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This is Part II of a 2-Part Series on Love for the month of February. Part I explores how essential it is to say Yes to Love in relationship. This second post focuses on practicing Love. Although originally written for dear friends whose wedding I officiated, and, thus, about the personal Love relationship between two people, everything here applies to Love in any relationship—with yourself, with your friends, with your family, with an animal friend, with a partner, with the Beloved. Read the poem that inspired this exploration.

Practice Loving Kindness

Practice Loving Kindness

Saying Yes to Love also implies unconditionality.

I practice Love which is not dependent on whether or not…

  • Dave remembers to put the toilet seat down,
  • Or brings out the garbage,
  • Or pulls the sheets off of me to his side of the bed in the middle of the night.

It’s not an “if” you do this kind of proposition!

Even if he hasn’t done something I had hoped for, I still look at him and say “I choose you.” I still say Yes to Love.

Because saying Yes to Love is choosing to live a life that is worth living.

When I say Yes to Love, I open myself to something greater than my limited understanding—

  • To the possibility of both of our growth and transformation,
  • To the mystery of the depth and breadth of the heart,
  • To this moment of limitless possibility.

In order to do this, we have to be willing to feel and allow everything—

  • The old wounds that will get retriggered by our partner,
  • The shame of doing the same unskillful behavior over and over again as we try to learn a new one,
  • The pain of not being able to open our hearts in the moment,
  • The suffering of being stuck and unable to see our way through,
  • As well as the amazing joy, gratitude, and bliss of Love.

For feeling is the language of the heart. And sharing these feelings with our partner is the language of intimacy. It is Love saying Yes. It is saying Yes to Love.

So, I encourage you to say Yes to Love every day, every moment, every chance you get. As Gregory Orr encourages us in his beautiful poem:

Later for “but,”
Later for “if.”

Now
Only the single syllable
That is the beloved,
That is the world.

Yes. May we always choose to practice Love.

What are some concrete ways you practice Love?
With yourself? With others?
How could you deepen your practice?

Read Part I of Saying Yes to Love.

This is Part I of a 2-Part Series on Love for the month of February.
This first post explores how essential it is to say Yes to Love
in relationship. The second focuses on practicing Love.
Although originally written for dear friends whose wedding I officiated,
and, thus, about the personal Love relationship between two people, everything here applies to Love in any relationship—with yourself, with your friends, with your family, with an animal friend, with a partner, with the Beloved.

 VDay card for Dave 2014
By Gregory Orr

If to say it once
And once only, then still
To say: Yes.

And say it complete,
Say it as if the word
Filled the whole moment
With its absolute saying.

Later for “but,”
Later for “if.”

Now
Only the single syllable
That is the beloved,
That is the world.

Yes. Unequivocally, Yes.

Conscious relationship, for me, is about learning to say Yes, over and over again, to Love.

Love can open in us as a gift, as a grace, but for the most part, Love is pretty hard work!

I find that Love is a practice of choosing to say Yes to the needs of the relationship, to being and acting as Love in each moment.

  • Even when I’m tired and just want to fall back into the comfortable slumber of “my way,”
  • Even when I feel disconnected and would rather lick my wounds,
  • Even when it would feel better to pretend everything is OK when it’s not,
  • Even when I’m not feeling very loving…

Because Love is bigger than a feeling. Love is a choice.

  • Love chooses connection.
  • Love chooses trying to understand.
  • Love chooses generosity.
  • Love chooses hope.
  • Love chooses to accept my partner’s reality, even when it’s not only different from mine, but might seem downright crazy or misguided.
  • Love says Yes.

For a long time, practicing Love, I would find myself saying Yes, but…

  • But what?
  • But you don’t see the whole picture…
  • But that’s not really what I meant…
  • But I would do it this way…
  • But…

Dave called me on it—many times—and he still may have to from time to time. It is a pretty engrained habit!

  • He let me know that when I say “Yes…but,” he only hears the “but.”
  • He no longer feels heard or acknowledged.
  • It’s like that “but” negates everything else I’ve said.

