You Belong. You Exist.

You belong. You exist.

This is important to say. You belong. You exist. Exist means: to have actual being.

Very often we don’t receive these messages as children. You belong. You exist. The yearning to belong and exist is deep, deep within us. I might argue this yearning creates everything we have experienced in our lives so far. There comes a point, if we are reaching for it, where we realize we actually do belong, we do exist. This occurrence happens even if our experiences have shown us the opposite.

I just had this experience. I was listening to Day 5 of Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation, Experiencing, Creating Peace from the Inside Out. Oprah said, “If it is intimacy and connection you resist, it is love you crave most.” This struck a chord and is a theme that’s been surfacing lately.

Moving into the meditation, the centering thought for Day 5 was, I only feel a need to connect. Instead of closing my eyes as I normally would, I looked up at a picture of me, probably 4 or 5 years of age, sitting at on a chair at my grandmother’s house. I’m wearing light bluish-green pants, a dark blue-green turtle neck and what look like Buster Brown shoes. My hands are folded in my lap, my shoulders are hunched over and my head is slightly tilted to the side. My eyes are bright, yet distant, I have a soft smile and I envy my thick, wavy hair. I think: this little girl only feels a need to connect.

I cannot hold back what’s inside of me. Pain and hurt for the yearning of this little girl. I began to speak to her. You are not rejected. You aren’t rejectable. You are sacred. You are connected. You are loved. You are safe.

I cried throughout the meditation and continued to speak to her. I imagined myself holding her to my heart, giving her a kiss on that thick, wavy head of hair. After the meditation I picked up the framed picture and kissed her face and held her image to my chest and said, “You belong. You exist.”

The word exist felt like truth ringing inside of my being. I made the connection to my pattern of hiding to this fear I don’t exist. I keep this pattern going by continuing to hide. But, now, I know~

littlenikkiI do belong. I do exist. I don’t need to hide anymore.

I look at her now, and smile.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

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Seeking the Warmth

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Today was a sad and contemplative day. It was also a little stressful. My computer was acting funny so instead of doing homework as planned I went to the Mac store. Fortunatley my old 2007 is still going to get me through for a while. I had my bike in the car so I went to a lake, but I couldn’t yank my bike from the back.  I was getting pissed, which means I am going to break something and make it worse. Instead I took a deep breath and took off the front wheel. When I finally got it out of the car and the wheel back on my anticipated quiet ride was infilatrated by something that went clickety, click from somemthing I probably broke.

Six miles of clickety-click I put the bike back in my car. I grabbed the blanket from my backseat and walked to a massive tree by the lake. I stretched out my blanket, bunched up my sweatshirt for a pillow, put my hands on my belly and moved my face toward the soon-to-be-setting sun. And there it was— something familiar—warmth. In the warmth of the sun, my body cooled. Whatever I was irritated by calmed. What I’d been angry about vanished. But, there were tears. This warmth I was feeling— I determined is love.

There was a man and his dog sitting on the bench nearby. I didn’t pay him too much attention until he got up and started walking toward me. At first I was uncomfortable. I would have rather been left alone. But, he stopped and asked, “Are you doing alright,” as if we were old, dear friends. I didn’t answer truthfully, of course. I said, “Yes, I’m doing alright.” He replied, “Well unfortnatley for me my bike tire is flat.” I empathized and we agreed on what a beautiful day it was (despite his flat tire and my tears). Then, he was gone. My previous tears turned to sobs. I sat there until it passed.

When I get home, after I dinner I opened up to where I left off in Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Love Warrior. She is talking about drinking whiskey. She says, “The whiskey warmth starts in my mouth, travels down my throat, pools in my belly, and now my insides are also wrapped in a blanket, hushed, quieted, rocked gently to sleep.” I realize I had the very same experience as Glennon, but not with whiskey, with the sun, and that man. How often does someone ask us geunuinely, are we alright? I think we are all seeking the warmth.

