Focus and Finish and Feel the Joy

focus and finish

How do I focus? I begin with lovingkindness meditation. How do I finish? I pace myself by setting 3 most important things per day. Let’s be clear, these are things I can focus on, things in my hula hoop. Lovingkindness and focus on self brings more skillful means with others.

Then I’m not focused on the things my husband is or isn’t doing, or anyone else for that matter. I shine the light of mindfulness on what is surrounding me. Period. Then I’m way more loving and a lot less judging.

staying in my own hula hoop is important

Setting my twenty minute timer is changing my life.

“Siri, set timer for twenty minutes.” This is my most frequent phone request. I use it for writing, for yoga, for walking, for cleaning; it is a great gentle kick in the pants, I can then bust a move. A true momentum builder, because once I do one thing, I’m charged up for more.

I can do anything for twenty minutes.

Narrowing the window of time with which I measure things means I’m way more focused, therefore I finish way more things. Oftentimes I feel way more joy.

My life is riddled with good intentions and at times, they create high-strung intensity and overwhelm.  These are wake up calls to me to focus on what matters most. Inhale. Exhale. Pace.

My habitual frenzy of activity isn’t getting me where I want to be. Calm. Lovable. Loving. I tend to over-commit and under-deliver.

Many of us believe there is not enough time, and this causes internal conflict. I must make the right choice, now! I must finish my to-do list! Therefore, I take on too much responsibility and too much busyness and self-care takes a back seat to striving.

A life spent striving leads to a life of strife. 

What matters most to me is the quality of my relationships. I give twenty minutes of undivided attention (read: no devices) to my beloveds and it fertilizes the space between us. Sharing a cup of tea without distraction infuses premium love to my relationship.

Slowing down to the transitions of the day, celebrating good morning with a snuggle, good-bye with a kiss, greeting with a kindness, and goodnight with a gratitude. Focus and finish and feel the joy.

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When loving you is hurting me

love and kindness

When loving you is hurting me, I can soften to the situation at hand and allow it to tenderize my heart. Healthy, loving relationships require each person to be responsible for healthy boundaries, clear communication, and self-care.

action based on pure intention

Love is a verb, an action based on pure intention. In my nervous system wiring, part of how I learned to love is to take care of you. If you feel good, then my nervous system relaxes and I feel good. This learning did not get me where I wanted to go. This is a wee bit enmeshed and dare I say, unhealthy. Remember, healthy, loving relationships require each person to be responsible for healthy boundaries, clear communication, and self-care.

a kindness, unwelcome, is an unkindness

I’m growing ever more aware of my own tendency to rush in to “fix” people. Recognizing I can be okay even if you are not okay allows me to be more tender in the moment. A kindness, unwelcome, is an unkindness. You see, much of the time people don’t want to be “fixed.” Oftentimes they want to be seen and heard and sometimes held.

somehow responsible

My energetic field is rather attuned to what is going on around me. I sense it in my body. I can tell if someone is okay or not. My problem is I then conclude that I am somehow responsible for getting that person back to “ok-ness.”

Call me an empath, call me sensitive, call me what you will, I have come to think this quality I hold (and perhaps you do, too?) can be both a blessing and a curse. I would rather it be a blessing, so I do what needs to be done to maintain clear boundaries. I can enjoy tuning in without charging up and going into fix-it-mode.

even if my intentions are good

When loving you is hurting me, when I feel I am going down a spiral of negativity with you, I need to seriously wake up and change something. I speak out against abuse or mistreatment. I advocate for assertive and clear communication rather than passive aggressive and cloudy communication.

I once heard a story of someone so eager to help that she became an ambulance driver. Hyped up on the speed of helping, she ended up running over innocent pedestrians on her way to help. This begs the question, is doing what I am doing really helping? Is it hurting the other person and/or myself, even if my intentions are good?

ironically, everything is then okay

Quite simply, instead of rushing in with what I think is best, with what I think the other person needs, instead, I ask, How can I help? Truly I can simply ask. I can be present with another’s pain in a way that can be healing. When I no longer reject that person or his experience, AND I no longer reject myself and expect “ok-ness,” ironically, everything is then okay.

