Self Care, revisited

I saw this today

“Self care is hard. It is not just face

masks and bath bombs. It is crying,

getting out of bed, sticking to your

goals, allowing yourself to open up

to others, not staying at home,

getting rid of negative people, Don’t

believe social media’s false

definition of self care.”

I love a good meme, and a powerful sentiment. Let’s get to it and live all the powerful messages out there. But this one, if we think this is the whole picture, will just keep us stuck in our sadness, our pity, our hurt. Here is another go at how this one might read……

Self care is hard. It is not just face

masks and bath bombs. It is crying,

getting out of bed, sticking to your

goals, allowing yourself to open up

to others, not staying at home,

getting rid of negative people. Don’t

believe social media’s false

definition of self care. …….

Do all the things, and then face the issues at root.

Put the face mask on so you can take on your deepest wounds like a warrior.

Cry to give voice-out-loud to what you’ve experienced.

Open up to trustworthy others, telling your most painful secrets so they are no longer secrets.

Heal at the root. Then self care blooms from within.

I believe this with all my heart. I’ve lived it with all my strength. I’ve raged it with all my body. Go for the root, that is where the power to change it all resides.

With you,

Amy

Day 6 No added or refined sugar

Odd that I’ve gotten here. I’ve watched by uber healthy experimenting hubz go without sugar. But me? Nah.

Yet, the other day I was meditating, and a thought wafted up from within. “reduce sugar intake.”

When I get wafts from below, I’m learning that it is from a fuller knowledge system within. It’s like little bubbles burbling upwards into my mind. I can tell when It is from my mind, and it feels different and the bubbles.

I don’t know about you, but my mind is where my shoulds, oughts, trending grasping, fears, insecurities do a lot of talking. And the mind thinks it is the boss. It thinks it is everything. Because the body, emotions, and soul do not think. They experience. Often in metaphor, sometimes in words, always in truth.

If my mind had conjured a thought like “reduce sugar intake” I would have been successful for about 3 hours, until the next temptation presented itself.

But this is what I think is happening.

Food and I go way back. Food represents being in a type of need. Not physical need, my parents worked hard to make sure we had all we needed. But it represented an emotional need. And I just couldn’t get enough. Mom was a good cook and baker. The lack wasn’t in what she offered and taught us. It was within me. I had an emotional need that was huge.

Fast forward, say 50 years, and you’ve got an adult who has done her work. Still doing her work. Looking forward to 40 more years of doing my work. And food doesn’t serve me as it once did. I love a good meal, good tastes…you know, the kind where you have to close your eyes, it’s just that good. But now, food does not have a role in my emotional well being. And my body knows it.

But bubbling up the invitation, it was effectively saying, “You’re ready.” Ready to move on. Uplevel. Engage life and myself from a new vantage point.

So it is day 6. I have not had one sugar craving. I’ve had to fight habits. But as soon as I get through the initial stages of the triggers of the habit, I’m fine. What have I done? I am starting with simply not adding sugar or anything akin to anything. Nor am I eating the obvious things: cookies, those blueberry scones at Roscoe’s that I’m smelling right this second, hot chocolate or IKEA lingenberry jam on my meatballs. For now, I’m not worrying about the added sugar in processed foods because I don’t eat many of those. I’m not worrying about the carb/sugar thing for now. Just taking it simple and drinking my coffee bitter.

What are you feeling right now, reading through this? What is stirring within your within? Is it about food or is it about doing your work of becoming, uncloaking toward your truest self? Seriously, let’s do that together.

With you in sweetness,

Amy

More than good thoughts

January 1, 2019

It will take more than Hope, Prayer, Good Thoughts to step into the new year in a new way.

We must be clear about what it is we want, or others who have a clearer vision will co-opt us into their plans. We’ll end up wondering how we got there and not where we wanted to be.

Hope that is a real thing, and keeps us going in the dark of night, but you have to actually keep going.

Prayer connects us to a transcendent reality that is Sacred. This reality always invites us into the incarnation, which takes flesh, bones, muscle and sweat.

So take action.

Dream those good thoughts into clarity and then act.

Hope for the impossible to be possible, and then act.

Pray without ceasing, with gratitude, and then act.

Act.

Act as if your life depended upon it. For it does.

Act, take a step, make a choice, clear your house, call someone you’ve offended, give money to the poor, step up your game at work so that you are proud of yourself, give up sugar, drink coffee black……

Act in whatever way your soul needs for you to act, so that 2019 is not a repeat of 2018. So that 2019 isn’t entered into without a conscious plan. So that 2019 takes you further than you’ve ever thought.

