Why Do I Hurt?

Grief has been a close companion as of late.

Grief and I have been unashamedly baring our souls to each other.  And it is a lot like buying a Prius. Once you decide to buy that Prius, you start to see Prius' everywhere.  When you open yourself up to grief, it is everywhere. 
 

Oh, I've been worryin' that my time is a little unclear
I've been worryin' that I'm losing the ones I hold dear


In my recent weeks at the meditation school, I've witnessed grief while working with clients healing back pain and releasing trauma held in physical scars.  For example, I worked on a friend's scar.  She had broken her leg and had been walking with a limp for months.  We worked together, then later I saw her in the lodge.  She saw me and burst into tears.  She had walked to the lodge without a limp and without even thinking about her leg. 

The miracle was not that she walked normally that day.  That felt miraculous, but she still had healing to do.  The amazing and humbling part was the way she had the courage to feel the depth of her emotion.  In the crying, she released the trauma. 

...the fear that she may never walk normally again
...the grief of how the trauma impacted her and its lingering effects on her life.
...the worry of how this injury would continue to haunt her in the future.

The fear and grief had encapsulated themselves in her scar and had been part of what kept her limping after all those months.   Her willingness to feel the emotions was key in releasing the trauma, and in doing so, helped to heal the physical wound.

I've been worryin' that we all live our lives in the confines of fear


Our emotions have to live somewhere.  If we don’t let them out, they bury themselves in our body.  If there is one emotion we try to avoid, it's grief.  We try like hell to bury grief.  Because, frankly, it can be devastating.  We will feel anything else in order not to feel grief. 

I’ve been watching all the ways that I see grief get covered up, hidden within our physical pain and tucked into the deep shadows of our body.  We hide it with anger.  Anxiety.  Control.  We hide it  by numbing ourselves.  Somehow these options feel more palatable.  Anger and control feel powerful.  Numbing and anxiety are distracting.

And yet, the problem is that when we choose a cover-up emotion, the grief remains.  So we keep getting angry over and over, not even sure why, as our body cloaks the grief from arising to the surface.


The beauty in exploring grief is that it has a way of blowing you open.  For me, the more I experience grief the more I know, I am not my pain.  I am not my grief.  It will not destroy me.  It won’t destroy you either.  You might be blown open and raw, but like the aftermath of a storm, the air is cleaner, the land is cleansed, debris is gone and life feels fresh and new again.


Come on love, come on love
Watch me fall apart, watch me fall apart


In speaking with a psychologist recently about work at rehab clinics, he said that in almost every rehab client he had, there was unresolved grief.  That hit me hard.  What if, we opened to grief and even better,  encouraged others to open their grief to us?  What if we could really hold someone in their grief?  What kind of gift could it be for all of us?
 

Only love, only love
Give me shelter, or show me heart


Why do you hurt?  It is worth asking yourself about your own stories of grief. 

with love,
Jennifer

If you're not sure or want support, there are ways we can work together. 
If you are curious about the healing techniques for yourself, ping me here

Lyrics by Ben Howard, “Only Love” and “The Fear”

The Shrinking of Wildness

Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unspla

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unspla

The shrinking from wildness starts early.  I just led a workshop for 7th grade girls and the retreat from that inner freedom had already begun.  In some ways they still retained some wildness.  They were free and full of fun when painting, spreading it on each other and reveling in the mess.  But then we journaled.  We journaled about self-confidence and the responses were heart-breaking.

"I have low confidence, and so always think of myself negatively."

"They (meaning other people) don't care about my achievements"

"Other people won't be impressed by (what I do)." 

"I don't have anything to brag about."

"I don't want to sound _________ .
Fill in the blanks with conceited, self-absorbed, rude, inconsiderate.


This is not ok. 

This is REALLY not ok.

If we want to raise a generation of girls with confidence, body  ownership, and an outlook that can positively impact the world, we have to start with ourselves, because they are modeling us. 

