Want weekly-ish musings to inspire you (body, mind and soul)?

Breathe. Dance. Remember Freedom.

There is much talk of freedom this week. That delights me because if my work in this world is in service of any one thing, it’s F R E E D O M. Freedom from the false things that hold us back, cause us pain, prevent us from loving ourselves and one another.

As my friend and teacher Jody reminded me this morning, “we can stand for freedom, and still feel wildly unfree.” One year ago, I was neck-deep in that experience. With a post-surgery knee and an oft-broken heart and a life that was messy and chaotic and uncertain, I felt… stuck. Trapped, even. Like my circumstances had me in a choke hold, even as I wriggled for freedom with all of my might.

Now I know: my soul was showing me my shadow. In higher definition than I’d ever seen them before, all of those places I was certainly NOT free were front and center. It’s because I was ready to look. (This is the good news about any breakdown; it shows up because you’ve got what it takes to break through.) And after some initial resistance — because there is ALWAYS resistance to growth — I turned towards all of it. I embraced the soupy in-between. I started willingly wading through the muck.

And once you’ve seen your own muck and allowed yourself to really be with your pain, the next logical question is: how do I get myself free of these things? 

I could feel so much had shifted within me; I knew I was understanding myself in a new way. But, if I’m going to stick with my butterfly analogy here, it was as if I had dissolved, rearranged, grown a new set of wings… and was trying to emerge from a very stubborn chrysalis. All those old patterns I now understood with my mind — and felt V E R Y ready to be free of — were still hanging around the edges, sticky and clingy, withholding me from flight.

How do I get myself free of these things?

The answer came at me over and over again, from all directions and via many different voices:

YOU FEEL THEM. ALL THE WAY.

As another of my brilliant teachers Erin says, “you can only do so much healing with your mind.” Because here’s the thing — the mind got you into this mess. It’s the mind’s analysis of past experiences that has you creating thoughts that make you feel unsafe in this moment, even if you are entirely safe. Understanding intellectually that there is trauma in your past does not create the seismic shift necessary to really release the pain.

You did not THINK your way into a fear of abandonment, or a deep sense of unworthiness, or a constant perception of scarcity. Those things get created in intensely emotional moments and then your mind gets to work trying to keep you “safe” from ever feeling them again. But the truth is: we can feel hard things. You felt your way in, and you can feel your way out.

If we are willing to surrender and feel our feelings, we can actually shift them. They are bottled up in there because they were too much to bear when it was happening the first time around. By feeling them as the adult, well-resourced versions of ourselves we are now, we can squeeze out that latent pain.

But we resist feeling our feelings because, well, it hurts. I’m no different. Just like you, I’ve got layers of protection in place to keep me from revisiting the deepest wounded places. “I know I’ve got more stuff in here,” I said out loud to the mysterious place I go for answers. “How do I get past my mind and really FEEL them?”

The answer was so clear. “Dance and breathe. Dance and breathe. DANCE. And breeeeeeeathe.”

I reconnected to movement and began dancing everyday, whether alone or with others. Kitchen dancing, ecstatic dancing, festival dancing, hip hop class dancing, alone-in-the-woods dancing.

And I began breathing. Like, REALLY breathing. Exploring my relationship with my breath, trying on different forms of meditative breathwork, eventually landing on one method that cleared my system more potently than anything in recent memory, learning to guide others in that same breathing technique, holding breathwork healing sessions for friends and loved ones and eventually clients.

I danced, and I remembered that our bodies hold so much information and creative power.

I breathed, and I was astounded by the healing capacity of this simple tool connected to the very essence of our life force.

And oh boy, did I do some serious feeling. I left so many tears (and just as many whoops and hollers) on the dance floor. Breathing would often morph into deep sobs (or cackling laughter), from somewhere I didn’t even know existed.  And I felt myself get lighter and lighter. Not because I was avoiding my *stuff*, but because I was working with it in a new, embodied way.

As I have gotten lighter, so has my life. My work has become more clear and more prolific. Creativity is flowing. A new love has blossomed. A move to California is on the horizon. The willingness to be more boundaried and self-loving and self-responsible comes with greater ease. In short, I’m getting out of my own way. For real.

And so from my journey to yours: your expanded freedom is waiting for you, just on the other side of those dark and twisty feelings. They are heavy and they are dense and they are in there, taking up space. Find a way — any healthy, real, true way– to safely and authentically feel them. It takes courage, yes. You won’t want to do it. (Some days, me neither.) AND: it is so very worth it.

