It Starts at Home

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.” ~ M. F. K. Fisher

“By starving emotions we become humorless, rigid and stereotyped; by repressing them we become literal, reformatory and holier-than-thou; encouraged, they perfume life; discouraged, they poison it” ~ Joseph Collins

It’s the night before Valentine’s Day… a Hallmark created holiday meant to be a celebration of Love, of the people in our lives we hold nearest and dearest…

Unfortunately, for a large part of the population, it ends up being a time of sadness, of great grief and hungering for the elusive companionship they don’t have.

Longing has its place in the human experience. “It seems to me,” said novelist George Eliot (nom de plume for Mary Anne Evans), “we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” By hungering for more, we continue to move forward.

But today, so many of us are not merely hungering, but starving… our modern world has created a famine. We yearn for… we don’t know what….

Spiritual connection, human contact, emotional security, tenderness…

And like Rapunzel in the tower, we are waiting for something outside of ourselves to supply the nourishment our souls are crying out for…

But neediness so rarely draws others to us in order to feed our longings – at least not in any healthy way.

So we must begin to feed ourselves.

The first step is identifying what it is that we are hungering for – is it sensuality, companionship, intimacy, excitement, growth, knowledge, challenge, or something else?

The second step is starting to think about how to get the need met.

We’ve spent so long believing that someone else is the solution to our problems it can be difficult to think outside the box, to believe that we can be our own knight in shining armor. But if we want to achieve happiness and contentment, we have to be brave enough to put our own feet on the path…

Longing for sensuality may begin with a massage, companionship with joining a running or book club. Longing for growth, knowledge, or challenge might start with taking a class…

No, it probably doesn’t seem as satisfying as having prince or princess charming sweep into your life and answer all your yearnings with their presence or one wave of their hand (or their AMEX), but satisfaction begets more satisfaction, and we draw to ourselves what we are.

So if we want The ONE to show up, maybe we have to find contentment, to find our own balancing point. Maybe in order to find The ONE we have to BE The ONE.

We have to be the Love we want to see in the world.

“Those that go searching for love, only manifest their own loveless ness. And the loveless never find love, only the loving find love. And they never have to seek for it.” ~ D. H. Lawrence

T-T-T-T-Touch Me!

“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.” ~ James Arthur Baldwin

I love summer in Chicago… the sun beating on my body, the wind in my hair, cool water on my hot skin.  I love the smell of the lake, the crack of a bat, the pinks, oranges, and deep purples of the tulips lining Michigan Ave…. sipping a cold drink on a tree covered patio while a gentle breeze tickles the back of my neck and hot tunes trickle out from the jukebox…

I could be perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life in sandals, cut-offs, and a tank top…

The sensual pleasures of summer in Chicago are ecstatic… and I am fed by them.

So what’s a hedonist to do in February?  Especially if you’re single (fussy, my grandmother will tell you) and not interested in ending up as big as a house before the crocuses make themselves known again?  The opportunities for sensuality are definitely limited…

Oh sure… there’s the joy of sliding into a warm bed on a cold night, the taste of hot chocolate drunk outdoors, the smell of new snow, not to mention the feeling returning to all your limbs after standing on an EL platform or at a bus stop for longer than usual thanks to new budget cuts… (sigh)

But there’s just not as much pleasurable sensual experience to be had – at least in my opinion…

So today, I pulled out the big guns.

Workout, hot tub, steam room, herbal wrap, massage… ahhhh…

Feeding our senses is critical to our humanity… From a spiritual perspective, I keep coming back to the idea that we have bodies for a reason.  They are our vehicles on this plane of existence – the method by which we make contact and connection. Teilhard de Chardin  said, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.

Sensuality is the human experience.

So get out and get some!

