Patterns

I pay attention to patterns when they show up from various places, people, and inner ponderings.

This week, geez, it has been about the heart. I listen for a living. This week I’ve listened to the stories of childhoods gone amuck from adult indecision, immaturity, negligence, and badness. I will say and then move in, that all parents who are doing it badly were 100% parented into a wounded place which they never matured out of. But that is another bit of writing.

As I listened this week to the stories of grief and longing about what had been and what never will be, the universe sang in my ears a refrain; we are our own redemption.

I see it like this.

The very skills we developed as kids to survive whatever it was that we were living through (and lets face it, no comparisons here….childhood wounds are childhood wounds. period.)….are our very strengths. A common refrain I hear is “No one would took care of me unless I took care of me.” It is spoken, sometimes with spit of truth and hurt propelling from the telling. It is spoken, sometimes with resignation. Once, I heard it spoken….then a pause……then an inward gaze that lasted a lifetime…and finally “I know exactly how to take care of myself”. Eyes big and bright as if seeing for the first time life on earth from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Her own life as she lived it from the center of her knowing heart. I knew that in that moment the one who uttered those words would never tell her story the same way again. She had tasted her own power….that had been there the whole time…..and it tasted like grit and lemon and 60 year old scotch downed in one gulp (swiping her mouth with the back of her hand.)

She knew best how to take care of herself, so she did.

This completely flips the woe to Whoa. It flips the victim into the super hero.

And that is the point. We are all our own super heroes. What would it look like if we as adults, parented with the following:

  • nourishment

  • comfort

  • safety

  • respect

  • curiosity

  • empowerment

  • play

  • failure and getting back up

While also:

  • teaching our kids that they have everything they need to be mighty already within them.

  • guiding their gaze back to self discovery

And I think we can do this now if we are the adults who still carry our childhood wound. The wound points less to actions taken against our well being, and more to being bereft of any knowledge that we are amazingly gifted to live this complex life.

I watched it yet again this morning with a beloved client who is past retirement and still freighted with bags of burden that were thrust onto him when he was a kid. Leave ‘em be. Set them down and walk away. Live the life ahead.

And this is the core of what I know now to be a healthy, fully alive healing human:

  1. we must acknowledge what happened

  2. walk away from whatever we need to walk away from

  3. craft our living from this day forward according to what we know is best for us

There are about two-thousand other points that go with these three….we have to love ourselves and stop waiting for anything outside of us to love us as we need.

Because we know how to love ourselves and are the best at doing just that.

The magic is that once we begin that healthy self-discovery and self-love….it expands. I love that. Love always expands.

And that is my hopeful thought for this day. Love yourself. Tell your story. Note y our power to survive. Craft your life from here on out.

I already love you,

Amy

Letting Go

I think this title comes up a lot. It sure does show up in my newsfeeds and memes. I’ve crafted my daily intake to be filled with quality images and words that keep me moving in the direction I’ve chosen.

But yesterday I noticed something. The admonition to “let go” doesn’t always comes with the ‘how to”. We are told to walk away from toxic relationships, to let go of behaviors and beliefs that no longer serve us, to do self care, to endure, to persevere and persist……

But how?

A simple suggestion, I offer. But it is kind of a big idea.

Replace.

Yes, replace. We so focus on the letting go that we haven’t given much thought to what will take its place. If we let go of a pattern of hours of facebook scrolling, what then will we do? If we change our diet, what then will we eat? If we walk away from toxic family or friends, who will we end up with?

So this is what came to me recently. We replace. We start with what we want. We begin with pushing out what we don’t want.

For example: If we want to reduce Facebook time, put the phone down and go walk around the block. If we want to reduce mindless eating, hop in the car and go to the grocery store and buy those gorgeous strawberries and blueberries (Local and in season is even better!). If we want to change the mantras in our head that lay down reverberations of negativity, self hate, denial, not enoughness….listen to the music that makes you dance and sends you the messages you want to hear because they are true.

Go lay down in the grassy knoll of a local park of farmland, and watch the clouds scoot by. Imagine yourself till you are broad of smile and tingling within. If you need to get some training in so you can change courses, do it. If you need to change where you purchase your clothing because you are changing your visual appearance, do it a piece at a time.

