The Violence of Insecurity

If you’ve ever seen your teenage child in juvenile detention clothes, you can bet that you’ve also beaten yourself up about where you went wrong as a parent.  You’ve questioned, you’ve searched the timeline back to the beginning, pondering how things might have gone differently if you had just…

And, if you’ve learned anything at all in your time here on this beautiful mindfuck of a planet, you have learned that parenting isn’t about YOU.  It is the farthest thing from that.  It is the one thing we willingly enter into that leaves us more vulnerable, out of control, fearful and shattered than any other encounter we could possibly experience.  Some of us have been under the illusion that when we had our children, they would make us feel good about ourselves by their perfect behavior, their beauty, their talents, their grades, their jobs, etc.  Some found out the hard way that parenthood never promised any of that, yet I’ve seen maternal and paternal feathers ruffled at the sobering realization that we don’t always get the children we dreamt up in our minds, but we always get the children we NEED along with the lessons they were sent to teach us.

Allow me to elaborate so as not to be misunderstood.  During all three of my pregnancies, I believed I was having a boy.  I still believe my first child was a boy, but I will never know.  Maybe the next two were wishful thinking – wishing I could take back a decision I made when I was 16 that I didn’t want to have to make.  Maybe it was because I just always vibed better with boys growing up and thought I would be a better mother to boys than girls.  Maybe I was afraid of girls.  For whatever reasons, God hand-delivered two daughters into my arms.  I have always been proud of my daughters and loved them madly.  They were never a disappointment.  But I had boys engrained in my mind.  Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I think deep down inside, I WANTED a boy (and oh how I miss the one I never got to hold), but God knew I NEEDED girls (and then he put a cherry on top by giving me two unexpected redheads!).  I don’t even fully understand why still.  I just know that that having two daughters (and also my relationship with their girlfriends) has helped me grow in ways that would not have been quite as impactful with boys.

Being a youth mentor and having worked with teens long before my daughters entered that magically twisted age, you like to think you have a few things figured out (Ha! Ha!).  When you do this work, you have to constantly check your ego and sometimes give it a good ass-whooping so as not to get too fancy with your expectations of yourself and those you are working with.  You can’t force anyone to change or to be something they are not or don’t want to be.  You might see all their potential, but you can’t make them see it or act on it.  We can only “save” or “fix” ourselves and to think we have the power to fix or save another human being is..well, arrogantly insane.

I often wonder how God must feel when he looks at his children (including myself) and shakes His head thinking:  “If you could only see what I see.”  

It’s so easy to look at our mistakes as parents and attack ourselves, thinking we have somehow failed our children.  Do we sometimes, fail them?  Do some parents wreck them with emotional, physical and other horrific kinds of abuses?  Of course.  I wish I had answers and explanations for why these things happen.  All I know is that the more we focus on being “good parents”, the the more we make it about ourselves and less about our children.

Ironically, our parental sensitivities and the fact that we care so much about doing right by our children can leave us vulnerable to succumbing to the expectations and opinions of others, rather than listening to our own parenting instincts.  NO ONE knows your children and their needs better than you do, but how often do we question and doubt our decisions when made on the behalf of these young lives?  I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it absolutely terrifying that a perfect, omnipotent God put my silly ass in charge of two of His most incredible creations.   And then I remind myself that I’m not doing this alone.  Our intuition is the most important thing we have as parents and as anything on this planet.  That intuition is basically your relationship with the source of all things.  I call Him God.  You call Him whatever you like, but it’s that calm, confident voice that is always speaking to you and showing you things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.  We can’t hear that voice when we are listening to the limited opinions of others.  We have to silence those voices and dismantle the violent, crippling dominon we have given them over our God-given ability to help our children navigate through youth and into adulthood.

I want to offer all of us an outstretched, compassionate hand and ask you to forgive yourself for anywhere you feel you have failed you children as a parent.  I believe God already knew every screw-up we would make, but He has a plan for all of it…and we’re all a work in progress.  You don’t owe other parents an apology or explanation and while we may sometimes owe our children apologies, we don’t know how God will use even our worst parenting mistakes as fertilizer for bountiful fruit in their lives.

I’ve watched my baby suffer some things over the last year or so and watched her make poor choice after poor choice, not because she is a bad person and not because she has “bad parents”.  She is a phenomenal creature with a deep gift for empathy and compassion. She is also a human being in a phase of life with an underdeveloped capacity for reason and rationale in a body that is overly-hormonal who is trying to make sense of life and doesn’t always know what to do with all of the pain, fear and confusion inside of her.  She is doing great things in life and I have no doubts that she will continue to do so for all of her days.  But she’s struggling and the judgement and shaming from her peers and other parents isn’t helping her in any way.

Shame never motivated anyone…EVER.  It never set any human being on a path of greatness and growth. We are killing each other with our insecurities and lack of intuition.  So again, I want to ask us all to forgive ourselves and if you really want to motivate and help in the world, check in with yourself and the source of all things beautiful and great before you utter a word or take a step.  Our words and deeds are lasting in this life, so please choose wisely.  It is truly a matter of life and death.

