2 NO-FAIL steps to turn down the drama

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​Today will inevitably bring me some drama.

There’s a stoplight on my way to town that seems to hold forever when I’m in a hurry.
“This always happens to me. Someone should fix that stupid light!”
Or “Dammit. I did it again! Will I ever learn to give myself enough time?”

Lately I’ve noticed the stories I dream up,
either furious with the world or turning the knife on myself.
Crazy how the mind creates all this drama,
habitually choosing blame and anger to manage the yucky feelings inside.

Here’s what’s helped.

Just noticing is the first step out of the craziness.
Letting go of whether I think it’s good or bad.
Just noticing.
Hmmmm… Interesting.Then a clearer head can actually choose what’s next.
Maybe one deep, slow breath can work just as well as swearing to release all that tension that gets bottled up inside.I need my mind to make a kinder choose —
maybe to instruct my shoulders to release.
Then I’m OK.

Mind and body working together. Noticing and choosing.

As with any spiritual practice the work
is to notice the thoughts and choose to come back to the present moment.
Again and again.
And what’s more in the present moment than the body?
Every moment. Here you are.

This moment is neutral.
It’s my thoughts that make it positive or negative, dramatic or not.
My choice. Yours, too.

Them vs Us? Really?!

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What a November it’s been! How are you doing? I find myself still shocked and confused, mourning for the country I thought we were… afraid for the danger this turning tide will likely present for the minorities among us. Still, I can’t help feeling that something truly important is about to be birthed…

This fall many of us were almost tasting what will surely come one day… a woman leading our country, championing the caring values of the feminine. But this was not just about women. The well-being of all those less powerful – including the environment of our planet – was at stake. 
 
Instead a few things are now clear — or maybe there’s just more confusion. The perceived bland details of progressive policies no longer motivate those who vote in our country. Or perhaps a Trump vote is merely questioning a broken system. Do we now only revere those we view as winners, no matter what tactics they use to win? I wonder, does anyone even care anymore what happens to the less fortunate? Are many satisfied to enjoy the whole spectacle, cheering and whistling at incendiary remarks; one huge reality show recreating itself in real life?

Now, more than any time in these last 50 years of advancement, those principles our government (primarily men, I might add) has championed to protect the weaker among us are in question. Perhaps they always have been. Compassion and feminine values have long been viewed as naive. Maybe we just thought we were further along than this month is illuminating.

Strategies to repair our country have rarely differed more starkly than at this moment. Cultural historian Riane Eisler coined the term “power-over” to describe cultural or political domination. It asserts itself most vehemently when, like in Germany in the 1920s, a large portion of a society feels cheated and mistreated… when they feel like victims of a harsh and unfair system… when someone charismatic and seemingly powerful becomes the mouthpiece for their fear and mistrust.

My morning-after despair took me down at first. How could this have happened? Was I so deluded, so head-in-the-clouds that I couldn’t imagine a Trump win? That so many would follow one so course and delusionary? That the country was this divided? That good-ole-boy sexist, racist, homophobic rhetoric would appeal to so many?

In my sadness and disbelief I’ve watched myself falling back into an old habitpointing the finger of other-ness. Who are these people, so different from me? How could 52% of women vote for him!? What were they thinking? Who can I blame for this craziness?
 
But in the midst of my rant another truth has been emerging. When my finger is pointing at another in accusation, there are three fingers pointing back at me. So I ask, what part am I playing in my country’s demise?
 
At this sobering moment it feels appropriate to look within and ask of myself the hard questions that divide us as a people and nation. Maybe you’d like to join me?

Where have I been willing to allow a false sense of them vs us to close my ears to another’s experience?

How have I enjoyed feeling superior to those who believe or vote differently?

How are my basic instincts more the same than different when I’m motivated by fear?

What are the walls I erect when I try to feel safe?

Last month my niece was married in the coal country of eastern Pennsylvania. As I neared Scranton 10’ high red letters on billboards blared TRUMP and sent chills down my spine. Really?!  But when I got to the wedding I was content to stay safe and avoid any disturbing conversation. And beside, they were all deluded! And, thank God, it would all be over soon. I lost my chance to understand the concerns of my relatives who would soon help put Mr. Trump in the White House.

So now, I have a choice. My disappointments and shattered dreams could easily disempower me if I choose to hate those who voted for Mr. Trump.

No matter our gender, it’s time to let the all-embracing and nurturing values of the feminine infiltrate into this season of reckoning and introspection. And to fortify ourselves to stand ever more firmly in our shared ideals of respect and concern for all.

