Holiday Meditation

Meditating Santa from tonykuhn.com
Meditating Santa from tonykuhn.com

The hustle and bustle leave my mind and body as I sink into this chair, reserved for this time and this way. My heart opens. It knows what it needs to do.

I take in a deep breath of pine, cinnamon and family. I breathe out obligations, worry and shipping charges. I close my eyes and let the energy run.

Today I welcome abundant Santa, warm menorah candles and the unconditional love of a boy born in a manger. I choose the sparkly silver that fills the car as my son and I sing about cows and sleigh rides on the drive to school. I clean off the jaggedy chartreuse of world events and bizarre violence becoming too frequent to be shocking.

Seeing where it came from is worthy. Playing a role in where we’re headed is imperative. But right now is nothing more than space. And the space I occupy is loosely wrapped in tinsel.

Today my heart is bright red and green and tinged with laughter. My holiday table is overflowing with love and abundance. There is plenty to share. It flows out peacefully, covering the earth. It soaks through the dense cities and rolling countrysides, through fault lines and tree lines, all the way to the fire in the belly. It rises up and out in a jubilant rush that fills every molecule, every dark place, every light place and all the spaces in between, and it doesn’t stop until it gently touches the edges of the universe.

One last deep breath. Eyes open. A long, slow stretch. A smile. A soft jingle of a bell.

Happy holidays, world.

How many spirits does it take to change a lightbulb?

I am fortunate to be surrounded by writers and souls who continuously illuminate, enlighten, amuse and offer great wisdom. Jennifer Mathews is one of these beautiful souls. Please enjoy this most recent post from her regular blog, Seeing Death in a Different Light, and be sure to sign up to get a free copy of her upcoming e-book. Until next time, many holiday season blessings to you all.

–Rebecca

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idea concept

Up high above the staircase to our bedroom, there was a light bulb in a parchment paper globe hanging from the ceiling. To change it required a ladder precariously placed on boards, or one of those special extended light bulb poles you can buy at Home Depot. So when the bulb finally went out, we didn’t bother to replace it.

This meant that my partner Kate and I walked upstairs in the dark every night, step by step, touching the wall for balance. I tended to push my toes into the base of each stair to feel stable. Sometimes, I closed my eyes because sensing each step felt easier that way. Once my toes no longer felt another step, I knew I arrived at the top. Then I’d reach my left hand into the bedroom, and turn on the light by pressing in the round dimmer switch knob before walking into the room. This became our routine.

Then after a number of months had gone by, my walk up the dark staircase became a solo journey.

Experiencing Kate’s spirit

Kate had been diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer in the fall, and would return to spirit soon thereafter. Before she died the evening of December 3rd 2011, I had gone upstairs for a minute. Afterward, I sat in the dark on the top carpeted step, candlelight glowing in the living room below, music playing softly in the background. I watched her body rise and fall as she breathed.

In that moment, I felt her spirit so strongly that I physically had to move over and make room for her ethereal body to sit next to me.

Silently, I asked her if she was witnessing what I was, looking down at herself, laying in the hospital bed. In my mind, I heard her answer that it was exactly what she was experiencing since much of her spirit was already out of her body. I could barely believe what was happening, and yet at the same time, I was certain it was completely real.

Months later . . .

The following spring, months after Kate’s death, I carefully made my way to the top of the stairs on another pitch black night. I reached into my bedroom, pressed the knob to turn on the light and POP!, the quick flash and electrical sound of a blown bulb.

“Bummer!” I said out loud to myself, because it was totally dark in my room. I clicked the knob many times and turned the dimmer dial right and left, hoping it would come back on so I didn’t have to add this to my “to do” list. Yes, a simple thing – to change a light bulb right over my bed – but it’s another thing to procrastinate on doing.

A few weeks had gone by, and I often forgot the bulb was out. I’d press in the knob, or spin it, and no luck. No light. Then on one particular morning, I woke up early. I’m not really sure why I opened my eyes since I knew it was much earlier than I need to get up. I looked at the clock – 7:28am – and I thought, “Great. I can still get two more hours of sleep.” I’m a night owl, not a morning person.

Laying on my back, I looked up at the ceiling.

The light above my bed was on.

In my sleepiness, I followed my mind attempting to figure it all out: Did I fall asleep with that on last night? But I can’t fall asleep with lights on, so that’s strange. Hmmmm, was the electricity out when I went to bed, and then came back on? Then I remembered. No, Jen, that bulb is dead.

And then it dawned on me . . . WHOA! The light is ON!!

Experiencing Kate’s spirit yet again

I could feel Kate’s presence in the room.

I immediately said “Hello, Kate,” and shook my head, smiling. My mind drifted from disbelief to thanking Kate for repairing the blown-out bulb. I realized she may even have changed it, as I heard her say it’s a “simple” thing to do. Then I remember her voice in my head, offering me this joke:

Q. – How many spirits does it take to change a light bulb?

A. – One.

At first, I laughed because it is – of course – a classic joke. But I thought maybe I heard the punch line wrong because it seemed too boring. Like a child telling a joke that wasn’t really funny, but you laugh anyway because they’re trying. But a split second later, with her voice and gentle chuckle in my mind, I heard her add the true Kate flavor:

Because we are ALL ONE!

Ha ha ha! I laughed out loud. A spiritual light bulb joke. Good one, Kate.

“Can you change the lightbulb in the hallway above the stairs, too?” I joked with her. I felt her smile.

I wanted to call her family right away, email my friends, let people know about this incredible connection. But then I wondered if they would even believe me, or if they would rationalize all the reasons this miracle hadn’t actually happened.

What I realized that morning was not that it’s possible to communicate with those in the spirit world. I already knew that. What I realized was that it didn’t matter if anyone believed me. I knew what happened. I was clear. Yes, I can indeed communicate with those who have died, and now, I trusted this more fully, rather than being skeptical of my own first hand experience. Whether others believe me or not doesn’t diminish what I know I experienced, what I know deep down to be true.

The light bulb lesson I learned is that I don’t need to convince anyone of anything! I just need to tell my stories, to tell the truth. So here I am, telling you.

And here’s the rest of the story . . . A few days later, my landlord arrived at the house out of the blue. He said he just bought one of those long poles needed to change the light bulb above the stairs! I hadn’t talked to him about this for many months. I thanked Kate for giving him a nudge to take care of it. What service!
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Jennifer Mathews, M.A., is a writer, speaker and consultant who lives in Mt. Shasta, CA. Based on her own exploration of death, grief, joy and optimism, she offers fresh perspectives and practical tools to support others on their journeys. You can find more of her blogs and sign up to receive a free copy of her upcoming e-book by going to jennifermathews.com.

What’s your soul doing?

silhouette-jumped-boy-sunset-background-41488310Our family woke up this morning talking about death and taxes. It sounds depressing and stressful, and I’m not going to lie and tell you our exploration was all purple pansies and smiley faces. But it wasn’t sad.