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WHY, Not WHAT.

For as long as I can recall, I’ve been working with teens on some level.  As I was exiting my own teenage years, I stepped into a mentor role for youth that has remained a passion and a calling on my life.  I don’t foresee that passion or calling ever changing.

Those years for me were like most people’s ascent into adulthood:  an emotional shit storm lined with occasional fluffy clouds and blue skies of irresponsible fun and poor choices you didn’t get busted for.  In addition to the typical storms, there were natural disasters also going on behind the scenes that most people didn’t see that made the weather of this stage of life even more tumultuous for me and my family.

The aftermath of sexual abuse from multiple abusers heaped a special kind of destruction that left a tremendous amount of clean up for the adult years.  Once given enough time under fair weather skies, the deepest pain throughout all of the abuse was exhumed and examined.  Ironically, what felt like a death, brought forth new life and it gave me a gift that I feel compelled to share with the world, despite the fact that much of the world does not want to hear it.

Society is shut down and numb, yet suffering like never before.  There are many people with similar stories to my own out there, and far worse, who either don’t remember or are disconnected with their own story of sexual trauma….and there are more of them than most might think.  And then there are those who have never experienced sexual trauma.  It has become my observation (in most cases) that, unless you have experienced sexual trauma personally and are willing to connect to that dark part of your story in order to rise from the ruins of it (or have had some quality training and education on how sexual trauma effects a human being, especially in the developmental years), you are at great risk of contributing to the further demise of a young person who has already suffered greatly and unnecessarily.

It happens all the time.  A young girl or boy is neglected, gets molested or abused in some other way.  Or maybe they lost a parent to death, jail or addiction.   Either way, it is more than any child can or should have to endure.  They act out because they have no idea how to process or communicate their pain, anger or fear.  Somehow, they are expected to know how to navigate through incomprehensible agony by adults who have quickly forgotten what it is to be a powerful, child of God in a young, fragile human body and emotional mind.  We (adults) heap pressure on them to “act right” in order to make us feel good about ourselves or because we don’t want to have to deal with the drama of a child with unmet needs.  We won’t tolerate any “bad” behavior from them.  We might mean well.  But we fail these kids so tragically so often when we only look at what’s happening on the outside.  We are sometimes their last life line and yet, how many times have we – teachers, parents, neighbors, coaches, pastors, etc.-  lacked the ability to see them through God’s eyes in order to see the WHY instead of focusing on the WHAT?

There is no such thing as a “bad child”.  We all pretend to know this, but we are still so quick to gossip and judge other people’s kids who are doing things we don’t approve of…things we may have done at another time and place or things our own kids are doing that we may or may not know about.  We unknowingly teach our kids to call the pregnant middle school girl or the high school girl with the bad reputation names without asking what or WHO might have possibly gotten her there.  There are far more cases of childhood sexual abuse than most people are aware of.  We complain about how kids act these days…the lack of respect, the way they are always on their phones, and so forth.  Call me crazy, but last time I checked, WE, the adults, are the ones at the steering wheel, so why are we faulting THEM?

I believe everyone has a wellspring of good inside of them and most people mean well and want the same things for their families, their communities and this world.   Despite the good we may all possess, we cannot afford to rest on our good intentions and the fact that we pay our bills, tithe now and then and meet our kids’ basic needs. I don’t claim to have all the answers to all the problems.  But I know one thing for certain…WE NEED THE EYES OF GOD in a desperate way.  We, as a society, are failing our kids…kids who are quickly becoming adults who will either raise the vibration on the planet or lower it.   If we can only see them through our own stories, our own limited understanding and our own opinions, we are alldoomed to repeat painful cycles of mediocrity and joyless lives in the upcoming generations.

Our children are taking their own lives, suffering from obesity, depression and anxiety.  They are over-medicated, often times unnecessarily.  They are reaping the affects of the greed of big food and big pharma companies attempting to pass off poison as healthy products for the purpose of keeping them medicated, addicted and in need of health services they wouldn’t otherwise need.  All the while, we adults are numbing out, on reality TV, alcohol, drugs, Facebook, overworking or whatever our own drug of choice may be because we don’t know how to stop the Tsunami that is consistently gaining height and momentum.

How many many of our children may have a sensitive, empathic spiritual gift that feels like a curse instead?  If those gifts are not honored as such, they will view the very thing that makes them unique and perfect as a threat to their basic survival.  Rejection is a very real fear that equates to death on many levels and in many cultures.

Our children are over-exposed to intense pressures of perfection and under spiritual attack by the music and media of our culture that is constantly violating their truth and authentic beauty.   If I had a dollar for every time I heard teachers and other professionals preach to my kids (or other kids) about college, grade point averages and homework, I would be as rich as the corporate dicks who have our government in their pockets for their own disgusting agendas.  I’m not saying those things are not important, but if we can stop long enough to look a child in the eyes and ask some questions before we speak, we might learn that SAT scores and scholarships are not an acceptable solution for a child who secretly feels that death is a better option than college.