I recall all the warm spots I have found. I found it with my dad as a kid when I’d stay at his house and drink warm tea and sit down next to the big heater that blew out warm air. I found it snuggling up to my husband on a cold, winter’s night. I found it when my dad rubbed my temples when I was young girl with a headache. I found it in the smiling eyes of my aunt when I walked through her front door. I found it in books. I even found it with my mother (who I often don’t feel nutured by) when I was sick and she snuggled me up in a blanket on the couch and handed me her famous pb & j with the big chunks of butter. I found it at the sunny spot by the lake. I found it in the question of a stranger.

Once I find it my insides are quieted. My mind is calm. I know I am loved. I am restored.

The Soul Reporter

The Month of September

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Once, many years ago, while going through a particularly difficult time I got this idea in my head I would die on September 16 (0f that particular year). I was reminded of this today, September 16, on my walk. Suddenly, I smelled something foul. I looked to my right and there was a dead racoon in the grass. Several steps later, once I arrived in the woods near my house, a dead squirrel on the path. The bodies were still fresh. Was this a sign?

I thought: death is all around us. I remembered all the death that has surrounded my family and myself since December. On December 11, just as my kids and I were about to watch A Christmas Story, my dad called. He was not himself. He said, Mary Lou died. Mary Lou was my step-mother. Then, in January my husband’s last grandmother passed away. It snowed in April when Price died alone in his elevator. June took Uncle Mel and then, his wife, my beloved Aunt on September 6.

September 6 is now shared with September 24, my father’s birthday, when my best friend from Kindergarten died in a car accident when she was only 27 years old. Along with September 11 and September 29. On September 29th, 2011 I was driving my white Toyota Matrix on a Los Angeles freeway. My mother and 11-year old daughter were in the backseat, my 19-year old daughter in the front seat with me. We were listening to Enya and playing the alphabet game. Suddenly, a large truck with glaring headlights was in my rear view mirror. Before I could finish my sentence about what I saw, that large truck hit my car. The car flew and flipped through the air several times until it finally landed on its side. I remember wondering, am I going to die?

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The Toyota Matrix

I have told and written this story many times, and this year, five years later, I notice the story no longer holds the emotions and trauma it once had.  Now, what seems to be unfolding are the lessons and awakenings from that day that changed everything. Death is all around us.

But, what does this mean exactly? And, is it death or just change? Here’s what is becoming clear for me— life. I think I have been so afraid of death and that impending shoe drop (in my case a tow truck that comes out of nowhere) that life has been cumbersome. I noticed this heaviness after I returned from my aunt’s funeral. Prior to her funeral, I sat with her for four days while she went through the process of death, of change. I had never been this close to the death of another human being or for so long.

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Me and Aunt Flo

Before I entered her home, I was afraid of what I might see. But, all my fear went away when she opened her eyes and smiled at me (and my dad and daughter). All I felt was love. I knew I loved her, but those four days I felt my love for her. I was able to tell her she mattered. This experience is invaluable to me now.  But there is a physical, mental and emotional price, at least for me, when going through something like this. That price felt heavy. It felt exhausted. It felt sad.

After the car accident, I carried heavy, exhausted and sad for nearly 5 years.

I feel lighter now. Life is becoming more clear, but not because I have figured anything out. But because I’m not taking it all so seriously and maybe because the desire to live life finally outweighs the fear of living life. I am moving, once again, toward curiosity, beauty, wonder and listening. Listening, as I did on my walk today, that I needed to get grounded. This looked like me stopping in the middle of the forest doing tree pose and volcano breath. This means committing to creating a life that will match my desire to stay in harmony with my higher self and nature, and not the day-to-day grind of this current culture.

I also intend to move more toward what my aunt taught me—love. And, believe me, I am a newbie to love. It’s always been inside of me, but it’s the emotion or state of being that I resist the most. At the least, it makes me feel awkward. At the most, it frightens me as if I might be swallowed by it. But, while my aunt was in  hospice I had a new experience with love. As I stroked her hair, held her hand and kissed her forehead as I said goodbye and I love you, love comforted me.