My husband Larry and I had been up a few minutes talking about some financial planning we needed to do for next year. We both are self-employed and have to plan ahead a bit when it comes to reporting and paying taxes, and we were thinking ahead to adjustments we needed to make to prepare for 2015. Scintillating morning bed conversation, I know, but it was sweet and intimate in its own way—filled with hope and excitement for what’s to come and shared responsibilities for helping it happen in the most graceful and connected way possible. But as we continue this relatively new exploration into being completely self-employed, talking about money is never without some level of pressure.

Soon our sleepy-eyed five-year-old son Henry climbed onto our warm, messy bed and we happily suspended our discussion. As Henry gave us both morning “boops,” or bumped noses as the rest of the world would call it, Larry asked him how he slept and what he dreamt about.

“I died,” he said. “So did you and you. In water. Ahhhhh!” He mimicked the sounds of a person drowning, though I know he’s never seen that on television or in a movie.

Larry and I smiled to each other. I know this sounds extreme and scary, but this wasn’t the first time he’s told us of vivid dreams and memories of some sort of death. Often he remembers us, or at least a mother and father, being there too. He rarely feels afraid after experiencing them—more a neutral memory than a premonition—and he always describes them very matter-of-factly.

“What happened after you died?” Larry asked. “Did you go somewhere?”

Death has been more present for our family lately, as it has been for so many of us. Only a few weeks ago, Larry attended the funeral of a good friend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier in the year. She was only a year older than us. The funeral was a meaningful celebration of her life, as well as an opportunity to check in on our priorities, experience the universal cycle of life in a profound way, and reconnect with some good friends who had drifted.

Henry contemplated Larry’s question quietly, like there was something he was considering saying but couldn’t find the words. “I don’t know. Don’t ‘member. I’m hungry.”

Henry ate his breakfast quietly at his favorite spot along the kitchen counter while Larry and I continued our financial planning conversation. We talked of tasks to be done before the end of the year and new and potential client work. We both admitted we were worrying about it all a little more than was helpful.

Twenty minutes later, I was still in get-it-done mode.

“Wash your face, please. Shoes. Jacket. Backpack. Time to go to school,” I said as we finished our 14th car race along the step to the dining room. I made a quick note to myself about starting the computer with our account records on it as soon as I got home, and we walked out into the wind and rain.

“Mommy’s car! Mommy’s car!” Henry said excitedly. It is the much older car of our two and we usually don’t drive it unless we have to, but there was no reason not to, so we got in.

“Mommy, Bubbles!” Permanently inserted into this car’s CD player is the first disk of the What Color is Your Bubble? series for kids. His friend Alison talks him through some simple energetic and meditative exercises. We hadn’t listened in weeks. I turned it on and Alison began the second exercise all about setting and changing your grounding cord.

We pulled up to the stop sign at the end of our street, lists of numbers dancing in my head, as Alison asked, “What does your grounding cord look like today?” I chose not to look, instead imagining the spreadsheet I had in mind. Then I heard a voice from the back seat.

“What’s your soul doing?”

I turned Alison down, not sure I’d heard correctly, and I looked at Henry in the mirror as he asked it again the exact same way. He looked directly at my reflection with clear, calm eyes.

“What do you mean, Sweetie? You want to know what my soul is doing?”

“Yes.”

It was a simple question. A profound one. One I have an answer for. An answer I’ve heard over and over and know to my core and beyond. As I thought of what words to say, a calm came over me. In an instant I was in my body, connected, confident, clear. The top of my head tingled and suddenly the driver’s seat of the “old car” was the most comfortable place in the world. All thoughts of money were gone.

The answer that quickly and easily popped into my head and heart also was the simplest and most accurate. “Henry, I believe my soul is in this body right now so I can learn what I’m supposed to learn.”

He was silent at first, but his gaze never wavered and his ears and heart were wide open. Then he started to talk and explore the notion in his own way. As we continued the conversation over the next couple of minutes, concepts and energies flowed between us like an easy stream of water. Love, peace, growth, clairvoyance, healing, sharing, family. Most of it never made it into words, but we did talk about how we all chose to be together in this lifetime. He spoke quietly about how when he was a baby he wasn’t in our family yet, but then he was.

“How do you feel about that, Henry?”

“Happy.”

And then it was done. Less than three minutes from start to finish.

It didn’t take an hour of meditation and energetic cleaning. It didn’t require any practice or body position and wasn’t specific to any belief system. It didn’t even take the whole second track on the CD.

With one question asked by my greatest teacher, together we refocused, shifted perspectives and got to where we needed to be for the day: What’s the big picture? What’s the “why” behind what you’re doing right now? Behind it all? Why are you worrying about these practical things when the greater good, the longer path, the lessons, the love is all that really matters?

Perhaps Henry had tried to get us there first thing in the morning as he remembered his dreams and previous lessons. Death and the afterlife are bigger than taxes, despite their mutual inevitability. But today the cycle-of-life, universal-plan reminders that came with our friend’s funeral weren’t enough to bring us home. Given a second chance, Henry intuitively knew what to do. It was so simple. So clean and perfect. And it worked.

By the way, Henry wanted me to ask you something.

What’s your soul doing?

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To find out more about Rebecca’s writing and coaching services, go to rebeccagifford.com or contact her at giffordrebecca@gmail.com.

Knowing Great Love

love handsMy world is filled with all kinds of parents. Not one of us is perfect, nor would claim to be. But all of us know great love.

I am lucky enough to have brilliant models — both fellow parents and trusted caregivers. Some have been in my life for always and some I’ve known less than a week. None is like another, but they all have wonderful qualities to watch and emulate: boundless loyalty to their children’s happiness and best interests, respect, trust, open-mindedness, creativity, presence, an easy and natural way of moving through the day with their children, love and laughter even in the face of adversity, endless energy for play and talking and storytelling and discovering, unconditional support for their children’s eccentricities and unique qualities, and lots and lots of patience.

Even the most even-tempered caregivers struggle daily to maintain at least some of these qualities, but the desire to keep struggling and growing is what makes them real and wonderful. I love all my teachers. They share such unique gifts with our family. But as I embrace all these remarkable souls, one in particular keeps showing up.

During National Adoption Month, I’d like to honor Henry’s birth mother.

Her time in Henry’s life was very brief. Depending on Henry’s choices later in life, she may or may not ever be in it again, but I always will consider her a strong example for me, Henry and us all — for her great compassion to create and nurture such an extraordinary being in her womb, great courage as she struggled with impossible choices, and great strength as she relinquished her parental rights to my husband and me.

Now four and a half years later, I continue to feel her love and supportive energy as it travels over the mountains of Taiwan, across the blue water and lands gently next to our family as we giggle at the dinner table, sing in the car or dance with the pelicans on Moonstone Beach. She makes sure we know she is happy for us and still loves her son. I smile and send love and gratitude back to her, over the oceans and mountains, to wherever she now calls home. I make sure she knows our families are bound forever.

