Letting go of the leash.

Sometimes I feel like that dog who’s being walked on her leash and refuses to let go of it, gripping it tightly in her teeth as if she’s the one doing the walking (not the one getting walked).

That’s how I feel sometimes when I lose my trust and forget to have faith. I believe that I’m the one in control of this whole experience and so I try to direct it, control it, and force my way along the journey.

What I’m forgetting in those moments is that things ARE working out (even if I can’t see evidence of them just yet), and that ultimately, I am so very cared about and loved.

So today, I think I’ll let go of the leash…

photo by Ryan McGuire

 

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The Inner Beloved

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today, around the world, many of us are celebrating our beloveds. We are bestowing gifts upon our sweethearts. We’re blowing kisses to our darlings and we’re sending messages of love to our one and onlys.

Oh, how sweet love can be.

As all of this yummy love flows freely today, I’d like to suggest that we also take some time to love, honor, and cherish an often forgotten sweetheart: the Inner Beloved.

Heh? What’s that? The “Inner Beloved”?

To answer, I defer to Bill Plotkin (from his book, Wild Mind: A Field Guide to The Human Psyche:

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The concept of an Inner Beloved is simply beautiful to me. It suggests that there’s a unique relationship within me that’s just as sacred and rich as any outer relationship I could be in.

In her book The World Is A Waiting Lover, Trebbe Johnson writes this about the [Inner] Beloved:

“The Beloved personifies the object of the soul’s longing for union with its highest expression. Elusive and alluring, the Beloved seduces us into our own becoming, compelling us to keep moving through tangled paths, wild deserts, mockery, misunderstanding, and, more often that not, a Vulcan’s forge of yearning love that we discover we cannot bear to live without….   Part of the human heart, part of the immense mystery beyond our ken, whether you wish to call it God, the creative force, the soul, the unconscious, or the interplay of subatomic particles that gel the universe, the Beloved is the desired on, the lover desiring, and the abyss of desire itself. Standing just out of reach, in the green glade of our vision and our dreams, barely perceptible in dappled sunlight, the Beloved beckons to each of us alone: “Come. Come. Come to my arms and fall in love with yourself and all your world.”

~

THIS is the kind of love that I want to be living into and knowing more of every single day of my life. I want to know the depths of an inner romance that compels me to “keep moving through tangled paths, wild deserts, mockery, misunderstanding…”  I want to know a love that I just cannot live without, that beckons me ever forward into my own becoming with an almost longing-pain quality.

~

As I write this just now, I can sense my Inner Beloved awakening and stirring. Somewhat dusty from neglect, it shines through the cracks of me nonetheless. And although I’ve abandoned this “other half” of my psyche a lot in the past (unconsciously, or by simply forgetting that it’s there), I can sense a deep well of love and curiosity that’s present to me anyway, wanting to know me even more intimately, too.

I think that later today I’ll go on a walk with my Inner Beloved… a simple, quiet walk, just to start the conversation again.

My Inner Beloved and I have much catching up to do.

 

“Once we make room in our life for the great, mysterious Other that beckons, we realize that longing itself is a potent force, for every breath we take louvers us wider to the light of that remembered or hoped-for presence. Soulful yearning is active. It expands its own boundaries in keening for what it loves and does not have. We are stretched wide open by a God-shaped hold and wish with all our hearts never to be closed up again. Exile, our ache and our bliss, keeps us moving toward the best of ourselves.

And the one who awaits us, arms outstretched, is the Beloved.” (Trebbe Johnson)

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A seeker’s life (so far)

I was recently writing about my “why”:  why I do what I do as a life coach.

In doing so, I was reflecting back on my journey up to now, which, just like everyone’s, has been filled with many chapters, many plot twists, and many (many!) lessons. My work in the world has shifted and changed as I’ve shifted and changed, which has been a lot.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been what one might call a “seeker”:  someone who’s been driven (possessed?) to find the deeper layers of truth, both within herself and in life itself.

Here’s a bit of that seeking story…

SEEKING

From my teens to my early twenties, I battled with eating challenges (binge eating). I really wanted to understand WHY I was driven to eat, as well as HOW I might heal that pattern in myself. Through lots of introspection and inner study, over time, I eventually got down to some of the roots of the pattern and was able to shift. But another hunger quickly took hold: the hunger to know myself and what lay underneath the surface of my ego.