I have come to understand that the “but” is a turning away from Love, a choosing to separate a part of myself from the Yes of Love. The togetherness of Love. The generosity of Love.

I’m not saying we have to agree about everything—we don’t!

  • If I have a different idea, I share it.
  • But I try not to before acknowledging the Yes.
  • Yes, I see and hear you.
  • Yes, you are right in your truth.
  • Yes, I value and respect you and your expression.
  • AND here is my truth…

This is practicing Love. I won’t always get it right, but I will continue to practice.

How do you say Yes to Love? With yourself? With others?

Note: Part II of this Valentine’s Day blogpost came out at the end of February, so we can remember to keep practicing, even when the romance of Valentine’s Day, or falling in love, or a candlelight dinner is over….

NY 2015 imageI used to have a lot of trouble coming up with New Year intentions—all it ever felt like was an exhausting, never-ending to-do list, what my colleague Laura calls a “devil’s to-do list.” I’m still working out exactly how to do it each year, but it’s feeling more comfortable, more like an invitation to land in myself and envision my life.

What better time, in the middle of winter, to make space to dream about how we want our lives to be? You can read about dreaming during our winter cave-time in more depth here.

One of the things that I really love doing is taking the time to look back at the past year—I usually get together with a girlfriend sometime around the cusp of the year, but you can do this now, too. We spend time going through our journals to get an overview of the patterns, the learnings, the moods. We ask ourselves questions like: “What did I learn, integrate, accomplish? What do I want to remember? What can I celebrate and what do I still need to focus on or let go of?”

Then we look forward to the New Year, at what lies ahead and allow ourselves to dream. What is calling to us? What do we need to integrate / learn / lean into? What do we want next? After writing and allowing time for this exploration, we usually draw at least a Goddess Card and perhaps another visioning tool to allow more guidance from the unconscious to be part of the process. When we’re ready, we share what we are understanding and support each other’s paths and visions.

Sometimes we choose a word or a phrase as a North Star. Sometimes an image really captivates, and just recently I read about choosing a “beautiful question.” Steve Quatrano explains: “Questions also fire the imagination. A question is a puzzle: once it has been raised, the mind almost can’t help trying to solve or answer it. In this way, questions enable us to begin to act in the face of uncertainty; they help us to organize our thinking around what we don’t know…”

This year, I chose the Goddess Card for Coventina, who represents purification, and from my hearthstones, the word “faith.” I’m playing with my beautiful question…Its current form is: “What needs to be purified within me so that I can live in more faith?” It feels like there could be many layers in this—and it feels simple enough to answer, two other important criteria for beautiful questions…

May you find more beautiful questions than to-do lists
to light up your vision for the 2015 New Year!

And if you’d like a mentor, guide, or accountability partner, I’d be honored to walk with you in this New Year in my capacity as Holistic Health & Wellness Coach—I offer a free Discovery Session and seasonal women’s retreats.

* Coventina image from Doreen Virtue’s Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards and the heart with “faith” in it is from a set of Hearthstones.

No, I’m not talking about going all Paleo and living in a cave! :)

But I am curious: Are you are you taking time to dream this winter? The darkness and coldness offer the perfect opportunity to follow nature’s call to slow down and crawl into your cave.

There are many reasons we don’t listen to this call…

  • The fall and winter holidays tend to be so extroverted. We ignore the dark and the cold, dress up and drive around to spend time with friends.
  • We might be on a roll, living busy lives, full to the brim with work, family, social life, exercise, home chores, etc.
  • We might be extroverted people and really used to spending most of our time with others, finding our sense of self that way.
  • Or we might even be filling up our lives in order not to touch into what is below the busyness, what might arise if we went into the darkness, into the unknown.

The mama bear knows how to do this. Our ancestors knew how to do this. Indigenous cultures still know how to do this…how to live in connection with nature’s rhythms, to follow the call of winter into the cave.

Wintertime, cave-time, is a perfect time to let go of outer distractions and tune into your own inner world, to stop listening to the “shoulds,” and open yourself to the quiet, still embrace of the vast, deep, mysterious dark. This is an invitation to envision how you want your life to be. When you’re curled into yourself, listening to your self, what do you dream up?

