When life takes your lemons…

…don’t continue trying to make lemonade

Don’t get it? I will explain.

This morning, I found myself worried about money. Mainly about having enough of it to go around. I’m not extravagant by any means, but I want to feel a bit more financially free. The problem is, money is dwindling and I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around how I was going to have enough going into fall and winter.

So what did I do? I hopped on my computer to look for more freelance jobs. It is a common reaction to look for more work when you need the dough, right? But something didn’t feel right in the core of me while I was searching online. Some small voice (which I used to pretend not to hear, but now I live by) said “I don’t want to do that.” It sounds like something my daughter would say. Simple but sure of herself. “I don’t want to do that.”

Lately, I have been noticing the clearing out of some things in my life. Not on my own accord, but rather due to happenstance that creates some space. Space. How scary! First of all, summer ended and kids went back to school, including my smallest who started kindergarten. Blessed be kindergarten. Although I miss the preschool days, I honestly don’t miss them enough to be sad about the blank canvas that is the 6 hours a day I have for work and other things not parenting related. 

Then, some of my seasonal clients I have through freelance writing work will be saying goodbye until next year. Also, I recently got remarried so all the wedding planning is over and done and final and I am forever chained to my beautiful ball. Settled. Finally.

You see, like the leaves are falling outside, things seem to be falling away and showing bare branches. It is TOTALLY like me to try to fill those branches right back up to keep myself from feeling a certain way…insecure, worthless, lazy…just a few possibilities. Thus, why I found myself on my computer this morning searching for basically anything that would pay my current rate for work.

But that voice. That simple voice. She made me stop and think. We are taught that we should be busy. That the more packed our schedules are and the more money that’s in our bank account, the more worthy WE are of being here on this planet. We are told this in a myriad of ways throughout our lives and one of the effects is that we feel the need to always be working. Not only that, we feel the need to always be working the same amount or MORE. Since when did anyone ever congratulate you on working less? And getting a “congratulations” means we are enough in someone else’s eyes, right?

If I listen to this voice, though, I hear that she is following life’s wisdom. That she sees the leaves falling down so the trees can keep some of their nutrients to themselves. She sees that not every vacancy in life needs to be filled right away with something half assed. What if I don’t panic about the leaves falling and the exposure this emptiness creates? What if I wait? What if I take a moment to intentionally give thanks for the time to pause and then decide what I WANT to fill it with? Isn’t this how we create the life we want?

How often do you hear of someone quitting their job or getting fired, taking a long pause before acting, and then moving on to the best thing yet? (And, just to blow your mind, the best thing yet might NOT be a bigger, better job that pays more money). The point is, we get to choose. And I think, ironically, in a world full of choices we forget we are in the driver seat. 

So, when life gives you some space by taking away some lemons, you can STOP making the lemonade. (I am speaking directly to myself here, folks) You can actually stop making anything at all. Or you can make an iced coffee. Or a smoothie. Or a gin and tonic, you party ball. Breathe. Wait it out. Squirm because of the exposure it gives you to life. I will be here with you, doing the same. 


Just tackling those easy topics…you know, like Divine Love.

Divine Love. To some this may seem like a hippie concept, invoking the image of someone flouncing around, arms spread wide, an effortless grin on their shining face. Or the thing that people cling to so that they don’t have to look at the reality of the world around us. With all of its devastation, degradation and legislation. Our world feels fierce right now. On fire. And that is why we should all be seeking out even more of a connection with the love around us and within. 

I have been pondering this entity of love a lot lately. And what it means to me. And not just romantic love or love for my people, although that is certainly part of it. I am talking Divine Love. Some days I feel so full of this love that I could burst and on others I feel separated from my source in a painful fit of seeking or longing. What I know for sure, though, is that love is everything.

It is the stuff that our universe is made of. Truly. That is why when we feel pure divine love we also feel a connection to everything. An expansiveness that can’t be bought with medications, false experience or attachments to one particular dogma. But love isn’t just the good stuff. 

If love is everything it is also present during difficulty. I have a copy of The Prophet next to my bed at all times. In it, Khalil Gibran writes about love:

Like leaves of corn, he gathers you unto himself.

He threshes you to make you naked.

He sifts you to free you from your husks.

He grinds you to whiteness.