Pele’s Lessons I’m (still) learning from the Fire Goddess, after losing my cool

Pele lava pahoehoe flow

Right now, as I type this, we have a lot of volcanic activity going on nearby. I feel it. The earth shakes, the air quality shifts; I am too far away to see the glow in the sky or to witness lava flowing across the road, but it is happening. This quickening of the energetics of the earth, the presence of tutu Pele, is part of my incredible experience living here in Hawaiʻi.

Conflict is growth trying to happen.

We are inspired by the creation of new land, where else is in the world is this happening? Awed by the magnetics of the energetic exchange, we feel major momentum and a collective waking up to focus of what matters most.

That magma which has been boiling underground is coming to the surface in varying capacities. Pele is present. Aʻa lava is chunky and sharp, incredibly hot and noxious. Pahoehoe is smooth and flowing. Fountains are shooting up to tickle the heavens. Peleʻs hair and tears are floating and falling. Ash soars high and spreads wide.

Pele in the relational field is powerful.

Why I am sharing this with you? Perhaps because we need to recall that energy of creation and destruction is within us all.

I ask us each to pause and pay attention.

  • Where am I creating new boundaries, new terrain, new land?
  • Where am I destroying existing structures (and is this necessarily a bad thing)?

Moving here from the Mainland, I was willing to leave behind a lot of “things,” destroying some of the existing structures of dominant culture, as I moved more fully into new terrain: simplified, intentional living, sharing resources with my in-laws.

My hair dye, nail polish, and underwire bras stayed behind, my hurriedness and impatience came with me.

The goddess Pele reminds me to slow down. Hustling to yoga on the beach a few years ago, I tripped on lava and cut up my foot and was on crutches for a month. I know, the irony of hustling to yoga… Pele speaks, I listen, humbly. No need hurry.

I am human; sometimes I lose my cool.

Yesterday, I erupted after a build up of pressure and underground rumblings. I recognized that underneath the eruption with my mother-in-law was an intention to be supportive, as well as a smidgen of fear, a dose of righteousness, and a dollop of dismay. (I also was hungry — I hadn’t eaten breaky or had my coffee and I was running late to get my son to the dentist.)

The noxious concoction flowed out of me, aʻa style, like the chunky, hot, sharp aʻa lava, despite my (best) intention to express loving concern. (The storyline is rather irrelevant.)

I raised my voice, cussed, turned away, and dismissed her experience. It was painful to us both. I caused more harm than good in that moment. Pele reminds me to recognize my vapors can be toxic, that I need space and air — and I need to slow down — most noteworthy so I don’t vaporize others or hurt myself.

The vent released built up pressure.

We danced awkwardly toward and away from each other, in a confusing array of fountaining detritus. Maybe we both felt hurt.

Space, breath, prayer, processing and a willingness to clean up my side of the wreckage enabled me to see that perhaps this was new earth being formed–a new boundary set with my relative.

I recall the basics of hoʻoponopono. 

I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

magnet ho'oponopono Pele lesson

​​​​​​​In conclusionI offer this to myself and to my mother-in-love, in my prayers and in an email (even though we live together). Now I offer it to you. Give yourself space. Allow for forgiveness. Remember that conflict is growth trying to happen. See relationships blog for more on this.

Thank you, Pele.

Smitten By Kitten (or how surrender breeds serenity)

kitten

Whispering in each boy’s ear at night while sleeping, “may you grow stronger every day and stronger in every way;” is a ritual I have done for thirteen plus years. Now I find myself whispering this same sweet sentiment into kittens’ ears. Kittens that are a new addition to our family. Kittens that require bottle feeding and monitoring. And they need an adult to make decisions for them, like the wet warm cotton ball on pee and poop parts to stimulate reflexes. May you grow stronger every day and stronger in every way.

