punishing work-outs to have a perfect body, because I bought into these things as being the route to happiness and acceptance. Car’s and men were used for status, to impress people that I didn’t even know. I thought that the fancy degree would take care of money issues and give me a secure future. If I wasn’t numbing with substances, I was escaping with vision’s and day dreaming instead of using trust and action to allow my good to arrive.

That inner peace that so many of us search for, is not found in perfection. It is found by moving into one’s self, by going to “ground” and into the center. Transcendence comes from connection to the core of your individual humanity, and to the Earth.

For most people, it takes a fall (literally being grounded) to shake them from the reverie of perfectionism. Mother Earth rises up to catch us, and sometimes her embrace isn’t so soft.

However, she is here; living, breathing and supportive. Just as is, your body. Your body speaks a similar language to that of the Earth’s. They both speak the truth and contain our entire history. In order to move away from perfectionism and disconnection from the self, we must learn the language of earth and body. This inner communication is rich and full of  intelligence. The inner landscapes, of the Earth and your body, have been waiting your entire life for you to come inside and finally listen.

One of the most profound ways I have found to understand these magical voices, is to move within the rhythm of the seasons. When I allow-in the awareness that my body wants to collaborate with nature, I am able to release some of the harmful control that media and marketing messages want me to believe; such as I must poke and prod at myself to fit into their distorted ideal of perfection. Allowing awareness to flow between body and nature, I am able to hear the voice of my body, that then, gently guides me to what is right for us.

I can laugh at the notion that I must have a car to function in society. I can escape the propaganda that say’s I need to drink to have fun or escape my pain. I can listen and allow my body to rest and reflect in winter, while the rest of the world goes on the next trendy diet and workout plan.

The ground becomes the place of realization, of opening, and then peels off the layers of what is not me. My times of solitude, learning about living in accordance with the seasons, and reflection, have revealed and then healed many an addiction.

This is not to say that this way of living is all comfort and ease. I’m pretty sure I’m wildly unpopular with many who perceive me to be distant and too direct. I can fall into the trap of comparison, as well as the lure of pretty, shiny objects. Sometimes, the silence can perpetuate a return to patterns of distraction; I must be vigilant and kind. Yes, I must treat myself, and others, with compassion and kindness, and remember to reach out for those gentle places. I remember that we connect to each other not through perfection, which rarely allows for an honest interaction, but through our human “unsuccess.”

As we move into the exciting energy of spring with its element of “wood,” I invite you, to travel with me, as we explore the idea of wood as flexible and full of wild, imperfect movement. It’s a time of renewal, laughter, planting seeds, intentions and action. It’s a season of greater community and a wonderful time to gather, in person, with our friends and families. I’ve begun a big movement towards using my phone, as just that, a phone and staying off of the apps and social media, in order to spend face to face time with my loved ones.

What ways of perfectionism can you release into the spring wind? What sort of seeds of renewal do you want to plant? How can you come down from the pillar of aloneness and move into your inner self?

As always, comments and feedback are welcomed and appreciated. I’m here to support and love, however that may appear for you.

The Magic of "The Way"

TheMagicofTheWay.jpg

Side hustle. Grind. Plan B. Whatever it takes.

Until a few very short weeks ago, this was my life, my safety and how I created stability in my world. In fact, I’ve written blog posts and articles about how back-up plans are instrumental in building solid foundations. While I’m still a fan of this modus operandi; always having a way out, can come at a cost. Dreams, true understanding and your divine plan may never fully materialize. It is important to be mindful of how and why we side hustle. I’d like to share with you how I’ve learned to recognize, use and master this particular coping skill.  

“Whatever it takes,” shows resiliency and a willingness to get down to business to effect change. I highly recommend it in certain situations; paying off debt, while in school, establishing a new way of being, and in the beginning stages of building a new business, for example. And, Plan B, as a safety net, can absolutely save your ass when the wheels are coming off your wagon. But we must become aware of, and then master, this as a skill; rather than allowing it to become an addiction itself.

For this blog, the two areas of life that I will talk about, are healing from the experience of addiction of any kind and birthing your particular brand of purpose and magic into the world. Much of the time, one leads to the other.

When a human decides to venture into a life of sobriety, in order for them to realize a life of connection, there can be no side hustle or plan B. Years and years of disconnection, emotional numbing, and destruction requires that there be a clear channel in which clarity can one day arrive. They must, step by baby step, drop the idea of struggle and victimhood. There must be a willingness to give up old habits, places, and people even though this will appear, “hard.” Fundamentally, this process, is gradual. The decision; the commitment, is not. There cannot be half measures. Dedication to plan A, leads the way. Then, the way itself, is beautiful and magical.

This, I know; people who endure lives of disconnection have a core of warrior strength. When the way, or plan A, chooses them, that warrior strength shows up in peace, hope, gratitude, value and self-worth. There are no questions, there is no looking back. The amour of disconnection can be laid to rest.

In its place, the shining sword of purpose shows up.

Some people know exactly what their purpose is. Ultra-talented musicians Freddie Mercury or Dave Grohl come to mind. It’s as if the reason for their existence, music and to make humanity happy, found them. Birds and trees know exactly their purpose; growing, singing, flying and beauty.

For the rest of us, purpose can be elusive. Trying to figure it out can cause an existential crisis; be the source of joy and/or pain, or it’s a drive that we just don’t understand. Once we and our purpose find each other, then what? Sometimes, we run away, sometimes we embrace and sometimes we question. Some of us excitedly jump in without a life jacket, plan or support system. Next thing we know, we are working 3 side hustles, or go back to a “real job” only to experience dis-satisfaction and a feeling of “something’s missing”.

Often, out of necessity, we “sort of” live our purpose. Those side hustles and plan B’s can become an excuse, obstacle, or are so woven into our old identity, that they get in the way of real purpose and meaning.

If you have a history with the experience of disconnection through addiction, eating disorders, or any sort of unstable childhood or life experiences, I absolutely do not recommend letting go of your safety net without a plan. It is essential that you establish consistency, stability and most of all, a strong belief in your ability mixed with giant amounts of thought and faith.

Here are some ideas for you to step boldly into your life of purpose without causing yourself to become so fearful that you end up running back to the familiar before the magic happens.

  1. Get support from others. This is essential as you move into liminal space. Whether this is a therapist or business coach (or both), friend network (preferably those who have traveled where you are going) or your family, you’re going to need a cheer squad.

  2. Gradually, let go of the side hustles, i.e., you don’t have to quit all of your other jobs at once. One by one, release places, people and habits you no longer need. This may feel like the best way to maintain your stability.

  3. Pick a number. I’m personally going to do this, and only this. However, if my savings goes below this number, it’s time to course correct. Don’t let yourself lose the stability you worked so hard to create.

  4. Pick a date. I’m going to give all my focus and attention to plan A; as a matter of fact, there is no plan B, until a certain date. Again, you may need to course correct.

  5. Every day when you wake, choose trust, faith and how you are going to show up. You are at choice.

  6. You are the way. Your purpose chose you. In my experience, remembering this, and by following the guidance of your chosen support system and inner wisdom, any course correction needed will come naturally, long before #3 & #4.

  7. Do your emotional and thought work in order to hold true to your center. You need emotional fluency and the ability to question your own belief system to step into your life’s purpose.

  8. It takes a minute for life to catch up to your commitment. Breathe into the spaciousness created by dropping those plan B’s. Stretch, move, release and restore.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, (whom, most certainly, lived his purpose) expressed commitment so eloquently;

 “The moment one definitely commits oneself, and then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would have never otherwise occurred.

A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man (or woman) could have dreamed would have come his (or her) way.”

The magic of living a full life requires both flexibility and planning. We need to dream big and sometimes, just go with the flow. It takes skill, awareness, courage and perhaps some gentle (or not so soft) nudges from inner and outer sources, to know when it is time to leap out of the gilded cage of Plan B. Only you can know when the time is right to fully commit to “the way” of your purpose. Only then can it fully materialize. By learning to listen and understand the messages found in your body, emotions and intuition, you will then know the right time to fly.

As always, comments, questions and feedback are encouraged and appreciated. I know what it’s like to experience the heavy amour of disconnection. My “way,” is guiding others from that disconnection to belonging; to you. I’m here to support you.

The Return to Ritual

ritual.jpg

The path back to connection with myself has been fraught with struggle, pitfalls and strife. Considering that I am human; i.e. to err; my restored connection requires a certain amount of “practice” to nurture and maintain the bond with my inner wisdom. I am asked to “hold my center,” in order not to spiral off into distractions that no longer serve the greater good. I am not perfect at this, by any means. I imagine that it is rare to find a human being that is perfect at maintaining self-connection. However, with consistent action, many are flowing into a new-found, natural rhythm.

