Saturday, December 17, 2011

Opening to Grace

I am in the middle of a yoga workshop with John Friend. He is the founder of Anusara yoga, a worldwide yoga practice whose first principal is opening to grace. I had an experience of opening to grace today. There are over 100 students in the training. Weeks ago I e-mailed the workshop logistics guy Roger about my hearing challenges and asked him if John Friend could use my special microphone which sends the speaker's voice directly into my hearing aids. He said he would work with me and even asked me for the name of the company who makes the microphone and called them.
I got to the workshop very early to work out the details and Roger put the microphone on John Friend's shirt. I was so excited anticipating being able to hear clearly without straining or trying to do what the person next to me does. My microphone placed where it was got deactivated by John's other microphone to amplify his voice to the group and wouldn't work. I kept thinking I was doing something wrong and urgently adjusting the devise I wear around my neck that streams the microphone into my hearing aids. Nothing I did made any difference. For two hours I strained to hear and was always one step behind except when John came in front of the group and I could read his lips. Mostly he walked around the room and didn't demonstrate the poses. All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. What was I thinking signing up for an eight hour training when I didn't know for sure if it would work for me? I felt so sad and discouraged and disabled. I made it through the two hours and in shivasana or relaxation pose I remembered my present moment activating statement from this week of the presence process. I feel unconditionally. I lay there with tears streaming down my cheeks feeling my sadness and anger.
I became aware of the tight place around my heart where I hold all of my evidence that there is something wrong with me. I held myself in love and cried. I could see that my hearing loss or tight hips or difficulty getting jokes do not make me a defective human being. There is nothing wrong with me. I could just accept that this training was possibly going to be very challenging for me to hear and that it would be a loss to miss John Friend's sweetly spiritual and funny comments and wise yoga cues. Even with all of my feelings I would be OK. When we were done Roger said he was so sorry it didn't work and that he was willing to try again after the break.
I spent my break with my two friends Linza and Eric. I was able to be honest with them about my disappointment and get loving support. We had fun at lunch and then went for a walk around the lake at City park. It was a cold crisp walk and the gorgeous mountain view, clear blue sky and the warmth of the sun brought forth my gratitude for being alive.
We returned to the afternoon training and I decided to sit in meditation and ask for help from all of my spiritual support to have things work out and to be able to meet whatever happened
with grace or at least some level of acceptance of all of my feelings. I asked for guidance and help and I could feel my breath slow down and deepen and the anxiety and shame of the morning dissolve even more. Roger found me and put the microphone on John in a different way and it worked perfectly. I was able to hear every word. I felt so much joy in my soaring heart. I could feel the part of me that is afraid to trust that things work out well and is always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I gave that space too, feeling it unconditioinally and it stepped into the backgroud like an understudy in a play. The rest of the afternoon was filled with hard practice that didn't seem hard because I was so happy to be able to hear well enough to do it. It was a pleasure to learn from someone who has been teaching for 31 years and knows so much about how bodies work and how minds and spirits work with them. His passion for teaching and yoga was so inspiring and fueled my desire to continue to practice and to grow as a student and a teacher. I am so grateful to have opened to grace. ( I just realized as I am writing that opening to grace means opening to Grace which is the name of one of my spirit guides. Thank you Grace.)
In the relaxation pose at the end of the day I felt such a sense of the blessings in my life. I get to have experiences that stretch me and allow me to let go of my beliefs in my own unworthiness and embrace all of who I am. This is what I also wish for you.
Many blessings to you all at this holiday season. May you all continue to stretch and grow and open to all of who you are in all of your beauty. Andrea

Thursday, December 1, 2011

We grow

Now I am used to writing in plain black. I remember when my blog settings changed for no reason I could figure out and I couldn't write in color anymore. I was so upset and felt like there was something wrong with me for not being able to be tech-savy enough to figure it out. That has been a good teaching for me because now it doesn't matter. Maybe part of progress is that things that used to be upsetting and that I reacted to strongly no longer are triggers. Being willing to get underneath the story of my inadequacy to the felt sensation in my body allows the spaciousness to integrate formerly upsetting things.
I am now doing the Presence Process for the third time. I love Michael Brown and I wish I could sit at his feet drink in his wisdom which thankfully he would hate. He is so committed to people learning to increase present moment awareness by practicing it themselves that he put his message in a book rather than training facilitators to teach his process. It all feels new to me as if I had never heard a lot of what he is saying before. I think that is because I am in a different place and can absorb and integrate differently. Last week I walked around saying, " this moment matters" whenever I thought of it. It was a powerful way to bring myself out of my thoughts into my body. Doing the fifteen minutes twice a day of connected breathing gives me a structure that I appreciate. The last two times I went through the Presence Process I struggled with doing the evening breathing meditation and this time it is easier. Even if I am tired I do my connected breathing and not in my bed. When I let myself do my breathing session in my bed at night I usually fell asleep. I am being kinder to myself this time and more realistic about honoring my limitations.
I never pushed the right button to publish this blog and the other two thirds got erased somehow. Of course I have no idea what I wrote about nor what I want to write about now. If I use this moment to be with what is I notice tension in my shoulders and a too full feeling in my belly. That moment of stillness brought back to me what I had written about. I wrote about the very difficult time Gary and I had reconnecting. We had a values conflict to work out and my world was shaken for more than two weeks. It's so interesting to me that all of my angst didn't get saved and the whole blog didn't get published. I had the sense as I was writing that I needed to continue to work this out with Gary rather than blogging about it. Tonight I had the intuition to re read the blog because I couldn't remember what I wrote about. I discovered most of it had disappeared into thin air a week ago.
We are past our conflict now and I got a chance to soothe myself when I was in a very threatened place, reach out for support and clarify my boundaries. Gary got a chance to look at what was important to him in a deeper way. Together we grew closer. I am grateful that we do repair work so well even if it isn't pretty. In relationships there is harmony and disharmony. What determins the health of any relationship is how well repair work is done to bring disharmony back to harmony. Gary and I are committed to repair and that's the main thing I love about our relationship. On our first date we agreed to support each other in our spiritual growth no matter what. That is the definition of a spiritual partnership. That may even mean agreeing to change the form of the relationship if that is what best supports the spiritual development of both people. I am glad that the romantic partnership we are in now is the one that best supports both of us. A spiritual partnership embodies the conscious knowledge that we each trigger each other so we have the opportunity to heal. In the middle of being triggered it is hard to remember this and even harder to see beyond the messenger to the message. The definition of a trigger is something that reminds us of unresolved pain from the past. It's a challenge to stop and breathe and own the past pain. It's easier to blame the other guy and go for the jugular.
Out of this conflict that Gary and I faced he got to look at his tendency toward craving and I got to look at my tendency toward aversion. Both of them come from our attempts to protect ourselves from painful experiences in the past. I think this past two weeks has enabled both of us to peel away layers of the painbody and to trust each other in a deeper way. I am grateful. I'd like to paraphrase the words of Rumi, Beyond craving and aversion there is a field. I will meet you there. We are all spiritual beings in human bodies making mistakes and deserving of forgiveness both our own and each other's. Out of acknowledging each others' humanity and forgiving mistakes, we grow.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Gary and I have been apart for three and a half weeks and will reunite tomorrow. He was in Mexico on an art buying trip and vacation. I chose not to go because the timing of the trip didn't work out with my work.
He sells hichol yarn paintings which he gets directly from the artists. He loves their vibrant colors and spiritual meanings. His whole collection burned up in the fire. Now he is beginning to replace it. In addition, Gary travels to shows to sell his stones and his art for at least two weeks twice a year. In the past when we have been separated for long periods of time it has been really difficult for me to feel connected and to keep my heart open. It was my intention this trip to take care of myself and work with my emotions so I could stay open. Although I appreciate our time apart I start to get triggered into my abandonment issues after about two weeks. This time I did really well. I allowed myself to miss Gary and to show up for myself with the discomfort of it. In some ways it felt good to miss him when I let myself let go of resisting it. It is a validation of how much I care about him. Then last weekend I was up in Boulder in our house by myself. During the day I appreciated the view and the spaciousness of the house, yet at night it felt big and cold and scary. Also he planned this trip without considering my schedule making it was even longer that we wouldn't see each other. He called me when he got back to Boulder and I told him how hurt and angry I felt. I really appreciated that he listened to all of my feelings without getting defensive and then said he was sorry. Neither of us are used to being team players. We agreed to consider each other more when making our own plans. The flip side of not being very skilled at being team players is that we both are very supportive of each other doing what we want to do separate from each other. We are good at supporting autonomy and less skilled at supporting interdependance.
I have been fiercely independant most of my adult life. I have seen being dependant on another person as being a weakness. In the past years of being with Gary I have been learning that it is OK for us to depend on each other. Underneath my fierce independance is a little girl who is afraid she will be left if she shows her vulnerability. I have learned to comfort the little girl inside me and allow Gary to help me. It has been so healing for me that he has stuck around through all of my attempts to withdraw. I feel safe being in a commited relationship with Gary because he has shown himself to be trustworthy by the steadfastness of his love. I have learned so much for him about being solid with a committment. I am learning that loving another person and chosing to be with him as a life partner doesn't mean he has to fit my pictures of my ideal mate. That person is a fantasy who distracted me from opening to the beautiful kind loving person standing right in front of me. Letting go of my fantasy of my ideal mate has allowed me to open to what is and to appreciate the day to day workings of being with a nice man who I love.
I am grateful to have a partner who will work on a relationship with me. We have gotten skilled at resoving conflict. We can be pretty consistantly respectful of each other even in the midst of a heated discussion. This did not use to be the case. It is mostly because we are each willing to deeply listen to each other and to validate the others' truth.
I know that our reconnection tomorrow might be awkward and uncomfortable for a while and I know we'll get through it just as we have gotten through everything else that has come up in the last six and a half years. Maybe reconnecting will just be exciting and fun. I know it will be what it is whatever that is and we will use it to get closer.
What do you notice about yourself in terms of autonomy and interdependance. Which part of the dance do you do better with?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's OK to be afraid

