“My life now, after so much turmoil, was good. On paper it looked virtually perfect.
I had a great job, a home I loved, community and a spiritual path.
But three things were missing...
Following your heart. It’s the second invitation in the subtitle of my book.
How did “Following Your Heart,” earn its prominent place?
What’s so important about following our heart?
More important: Why is it so hard to do? What gets in the way?
One piece is, as we grow up and move through the ranks of formal education, we are trained
I’m a busy bee these days, getting everything ready for the imminent launch of my memoir, Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following Your Heart, and What Happens When You Jump, and associated courses and gifts.
This has been a long time in coming, perhaps my whole life, to arrive at this juncture of readiness and knowing. It is time to share with the world what I have learned and gained living in a traditional mountain village in Mexico these past thirteen years.
I was filled with grief this morning. It hit me: what kind of times are we living in?
I had just come back from town and the market where I “stocked up,” upon recommendation of a friend from my village. I’d run into her in the zócalo and she told me the sobering news that on Monday our tiendas are going to be closed. I have felt quite fortunate to live where I do during this time. If the local stores close, that brings the Coronavirus scare even closer to home than it already is.
I returned home and sprayed my keys, coins, backpack and shopping bag with the lavender disinfectant I’d made. Next order of business: I took off the clothes that had perhaps touched someone on the combi or brushed against a shopper or vender in the market – and hung them on the line in the sun. Then I set to disinfecting the produce I’d purchased. This time, not just to kill any bacteria from water the fruits and vegetable might have been sprayed with. At the top of my mind was that surely the venders had touched the fruit or greens and who knows if they might have it? In batches, I let the produce soak in the tub I use for that. Fortunately, the mountain spring water that comes via garden hose was trickling sufficiently today to at least disinfect my food. Washing clothes would have to wait.
I was struggling with how I wanted to take and handle the news of the Coronavirus. Normally I distance myself from political news and health scares, not giving either much relevance in my life. Choosing to live on the edge of a village in the mountains in south central Mexico is not only a calling and a joy, it is also a fitting metaphor. I live on the edge, on purpose.
I stopped watching the news during the first George Bush presidency. Just two seconds of his voice, appearance and vibe and I could feel myself crumbling into a heap of despair, depression and hopelessness. I’m that sensitive. I remember deciding in that moment, “Well, I guess I won’t be watching the news for the next four years.” The determination was effortless to implement and has remained so. Many may see me as irresponsible and denying “reality”, but first, I get the gist of what’s happening. The details aren’t important and it’s not new, it’s been going on for ages. I get it and know enough of myself and my values to distance myself from it for self-preservation. Second, we all have different strengths, gifts and ways to share them for the betterment of the world. Mine is by maintaining myself in the purest, highest vibration possible so that I may radiate that to the world and hopefully be of service by what I model.
I normally am unaffected by world events. Even Trump, I choose to ignore and in that way continue on my path and life without that distraction and upset. So when I became “infected” with fear of the Coronavirus, I didn’t know what to do. I’m accustomed to distrusting the media. If I were to isolate myself socially, wouldn’t than mean I had fallen prey to the fear virus? One thing I fear is being a fool. I didn’t want to be one at the end of this world drama. But, I did feel afraid, and so struggled between these different parts of me, not trusting either and not knowing what to do.
When I was little I remember hearing my mom share that the rationale she learned from her mother about changing her underwear daily was to avoid the horror of being in an accident and the hospital or ambulance people seeing that you had dirty underwear. That was my grandma: behaviors were taught, motivated and performed based on what others would think.
Despite my rebelliousness about doing things because of what others would think, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that some mornings I look at yesterday’s underwear, cock my head and consider, “Could I wear these again today?” I feel I have a little more permission to do this knowing my older sisters used to reuse hers Inside-out when she was in college and responsible for doing her own laundry for the first time.
I do my own laundry by hand outside where the mountain spring water arrives via garden hose. But sometimes it doesn’t come, or the weather is too wet and the pile accumulates. It is on those rare occasions that I might (grimace) turn a pair inside out and use them, praying I don’t get in an accident so everyone would see the seams on the outside and know. Though here in my mountain village in Mexico I don’t think people would judge or even notice that!
Today while walking I used vision as a present moment practice. The morning was crystalline with colors bright and clean after last night’s rain.
I allowed myself to and inclined towards seeing what was before me. Several times I stopped and simply looked all around. The swirling high clouds in the rich blue sky. The deep natural carvings in the mountains. The reddish earthen path. New houses being built. A white dog with short bristly fur and a brown patch mark over one eye who came to greet me.
As I turned onto the path that would return me to the main road I felt myself moved and opening with appreciation for the beauty and goodness of my environment, my life: having the time and flexibility to take a morning walk, the strength and coordination to walk where and how I please, pain-free, the mildly cool breeze caressing my arms and nourishing me, nice clothes and good shoes.
I love wearing white. When I lived in the States and had an executive-type job I often wore white. The conflict is that I’m like Pigpen – I attract dirt, so all my white shirts soon had embarrassing stains on them: spots of turmeric or hot sauce that I couldn’t scrub out. Fortunately, there were plenty of good second hand clothes stores where I lived, so I treated myself at that time to a hearty selection of two dollar white tops.