Change is upon us. It’s best met with an open heart and firm determination, aspects of the balanced feminine and masculine in us all. It’s time to make alliances and take action. To stand against the kind of power-over demagoguery that bullies have always used to feel potent. And to do all this with a heart willing to see beneath difference to their root causes, to acknowledge the separation I perpetrate, to wish to understand more than to vilify.

We are being called to be wise. The road ahead will ask much of us. The return of the feminine – of a caring and inclusive culture championed by all people, no matter the gender – strains against 5000 years of power-over hierarchy and domination. The challenge is daunting. Things look bad right now! But our advances can no more be thwarted than a hurricane’s fury. The equalizing power of the feminine will not be turned back! And we are made stronger by the struggle.

Do you agree with me? Please let me know below. What walls within are you willing to let crumble? How might you instead connect with those whose views differ from yours? How will you empower your anger and frustration into meaningful action? How can you stand for what you believe and still keep an open heart to those who believe differently?

And finally, here is a quote from Martha Beck, one of my dearest teachers. May we stand united and encouraged.

“Remember that troubled times are our allies in awakening.  

They compel us to access the deep, untroubled beings that we really are.  

The hero engages with destiny only on the road of trials.  

Each of us is the central character of our own story, and right now, it’s true, the road ahead looks long.  

Let’s us it as a chance to grow wiser and stronger, to become heroes we’re all meant to become.”

Sending my love, 
Mary

Are you still trying to improve yourself?

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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.

Why is telling the truth so hard?

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I’ve been quiet for a while. Taking in the lessons from a bad break-up. It’s been tough. But amidst the heartache I’m starting – just starting – to sense that all this pain is going to be worth it. And I’m dedicating myself, more than ever, to truth.

Here’s why…
For most of my growing up (58 years and counting) I’ve skirted around the truth. I learned early, like everyone else, that telling the truth can be scary and dangerousBut evolution created the hard wiring in us to keep ourselves safe. No matter what. And kids are smart! So we find truly brilliant strategies to protect ourselves.

When I was young, I figured out fast that if I was carefully nice and kind and oh, so thoughtful, people were nice to me. Of course what lurked beneath my sweet surface wasn’t always so sweet. And speaking it would have felt selfish or hurtful – something I didn’t want to be — and would have surely gotten me punished.

I tried not to lie, since nice girls didn’t. My careful tact, innocent indecision, and quiet smile were effective ruses, and most of the time did the job. If you’re anything like me, you got good at being diplomatic and careful with truth. Each of us mastered ingenious ways to manage the truths we couldn’t handle. We had to, in order to protect ourselves or get what we needed.

Thing is, all this management begins to blur reality. We start believing whatever story best protects the image we like to project. And my inner nice girl wants to keep the peace. She hates to make anyone feel uncomfortable. She’s practiced for all these years pushing down messages from her body and intuition that said, “Hold up, Girl! Something’s not right here!”

The truth is hardest to see when we’re busy protecting a carefully engineered and highly effective self-image. We start believing it’s only safe to be that image of ourselves. In this breakup I received the gift of a mirror to see what I didn’t fully notice before in myself. And I’m grateful… if still feeling tender.

But here’s the wisdom I’m finally getting – and what’s becoming the through-line of my book:
Truth is the foundation of love. The more we can love and accept our real, unvarnished human being-ness — what’s really going on inside, and share that with our beloveds — the more intimacy we create and feel. That’s the authentic expression of the love we truly are.

Over the years my habit of not really saying what needed to be said has hurt a number of good men… and me, too, of course. It’s contributed to the ending of two marriages and several long-ish relationships. The more I delayed recognizing or sharing what was really going on inside, the more I craved truth. I missed its aliveness. It became my siren call. And when it finally came, it did hurt.

Along with the pain comes clarity and eventually, healing. When it’s coupled with courage and good will, when it hasn’t been too long poisoned by delay and denial, truth releases energy and aliveness. Instead of the Armageddon we so fear, what might just be possible is a fresh new kind of connection. It may not be what I’d wanted, but real and honest — I want that most of all.

So… I’m practicing truth telling these days. I’m a little bumbly. Sometimes it comes out too strong. Or the old fears keep me silent too long. And it’s not a happy ending every time.

Though I’m still nursing my wounds, through it all I can hardly believe the aliveness that comes with truth. What I most need now is courage to keep trusting its revelation. And how it clears the decks for more love!

I think this will change my life!

How about you? Does this resonate? If it does, I want to hear in the comments below. What cost have you paid for not speaking truth? And what miracles have happened when you have?

