Recipe for Healing

sunset

This is quite strangely one of my last posts for a while, as I am on the brink of taking what I am calling a healing sabbatical. In other words, I am taking the rest of this year off to dive headlong into the deep healing of my long-embroiled body.

Having struggled the last 7 years with chronic health issues, since contracting amoebic dysentery late in 2006, I have finally found the right doctor and tapped the necessary bravery and guts–no pun intended–to embark on truly healing my body from the inside out. This is no small feat, as I have just learned from an ENORMOUS blood draw and a slew of other tests that my body is indeed compromised and limited in its capacity to detox, function, and thrive beautifully; and that I might have some chronic viral, infectious, and auto-immune stuff going on to boot.

After hearing the news earlier this week, I would be lying to say I wasn’t shocked, blue, fearful, anxious, and just a little bit relieved that what I have intuited all these years is actually showing up, meaning we now have solid evidence that some things are just not right in my body!

Ultimate cliché proven true: “The Body Doesn’t Lie.”

Hence, here I am contemplating this sabbatical, poised to take on (and take in) what is required to tame my reactivity, sensitivity, and ongoing struggles with belly, head, limbs, organs, and skin. This leads me straight up to the question of how to be and sit with the unfolding of my healing journey, how to authentically observe how this all plays out without going nuts and being totally preoccupied with every nuance along the way.

The mantra I have come to realize is this: STOP FIGHTING.

Or rather: ACCEPT CIRCUMSTANCES EXACTLY AS THEY ARE.

This is actually the healing antidote I would like to offer any and all of you who might be struggling with your own unique stories of health and wellness. Basically what I am coming to terms with is that my hardest work won’t be in digesting the various remedies I will be prescribed, but in digesting my situation as a less-than-perfectly-healthy being, one who is at times beleaguered by not feeling/looking well at all, and to let go right in the middle of this space, to allow for it, accept it, make peace with it, and literally relax into it. (This of course while acting steadfastly and doing whatever physiological protocols necessary for feeling better!)

Still, I stick by my assertion that to stop battling the reality that I am/we are not wholly healed is the KEY and ironic ingredient in any recipe for healing.

Why? Because peace and acceptance are not at all dependent on ultimate wellness in the implied fantasized future nor on killing off and getting beyond whatever ails us today.

No, peace is quite touchingly possible right now, even in the dark moments, and it is often the most palpable, tender, and openly experienced when we are closer to rock bottom than to lofty top.

How’s that for a healing recipe?

Sending out love, light, and tons of peaceful energy in the coming months…

Until 2014,

Maggie

Paying Relaxed Attention

The closer I get to birthing another baby, the more drawn I am to the practice of relaxed attention.

But what on earth is relaxed attention?

It means to be fully alert and awake to our present experience, and simultaneously totally at ease in our bodies and minds, and unencumbered by whatever happens to be arising.

Believe me, no small feat!

What I’ve witnessed over and over again in myself, clients, and friends is this sort of overwhelming hyper-vigilance that often descends once we’ve committed to a more mindful way of being. It’s as if we imagine that being conscious, more alert humans also translates as being edgier and tenser than the average bear.

Yet, in my psychic preparation for labor and beyond, I am continually reminding myself to find relaxation in the middle of heightened presence, while I sit, do yoga, and frankly do anything. It may seem sort of off the cuff and obvious now, but when the pain of labor begins, wow will this be the most poignant of tools!

Today, I entreat you, even if things are flowing beautifully, practice relaxing yourself from head to toe in the midst of your intense on-the-ball focus, and consciously melt deeper into gentle ease with each breath.

This sort of softening and receptivity will not in any way dampen your smooth-rolling acuity in the grandest of times, nor will it somehow eclipse your efficiency when things get rougher and tougher. In fact, quiet surrender is essential to the awakened state.

Go out there and see for yourself. Your job description is clear and simple: Inhale in steady relaxed attention, exhale in breezy mindfulness. Now do it, heck, live it again and again and again. Wake up and relax. Stay alert and be chill.

Need I say more?

This is my quintessential labor project. I am now less than five weeks from my due date and only a couple weeks from official maternity leave, so let’s all practice this softened awareness together while we have the chance.

I am so here, so ready, so open. Are you?

In sweet and relaxed attention,

Maggie

Navigating Change

Change is in the air. Not only is the weather subtly shifting with the turn of the season soon upon us, but deeply, on an inside basis, change is just, well everywhere.