Backstory

Here’s the backstory. About a week ago, I thought I heard a coqui tree frog in the woods next to our house. I would go outside after hearing it for a few seconds and it would cease, immediately.  I was curious because, to date, our home, our neighborhood, our place on the island, does not harbor coqui. This invasive species with the accompanying high-decibel nighttime noise is present in other parts of the island, not here.

I was compelled, as many residents here are compelled, to stop this creature from establishing a population of other coqui. This is akin to trying to stop negative thoughts from setting up shop in the neighborhood of my serene mind. I love quiet nights; I don’t want coqui in my backyard. I love the native serenity of my mind in its pure state, not invasive annoyances of worry and outrage, perfection and doubt.

In order to flush out the coqui, and in effort to preserve nighttime serenity (and sanity), I got to work on the debris piled by our neighbor’s fence. I asked for help. My teenager came to help, barefoot and ungloved. I pulled up big branches and handed them to him. Even without having shoes on, he wanted to go down deeper into the debris and pull it out. I was hesitant and then something whispered in my ear, he is getting stronger every day and stronger in every way. I let him.

Meditation in Action

Now to fully set the stage, I should tell you that I really wanted to be miffed that the debris was piled up on the edge of our yard. Was it our neighbor who put it there? Was it my husband who put it there? I felt the warm wash of outrage prodding me. Instead of raging, however, I simply took a deep breath and observed my thoughts. It was a crystal clear example of meditation in action.

For that split second, I didn’t react with a nasty tone of voice. It felt so freeing to not get personally offended by something that someone does or does not do. Part of me really wanted to blame someone for this mess. But, more importantly, a bigger part of me didn’t want to cast blame. Alhamdu-lillah, an Arabic phrase meaning thanks be to God- to show gratefulness of a situation. (I long to know this phrase in each world wisdom tradition.)

It was profound, yet simple. I simply did what was in front of me to do. Pulled out a branch, broke it into smaller pieces, placed it in the yard waste can. Immersing myself in my surroundings, I whispered to the elusive coqui, please find a new home, not here.

My mother-in-law wondered who I was talking to. I talk to nature a lot; practically all day long and sometimes audibly.  Something darted across my field of vision. I reassured myself it was not a rat, it was not a mongoose, it was, indeed, a feral cat.

Still working, feeling strong, my older son helping me. He noticed. “Gosh, Mom, that’s a big load.”

“Thanks,” I replied. 

Observations

I find it interesting to observe, the stronger in physical body I get, the softer in my demeanor I get. The softer I get with my gaze, my tone of voice, my reactivity, the stronger in spirit I get. Vulnerability, a place of soft and supple willingness, is a sign of strength.

I was taking another load of yard debris to the truck when I saw a look on my son’s face I had never seen before. I heard a murmuring that I had never heard before. Once my brain figured out that he wasn’t hurt, I realized he was elated. Another negative thought—silenced.

The strange sound coming from him was one of pure excitement, no words, just a coo-ing, woo-ing sound.  Finally, he uttered something coherent. “They are so cute,” he cried.

He found kittens. Under the truck-load of debris we had pulled out together. A nest. A den. Kittens. The cat I had witnessed dart away was the mama cat. We had unearthed a natural birth place.

More striking to me was just how this little bundle of cuteness ignited the dry kindling that had been growing in my boy, ready to ignite in a heartbeat; he had wanted something to nurture for so very long.  Here was a furry animal to cuddle, times two. One black. One tiger-striped. He told his nine-year-old brother and within moments they were both smitten by kitten.

Mama Instinct

My mama instinct was to leave them be. I stopped pulling out the debris around them. They were tucked away, safe in the cave of nature, granted they had more exposure than previously. We had unearthed them. We had disrupted the natural process, I worried.