Fresh routines and habits are recommended to build and support stability of character in establishing a relationship with one’s bond to their inner wisdom. These routines are especially important in recovery of any kind, not just the experience of addiction recovery.  

It seems to me, that there is a moment when establishing this relationship, that we are asked to elevate our routines and habits to a higher level. We are invited to consider bringing sacred ritual into our lives.

At the core, humans of all cultures used to and continue to use ritual to make sense of our world. We may have different belief systems around how humanity appeared on Earth, however I think we can all agree that human nature coincides with Earth nature. In one form or another, our early days were steeped in nature, Earth, her weather patterns and cycles, and that our lives depended upon that association. This connection to the Earth that we make our home within and upon, is our greatest safety and stability. It was part of sacred ritual, prayer and a deep reverence; if we weren’t devotional to Earth, we could be destroyed.

As humanity “progressed”, we built stronger buildings and bigger machines to protect us from storms and earthquakes. In so doing, we lost our soul connection to sacred ritual and Earth medicine. When one loses, or is never taught about an interdependence with nature, one becomes dissociated from the very nature of who they are. Dissociation, however it appears, leaves us vulnerable to depression, anxiety, fear, and a way out of these feelings we can’t stand.

How do we find our way back? How do we come home?

I believe the answers can be found in our ties to ancient history; cultural inheritances and practices. The answers lie in sacred practices, returning to the acknowledgment of nature; the power of moon cycles; and the seasons of nature. The answers lie in understanding the communication of your body and your emotions. When you become connected to, and honor your natural rhythm; your practices will become sacred by grounding you, guiding you, and supporting you in a stability that is easy and full of grace.

All of our ancestors used sacred ritual and practices as a way to better understand their place in the world around them. Indians, Buddhists, Celts, Christians, African’s; every culture on Earth used communion with nature, prayer, drumming, meditation, worship and dance (for example) to explain the difficulties and joys of life.

Personal sacred practices and rituals are of enormous benefit to creating new lives of meaning and purpose. Not only do they connect us with the spiral of life, nature and earthly movement; they connect us with our deepest desires, dreams, longings and how to realize these inner callings. Sacred ritual connects us to self.

How do you begin to weave a sacred ritual practice into your life?

Begin with care. What do you like? How do you want to feel? Simply breathe into what your body and soul want for you. Flow into these practices and try new things. Remember that you don’t have to do the same thing, day in and day out. You get to play and learn. Your sacred ritual practice may change with the seasons or with your intentions. Maybe you check out what part of your particular heritage calls to you. So many of us are a blend of many backgrounds, your rituals can be rich with diversity! How fun is that?

A simple walk in nature or tracing the path of a labyrinth, can began to heal the soul. When one is confused, the brain altered from harmful chemicals; chanting can release and restore hormonal balance. Moving meditation; such as Qigong, balances energy, reduces or stops pain and brings back clarity and focus. Restorative Yoga with graceful inquiry journaling prompts; (check out Soul Story Yoga and Journaling) brings the body out of fight or flight and allows a person to address fears and emotions in a safe and connected environment. The benefits of meditation, prayer and yoga have been studied and documented. Studying and flowing with the natural cycles of moon and season, hold powerful insights into your relationship with Earth and the cosmos.

I know what it’s like to struggle to connect to self and life here on Earth. The experience of disordered eating and addiction, is a powerful way to build armor against “being here.” Through the magic of sacred ritual, and learning to be present in my body, I have resolved to drop the story of, “it’s hard.” I no longer need the protection of the armour of disconnection. The power of pause, consistent action and practice have returned me home; to me and to my beloved Earth and creatures.

What else is possible for you? What ritual would you like to establish today?

The Glare of Comparison

GlareOfComparison

From the ages of 13 to 53, I absolutely equated my entire value as a human, my self-worth, to how thin and in shape I was. To be lean and tiny meant I was worth something; of value. This skewed value system began much earlier than 13 with familial conditioning. My mother was always on a diet and the comments in my family about fat people were less than desirable. To be fat was worse than being broke or dead. I gained a significant amount of weight after about 9 months of sobriety and try as I might, it didn’t come off. In desperation, I read diet books, and did my best to run and starve off the extra pounds. In one of the books I read, I was introduced to the novel idea that dieting and over-exercising was a messed-up way to keep women feeling bad about themselves, so that they would buy diet plans, books, programs and gym memberships. Although I loved this concept, I couldn’t truly grasp it; my belief in “thin is better,” and “it’s my value as a person,” was too deeply ingrained.

Fast forward about three years. The training I received as a Restorative Yoga Teacher and Coach, brilliantly taught me how to be in my body and appreciate it for all it allows me to do, no matter what shape or size. I stopped dieting, began to connect with the Body Positive people, podcasts and message. I gradually have let go of instantly comparing my body size and shape to all the people I meet or see. Friends can be friends and I can be more present as I’m not constantly thinking about my size as a value measurement. Steadily, the claws of this twisted belief system are being pried open! This transformation, in the face of ever more media and the latest and greatest diet plan practically being shoved in my face, is taking place as my strength to see the monster for what it is, grows.

 But a funny thing happened journeying through this transformation from shame to self-love. While the body-image monster sleeps, I find myself questioning my value as a human showing up in a whole new area of my life; writing, marketing and promotion.

I used to hate marketing. I was convinced I was terrible at it! I was encouraged to keep at it; that just like in sobriety, after some time, I might actually like it, and that has turned out to be true. I mostly have fun writing posts; creating programs; learning what works; what resonates for people; and being exposed to all kinds of things I never knew.

I get to connect with loads of new people from all over the country; and that’s so cool, except for the part, that I’m reading posts, newsletters and marketing from other people in my field and comparing. I’ve begun to question my own voice and wonder what I am doing “wrong,” or what they are doing that is so great and gets them so much attention and business. And, I don’t even know how much business they have! It’s all made up in my head by this value creature waiting for a moment of weakness to make me question my validity as a human.

What the heck does the quality of my writing, or your writing or marketing or what anyone puts on their social media, or advertisement have to do with self-worth? How does it make any of us more or less of a human? It just doesn’t have a thing to do with it. He or she may be a better writer or marketer or athlete or whatever, but it has not one thing to do with the value of a life.

These comparisons, whether it be in body beauty or excellent skills in business, chip away at our hearts. They erode well-being and confidence. Self-doubt creeps in and can be devastating, if one doesn’t have a well-established practice of self-nourishment (such as, grounding and boundary work, journaling, yoga, nature journeys, self-esteem work, sobriety and therapy) and a solid support system. For the person that acts out in a binge-purge pattern, a cycle of over-eating, over-drinking or binge-watching TV, may occur. Maybe they read and compare for hours, trying to make sense of how to please everyone and end up collapsing into depression. A person with anorexic tendencies, may restrict again, falling into the trap of perfectionism.

The common emotion that strings these behaviors together, is our friend, fear. You may think, “friend? Fear isn’t my friend. I’m afraid of feeling fear.” Yet, what if you embrace your fear and acknowledge that the controlling and creation of a faulty value system was your fear trying to keep you safe? What if you thank your fear and ask, “What is my fear and these uncomfortable thoughts and behaviors trying to teach me? What do I need to do now?”

When one has done and continues to do their work, the foundation (also, known as self-nourishment practices) becomes the lantern out of the forest. The a-ha, usually with the help of a trusted supporter, appears more quickly than before. The “power of pause” (POP) brings great insight. Goodness, that’s what I am doing now? Instead of distracting myself from my growth and presence in the world with food and comparisons of body shape and size, I’m now bogging down with comparisons of social media posts and business success. Oh, no, I see you, shape shifting monster! This is not what we are doing today.

 Today, I will reclaim my voice and my value from the void of useless comparisons. Today, I will shine my light ever brighter so the exact right people that need my special brand of support and talent can find me. When they do find me, with my value intact, they will learn to reclaim their self-worth and unique voice. However small that unique voice is in the beginning, it shouts, “you’ve done it before”. And it is still there now! As you reclaim this voice, so your foundation becomes just a bit more solid.

 Progress, not perfection. The shift from what our culture values to what you value, is not easy. We are exposed to more advertising that tells us, you are “not good enough, so buy this product that will make you worthy,” then ever before. It’s a grinding machine, stealing our inner truth, and then selling it back to us, telling us it will solve the emptiness that comparison has created.

