Tag Archives: fears

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 30! #heart #love #risk #joy #grace


Welcome to it. Day 30 of 30! The final day. I have enjoyed this series a great deal and I’m a little sad to be packing things up, but it’s time. Really. I definitely got out of my rut. I didn’t see my family much nor get much memoir stuff going but … this final quote below is really such a boom!

To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

It’s like sailing. It’s like dancing. It’s like trust: you lean in, you let it take you somewhere, you give up all your fears, for just that gust of wind, for just that song or just that singular moment and it’s as if you could fly.

This quote excites me. It reminds me of those moments when my boys were little and they would run at me with their arms wide open and I’d hunker down in a squat, open my arms wide too and put my weight on the fronts of my feet and they’d come in for a landing and we’d huuuuuuuuug and huuuuuuuuuug so tight! I would press my face to smell their heads and squeeze them tighter.

I don’t know if it was their energy, the wind, the sun, their fearless love that made me fly or my unbridled love for them and the feeling of “everything is SO all right” in that, in those fantastic moments, but whatever it was: I wanted more of it.

This is a level of euphoria that I don’t think people could subsist on constantly because we need to get stuff done, but to me, it is those moments that help me keep going when I get distracted by the transition of not being grateful or feeling the feelings. Showing up, being real, letting it all out and saying, “Here is my emotional spleen!” (that’s the ’emotional pain’ Brown is talking about) and not sweating the repercussions nor worrying about the “oversharing hangover.”

Who knows what will become of our goals and our dreams if we give it all we got and we keep on giving? Most likely success! But we know what will happen if we do nothing: nothing.

It’s in those moments when we share with those we trust and love that we feel safest. When even though we might feel a hint of doubt, as if to wince upon the final syllable or after sharing, we are living. It’s as though we are standing at the precipice of hope, letting the uplift of air, cool and exhilarating or warm and enveloping, as though it were buffeted by the rocks below, that we are in our moments of truth.

“Take me as I am, world! This is all you get!” We shout from the edge, alive with defiance and dreams.

And then we can exhale!

Open one eye, look around.

For we have done it!

Open the other eye!

We have lived. We have risked backlash and we are still standing. We might be alone, but we are no longer afraid.

And that is living.

Welcome to your life. This ain’t no dress rehearsal; this is real. This is it. People are born and people die every day. If you’re struggling with something, lean into it. Grab it by the short hairs and get in the dirt with it. That’s where you will find yourself.

Thank you for joining me on this little Brené Brown journey.

This completes our program. Think about what 2013 has done for you and think about what 2014 can do for you.

Make a vision board, be audacious! Plan one with your kids or your spouse. Make your goals real. I bet you’ve gotten more done in 2013 than you think you did.

Thank you.

Ps. A little reminder of how life is so fleeting:


30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 10: #darkness #fear #joy #light


Let’s do this. Welcome to Day 10 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.” Today’s quote is more Jungian to me than any.

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Such language! ‘Destroy’ — that’s a little dramatic, isn’t it? This is what bugs me with some styles of writing though: let’s go all freakin’ Charlton Heston on darkness. Let’s stick to the negative! Let’s go all BLAMMO and WHACK! on its ass and avoid stating the positive message up front.

boooohaaaahaaaahaaaaaa… take that! LIGHT!

boooohaaaahaaaahaaaaaa… take that, LIGHT!

What’s a positive spin here? “Darkness defines light.” What’s the other part of this quote that would work with less Faye Dunaway, Heston-esque writing? That fear(-ing) (darkness) kicks joy to the curb: fear kills joy. Another negative spin that confuses the whole shootin’ match. 

Who gives a crap about the darkness in this quote? I don’t mean to avoid it altogether, but its inclusion has sort of muddied the waters here. Made it all darker… (bad pun intended).  

Ok. So we’ve got this: darkness defines light and fear kills joy.

See you tomorrow. 

I figure that anyone who’s following this series is already on the self-awareness bus. That you already know that when you’re unconscious you act out, you interrupt, you behave brashly, you speak constantly of yourself. All of these behaviors, and we all do it so be cool with yourself, are based in fear.

Fear of what? Fear of being:

  • irrelevant,
  • forgotten,
  • left behind,
  • unseen,
  • discounted.