In my late twenties, when trying to decide between going to the Peace Corps or getting my Masters Degree in Psychology, I chose the latter. I enrolled in a Masters program in Spiritual Psychology, and no joke, this changed my life profoundly.

Through the program, I learned how to take true responsibility for myself and my happiness on all levels -physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I learned how to show up for myself and counsel myself in a way that I’d never known how to before, thus creating the foundation of a very solid and strong relationship with my Self (the most important relationship in my life, as I see it).

I also learned one of the biggest lessons of my life:  true happiness never resides outside of myself (i.e., in a job, romantic partner, more money, etc), but rather, it’s always starts WITHIN first, and then the outside (life) reflects that inner state back to us (the crazy thing to me is that WE NEVER LEARN THIS growing up in our culture! Rather, we learn to try and fill all the voids within us by getting more stuff or trying to find more love or money or whatever. But that’s a different rant for another day :).

WHAT AM I HERE FOR?

By my early thirties, I was almost obsessed with questions like, “What am I here for? What is my deeper purpose? What am I here to give or share in this world?” And these questions plagued me because, for one, I really didn’t know, and two, because one of my values is making a difference, so to not know what that difference was that I was to be making was painful.

By my mid-thirties, I was making great strides on the outer level of life. I’d paid off $30k in debt working at a job I actually liked. I found myself in a truly supportive, loving and awesome relationship with a man I loved. And, I was just starting my own small business  as a coach on the side. But the Universe had other plans for me: I was laid off from my cushy job and found myself getting unemployment benefits, not yet able to support myself in my coaching work.

BETWIXT AND BETWEEN (Getting off the hamster wheel)

In this chapter of my life, rather than go straight back to the hamster wheel of work, I chose to get off of it. For a few years, I dove deep into learning about my Soul and how it was trying to guide me (versus how my Ego wanted me to remain in my comfortable little life). I continued to struggle with the questions of What am I here to give or share with the world? How can I serve?  I’d have nights where I’d awaken in fear, thinking about how short life is, and wondering if I’d ever be able to share anything of value before I shuffled off this mortal coil. I enacted a Vision Fast (a 4 day ritual of going out into nature alone, without shelter, fasting and praying for a vision to bring back for my people) to help me find my answers, and I spent many, many hours alone, listening for my inner voice and doing my best to follow it.

It was during this chapter, too, that I learned that Soul speaks not so much in words, but in much subtler ways, through feelings, sensations, intuitive nudges, images, etc. I learned the value of slowing waaaay down. I learned that my Ego was very uncomfortable being off of the hamster wheel (of having a “regular job”), but I realized that it was just doing it’s best to try and keep me safe in the (limited) ways it knew how.

STILL GOING…

This last chapter has morphed into where I am today, a few years later. Of course, I am still a seeker. I still have SO MANY questions, and not a lot of answers. I do feel now, however, that I am on the right path for me, even though there are many (many!) times I question the right next step to take. But I think that’s just life.

What I’ve learned so far is that when I turn within and ask for guidance, and then listen for what comes, I usually find the next step.

And that’s all one really needs…. to just take the next step.

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One way to navigate in the dark.

“…It’s taken much time to get to this place; many invisible roads appeared that I could only slightly sense were there by a whiff. But it is precisely by taking these almost invisible, intuitive roads – the roads that didn’t “make sense” perhaps at the time – that I am here now.”

I’ve always been into writing. Well, to be more specific, I’ve been into journaling.

For a long, LONG time, my journal’s been a place where I’ve felt totally safe, a place where I can let all those crazy thoughts in my head out to play. It’s like my own personal Switzerland, a neutral zone where I can escape to when I feel lost or confused. Staying on the analogy train, my journal’s also like the Crossroads Trading Company of my mind. It’s a place where I can take all of my old, out-dated thoughts and dump them out for the discerning woman behind the counter to sort through. That shrewd and selective gal holds each item up to the light, meticulously examining it for it’s value. She then chooses the best out of my pile and hands me back a summary of what she wants. I take her word for it, and donate my leftovers.

