I have come to believe I am a victim of nothing and that life is for me, not against me. When things are going smoothly it's easy to roll with that, but in the face of loss, illness or injury it can be harder.
Nine months ago I hurt my ankle badly in a trampolining accident. For nearly two months I lay on my couch, unable to walk or participate in the activities that bring me joy.
There were moments of frustration, doubt and fear. But stronger than those was a trust that life was slowing me down, deepening me through the stillness, and that something magical was unfolding for me - physically, emotionally and spiritually.
During this time, even when I couldn't stand, I wrote and voiced some beautiful meditations and guided sleep journeys for two apps - Pzizz and Soundly - which I probably would not have been able to do as well in my normal "busy mode." I also became a mentor for a 6-month online mindfulness program.
As I began to get better, I noticed a hunger to get back to physical activity. I didn't have to force myself to exercise, I couldn't wait!
My rehabilitation began with swimming laps in a pool. The first couple of times I hated it. My body felt stiff and my breathing was laboured. But by the third time a quiet joy started bubbling up inside. I remembered how much I loved to swim years ago and suddenly moving through the water became playful, blissful. From there I have been able to progress to weight training, boxing, indoor rock climbing, cycling in nature and even Latin dancing.
I am moving with more joy and gratitude than I have in years. I feel more present in my body, more empowered and more alive. I still have a ways to go in my recovery, but the rewards of this slowing down, turning within, and deepening into my body have been life changing.
If you're struggling in the face of challenge, whatever if may be, I encourage you to consider that life may be calling you deeper into your truth. What if the Universe really is for you, right now, 100%? Can you drop the story of misfortune? Can you find a gift?
My beautiful mother Leslie died on November 13th of this year. As far as deaths go, it was a good one – peaceful, at home, from natural causes and with no accompanying illness. I’m proud of how she chose to leave, and at the same time it is a huge loss. She was not only my mother she was my co-author, close friend and confidante.
Since she died I have had to step up to do things I didn’t know I could do. Like, together with my youngest brother, lovingly dressing her body, combing her hair and laying her to rest in her wool-lined eco casket. Like organizing and conducting her intimate burial service. (We walked her casket to the churchyard ourselves, spoke prayers for her, played beautiful music, lowered the casket into the ground, filled the tomb with earth and decorated her grave with flowers.)
Two weeks ago, we held a live-streamed celebration so that her friends and fans around the world could join us in honoring her. It was beautiful. It began with a video of outtakes from some of the many Sacred Truth videos Leslie shot with my brother Aaron. Mama's ability to laugh at herself was one my favorite things about her. The whole audience at the event laughed whole-heartedly along with her. It was not a funeral. It was not a memorial. It truly was a celebration of a remarkable and inspiring woman I was, and am, blessed to call my mother.
I feel grief, sadness and denial – can she really be gone? The tapestry of my life feels torn. It’s as if the bedrock beneath me that always felt so solid has turned to quicksand. I’m OK, and I am not.
This morning I went for a run in the botanical gardens. It was peaceful and beautiful. And as my body moved through space I had the thought, “Leslie would have loved this - like she loved so much of life.”
I am left with the desire to live my life soulfully and full-out, to leave no part of me unlived, to be awake to the wonder of each moment and to love and embrace it all – including death – as best I can.
... so when you don't, what can you do about it?
In this 1/2 hour radio interview with medicine man Michael McCammon we share simple tools and practices that can help you feel better no matter what challenges you face.
There’s something about performing a random act of kindness that leaves you changed.
Yesterday I was fretting about what I want to create next and not getting clear answers. I wanted to feel in-the-flow and wholeheartedly invested in something, but couldn’t figure out what that might be. Then a random opportunity happened my way.
I was walking in Victoria Park with a friend and I pointed out the memorial of a young woman who was killed in 1998 in a mountain biking accident there. Her family had planted a tree in her memory and the humble shrine was completely covered with weeds. The tree looked sickly and the flowers beneath it were dry and faded. There was even an empty soda can sitting next to them and a shattered plastic vase.