We are so desperate to be included (although we may not admit it) that we act these ways.

My middle son has a tremendous fear of the dark. He can be impulsive. It has gotten better, but he still doesn’t care for it. My father said that my mother had a huge fear of the dark, even as a woman. She was impulsive. I know that my son has no reason to fear the dark, nothing has happened to him to engender such a fear. I can not say with any confidence that was the case for my mother.

I remember when she would babysit my kids which became less frequent as she aged, that when we came home, I’d go check in on them as I always do, still, and their rooms would be like infernos: warm and super bright. Most likely the boys were fast asleep, but it vexed me.

I’d always feel defeated by that. I can’t tell you why, but it was just one of those things that felt judgey to me. As though my insistence that I leave the lights out was somehow wrong. Yup, I personalized it.

True story: after she died, the night of her funeral in fact, we all went to sleep in various rooms at my cousin’s home in Buffalo. My youngest slept in an ad hoc playroom, which was an off-shoot from the room where my husband and I slept. The door separating the rooms had a large window in its upper half. My third son loves the dark, he is the most courageous — not daring, just gutsy — of the three boys. The lights in that room are formerly gas sconces converted into electric. They have those little beaded brass chains you’d pull to turn on each sconce. Because T3 loves the dark, he tugged on each chain each night to turn off the light and said good night. It was like a little ceremony for him.

At 7:30am the same morning, T3 bounded from his bedroom into ours and chirped, “Good morning Mom and Dad! Aren’t you proud of me? I slept through the night without waking you to get up and pee! I didn’t get up at all!”  I was all sheet-faced, Medusa-haired and squinty -eyed, “Yay. Who cares. Wait. I didn’t mean that. Go back to bed… Good job…Nnnnznznzzzzggg.”

What I didn’t know though was that at 3:30am in the middle of the night, my husband woke because our room was brightened. He saw that all the lights were on in T3’s room but the door was still closed. He got up to turn off the lights and returned to bed. T3 was out cold.

My father, husband and I feel quite strongly that Mom did that. I feel that once she knew where her body would be, that she wanted to do a headcount of her loved ones. And turn on their lights. She would do it when she was alive and when I was home, she’d go turn on their lights when they’d be sleeping after I turned them out, so why wouldn’t her energy come and do that then?

What does this have to do with Brené’s quote? I have no clue, but it’s great story, isn’t it?

Move along… back to Brown.

In the case of my middle son, yes, I would agree that his fear of the dark does cast his joys into the shadows.

Brown is being metaphorical here too — “dark” is not just the lights off. It’s all our self-doubts, our fears, our woes, our self-imposed limiting thoughts and beliefs about ourselves which destroy our joys. For my son though, “dark” mostly means ogres, villains and zombies. He has a couple self-doubts too and we work on those.

Metaphorically speaking again, what is a “joy”? — completion of a job, kindness to ourselves and others, moments of self-satisfaction. Do you remember what it’s like to feel self-satisfied? It’s hard to recall — we spend so much time and energy focusing on what we’ve not gotten done that we don’t give ourselves the gift, the joy, of appreciating what we do get done.

Today: the kids are home from school because 2″ of snow have fallen and destroyed (y’like that? I just slipped it in there, like Heston) our way of life here in the D.C. suburbs. I work hard to make sure they know they are not encumbrances. After all, we decided to get pregnant and have them. But I like my alone time, especially after a weekend with them all buzzing around, high-fiving each other, wresting, farting on one another and being all male an’ whatnot. Monday, when we had an ice storm, I holed up in my office and hid and let Lord of the Flies reveal itself. I was done from the weekend.

Today though, I wanted to be with them. We played some wii bowling (I lost four games) and some wii tennis (I lost two games, won one match, I blame my avatar, she has no arms or legs) and then I tidied up the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher, made myself some eggs and coffee and came in here to write. It was fun, it felt complete. I didn’t let the darkness of my need to be alone cast a shadow on my joy of being with them.

As far as I’m concerned, darkness gets a bad rap. It needs to be appreciated. Focusing on it, though, leads to major league cloud cover. I think that’s what Brown is saying here, that without the darkness we can’t define our light.