Then I moved to a mountain village in Mexico where I’m soon to complete twelve years. Yesterday I was trying to recall what it was I knew and envisioned when I decided it was the place where I could and would to live in accordance with my values. The first image that came to mind were the clothes drying on the flat roofs of the houses I viewed from the roof of the house where I was staying. I also vaguely remembered some ideas about living slower with less technology. But clothes drying on the line was concrete: Here I could wash my clothes by hand and hang them outside to dry. “But,” I argued with myself, “I could have created a life in which I hand-washed my clothes in the States as well. What is special about doing it here?” Somehow being part of a place where this is how life is normally lived (versus an anomoly) is important to me. It gives me a sense of belonging; that although a foreigner and stranger to this place and culture, I fit here. We fit together
I still love washing my clothes by hand and hanging them on the line. It remains a part of my lifestyle, a value, and a pleasure. But here’s the irony: I’m not very good at it. And even though I’m resigned to the belief that I’m not good (tidy) enough for white and so rarely dress in it, avoidance has not made me immune to accruing stains when I do wear it.
Yesterday, sitting amongst an intimate group of women in their thirties, one of my students asked me, “Does life keep getting better?” I closed my eyes and paused, searching within for my true experience. The women groaned, interpreting my silence as, “Uh oh, bad news.” I explained to them that the question is a profound one, and that I needed time to locate my response.
After my students left and over the next several hours, I found myself continually returning to the question. First, it was interesting to me that already their experience was one of improvement every year of their lives. Did I view my life that way?
A good starting question for me was, “Define better.” I have spent my adolescent and adult life in search of understanding and experiences that are healing and transformative. “What would need to have happened or be happening in order for me to feel my life is getting better with time and these efforts?” I asked myself. I’d need to feel an overall lightening, more joy, ease, sense of freedom. Gladness to be here on the earth in my body with my personality and essence.
Does anybody else’s life seem as ironic as I perceive mine?
A workshop is offered for female empowerment at a great price and at a place I love. There is nothing I want more now than to be the empowered Me. I’ve been sick for two weeks. I can see all the reasons why I “should” go. And when I imagine it, I feel tired and that it will be a drain on my energy. Do I choose to push and do what I think I “should” again? Draining my life force energy even more and once again? It is the way I’ve always done things. Push and try to be “good” and “right”. My credence has been: Have no limits.
Or I could say “No,” and stay home and recuperate and be gentle with myself, maybe a small quiet walk with a friend. That feels like a relief.
The irony for me is that I have an idea of what I “should” do to become Empowered Me. And maybe it isn’t really so. Maybe the empowered me says, “No thank you,” and trusts myself and my body and what feels gentler and kinder, “even though”. Maybe this idea of doing what I should, this doing at all, is part of that patriarchal value inside of me around doing-equals-success. What if the empowered thing is to listen to myself, stay home recuperating and nourishing myself. No matter what anyone else thinks or says. That is the empowerment I do want.
I recently was asked this question and as a person who left a great career after the sixty hour weeks affected my health, it touched home. While I've been living a consciously simple life for twelve years and enjoy the time and freedom to engage in activities that I want to do, which nourish me and which I feel passionate about, I still have a propensity to workaholism. That said, with my sombrero and Wellness Coach hats on, here are my suggestions:
Create a schedule that includes everything that is important to you - rest and sleep, eating well, exercise, relaxation/spiritual practices, fun, socializing, as well as the tasks you are obligated to. Count the “non-work” items as as important as the others and take the fact that they’re on your list seriously.
Depending on you, what works for you, what you need at this time, the schedule can be loose or tight or somewhere in between. For instance, there may be certain tasks that must be done at specific times: picking someone up, a meeting, taking medications or eating at specific times. Everything else can be fit in between those. Somedays there may be no time-related tasks. On these days, if you feel you can trust yourself to not just do the obligatory tasks or only do the self-care tasks, then you can flow. If you choose a flow day, look at the schedule at the start of and throughout the day to keep in mind what you’ve committed to for that day and check them off as you do them. If flowing is too unstructured for you then you can also schedule everything in. Be literal and keep track of your time. Allow for 15 minutes leeway for unexpected occurrences. Check items off the list as you do them no matter how you choose to structure your day.
I suggest making the list for the next day the night before and really looking at what will be
When I started living simply, in according to my values, I was shocked to discover there was a movement in the states called Voluntary Simplicity that dealt with the same issues.
I formed a Voluntary Simplicity support group in the city where I lived which lasted over eight years. Now it is twenty-five years later and “Minimalism” has replaced Voluntary Simplicity.
I am not a Minimalist in that I don’t aim to have nothing. The principle we offered and shared in our support group was more about following your heart, discovering who you really are, what you really want and are passionate about - and then have the “things” you need, if any, to support that. There is no judgement about what that passion is. It could be sailing around the world - in which case a large, good quality, safe boat would be idea. That is appropriate, not a bad thing!
It can be frustrating being around people who mirror issues we have and don't like about ourselves, let alone to admit! Just like with all addictions - as dealt with in the 12 step programs - each person has to hit their own bottom and realize it. Only then can and will they choose to make changes that better serve them and those around them.
For people in this situation I suggest that they keep doing and developing, making time for, the things that represent “stopping and smelling the roses” for them. You can do these things alone, with others, and even invite the person your thinking about in your question. The key and challenge of course, is fully owning just for yourself those activities and the joy and nourishment they bring you. That means, without attachment, need, manipulation to try to “make” (the same as “get” - both of which indicate force or control over) the other do the same for themselves.
Not easy, I know, but the only answer I feel is healthy and truly productive. By being yourself fully, which includes “smelling the roses,” you are living in a good way for you, with just that motivation. Paradoxically, you are then being a model for others to do the same.
This was demonstrated to me years ago.