Let it BE. (Or: why you haven’t yet let it go.)

For two years, I tried to let it go. I knew it wasn’t healthy. I could feel the shadow in it, the parts that were less than my highest self (and definitely the parts that were less than his). And if it’s holding you back, you’re supposed to let it go — all the good spiritual texts tell you that. All the gurus. All the smart and enlightened teachers.

Release it. Leave what’s heavy behind. If it doesn’t serve, let it goooooo. I know this is the way, ultimately.

And sweet Mary Mother of God, did I give it my best shot. I burned that man away in so many rituals. I released him with great intention into oceans, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, epsom salt baths… countless bodies of water, trying over and over again to rinse myself clean. I visited energy healers for cord cutting treatments. I tried past life regression to clear our ancient karma.

But I couldn’t shake it. We would find our way back to each other, locked in the same messy, passionate, dramatic, draining dance. So alive and almost killing each other. More than anything, our dynamic reminded me of the eating disorder I disentangled myself from years ago. Persistent. Ravenous. Abusive. Self-limiting. Dark. And sometimes, oh-so-delicious.

As my birthday approached, determined not to bring this over the threshold into my next year of life, I got serious. I sat by the fire, lit a candle, arranged an altar, called in all the forms of support I could name. Once again, the same question: what will it take to really, truly LET IT GO? All of a sudden Spotify started playing a song that was not on my playlist.

“When I find myself in times of trouble, 

Mother Mary comes to me.

Speaking words of wisdom…

Let it be.”

Huh. Not “let it go.” LET IT BE. A lightning bolt of clarity tore through me and every hair on my body stood on end.

This is the step I’ve been trying to skip over. This is not about HIM. This is about whatever is inside of ME that keeps me available for this dynamic. This is about my own pain, my own limiting beliefs. There is nothing he says to me that is any meaner than the things the secret voice in my head says to myself. If I didn’t have those parts, I would have already walked away. If I didn’t believe — somewhere in here — this is the best relationship I deserve, I would be having a better one. 

I have to actually SEE that. I have to know that. I have to let it be. 

OUCH.

It’s much easier to point the finger outside of ourselves, to blame someone else for our pain. But in that moment I saw what needed excavating, and it was inside me.

What followed was an intense week of feeling that which I’d rather not, deep grieving, breathing, twisting myself into and out of knots, crying, raging, forgiving. (And a really powerful treatment by a Mayan shamanic healer involving an egg. You gotta do the work yourself, but a little well-timed support never hurt anybody.)

And then . . . it moved.  Like, finally. And for real. Poof.

Whatever is in your life that doesn’t belong there has wisdom for you. Be it a person, a dynamic, a struggle, an addiction, a shitty story playing out over and over and over again . . . it is a teacher. Obviously, you want it gone. But if you could just let it go, you would have done that already. Real growth begins with looking at what is. Before you can let it go, you have to BE WITH IT.

The negative patterns we attract into our lives are not *us*. We — you, me, that guy, all of us — are divine beings of love. The crappy things are the result of faulty wiring and mistaken beliefs, piled on top of who we really are. But wanting the symptoms of these patterns to disappear without understanding where they come from is like wishing the kitchen would stop smelling without having to take out the trash. It’s never fun to stick your hands in it and bring it up close to your nose and possibly get garbage juice on your shoes. But intimately acknowledging its existence is the only way to get it to move.

Here is what I’ve learned, my friends: the only way out is through. Feel the excruciating pain. Breathe into it. Dance with it. Stick your hands in it. You might feel like it will kill you but I promise it won’t. This is what our wounded places want from us. Just to be known, accepted, loved. That’s what heals them.

Know. Accept. Love. 

Let it be, and it moves. It wants to move. On the other side of the knowing and accepting and loving, you can let it go. And you’ll know it’s real when it only takes one good, solid try.

Butterfly Medicine. (Notes from the soupy in-between.)

For the past three weeks, I have been seeing butterflies everywhere. I’m always up for the mysterious brand of wisdom that comes through signs and the Divine often sends me messages via animals. Typically, I pay attention. This time I found myself brushing it aside.

(“Butterflies, really? How cliche. Probably just butterfly season or something.”) 