Don’t fear the darkness — it is always there. Expect it and it will be easier to contend with; you might even find that you can learn from it.

So I dare you: make a list of what you’ve gotten done today — especially if it includes teeth brushing and putting on pants as well as chalking up some personal alone time.

Embrace the dark, it’s always there. Learning to live with it and thrive from its gifts is the trick.

Thank you.

ps – meh. i’m not sure i did much with this quote. i liked the Mom story though. that was nice. and my doodle. i liked that too.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 8: #faith #spirit #mystics


Welcome to Day 8 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.”

After wrenching through writing yesterday’s post (which I am glad I did because I got some kind feedback and my world has not yet crashed around me for going as far as I did there, which in my estimation was quite tame), I am eager to write about this quote.

Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Faith. Isn’t it amazing? Mom used to say that faith is the greatest mystery of all. Why we rely on others, why we trust them, why we (some of us at least) rely on an unseen deity to usher peace and satisfaction in our lives, is truly one of the mind’s greatest spiritual gambits and communions.

This entire “conversation” reminds me of the post I wrote about Jung when I referred to my mom’s painting techniques. She used to say that sometimes we had to turn something upside-down to see all its dimensions. She used to also say that how a person sees another person is not how a mirror shows us to ourselves but as a three-way mirror would work: a reflection of that reflection. So, to be less obtuse, I’ll say this: I’m going to go at this from a different angle and first discuss my perspective of the omission of faith.

As far as I’m concerned, without faith, we have only ego. But then there’s an irony, for me anyway: when things go wrong, often we tend to blame outside circumstances: our history, the weather, a headache, the president, the car… whatever. When things go right, we tend to ascribe credit to   

Nope. It’s not working for me. There’s too much static in my head. I’ll just go straight in.

Faith is The Thing that keeps me going. For some reason, “giving up” is never an option; there is always a way through (not around). As much as I’d like to say my ego is the only thing that keeps me going, it’s really not. It’s much more my belief these days that things are unfolding as they should.

It’s simply much harder for me now, after the yoga retreat, the EMDR, the navel gazing, Mom’s death and cheap-seat views of my life to say that there’s no reason for any of it. I wrote about that here. All of it has a reason.

That’s the beauty of it though — it’s at that point that we can decide to analyze it to death (as I tend to do sometimes) or simply let it go. Doing both, to me, are acts of faith. Scripture tells of Thomas the Apostle who doubted Jesus. I dig that about Thomas. He was willing to go there and mete it out. Meting it out doesn’t mean you don’t believe or are absent of faith, it just means that you need a little more.

I’m re-reading the quote: “…to believe in something we cannot see and the strength TO LET GO(!)” [emphasis mine] — since when does letting go require strength? This quote has so many twists and layers.

It’s like spiritual lasagne.



Pass the tray.

Can we see fear? Why do we believe in it so much or allow it so much sway in our lives? What is it about fear that keeps us back, keeps us from seeing ourselves and our potential and from moving forward?

Strength to let go.

Yikes. Yes. Right?

What about another inversion: strength to hold on to fear? Tendonitis. It’s a crutch… fear is a crutch. This is flying at me so fast right now that it’s not mine. It’s coming from somewhere else.

I’ve said this before — that fear is a crutch. It allows us to stay angry and resentful. It harbors our darkest parts of ourselves for community. It’s truly the misery that loves our company. 

Standing still is one of the hardest things to do. To stand fast in the face of fear instead of run from it. That takes strength. Don’t believe me? Try standing fast — not locking your knees, eyes focused, arms at ease at your sides. Breathing. Try it for one minute without moving one millimeter. Soldiers are TRAINED to do this. It’s not so simple, so easy and so natural to stand fast and ready for anything. In yoga we call it “Mountain Pose” or Tadasana. You are encouraged to feel the earth with your bare feet, ready for anything: to act or to stand fast. After about 10 seconds of it you can feel your pulse. Then you hear your pulse. Your breathing slows, your gaze softens, your muscles at once firm and relaxed, experiencing what it means to Just Be.

Wake up! Back to Brown.

What is it about the unseen nature of faith that makes some people roll their eyes at the concept of giving one’s problems (control issues) and gratitude for life’s gifts (seen and unseen) up to a higher power?