She holds a special seat in my circle of trusted parents, caregivers and guides.

She, perhaps more than most, knows great love.

Still loving those cracks

Our children are human barometers. They walk into a room and use their razor sharp intuition and sensitive natures to determine immediately the energy in a room. They quickly sense people or situations near and far that don’t match them in any given moment and don’t hesitate to remove themselves forcibly — and in Henry’s case, with a genuine but definite “Bye!” — if you aren’t doing it for them. They see and feel more clearly, having not collected the energetic baggage and programmed preconceptions most teenagers and adults enjoy.

As I describe in the below blog posted when my son was about two years younger, this is both a beautiful and infuriating role he is more than happy to play. Over the last two years, as vocabularies expanded and interpersonal relationships became more complicated, it has gotten more interesting.

As so many families and folks with children in their lives are in yet another individual and collective “growth period,” this blog seemed an apropos rerun. It’s a reminder that our greatest teachers are often sleeping in the room across the hall, riding a few feet in front of us on the bike trail, sitting next to us at the dinner table spouting silly jokes and observations ripe with wisdom and harsh truth. They are mirrors that immediately reflect what we bring to the moment, how we live in it, what we offer it and when we’re not quite there. Listen carefully.

Don’t forget to visit www.laughattheskykid.com to read an excerpt from my book and sign up for updates on its publication. Happy reading!

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sun-shinign-through-a-crackThere is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.  – Anthem, Leonard Cohen

The cracks are showing a lot these days, often revealing themselves at inconvenient times. Many wise people in my life lightheartedly (but accurately) call such phases “growth periods,” so I have adopted the habit, as well. Symptoms of a significant growth period include disorientation, emotional vulnerability, sometimes unexplained frustration or impatience, fruitless grasping at control over things decidedly out of your control, loss of focus during business meetings, and bawling at the end of movies containing dogs and/or dolphins and/or kindly aliens. Luckily, they also include great clarity, love, compassion, strength and growth, even moments of extraordinary peace and knowingness – what I would call nirvana. A rollercoaster of evolution.

Basically, like the entire human race, I am experiencing some growing pains. And some times more than others, my cracks show. My son is very aware of this. In fact, he is quick to point them out.

The moment my voice changes and I start to get impatient with him for not putting on his shoes on my swift timeline so we can leave and not be late darn it, he squeezes his eyes shut, shakes his head and goes limp in my arms. If I decide to use my time in the car bringing him home from school to make a phone call and finish the work I was rushing to complete before I left, he decides he needs a drink, a snack and to ask what absolutely everything out his window is during the drive. When I am frustrated with someone, that person becomes his favorite person in the world for the day. When I’m frustrated with myself, he surprises me with a simple act of kindness.

They are such effective teachers, our children. As mine, Henry could be more patient at times, a little less infuriating, but he is only three.

Exactly when I need it, Henry shoves me back into the present. He forces me to let go of control. He shows me how to allow everyone their own cracks and appreciate them all the more for them. He pushes me to look at my own and be grateful for the ability to love myself as much as he loves me, despite them…because of them.

He knows just how far to stick his little fingers in to make that crack big enough to let the light come rushing in.

Heart Meditation

heart-meditation-by-jen-gouvea-285x190
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.

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.

Blessed lack

sitting-stillI woke this morning thinking about this blog. What to write. What’s on my mind. In my heart. What’s important. I found myself thinking about lack—of motivation, of a driving notion aching to be expressed. The absence of a great idea.

Perhaps I just need the quiet for the inspiration to come, I thought. Yes, that’s it. Sit. Comfortable chair. Quiet room. Deep breath. Open wide. Let it run. Birds outside the window. Breakfast in the kitchen. Lavendar oil on my t-shirt. Deep breath. Moment. Quiet. Peace. Blessed peace. Blessed lack.

In this notion sat the space to be and time enough to see. The welcome memory that lack doesn’t exist. There are always infinite possibilities and just as many answers. Even in the feeling there is a hole to fill or fissure to fix, there is supreme humanity ripe for compassion. In conscious absence there is wisdom. In the quiet is the sacred music of bliss.

More Water on the Fire

Photo by Aquariann.com Raphell Fountain Sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens
Photo by Aquariann.com
Raphell Fountain Sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens, Myrtle Beach, SC

The below blog originally was posted in February 2013, partially as a reaction to a hot topic of conversation at the time — a song Seth MacFarlane sang while hosting the Oscars that year. In recent days, another controversial story is again on many lips. Ray Rice, the NFL and Janay Rice all have reminded us of the continuing resistance to the feminine and the resulting oppression of women on an individual and institutional level. So did the recent reports of sexist remarks made toward congresswomen and female congressional staffers. 

On some level, it warms my heart to see all the indignation and anger from women and men alike as these stories continue to unfold and these behaviors and ingrained beliefs are revealed even more fully. Last night I watched Jon Stewart and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand talk on The Daily Show with such passion about the NFL scandal, the struggle many women still experience in the workplace, rape culture, and the antiquated attitudes still demonstrated by some in Congress and the military. I empathized with their anger and their desire to do something to “fix it.” But anger isn’t how it gets done. The answer isn’t in any new policies or organizations created from their desire for justice and a forced attitude shift. It’s not in viewing women as victims or in feeling like one yourself.

The answer is in embracing and embodying the feminine energy our society needs so desperately to balance the playing field. That can’t be forced or even compelled; that’s the masculine way of doing it. It needs to be demonstrated, lived and loved. That is where strength can be found. Show folks how to be comfortably feminine and supportive of feminine energy in their daily life. Talk with everyone about it, even those who can’t see it yet, with compassion. Embrace your own open, vulnerable heart and don’t be afraid to bare it for your own good or for the greater good. Love freely. Listen without judgment or a desire to fix things. It will continue to catch on, and the changes we’ll see for the better will come from a true embracing of women and shift toward feminine energy.

In the meantime, enjoy the below…

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From Laugh at the Sky, Kid in February 2013:

It’s taken me most of my life to understand. I’m a woman. That’s a remarkable, beautiful thing. My femininity and the strong and divine life force that comes from embracing it are important and inescapable parts of me.

We could get into why it took me until recently to appreciate this, but that would require “a very special” series of blogs and a trip to the store for tissues and it isn’t really important to what I have to say. What’s more noteworthy today is that my struggle to embrace both my feminine and masculine sides, a struggle that may sound familiar to you, is merely a microcosm of what’s going on in the world.

Our collective feminine energy – receptive, open, creative, supportive, unconditionally loving – has been challenged for millennia. You can track patriarchal domination, and consequential oppression of women, from as far back as 4,000 BC all the way up to Seth MacFarlane’s boob song at this year’s Oscars. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed Mr. MacFarlane’s edgy humor many times over the years, as I did that night. When I tune into Family Guy I expect misogynistic jokes — often ripe with satire and provocative social commentary — just as I expected to see them on Sunday. That’s what the Academy bought, right? But I couldn’t deny my disappointment as it illustrated yet again our world’s decidedly masculine bent.