They are inheriting these words and these quotes from us.  Every time we shrink from being unapologetically ourselves, we are sending the message to girls to shrink as well.

And that is not limited to moms.  All of us women are modeling behavior and believe me, girls are watching. 

We tell girls we want them to grow up to be brave and strong and confident, even while we turn our backs on those very concepts in our own life.  We stop taking risks, we don't stretch ourselves, we settle.  So often, time passes and we realize we've compromised in our lives, and we have oriented ourselves towards an unsatisfying "good enough," perhaps also believing we are not deserving of more.

It reminds me of the line that I heard recently, that it is not the pain that takes us down, it's the shame of the pain.

Wildness is wilderness and neither know shame.  It is becoming the biggest tree in the forest because you can.  There is joy in growing and a reaching for as much light as your limbs can find.  It should be ok for us to take up space, be big and bold and be seen and to take joy in saying "here I am."

The river does not stop moving because it approaches rocks or even a cliff.  The stream continues through, cleansing and washing everything into its path, becoming a waterfall in its leap of faith.  We are like these forces of nature and lest us not be like quicksand.

with fierce and wild love,
Jennifer

Finding Freedom and Depth

Photo courtesy of Unsplash and Kalen Emsley

Photo courtesy of Unsplash and Kalen Emsley

Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  It was wild, nerve-wracking and ultimately a liberating exercise.  2018, in some ways, is a continuation of pushing that edge as I decide strategies to embrace freedom and depth, ironically, by creating constraints.

It started with a New York Times op ed article by author, Ann Patchett, titled My Year of No Shopping.  The article was compelling, brave, scary, and completely committed. It caught me with the quote, “what I needed was less”.   The idea was turning over in my mind when I reposted it to Facebook and my cousin called me to the challenge.

Gulp.  The idea of not buying things filled me with panic.  I immediately felt the need to go Black Friday style and buy everything in anticipation of buying nothing.  So I knew I was on to something.

Our pursuit of material things can be an obstruction to actually finding meaning and purpose in life.

My research took me even further with a brilliant article by David Cain, Go Deeper, Not Wider, which I highly, highly recommend.   David describes these type of constraints as a Year of Depth.  Like Ann Patchett, he advocates no shopping, but he goes further.

"No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.

You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.

The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. We could call it a “Depth Year” or a “Year of Deepening”."


For me, a Depth Year feels like I get a pass from chasing things. I have a habit to spreading myself too thin and I am craving depth.  I want less.  I want to have less, I want to think about less things, I want less events on my calendar and with what I choose in my life, I want greater depth.  With less in my head and on my plate, I have more freedom, more space to give, more space to be.  A year of no shopping starts that trend.

The things we buy and buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: We can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss life’s details.   - Ann Patchett

I will have to detach from my attachment to things.  When I feel empty on love, I give myself gifts to feel better. When I get that uncomfortable hollow feeling, I fill it with things, treats, pretty objects, new programs that provide that dopamine kick.  This year, I want my freedom more.  Time to go cold turkey.

Here is how I am Embracing Freedom and Going Deep in 2018.

1. I am not going to buy new things this year (unless absolutely necessary, like toothpaste or when my running shoes fall apart).  For me, this is clothes, shoes, accessories, and Starbucks.  Get ready to see me in the same clothes all year.

2. I am not going to take up new hobbies.  I plan to get better and the ones I’ve already started.

3. I am going to go deeper with my practice, my clients, my workshops, family & friends.

It starts today.  Wish me luck.

Where is Truth

Photo courtesy of unsplash and Stefan Rayner

Photo courtesy of unsplash and Stefan Rayner

I don't know why, but truth is quiet. 

I have discovered quiet steps towards truth, but it was my recent bout of less-truthful and not-so-quiet, righteous indignation that prompted this post.


This righteousness had a false note to it, but like junk food, the packaging looked really appealing.

