Monday, June 30, 2014

Stephen Levine: Thankfulness

As it is cultivated, we experience an increase in our 
"sympathetic joy," our happiness at another's happiness. 
Just as in the cultivation of compassion, 
we may feel the pain of others, 
so we may begin to feel their joy as well. 
And it doesn't stop there.
- Stephen Levine 

Stephen Levine: How Soon Will We Accept This Opportunity?

How soon will we accept this opportunity 
to be fully alive before we die?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pema Chödrön: The Love That Will Not Die

Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. We leave our attachments and our worldliness behind and slowly make our way to the top. At the peak, we transcend all pain.

The only problem with this metaphor is that we leave all the others behind—our drunken brother, our schizophrenic sister, our tormented animals and friends.  Their suffering continues,  unrelieved by our personal escape.

In the process of discovering bodhichitta [Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means "noble or awakened heart."] the journey goes down, not up. It's as if the mountain pointed toward the center of the earth instead of reaching into the sky.  Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward the turbulence and doubt. We jump into it. We move toward it however we can.  We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away.  If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is.

At our pace, without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down.  With us move millions of others, our companions in awakening from fear. At the bottom, we discover water, the healing water of bodhichitta. Right down there in the thick of things, we discover the love that will not die.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brené Brown: Wholeheartedness

Spirituality emerged as a fundamental guidepost in Wholeheartedness. Not religiosity but the deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to one another by a force greater than ourselves--a force grounded in love and compassion. For some of us that's God, for others it's nature, art, or even human soulfulness. I believe that owning our worthiness is the act of acknowledging that we are sacred. Perhaps embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing is ultimately about the care and feeding of our spirits.

― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable
Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Pema Chödrön: Know Our Own Darkness

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

- Pema Chödrön

Barbara Kingsolver: Change

The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Brené Brown: True Belonging

Because true belonging only happens when we present 
our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, 
our sense of belonging can never be greater 
than our level of self-acceptance.

Khalil Gibran: Bow Before the Children

Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, 
the philosophy which does not laugh and
the greatness which does not bow before children.

~ Khalil Gibran

Photo by Zayasaikhan Sambuu

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jack Kornfield: As We Learn to Bow

 To bow to the fact of our life's sorrows and betrayals 
is to accept them; and from this deep gesture we discover that 
all life is workable. As we learn to bow, we discover that the heart holds 
more freedom and compassion than we could imagine.


She Was Beautiful

She was beautiful, but not like
those girls in the magazines.
She was beautiful for the way
she thoughts. She was beautiful
for the sparkle in her eyes when
she talked about something she
loved. She was beautiful for
her ability to make other people
smile even when she was sad.
No, she wasn't beautiful
for something as temporary as
her looks. She was beautiful
deep down to her soul.

Quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dalai Lama: Kindness

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. 

–The Dalai Lama


Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Archetypal Story: Celebrating My Mother, Miracles, and Mystery

 Nancy Celebrates Turning 88!

 Six Months, a Lifetime, and Generations Later

Six months ago my mother returned to the Northwest to live near her family for the remainder of her life. This followed nearly a year of a great legal struggle to get her here and ensure that I would be designated as my mom's permanent guardian.

There is much to embrace and heal, integrate and learn from, grieve and celebrate, and awaken to in an on-going way. My daily practice of gratitude deepens and deepens. And I am in such profound awe of the Great Mystery of Life's unfolding.

Intertwined with amazement and woven together, as often is the case, are grief and gratitude. As things are settling in for my mom with increasing stability over the past six months, more of the trauma is emerging of what it took to get my mother here in the year which proceeded that final flight with my mother from Michigan to Washington state on December 21st, 2013. And in opening to what is surfacing in my heart and the hearts of others in our family, I am clear that it all needs to be honored, felt, acknowledged, attended to, healed and transformed. It is so clear to me today that stuffing my feelings, denial, shutting down, etc. is not an option. Living wholeheartedly is my deep intention. Each and every day. So in the midst of my busy life, of all my gratitude that Mom is here for good!, there is also this healing work to be done. Again.