As many writers and historians and ordinary folks like you and me have observed: Look where this has gotten us. As liberal as most first-world cultures are compared to many places in the world, we are still a society more interested in power and ego than the greater good. In economic strength more than feeding the hungry or caring for the planet. In controlling more than teaching and supporting. In doing-doing-doing more than just being and receiving what’s already there. In getting an easy laugh at a bright, talented woman’s expense simply because she has breasts and was brave enough to reveal them to tell an important story…more than saying something funny that also tickles the brains of that 40 million-person audience.

As wise teachers and indigenous cultures have told us for as long as we’ve been able to hear them, we need something different. We need a world filled with people who see creative, nurturing energy as strength. Individually and collectively, we need to offer support and love to everyone in pain, especially ourselves, so we can heal, find our purpose and contribute. We need to love the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, knowing they are both sacred and necessary to creation. We need to celebrate everyone just as they are. We need to embrace our feminine energy.

This is the new paradigm and that scares the bejeesus out of a lot of men and women alike. Hence the continuous attempts to repress it occurring every day in every corner of our world – and these are only the stories being told.

This is not new or news to most of us and many are very, very angry. You can read about it all day long online or in a stack full of books. You likely can feel it in many of the women – and men – in and out of your life. The anger is justified.

Confession: I am no longer angry…well, mostly. As I fully embrace my feminine energy, it dissipates. I can see what’s going on. It disappoints me. I am moved to speak out and shift my own energy in an effort to help. But over time it makes me less and less angry.

That’s the nature, the immense strength, of the feminine. It allows. It embraces. It supports. It holds the energy we all need to grow and thrive. It loves. It doesn’t know anger or resistance.

It’s a masculine society that taught us that anger is a fabulous motivator. That fiery rage moves us to impose change by doing something. Feminine energy offers water to the fire and welcomes the peace and change that comes from simply being different.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher and author of The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul wrote:

If women can come to know the sacred dimension of their own and the earth’s suffering, if they can see that it is part of the mysterious destiny of the soul of our world, if they can look beyond their own personal pain and anger to accept their larger destiny, then the forces of life can flow in a new way. The imprint of the divine face can become visible in this world and the glory of oneness be known, and once again life can become sacred.

While I’ve made some grand declarations above, I’m the first to admit I don’t know exactly what that looks like in our daily lives here on Mother Earth, and I’m certain it is easier said than done. What I do know is there are countless wise souls I can turn to for example, guidance and perspective. Some are magnificent women with boundless love in their hearts and laughter in their bones, many of whom already have guided me through hard lessons and shown me how to be both feminine and strong. Some are beautiful, strong men – two of whom I share my home with – who embrace their own feminine energy and know their unconditional support is just as valuable as their ability to do amazing things. Some are teachers like Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee with the guidance of goddesses in their hearts and on their tongues.

Because of them, I have hope, and perhaps I do know what it looks like. It’s already here. It just needs a little loving care.

Vibration and frequency: a return to music

Young Clarinet by Tony Macelli (http://www.ndoylefineart.com/macelli1.html)
Young Clarinet by Tony Macelli http://www.ndoylefineart.com/macelli1.html

At age nine my fourth grade music teacher told me I needed to start playing an instrument. Whether I liked it or not, whether I did it well or not, it was required that I try as part of my proper music education. I’d been taking piano lessons for two years at that point, but that wasn’t an option in the Longfellow Elementary fourth grade band. My parents pulled out my sister’s old clarinet—picked up and quickly dropped once she completed her required musical instrument segment, even though she was pretty good—and suggested I give it a try.

I looked at the scraped up keys, beaten up cork and the thin pieces of wood I was supposed to soak in my mouth and then blow across to make something resembling music. When my sister played it, the higher notes made me wince but the sprawling vibrations of the lower tones rattled through my body like a big truck barreling past the house. Truth be told, it kind of frightened me. But the keys were shiny and complicated, and I did love finding out what buttons do.

Ten years, two performing arts schools, thousands of hours of rehearsing and practicing, dozens of shows with bands and orchestras and ensembles, hundreds of reeds, days of sore lips and one very old and expensive wooden clarinet later, I was still playing that crazy contraption. I was working my way up the ranks of the Ohio University orchestra woodwind section, still taking weekly lessons and master classes, still enjoying it even though it was not my major nor my career focus. It helped there was no more pressure to perform or compete.

After a bit of working together, my faculty clarinet teacher proposed I try out for a coveted student woodwind quintet position. He told me it would require more rehearsal time as they prepared for multiple performances around the state.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not even a music major.”

“Well, then I guess you have a choice to make,” he said.

I’d chosen OU primarily for its prestigious journalism school. Words, I’d decided, were my expression of choice. They were much more specific and impactful, I believed, and I just didn’t love the clarinet enough to do what it takes to make a living playing it. As I looked at colleges and contemplated majors, I justified writing was still an art; it just made more sense to me. And luckily research revealed there were lots of ways to continue to play in college even if it wasn’t my major.

But now in my sophomore year, the more demanding journalism courses were starting to kick in and my adviser began asking what I was doing in my precious non-class time to build my resume and get some practical experience. The school newspaper is one of the best in the country and the yearbook always is looking for staff, he mentioned several times. At that week’s clarinet lesson, my teacher asked yet again if I was going to audition for the quintet, and maybe we should increase our lessons to twice a week if I really wanted to make a go of it.

The next academic quarter I put my treasured clarinet in the closet. Ten years later, I sold it to a music store in suburban Los Angeles owned by a man who could restore its loose keys and nourish the old wood back to its original splendor. He was sure a promising young clarinetist in the community would buy it and use it well.

I hadn’t played the instrument in years, but when I said goodbye I felt a clear sense of loss. Neither choosing writing over music nor selling my clarinet were difficult at the time. My talent, my contribution, is as a writer. But not until it was gone did I recognize a bit of what it offered: comfort in knowing I could pick it up whenever I liked and express myself in this familiar way.

Playing was so clear, so simple. It always seemed like a miracle to me that it worked at all, let alone made music. If I blew air at the right speed across a thin piece of wood strapped to another piece of hard rubber and pressed some buttons to determine where the air goes, I can make a pleasing and unique sound. Playing with these frequencies and incorporating my own voice into the music wasn’t something I understood or knew how to do consciously when I was younger, but I must have gotten it on some level.

Two days ago, I opened up a box and pulled out a brand new (plastic) clarinet, a high-end mouthpiece and ligature, a full set of Vandoren reeds and two new books of sheet music. It was a birthday gift to myself, something my higher self brought to my consciousness only a week or so before. Well, in the universe’s crafty way she’d been bringing it up periodically over the past year in casual conversations, in articles about local adult orchestras, etc. More recently she’d told me I needed to return to this familiar expression, but this time it would be different.