"Tastes better!  More Flavor! 
I get to be right and everyone else is wrong!" 


This feeling sells itself as Truth, but is more concerned with being right.  And who doesn't like to feel right?  It will go through Wily E. Coyote, Brier Rabbit, and A Trial Lawyer's bag of tricks to position itself in the right.  And when this Indignation is successful, usually someone else is very wrong.  This can be a spouse, a friend or the guy at the corner mart.  It is so busy screaming how right it is, it cannot even hear what other side has to say.  It is so caught up in blame, that there can be no other perspective.  It is narrow, fierce and committed.  Righteous Indignation is vindictive.  It can’t come to the table for an honest discussion. 

Furthermore, it is everywhere.  It is inside me, it is probably inside you, it's in our national forum and politics.

So how do you know if you are speaking from Truth or from the part that just wants to be right at all costs? 

Truth doesn’t yell, throw a fit, or scream.  It doesn’t make someone else wrong.  Truth is a knowing that exists in a place that is bigger than being right or being wronged.  Truth is also impersonal.  It doesn't care about me, my pride, or my desires.  So when, as happened to me recently, I feel turmoil, charged emotions and a loud, insistent voice, perhaps even  sanctimonious (who me?  Never), I knew there is a good chance that my Righteous Indignation was posturing as Truth.  My best clue as to what was happening was my initial unwillingness to step into the other person's shoes at all.  I wanted to be right.  I wanted to stay on my high horse, far away from any pain I might have caused.

Why does this false counterpart to Truth rear its head?  It is a cover-up.  Maybe there is a bit a blame that we need to own, but don’t want to, maybe we have hurt someone and we don’t want to acknowledge it.  Often there are uncomfortable feelings lying underneath our righteousness that we don’t want to see, and as long as we can place the blame elsewhere, we don’t have to look at or feel this discomfort.  

This is the place where change can happen.  When we are willing to look at these places of discomfort and find Truth on the other side.  These are the places I had to go and where I go with my clients.  Having the courage and willingness to see through the comfortable disillusions is what leads to unvarnished, raw, but still shining truths.

And without the courage to see it though, it is easy to cycle into blame or self-judgement.  And what about my own recent flailing?  I could crawl into a hole and flog myself, but again, the truth is, it was only in witnessing and acknowledging my own righteous failing that I could see the path back towards that quiet truth. 

Pity Parties and Dancing with Stuckness

Pitypartiesanddancingwithstuckness

I should have known.  When I wrote about joy last month, I should have known that I would immediately be put to the test.  This past month I had a series of small incidences that sent me into a nosedive.  I know the techniques that help bring me back to a state of joy and here was my test.  Did I do them?  

Nope.  

I delayed, I procrastinated, I came up with reasons why my tools were not worth pursuing.  Dancing to my favorite music?  Meh.  Exercise?  I pulled my hamstring and could not be bothered to go to the pool.  Hanging out with friends?  I isolated myself instead, "saving" my friends from my surliness.  Grumpy dwarf could have taken lessons from me.  I blamed the overcast weather, I blamed my injury, my spouse, I blamed the alignment in the stars, the tides and well, you get the picture.  I was stuck in my morass and as I kept looking for a way out, I had to acknowledge the giant elephant in the room.  

I didn’t want out.  There was a part of me that wanted to wallow in the muck. I wanted to lay in the mess and make mud angels in my cocktail mix of pessimism, pity and blame.  This part of me wanted to put on a black leather jacket and give inspiration and joy the middle finger.  Destruction, implosion and misery sounded way more interesting.

Oh.

Oh.

Um, yeah.  Not my proudest moment but a powerful one.  Something changed when I acknowledged this inner rebellion.  I was able to see more everything more clearly.   

I dug up a blog written by a friend, Elisa Mehl, that had always resonated with me.  I respect her immensely.  She talks about the experience of feeling stuck:

“When we can't move forward, often it's because we are not finished with the experience we are actually having.  What if we were simply present for the rich alive pulsing of the exact state and moment?  What if we didn't pay attention to our mind, or society, or friends telling us we should be more mature or positive or open or accepting or whatever?
 