Act.

With you,

Amy

Big Plans

What are your big plans for this coming year?

Specifically, how will you enlarge your soul knowing with purpose and consciousness?

Maybe…..

  • retreat

  • do a year of spiritual direction

  • do a year of coaching to let loose old habits and build out your own way in the world

  • face your scary past

  • meditate

  • quit your job and join an ashram

  • quit your job and go abroad to live and work

  • quit your job and find one that allows you to be fully present as yourself with your own unique gifts

  • stay in your job, but talk with your boss about reshaping it so that you can maximize your strengths

  • leave a marriage

  • end friendships

  • publish your original writing

  • save the planet

What feels sooo big? Too big? Outrageous?

And why won’t you do it?

What do you need to do it?

I don’t have an agenda with these questions. Just asking.

But,

Since we are here asking, tell me, how does your body feel when you read down that list? Is there any one item that set your heart racing? Are there things that shut you down? Did you jump to your own list of possible Big Plans?

I’ve done most of these (except join an ashram and I’m still definitely married), and I’ll tell you, there is a cost. To all of them.

  • When I’ve been on retreat, I have to face the fact that I can’t get my mind to settle.

  • I’ve done spiritual direction since about 1997 with a few odd years hiatus, and I won’t every be without it again.

  • I’ve done 6 months of coaching as part of my program, and it is AMAZING

  • I have faced my scary past. And it was an act of putting the last puzzle piece into the picture, and my response was a sigh too deep for words

  • I meditate daily, and am blown away by the simplicity of the wisdom that rises from time to time, as well as with the emptiness (in a good way) most of the time

  • I would love to live in an ashram for a year, but I have not done this

  • My husband and I lived in Puerto Rico for a year while we were in seminary.

  • I did quit my job to create a private practice of my own where I get to be fully present and in charge. Gulp! Right on!

  • When I was in my job, I was able to give shape to the tasks so that I was working from strength. I am so grateful for my former workplace.

  • I will not leave my marriage.

  • I have ended friendships or have created safe distance from those who do not see me and seek to manipulate me into fitting into their reality. I love some people best from afar.

  • I have published a sweet little Lenten devotional

  • I save the planet with each conscious effort to not use her resources wantonly

I didn’t set out to write about what I have accomplished. I didn’t know when I made the original list how I would be able to check check check most of them.

What about you? Forget my list. What is your list of Big Plans. Once you write it, go over it and check what you’ve already accomplished. Then check in with yourself to see how you could not possibly be the old you for having done that thing.

Be awake this coming year, so that you grasp on to the opportunities that surprise you into your next phase. You’ve cleared the fear before, you can do it again.

With you!

Amy

Unpacking a thought on ourselves

Today I had a great conversation with a beloved client who is smart, kind, practical, brilliant. And we talked about our core, that center pole of self that we can come back to when the world feels wonky.

Have you ever watched a video on how to prep for setting a post? Like a post for a fence, foundation, deck? There is work. First we have to know where we are going to set the post. It will need to be in a place that maximizes the strength of the entire deck or fence. Too far a part, and the fence will be wobbly or the deck will bend and bounce from lack of support. Once the hole is dug, concrete is mixed and poured. You can put the post in at that point, and backfill with gravel, or fill the whole thing with concrete and then attache the post on top. Whatever.

The point is, there is prep involved.

When we are doing the work of strengthening our own center pole of being, there is prep. I think one of the things that can the most help is to know our threshold. To know what is too much. And then, back away from that for a comfortable fill. Let’s change metaphors. If we have a cup of coffee filled to the brim, and then try to walk across the room, it will slop over the side. If Midge from the diner comes along with a pot o’ coffee to refill and pours it in without checking with us first, it will overflow. And we’ll need to clean up.

Our norm in life is to be busy. To fill up. To set our post holes too far apart. And then when life comes around with a big breeze, a coffee refill, a tragic trip….we are left unable to contain our own living.

What if….I know this is crazy…..

But what if we learned who we are and lived out of our center pole of being?

For example (this is what my brilliant client and I talked about)

What if we try yoga every day one week, 3x the next week, and 1x the following week. We consider, reflect and note that we do well with just one yoga class a week. There. we’ve set a baseline.

How many committees are you on? What happens when they all meet in one week? What happens when all the 20 page papers are due the last week of the semester? What happens when all the families want to gather for a great meal on Christmas Day?

