Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Emotional vulnerability

It seems to me that emotional vulnerability creates closeness. When I am feeling distant from Gary and he tells me what he is feeling, something inside me melts. It is probably the armoring around my heart. He doesn't have to tell me what he is feeling about me or our relationship. It can be sharing his feelings in an authentic way about almost anything. He says,"I am scared about getting my teeth worked on in Costa Rica." That gets my attention and it is as if a little tunnel of connection has been created between his heart and mine. I am interested and want to know more. If he says," the weather in Costa Rica will be 70 degrees. " I take it in and nod as it passes over my attention. It would probably behoove me to listen more whole-earedly to information such as this because then I would know what the weather in Costa Rica is like and I wouldn't have had to e-mail Gary about it just now.
When I work with couples I invite them to look at sharing their feelings in a vulnerable way as an opportunity to get closer. It's hard to believe that sharing" I am feeling flat and protected."
would draw two people together. Feeling flat and protected and acting on the feeling by withdrawing and not communicating forfeits the opportunity to feel accepted for a feeling we might not be proud of. Sharing those shadow feelings which we think noone in their right mind would want to stick around with and having our partner stick around is so nourishing. Most of us were loved conditionally by our parents and learned to love ourselves conditionally also. When we share a feeling that we ourselves find unacceptable and are accepted by our partners it can heal multiple layers of the pain body. It can trigger deep grief as we experience and release all the times we were shamed for being who were really were in the past. When I shared with Gary my feelings of aversion about fat and how scared I am about being fat again he heard me. It was very different from when I told him I needed him to lose twenty pounds for me to be in relationship with him. Luckily, we both have become more skillful about taking responsibility for our own feelings and sharing them by owning them. In the height of emotion it is such a challenge to be emotionally vulnerable. When Gary wants to have sex way more than I do instead of blaming him and telling him he's like a hungry, panting dog, I take a deep breath and share that I feel inadequte and scared that there is something wrong with me. Even if I share that the whole sexual issue makes me want to run out the door in frustration, it is way more connecting than literally running out the door or figuratively leaving by dissociating or pretending to be asleep. If I share honestly about how I am feeling about having sex even if it isn't positive, I tend to feel more open hearted. Then if Gary shares how he is feeling with me, I might be much more open to being physically intimate. Emotional vulnerability can be foreplay.
When I feel safe to share my feelings it is easier to be vulnerable and that vulnerability creates emotional intimacy. Often there is a crossroads in a relationship where there is a choice about moving toward creating more safety and therefore being more vulnerable which creates more closeness, or moving away from each other because of feelings of lack of safety. Maybe sharing how unsafe it feels to be vulnerable would even be a vehicle for connection. It is vital to give each other the experience of being heard and validated. It can be so hurtful to have our vulnerability ignored or judged or met with defensiveness. It seems like sharing what each of us needs to feel safe being vulnerable and deeply listening to each other would be a good springboard. I notice when another person shares authentically from the heart and I deeply listen the energy of our connectedness comes more into my awareness. I can feel that transpersonal field that we are all a part of that joins us together as one. Sometimes that is called compassion. It seems to me that having the courage to be emotionallly vulnerable expands our ability to experience oneness. What do you think?
I will be writing again the week of December 20th when I return from my trip. Love to all of you, Andrea