Love is a comfort, not a burden I need to protect myself from. So yes, death, the unexpected, change surrounds us—not to stop us or scare us or burden us, although it can, but to notice it, wonder about it, learn from it and let it guide us to more clarity of life, comfort of love and truth of being.

The Soul Reporter

Don’t Be Afraid—of Anything.

Don'tBeAfraidDon’t be afraid of anything;

Be at peace about everything.

This is a practice and a promise to adhere to…..

I wrote these words— and then I had a panic attack.

For five days I was in a dark space, consumed by the ailments of my middle-aged body. High blood pressure, irregular menstrual bleeding and apparently a pulled muscle from participating in new activities to combat said, high blood pressure. The pain immobilized me, thus the five dark days. For two of those days I popped muscle relaxers and waited for lab results from my doctor visit. Any thought of doing anything normal like cooking or walking or going out to eat was met with fierce resistance. The light of day and of my life became darker and smaller. I was trapped inside my own worry, fear and pain.

Thankfully most of my test results were normal, but the pain continued. I took myself off of the muscle relaxers because I was dizzy, groggy and sleeping too much. My body needed to move. I did small things at first then, I went for a walk.

The sun’s brightness overwhelmed me. To seek protection, I walked to a forest path near my house. The trees did protect against the sun, but not against my thoughts. Before I left the house I was itchy. It felt like gnats biting. It worried me. The constant attention on my body and not trusting it over the past few months was destroying my peace and taking my joy, which wasn’t much to begin with.

Then, I began disassociating—the experience of feeling I was not where I was—that I was unreal or the world viewed through my eyes was unreal. Then I began to itch more, and my limbs felt weak and tingly. My heart began to race, my breathing became labored, my mouth, dry and I thought: I am going to die right here. I walked faster and faster so if I were to die it would not be in the forest where no one would find me.

I was having a panic attack (I used to have them daily) and called it out of its destructiveness and deceit: Goddam panic attack!

I walked out of the forest and into the sun. My breathing slowed and some saliva returned to wet the inside of my cheeks. I listened to the cars pass. I read a sign: For Sale. $75 with a ladder underneath it. I made eye contact with a man in a car. I needed these signs of life. I needed to know I was still a part of it. I began to think about the past few weeks of summer while not working and going to school. My intent during this break was to focus on my health and my mind.

I began this process by calling my dad who also has high blood pressure. He says anxiety is a major contributor, and so I began to work with my anxiety. I know it well—every morning greeting me before I open the shades. But I usually don’t work with it. Instead I fight it or I am so used to it I think it’s normal and move on with my day. One morning, I sat with it to pinpoint its location inside my body. It helped itself to the inside of the v-shaped area where the abdomen and ribs meet. Working with this, along with my breath I felt something release in this area, as if someone came to take away a chunk of my anxiety.  In that moment I felt no resistance inside my belly. I could breathe full, round breaths.

Also during this time of focusing on body and mind, I signed up for the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation challenge. Every day I repeat a mantra and sit in silence. I’m also reading a book by Katherine Tingley, The Voice of the Soul. She speaks of our divine nature and the “path of self-directed evolution.” She writes:

You must be true to the inner quality of your own nature—the divine spark, the ray of Universal Life. Be true to that, and all other good things will come to you…..

The path of self-directed evolution is evolution directed by our own higher nature….

I am absolutely assured of the essential divinity in man, of his power to conquer conditions and make the whole world over again.

I read these words and many just like them every night before bed. I’ve no doubt they, along with the silence of sitting in meditation, stir something within. One morning I woke up knowing I am safe. I am okay. I have something indestructible inside of me—and its everything.