That I am going to give birth to my third child in less than 6 weeks is of course a biggie in this department. Life as me, my husband, and our two kids know it will be blown to smithereens for a while. My body will too, of course, change in kind from that of soon-to be-hatching hen to major milking mama.

The other major change on the horizon is that I am, as of October 8, taking a 3-month hiatus from my writing obligations, private clients, and all else that swims in my working-world wake. This is BIG for me. This is SCARY. Yet it is also totally necessary and profoundly exciting at once. More on my leave in the coming weeks, but for now suffice it to say that yes, change is all over the place, and when I try to fight or ignore it, nothing ever feels right. I am humbly shown over and over again that I just can’t escape it.

You know what? None of us can. Even if it feels like your life is crawling along, forever the same, with very little stuff on the outside to show for any flashy-type metamorphosis, you are always quite beautifully, and often alarmingly, in flux. Trust in this.

Seriously, how do you deal with and feel about change? There are those change junkies out there who can’t stop seeking the newest, most thrilling, most different thing around the bend. Then there are their opposites. Where do you fall along this spectrum?

It is highly important to know yourself in this regard, to feel out and notice how you behave in the face of subtle (or radical) change. It has everything to do with your sense of wellness and of security in being able to ride out any storm or curve ball of interest that life offers.

I remember a lyric from the old film Love in the Afternoon, where in the beginning along with shots of lovers kissing all over Paris, the line goes, “…Even the birds and the bees do it.” Here the reference is to falling in love. But let’s extend it to change. Every single one of us does it, right? So why balk? Why quake? Why fight? I am actually relieved to be reminded that all of you out there are changing too.

Hence, here is my plain and simple mantra of the moment, FLOW WITH IT. I think I’ll be blowing this up and putting it all over my house in the coming weeks. Best message a woman in my condition can get, and probably not so shabby for you either…

In sweet change,

Maggie

Wholeness

What does it mean to be whole, complete, and fulfilled in our lives? Is wholeness a pipe dream or actually possible?

We all have our weaknesses. We all have one or a few very real issues that we allow to handicap us in one way or another. It has taken tons of practice for me to even begin to entertain that despite my setbacks, despite my hot spots, I am still (or even more) whole than I ever could have imagined.

Seriously, when you think about it, it is precisely our quirks, our vulnerabilities, our imperfections that not only distinguish but also adorn who we wholly are. They may feel tired, heavy, or ugly even. Yet still, they add to the depth of our unique worlds.

Not convinced? I know! This is a tough one to swallow.

I have struggled for the past 6 years with having annoying and troublesome food sensitivities and an equally reactive belly and skin. My sensitivities have not only made me cry, but they have also made me feel deeply ashamed, and victimized at times.

Recently however, the more I’ve courageously faced the reality of my allergic tendencies and embraced that they are part and parcel of ALL of me, the more I have been able to lighten up. I have indeed begun to see differently the “compromised” thing and have turned my way of thinking on its head. I am a lot freer for it.

What’s your weakness, the self-diagnosis that you’ve turned into a handicap? What would it take for you to see it as an attribute instead?

I remember Robin Williams as the therapist in Good Will Hunting describing to Matt Damon’s character how it was the imperfections of his deceased wife that were the juiciest, the most lovable, and intimately sweet parts that he missed. I love this.

What I am proposing is that you consider giving you and your “flaw” this same kind of adoration, this same kind of open acceptance, and not after it’s too late, or when you’ve been handed something much bigger to grapple with.

Today is as good a day as any to begin to honor the whole of you, in your blazing, faulty, and gorgeous entirety. Try it, let me know, and remember your wholeness is already right here, already established. It’s really just a matter of giving yourself the go-ahead to appreciate it, and ALL of you.

In sweet wholeness,

Maggie

The Quiet Inside

There’s nothing quite like getting sick, and being forced to rest with a capital R, to remind us of the power of quiet. I am coming off 10 days of this exactly, sparked by—thanks to my two sick kids—an intensely sore throat, massive congestion, and a full-fledged bout of laryngitis.

But, and believe me when I tell you how much I loathe being sick, this taking to my bed has been a blessing. Besides seizing every possible opportunity to nap, I’ve also spent a great deal of time staring out the window at the trees in the park outside, experiencing the whimsy of each singular breath, and steeping myself in hour upon hour of lovely quiet.