My son watched closely as I slowly put the shiny contraption together. I tossed a reed into my mouth to ready it for squeakless sound and then lovingly placed it on my new mouthpiece and tightened the ligature. It was all so familiar, but completely strange under the watchful eye of my son seeing it for the first time. I walked outside on to the deck for the first blow, unsure if it would be a pleasing noise after so many years. A loud, confident note sang down the narrow passage along the upper level of our home and rang out over the trees. A bird rustled in a nearby bush and flew away. My fingers moved hesitantly, but they knew where to go for the most part.

My mouth found the right shape as it remembered a proper embouchure is formed when you smile.

I walked back inside where my family was waiting patiently for me to share this old but new ability with them. They’d heard the music I’d sung to the forest, and now Henry jumped up and down with excitement yelling, “More! More!”

When the high-ceilinged room filled with sound and echoes, Henry’s eyes went wide. He ran over to me and sat directly beneath the bell of the clarinet, peering up into it trying to figure out where it all came from. When I started a chromatic scale down to a low E, he giggled and involuntarily wiggle-danced, the sprawling vibrations shaking through every cell of his body and mine. He and my husband began to clap and cheer.

The smile of my embouchure remained even after my mouth left the reed. I’d almost forgotten how that note, stretching the length of the instrument, requiring breath from the depths of your soul, could make you feel. It’s a vibration, a frequency that can’t be described by words. It’s an energy that communicates at a different level.

I guess I was finally ready for it.

Days of resting eights

turn_it_on_its_sideMy son has a book called Infinity and Me (by Kate Hosford). In the story, eight-year-old Uma seeks the meaning of things as she looks at the stars and feels small and cold within the vastness of the universe. She knows “infinity” has something to do with it, but she doesn’t quite get it so she goes on a quest. She asks her friends, her teachers and the school cook. They all offer fascinating takes on the concept. It isn’t until Uma recognizes the boundless love she has for her grandmother that she finds her own way of experiencing infinity and the universe.

The most charmingly human part of the story is Uma’s struggle with uncertainty. She doesn’t grasp what infinity is, but she wants to. She feels insignificant until she can. Her head hurts with all the questions and thoughts she’s having as she works so hard to understand and find meaning. It isn’t until she opens her heart and feels her grandmother’s unconditional love, and realizes she feels the same, that the endless stars in the sky begin to feel warm with effortless wonder.

Like Uma, I find myself looking at the universe differently day to day. Some days the stars are shrouded in suspicion and the lonely oxygen-less air of outer space. These are the days where the uncertainty of life and humankind become manifest in the questionable future of projects, unreturned emails, frustrations about not knowing whether my son will be in the morning or afternoon kindergarten class until three days before he starts, not to mention general bewilderment about world events.

Thank ever-loving goodness there are the other kind of days too—when infinity becomes the peaceful “resting eight,” perfect for ice skating and endless bike rides. On those days I see the stars in the heavens are filled with mystery and discovery, and the demands of the mind become the curiosity of the heart. On those days, projects with uncertain futures become new tree-lined paths to wander down and societal frustration becomes an opportunity to offer compassion. The love my son and I share becomes more important than whether he’ll be in the kindergarten class that best complements my schedule, and that fills me with infinite warmth.

In this eight month, I wish you many days of resting eights, when you know the path of the universe will come back around to meet you where you are and show you where you can go. May the infinite possibilities fill you with joy and gratitude. May the vastness of the stars always cover you in a blanket of love and effortless wonder.

Robin Williams: the ripples will go on

Robin Williams in What Dreams May ComeLike so many around the world, I was saddened by the sudden loss of Robin Williams yesterday. His presence in my life as an entertainer, magnetic personality and model of creative openness—albeit from an admirer’s distance—is undeniable. His characters and films that were most formative for me were his dramatic roles: The World According to Garp, What Dreams May Come, Being HumanGood Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting and even The Birdcage.

I always felt what he offered us onlookers transcended the bounds of “actor and comedian,” and the enormous reaction to his death confirms it wasn’t just me. He was a compassionate, connected, supremely human being whose desire to bring joy and comfort hid to many his own sadness. His influence as an artist, but also as a loving soul, will continue to ripple for a long time, both on this earth and beyond.

Many are wondering how someone who could bring both peels of uncontrollable laughter and tears of genuine compassion to multiple generations could feel so alone in this world. None of us can understand anyone else’s journey. We can empathize, love and appreciate him. We can be grateful for what he offered during his precious 63 years. But we can’t know the unique and long journey that brought him to the moment where he decided releasing himself from the anguish of his mind and his body was his best option. But I’m glad that as a society we’re starting to ask the questions.

With all the dear souls like Robin suffering and leaving this earth right now—and there are many—I have to believe that through their pain and sacrifice they are contributing to a larger healing and evolution. He was a great spirit dealing with a human condition that is both astonishingly prevalent and astonishingly misunderstood. The shock of his death by the means it occurred will bring our awareness to those suffering within and without our own spheres—an understanding perhaps unattainable by other means.

The ripples don’t stop there. The soul we knew as Robin Williams is only just starting. He had no idea the positive effect he had on the world while he was here, but he does now and he’s having a fantastic time. Look at all he can do from where he is? Quantum joy. Astral silliness. Compassionate hilarity. We need cosmic comics right now more than ever. We need help maintaining perspective and lightness. As a species, we so desperately need to be reminded our lives are, above all, an opportunity to play and learn and give of ourselves fully. And who better to offer a celestial master class in that?

Thank you, Robin, for all you so generously gave us while you were here. I wish you were able to stay a bit longer, but I look forward to what you’re going to offer next.

Help

stepping_stones_of_memory_by_nwwes-d3krg59I have lots of help. I am surrounded by a community of family and friends who, despite not always understanding my choices, support and trust me. I also benefit from the broader “help” available to me, a community larger than those who appear as flesh and blood in this life and on this earth. I am continuously humbled by the support I receive from both when my intentions and actions match a greater purpose.

As I’ve discussed in earlier blogs, I’ve written another book in an attempt to reach a broader audience. While the process hasn’t been without obstacles — that’s where the lessons are learned, after all — the validation; the offers of help, resources and creative support; the loving and wise feedback; the number of folks who “get” what I’m trying to do here… It’s overwhelming. And the process has only just begun.

I’m writing this partly so I have it to refer to on those days when I doubt my purpose or why I’m making myself, my secrets and my family so vulnerable. Or when I wonder why my book merits the attention of anyone outside my doting and biased inner circle. I will need to be reminded that reaching people, touching people, lighting a path, holding up a mirror and allowing them to see themselves in my story is a major part of my soul’s purpose in this lifetime. I will need to remember all the assistance I enjoy and that they wouldn’t be with me unless there was a grander design behind it all.

I have a lot to be grateful for. But today I am grateful for this phase of the journey and those walking beside me, holding my hand, whispering in my ear lovingly when the doubts and fears arise, helping me see the next stable stone across the rushing river, and cheering when I successfully jump onto it.

In the truest sense, I wouldn’t be able to do it without you. Thank you.