While I was hauling the debris, my husband apparently was giving our sons a different message. He told them to go ahead and pick up the kittens. Of course they wanted to pick them up and the next thing I knew they were in the house, drawing the oooooh and aaaaah of other family members.

Then I noticed they reminded me of the kittens my father and brothers brought to me when I was four, a black kitten I named him Pitch and a tabby I named Tiger. This touched an even softer spot within me; a sweet memory. More people smitten by kitten.

A week prior to their arrival, at our family meeting, the vibe couldn’t have been farther from this current vibe of unconditional tenderness. It was tense and painful as we discussed the difficulties of living together multi-generationally, and troubles with communication.

This Sunday, the vibe was one of rallying together, albeit cautiously, to take care of these two helpless creatures who were now our kuleana, our responsibility.

The mama cat walked by our sliding door, mewing and searching for her babies. A cool trade wind blew through the yard, carrying her cries. My beloved brought me a cup of coffee, bringing me out of my mental meanderings and back to the moment with delicious aroma.

The kittens were already adopted by humans. Done.

Angel of Acceptance

I would not have asked for it to be this way, with multiple feedings per day and pulls on our energy. Personally, I would have let the kittens nurse with the mama and work out potential adoption later, and after a family meeting to discuss it. Again, though I wanted to be miffed with what was right in front of me, I felt the angel of acceptance whispering in my ear, let it be. Tend and befriend. Be gentle. This is a gift to the  boys. They want to nurture. Let them nurture.

I held one pound of cute in each hand, the furry balls of kitten, for the first time. I found myself smitten by kitten, I softened to this situation, and I surrendered to win.

Cherokee Fable

I am reminded of the Cherokee fable of the two wolves inside each of us, one representing peaceful positivity, the other negative outrage. We observe these two creatures, living, growing, fighting, every day, in each of us. The observer asks, who will win? The moral of the story is that the one you feed wins, the one you pay attention to with soft and tender nurturance grows stronger every day and stronger in every way.  

To personally not feed the angry wolf of reactivity and blame was a relief. There are many times in my life when I have quickly fed the negativity that lives within me, the insatiable wolf of perfection and judgment, who is so righteously convinced she must win. I also have tried to remedy this by feeding the other wolf, the more loving wolf, more nutritious quantities of food so it was stronger. This time I actually did not feed the angry wolf.

May I grow stronger and softer, more vulnerable and more powerful, every day, in every way.

kitten
smitten by kitten

A Natural State, Being At Ease

natural calm

A Natural State, Being At Ease

The dark time of night breeds quiet and an invitation to restore. When this natural stillness is perturbed, the fear committee rouses, its presence weighs heavy, as a stone.

During my adolescence, phone calls punctuate the hours. No good news phone calls come in the middle of the night. When I answer, an official sounding man says, “three minutes.” Then I hear him, my brother, asking for mom.

Another drunk driving arrest in the family. Four brothers, four DUIs and counting. I quickly pass the phone from my hand to my mom’s but the burden of the news doesn’t leave me;  a sense of heaviness remains.

Stones Gathering

In their heaviness, stones stay put unless an external force moves them; stones have a natural and definite steadfast sense of leave me alone. Fear gets wedged in my body like a stone; stubborn, stuck and seemingly solid.

It contracts me from a natural state of being at ease to a tight place of pinch.

Back then, as an innocent child, I didn’t know how to move the fear, to shake the pinch, so it piled up and connected to all the other fears, some inherited; alcoholism included, the stones gathering, forming a mountain of malaise.

Today, unlike my childhood, I choose not to have a bedside phone that can ring in the middle of the night, instead I unplug. Yet even without the phone disruptions, self-generated negativity thunders loudest in the wee hours and this storm waters the fallow fields of fear.

Fear Gives Birth to Doubt

Doubt then invades my internal landscape as an invasive vine, crawling and tightening around the lung trees, constricting my safely nestled heart a little too tightly, quickening my breath, and disrupting my rest and digest slumber.