When we pay attention, the magic of imposed quiet is that what is happening in the external world begins to deeply impact and shape our willingness and ability to tune into the infinite silence of our internal worlds. In other words, getting quiet on the outside enables us to experience the meaty depths of the quiet inside.

This might sound weird or even threatening, and this is so totally understandable given the fast-paced high-volume tempo of our modern lives. At first stepping inside quiet might indeed prove uncomfortable, with our wild minds scampering for anything to drown out the loom and mystery of what lies beneath the surface.

Yet, once we open to the possibility of living sans iPhone, sans video, sans chatter and barrage, if even for 5 minutes, the peace and sense of knowing that arises is incomparable.

Shall we try it now?

  1. Stop whatever it is you are doing. Unplug, turn off, and disconnect all the noisemakers in your immediate distracting world. Now close your eyes.
  2. Take a moment to connect with your breath. Notice it. Whether shallow or slow, simply accept it and allow your observation to draw you into the present moment.
  3. Appreciate this sensation of now, and let your ears accustom to the quiet you have created on the outside. Experience this outer silence.
  4. Let the quiet on the outside enable you to sink deeper into your essential self. Appreciate the quiet and serenity here, within you. Stay for as long as you like.
  5. When you are ready, bring your awareness back to your breath and the subtleties of the room around you. Open your eyes and absorb what’s just happened.

Well? How was it? There’s not much more to say, other than that I am a huge fan of practicing quiet. You’ll be amazed by the questions answered, the malaises put to rest, and the fears that are tamed in this enveloping space.

More than anything, add this simple quieting exercise to your daily toolkit. Awakening to the wonder of silence in you is like hitting the jackpot, and I promise you, a whole lot more valuable.

In sweet quiet,

ML

Letting Go of Ego

My ego is feeling rather bruised at the moment. In other words, the part of me that is proud and prone to endless rounds of self-inflation and deflation is feeling a little beaten up. Let’s just say I’ve convinced myself I’m not as beautiful as I would like to look today, scratch that, this week. But hey, despite this surface egocentricity, I am far more committed to vibrancy and health of the heart, than to that of  the overly important head. Besides, this is nothing compared to what I’ve been through with the tyranny of ego before.

My most extreme experiences of ego to date were in the various pockets of anorexia that peppered my late teens and early 20′s, and in the one episode that even crept in at 30. In these intensely obsessive times, my egoistic head has swelled with the sense of triumph at the thinness of my body, the ability to rock any piece of clothing, and the convoluted sense of power that comes with it. The realities however of anorectic episodes, filled with deprivation, self-obsession, and constant anxiety, are the farthest thing from powerful or deep.

Fortunately for my truer self, and unfortunately for ego, I also started practicing meditation in my late teens and sit everyday. I’ve come to understand that, when not super aware, we experience the reign of ego most all the time, and hence most all our thoughts and beliefs are fueled by it. Reminding myself of this, like right now, reveals the aim of sneaky ego, to simply keep on perpetuating its little (or big) self.

The good news is that we can legitimately work toward letting go of ego. Just as Rodney Yee, yoga teacher extraordinaire, has likened yoga practice to a steady chipping away, so too, is the exposition and subtle dethroning of  ego. The anatomy of ego in fact, when you really shine the light on it, just sort of scampers away, like a startled cockroach into a crack. Ego is indeed afraid of the light, or rather truth, and I love how Cheri Huber puts it, the truth in “the realization that there is nothing separate-from All That Is, from God, from Essence.”

Can you, if only for this split second, bask in the freedom of this realization, that there is no separation between you and me and the wonder of it all? Can you be lifted by that sense of unity—minus ego’s pseudo-largesse, judgment, strain, and delusional groping—as if we were all connected across the landscape of the sky, like a wonderfully clear and crystalline rainbow?

I can, at least in this instant, and all I can say is: What peace.

In sweetness,

ML

The Cultivation of Deep Love

I take tremendous pride in myself as a parent. Being a mother has indeed been the greatest, most healing gift in my life.  I also take it rather seriously, given I had a really rough start as a child.

Though my parents are still alive, I don’t think of them as parents at all, and learned basically from infancy what not to do. Because of this, I am profoundly committed to giving my kids the safety, stability, and undying love that I never had.

