A Time of Healing

Healing is:

An itchy scab. Weeks in a cast while our bones mend and fuse. Discomfort. Often invisible to others. Painful, solitary. Complex and layered. Healing is patience. Surrender. Allowing. Hope and trust that we will be made whole again. Healing is frustrating while our psyche drums a mantra, "when, when, when?" When can this be over? When can I resume my life, my patterns, my routine?

Healing can look like dishes left in the sink for too long. Getting through, or just getting by. Falling apart before gathering. And then maybe falling apart again. Things get messy as they heal - and often not in socially acceptable ways. It's ok, and more than that, it's important to let it fall apart.

Healing is potent and full of quiet magic.

This is what I'm learning about healing after almost a year and a half into a powerful and difficult chapter of healing in my life. Everything I knew and held dear: the dynamics, labels and identities which kept me safe, secure and sturdy, were stretched and forced to break. And then, those same components of me had to try and come back together again in a new way. I have shed seemingly endless layers of myself. There were moments when everything was too tender and raw. And then as I got up off the floor, moments where everything was far too delicate and fragile.

We know so little about these human homes we rent. Rumi's poem, The Guest House depicts our emotions as all equally important visitors, shaping us for our journeys:

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

My own emotional visitors tend to come in seasons: weeks of beauty, sychronicities, intuitive downloads, joy. Lucid dreams, fluid and freeing sensations in my body, and feelings of gratitude, expansion, trust and growth. These weeks of understanding, awareness, and powerful consciousness can be followed by a season of shedding, when I'm poised for more work and deeper growth. That shedding can look like deep fatigue, nightmares, tears, limited capacity to be in social situations, and grief. It's usually a time of purging what is no longer serving me - of release. It's hard work, and during the shedding and the healing, I commit to serious self-care (like extra sleep, gratitude meditations, more hours alone, and only extraordinarily supportive friends around me.)

Healing always leaves me confused, rattled, resistant, and then finally grateful and committing to allow all that is arising. I'm learning that staying in it - all of it - provides a form of deep soul relief on the other side and gets me closer to my authentic self than I was before.

I'm surrendering and allowing all that wants to be seen from within: a crowd of sorrows, shame, and empty quiet when my intuition wanes. Hoping and trusting that I am being cleared out for some new delight.

Intuitive Parenting

Surrendering to motherhood has been a major challenge for me. Parenting is one of the few arenas where my Type-A, perfectionist tendencies don't equate with success. It's mostly the opposite; I've found "success" with my family (or some semblance of it) comes from an unfolding of things in their own way and time. Less pushing, and more accepting that children, and their development, have their own seasons and cadence which don't adhere to my timeline. More shrugging of the shoulders, and fewer hard and fast rules for us all to live by. 

Before both my children were born, I fretted over the type of pacifier I should buy. Which one helped avoid buck teeth, or was dentist-approved? What if they sucked their thumb instead? How would we quit either?! Both kids surprised me by refusing pacifiers (and their thumbs) all together.

Then there was the foray into ballet. We asked my daughter if she wanted to attend dance class, and she replied with an adamant, 'yes!' We outfitted her in an adorable pink tutu, matching tights and ballet slippers. She was my three-year old dream come true. Every Saturday morning for 6 weeks, our family traipsed to the dance center where we watched my daughter sit on the floor, and refuse to move. The other little girls twirled, skipped and hopped in all their pre-school glory. My girl remained firm in her resolve, unwilling to budget despite the threats, negotiations and bribes we put forth. We'd return home defeated, where my daughter would promptly ask us to play music, and dance her heart out delightedly.   

A few years ago, I quit trying to parent from books. I found so much conflicting information on child behavior, development and parenting styles shouting from magazines and parenting manuals, and it was all dictating how I should be raising my children. Coupled with all that noise, my husband refused to read the material. Managing him around the process of ingesting reams of information was another task I wanted to be freed from. Leaving this noise behind, in this particular season of my life, felt better than forcing it to work out. I let it go, and it was liberating.  

I'm learning that children dictate who they are, despite who you expect them to be. I’m also learning that getting quiet (both within, and without) can help with letting go, and that there continues to be so many chances for me to flex the muscle of surrender during parenthood. Increasing opportunities for listening and observing, and decreasing the time I'm spending talking and directing my kids, often leads me down the path of least resistance. This letting go, isn't the same thing as giving in (and if I'm being honest, giving up can also be a part of my parenting.) 