I was recently asked this question which is a great one, in itself exhibiting awareness. To me, the environmental aspect of a minimalist lifestyle is in a way the most important and is at the heart of the theme. Here's why:
For me and many others who experience discontent with the standard prescribed lifestyle in the States, it is an observation or felt sense that the way of living - especially with so much technology - is out of kilter with a harmonious, respectful relationship with the living world.
The development and rise of technology in the West came from a very mental perspective that sought to control nature and the masses. The craving of the mind to understand, know and in that sense have dominion over life is a strong one. Scientific thinking from the Industrial Age, promises a reality that is fixed. This makes life less scary and uncertain and offers the idea that all that we seemingly can’t control in life could be conquered. Man over “God”.
Technology, which develped hand in hand with scientific thinking, has given and continues to give us a lot. The thing to be aware of is the base of those inventions - what is the intent and motivation in their creation? We can respond with, “The purpose of technology is to better our lives, to give us more time for leisure, productivity, and increase longevity.” All of which sounds good and has its place and value. The question to me, is, “At what cost?” and “Just because we can, do we?” Wise contemplation is a critical piece that seems lacking in mainstream culture in general.
Our ancestors lived less time, worked harder (physically) and had less physical comforts and certainly conveniences. What they did have was connection to and relationships with nature, the cycles of life, the elements, the energies and beings (mountains, sands, trees, plants, waters etc. ) of the places where they lived. They had community.
When we feel dissatisfaction with the “rat race” and all that it creates, requires and entails, we are listening to the calling of Life, of the earth, to remember her. The natural respect that comes from sensitivity to life and nature are missing in today’s culture. “She” has such great capacity and space for errors and harmful acts upon her, that for centuries we have got by seemingly unscathed. In recent years, data and information about Global Warming and issues with the ozone layer have been nature knocking on our door. Some listen, others choose to deny the message. More recently we have been experiencing severe and intense “notifications” from the planet. She is losing patience, she is angry, she has limits on how much unconsciousness and abuse she can and will tolerate. Now she is taking us by the shoulders and literally shaking us awake - if we choose to hear and heed the information.
I left the “rat race” twenty years ago and left the country twelve years ago. I am glad to live afar where it is easier to keep myself from the current rage, fear and hopelessness that seems to be taking the country by emotional storm. Though, I’m sure it is a good thing, a healthy culture-wide cleansing. Still I wonder, “What will it take for people to really wake up, see the unsustainability and unhealthiness of the american lifestyle and choose to (vs. being forced to by natural catastrophes) change their ways?”
My desire is that I have made clearer the connection between a Minimalist lifestyle and its implications and relation to the environment. I believe Minimalism speaks to people who are waking up and questioning the ways of their culture, and good for them. Good for you. May you have the strength, courage and willingness to take the actions necessary - step by appropriate (for you) step, towards claiming a lifestyle that respects the environment, is healthy and harmonious in terms of your relationship with yourself, this world, and those creatures - human, animal, plant and elemental - in your midst.
I have increasingly been receiving questions about living simply lately. When I changed my lifestyle over twenty years ago I was surprised to discover an actual movement based on the ideas and sensibilities I held, called Voluntary Simplicity. Now, Minimalism has taken hold as the trendy term.
I have some issues around the term, as it seems to hit some people as a a lifestyle change requiring unwanted discomfort, poverty, giving up of "stuff" overall perceived as a sacrifice. All of which has negative connotations and seems to be received sometimes as the hammer of justice telling people what they "should" and "must" do. Ouch.
This is not the motivation I wish for people's contemplations about and decisions to let go of their current lifestyles. Yes, I wish for people and western culture as a whole, to wake up and see the harm and disconnect caused by and at the root of the ways of living prescribed in our culture. And of course I would expect this to involve pain. Past that and underneath it, though, is a remembering and reclaiming of ways of living that honor and respect the earth and the natural life cycles and wisdom inherent in its design - of which we are a part.
While the tearing away from previous decisions and their repercussions could be painful for various reasons, at some point, and hopefully from the start or early on, the vision and feeling of the life one is remembering and going towards, would be overall pleasant and at least inspiring and heart-felt.
If you are asking questions about minimalism from the perspective of it being a sacrifice and with resistance and worry - that signals to me that you are uncomfortable, in fear, contemplating a change of lifestyle for unhealthy reasons (such as “shoulds”) and perhaps are misunderstanding what it is really or optimally about.
My message and wish for you is, "Keep searching and looking within. Listen to your heart over your head."
And feel free to read my past (and future!) blog posts with reflections on what my consciously simple life looks like, its benefits and joys as well as challenges. May my words and life model for you one of infinite creative possibility and offer you encouragement and inspiration.
A local woman who has a restaurant came to my authentic Indian cooking class today. When the students went around the circle taking turns introducing themselves and speaking about what the attraction was that brought them to the class, her story surprised me. She shared that she disliked Indian food. She had a particular isue with the spice cumin, that she said made her feel ill. Smelling it was not a problem, but when it was used in dishes she found it overpowering and literally sickening. Another student suggested perhaps she has an allergy to the spice. When she would be visiting her daughter in San Fransisco and they would go to and Indian restaurant, she would bring her own food.
We continued talking about cumin for awhile, two participants shared that they love cumin, and one woman shared that in traditional Mexican cuisine, cumin is used often in the north, but not in the south. I agreed with Laura that cumin can be overpowering and told her, “Well, most of today’s recipes happen to feature cumin, and in fact I had planned to give you all a lesson in cumin! Are you open to having any cumin in the food or do we need to make two batches of the dishes?” She said that a little cumin would be all right and the other students agreed to this adjustment.