Add to this my early steps onto the paths of Buddhism and yoga, and my life seems more and more spread into a fan of practices, parenting no less spiritual than the other more formal designations.

For now however, let’s stick to the practice of parenting. Let’s really consider it. In my mind, parenting has two legs, one is how we relate to and support our children, and the other oft-neglected leg is how we relate to and support our inner child.

As if the outside parenting leg weren’t exquisitely hard, wow is the self-parenting leg a struggle! This tender, subtle, fragile, and intimate relationship with the child inside—often the piece of us that has been ignored or traumatized—so needs our attention.

Sometimes I see mine, this frightened little girl, nested inside my body, hovering in my left shoulder or down in my abdomen. I visualize bringing her to life in the middle of a garden or wrapping her in my arms, and letting her cry the way my blessed grandmother used to when I would sob into her chest.

How do you relate to your inner kiddo? Or rather, do you relate to yours at all? If nothing else, might I cajole you into looking into this crucial relationship?

And how appropriate that I am sitting here writing on the daybed, where I was in labor for 40 hours in 2009, and where my almost two-year-old Stella just came to me bleary-eyed and rosy-cheeked out of her nap and into my warm arms, needing that love, that solid, steady reminder of deep love. This is exactly what the inner parenting is about too, and come to think of it, what the formal spiritual practices all seem to point to as well: the cultivation of deep love.

Join me if you will in dedicating your parenting and all other practices to this same quality of affection, this outpouring of radiant love. Our hearts certainly have the capacity for it. If only our wild, critical minds would get out of the way! Or rather, if only we got out of theirs…

In sweetness,

ML

Inhabiting Our Bodies

For many of us, trying to inhabit our bodies is like rummaging in the dusty dark with a single sub-par flashlight. We get so hooked on our outsides, and spend so much time trying to look perfect, that we cede the actual experiencing of our bodies as they are. Of course, we all feel extreme physical stuff when it is happening, the intense workouts, the painful and ailing episodes, as well as the highly pleasurable moments when we are drawn into intoxicating sensation. Yet, I’m talking about a softer more sensitive awareness and taking up of residence in our physicality.

Can you imagine being in such close correspondence with your body? Can you imagine truly feeling such phenomenal structure?

Fresh into January, given how predictably most of us have already resolved to make our shapes better, leaner, and sexier, mightn’t we amend the body-improvement pledge a little? Mightn’t we make it more profound by folding inhabitation and experience of it into the description?

Here are the main hints I’m giving you (and me), meant to promote legitimate body experiencing, not some conjured, brain-centric idea, but all-out, full-on, real-flesh feeling:

*Every day, move your body. This isn’t limited to intense sweaty physical exercise people—though of course this is great for most of us. I mean anything from walking meditation and really showing up for each step, to lovely, slow and deliberate stretching, where you scan and pause at your legs, spine, shoulders, and so on.

*Every day, give your body at least one thing that makes it/you hum with deep satisfaction, from a nutritive green juice to the most fortifying smoothie, or delicious colorful salad, or handful of clean raw nuts, the list goes on and on.

*Every day, at least once, consciously drop out of your heavy brain, and sink into the melodious swirling vitality of what’s happening below it. Inhabit what your body feels like right then and there, slumped in that chair, stiff on those legs, distracted in that car, curled up watching that flick. Don’t fix. Just be conscious.

*Every day, break at least once from the usual criticism and measurement. Quietly say thanks to your wonderful body instead, then go on knocking yourself out with assessment if you must. At least start the trend of feeling body grateful, and it will hopefully morph from a trickle to a stream, where the obsessive sizing up is ultimately the thing that’s knocked out, not your blessed body.

I am so totally on this journey with you. I’ve actually dedicated 2012 to forging a more profound relationship with my body. The big resolution, instead of toning up my thighs and butt—which in all honesty I’ll be doing mild bits of—is to more subtly develop a mindful body dialogue.

Inhabiting our bodies is indeed a thoroughly in-the-present job. These sacred vessels are what make all the talk about meditation, mindfulness, and awakening come to life. Best to start now, one experience of the foot, the hand, the neck, the chest, the belly, the ankle, the knee, or the hip at a time. Happy New Year.