But I digress.

Sometimes when I’m feeling especially lost or stuck, I have one journaling practice that’s super helpful for me. The practice is this:  To write a letter from my Authentic Self (God, Mystery, my Higher Self, Wise Self) to Me, in a stream-of-consciousness way. I simply start by writing what’s up for me, and then I invite my Authentic Self to talk to me.

And this is what I want to share with you today – a segment of a recent letter from my Authentic Self to Me. I’m sharing it for anyone who’s ever felt (or currently feels) stuck, lost, or in despair about life or their direction in it.

Ok – here goes:


 

ME:  …It’s taken much time to get to this place; many invisible roads that I could only slightly sense by a whiff. But it is precisely by taking those almost invisible, intuitive roads – those roads that didn’t “make sense” perhaps at the time – that I am here now.

Authentic Self:  Follow those hidden roads, the ones that seem to only appear at the edge of your perception. Take the roads you’re curious about. Take the ones that might not make sense, but that you’re drawn to for some reason. For it’s THESE roads, and NOT the logical, well-trodden ones, that will take you where you most want and need to go. 

And I know (oh how I know) just how frustrating, scary, anxiety-producing, and uncertain it feels when there seems to be NO road – hidden or otherwise – that will get you to where you want to go. NO MATTER – don’t worry (really! do not worry :). The road is always there, and it will appear to you in just the right moment. 

Your job, dear one, is to simply PAY ATTENTION. Your job is to LISTEN DEEPLY INSIDE for those small notes of resonance, joy, and YES.

Your job is to just keep listening. And then (and only then), if you are moved, take the next step. Just the next one. That’s all. Just one. And then wait, and listen again. That’s it. 

This is how to navigate in the dark.”

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A letter to my muse

Hi there. It’s been a while. How are you?

I’ve been meaning to write, but, well, life has gotten in the way. You know how it is.

How are YOU? I mean, really? How ARE you?

As for me, I’m fine. Good, really. Life is really pretty good. I’m living in a new land, one which I really dig. It’s full of nature, cool people, and s p a c e.  So much space. I’m super grateful.

I’ve missed you, though. I’ve missed having you around. I miss our coffee dates, those ones where we used to go to the coffee house and just dream and plan and journal (remember?? :).

I also miss painting BIG canvasses while listening to 90s hip hop with you. And, I miss going out on unproductive outings — like taking solo road trips up the coast, or going to Barnes and Noble just because we love books so much :).

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I just miss YOU and spending time with you.

And, I’d like to change that.

I’d like to start hanging out with you more. Doing more fun stuff. Painting more. Dancing more. Journaling more. Exploring with you more. Listening to you more.

Would you be willing to hang out with me again?

I know it’s been a long, long time. And I’m so sorry for that. I guess I just got caught up in stuff that really wasn’t all that important after all.

 

Well, I’ll let you think about it.

No pressure 🙂

 

….but, if you would like to hang out with me, how about a painting date next Wednesday afternoon, just you and me?

You just think it over.

Finally… thank you for never really leaving my side, ever.

Love,

Gage

Who do you want to BE?

Recently, I needed to have an uncomfortable communication with someone. I felt triggered in my last encounter with this person, so I knew better than to respond right away. Eventually (and with some help from my own coach), I contemplated who I wanted to BE in the situation (rather than what I wanted to DO). And it helped immensely. When I finally did respond to them, I was able to come from a place inside that was aligned with my values and who I wanted to be in the world — no matter how the situation turned out.

Ever since then, I've been thinking a lot about who I'm Being (and who I want to Be) in any given situation. I've noticed that when I begin from this perspective, I tend to find my own true answers much more quickly, and they come from a deeper, more values-based place inside of me.

So now I'm curious: when faced with a tough decision or a difficult situation in your life, who do you want to be? What sort of person do you want to show up as, no matter how the situation turns out?

We all have the choice to be exactly who we want to be in any given moment. Who will you choose to be today, this week, the rest of 2017, or the rest of your life?


Photo by Harman Abiwardani on Unsplash

A case for wandering

Some months ago, a seed of an idea took root within me: to go traveling ~ wandering, really ~ by myself, through the West for some chunk of time.