And then I checked into an Airbnb with nothing on the walls except three paintings of butterflies. And THEN a butterfly landed on my face while I was sitting on a rock in the woods, thinking about life. On my FACE. Just landed its little self there, being beautiful and beating its wings in a slow, rhythmic expression of serenity.

(“Okay, fine. I’ll look into this whole butterfly thing.” )

We all know her story because it gets repeated to us again and again — she is, after all, the transformation poster child — but let’s just pause and sit with the miracle that is metamorphosis. Really. Take this in:

When the caterpillar has eaten enough to make her strong and ready, she takes the incredibly brave step of turning herself into a chrysalis. It’s a suicide of sorts, as she covers herself in a substance that comes right out of her body and begins to engulf her and liquify her. She dissolves completely into a soup; entirely unrecognizable. You can’t tell what she was, or what she will become. Nobody knows how, but the cells in this mush are completely reorganized and the body, legs and head of a butterfly are formed.

She dies. To become new. And is rewarded with a phenomenal set of wings.

I’m in that soupy place. After months of trying to hold it together, I finally surrendered to the dissolving. (It took an injury that quite literally brought me to my knees; a story for another time.) I unraveled into not-knowingness. Into the dark of the in-between. Between homes, between loves, between fully functioning knees, between iterations of my work. All the parts of me are here — everything I’ve been, everything I desire to be— yet it still feels… formless. Not yet reorganized.

But Mother Nature is sending me butterflies, as though she is whispering in my ear, “It’s okay, Beloved. There are times when you have no idea who you are. We are doing something new here. It’s mysterious but natural and there’s really nothing wrong. It might feel confusing, but on the other side? It will be SO worth it.”

And in the meantime, there’s nothing to do but show up soupy. As I obsessively watched time-lapse butterfly videos, I noticed her courage and her willingness. She doesn’t fight or judge any step of her incredibly intense process. No drama or fanfare — she wraps herself up, goes inside, comes apart, rearranges, emerges.

No use resisting the mushy space waiting on the wings. Make peace — make love, even — with the in-between. Because a lot of days it’s uncomfortable, but I can still work and laugh and cook and kiss and hike and eat chocolate and drive with the wind in my hair, shifty insides and all.

And I can write. I pondered how best to be fully with my rearranging without rushing it. There’s a fascinating thing: before the butterfly bursts forth, the chrysalis becomes TRANSPARENT.  “Use your new voice,” came the directive. “How else will you get to know it?”  So here I am, living and witnessing the unfolding reassembly, piece by piece. Word by word. Willing — grateful– for you to witness it too.

 

Soul Software: It’s Upgrade Season.

I have an unofficial rule: I don’t write (here, or anywhere) unless I’ve got something to say.

Since November, I have found it impossible to sit down and type out any words that feel of service. Things have been churning in my life, beautifully and messily, but they’ve been moving in ways too weird for me to capture them. So much learning and growing. Full-spectrum LIFE. Discerning (or worse, explaining) what’s happening on my insides has been like trying to catch a slippery fish.

After letting go of so much, I needed to turn inward and do some reorganizing of the habits, patterns and beliefs hanging out inside me. Things that were much easier to see clearly without the clutter. It’s felt very potent. It’s also felt sticky and mucky, at times. Like truth and clarity colliding at my center and trying to take root amongst the rubble. Extraordinarily internal.

It makes sense; the earth is a cyclical place and we are cyclical creatures. We have seasons like this. In the wintertime, all the action happens underground. 

Things began to shift about a month ago. For all of February, I traveled. Exposure and expansion. A feverish undoing. Crusty layers burning off. Walking to my edges. A few deep exhales. Joyful adventure. Softening. Surrender. And then, this past week… click.

Spring.

Here’s the analogy I came up with: I’ve been downloading lots of software over these winter months. But until now, I haven’t had the appropriate operating system to run all these shiny new programs. So I’ve bought them, and stuck them on the shelf, waiting for the upgrade that will actually allow me to put them to use.

Often there’s a gap between learning and integrating. It’s the distance that must be traversed between “knowing” something and embodying it, emanating it, feeling it in your bones.

Just like the plants, I’ve been collecting the raw materials for this season’s new growth.

And suddenly, they’re springing forth. Here are the fresh perspectives unfurling in me, opening my heart and straightening my spine:

1. You can’t outsource self-love. No one can admire you, or desire you, or adore you, or choose you enough to fill the void where self-love is supposed to be. Whenever you move out of yourself in search for love and acceptance, you’re going the wrong direction. Turn around.