We proceeded to the kitchen and I gave a tour of the different stations I had created, one for each dish we were going to prepare. When we arrived at the beet, tomato and cucumber raita station I passed around a small bowl of raw cumin seed for each person to smell. I asked them to hold that smell in their minds. Then I passed around a dish of roasted and ground cumin seeds. The difference between the two was impressive and we passed them around again to really anchor in the smells and the differences. I then explained how to roast cumin and how doing so changed the character of the spice.
When all the dishes were ready, we spread them on the buffet table and served ourselves. Up on the terrace where we dined with a divine view of the mountains, I asked the students how they were enjoying the meal, if they had a favorite dish. Everyone said the meal was delicious and that they were enjoying it completely. I looked at Laura, wondering how the meal was going down for her, especially as I had added a little extra roasted cumin seed to the kachumber salad at the last moment. I felt a little guilty doing so, but in the name of giving my students a true experience of authentic Indian cuisine, I felt I needed to, as the dish really wouldn’t have it’s unique taste without it.
Laura looked at me smiling and reported, “I came to the class disliking Indian food. After this meal, my experience of it has changed. Even with cumin in the dishes I feel fine. The food has gone down well and I feel great! My stomach isn’t upset at all. I’m leaving this class with a new opinion of Indian food: I like it a lot!
"And now you know the secret," I beamed. "When you go to an Indian restaurant, ask the waiter to ask the chef whether the cumin in the spice blends have raw or roasted cumin. If raw, you can specifically request that the chef roast the cumin in your dishes."
Laura took this information in, eyes unblinking. "Now I can go to Indian restaurants with my family in San Fransisco and I don’t have to bring my own food!” She proclaimed.
Of course Laura’s turnaround was gratifying to me as a teacher: because of the class and what she had learned about how to use cumin, she had a different experience and opinion about the cuisine. Laura had received a gift by coming to the class. But I had received a gift as well: I was surprised that not liking the cuisine she chose to come to the class. How many people would do that? I can’t imagine I would. And what a lesson: by immersing herself in something she didn’t like, she learned, gave herself the chance of a new and different experience, and through her bravery and openness, emerged liking the very thing she had arrived disdaining.
Now there’s food for thought.
Last night I had a dinner that felt good to my body and that I felt proud of.
It took days and lots of preparation to have this simple, wholesome meal.
Last week, I made a new batch of fermented vegetables, which took about three days to ferment to the point of having a tasty, tangy bite due to the freshly squeezed lemon juice, grated garlic and ginger I added.
Six days ago, I started soaking my quinoa for fermented quinoa, to which I added some of the brine from the fermented vegetables.
Four days ago I cooked a batch of bone broth from local, free-range and naturally fed cows.
Three days ago I grated a head of cauliflower to have a stash of riced cauliflower to serve as a rice-subsitute bed for vegetable dishes.
Two days ago, I ground white and black mustard seeds and let them soak in spring water that I had collected that morning outside my home. Later I added some pineapple vinegar, which I had made in the Fall. I added some organic turmeric and sea salt from the region and soon had a homemade mustard condiment.
So last night, I cooked the fermented quinoa in the bone broth. I pan fried a piece of wild caught Alaskan salmon till the skin was crispy and topped it with mustard.
Salad was local organic red curly leaf lettuce over which I drizzled cold pressed olive oil made regionally, and a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
On top of the quinoa, a dollop of fermented vegetables.
For dessert, I put little pieces of pure dark chocolate on top of thick sweet potato slices I had pressure cooked in the morning. Yummy.
It all felt good going in and down as I sat on my terrace taking in the golden light slowly turning orange on the mountains. I had been getting all the pieces together for incorporating low lectin foods into the way I eat day by day and all at once, I had the pieces to assemble a nice, simple meal.
Proud and satisfied I complimented myself on finally getting my act together. Immediately my smile faded as I cocked my head wondering, “Is this how life is? We work hard for a long time at all the many pieces and then one day, all of a sudden, we have everything prepared and in place for us to be and live how we have been wanting?” I remained at this landing spot for a moment. “Wow, am I there?” I thought, hopefully. I nodded “No.” Experience has shown me there are moments of culmination and perceived “perfection”, where we have a glorious view from where we’ve been climbing and unexpectedly find ourselves. Then, life moves on. Soon it will be cold or dark. Something runs out, goes bad, or we realize new needs that require our work to satisfy.
I got it together for one meal. I’m going to enjoy the view from the mountain while I’m here. Tomorrow I’ll chop more vegetables for fermenting, roast cocao beans and grind them in a mortar and pestle for chocolate avocado truffles to share with friends, and cook the lentils that are sprouting in a bowl on my counter.
Photo Credits: sheknows.com, TedTreks.com, livestrong.com, learningherbs.com, thecuriouscoconut.com
My unconscious woke me up this morning with the song. "Let's Get it Started".
What good, smart, fun, creative and wise inner accompaniment I have.
Followed by "Dialogue" by Chicago. To which I've been dancing, singing, crying, smiling and acting out.
This song rocks and it's words are true.
I urge you to dwell in the positive. What you imagine and project with feeling, happens.
Give it a listen, make your decision, and see how your day and world changes.
I'd love to hear from you, let me know how it goes!
I'm struck by the triviality of my life. The tabs open on my computer when the earthquake hit included: Shopping for a new backpack because the one I have is faded and sags and has some holes. Then, a page that explains something I recall hearing about: using vinegar to wash and disinfect veggies. Finally, how to remove rust stains from clothes. And I think my life is meaningful.
Such are the concerns of a life with so much abundance and freedom it can spill over into decadence and mis-led energy investments.