He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, 

that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you that you may 

know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge, 

become a fragment of Life’s heart.

It was never meant to be only bliss. Love is so much more than that. It is even more than the feeling we get around those we care about. It is the key to our understanding of ourselves and our journey here on this planet. And we humans find more love by opening ourselves deeply in times of sadness, turmoil, grief or despair. 

Right now our world needs each of us to show up in love. Steeped in the beautiful whole love that hopes to heal. That hopes to lift, soften and support one another. Lately I have been asking myself how I am showing up in my love each day. It feels like we are here to receive love and then channel it for the greater good. Myriad of spiritual leaders speak of giving and service as the ultimate practice. The giving of what? The love flowing through you like a river of life. 

And the way love feels when it touches each heart is completely unique. So how will you channel it and send it forth? Is it through art, music, caring for a sick friend, writing letters to senators, cleaning up the planet? What about mindfully creating a beautiful meal for those you love, teaching a child the wonders of watching bumblebees or rescuing animals? How will our world benefit from feeling the unique love flowing through your beautiful one-of-a-kind spirit?

We all are here on this blink of a ride together to channel our love. Once you feel it’s flow you could fill an entire world with songs, poetry, art and goodness, and indeed humanity has. How can we show up not in fear of that which is unfolding around us but instead rooted in the belief that our love can heal ourselves, each other and, indeed, our planet? 

Big questions for ordinary days I know, but isn’t it the most important time to ask? Our everyday lives speak volumes about who we are and what we believe. In the famous Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita, this is referred to as shraddha. Eknath Easwaran, a famous spiritual and philosophical leader, has a beautiful interpretation of this text, and of shraddha he says:

“Our lives are an elegant expression of our belief: what we deem worth having, being, attaining, doing. What we strive for shows what we value; we back our shraddha with our time, energy, our very lives.”

Showing up in love for every aspect of our lives IS IT. It is what turns our ordinary work into an extraordinary expression of truth and passion. So let’s make a decision to show up steeped in true, pure love, no matter how small the task at hand. And reflect on how our hearts want to care for this battered and sometimes broken world. 

I’m not writing this from a place of perfection. Indeed I forget to show up in my love many days. Or even forget what my own love feels like during moments of heightened stress. So I am writing this not just for you to read but also my future self. And I can tell her with authority that love wins. Always, always, always. Because it is what we are all made of and what, someday, we will all return to. 


Good enough

An actual picture of where I stayed last weekend

Am I enough? You don’t need to answer that. But it is a question that walks through my mind so many times a day that, by now, it feels like a nosy neighbor peeking over my backyard fence. It’s a funny feeling I have, that I am not enough. Because at the same time, I am in touch with the magic that lives in my bones and runs through my veins. It’s like I can walk barefoot on the ground, feeling the earth under my feet and knowing how dearly loved I am with each breath of our planet’s fresh air. Then, maybe a half hour later I think “am I good enough to be doing this writing thing? Should I even teach my yoga class tonight? Everyone else seems to have it all together.” 

Why the dichotomy? What is the missing piece? And where is the missing peace? The other day, while I was on retreat in a little cabin in the woods, I saw a beautiful goldfinch fluttering down to the ground to eat. He bounced around happily and joyously, with little light feet and wings. Then he flew back to his tree and a bit later revisited the patch of grass. As I watched him, I noticed an ache rising in my chest. It almost brought tears to my eyes. It wasn’t the normal joy one feels when seeing a beautiful scene in nature. It was more like a longing. 

I went on with my short walk through the rain drenched woods, but I kept thinking of why I felt that ache. What was blocking me from having just a happy, human moment of bird watching? Feeling deeper into it, I realized that I have this ache a lot when I am outdoors and I see wildlife. Sometimes it makes me turn away.

After quietly walking for a while and just listening to the woods sounds, I realized that, all this time, I have been aching to feel wild and free like nature herself. To feel like I am enough in my own skin just because I am here, living and breathing. If you have ever watched any animal in its natural habitat, there is an ease of movement, an ease that says “I am enough.” The lions never stop to think if they deserve to eat the gazelle. The birds never wonder if they are good enough to deserve the helpful currents of air under their wings. But yet I am walking through the woods or writing or eating or taking care of my kids and always wondering if I am good enough. 