What is it about the unseen nature of fear that makes some people nod their heads and murmur “Uh-hunh.”?

Why do we scoff at one, but allow the other?

Why do we allow the painful and inhibiting one but dismiss or feel undeserving of the joyful and liberating one?

Look, I’m not suggesting that we all run out into the streets and proclaim that we’ve given it all up to God/Universe/Fate/Spirit  what about faith in ourSelves? We’ve gotten this far, right? Sure we’ve had bumps, bruises, wrecks, mistakes and missteps. But we’re still here!

(Someone slap me.)

Fear of uncertainty.  Other than knowing that nothing is certain, ever, please… someone show me how being afraid of something that we can count on — uncertainty — gets us anywhere.

I am just saying that I think we ought to give ourselves more credit than allowing fear to run our lives.

Who’s with me?

Thank you.

ps – to yesterday: i’m going to go ahead and write the memoir. i don’t know about publishing. ha. look at me not caring about what i don’t have to care about at the moment.

Missives from the Mat — 1: All in Good Time #Yoga #Spirit #Trust #Intuition


I stayed up late into a bit past midnight sorting socks. It’s always the socks without the friends that I seem to vex over.

I spent a lot of the day yesterday catching up on laundry to prepare everyone for my absence, hence the socks at midnight. I am leaving tomorrow at 2:15 to drive to the airport to pick up people who will be joining me on the next stage of my yoga training.

Last weekend I attended at three-day children’s yoga teacher training with 18 other students. That was a 30-hour program and yes, it was 30 hours. Thirty hours of mostly sitting, often chanting, occasionally dancing and playing and working hard to remember BEING children ourselves. It was liberating. Shakta, our teacher, has this … energy that almost insists you be good to yourself.

I saw changes in people just in that short time. Profound changes. One woman (we were all women, I still find it unlikely that a man would endeavor to teach children’s yoga); many of us actual teachers, and I’d say our age averaged at about 37. As I type this, I’m actually very curious now.

I spent a good amount of time with two women in particular, one who is 29 and who has the most radiant skin and smile and good feelings, just like a bubble you’d blow with a wand. She has her own blog, granolaglamour.com and such style — nothing pretentious, just … a vibration that says “YES.” Our interactions were not very intense; I sensed a vibrancy about her that I was more interested in observing than engaging with; we are at profoundly different times in our lives and she seems liberated in a way that I can embrace for her but I daren’t get too close to it because I know myself too well: I’d end up saying in my head, “Well, enjoy it while it lasts” (about her freedom without the children she wants to eventually have). When I was her age, I was three years married and pregnant with my first son. She knows her realities before her based on choices she will make, and I look forward to watching her develop.

She’s a lovely person, truly positive. We stayed in the same hotel and I encountered her our second morning dashing to class on foot and although we are within walking distance of the hotel, I am not accustomed to waking at 5:45 every day so I drove; yes, lazy I know. But I wanted those precious six or seven minutes I’d save by driving. I picked her up along the way and we would ride back to the hotel for breakfast together at the buffet after our morning sadhana, which I later wrote on my Facebook page: “is Sanskrit for asskick.”

I spent other times with another gal who is a mom like me, also of three boys. She was a couple years younger and had a gentle kindness that I can only say reminded me of the actress Dianne Wiest; a tenderness and vulnerability that I fought a compulsion to scrape away; she seemed right on the edge of some form of emotional collapse. Despite this depth, I enjoyed being with her. She has a perseverance and fortitude that can only come from experience and those of us who have been there understand it. I hope to stay in touch with her; she’s an old soul and I enjoyed eating lunch with her for two of the three days.

Another woman entered the first day blustery and confident arrogant. She complained of her drive; she wore a bluetooth headset to disconnect herself from the rest of us. When she exited the building for lunch she was already on her phone and she said, “Hey! How are you?!” while smiling and looking at me, that I thought she was talking to me. I was in her way. She was talking to someone else. She spoke of her future and that on her way to class that morning, that started at 8:00 am (so it was an hour for most of us who lived locally), she had already read three separate offers to teach yoga, that her life is so busy, that she does Bikram yoga (hot yoga) six days a week, going on seven years now (yet oddly, she seemed completely lacking in awareness of her physical space, that’s called “prioperception”) and blah blah blah blah… I tuned her out. Her shields were up (like Michael Keaton’s “Batman” when he got into the Bat-mobile, he spoke into his glove, “Shields” and up went an armadillo-like covering around the car — still the BEST Bat-mobile if you ask me).