 Where is emptiness, and low self-worth showing up to ask you to question your value as a person? Are you even aware of the number of images of “ideal” body or “successful” person you are exposed to on a daily basis? How often do you feel bad about yourself during the day because of the soulless glare of neon materialism? What do you turn to, to numb the pain?

Gently, invite the power of pause, as often as possible. Question your thoughts. Limit social media and exposure to advertising that makes you feel bad. Engage and make friends with others that are committed to seeing your value as a sentient being, rather than what size you are, or how great your latest social media post was. Write a letter to your body, or your identity as a writer or nurse or whatever calling you find yourself in, thanking yourself for all that you are able to experience just because, YOU. ARE. YOU.

It is Open

ItIsOpen

Let’s talk about trauma.

When a person experiences trauma and turns to destructive coping mechanisms, life is akin to living a nightmare of captivity. We are robbed of our capability to grow and create as we are sent running for the solace of a poison substance. We fight patterns and behaviors only to find ourselves locked up time and again in a cycle of destruction. Some of us, frozen with fear and apathy, are unable to shake off the terror of the past.

Our human bodies are animal bodies. We are warm blooded animals. So, our bodies react to scary situations in one of three ways. We run, fight or freeze. Just like animals, when we can move (run or fight) in response to fright or violence, we have a better chance of dissipating the stress from our body. On the other hand, if we are little people and have to stay quiet or hide, or big people trapped in accidents or war zones, we freeze. Chemicals get stuck in our tissues because we have no way of moving them out of our system. The impact increases mightily if the exposure to the trauma is on-going such as in abuse cases, neglect or emergency personnel. And, we don’t just “get over it.” Instead, as any good mammal should, we seek relief. Why wouldn’t we? We drink, smoke, eat, isolate, chose one relationship after the other and act out. We repress and depress, freak out in panic attacks and spend millions on drugs to numb the pain.

The “solution” becomes the problem, no real healing is accomplished, and the cycle begins again, generation after generation. Sobriety and therapy are great options, but something is still missing.

The magic key, the missing piece of the puzzle is not just in the body but is the body. In order to heal, we must start where the initial impact took place, in this physical animal we call home. Realizing that the body is always in the present moment, unlike thoughts and emotions, can also be helpful. The body contains your entire history or herstory. A commonly held misconception is that we have to go through the original event to disperse the stuck energy. This is not always true. What does need to happen is for the body to move how it wants to move, to dissipate the places that have been “frozen” in time. We can begin to do this with simple (preferably guided) practices called the “felt” sense. Understanding the language of the body is important as we begin our practice. It speaks slowly and not so much in words as in images, colors, sounds and memory.

Slowly, gently, like a meditation we can begin to notice what we are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling. We notice and notice some more, what the body is doing. How does it want to move? Describing the sensations to ourselves or another, “sharp, like a tack,” or “cold” or “squishy, like mud,” begins the process of reconnecting to parts of ourselves that have been lost. Don’t be surprised if a breath to a certain area that feels pain or achy, brings up a memory, color or sound. This process is one of the reasons why yoga or movement therapy can be so beneficial for restoring a person to a life of connection. Movement like yoga or dance combines space, time and breath, equaling powerful healing.

In Kenya, the Luo tribe has a word, oyaore (oh yow day) meaning, “it is open.” They use this to describe the start of the new day, or an open door. Rich with substance, this phrase brings to mind the openness of a human (or animal) life that has faced the past and escaped the chains with the magic spell of movement, present time, awareness and breath.

This new life is now open.

Just as the sun rises everyday with new determination, a life that was haunted, is now full of possibility. After the initial healing, it seems that for the majority of people, life begins to unfold with much promise. As time flows on, many appear to morph from cocoon to butterfly with exciting careers, affirming relationships and a passion for supporting others along the path.

Traveling with your body, connected with it and its needs, requests and the information it holds for you is a rare and unique practice. Trauma and your reaction may never fully disappear. And, with patience, practice, and understanding you can connect with disturbing emotions and behaviors (these will typically catch you by surprise), until you decipher the message held within. The old patterns will decrease over time, because you have worked with them and honored their information. The practice of being with your senses, also begins to give you a greater compassion for what others may be experiencing as well. In the long run, this makes the world a more “open” place for us all.

Get in the Van

Are you in pain, frustrated with your progress and about everyone around you, including you, is telling you to quit? Do you feel like you are on mile 4 with another 5 miles to go?

By the time I chose a sober life path, I had many party friends and 2 sober friends, one of whom I met while running relay races. We created a solid friendship through the common interests of running, living in the same neighborhood and business. Looking back, I believe that our friendship was a huge factor in the desire to change. I never had a friend like Karen. She runs a very successful business, is an author, runs upwards of 20 races per year, has a family, travels around the world speaking and inspiring women to participate in STEM careers. Even more important than these accomplishments are the facts that she is one of the kindest, generous and non-judgmental people I have ever met. It seems that unconsciously, for the first time in my life, I had a concrete example of just how cool a sober life (and person) could be.

My first day of sobriety, hungover, sick and embarrassed, I spent with Karen and her family watching the Super Bowl. I felt some measure of comfort in the presence of such kindness and normality.

I was three weeks sober when we headed out to Arizona to run another 200-mile relay race. I was doing fairly well at the time, as this sobriety thing felt like just another “cleanse” or “sober month,” although, I knew I wasn’t going back to my old ways.

The thing was, I was heart sick, a mental mess and physically wrecked. I just didn’t know quite how bad off my condition was, until the middle of the second leg of running. I felt like I hurt everywhere, first my feet, then my hips and then my knees. I finished that run and told myself that I would be ok to run the third and final 9 miles (!) in a few hours. I’ll rest, ice and take Advil.

That 9 (!) miles became a metaphor for life and a driving force in the success of my sobriety. The first 2 miles were straight uphill (!) and the pain in my body returned right out the gate. I was limping before I even got to the top of the hill.

Thinking that downhill and then the straight road ahead would be easier was cruel joke. I began to walk for a few minutes, then run for a few minutes…repeat.

For those of you not familiar with 200-mile relay races, typically, there are 2 vans, each with 6 runners. The runners and the vans leapfrog throughout the course, taking turns running and driving. Part of the team runs while the other half rests and waits their turn to run. Our teams have always been out there for the fun of the race, the camaraderie, and the challenge. We don’t much get hung up on winning or the time. Still…it’s not fun for anyone to wait and wait on a super slow runner. As for that runner, in this case me, I felt terrible about being the source of the holdup.

The shame and guilt of the past 35 years came barreling at me, from the road ahead, from the dust of the past and every cell of my being, now compounded by the guilt of slowing down my team. This was a whole new level of excruciating pain, and “’oh hell no thoughts!” I was going to have to give up on this one. I was too sick and too newly sober and a million other thoughts and reasons to quit were trampling around my mind and wringing out my tattered heart. 

In the distance, I hear voices, “Get in the van, just get in the van.” I look up, and there is my team, waiting with water and the side door of the van open. “Just get in the van, its ok.” I don’t know for sure if Karen was the only person not telling me to get in the van, but I looked in her eyes, and I saw understanding and encouragement.

Suddenly, a new voice surfaced. “I’ve given up on myself for the last 35 years, I cannot give up on myself today. If I can do this, I can do anything. This is the start of my new life, and it hurts, and I want to crawl in a hole and give up, yet, I will not, not again, not one more day.”

I said, “Tell the other van, I’m sorry, they’re going to have to wait. I’m not getting in the van.”

It was mile 4, with another 5 miles to go.

The day that I made the choice to stop drinking and drugging, I turned a corner. This day, the day I determined to keep going, no matter what, to not get in the van, was also a huge turning point. No longer, would I give up on myself.  Not even when it got hard, not when I hurt, not when I wanted to crumble, lie down and quit. I could rest and walk, but I wouldn’t give up on my life.

It’s been 6 years since I ran, well, to be honest, stumbled through that race. I have tripped and fallen more times than I can count in the last 6 years. I’ve been supported and carried and confused and broken. I’ve actually “gotten in the van” a few times as well. And, I’m ok with that, because I have not given up on that core strength, that jewel that I carry inside of me; if I don’t accomplish one more thing in this lifetime, I accomplished the clarity and wisdom of sobriety on my terms.

Whether its building a business or sending a piece of art to orbit the earth to reflect the stars**, raising a family or deciding to live a better life, the road is long and fraught with the temptation to “get in the van.” Don’t do it. It’s ok to rest, and to redirect your course. Look in the eyes of your friend, drink some water. Reach out to others that you know for sure have gone through hardships and created great things in spite of those hardships.