When I finally made it out my door in my pink clogs and the ground had stopped shaking I called for my landlady who lives on the same property to know if she was okay. She was fine and wanted to go see what the horrible deep rumble had been, maybe a house had fallen. We went out to the street and neighbors were talking. A house that is being built across the street had cracks in some of the lower adobe bricks. Would they have to start over from scratch, I wondered? The men who had been working on the second floor told about how they couldn't get down for the shaking and wondered if the house would crumble and them with it.
Maria came back minutes later from down the road in the direction of the deep rumble and said that part of the mountain that faces us had broken off. Soon, her sister came crying, holding a plastic cup with a swig of jerez in it, sharing with Maria that their other sister's house had fallen. While Maria went in to get her house keys her sister turned into my arms for an embrace. They went off to see about Rosa's house.
I stood in the middle the street talking to various neighbors, some of whom I did not know, all of us sharing stories and agreeing on the degree of shaking and fright, and realized, "I'm not enough part of the community. I don't know my neighbors. I need to get out more, make more of an effort to interact with the people." In this moment of survival standing at the crossroads I saw: what matters is community and love. That's all.
I went to buy emergency supplies in Inez's tienda, just in case. She showed me where a wall had separated from the ceiling, revealing old timber. Then she told me about the church cupula and how it was damaged. We stood in the doorway together and I noted with sadness the poignantly crooked cross on top of the dome. Behind it, in the distance, la ventana, a sacred natural "window" high on top of the mountain. Inez told me, "All during the earthquake I was worried about our dear ventana, would it be alright?" The ventana is intact, but in our village and nearby towns, the poor crosses are eschew. As with all the natural disasters lately, with the crooked crosses it seems blatantly significant. I wonder, "What would it mean to right the crosses in a way that they felt heard, understood and respected? And our dear Earth?"
The darkness of night comes, the electricity is back and with it, internet. Many people have contacted me with concern, wanting to know if I was affected by the earthquake. I'm okay, physically. My house suffered minimal damage - a few adobe bricks and clay shingles fell off the top of the house. Being well, safe and sound I'm faced with "and now what?" How do I continue or live, now? Now that the work I was completely immersed in before this seems stupid? Now that I have nothing but time and freedom and the utter uncertainty of "Will another earthquake come and will I get out in time?"
I'm given another day. I decide I will go into the nearby town to see how life is there now, and to get some things on the errand list made before the earthquake, including:
• Food items based on preparation for some days away that who knows if that will even happen?
• Take a couple things to the woman who periodically does sewing for me?
It seemed ridiculous to think of putting new elastic into my pajama bottoms and skirt at a time like this, when people are trapped in buildings, dead, dying or hurt in other pueblos. I called her anyhow, rationalizing that at a minimum it was to see how she and her family were. We talked a long time and she said, "Yes, do come, it will be good to share a hug at a time like this." So I went, telling myself that in the name of my realization about the importance of community and love, this could be a meeting whose significance I didn't yet know.
Walking along the cobble stone street near Oliva's house I saw a huge hole in the ground. "If an earthquake comes right now, I'll need to be sure to try to steer far from it," I noted. Raindrops began to fall and a skinny young dog contorted itself trying to fit into a sheltered doorway. I wondered if she was seeking shelter because she had susto too, or whether she was calm and in the present moment and would have sought shelter anyhow. "If an earthquake comes now while I'm walking here on this street where I don't know anyone, is this a place I'd want to have that experience?" I thought. It hardly seemed worth leaving home. "Yet home is no guarantee of safety, either," I realized.
Back in my village, all sorts of dogs are greeting me. I'm stopping to pet and speak sweetly to them, giving them the attention and praise for existing that they always deserved. I'm trying to send love to the earth and all her creatures. I have a vision of being a pillar of light and love, and it's scary to risk feeling so much while cognizant of the utter vulnerability of life. I am not a solid thing that will be here forever, that veil is gone. Do I return to my preoccupations with laundry and deadlines or be in this tender time with open and gaping heart for all the loss and fear of more frightening, dangerous, potentially painful endings? What I need is to seek among the rubble of my shakiness and incertitude the Divine and abide there. That and to go out onto the streets to connect with the folks in my midst.
All my growing up years of being an art student, it was always with the attitude of being a learner, with the acceptance of the unspoken rule that assumes I don't know and the teacher does. This at least sets the stage for openness to receive new information, which is a great thing.
I remember painting class in college with "Foose," enjoying and prospering from being there with "beginners mind". Recently, I've taken up drawing and painting again. My teacher, Bárbara generously offered to come to my house to see the work I've been doing prior to our first class in her studio so that she could see what I'm working on and producing and where and how she might be most helpful to my development.
She considered each piece silently with much consideration and finally would offer some suggestions in a complimentary and respectful way. One of her suggestions had to do with her perception that certain parts of a couple of the paintings stood out in ways that separated them from the rest of the piece. She advised me to lower the tone in these parts so that the colors were more equal in intensity compared to the rest of the piece.
With my background in graphic design, I found this surprising and counter to my training, whose instructions were around the importance of being aware of and creating visual hierarchy in each piece. I told Bárbara this, but she disagreed and I agreed to comply with each of her suggestions - this was "art" after all, not graphic design.
Dutifully, I changed the brilliant almost chartreuse green of the abstract flower pot to a more subdued grass green. I had been a "good girl", checked the task off my list, and rehung the painting. Similarly with the other piece, I muted the yellow star at the fist of the up-reaching figure to match the hue of the blues in the background.