Wow, it has been a long time since I wrote last. I have missed writing. I just returned from a five day women's silent meditation retreat. The retreat started last Wednesday on the day of the first snowstorm. I was supposed to teach yoga at noon and then leave from there. Tuesday night listening to the voice of doom from the weather predictors, I got scared about whether I would be able to get to the retreat leaving after my class. I left a message for Satya, one of the owners of Whole Yoga, voicing my concern and asking for the number of a teacher who I knew lived in walking distance from the studio. Satya called Lauren herself and Lauren subbed my class. Thus began my web of support from loving women. Because of my food sensitivities I was preparing five days of food for myself and I had time that morning that I needed to prepare my meals.
The day of the retreat I left ten minutes later than I wanted to and I decided that that was a pretty good job. Being kind to myself about time when I leave later than I want to is way favorable to berating myself. Being kind actually helps me access my prefrontal cortex or the reasoning part of my brain so I can look at what I might have done differently or could do differently in the future. I realized a while back that I am late because I have to do one more thing. I tell myself that whatever that one more thing is is essential to do at that moment. I play a game with myself now as I am driving somewhere late or with barely enough time to see if I can remember what that one more thing was. Lately I have been able to catch myself in the middle of doing something like putting the clothes away in my laundry basket, and remind myself I could easily do it later. I am getting kinder about my reminders. Sometimes I have even been able to catch myself in the thought that all my plants need watering right that minute and interrupt the action before I start to do it. I don't like being late and I get to look at how I create it.
So, ten minutes seemed easily forgivable as I drove to the retreat in the snowstorm. I was heading for Estes Park where the snow was supposed to be the heaviest and I was scared. I had just purchased really good snow tires and that helped my confidence. I bought them because I got stuck in my Boulder driveway and had to be towed out last winter when Gary was out of town. This year if it snows I am parking at the top of that steep Boulder driveway even though I have good tires.
Driving to the retreat, the roads were plowed and in good condition. As I began to relax and know I would be OK, I started to enjoy the drive and notice the sparkling beauty of the the snow laden trees. Even though there was close to a foot of snow in Estes Park by the time I got there I was breathing easier. I knew it was OK to be afraid and to breathe into the fear and that I would be OK.
This was the first lesson of the retreat about bringing my breath to my fear and embracing myself with my fear. During the five days of sitting meditation many fears arose. Some were about my body's discomfort like, " I don't think I can handle sitting here for one more minute. I think I need to run out of the room. " Others were part of my internal process about my fear of relaxing around other people and worrying about being judged or shamed. When I was growing up I had two Moms. One was loving and the other one would move into a rage and hit me. I never knew which one my Mom would be. It wasn't safe for me to relax. One night in my bed at the retreat I breathed into the fear of the little girl inside me about relaxing and being herself around other people and let her know she was safe now. The terror was very strong and I brought in Grace my spiritual support being to help. She is a round african american woman in purple diaphonous robes. I and the little girl inside me felt safe to feel the fear and to be comforted. I moved into the fear and trusted my breath to help me heal. A deep spaciousness opened up within me and I heard a voice say, "Welcome home." It was a blissful peaceful moment of knowing I could embrace deep fear and experience spaciousness and connection with all there is. Fear can be a vehicle for creating safety and coming home to the sense of oneness that is our true home.
What do you notice about fear and safety in your own life? Might you imagine breathing into something you fear and allowing yourself to feel held in love for feeling that fear? It's OK to be afraid. It is safe to be afraid.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The fire revisited thirteen months later

I want to write and I don't know about what yet. Gary and I went up to Gold Hill to see his land on Monday. The debris from the fire had been removed and the foundation had been dug up. Two giant dumpsters contained all that was left of the house and the life he had for 35 years. During the five and a half years that he lived in Gold Hill when we were together I had a lot of resistence to being up there. The drive was long and difficult and the last twenty minutes was ungrated dirt. When I got to the dirt I was always impatient, ready to be there. Our arrangement was that Gary spent weekends in Denver in the winter and I spent weekends in Gold Hill the rest of the time. I think he had an even harder time coming to Denver than I did to Gold Hill. He hated diving in traffic as much as I was challenged with mountain driving. There were things I appreciated about being up at Gary's house. The main thing I valued was being immersed in nature. It was peaceful and beautiful and we often had families of deer for neighbors.
My favorite thing to do was to hike on the land across the road from his house. I so appreciated stepping out of his door and being able to hike in a spectacularly lush forest. There were also meadows full of colorful flowers and almost always no other people. I began to do the hike myself sometimes. After I got over my fear of getting lost by getting lost and finding my way it became a great pleasure to go by myself. My landmark were two huge trees joined together near their base. I knew if I headed in their direction I would find my way home. It was the perfect hike on those days when I felt like I would jump out of my skin if I didn't move my body around and Gary didn't want to go. The hike led up to a rock outcropping with a peak mountain view beyond the beautiful trees. Many birds would come to roost in those trees. Although I mostly couldn't hear their songs I enjoyed sharing their company.
Monday we went up to the land because Gary hadn't seen it since it was leveled. I wanted to go with him to support him. A lot of sadness anger and grief came up for him. There was something so final about the level dirt where the house had been. We went for a walk to the crow's nest which was what we calledf the rock outcropping at the top of the hike. I think we had both fantasized about coming up to the land and hiking there in the future and maybe sharing it with Gary's kids and grandkids again.
The land bore the scars of the fire. One whole side of the mountain was all dead charred trees. As we walked Gary noticed our landmark trees were no longer there. They had burned down to a charred hole with burnt tree roots protruding from it. The devastation was so widespread and stark, more than either one of us had imagined. We did see a small grove of aspen saplings beginning to grow, which was very hopeful and inspiring. We could feel the power of mother nature both to create and to destroy. When we got back to our lovely home I felt a flood of gratefulness that our owning my dream home was made possible by the fire. We had found a place that satisfied Gary's need to be in the mountains, both of our love of nature, and my need to be close to a health food grocery store and a yoga studio. Gary had recently found a plot map of our area that a real estate agent had included in the flier on a nearby home for sale. We had never known the exact boundaries of our land so we came home and walked the boundaries of our land. There was something so healing for me to walk on unscorched earth and to feel the green grasses rustling against my legs. Everything felt so alive and reassuringly whole. It brings to mind ganesh, the hindu elephant god who is the creator and remover of obstacles. I guess obstacles have to be created to be removed. Someday I'd like to be able to appreciate both. I am in the process of integrating our visit to the land yesterday. Writing this blog has helped me to do that. Thanks for listening. Andrea

