A Quest for Sugarplums

swissmediavision/Getty Images

swissmediavision/Getty Images

Every year, buying Christmas gifts for my girls presents a challenge for me. Do we buy what they need? What they want? Is it too much? Too little? How do I stay fair with all 3 girls so close in age, yet so different from one another? Should we even exchange gifts? Just to complicate matters more, I recently learned that the origin of gift-giving to children at Christmas has more to do with politics than holiday spirt. 

Over the years, I’ve been through every iteration of how to tackle the gifts part of Christmas.

When the girls were little, I would collect their Santa lists and pretty much buy whatever they asked for (don't judge). At that age, the cost per item averaged about $15 with American Girl doll outfits having the highest price tag. Otherwise, it was games, Webkins or art projects. I’d wrap each gift, stuff the wad of gifts into giant felt sacks, and perch them by the fireplace as if Santa himself had dropped them down the chimney from his sleigh. Each girl had (has) her own bag with a distinct color and design. Bea, a lover of tradition, has a red one that says, “Merry Christmas.” Josie has a green “Ho Ho Ho” bag, being our joyful Ho (haha! not a double entendre for whore… we call her “Ho” instead of Jo). Frankie has a blue bag with a playful snowman because it’s the most child-like motif; and she will always be my baby, even when she’s 55.  

To this day, I do this giant sack-bag thingy.

Except today. I am struggling with the whole process. Stuffing it with things feels weird, and unrealistic. Their Barbies have turned to Lululemon leggings, so it’s also expensive. Plus, intuitively I know this tradition of giving presents to them tugs at my heart because, no matter what I do, I can’t stuff what they really need into that Santa sack.

We’ve tried a number of traditions over the years to keep from being presents-focused (probably to save me from feeling this way every year). When the kids were super little, we used to spend Christmas morning running in a road race that raised money for a shelter. After the road race, we’d eat breakfast at the shelter. It was my first attempt at trying the “don’t make it about the presents” Christmas. As the kids got older and more aware that the rest of the world stayed home sipping hot chocolate in a warm house while they dressed for sub-freezing temps to run a 5K, they all protested. Shocker.

“Why can’t we just stay home?”

They asked in a kind way, almost confused about why we drove 45 minutes to then run up and down barren and stark streets while the world sat toasty-warm in their homes. They appreciated visiting the shelter, but wondered why they couldn't just donate money instead of running. Seemed like a fair question.

“Because I don’t want to raise you to be selfish!” I would retort. “Christmas isn’t about being warm and getting presents. Christmas is about Jesus. He was a gift. That’s the gift. It’s about giving to others, not getting presents.”

Deaf ears.

And even as I said the words, I realized how dumb I sounded. What I was really doing was trying to defy the material quest of Christmas for myself.

So, we adopted the stay-at-home tradition, and started spending Christmas morning at home, with the “great big bag of gifts reveal”. Oooh. Aaah. They, of course, were thrilled to be warm and surrounded by their new gifts, with the scent of cinnamon buns wafting in the air. Thoughts of running in the cold, and being at the shelter, drifted into a past experience like PTSD.

Another year, I struggled with the excess of the big bag o' gifts, and announced we would be sponsoring a family to buy gifts for instead of for ourselves. Getting older, they appreciated some people just didn’t have as much, and that this was a good idea. The girls were actually very excited about doing this. Giving is better than receiving. So, we got the other family’s wish list and began shopping. I watched as they bought an X-Box for an anonymous kid. They were happy, but conflicted. Some of the gifts seemed extraordinary, and even out of their realm of asking. But I got to hand it to them -- they were very generous in spirit, and did not make that Christmas about them at all. Of course, I was so proud of them, I asked for their lists anyway, and filled their giant felt bags that year, too. We paid that year’s Christmas debt into the spring months.

We also went through the “give experiences, not things” Christmases. Goats and chickens from Heifer International for villages, concert tickets or various trips. These were my favorite, but I still filled their bags with accompaniments like stuffed goats and chickens, luggage and socks.

Fast forward to today. I love those felt bags. They’ve carried light-up toys to puzzles to teddy bears to underwear to iPod nanos throughout all stages of my girls’ lives. But today I sit here and struggle still. Long ago, they beamed after opening up an iPhone. Today, I’m yelling at them to get off their phones, sharing research that links iPhone addiction to depression. Great! Way to make gift-giving even more complicated when you realize your gifts of yesteryear morphed into today's personal demons.