That was three months ago and since then I have taken down and re-touched the green and the yellow three times, ever the open-minded student, exploring. This is good. I honor myself and this attitude. Today, however, I paid attention to my persistent quiet grief for the loss of the outrageous green that so vivaciously contrasted the hot red-pink-orange floppy amaryllis petals. Today I honored the sad feeling of having given myself away each time I glimpse the powerful figure reaching and connecting with the force of the Universe only to conduct a dull yellow starburst of energy, rather than the brilliant explosion of yellow-gold which is my experience.
I didn't even take the paintings off the wall this time. I reapplied a fifth layer of paint over the pot and the star - returning them to their original brilliance. And so I ask myself: at what point does the student know enough to listen to themselves and do what they like and know and feel and prefer?
That's where I arrive at "It's all good, It's all right," because life is that impossible-to-permanently-define waving fabric of energy. Yes, it's good to be a student and arrive with open mind and heart, available to learn and grow and change. And, we are also designed at some point or points in our lives, to become authorities. Maybe not over others, but certainly and at least some times, in the realms of our own lives. Breaking away from rules, from the structure of paradigms we've agreed to follow loyally is at some ironic moment, our purpose and our task. This is where all innovation, genius, and even religions come from: someone's original idea or their own take and twist on tradition.
Philosophically, there is no "always be the student until a certain point" and "always be the authority after some certain other point." And there is no mistake in choosing to be student or authority in any given situation. Each choice will lead somewhere, will afford us some experience. As I learned on one of my Healing Quests when I was a practicing Hopi: There are no mistakes, only consequences.
Of course there are always questions like, "Does being the student/authority in this situation serve me?" The learning and questioning can go on infinitely. Believe me, as a stalwart perfectionist, and a current re-wirer of my limbic system, I have realized that the questions can go on forever, seemingly with great purpose and importance. I have discovered, however, that they are creations of my mind and like toys, have kept me occupied, but truly lacking in essential value. In other words, optional.
So, life's a game. That's all and that's it. We can't help but play, and since we are the creators (at least this is the illusion,) and there is no right or wrong, I feel joyful and scared as I step tenuously onto the waving fabric of "the matrix" as if stepping onto the court and saying, "I'm in."
On a visit to my grandparents in Miami Beach, I opened a drawer that was full of pill containers. I counted seventy. Having listened to their medical complaints for years, I understood that one medication would create symptoms requiring another medication, which would create more side effects, necesitating a new medication, and so on. I saw my grandparents not getting better but getting worse through medical care. When I shared opinions like this with my dad, who was a General Practitioner, he reacted spitefully.
He had been my buddy. I counted on his loving presence. Now we argued. I felt abandoned, attacked and disrespected. I challenged the ideas he had invested in to become a respected medical professional. While vehemently expressing my beliefs, inwardly I was waiting for his approval of my thoughts, ideas and burgeoning spirituality. I lived many years with one foot on the brake.
At college, I spent a semester studying the history and evolution of Modern Medicine. I came across the term “Iatrogenesis,” which describes the experience I saw my grandparents embedded in. The term was validating to my perceptions and I wondered, “Were they victims, or did they consciously choose this type of approach to their health?” As part of my research I interviewed several doctors and became clear about the dynamic that was being played out between doctors and their patients.
I saw doctors as invested in modern scientific thinking, applied to the body. Modern science had led to technology, fueled by the desire to control nature. Science was about finding facts which would not change. Applying conclusions about physical reality onto the health or lack thereof in the human body made our bodies A. a matter of “fact” which would not allow for individuality or spiritual, energetic causes for ill health and B. made medical care a matter for the few experts who had studied hard to gain these facts and apply them to ridding your body of symptoms.
In our patriarchal culture, the relationship between doctor and patient is one of authority vs. powerlessness. Generally, patients are not invited to ask questions nor to doubt or deny treatment suggestions. Actually, the unspoken agreement is that the doctor tells them what to do and they do it. This is not just the fault of the doctors. To be fair, patients agree (albeit unconsciously) to this dynamic, which is one of disrespect, is unhealthy for society and imposes and perpetuates an incomplete paradigm of reality and relationship.
We have been brainwashed to fear and doubt modalities that differ from modern medicine. Even health insurance companies won’t readily support treatments such as acupuncture or naturopathy, let alone Reiki or massage.
I see our culture as being predominantly under the influence of western scientific thinking, which I call the Masculine (which is not necessarily male.) The desire to control nature arose from the desire to obliterate the spirituality inherent in religion in Europe. If “Man” has more power than “God”, then it is “Man” and all that has given him (the illusion of) control that is to be followed and feared. This led directly to the attitude of doctors towards patients, and patients, being God- (and Man) fearing, acquiesed.
What did we, when in the role of being patients give up? What I call the Feminine, which includes invisible (non provable) knowing and reality through intuition, feeling, personal experience, self-trust, connection to nature and non-physical energies as valid for guidance and information.
I am not against modern medicine. I am grateful it exists. I use it when I need to. I am not against left brain linear thinking and the use of data. I find it stimulating and sometimes useful, though am growing to believe it is overrated for living as a whole person.
What I am against is people not realizing they have options. We may know conceptually that there are many modalities, but do we actually believe we could choose them? I am against us as patients (that means people with bodies that will at times have challenging symptoms) believing they have no choice in how they percieve and choose to deal with their health.
This is what originally ignited my passion to become a Health and Wellness Coach: I wanted to help people be aware and empowered to consider and make their own decisions for their own health. Knowing how difficult this is, as we have no foundation nor support for this type of thinking, I wanted to support people in their awakening and journey of taking care of their bodies in ways that they felt good about. I wanted to offer support that would bolster their courage to stand up to doctors and ask questions, insist on satisfactory replies, and to say no when they chose.