Unfortunately, between the conditioning we humans receive in our “civilized” societies and the expectations put on women, I can’t seem to get very far ahead before I am dragged back into this question of being enough for everyone else’s liking. Sure, I am not the greatest writer of all time, but that doesn’t mean I am not worthy of expressing myself through writing. And I yell at my kids sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that I am not a good enough mother. And I make so many mistakes, much like others in my species, but that doesn’t have any weight on whether I get to enjoy my life as a birthright. 

Even now as I sit here writing this, a queasy sensation is forming in my stomach of “not enough ness.” How do we build our passions and lives out away from these feelings? How do we escape, tender hearts in hand, to a freer land where we feel whole and wild and enough? Is this the human condition or is it something that has been conditioned in us that is ready to be broken open? I’m asking for a friend of course.


Let it all go.

We are just getting to the end of the current eclipse season but possibly still feeling the effects of our moon mother’s shifting. Mercury retrograde is upon us as well. I am a novice when it comes to astrology but I feel the fits and starts as energy bursts and then fizzles, calls for release and then asks me to grow and build. Stretches me until I just can’t take one more thing and then provides uncertain relief. All this to say: when the stars ask us to, we have to be ready to let everything go. 

Letting go was never my strong suit. I have fought long and hard in my life to cling to comfort. To stay within a certain range of knowing. To fall into the unknown felt scary, big and too much even with the golden breath of possibility showing off her playful, iridescent edges. To let everything fall apart? I would have never thought such a thing could be survived. And yet, here I stand in the rubble. 

I remember one of the first moments that I chose to dive into the deep dark unknown and let everything crumble behind me as I leapt. I was sitting on my living room floor, a busy mother with a few moments to spare while kids were asleep or otherwise occupied. I used to use that time for meditation as a way to feel some part of myself even amidst losing myself in others. 

I remember a vision comjng into focus in my mind, a picture of me standing on the soft bank by a deep and dark pond. It wasn’t quite nighttime, but there was no sliver of light in the sky. The water, sky and earth were varying shades of dark greens, purples and blues, and I could just make out the depths of the water. It was deep. Like a plunging hole down into who knows where. With my unremarkable human eyesight, I could see no bottom. 

I felt as though I had a choice in that moment. I felt myself being compelled to jump, but a small piece of me remained stuck to the shore, not daring to move. There wasn’t some ticking of time. I had all the time in my life to make the decision, but my mortality meant my life eas certainly at stake. 

As I sat with the vision, a courage began to rise within me. I saw the soft, certain ground beneath my feet. Something I had always been standing on. And yet the waters called to me, sang even, in an unstruck sound. Courage seems to be the thing that guides us on our path in the most intimate and loving ways, even though at the time it may feel like we are being forced to meet an uncertain (and sometimes unwanted) destiny. In an instant, and before I could stop myself, I dove. And that was it, the end of the vision. That was it, the beginning of something new and unfounded and completely terrifying. 

By deciding to jump, I didn’t lose a thing besides the ground that I thought was keeping me safe. In reality, that ground was keeping me stuck in the muddy riverbanks of life. In that moment I let it all fall apart. It started a cascade of brave acts that I would never in my life think I was capable of. I came out to my family and friends. I began a painful and completely heartbreaking divorce process. I found courage hiding within parts of myself that I didn’t even know were there. And even though I let everything fall apart, I survived. And now, after a few years of sitting in the rubble and sorting through pieces, placing them into a new configuration, I am beginning to feel like I have my shit together. Most days. In fact I am stronger because this time I am completely unafraid to take the next deep dive when the waters sing again. Letting it all fall apart is to find the depths of beauty one can only experience when living a full and completely human life. 


And then …

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

I have always played this game with myself called “and then”. My mind begins to think, “I will just change myself for the better “and then” I will be happy.” I will change this about this person “and then” they will be a better partner. I will start down this path “and then” I will feel fulfilled. The problem with a game like “and then” is that it takes me directly out of the present moment, where all of the information I need is lying dormant, waiting for my attention. “And then” is a game of comfort to me because it is giving me the excuse to be unhappy in the present moment and giving me some false hope to work toward, a star to reach for that I will never touch because the game will always keep going.

