The Conflicted American

I love that I was born in the United States and that I have had the privilege of being able to choose my friends, my career, whether or not I want to practice any sort of religion, and how I want to live my life. I recognize that had I been born in Syria, in Nicaragua, in North Korea, or even Serbia, I would not have had the freedoms I have both cherished and taken for granted as an American citizen. But I have struggled with what it means to be American for a very long time. For me, the amazing part about being American has been being able to be adventurous and expansive. It has been a journey of coming into my own knowing that as a biracial female I can do anything, reach for anything, and become who I have always wanted to be. I have had the privilege to do so, just by being born into a country where the pursuit of happiness is embedded in our Declaration of Independence.

This is one side of freedom. One aspect of my experience.

I just watched Django Unchained the other night. This is the other side of freedom. It is the illusion of freedom.  It is the illusion of the American Dream. There is no dream when we wake up and realize that we are living off the backs of others. There is no dream when we recognize our complicity in a system that is predicated on a rich/poor binary. We cannot have rich, successful people if we don’t have poor people to compare our successes to. Living the American Dream, we must realize, has never been that EVERYONE gets to live the American Dream. Only certain people can live this dream and deep down in the darkest regions of our soul… WE KNOW THIS. We say that being American means freedom for all. But look around. Is this really the truth?

Or is being American and “making America great again” really this: Only certain people are true Americans. Everyone else, who fall outside this dominant norm are “infidels,” “criminals,” “lazy,” “good-for-nothing” individuals who do not appreciate American values and must be dealt with because they are DIFFERENT, non-conforming, or outside-of-the box thinkers or believers.

I am weeping inside as I write this. My heart is so heavy. I am American. But even writing, “I am American” brings such conflict to my soul. I am an American who believes in PEOPLE. I am an American who believes in every person’s freedom and liberation from oppression. I am an American who is fiercely protective of my individual rights, particularly my right to free speech. And I am an American who is deeply struggling with being American as I see my government strip Black, Brown,  and people of Difference of every right and liberty afforded to them – at least in the way “rights” and “liberty” have been conceptualized in our Constitution.

To me, being American means giving more and being generous of heart and spirit. It is not taking away and narrowing the parameters for who can receive freedom.

I was sickened when I watched Django Unchained because it reminded me of WHO WE ARE as Americans. We are both the beautiful and the underbelly of evil. We carry both in our ancestral DNA. This time of reckoning with our past and seeing how it is playing out in the HERE and NOW is important. It is more palpable and real than it has ever been, at least in my lifetime.

It is time to fully recognize that we cannot be a United States, until we accept our conflicted relationship with freedom and “American” values. We cannot love our country and hate certain countrymen and women. It is not possible. We must tell our stories, come together to listen, cry out our pain, be heard and accepted, and, finally, begin to heal. There is no other way. We cannot heal our traumatic past without acknowledging its existence.

This is what it means to be human. And, for me, this is what it could mean to be American: An American who deeply acknowledges our contradictions and who has the courage to stand up and embrace the sovereignty within EVERY human being… This is true power; the strength within to not fear; the power to LOVE every human being beyond the differences we have created that position others as wrong, less than, inferior, bad, or God-less.

On this Independence Day, I speak my truth as an American. I am American and I am so much more. But, as an American I pray my heart will be heard and that we can begin to recognize the hypocrisy:  American freedom is a constructed ideal that has only been granted to a chosen few.

Please remember this declaration below and begin to imagine that these statements include all human beings regardless of gender, nationality, race, class, ability, or religious affiliation:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 

Always with love,

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Continuing the Conversation with Linda & José about Community Engagement

As we continue toward the horizon trying to discover our Self with every step forward, we begin to realize how interconnected we are to one another. My continuing conversations with Linda Maxwell and José Quintanar represent this path forward. We are learning from one another how to make sense of a world in which there exists much hatred, violence, chaos, and confusion.