This is scary for a couple of reasons. 1. It is saying “No,” to that scary God-type authority figure, complete with terror about what might happen if we displease Him and are thrown from the protection and safety He promises. 2. What is the protection we fear being cast out of if we deny the treatments offered us? It’s the protection against Death, the enemy. Death, the thing to be fought and conquered at all costs.
I was born on Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that honors deceased loved ones by creating altars of their favorite foods and vices to entice their spirits to come pay a visit. I love the wholeness that this holiday represents. While occuring on the same date as Halloween, this holiday is devoid of the scary aspect of that day of ghosts and monsters in the states. In Mexico, Day of the Dead is an honoring of an aspect of the cycle of Life, reframing Life as a cycle, encompassing every aspect of existence vs. the opposite of death.
As I had dreamed, I have become a Health and Wellness Coach. I will tell you a secret that is perhaps obvious: the issues I am passionate to help others with are the most challenging issues for me. In dealing with my own body and in relationships in general, I have felt paralyzed with fear of speaking up for myself, trusting my own sense of what’s good for me. Doing so would risk being cast out, rejected and alone - for being who I am. You may be surprised, especially if you’ve read my bio, that I have needed and continue to need various forms of support to be willing to live from my inner truth, health-related and otherwise. The masculine/feminine imbalance and battle I perceive outside, lives within. I seek to re-establish feminine empowerment within myself. This does not deny the masculine, incidentally. Feminine and masculine are aspects of duality, they are qualities, not genders and we all embody some measure of each. My work is to rise up against that which would try to scare and threaten me for listening within, trusting, and living from there. I embody these cultural dynamics inside me as an individual and as a woman.
As I heal myself, the world heals too. The witches burned rise up from the ashes to retake their place of wisdom, respect and appropriate power. The false stories about their invalidity and simultaneous (think about that!) dangerousness, dissolve. As we heal ourselves, the world is restored to healthy balance between physical and non-physical, masculine and feminine. We increasingly work with, not over Nature. Everything changes, from education, to politics, to the way we live and are in relationship with ourselves, one another, and the planet.
How do you relate to what I've written here? What comes up for you that is new or old, illuminating or disturbing? I invite you to share. I read every comment and respond.
Today I am inspired to share with you an article which one one level, challenges us to rethink vitamins. On another level, it brings up many questions and deeper issues, which share as an invitation to re-claim or claim for the first time - our power and validity as decision-makers for our own health and wellness.
Let’s first read these excerpts from a controversial article by functional and integrative medicine, leader Chris Kessler, entitled, “Throw away your multivitamins and antioxidants!”
I love the challenge in this article. I don’t know about you, but I easily get caught up in:
1. The intellectualization of health as a purely scientific, one size fits all formula or worse, an impossibly complex combination of factors and changing theories that confound me and lead me into fear, which surely is not serving my health.
2. Giving power for what is good for me to people I don’t know and who don’t know me. I’m alone at my computer doing internet research on multiple sites by supposed experts who all have their own perspective and conclusions. How do I know what they say is good for me? How do I decide? What about relationship as part of our wellness path? Or perhaps we have a doctor we work with who tells us how many mg of calcium, for instance, to take twice a day. This is an interesting one and leads to the power of faith. In my documentary short, “The Curandera of Teotitlan del Valle”, the traditional healer emphasizes the essencial factor of faith in healing. Maybe our allopathic medical practitioner only had one semester of nutrition in medical school, but we give them power and they assert it. Not necessarily bad. If one is in line with what one chooses to have faith in, by feeling in harmony and resonance with it, this will help or allow for healing via the relationship and interaction with that practitioner, whether M.D., traditional healer or nutritionist. In a sense this is a placebo effect.
3. Believing there is a “right” actual answer for me that I need to find and figure out and do in order to be well.
4. Making financial commitments without thinking through my values. The expense of being dependent on so many supplements that I read about for my own health. Is it sustainable economically for me? Do I want to have to work to have enough money to support this habit? (Not that some medications and supplements aren’t and can’t be helpful and crucial. I am not talking about all or nothing thinking.) What about food? Why don’t I believe in the power of food, especially organically grown in nutrient rich soil?
5. The fear that if I don’t take all the supplements I read about that I won’t be well. If thought has power, then is thinking like this helpful to me?
6. Another aspect of external solutions, external authorities is, is it true that I have no natural knowing or inborn right to be considered an authority if not the best authority regarding what is good for me? What food, thoughts, beliefs and activities feel good to me? Why can’t what feels good be a valid cue to what is good? Of course one needs to be discerning around the sensation of feeling good: is it grounded and trustworthy or is it escapist, as in feeling good temporarily from eating half a box of oreo cookies in one sitting? But where is intuition and internal knowing as valid and real in making decisions for our health and healing?
These are the questions I have grappled with for my entire adult life, and it’s largely why I was drawn to be a Health and Wellness Coach: I want to help others with what is so important to me because these are important (and challenging) issues that illustrate deep and historic cultural, philosophic, gender and spiritual issues which have informed many of our lives without us even realizing it. The bottom line being: we have bought a story that says we have no power and we are not wise. We are dependent on others to define reality, goodness and rightness for us, and that’s how it is. My purpose in coaching these issues is to challenge this and to facilitate, guide and support clients find their way to their inner truth, power and the trust of that.
What do you think about these issues?
Could it be that supplements aren’t as good as we’re told and believe?
Does it not matter whether science now says they are not overall so effective because what matters is what we believe?