Often this takes a reframe.  We are conditioned to seeing our "stuckness" as bad.  But what if we reframe the stuckness into an embrace?”

    •    When we try to change something we are outside of it.
    •    By not trying to change something and being curious we get present.
    •    Presence carries us inside, to the center of whatever is going on.
    •    In the center, is our presence.   Presence is life.
    •    Our perspective is different when we are present.

Until I acknowledged my desire to stay in the misery, I was fighting an unseen opponent, one stealth and well-versed in ambushing me.  In getting curious about my desire to stay stuck, I could suddenly start to see my choices again.  I had more space to see and decide and felt less committed to my inky pity pit.  I invited my husband for a surf and went for a walk with a friend and did some stretching.  I even dragged myself to a yoga class. Afterwards, I felt the best I had in weeks and I remembered why I like to feel good. 

It’s rejuvenating and the the world is brighter again.  

We all drop into that hole in life.  And sometimes, we want to stay in the hole.  The key is to get curious about it.  Be present with it.  Acknowledge it.  Then, decide.  Where do you want to go next? 

with love,
Jennifer

For Elisa's full article click here

Rewiring by Joy

rewiring by joy

Joy is the serious business of heaven.
                          - C.S. Lewis  

                              
I am coming undone.  Rewiring by joy.

I’m often on a high when facilitating a workshop and afterwards comes the fall.  It’s like coming home after a fabulous vacation and realizing it's time to do the laundry and bay the bills.  Necessary, yes.  Fabulous?  Less so.  It is in this place where my rubber hits the road.  Choosing joy on these days.  From what part of me am I going to live during the non-peak moments of life?

I have friends who don't get joy.  Joy is bigger and different than happiness.  Take holiday carols, for instance.  Frosty the Snowman was...  happy, until he melted.  Songs of joy, on the other hand, include angels, triumph and exultation - the Herald Angels sing, "Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies."

When someone wins the the Olympics, it’s joy.  Can you listen to the theme for Chariots of Fire and not feel something rise in your chest, this exultation of spirit, the desire to stand tall, burst into song or take a stand for something?

For those of us not winning an Olympic medal today and not immersing ourselves in holiday songs as summer approaches, how can joy make its way to us?  And how can we meet it?

This experience of joy is a conscious decision to reorient towards something new.  This is what I am climbing towards, and sometimes crawling towards, in the non-peak moments of life.  The average days, the gray days, the busy traffic and the folding laundry days.  And it is not always easy.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, refers to the choice as an act of will.  She describes it as stubborn gladness.  In referring to her work as a writer and lover of her craft, “My ultimate choice, then, is to always approach my work from a place of stubborn gladness....  I’ve decided to meet that destiny with as much good cheer and as little drama as I can - because how I choose to handle myself as a writer is entirely my own choice.”

Stubborn gladness isn't as sexy as exultation, but it speaks to the commitment, the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-gritty-with-joy.  It takes effort and will.  Without the commitment, dullness and dissatisfaction can creep into life like wet fog, clouding the exuberance of life.   In her commencement speech at U.C. Berkeley, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook describes the effort and commitment to choosing joy in the grieving months after her husband’s unexpected death.

"When life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. I learned that in the face of the void—or in the face of any challenge—you can choose joy and meaning."

It takes guts.

