Finding sweetness beyond Valentine’s Day

No matter how
​or even if
you celebrated Valentine’s Day last week,
there was no escaping it.

But beyond the red foil wrapped
chocolate hearts everywhere
is something more essential and true.

We live in a world full of infinite sweetness.
Noticing is the challenge.

Now more than ever, it may be what we need most!

In the comment line below
share the everyday practices you choose
that sweeten your day.

Welcome to the Holidays

joy banner

It’s upon us… this last and darkest month of the year.

If you’re feeling tired, and maybe just a little reluctant to jump into all the holiday festivities, there’s a reason.

Until gas and electric lights illuminated our evenings, these dark months were for resting. Dark came early. The crops were already harvested. Those proverbial long winter’s naps were a fixture of December.

Bodies are slow to evolve! But these days, just when we most need to do less, invitations and events fill our calendars like over-stuffed stockings on Christmas Eve. And we think nothing of it.

It starts out feeling like fun, right? All glittery and sugar-coated excitement.

We go to more parties, buy more presents, and drink more cocktails. Did I mention the cookies? All this doing MORE is way LESS satisfying as the month wears on.

We’ve been taught (mostly by our consumer culture) that more is better. We think that more will make us feel full, feel loved, feel like we’re enough.

Instead the hollow emptiness afterward, the crash-and-burn fogginess, the TOO MUCH-ness of it all is anything but a pleasure.

I’m wanting to do the holiday season differently this year.

You, too?

Dear Ones, our light and love is needed more than ever right now. I’m sure you can feel it. And doing too much just erodes our feminine capacity to care.

So let me ask you, what would truly please you this month? Please let us know down below….

Maybe you’ve had enough of the self-abuse we’ve come to call celebrationGetting swept up in it all, filling your calendar and cramming more in, making it look all tinsel-bright, and convincing yourself you’re having a really great time.

Maybe, like me, you’re ready for a holiday that is truly pleasurable, one that has more to do with flowing than pushing, being nurtured by natural beauty than having to buy and wrap it all. Maybe you’d like a season that allows you to remember your feminine caring place, what’s most needed both for you and this poor confused, but dearly beloved world.

So… last week I made a little list (and checked it twice!) of 12 sparkling ideas. Ways to return the holiday to its joy. To come back to our bodies and senses, to embrace the beauty all around us, and to empower our hearts’ light to brighten every dark corner with love.

12 Tips to Revive the Joy of the Season and Your Feminine.

It’s just a little pdf with my secret sauce. My gift to you this holiday season. Unwrap it here. And share your own secrets below. Our shared light is what illuminates the world.

Happiest of holidays to you, Dear Beauties!

Do you need a Day of Grace?

feet banner

Monday holidays feel like gifts. Sometimes I’ve celebrated with friends or family, but last week I was obligation-free on Memorial Day, so I created a Day of Grace.

I still kept my first-thing-every-Monday appointment with Jane, my book editor/coach, but only because our regular time together is always more play than work. I’d have hated to miss it. And I’d scheduled one private, late morning counseling client because I simply adore her. There wasn’t anything else I’d rather be doing. Other than that, I used this “free day” for whatever showed up, whatever whim caught my fancy. Playing in the garden. An impromptu visit with a friend. Every moment designed for my absolute pleasure.

Turns out that my day was so spacious and restorative, I plan to do this again. I intend to make every Monday holiday a Day of Grace.

Grace because these days come as gifts from the calendar gods, without any planning to make room for them in my schedule.
Grace because I surrender to trusting my intuition to guide my choices.
Grace because I release planning and let timing flow as it will.
Grace because I grace myself with my moment-to-moment presence. No forcing. No over-trying. And definitely no rushing.

Ancient Taoist qi gong masters have observed for thousands of years that three behaviors are harmful to the heart. Impatience and apathy made sense to me. But the third was a surprise. Hastiness, they believed, blocks love, joy and compassion.

But sometimes I like the rush of rushing! When I run to the car, at risk of being barely on time for an appointment, I feel on top of my game. I’m proud of myself. I’ve banged out some of my list, been productive and efficient! And I’m off…

Or, just as often, I’m super stressed, panicked to be late again, as I rush out the door, desperately hoping that light at the corner won’t be red.

