Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Tonight I heard an inspiring story. A woman I know was being harassed by a colleague at work. The colleague was being verbally abusive. She would go off on her and yell and curse and be mean and critical. The woman who was being targeted and bullied spoke to her boss many times and repeatedly expressed concern about her colleague's inappropriate behavior. Nothing was done. Other members of the team experienced this colleague's inappropriate behavior yet none to the extent of the woman I am writing about. She began to fear for her safety, as did other members of the team. This is a woman who is used to taking control of a situation and forging ahead doing what needs to be done. Instead she stepped back and allowed herself the support of her team. Together they went to the teachers' union and their feelings that their safety was being compromised were validated. The union people agreed to set up a meeting with the school administration. The next day the colleague kicked in this woman's file cabinet and damaged another person's file cabinet, too. Now there was concrete evidence of the lack of safety in the workplace. That was Thursday. That night they got together and stayed late after work to write a letter stating they wouldn't be coming to work the next day. Nor would they return until their safety could be protected. They sent the e-mail to their boss, the HR people, the union, and the superintendent of the school district. The six women then asked for a meeting to be held the following Monday which included themselves and all of the people who received the letter.
It took great courage to risk their jobs to stand behind their truth. As a community they empowered themselves to ask for what they wanted and to impose natural consequences if their safety wasn't protected. The meeting was called. The women were clear and direct about what they wanted and needed. The bullying colleague was asked to leave her job and not return. They were taken seriously and security measures were taken to ensure safety. The six women returned to work more connected to each other than ever before. They knew they had created change in a system traditionally very resistant to change. They had done it by pulling together and supporting each other with what they knew was needed to take care of themselves. The woman I know inspired all the others by the way she handled herself in this very challenging situation. She felt in touch with her capabilites in a way that was very healing for her. It is easy for women and people in general to sacrifice ourselves. It is easier to pretend that things are OK than to stand up and confront things that are not OK. These women went up against a system and created safety for themselves and for the children they work with. It was a great service. In a society where women are encouraged to sacrifice their own needs to take care of others needs, these women learned that taking care of their own needs takes care of others' needs.
I have a notepad from the organization Women for Women, a group that gives small loans to women in developing countries to start their own small businesses. "One woman can change anything. Many women can change everything." These heroines proved that to be true. I believe this is true of people in community. When we band together to support each other we have the ability to change both ourselves and the world. What is important to you that you want to stand up for? How could you get support for this?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Yesterday was my 60th birthday. I was born in 1950 and I remember growing up thinking that at the turn of the century I would be fifty. As a kid, that seemed like light years away and and older than I could even fathom. When I was 15 and my father celebrated his fortieth birthday, there was a big sign in front of our house that said "Stan is over the hill." It sure seemed so to me. At that time forty seemed officially irrevocably old. When I turned thirty five and was pregnant with my daughter I felt like I was no longer a young person with all of my options open. My footloose and fancy free days were over before I ever paid attention to really enjoying them. I was worried by the time I emerged from my active parenting years, I would be too old to frolic and enjoy my freedom again. Raising my daughter was a very satisfying, stimulating and challenging time in my life. Being Monnya's Mom has always been a heart-opening and mind-opening experience that stretches my limits beyond who I think myself to be. Parenting Monnya and being loved so deeply brought up everything that wasn't love in me to be burned away. I began in earnest to work with my ego because I had to to show up as the kind of Mom I wanted to be. Suddenly I was fifty and Monnya was fifteen. I wonder if she saw things like I did at fifteen and to her fifty seemed ancient? Fifty was a powerful birthday. I finally was really releasing caring about what other people thought of me and daring to be myself. Even if I still wondered whether I was too much for most people I had found a supportive group of friends who accepted me as I was. I still longed for the partner of my dreams and thought myself incomplete without him.
This decade has been about becoming the person I wanted for a partner and letting myself be the partner of my dreams. Letting go of finding the partner of my dreams has allowed me to open to finding a flawed, wondrous, human being who loves and accepts me as a flawed wondrous human being. I am grateful.