In this discussion, Linda and José talk about community-engaged work through a humanizing lens. I am learning much from them including what it means to live a life of service and to be in the moment as we interact with other people. I am learning that each person with whom I interact is someone to learn from, even if the experience seems and feels negative. There is ALWAYS something to learn. Sometimes the knowledge that we gain is from contrast – experiencing that which we DO NOT want. We understand better who we are when we come across others who embody traits that do not resonate with who we are or want to be.

Linda and José teach us from the ground up. This means that they are interested in PEOPLE not the politics, ideals, or belief systems that may surround a person within a specific context. The ground up is actively listening to a person to understand how to reach that individual’s heart. That is where authentic communication begins. That is where love for one self and for the other reigns.

We live on the edge of spiraling into LOVE for one another or falling into our deepest darkest fears of separation. This fear is a frightening place of victimhood, oppression, and distain for our brothers and sisters. Linda and José constantly remind us to center ourselves and to seek LOVE, even if love seems the most improbable solution or outcome.

Peace, strength, and courage, everyone.

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Resonating with the Land

 

The last few days have been full of awareness for me. As I type, I am conscious of the Sangre de Cristo mountains around me, the fragrant smells of the earth after a brief southwestern rain, and the hint of buzzing in my head as my body attempts to acclimate to the Taos altitude which is almost at 7,000 feet.

I have always loved and have been drawn to the Southwest. It is a landscape that I resonate with. It is a landscape that, when I am in other parts of the country, I meditate upon. It calms me down, grounds me.

A few months ago, I returned to the Southwest for the first time in eight years. Almost immediately I felt my chakra system align, particularly my root chakra. It was easier to think clearly and to feel my mind/heart/body connection. I didn’t have to work at grounding myself, like the way I have to living in the Midwest or when I visit other parts of the country or world. It was as if there was a weight anchoring me deeply into the earth. This weight was like a mother’s warm hand on my back rather than a heavy, uncomfortable pressure pushing me down.

I feel the same soft, steady warmness inside of my body stepping off the plane into New Mexico. It is a combination of the desert mountains and dryness of air, but it’s also much more. It is the Land (capital ‘L’) who is the personification of an intense motherly energy – sharp and stern – as well as deeply nurturing. The desert Land is not comforting to everyone. She recognizes those who will always be visitors from those who carry her essence in their hearts. She can be harsh and, at first glance, desolate and uninviting. But for those who take the time to meet and get to know her, She is penetrating beauty gifting our eyes with immense heights and incredible depths. She is the profound canyon and the most treacherously magnificent peak. She is vastness and darkness. She is blinding light and heat. She gifts those who deeply appreciate Her by presenting us with glorious skies, brilliant stars, and Her body – which is the sienna, cinnamon-colored land on which we stand, build upon, and explore.

For me, the desert reflects my ideal inner landscape. In my core, when I am most at peace, there is an expansiveness that is not unlike the desert’s vastness. It goes beyond my consciousness and into the land of dreams. It is a liminal space between my perception and the unconscious. It is both uncomfortable in its limitlessness and completely freeing.

I am constantly trying to find the perfect equilibrium in this liminal space. Like a dial on an AM/FM radio, I have to carefully place all my attention on tuning it just enough to hear what is coming through. ‘Tuning in’ is another way to describe the conscious act of finding the frequency to which I want to resonate. The Southwest and the desert, in general, is a physical outward manifestation of a frequency that completely jives with my spiritual make up and composition. It is a representation of the inner spirit-scape I seek.

This awareness of the Land I am currently immersing myself in is a reminder to me that WHO I AM at the soul level needs vastness, quietness, and space to achieve inner equilibrium. This harmony is more easily accessible when an external representation of what I want to strive for and manifest within is right before my eyes. The test will be if I can achieve this grounded, peaceful feeling that I am experiencing so strongly now when I go back home. The test is knowing, in my heart, that this spirit-scape already exists within. I don’t need to travel thousands of miles to find it.