Monday, October 3, 2011


It's been a while. Gary and I just returned from a week in Breckenridge. The leaves were amazing and we got along really well most of the time. I am actually starting to experience what it's like to accept my partner as he is. That doesn't mean I have to like everything about him. I certainly don't like everything about myself either. I used to say that being in a committed relationship meant liking another person's pleasing qualities enough to be willing to gag down their other stuff. Gary would look at me archly and say, "Gag down?" He was on to this acceptance thing way before me. I think one of the things I love about him the most is how accepting he is of me. This quality helps me to feel safe with him and also has taught me to be more accepting of myself. Gary brings lots of non-judgemental acceptance into our partership. I bring lots of motivation to change and grow. When I get impatient with how slow he moves when we are hiking, I remind myself that I have found a partner who loves the mountains as much as I do. I move ahead honoring my own pace, coming back to say hi often.
On our trip he got pissed at me because he wanted to lead the way down a tricky trail that he had done before and I wanted to go ahead of him and go faster. He said I was controlling and I hate that. Being controlling is one of my least attractive qualities and I especially hate having my being controlling pointed out by another. I proceeded to get really angry defending myself and telling him that I wanted to go at my own pace and he was impeding me with his need to go first.
Then I pushed ahead and slipped, landing on my previously injured wrist. Visions of repeating six more months of physical therapy and teaching yoga with no down dogs floated through my mind. I still held on to my defensiveness and he got triggered too. Soon we were in a beautiful place, oblivious to the present moment, caught up in both being right. It made things worse that three other hikers had come along to witness our raised voices. (well mostly mine) He tried to reconnect and I was still attached to feeling separate. We hiked back up and I asked for help to let go of my ego's strong desire to off him on the spot. I breathed and asked for help to feel the universe holding me and the little girl inside me (who sometimes goes apeshit when I am criticized) in love for being exactly as I am. That included being controlling, defensive, and mean- a tall order. We were walking through a magnificent forest of golden aspen trees and slowly I began to see them. This is one of the reasons why I love nature so much. Self-acceptance is much easier for me to experience if I am in a beautiful natural place. Gradually
I opened to the ego trance I was in where Gary looks like my enemy, and held myself in love.
This was powerful for me to realize how deeply caught I was and to acknowledge this to Gary.
Being vulnerable with him opened my heart and I was able to feel love for myself and for him.
I am grateful to be with a man who is willing to work on our relationship. We both acknowledged our unskillfulness and began to reconnect. It's hard for me to accept how angry and threatened I get. Even though I know that relationship as a spiritual path means using everything that comes up to get closer it's hard to include those qualities that I least accept in myself as teachers. And teachers they are. I am grateful to be on this journey toward self-acceptance and acceptance of Gary even though sometimes it is anything but pretty. I so appreciate sharing my path with a man who values my healing, his own healing, and our healing. I am grateful to you for listening to this. I hope it contributes to you and to your process of self-acceptance.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Gary was supposed to come to my house in Denver every evening this week after the Denver Gem show. He has a booth there selling his rocks and cabs. Last night he came over and struggled with rush hour traffic. I was working for another hour and fifteen minutes after he arrived. He was very tired and worried about getting enough sleep with the noise at my house in my smaller bed. He is a mountain man who thrives on quiet. I also was concerned because I am used to having my house to myself after I am done working. I think I have been making our relationship and each of us wrong because we need so much space. I was imagining it meant we weren't really committed. That is part of my negative core belief that there is something wrong with me. We all have a negative core belief that is a story we made up and that we use our lives to prove true. The good news is that becoming aware of the core belief and bringing compassion to myself when I notice that the story feels true, is the vehicle to begin to unravel the story and see what is really true. My story is that there is something wrong with me. Right now I am playing out this story by judging myself for how unclearly and redundantly I am expressing myself. The crossroads is: support the story that that means there is something wrong with me and spin off into proving that to be true or recognize the story and celebrate that I have recognized it. I am learning that the remedy to the core belief isn't the opposite. Telling myself that there is nothing wrong with me is working on my personality with my personality. The antidote to my core belief is awareness and gratitude. If I can notice the core belief and bring kindness to myself for noticing, I feel grateful that I have pulled myself out of my brain rut. Feeling that gratitude gets me in touch with the wellspring of gratitude in my heart. That wellspring of gratitude is a feeling I call "Thank you God. I feel it in my third eye and see the colors of green and magenta. When I feel the thank you god feeling I experience my connection with god. That connection supercedes whather I am doing anything right or wrong or if there is something wrong with me or not. In that place of connection with God I know God to be everything that is and that I am part of that. From that place all of who I am and all there is, is included in what OK is. It is now possible when I notice I am stuck in my story to ask for help from god or the universe or all there is. I know if I am trying to analyze myself out of my stuff or bully myself out of my stuff I am trapped in my stuff. If I work on my personality with my personality I am screwed. When that seems like the only option I can ask for help and breathe and bring my own awareness to whatever I am feeling. I can imagine feeling gratitude for noticing what I am feeling underneath my story. I can treat myself with kindness for having exactly the experience I am experiencing. So back to me and Gary. Both of us were feeling less than expansive about him being in Denver all week. So, we ate dinner and then he drove back up to Boulder. I felt so grateful that we were able to tell each other our truth and be understanding. The benefit for me was that I got to go for a long moonlit walk and have a lovely nights' sleep. Also I had set aside every evening to be done working by around 6:00 and now I have all those evenings to myself. It was such a pleasure to have several hours to do what I wanted and needed to do tonight. I am grateful to be able to embrace what is and know that Gary and I have a great relationship partly because our optimal level of distance is very similar. He doesn't think I'm wierd because I want to have half the week apart. It works for him really well, too. I don't have to feel smothered or rejected and neither does he. Some say we have the best of both worlds. Today I think so too.
I am grateful for my life and for the time I have to work on myself and work on my relationship and have work that I love. My growing awareness of my connection with god and the possibility of asking for that connection in the midst of my stuff fills with with gratitude. Thank you god. Thanks to you for reading these blogs and having whatever experience you are having.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


My daughter Monnya trains almost daily by herself in her studio. She is incredibly strong. Her goal is to up her level of strength and flexibility so she can improve her circus performance. She keeps track of what she does every day and her progress. Monnya exhibits dedicated discipline. Part of her discipline is to give herself days when she can slack off or do less or nothing at all. This level of firm yet kind discipline has been inspirational to me.
About three months ago I decided I wanted to be more flexible and stronger. My intention was to support my body in the aging process. I love yoga classes and I decided since yoga is my passion this would be a good way to create my intention. I started to do three yoga classes a week- one where I am the teacher and two where I am the student. I wanted to be able to do the challenging yoga class with my teacher who is the owner of the studio without wondering whether I would die before it was over. Previously, I had tried her class once, decided it was too grueling for me and let go of attending.
I began to take two classes a week that were less challenging and to continue to practice daily on my own. In my home practice I stretched beyond my usual routine and added some poses that were challenging for me. In the classes I attended there were moments when I watched the clock, grunted through the poses and wondered whether my body could keep going. There were also moments when the joy of pushing myself and moving my energy filled me with spaciousness. I enjoyed creating the balance of sukka and shira, sanscrit for discipline and sweetness.
About a month ago I returned to my teacher's class and showed up for myself most of the time.
I did what I could, modified the poses that didn't work for my body and forgave myself for comparing myself to the other students. I also noticed judging myself as a teacher in comparison to Satya. As I kept returning weekly, it got easier to notice judgement as a distraction, be kind to myself and bring myself back to the present.
The class was today and I am very tired right now. I am going for a walk when I am done writing and it will be a short one. I want to breathe in the warmth of the summer night without pushing myself. Even though I am tired it is a good tired. I am also exhilarated that I do feel stronger and more flexible, which will continue to grow as I continue to practice. I have started to think of myself as strong. That is very healing. The strength I experience from accomplishing this intention has carried over to other parts of my life. I have been wanting to do an Art Therapy session with my friend Wendy and I went and did it this week. That freed up some energy which has allowed me to begin to doing artwork again, something I haven't done since I was single. Expressing myself as an artist is so good for my soul. I am also being kinder to myself and to Gary which has done wonders for our relationship.
I highly recommend the power of intention. Is there something that you have been intending to do that you are yearning to move into practice? It could be anything. A regular meditation practice, learning something new, connecting with people you love, reaching out to a new person, resting more, paying attention to your eating and or sleeping patterns, bringing loving awareness to your inner process, etc. Allow yourself the satisfaction. I applaud you.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


So this time I don't even care if this is black or purple or green. This is my creative outlet and I feel such a strong need to express myself creatively that I don't care what it looks like. Sometimes it is OK to just be myself warts and all no matter what I imagine people will think of me. Imagine should be in bold and if my computer did bold it would be. So much of what I think other people are thinking is a story I made up about what other people are thinking. So much of what I think other people are thinking about me is what I am thinking about myself that I am projecting on to other people. When I can recognize this and acknowledge myself for noticing I can take back the projection and own it. I can imagine that you are thinking that anyone else would have been able to figure out how to get this blog to work like it used to. I can recognize the projection and take it back owning that thinking I am incompentent because I don't know what I don't know is my story and not yours. Then I can bring compassion to myself for my story and get underneath it to what I am feeling and show up for myself with loving awareness.
I see the little girl inside me who thinks if she only does enough she will prove that there is nothing wrong with her. If she only shows up for enough other people and is authentic enough and helps them enough she will feel she is worthwhile. If only I could make my parents be happy I would feel very special. I would also feel safe.
I love that little girl inside me so much. I love Andie for how hard she tried to prove she was lovable. I know she is lovable and always was regardless of what she did or didn't do, regardless of how fat she was, regardless of who was or wasn't happy around her. I am even lovable and worthwhile whether or not I express myself creatively and whether I write this blog or not. What I do or don't do doesn't determine my worth as a person. I love myself for who I am. I even love myself for not being loving with myself. I even love myself for thinking you need to think I am a really good writer to be OK. What if it was OK to love myself for all of who I am even the parts I find repugnant? Actually, I find the part that thinks parts of me are repugnant, repugnant. Ohhhh, I notice you master disser, passer on of repugnancy judgements and I see you.. I see you and I hold you in acceptance for who you are. I love the part of me that needs to be writing this and the part of me that is judging myself for not going to sleep because I am too exhausted to write well enough to even do this. I love that I used the word I about a gazillion times and I love the part of me that judges me for that. And I love all of you for reading this and appreciating me for who I am. I love that I wrote this and I am going to publish it and that I feel so much better than when I started writing. Thank you for listening and may you allow yourself to express yourself in whatever way lets you be in touch with your own precious aliveness. Or not.