When people come to me in workshops, meditations, or for one-on-one sessions they often have specific wants.  They will likely never use the word joy.  They might say they want to be happier.  But what I hold for each and every person, all the time, is a connection to their own joy.  The source of it, the power of it, the exuberance that can blow open doors and the stillness that feels so full, it has no choice but to rub off on others and expand the room.  Always and forever, every time I take any step with someone on their journey, this is what I aspire for them.

with Love,
Jennifer

"My point is that you do not need me or anyone else around to bring this new kind of light in your life. It is simply waiting out there for you to grasp it, and all you have to do is reach for it. The only person you are fighting is yourself and your stubbornness to engage in new circumstances.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Vuja De

I recently discovered Vuja De.  It is my new favorite expression and not just because I like the way it rolls off my tongue.  I returned from three weeks of meditation and when people ask about my trip, I often struggle to explain how life altering it feels.  Nothing tangible has changed, and yet, everything is brighter and more vibrant and infinitely altered.  I was listening to a lecture by Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton, on the concept of original ideas when he threw out this term "vuja de."  I literally stopped the car, fumbled with my phone and replayed it three times.  Vuja De is the reverse of deja vu.  It goes like this. 

Suppose you're in a situation that is very familiar-perhaps you're driving to work or doing something else that you've done a hundred times before-and you suddenly feel as if you are experiencing it in a new light, as if it's the first time.  Waiting for a taxi and notice all the empty cars?  Vuja de moment and Uber is born.  It's a birthplace for original ideas.  I researched this further and while it's an expression used more recently by Adam Grant and Tom Kelley of famed company IDEO, the term actually originated from comedian George Carlin.
 

After three weeks of meditation, life feels like a series of vuja de moments.

The thing is, more of us do not experience many of these moments, because we often choose the default options in life.  We don't question the norms of everyday life.  If I could offer anything, add this to your bucket list:  spend a week away in meditation, or silence, in contemplation, or alone in nature, or in prayer.  Find a program or retreat that resonates with you and do yourself a favor, at some point in life, make time for it.  Everyone should experience moments of vuja de. 

And while I cannot offer you weeks of solitude, I do have options that can spark a bit of vuja de.  The two day Awakening the Third Eye meditation workshop coming up June 3 & 4 and is a great way to build and solidify a personal meditation practice and to open you up to deeper states of consciousness. 

Another dive into your own originality is through the The Inner Wild Child Immersion.  It is filling up quickly, but there are still spots left.  Find out what it feels like to rediscover your fearlessness, your creativity and your invincibility. 

Go on, take the plunge and experience your brilliance. 
Vuja de it.  

More on Adam Grant or to watch his Ted Talk:  www.adamgrant.net

You Are The Spark

As a kid, I loved creative endeavors, but I gave them up at age 7.  My sense of my own creativity was squashed early on.  After a few scribbled paintings, I was told that I was better off sticking to academics and sports.  I believed the feedback.   Instead, I hung out with creative people and riffed off their energy, joking that I couldn't draw a stick figure. 

When Kate Randall and I led our Inner Wild Child Immersion last year, she guided the group to their inner wild child through art.  I was standing on the sidelines when she encouraged me to be a participant.  I had not painted anything since I was little.  I was nervous.  I mean, as a co-leader, I was suppose to look like I knew what I was doing.  And what I knew for certain was that I was bad at art.  

But something happened when I grabbed the paintbrush.  There were no rules.  There was no goal or intended outcome.  It was liberating.  I grabbed every color on the floor and went for it.  I smashed paint, dribbled it, colored over it, squished it up and spread it out.  I stomped on my canvas and I caressed it.  I scribbled outside all the lines.  When I was done, something had let go.  I felt whole and satiated.

It was at that point, I realized the deep primal need to create and to express without rules.  I also recognized that I had been creating my whole life.  It just didn't look like art.  My favorite jobs were ones that I got to shape and build something.  I created programs out of scratch, I invented metric systems to evaluate intangibles, developed profiles for the right executives for new industries.  My beliefs about creative endeavors had been far too limited.  Everyone has a need to create.  As I went through the timeline of my life, I have been at my best and happiest when I've sparked something.  When I brought something to the world that was not there before.  When we create, we are liberated.  

"Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor.  It's a gift to the world and every being in it.  Don't cheat us of your contributions.  Give us what you've got."