This isn’t to say that goal setting, changing myself for the better, or growing alongside my parter aren’t important. Digging deeply into my roots and finding my best self, allowing for growth in my practice and evolving are all necessary. But instead of seeing these things through a lens of what ifs and tomorrows, I am wondering if I can shift my thinking to find all that is good and happening and transforming in this present moment. And once I have found it, can I lose attachment to the outcome of it all?

I think about the times when I have felt the most fulfilled, the most loved, the most “me”. They don’t happen during games of “and then”. They happen when something seemingly simple yet utterly divine delivers me right into the moment. My baby lying on my chest for a nap, sitting at the lake and watching the sunrise, a really good meal cooked for me by someone I love. They don’t occur when I am thinking about how to better the present moment or my life or the person sitting next to me or my relationship or the way I do X,Y or Z.

I played the “and then” game with my marriage quite a bit. I actually played this game with my entire life until I began to honor the work of the present moment. I would imagine what he and I could do that would make our house more cozy, so that I would feel more comfortable even though I wasn’t home yet in my own skin. I imagined where we could go on vacation so that we could all connect as a family even though I was not feeling connected to my Self in my everyday life. I wondered and thought about the rituals and traditions I could set up that would create a perfect childhood for my children and make me feel like I was doing my motherly duty, even though I would have never suspected that my real motherly duty was to be fully myself.

The games we play in our heads can seem benign, but when we build our entire lives around them, they create a dangerous version of reality. Once I was made aware of my perpetual “and thens” I was able to see them for what they were, an excuse. In our culture, if we feel like we are grinding or doing work or making things better, we also feel like we have an out. If I was working to make myself and the people around me better for the future versions of us, I didn’t have to look at the very painful facts of the moments unfolding right in front of my eyes. 

A few years ago, I used this game in this way. By ignoring what was right in front of me in favor of tomorrows, I didn’t have to see that my now ex husband and I were not connecting fully. I didn’t have to see that I was gay. I didn’t have to see that I was wearing masks and roles like fancy clothes to parade around town. I didn’t have to see that I was losing the basic ability to enjoy and be. We can do all of the spiritual work in the world, but if we can’t be in the present moment with the happiness and the pain and the sadness and the joy, then we aren’t truly living. We are pretending. And then we have a problem.

We need to find our now, our contentment, our ability to relax into what is happening in the moment. Contentment is not part of “and then,” so let’s honor this incredibly powerful force, one that delivers us into the joys unfolding right in this present reality that we are so lucky to be a part of.


Holding Pairs of Opposites: How Yoga Nidra helps us to live more peaceful lives.

There are different “parts” to a Yoga Nidra, and they may differ depending on the school of thought to which you prescribe. What is remarkable, though, is how these different parts are woven into a rich tapestry that guides you deep into a state of relaxation, or awakened sleep. In a linear culture that very much values the idea of duality, the ability of Nidra to put you in the center of this bountiful container of life, able to hold all, is a true gift.

One important part of a Nidra is the exploration of pairs of opposites. Hot/cold, up/down, heavy/light, we are all familiar with this idea and were probably introduced to it as children in grade school. What many of us don’t know how to do, however, is to hold a pair of opposites as true at the same time. 

If you have ever attended therapy, you may have heard of the term “dialectical thinking”, which refers to the ability to hold multiple issues from differing perspectives. What happens while holding a pair of opposites within the container of a Yoga Nidra is similar to this way of approaching issues. In fact, it exercises the neurological pathways of the brain so that you are more readily able to see things from multiple perspectives.

What happens during a Yoga Nidra involving opposites?

In general, you may hear the Yoga Nidra facilitator reference one part of an opposite pair on an inhale and the other on an exhale. In a grounding practice, for instance, I usually guide my clients through feeling the ground below them or a heaviness and sensation of being held on the exhale. On the inhale, they may feel the air above them or a sense of lightness and expansiveness. After a few rounds, they will be instructed to have some curiosity around what it would feel like to hold both. I may even ask a question such as “where do you feel it in your body?”. When practicing Yoga Nidra, you may also explore a pair of opposite emotions, which, in my personal experience, can really help you to feel how your body senses various emotional states.

Dialectical thinking has a huge impact on our daily lives.