Know your baseline. Know what is a healthy amount in your container. Live there on the regular so that when the extra things come along, you are only then bumping into your threshold. Life is manageable.

To do this, we have to agree with ourselves that we do not need to be busy to be valid. That we can have spaces in our days and pauses on our calendars and that we are ok and of great value. We do not need to overwork, overspend, overplan.

When I was about to have my first son, I got off of all the extra things I was on. The bell choir director was not happy. But I held firm. I said, “I’ve never had a baby before and I have no idea what I can handle. So my son is the priority.” Once he came along and we lived into being new parents, I found that adding bell choir again was good for me, and what was good for me was good for the baby. I had zeroed out my extras, in order to see what my baseline was.

I continued this practice when moving, or at the birth of a second child, or just when I needed to reset my life. It was a chance to zero out everything, and build from there. Not to just get busy again, but to recognize what I was able to handle and be able to offer my best to the rich choices of my life: parenting, marriage, vocation.

When we’ve done this work, and this is not a thought project that can be figured out over a cup of coffee…this takes weeks and maybe months….we create the space to own our strengths, to claim our way in the world, and to shape that center pole.

All of this effort is to live a mindful life. To journey in a balanced way. To be the creators of our living and create from a knowing of our very souls.

Amy

Enough into Abundance

I have an awkward relationship with the author Brene’ Brown. She has brought into common language the concept of You Are Enough. I applaud this.

I also have caution around this.

Brene’ is coming from a place of perfectionism, from a place within where the narrative is so strong that you must do more, be more, know more, show more, grow more, have more. You don’t. None of us do. We are most certainly enough.

This is a third dimensional, material plane way of thinking. We are 3D people and must operate on the material plane of lawns, cars, meals, homework and soccer games. If this dimension is where you are stuck, then let’s get to work on this notion that more is required of you. They way about this is to find out who you are and match the “enough” to you personally. My enough is going to look different than your enough.

I want to add in the 4th and 5th dimension into this equation. Because this is honestly much more interesting, than managing your schedule or to do list and doing self care with bubble baths.

When we tap into who we are at soul level, our most innate gifts and ways to be in the world, then we move from enough into abundance. It is like discovering we have a bank account that our great grandparents set up for us and has been gathering interest for 80 years and you have a boat-load of money you didn’t know about.

We can stay on the surface of our living, taking cues from a culture that is entwined with capitalism and business bottom line. Think about it: fashion has become toxic to impoverished people in other countries who are working day and night to feed the fashion machine in the United States because we have to keep buying the next the new the last thing we need to fit in. The corporations get richer and we become poor in spirit because we can never attain an arrival. So we keep buying whatever we’re told. Until we say “I’m enough”…and we know that we’ve been tricked into thinking our material possessions and busy lifestyles have been foisted upon us, and we are mere peons to the corporate machine.

Bummer, eh?

There is another layer to consider.

That is the essential nature of our true selves. Not the striving self, the superficial self, the struggling self.

This is our surprise bank account that opens us into abundance and beyond enough.

The world has limits: enough

The culture defines us for its own good: enough

Our schedules are busy busy: enough

Our unique strengths: abundance

Our creative path forward: abundance

Our deepening self awareness: abundance

Our meaning making in the world that allows us to express ourselves and to be there for our neighbor’s good: abundance

You are already enough. And so much more.

Amy

Bottom of the Breath

This morning I am listening

I breathe in deep, and my mind is awash with a myriad of tasks, thoughts, words, images

I breathe out and they settle

I breathe in and I listen to the sound of the in-breath

I breathe out and note my diaphragm in action

I breathe in and then I breathe out and I stay in that place

That place between breathes

That place of the little death

Where it is still

My mind enters the words Om Shanti Ananda

Om Shanti Ananda

And then I breathe in deep again

I breathe out to the point of stillness

Om Shanti Ananda

I listen to that space that is on the verge of waiting, of action, of dying

I breathe in and I breathe out to the bottom of the breathe

and let go

Stepping Around the Piles

For months, I’ve been clearing out my house. The hubz and I both like empty closets and drawers. It is a big house….built in 1852 by a Carriage maker. We have one storage room that we clear out every couple of years so that we are not storing old energy, old stuff, past plans.

The problem? It gets hauled to the garage and there it sits. For months, I’ve been stepping around the pile. The boxes and totes are filled with some good stuff. Stuff that if I put it on ebay would make me a nice pile of coffee money. But I don’t have an interest in using my time that way. So, I’m happy to offload at the Goodwill for someone to take it into their home or to do the work of selling and then making cash from it. Good for them.