Did you know that rushing is now considered by many health experts to be the new smoking? It may be just as damaging. It elevates cortisol levels and stresses out our adrenals. Cortisol and adrenalin are at the ready for the rare moment when a tiger is ready to pounce. They’re not meant to be pumping into us all day long.

Rushing puts us in fight/flight/freeze response many times a day. But those stress chemicals released into our bodies actually reduce the effectiveness of every one of the body’s systems. In other words, constant stress is bad for your health. Bet you’re not surprised.

But perhaps most important, rushing is really a red flag for something more insidious and soul-damaging – it’s a sign of our disregard for ourselves, for our own deeper needs.

Sure, lives these days are more stressful than ever. Multiple demands push us on every front. But rushing to do it all is the most obvious sign that something other than our own well-being is in charge.

When I succumb to habitual “hastiness” – to being perpetually slightly breathless from using every moment so fully that I don’t leave enough spaciousness on either end of an activity – it’s a sign.

It shows that I’m getting my sense of worth from my productivity.
…from cramming too much into my day,
…from martyring myself by trying to do more than is physically possible,
…from making someone else’s needs – or my own expectations – more of a priority than what’s good for me.

If that weren’t enough, the din of my over-drive drowns out a natural capacity to attune to my own intuition, my always available and most effective guide to real success and pleasure.

It feels great to get things done, but when I’m speeding ahead, there’s no way I can feel those more subtle inner signals about what I know would serve me.

And funny enough, I’ve noticed that when I respect myself enough to create ease when I can, the world strangely cooperates!

Maybe best of all, when I slow down, I have access to the simple elegance of my own feminine essence. That’s one definition of grace… simple elegance.

That ancient Taoist wisdom seems dead on. When I’m in a rush, I’m just not tuned into others or myself. I’m not likely to hear what’s really going on in my heart.

But the habit hasn’t been easy to break. I try to leave the house an extra ten minutes early… well, sometimes. And allowing open space between appointments in my calendar is a great idea, in theory, when I can pull it off.

What’s helped most of all hasn’t been trying to break the habit of rushing. Attacking it like an enemy to be conquered or a problem to be fixed hasn’t worked at all. I’ve just ended up feeling like a total failure. Not someplace I like to live!

Instead I’ve begun to shift my attention to how good I feel when I DON’T rush. When I begin to revere my desire for calm and spaciousness more than my zippy need to get everything done, as fast as possible, life feels manageable and, well, almost easy! When I can remember that I’m in charge of time, it feels amazing to carry myself with the purposeful grace and dignity that’s appropriate as I move through my day. And it’s really my choice.

Maybe every day can actually be a Day of Grace.  What a thought!

You may want to try giving a Day of Grace to someone you love – on their birthday or just when you want to dose them with a little extra affection. Try to make it a surprise… and see how soon they notice. Or let them know ahead of time and completely cater to their fancy, gracing them with your beautiful presence – and anything else you know they’ll adore. You will make their day magical. And you’ll feel as happy in the giving as they do receiving. You never know what your example may inspire!

Is all this talk of gracefulness making sense to you? How do you manage the societal insistence to rush? Does anything change for you when you imagine how great it feels to be moving in your life with ease? How does it feel to live your life honoring your own pacing and pleasure?

There’s a spot down below to leave your comments. Please do! I love to read them every time!

Are you still trying to improve yourself?

Closeup of running shoes

I’ve been on a self-improvement project pretty much my whole life.

I’ve been trying to be a good girl for as long as I can remember. Good at whatever it took to get a smile. Good at being Mommy’s little helper. Good at trying hard in school. Good at doing what I was told. Good at looking good. Good at being very nearly the best at everything, most of the time at least… and when I wasn’t, I felt I’d failed. Then I was no good at all. This is the shared story of most high-achieving women today… and frankly, that’s all of us.

We’ve been improving ourselves our whole lives. And it’s worked well enough, for long enough, that we are persuaded it must be how to live.

Added to that, the better we are at it – at trying to control ourselves and everything around us – the more convinced we are that this self-improvement project is the way to finally be happy.

I could be a case study in some graduate student’s self-improvement research project. I’m always trying to improve my body with healthy diet and exercise. Not drinking too much. Not smoking. Trying to meditate everyday. Generally trying to be as perfect as I can be. I’ve even been fanatical about trying to have good posture!