Be you. Fill you with you. In so doing, what you want will displace what you don’t want, and it will come slopping out of the jar. It will make a mess, for sure.

  • People won’t quite know what to do with you and so those negative relationships will drop out of site. Goodbye..

  • You’ll match the quality of your clothes to the quality of yourself and your closet excess of clothes that cover yo up will have space for the few magnificent pieces needed to highlight magnificent you.

  • You will both feel lost at see AND the captain of your own ship, at the same time.

  • The job that sucks you dry will be the money maker for the work you love to do and t hen one day you’ll hand in your notice and be on your way.

  • The whispery jerks in your head will fade, replaced by Enya sounding angel voices that do not offer false support but echo the truth of you as it rolls around freely in your whole being.

Replace. Fill.

Spiritual Direction is a great fit for this process. We will tell old war stories and if I suspect your wound is still bleeding out or you are stuck in a place of precious mental precariousness, we’ll make sure you are connected to the right therapist. But if your wound is scabbed and scarred and you are ready to move on, then for your sake, let’s go.

I can’t wait for this to come to be in your life.

With Love,

Amy

Compost in the Alley

Our home is bordered by two alleyways. The one on the south side needs regular monthly trimming so that our neighbors’ cars don’t get scratched. The one on the east side is our own little English Village pathway to a beloved neighbor’s house. It is green, and virtually no one drives on it.

But the leaves come down and are mooshed into the pavement by the cars that do drive through. It is not unsightly, but we are urged by our local neighborhood association to spruce things up in the Spring.

Ok. Will do.

With flat shovel in hand, I set out to do this job. It isn’t hard, but is a bit back breaking. I suspect I don’t actually know how to shovel efficiently. But there is discovery of more than physical impact.

There is compost.

Rotted leaves and twigs festoon the alley in a thin layer. Like carpet. Like a parade route the next day. It shovels easily. There is even still the pruned poison ivy vines from last year. I thought they would wither and die. Hmmmm.

As I bent to shovel, I was hit with the updraft of mold, fungus, damp, earth. It was luscious and delicious. And in the rot, there was life.

In the rot, there was life.

Little green sprouts rising from the rich soil of spent leaves. Amazing!

Let’s take this metaphor in a direction that is less praise worthy of compost.

When we do our inner work of letting go and dropping old narratives and mental mantras that do us wrong, where do we put them? Like the leaves that fell last Fall, there has to be a process for proper disposal. Some guides and counselors will call this Psychological Toileting. Isn’t that a fun phrase? It could also be Spiritual Toileting.

It is the process of truly being done with what no longer serves us. A move from surviving to thriving that we must make lest we get stuck, with wheels spinning on the slick, wet refuse beneath. The last thing we want is for new growth out of the old mess. The next to the last thing we want is to repeat the patterns that necessitate survival.

Here are some thought for what you can do with your psychological and spiritual refuse:

  • ritualize the release with fire, wind or water

  • write the full story, with full honest, including the possible “whys” that someone or something did you wrong, and literally close the book

  • go to the person you’re at odds with and tell your side, then listen to their side, then shake hands and pack up

  • leave this thing as you walk toward a new thing

  • and my favorite…..forgive

These things serve your higher goals of growth and maturing. We are all remembering the perfect love from which we came into this earth-life, and honestly, we can enact it now. Our intentions set the motion which we follow through with the body. We release, we forgive, we move forward.

In my east-side alley, where I’ve scraped the old stuff off the pavement, there are stains. the compost has left its mark. But I know, with enough rain, it will wash clean and be merely a memory. And next Fall? I’ll get out there earlier, while the leaves are light and fresh, and clean as the season goes along.

In our inner beings, once we clean down to the stains and imprints, we can let new choices wash away any remnant. We’ll be more aware at the outset of potential obstacles to our well being, and clear them away as we go.

With love and a little stinky dirt under my nails,

Amy

Where did it come from?