I feel loved, safe, grateful, and happiest when I am outside; this is the saving grace I learned as a child. Appreciating stones, marveling at tree roots, skipping down the beach, my senses gobbling up all the natural beauty that they could.

Indoors, my senses quickly cramp and I become irritable. I notice when someone has been home; a pair of glasses moved, a dirty glass of milk forgotten, my favorite cookies eaten. Minor irritants eating away at the foundation of peace, I feel existential anxiety so I clean to titrate it. The warm sudsy water wiping away the residue of neglect, temporarily. After a very short while, I get cabin fevered, no amount of cleaning is enough.

A state of loneliness creeps into my heart, naturally.

Return to Ease

Then, just as a breath of fresh air works wonders for my psyche, I open the door, step outside and life begins anew again. Beyond the bars of my mental imprisonment of fears and anxieties, I am free to explore the natural state of great beauty around me. It penetrates me. Skin and sun mingling. Warmth within. Return to ease.

Communing with the water element enlivens me. I frolic on the beach, the act of jumping foamy waves curling to the shore fills me with delight. This is the place where consciousness, symbolized by the land, and unconsciousness, the sea, mingle.

It is one of my favorite places on the planet. Paddling on the rivers, the lessons of going with the flow and contemplating the journey come easier here. I also notice the muck and the mire that gets caught in the eddies. Swimming in the lakes, the eyes of the world, and allows my perspective to shift as the lens widens.

I live close to the bone. I sense the energies of the world around me. These wake up calls to beauty save me from myself.

Psychic Sponge

Me, a psychic sponge of sorts, readily saturated with grace and beauty or conversely, with fear and doubt, I must be willing and able to squeeze out the toxins which flood the space between my thoughts. If I donʻt release the pinch, fear and doubt fester into a soup of shame, and that shame clogs my nervous system to the point of overwhelm.

Everything changes. I used to wear all black as a teenager. Now I adore wearing all white. I even tolerate grey, in my wardrobe, in my hair, in my chain of thought. Adopting a fresh perspective free from polarities allows me a better chance of hanging out in the sweet spot of life.

My troubles, then, are not so different from the present, it is just in the subtleties, the gradations of the experiences. Today, the rage is not so ragy. The disagreements are not so disagreeable. The dread is not so dreadful. I know how to move the fear.

Sunrise

Everything swirling and changing around me, the one thing throughout my life that is constant is the sunrise. It rises, every single day of my life. Not once in awhile or when it was summer, but every day. The sun comes up behind a veil of clouds or as a glowing orange orb on the clear cut of the horizon, shimmering off the ocean’s waves.

Wherever I am, it rises. The sun continues to rise, no matter what. It is not up to me whether this happens or not, which is a huge relief. I can rely on it. Sunrise is trustworthy and I surrender to this.

I wake early, earlier than usual, 4 a.m. Instead of wrestling with my worries, did I get enough sleep, how will I pay the bills, is my mother okay, will my son be alcoholic, why politics and environmental degradation polarize us, I go out to my lanai for prayer and yoga and look up to the sky.

Nature is a Salve

Stars pierce the darkness, some swimming in a milky way, the big dipper pouring in the east. I am putting my mental energies to a different task, learning to tell time based on the seasons and the constellations. Nature is a salve for my soul, I feel its restorative power immediately.

I am living a continual leap of faith and I jumped so high, it really is just one long free fall.

I have moments of feeling grounded but perhaps I am merely resting on a cloud, temporarily. The weather shifts, the clouds dissipate, there is no such thing as solid ground. Feeling the ground under my feet somehow reminds me of groundlessness. The sun kiss my skin reminds me of boundlessness. Pulling me this way and that, the winds of this passing moment remind me of impermanence.

My life begins when I leave my house and allow my senses to play.

