Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Giving Birth to Your Power in the Last Stage of Life: 10 Things You Need to Know.

You're about to give birth. It's a natural process and something we all long for. Secretly, we wish to hear the collective YES when we deliver. Yet, so many older women don’t realize their power or are afraid of what they could do and be. It’s common to hear talk about not knowing what to do, of feeling useless. They feel tired and unfilled. What they haven’t realized is that this phase of life is the best time to give birth to their personal power.
It’s a journey that often begins by looking from the bottom up, as we recognize that most cultures believe women lack something. They’re damaged goods, second-class citizens. Dr. Christian Northrup wrote in her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom of being in countless delivery rooms and hearing women apologize to their husbands that the baby wasn’t a boy. Too often, it’s said that a man could do the job better. He’d be less likely to veer away from the goal because of family obligations. I find it significant that the earth is commonly referred to in the feminine, Mother Earth, Nature. Not only is Nature a mother, she’s seen as unpredictable, vengeful. Excuse me, men don’t ever choose to act out in those ways?
I believe women are less emotionally fragile than men. Who’s usually the one to raise the children, along with all the other details that fall in your lap? As a woman, you’ve headed a small corporation, and have been running it at full speed. Right now the world is poised for women with LIFE experience to take the lead. Older women are needed to inform others of healing ways that can only be learned in the course of a lifetime. We must tell those around us what it’s like to come full circle and set out on a hero’s quest from a different level of consciousness. We must tell them the stories of life’s beauty, of love and chaos, what it’s like to plant seeds, and about the pain and the grace that can be found when you’re preparing to die.
First comes the quest.
At the onset of the quest, a ceremony is held for the hero. Use whatever feels appropriate; candles, music. Gather a circle of women friends and tell them what you’re about to do. You’re pregnant and determined to go full term. Ask them to bless your commitment and the journey you’re about to take.
Ten things you need to know:
1. Make a birth plan, and be alert for signs that say you need to adjust your direction. Be prepared the possibility of shifting from a breech birth position, for long hours, days and weeks of hard labor. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and seek beauty.

2. Keep a journal of where your choices lead you. Write them stream consciousness and use colored pencils to draw any images that come up spontaneously. Borrow a phrase from one of my favorite motivational coaches, business woman and author, Danielle La Porte - What’s dying to be born? (go to to find the pdf file of responses she received when she asked other women that question). Ask for everything that’s holding you back to be burned away. (Healer and spiritual counselor Abdi Assadi has some wonderful ideas and a book at his web site ) Ask what you’re passionate about. What compels you to stay in the game? What gives you pleasure? What are you curious about?

3. Bring light to your shadows: Remember how many changes you’ve survived. You’ve faced fears before and come out alive. Since you’re going deeper, fears may hit stronger. Ask what you would do if the fear wasn’t there. Do you need it? And imagine the possibilities that are waiting once you’ve given birth to your full potential.

4. You’re in charge: No one else can do this for you. Take time for mindful solitude and meditation.

5. Pregnant women are beautiful: I remember walking down the street, noticing other women who were pregnant. They glowed with the knowledge of the life they were carrying.

6. Keep the communication lines open: Gather stories from older women about giving birth to their power. Reach out to younger women who make wonderful cheerleaders. They’ll be inspired by what you’re doing and their youthful energy is revitalizing. I know this because my daughter cheers me on. She tells me I inspire her and sometimes we cry together.

7. Disregard the naysayers: You’ve been delivering what they need and they don’t want you to rock the boat. It’s their loss if they say no to the opportunity for a more meaningful life with you.

8. Take time to wonder about what you’re giving birth to: Will you be a storm, a song, a poet, a physician, an artist, a story teller and a story catcher?

9. Purify your body with good food, rest, exercise and quiet times: You will have good days when the birthing channel is open, bad times when you’re straining and nothing seems to be happening. Some are downright ugly, when it feels as if what’s coming is in a breech position and about to tear your apart. If you feel bitchy, find the power in that.