I thought about Jung (day 2), what he said about “often what irritates us in others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves” and I went there; I entertained it: her bluster, her bravado, her “pita” (yoga for “fire”). I used to be attracted to that kind of energy because it told me “that’s a CAN DO person! get to KNOW her! she has SUCCESS!” but now it tells me “there’s a lot there; it’s unresolved; it’s not yours…let her be; it’s a façade.” When we went to lunch the first day, she stood in line at the strip-mall NY-Style pizzeria (Antonio’s — and it was awesome) insisting that she not wait for her salad… she was expecting it to be ready in a plastic box I guess. It wasn’t ready when she had to have it (we all had 90 minutes for lunch, I don’t know what was up her butt … we had plenty of time) and she coarsely told the attendant that it took very long when she did get her handmade, fresh, to order, glorious Greek salad. She sat by herself in her lycra and $400 sunglasses, kept her lipgloss just so and spoke to no one but her invisible friend on her headset. By the end of the second day, she was well into her softening. Her energy was completely different. We’d done so many chants, meditations and kriyas (numerous poses repeated very quickly in a set with intense breathing) that her submission would be inevitable. Her smile was softer, she was on her headset less. She, gratefully, did not infect the pizzeria. I still have a sense that she’s unaware of herself, that her coarseness is a sense of pride for her, but all in good time… she will eventually get there. I hope.

Almost all of these other women have been certified, for several years, to teach yoga with the 200-hour training that I am starting soon. Many of them are much younger than I am. I started out looking at them, in their late 30s, remembering: I used to have that body… (it’s amazing what six years can do to you despite conscious eating, exercise and rest). My sister-in-law and I often joke about “middle age thickening” — this thing that seemingly happens to us without our permission. The slowdown of the metabolism despite your most fervent wishes it do otherwise. I am still “shapely” but I see “more” of myself than I am accustomed to seeing. (We will see what 16 days on a lacto-vegan diet will do to me…) I know part most of this “thickening” is a result of a drop in my “training”; I can still fit into all my same clothes, but it’s different. I don’t worry about it anymore. These things are how we age; we can fight them and be miserable or we can accept them and be mindful of our choices which will accelerate or stave off their aggressive inevitable advances. As I’ve determined over the past few months, especially with the Jungian series I just finished (go to the previous post to see the index) it’s not about looking good, it’s about feeling good.

As I wrote to an e-friend last night on a Facebook post she shared with me about how yoga fashion has gone COMPLETELY NUTS that “it’s about the pose, not the clothes.” There was more lycra and spandex and ripped abs and bulging deltoids in that room… the physical strength is great, but as I’m learning: it’s the mental strength, the strength of spirit that will bring you home. I suppose it’s all well and good for me to say these things, perhaps it’s an unconscious interest in saying to myself, “It’s OK, Molly. >pat pat pat< You can just admit you're sad you've softened a little around your middle…" and there is some truth to that, that my fantastically brilliant observations are just thinly veiled contempt at the youth and strength of some of these women, but then I counter with the sagacious side of me that says, "be strong, be fit, but loosen up a little too" because I recall quite clearly in my memory actually, a time when I was totally wrapped around the axle about my appearance and fitness and yes, it was good to be concerned about my health, but my concern was about my vanity, not my health. I feel I'm in a better place now. I can still run five miles if I decide to; I do a 5k all the time, with virtually no muscle pain or joint discomfort. I just realize now that I'm already there, that I've hit the lottery: I've got a fantastic husband, three great kids, a wonderful home, more solid friends and loved ones than I can count, a pretty strong sense of my purpose now, and that in the end, all we want or need, is love and smile and a gracious hug. Sounds completely woo-woo, I know, but it's true.