It’s mile 4 again in my life. Building a new business is hard. Dammit, I want to get in the van. Instead, I remember that race, for it is symbolic of the foundation upon which I stand. I call Karen and I listen to her wisdom. We laugh and somehow, that memory, that support, shifts the energy and I remember, that even though this story is “all about me,” I do what I do so that others have the guidance, support and the stories, so they know, we understand, we don’t have to say a word. We just gaze into our souls, 5 miles to go. Don’t get in the van.

**Look up Trevor Paglen and the Orbital Reflector – dude and his project are fascinating!

Foundational Equity

I speak of foundation quite often, in all areas of my life. I suppose this is because it is of utmost importance to me and those that I support in my practice. Come to think of it, it also has something to do with my background as a chiropractor. One of the first lessons in that “college of the body,” was that the first organ to form in the human fetus is the heart. Following the heart is the spinal cord, the foundation of the entire nervous system. The nerves tell the muscles what to do, and the muscles move the bones, enabling the most magical matrix of movement, thought and creation to operate.

Another very powerful system of growth, operation and healing of the human body is that of the Chakra system.

“Chakra is a Sanskrit word literally meaning ‘wheel.’ These centers were named as such because of the circular shape to the spinning energy centers which exist in our subtle etheric body, the non-material energetic counterpart to our physical body. There are seven main chakras and they are located along the spine extending out the front and back of the body.

- William J.D. Doran

The chakra system moves from the bottom up, starting with Muladhara or the Root Chakra, located at the very base of the spine. This chakra is red and associated with survival issues, such as nourishment, financial independence, security, home, family, roots, grounding and appropriate boundaries. The basic right is to be here and to have.

I have not met one person that has experienced trauma, addiction, eating disorders and destructive coping behaviors, including myself, that doesn’t initially exhibit some form of a first chakra imbalance. These distortions and imbalances can come out in all sorts of interesting ways, including but not limited to pain in the lower body, constant instability of home, important relationships and money troubles of all kinds.

Establishing foundation and a healthy, balanced Root Chakra, is where the work begins in healing a life that was defined by disconnection of all forms. The importance of this grounded approach cannot be stressed enough, and it is where I and all of my clients, must focus our attention as we grow.

Equity, in finance, is defined as ownership or value of property or stocks. It comes from the Latin word aequitas or “equality.” An example of this, would be, a teacher must maintain the quality of equity or fairness in the classroom.

If a little person is given a proper childhood with love, appropriate boundaries, adequate nourishment and no trauma, you can safely expect them to have a life experience of normal hardships and growth. They seem to mostly cruise through life and are one of those people you can count on to be pretty “solid,” and quite stable. The Root Chakra is balanced, and they have good equity or ownership of their resources and foundation.

Too few of the humans I know have had this experience. We have to create Foundational Equity for ourselves and it can be no easy task. We work hard to establish safety and security in the body, our work in the world, in relationships and in our home space. Claiming our “right to be here” is powerful and rewarding!

All too often, we are so excited that we have “made it,” we forget about the people and resources (money, love, trust and time) that went into helping us build this foundation. We are off to the next thing that feels good (addiction transfer) or the next training, job, relationship or move, under the disguise of building more stability.

Recently, I was considering retaking the training for Restorative Yoga Teacher and Coach. Yes, it was that good and I wanted to be better at my calling in the world. Like any good Libra, I deliberated for a long time, weighing all the options and considerations. One day, during this not so comfortable process, I had the thought, “maybe I should take the money that I would spend on the training and make a bigger dent in paying back the people and institutions that have helped me get where I am today?” I mentioned this thought to a very wise person of my tribe, who proceeded to gently relate the concept of Foundational Equity. 

She said, “When you are building something, and people give you resources; time, money and their trust, for you to create a solid foundation, if you don’t stop at a point of growth, and replenish (give back) to those that helped you, your foundation will be shaky. You will be building upon structural instability and misuse of trust.”

This explanation, which of course makes perfect sense, blew my mind! I had never heard it put this way before. Immediately, I could see how most of my life and my previous work in the world had been built upon a shaky or non-existent foundation because I hadn’t established my own grounded Root Chakra and safety in the world. Here I was, about to do it again, on the mistaken belief that I needed more training (my list of accomplishments and training borders on the ridiculous).  

I have built foundation. Much of it, many, many angels have given me; money, love, trust and resources to make sure I am finally safe. It is time for me to replenish and turn the soil of this foundation. It is time to create true ownership and equality by returning these gifts to their rightful sources. Only then, can I stand firmly upon this sturdy foundation and begin to create anew. I can nourish and care for my safe place in the world, which includes my body, health, business, money, relationships, work and home in a devotional manner. This will set the tone for my entire existence.

The Tower of Pisa in Italy has a famous unintended lean due to an inadequate foundation. It still stands but with structural modifications and stress. Living a life of disconnection leaves us like the leaning tower, we still stand, but with complications!  

Deciding to rebuild our foundation from the bottom up, balancing the Root Chakra, a constant practice, gives us stability, safety and the ability to pause and inquire of ourselves, is this decision one that will keep my structure sturdy? An energetic foundation is just as important as a physical one, and in many cases is the place we must start when our circumstances have not allowed us much safety. We must grow ourselves up.  

So, we begin. We begin to build a structure that one day we will marvel over. Just like the Caravan Bridge over the river Meles, in Izmir, Turkey. It was built around 850 BC, which makes it 2,860 years old - qualifying as the oldest functioning bridge in the world. * If the keystones used in the construction of this bridge had not been crafted and placed with care, surely it could not have withstood the test of time.  

If you struggle with feelings of instability or not feeling safe, begin to make time (preferably first thing in the morning) for a Grounding practice or a Chakra balance meditation, music or exercise. Begin to ask questions and study the Chakra system and people who live a stable life. Part of living a life of Foundational Equity, is taking ownership for the part you have in being at the helm. Begin to plan, however small, to become responsible for the vision of how you want your life to become. Replenish and nurture your foundation so you (and your descendants) can marvel over how you left a legacy that stood the test of time.

*reference - Gizmodo uk

Note: My clients, students, family and friends are my greatest teachers. Much gratitude and credit go to Stephanie Sears for the gift of the concept of Foundational Equity and for many of the thoughts of this piece. She is a Matrix Builder of the very best kind. Watch for her brilliant writing soon to be released upon the world.

Foundation to Freedom

It appears to me, that as a society, we may be going about a couple of things in a bit of a misguided manner.

Most of us learn to read, write and perform math. We learn about computers and flying to the moon and we sure learn how to watch TV.

I would hazard a guess that the majority of us are not taught about mindfulness and creating a solid foundation for ourselves.

Some people seem to figure some of these things out for themselves; they have a natural affinity for spiritual pursuits or seem to have shown up in the world with a tad more earthiness than others.

The rest of us, get to work a bit harder. Much of the time the amount of work to build a solid foundation, is not apparent until we discover that the ground under us, has been pretty shaky for quite some time. Sometimes, it even takes an earthquake to bring us to our senses.

I’ve also observed (in my own life and others) that those of us that have gone through the experience of addictions, pain, poverty, disconnection and trauma, seem to have a more difficult time achieving freedom on a consistent basis. I believe that this is because the person must create and then sustain a reference point (solid foundation) for being and having more abundance, prosperity and positive experiences in life.

This foundation cannot be created by just thinking positive for the person that has been abused or grown up in extreme poverty. In fact, it’s offensive and arrogant to suggest these methods as a solution to someone in these circumstances.

Mind you, a person can go from rags to riches, from poverty to stardom and all will seem well. Until, because they have reached the stars so quickly, their foundation is unstable, and eventually, usually sooner rather than later, the mansion collapses. We see this all of the time with lottery winners, celebrities and musicians; they make millions and in a couple of years’ time, they face rehabs, extreme debt and loss of all their glory.

I’ve played out this scenario, on a much smaller scale, over and over in my life, both before and after my sober life choice. So have my friends and clients.

My true recovery, my true foundation, began with the grounded practices of very good couching and therapy and my own training in the Yoga Recovery field.

I have to work a bit harder and always be consistent with my foundation practices. My clients have to work hard and be consistent with their foundation practices. If you have experienced traumatic events in your life, you may have to work a bit harder to maintain your consistent foundation practices.

If you want to fly, to soar to freedom, then you must first build your foundation. And, you must be sure it is solid, and that if cracks appear, fix them right away. There is no easy way out. Trust me, I’ve tried them all. I’ve actually lived quite well under the illusion that I had a very stable foundation. I get lazy and don’t keep up on my practices. Next thing I know, it’s getting pretty shaky and I have to scramble to put out fires and fix cracks.