Friday, August 12, 2011

what is is

Today I thought I would be in a workshop. I had planned to sign up for weeks. Something held me back everytime I went on-line to register. By the time I got around to registering yesterday the workshop was full. In the brochure it said "register early this workshop will fill up." I chose to think that was an advertising ploy. I was angry with myself for procrastinating and being naive about expecting the workshop to be available to me. I considered going to the workshop this morning and seeing if I could get in. I kept hearing my inner voice say, "Go to the workshop." That was confusing. Then I realized that I had set aside this whole day to attend this workshop and that was the only way I would allow myself a day with no plans. So now I have this whole delicious day to do what I want to do. What a luxury.
This blog is still not allowing me to write in color or make it bold or in italics. I asked for help from blogger and someone offered a suggestion which isn't working either. I notice the temptation to feel like a failure and use this experience to prove my core belief that there is something wrong with me. Woo hoo I noticed. What a gift to notice that I can use anything that happens to me to prove there is something wrong with me. I can be unkind and bully myself or I can notice that I want to be unkind and bully myself and celebrate my noticing. I want to say" You are sooo stupid anyone else could figure this out!" I feel the neural brain rut calling to me to complete one more circle continuing on automatic pilot doing what I've always done. Yet the witness is there now. She gently smiles and says, "Aw that must be so painful. " She gathers me up in her arms and holds me close. She tells me she loves me and that she understands that I am sad and angry and hurt and that it all makes sense to her. She lets me know that it is OK that I don't know how to do something and that doesn't mean I am stupid or there is something wrong with me. I go to pick my nails and realize I am doing it. I know this is what I do when I feel anxious. I can love myself for my anxiety. I was scared for a reason. I can bring compassion for myself when I start to pick my nails. That is the witness. She stands silently by noticing what is. She is there to observe what I am doing and support me in being all that I am. I am grateful to her. I am grateful to have her. I am grateful to be her. Whenever I can bring awareness to what I am doing that is the witness. She doesn't care if my blog is black or purple. She doesn't think that my worth as a person depends on the color of my blog. She notices what is and smiles kindly. The inner critic and the witness dance together with the witness noticing the inner critic and gently smiling. The witness doesn't need to judge the inner critic, feel threateded by it or make me wrong for it being there. She just notices and smiles kindly. She is the part of me that can love myself for hating myself. I have been able to be more compassionate with myself for hating myself. "Aw that must be so painful to believe there is something wrong with you." I can feel my own love for myself and for Andie, the little girl inside me. I am healing myself with my own love. I am so grateful. Right now Andie wants to go for a bikeride and I want to go meditate and do yoga. I am done writing for now. See if you can notice the witness gently smiling and saying yes, "I see you, what is, is."

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I am on Gary's computer and the settings are working. I still haven't figured out how to get them to work on mine. I am happy to be able to write in blue. Colored words seem so much more joyful. I just returned from a weekend vipassana retreat with Peter Williams called contacting joy. It was a very powerful retreat experience. I am so blessed to be able to go on retreat for a whole weekend. I had misgivings about spending the whole weekend at a retreat because summer seems to be moving so quickly. I am glad I pushed through my ambivalence which was at least partly fear. I appreciate that Gary and I attended this retreat together. Our spiritual connection is the strongest value for both of us. It helps to counteract the areas where our relationship is not as strong.
Saturday was about looking at what we need to let go of that is in the way of happiness. We worked a lot with judging mind. I am always amazed that sitting for a long period of time makes such a big difference in the quality of my life. I had the opportunity to sit with some very strong emotions this weekend. I learned that I could. Peter gave us several practices which are similar to my work with myself and others and that was very validating. He spoke of the importance of awareness and compassion in working with our thoughts. One practice he presented was to celebrate bringing ourselves back when our mind wanders off. He stressed the importance of sitting with whatever comes up and going beneath the story to the body sensation.
Today was about focusing on the good. He shared about John Gottman's research that for couples it takes five positive comments to counteract a negative one. He shared about counting blessings and said that he and his wife do a nightly practice of counting their blessings with each other before bed.
He had us focus on someone we care about experiencing happiness and tune into them and say," May you always be happy, May your happiness continue to increase, I'm glad you are happy." I sat with this form of well-wishing with my daughter seeing her performing on aerial fabric being in her joy. By sending these messages of sympathic joy I could feel joy about her joy. It was uplifting for me. I also felt like I was supporting her in her goal to perform more. One of the most powerful practices of the weekend were one sitting meditation and one walking meditation focusing sympathetic joy on ourselves. We focused on a time we felt really happy and peaceful and said to ourselves," May I always be happy. May my happiness continue to increase, I'm glad you are happy" The goal of this practice is to become more open-hearted toward ourselves rather than to actually always be happy. Suffering can be a very positive growth inducer. Peter asked us how many of us came to meditation practice just because things were going so well and we wanted to check it out. Only one person raised his hand. The rest of us began meditation practice because of the intensity of our suffering in order to create change and growth. When I began practicing meditation regularly I was in the height of my compulsive eating disorder and was so anxious I could barely sit still. It's hard to imagine that I actually could even practice. I knew it was a last resort and I am grateful that I listened to my screaming soul. Meditation practice is a time to come to ourselves with an intention of connecting to the wellspring of love that is underneath all of our suffering. We can use the vehicle of our suffering to be with ourselves and bring love to ourselves in the midst of the suffering. When we can bring awareness and loving kindness to ourselves in the midst of our suffering something shifts. Even loving ourselves for hating ourselves is more loving than hating ourselves for hating ourselves. IThe retreat has helped me feel more access to the part of me that wants to focus on what I am grateful for. What I appreciate about my life seems clearer and stronger. I appreciate all of you who read this blog and who support me in my process with your attention. Thank you. What are three things you appreciate about your life? Would you be willing to give yourself a round of applause simply for being you. Hear my hands clapping for all of us as you clap yours.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the sun and the north wind

I can't get the color and other settings to register. I guess this will be another black and white good enough blog. I am tempted to give up and do it tomorrow. Yet the cretive urge is here and my muse hasn't been visiting very often lately. Turning her away because the appearance of my blog doesn't fit my pictures seems so rude. My muse doesn't take well to rejection. When I'm not available to answer her call too many times she feels abandoned and shuts her heart down. I do the same thing when I feel abandoned by Gary. I shut down my heart and start making him wrong and think I need to leave our relationship. I am learning that my ambivalence is really a symptom of my unwillingness to be emotionally vulnerable. That has been the next step after accepting that I am ambivalent. I hate feeling needy. Gary has been out of town for 2 1/2 weeks and rather than allowing myself to miss him I have been plotting my case against him. Tonight I told him what was going on with me and he listened. He is getting very good at hearing my process and just getting it. He has had a lot of practice. When I am feeling abandoned and have shut my heart down it really helps for me to make myself vulnerable and tell Gary what I am feeling. It's hard to feel close to him when I am feeling flat and pissed. I am learning that bringing my attention to feeling abandoned and comforting myself heals the pain of abandoning myself when I feel abandoned by Gary. I can soothe myself for noticing what I am feeling and comfort myself that it is OK to feel it. When I can comfort myself it makes it safe to talk to Gary.
Today I read a story about the north wind and the sun. They were trying to see who could make a human take his coat off. The north wind went first and blew cold wind round and round the person trying to blow his coat off with blasts of cold. The man shivered and drew his coat around him tighter. Then the sun gently warmed the man until he opened his coat and then gradually took it off. The story is about how much better warmth works than cold blasts of wind. Bullying ourselves seems to me to be like cold blasts of wind. Comfort and compassion feel like the warmth of the sun. I think it is important to treat ourselveds with the warmth of the sun if there is something we want to change. I want to learn to go under my ambivalence to the insecure little girl crying for attention and bring lovingkindness to both of us. It is easy to make up a story about Gary and not get the benefit from looking within. As Michael brown says in the Presence Process, " Dissmiss the messenger and get the message." My message is to show up for myself and for the little girl inside me who feels neglected and be with myself with all that I am feeling. Is there a little person inside you who feels neglected? Would you be willing to slow down and give her or him some focused attention? Would you be willing to bring that little child the warmth of the sun?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Warts and all