10. Breath, take it one contraction at a time: Taking a break can be vital since it gives you time to assimilate what you’re experiencing. Knowing comes when you’ve breathed deeply through the pores right down to your center.

Perhaps, there will be additional laps to make, but you’ll know when you’re ready to call a halt. You’ll feel lighter, stronger, more daring having left behind what was holding you back. Now is the moment to tell your hero’s story to your women friends. Talk about what you’ve found and how you might nurture the newborn gifts of power you brought back. Ask for their support. Then go out and find the men who know and love crones and ask for their support.

And when all is said and done, CELEBRATE! You’ve become a woman who dares.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wounded Warriors in Nature Provide a Luminous Guidepost

Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace. – Albert Schweitzer
A good mystery takes me firmly by the hand. It pulls me forward around bends, to the top of hills and down into the shadows in the valley. Sometimes we move at such an exhilarating pace, it’s hard to catch my breath. Right now, in this chaotic and shining moment what I see is the mystery of awakening to the vibrant bounty of what Nature offers. And when I see a piece of the puzzle of that mystery falling into place I feel compelled to share it. This particular piece has to do with wounded warriors, war and the possibilities of healing themselves and the planet.
There are many ways and reasons to settle differences without going to war; solutions that allow resources to be shared to the benefit all of those involved. I can’t call myself a pacifist as I once picked up a gun, and would do so again to defend my sleeping child. (No, I didn’t shoot.) I make every effort to resolve situations non violently, even when it comes to corralling a wasp or spider in my room and escorting them outside. I do believe there were moments in history where it would have been close to impossible to do other than engage in battle. And I continue to hold those moments, those people who were involved in my prayers and meditations.
The word veteran comes from the Latin ‘vetus’ which means old. And old is what one sees in the eyes of a veteran of the killing fields. They have traveled through the ‘dark night of the soul’. They’ve been tested in ways that can never be fully understood. In today’s world, a lot more is known about treating PTSD and much remains to discover. Intriguingly, in recent years, some of the most interesting programs are centered in nature. Is it serendipitous? Or are they answering to something deeper when both humans and nature are crying out to be healed?
Ancient wisdom and mythology are full of stories about confronting and overcoming demons in nature. And each vet who has a place to wield an axe to clear brush from a wetland, plant trees and gardens, has the chance to confront his or her personal demons in a setting like no other. And nature responds.
Some vets have hooked up with other vets to start organic farms. The profits are threefold. They feel good about producing healthy food choices for themselves and others. Their confidence is renewed and a portion of their earnings pays for their PTSD therapy. Other vets have found pre-existing groups that place them in programs that help them obtain environmental and conservation related degrees while working in the field. Washington’s state funded veteran’s conservation group is such program. One medic, Ensign Grisham, who’d done two tours in the Middle East and was suffering from severe PTSD, said that ‘working in nature made him think for the first time that everything would be all right.’
Testing has shown that the veterans in these programs have a ways to go before being free of PTSD, anxiety and depression, but it’s also demonstrated that they’re more able to function socially and their ability to perform tasks has improved. Some vets may never fully mend. But a vital first step has been taken. Their spirits are seeking to reunite within the embrace of friends and families, with communities. In the best of cases, jobs and new enterprises are created. Nature needs them. Nature feeds them.
These men and women are a very special gift to us. They help us grow compassion. They bring mindfulness into our lives. They teach us forgiveness and empathy for the disabled and wounded that live among us and inside us. They pry open our hearts and teach us how to be vulnerable. They are our chance for leading more meaningful lives. Hand in hand with nature, they become a luminous guidepost on the path to our collective future.
Unfortunately, the funding for these kinds of programs is falling away. However, I’m not without hope for Americans are known, for their grass root services, the ingenuity of the solutions they put into place to help others. With good will and intent, through donations and or volunteering, these valuable groups will survive and flourish alongside us.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hunting Stories For Our Tribe