When my kids arrived, I researched the best breast-feeding approaches and schooling philosophies. I managed their food allergies and invented recipes for the best gluten-free pancakes ever. Of course I was also determined to be perfectly moderate in my self-improvement, not going overboard too obsessively on any of the above!

You get the drift… My whole life, I’ve been in the process of this perfecting to be acceptable — first to others, but deeper, to myself. It was my own bar that I placed so dramatically high. This is the one that plagues me the most. Not others’ expectations, but my own.

So I find it kind of funny now, when I realize that all this striving to upgrade myself hasn’t addressed the real issue. It’s not improving that I need. What I want now, more than anything else, is to come back to myself. The being I have inside that I’ve been dedicated to hiding all my life.

Coming back to me – to honesty and authenticity – isn’t done by trying to make myself better or fixing anything that’s not just right. It’s mostly about looking with curiosity at any place in me that wants to hide. Or another way to say this is — to see with compassion the ways I don’t want myself to be seen. It’s about looking clearly at how I’m still compensating for any feelings of inadequacy, any remnants of my protective ego’s convictions of my not-good-enoughness. When I can relax all that, what remain has no need of improvement.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”   – Joseph Campbell

The non-dual spiritual teacher Miranda Macpherson speaks about how we spend our lives polishing the mud we’ve protectively caked on the outside of the unique, genuine jewel that we are. Yet what’s magnetic and gorgeous – what’s radiant – is our own natural and divine essence. It’s the gem shining inside that others most want to enjoy.

But we’re afraid to show that part. We learn very early to hide our naturalness. Sometimes people don’t react well. Best to give them what they want to see. We grew self-conscious and ration out our true selves in increasingly more carefully crafted proportions. So begins the hiding.

Some of us got really skilled at polishing the mud. We look so nice and shiny. But the effort we invest in perpetual self-improvement – in order to protect the vulnerable being inside – actually dims our full light. The thick layer of mud coopts the real stuff – our intuition, our smarts, our talents, our divinity. Then the successes and admiration we thought would make us happy instead leaves us identified with the mud’s shiny reflection instead of the naturally radiant jewel inside.

I’ve done a lot of polishing over the years. But lately, I’ve been lucky to have circumstances crack the glossy mud I’ve spent so long burnishing. Even as I struggle, more of myself is shining through, and oddly, that feels good. I don’t feel the need — as often at least — to hide out in the image of myself I want to project.

Now my self-improvement project is in reversal. I’m wanting to un-something. Un-improve. I want to kindly welcome, and gently let go of, my personality’s fixations and attachments – all those ways I’ve kept myself safe. It’s the only way to come back to the more real me…the me that’s not that different from all the other you’s and is also delightfully unique in her own beautifully messy ways – whether they look good or not.

I’m ready to be just-me, and I’m ready to be with just-you. Join me?

So my questions to you is: How do you let the just-me shine through? Will you share your brilliance with us down below?

​Let the jewel shine, Dear Ones.

How can I love better this year?

hands in form of heart

On one of the first fresh days of this new year, I had a come-to-Jesus moment.

I’m dating a wonderful new man. In a sweet moment of closeness, his purity and goodness were undeniable. I couldn’t imagine ever treating him badly, holding onto resentments, or failing to meet him with an open heart.

I believe that when we fall in love, we really do see this new being for who they most truly are. It’s the innocence and beauty of their deepest self that draw us to them.

But of course, this is the beginning of a new relationship for me. And I know the usual trajectory. As hurts and misunderstandings mount it’s not been long before I’ve lost sight of what had been so obvious.

In remembering this pattern, I’m overcome by a wash of shame… for the ways I’ve belittled men for decades, relegating them to other. Regardless of my best intentions, my disappointments and judgments have clouded their light. And as much as I’d rather not admit it, my love has been conditional. I needed them to change.

I’ve made men less-than in so many ways because they were different from me. I see now how my stories about them became the truth I created.

In that moment, lying beside my new sweetheart, I sent out a blanket apology to the Universe — to men in general, and to my ex-husband and past partners specifically — for making them wrong. And I vowed to release that habit.

Women disparage men. We often subtly make fun of them. Of course we’re encouraged by TV sitcoms, where they’re now often portrayed as bumbling, clueless dolts. It’s almost become a national sport.