On knowingness

the-thinkerI spend at least a little time on social media every day. Mostly I keep track of my friends and family and what people are thinking and talking about around the globe. On occasion I take some silly quiz telling me which Game of Thrones characters I would be (Daenerys Targaryen) or what my animal totem is (wolf). It’s fun and just accurate enough for me to remain curious about the next one.

Not long ago I took a semi-legitimate test that had been posted by a Facebook friend. It measured how much I used both the left and right hemispheres of my brain—the right being the creative, open, intuitive side and the left offering logic and analytical thought. Jill Bolte Taylor’s brilliant book My Stroke of Insight and wildly popular TED Talk provide the most memorable explanation and illustration of their unique talents.

According to the test, I currently use exactly 50% of each hemisphere. When I saw this I was genuinely surprised. My whole life I have struggled with the continuous nattering my mind, usually ruled by my left brain, offers. Over the years, though admittedly less in recent ones, it has provided a steady diet of almost purely analytical solutions based on carefully considered pro and con lists; insecurities and doubts masked as thoughtful, reasonable caution; and big decisions made only if my brain could offer some rationale to back up what my gut was telling me. I was pleased with the results of my now more balanced approach, but still I questioned them a bit, until a few days ago.

This week I made a decision based solely on my intuition. I’ve been doing that more often (see Unsafe Choices). But this one truly had no logical or practical reinforcement. A job moonlighting as a hostess at a local restaurant fell in my lap one day. The young woman who held this position, but had to quit for a volunteer gig she loved, was cutting my hair as she told me all about it. On paper, the job made a lot of sense. It was at a well-respected farm-to-table restaurant in a great location, weeknights only, nice people, low maintenance. Mostly, it got me out into the community I’d chosen as my new home. I even worked one night of training and found it lived up to my expectations. Two days later I quit.

There’s nothing much to explain. There is no clear reason and I don’t know exactly why. All I know is that my intuition—a gut feeling—took me there. Before I made the call to my new boss, I did just enough cleaning and looking to make sure any lingering insecurities about doing a job I haven’t done in 25 years weren’t disguising their voices, masquerading as my intuition and higher self. My mind can be crafty that way sometimes. Turns out it was just a glimmer, a shadow of a red flag I couldn’t entirely see yet but couldn’t shake, so therefore I was supposed to pay attention to it. With hesitation, I did.

I called, I apologized, he understood, and I know I did the right thing. I don’t know for certain how I know, but I do. And perhaps I’m not supposed to. Perhaps the reasons will never present themselves merely to show me they don’t have to. Through this process I was reminded it’s okay to just know what I know, and trust that enough to act on it. This time I didn’t try to layer the decision after the fact with a thoughtful rationale or retrospective wisdom. I didn’t sit in meditation until I could see everything clearly because I simply had to know why. I just let it sit there quietly. So far it’s remained quiet, but it’s only been a few days.

We need our left brains for survival, to calculate a proper tip and to figure out how to fit the luggage and the bike with training wheels into the back of the car. But we don’t need them as much as most of us believe we do. Not everything needs to make sense or match up. Logic and intuition often agree somewhere, but when they don’t the higher wisdom is still there for the taking.

It’s waiting with open eyes and open arms. It just wants to be seen, felt and heard. It doesn’t need to be understood.

Clear seeing

I-can-see-clearly-with-great-visionI was at the DMV a few weeks ago. We’d just moved back to California and I needed to get my new driver’s license. In this particular state, they give you lots of tests before allowing inferior out-of-state drivers to have licenses. It’s important to immediately recall what school buses must do at railroad tracks and how many days you have to report that you finally restored the jalopy in your driveway. They also want to make sure your eyes work as you barrel down the highway at 70 miles an hour. So, off to testing I went.

The staffer asked me to cover my right eye and read the bottom line. I rattled it off quickly and correctly. He asked me to cover my left eye and read the same line on the next chart. I pulled away and looked at my husband who was standing off the side, my mouth hanging open in shock. All I could see were fuzzy lines and shapes on all but the gigantic top line. I was surprised to discover that while my left eye still worked like a champ, my right had decided to get lazy on me. I took a stab at the row the staffer mentioned, but when I started saying numbers where clearly letters sat, he put me out of my misery. He took me to a different machine and tested both eyes together there, and I saw just well enough to get a license.

The kind optometrist I visited last week fitted me with magic glasses. One eye at a time he presented lenses that showed me just how much I hadn’t been seeing. For me, it was a slow fuzzing of the edges, an imperceptible fading of clarity. As for the kind optometrist, he was surprised the DMV had passed me at all. He was only seeing the end of the journey, where change and overuse had made one eye much less clear than the other and its user hadn’t noticed.

As I wiped the numbing drops from my eyes, I silently acknowledged we’re all witnesses to each other’s journeys, even if just in snippets or toward the end of a particular path. Even if the bigger picture isn’t immediately understood by the observer, there is so much that can be seen and learned. Clarity comes and goes. Confusion caused by stress, emotions, physical imbalance and external energy can make it difficult to notice the effect these things may be having – how energy, growth and intuition may be challenged. Those witnessing my journey along with me, even for a moment, can bring to light things I have been ignoring or can’t find neutrality enough to see myself. If I can set aside my own ego and baggage long enough to hear the wisdom they have to offer, no matter how or when it is offered, than I have an overflowing cup of truth, lessons and teachers around me all the time.

I will always trust my own intuition and inner wisdom first, but more than a few times I’ve received insight from friends and strangers alike that I knew instantly was valuable and wise.

Oh, of course, I think every time. I hadn’t seen it that way. I’m so glad I was listening.

As I genuinely thanked my optometrist for restoring my clear sight, he smiled with a hint of judgment and said, “On behalf of all your fellow drivers, I’m glad you finally came to see me.”

I laughed. It’s funny because it’s true.

There’s no ego in parenting: a much-needed reminder to me

The Ego DichotomyEgo judges.

Ego thinks there is such a thing as success and failure, and that they are important.

It cares what other parents think.

It makes you question your intuition and what you know in your heart.

It thinks it knows when something is “right” or “wrong.” It still believes they exist. If it’s right, you deserve recognition. If it’s wrong, you deserve rebuke.

It wants you to believe you can reason emotions or inconvenient but genuine reactions away, or if you only explain it differently maybe you can get them to understand.

Ego drives you toward some ideal it has created and continuously points out the things that don’t function within that perfection. It thinks there’s something to fix.

It makes you strive for control even when control doesn’t serve anything else but its own survival.

It makes you angry when your child doesn’t do things in the time you require.

It makes you livid when he does things you specifically asked him not to do.

It makes you fly into a rage when he does these things and then smiles because he knows he just made you fly into a rage.

Ego tells you that to be a parent you need to do anything other than love your child unconditionally.

Ego lets you forget how much you have left to learn and that your children are your greatest teachers.