Ah, I am up in Boulder this week. I am doing whatever I want. Gary is out of town and I decided to come up here and spend some time alone settling in. Living in two places I sometimes feel scattered and have difficulty focusing. Other times I am filled with gratitude to have two comfortable and lovely places to live.
Spending time with myself this week I have been very aware of my pattern of noticing what is missing and judging myself for it. I went to an enneagram class last night taught by Rene Rosario on core beliefs. Core beliefs get instilled in early childhood in an attempt to adapt and survive our family of origon. Core beliefs color our perception of the world and paint themselves over and over reinforcing themselves. They are usually an unconscious and automatic filter we overlay onto our world. The healing that is available is to begin to be aware of the core belief when it is proving itself true, and stretch to recognize it and open to other options. For example according to Rene who gleaned it from Helen Palmer,the core belief of the four is:
A painful loss of original connection leaves a terrible feeling of deficiency and a sense that something vitally important and special is missing which must be regained. Hence, my walking through life feeling like I am doing it wrong. Moreover, I am doing it wrong because there is something wrong with me. I don't have the (Fill in the blank- creativity, intuition, intelligence, strength,) to do what other people can do.
The good news is that when I notice how true this core belief feels and how my life seems to be proving it to me I can use that to acknowledge my suffering. If I can be kind to myself about my suffering it breaks through the haze of the core belief and reveals the shining present moment where I am free to chose. One thing that has been helpful is when I am bullying myself about doing it wrong I can use Byron Katie's question" Do I absolutely know this is true? " I have been bullying myself about my ambivalence about my relationship with Gary. Today I noticed how I use noticing that to judge myself as a loser and think there is somehing wrong with me. "Noone else has these kind of doubts after six years." Do I absolutely know it is true that noone else does that? No. The truth is I do. I held myself in love about hating myself. When I brought compassion to my suffering I could see that my ambivalence doesn't mean there is something wrong with me. It does mean that I am very challenged to accept another human being for who they are. It makes complete sense when I can see the pattern as a reflection of what I feel about myself. So, when I am lost in making Gary wrong and myself wrong for being with him I can see my suffering and show up for myself and chose myself warts and all. I do chose myself warts and all. I want to use my awareness to bring kindness to my perception of my own warts. What if my warts are the secret healers to my idea that I have a fatal flaw? What if I could start a practice of everytime I discover an unlovable wart I love myself for not loving it. I notice the judgement that I have excessively used the word "I" billions of times in this blog. I notice that I exaggerate and have a need to be dramatic. I see the path to self-hate looming as I decide whether to go down it or not. It is so well-worn and familiar. I pause, and ask for help. A gentle spirit wrapped in diaphonous purple robes meets me at the trailhead with a glass of cool water, a smile and a warm hug. She is so happy to see me and has been waiting for a long time. I allow her to hold me and I feel my heart begin to fill up with her love. It is contageous, much more than warts and I begin to feel my own love for myself slowly spreading out from the center of my heart. The colors green and violet, of the feeling I call "Thank you God" come into my field of vision. I feel them in my body. The salve of gratitude is a heart opener which leads to a wart melter. I am ambivalent and I deserve great love. I actually have great love from my partner Gary. His love for me has been so strong and solid. Although his preference would be that I am consistently rooted in undying admiration for him he loves me ambivalence and all. I can learn from him. We are committed to learning and growing together. What a blessing. I chose to use my ambivalence to love myself and Gary. Why not?
Do you have a wart that you have deemed unacceptable that you could use as a vehicle for bringing conscious kindness to yourself? Have at it! I send you love for the journey.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Last night, Gary, his friend Tom, I, and 1000 other people experienced Braco. (pronounced Bras-co) It was an event where this croatian guy stands on a podium and silently gazes out at the audience for what seemed like about half an hour. Everyone was completely silent. I felt a very strong sense of well-being and waves of energy moving through my body similar to creas or energy releases that sometimes happen in meditation. These sessions had been going on for two days. Ours was the last and the largest. It also featured the voice of Braco. As his voice began to be piped into the sound system I experienced strong anxiety because I couldn't understand what he was saying at all. I started to go off into a story about the woes of my hearing challenges. Aware of what I was doing, ( conscious incompetence- or the awareness of a habitual automatic behavior) I was kind to myself about being in mid-story and brought myself back to the present. I listened in a more focused way, trying to understand what he was saying and realized he was speaking in croatian. I had a giggle to myself and then hung out with the sounds.
I'm not sure how it works or what it was all about exactly and I felt very loving today. I am glad I followed my intuition to go to the event. When I listen to that still, small voice it is always validation to listen some more. I am living my life by honoring that voice more and more.
Two practices came to me this week that I would like to share with you:
One is the stay here mantra. First you draw your circle around yourself in the air- a symbol of sacred space that's made sacred by bringing yourself your own attention.
On an inhalation you say to yourself silently STAY
When you exhale you say to yourself silently HERE
You keep focusing on your breath and repeating stay as you breathe in and here as you breathe out. It is a way to gently call yourself home to this present moment and to being with yourself in your circle. I have been using it both as part of my meditation practice and in my daily life to call myself back when I wander off into a story or feel anxious. It has been very helpful. Tone of voice is important: the stay here is spoken in a kind inviting voice, rather than a voice you would use when training your dog.
The second practice is to place your hand over your heart and feel your love for yourself. Even if it is the size of the head of a pin. Breathe into that love and let yourself feel it in your heart, imagining your love growing and your heart filling. Say to yourself, "I love you and use your name. When I feel my own love for myself and say, I love you Andrea, I imagine that my love goes to the little girl inside me, too. I feel my love for her. In this way I connect to myself and to her and to love. This practice has been comforting and empowering to me. Doing this practice feels as if I am growing love. I hope you enjoy experimenting with these practices.
My computer is not willing to get different sizes, bold or italics or colors of printing right now. So this will be plain and simple and good enough. Blessings, Andrea.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nature is my temple

Nature is my Temple. I just returned from a silent, camping, hiking meditation retreat in Rochy Mtn Natl Park. This was the second annual solstice vipassana retreat and Gary and I went last year, too. I was struck by how much has happened since last June. Last year I remember being really upset because the ending group sharing was in the darkness and I couldn't hear anyone. I felt very disabled and realized how dependent I was on lip reading. In general I had a good experience at the retreat enough to want to return this year. Little did I know at the time that Gary's house would burn down three months later and that he would loose everything. I had no idea that we would find our dream house in Boulder and that I would be living in two places that I love, that Gary and I would be engaged and that I would move my mother to Boulder. What an exciting and challenging year. I was so aware of my sense of gratefulness at the retreat. My friend Wendy told me at lunch today that she had seen a quote that said that gratefulness is great fullness. That is how I felt- filled with a great sense of fullness that moved like molten gold from my head to my toes. I also felt strong fear as it rained and thundered and lighteninged and we were in our new tent because the old one had burned up. We didn't know if it would hold up in all of the strong wind and rain and it did. The last night of the retreat there was a big rainstorm in the late afternoon and cold temperatures and rain and maybe snow were predicted all night long. We met as a group and decided to stay to finish out the retreat the next day. Half of dinner blew away and everyone managed to still get enough to eat. The cook was very skilled and her food was delicious. She said she had never cooked in those kind of conditions before and it really stretched her out of her comfort zone. It helped her a lot that everyone was really helpful. During the retreat she made special food for those of us with food allergies and placed them in a square made with blue masking tape on the picnic table. I felt very loved and cared for and realized that all of my worrying about what I would eat and all of the extra food I brought were unnecessary. I was aware of how much I worry and saw my worry as an overprotective misguided parent who wanted to protect me from imagined pain. I could be kind to myself about it and even laugh at my urgent attempt to be prepared for the worst only to have the best happen.
That night it stopped raining before dinner. We went out into our meadow surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks to meditate and listen to a darma talk and meditate again. As the last meditation was finishing at 10pm the thunder and lightening started again and heavy rain continued all through the night. It stopped just after our morning bell rang at 5. We were able to return to our meadow to sit. We could see that where we had hiked the day before was now covered with snow. The retreat was about being in nature and allowing nature to teach us about impermanence, change and connection. She was a persistent teacher offering up many challenges with the weather. I am grateful to get to hang out in my nature temple and pray for a whole weekend with loving teachers and fellow members of this impermanent sangha or community. It's amazing to me how much love I felt for people I didn't speak a word to. I love not speaking because I don't have to worry about hearing. It is such a relief to eat in silence and really be able to taste food. It was inspiring to me to come home and eat more consciously. Although I came home and ate in front of the computer for one meal I do think the rest of the time I have been more aware of what I'm eating. I also decided to go to sleep earlier and get up earlier to allow more time for meditation. I did that last night and today did all of my disciplines before my group at 8:30 this morning. However, right now it is late and I am still writing and cooking and washing clothes. I guess my inspiration from the retreat is to accept that change comes slowly and to treat myself with kindness. It isn't about all or nothing. It is more like the changing from one season to the next little by little. Happy Solstice and a delicious longest day to you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