In my counseling practice working with both men and women, I have been surprised by the frequency and poignancy of men’s broken-hearted stories. So often they are earnest in their desire to please their woman, but frustrated that they never seem to get it right. They frequently despair at ever figuring it out.

Their marriages are without the vitality they’d hoped for. Battle lines have been drawn in the bedroom when he’s wanted sex and she’s said no, when they’ve both made each other wrong for being who they are. More often than you might guess it is the man who comes to me, desperately reaching for straws to find some way to make things better.

I’ve done my share of disparaging partners for never quite getting me right, not knowing what I wanted, or being insensitive to my shifting desires. But over the last few years as I’ve listened to my male clients and their despair, my arrogance has melted.

This is a baffling time for many men, especially as they age. They still need to feel powerful and purposeful, to be respected and admired. But shifts in consciousness are changing mores and roles. Social evolution is calling men toward a more subtle and nuanced relationship with women and everything else. What used to work doesn’t anymore. What men once considered flattery is now harassment. They wonder how to express their appreciation without offending. So often, they just want to make their sweetie happy.

As a woman, I’m getting just as tired of the accepted stereotypes we place on men as I am of those women have endured for so long. I want to go beyond the easy condescension, the jokes and snickers about our men that women too often exchange when we gather. Despite all the consciousness raising, we still indulge in the old-boy games.

So this is what I want to know as I begin this new and promising relationship. How can I love better? How can I find the courage to speak my heart’s and body’s truths, but with a consistently open and kind heart?

Then there’s the bigger question…How do we as women give the consistent respect and understanding we wish to receive ourselves, despite the inevitable disappointments? How do we step away from an over-simplified male/female dichotomy and into true respect for each other’s needs and proclivities?

I know I won’t always get it right, but in the clear light of this New Year, I want to make these promises:
~I vow to honor each person’s honest and earnest attempts to love, no matter their gender.
~I vow to choose curiosity instead of condescension.
~I vow to speak my own truth and to compassionately respect the other’s experience.
~I vow to meet every person with my heart as open as possible, ready to recognize their struggle as my own and to welcome our shared vulnerabilities as strengths instead of weaknesses.

We can lament the differences between men and women. Or we can enjoy them – even benefit from them – and dwell instead on the richness of our shared perspectives. We are more alike than different, especially when we come from unguarded hearts. It’s our choice. Maybe this year really will be the start of something new.

Does this ring true to you? Do you have promises you’re making to remember the true essence of your beloved or those you love who’s difference has blinded you to their true self? I’d love to know. There’s space below for your comments.

And thank you so much for partnering with me as we strive to divine everyone’s inner beauty.

Choosing what exactly fits

close up of woman making gingerbread houses

It’s time to guard your preciousness, Dears…It’s just too easy to be swept away by the excitement of the season. To say yes to every delicious invitation and delightful morsel. Each year I notice the pull to indulge in all the sensual delights of the holidays. But when I do, the hangover I endure by New Years makes me regret it all. On autopilot, having taste every last cookie and drop of champagne, I wake up grumpy and exhausted. Too often I’ve come crashing down into January, mad at myself for overdoing it and annoyed with everyone else, just wanting a little peace and quiet!

Here’s the problem as I see it. Instead of living every day as sensually alive women, too often we starve ourselves of the most satisfying pleasures — genuine self-care, reverence for our deepest desires — and then overindulge, thinking we’re making up for all our betrayal. But that empty feeling inside still lingers.

This is NOT how we are meant to live. 

Not if we want to be embodying full-out and powerful lives of joy and happiness… to be in integrity with our deepest needs and energized for what the world most needs of us. Living the sort of pleasure that deepens into joy and contentment isn’t about having more or less, but instead is about being present enough to choose only what exactly fits in this moment. It means slowing down enough to notice in the first place, to really hear your desires. It means valuing yourself fully enough to notice when a no will actually mean more pleasure… and when your yes is an emphatic, no-holds-barred “​YES!”

The ancients used this dark time each year to go deep into quiet and reflection. They understood our intrinsic connectedness to all of life. So, instead of flying in the face of the cycles Nature gives me — and then diving back into the new year exhausted and drained   — I want to use this turning of the calendar to listen to my own still small voice, reset my physiology, and claim my purposeful intentions for 2016.

How would a re-treat bring you back to yourself?

Concert CurtainsI’m just back from leading a retreat.
Just women. In nature. Over the summer solstice.
Reconnecting to our selves and our senses — and the pleasures they invite.
Becoming intimate with real life again.