There is no place for ego in parenting. Only love and openness. Open heart. Open ears. Gratitude, even amongst chaos and tough lessons. Presence, even when your pride makes you want to remain in the past. Forgiveness, even when you realize you let your ego parent your child for a little while.

And love. Always love.

Thank you for the reminder.

Laughing at every kind of sky

Red Tailed Hawk by Adele Earnshaw
Red Tailed Hawk by Adele Earnshaw (www.adeleearnshaw.com)

My five-year-old son has a peculiar but wonderful sense of color. When he draws, skies are orange and squirrels are purple. Clouds are triangular and pink. Trees have legs that stretch off the page in neon green. Who am I to correct his perception of the world? Works for him, so it works for me.

What I love most is that no matter what color he sees in the sky that day, he smiles at it. When we leave in the morning we could be looking at cobalt blue dotted with hawks hunting for their breakfast, wispy fog, or gray and overcast. He could be seeing the orange of his drawings or the blue and white I usually see. Whatever it is, no matter what the day offers, he always takes a moment to look, and therefore so do I.

It’s the blessed breath before the day. He may not be happy about where we’re going. I may still be annoyed about how long it took for him to get his shoes on. No matter what color we see or want to see, when we stop in those few moments to notice the beauty of what rises above us, we are grateful to be beneath it together.

Unsafe choices

LeapOfFaithMy son lives in a world that wants to make all his choices for him. Others want to tell him how often to brush his teeth, when to cross the street, whether to wash his hands after he goes potty, when to start kindergarten, whether to wear a jacket, how long to play at the playground. As most young children testing their boundaries and figuring out how they fit in the world, he resists this, but that doesn’t stop the adults around him from trying to protect him.

When he’s climbing on a precarious chair or I see the mischievous twinkle in his eye as he considers darting into a crowd, I often say, “That’s not a safe choice.” This awareness may or may not deter him from the activity, but most of the time it does.

As we get older, that external voice moves inside our own heads and egos. Is this smart? Are you prepared? Is this really a safe choice for you right now? For years I let that voice deter me from countless experiences and opportunities. I still do too often.

My family and I recently made what some would consider a string of not-so-safe choices. In fact, my friend Beattie might say we’re on a “risk bender.” A year ago my husband quit his well-paid, stable job to start his own business. We then went on a month-long road trip in a rented RV down and back up the West Coast. Then a month ago we moved from Seattle to Central Coast California without salaried jobs or any other external catalyst to propel us there (except the 30-day notice from our landlord telling us they want to move back in to their home; thank you for the kick in the pants, universe). We simply wanted to live somewhere else, somewhere we loved, and since both my husband and I work out of home offices we had no reason not to go. Others might disagree with this assessment, and have, but most are too busy admiring the relative size of our balls to voice it. I get where their trepidations came from. With few major employers in the area, we were finally and fully committing to our freelance lifestyle and entrepreneurial spirit, all in a down economy. We locked into place our dependence on our talents, business sense and good intentions to earn enough to keep a roof over our heads.

To top it all off, I recently completed and soon will publish a memoir, titled Laugh at the Sky, Kid like this blog (more on that soon), that basically outs me as a practicing clairvoyant and energy healer. This is something I’ve never before written or talked about publicly for fear of the inevitable skepticism and criticism from those who only know me outside of that world.

I’m done making only safe choices. Safe doesn’t bring about change or growth. Safe words don’t reach or move people. Safe actions rarely affect anything below the surface. The old ways, the safe or “proven” ways, don’t move things forward. Inside a cocoon of security, it’s rare to find true happiness or your true purpose. Nothing shifts and there is no reason to search for or even be interested in anything beyond the end of your nose. That is no longer acceptable to me and to so many of you. Thank ever-loving-goodness for that.

As a society we are quickly learning that within the presence of infinite possibilities we all enjoy, there are no wrong choices. There are only ones we are comfortable with in this moment and those we are not.

When the inevitable fear arises as I start down a riskier path, I let this truth wash over me like healing waters. And when I can turn off the narrator in my mind asking me to consider whether this new path is safe or not, I find freedom. I find a place where I can fully be.

Your exquisite voice

Kids ListenOne foggy day, as we climbed a brushed and muddy mountain outside LA, I asked a dear friend a question. After she yet again shared an engaging story containing some very wise and eloquent advice, I asked if she ever had considered writing a book.

“Yes,” she replied. “But why would anyone who doesn’t know me want to hear anything I have to say? What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?”

It’s the writer’s dilemma, the human dilemma, the same doubt anyone who has a pen or a computer or vocal cords faces, isn’t it? At least on those struggling days as we sit with ourselves, wondering how we dare to presume our words are worthy of being heard. If anyone cares what our story is or what ideas swirl in our minds and hearts.

When my friend asked these questions of the mountain sky I was already fifteen years and one published memoir into a marginally successful writing career. I had asked these questions off and on for that many years, usually in particularly vulnerable moments – while questioning the invention of the printing press, my mere existence as a result or why Madonna’s brother was a best-selling author as my little memoir struggled to sell those last five remaining hardcopies in Amazon’s “why can’t we get rid of these” storage lockers.

Every day as I wrote said memoir I asked why my story, shared by so many young cancer survivors, was worthy of anyone’s attention? Why was I so compelled to share it nonetheless? Until the mail started coming in. They said no one was telling this story – my story, their story – so honestly. No one else knew what they were going through. In fact, there were several young survivors telling lots of stories, many very similar and some much more fascinating than mine, including best-selling Lance Armstrong. But these readers were convinced I was the lone voice in a sea of folks they couldn’t hear yet. And they were extraordinarily grateful I was willing to share it.

So, I understood my friend’s doubt. But I had an answer, offered to the same sky she’d asked. It’s what I tell myself and my writer clients regularly. It’s also the notion I offer silently to my son – and me – as he struggles to find his voice in a world that expects him to communicate differently than is natural to him. It’s what we all need to remember every time we open our mouths…

Your voice will be heard by anyone who can and wants to hear it. It’s different and worthy because you are the messenger, and there is someone out there who can’t hear yet because you haven’t said it yet.

Not everyone will care what you say. Not everyone is meant to. But in this moment, with your story, with your energy and words, someone is getting the message, the information, the healing, the inspiration, the provocation, the perspective they need and have been seeking, perhaps without even realizing it.

In return, you will know you are heard. You will feel the frequencies unite and your experience, shared as you will, will combine with those you shared it with to become something even greater. You will understand that you don’t need a book or a blog or a microphone to communicate something exquisite that can be exquisitely heard. But look at what you can do if you try.

Every day I thank my friend for reminding me why I write. We all have a worthy voice that offers transforming beauty, healing laughter and truth that transcends what we think we understand. The lesson is in knowing you do and rising above your fears to offer it to a world that will be better off for having heard it.

For when we are brave enough to tell our stories, we all benefit.