I also looked at these women with a twinge of regret in myself for getting started "so late" in life. I'll be 46. I'm definitely on the downward slope now. Lots of the women already have their businesses beneath their belts, they just added the children's yoga component because it is in such high demand. My personal sense is that if you can teach and instill in children the ability for them to learn they can self-regulate their emotions, that they can go to a quiet place in their minds, that they can feel safe expressing themselves physically in a safe and creative way, that they will eventually take it forward with them. That they will be able to calm a room, just by walking into it.

Each day began with a "tune in" that we all chanted to get the room or the energy ready for all of us. The chant (I'm sure my father and brother would be freaking out if they read this, thinking I'm joining a cult, which I'm not) is "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" which means something like … I can't remember. But it's physical effect no different from singing a nice long traditional "Amen" at the end of the Eucharistic blessing in Mass; it's just a way of getting everyone in the same mental space. So chill, Dad and brother, I'm not about to start worshipping long-lashed, eight-limbed elephant women (not that there's anything wrong with that…).

We did lots of amazing things in this program and I’ll share the three most personally profound; one on each day.

Day 1: Shakta introduced for us “The make the bad thoughts go away” meditation to bring us a bit closer to our inner children. I’m sure it has a real name, but for kids (as well as the kids inside us all) that’s all I have. This is a simple exercise but maaaan, I had to keep it together, during it because it is profound and we had just begun the classes. The physical action is to “make like” you are spitting, but it’s your air, not saliva you are expelling. It takes a little practice. The sound is like a pointed, decisive “pih” or “puh.” The breath is powerful, but controlled, coming from the belly, not the lungs. So you have to breath from your belly… it’s very different. (I’ll write more about that in another post.) Practice it a little.


Simply: sit comfortably. Close your eyes and cup your hands in front of you with your left over your right. Bring your hands about 10 inches from your face. Think of a bad thought or bad memory or bad feeling from your life (it could be from your youth or five minutes ago at the exit ramp); a moment when you felt fear, shame, guilt, rage. Anything. Hold that thought, feeling and memory in your head until it’s right there, literally, in your mouth. You repeat this breath for a minimum 26 times; you can go to 54 or 108 if you need. But for beginners, I’m thinking 26 is fine. Prepare yourself, you might get swept away and feel it all. Let it come and let it go. I felt a lot of stuff and I looked forward to being able to do it privately so I could let it all process.

On Day 2, Shakta’s husband Kartar came in to spend some time with us. He is tall, he dressed in white traditional Sikh clothing. He is very mellow, chooses his words with discernment and has a lovely wafty yet grounded way about him. He’s like a willow. He had a long white beard and talked to us about Masaru Emoto’s HADO “Healing And Discovering Ourselves” exercises that he performed with water a couple decades ago. HADO is based on the effects of words and energy on all living things. Basically, if we use kind words, things are lovely; if we use ugly words, things suffer. Check out the link (in red above), it’s pretty amazing. Some people think it’s a hoax. I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think those people who think it’s a hoax are sad. There. I said it. Kartar didn’t stay long; but he played some games with us, one in particular that was really neat:

The “find the feather with your intuition” game. I don’t know why we used a feather, maybe there’s something spiritual about it; but the colors of these feathers (day glo green and pink) suggested they were not originally that color.

Basically, get a group of people together and sit in a circle facing one another. Put the feather in the center of the circle. Everyone looks at the feather. Everyone tunes in. Start by being really quiet together for a moment once seated or sincerely saying some cool thing like “Om” or “Amen.” The deal is that it’s a good idea for everyone to say it so the energy of the vocal vibration is received not only by everyone’s ears (provided they are not deaf) but also their bodies, their rib cages, or “chakral center.”

Someone leaves the circle and goes to an area where s/he can’t see anyone at all. Someone in the circle takes the feather and sits on it. Those in the circle close their eyes. You call back the person who left, and you let that person stand in the circle. S/he can close their eyes (in fact it’s best if s/he does so that the body tells you what’s going on, but you have to be open, you have to be ready to truly listen to your body) and slowly turn (while still standing) in a small circle “greeting” each person’s energy. Those in the circle all (woo-woo alert): “send” that person positive thoughts like “find the feather” or “let your intuition tell you where the feather is” or “key in to your intuition,” Something general like that; don’t think, “The feather is under Bipsy.” or “Help Bipsy find the feather.” It has to be general. It just does. As the feather finder, when you feel like you’ve felt all you can near a certain person, like you’ve gone around a couple times and you just “sense” (not think, you


it) you can tap that person on the head and say, “Do you have the feather?”