So, I asked one of my girls this year, “What do you want for Christmas?”

“Nothing, Mom,” she answered with a peaceful smile on her face. “I have everything I need.”

Said not one of my girls ever.

Of course, that's a joke. 

But, for me, it’s fine.

Because even though I know I can’t give them what they really need – advice on how to live without a smartphone, how to avoid drugs & alcohol, how to navigate a porn-filled world, how to stay safe when living overseas, how to make sense of global warming and GMOs and glyphosate and career choices and how to master spiritual enormity in a material world-- I’ll fill that empty sack, anyway, with a meager materialistic attempt to give them something they need.

Maybe I’ll write HUG on a paper and stuff it into a giant wrapped box for the Santa sack.

Or maybe that’s what I need this Christmas. 

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From Baby Blankets to Bubble Bongs

I’m saying goodbye to my children’s childhood home today. I remember the first night we slept there, Bea, just a tiny thing with fuzzy peach hair. This little two-week old baby dwarfed in rooms vast with emptiness. Our New York City apartment basically fit into one room. The house had floors covered in putrid green shag carpeting, the walls a thick foiled wallpaper. We ripped it all out with little respect for its once elegance. We had no money, of course, with Tim just starting his first job out of law school and me insisting on being a stay-at-home mom. We relied on the help and generosity of our families with whom we hadn’t spent much time since we'd lived away from CT for so long. 

My dad routinely visited 11 Craigmoor, bringing loads of groceries from Costco and his tools to help update our home. We didn’t have the best relationship when I was growing up, so his time there healed many wounds. My dad could build anything, and he did... as if he was rebuilding our father-daughter relationship.

I had found a giant bookshelf shaped like a dollhouse in a Pottery Barn catalogue when the girls were little and he said, “Don’t spend the money on that! Let me make it.” And he did.

That Christmas, my girls got the most beautiful bookshelf from Santa. He insisted I tell them it was from Santa.

Over the last 21 years, our house filled up with memories and began teeming with “stuff,” all kinds of props from their childhood. I found their favorite baby blankets in a box. The actual crib leaning against a basement wall. I remember Josie climbing out of that thing before she could even walk! Then the box of t-shirts, mementos from sports teams to road races. I was supposed to make each one of them a blanket from those shirts. Remember that? And Holiday Barbie in a box. Frankie loved playing with Barbies and insisted on getting one she would keep in the box. Well, Barbie is still trapped in that plastic box for over 10 years now. Poor Barbie.

I didn’t actually find bongs, but that sounded better for a blog title than the flavored vodka I found tucked away in the basement. Yeah, right, it’s a friend’s. 

Every stage of life captured in stacked plastic bins, stored in the attic. Our time on 11 Craigmoor has played like a movie in my mind with every item I dust off and choose to save, recycle or discard. 

This morning, the walls, once buzzing with life in photographs collected over the years, are barren. Everything that had a place no longer does. Instead, the memories are filed away in my mind or moving to the new house because I can’t bear to let them go. The massive accumulation of stuff is staring me in the face. 

No one prepared me for the process of dismantling the house where I raised my girls. 

I can’t look outside the kitchen window without seeing my girls skating or battling the monkey bars or jumping on the trampoline or swinging high on the tree swing or making mud pies in their playhouse. I see Luna as a puppy running after them. I can’t walk up these stairs without imagining I’m holding their little fingers and teaching them how to climb. I can’t go into the bedroom without flashes of cribs and starter beds and bunk beds and all kinds of sleeping iterations we went through over the years. I can’t look in the bathroom without seeing them all in the tub together, making statues with suds, and screeching with joy.

A house is a thing. A home is a place. 

We made this house on 11 Craigmoor a home, and now it’s time to say goodbye to this thing where even the wood seems to have soaked up memories like its multiple coats of paint.

And now I look at the basement door.

I don’t have to imagine anything.

It’s still dotted with faded colors of measured height lines and initials. “Daddy,” the tallest, was always the line at the top.

Would he still be today? 

Maybe we’ll take that ruler out one last time.

Coffee, I Love You. Now Get Out of My Life!

                  photo cred: www.businessinsider.com

                  photo cred: www.businessinsider.com

Coffee, we need to break up. You’ve turned me into someone I don’t like, and I’m worried my husband has had it with me. Yes, you’re the object of my adoration. I can't stop thinking about you. I love absolutely everything about you! How you’re grown and roasted. How I can brew you or press you. Your smell. How you blend so nicely with light cream. 