Once you have constructed this solid, beautiful foundation, then you can begin to climb. You can implement prosperity thinking and things like affirmations of your great good. Why now? Because you have foundation and a reference point on which to stand; you have proof that the home you have built is safe.

I am grateful to be witness to my own growth and the growth of many clients whom are willing to put in the consistent work to build their foundations. These strong humans, who have been through some pretty awful experiences, do not let these experiences define who they are. They have determined to put down roots in fertile soil and then reach for the stars.

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Erosion

My father taught me some cool stuff. He taught me about animals, horseback riding, plants and dirt.

That’s right. Dirt. Dirt and the earth and how water and plants and trees all work together to keep things in place. He showed me how a hillside or mountain pass will erode when the trees and plants are removed; all those roots hold the earth in place and when they are gone, well, dirt happens. The ground becomes unstable and loose and begins to slide downwards. Add storms and water and the process quickens.

The experience of addiction, disordered eating and other mental health issues is erosion. Relationships, health, skill sets, spiritual connection and right livelihood are all washed away in the storm.

Maybe, we were not given the solid life skills or roots to create a grounded life. Maybe, a traumatic childhood or incident(s) took those roots away from us bit by bit and our lives became more and more unstable. Maybe, we were carried away in the storm.

Sobriety or recovery is a process of waking of up, covered in mud, dirt and rocks at the bottom of the hill. Before we can even begin to plant new seeds and create a stable life, we must befriend the ground.

We need to spend some time at the bottom of the hill, playing around in the mud, building forts and creating some safety. We must root down to rise up. For many of us, this can look like little to no activity; we need to sleep, eat and gain a little strength. We look around for others like us so that we aren’t so alone. Maybe, we begin a short meditation, or uplifting reading practice. Maybe, we attend a meeting or gathering of like-minded people or call a therapist.

Later, we are stronger and realize that storms will come again and we need to prepare. We are still at the bottom of the hill and either we must move to avoid another mudslide or strengthen the hillside or both.

Some of us climb up the mountain, plant trees and flowers and make beautiful pathways. Usually, we don’t get to live at the top of the hill, not so fast. You see, the top of the hill can be just as unstable as the bottom. There is still foundation to be built. We need more plants!

So, we plant, weed and tend to our recovery hillside. We realize that we want to live. We want to live where we are, building and creating and having some fun. At this point, we are probably working and our living situations are more stable. Relationships become a source of learning and growth.

We realize that our foundations are stronger. We look up at our hillside and see that the erosion has (mostly) stopped. There can be a tendency to sprint to the top of the hill, proclaiming, “I’ve made it, I’m healed, nothing can stop me now.”

But wait, young warrior. Slow down for a moment and stay present. Recovery can contain elements of erosion as well. Stressors and storms still come along and we must stay with our practices (movement, good nutrition, prayer, yoga, therapy/coaching, nature, friendships, sober groups) in order to stay on our-not-so-linear-path.

There will be many opportunities to survey the earth around us and clarity helps us see where erosion may be occurring. Are my relationships crumbling or is my health failing in some way? What do I need to repair in my financial affairs? Will my foundation remain solid in the storms that will for sure, arrive one day?

We grow through what we go through. Each storm brings new surprises and damage. Yet, with deep roots, just like the trees we have planted on our hillside, we can flex and bend, lose a branch or two and still gratefully reach for the sunshine after the storm. We have the strength and wisdom to repair the damage and we no longer have to slide to the bottom of the hill.

What are some of your favorite practices for creating a solid foundation? How do you best weather the storms of life? I love to hear how you are doing and how I may support you. Feel free to be in touch.

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The Garden of Change

“My how you’ve changed since I’ve changed.”

There have been many times throughout my life that I noticed, laughed or redirected my attention to this simple statement. Those times are nothing like the steady current of truth flowing through this theme in my life in sobriety.

Sometimes, I feel like as I uncover and peel off another layer of distorted thinking and behaviors that disordered eating or substance abuse was hiding; each day blooms with new connections. I change, and the world changes around me.

I connect, first, with myself – those neurons firing in my being as I create new pathways of thought and behavior. It’s like those time-lapse videos of cloud formations, changing, moving and transforming at a pace that is close to disconcerting. At this pace, I find it imperative to ground myself, pause and breathe. I must reflect and write in order to make wise, gentle yet strong decisions.

Releasing the poison of alcohol and substances was only the first step. It was a step that was 100% necessary for my growth. The next powerful step were the practices (yoga, journaling, study and darn good coaching) that brought me into my body and consequently gave me back my boundaries and knowledge of how to determine what is right for me in each situation.

Ah yes, the next step has been to connect with my intuition from a new place. This garden of womanly wisdom has been hiding under all those distorted things I did with food and my body. This stuff was there before, during and after the substance use. This stuff was a really, really creative way of protecting myself until I could get strong enough to begin to swim to the shore of my own voice.

So, here I am. I am cultivating a voice of my own. Yes, it can contain a conglomerate of thoughts and beliefs from others that I connect to. It holds much wisdom and learning from many sources. It’s still a young voice with more learning to come. And, it’s a voice that is uniquely my own.

This feels good.

It brings me back to the source of this writing, the connections that opening up my garden to the light is bringing into the world. I am more and more able to reach out and be a good friend. I can be a new friend. I am braver and more willing to say “yes,” to the brilliance of each step, each person on my path that is supposed to be there.  I am able to more fully work with a purpose. My guidance system, my intuition, becomes more apparent each day, leading me to the next right thing and then the next.

My voice lends itself to powerful “no’s” as well. Here, the pause, the hold, waits, breathe, redirect, now answer; now make a decision, contains the steadiness of intention.

People change. They really do. In the outward reflection; it appears that others have changed. Yet, is it them? Or, is it you? As you change and grow into your voice and uncover your own hidden garden, are you in many ways giving others the permission to be themselves? As you are more unapologetically you, others shine in your presence, and now you can “see” them for who they were all along.

I always love to hear back from my friends, students, clients and teachers. What do you think? How are you changing and growing as you invite new ways of being into your life? Is the sun shining on your personal growth garden and bringing forth new life, or are your little seeds still germinating in the dark? Are you struggling with something? Let’s have a conversation.

Compassionate Communication

Humans. Why do we have so much trouble communicating our feelings and our truth? Especially to those we are closest to? It doesn’t make much sense. Here we are, sharing space, bodies and emotions with our loved ones, mates, family and friends, in such close quarters. Yet, when it comes down to sharing what is really going on with us, we fold in on ourselves, lie and hide truths. We do this in the name of embarrassment, fear of being misunderstood, past trauma and, “I don’t want to hurt their feelings.”

When the truth comes out, and it always does, the shame, misunderstandings, trauma and hurt feelings are magnified a thousand fold.

Why is this stuff so hard? I get it, we haven’t been taught to tell the truth. For many, we learned that lying was somehow safer. We want to sugarcoat and be nice and tip toe around issues, hoping they will go away. Only, they never go away. They fester and rot, sometimes for years. Suddenly, the bow breaks and someone is bringing up stuff from eons past and the other is left blindsided. Suddenly, someone follows their intuition and catches the other in a lie. Families are torn apart, relationships, once trusting and loving dissolve in anger and frustration, friendships meltdown. All because we are too afraid to say what we mean and mean what we say.

So, how do we begin to share our deepest feelings with the ones we love, without hurting them?

First of all, we probably have to let go of the idea that we can live without hurting each other. Hurt is a fact of life and relationships. It is not our intention to hurt each other, and maybe if we started out acknowledging that in order for us to have healthy relationships, sometimes, it’s going to hurt. There are going to be times when we have to have rough conversations and interactions – it doesn’t mean I love you any less. It’s like deciding to let our children go through hard times, without putting them in a protective bubble. Yep, stuff is going to feel icky and painful. Don’t we want them to know that life inherently contains pain so that they aren’t completely traumatized by tough events when they happen?

Second, maybe we quit making agreements that we can’t keep? Like, because I’m married to you, I’m never, ever going to be attracted to another person and I’m certainly never going to talk to someone I’m attracted to. Or, our friendship, parenting, roommate situation is always going to be smooth sailing and we don’t’ need to address expectations, boundaries and beliefs in advance?