My favorite game is what is the most glorious thing I see in this moment, now? The new shoots on the fern? The turkey turd from the neighboring wild turkey we call Tina though I think she is a Tom? The lei of clouds ringing Mauna Kea? 

Healing the Planet

I will remain active in the pursuit of my purpose, to heal the planet one relationship at a time. I am humbled to know there are some relationships I cannot heal, even within my own home, my own family. Now one brother is sober, one is drunk and has no license due to multiple DUIs, yet he tells me he doesn’t drive because his truck is broken down, the two other brothers are still figuring it out, and it is not up to me.

The one relationship I can and do heal is the relationship with myself, dismounting the mountain of malaise.

From there, all things are possible.

Tonight, I will put my head to my pillow in gratitude: that this being here is enough.

I am in a natural state of calm abiding when I can unlock the pinch. Letting go of fear, doubt and shame are essential to living in a place of relaxed pulsation, breathing with the wind, giving my exhale to the trees, receiving nourishment from the ʻaina, and surrendering to the flow of  ʻwai. Puʻu wai, the hill of water, my heart center, hums in the heartbeat of space.

I am restored as the dark night breeds quiet. Tomorrow, I will rise again, like the sunrise, and do what must be done.

natural calm
natural calm

 

We’re wounded in relationship, we heal in relationship

heal relationship hug

My partnership is helping me heal in all sorts of surprising and challenging ways. First of all, when I love the man I am with and not the man I think he should be, I always feel more accepting of myself, and vice versa.  When I am more accepting of myself, my man is even more adorable. He is amazing. The story I tell myself at these times is that his presence in my life is truly a gift.

We were wounded in relationship and we heal in relationship.

This I believe. I also believe in the power of pouring energy into upriver nurturance as much as possible vs. using precious life energy in downriver clean-up. I can tend to my relationships with positive exchanges, bids for connection, and building a culture of appreciation. In all my relations. I can break the legacy of wounding that rears up from a scared, lonely person.

“Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Love…is the discovery of reality.”

—Iris Murdoch

Waiting for others to change and circumstances beyond my control to be just so in order to heal and be happy was a vicious cycle. It was exhausting. It didn’t get me where I wanted to be…a place of unconditional love, respect, and understanding.

We all have these moments. It is part of the human condition. But I no longer need to perpetuate the cycle of drama/trauma by reacting to life that is done to me. Then I feel caught in a vicious cycle; the guilt/shame, apologize/forgive, and blow-up/repair.

relationship hug

It is the season to reflect on love. As a couple’s coach, I am reflecting on the following inspiring points from an Imago International Conference Embodied Therapist training to help break from this seemingly familiar cycle:

Remind Old Brain

1. This is my Beloved (my husband)

2. Seeing this person as an enemy is a choice

3. Interdependence is NOT DEATH.

4. It takes gas to move a car forward (or it takes a lithium battery). Positive energy must be present to move forward.

5. Clearing up my side of the street performs miracles.

6. Change is a constant in life. Relationship requires the ability to adapt to the world of change.

7. In order to adapt to the world of change we need these skills:

  • letting go
  • resilience
  • humor
  • non-judgment
  • appreciation
  • compassion
  • wonder
  • curiosity
  • acceptance

Can I tend and befriend myself, in every moment, with gentle curiosity and tenderness?

Maybe not in every moment (that is the perfectionist in me leaking out). But when I do lose loving contact with myself, my husband, and/or my sons, how quickly and gracefully can I return to the peace that passes all understanding? How can I once again return to self-compassion?

Tapping the vehicle of my breath as a guide home; reminding my old brain, “I’m okay, I’m safe, I’m loved, right here, right now.” When I do this with myself, it is putting that message out in the universe that this moment is enough. This breath is enough.

It is the return to gratitude that builds the foundation for satisfying relationships and a life worth living. When I am grateful, I feel full, I feel complete, I feel whole. 

The invitation is to allow your life to get B I G G E R!