It is still amazing to me, this legal battle that took so many bizarre, shocking, traumatic turns and what it took to simply be empowered to have my own mother come spend the rest of her life living near her "flesh and blood," as Mom refers to us. There was the travesty of justice that occurred by two judges, one here in Washington state and the other in Michigan. The Michigan judge finally consented to recuse herself after our attorney called her out on multiple violations of ethics. And there were a handful of others, who I don't wish to go into here, but each of whom worked so hard, so relentlessly, so inhumanely to deprive my mother her final years near her only surviving child, her grandchildren, and others in our growing family. These acts had their roots in empathic failures, inauthenticity, greed, inability to see what was in my mother's highest good, and blindness to the healing and miracles that were occurring for my mother and within our family. 

The emotional, mental, physical, and financial cost of getting Mom/Grandma/Nancy here were great. And today there is this ongoing healing from all the trauma that arose in this fierce fight. Ultimately, however, I know from personal experience that the greatest suffering any of us endures is through living in a state of disconnection from one's own heart. And I don't have to live that way today. And my mother is here. In all the ways that most matter - we won! Our family's wealth is measured in our capacity for healing and wholeness, humility and vulnerability, consciousness and living in alignment with our values, integrity and authenticity, kindness and connection, and transforming our wounds into compassion, wisdom, and love. 

I say this with the humility of knowing that this is a life-long process. And this process has nothing to do with being perfect; on the contrary - it is often rooted in healing from perfectionism. My experience has certainly been that it is not easy to be vulnerable, to look deeply, to come back again and again and again to noticing where I have disconnected and gently bring myself back. As Brené Brown so eloquently reflects, "We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering." This connecting first must start within our own hearts.

And that  journey from head to heart is the most amazing one I believe any of us can take. The obstacles blocking awareness of where, when, how we shut down can take so many forms. Certainly addiction of any kind blocks the vision and deep knowing of our hearts and souls. Before my own substance abuse recovery began 30 years ago I knew nothing about addiction, although I had lived immersed in it my whole life. Of course, early on I learned that the number one symptom of addiction is denial. And over the years I learned the many faces addiction can take - addiction to alcohol and other drugs, addiction to power and control, addiction to blaming and shaming, addiction to materialism and the accumulation of stuff, addiction to religion and righteousness, addiction to racism and prejudice, addiction to judging and black and white thinking, addiction to work, food, sex, anger, exercise, image management, distraction, busyness, thinking, perfectionism, projection, caretaking, co-dependency, and on and on and on. The list can be endless.

An early therapist told me, "Molly, you could be addicted to anything. You could be addicted to standing on your head." He also told me that he experienced me as living from the neck up. And he told me that my healing would involve that long and courageous journey from my head to my heart. He was right. Although I grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan - a fertile ground for intense training in image management, looking good, and perfecting vulnerability-avoidance skills - this therapist saw me and the suffering I was stuck in.

This therapist actually met my mother and was also among several other therapists who told me things over the years that broke my heart wide open. I needed help coming out of denial and minimization and disassociation. I needed to embrace my story and what had happened to me. And to my twin, my mother and father, and on back through the generations. That which is denied and is not seen cannot be healed, learned from, forgiven, accepted, transformed. I remember the exact words of these different therapists over the years:
- "Your mother is compelled to push away love."
- "You are lucky to have physically survived your childhood."
- "On a scale of 1 to 10 of "People of the Lie," your mother is a 10." (Two therapists told me to read this second book by Scott Peck.)
- "The reason your mother won't have anything to do with you and your sons is that she knows that she cannot devour you."
- "There is nothing, NOTHING, that you can ever do to make your mother love you. There is no poem, no slanting of your handwriting a certain way, no perfect word, no actions, nothing you can do. Your mother is not capable of love."

And I remember my brother's words that last time I saw John. He was hospitalized again, this time on the psychiatric ward of Cottage Hospital in Grosse Pointe. My brother told me, "I know I need to get away from Mom and I know I can't." I knew that my twin was telling me goodbye. I knew that I would never see him again. Eight months later John committed suicide.

Time passed. Great healing has taken root and deepens within myself and our family with each passing year. Hearts break open and space is cleared for love. Then Mom has her crisis - divorce from a 4th husband and subsequent suicide attempt - which began in November 2012, and which opened a door and ultimately brought us together in ways I had given up on ever being possible. With dementia and treatment, my mom forgets she is alcoholic and forgets how to be toxic and disconnects from the severity of many of her chronic "cluster B" symptoms (found in personality disorders). My mom gets on Risperidone among other medications. HUGE change is underway!