What if we acknowledge our human nature and say, “babe, I love you always and I’m finding myself anxious because I really want to have a friendship with so and so, that I’m super attracted to.” Ouch! I know hard stuff. But, now, it’s on the table. The other gets to respond and yes, they may be hurt and angry! Still, communication has now been established and the situation can be talked through. Maybe, a new roommate or friendship agreement needs to be made. People change. Hopefully, people grow and mature. We are all psychic anyway, so the conversations most likely won’t come as a complete surprise to your friend, partner or child.

Are you going to know how to do this with expertise? Probably not. This level of communication requires courage, kindness and flexibility. It comes with compassion for ourselves and others as we navigate uncharted territory.

So, who does this with skill? Some of the most talented communicators are those humans whom choose open relationships and marriages. They must travel these paths with integrity and boldness, mixed with humility and care. Seeking out books on the topic such as The Ethical Slut and The Yama’s and Niyamas, Yoga’s Ethical Principles can be eye-opening to say the least and relationship bridging at its best. Talking with people that live this life-style (setting your judgements aside!) and gleaning knowledge from their experience, with the right intention, can open up your heart and world to greater levels of trust and understanding between you and your loved ones. And, no, you don’t have to adopt an open relationship lifestyle, just the excellent communication skills.

People whom have experienced substance abuse can be another great resource (choose wisely) as these individuals came from the gritty truth of, “I’m an addict and might die this way.” If they are living a life of sober integrity, they will have some insight into how to tell the truth and have hard conversations with self and others.

Beginning your process with an ethical and trusted coach or therapist can be very supportive as you sort out what works for you and how you want to go about being someone that can communicate directly and honestly.

Everyone involved gets to learn about their own emotions and how to give self-care to each other and most importantly, ourselves. Remembering, that there is a kind, compassionate reason for everything we do and experience can be very supportive. Take things slowly. Even statements like, “I need to talk and I don’t know what to say,” can open up new lines of conversation between lovers, friends, co-workers, parents and children.

            We must step up and firmly lead the way to non-violent honesty. It will feel direct and sometimes blunt.

 It will also be kind, true and necessary.

Where's the Binge?

My experience with disordered eating, alcohol and substance use was of the binge-purge, and then restrict kind. I rarely used any substance or behavior daily. I would overeat, over drink, overuse, then purge, and then in a frenzy of guilt and clean-up, I would restrict. In many ways this particular pattern, kept me stuck because I thought I could stop. All of it, every bit, was about not feeling comfortable in my body, my emotions and my life.

Now, five years into this journey called sobriety, I am uncovering the very creative ways I am still playing out this pattern. Funny, how this stuff can be right there, and we are not even aware.

Where do I binge?

This stuff is sneaky. I figured since I don’t actually binge (eat enormous amounts of food) and then purge (throw it all up) anymore, that most of it was over. Not true, I’ve just begun to play out the pattern in some interesting ways.

I bought a bunch of books, to further my knowledge and my therapist, said, “There’s the binge.” “What do you mean the binge?? I wasn’t going to read them all at once.” I watch Netflix and eat a bunch of popcorn (the binge) and the next day, won’t eat much at all (the purge and restriction).

Where do I binge, purge and then restrict?

Relationships – All or nothing. Let’s spend days together because it feels so good in the beginning (binge) and now I’m irritated and need loads of space (purge) to come back to myself.

Education – I’ll take an intense training, build a business, and write a book, take another training (binge) and then, “no trainings this year! I need to do work.” (purge/restrict)

Money – Receive a bunch, spend it (binge) then panic and don’t spend any (purge/restrict).

Exercise – Gym, running and yoga, all in one day (binge) then feel injured and tired and don’t go at all (restrict/purge).

And so on…

I am being a bit dramatic here to make a point. I have more balance then ever in my life. I don’t do all the exercise in one day, and I am quite aware of self-care for my body. I have savings and a nice plan for paying off debt. It took me 35 years to get sober so I was quite a slow learner for that one. This process of discovering where I practice the old patterns is much more accelerated and enjoyable. And, I am learning to give myself the connection, warmth, security, sweetness and love that I am looking for in my “binge” of choice. It’s pretty cool to notice that I want sweets and instead go to a gathering of like-minded humans and give and receive loads of sweetness and connection.

Where do you binge, purge and restrict? Shopping, cigarettes, sex, food, social media, the latest 30-day challenge, education, work?

What qualities does your substance or behavior have that you are not able to give to yourself? Getting quiet and asking yourself these questions is very enlightening. Practice with compassion. Everything you reach for contains a message for you to unfold. What does your soul hunger for and how can you give that to yourself?

Remember, as you inquire and observe yourself, things may not change immediately. It’s okay. Your patterns serve a purpose, a safety net that you aren’t quite ready to let go of all at once. As feelings arise, just notice and gently ask, “Is this a physical need or hunger, or is it a soul hunger?” Then, you can ask, “What am I hungry for?” Connection, time, space, warmth, sweetness, hugs, movement, softness, action, blankets, laughter, friendship, quiet, beauty…the possibilities are unique to each of you. Enjoy the journey.


I’d love to hear how this goes for you and what comes up. Please feel free to be in contact and let me know. Also, please share this with whomever you feel could use the insight. Let’s grow our compassionate, wise community.

The Stop Sign of Depression

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The Stop Sign of Depression

I’ve been sick for days.  I’ve been physically sick with a gnarly head cold, aches, fever and so on.  I’ve been emotionally sick with depression to go along with the physically sick part and I knew from the get go they were related. I just didn’t know how closely related they were until I dug deep, deep into my psyche and got coached and read and processed and all that not really fun stuff because that’s just what I do. 

I forgot that depression (we are talking situational depression) is a stop sign after a person has been having all the emotions underneath the day to day activities, at war.  That’s right, I was feeling guilt and shame and embarrassment and elation and anger and rage and world-fucking weary and sad and all these guys were fighting it out while I was doing a really good job at not paying attention to this infighting because I was doing what I do; yoga and writing and writing a book and running and playing with pups and generally wanting really badly to do good and get an A and make a difference and help people and then no one wanted what I wanted to give them and I didn’t know what to do because now I’ve failed and I really just want to save all the animals and help my family and instead I’m the one everyone has to bail out all of the time and of course I’m speaking in generalizations and this is the longest run on sentence EVER! 

And, that’s all okay because depression says HOLD UP, you have to stop.  The Language of Emotions says, “In a well-moderated-psyche, depression acts as a kind of tourniquet when some part (or all) of you is off-balance and headed for trouble: it is a conscious decision made by your central nature.”  My central nature was making sure I got the message by sending in the back up cold to make darn sure I’m listening! 

Culture wide, we are not taught that listening to this stuff is okay.  Instead, we are coerced into seeing ourselves as disordered and believe me the first two days of my feeling like shit, I had convinced myself that somehow, somewhere along the way, I became so wounded that I was never going to get any of life “right” and that I was going to keep making dumb ass mistakes and I needed to sell my house, pay off all my stupid shit, and move into the apartment style room at my parents and regroup and rethink EVERYTHING.

It takes a village. 

I talked to my mom.

I have a therapist/ coach and I had an appointment already set up with her and she reminded me of the messages to be found in depression and then some things really started to shift and understanding came forward and that’s so freaking rad! 

Body-centered coaching and yoga are freaking rad and knowing where to go for support and knowing what to read and the questions to ask are all freaking rad!  This is stuff I get to do today and I know, it seems crazy and I seem a little crazy and can’t you just “be happy” Layne, and not do all that deep soul work and soul searching and…and…

No.  I can’t not do this work because I don’t have a choice, but to do it, because this is who I was sent here, or who I chose to be this time around and I’m sober and I feel all the feels and sometimes I use other things than booze and drugs like I used to all of the time to distract and avoid.  Other things like Netflix and wanting to get out of debt, only I spend all that time wanting in order to not just do it and then I use magical thinking without a plan and I do a dumb mistake, like spending money I don’t have and making a big commitment that is going to require more money and now I’m freaking out, only, “it’s going to be okay, because its’ been okay before when I’ve done this sort of thing,” and then my emotions go to war and thank god my depression came along to sound the alarm bells and I can bow my head and listen. 

I can take a Child’s Pose and ground myself and ask the questions for depression, “Where has my energy gone?” and “Why was it sent away?” and let my body move the way it wants to move and wait in my stillness and listen for the answers. 

“My energy went to the mountains to sleep, where it would be safe and I couldn’t find it before I was ready.

It (energy) was sent away before I did anything else out of alignment that would put me in further harm’s way.  It was sent away because everybody else (emotions) were at war and you are good at looking at most of your emotions but you weren’t looking deep enough and you were going to destroy your baby sprout of a business and your true self-esteem and self-love that doesn’t need to be validated by anyone.”