This year marks 150 years of baseball, and the Cincinnati Reds were the first professional team. I listened to a wonderful podcast of anecdotes from over the years. One of the best stories was one a man called in and said that it was his great-great-grandmother who made the first baseball uniforms for the Cincinnati team. She had a lot of red fabric so that was what she made the “stockings” out of. That is how they got their name: Red Stockings. The historians on the show were falling over themselves with glee, because this was a verifiable story, through letters, notes, and a headline when the dear seamstress passed away.

It is good to know our stories.

It is equally good to know where our information comes from.

In the antique world, the term is “provenance.” It means that a seller but have authenticated whether that end table truly came from the palace in Luxembourg or if it was made to look like it in the back yard shop.

Tell me your stories. I will listen.

When we set down to tell our own stories, there is often a moral pause in our telling, because we want our memory to be true. And in that pause, we often weigh in the fact that siblings or parents or others around at the time of the story’s making don’t remember it like we do. And we begin to doubt that it happened the way we remember.

This is important, especially when our stories that we are unraveling are hard, abusive, exploitative. When our stories are about abandonment, self loathing, parental abstenteeism, we want to get confirmation.

Barbara Brown Taylor once said in a class that when we write memoir, we don’t need to go back and check in with everyone. Our story is true. Even if it looks different from others who were there. She had a student who dropped a project because she couldn’t get all the '“facts” about a beloved Christmas memory to jibe when she spoke with brothers and her father.

There is an idea, that your story, my story, their story, about the same happening, come together to create a holographic whole. But that doesn’t make any one story less true.

What are your stories? Will they shock? Will they make the hearer weep?

When a client speaks to me of their stories, I believe them. I also know that what is being told to me is just part of the story. It is part of the story that the psyche is allowing to be told, or that holds the least amount of pain, or is mentioned to sway me in one direction or another. As a guide, it is my job to hone my expert skills of listening sharply. When I have two clients, on different occasions, tell me differing things about the same event, I’ve learned to not be triangulated. I’ve learned to just work with what has been offered to work with. Because that is the point of that session. What is the client wanting to reveal at that time? What is being offered as a willing peak behind the curtain…just a smidge….a blink…..to see something.

That “something” is everything. And we can work with that. The bigger scene will escape at some point, and then we’ll work with that. It is really quite a beautiful process.

Your process is beautiful. And it doesn’t have to be perfect before you come and see me. You don’t have to have pledge a statement to be fixed before we can start sitting in the room with the closed curtains. We’ll get there soon enough.

My work with you, with anyone, is an unveiling. A holy process of self revelation. Let’s do that together.

Peace and Joy,

Amy

Yellow Blooms

yellowtree2.jpg

Our time is abloom with color….as I drive down the streets my eyes leave my purpose and rise to see white, pink, and…yellow?

This yellow tree is in front of one of my beloveds’ home. Driving by to give a quick toot hello on the horn, I was stalled by the yellow blooms. I didn’t know trees bloomed yellow. I looked to see if it was paper blooms, put there by a creative crafter.

Yellow Magnolia?

Up close in the late afternoon light, the yellow is subdued into shadow. I think about shadow. I think about how we want to eradicate the shadow within us, seeing it as leftover bad behavior or thoughts. But our shadow is part of our beauty. The yin and yang that brings balance. The light and dark that both bring wisdom.

What is your shadow? What stories are told there? What whispers do you give into when the sun goes down and the bright turns dull?

Amy

Kayak Paddles

Today I got to work with a coach: Robin Olson. We were working with a goofy and eye rolling reality that plagued me this week. It seems that after 3 months of mindfully eating my way into new and fabulous habits (no sugar, reduced wine, no chocolate, less food) I was stunned into excess. And it came on the heals of a fabulous 3 day Qi Gong intensive.

Really. 3 days of intensive body/mind/spirit/work and I come home and over the course of the week have a cookie, a cupcake, a glass of wine, shrimp, tons of cheese.

The question was “Why?”

I’m not beating myself up. In fact, one of the first thing this fine coach did was affirm and celebrate that I am nipping the backslide in the bud, getting back on track. Yay. Go me.

We talked through what I was experiencing. And that is what I really wanted to share with you, my readers.