Throughout my fifties, sixty felt old to me. I dreaded turning sixty because in my mind it meant old old old. It meant one foot in a rest home and a decaying body. Many of my friends are already in their sixties. They don't seem decrepid. Yet health issues and slowed down energy seem to be a part of what they've come to terms with. Today I paid someone to shovel my sidewalk and driveway. The snow was heavy and I knew I wasn't up for it. However, I did that so I could get my car out to go teach yoga. Maybe being sixty isn't about being old it is about being more discerning of my limitations so I can have the energy to do what I want to do. Monnya says that sixty is the new forty. She has always been my best cheerleader. I rather think that sixty will be what I make it to be. I am willing to let go of my pictures of what I though sixty would be and embrace what is. Maybe that will be one of the bennies of my sixties. I finally see that holding on to my pictures of what I thought anything would be takes way more energy than I have. It is easier to get curious about how things are and embrace that. What is a picture that you are ready to let go of? How about putting it in your dead picture book? If you did what would that leave you space to open to?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I am starting to really get it that when I feel anxious it is me asking for my own attention. If I had a small child and she told me she was afraid, I would hold her and validate her feelings and comfort her as best I could. I wouldn't even imagine telling that small child that there is no reason to be afraid and to get busy doing what needed to be done.
Last week when I was really anxious I finally decided to use my anxiety as a message to comfort myself. I sat down to meditate and to be with the anxiety. What I noticed was my breathing was shallow and quick and my heart was beating faster than usual. My mind was racing. As I breathed into what I was experiencing I noticed my thoughts began to slow down.I stopped trying to figure out why I was anxious and told myself I must have a good reason or I wouldn't be anxious. After about two minutes I noticed my breathing was deeper and slower and my heart rate more regular.Nothing had changed in my outside circumstances, yet I felt a bit more peaceful.
When we are triggered emotionally the amygula at the base of the brain takes over and we react in survival mode. That means our choices are fight, flight or freeze. That brain rut causes us to make choices that are less than skillful in situations where reasoning would be more helpful. Let's say someone I know tells me they have something they want to talk to me about. We don't get to connect for a while and in the meantime I conjure up a story that I must have done something wrong and the person is pissed at me. I begin to pull my energy back and withdraw in response to my story. There are three basic styles of defense: withdrawal, aggression and compliance. I could also respond to my story by getting angry and wanting to fight back if my strategy was aggression, or feel paralyzed and begin to think of ways to placate the person if my defensive strategy was compliance. So when the amygdula signals fight, flight or freeze we either fight, withdraw or attempt to comply.
According to brain research it takes between ninety seconds and two minutes for the amygdula to release and to switch the neural pathways to access the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain. The pre-frontal cortex is the reasoning brain. So, when I am anxious if I can sit and breathe mindfully for ninety seconds to two minutes I can access my reasoning mind. From there I can chose outside of automatic pilot. I can comfort myself and tell myself that it's OK for me to be afraid. I can develop some perspective and know that whatever it is the person wants to talk to me about, I will be OK. With my reasoning brain engaged I can access the witness who watches me be anxious and accepts me as I am. The ego's judgement can be used as a way to access the witness when I remember to breathe into the judgement.
Sometimes just sitting with the acceptance of the judgement allows me to access the witness that knows that it is all OK. In fact, everything is OK.
I sat in meditation and asked my anxiety what its message was. It was relieved that I was finally able to get it that it had a message for me. It had been screaming at me all week trying to get my attention. What I heard was:
Slow down
Be still
Love Yourself
How cool is that? Since then when I notice I am anxious I slow down, be still and love myself, anxiety and all. I'm not claiming to do this perfectly nor all the time. Because it is my intention to use my anxiety to comfort myself I notice I am less afraid of my fear and more willing to be afraid. Fearlessness is the willingness to be afraid. Thank you anxiety for being a vehicle for me to get closer to myself even when I need to be incredibly uncomfortable and filled with resistance first. I am grateful.
Would you be willing to sit with yourself and be with your anxiety. Breathe for a few minutes and ask for a message. I'd be curious to know what you experience. Feel free to e-mail me and let me know.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


When I first met her she was a waitress. Although she enjoyed serving her customers and getting to know them , she wanted an increased sense of satisfaction in her work. She decided to train to become a mortgage broker by working her way up in the company. She enjoyed helping people secure mortgages for their homes and the resources being very successful afforded her. By that time she had a home she loved and she decided to become a real estate agent to more directly help other people find a house they loved that felt like home.
After many years in the real estate business she was disillusioned and wanted work where she felt like she could make more of a direct contribution to helping the people she most wanted to help, women, children and seniors. She courageously quit her job, and began to live on her savings and volunteer. She began to participate in many different projects, helping the people she most wanted to help. She was afraid that her money would run out. She kept giving of her time anyway, meeting lots of people and doing what she loved. Because of her background in the food industry and her love of cooking she began to gather food and cook it and distribute it to people in need. She became a volunteer fund raising event coordinator for organizations who supported women, children and seniors. Her dream was to find a job as the head of an organization who helped the people she most wanted to help. She wanted to be able to support herself doing what she loved to do. She also learned to practice Psych-K and began to work through all of the unconscious negative beliefs she had in the way of deserving to have what she wanted. She learned to give of herself and to take care of herself at the same time.