Fair enough.  I’m listening.  We (my body, my story, my soul, and pups) swept the front sidewalk, took a bath, ate soup, weeded the garden in the twilight and picked tomatoes, which we will share with the neighbors today.  We slept.  We still feel sort of shitty with these cold symptoms and low energy.  And, we are welcoming the family of emotions and energy back from the mountains. 

It is safe to come home.

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Food

I wonder what I would be like if I had never gone on a diet?  What if I had never latched on to the belief that skinny, lean and toned (just skinny wasn’t enough for me, I had to have muscles too) made me good enough, worth something? 

What if food was just food?  What if it was neutral; neither good nor bad, fatting or not, healthy or unhealthy? What if food was fuel for my body and not something that has this power over me to make me feel great or feel fearful? What if food was something that I like or don’t like and didn’t have all these requirements that it be or not be just for me to enjoy it? 

The list is astounding and crazy making and when I self-coach and question, I wonder how I ever have room for anything else in my brain.  I haven’t eaten peanut butter since I was a kid because it was an “absolutely not” food during my very long bulimic/anorexic chapter.  So many rules, too much sugar, too fattening, it’s not “indulgence day,” it’s got dairy, wheat, preservatives, caffeine, “fake sugar,” margarine, it’s not organic, fruit has too much sugar.  The list can go on until infinity, depending on the day. 

What if food wasn’t disconnection, or solace, or some weird way that I use to distract from my real feelings? When I am consumed with a clean-eating regimen, I have little time in my mind to think of other things.  Or, are the confines of my latest food plan, a way to control something when other things feel out of control? It might be all of these things and more.   

What if my schedule and prep (which used to bring me safety and freedom) has now become a prison? Can I let myself out of food jail and begin to create some sort of safe container in letting food be food?

I might know some people that can eat like this, mostly young people, non-Americans and some men.  I used to eat like this, way back when, before that first inkling that skinny was somehow better; before that first diet. I have no idea if I can make it back to that sort of natural eating place.  It seems that I may get closer by continuing to ask this question of myself.  What if food was just food?

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Part of Life

 

I step out of the door into the din of evening festivities at the yoga festival. 

I feel surprised and anxious.  It had been so quiet here earlier.  The energy has changed.  There’s music and crowds of laughter.  Oh, I get it.  There are now tents set up where alcoholic beverages are being served. 

Almost instantly, I feel lonely and alone.  Should I take my things to the car, come back and walk around?  I’m sure to run into friends and acquaintances.  

I walk away from the vibration of drinking.  That frequency is different, you know? 

I feel drawn towards the young man singing, while expertly playing guitar. 

My emotions fluctuate again.  This time, I feel a calming warmth and sweet appreciation for his obvious talent.  He’s really good! 

I watch and listen for a while.  I still feel lonely, but not as much.  I take note of the name on the CD’s displayed and continue on my way.  My equilibrium restored. 

I wish that I was a “part of” for a minute.  I take a breath and send appreciation for the day spent with my best friend, collaborating and helping each other with our businesses. 

In the car, I find the young musician’s work on Spotify.  The very first song is the exact match for what I want to play in my upcoming workshop.  I smile, nod and know that this unexpected, unlooked for moment and my willingness to surrender to it, has made me a “part of” the plan of life.  

 

What Music Means to Me by Ron Artis II is the name and CD of the musician, check him out.

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One of Anything

"I can’t stop at one of anything.”  I hear this all of the time from people in programs of recovery.  It sort of makes me cringe. I want to ask them, is that really true?  Anything?  Do you have to drink ten glasses of water at a time? Or do you eat fifteen sandwiches in one sitting?  Isn’t it different for everyone? 

Maybe a person, whom is still struggling with bulimia, might eat fifteen sandwiches, drink ten glasses of water and then purge. Would an alcoholic that has been sober for twenty years do that?  Probably not.  What if you were a person that was completely addicted to pain medication, turned to heroin, never really drank alcohol, and is now sober.  Is it really true that you wouldn’t be able to stop after one glass of wine? Would having sex once a day mean you had to have sex until you just couldn’t perform the act again? This might be true for the human grappling with a sex addiction, but wouldn’t that person possibly be able to have an occasional cup of coffee?

Personally, I wrestled with bulimia, drug addiction (meth, cocaine, ecstasy) and alcoholism.  Even in the height of my addiction, I rarely smoked marijuana.  When I did, I mostly hated it and I could always stop.  So, for me, drinking spirits is not an option, and I bet I could smoke pot, hate it, not bat an eye, and never smoke it again. 

Before you go getting all wound up over this, I know all about transference of addictions.  I did that in a major way.  My bulimia patterns calmed down when I was using drugs that made me not eat.  Duh.  After I got sober, it took me three years to quit smoking cigarettes, which really blew my mind.  I rarely, if ever, smoked cigarettes unless I was drinking or doing drugs.  Why, was I smoking now and WHY was it so darn hard to stop? 

I would LOVE to smoke a cigarette today or even sometimes, I get the desire to drink.  I don’t, because I have what I consider, a very healthy fear, that if I pick up again, I may never stop.  This fear helps me take the action of NOT following through on those short-lived thoughts. 

I have to pay attention to many things that can easily suck me in: Netflix, social media and dating apps to name a few. 

Sometimes, I have to watch it with food.  Can I stop any of these things?  Yes. Yes, I can.  Even after one. 

The trick is in the belief system; I KNOW I can stop.  I also have the tools to ask good questions.  Questions, like, “What am I distracting myself from?  What feelings, memories, beliefs and behaviors am I trying to avoid?”

You can stop.  You do stop.  Think about it.  Question your thoughts.  Yes.  We are powerless over certain behaviors and substances and those, we shouldn’t mess with.  With other things, take your power.  You are so much stronger than a belief that says you can’t stop at one of ANYTHING.     

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Sober Dating

Dating, sober dating is hard.  For me, it’s fraught with uncertainty and anxiety.  Alcohol made all that shit easy in comparison.  Drink, be cute, meet someone totally inappropriate for me, drink more, have sex, drink more to forget that it was a one night stand or now I have an instant relationship with someone I probably don’t even like.  Drink more to convince myself that he’s the “one” or make all sorts of things “okay” that totally are NOT “okay.” 

Now, I have to face all my feelings.  My not “okayness” with first dates and on-line dating and that it all seems to go nowhere.  My fears and insecurities that wage battles in my head with my confidence and self-love.  I’m in my fifties and a babe and I have all these years of sobriety and so much self-worth built up and it can all fly out the window as I smile in the mirror and there’s all those smile wrinkles that I try to convince myself are beautiful and he will think so too.  Just be my awesome self, but don’t say too much about too much self-work and self-growth so that he won’t be overwhelmed and why do I care anyway, because at this age, he has wrinkles too, and is probably not even close to as in shape as I am and certainly not as wise and wonderful. 

I just want to relax and have it be easy.  Hang out with someone who “gets me.” And, I “get him.”  Sometimes, that happens and then?? Nothing.  I’ve learned to be pretty okay with that.  Have a good time, NO physical intimacy, because than I am NOT okay with that.  Enjoy, be open, laugh, have fun, go my way.  Enjoy the aloneness, getting to know me, deeper, better and more and more loveliness than ever before.  Funny, how the inside shines more and more like a diamond as the outside beauty fades. 

That shit is HARD.  Really, really hard.  Because, who the hell is going to see past the outer stuff from the get go?  I don’t.  I never have.  I have the curse of loving the pretty outsides and then hoping to find pretty insides too.  At least now, I realize that we all have icky, ugly insides no matter how pretty the outsides and that our flaws connect us and thank god, that I DO love myself through these painful moments. 

So, here I go.  Can this just be an easy moment?  Or, will it be more of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

At least, I don’t need a drink to do this.  That’s a win. A very big win. 

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Relapse or Reset?

Early sobriety was not fun for me.  I felt lost and alone most of the time.  The man that I felt was the love of my life, really wanted nothing to do with me, I was broke and selling my chiropractic equipment just to pay the rent in the house that my parents owned.  If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would have been living. 

I began working at a local, organic health food restaurant that friends of mine owned and was able to start making ends meet a little better and began to teach myself about money and budgeting. (Thank you Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University)

I felt depressed and icky, my emotions were all over the place and all my old tools like running, meditation, music and dance weren’t working to help me feel any better.  I started attending AA after three months of sobriety.  The depression didn’t stop, but I made some sober friends and gained a better understanding of what was going on with me. 