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

If you are unsure how to begin, join us in for the Inner Wild Child Immersion this May.  (Sorry men, this time around is for women only)

www.inner-wild.com

The Month of Love and Sweet, Delicious Intimacy. But First, Rage, Grief, and Yoga.

Yoga makes me angry.  

I don't do yoga often and when I do, I usually get mad.  This has happened on and off since I was introduced to my first sun salutation as a freshman in college.  I've seen in meditation how my anger is often a cover-up for grief, sadness, and disappointment.  It's easier for me to feel angry than to feel hurt.  It is somehow less vulnerable.  But despite all my insights, yoga still vexes me.

So, in line with my new years resolution to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, I bought a pass for a half a dozen yoga classes in the neighborhood.  Fast forward to yesterday's class.

About five minutes into the class, it hit.  The room was hot.  Crowded. The pose was uncomfortable.  Agitation.  Anger.  Fury.

No insights.  

The class continued for me, a mix of sweat, profanity, struggle, and flow.  

Mid-way through class, the instructor suggested
not wiping the sweat away.  That the sweat was a part of us and to accept it as part of the practice.  Somehow, that statement was profound.  I realized, in that moment, I was harboring self-judgement.  I felt a betrayal by the inflexibility of my body, by the lack of grace I felt, by the rigidity with which I held myself.  I felt a betrayal even with my own sweat.  Here was a place where I did not love or accept myself.

As I opened to this feeling, the anger dissolved into grief.  Grief for how I've punished myself and perceived my body as my enemy, rather than my home.  The pain of silently battering myself for having an inadequate, less than yoga-perfect body.    

In feeling the grief, something let go.

I arrived home lighter and more joyful.  I danced and laughed with the kids all morning.  I flirted with my husband.  I'll get angry again, I'm sure.  But the truth is, I can only feel as much joy as I allow myself to feel grief. It is in opening to whatever emotion is coming, and not hiding from it, that I will find my peace.  Maybe even with yoga.   

Together We Rise and in Recognition of Men

It is an opportunity to hold each other towards all that is light inside of us, reminding each other of the best in us, carrying our friends, family, and communities towards greater heights.  

It is an opportunity to hold each other towards all that is light inside of us, reminding each other of the best in us, carrying our friends, family, and communities towards greater heights. 

(Note:  this blog was originally written in the final days of the election, before votes had been cast.  I had expected, despite the close race, that Hilary would win.  My hope is that all of the issues that plague our nation and have surfaced during the election continue to face scrutiny and lead to change.)

As the 2016 presidential election comes to a close, some things have become clear. 

It is a time to lift each other up.  Men and women together, lifting each other higher, bringing this generation of children on our ascent.  It is an opportunity to hold each other towards all that is light inside of us, reminding each other of the best in us, carrying our friends, family, and communities towards greater heights.  Because it is obvious, that we cannot rely on our systems and institutions to do this for us.  It will not come from our representatives across the nation.  While we wish that they could embody our greatest ideals for us, to carry that torch so that we can be inspired, it is not the way right now.  It is up to us.  This is a grassroots campaign of inspiration, aspiration and humanity.  

It is happening with women and race all over the country.  Voices are being heard and issues are being brought to the spotlight and scrutinized.  The light that is still in the shadow, is one I want to recognize.  That of the good men in our community.  Most of the men and boys I know are admirable.  They uphold the masculine, love their family, respect the women in their lives and are already part of this movement.  They are the antithesis of the campaign rhetoric around fear, hate and sexual debasement.  They are on the side of feminism.  They may be products of white privilege, but they can be and already are beacons of a shift; a global trend towards a more inclusive, better world.  A world that invites equality, compassion and mutual respect.

In celebration and in recognition of these men, in addition to my regular meditations, I'm hosting a one time men's meditation night on Monday, November 28, from 7-8pm in Pt. Loma.  If meditation has ever felt intimidating or inaccessible, this is the class to come to.