(Ever since I bumped into the deceased woman’s mother tending the site a few years ago, and she shared her story, I have wanted to offer my support. I can’t imagine a more intense grief than losing your child.)
My friend and I got stuck in. He weeded the long grass and cleared the debris while I gathered pinecones. We found a huge pile of bark and brought bags of it to lay on the weeded ground. We made two trips to a nearby drinking fountain for water to quench the thirsty tree.
45 minutes later we stood back in awe at the transformation. The shrine was radiant and so were we.
I’m not sure it matters so much what we do here but how we do what we do. The feeling of bringing your heart to a random act of kindness is utterly delicious. Here's to the next random opportunity...
Crying in public isn't comfortable. I know because I've been doing it for years and shaming myself for it. I used to envy people who could "keep it together" no matter what. But recently I've begun to see tears in a new way.
Last night I taught a workshop. As one woman began to share with the group her eyes filled with tears. "I'm so sorry" she said, lowering her head with embarrassment. I knew how she felt. I decided to offer her my new take on tears.
"Your tears are precious," I began. "They're like jewels tumbling out of your heart. You honor yourself and us by sharing them." The woman raised her eyes tentatively, saw that her feelings were welcome and continued on with her story. As she did, others in the room wept gently along with her.
The Kleenex box moved freely around the circle throughout the evening and there was no more attempt to hide tears. By the time the workshop ended, precious heart jewels were scattered everywhere and the eyes that had shed them were shiny and bright.
I know how it feels to be shamed for feeling - I've shamed myself and even been shamed by a loved one. But what if we were truly free to share our feelings and shed our tears? What if, instead of putting us down for being emotional, a loved one gathered up our sacred heart jewels and held them gently to his chest? And what if, as he did, his own heart jewels began to flow with love?
Last night I taught a workshop on stillness. Coming at the end of the day I’d experienced it was a joke. I’d had almost no sleep and was feeling completely spun out. The peaceful walk in nature I’d anticipated with my dog turned into a two-and-a-half hour fiasco involving a possum that left me hoarse and exhausted - both of us covered from head to toe in mud. I couldn’t imagine experiencing stillness, let alone teaching it to anyone. So I did what I often do in the face of impossibility. I showed up and told the truth.
Truth is, I’m not a regular meditator. I love feeling centered and peaceful but a meditation practice has never been my strong point. I asked the group does anyone here meditate? All of them raised their hands. Great, I thought. But when I probed a little deeper I discovered that many of those meditators felt they “should” be doing it more or better.
So we opened up the possibility that living a conscious centered life and developing a personal practice for peace might look different for each person. I felt the whole room breathe a sigh of relief at the dropping of yet another story of how we should be doing better. What unfolded was one of the sweetest workshops I’ve ever experienced.
Here are a few of the ideas we explored:
That last one, today, is how I chose to begin. I stepped out on to my porch and a little bird in a cherry tree was singing its heart out. All by itself, in the darkness like a solo Gospel choir. The perfect new beginning…
It's amazing how something so simple can be so life changing...
I promised to report on my meditation retreat. It was hard – very – but also deeply rewarding. Not talking was surprisingly easy and enjoyable. Eating just two vegetarian meals a day felt good. Having no Internet access or contact with the outside world was refreshing.
The hard part was:
What I learned:
I emerged feeling deeply grateful for the Vipassana volunteers who taught me and prepared my meals, and for the 60 or so other students who had the courage to took this journey with me.
I told my brother in a week's time I'm going to do a 10-day silent meditation retreat. He laughed out loud. I can't blame him. He knows me. For me to sit still or stop talking for 10 minutes is a big ask, let alone 10 hours a day.
So why am I doing it?
I want to discover how life feels when I am not being run by "monkey mind." I want to dedicate 10 days to stepping outside of the Matrix to see Reality (and myself) as it is. Ultimately, I want to live my life more on purpose and unencumbered by "stuff" than I ever have before.
Am I apprehensive? You bet. But I'm also inspired. Maybe stillness comes easily to you, maybe it doesn't, but I want to know this: How might your life be different if stillness moved you beyond the story you tell about yourself?