(I got a recommendation if you need one… 😉 )

“Your body needs to be held and to hold, to be touched and to touch. None of these needs is to be despised, denied, or repressed.” ~ Henri Nouwen

Positive Disintegration

“When tears come, I breathe deeply and rest. I know I am swimming in a hallowed stream where many have gone before. I am not alone, crazy, or having a nervous breakdown…. My heart is at work; my soul is awake.” ~Mary Margaret Funk

It seems like transition is in the air… lots of people are feeling unsettled, out of sorts, “betwixt and between.” There’s a sense that the ground beneath their feet is no longer solid; it’s a little bit like being Bambi on mental/spiritual ice…

I wrote back in December about the process of metamorphosis in which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly (Holistic Life: Butterflies Are Free). When a caterpillar enters the cocoon, its body actually breaks down into its basic chemical building blocks from which the butterfly is then formed… kinda like taking apart your Lego ferris wheel in order to use the pieces to build the Eiffel Tower.

During a lifetime of work, Polish psychiatrist and psychologist, Kazimierz Dąbrowski* developed a theory of personality development he called Positive Disintegration. (This sounds like a non sequitor – bear with me)

The Theory of Positive Disintegration states that “psychological tension and anxiety as necessary for growth.” Each time we are about to shift or move into our next stage of consciousness, our current beliefs “disintegrate” – just like the caterpillar’s physical body. “Truths” that have been the bedrock of our present state are no longer certain. We experience a breakdown of all that we have “known” as the energy and knowledge used to maintain them is essentially cannibalized to build our new self.

No wonder transition is so uncomfortable! And interestingly enough, the discomfort itself serves a purpose.

Human beings, in many ways, are essentially complacent. We would much rather stay in the place we know – even if its painful and unhappy – than move into the unknown – no matter that the unfamiliar space holds the possibility of joy and fulfillment. Positive Disintegration holds that the distress we feel in the process of change actually propels us onward into our new reality. Things grow so uncomfortable where we are that we are compelled to move forward and complete our transformation. It’s essentially the equivalent of forcing a baby to walk on its own by heating the wall up to red hot… it can be painful and abrupt, but it gets the job done.

Just like childbirth comes with work, pain, discomfort, and, ultimately, a lack of control over the process, so too, the birthing of our Selves can be distressing. Plus, unlike childbirth, we have no idea what we will have when the birth pains end. When disintegration starts, we are on an express train going I-don’t-know-where.

At these times, what we do have control over is our thoughts about the process. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the discomfort, we can choose instead to have faith that our pain has a purpose for our ultimate good, that, with work and care, with gentleness for ourselves, we too can grow wings… We just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, through the pain, through the anxiety, trusting that there is an end within our grasp…

and don’t forget to breathe… and remember that there are people who will walk beside you through the process – all you have to do is ask.

“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” ~Harry Emerson Fosdick

* For more on Dąbrowski, Wikipedia has a great intro… click here!

Like Fine Wine

“So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why don’t somebody wake up to the beauty of old[er] women?” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

Have you watched Meryl Streep lately?  If you’re lucky, you’ve seen It’s Complicated or her amazing performance as Julia Child in Julie and Julia, or, better still, both

Because she’s gorgeous.

In both these roles, she is so comfortable in her own skin that she’s able to fully let go.  She embodies such joy and love of life that I couldn’t help but be swept off my feet by her grace and beauty.  Whoever decided that women don’t get better with age?

I know some phenomenal older women who give me hope for what I might become someday, women who’ve taught me what it means to be true to who you are…

After her first session, on her way from my room to our chiropractor, one of my clients, a grandmother of three, swept past me wrapped in a sheet, her bra swinging from one finger.  “I just couldn’t stand to get dressed,” she said to me with a wink, “I feel too marvelous!” We giggled madly, and off she went.

My mom, after a lifetime of feeling unathletic, has taken up hiking and kayaking in the last decade and now she revels in her strength and capability.  She also went back to school to become a teacher, graduating with her Masters 2 years after I graduated with my undergrad, and has been known to go swimming in her nightgown… ☺

And then there’s Sara, our Executive Director and Life Coach Extraordinaire, who is the epitome of poise and eloquence, and is one of the kindest, most generous people I know… and this spring she’s finishing a degree and is easily the best, most committed student I’ve ever seen.

Somewhere along the line, someone convinced us that “letting it all hang out” means being… sloppy… as if owning and making no excuses for who and what we are is akin to having spent the night drinking vodka and Redbull till we’re blind.