But it’s time for us to split. Our relationship is a romance gone bad, and now a threat to my marriage.

Over the years, Tim and I have taken turns bringing each other coffee in bed. Sweet, right? One of those, “How to make a marriage last” tips that we started and kept alive for 24 years. But lately it’s all him. 6 straight months he’s been on coffee duty, and there’s no end in sight. As soon as I sense my consciousness rising out of blissful sleep, I kick him. Yes, you heard that right. I kick my husband. I mean, it’s not in a bruising kind of way! But I do kick him. 😞 I’m not proud of that! 

(Don't judge. I’m in confession mode here.)

And if he’s not there to kick, I’ll text him this… ☕️ 

I know. I know. He sounds like an abused dog, but he gets this about me and forgives me in advance. We have this odd understanding. I’m a complete grouch prior to my caffeine fix (especially lately), but I turn gentler and sweeter as soon as the drug hits my veins. And it’s been this way for 24 years of marriage so he’s numb to it. Stockholm Syndrome, maybe. Prefers being captive to the pre-coffee me than trying to go life without that kick or text. But it’s getting worse. I used to at least say, “Coffee?” in a loving voice. Not anymore. 😞 Just a kick. Or a text.

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(I’m drinking coffee now.)

At least I admit I need help! The signs were all there, but today I reached an all-time low (I know kicking should have been the clue to an all-time low, but I told you I'm a terrible person, remember?!).

“So, how was today different?” you ask.

Well, I suck down cup #1 and am onto cup #2 before Tim has even taken his first sip. Did I realize it then? Nope.

I started bringing coffee to the gym every morning instead of water. Did I realize it then? Nope.

I started making a second pot before heading out to work. Did I realize it then? Nope.

I stop for a coffee every afternoon, and have racked up a giant Starbucks bill. Did I realize it then? Nope.

It wasn’t until this morning.

The coffee pot was empty. We’d already polished it off (well, mostly me). Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tim’s cold half-drunk mug of coffee on the counter. The cream, sitting around a couple of hours, had collected in a scum at the top. Gross, right?? Not to me. I took that baby and sucked it right down. 

Yup. I did that. 

And then something crazy happened. A shame washed over me. I looked around. Did anyone see me do that? Did he want to reheat that? Do I lie and tell him I threw it into the sink? Do I just forget about it and blame the dreary rainy day (my coffee consumption usually doubles on a rainy day). 

Or do I come clean, and finally just admit I have a problem?

For months, I’ve been entertaining the idea of doing another coffee detox, but my addiction takes over. “Why do you need to do that? Coffee is a simple pleasure. Coffee is high in antioxidants and is good for you! You’re not an alcoholic, so what’s the big deal?”

All true.

So I scoff at the future migraine I’ll get from removing coffee from my life, and brew another pot!

Today is different.

(I’m still drinking coffee while writing this.)

I’m going to start my detox tomorrow. It’s simple but psychologically stressful.

First week: Two cups half-caf max in the morning. One half-caf in the afternoon.

Second week: Two cups half-caf max in the morning. Herbal tea in the afternoon.

Third week: One cup half-caf max in the morning. Herbal tea in the afternoon.

Fourth week: No regular coffee.

I could definitely accomplish in one week what I’m going to take 4 weeks to do, but I really don’t want the withdrawals. Been there, done that. No fun. 

Also, I’ll be adding a couple of Designs for Health products to support the detox process. https://nutritiondesigns.ehealthpro.com/products/amino-d-tox-90-vegetarian-capsules https://nutritiondesigns.ehealthpro.com/products/detox-antiox-60-capsules

So now that I’ve gone public with my problem, let's hope the kicking stops.

Wish me luck!

Signed, 
Breaking Up With Coffee ☕️ 

Stop Eating With Your Left Brain!

Source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/aoqqoPMvtjk/0.jpg

Source: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/aoqqoPMvtjk/0.jpg

Can we talk about the scale for a moment? 

Like the calorie measurement, I’m not a fan.

Sure, I get it. We need concrete measurements and baselines from which to work so we can track our “progress” in our diet and exercise journeys. We need numbers to graph our health status so we can more clearly define a health regime for ourselves (and our patients). We need the data to chart because that gives us information we can use to compare and contrast so we can set up health standards for which we all can strive.

Or do we?