2. You do not have to choose between Freedom and Devotion. When you are devoted to the right things, and for the right reasons, you will feel free. Freedom IN Devotion. That’s what we’re going for.

3. The antidote to insecurity is Presence. Bringing yourself all here, to this moment, detaches you from a preoccupation with past wounds and disconnects you from fear of future pain. Letting Life pulse through you, right here and now, is safety.

4. Performance is not Presence. It has to be for real. Performing in any way, for any one, is exhausting. When you are putting on your “best you” show, you will eventually wear yourself out and end up feeling like you’re the worst. You’re neither the best nor the worst. You’re human, and you’re here. Be fully here and that’s enough.

5. If you want to travel fast, you have to travel light. You want to experience the exhilaration of full-spectrum aliveness? To trust the magic of life to take you and live through you? To create, and rise, and fly? It requires that you be incredibly clean and clear. Wherever you’re lugging around attachment to something that’s not your ultimate Truth, you’ll get pulled apart. Lose the baggage. Be willing to let go.

These are still getting installed, so to speak, but I can feel the difference. The new way I relate to myself, others and the world. Real-er and truer and lighter strands, weaving themselves into my soul fabric.

I wonder: what has been incubating in you, under the surface? What might you be ready to Become?

Lessons From My Year of Letting Go

You know what’s hard? Letting go.

Like you, I’m R E S I S T A N T to this process. We’re a pretty grabby lot, we humans. Once we’ve called something ours — be it a relationship, an identity, an accomplishment, a story or a dress– we want to hold it close. Squeeze it tight. It belongs to us, after all. 

Holding on is comfortable, known and safe. The things we gather around ourselves define us. They give us contours and fill us in. Perhaps, if we collect people and roles and memories and photographs and experiences and things, things, things… perhaps then, we’ll understand ourselves. We’ll be understood. We won’t be capable of being annihilated.

In the past year, I’ve learned a thing or two about letting go. I set out to find new levels of harmony and wholeness, first within myself and then in relationship to the world around me. Little did I know, what was to follow would be a crash course in letting go. I’ve let go of a marriage to an incredible human (with much love and clarity, but… ouch), a support system, a beloved apartment, half my stuff (so many beautiful and carefully selected things!), a city, a way of working, a hidey hole, a comfort zone.

I felt something awakening within me. A deeper, realer, more creative iteration of myself asking to be born. I wanted to walk into newness and, it turns out, letting go comes with that territory.

When we’re expanding into something fresh, we can’t take along those pieces that don’t resonate with where we’re headed. We have to lay them down in order to welcome what we’re moving toward. 

And so, here’s what I’ve learned:

You can let go. It won’t kill you. It will hurt like hell, most likely, but on the other side… oh, the grace. Always the grace.

Loosen your grip, watch it slip from your fingers, feel the jagged pain of the loss. (It’s okay, really feel it. Grief is an absolutely necessary part of this process and you can’t skip over it.) That pain has information for you about yourself. It will show you where you’ve been mistakenly placing your power. Where you’ve been squeezing so tight you’re shutting down the flow.

Give it the space it needs and be very compassionate with yourself. There have been moments when letting go has felt like my full-time job. From the outside, it might not look like you’re being your most productive or exuberantly creative self. It’s okay. Huge renovations are happening underground.

When we release what we’re attached to, we miraculously create room to let go of the confusing stuff we’ve been TRYING like hell to shed. I found pieces of self-loathing I was hoarding underneath all that misaligned stuff. (It felt delicious to say goodbye to that.) Illness. Dis-ease. Heaviness, of all kinds. These things get stuck in the cracks of the piles we hang onto. They too will evaporate if you do the work.

Crying is a great way to move energy. So are acupuncture, music, massage and baths with loads of epsom salts.

And then… let the wound heal. Fill the hollow space up with You-ness. Feel how much lighter you are, how much more free. Last week I visited Machu Picchu as part of a retreat I’m co-leading in Peru. As I dangled my feet over the edge of Apu Machu Picchu, the towering mountain that overlooks that miraculous and sacred site, I finally felt the softness and buoyancy I’ve been waiting for.

You’ll see: you wont be less. You can’t be less.

You’re still here. Clearer. Undiminished. And so: ready for more.

It’s a gorgeous, powerful New Moon today. Ideal for releasing the old and welcoming in the new. Death and rebirth and transformation abound. I wonder what you’re making space to become?

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