Additional ease can exist (and prevail) in our lives, if we release what we grasp so tightly, namely expectations. We can also give ourselves permission to change verbs: to live (according to a flow) versus adhering (to scripts we feel pressured to live by.) The obligations we place on ourselves and our families, can elevate the pressure cooker to uncomfortable levels. For the most part, our children are over scheduled, and we are increasingly anxious because of it. It may seem obvious, but limiting activities and classes, reducing structured play (and playdates), and extending downtime can all help get us to greater happiness, if we are feeling overwhelmed on our journey as parents.

As you venture into quieter times with your children, expect some resistance, from within, and from others. After all, reigning in the noise around how we should parent, can seem counterculture. Marketing is based off the premise that we are simply not enough. Marketing to parents is this same message, amplified. Walk into any baby box store, and the products scream at our inadequacies. And where marketing diminishes, peer pressure kicks in.

And yet, if we dim the noise, and make space for what may arise in the void, we may find that parenting intuitively has its own, delicate melody. It's as soft as a prayer, and barely audible but it can grow if you give yourself over to it. While you may be tempted to conduct as the orchestra plays, flowing intuitively through parenthood, is less about you leading the music, and more of you listening to the orchestra unfold a lullaby that you've never heard, and never expected.




On Yin

Our holiday season is wrought with hard, masculine energy: we race through goals, eager to be productive, and to meet personal and professional deadlines before the end of the year. We wake on January 1st, and can see the continuation of this energetic programming. Fitness centers are full, and everyone begins declaring what they plan to achieve. If we maintain this pace, we can strive and drive our way through the entire winter. 

And yet, if allow ourselves space from this cultural script, we may notice that there is resistance in our bodies and spirits to this concept of hard work through the cold months. If we look around, we'll see that winter itself does not mirror this yang energy. Rather, the energy of winter is yin: slowness, darkness, heaviness, and rest. This season is a time for us to reconnect with our bodies, minds, and spirits. Nature hibernates to regain strength, regrouping before a burgeoning and productive spring; we would benefit from doing the same. 

How can yin energy be nourished and restored? By taking time to surrender to this slow, and restful season: long nightly sleeps, and naps when you are able. Making warm and slow-cooked foods, and then spending time in quiet presence with your family. Sacred rituals are also wonderful for yin: lighting incense, meditating, journaling, and prayer all harness in this feminine energy. Quiet walks and contemplation in nature (when the weather allows), and less television. Yin provides us all with a beautiful gift: a time to restore the peace within ourselves, so that we can maintain our strength and reserves until the light returns.  



Ushering in the Quiet

We are saturated in noise. Incessant messaging competes for our attention, and our culture seeks opportunities to fill the quiet. The last time I walked through the mall, each store pumped out an anthem, while elevator music blared overhead. A recent visit to the airport terminal included dueling news stations at every gate, pounding machinery, overhead announcements, and conversations at a dull roar, as people struggled to speak, and to be heard. I’ve taken to wearing earplugs when I travel, just to survive being an introvert in a very loud world.

Our brains are processing a vast amount of information and auditory input; it feels so strange to turn it off. The quiet can seem unnatural, and even painful. It helps explains this study done by the University of Virginia. When people were left alone with their own thoughts for 6-15 minutes, and instead had the option of distracting themselves with an electric shock,  67% of men and 25% of women chose to inflict the shock on themselves.  

And yet, when we are ready to become still, to usher in the quiet, sitting alone lets our biggest gifts surface, or can help us uncover our biggest wounds . Left alone with our silence, our wise inner voice can finally find a way out from behind the wall of resistance and speak its deepest yearnings. Long hidden rage may begin to bubble to the surface, or hot tears out of nowhere might threaten to spill out from our eyes. A giggle, or a release, sometimes laughter, sometimes pain. All of it ready to be owned, witnessed, held, then let go. And underneath, an abiding calm that resets our nervous system and refreshes our spirit.

Accepting and being willing to sit in my own meditation practice took almost 20 years. I remember the firm resistance I felt at the thought of being still. My anxious mind was far more interested in crossing items off a list. It was only after getting my heart broken wide open, that I was able to stop the whirling dervish of my spinning to see how beautiful and welcoming this silence can be. 

Meditation can be a gift we give ourselves every day; it's such sweet medicine. This work of being still is indeed work. It's the continuous flexing of a muscle we are rarely taught to use as children. And yet, if we continue to practice, this quiet, subtle wisdom becomes a powerful tool and resource we can call upon in times of need. Meditation allows our weary spirit a safe and welcoming place to arrive as we are, without judgment, without a need to change. We just show up to sit with the beauty of our own authenticity, in all of its glory, divinity, light and shadow.