I don’t know a woman who couldn’t use a break to come back to herself.
Unfortunately our daily preoccupation with thinking, fixing, and planning deadens our pleasure.
It takes us out of the present moment.

As we dwell in the past’s what-ifs and strategize outcomes for the future,
we lose touch with what is real and alive, in the here and now.
Of course we have to make life work, but our senses – and pleasure — atrophy in the perpetual imbalance.
We miss the connection to ourselves.

That’s why we retreat…
we re-treat ourselves to the joys of living connected to a wider, wilder slice of life than our over-active minds continuously provide.
And after retreating we can advance into life – re-inspired, with enthusiasm and creativity —
rewired and reconnected to your original instructions.
We come back changed and more ourselves.
The women returning from my recent retreat report their friends’ wows on how obviously radiant and changed they looked.

So why don’t we make this happen?
Why does taking the space for a retreat for ourselves end up at the bottom of our list?

This is all I’ve wanted to write about since returning from the solstice retreat last week.
Why do we avoid what we need so much? 
Is it that we’d rather take the abuse of incessant over-work than risk being perceived as self-indulgent?
Is it just easier to do the next thing on the list than to really listen to what’s necessary?
And why can’t the rewards we give ourselves to compensate begin to balance the scales?
Are these your questions, too? I really want to know…
There’s a place to let me know down below.

What does self-care really look like beyond pampering the body after constant neglect?

I have some ideas…
Find out why we too often choose pleasures that deny real feeling
instead of those that cultivate our capacity for a deeper connection, those real joys that move our souls.

So, why don’t we choose to stop? Why do we find it so hard to break away?
Why is planning ahead for personal time just about impossible?
Is it because everything else seems so much more important?
We feel the pressure of looming deadlines, pending obligations, stretched finances.
It’s just easier to make due… Do without… Play the martyr… Get by… Get drunk!

Our inner life is easy to dis-regard.
And frankly, so is pleasure, the real self-care.
Maybe it’s because we live in a culture that’s more comfortable abusing ourselves through over-working than risking being perceived as lazy or self-indulgent.
Is it just me… or do we all live with that dull, unconscious shame.
Worse than the old grip of religion’s fear of sin
is the modern continual plague of thinking we should somehow always be working just a bit harder,
always trying to prove our worth.

Our overwork then demands a reciprocal reward — our own go-to indulgence.
Often we disregard the eventual cost, so deep is our need for relief.
Are we somehow trying to make it up to ourselves?
We over-do the denied pleasures with the same vengeance we over-worked.
We indulge in over-the-top vacations to exotic locales, then need to recover once we’re home.

And as women, we call this self-care… pampering the body after perpetual neglect.
Mani-pedis, massages, or a few too many drinks after a hard day.
Chasing the pleasure we somehow feel intrinsically should be the baseline of life,
but feeling empty and dissatisfied when the paltry reward can’t begin to balance the scales.

Ask yourself then, “What would be your true pleasure?”
What is it that you really need, deep inside?
In all the cacophony of your stressed-out, over-scheduled daily life,
it’s no surprise if you have absolutely no idea.

Perhaps you just need to stop, to give yourself a retreat,
to re-discover who you are and what it is that you really need.

A month away would be amazing, I know, but you can start with a few minutes.
Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. First, you’ll need to plan ahead or it will never happen, I promise. Even a few minutes or hours is a good start. A full day will surprise you. A weekend could feel like heaven. And longer, well, it just might change your life. It has mine.
  2. You’ll need to treat your re-treat like an important appointment in your calendar. Guard it for the pleasure it will provide, like you would of a vacation to Paris.
  3. Then find someplace that’s quiet and without your usual distractions. Turn off your phone and lock the bedroom door. You may need to leave the house. Nature provides amazing possibilites.
  4. Decide on a focus to quiet your mind. I’ve used classical meditation practices like mantras or mudras, but sometimes I choose to make my focus my senses while sitting outside or on a simple walk in the natural world. Similar to when I’m sitting on my meditation cushion, my intention is to keep centered on what I’m seeing and hearing – the bird call off the to right of the path or the green moss on the shady side of the hemlock — and not what happened last night.

My senses have become a fabulous tool for bringing my thoughts back to the present moment. 
It’s so simple.
There’s no interpretation.
What I hear, I hear, now.

