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

Losing Control, On Purpose!

Control, or lack thereof, is one of the greatest sources of suffering around.

For someone like me, whom I affectionately call a control freak in recovery, and with a chaotic walking-on-eggshells childhood, it is obvious why I became (in my teens) so obsessed with having maniacal control over all aspects of my environment. At age 16, the most obvious place to start was with my body.

If you haven’t read or heard by now, I became a major anorexic at this time. This brutally domineering mindset lasted on and off in bouts well into my twenties. I’d be lying to say its creepy little ways didn’t present in more feeble moments (and when I got severely ill) in my early thirties.

Anorexia is, of course, all about control and it has, in various moments, thoroughly taken over my life by leeching out into arenas far beyond what went into my mouth. There have literally been times when I couldn’t stomach any kind of mess. If something didn’t fit into my intense vision of perfection, it got tossed, and fast.

Well, guess what? Life is inherently messy; and so my struggle to clamp down, rein in, dominate, and dictate has bred incredible suffering over the years. It has also, luckily, given me rich material to work with in my spiritual practices.

With many hours of meditation, yoga, breathing, studying, reading, and healing under my belt, I understand ever more deeply our need for control as sheer human folly, one that manifests in a variety of ways depending on our individual wiring.

How, do tell, does grasping for control appear in and occupy your life?

More than getting into the nuances of control itself, I am much more interested in encouraging you to commit to giving it up, on purpose. Yes, what I’m talking about is seeing, just seeing, what happens when you loosen your grip, throw your hands up into the air, and allow for things, for life, for everything to just happen and flow as it does, without stepping in. In other words, SURRENDER.

What’s amazing is that when we consciously release our misery inducing, controlling ways, we feel better! By this I mean, freer, more at ease, relaxed, and reassured in a manner that can only come from profoundly letting go. It’s like sending a message directly to the universe that announces that we are finally ready to trust in its infinite divinity, and in grace. How cool is that?

Willing to give it a shot? Let me know how it goes! I’ll be here waiting, letting life beautifully and organically arise, just as it is.

In sweet surrender,

Maggie

Privacy and Publicity

Ever since my teens, and because I had such a rough and turbulent childhood, I have found great solace in the act of looking inward as both a healing mechanism from early suffering and as opportunity to develop and celebrate a rich inner life, free from baggage and my seriously messed up history.

Fast forward 20 years and I have grown more and more rooted in this sense of the private and interior—meditating and yoga-practicing—me. What I have also experienced recently is how often divergent my private, peaceful, wise, and profoundly accepting self is from the more overwhelmed and erratic, frequently anxious and in a flutter person I tend to be in public. Can anyone else relate?

Fresh off the coattails of a heavenly and seriously illuminating retreat, I have been staring a lot at the incredibly strong divide between my deeply private self and my more overwhelmed public one. And, I have to say: this divide really bothers me!

In a time when social media expectation and cultural trending require more and more disclosure, more and more revealing, I think there’s been major backlash, and not in the form of others having too much information, but rather in that the representations we end up putting out there match less and less with the essential nature of who we are internally.

Now that I am back in the throes of New York City and more hip to how I protect my retreating self from the glare of the public eye, my question to you is this: Where are you happiest? When you are your most private, intimate, and peeled back, OR when you are intentionally not?

Next question: Do you think it possible to live as your deeper private self more of the time, by letting the light of who you are shine through and dropping the armor and disguise? I certainly do.

The best place to start is in getting to know the traits of both your private intimate self, and the buffering traits of your public persona—I’ve even diagrammed my two selves. Once you’ve really studied your inner and outer apparitions, then the practice of the slow integration of the “real” you into all that you do can begin. Make sense?

To me, this merging of private and public is key to soothing our suffering. Similar to “what you see is what you get,” I love “who you see is who I am.” No B.S. No act. No veil. Just the pure beautiful emanations of who we essentially are.

I’m in. Are you?

In sweetness,

Maggie

The Boon of Retreat

Every April, I go on private retreat. It has become something of a ritual and something by which my internal clock is deeply, critically regulated. The feeling that begins to creep up right about now is that I’ve spent the entire year, from one April to the next, intensely committed to navigating and celebrating life on the outside, and am ready, I mean really ready, to blessedly turn up yet again on the other coast, my childhood coast, for 7 blissful days where my job will be to simply turn inwards and in essence return to myself.