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Courage: raw and ripe

I just finished an article by Sally Klempton about courage. It was called Brave Heart. She writes the wisdom column for yoga journal and I eagerly await learning from her wisdom every month. She talked about the difference between raw courage and ripe courage. Raw courage comes from desire and zeal. It is an emotional act often involving danger that can be thought out or impulsive. Ripe courage, on the other hand, is a risk to trust in something greater than ourselves. It is a conscious act of surrender to what our inner intuition tells us is the right thing to do. Sally speaks about how courage is different for different people. To me most acts of courage are both raw and ripe. They take a leap of faith and a willingness to act in the face of fear. All acts of courage involve a risk. It might be a physical or emotional risk of doing something we wonder if we can do, pushing past our fears and doing it anyway. I sang a gospel song with all the people at my friends' Janet and Miguel's wedding. It was Love is the Healing Power. I taught it to the group and then we sang it in the honor of Janet and Miguel's love. I was scared and pushed through my fear and did it anyway. I had an intuition that it would bring the diverse group together. I shortened the length of the song because the leader of the ceremony was worried that there wouldn't be time for everyone who wanted to share. I pushed past my pattern of shrinking when I feel criticized or rushed and finished the shortened version. It felt like a worthy contribution and was heart-felt and fun. That took courage mostly raw with a little ripe.
My biggest act of courage of late is to push past my long term fear of commitment and buy a house with Gary. When bouts of terror come up I sit with them and allow myself to feel my fear. That makes space for the excitement I feel about my beautiful home in Boulder. My ego has alot to say about how I am doing it wrong. Maybe part of courage is to risk the ego's wrath in doing things that upset our own status quo. My inner guide is smiling and pleased. I am trusting in the divine energy that brought us together and surrendering to that inner knowing.
Gary and I got engaged on Saturday. We also got engaged two years ago. I lasted five days and was so filled with terror I asked to be unengaged. Luckily Gary is a very patient man who courageously trusted that our relationship was right through all of my fears and doubts. This time I am much more relaxed. I have better tools to deal with my fear. I know that a certain intense level of anxiety about my relationship with the man I love is my ego's chief distraction from my being present. I am on to the judgements that kept me suffering in ambivalence for five years. I am ready to face my fears and embrace my fiance. I really like the sound of the word fiance- it's thrilling to me. This has been a long challenging journey through my fears. This is the first time in my life when I actually have both feet in a relationship, not one out the door. Loving Gary as a fallible wonderful human being for all of who he is doesn't mean I always have to like him. I know the capacity to love and accept him as he is comes from my growing sense of self-love and self-acceptance. I have the capacity to accept a partner now. Waves of love wash over me at unexpected moments and I am bathed in gratefulness to share this level of love with another human being. It is a miracle to me, given my difficult relationship history,to be given the chance to trust in a man and to love wholeheartedly at the age of sixty. I have always wanted a spiritual partner, even before I even had the concept of using a relationship to heal the pain body by triggering it and using the healing process to get closer to God. It takes a brave heart to open up to receiving what I have always wanted. Woo Hoo! How about you?
How is your heart brave? What can you recognize in yourself about courage raw and ripe?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Woo Hoo

I have been thinking this week about the bar. Not the one you go to drink in but the one I set and expect myself to live up to but don't ever measure up to. This bar is set just a little higher than I can be or do. The bar is set so feeling satisfied is always just a little out of my reach. I made up the idea of this bar that I use to prove to myself that I am doing it wrong and am never quite good enough. This bar that tells me that I can't relax and enjoy my life. I have to try harder do more and be better. My conditioning helps support this bar. My parents focused on what I didn't yet accomplish or what I could-a should-a would-a done better rather than acknowledging who I was and what I had done. They didn't do it out of meanness. They didn't want me to be conceited or to have a swelled head. They wanted to prepare me for their world. They wanted to teach me to always set my bar just a little higher than I could achieve. Otherwise, I think they were afraid I would sit around and eat bonbons and expect the world to give me what I wanted. I tried to make them happy and set my bar out of my reach. I learned to look outside myself to measure my own worth and never quite measure up. I learned well. The skill-set of not quite enoughness has been finely honed over years of practice. I have learned to parent myself in the way I was parented.
However, somehow I knew there was another way. When it came to parenting my daughter Monnya I used praise and encouragement to support her in motivating herself. She has high expectations of herself and works hard to do what she wants to do and she can give herself credit for a job well-enough done.
Now it is my turn to parent myself in the way I parented and let go of how I was parented myself. I want to be a Mom to myself like I am to Monnya. Andie, my little girl inside deserves the same praise and encouragement.
I started with the thought, "What would I say to Monnya if I wanted to celebrate her? I would say "Woo-hoo!" just like she does. So my new project is to remember to say, Woo hoo to myself and acknowlwdge myself for what I feel good enough about. For instance, I allowed myself not to exersize aerobically when we were moving. I didn't die. Woo hoo! I volunteered to do a demo session and make myself vulnerable at a workshop. Woo hoo. I relaxed and made love with Gary even though I thought I didn't have time and enjoyed myself. Woo hoo! I say courageously vulnerable things on this blog. Woo hoo. When my bar reappears in its old form I can say woo hoo to myself for noticing how it feels in my body to bludgeon myself with that bar. I can decorate it with flowers and swing from it. I can take my hand over my head and imagine setting my judgements off to the side and say woo hoo to myself for doing that. I can say woo hoo for allowing myself to feel the relief in my body as my stomach relaxes. I can say woo hoo to myself for remembering to say woo hoo. What would you say to yourself to celebrate yourself? Would you be willing to start using that phrase to acknowledge yourself for who you are and what you do? Woo hoo! Woo hoo to you just for being you. Thank you for reading my blog.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