Figuring out authority

A beautiful blue and green Seattle day requires a long trip to the park. With a four-year-old, that translates into some time at the playground, and with Henry that means somewhere with a sidewalk suitable for speedy and spirited tricycle laps. There are always lessons to be learned at the playground. Not long ago, a big one — green, with hypocritical eyes — looked me square in the face. Here’s how I got there.

During a recent visit, my husband Larry and I were enjoying the sun on a bench and getting dizzy watching our son go round and round when we realized a meeting was starting on the grass behind us. We turned around and about eight little girls and their camera-toting mothers sat in a circle. It was the kind of meeting where you wear vests with badges. Ooh, entertainment, we thought as we adjusted our heads to the best eavesdropping angle.

Question AuthorityThe troop leader welcomed everyone to their final meeting and started discussing that meeting’s topic and an opportunity to earn their final badge. What are we earning our badges in today? asked the troop leader. Respect authority, they all said. The kind troop leader reviewed what they discussed the previous meeting, the authority figures in our lives who we should respect – parents, police officers, teachers, troop leaders, coaches, etc. Red flags began to go up in my head, but nothing was really that bad yet. I kept listening.

Why should we respect them? she asked the troop of girls who appeared to be about six years old. With the mothers hovering and the troop leader waiting, the girls began responding as they’d been taught the week before:

Because they protect us.

They take care of us.

Because they know best.

Because they make the rules.

It’s what we’re supposed to do.

The kind troop leader’s response: That’s great, ladies.

I hoped no one in their little blanket circle could see the goose bumps on my arms.

We continued to listen as the girls one by one presented the pictures they’d drawn of an authority figure in their life. Most of them were pretty typical: Mom, Dad, school principal. When talking about their parents, “love” was mentioned a lot, but there was just as much talk about making and following rules. One little girl quietly explained that she’d drawn a picture of President Obama because “he knows what’s best for us and has a lot of power.”

Yes, I know they do amazing things too.

I never participated in any troop-like activities when I was a girl, but I have a generally positive impression of any organization that empowers young women and men. For the girls, a couple of Google searches showed me all the great lessons and badges in addition to “respect authority” – all about community, compassion, self respect, honesty, individual responsibility, supporting other girls, doing good in the world and more. I don’t mean to diminish their work nor the positive influence they have had over countless girls and women.

Shouldn’t ignore the boys either. Despite their homosexuality-challenged policies and other issues, they continue to offer positive opportunities and adventures to those seeking this kind of guidance. (However, they have a similar law about “obedience” and even the right way to go about changing rules…as long as you never disobey them.)

With all of my genuine “they do a lot of great things” disclaimers said, this meeting had the misfortune that day to represent the perfect example of exactly the kind of authority programming we shouldn’t be teaching our children. In fact, we should be teaching them the opposite.

They’re powerful and they know it.

Corporations, governments, politicians, large religious organizations, educational systems, healthcare providers, banks and more. They market their own special brand of authority and quid pro quo. Most of them have a lot of power, and most of them aren’t afraid to use it to get what they need to thrive – your compliance.

If you adhere to my laws, I will protect you and your family.

If you buy my goods and services and don’t question how we do business too much, I will make your life more comfortable and improve the economy.

If you do what I say and take your medicine, I can make you feel better.

If you sit quietly and work hard, you will be successful.

If you pray the right way or believe what I believe, you will go to heaven. Or, better yet, you won’t burn in hell.

This is the messaging we allow to manipulate us, consciously or not. We have become accustomed to giving up a measure of (sometimes imperceptible) control to someone or an institution in exchange for whatever we believe they offer us or, in many cases, out of fear of what will happen if we don’t.

In our current world, questioning authority is critical.

Throughout history, questioning authority has always been necessary for any kind of meaningful change. America was founded on a group of citizens questioning those in power, after all. Our time is no different.

Currently Edward Snowden is somewhere running from the U.S. government after revealing that its anti-terror electronic surveillance techniques are much broader than any ordinary citizens previously knew. Whether you believe he’s a hero or a traitor or something in between, Snowden questioned his authority figures, breaking the rules of his government and his contractor employer, to reveal what he believes to be an unjust overreach. Without Mr. Snowden, would we have ever had anything other than lots of conspiracy theories and Person of Interest to provoke an exploration into this issue?

More importantly, when we don’t question it, there are consequences: Dependence. Willful ignorance. A resistance to change. A willingness to conform or even deny our own beliefs out of apathy or fear. An agreement – spoken or unspoken – to give up our own power to those who would have us believe they are our authorities because that’s what we’re expected to do.

And this belief and resulting behavior is what we often unconsciously, and usually motivated by great love, pass along to our children.

The mirror doesn’t lie.

As I listened to the troop leader, I ran through all my long-held beliefs and societal frustrations detailed above and began writing this blog in my head and heart. I wanted to be sure to make note of the organizational line she was leading from and all the ways it is different from my own intentions etc. etc. etc.

If I’m to look at the whole truth, I also have to point my eye squarely back on myself. It didn’t take long to spot a programmer no farther away than my own nose.

At four years old, Henry is all about his independence. Often it manifests as saying a strong ‘no’ just so he’s refusing to do what I want or at least refusing to do it my way or on my timeline. I’ve built up a strong tolerance for this, and often quietly cheer him on out of respect. I was similarly strong-willed as a young person, much to my parents’ dismay.

Reminder to self: Our son isn’t a horse that needs to be broken.

As a family we’ve developed strategies to give Henry back some choice or control in any given situation. Or at minimum an explanation he can understand as to why we’re asking him to flush the toilet. Our intention is to support his independent spirit and nurture a belief in his own power. That’s our intention.

But some days, I just need him to put his ever-loving shoes on so we can get to preschool or give up the bag of cookies he found in the back of the cupboard and now has a vice grip on or stop chucking rocks at the kitchen window or for god’s sake for the last time hold my hand while crossing the street.

In these situations, more often than I’m comfortable with I’ve offered some version of this response to my child when he questioned me as his authority figure:

Why do I have to listen to you?
Because I’m your mother.

Why should I comply with that rule?
Because I love you and I’m protecting you from danger.

Why shouldn’t I throw rocks at the window?
Because that’s the rule.

Why do I have to go to school today?
Because it’s what’s best for you.

That’s how it starts, right? Follow me because I have power over you. Why, Mommy? Because it’s easier for both of us, but really only for me.

Authority is given and can be taken away.

I want my child to believe that authority is earned through trust and given only by choice. That it should always be questioned. That authority can be taken away when it is abused or even if he decides he doesn’t want or need that authority figure any more. There’s always a careful balance to strike, but I want him to be empowered and strong in his convictions, enough so that he doesn’t hesitate to follow his own heart even when it doesn’t comply with anyone else’s rules.

I want Henry to respect me because I am true to myself and my beliefs and because I likewise offer him the respect he deserves, not because I have any measure of power over him. But first I have to admit that though I so easily talk about these convictions I don’t always walk them. I’m grateful to the group of sweet little girls, their loving mothers and their well-intentioned troop leader for reminding me so pointedly how important this lesson is, and that I’m still learning it.