With love,

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Doing vs. Being of Service

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What does it mean to serve, to be of service to others? What does it mean to choose the role of the servant? How does the concept of ‘service’ translate to who we are and how we decide to ‘be’ in this world?

I remember in my junior year in high school I was considering running for an Associated Student Body (ASB) position. I knew I didn’t want to be President and I wasn’t interested in Treasurer either. Vice President and Secretary appealed to me and both were positions I thought I would do well in. My high school, an all-girls Catholic school, also had another position available. This position was ASB Service. Of all the positions, I wanted this one the least, not because I thought I couldn’t handle the responsibilities and not because I wasn’t well qualified (I had consciously been involved in service in different ways throughout my high school career). It was because I didn’t want to be known and seen as “the Service person.” What made matters worse for me was that almost every teacher and dozens of my peers told me I should run for Service, that I would be “so good at it.” Deep down, I knew they were right. I knew that I could help organize and lead retreats, plan specific service-related events on campus and within the community, and, overall, provide strong leadership and mentoring for other students, particularly freshmen and sophomores.

Even though I knew I would be excellent in this position based on feedback I had received over freshmen, sophomore, and junior years from teachers and peers about my service work, I resisted submitting my name for nomination. I actually filled out the nomination sheet for Secretary and was going to announce my decision when I heard that one of my good friends had already submitted her name for Secretary. In fact, many of my friends submitted their names for all the positions except for ASB Service. I found out that they were saving the spot for me (!). Their action was both infuriating and thoughtful. Knowing that my friends and fellow peers deliberately did not submit their names for Service because they thought I was a shoe-in, made me feel a responsibility to not let them down. I submitted my name for nomination and was voted in easily.

In retrospect, at age 17, I believe I was coming to terms with the humility of service. What made me so uncomfortable choosing to run for ASB Service was a deep sense that I wasn’t doing enough. True service to me, even as an adolescent and young adult, meant that I needed to do much more. My experiences felt too easy. For example, going to a pre-school and working with young children one-on-one or in small groups as part of my service hours didn’t feel like service. Even though I enjoyed being and playing with small children, this experience was just another assignment I needed to complete. Whether I was in the classroom or not, I felt like my presence didn’t make a huge difference on the children’s overall growth and learning. I was just another high school student or volunteer dropping in, getting her ‘service’ criteria satisfied, and driving away with all the necessary signatures to demonstrate my ‘involvement.’

Service as a mindset and philosophy meant something to me. Maybe it was being exposed to catechism that included in-depth case studies of specific saints and martyrs. If I wasn’t feeling fully connected to the acts of ‘goodness’ or ‘kindness’ I was enacting or if I wasn’t feeling some degree of sacrifice, then, in my young adult mind, I wasn’t doing my part. Not doing my part was exasperated by being known as “the Service person” on campus. Though my peers and teachers valued my service-related work, especially my shared written personal narratives about spirituality I wrote as part of my service leadership during retreats, I felt like an imposter. I realized that doing service was a far cry from being of service.

Being of service, I understood to a limited degree, at age 17, was a way of life, a choice to live every moment acknowledging Self but making decisions to be of service to others. Doing service, in contrast, could be measured quantifiably through external acts that others deemed ‘good’ or ‘kind.’ Even at 17, I cringed at the notion that people held a stick up to me and measured me as the ‘good kind of service.’ They didn’t know what I was feeling inside. They didn’t have a clue if I was ‘being’ rather than just doing obligatory service. All they could see – as they checked the boxes or signed the papers – were all the external, seemingly meaningful ‘acts’ in which I was involved. The more hours the better. The more ‘impact’ – as measured by how many people I served lunch to – fantastic!

Fast-forward decades later, and I find myself thinking of ‘service’ as an Assistant Professor who is creating courses that are community-engaged. I am actually structuring one course as a critical service-learning course. Critical, in this case, means centering social justice at the core of pedagogy and its enactment or praxis (Mitchell, 2007; 2008; 2014). Service-learning refers to the structure through which a higher education course intentionally centers ‘service’ as “mutually identified and organized service activities that benefit the community and [assist students in] gain[ing] further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility” (Bringle & Clayton, 2012, p. 105).