Then, finally, the heart of our family opens to welcome Mom/Grandma Nan/Nancy, to welcome her home, home to those who love her. Who love her over time and through messiness and loss and after years of "being thrown under the bus." Her family loves her no matter what. The gifts and power of loving are beyond amazing. What is happening in our family - and that the healing includes my mother! - is a miracle of epic proportions. My husband has told me that he doesn't know if he could have hung in there for so many years, and through so much abuse, and maintained an open heart. This is the miracle - the miracle and profound, utterly profound blessing of doing our heart-work. The boundaries of what becomes possible expand, and sometimes beyond our wildest dreams.

Of course, things are also challenging and hard and messy and confusing. My mother's lifetime of pushing away her pain - and thus love and joy, connection and belonging - comes with a severe price. I am under no illusion that my mom will ever be able to outrun her loneliness and deep depression. Clearing pathways to her heart, however, was something I had believed was beyond hopeless. I was wrong. Such a paradox that as my mother is declared incapacitated, as dementia increases, as a lifetime of full-bore running finally slows down, my mom is opening to remembering pieces of who she truly is. This person, the true essence of my mother, had remained largely hidden through much of my lifetime. And hers. Now, today, each and every moment of connection - of Mom connecting with her family and her family connecting with her - is priceless. It is worth more than all the money in the world. In all the ways that most matter, we are wealthy beyond description.

My heart is filled with the deep compassion and consciousness that there is no blame for what has happened through the generations of my family because I have learned that, absolutely, we are all always doing the best we can do at any given time. I understand how easy it is to simply go to sleep and forget who we are, and in this great forgetting and disconnection from our essence, great harm will inevitably follow. I also know that our family is not unique - deep wounding happens within many, many families and is certainly pervasive in our culture. It is also deeply important to illuminate that profound healing is also possible within families, even against great odds.

How many lifetimes, how many generations has it taken to bring our family to this place of healing and growing wholeness where we find ourselves today? Today there are times of celebrating my mother's 88th birthday and other birthdays, of enjoying sitting out on our patio-sanctuary, of gatherings as family in many different settings, of deep and healing conversations, of doing therapy together, of hugging and kissing, smiling and looking into one another's eyes. My heart overflows, overflows with gratitude and love.

May we each grow in the courage to be vulnerable so that, as Brené Brown eloquently writes about in Daring Greatly, we are able to transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.

Namaste ~ Molly

 Ron & Molly, Brian & Marita, Matt, Kevin & Kristin
celebrate Mom/Grandma/Nancy's 88th birthday!

Brené Brown: Authenticity is a Collection of Choices

Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.

The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It's our fear 
of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make 
every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. 
The choice to be honest. 
The choice to let our true selves be seen.

Drink Deep

The field was clear
She stepped in
Inviting me deeper within
To tune my inner ear
For wisdom on its way
Rising from the source
"Shhhh..." She said,
it's time to listen
Everything holds the answer
What captures your attention
Lean in
Drink deep
and embody your knowing.

~Tulasi Adeva

John O'Donohue: For Lost Friends

As twilight makes a rainbow robe
From the concealed colors of day
In order for time to stay alive
Within the dark weight of night,
May we lose no one we love

From the shelter of our hearts.

When we love another heart
And allow it to love us,
We journey deep below time
Into that eternal weave
Where nothing unravels.

May we have the grace to see
Despite the hurt of rupture,
The searing of anger,
And the empty disappointment,
That whoever we have loved,
Such love can never quench.

Though a door may have closed,
Closed between us,
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Forgive them the damage
We were left to inherit;

Free ourselves from the chains
Of forlorn resentment;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance

We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
And prosper into difference,
Wishing them the peace
Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space.

- John O'Donohue
, from To Bless the Space Between Us


Thomas Moore: The Key To Seeing the World's Soul

The key to seeing the world's soul, 
and in the process wakening our own, 
is to get over the confusion by which we think 
that fact is real and imagination is illusion.

Wayne Muller: The Gift

Your life is not a problem to be solved 
but a gift to be opened.