Today I received a letter from her. She wrote to say she has just been awarded her dream job.
She is now the executive director of an organization that makes a huge contribution to helping needy seniors in Denver. They are so lucky to have her. She is such an inspiration to me about doing what it takes to make things happen, both internally and in the outside world. I am glad to know her and to be able to share her story with you.
Do you have a dream that her story can inspire you with? What would it take to challenge your beliefs that it could never happen? Who could you talk to about it to get support?
I read a quote the other day that said, "Goals are dreams with a deadline." What would your first small step be in realizing your dream? When might you begin?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I feel agitated. It is challenging to write this blog when I feel so anxious. I have the idea that I'm supposed to have my shit be more together in order to write this. Let's see what happens.
I am going to trust that if it is true what my intuition says that writing this blog from this place will be helpful to you and to me, you will be receiving it tonight. If not I will delete it and write tomorrow. This is the beauty of modern technology. Somehow I have the idea that I should have a certain level of equinimity to be able to have anything to offer to others.
My peace quote today from was by Georgia O'Keefe. She said:
"I was completely terrified every day of my life and it never stopped me from doing what I want to do." Inspiring words.
Yesterday I led Sacred Circle my women's spiritual support group in the midst of this fear. No one ran out of the room screaming. There is something powerful about being with what is no matter what it is.
Gary and I did a Sensory Awareness and Vippassana workshop this weekend. If I had known what I was getting into I would have probably not done it. I thought the weekend would be mostly sitting meditation, which is familiar to me. I imagined the sensory awareness exercises designed to slow us down and focus inwardly on our sensations
would be done for a short amount of time between meditations. Instead it was six hours of sensory awareness exercises with two short meditations. It is extremely challenging for me to move slowly and focus on my body sensations. For instance we played with small sandbags and moved them between our hands and let them rest on various parts of our bodies. The idea was to allow ourselves to move from our inner being rather than directing the movement. I am very invested in being in control and it took a lot of the weekend for me to let go enough to even understand the idea of following movement rather than directing it.
I have learned to pretend that am laid back and holy when I am really up-tight. When it was just me and me with noone to impress with my niceness a great deal of anxiety, that I have been hiding under being in control, began to surface. Doing a movement practice at a snail's pace, which is how I judge my own slowed down pace, allowed a lifetime of stuffed down fear, to begin to arise. When I am not running the show everything underneath the illusion that I am running the show surfaces.
I could feel myself focusing on my fear that I was doing it wrong. I can distract myself so skillfully from being present that way. I could feel the energy of that pattern coursing through my body, like an old shoe that I bought two sizes too small and have been walking around in my whole life. The exercises were about being with the energy of gravity, breath and life force, not about doing anything in a certain way. When I couldn't focus on what I should be doing because there was no should, something inside me went nuts. Several times I wanted to run out of the room and keep running until I dropped. I don't run anymore and the idea of moving my body fast and pumping the anxiety out seemed so much more appealing than being with my fear. I came out of the weekend knowing I could be present with myself with whatever was going on. That was a huge teaching for me.
Today I was putting air in my tires and couldn't get the tire gauge to work. My three minutes of paid air evaporated before I even addressed the first tire. I left and came home to eat carbs and wallow in my lack of mastery of the material plane. Then I breathed and realized I could be with my anxiety and my judgements about being the only person on the planet who was too incompetent to know how to put air in tires. I went back to the station and tried again, even though I was anxious and impatient with myself and terrified I would end up with four flat tires. I was able to persist because I was willing to persist even in the face of my anxiety and judgements. I am learning that that is what is required. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Be with what is and let the doing follow. Sensory awareness means being aware in the world in a way that is more tuned in to what is going on in my body. Sensory awareness means using my senses to meet the world from a stiller place with a slower pace. Sensory awareness means opening my senses to fear and releasing the effort of holding it down so I can look like my pictures of who I am supposed to be. I know alot about who I think I should be. I have huge curiousity about who I really am. What are some of your shoulds? How do they hold you back from the aliveness quietly waiting underneath them. I am noticing that the more I allow my fear to be here, since it is, the more space there is for joy. What do you notice?