How do you feel about what you believe? Why do you believe in what you believe: does it come from acceptance of an external authority, or from a grounded sense, or a combination of these – and are you comfortable with that or does it invite reflection and re-consideration?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on these issues. I read every comment and will respond!
Today I want to share about something that I have fought most of my life and yet have just experienced how subject to it I am: The Power of the Word.
When I was fifteen, I had an awakening on many levels. One of these was a keen awareness and anger towards modern medicine. In particular, the power it asserts and takes from those in need.
The left brain scientific approach to health seemed limited and arrogant to me. The patriarchal, “I know and you don’t” attitude hurt my sensibilities and angered me. “What about intution and other ways of knowing?” I raged.
My father, a General Pracitioner, and I had countless arguments on the subject, a painful thorn during much of my life. I studied the history and evolution of modern medicine at college and later made a documentary about Doctor/Patient relationships and the importance of communication. (Read about “Like Rembrandt Draperies: A Portrait of Cathy Tingle” at http://www.takegoodcareofyouwellness.com/rembrandt-draperies-documentary.html.)
What I have fought for and against has been a personal battle with different aspects of myself. I want people to own their power especially in the context of health and medical care. I have kept away from allopathic doctors as much as possible, in part to avoid my feeling of powerlessness in relation to what they might say to me. I have seen loved ones come back from the doctor with a diagnosis that is more like a death-sentence. When I hear “I have X” or “I have to take Y medication,” I cringe. Where is your power? I want to scream. Why have you given it away? Believing those words may make them true when they might not have to be true. I shake my head in pity, disappointment, anger, and bottom line: judgement.
I do believe in those ideas, but why are they so important to me? Because I do fear the power of the word and the masculine whom I have granted power to define and decide. Because I do fear the helplessness and uncontrollable fact of my death.
I recently felt moved to have a variety of medical tests. The results were frightening. I asked my doctor if I was dying. I spent the next couple of weeks virtually home-bound, doing research and confronting that no matter what I chose or choose to do or not do about these “conditions” I will die, sooner or later. I can force no guarantee. I do not and cannot control life. I am human, subject to everything everyone else is inescapably vulnerable to. Basically, like my dad, who I regarded with disdain for his lack of spirituality, I’m scared to death of death. Even more, I’m terrified of life and living and vulnerability and imperfection. My choice is to continue as I have, denying and berating so many parts of myself – and possibly and probably contributing to if not creating actual illness, or, give in, put the club down, fire the old ways that I developed out of pain and hurt and anger and fear, and show up like y’all. Messy, emotional, and – well, what I always wanted, really – to be in my body. In my self. Living truly and authentically as who I really am. Warts and all, as my sister says.
First is to accept my own warts. So I look in the mirror every day and tell myself “I love you and you’re good enough.”
The power of the word, or in this case, numbers, had me reacting as if “This is it: the conversation I’ve been dreading my whole adult life. You have X.”
If I had been told I had only six months, what would I have done, spent the next six months in panic, conducting research? I have experienced my worst fear, emotionally speaking. The truth is, I feel quite well. If I hadn’t gotten all these tests and seen all these numbers with their assigned meaning, I never would have known. I would have continued along hiking, playing basketball, doing yoga, eating what I eat. Instead, I developed heart palpatations and a sore throat. Would I have experienced these symptoms anyways, or are they evidence of the potential effect of the word, given power?
I may be alone in my experience, or I may be a model for change. Either way, I cannot, I will not pretend not to be suceptible. I am. I did what I did. I am where I am. There’s no going back. I’m still here. That’s how it is. While my ego is lying down in shock and disorientation, another aspect of me, a part that is growing, and that I am nurturing, is truly grateful for this push that I needed, into life and living.
At night there was an insect buzzing around me. I felt irritated and tried to spot it to kill it if it was a mosquito without success. Fortunately I was able to fall asleep. In the morning I awoke and heard it again. Where was it? Still no sight of the annoyance. Before doing my yoga I opened the curtain and window hoping to tempt the little insect to the screen where mosquitos like to sit when daylight comes. If the bug were to rest there it would be easy to smash it with my hand.
After yoga I sat for my meditation and prayer. Midway through I heard the annoying high pitched noise and thought to pause, open my eyes, get up and see if it was indeed on the screen where I could kill it, stopping it’s annoying noise once and for all. I actually decided not to get up and kill the insect, choosing to forgo the momentary satisfaction of the kill, followed by the momentary sense of ill-conscience that I had mercilessly killed a being, which would be followed by moving on to the next thing. I returned to focusing on my practice, which started to go well with a new sense of peacefulness. I finished my session. Standing up to put the mat, blocks and candle away I noticed a darkish spot on the rug by the window. Leaning closer I saw it was a fly. The fly. It had been a fly not a mosquito all along. It was dead.
There was something bothering me so much I wanted to kill it to make it go away.
I saw this and chose not to act on it as would be my habit.
The annoyance ceased and died a natural death without me annhilating it.
How do you like that? Things which disturb us really do pass on their own, even if we don’t do anything to make that happen.
Meditation is life.
I got home and while putting things away decided to keep the door open, although I knew it meant flies could enter, whose tone I find irritating. A noisy fly entered and bounced its buzz all around and I got up to close the door. Immediately I felt a calm. “Now I’m contained.” And that’s when I realized: a house is a womb.
Robin Rainbow Gate
I am dedicated to helping you take better care of yourself so that the way you live is in integrity with your values, is sustainable and nourishes what you need to cultivate your core truth, highest vision, and overall well-being.
Ready to Live Your True life?