In sweet body,

ML

The Habit of Non-Acceptance

Let’s just say I’m in a place of in-between. I am, after 36 years, coming to terms with my body. I’ve gained weight to get my hormones up and running, my skin is dry, broken out, and super sensitive, as is my belly. This story is not new. I’ve been here before, and it is hard, really hard. But I am accepting me more too. I’ll tell you why: Because my sad indefatigable habit of non-acceptance is getting exceedingly boring.

Is non-acceptance your habit too? Is it one that you are genuinely looking to dissolve?

The habit of non-acceptance is why the self-help movement exists, to guide us into self-acceptance. Don’t you think? I mean, if we were all deeply OK with ourselves, with our insides (neuroses, anxieties, obsessions, anyone?), and with our outsides (flab, wrinkles, pimples and all), there would be no constant striving and no endless prescribing to fix our self-negation problem, right?

What I am writing about specifically is how to work with this habit. What I am tackling is how to negotiate this old and insidious, ugly but awfully familiar, it-feels-good-because-it-hurts type habit. I hope this resonates with you.

As we develop, we get caught in the habit of non-acceptance so thoroughly that we check out more and more from the actual feeling of it. We feel lousy about having such ingrained thoughts and beliefs of the I-am-a-piece-of-junk variety. We don’t have a way to cope when we’re young, and instead of looking into the snowballing habit, we just sort of skirt it; and keep on feeling badly.

I propose instead of skirting, which also becomes routine, that we pay attention to our habits of mind instead. I propose we really focus on what we’ve come to tell ourselves about ourselves, not as means to feed the fire, but to say hey if this is routine and a deep one, I better make friends with it. Suppose we invited our habit to sit and have a juice or a chat with us, so we could actually look at each other, and be friends—radical acceptance, as Tara Brach likes to say, yes, but also quite practical.

Only once we are present to the habit, only once we see it and the flaw of the message inside of it, does self-acceptance grow. We think of just tossing non-acceptance away, of course we do. Yet, rather than tossing it, let’s commit to re-shaping it.

I’ll give you an example: Last week I had a facial. It was moving, it was big, it was everything. And you know why? Because even though my skin was freaking out and reactive, the lovely J just looked at it. She gently and openly observed my skin doing its wild thing. She looked carefully and without bias, all friendship, and then she decided how to work towards helping it along, how to work towards supporting and promoting its transformation. This is what I’m talking about with non-acceptance too. Outright transformation!

Our non-acceptance habit, when met with grace and geniality morphs into self-acceptance, or more pointedly, into the love of self as it is. If nothing else, hear me on this: We are all adequate and abundant right now—you with all your stuff, me with all my stuff. Even our habits can be received, just as they are. Instead of dumping them, befriend them. This is accepting, for real, when we accept our non-acceptance. This is where things get interesting.

In sweetness and acceptance,

ML

 

Pick Peace Instead

© Jeffrey Coolidge/Photodisc/Getty Images

We all ultimately root for peace. The trouble is, we are taught to believe that battles need to be fought and won to arrive there. But what if our steps towards peace were instead steps of studying and dismantling those battles? To do this, it is best to start with the most intimate ones we know and the ones we least want to address, the burning and entangled battles within us.

What are yours? Conversely, how are you stepping toward inner peace?

My most significant battle over the years has been with my body. Because of my history with allergies, eating disorder, acne, parasitic infection, and all the repercussions from the infection, it has at times been impossible not to think of my body as having turned against me. It has indeed been stranglingly hard not to see my body as an enemy. As a result, a huge part of my work on my meditation cushion, my yoga mat, in my journal, and my therapist’s office, has been in uncovering peace, or a profound sense of ease and friendship within this physical body.

Here’s my path to inner peace and one that I hope resonates with you:

1. Commit to truly awakening peace and to no longer being in combat with yourself.

2. Create a safe space where you can bear witness to your struggles every day.

3. Be still with the peace that arises from your bravery and your willingness to look.

4. Carry this peace out into your daily life, where it is so easy to get tripped up.

5. Spread peace beyond your relationship with you, into your relationship with others.

6. Live from and for peace in the world, and continually go back to step 1.

Pema Chodron says, “If we want to make peace, with ourselves and with the world at large, we have to look closely at the source of all of our wars.” Hopefully the steps above will encourage you not only to look closely at your wars, but also to recognize them as opportunities ripe in unearthing the sweet shadowed peace inside. We just have to be willing to not fight the fight and to not pick our battles. We just have to be willing to pick peace instead.

In sweetness and peace,

ML