Every time I stepped around the piles of outgoing energy, I was sending a message to myself and the Universe and all powers that make things happen, that I’m fine hanging on to the past. I’m fine moving half way into the future, part way into the next. Like going to London and never leaving the top of the tour bus.

So today, as I started stepping around the piles, I stopped. I looked at it all. And I put it in my Honda. You see, earlier this morning, I new I needed to take new physical action to keep my life flowing forward.

Emma Churchman and others call this energetic supportive action. It isn’t direct action for my goals, but it is physical action and that always supports the direct meeting of goals. The Quakers call it “way open”. The Quakers are speaking of that ineffable moment when what you thought was closed has now become open with opportunity. I think I’m talking about the same thing.

We are powerful creators of our own lives. We make choices every day. The life we are living today is the life we have each set in motion, by the people we have chosen or accepted to be around us, by the job we are in and possibly put up with, by the negative lifestyle choices we engage in over and over and over. I think there is a basic question about being a victim of anything. But I also completely believe that there is more empowerment in choosing the reality that I brought it all on and so I am powerful enough to change it. It is a mindset choice toward action.

A little exercise:

  1. Take 2 full and deep breaths. Keep breathing while you think of a circumstance in your life that you believe is the outcome from someone doing something to you. Something you blame someone else for. Something that allows you to tag yourself as victim. Now, how does your body feel? What is the energy doing? What do you think you’ll accomplish with this energy?

  2. Take 2 full and deep breaths. Keep breathing while you think of a circumstance in your life that you believe is the outcome of an external force. Now, breathe deep again and own it. Say “I chose this. I chose this from a host of previous choices and beliefs. I drew this to me. I own it. It is a powerful reality. That means I am equally powerful to change the outcome now.” How does your body feel? What do you think you’ll accomplish with this energy?

The body always expresses truth.

It is looking at consequences for a series of choices.

  1. Do I date mean men because I watched my Mom in mean relationships and that is all I know?

  2. Do I gain weight because I’ve turned to food for acceptance and love, as a balm for what I don’t have?

  3. Am I stuck in a job for 30 years that still only pays me $9.50 an hour?

  4. My life is the same every day and I hate it.

Move right on past self blame. It isn’t part of the equation here. Simply own your own beliefs and choices and work with your mindset, then say:

  1. There are a wide variety of types of relationships and I am going to choose well so that my partner in love is good to me and has integrity.

  2. Food is not conscious and is not capable of loving me. I am going to go to the library, coffee shop, movies…because I love myself enough to do something enjoyable. I love me.

  3. I’m going to learn a new skill and get a different job.

  4. I’m going to clean out all my closets and get rid of all the “some day” things and make room for what I want right now.

I’ve oversimplified my examples. But life can be that simple. If we get stuck stepping around our piles of blame and victimhood, leaving them anchored in the way of our life, we won’t move on. We won’t.

When we identify our piles, we can begin to get a sense of the container we need to move them. When we believe that we are the ones to bring the container and do the moving, then we can get going. Nobody is going to bring their dump truck to our garage, unless we at least call.

It is a long road. It is a hard road. And then you’ll know freedom.

Imagine what you need:

  • meditation

  • spiritual direction

  • vacation

  • therapy

  • divorce

  • new job or promotion

  • U-haul

  • new skillset

  • new mindset

In the end, what story do you want to tell? That you made your life happen or that the world was always against you?

I now can easily walk through the garage. I am no free of the past that is energetically held in each object. I felt the freedom immediately. I am now expecting a shift in my goals. That is how it works.

Let’s dig through the pile together.

Peace and Action,

Amy

The Power of Being A Practitioner

When we experience something tremendous, we often feel it inside of us as a longing, a wanting, a possibility.

At age 6 we see an astronaut come to school and we want to be one.

At age 14 we see our favorite singer on stage and we want to be on stage too.

At age 21 we read about CEOs who are 30 and we lock on to that dream.

At age 32 we see so many books being published and we want to say “I am a writer.”

Into adulthood we experience inspiration to be, to become, to gain that title, that paycheck, that leadership role.

In order to get there, we must first be a practitioner.

Before we can teach others to meditate, we must have meditation so deeply instilled in our bones that we no longer have to make time to sit and mindfully pause because it is like breathing.