mom's meds

When I moved my mother to Boulder one of my intentions was to get her off of some of her anti-psychotic meds. Her affect was very flat and she was zoned out in sort of a waking sleep. When a glimmer of wakefulness would come through she would seem to undertstand what was being said to her and sometimes respond, mostly with yes and no. Monnya and I felt Mom's presence very strongly on our trip from Alamogordo to Colorado. It was such a relief to bring her from the locked alzheimer's unit where she was maintained to Anam Chara where she is respected. My doctor, who is a knowledgeable and conscious woman, agreed to have my mother as a patient. The staff at Anam Chara agreed to an experiment to begin to lessen one of my mother's many drugs. The doctor supported this plan and gave us a safe way to begin.
In the first week my mother was agitated and frustrated. In addition she was much more alert and present. She was in her body yet didn't quite know how to handle her new energy. The staff at Anam Chara, used to my mom vegetating, were surprised to find her getting up and walking outside by herself. She fell three times. Once she was found under a lilac bush in the front yard. It isn't clear whether she fell or was just resting. So we all messed with her meds some more trying to find a balance between comfort and presence. Could we find a mix that preserved her new found presence and responsiveness and also allowed her to be comfortable? The doctor has been patient and persistant. I am so grateful to her. She treats my mother as a person. Most people do not treat my mother as a person. Older people with dementia are often treated as disrespectfully as small children and talked about in third person when they are right there.
The caregivers at Anam Chara work hard to create relationships with the residents. One caregiver in particular has really gone to bat for my mom going through her adjustment process with her meds. She knows it will take time to get it worked out and that it may be somewhat uncomfortable for everyone involved. I don't think discomfort is necessarily a bad thing. I think it is important to weigh the pros and cons of change to see what is for the highest good. It is with delight that I watch my mom become more and more responsive.
Her opinions and judgements are returning. In some ways it was a respite from all of that to have her zoned out. However, it is worth it to me to have her quality of life expanding. From what she says it is also worth it to her to be experiencing a heightened level of anxiety in order to be more alert.
I am not around her all day every day. The caregivers are. I so appreciate their efforts to support my mother in returning to her body mind and spirit as much as she is able to. I feel held in love by the whole support team. I am blessed. A caregiver took my mom to a physical therapist yesterday to evaluate her for a walker so she can be more mobile. Before the meds were changed she would never leave her chair or bed unless someone walked her. Now the PT said she felt my mom could navigate learning to use a walker. That is very exciting.
I have to work with my ego about all of this. When I go visit my mom I want her to be more alert and present. Sometimes she is and sometimes she isn't. It seemed last weekend that when I had time to spend with her she was completely zoned out and when I was there for a rushed visit she was alert and interactive. It is a good opportunity to let go of my attachment to things being different than they are and surrender my delusion of control. Letting go and opening to what is has never been my strong suit. I am getting lots of practice.
My mother's process looks like what it looks like. I need to be willing to feel my excitement, disappointment,frustration, boredom, and fear. If I am willing to feel all of what I am feeling it makes more space for the love that bubbles up. This love exists between my mother and I as two human beings sharing this earth school together. I am grateful for the chance to have her be close and to grow with her.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Faking the Funk

One of the people I work with works with homeless people. She cares for children in homeless families providing housing and other services. She described to me about her meeting with an African American client who told her about faking the funk. Faking the funk is a term used when a person is being less than real. I loved the idea that realness is valued and the lack of it is called out. In the Jewish middle class suburban culture I grew up in, realness was not valued. Presenting an image that would be impressive to other people was highly valued. Everything else was a secret which was not ok to be talked about within the family let alone shared with outsiders. " Don't air your dirty laundry." I was told growing up.
Since I heard about faking the funk I have been noticing how much I am afraid to be real with other people and that strength in the mainstream culture is defined as not showing your feelings.
Gary and I have recently joined a meditation sangha (community)where we meditate for an hour with a group of about a dozen people in one of the participants' homes. Then we pass around a talking rock and each person shares what is going on with them. Everyone is very real and I feel close to these people in a way that is disportionate to how long I've known them. Sitting together with the same group of people for an hour once a week creates an atmosphere of safety in which intimacy can grow. The person who is speaking and holding the rock speaks uninterrupted until they bow to the others and pass the rock to the next person. There is the option of passing and not saying anything. One women did a dance for her sharing that was so vividly emotionally expressive. Her sharing inspired me to think outside the box. Before the rock gets to me I work with the urge to prepare what I will say. I bring myself back from my compulsion to plan, presenting a certain image, to giving my total attention to the person sharing. I am working with my tendency to fake the funk. I notice when I feel relaxed and safe it is easier to share something I would really like support with. Soothing myself about wanting to fake the funk and being kind to myself about it fuels my courage to make myself emotionally vulnerable. I have always wanted to be part of a community. Various religious communities I have been a part of for short times end with me feeling that I am up against the dogma. The shoulds have felt like a constraint. It is refreshing to me to be part of this group.
I think my ego or personality strategy is faking the funk. I decided who I needed to be in my family to survive and then I pretended to be that person for so long I forgot I was more than that pretense.
Today I was talking with a client about pleasing. Pleasing behavior at its worst is faking the funk. It is imagining that we have to ignore what feels right to us and do what we think will make the other person love us and stick around. Then when the person we are pretzeling ourselves to please does stick around it proves to us that we aren't lovable as we are. Pausing and taking a breath when faced with another's desires gives a moment to move beyond automatic pilot to our own authentic desire. For those of us who tend to pretzel ourselves, Asking ourselves, what do I want or need here? can be very helpful. For" my way or the highway'"people who have a hard time taking other's wants into consideration taking a deep breath and really listening to what the other person wants can be very healing. I notice myself pretzeling and also sometimes pushing aggressively to get my way. I think there is an element of fear in both stances of not getting what we want. We pretzel or demand instead of being emotionally vulnerable by asking for what we want clearly and directly. It is my intention in writing this blog to let go of faking the funk as much as possible and to be kind to myself when I notice I am. Does the concept of faking the funk resonate with you? How?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This is the practice

I listened to a teleconference call this evening with Doug Bentley, a oneness trainer from India. He spoke about suffering and surrender. He said to remember in the midst of suffering that what is happening in each moment is the practice of moving toward awakening to all of who we are. Experiencing what is, is the path. Surrendering to what is in each moment is the practice.
Driving to teach yoga today I thought, I am so glad I have never locked myself out of the studio. One teacher forgot her keys and had to cancel her class. After that a lock box was installed.
Last Wednesday I had four people in my yoga class and I thought I was OK with that. Then I went to another teacher's class on Thursday and there were 22 people. I compared myself to her and decided that people weren't coming to my class because it wasn't as good as hers. I dreaded going to class today because I believed the story I had made up and was sure very few people would come. Fourteen students arrived and I got to see the power of my negative stories. I was able to forgive myself for clobbering myself with my story and realized again that judging my worth by how many people show up to my yoga class leaves me very vulnerable to outside validation. My intention is to enjoy teaching my class whoever shows up to take it. This process is ongoing. I was chuckling to myself about my process when I deftly locked the door to the office with my purse and keys in it. I had a momentary sinking feeling because my car key was also in my purse. I breathed and tapped in to the growing part of me that trusts that everything is OK. I found the lock box and tried the number I had written in my class folder. It didn't work. I had to climb up on a high ledge to reach the lock box and I fell and skinned my knee. I started to get very scared that this wouldn't work out and I would be stranded in the pouring rain without a car, unable to lock the studio. Luckily I had my appointment book with the owner's cell phone in it. My cell phone was in my purse but the insurance office downstairs was open. I reached the owner of the yoga studio and got the correct number for the lock box and relieved, went outside to open it. It didn't work. I called the owner back and repeated back to her what I had done. It turned out I had heard the number wrong. Sometimes it is such a challenge to have a hearing loss. The owner was very loving and the woman in the insurance office was very supportive. Now the box opened. The feeling of trust that everything is OK was nourished and grew. I am starting to see more and more after my almost flat tire of last week and my lock-out this week that the more I can include in what is OK
the more OK I am and life is. This is the practice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

inspired tire

Today I feel blessed. Yesterday I noticed my tire pressure light was on. I went to the gas station, found my tire pressure gauge and and checked my tires. For some people doing a task like checking their tire pressure is simple and easy. For me it represents a triumph. We all have different gifts. I am learning that if I push through my "I can't " pattern and tackle a mundane task I gain confidence in my ability to cope with the material plane and its challenges. My tires all seemed fine. Sometimes the tire pressure symbol comes on when the weather changes so I waited until today. When I drove to teach my yoga class it was still on. I decided to go to a service station I like on my way home from teaching.
Four people showed up for my class. Instead of feeling disappointment, as I have in the past, I celebrated that I had an even number of people and a small enough group to practice partner poses. The class was a welcome change for me and I think my students had fun. I could see that it represented a shift from my personality strategy of taking everything personally. Surrendering control and resisting blaming myself for what is, certainly allows me to enjoy myself more.
When I left the class I headed for the service station to get some help with the tires. The attendant found a stick embedded in and protruding from one tire. He said I would probaly need two tires and he couldn't order them and get the job done until tomorrow. It was raining hard so I didn't want to walk home from there. He filled the tire said I needed to handle it immediately as it would go flat very soon and recommended a nearby tire place. As I was driving there I remembered a tire place I had gone to previously and liked that was farther away. I took the chance and headed there. I was scared that my tire would go flat and I would be stranded in the pouring rain. Every light was red and I breathed and trusted that everything would be OK. Even the anxiety I was feeling was OK. I arrived at the tire place and they had my exact tire and said it would be fine to just replace the punctured one. The guy said he didn't work on commision so he could recommend what would really work the best. He said he could finish the tire in an hour. I had a client in an hour and called her to see if she could meet thirty minutes later. I reached her and it worked better for her to meet later. I had a delicious lunch at one of my favorite restaurants which was a short walk away. If I had to have a punctured tire this was the best case scenario. I was grateful it had gone so smoothly and people had been so helpful and that I had the money to buy a new tire. It also helped to expand the feeling that everything will be OK no matter what happens to me. Even though many challenges present themselves being OK is a constant. I notice that the more I am willing to include more things in what OK is the more OK I feel. Is there something in your life that in the past you wouldn't have known you were OK when it happened that you now know you are OK? Earned secure attachment is about being able to show up for ourselves in ways we couldn't before. It's knowing that we can comfort ourselves in the midst of what used to be intolerable. To me it represents a growing ability to contain and be there for myself instead of reacting. Self-soothing begets feeling safer in the world and the skillset of knowing what is really a threat and what isn't. Do you notice any ways the world feels safer to you than it used to? The challenge is to embrace this job of reparenting ourselves in a way that includes being present with more and more of what is in our experience. The little kids inside of us are learning to respond to love and acceptance. Maybe we are getting that more and more of all of who we are is OK. Maybe that makes the world feel more OK? As the world feels more OK the sense of the oneness that connects us all becomes more apparent. Maybe the awareness of that sense of oneness in our own small way is helping to transform the planet. I feel blessed to have this forum to share what I am learning. Thank you for listening.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