I have old habits. I’m 55 so have had quite a long time to develop various ways of interacting with food and energy. Excess has been a trait of mine for a multitude of reasons, all of which I have faced down and am on the right side of overcoming. Great. So what happened with the Qi Gong intensive that set me back.

This is my theory:

Qi Gong cultivates energy that flows, and qi gong breathing oxygenates the system. It is a high. It feels great. It is like breathing and utilizing pure energy. I only have 3 months of hard fought practices of eating what serves me and leaving what does not, so I think my system went where it knew best, conditions of plenty and excess as comfort and accommdation. That is the land of no restrictions. I like sugar, wine, coffee, shrimp, cheese and chocolate. Yum. But they are not quality foods that serve me and boy could I tell a difference after having been off them (ok, 80% off of them) for 3 months.

What do I need to do now? In addition to the new patterns and new behaviors, I need to create a new mindset.

A mindset that redefines what plenty means.

A mindset that can taste abundance in quality and in service to my body.

A mindset that can navigate the obstacles, like a kayaker in a river of huge rocks, in order to get to the smooth, broad river beyond.

So, that is my work for the week.

The image of a kayak paddling on a rocky river came through Coach Robin helping me get a visual to use as a touchstone this week as I pay attention. I then made this so I could really use it…

Obstacles Discipline Qi Flow_ I got this.png

That is what I’m talking about. Obstacles can kill us. But the paddle is going to direct, slow down, speed up, turn around, and guide with expertise my way through to the other side. In this case, the paddle is the Qi Gong forms that I’ve learned and have committed to doing for 100 days. Doing them in the morning allows a built in guide to focus my day and choices. Obstacles, discipline, and Qi flow inevitably arrives at health.

I’m pretty confident that I’ll do pretty well. I’ll also fail a bit. But I don’t expect to die. So, there is that.

Here we go!

Amy

All the personal growth and spiritual memes

My facebook experience is a highly curated one. It is made up of friends and family and by and large there is a shared sense of values and perspectives.

There is also a huge bouquet of spiritual memes that float before me as I scroll. On purpose. I love leaving this social media platform with a sense of depth rather than angered perturbance. Love rather than division. Us rather than other.

I like all the memes. Even the ones that I have grown beyond. Also the ones I have yet to grow into. And including the ones that are not on my path of resources but I honor because they are needed by someone for sometime.

What I do notice is that the advise and insight is right on. But the how is lacking.

  • How do we let go?

  • How do we live with ease?

  • How do we walk away from toxic relationships?

  • How do we find our inner strength?

  • How do we claim our best self?

I’m interested: what flits through your mind when you see a meme calling you to relax, renew, rediscover? What is tickled inside of you when you come across advise to see as a bird sees? Are you startled? Upset? Dismayed? Inspired? Defeated? Cynical? What….what is going on inside of you when you are invited into the deeper realm of you?

This (Ah, you knew I would get here eventually) is what spiritual direction offers. Those of us who accompany with expertise in listening and witnessing create space for you to express all the shame, cynicism, disbelief, hope, timidity, courage that transpires as you face yourself off.

So, simply put, step into a session and find what you’ve been looking for. You.

With love,

Amy

Teal Station Wagons

I had a dream last night: I'm in my honda crv, driving down a rural highway in the middle of the night and feel the vehicle lose power, I look down to see that I've let the gas go to empty. I'm shocked and turn to tell Kurt. He is not with me. I'm alone. I pull over at a crossroads. There are 3 signs for towns north, east, west, all are 2 - 2.5 miles away. I calm my breath and think "I can walk that easy. I'm ok." An old 1960s era station wagon (teal) passes me and turns east. I ponder all that can happen at night on a rural road all alone.

Today, a number of really fabulous people gave insight into symbolism on a facebook thread. From their insight and my own engagement, here is how I am interpreting the dream.