There are many instances in life in which holding multiple things to be true is vital for your resilience. Divorce, for example, can be a time of both grieving as well as new beginnings. You may have a deep grief of leaving your old ways of life, your spouse and even sadness about the drastic changes you are seeing in your family. At the same time, however, a divorce can also mean a new beginning or a certain freedom depending on your marriage and circumstances. To hold both things to be true can allow you to process feelings in a different way than if you just submit to the grief completely or push the grief aside in order to focus only on your new beginning.

Another less intense example is simply our everyday lives here on planet earth, which are full of many opposites. If you are like me, you really value a sense of inner peace that can come with a consistent yoga or meditation practice. However, the reality is that the majority of us are householders, dealing with children, work and fellow employees, romantic partners and/or expectations of our culture, as well as our own desires and needs. 

All of these brew a perfect storm that may sometimes feel like it is intent on overshadowing your sense of ease and joy. Again, being able to hold opposites here is incredibly pertinent. What if I feel my inner peace AND my screaming four year old who is unhappy that she can’t have a lollipop for breakfast (this was truly my life last week). What if I can meet that difficult co-worker with a sense of ease, and hold both the difficult feelings of perhaps irritation or frustration right alongside the feeling that everything will turn out just fine in the end?

Let go and let (insert Divine terminology here).

Holding opposites can sometimes feel like just allowing the Divine, Source, Universe, God, or whatever name you prefer, to take over. By holding opposites within a Yoga Nidra, we can give ourselves the tools to think more openly in everyday life and understand that multiple things can be true at the same time. We can rest in a deeper sense that everything coming to us was meant to come and that our challenges will build resilience and the ability to be more flexible with those around us. This practice delivers a true gift in that it can help us to find a sense of ease and calm in our everyday lives, even amidst the storms we are required to walk through. 


A Return to Feminine Energy: Settling into a Yoga Nidra Practice

We humans are upright most of the time. Our feet may be on the ground, but the rest of our bodies are stuck occupying chairs, couches or cars or walking from one place to another. Wouldn’t it feel radical to lie down during the day? Would it feel even more radical to allow yourself to enjoy it? Would you be worried that you would never want to get up?

These are valid concerns. We, in our culture, are very tired by nature and gain accolades for working hard or pushing through. Seldom do you hear someone say “Wow, I admire her, she just rests so hard. She makes space for herself even when others don’t feel comfortable with that.” So, it may be a common fear of most people that if they take a pause in the middle of the day they will become lazy or want to go to sleep.

I was in the same boat until I discovered the power of Yoga Nidra. I understood the need for mindfulness and stillness, but, nonetheless, I was not balancing my masculine and feminine energies very well. Both of these energies flow through everyone, no matter your gender identification. Masculine energies have a lot to do with achievement, independence, goal setting, accomplishing, and moving forward in life. These are very important characteristics to have and are an important part of evolution and innovation. Feminine energies are also vital and encompass ideals such as rest, creativity, nourishment, cyclical living, and community collaboration. Again, very important to have in your life.

The key to balancing these energies in our society, that is energetically very masculine-oriented, is to bring the feminine back into play. In fact, in her book “Wild Creative”, Tami Lynn Kent talks about moving from a foundation built entirely of feminine energy. She claims that the most balanced way of walking through life is to always remain grounded in the feminine, allowing it to reshape our expression of the masculine. Yoga Nidra is a fabulous container in which to incorporate more feminine energy in your life. In fact, Nidra Shakti, the goddess of sleep, is the overseer of the practice of Yoga Nidra.

One discovery that I have found in my work with Yoga Nidra is that the very beginning of the practice, often described as a settling, is vital in creating a container in which we can feel connected to the Earth and, therefore, a whopping dose of feminine energy. The settling portion of a Nidra allows the practitioner to transition from that external thought to a more internal awareness. Sometimes this is much easier said than done. 

When we finally lie down to rest, we may have many to-do lists floating around in our heads. Not only that but interactions with others, expectations of ourselves and even difficult emotions can begin to surface once we take rest and become still. The settling here is vital, and if you are someone who has ruminating thoughts because of anxiety, it becomes the most important part of preparing your mind and body for any meditation practice. 