Storytellers and story catchers are hunter-gatherers, who go out in search of food for their tribe. Like the Amazonian shaman who explained the hunting ritual of his tribe, they say a prayer that expresses their intent to the Gods and Goddesses of the story telling family to send them the nourishment the tribe needs. Heart open and proceeding mindfully, they set off. Suddenly, the story jumps from where it was hiding in the bushes, as if to say, ‘take me.’
Story telling and story catching is a talent we’re all born with. Those who use storytelling actively in their lives have realized stories are how we connect soul to soul. Stories are how we face our monsters, and how we heal. They speak of love and courage, loss and heartache. They challenge and inspire us to fulfill our potential.
The garden behind our house and my father’s workbench were rich with stories. The dusty hills dotted with mesquite and Eucalyptus I roamed as a young girl gave me tales of arrowheads, snakes, coyotes and caves. The female mountain lion that understood my innocence and laid down nearby to rest for a while.
There were the concentration camp survivors who played jazz and drank vodka-laced tea in a cactus garden. Planted by an immigrant in honor of the city that had allowed him to prosper, Dante's Garden became the vessel where his hopes and dreams mingled with theirs.
There were the grandmothers and grandfathers I met in Golden Gate Park, carrying sharply pointed sticks and plastic bags they used to collect the trash and the litter. The group’s story is a legacy of compassion and caring for the community.
Stories of synchronicity are full of special grace and revisited with wonder. I was in Mexico City when I was struck down by fever, swelling and excruciating pain. After several days in the hospital, where I was poked and drained of strange fluids, the diagnosis was I would never walk again without a cane. That the aches and stabs traveling up and down my legs would be my forever companions. Released after dark, I walked out into the street, sobbing. It was rush hour, cars and buses jammed end to end. The fumes were overwhelming. Alone, with no one to call, I started walking. Still new to the city I had no real idea of how far I needed to go. Reckless and in my 20s, I’d never given much thought to how I treated my body and now the ease and agility I’d enjoyed had disappeared. Caught between grieving and self-pity, I saw an old campesino step from a darkened doorway. Barefoot, dressed in white with a frayed straw hat, he began to walk along side me. I didn’t yet speak Spanish, but I knew those soft words he murmured, the little song he sang were meant to comfort. Leaning into the support he offered as he placed a firm hand under my elbow, I felt a gentle calm begin to settle over me. We walked for what must have been an hour. When we reached my door, he nodded and disappeared back into the shadows. Later, in my bed, I vowed not accept the life sentence the doctors had handed me. That was the beginning of a longer story about personal growth and healing. And when I tell it, I always start in Mexico City when I walked in the company of an angel.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kicking the Box: Who Put the Darned Thing There Anyway?

You’ve probably heard the expression ‘think outside the box.’ A psychological kick to the lazy or fearful creative mind, it invites you to step outside and ‘wonder’ your way across new territory. Worry is a box everyone knows about.

By now, I’ve heard the expression so many times it no longer carries the fizz it once had and I'm wondering who created the darned box anyway?

I remember the first time I realized there were no perfect right angles in nature, unlike the box that needs those angles to stand strong. That made me wonder about the way houses are built; a series of boxes with right angles. And if the boxes in my life sometimes had me stymied what exactly happened when my imagination rolled up against a right angle at home? Is that why I sometimes feel as if corners contain the dregs of emotions?

I know it’s possible to be live inside a small box and travel to distant galaxies, especially if you’ve learned how to practice deep meditation, or if you're listening to a particularly inspiring piece of music. Or maybe chocolate moves you outside the box where you've been squatting.

What about love, I wonder.

Suddenly, I recall a short story from a South American author.* Two rebels who were lovers were imprisoned in a small cell. The man knew his jailers would be executing him the next morning. With the stub of a small pencil he’d been given to write a last letter, he drew instead on his lady love’s palm. Pointing to the design of a small raft, he told her, that’s my love for you. When you’re ready, step aboard and it will carry you to freedom.