There is a nastalgic quality to the dream, going backwards before continuing forwards. I’m going to turn east and following the teal station wagon that guides me with its arrow like fancy fins. This is a temporary side trip, to get what I need to continue the journey forward. Crossroads are a point of choice, and my choices are all good, and easily met with a little effort. I’ll journey in the early watches of the night, those hours best used for sleep, dreams, and wondering. Cars are often like spirit beings in my dreams and I’m initially driving in my current for real Honda CRV. I refer to it as my sanctuary. It is a vehicle for road trips, thinking, creative sermon prep, engagement with angels and spirits. It is out of gas, but not through my negligence, nor lack of self care. I’ve crafted a life where care for self and for others are interwoven. The lack of gas is causing a pause at the crossroad. Our dreams cast a symbolic landscape for dimensional thinking. This may be pointing to something concrete, an actual decision, or a frame of mind as I continue to move in my way of forwarding my progress. I know that the dream touches on vocation and purpose, healing and formation because those are the themes of my life and work. Going back in order to go forward. Not a losing ground, but a reflection and sweet dip into my past that will release my future.

Thanks to all the providers of dream insight this day.

Amy

Confession & Forgiveness

This morning I worship online, at my favorite spot in a local coffee shop. I am tuned into facebook live and the service provided by The Riverside Church in New York. Rev. Dr. Amy Butler is the pastor. She has invited us into a time of corporate confession. Pastor Amy invites us into responses to her spoken words of humble confession as individuals, a nation, and collectively.

Lord have mercy

Christ have mercy

A soprano sings into the vast echoing space of the cathedral those words “Lord of mercy. Christ have mercy.” She then raises her hands and the whole cathedral is filled with the voicing of confession.

My soul was filled with the confession.

I could feel it. Across the miles and airwaves and computer screen. Moved with the deep love that surrounds the whole movement of word, song, and collective voice.

And then, we are all forgiven.

Confession and Forgiveness

Mercy and Love

The Divine Way.

I don’t think of myself in self negating terms. I don’t take on misery as though I am a lowly worm, lower yet, a microorganism in the dirt. I don’t . I know myself to be a striving human.

I see myself as a striving human.

My striving is not in vain. It has hand holds all the way up. I have to look up and down and to the sides and I move. Sometimes I’m stuck. Sometimes I’m lifted off the trajectory I’ve been on and whisked to another climbing wall that I must scale in order to continue up the wall that is my own striving.

I confess my failure. I confess my weaknesses. I confess when my wounds and assumptions have hurt others. I confess when my ego and arrogance takes me off path and I think I know better than another.

And I am forgiven.

That forgiveness is swirling around us at all times. It is tiny dust particles that are being breathed in and out at all times. Like a fragrance.

Once in faculty meeting, I was focused on someone speaking and my nose was suddenly filled with the smell of grapefruit. Ah! Instant refreshment. My mind said “Who just opened a bottle of grapefruit essential oil?” But no. It was a grapefruit being opened, split, squirted, eaten. The fragrance of that particular citrus escaped no one. It impacted us all.

Forgiveness escapes no one. It impacts us all. Into our cells and marrow. Into our hearts that long to be let loose. Into our minds that overthink what we’ve done wrong.

The church has always been imperfect. Our greatest collective sin might be that we are chasing perfection. That we are chasing a notion that perfection of individual and the collective is possible. It is not. Our striving is our salvation. That striving that is not based on futile hope, but that striving that urges us forward with these words, “Now I know better, therefore I will do better.”

Better is not a friend to perfectionism. Better is a friend to growth. Uncomplicated practice, over and over and over again. the millions of free throws Michael Jordan put skin to hoop, the millions of needles a 15 year expert acupuncturist puts in for a great somatic response toward healing, the millions of meals made by Mom that I would not go hungry.

Better: When we know better we do better.*

Better: Not the same as yesterday or last year, not what it will be next year, tomorrow.

Confession and Forgiveness is the freeing process to be better, to move ahead, to strive toward a worthy development.

With a contrite, loving, hopeful heart,

Amy

*quote by Maya Angelou

Compassionate Self Critique

I’m playing with an idea here. I don’t know yet if it is a single topic or if it is a whole system. Something in me likes systems, but systems without walls or step by step expectations. Maybe you’ll have insight to offer.