Facilitators have many different methods in how they help their participants to settle in a Nidra. Usually, I make use of the elements as a very effective way to feel into the physical body and its ability to connect with the Earth, both as an element within the body and as the very ground beneath us. 

As a practitioner of Yoga Nidra, you may need movement before heading into your practice so that you can create more space from your thoughts. This allows you to focus more on the Nidra right away, allowing you to really feel grounded into the physical body during the settling process. A gentle yoga practice or even just a short breath meditation can be quite effective. If you don’t have time for movement, no worries. You can invoke intentions in the form of simple words such as “surrender”, “let go”, “allow”, “welcome” or any other meaningful mantra to help you come into the space and create a reminder and safe container for yourself.

During sessions with my clients, I make sure that I create a safe container for them to settle into a deep and restful practice of Yoga Nidra. This means being responsive to their individual needs and responsible in how I use my words, ensuring that those who may have trauma don’t feel triggered. This first step in a Yoga Nidra practice, settling in, is crucial for grounding the body into the Earth and feeling the reverberations of feminine energy within. Nidra Shakti is here to help us rest and feel nourished, as long as we surrender in the settling and allow the practice to work its magic both physically and energetically.


Seeking Calm Within the Chaos

We have all been through a hell of a lot in the past year or so.  I don’t know anyone in my sphere who hasn’t been affected by the events of our world on a soul level. Obviously, some more than others. Through it all, I have really been relying on my practice and turning to the wisdom of my teachers (as well as my inner teacher) to help me feel some semblance of calm in the midst of the chaos. 

I didn’t go into the pandemic in a normal state of equilibrium or even a state of balance. The past two years has been like one large rug that keeps getting pulled out from under my feet. I have barely had time to find any ground in my day-to-day life as I have experienced the full breadth of the human experience: many types of loss, complete financial change, a move, parenting in uncertainty, a new relationship, a new me, coming out, starting over, health problems and mental illness. Sometimes I wonder how I have even survived without having a mental breakdown.

That being said, I have found the most beautiful gift in the middle of this terrible hurricane. It reminds me of a May Erlewine song (if you haven’t listened to this woman, please stop reading and do so now). She sings “Even when the sky is falling/there’s stardust to find.” We have all heard a form of this before, that it is in the darkness we find the light, in the toughest times we find our resilience. 

What is this treasure you might ask? Simply, the state of Yoga Nidra. I have been practicing daily for about 3 years now, but my practice has reached such depths throughout this truly trying time for myself and my family. As someone with and anxiety and panic disorder to begin with, daily stressors are already staring me down the minute I open my eyes. The act of surrendering to these, witnessing them through Yoga Nidra, and feeling into my true ground of being, my expansive Self, may sound obvious, but I can tell you it is terrifying when you begin. Most significant things are terrifying.

To feel emotions arising out of fear and still lie or sit with them in an open welcoming awareness is like putting down your weapons and sitting calmly in the middle of a battlefield full of opponents coming at you. Calling on Nidra Shakti to guide me through such a quest creates a container in which I can safely explore these shadows. It is only when we start to acknowledge and work with the darkness of our own being that we begin to commune with our own higher Self. I put down the weapons, I allow them to all come and guess what? They begin to fade. They throw their fits and yell and create a chaos in my mind, but I, grounded in the very fabric of truth, can just watch. This is the power of a real meditation practice.

I have been a long-time meditator and I understood the cues of “watching the thoughts like a cloud”. It was never fully realized within my own experience, however, until I was allowed to lie down and surrender completely, knowingly and safely into the Earth. With my body completely relaxed against the ground or a soft surface, it allowed me to travel deeper into my consciousness than ever before. Thus, the power of Yoga Nidra. The surrender is key, putting down weapons of the mind that want me to fight these arising thoughts or emotions, dropping back through the waters of consciousness like a heavy stone sinking to the bottom of a lake.

Even if you are an experienced meditator with a disciplined practice, I invite you to explore the wonder and power of complete surrender. We all have days when we feel run down and need nourishing rest. Nidra provides this in spades while also creating a container for exploration of the very depths of your being.  

I do offer one-on-one sessions of Yoga Nidra and, if you are interested in exploring the various methods of awakened sleep, you can find many resources on my website. May we all experience the power of sitting with our shadows to access our luminous, eternal light. ❤