mission accomplished

This blog is in purple. Purple was my Mom's favorite color when she remembered she had a favorite color. She had purple clothes and purple stuffed animals and a bumper sticker on her car that said,"I love purple!" Monnya and I went to Alamagordo, New Mexico last weekend to pick my Mom up and bring her to her new home in Boulder. We planned the trip to include a little side trip first to Ojo Calleinte hot springs and Sante Fe. It was so much fun to have that time for mother daughter bonding. Our love for each other is fierce and supportive as we push each other to stretch beyond our ideas about who we each can be. We went on a hike as it was getting dark that I think either of us would've been afraid to do on our own. I am so blessed to have her for a daughter and a friend. We have done the work to move into the role of adult friends with each other and it is very satisfying.
Then we headed toward Alamogordo where my mother has lived for four years. For the last year I have been feeling more and more dissatisfied and uncomfortable with the way the place was run. The caretakers are overworked and underpaid. They cared and had no time to really hang out with my Mom. It was a locked alzheimer's unit with no stimulation. I had the feeling that given more loving contact she would deteriorate less quickly. When I found Anam Chara, which means soul friend, I was so excited. It is in a house in a neighborhood and their intention is to nurture the residents in body mind and spirit. The director is passionate about his work and the contribution he is making. The people who work there really like working there. It is set up to feel like a family, not an institution. They have healthy real food and a beautiful yard with rosebushes and a pond.
When we arrived my sister had packed up all my Mom's stuff. She worked really hard for four years to manage my Mom's care. She resisted the move initially and then realized she was really ready for a break.
I woke up on Saturday morning with the word "grueling" drumming in my brain as I thought about leaving at 6am on Sunday and doing the trip in one day. For several weeks I had been going back and forth in my mind about whether to make the trip back to Boulder in two days or one. I went to see my mom early that morning and feeling her sweetness I wanted to make the trip be an adventure rather than a grueling attempt at transporting her as quickly as possible. Even though she is sometimes very out of it, her humanity shines through. She is much sweeter than she was before she lost her memory. She no longer cares that Gary isn't Jewish. She doesn't even know that she is.
We stayed in a nice motel and Monnya and I took care of her. The gods were with us and I didn't have to change one poopy diaper. I am willing to because she certainly did it for me and I was very relieved.
That morning when I woke up early to do my disciplines Monnya and my mom were each sleeping in their respective beds in the same position. I felt an almost unbearably deep tenderness for the two of them that brought me to tears. We are a sandwich the three of us and I am the filling in the middle.
It was so moving to watch Monnya feed my Mom. She said she was getting a baby fix which was really satisfying for her. Monnya went to walmart and bought Mom purple accessories so she could make a fashion statement upon her arrival. Mom looked so cute in her new purple knitted cap.
We arrived in Boulder and moved Mom into her new welcoming home. We decorated the room together and mom had dinner. It was healthy and delicious and I had some too. I left to go back to my Boulder house satisfyed that we had found Mom a place to live out the last stage of her life with dignity and even some fun. I feel such a sense of peace and joy. Rescue mission accomplished . Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Moving Mom

It is good to be back to writing. I am adjusting slowly to having two houses and two lives. I am slowly building a life for myself in Boulder. Gary and I are both challenged by living together and we seem to be able to work most things out. The love between us seems to be deeper than our personality selves. It is helpful to bring ourselves back to that connection when our egos butt heads. The newest development is that on April 21st my daughter Monnya and I are going to Alamogordo New Mexico to pick up my Mom and move her to Boulder. I found a lovely, holistic place for her called Anam Chara. Anam Chara means soul friend. My Mom is in an advanced stage of Alzheimer's. It was a challenging time for my sister and I as we worked through the decision making process about whether to move Mom or not. The place she is isn't a bad place. Her body is maintained and the people who work with her are generally caring. They are also underpaid and overworked. There is little time to interact with the residents and my Mom gets very little stimulation. They have recently hired a part time activities director and things have gotten a little better. The new place is in a home and the people who work there consider themselves a family. They value the last stage of life and the passage from this life. The director is a conscious loving man and my fellow laughter leader is a caregiver. It is a not- for- profit organization that attracts lots of volunteers who come and spend time with the residents. This process has been a validation of trusting in my intuition. Although I was scared to pursue this move with my sister it felt so right to me from the beginning. Gary and I went to meet with the director. It was so helpful to have Gary's support. Right away I was struck by the director's kindness and his passion for running a sustainable business that would actually help people. I knew that if I had dementia Anam Chara is where I would want to be. I wanted that for my Mom. I know that even though my mother sometimes doesn't recognize me that she is still a being in there. I want her to be surrounded with people who get that. I want to be closer to her. This move is also for me. There is some kind of a circle of completion about me caring for my mom. Even though her parenting was often wounding she loved me the best she was capable of. It's good to have a concrete way to give back. I am so glad that Monnya will be driving down with me to get Mom. We will have some connecting time together and I so appreciate her help. My sister will help us pack Mom up. This process has been very healing for my sister and I. We have come to a better understanding of each other and there is more space for us to express our love now. We are very different and are also great teachers for each other. She is a master of the material plane where I am often challenged. I am afraid and excited about how this will impact my life. My life feels so full. I want to use the feeling of overwhelm to know that I need to ask for help from my family and friends and also from my spiritual support. I want to remember to use the burning in my chest and the shortness of my breath and the tension in my shoulders to know I need to draw my circle around myself and breathe deeply and soothe myself. I need to say 'of course' to my feeling overwhelmed and hold myself tenderly. I need to speak to myself gently. I know that the way I speak to myself or my self-talk influences how I feel about myself and how I see the world. I am learning to speak to myself as I would to my daughter rather than as how my mother spoke to me. I am reparenting myself. What do you notice about your self-talk? Can you use the awareness of bullying yourself to remember the need for compassion? What would be a compassionate way for you to speak to yourself? Imagine you are a being filled with compassion that could actually shift your neural pathways with comfort. Ask for help if you don't know what to say.Would you be willing to set a conscious intention to practice conscious kindness?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Of course

Tomorrow is my birthday. I am not working except for teaching yoga. It feels good to have the morning to myself. I have no set plans. I'd like to meditate and do yoga and maybe go for a walk. I will teach my yoga class at noon and then Gary is coming to Denver for the afternoon and evening. I really appreciate that he is coming down here given that he is not a fan of the big city. I am glad to spend my birthday with him. The women in my singing group encouraged me to ask for what I wanted rather than not ask. He was happy to come down to Denver to be with me for my birthday. It was validating for me to ask for what I wanted even though he might be annoyed. I grew up associtating anger and displeasure with love being withdrawn. I am learning to tolerate my anxiety about my imagined level of Gary's displeasure and to do what I need to do to take care of myself. I am getting much more skilled at firmly and kindly saying what I want to do and inviting him along rather than sacrificing the activities that bring me pleasure and blaming him. This weekend we did yoga and went hiking which I wanted to do and went to a cello concert and Rumi poetry reading which he wanted to do. It is getting easier to have time to myself without picking a fight to get it. I genuinely want Gary to be happy and I am realizing more and trusting more that he wants me to be happy too. I am starting to feel less threateded by his personality patterns, except when I do. I think becoming more forgving of myself makes it easier to be less reactive with him. I have been practicing noticing when I am being reactive with him which usually means I will begin fantacizing about how to get out of the relationship. When I notice this I acknowledge myself, Woo hoo. you noticed. That moves me from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. Although it is painful to be in that loop of obsession about feeling trapped and wanting to run, noticing the loop helps ease the pain and makes it easier to comfort myself. I imagine once again that loving grandmother person saying to me, "Of course Of course when you are threatened by something Gary does you want to run away. That means you are scared and triggered about something and you need your own attention. Could you be curious and ask yourself what really is going on here?"
Soothing myself and exploring what is really going on is a plan to become consciously competent. Often I am afraid about something from the past. When I want to run I am often triggered back to a time when I got small instead of asking for what I wanted. I felt trapped and powerless because I never knew what to expect from my mother. Sometimes she would be loving and kind and generous and other times she would be mean and angry. My task is to learn to comfort myself when I feel afraid rather than criticize myself. In that way I can be the mom to myself that I know what to expect from. Wanting to run is a pattern I developed in response to my fear. When I was a teenager at a social function where I felt awkward and uncomfortable I would go outside and run until I was exhausted. I literally would run away. In my adult life I have often threateded the bond by threatening to leave a relationship when I am afraid that I can't get what I want. I have made progress in that I no longer vent this to Gary. He feels much safer in our relationship since I'm not threatening to leave.
Can you notice what you do when you feel threatened? Could you become aware of that automatic pilot behavior, imagine that loving grangmother being holding you and saying of course and gently and lovingly ask yourself, "What is really going on here? What needs my attention?"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