Sometimes I close my eyes and just take in sound.
First I hear the loudest ones, the truck passing or the crow or jay squawking,
but soon the less obvious ones enter my awareness.
Droplets falling from branches after a rain.
Breezes ruffling the leaves.
A mosquito buzzing near my ear!

I often notice that after a brief few minutes of stillness my adorable mind wants to jump in,
trying to solve all the world’s problems.
It wants to understand and fix everything.
That’s it’s job.
It’s just not used to the rest.

So, when I finally realize her antics, I give her a little pat on the back, tuck her in for a nap,
and come back to right now.
It’s the coming back that counts, not how many times she calls out for my attention.

You might use mealtimes for a mini-retreat to take you deeper into your pleasure.
There’s a level of nourishment your body needs that’s maximized when you fill more than just your tummy. When you receive the joy of color, taste, scent as you consciously eat,
then even 15-minutes can revive body and soul.

If you go on a silent retreat with yourself in the woods for even an hour,
you inevitably connect more deeply with this new surrounding
as well as how that connection feels in your body.

As you are more present to the stillness or lack of it
– the sounds of the moment —
your senses cannot help but open.
You feel more, palpably.

And feeling more feels GOOD.
You won’t want the magic of this moment broken
​… so need I remind you to leave your phone turned off or, if you dare, in the car?

So plan a retreat. Invest in real self-care.

 

Why I celebrate the summer Solstice

mary solstice

Why do I bother to celebrate the summer solstice?

Well, first, it’s a really big deal cosmologically… High Summer, as the Celt’s called it.
Our sun makes life possible, grows our food, lightens our mood,
and as Mary Oliver reminds us, keeps us from ever-darkness.
This is the sun’s heyday.

Every ancient culture, the wide world round, celebrated this event.
Undeniably, that experience is embedding in our collective unconscious.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, each of us is profoundly affected by daily, monthly and seasonal cycles, connecting us to the world and cosmos around us.

That’s why I create experiences for people to more fully connect with themselves and Nature
in celebration of these few remarkable days
… and why you might want to, too.

Why not design your own summer solstice celebration if you’re not able to get yourself to mine
— though there is still one empty bunk waiting for you (at the time of this writing, at least).
To find out how I’m celebrating summer solstice here in the Berkshires with women friends from around the country, click here.

Since sol-stice means sun-stop, consider stopping during the days surrounding the solstice, next Sunday June 21st. Stop even for a few moments throughout this liminal time to connect with the life that’s everywhere
– to take in beauty and the gifts your senses bring to you.
They connect you to what’s real, right now.

Let yourself be touched by the fullness of this sun-soaked season.
Choose to go slowly for a few days.
Find some wild, natural water to dip you feet into… or your whole self.
Allow spaciousness between activities.
Watch how these intentional shifts change you and everyone around you.

Or try this if you really want more intimacy with life!
Every day give yourself a quiet time of sitting in the same spot in nature,
just noticing whatever happens there.

When you sit for several consecutive days,
you’ll be amazed at how things have grown and changed from one day to the next.

Engage all of your senses…

  • Watch the birds in flight; listen to their conversations.
  • Listen for the loudest sounds and the quietest ones in all directions around you.
  • Notice what moves, what’s still, what the sky and the clouds are up to.
  • Feel your skin being touched by the breeze or humidity, the wood stair you’re sitting on.
  • Be awake to scent. What spring over-the-top-ness is wafting on the air?
  • What colors demand your attention and appreciation?

Over the years, marking the solstices and equinoxes
— flags of the earth’s cycles –
has become an essential part of my life.
We are all embedded in this matrix of life whether we pay any attention to it or not.

But it’s in noticing and really feeling our connections to the wider, wilder world
that we become fully human
and not just minds, lost in space. 

It’s how we deepen our capacity to feel, to take in delight, to be fully ourselves
​— and in that fullness, to be authentically intimate with others.

That’s why I’m celebrating the summer solstice next weekend, and why I hope you will, too.

A Mother’s Job

Mother kissing baby while sitting on meadow in parkMy youngest son is about to graduate from high school.
I’ve had 26 Mays being a mother, 26 Mother’s Days, and I have loved every one.
But my active mothering is pretty much over.