Thank you for receiving my dawning awareness and for reading all the way through this long-ish blog!! If you know others who might find it helpful, please send it along.

We are in this together, Dears. Wanting to live all that life has to teach us, to feel it all…the desolate sadness and the euphoric joy. This is what it is to be fully human and to travel the journey committed to growth and love.

What does THANKS have to do with pleasure?

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I’m just back from Haramara, leading my first ever week-long sensuality retreat in Mexico. And I’m still soaring!

Seven days in paradise with 10 women, learning the tools to stay in our feminine pleasure and power.

I knew we’d all expand into our radiance. That I was sure of. I’d seen it too many times before in shorter retreats to doubt it. But I didn’t expect the ah ha I’d bring home!

You see, I learned what exactly shifts us out of our stories and into our revitalized luminousness. I’ve finally gotten what feels like the simple key to a fuller, more pleasurable life. And, wouldn’t you know, it’s a spiritual truth, as well.

It wasn’t about the place, though going away to one of the most exquisite spots on the planet surely opens our senses to beauty we often so easily forget.

It wasn’t about who came to the retreat, though these were spectacular women. Any woman who recognizes the longing in her life and listens to her soul’s deep call to reconnect already carries an intuition that makes her magnetic and powerful. How could we help but fall in love with each other?

It wasn’t even about the curriculum I created, though my ego would love to think so. It was more than just the week’s offering of practices and possibilities that shifted every one of us.

The key is simple AND it’s available all the time, no matter where we are or who we’re with.

You must make the choice to notice what’s true.

First… Stop and take in the everyday beauty and blessing right here — in any moment. Haramara was exquisite, but did you see last night’s full moon as it rose above the horizon?!!! Or step outside now for three minutes and just listen for the most delicate sound you can hear.

Second… Allow yourself to be moved. Drop the incessant mind chatter and really take in what’s here NOW. Feel your connection to everything. And let your tears of joy flow freely. Invite awe to be a part of your daily diet. Be reverent to beauty wherever it presents itself… from the love etched in the wrinkled face of your grandmother to the row of leafless tree trunks silhouetted against a November sky.

And lastly… Respond with joy and gratitude. This is a magnificent world we live in. Your smile of recognition and thanks will unfailingly shift brain chemistry. In turn, you’ll notice more, and the cycle will repeat. Your shared joy will be the gift you give back for an abundance of greater magnitude than we can possibly comprehend.

​Make an intention NOW for how you want Thanksgiving to feel tomorrow.

Stop and take in what’s here around you.
Let yourself really feel its effect on you.
And return the favor in gratitude and thanks.

May your heart be full to overflowing.

Letting go of your prized burdens…

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​A few years ago, Paul, an elderly friend of mine share his harrowing account of running to escape the Russian army during World War II. Beside him in the mass of terrified people was a mother carrying her infant child and dragging a heavy suitcase behind her. My kind friend offered to carry the baby, but the woman begged him instead to pull the suitcase. Just as he reached down to oblige, a strafing of machine gun fire mowed down all those standing. My friend was the only one to survive.

Some time later, Paul opened the suitcase to find it filled with the silver this unfortunate woman couldn’t leave behind.

So I ask… What prized burden have you been lugging along that might need to be left behind? Toward what experience of freedom are you being invited that is slowed by some weighty attachment to the past?

The biggest eclipsed moon of our lifetimes will happen ‪tonight. But what does that have to do with living fully alive in our bodies and beings? Eclipses collapse time. Lunar eclipses — as the moon goes from full to dark to full — accelerate a nearly 30-day process into about 3 hours. If we’re aware, we have a rare opportunity during the darkness to consciously connect and release obscured patterns that may not serve forward motion in our lives. As the moon returns to full, we can physically sense and more deeply come to know what’s emerging into the light of our awareness.

In this equinox/eclipse time of massively shifting energies, we are being propelled to let go, like the trees are doing with their leaves — in order to allow ourselves to be in sync with the changes that are happening all around us.

And surely we’ve been given signs, just as the coloring of the leaves and cooling temperatures give us an unmistakable indication of autumn’s coming. Perhaps a sticky interaction with someone or a relationship’s disharmony is insisting upon a greater dose of your truth. Most likely your body is signaling you about the changes that are in order. 

When you really tune in to any subtle levels of tension, you may get in touch with clear information about the shifts you are being invited to consider. Is something out of balance in your diet or sleeping rhythms? What’s true that you’ve been ignoring? This eclipsing full moon might just provide you with an ideal occasion to listen more deeply to the wisdom of your body.