I say f*&^ the scale and f*&^ the calories! Seriously, I’m so done with this paradigm of left-brain living when it comes to food and exercise. Actually, “left-brain living” is an oxymoron. There’s no “living” in the left brain. It’s a prison trap of hyper-thought that circles around itself trying to reach some ideal that will never be reached. 

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I saw this image years ago, and I still love it. 

Look at how the right brain is depicted — free of measured thought, playful, expansive. Look at the cubicles in the left brain. Organized, tight, limited. I’m pretty sure science cannot confirm this simplistic left-right brain definition, but let’s go with it just to make a point.

Eating a meal.

Are you counting calories or are you tasting the bursting flavors? Are you in conflict when you sit down for a meal? Do you struggle with what you should be eating versus what you actually are eating? Do you calculate points, calories or pounds while you’re trying to enjoy a meal? Do you consider how many calories you’ve burned through exercise before “allowing” yourself to eat something? Are you stuck in the cubicle of “diet”?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re in, what I endearingly call, “Left Brain Eating Hell.”

LBEH deprives us of JOY, which is the direction we all need to be go. Where is the joy in becoming a calorie calculator? Where is the joy in overthinking what you’re eating? Where is the joy in a “diet”?

Food is life’s natural expression, designed to support our bodies so we can grow and flourish. Food is magical. Just take a moment and look at a tomato seed. The entire tomato already exists in its tiny seed! Do you see how tiny those seeds are? What is the force that enables food to go from seed to fruit? 🍉 🍌 🍍 🍓 🍇 🍋 🍊 🍑 🍏 🍐 🍈 🥝 🍎 🍒 

We need to live in that space of wonder, not a space of how many calories are in that tomato. Hold the seed in your hand and marvel with nature. Be grateful for that seed. Doesn’t it feel different? Taste the flavors. See the colors. Smell the fragrances. (Sure, food is manipulated and “scary” now with toxins and GMOs, etc… but not food in its most natural state. I’m talking about food in its most natural state.)

Full of wonder. 

So back to the scale.

I’ve never weighed more in my life. But guess what? I’ve also never felt better in my life. Even though I feel good, a panic runs through me every time I have to step on the scale for a doctor. I feel the hot flash start in my scalp as I watch the nurse slide the metal piece to the maximum weight in one incremental weight area, and then move the giant metal piece into a whole new weight category. Then she slides the little piece very far over to the right again. I wince every time. Are we going to hit 200? 

I’m not "obese" according to today's standards, so no one gives me a hard time, but I stress whenever I step on that metal box. (Sidebar: Please don’t take my blood pressure right after you put me on the scale. That’s just not fair.)

So there is the classical scale in the doctor’s offices. The ones I hate. But there are other scales I’ve been learning about that might help shift our view. A few weeks ago, I volunteered to jump on one of these scales that measures through electrical impedance. You get your ugly number, but you also get measurements of muscle mass and bone density A friend of mine is considering buying it for her nutrition practice so I volunteered to step on it as her test subject. I didn’t care. I’m over that giant number. 

Lo and behold, this scale showed me an entirely different picture.

Solid muscle mass. Solid bone density.

No wonder I weigh so much!

Suddenly my paradigm shifted. My weight lifting is working. I have strong bones and muscles! 💪 

And I weigh a lot because of it.

Yes, this scale is still a left brain exercise — numbers and such — but it is a baby step in shifting our paradigms. You know how people say the longest journey in the world is from the head to the heart? Well, the same principle applies here. Left brain to right brain is a giant shift.

Going from a calorie counter to a joyful eater takes baby steps. This new scale enabled me to stop fixating on a limited scale number at the doctor’s office, the one that gets inserted into a BMI calculator that only tells a part of the story, and to see my body in a new light. Our stories are much bigger than a number.

Getting on a scale can be very degrading — like we’re mooing cows being ushered onto the scale to get some kind of number that will define our value.

I’m here to tell you that the scale in no way defines even a small part of you! Jump off, friends. Even if the doctor says, “Jump on,” do it with detachment. Laugh at the number. Play with it. Silly stupid left brain cubicle number. It’s not you, and it never was. 

Some simple steps to shift from left to right thinking AND eating:

1. Raise awareness. The first step is to become aware of your thoughts. Spend a day watching what you think. Write those thoughts down. Don't judge them. Allow yourself to become aware of how self-sabatoging or obsessive the negative thoughts surrounding food and weight can be. The second piece of this is that if you can observe your thoughts, you are getting in touch with who you really are. YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. You are actually the person observing your thoughts. The observer. 