This strapping 18-year-old young man doesn’t really need me for much of anything these day.
Nor does he want to hang out with me like he did when he was 4.

His snuggling is saved for his girlfriend now.
I still get an occasional hug and even a parting “Love ya, Mom,” once in a while.
And I feel lucky.

These days the kind of mothering I used to dole out to my children
– making sure they were eating and sleeping well,
getting outside to play,
rubbing skinned knees and tucking them in at night with a cuddle and a really good bedtime story –
I’m needing to learn to give myself.

I’m finding it much harder to do a good job mothering myself 
than it was to give round-the-clock care and attention to my three children.
And I thought they were tough to manage!
All those years of devoting myself to children or, more recently, my work out in the world
— moving fast and ignoring even my body’s most basic needs —
dug deep and habitual grooves in my psyche!
I’d become so driven to bring my best to everything that I’d lost the capacity to care for myself…
To listen to my deepest needs…
To honor and cultivate the precious inner being of myself.

What does it look like to mother myself well?
To truly tend to my nourishment?

I make well-intentioned promises to myself.
Eat more greens.
Get to bed early.
Get out there and at least take a walk!!!
But it’s the consistency that eludes me.
In trying so hard to balance so many shoulds I can eventually lose the thread of life’s pleasure.
I end up throwing my own tantrum and noshing down a bag of Fritos in 5 minutes flat.

So what do I really need?
Like an impetuous child I need a mama…
or maybe the mama inside who would sit her overwrought daughter on her knee,
stroke the sticky hair off her brow, and say,
“Come here, Sweetie. Let’s calm down.” 
As my snotty nose rubbed against the collar of her shirtdress,
she’d bring me back home to right now.
“Listen, do you hear that bird?” she’d ask.
“Let’s see what she says.”

That’s what a mother does.
She helps us remember what’s real. 

So perhaps there’s a partnership waiting for us here.
One between the archetypical mother we all carry inside and Mother Nature out there.
We can count on that support!
But can we begin to really listen to her wisdom?
Can we allow ourselves to source her nurturing,
to bring the care we give to others back home?

Our Earth Mother is right here, ready to nourish us,
to nurture us through the overwrought, exhausted distraction that is our everyday life.
She’s here to hold us, anytime we need her.

“Come here, Sweetie. Let’s calm down.”
Go outside.
Sit down in the grass.
Listen to the birds or the breeze.
Take a few long slow breaths.
And let yourself be mothered.

Good mothering is what’s called for right now.
​For ourselves and for our Earth.

Venus Reflected in the Ocean

woman in ocean

I’m just back from a week teaching at a gorgeous retreat in Mexico, where perhaps you’ll join me in November. After a week of living out of cell range and with the rhythms of Nature and exquisite healthy food, something woke up in me.
I’ve come home asking myself a few probing questions…

Do I really need to rush,
   to do so much,
   to be so tied to my phone,
   to stay up so late?
Is that the kind of life I want?

And how can I stay connected to what truly feeds me?

Without electricity in my casita, the brilliant night sky became my evening entertainment.
I saw Venus reflected in the ocean!
Candlelight and the sound of ocean waves gently transitioned me from busy days to peaceful nights.
My usual bedtime texts and reading fell away.
And I slept better than I can remember, waking with the dawn, rested and content.

Now that I’m home, I realize that I want to be more in alignment with what’s real and important.

I’d hardly noticed that I’d been leaving behind basic self-care, like healthy sleeping rhythms,
for the lure of virtual connection and productivity.
Little by little I’d abandoned the deep pleasure of real connection 
with myself

for the gratification of external stimulation in my virtual life.
It’s fun, like candy, but not a great staple in a luscious daily diet.

So, with spring, there’s no escaping the call for change.
I’m determined, once again, to let the old die away and new habits be born…
Like floating into bedtime near candlelight and far from my smartphone.
Like keeping my fridge stocked with the veggies I adore
and scheduling time twice a week for cooking something delicious and healthy…
like this beet mayonnaise from Haramara I made the day after I got home.

So, tell me..
What basic self-care — and deep pleasure — are you ready to reclaim?
What wish of yours might you grant yourself?
What pleasure can you let bloom with the blissful springtime?

Is it more time outside,
more regular yoga,
feeding yourself with food that really feeds you,
​time to be quiet or create something of beauty?

Share below and let me know. You’ll inspire us all