What strikes me in this reflection, is how similar I feel to how I did as a 17-year-old, when I ask myself and my critically-minded colleagues if we are actually BEING OF service to the communities we collaborate and work with through our community-engaged work or if we (my colleagues, our students, and I) are only DOING service. In higher education courses, where does merely doing service end and being of service begin? And in semester-long courses that are based on extrinsic motivators (grades, recognition), is it even possible to go beyond only doing service?

For me, the answer lies in the internal shifts that occur within each individual. As a whole,  most likely, the majority of my students – when engaging with community members – may only be doing service, regardless of what they write in their journal reflections or say in their final project presentations. Doing service means getting the good grade and being able to say that they ‘know about real issues.’ Being of service, for the few who truly get it, means that their experience and interaction with community members deeply shifts their understandings of who they are in relation to others with whom they are speaking, communicating, and interacting. Being of service means that the external ‘doing’ of service has translated to a knowing. This knowing is the realization that service is not an action divorced from the heart. Service, in its purest form, is being in, coming from, and sharing the heart for the purpose of caring for, listening to, and being there for another without conditions.

Service is akin to Rachel Naomi Remen’s (2000) discussion on ‘charity’ or “ways of giving to others” (p. 86). She tells the story of an Orthodox rabbi who provided her with clarity around these ‘ways’ through different levels of understanding unconditional giving:

  • At the eighth and most basic level of giving to others, a man begrudgingly buys a coat for a shivering man who has asked him for help, gives it to him in the presence of witnesses, and waits to be thanked.
  • At the seventh level, a man does this same thing without waiting to be asked for help.
  • At the sixth level, a man does this same thing openheartedly without waiting to be asked for help.
  • At the fifth level, a man openheartedly gives a coat that he has bought to another but does so in private.
  • At the fourth level, a man openheartedly and privately gives his own coat to another, rather than a coat that he has bought.
  • At the third level, a man openheartedly gives his own coat to another who does not know who has given him this gift. But the man himself knows the person who is indebted to him.
  • At the second level, he openheartedly gives his own coat to another and has no idea who has received it. But the man who receives it knows to whom he is indebted.
  • And finally, on the first and purest level of giving to others, a man openheartedly gives his own coat away without knowing who will receive it, and he who receives it does not know who has given it to him. Then giving becomes a natural expression of the goodness in us, and we give as simply as flowers breathe out their perfume (pp. 86 – 87).

In the final iteration of ‘ways of giving to another’ we become servants of humanity. We recognize the divinity each of us carries within, in spite of outward appearance or perceived difference.

As educators, I am interested in how we can use these understandings of service to inform our being-ness as we interact with our students, community members, and other stakeholders. To what degree are we willing to be of service and in what areas do we find ourselves only doing service either ‘begrudgingly’ or for the sake of being acknowledged or recognized? Where do we begin, in our own work, to help our students shift from merely doing service to becoming servants to society, to humanity?

These are questions I hope we all ponder seriously as we (re)imagine and (re)conceptualize a world in which we are committed to serving humanity – our children, our communities, and our planet.

With much love,

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References

Bringle, R. G., & Clayton, P. H. (2012). Civic education through service-learning: What, how, and why? In L. McIlrath, A. Lyons, & R. Munck (Eds.), Higher education and civic engagement: Comparative perspectives (pp. 101 – 124). New York: Palgrave.

Mitchell, T. D. (2007). Critical Service-Learning as social justice education: A case study of the citizen scholars program. Equity & Excellence in Education, 40(2), 101 – 112.

Mitchell, T. D. (2008). Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 50 – 65.

Mitchell, T. D. (2014). How service-learning enacts social justice sensemaking. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis, 2(2), Article 6, 1 – 26.