I’m always thinking about growth: personal, professional, spiritual, emotional. All the growth. It thrills me. My entire orientation is toward growth. And I have a nagging question: How does growth happen?

I know that there is organic growth. A day by day unfolding, resigned to what is, and one day we realize we’ve changed, or developed or no longer hold the same beliefs as we once did. Most folks in that category won’t seek out spiritual direction or counseling. It is a Que sera sera way of being. What will be will be. It assumes that by vurtue of growing older, we’ll mature.

There are those who carry deep wounds of abandonment, oppression, neglect, identity crushing expectations, violence, and more. And these folks want to change. Now. Most often, these folks will go to therapy. Totally appropriate. Spiritual Direction works well with seekers of new patterns alongside counseling or at the point that the trauma has been named and released and now its about crafting a life from the rubble.

Honestly, I just want people to grow and become on their own terms.

What I know to be true for this type of deliberate maturing process, growth and healing, is compassion and self critique. We can read that different ways:

  • Compassion

  • Self Critique

  • Compassionate Self

  • Critique

  • Compassionate Critique

Compassion entails an inner and outer focus.

Inner: We must have compassionate for ourselves for believing lies that have lead to our diminshment, compassion for staying too long, compassion for doing the best we could with what we had, compassion for all that didn’t happen. And more!

Outer: We must have compassion for the perpetrator/s. In the Jesus tradition of the Gospels, Jesus guides us toward the hard work of loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. This is no spiritual bypass, where we deny bad behavior, or forgive and forget. It is recognizing that harm, meanness, and even criminal behavior has been piled on us. This is hard work, and it is key. We cannot grow and become without this outer step of compassion.

Self Critique: This is the ability to take ourselves out of victimhood and ask hard questions of ourselves

  • What have I done to perpetuate this issue?

  • How can I do it different next time?

  • What is in my own story that causes me to repeat behavior that I truly no longer want to continue?

  • Oh, there it is again…what just happened to trigger this?

  • Why did I interpret their behavior this way? What else might it mean? What if it isn’t even about me?

  • and more

In my opinion and experience, this is when it gets juicy. Like a sociological, Anthropological adventure into our own psyche and soul through our history.

It can change everything.

How do we get here? Without step 1, step 2, step 3, how do we know what we’re doing?

And that is my question.

I know my own journey has been of hiding, secrets, extreme self doubt, self-negation, allowing others to diminish me with their words and assumptions. My greatest change came when I asked myself this question, “How did X know to do what they did to me?” My inner response was crystal clear: They wouldn’t have unless it was being done to them, or someone was brutally wounding them.

FLASH BOOM

Compassion crept in and I could no longer see my story from a singular viewpoint. I believe without exception that bullies and abusers were themselves bullied and abused by people who were bullied and abused. Some are just mean and hurtful. Some are criminal. Some are criminally insane. Once I unlocked this truth, even though I didn’t have specifics, I could let them go. I forgave the person, while retaining the important knowledge that what they had done was wrong and I did not deserve it. It was a quantum leap in my healing. The next quantum leap in my healing was when I spoke the story out loud.

What was my journey to this point? A ton of things over the course of 33 years. Let me try to list them:

  • prayer

  • prayer

  • telling my husband

  • understanding the psychological condition of humans

  • spiritual direction

  • scripture research

  • listening to others

  • volunteer year in a domestic assault shelter

  • forgiving

  • forgiving again

  • forgiving myself

  • got tired of victimhood and self pity

  • awakening as to what was mine and what was theirs

  • shamanic journey

  • soul work

  • telling the story outloud to a group

  • compassionate understanding toward perpetrators

  • being real

  • non judgment of raw emotions

  • letting go of family myth and often told stories that were covers to make others feel good

  • truth telling with myself

  • open inquiry

  • Asking myself “What if that isn’t true? What might also be true at the same time?”

  • journaling

  • goodness so much more

Did I say this was a 33 year journey? Yep. And I have no embarrassment that it has taken into my mature adult years to be free of it. Free as in I am not defined by this past, and defining my own future once I took myself back and claimed authority of my story.

Compassion and Self Critique = Life.

That is what I know today. In the end…..

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With love,

Amy