The possibilities for ways to get outside the box are endless. I like the idea of imagining there is no box, no right angles to stop me.

That said, I’m going outside for a walk and leave this box behind.

* The short story was in an amazing anthology of South American writers and it's called 'The Eye of the Heart.'

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Moon Diving; Returning to Self Under the Full Moon

Recently, my Facebook friends and I found ourselves in a conversation about the poetry and the wonderful full moon photo Ed shared. It was a photo of one of those tempestuous night skies with clouds dancing around a full bright shiny orb that brought to mind restlessness, witches, and the archetypes that have haunted humankind for centuries. Gazing at the photo, I imagined an ancient ancestor under such a night sky marveling at the beauty of the full moon and then the fear that accompanied its disappearance; wondering where it had gone. The mysterious connection men made from the moon cycle to women as they swelled and then bled in their monthly cycle. For what reason, no one knew.
We all have our own moon stories, those sleepless nights when we rose from our beds and went outside to surrender to its pull. As a child growing up in Southern California, when that devilish desert wind, the Santa Ana, arrived on full moon nights I was convinced anything could happen. And there were moments when it did… when Donnie, the boy with Downs Syndrome who lived next door, went out to howl at the full moon in the middle of the night. There was the full moon night I spent in a ‘hotel’ in the Sertao; the arid desert backcountry in Northern Brazil. There were no beds; we slept in hammocks. Roused from sleep around midnight to a beautiful unearthly melody, I went to the window and saw a small statured Sertao cowboy on horseback appeared. He was holding a harp to the wind that stroked and plucked the strings as he cantered slowly across the desert and finally out of view. The next morning, the proprietor told me that the mysterious apparition I’d seen had lost his love when she died in childbirth. Monthly at the full moon he rode with his harp to the wind’s song in tribute to the beauty of their love.
I have to confess that some time passed where I neglected the moon and I’m not quite certain how that happened. I suspect it was because I was too absorbed in the superficial, worries, or the escape into sleep. The last two years have been an awakening back to nature. And it was that Facebook exchange that compelled me to seek deeper meaning in the archetypes, the lucid dreaming, and the intuition I find when I’m connecting with the moon.
Our conversation had taken a turn when we discovered that we’d all been awake for that full moon at approximately the same time – from West Coast to East Coast. Were we connecting intuitively I wondered. As friends, we share thoughts and feelings that reflect the current global mind shift, or as some have called it – the quiet revolution. And that revolutionary mindset has often sent us circling back to the elemental. In the course of my lifetime, I’ve had intense and odd encounters with owls. A night creature with extraordinary vision that flies silently, owl accompanies Artemis the huntress. Known to the Romans as Diana, she was solitary, androgynous, the patroness of childbirth, nature and living creatures. Suddenly, I was Artemis and with my owls on a journey; answering the Earth that’s calling for us to midwife a new relationship between us; one that’s giving birth to a new entity. One that nourishes and protects nature.
The other archetype that’s surfaced for me and is connected to the moon is Hecate. Originally seated at Zeus’s side, he became jealous of her power and cast her out into darkness. Personally, I think she was well off without Zeus looking over her shoulder and she knew it. Most see her as the crone, a witch even; a dangerous old woman – something I aspire to. Hecate holds up a lantern to light the paths for the night traveler; the person who seeks deeper meaning through soul work. Hecate appears when one is contemplating a new direction, which is what all of us are taking.
The road has stretches filled with potholes, and others that are smooth. We find ourselves climbing steep inclines, only to reach a peak and then roll or walk down a hill. Sometimes the wind is in our face, viciously tearing at our clothes. Others it’s at our back, gently moving us forward.
Always, as a quiet revolutionary, a mind shifter, one who’s seeking to plumb the depths and like Diana or Artemis bring back the wisdom that comes from the pain and the joy that lies within, I give thanks daily to all of those I meet along the way. Those who compel me to dive deeper into forgiveness and compassion and who rejoice with me as we look up and see the full moon has once again appeared.