Remen, R. N. (2000). My Grandfather’s Blessings. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Right Speech

To be mutually one in heart is better than to be one in speech…

for often our words do not reflect what is in our hearts.

Our spiritual work is to balance our heart with our speech

so that both are beneficial to ourselves and others.*

 -Rumi

Lately, in my work as an educator, I have been thinking deeply about this concept of right speech. What does it mean to demonstrate right speech? What does it mean to be a person who consciously practices right speech? And, what implications does right speech have in my teaching and research as well as in everyday life?

I believe bell hooks (1994) would approach right speech with her explanation of Self-actualization. Self-actualization is the magical and spiritual moment when who we are, what we say, and what we do are in complete alignment. Here I capitalize the “S” in Self to denote my own belief that she is referring to our higher Self – our soul embodiment as compared to our individual ‘selves’ that are formed when we develop our persona during this lifetime. I also believe educator and scholar, Paulo Freire, would describe right speech as the commitment to “the way [we] act and think when [we] develop all of [our] capacities” (Freire & Betto, 1985, pp. 14 – 15) while working “to shorten more and more the distance between what [we] say and what [we] do” (Freire, 1997, p. 83). In essence, to me right speech is being consciously aware of the power and resonance of our words. It is a deliberate choosing of the most appropriate word to convey our heart’s messaging.

It is spoken at the right time

As educators, right speech is spoken at the right time as we weigh out if others are ready to hear our message. Speaking from our heart means taking a risk, particularly within a society that is hardwired to condemn vulnerability and emotion. Emotionality from a woman in academia can be problematic as we are, many times, perceived as being either hysterical or incompetent (Onwuachi-Willig, 2012). But when viewed through a lens of right speech, we are demonstrating courage and strength. We are removing filters and layers to speak truth. However, knowing not only the right time but also the right audience is key. Showing my true Self to others is a GIFT that should not be a precious pearl thrown to swine, meaning only that some people may be unwilling to open their hearts to your message. Discerning the right time and the right people is essential in maintaining my sense of integrity and dignity. Those who aren’t ready or willing to accept my heart’s messaging are not individuals with whom I want to share my heart with in a particular moment. Therefore, as an educator I need to be aware of when and with whom I can give my whole Self as I am teaching, learning, and engaging with others.

It is spoken in truth

Right speech has to reflect my own truth as a woman, educator, mother, wife, biracial Mexicana, and cancer thriver. In one space I cannot espouse to be one thing when in another I claim a different perspective or identity. Being in alignment means being true to who I am and speaking my words while standing firmly in my own truth.

It is spoken affectionately

Sometimes it is very challenging as an educator to speak to students with affection when what they say or write is in complete contrast to what I believe in. For example, when students take a firm anti-immigration stance, I – who am pro-immigration – find myself needing to breathe deeply and reflect, not only on what I am going to say, but the tone in which I am going to state my words. Reaching in deeply to find affection or compassion is, in many instances, a struggle. However, I am finding when I can demonstrate love and openness with another – even if I am actively disagreeing with their point of view – that the outcome is generally more constructive. In fact, because I am willing to actively listen to their perspective without trying to judge them, they are, oftentimes, left perplexed as they begin considering my perspective. The dissonance created in showing my students I can still care for them while disagreeing with them jars their own thinking and causes many of them to reconceptualize their own understandings.

It is spoken beneficially

Right speech means that I am thinking not only about the processes of communication and interaction with another, but also the overall outcome. As an educator, I need to think about the end game. In other words, what is the purpose of aligning my heart with my words? What is the purpose of sharing with my students or colleagues my true Self in a particular moment? If the answer to these questions is to provide a constructive and mutually beneficial outcome then, no matter how difficult the interaction, I am more willing to engage. Knowing that I have the highest good in mind is a critical indicator for whether or not I move forward with right speech. Though I want to always engage others with right speech, sometimes, if my heart is not fully convinced of the overall benefit to everyone, I retreat by pulling back and only giving as much as I feel is necessary.