2. Nurture the Observer. The part of you that can objectively look at yourself and your silly thoughts is the part that can play and laugh and experience joy. Allow that part to grow and create new thinking. "Oh no! I weigh so much!" can become "I'm strong and solid!" or even "I am so much more than my body experience." Play with it.

3. Savor the Senses. Experience food with all of your senses and take your time with this exercise. Rather than judge negatively, be aware of its taste, smell, texture and beauty. I like to use a fruit or vegetable, something closest to earth. If you look at a banana and think, "Bananas are high in sugar!" go and do this exercise with a banana. Cut it in half, slice it, make shapes with it. Get lost in the experience of this simple yet exquisite food. Stop judging food, and you'll stop judging your relationship to it.

4. Think Less. Feel More. This journey requires you to be more in touch with how your body feels, and less with what your brain is thinking. Move into a space where you recognize what your body needs versus giving it what someone else thinks is good for it. You carry this body around with you. You know best what it needs. 

5. Laugh About It. Laughing is good for the body and the soul, and it washes burdensome thoughts away. Belly laughing exercises also help us embrace our bodies, rather than judge them. Let that belly shake with joy, and stop the judgmental thoughts.

You are not the calories in your food.

You are not a scale number.

You are not the size of your dress.

You are the force that lurks in that tiny seed.

And so, so much more.

Galapagos Journey

People say that, in Life, it is not the destination that matters, but the journey itself. I found that so true yesterday as we navigated from Quito to Isabela Island, Galapagos. This week, also, I am changing my blog name to Bananas and Sea Lions. 😊

After ten forms of transport, starting at 4:30 AM in Quito yesterday, we finally made it to Isabela Island. However, it was the journey I will remember most.

We said goodbye to Bea, our Spanish translator for the week, and began to navigate ourselves to the Galapagos. Bea planned an incredible week for us in Quito, Chilotoa, Papallacta. We were so blessed to be with her, so when we found out she was going to be in the Galapagos this weekend? Well, we kinda tagged along, but had to cut the umbilical cord since we're not BC students. 

So, Tim and I are winging the Galapagos. A “go with God” journey in that neither one of us had the time to plan the trip in full detail, and sometimes enjoy the unplanned nature of excursions, leaving room for spontaneity. This is risky, I know, but at every turn, there has been a smiling face to help us, and all I can do is marvel at Life's beauty -- both natural and human. 

Finding a taxi to get to the pier at Puerto Ayura? No problem. Someone else’s tour guide took us under their wing and got us a ride.

When we told him we had no tickets to the boat sailing from Santa Cruz to Isabela — the longest and most important part of our journey — he told our driver to take us directly to a travel agent. Of course, it is “high season” and we had no idea we’d have trouble getting tickets picturing something like a Woods Hole in Martha’s Vineyard. I heard the grim news in a detached way, knowing we’d get there somehow.

Well, Puerto Ayura is not Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard. Actually not even a little bit. When we explained to our travel agent, Ariel, that we had no tickets, his eyes bulged. “Today is a very busy day. High season. I’m sorry,” he said looking down. “But I will try.” Right there about sums it up for me. No, no, no! Impossible! But I will try. My life’s message. I’m terrible at taking no for an answer so just said, “Muchos gracias!”

One — I wanted to thank him in advance for getting us not one or two but FOUR tickets, keeping the faith that it would happen.

Two — that’s all I really know how to say!

Right away, Ariel called ten different people, but hung up the phone each time with a sad look on his face. Then he jumped on his bike to talk to friends at the pier, returned and called more people. After about 45 minutes, he hung up the phone with a smile, “We have a boat!”

Thrilled and relieved, we left, walked around the pier, had lunch and met Ariel back at his office, which consisted of two desks, two chairs, a few hanging wet suits, a giant poster of the Galapagos, stacks of free maps and a whirring fan, struggling to blow enough air to cool the sweat dripping all over us. Tim and Josie were both wearing jeans in the 200 degree weather. No comment.

At the exact time of 1:30, we headed back to see Ariel who then walked us to the pier to meet his friends. The pier was chaos, but in a beautiful way. Security in the Galapagos is at every checkpoint. God forbid you have some random piece of fruit lying in your bag that will carry over a stowaway bug that will then run amuck on the most delicate ecosystem in the world.