I spend most of my time on a meditation cushion, though this is certainly not what everyone else does. I also laugh and share with dear friends, seriously commune with nature, harvest organic vegetables for my delicious meals, get some strong massage, journal, and do loads of restorative yoga. Still, it’s not so much about the activities we do, but about the quality of what happens when we give ourselves over so fully to self-care, which in my case happens to translate as a whole lot of introspection.

Luckily for all, there are myriads of retreats from which to choose, spanning from silent and serious ones, to nature or yoga or cooking or creativity-oriented ones. The main thing about retreat, versus a splashy or culturally steeped vacation, is that the culture being investigated is not some fabulous city or ecosystem, but rather YOU.

The boon of retreat comes from embarking on one that is aligned with what makes you tick and that is equally capable of setting the stage for you to receive what you profoundly need. Sometimes you won’t know if this is the case until you’ve actually come back to the “real” world, and experienced the shifts in you.

Some solid questions to ask yourself after the fact might be:

  1. Do I feel rested, refreshed, and rejuvenated?
  2. Do I have more energy to face and steadily handle whatever life throws my way?
  3. Am I clearer about who I am, what I am doing, and how I might contribute?
  4. Are there changes I now know I need to make in my life?
  5. Am I ready to make those changes?

These are the ones that immediately come to mind, though there are many others that will surely arise for you.

I am of course writing this on the eve of my journey—not yet there, but close—and tune up here I come! Doesn’t it make perfect sense for us all to dive into this kind of regular maintenance? I obviously think so. What about you?

For now, let’s just say, I’m falling off the grid.

Next post coming in May, folks!

In sweetness and peace,

ML

The Rite of Spring Cleaning

The magic of the new season, daffodils, cherry branches, and all, has definitely hit. I am again marveling at how like clockwork it is for us all to go into major makeover mode this time of year!

It’s like there is something so beautifully rich and rooted in the nature of spring, that all us earthbound creatures impulsively want to shed clothes, toss clutter, empty closets, detox our bodies, and dust the cobwebs off our seemingly unpolished lives.

This go-round, though I am still intensely supportive and all in favor of clearing away debris, I am also thinking differently about the rite of spring cleaning. I am thinking beyond it, or rather, emphasizing the accomplice to what it is really all about.

In other words, I am profoundly considering what this innate desire to free ourselves from dirt—both inside and out—is essentially for. In my mind, it is to welcome abundance, transformation, inspiration, and thrill into our lives. Sounds simple and obvious, yes, but can be awfully hard to remember, don’t you think?

We get so bogged down by the work of diligently casting off our garbage, that we lose sight of the jewels in the proverbial rough that are always right here, pulsing and gleaming, and ready to be revealed.

These jewels are essentially our very own vibrant and already whole selves.

Just as poet e.e. cummings in his beloved ‘in Just-spring’ reminds us of the play and delight so reflexive of the season, I am also here to remind and cheer you in celebrating while you work the freshness and wonder of the more and more beautifully peeled back YOU.

From my truest and deepest heart, here’s to Spring Cleaning!

In sweetness,

ML

Living and Loving Your Life!

How often do you feel exuberant and intensely loving of your life? Is this way of being the norm or is it a sensation you merely touch upon in particularly happy moments?

I am a huge supporter of, and have in fact devoted my life’s work to inspiring others and myself to love being alive, and to be equally grateful for these specific lives each of us has so graciously been given.

This personally hasn’t come easy, and ironically has arisen from feeling for the bulk of my 36 years decidedly less than in the life-I’ve-been-given department. Yet, quite miraculously, and since a profoundly catalytic spiritual experience at age 33 while on holiday in Cabo San Lucas, I have pledged whole-heartedly to LIVE.

What I mean here is not just to exist by keeping my head above water, but to fully embrace and seriously love all the experiences—up, down, and upside down—of being alive. Or, as Zen great Suzuki Roshi puts it much more succinctly, “The only way is to enjoy your life.”

Believe me, it hasn’t all been a cakewalk. Still, my internal acceptance of and awe at what has and continues to happen as I step authentically along my path has made it pretty wonder-full.

