Heart Meditation

Artwork by Jen Gouvea http://www.engagedheart.com

Just by sitting down, by entering the sacred chair in this sacred space, the breath deepens and slows. The lungs and tired muscles smile in gratitude. My heart opens wide. It knows what comes next.

Remembering where it came from is something. Where it’s going is where it will be some day. But right now there is love and light. Space. And freedom to just be.

My heart, as it continues to break open and heal over and over, has enjoyed an abundance over lifetimes. There is plenty of love to share. It rushes out in a tidal wave covering the earth. It soaks down through the rainforests and deserts and oceans and rock, all the way to the fire at the center. It rises up and out in a quantum rush that fills every atom, every dark place, every light place, and doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

Every cell smiles. Thank you, they say. My spirit smiles. Thank you, she says. The universe continues to swirl and challenge and love. Thank you, I say.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch.

Hello, world.

Kindergarten Renaissance

Henry SkyBelow is a blog from the spring of 2012 I’m compelled to share with you again. Henry was about to turn three years old and going through his own older toddler renaissance, a very fruitful growth period after a year of awkwardly adjusting his eyes and energy to his new Seattle home and school that glowed with a very different light from his Taiwanese and Los Angeles environments. Lessons were coming at him at lightning speed and, despite a few understandable bumps, his arms and heart remained open to the challenges. The result was the beginning of new interests, a new vocabulary and new friendships he maintains today even though we’ve carried him away. His light was shining brightly in our lovely but soggy world. Eyes naturally fixed upon him like an afternoon sunbreak over the Puget Sound.

We are in another Henry renaissance. This time the catalyst came with a move in May to Central Coast California wine country and the start of kindergarten in August. The previous year was filled with uncomfortable shifts for us as people and as a family, resulting in behavioral challenges, energetic and developmental confusion, and weeks of doubt about whether we had any idea how to be parents. After an initial adjustment to the move — the strange and simultaneous expansion of living space and shrinking of our social climate — Henry is learning, interacting with and talking about his new world in exponentially more exciting ways than even two months ago. The rollercoaster ride known as parenting living is clicking quickly to the top of that second (or seventy-fifth) thrilling hill and we’re all smiling into the sunshine and beautiful view.

While I considered all of this, the below blog from a couple of years ago came to mind. As a new parent, which really wasn’t that long ago, I struggled with the shifting focus and dynamic in our family. Now, on most days, I’m the one holding the spotlight and asking what color gel he would like. That may change tomorrow, but today I share this post with gratitude for the growth we are all enjoying during this Kindergarten Renaissance. Thank you, Henry, for sharing your glow and raising us all up to new heights.


silhouette-JumpingGreater than the sum of its parts

May 28, 2012

Anyone who’s been any sort of mother for even a day understands what I am about to say. Once these precious and adorable little beings become a part of our lives, we become less visible to the naked eye.

We are there, but somehow translucent — a way to get to the sparkly little creature we hold in our arms or who clasps our hand. It’s as if a Rachel Berry-esque bright white spotlight is constantly shining on our children and we are merely the nameless blondes in Cheerios uniforms swaying and ahh-ing in the background.

It’s not that people completely forget about us or intend to ignore us, and I know this oversight is not meant to hurt us in any way. In fact, most mothers have done it themselves. I know I have. We almost can’t help ourselves. We all are drawn to where the light shines the brightest.

This used to bother me. A lot. There are some, especially my husband Larry, who always are fascinated with my doings and beings. But socially this was is still the norm. I would pout or rant to my poor husband after conversations or dinners where well-intentioned folks would ask Larry about his work then ask me how Henry was doing, somehow never getting around to asking about me. It didn’t help that much of my professional focus is on supporting others in their creative, business and/or healing process. My days are usually spent toggling between meeting Henry’s needs – often involving loudly demanded sippy cups and making sure he knows “please don’t throw rocks at the kitchen window” actually means something – and meeting my clients’ needs and, oh yeah, my husband’s and my own needs whenever possible.

For the first few months after we adopted Henry, when we met with friends I’d enjoy everyone staring and playing and cooing over Henry for a while. As all typical parents, I firmly believe Henry is extraordinary, so how could you not stare and coo? Isn’t he sweet? Isn’t he smart? Isn’t he cute when he poops? Yes, yes he is. But after a while I’d stick in my energetic nose – or foot or hand or waving arms, whatever worked – usually answering their unrelated questions with some vague hint at an interesting anecdote from my non-Henry week. “Yes, we are going to Yo Gabba Gabba Live!, not that the tickets were easy to get. I had to go online at 9 a.m. sharp, during a conference call with a client, believe it or not…”

I did everything but strip naked and dance the Hokey Pokey. So much of my time is spent giving so much to Henry, so why does he get all the admiration? I thought. Women who spend a lot of time together adopt the same monthly cycle. Perhaps so much close proximity to Henry’s toddler maturity level was inducing mine to regress.