After we got to security through the airport, they lock tied our bags so no one could put anything into the bags after that, and they sprayed pesticides all of the bags in our overhead compartments. Walking from the airport into Galapagos National Park, we had to step into a foamy solution to clean our shoes. I thought it was a puddle at first so I dodged it. Josie and Frankie both yelled at me, “Mom! Step in it!” 

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Side note: Did I tell you they charged us $20 each at the airport before embarking on the plane? $100 each upon arrival to Baltra Airport to get into the Galapagos? Another $10 each just to step foot on Isabela Island? It costs us $520 just for entry fees? Another “uplanned” feature of our trip.

Stepping off the tiny boat taxi that precariously carried us and our bags one on top of the other at the bow of the boat, we were greeted by iguanas and sea lions bathing in the afternoon sun. We saw sea lions who had climbed up onto boats docked in the harbor. The people here are used to it. They’re not afraid of humans. All they care about is to basque in that sunny spot. And they do. 

The rule here is to stay 2 meters away from the animals, but that’s hard, particularly when they’re walking right up to you! Also, no flash photography. It startles them. 

Yes, we did finally arrive at Hotel Albemarle to enjoy the sunset, but the day itself, filled with adventure, meeting people, relying on others, having faith, sometimes fighting, and overcoming odds is what really matters in Life.

Yes, it is about the JOURNEY!

(Although nice to have finally gotten here, too, and to see Bea again here on the island.)

Bea with a couple of friends!

Bea with a couple of friends!

What's Your Spiritual Age?

Dreams are funny things. I hardly remember mine these days, but have found myself in multiple cinematic features this week while sleeping! Maybe it’s the new ProgestAvail I’m trying at night to help balance my hormones, but last night’s dream was strange.

I met a younger version of my mom. 

She was 32 years old, and as petite as Jackie Kennedy, with an elegance and smile I cannot describe. In my dream, I was a solid 51-years, strong and wise, watching her relax in the room talking about her children and my dad. I marveled at her beauty, fixated on that aspect although I wished I had paid more attention to what she was saying. LOL. Her skin like cream, and her black hair flowing around her face, a light exuded from her that I had never seen before. I appreciated this woman before me, and all she had endured in her life and was about to endure. She had yet to suffer through my dad’s lifelong battle with cancer and heart disease. She had yet to embark on her doctoral program. And she had yet to witness the loss of many dear friends from this world. Her smile revealed that innocent beauty that youth will accentuate. She had yet to wrinkle and gray.

On the flip side, I sat there as a 50+ woman, in a stage of my life where the I have heaps of Life lessons in my experience, and a few more wrinkles because of it. 

On a most basic level, this dream informed me about getting a new perspective on “aging”. What does “aging” mean and what is our relationship to our “age”?

First and foremost — 

Aging is not a disease, and should not be treated like one.

Second, how old are you really?

I read once that we have three types of ages:

  1. Chronological Age — Number of years since you were physically born into this world. 
  2. Physical Age — How old your body really is based on its vitality (or maybe measured through telomere length, an interesting test).
  3. Emotional Age — The age we act and think.

I found the whole exercise fascinating because our “age” paradigm needs to shift big, especially as the chronological numbers climb higher. ☺️ 

Also, I would like to add a #4, and this one, I believe, should be #1.

Our Spiritual Age 

Our Spiritual Age is beyond the calendar, the bone density and our emotional state. “Aging” has a negative connotation, except in this Fourth Age. The spirit, perhaps, prepares its journey for beyond what is in this life as we “get older” in chronological age. Hopefully, it is awakened within each of us in this lifetime. Some people have moments when they connect to the part Beyond the Physical Plane. I remember mine. I was in a church with my sister, and I felt something magnificent for the first time in my life. I was a cherished and loved soul, boundless light and energy, not just a physical being. Do you have a moment you felt “spiritual” or, some might say, “born again”?

Our Spiritual Age won’t follow the definition of a physical “continuum” because there is no “age” here. But it will be an aspect of our true beings that grows more profound as our bodies appear to be in physical decline, and it is precisely why the “aging process” needs to be redefined. 

I remember bitching about something in my job with a friend a couple of years ago. Not a highlight in my life, but I was stressed to the max. She said, “Watch those negative thoughts! They’ll shorten your telomeres.” This woman, “older” by our aging terminology, has a face that beams with light and beauty. She gently reminded me that negative thoughts, feelings, stress — all bound in a physical reality — will age us more quickly. I can’t judge her spiritual age, but I’ll bet it’s strong.