Then, that pain—followed by that panic.  Is the pain a part of adjusting to the space inside of me where anxiety used to hide? Is the panic a part of adjusting to the truth that I am safe?

In this culture we tend to make everything a medical condition and do not consider we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Anxiety is a battle for most, and it is rare to recognize it as a symbol of transformation or at the very least an indicator that a shift is needed to serve us on our “path of self-directed evolution.”   Therefore what we call panic attacks may be a sign of spiritual transformation and what we call pain could be a result of something emotional in our bodies being released or needing to be released. When we ingest something new the old must break down. Surely there is a consequence to this.

In the sun again, after declaring a panic attack, I ask, through tears: why does change have to be so scary? I don’t want to be scared anymore. But, the truth is I feel unsafe. I feel unsafe. This was the truth of the moment and I declared it. Instantly this truth set me free—at least for the time being—and opened me to another truth I felt just days ago: I am safe.

Sometimes we need to call out what is in the shadows and bring it to the light before we can fully embody a new truth. I went into the light of day after days of darkness and feeling unsafe and the light overwhelmed me. I went to the forest so it could protect me, but nothing outside of myself can protect me from my own mind. Only I can free it. There is a promise and a practice to adhere to: Don’t be afraid of anything. Be at peace about everything.

The Soul Reporter

The Act of Contemplation

Am I addicted to contemplation? Have I watched too many movies where the actor stares out into the abyss with a look of longing while music plays in the background? If I give up contemplation then what takes place? This I contemplate while staring at the waters of the Mississippi.

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I think I know the answers—yes, yes and action toward all those things I long for when I contemplate. And, if neither happen—the action or the contemplation—then anxiety and depression settles in.

The lesson: I need to be more active toward what I long for to restore balance and inner harmony.

The Soul Reporter

The 5-Mile Hike

A month ago, with spring break approaching I booked a 3-night stay at a resort on Minnesota’s North Shore. At least once a year I go on retreat, alone. Usually I stay at a small cabin in the woods—rugged, no television or amenities. This year I wanted a bit more luxury. I wanted the option of staying in bed all day on a comfy, king size bed, with the fireplace on, watching satellite television. I also wanted the option of stepping into a whirlpool bath, full of bubbles and lit candles. I brought 4 books, 2 magazines, my laptop and iPad. I also brought my homework just in case and the notes of my memoir that I’ve been working on and thinking about for ten years. The difference with this retreat, I didn’t care if I even opened my backpack with all of those options inside. As I said, staying in bed was also an option.

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However, yesterday I decided it would be nice to hike. I drove to mile marker 43.5 along the Superior Hiking Trail. I parked at a wayside. I wore my knee-length, down North Face jacket; my green, rubber, ankle-high rain boots and my cross-body leather purse. I also had a scarf and hat to match. On the brochure from the resort, the hike was listed as 5 miles. After, crossing the bridge at 2.5 miles, it read I would be led back to the wayside. How difficult can 5 miles be? That’s like walking Lake Nokomis two times around. It turns out 5 miles on a hiking trail is equivalent to about 20 miles on a paved trail around a lake, at least in my estimation.

Hike4

I was met with many obstacles upon the trail. The first being a couple on the path that I kept trying to avoid, which was difficult because they kept stopping. The first stop was to set down their backpacks and strip off their oversized coats, rolling them neatly into their backpacks and putting on a lighter coat. I decided to follow suit. But, I had no backpack so I folded up my bulky winter coat and hung it over my purse. Their second stop was to take a drink of water and eat a snack. I had no water. I had no snack so I sat on a tree stump and watched the waterfall. Their third stop was to tie their hiking shoes. I had rubber rain boots. Fourth stop—kiss on the bridge (that wasn’t the one to cross over to head back as I hoped it was). My husband hates to hike so we will never kiss on a bridge if it’s on a hiking trail. And finally, their last stop at the actual bridge, which was the half-way point, at a camping site, where I watched them unload their gear. This, is where I started to worry. Should I be camping out? Is the hike back not possible without an overnight stay? As much as I tried to avoid the couple I was now afraid to leave them behind.