Over time I grew up a little and became used to it, expecting to be the mother-in-waiting and becoming genuinely surprised and grateful when someone showed interest in me. I started to understand that a big part of my job is supporting Henry (and my clients and my husband and my loved ones) no matter what, to hold him up, to help him be the center or the diagonal or the sideways or whatever he needed to be in that moment. I’ve gotten a lot of attention in my lifetime, and now it’s Henry’s turn. I accepted my role.

But until not long ago – too recent to not be a little embarrassing – did it all become crystal clear. After receiving a perfectly timed message from a beloved teacher and friend, I began to truly understand…

Being a conscious parent is exactly the same as being a conscious human being: It’s never about me. It’s not just about him. It’s always about “us.”

It’s more than not letting your ego drive the bus. It’s about knowing that when one of us shines, we all do. When we support and love each other unconditionally, it is a gift to the entire family, to humanity, to the universe.

This lovely teacher said a lot of things, but mostly she explained that we all know instinctively when someone makes us shine brighter or be “better” simply by being in our lives, by understanding intuitively what we need or by knowing exactly how to explain why we shouldn’t throw rocks at the kitchen window so we understand. Anyone who agrees to unconditionally love and nurture another is agreeing to a cycle of sharing and support that raises the level of everything we do. The result is much greater than the sum of its parts.

When Henry shines brightly, so do I. When I shine brightly, so does he. When anyone shines, it raises us all up. It heals us all. It honors us all. No one has a role to “accept.” We are a part of each other and therefore can never be made separate.

Now, I am joyful when I walk through the grocery or the halls of Henry’s school or a family event and people involuntarily look past me and down at Henry to return his infectious smile and offer an enthusiastic ‘hello.’ Now I know a part of me is in that smile, just as a part of him is in mine. We are extraordinary together.

The wows of my mother: 12 ways she’s fantastic at 75


A young Judy Rhoads, aka my Mom. May 18, 1967, less than a month before she had my sister Lin.
A young Judy Rhoads, aka my Mom. May 18, 1967, less than a month before she had my sister Lin.

My mother turns 75 years old today. Her father and his mother both lived to nearly 100, so my guess is she still has many years to enjoy this life. But 75 are certainly enough years to merit a long deep breath, a “wow” and a bit of a look at this wonderful woman. Perhaps also some chocolate cake (she dearly loves chocolate) to celebrate.

To honor her and this day, here are 12 things about her that I appreciate the most:

  1. Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, our after school snacks frequently included French cheese and water crackers. She used to cook scallops as a side dish on a Tuesday night. Lamb filets were a staple dinner entrée.
  2. She worked at a small school in a troubled neighborhood for most of her 35 years teaching kindergarten. While raising her own two daughters, she also helped raise a generation of children born into circumstances that many would consider a pathway to poverty, prison or worse. She collected lots of stories over the years, as all teachers do, but the saddest stories she kept to herself, holding them close to her heart next to the happy reunions with grown and grateful students as motivation to keep making each day in her classroom meaningful to each child.
  3. She’s never been a huggy, kissy, touchy feely earth mama. She loves subtlely and respects covertly by being interested in your life and your ideas, asking lots of questions, endlessly discussing her and your opinions and observations of the world, testing your perceptions and forcing you to consider how and when you share what you have to offer. She challenges you to learn and grow, to figure out your place in the world and, for me, to figure out how to talk about it. And food. Lots of fantastic food.
  4. She was the first “truth teller” in my life, and I’ve realized over the years she’s one of the main reasons I feel so comfortable—a little too comfortable, perhaps—being one myself. She’s been known to take virtual strangers to task for opinions she finds misguided or associations she doesn’t understand. The first conversation she had with my husband was at a Memorial Day picnic a few years before we dated. Once she discovered he was to start work in a few days as a reporter at the radio news station she listened to, she cornered him for a half an hour explaining why she didn’t like their recent programming changes. Luckily, he married me anyway.
  5. She is smart, well educated and well read, and beautiful music, her grandson giving her noses and The Bridges of Madison County make her cry. She tries to hide her sensitivity beneath a veneer of intellect, frankness and tough love offered with a tinge of sarcasm. Those who know her see her true optimism and appreciate her enormous soft spot for the lovelier and sillier parts of humanity.
  6. She has an uncanny intuition for the exact book I need to read at that exact point in my life, and she introduced me to some of the writers that are my most beloved and influential, including David Sedaris.
  7. When she finds a new interest or project, she doesn’t stop until the whole hog is cooked. She loves children’s books and when Larry and I announced we were adopting she started collecting her contribution to Henry’s personal library. Easily more than a hundred books later, we still get surprise packages a few times a year. Once she began researching her family’s heritage, she didn’t stop before she traced it all the way back to 11th century Normandy, France.
  8. When she experiences a healthy flow of tears, she loses all control of most of her facial muscles. Her eyes involuntarily squint up to mere slits and her mouth loses the ability to stay closed unless she purses her lips with all her might. I know because it’s exactly how my sister and I also cry. Oprah calls it the “ugly cry,” but I prefer to think of it as the contraction before the blessed release.
  9. When I look in the mirror I see the uneven curve of her brow and her eyes, which were her mothers before. When I put on my shoes I see her pretty feet with strangely curved pinky toes. When I tap my fingernails on my lips while I read, I remember her sitting in her chair doing the same. When I listen to a recording of me talking, I hear her voice in my darkened childhood room telling me that the sirens at the nearby hospital were just the beautiful sound of people helping.
  10. She’s never stopped learning and changing. In recent weeks she’s discovered a wonderful new openness to seeing the simplicity of the universe, humanity’s one-ness and the beauty and intricacy of our connections. She’s holding up a light of a slightly different color from the one she used the previous 75 years. And in ten years, she may use yet another color. I can’t wait to see what it is.
  11. She is very sweet, but she is not easy. She never tried to be. She just does what she is here to do. She pokes. She asks. She challenges. She supports. She offers endless opportunities to learn and change. She pushes my buttons, but they are buttons only she can push. And she does it with lots and lots of love.
  12. Over the years I’ve come to see the ways in which we are the same much more than the ways we are different. Like many mothers and daughters, the list is long, complicated and full of beauty and growth. It goes back generations and lifetimes and includes all the women who have taught us through life or genetics what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be connected to other women. It is a story that sits up in heaven in all its glory, imparting its wisdom bit by bit as we become ready for it. It’s a story we share, and I’m so glad we do.

Happy 75th birthday, Mom. I am grateful to you and for you. I love you.

Allergies and ego trips

allergy2It just makes me laugh. How the universe brings the lessons and messages so perfectly timed and in such a perfect package—the one I can see and hear in that moment.

Yesterday it was this video of a Seattle event hosted by Matt Kahn and Julie Dittmar of True Divine Nature, which offered wisdom regarding several of my current challenges (to some extent, all four of his “inflammations” spoke to me) but especially one.

The last few weeks I’ve been experiencing the classic struggle of every author: the transition from talking through my book to talking about my book for the purposes of getting it published, distributed and read by those meant to read it. Among many other things, in my memoir I describe my recent struggles with understanding ego, the role it plays in a conscious life and my own set of lessons regarding it. Now, immediately following completion, I’m faced with this challenge.

Ironic? Perhaps. More like the universe at work. During the shilling process I’ve felt everything from humbled by the amount of help freely offered to irritated at the need to ask for help at all, even from more-than-willing colleagues and friends. And the social media. God help us. Websites, list services, Facebook pages, Twitter engagement, and what is this Google+ thing and should I be on it? I just spent a year writing and revising and rewriting and editing the damn thing, I thought. Can’t that just be enough? For many of us with the greater good intentions behind our work, isn’t it easy to question why it should be challenging? If it’s truly in the best interest of all concerned, why should we have to work so hard?

Perhaps I am simply allergic to the process, I thought.

No, I’m just allergic to seeing it as a burden or a chore rather than an opportunity. There is a lot of inflammation going on but the allergen, the toxin overstimulating my nervous system, is nothing more than my own ego believing I shouldn’t have to do any of this. That the major life lessons built into this path aren’t worthy of my time and full attention.

As I watched Matt’s video, I began to open up. I could hear the wisdom in his words. They were my own higher self’s message that I hadn’t been able to hear yet for all the swelling around my ears. Walk the walk, she said. Find the balance by freeing your soul’s personality and its story so those who are seeking it can find them in the clutter. Let the book—or the cause or the small business or the passion project—be your voice and your guide. Encounter everyone and everything along the journey with an open heart, true interest, acknowledgement of their beauty and gratitude for the lessons they carry with them. Meet your own allergic reactions with love and healing compassion. As long as you are true to who you really are—not the entitled author your ego says you are—the rest will take care of itself.

I hope this video speaks to you as much as it did to me.