We both laughed. I felt my face soften as I laughed. 

What if the stresses of life and our negative thoughts actually propel the physical aging process? 

All the more reason to find your spiritual bliss and live there instead!

Don’t tarry too long in the physical world of “aging” (although I promise a few fun blogs about how I play there). 

Shift the paradigm of “aging” and what that means. 

Aging is not a disease, but an opportunity.

Don’t buy into anyone else’s program of what that means for you. Instead, tap into what is beyond innocent beauty or stressed-out wrinkly skin. Tap into the soul that does this Life in a unique way. It sees the good. It helps others. It never loses hope. It connects to Love. It dances, even when the body creaks. It smiles, even in the midst of fear. It embraces and spreads goodness, no matter where it goes. 

Shift your perspective.

I bet as we mature in Spiritual Age, the telomeres get real long.

My Suitcase Lesson

Photo cred: www.vickiarcher.com

Photo cred: www.vickiarcher.com

Packing for a week-long business trip can bring out the worst in me. Pairing shirts with pants. Finding the right shoes for the San Francisco weather. Wondering if my colleagues will think that shirt is professional enough. 

My butt can’t even squeeze into those pants I wore last year!

Nothing like pulling together outfits for 6 days with people who look like they’re off to shoot a Hollywood fitness video to walk you down the path of insecurities. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love my colleagues. But, from my perspective, they all live the “healthy life,” glowing from the energy they get from practicing what they’re preaching. I respect and admire them, but am also pretty intimidated by them. 

Why does this happen every single time? Why do I allow myself to feel small around wonderful people I love? 

In all spiritual practices, we are asked to stay rooted in our own relationship to God. In yoga, we find our focal point. We lose our balance when we look over at another person’s mat. Looking at others is irrelevant and detrimental to the practice and journey. A person of faith has his/her own faith, in spite of others. This rooting into our connection to the Deeper, the Greater, is where we can stand firm when the winds blow. The deeper the connection, the less likely any wind of change will snap our tree. 

Insecurities about how I might look is just a symptom of something deeper. It’s not about how I actually physically appear to others, and whether I’m pleasant-looking or not. That doesn’t even matter. Insecurity about how we look is a symptom of a deeper insecurity where we are not connected to ourselves, or a deeper space where insecurity can’t exist. When I am rooted in that space, I don’t fret about anything. I’m grounded in my faith, unshakable, unstirred by the activity around me. I speak from a place of confidence and trust, because the Greater is guiding me. And, frankly, I don't give a shit about what others think about me.

But my ego loves feeling insecure, and getting trapped in the pettiness of appearances. Inevitably, I lose my focal point and fall over. Insecurity of any kind reminds me that I’m not rooted. 

So I stop packing and take the time to sit in that wider space where I can open up to why I’m here on this Earth in the first place. 

For a few of us “sensitive” ones, waking up in the morning and realizing that we’re all collected on this global sphere spinning on an axis in an ever-expanding universe can be alarming. Not that I let myself grapple with this reality too often, but when I do, a deep stirring takes place. I can either freak out or rest in the knowledge that something Greater brought me here to this place in this time. I choose the latter. And that Something Greater (call it what you connect to — language is a funny thing, and let’s not judge how others name the Love) remains with me along the entire journey of my being. I am never alone even though I might feel alone, and God’s got my back.

My journey here is about love, but the world is full of distractions. The world itself is a distraction!

So let's sink into our hearts today and know we are Loved beyond our tiny imaginations and petty insecurities. We are powerful spiritual beings having a physical experience. Don’t let the garbs and physical entrapments define us or lead the day. Allow our souls to lead our bodies.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3,4

We are here for a reason. We are given opportunities every day to connect with the Greater. Be firmly rooted above all else in your faith, and let everything else take care of itself. Once I lock into that place, what emanates from me is an energy of love, trust and confidence, not insecurity.

My soul calls the shots.

So, thank you, empty suitcase for helping me see that this week.

Fasting for Freedom from Self

photo cred: www.thinkpynk.com

photo cred: www.thinkpynk.com

I’m in a fasting period right now, wrestling through a lot of issues.

Have you ever fasted?

Fasting is a tradition in many religious and spiritual practices, and has even seeped into wellness circles as a therapeutic means for certain illnesses because of surfacing research. "Intermittent fasting" has grown pretty popular, actually. 