It is spoken in a mind of loving-kindness

 To me, right speech “in a mind of loving-kindness” invokes Christ consciousness, which is a comprehensive knowing that who I am as a loving being is fully in alignment with my words and actions. This level of right speech is something to which I am constantly striving. Being in loving-kindness does not mean allowing others to take advantage of our willingness to be good. Rather, it means standing up for ourselves, setting strong boundaries, and stepping into a tough love that demonstrates our fierceness for humanity and our courageous fight against injustice, hatred, and dehumanization in all forms. Right speech in a mind of loving-kindness also goes beyond this fight and provides us with a window out of which to see how each one of us is interconnected. In loving-kindness, we rely on our hearts to discern the humanity within each person while choosing words that resonate to the highest level of love possible in that moment.

*A very special thank you goes out to Lynn Santamaría, my mom, who provided the Rumi quote and the “Right Speech” figure.

With love,

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References

Freire, P. (1997). Pedagogy of the heart. New York: Continuum.

Freire, P., & Betto, F. (1985). Essa escola chamada vida. São Paulo: Atica.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York,    NY:     Routledge.

Onwuachi-Willig, A. (2012). Silence of the lambs. In G. Gutiérrez y Muhs, Y. Flores            Niemann,  C. G. González, and A. P. Harris (Eds.). Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of      Race and Class for Women in Academia (pp. 142 – 151). Boulder, CO: University    Press    of Colorado.

 

Inner Balance with Love at the Center

Time is speeding up. Have you been feeling it? Sensing it?

I feel like we are in a deep learning period where lessons are coming in at bullet speed.

It’s hard to describe in words what I am understanding. I see and feel through images what Spirit presents to me.

I can describe it this way:

When I write for EduSpirit I write from my heart drawing on intuition, the flow of consciousness. It is a different sort of writing, completely detached from linear progression and unencumbered by morphosyntactic structures or analytical examinations. It is akin to what I believe surfers must feel as their primal senses hone in on “the fetch” – the area over which the wind is blowing – to determine how fast they need to paddle toward an oncoming swell. It’s the inner knowing of balance, the way we catch ourselves from falling when we slip on black ice. Or the way Joan Miró knew when to add a bold red line to give the other objects in the painting significance and weight.

So back to my questions … have you been feeling it? Sensing it?

But, what is IT?

IT is amorphous, elusive. Like a mosaic, the closer you get to the picture the more fractured and nonsensical the image. Only by taking a step back and detaching ourselves from the expectation of what we believe the image is or should be, do we begin to derive clarity of how all the smaller pieces fit together into the larger whole. Then, and only then, can we perceive the visual narrative.

IT plays with time and space. How are we already in April 2018? I remember New Year’s Eve clearly. I was creating vision boards with my family. And yet, the events that have occurred both personally and collectively since January 1st have been profound, unprecedented, and life-changing.

The lessons during this time feel exponentially more intense and challenging. Maybe because they are coming in fast, furious, unrelenting and without pause. It feels that just as soon as I make a breakthrough by recognizing and understanding the gifts in one lesson, another is right around the corner. I’ve barely caught my breath and Spirit is handing me another challenge.

Yet, one of my spiritual teachers constantly reminds me to reconceptualize “lesson” and “challenge.” What if, instead, I understand the situation as Spirit inviting me (again and again) to view the person or circumstance with love? What if I am being invited to LOVE and be LOVE in every moment? And when I do not feel love and, instead, feel angry, challenged, upset, saddened, or even ecstatic, I can learn to recognize that these emotions – not originating in love – are indicators of a part of me that is asking to be healed.