I got it on the first try. I was the first to leave the group and I got it. I was amazed. I actually felt it at one person; a person I’d not yet interacted with. I was amazed. This was on day 2, so we all were a bit tuned in to one another. This was probably our 18th hour of being together in that room for lessons. I suppose if you wanted to try this with just one other person, you could do it and the person could hide the feather on their person and you could let your hands hover and guide you; it would likely feel magnetic — at least that’s how it felt to me. Like a gentle pull. I am very grateful for that exercise. Peggie, if you’re reading this, my freckles on my thumb mound are almost gone…

Anyway, each person in the group got to be a seeker. Only one out of our five didn’t get it on the first guess.

On Day 3, Shakta’s son Ram Dass came in to meet us. He works somewhat nearby and he generously left work early to speak to us. It was lovely. He went off to India to live in an ashram and go to school when he was eight and he left when he graduated from their high school (it’s somewhat like an International Baccalaureate school) at 16. He graduated from college, my alma mater, at 20.

Shakta and Kartar, his parents, are American-born, white. His father is a former Christian. Shakta looks to be of German or European descent to me; she is still quite “dirty blonde.” I suspect their birth names are something as “normal” as Stephanie and Richard. They met at a cooperative, sort of like a commune of those on the yoga journey in the 70s. They wanted a child for many years. Finally, Shakta became pregnant and so as a child, their only child, their son Ram Dass, would wear turbans and dress in traditional Sikh garb.

Shakta had told us well before she asked him to join us, that he loves to wear suits now; that he is a businessman, that he works for a large government contractor; that he doesn’t do yoga anymore, that he’s a “DJ” for hobby; that he works out and runs for his health, although he still meditates quite a bit. I smiled inwardly at the irony: here is this young man, born into a yoga ashram-like community, in a communal living way, who left his mother and father for eight years to live in India (as was the path for those living in that way), whose “child” spirit was very much honored and revered and encouraged, who comes back to America to end up working for one of the largest, lucrative and most influential government contractors as an analyst….

He walked into the room, comPLETEly self-possesed. Tall, elegant, quiet, serious, clever. He looked at and considered his mother with a respectful detachment, that they are peers… such is the way of a 21-year-old, I mused inside. I told him this — I wanted to tell him that he is like an “old soul” because he is SO VASTLY unlike any other 21-year-old I’ve ever met. But I countered it with “But I can’t say you’re an old soul, because you’re not — or maybe it’s that you’re so old a soul that you seem new again” because again, he had confidence and a sense of his place in this world that was frighteningly unshakeable. He had the kind of quiet, reflective, sincere, easy smile, and real steadiness that maybe 1:10,000,000 people possess; and of 21-year-olds? Cripes… 1:700,000,000. You can say “reflective” about some people and it sounds as though they’re neurotic. like Woody Allen. No. Not this guy. He knows who he is and you could feel it. It was stalwart. Shakta beamed with love and pride for her son. Yet it was in a way that said, “I was the one who simply carried him to this world… he is not ‘mine‘; he belongs to himself…” and maaaaan, you had no doubt.

I know lots of people who think they mean it when they say that about their own kids. I know now, myself included at times, that they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re not even close.

The Day 3 exercise that affected me profoundly was the “trust circle.” Basically nine people form a tight circle (almost touching each other) facing one another. They are the “receivers.”

Another person (bringing the group size to ten) stands in the middle about 18 inches from each person / receiver in the circle with her/his feet almost touching, they are close together, maybe an inch is between the toes. The arms of the person in the center are like a mummy’s: forearms crossed on the chest with the hands touching each opposing shoulder. Each receiver in the circle grounds her/himself in a gentle lunge and their hands are gently cupped and facing the person in the center. Arms are engaged, but soft; they are “ready.” Make sure no one is wearing socks and that the floor is not slippery.

The person in the center closes its eyes and grounds. Takes a couple breaths and grounds again. When the person in the center is ready s/he asks the receiving group, “Are you ready?”