Please don’t miss tonight’s opportunity to dance with the moon’s powerful energy. But if you do, this entire week will hold powerful potential for real change. Say yes to this invitation. In the energy of these strong forces, make an intention to realign yourself with your life’s purpose.

Decide what’s left in that heavy suitcase you may still be carrying, and choose to let it go. Step into the light that will illumine you when you’ve been freed to live you’re authentic life. Just like Paul, you’re still alive! Make the most of it!

What risk does intimacy want from you?

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In her recent book Lean In, Sheryl Sanberg encourages women to face challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.

She focuses on career, where our culture says the reward is.

But leaning in in relationships can be just as daunting and juicy.
We want intimacy and yet we avoid it.
We long to be seen for who we really are,(in-to-me-see)
but we stay busy and unavailable…
even to ourselves.

It’s our habits that keep us conveniently disconnected.
We hide out in our busy-ness and cram too much into every day.
There’s so little time for self-reflection… or truly intimate connection with anyone else, for that matter.

What’s up with that?
Why are we so awkwardly hesitant to be truly intimate in our relationships
– with ourselves, someone else, or the world?
What risks are we afraid to take?
What truths are we afraid to say?
What challenges do we avoid, hoping the problem will magically disappear?

Maybe the truth will rock your world… or your relationships.
Being truthful is hard sometimes.
But, it’s often the things that aren’t said that create the distance. 
We will let a friendship slowly fade into memory before we’ll take the risk to share what we’re really feeling. We’re afraid to be that vulnerable.
We’re afraid we’ll mess things up.
We’re afraid of their reaction.
Lots of fear here, even if we’d rather call it something else.

But truth, though sometimes down right terrifying, is much less debilitating than dishonesty or hiding out in illusion or distraction.
It’s truth that brings a feeling of connection with others, and deep within, as well. 
There’s a surprising aliveness and freedom we feel when we’ve been courageous enough to let ourselves be seen.

I learned this lesson some years ago from a dare Mama Gena gave to 250 women in NYC in her School of Womanly Arts.
We were to flirt with a stranger before returning to class the following day.
Flirting, for Mama Gena, was simply enjoying yourself in front of someone else.

I was so terrified at the thought of such a thing that I forgot all about the assignment
until I was about to dash across 59th street to class the next morning,
having just grabbed a quick breakfast at the food cart on the corner.

I scanned the street, looking for a possible victim for my first fumbling attempts at this kind of flirting.
I did not think I would enjoy myself, that I was sure of!
In despiration I remembered the young man I’d just seen at the food cart.
He was gorgeous. And those eyes….!

I felt scared and vulnerable.
But instead of flaking on the challenge, I turned back to him, leaned in to my awkwardness, and said,
“I just want you to know that I think your eyes are beautiful.”

I felt a little ridiculous.
It was a risk. 
What would he think?
Yet I watched this young man’s cool-guy bravado melt away as his face softened
and he sputtered out the “thank you” of a sweet, shy 8-year-old.
For a moment, despite differences of age, race and culture, we were connected.
And that felt amazing!

How often we miss out on this kind of joy!
We notice something, yet so rarely say what we’re thinking.
I’ll probably always be working with my hesitancy to trust myself and the situation enough to say what’s true. Because, let’s face it, some truths will rock our worlds.

Yet practicing leaning in to the fear has deepened so many of my connections that it’s becoming positively addicting.
It’s the intimacy I must have to feel alive.

I have a challenge for you….
Try experimenting this Memorial Day weekend.
Surprise someone with a bit more of yourself.

​And watch how you’re affected.
How did it feel?
​Share with us below, to inspire us all.

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.

​What is it to be free?

 

Maybe it’s just paying attention
And choosing to participate
Really being in whatever I’m doing.

Maybe it’s a practice, really, this attentiveness…
this responsibility to what I feel, right now.
Being awake to my body and my emotional life.
Being affected – by life, work, a lover, parents, children.
Noticing what is moving in me.

And noticing my hesitation,
when I back away from being real in order to be nice.
Or when I am afraid to hold a gaze.

Being free is not holding back.
Freedom isn’t indulging in reactivity
or spewing emotionality …
That’s being bound to the old.
I’m not free there.

Being free is being true.
Allowing myself all of me.

And everyone else every last bit of themselves.

I’m playing in the the-a-tre of free-dom this week. Asking these questions and watching what comes.
With 9 other explorers and you, the audience, if you’d like.
Meet someone dressed in a vibrant color on a corner in Great Barrington.
Be led into an exploration of freedom and intimacy.

My kind of adventure, and yours, perhaps, adored ones!