This little idea dropped quietly into my consciousness one day last winter, and right on its heels was a cacophony of voices about why it wouldn’t work:  No, you can’t do that. You have responsibilities. You have CLIENTS. Brett (my husband) would be sad. You can’t afford it. It’s impossible. Maybe one day…

So I tucked the little idea down inside of myself, hoping that I’d be just fine without it.

IT JUST WON’T GO AWAY

Well, you probably know how these things go. Basically, the idea just wouldn’t go away. I knew in my bones that I needed to do it; I just didn’t know how it would be possible.

One day this spring, after wrestling with and still trying to ignore the disruptive seed, in a moment of desperation, I spilled my thoughts to Brett: “So, I’ve been feeling like I need to get away, on my own, for a good chunk of time… ”

Much to my amazement, he responded with, “You have to go!”

I poked and prodded him to see if I could detect any fibbing or appeasing. “Will you be sad, or feel abandoned or anything?” I asked. “I mean, I might be gone for as long as six weeks!”

“I’ll miss you for sure,” he said, “but I want you to be happy. And if that means I’m alone for a month, so be it.” (Man, do I love this guy)

Done. The deal was sealed. I would go wandering by myself for some amount of time. And soon.

LEAVING HOME

I left Los Angeles on June 1. While away, I journeyed through south-western Colorado, south-eastern Utah, northern Arizona and then eventually back to California.

I intentionally made no plans for where I was going to sleep each night, but rather just followed my intuition and curiosity as I went along.

I slept indoors a total of exactly two times. The rest of the time I slept in an array of places: in a tipi, on a rock ledge above a place called Graveyard Canyon, IN Graveyard Canyon, in my car, on dirt roads, and in established campgrounds. Most nights, I got to fall asleep under the darkly bright blanket of the Milky Way.

Beside camping alone, I hiked by myself. I journaled. I napped. I read. I painted. I talked with strangers. I watched sunsets by myself, and I rose early to watch sunrises. I had my coffee by myself in the mornings, and ate dinner with myself in the evenings.

All in all, I drove almost 2,000 miles – you guessed it – by myself. And while I ended up being away for just about two and a half weeks when all was said and done, I never felt lonely. On the contrary, I felt closer to my self than I had in a great while, and I felt fed from the inside out.

SOME OF WHAT I BROUGHT BACK IN MY BASKET

I won’t go into ALL of the details of my travels here (maybe another blog post), but I do want to share a few realizations I came home with:

  • As someone who’s more introverted by nature, I NEED alone time: time to just be with my thoughts (i.e., journaling), to really process and understand how I’m feeling and what is most authentic for me in any given moment (for my fellow introverts out there, do yourself a favor and check out Quiet by Susan Cain)
  • Life is short, and as such, I’m no longer willing to say “yes” to something unless it’s a deep, real, and full “yes!” inside of me.
  • My soul needs to be outside in nature often. Very often.
  • The Earth and her creatures are vulnerable and need our care and stewardship – now more than ever before.
  • I’m not done wandering…

 

I’ll leave you with a bit of what my teacher (Bill Plotkin) has written on the subject of wandering (in fact, in his model of soul-centric human development, he’s dedicated an entire life stage to it: Stage 4 – The Wander in the Cocoon).


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~ Bill Plotkin, Nature & the Human Soul and Soulcraft


Some photos from my wanderings ~

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Night one. Holbrook, AZ
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Bison in Cortez, CO

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Summer Aspens

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Molas Lake, Colorado

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Molas Lake watercolor

 

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Silverton, Colorado

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A dandy shadow

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Yellow-bellied marmot!

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Ice Lakes Trail, CO

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Ouray, Colorado

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Ouray (the self-proclaimed “Switzerland of USA”)

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

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Mama and baby Black Bears

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Cimarron Ridge, CO

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Courthouse Mountain

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Courthouse watercolor

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“Newspaper Rock”, Canyonlands, Utah

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Canyonlands

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Sunset in Canyonlands

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Canyonlands campsite

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Sunrise in Canyonlands

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Sunrise

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more Canyonlands

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Natural Bridges National Monument

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Moki Dugway, Utah

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Monument Valley

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Lake Powell, AZ

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Sunrise over Lake Powell