When my singing group got cancelled for tonight my first thought after, ah shucks was woo hoo I get to write my blog. It is exciting to see the energy that comes when I let go of a should and allow the organic flow of creative desire to express itself. A time in the past when I had a clear letting- go- of- should lesson was when I realized how much I hated doing laundry. I was making myself do laundry once a week and I always dreaded it. So I bought a whole bunch of underwear and gave myself permission to wash my clothes when the spirit moved me. Before my underwear was used up or maybe after I had washed some out by hand, the unfamiliar desire to wash my clothes emerged. I washed them with enjoyment. Since then I actually like doing laundry. There's something about having the freedom to say no that allows a yes to emerge. It is so much fun to have this evening with no plans that I am considering working in the evenings
as little as possible. It feels like a luxury to have the whole evening to myself.
Today someone I work with was speaking about being in a challenging period in her life and that she felt strong enough to know that feeling yucky was only temporary. She has developed enough comfort with her emotional self to know that being on the verge of tears a lot doesn't mean there is something wrong with her. She is letting the experience of what she is feeling right now be an opportunity to show up for herself with compassion. Comforting ourselves with compassion rather than bullying ourselves when we are feeling uncomfortable feelings heals the part of us that thinks we need to be someone different than we are to be OK. Another person is noticing when he is criticized he tends to criticize himself for how he reacts. He feels small and shrinks himself and feels inadequate, like the critisism coming from outside of him means there is something wrong with him. Instead he can learn to show up for himself and say to himself, "I am here for you. I care about your suffering. I love you just as you are even in the face of the energy of external criticism. Criticizing ourselves for how we react to criticism is two steps away from compassion. We can start with comforting ourselves and soothing the scared little boy or girl inside who may still think that someone else's displeasure means we aren't loved. In close relationships people get triggered and express displeasure. The challenge is to expand our window of tolerance for the anxiety that having another person be pissed off at us engenders. We have to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable and allow other people to be uncomfortable so we can grow. So when Gary is mad at me I need to soothe myself. I need to let myself know I am proud of myself for hanging out with the discomfort without getting defensive. Or when I do get defensive to acknowledge myself with compassion for noticing I am withdrawing or attacking. I notice tone of voice has so much to do with skillful anger. I work hard in my relationship to keep contempt out of my voice even if my insides are dripping with it like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Contempt is an attack and it is natural to respond defensively to an attack. I notice when I am feeling contempt it usually masks fear. I go one-up and look down on Gary instead of being vulnerable about what is really going on with me. It is easier for me to focus on what's wrong with him than it is to clearly and directly express what I want. I had plenty of time to practice on our trip to Mexico. I am grateful to have had eleven days to be together in such a beautiful place. This is a different font and I can't find the one I was in. ( I should find the right font.I can't just change fonts in the middle of a blog. Even after I looked I can't- another opportunity to let go of a should.) Oh well........In general although Gary and I were challenged by having to make decisions every day about how to spend our time alone and/or together we were mostly respectful with each other. I allowed myself to notice my shoulds and to be conscious of what I wanted and to take Gary into consideration too. It seemed like he did the same. The thing I love about our relationship is that we work on things until we at least come to a place where we can validate each other's truth. We can come to a place where each of us can get where the other is coming from and have some understanding of why even if we don't like it. It has meant letting go of a should I have had about processing until resolution no matter how long it takes. Issues may not resolve themselves right away. Some things really take time to get clear how both people can get their needs met and require tableing for the moment.
What do you notice about your own shoulds. Are you willing to ask one familiar well-used should to step aside for a while to allow the shyer elf of desire to venture forth?

Sunday, February 27, 2011


On Friday I realized I hadn't written my blog last week. Instead of feeling guilty and scrambling to write an entry just so I could keep the intention I have had to write once a week, I decided to feel momentarily guilty and hang out with the guilt and see what felt right to me. I have written 325 entries on this blog. I have learned and grown tremendously from the experience of sharing what I learn in my life with you, my readers. Thank you for reading what I write and doing whatever you do with what you experience here.
I have been getting many lessons about being willing to let go. My identity personally and professionally has been shifting. I have had ideas of who and how I need to be to be OK. This includes putting my work first. My counseling work is my calling. It has been my belief that I came here to this planet to help other people grow in love and that mission has been my priority.
I am learning that prioritizing my time with myself, my partner, my friends and my family needs to be more at the forefront of my attention. Before I had two houses and two lives in the way I do now I had much more time. Looking back I could be much less efficient and still have more free time. My disciplines, yoga and meditation and walking have been compromised lately. I still manage to do something every day and it is more challenging. I notice when my disciplines are compromised I am edgier and less patient and my judgment is less clear. It is more difficult to feel centered and present. Today I did all of my disciplines and I can feel my deep sense of joy bubbling back up. Also I have been working to get it that living with another person, even if only part time, doesn't have to mean I abandon myself. Abandoning myself doesn't serve me and doesn't serve Gary. I have been working to know what really feels right to me and to chose that and trust that listening to myself in that way will support being less anxious and more satisfied with my life. I have been examining all of my shoulds that keep me tied to a neverending list of things I must do to be OK. I have been more aware of my aging process and the deep knowing that I don't have all the time in the world to learn to relax and enjoy my life. The time is now. The choice is mine. Today in a yoga class I felt the strength of my body and was aware that I am so much stronger than I see myself to be. I am strong enough now to be present with all of my feelings. I had a shift in consciousness at a Deeksha workshop last weekend that let me know in my body that nothing is bigger than the love that is inside me that surrounds me that we are all one with. I can trust in that love. It holds me with consistent compassion and heals the little wounded girl inside me. I can be with whatever comes up and meet it with that love. It is waiting for me to get that I deserve to be held in love for being exactly who I am. Today I led Laughter Yoga and Andie was there with me. We weren't separate from each other we were frolicking together. Woo hoo! I am leaving for Mexico in a few days. I will be gone almost two weeks. During that time I will ask for clarity about when to write this blog. It just came.My answers are so available when I take the time to listen. From here on out I will write my blog when I am moved to write it however long that takes in between. I can consciously write my blog when it wants to be written. My blog is about growing in love and supporting others in doing that. Letting my actions flow from my still small voice will organically support that intention. I am ready to let go of thinking if I don't bully myself with my shoulds I won't do anything. That is an old idea. My consciousness supports me in doing what I came here to do. I look forward to communing with you when the time is right.
In the meantime look at what is really important to you and see if you can allow yourself to do it. Look at what is important to you to be and notice the radiant example already shining through. Your power is more evident than you think. Let yourself look for the evidence of it. Then acknowledge yourself for looking and for what you find. Love to all of you. Andrea

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My big S Self

One of the most valuable concepts for me about the Enneagram is the idea of personality and essence. Personality is the strategy we adopt in our family of origin to adapt to the limited acceptance we experience. We place this strategy over all of who we are and squish our bigness into our personality box. After many years of practice this strategy becomes who we think we are. The enneagram is a map of nine personality strategies. Studying this map and learning more about being mindful of our main strategies and the strategies of those we love leads to increased compassion for self and others. Mindfulness is observation without judgement. By bringing mindfulness to the ways we've learned to defend ourselves when feeling our feelings and being emotionally vulnerable wasn't safe, we can begin to move beyond those defenses to more authentic contact with self and others. Defensive postures are a response to fear when responding authentically doesn't feel safe. The idea of three main defensive postures was originally developed by Karen Horney and has been used by several Enneagram teachers. The three postures are aggression, compliance and withdrawal. Three of the enneagram types lead with each one of these. Twos, sixes and ones lead with compliance. When they are afraid and feel the need to defend themselves they are more apt to placate and please. Fours, fives and nines tend to withdraw and pull back into themselves when threatened. Threes, eights and sevens often lead with aggression getting big and using anger to protect themselves. This is not to say that this is always true. It is only a useful tool to be able to show up for ourselves, recognizing the defensive posture as part of our strategy. All people have all three options and can use them all. I am a four and when I notice I want to pull back into myself and run away, I can ask myself what I am afraid of rather than running away. I can soothe the little girl inside me who had no other choice but to shrink and get small and blame herself in the face of my mom's anger. I can let her know that she is safe with me and that I protect her now. Together we are learning that it is safe to be powerful and to find our voice. By bringing compassion to ourselves when we notice our defensive postures and seeing them as vehicles for us to learn to show up for ourselves in our fear, we open to more and more of all of who we are. Fear creates our strategies. Showing up for ourselves in our fear allows us to heal. What we heal into is the big beautiful essence of all that we are. Essence is all of who we are. It includes our personality strategies and our defensive postures. Opening to essense is the process of reclaiming all we gave up to become who we thought we needed to be to survive in our family of origin. It means making conscious choices about what we want to keep about our strategies and what we are ready to release. The Enneagram is a powerful map to begin to explore this reclaiming process. You could also think of personality as self with a small s and essence as Self with a big S. Learning to trust in Self helps us to know ourselves as more than our strategies. Learning to listen to the still small voice of the Self within us guiding us home creates the pathways for more authentic connections with ourselves and others. I think of it as learning to listen to my big S self. My new affirmation is I trust in my big S Self. May you also learn to trust in your big
S Self. Would it be useful to set aside some time to listen?