Hike5

I checked my phone. Up until this point I had no signal, but now I had two bars. I sent my husband a text informing him of my location. You know, just in case I don’t make it. Because you see, prior to this I was really struggling. On the trail to the bridge was mud, lots of mud. And ice. My rubber boots are not made for ice. There were steep slopes up and down filled with ice and mud. I had to find other ways around, if possible. Sometimes this wasn’t possible because to my right was a ridge and then the river and to my left trees and brush and prickly branches. At one point, I took a tumble, and cursed loudly.

So I wrote: Ok so if you don’t hear from me I’m on the split rock superior hiking trail. First signal I’ve had and it’s full of mud and ice and I’m not prepared for that. Then another text to say, I am still only half way. I’m the stupidest person I know. He replies: Are you going forward? I say, Have to. It’s too bad to turn around. I’ve already fallen. Then he says, I wish you well with that. Better person than me.

Wish you well with that….? I could break a leg or twist my ankle next time I fall.  I’ve seen animal prints I hope are domestic dogs and not wolves or bears. I have no water or food. I don’t know how long it will take for me to get back. I don’t know if the trail back is full of mud and ice. I don’t even know if I am following the right trail. And, that couple I wished would go away are now behind me, camping for christ sake. And, I’m telling him my location in case any of this happens. And, he says, I wish you well with that.

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At this point, I never thought the trail would end. Four hours had gone by. There was no end in sight. All I wanted was to get back to the resort for my $5 smoothie before they stopped selling them at 4pm. I wanted the hot tub and the cozy bed. I cursed the path and then cursed myself for taking myself out on yet another stupid adventure where I don’t feel prepared. Where I get swindled by my own mind to have an experience, where all I do is realize I just want to be at home, relaxing. Where I understand I really don’t want to work so hard. I don’t want to be challenged by miles of mud and ice and rocks and tree roots and a husband that doesn’t get it. Then, I began to hear traffic from Highway 61. I was up high enough I could see glimpses of Lake Superior. Signs, I knew, I was going in the right direction.

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Did, I even feel relieved or heroic upon retuning to my car….? No. As soon as my tired, aging, aching body got into my car the experience was already becoming a distant memory. I was in the moment of now being in my car, in pain. I’ve gone most my life holding onto experiences and making them mean something. But, do they? I’ve also made sure I learned something. But did I with this experience? If I did, I learned I am not as tolerant or interested in being challenged as I think I should be. Or maybe I am just tired of being challenged and just want to relax and take it easy for a while. Maybe I just went for a damn hike- and as with most things it wasn’t what I thought it might be. End of story. And, I have the boots to prove it.

Hike

The Soul Reporter

Have You Ever Wanted To Leave Your Family?

I left my family.

How many of us women, wives, mothers have left? How many want to? Need to?

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It was only for a couple of days. I went to my mother. The irony. Our past relationship is one of the reasons I have walked through the world protecting myself from the need to need anybody. But, I’m growing up. I went to my mom—anyway— and she was there.

She opened her door—could hardly believe her eyes I was standing in front of her. It felt good to be there. By day two, crawled up in a blanket she put on me, I began to feel a twinge of guilt. I was away from my own family and the guilt was probably a sign I was doing something I had not done in a while—take care of my self.

I don’t know all of the reasons I left, but my guess is any woman, mother, wife reading may know a reason or two. What I did discover: the pain that caused me to pack a bag and look into my husband’s eyes and say, “I’m leaving” was no longer seeing my reflection, the essence of who I am in my family—the one container I have put everything in to.

To put it another way— I lost myself in my family and not received a dividend for my investment except depletion and resentment. I desired them to fill me up as my cup ran dry, believing this reasonable, and I resented they couldn’t or wouldn’t. And when the water in our new home stopped working due to a frozen pipe, I had to leave.