How so? I was urged in my Cabo experience to deepen my understanding of what it means to be alive. Since then, I have prioritized fostering an ever-evolving rich interior life, namely through meditation, affirmation, and visualization practices, and too, very quiet yoga. Secondly, and almost more convincingly, I have worked hard at cultivating a more intuitive, fulfilling connection to the things in the outside world that bring me joy, and too, have changed and sometimes even muted my relationship to the things that create undo stress.

Now I won’t pretend to sit here and know exactly how you should go about seizing the day and loving your sparkling precious life. Only you know what thrills and depresses you, and so much of this comes from tapping the seriously wise voice inside.

I do however hope that my words spark you enough to open up and allow for that spirited inner light to beam and guide you into discovering and manifesting your own unique and celebratory way of being.

Here’s to LIVING and LOVING your life!

In sweetness,

ML

4 Steps to Connecting with Spirit

Sometimes in this great wide world, it is hard to keep alive in our minds our connection to spirit. So mired are we in the chaos, the demands, and desires that lay claim to the bulk of our fixative thoughts, that our divinity, yes, our own true sacredness, appears lost.

Let me be one more supportive soul to tell you (and me) that no matter how far away or blunted our lives feel from the emanation and presence of a deeper consciousness and energy, spirit is always at work and play within us. What is blunted is not at all its holy presence, but our trust that it is still or ever there, especially when things feel icky, horrible, stressful beyond imagination, or just so busy we can’t get a breath in edgewise.

This has never felt more extreme than when I was intensely sick in 2007 and 2008. It seems strange now to be writing this, but day after day for those entire two years I felt such a blanket of burden from what my body was going through, and such a profound soul loneliness, that my will to live was basically gone. What’s also uncanny about my illness was that I inaccurately thought that I was being punished, that there must be no divinity at all, when in fact, spirit was doing everything it could, using all its glorious power to get me to actually wake up, pay attention, and to finally heal and transform my life.

Guess what? I eventually, blessedly did.

One great exercise to practice cultivating your connection to spirit can happen before you get out bed in the mornings. This is actually a prime time to connect with your divinity, when you are still not yet fully consumed by the small, limiting, ego-driven mind that embroils us in suffering so much of the time.

1. Stay horizontal, and with your eyes closed, experience yourself breathing in bed. Feel the calming and elemental nature of the rise and fall of your breath. Either out loud or within yourself, send out a soft hello. Literally send out a greeting to the essence of spirit in and around you.

2. Acknowledge—and this has nothing to do with whether you are single or not—that you are not (and in fact) never alone. Appreciate that you can always live supported by, and if you allow yourself to be, guided by the presence of spirit in everything you do.

3. Reinforce your commitment to living as fulfilled and as authentically as you can, without trying to control the journey. In understanding that it is often best to give up the reins, and in putting your trust in something bigger than you, the space is cleared for a much stronger, more outright emergence of spirit.

4. Thank yourself and the spirit within you for the precious time you have initiated at the start of your day. Open your eyes and begin to really wake up, more conscious, more secure, more at ease than is typically the case. Repeat the next morning.

I know there are some mornings where it feels close to impossible to give yourself an extra split second, between alarms going off, kids needing attending to, better yet, sick kids needing attention, and all the strains of what might have happened the night before adding to your urgency about what hasn’t yet gotten done.

But try, just try to give yourself this sweet little sliver a few times a week, and then, perhaps this pattern will stick. Perhaps it will become the norm, where this quiet, simple connection to the divine marks the beginning of a long, deep, slow, and beautifully unfolding interior relationship.

In sweetness and spirit,

ML

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

Making Room for Spiritual Practice

What is spiritual practice? Furthermore, do you have one?

Simply put, I define spiritual practice as something you do every single day that draws you deeper into who you really are, by connecting you with your divine self.

Please don’t be put off by the word spiritual here! Spiritual doesn’t have to entail–though it often does–meditation cushions, prayer beads, chant books, yoga mats, or any other such paraphernalia. A spiritual practice might be baking, gardening, running, knitting, playing piano, painting, hiking, meditating, golfing, doing yoga, tai chi, or calligraphy. It is not so much about the form but about the profound and connective quality of the time spent within it.