The concept from a traditions perspective is centuries-old and bound in the principle that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. Detaching from the physical world, be it in terms of not eating or drinking, or abstaining from the usual physical habits in a conscious way, does seem to enliven a part that exists beyond the bodily frame — let’s call it spirit or soul. 

I have indulged in the Baha’i Fast for over 25 years. I see it as an indulgence and not a deprivation because magical realities surface for me during this time. I find when I put myself in close connection with what is beyond this physical world, or deeply internal for me, an awakening takes place. This year, I'm admitting that I'm not super sure I like the woman I am right now. A pettiness has crept into my everyday. A constant fretting over small stuff that doesn't really matter. I'm struggling a little, as the soul microscope gets turned on. 

 “[T]his material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.”

Staying connected to that deeply powerful space of Spirit opens me up in ways I seem to be shut away from when I'm running around on the hamster wheel of my life. A detachment takes place. A freedom. When I close the door of expending energy to satisfy my body’s appetites, other interesting doors open. 

Closing that door of routine, however, has never been easy. Before the fast, I have profound anxiety. I start plotting and planning. What will I eat to sustain my energy? Will I get my caffeine fix? How will I work out? And there’s no way I can maintain those daily habits. It all has to shift because I can no longer go mindlessly into my routine. Everything stops and finds new direction. Forcibly so. At first, I kick and scream. NO! I love my habits. I’m good! I’m ok rushing around for work, pulling over for my afternoon coffee, busying my mind and body with all things physical. I’m good! 

But if I allow this shift and acquiesce a little to the new routine, something beautiful takes place.  I relax into a trusting mode, something much larger than my ego, a place of mystery that knows even better than I do what is best for me.

It is in that connection to the Greater, I find a more sustainable joy than I could get from shopping or eating or any of this physical world’s fleeting offerings. So I begin to rest here for the time being and try to allow my “ego” to burn away and give space to a peace. No yelling at the guy who cuts me off on the highway. Detached! No freaking out when a work issue rears its ugly head. Detached! (Well, working on that.) No frantic concern about the infinite conflicts in the world right now. Detached! (Well, actually, I'm not at all detached from that, but praying for severity in compassion for all people, and asking to be guided in a constructive, less contentious, direction.) 

What good am I to anyone if I’m locked onto my hamster wheel of routine, frantic all the time? This time forces me to go a little deeper, "Why have I clung to this hamster wheel for dear life?"

So I jump off, take this time to refresh, and end up looking at everything from a new and different perspective. I usually end up asking myself, "How did I get to this obnoxious place?" Lol.

And then I try to cherish the perspective from this new place, shift some things around and see the experience a a gift.

Some important notes about fasting:

  1. If you have an eating disorder, don’t even think about fasting! Have the sense to know yourself and not mistake a spiritual time with an opportunity to starve yourself. Also remember that going without food can trigger brain chemicals for anorexics that result in highs that are physically addictive. Again, not the point. 
  2. Consult with your physician before embarking on a fast. Some doctors think the whole thing is crazy and unhealthy so be discerning in whom you consult with. Be sure they understand the concept from a spiritual perspective. On the flip side, no fasting if you're physically ill, elderly, pregnant, having your period, traveling. Fasting is physically rigorous and not for everyone. Again, know yourself and don’t be stupid about it.
  3. Find a community. Sharing the experience with other people can be encouraging. I have a few friends I connect with during this time. Also, FB pages I’ve joined that connect people from all over the world can be an amazing experience.
  4. Allow what happens. In this spiritual space, stuff — self-realization —  comes up. It’s not always pretty. Maybe you become more aware of a behavior or an attachment. Don’t judge yourself. Let this time be encouraging and nurturing of your deeper Self. We all have to clean the dross off our mirrored selves. Wipe away and find that glorious place that reflects the Light within.
  5. Indulge your spirit. Write. Pray. Meditate. Relax. Do something to help someone else today. Walk into that coffee shop and pay a coffee forward for someone else. Sing, even if you suck at it. Dance unabashedly. Listen to someone with opposing political views from your heart. Really listen. Tune into deeper and deeper connections until you hit the big question. Why are you actually here in this world? What is your purpose? Take the time and go there. Get the answer and just do it once and for all, whatever comes up for you.

Who actually is this spirit having a physical experience?

Go and find her (or him)!