Before we can be the professor, we must do the hard work of research that opens doors for new thought on old topics and we earn…EARN….that PhD….and teaching is like unbidden thoughts arising in order.

Before we can stand in a pulpit on a regular basis, we must have more than just a love for Jesus…embracing the role of disciple until doing the gospel is as fluid and everyday as making the coffee.

Before we become the piano teacher, we must love the arpeggios that our fingers tap out on any flat surface until our friends make jokes about us.

In order to get to our “there”, we must first be a practitioner.

Richard Rohr writes about the first half of life being a time of collecting, and the second half of life about applying what we’ve collected. Perhaps the demarcation isn’t so clear. But most certainly, we must collect, reflect, decipher, unpack, face head on, and do our inner work as we then become the one who might inspire.

No agism here….a 9 year old who has meditated everyday on their own volition for years can be my teacher.

But if I have only meditated for 9 months, even everyday straight, I am still a novice practitioner and have no business teaching. But you can come sit with me and I’ll sit with you and we’ll practice together.

We must honor the process of becoming. We do that with conscious effort, and the humble stance that just because we are inspired, we are not yet there.

We get there with practice.

That space of being a practitioner is delicious. It is hard. It is a gift. It is consoling. It is a determining factor in whether or not we have the chops, the call, the vocation to one day be the one up front. It is an incredible space for just being a practitioner with no future aspiration. That future if it is to be, will show up at the right time. For now, practice.

Do your work. Do your practice. Listen when people around you say “One day you will be a fine instructor/astronaut/pianist”….but it is not this day. This day is to be in the practice. Listen when people around you say “You are ready.” And humbly continue your practice, even as you step into the embodiment of your dream.

From one practitioner to another, with love,

Amy

Body Positive

3 weeks ago I took a spill on my walk. There I was, chugging along like a boss and I suddenly experienced, in slo-mo, my body falling. In those split seconds of falling, my mind said “phone, face, glasses”. I landed in an amped up chaturanga (upward facing dog) …a yoga pose I pushed through on several occasions with the brilliant yogi Susan…. landing on the meat of my hands, the bulk of my thighs, and a little bounce from the middle and nothing was hurt. Minor scrapes. Phone, face and glasses intact. My muscles and confidence took a beating, however. I walked a couple of times after this, and then stopped.

PTSD is real. Even for tiny things. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being combat, I was at a .025. Tiny for sure, but every stick on the sidewalk became a potential pitfall. And when I would arrive at the corner that did me in I was full on tense that I would fall again. This belief was pervasive even though I had walked that corner dozens upon dozens of times before the fall with balance and strength.

But I was undone. For 3 weeks I did not walk. In those 3 weeks I felt my body get mushy again instead of the steady and gentle climb toward strength. I had one yoga session after the fall, feeling every muscle that saved me and every muscle being pushed. I began tai chi again. That all felt safe.

So, do you know my body? I was born with a european peasants shape and strength. A viking (ancestry.com) who could oar across to Greenland or a hoosier farm. I bailed hay, loaded stones, danced, and was strong in my growing up years. After babies, and a job that used my brain, heart, and ears…..I began to work out at the local work out place. At first, I thought I would die at 30 seconds on the eliptical but the trainers were measuring a baseline and needed me to go 2 minutes. Oof. I set my own goals of each week adding 30 seconds. Tiny, for sure. But at some point I leapt passed the 30 second add, and was up to adding 5 minutes, 10 minutes. Finally I was at a brisk 45 minute practice for a couple of years. Then a job change, aging, another degree, comfy couches and food as emotional friend took hold. I had become the plump lady who had a nice personality.

I changed jobs to craft a comprehensive and inclusive life, because my body has stayed faithful through the movement droughts and kept calling me everyday. “Amy, let’s go walk!” It cheerfully said It is sooooo happy when I do.

After 3 weeks now, I am back on the walk.

If I measure my body by cultural standards, I should just stay home. But today….

  • I’m thinking about the chaturanga my body knew to do when I was falling.

  • I think about how well I sleep.

  • I think about the zen like breathing in my daily meditation

  • I think about the giddy goofiness my whole fleshy system feels when I am up and at-it again.

  • I think about my standing desk and my practice of often meeting my coaching and spiritual direction clients on Zoom while I stand, fully attentive to them.

  • I think about how a daily 5 minutes of tai chi practice brings me balance, pace and moves the energy.

…all of this brings me back to the walk.

Heart Soul Mind Body, baby.

Love yourself as you can.

Amy