When I teach yoga I always begin my class with saying, Welcome my name is still Andrea." One of my students said I should change my name to Andrea Still.
It made me laugh because being still is often so challenging for me. It has been helpful since then to remember Andrea Still when I am moving really fast and have jumped out of my circle. Now is one of those times. I have been home nursing cold symptoms and not going out very much. It is a blessing to work at home always and especially when I am low energy and need to rest.
I did go teach yoga yesterday and was concerned about whether I would
have the energy. Fifteen people showed up and at the end it was as if I had inhaled a divine energy elixer. Chanting om with 16 mixed voices filling the room is enough to lift any spirit. I think we should rent ourselves out as a remedy for seasonal affective disorder. Today I stayed home all day and all evening and cancelled everything that wasn't happening here. It was delicious to have time to do whatever I wanted in the space left open from three cancelled plans.
I do too much and am often running from activity to activity. They are often growful and sometimes fun activities. This week has given me a chance to recommitt to slowing down before I have to get sick to do it.
One of the things I have been doing with my time is looking at engagement rings on e-bay. I think I may have a shopping addiction. When I did a search for antique white gold rings and 346 came up I blithely sailed through them all. I couldn't sleep and came down to check out some more at 5:00. The great thing, and the problem with e-bay is that they are open anytime. Gary and I are buying a house in Boulder together and we are closing on Monday. I am keeping my house as an office and will be down here to work three days a week. We are talking about getting engaged. I am so grateful to the fire for burning up all of my fears and doubts. Although I am deeply sad for Gary about his losses for me the fire was such a blessing. Now we are going into the fire of a new life together.
Am I scared? Terrified would be a better word. I have lived alone for twenty years. My daughter Monnya is the only person I have successfully lived with.
If there is a continuum that runs from terror to excitement I doing continuum dancing. I love the new house. Gary and I have looked at many many houses. He probably looked at over a hundred. Although I knew that our house, the one we both loved, had to be out there somewhere, it was hard to hold the faith sometimes. I can see now that none of the others felt right because they weren't right. And I was so scared to be in a committed relationship I was blinded by panic whenever moving in together seemed imminent. So the fire happened and I got clear that life is short and it was time to take my one foot which had been out the door and firmly plant it in the middle of my relationship with my kind, deep, annoying partner, Gary. Then the house which had been hiding its face since the evacuation from the fire stopped its showings, came to Gary's attention. I am daunted and excited about living in the foothills outside of Boulder. I used to think I was a mountain woman, but lately I have had serious doubts.
I always said I could live anywhere as long as I had one close woman friend, and a nearby health food grocery store and a yoga studio. I have all of those things and a three day a week access to my current lovely life. This transitional way of moving makes it feel doable and a safe risk. Please think of me and send me the energy of courage and honesty. I will need both. Is there a leap of faith that you have been wanting to make? What would it be like to imagine yourself leaping? What would it be like to take the first small step into the leap?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Looking for love

I have returned from visiting my Mom and my sister in New Mexico. It was a very challenging and growthful trip. My mother didn't recognize me. I knew the day would come. I was prepared for it in my mind. The last time I was there it took several hours for her to recognize me. The first day I was waiting for her to remember who I was. She never did. I was very sad that first evening. I had a good cry in my car driving back to my sister's home. I called Gary for support and he listened and validated my feelings of grief. I am blessed to have a partner who can be with my pain and not try to fix me.
The second day I began to accept that my mother didn't know who I was. I would say to her, " Do you know who I am?" She would say she didn't. Then I'd say, "I am your daughter." She'd say "Really?" As I relaxed into being with her as she is, it became easier to just enjoy her company. I took her to the library and read kids books to her and to Good Will to try on clothes. My mother rarely gets to leave the place she lives in so it was fun to take her on outings. By the second day I was feeling tenderness and love for her as she is. I gave her several deeksha blessings. The third day after our outings we took a nap together which was so sweet.
I realized I have spent my whole life trying to feel loved by her in the way I want to be loved.
In the process of letting go of that happening I have had to learn to love myself from the inside. Her lack of recognition was one more layer of my letting go process. Now she couldn't even give me recognition and it was no more personal than when she couldn't accept me as I am. Her lack of acceptance wasn't because she didn't want to accept me but rather that she didn't have the skillset to open to two different truths at the same time. My solution was to accept her as she was as best I could and not to be emotionally vulnerable with her. I have learned to find other people who I feel safe to share my feelings with who love and support me as I am. With my friends I have learned how to use conflict to get closer together. When we have two different truths we can use accepting that both are true to create deeper intimacy.
I am grateful to my mom for teaching me the importance of caring about people. I was brought up to help others with time and money. It feels good to do service. She taught me that from an early age.
Earned secure attachment is accepting that the external validation we craved as children about being lovable as we are will never come from our parents. It is learning to soothe ourselves and grieve the loss. That creates space to open to loving ourselves as we are by accepting each issue we find unacceptable little by little and celebrating along the way. Developing internal validation means learning to know what our own truth is about what feels right to us and basing our actions on that truth. Accepting our mistakes and forgiving ourselves for them is also part of earned secure attachment. It means we don't have to be perfect to deserve our own love. I have looked for love in all the wrong places for most of my life. It is so satisfying to see that pattern changing. I am now making better choices and looking for love within myself , with my trusted friends and with my partner. Can you notice changes in that pattern in yourself?