Most of us can’t take enough hibernation time—though I sure wish I could sometimes! So, how to we make time to connect with these qualities of Winter?

  • Start a dream journal, keep it by your bed, and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. It doesn’t matter if they don’t make sense to your logical, daytime brain. Just write them down.
  • Try spending more time journalling, especially first thing in the morning.
  • Try engaging in some form of creativity in which you ask for vision and stay open to not knowing the answer, to be shown what you need in your life right now. Collage is an easy one to start with if you don’t already have a specific practice.
  • Take more breaks, rest time, or retreats in which you have unscheduled time. (See my post “Are You Listening?” for more ideas about this.)

Here’s a cave-time practice we can do anytime—try it with me now:

  • Breathe deep into your belly.
  • Feel your feet on the floor, your seat in the chair, your back resting on the chair.
  • Imagine you could breathe all the way from your belly, down your legs, through your feet, into the floor. Feel roots growing down into the earth, rooting into the earth.
  • From this rooted place, breathe into the cave of your belly. If you are a woman, imagine this cave as your womb.
  • Breathe into your cave and feel/see/imagine its cozy embrace.
  • Continuing to breathe deeply into this cave and into the earth, imagine yourself curling into yourself and crawling into this cave.
  • Imagine yourself finding a comfortable place in this cave to lie down in for a little rest.
  • And let yourself stay here for a few breaths, a few minutes, or longer. Breathe, allow yourself to be held, allow yourself to not know, to open to any visions or dreams that might be waiting here in the darkness for you to receive.
  • Close your eyes.
  • When you open your eyes, move slowly. You may want to write down any insight, intuitions, or feelings.
  • Bring this more centered presence with you as you move into the rest of your day, knowing that you can return here to meet yourself and your dreams, even just for a few breaths anytime.

If you would like to explore your own inner dreams and desires with me, please post a comment below, or consider:

Happy cave-time and winter dreaming!

Being Womanconnection, relationship, magnetizing, rest, listening, pleasure, savoring,
embodiment, earthy, leaning back in, feelings, flow, sensual, appreciating…

These words grace an index card at my desk. What do they all have in common? The expression of yin, or feminine energy. The words are written in red, orange, and pink, further inviting a luxuriating and rich experience.

When you read those words, how do they land?

Most of the time, my mind jumps in and says something like: “Sounds nice, but who has time for all of that?”

When I do take the time to take them in, I feel myself leaning back in. I feel myself landing in my female body. This body, just as she is right now. And the more I land, the more I feel these qualities…

Our masculine-oriented culture emphasizes their opposite: independence, autonomy, selling, action, speaking, working, analyzing, head-orientation, detachment, pushing forward, thinking, goal-focused, practical, competing…

When you read those words, how do they land? I feel overwhelmed and tired…

As women, we are often so immersed in the masculine culture we live in that we forget our feminine birthright, the feeling of savoring the art of living in a female bodysoul.

Read those feminine words once again. Breathe them into your body, into your heart, into your soul. Linger in them. Luxuriate in them.

When we, as women, own our feminine essence, we are more resourced. We are more who we truly are. We are more able to operate in a masculine-driven culture without losing our balance, without losing our way.

How might you invite more of your feminine essence, more of who you really are, into your life in this New Year? What baby steps could you take to inhabit your feminine bodysoul more?

If you would like support, I would be happy to accompany you:

The Pathdeep is the darkness,
with no light at all,

before and behind,
and to either side

I love this text from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh. It invites me into the truth of this season. It is dark. The darkness is deep and long, and will be at its darkest depth this weekend. The hours of darkness overwhelm those of daylight.

I was recently in Anchorage, Alaska visiting my sister’s family for Thanksgiving, and it was still dark at 9 am! We took the kids to school in the dusky darkness. By 4 pm, it was dark again. It was really dark before and behind, and to either side.