But Meryl, my mom, Sara, my fabulous client, and all the other wonderful, wild women I know all prove that there is nothing more gorgeous than a woman who is holding back nothing of herself, who is giving her all, and taking life’s challenges and opportunities as they come, with style, and humor, and no apology.

Oh yeah, I know who I want to be when I grow up…

“A succulent wild woman is one of any age who feels free to fully express herself in every dimension of her life.” ~ Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy (SARK)

Reclaiming Pandora

“The Depth of your Mythology is the Extent of your Effectiveness.” ~ John Maxwell

I love mythology. My mother’s love of stars awakened in me an insatiable hunger for the stories the constellations represented, which in turn led me to study the myths of any culture I encountered. I am always amazed at the similarity between stories told by peoples thousands of miles and milleniums apart.

I mentioned Pandora a few blogs ago… she is still part of our cultural consciousness, but for all the wrong reasons. Here is the myth as we know it:

  • Zeus, infuriated by the theft of divine fire and subsequent gifting of it to man, chained Prometheus to a rock where he was doomed forever to have his liver eaten out by eagles. But Prometheus was immortal and could not die. His body repaired itself by night, only to be devoured again the next day
  • But this was not punishment enough for Zeus. Mankind, too, had to pay – for not only had Prometheus gifted humans with fire in order to make tools, but he had also lit a spark within their minds that they might grow and learn. Zeus feared that the race of man might someday rival the gods
  • So he gathered the Olympians together and between them they created… woman. Aphrodite made her beautiful; Athena gave her wit and charm, and Hermes… Hermes filled her heart with curiosity
  • They named her Pandora – All-Gifted- because each of the gods had contributed something of themselves to her
  • Zeus gave her to Epimetheus, who, upon seeing Pandora, forgot all the warnings he had ever received about accepting gifts from the King of the Gods. With her, Epimetheus accepted a box, which he was warned never, ever to open
  • All went well… until Epimetheus left his bride at home alone. And then Hermes’ gift reared its head. Try as she might, Pandora could not stop thinking about the box… what could be in it that it must be forever sealed?
  • The need to see for herself grew in Pandora until it was a physical pain. At last, unable to bear her curiosity any longer, she threw open the lid, and when she did dark, horrifying, demonic shapes leapt skyward, scattering to the wind… many more than could logically be held within the confines of so small a chest…. These were famine, fear, toil, prejudice, war, dischord, and disease; all the griefs and hardships that have plagued mankind ever since
  • At the last moment, Pandora found the strength to slam the lid closed once more, locking within its walls the last of the god’s tortures… Hope
  • Hope… which would forever be man’s one comfort against the sea of misery unleashed by Pandora.

This is the myth we know. A thousand year old story that is still relevant today because of the advent of writing. But it is also a conqueror’s myth…

One of the most insidious ways of undermining a conquered people is to corrupt their cultural stories and spiritual symbols. For example, the apple, serpent, and tree of knowledge were all symbols of the Goddess’s love before corrupted by the Father worshipping warriors who defeated her followers.

It was no different in ancient Greece. The gentle matrilineal, Goddess worshipping culture was defeated and their mythology turned against them.

This is their version of Pandora:

  • The Great Mother loved all of her children; so much so that she sent to them her Kore, or earthly embodiment. The people called her Pandora, for she brought to them all the gifts that they would need to survive and thrive. She brought them abundance, vision, creativity, intuition, self-esteem, communication, and loving relationships. All these gifts, when combined, created such balance and hope within the people that they cried for joy.

The gifts of the original myth became the demons of the second; they are the shadow side of the Goddesses’ generosity. The promise that we, as human beings, have everything we need within us, became the admonition never to venture inside, to ignore the still small voice that drives us to seek more and obey the outside authority…

But what neither story denies is that, at the bottom of it all, when the demons are unmasked and the gifts recovered, when we clear out the box, what we are left with is Hope.

Maybe it’s time to come back to our roots?

“Hope…which is whispered from Pandora’s box only after all the other plagues and sorrows had escaped, is the best and last of all things. Without it, there is only time. And time pushes at our backs like a centrifuge, forcing us outward and away, until it nudges us into oblivion.” ~ Ian Caldwell

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”~ Joseph Campbell