The lessons are coming in hard and fast. Again, we are being invited to consciously recognize the parts of ourselves that are being triggered by others and that reflect back to us what is begging to be healed. When we understand that we are divinely created – we are love and love is perfection – we begin to focus on the beauty within ourselves and in each person. What we, in our third-dimensional mindset and physicality, perceive as flaws, suddenly become areas where deep lessons reside. We no longer view these ‘flaws’ as deficits, but rather, as doorways to the authentic Self. It’s “through the cracks that the light gets in,” and if we intentionally focus on our inner sacredness with a humanizing and compassionate orientation, then we begin to be less judgmental and much more forgiving. This forgiveness, however, must first originate from within. Though cliché, there is a deep truth in forgiving ourselves – including what we perceive as fractured parts or flaws – before we can deeply and authentically forgive others. We must first cut our own cords that keep us attached to self-hate and admonishment before we tackle the challenge of releasing and severing unfulfilling or unloving attachments to others.

During this weekend when many are celebrating Easter, I am taking time to pause. I am consciously taking time to light candles, focus on my breath, and slow each moment down – at least for a little while. It feels so important to me to recognize the sacredness within myself, the part of me that forgives easily, laughs heartily, and smiles without effort. I go about the week rushing around trying to cram the work of three people into one working day, and I forget my own power. I forget that I, just as all of you, are forces of love. Sometimes we need to be reminded that every choice we make – however small or seemingly insignificant – is an intentional act that has the potential to bring joy and love to others and to ourselves.

May each of you have blessed and sacred moments this weekend,

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Featured image is by Joan Miró, Triptych Bleu I, II, III (1961).

Cracking the Shell

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It wasn’t until the last few days that I felt deeply in my bones that something had shifted for me. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was at first. It was like driving from Tucson to California in the middle of the night and reaching Quartzite at the break of dawn to catch a luminous edge, a glowing orange, peering slightly above the horizon. The feeling at the sight of the first emergence of light over the dusty mountains on a lonely highway was sheer awe. Driving for hours with the road visible only by headlights and the dim sheen of a crescent moon and desert stars, the immensity of deep relief gazing upon the new morning stunned. A rush of energy pulsed through my nerve-endings.  Inky skies no longer blended with black landscapes. A sudden awareness of detail, of sharp contrast, brought clarity to the road. The sun’s fiery threads weaving through the mountains illuminated the path to my final destination.

This week I saw the break of dawn in my own life. I was unaware until the light flooded in that I had been submerged in the dark depths of my own shell, a protective layer of subconscious that kept me suspended in stasis. I wasn’t fully living. Before the Diagnosis, before the Cancer, there was fear. I had married, divorced, and married again. The fear was palpable. Did marriage guarantee monogamy, fealty, unconditional love? My experience said no. My expectations of love set me up for failure, for I had bought into the myth that another person could complete my life, set me free, liberate my soul, and fulfill my longings. I believed in soulmates and twin flames. I believed in complete synergy with another human being who would complement and unify all my parts.

I sought so furiously, desperately, for this union outside of myself. I believed that happiness and true love meant finding that perfectly amazing human being to whom I was fated to be and live with throughout this physical existence and beyond. Everything hinged on me finding this person. So, I searched and searched.

What has taken most of this life to learn is that the person I have been looking for so feverishly is my own Self. This search is the luminous edge. It is the cracked shell. But now it has broken open, the cracks are wide.  No prayer of re-assemblage.

The Hopi have said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” In the most profound manner, I have begun to embody this belief. Like an egg, my shell has been cracked again and again until, finally, the Truth of who I am in relation to this life has spilled out. It has been messy, unpleasant. There is no containment. I am who I am. We are who we are. And the internal knowingness that only we can fulfill our intrepidly wild and gorgeous dreams is one of the most powerful truths I have ever encountered. It’s like driving in the dark without headlights and reaching the cliff’s edge. My inner guidance knowing to slam on the breaks as I wait for the Sun’s first rays.

With much love,

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Disclaimer: For those who may be tempted to read into this reflection, please know that all is well at home – with/in and with/out. There is a sense of peace and deep love where before there was sometimes doubt, within and without.