The receivers say “yes” because their hands are ready and their eyes stay fixed on the person in the center and because they ARE ready. You can’t help but take this with reverence: another person is about to trust you to not let her or him get injured. It’s a big deal. This exercise is mostly performed at grades 5 (maybe some 4th graders are ready) and up through high school… through graduate school … through the mortgage years, and into senior living if you catch my drift.

When s/he is ready, s/he — the “truster” — will begin to fall into the receivers. It is best for about three receivers to have hands on this person (mostly the upper body, mostly the shoulders and crossed forearms) when s/he leans into them. The physical sensation is not to reject or push back the leaning / falling / trusting person in the center, but to “welcome” and guide back to the center and let the truster’s sense of balance and equilibrium guide them or rest them on to another area of the receivers. I couldn’t help but think of those swinging pendulums over those little sand gardens that some people have on their desks.

At moments, the truster’s falls can become fast, a little out of control; that’s up to us, the receivers, to slow down and reassure the truster in the center that “we’ve got you.”

I watched four other women go before me to do this exercise. I answered, “we are ready” for three separate women; I was a receiver three times and then I stepped back. I wanted others to receive the truster and I privately yearned to be the one who could summon the courage to do it. I privately yearned to be a “truster.” This isn’t just about the game, I said to myself. This is about my life. This is a metaphor about everything I’m dealing with. It’s a metaphor about me trusting ME. With each passing person I saw my chances go away.

Shakta said, “one more time. We will do this one more time.” I asked squeaked, “Will we be doing this next week at the retreat? Because if we are, I’ll do it then; but I don’t want to take away this opportunity from someone who might want to do it today because I’ll be doing it again for sure at the retreat…”

Shakta said, “No. We won’t be doing this next week.”

The room grew quiet. The metaphorical light was on me.

“I’ll go then. I need to do this. I’ve got major trust issues. And I’ve been a receiver; I know these women will get me.”

So I did it. I nudged myself into the circle. I visually inspected everyone’s footing, their hands, their deltoids and triceps, the cuts of their jaws and the intensity in their eyes. They were ready. They all said it. They all looked at me with love and intention and a femininity that only other women can understand. One in particular, with eyes like black coffee said, “We’ve got you. We are already here.”

I cried a little inside. I knew they wouldn’t let me “down” — not figuratively, not literally. It was truly up to me.

Do I trust them?

I barely know them, I quickly said to myself in what seemed like nanoseconds; a quiet, private moment.

I closed my eyes. I breathed in and breathed out.

I breathed in and breathed out.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“We are.” They said.

I submitted. I began to lean into the women; their hands were warm and kind; soft and strong. The room was silent. I was stiff at first.

Then I felt a shift in my consciousness; I felt free.

I “let go” and someone whispered, “wow, she just let go…” and I let them carry and receive and welcome and suspend and guide me for another minute until I was really OK with it all. It changed me.

They later told me they could see it in my face; a loosening, that I had submitted; no more fighting, no more control, no more forcing.

We closed the classes about an hour after that. Did some exercises on “deeply listening” which is listening without reacting, interrupting, smiling, nodding, or anything. No relating. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Each person shared and the other listened for five minutes straight. You are deeply aware of yourself at this time while also working hard to honor the speaker without facial gestures, judgment or relating. I heard everything my partner said. I realized then how little of that I do.

The problem with “nodding” or gesturing, as Shakta explained, is that it interrupts the speaker’s flow and it turns it into an exchange. Also, if we wince, we can make the speaker self-conscious, or feel bad for making us feel bad. Same goes if we laugh, we make the speaker feel as though the good feelings must continue. I shared deep stuff. It stayed confidential. I felt heard. She shared her stuff, I didn’t react. I let her spill. Talking to someone else, even though they’re not reacting also helps you feel like you’re not talking to no one; that you’re not crazy.

I pack up today and drive out for the next big stage tomorrow. I have never been away from anyone I’m related to for 16 days straight. I commuted to college, so this is going to be entirely new for me. But I am ready. Suddenly, this isn’t really about yoga anymore; it’s about me.

I will write more while I’m there. WiFi is available, but limited; so it might be like the Jung series — written in the moment, but loaded later … I don’t know. We’ll see when we get there, won’t we? V

Thank you.