At eight months sober, I was feeling a bit better.  I had a beautiful roommate helping me pay the bills and we had gotten the house blessed in a really nice, sacred ceremony.  There was laughter, friendship and a lightness of heart in my home that night.

Then, everybody left. 

Suddenly, I felt lost, lonely, and very much alone.  That boyfriend and I had broken up for good, about two weeks prior.  I was feeling undesirable as well. 

The details of how Mr. Cocaine showed up at my door that night don’t matter so much as the fact that I completely disassociated from my body and my truth.  Somehow, I convinced myself that doing just a little bit of drugs was okay, as long as I didn’t drink. 

It was okay.  For about ninety minutes.  It was okay until my person with the drugs left.  Then, it wasn’t okay.  I didn’t sleep.  I smoked a pack of cigarettes, tossed, turned and felt guiltier than ever before. 

I did not drink. I do not know how I did that. It took every ounce of strength in every cell of my being to not drink.  I knew, if I drank, I probably wouldn’t stop.  Maybe, never again and the thought of that was too much to take.  That is a feeling I never, ever want to feel again.  It’s dark, unrelenting and utterly hopeless. 

The next day, sick and miserable, brought new trials.  What the hell do I do about my sobriety?  Did I just throw all that time out the window?  I talked to my sponsor and some other close sober friends. They all told me, it was my choice and between myself and my God. 

I prayed, struggled, grappled and tossed and turned in my soul.  I took a long time with this decision.  I noticed that when I thought about announcing myself as a “newcomer" again in AA meetings, I felt sicker and guiltier than before.  It made me not want to go to meetings. 

I just couldn’t get on board with the black and white thinking that a two hour stretch out of my eight months meant that I had to start all over.  That my eight months meant nothing.  My God and I had a few more chats about the whole thing, and we made the decision, that I wasn’t going to change my sobriety date.  February 3rd, 2013 is and always will be my sobriety date. 

I love AA.  I love the 12-Step Program and I feel strongly that it is the foundation of good recovery and a beautiful sober life.  And, as with all good programs, there are some areas that can be improved upon.  I know this is a grey area and that many will not agree with me. 

Life has grey areas.  Grey areas are for flowing, learning and not being so rigid as to damage one’s self. 

I’m guessing that I am not the only one whom has had this experience in sobriety.  I’m guessing that we need a safe place to talk about it.  This is why I’m telling this part of my story in this manner.  I hope that I can create a safe place for myself and others to have a conversation.  The Anonymous rooms, as powerful, safe and beautiful as they are, do not feel like the safe place that I believe myself and others are looking for to talk about this.  So, we don’t talk about it.  I’d like to change that.  If this portion of my story calls to you, please contact me. 

Oh, and by the way, I am now over four years sober.  That night of loneliness and desperation paved the way for an even stronger and more solid foundation.  I am very grateful for what I learned that night.  I learned that I don’t want to ingest any substance that alters the glorious feeling that I receive from being my best, sober me. 

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The Girl Who Couldn't Become A Woman

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who did not want to become a woman.  She didn’t want to be a man either, not in the sex change type of way.  Although, it seemed to her, that men had a lot more fun and got to do more things in life, without the repercussions of society’s thinking. 

No, she didn’t want to be man.  What she wanted was to stay small, boyish:  elvish, pixie-like, ninja warrior-like.  Yeah, that was it.  Slim hips and a strong, lean body was the way to be.  

She didn’t want to have hips and thighs like women get.  That felt foreign and gross.  It made her feel heavy and tied down. 

So, this little girl did what any smart person did.  She took action.  At the time when she began to develop curves, she created an eating disorder.  That worked!  Then, she found out that certain drugs (both legal and illegal) kept her from eating and gaining weight.  She became an alcoholic, drug addict and a bulimic. 

By the time she was in her twenty-first year of life she was also using sex as a way to stay boyish and strong.  It was a fantastic way to disconnect from her feminine ways, while connect to other humans on some level. 

Her intimate relationships always suffered, as she couldn’t maintain or even really develop intimacy with herself, let alone others. 

Gaining weight was terrifying and she continued her disordered eating patterns well into her fortieth years.  At that time, she quit throwing up her food and turned to extreme exercise and dieting (again) to maintain the feeling of being little girl.  Drugs and alcohol also kept her in a distorted growth pattern. 

She got a woman’s career, with fancy letters after her name, owned some cars and some houses.  She tried to make herself feel grown up by using men as trophy boyfriends.  Obviously, she picked men that couldn’t grow up either and the relationships turned to disasters in one way or another. 

The little girl had a lot of friends and a passion for animals, nature and sports like running and snowboarding.  She loved deep exploratory inner self work and she had a spiritual guidance system.  These interests and wisdom seeking saved her from going completely crazy in all her years of self-abuse. 

One day, in her forty-ninth year in this realm, she came to:  more sick and tired than she had ever been.  Her current relationship was in big trouble, she had closed her business with the fancy title and she felt desperate and alone. 

Somewhere, from deep inside, strength welled up.  Amidst the devastation of pain and loss, she found a small flame of light.  She grasped for that flickering flame and declared, “Not one more day.  I cannot live like this, not one more day.” 

And she didn’t.  She stopped all the drug and alcohol use and abuse.  Slowly, and surely, she built a life.  She had to start from scratch and teach herself (with lots of help along the way) all the things she had refused to learn because of her fear of becoming a woman.  She became financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally sober.  

It was a beautiful journey in many, many ways.  There were days of magic and sunshine that nourished her soul through the other times that the path was steep and full of pitfalls, monsters and devastation. 

This becoming a woman thing was hard:  glittering and hard, like a diamond.

The unthinkable happened.  She gained weight.  This, the greatest pain of all, the most embarrassing thing, happened.  The woman-child didn’t know what to do.  She hid.  She cried.  She dieted.  She kept running, both literally and figuratively, until her body became too injured to do that. 

Inside, enough had changed and she had enough support from friends and family that she began to practice yoga.  Of course, this was an attempt to lose that weight and regain the slim body, while under the guise of healing.   Ha!  Yoga is a magic potion and works in very sneaky ways upon the budding yogi.  Yoga began to heal the girl inside the woman in much unexpected ways.  She had times of the deepest love for her body and self, bubble up and come out in tears of gratitude.  She made new pathways to connect to herself and her worth and she made a bunch of other ninja warrior friends.    

Yoga, led her to the combination of yoga and intensive, inquiry coaching.  She trained with the masters of this work and also allowed herself to be coached.  More and more was revealed as she listened to all of her guides and inner voices, whom had been waiting to show her the way.  The hard, glittering surface began to cascade off like rain. 

Underneath, the impish, pixie girl was still there.  And, she was armed with the power of wisdom from her woman self.   She had the weapons of compassion and empathy and had made friends with her thoughts, feelings and emotions.  She had made friends with her body in ways she never thought possible. 

Of course, this woman-child is me, Layne Linebaugh. 

My journey into and through sobriety continues and will continue.  I dance and I struggle.  Until recently, within the certification program for yoga teacher and inquiry coach, I had not really realized the extent of my desire to remain boyish and small.  Some days, it is very, very hard for me to find my voice.  I don’t know if I will ever be comfortable with being bigger than a certain size.  I’ve found some great help in this arena with being coached by a trainer and eating structured very healthy, balanced meals.   This program gives me freedom in the discipline and has seemed to balance out the hormone issues one can get at my age.  I will not lie to you and tell you that I don’t LOVE having a boyish, pixie-like figure.  It just is. 

My financial picture gets better and better and it’s something that I fall down with as well.  I get my knees skinned and get back up and face the music.  My family helps me so much and I don’t know where I would be without their love and support.   The important point here is that I hide less and less from myself.  I take the reins, if you will, even if sometimes life has to hand them to me with a slap. 

Relationships and intimacy ~ arrrggghhh.   What to say, what to say?  I feel safer being alone and making my own way with my human and animal friends for love.  It’s a fantastic training ground with very few distractions.  For four years of sobriety, I pretty much kept me disconnected from that feminine part of myself (do you see the pattern here?) until, I let myself become aware that intimacy and touch are a basic human need.  I am currently figuring out how to give and receive that intimacy in safe and adult manner.  It’s scary, sometimes painful and sometimes really fun.  I’ve had to grow up here as well and believe me there are days, I just don’t like it.  My younger people call it “adulting” and I use that term to get me through tough conversations and communications. 

I put this story here so that you can get to know me, and also for you to know that you can do it.  People (even the ones that are secretly pixie-ninja warriors) can and do change. 

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