There have been times in my life where this has been true, too. Deep is the darkness, so deep that I can’t see around me, with no light at all. At such times, it’s helpful to remember that we have choices. We often fumble around trying to see in the deep dark. Instead we can practice surrendering to its depths. And we can seek the light.

Winter reminds us of the mystery of dark and light, of their entwinement, of their ultimate embrace. Each cannot exist without the other—if there were no darkness, we would have nothing to contrast it with, nothing “light.” And without the light, what would “dark” be?

So, as winter invites us into the deep darkness, can we surrender to it, allow ourselves to dive in and become familiar with its depths? What might we find in the darkness? What visions, dreams, gifts, might be there for us to uncover, for us to release into?

Winter Solstice and the other wintertime holidays mark the beginning of the return of the light, at the cusp of winter. Winter Solstice falls on Sunday, December 21st at 5:03 pm CT this year. As we surrender to the darkness of wintertime, we also, paradoxically, are reminded of the light, which will grow ever so slowly from this day until Summer Solstice.

deep is the darkness, with no light at all,
before and behind, and to either side

If you’d like a hand to hold as you walk along your path, I’d love to offer you a free Discovery Session to find out how my Women’s Holistic Health & Wellness Coaching might support you.

If you’d like to practice surrendering to and gleaning the gifts of the dark, consider joining me on January 31st for The Way of the Happy Woman®: Winter Yoga, Meditation & Life Balance Mini-Retreat. 

And to create some light in the darkness, you might want to join our next Sacred Chant Choir series, starting January 14th.

This winter, how will you enter consciously into the darkness?
How can you surrender to winter’s depth,
and at the same time allow the ever-returning light within
to slowly and faithfully guide you along your way?

Are You Listening?

Kuan Yin and Spring SnowThere’s so much to listen to here in this Western culture we live in—news, talk shows, music, weather, random TV shows and movies, our family, our bosses, our inner critics…The list can be endless and overwhelming.

What if you could decide what to listen to?
What if you really took time to tune into that?
Whose voice(s) would you choose
to listen to?

Wintertime invites us into deeper listening.

Deeper listening…deeper than what? Deeper than the outer sounds, deeper than the “shoulds” inside your head…Listening deep inside yourself, where there is quiet and stillness and wisdom. A wellspring to draw upon, if we turn in to it.

Especially in the colder climates, winter really does invite us to go inside—into our actual houses where it is warm, less in contact with our neighbors and friends. We are drawn to cozy up to the woodstove or sink into a warm bath, to light candles and sip warm drinks, to read books and journal, to reflect on our lives.

This deeper listening can be an invitation to surrender to nature’s call, to hunker down and in, out of the cold. In following winter’s lead, we also follow the rhythm of our souls. Our souls need to rest, to go within, to connect with the deeper wellsprings that nourish us. And from this place, we come back to the world more refreshed, more able to respond, more able to live authentically in the world.

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you,
the better you will hear what is sounding outside.
~ Dag Hammarskjold

Of course, we can do this anytime, even in the midst of the holiday chaos, but it’s a lot easier when we can actually set aside undisturbed retreat time to really listen. Here are a few suggestions for how to create mini-retreat times for yourself any day:

  • Carve out silent journaling time.
  • Add in slow yoga or other mindful movement.
  • Sit in meditation, contemplation, or prayer.
  • Settle in with a cup of tea and look out the window, at the fire, sipping slowly.
  • Take a Do-Nothing Break.

Whatever you do, see if you can drop below the to-do lists, the “shoulds,” the noisy voices of our culture, and listen for the voice of your soul—S/He may speak in words, in intuitive hits, in physical sensations, in feelings, in images or symbols…Listen for your own deeper knowing and wisdom and heed it.

If you need more support, consider checking out my Women’s Holistic Health & Wellness Coaching.

And if you want to schedule some time for a retreat to go deeper into listening to your soul, consider signing up for my Way of the Happy Woman®: Winter Yoga, Meditation & Life Balance Mini-Retreat.

How do you make time to listen within? I’d love to share ideas about this essential part of our self-care and wholeness.

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