For years I endured far worse than a frozen pipe. But, somehow this broke me.

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It was this pipe that brought me back home. I had to let the service technician in. The water is flowing again. As for me, I am restored enough to see with new eyes, remembering my gaze is needed here in this home because a mother and a wife is what I am. It’s what I have chosen to do. But—my gaze is also needed to stay within my very own soul, a place I must return again and again for restoration, peace, clarity and wisdom.

The Soul Reporter

The End is Near.

There is still snow on the ground and it’s the end of March. The sun is out more often and I just learned a new fact, which explains why it doesn’t feel warmer.  When there is snow on the ground, its energy is used not to warm, but to melt the snow.  Add to this fact, the layers of ice and snow on the ground making it feel cold.

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I sit on a bench near a pond watching a pair of geese resting upon the still frozen pond. Aren’t they cold? Are they awaiting like me for the ice to melt? 

This winter seems to reflect my life. Long, cold, dark and difficult. The transition from winter to spring this year reflects my life also—leaving me with the fear that these dark and difficult days have no end.

We had a few warm days late winter. Then we were pulled back into winter’s harsh conditions. Here we experienced unseasonably cold days even while the Solstice arrived upon the calendar—staying cold for a week or two after its arrival.

This week we have experienced warmer days while also being warned by meteorologists that another cold blast is on its way. If I were to take reality for what I see and experience right now, which I have grown accustomed to doing during these dark days, allowing myself to accept what is and finding reality more substantial than fantasy, then I would  wonder will spring ever spring or will it be winter forever?

I moved back home to Minnesota in December after spending two-and-a-half years in California. If I were not from Minnesota I would aasume winter is all it has to offer.

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But I know spring arrives and she does so when she’s ready. On her own time. Not to scorn us, which is what we might believe the way some of us complain about the weather. She does so by her wisdom. Her way. Her truth. The only way she knows.

But even while I say this, some days the best I can do is muster up the strength to only consider that somehow someway new life is inching its way toward me. Some days it is so hard to believe that underneath the ice and snow is a powerful force rumbling. The geese know it as they sit in the slightly frozen pond. The chickadees know it along with all the other birds whose songs spring forth during this time. And in some moments I can take this knowing and apply it me like a salve, reminding me I too am of nature and I follow its rhythms.

Although its been dark and cold and this is all I have felt, and could see there is a power rumbling in me. A power that will melt the ice and the snow. She’s spring birthing new life—and she is in me and in you.

The Soul Reporter

 

 

 

 

Stiff Like Winter.

A Short Spiritual Memoir: Gradual Growth & Awakening ~

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I feel stiff like winter.

I long to thaw like spring—and

See what transpired in darkness and struggle.

 

My life has felt harsh and ugly for so long, like those last days of winter when the snow is gray and the sky matches, and you have had enough of those bitter winds biting your bones. I don’t want this anymore. I want kind and beautiful. I find it again on a short walk. The day is as my daughter describes it: she will not sweat and and she will not freeze. It is a day of transition from winter to spring—a glimpse of what is to come.

As I walk I ask for more of myself to be revealed. I stop and look through the bare tree to the sun peeking through the gray. The song of birds remind me I am back. I needed to come back—home to Minnesota where I experience these transitions from winter to spring and later, summer to fall.

I know I have been through something awesome and difficult, and feel like everything will be alright now—at least for awhile. The end of an era, and it makes me cry. The tears thaw my stiffness and shed my heaviness, and prepare me for the warmth which is to come.

Thank God for this transition of tears. Sudden joy and elation might startle me otherwise. It is these days of transition: 32 degrees. Sun shining hazily through the gray, which make life of deeper meaning and connection possible and compatible with our ever-evolving soul.

As I end my walk, a woman approaches me and asks, “How’s the path?”

“It’s fine,” I tell her.

 

The Soul Reporter