The practice part means just that: you do it daily, over and over, not in a gross way, but rather in a this-is-what-makes-me-who-I-am way. Without the aim of ever stopping with it, you practice as contribution to your ever-unfolding life on this earth. It can feel beautiful and compelling, harrowing and agonizing, annoying, vexing, boring as hell, or as ordinary and routine as brushing your teeth. Above all it is your rock, the ultimate placating pillar, steady and reliable as they come.

There have been times when, driven by such desperation, my yoga, pranayama, meditation, and journaling practices served as literal life preservers, day by grueling day. In these pockets, practice translates directly as necessity. In the coasting phases of our lives however, or during the highly celebratory ones, spiritual practice feels as joyous as the spread of a bright authentic smile, or as easy to fall into as a hammock under the stars, in the perfect climate, and between the two most exquisite trees.

This is all great you say, but how do I actually do it? First you have to admit that practice is essential, and something you must do. Next, you must designate, carve out, and stick to the time for it, often letting go of something else in order to keep it alive. Many people find it easiest to maintain practice first thing in the morning. But what does that mean you give up? Sleep? Or is it the extra hour on the computer before bed the night before so that you don’t lose the time in bed? There are choices here. It is up to you.

In short, and for you to take as inspiration or affirmation, here are my top ten benefits of spiritual practice:

  1. It provides clarity in the midst of our overflowing and demanding days.
  2. It cultivates the attention required to complete our tasks.
  3. It lifts our mood.
  4. It creates a sense of steadiness and grounding in change.
  5. It keeps us afloat and even-keeled in even the most riotous emotional storms.
  6. It helps us see our lives on a macro level.
  7. It helps us understand our lives on a micro level.
  8. It draws us into the simplicity of the moment.
  9. It touches us so deeply that without it we would feel lost or downright not right.
  10. It connects us to and reveals true spirit.

Ultimately, we must summon the courage to make room for spiritual practice, and the experiment that it is, as instigator at any given time of peace, elation, chill out, aha, tears, or evocative reflection. We must be willing to face whatever arises within this uncanny vehicle and to touch the sacred in ourselves every precious day.

How do you feel about that?

In sweet practice,

ML

 

 

Ode To Our Inspirations

How does it feel to be deeply inspired? Who in your life arouses these feelings in you?

Inspiration is a whacky singular thing. No two people could ever possibly be inspired by all the same greats, though there are of course mass overlaps when it comes to the luminescent icons of our time, the visionaries who inspire the world. Still, some inspirations are so close and profoundly intimate that nobody else might ever imagine their incredible power to open the heart of another or bring about exaltedness.

Just as an electrician said to me years ago in San Francisco: “There’s no right or wrong to your feelings,” there’s equally no right or wrong to who inspires you. They might be remarkably solid people, or huge walking hearts, or amazing talents, or wise teachers. There is no hard and fast rule. Anyone can inspire. What’s important is that you are more awed and awake when in their midst. What’s important is that these inspirations not only deeply touch you, but that they move you to emanate your own subtle or stand out magnificence.

Dorothy Whipple, one of my favorite British writers, wrote in her novel Greenbanks, “‘Mmmm,’ said Charles. ‘The French have an expression “Bon comme le pain.” When I heard it, I thought of you. You’re good, like bread; you’re essential, you know, Mother. The world couldn’t get on without people like you.’” This was a son speaking to his mother. Don’t his words capture to a tee the feelings that our own inspirations elicit?

It is so vital to take the time once in a while to give shout outs to these lights, these beacons that have palpably made our lives and often many other lives around them better. Why not make a list, then some calls. Or why not send out emails and tweets to your personal inspirations? Let them know just how pivotal they are to you, and that the world just wouldn’t be the same without them. Now’s as a good a time as any.

My grandmother Sylvia, though she’s been gone for 9 years, is my essential inspiration, the “good like bread” beam of glorious hope that will always see me through. I know she feels how safely nested she is in my heart, and that she will forever float along beside me, in all my endeavors, triumphant or failed, because she of all people has taught me about love; and love is after all the marrow of life.

Sylvia, brightest light of them all, this one’s for you.

In sweet inspiration,

ML