As I said, I do not have all the answers.  But if we don’t start looking at WHY our children are making certain choices or behaving in certain ways, the WHAT will continue to be a cancer to our society.  The only real cure is love.  The question is…What kind of love are we putting out into the world these days and can we do better?

 

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Stirring the Pot

It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 months since I’ve returned from Barcelona.  To be quite honest, I’m having a hard time accepting where I’m at right now, as opposed to where I wanted to be at this point.    I came back with a fire lit under me by some of my new tribe and, as life sometimes does, it threw a blanket over that fire and smothered it down to a faint smolder.   I’ve been moving back and forth between being hard on myself and being too soft.  I’m either busting my ass or hiding under my covers daydreaming about a different reality, paralyzed by a fear that holds me in my bed too long, fearful of more unexpected throat punches around corners that would otherwise seem safe.  I’m tired of having my breath stolen from my chest (and not in a good way) and I just want a break.  But apparently, God has something important for me and we don’t have time to take a break.

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It hasn’t been all bad.  I am grateful for so much in my life…even the heartaches and struggles.  I know they all have something to teach me.  As I look back on these first 8 months of 2017, I cannot help but feel a twinge of pride and accomplishment at what has been manifested so far.  I set some big goals for myself in January and I have actually exceeded my expectations and the year isn’t over.  At the same time, there are other goals yet unmet and time is closing in.  It isn’t just a matter of wanting to feel good about reaching a goal.  I HAVE TO MAKE SOME THINGS HAPPEN.  So there’s this demon stirring the pot of all my accomplishments, reminding me that the main ingredients are still missing and laughing at me while I plant and hunt and come up empty handed yet again.  Sometimes, I just want to scream in terror and slam that pot against the wall and order take out.

But I know I was meant for more  I know that what I have been cooking up is not just for me – it was meant to feed the world.  Every failed attempt, every missed ingredient, every time the elements ruin my harvest, every time I’ve gone hungry, I’ve been gaining wisdom and learning how to be nourished even by the sight of a bare table…or no table at all.

I have learned so much about myself in these last 8 months…that was part of the plan.  But it’s easy to discount that inner work because the world doesn’t know how to measure it.  We forget that there is joy in tossing an unmeasured amount of seasoning into the pot for the sake of experimentation and adventure.  We laud the chef for the taste and presentation of the food but we don’t see all that went behind the finished product.  We don’t appreciate what we can’t measure.  So my failures and my inner healing work behind the scenes just looks like immobility to the outside world.  It is my own responsibillity and the responsibility of each of us to determine and acknowledge the truth:  that there has never been more movement and vibrational currency being exchanged than in those moments behind the swinging kitchen doors where the process is happening.

There have been plenty of days where I have been blinded by fear and feelings of inadequacy. But 99% of the time, I push through it and just start cooking and see where it takes me.  Some days, I burn the shit out of things.  Other days, I create magic.  Whatever the case may be, the nourishment lies in the push.  That is where we get to taste all the flavors of life.  The bitter, the sweet, the spicy, the salty.  We all have our preferences, but the taste of the most unpleasant experiences are what make the sweetness of life taste even sweeter.

My kitchen has been a mess this last month.  I’ve come up short and dropped half of the ingredients on the floor.  But today is a new day and I am learning.  That’s what it is all about and I need this reminder constantly so that I can stop and be nourished by the process without trying to mandhandle the outcome into submission.  We all have to push through the heat of the kitchen at times.  Today, I’m taking a moment to send out nourishment and beauty to each and every one of you so that we may all push with the force of love instead.  We never know what is coming around the corner or how much time we have left to enjoy the little things.  Be kind to yourself.  Be well.  Be Nourished.

 

A New Standard of Love

Within minutes upon arriving at the Lifestyle Engineering House in Barcelona, where 14 total strangers would be residing together for the next 30 days, I felt like I had arrived home.  We were from different parts of the world, ranging from ages 9 – 48.  Everyone there made me feel appreciated for who I was and we all crafted a safe space that made room for everyone’s authentic flavor.  I was about to have the college experience I never had, only 30 years later and minus the late night vomiting and other events resembling scenes from Animal House.  I was also about to make some very special friends who would be instrumental in shaping the successful, evolved professional human that I am becoming.

Among this house full of epic professional human beings, was Love and Relationship Coach and former Stand-Up Comedian, Daniel Packard.  He was constantly making all of us laugh over those life-changing 30 days in Spain.  He also had a way of bringing healing tears to the surface and sometimes he did both of these simultaneously.  He made himself available to EVERYONE.  I don’t know how many times I saw him strike up a conversation without someone at a party or a workshop and the next thing you know, they would be off in some corner chatting for the next hour with him listening intently, asking powerful questions and the other person pouring their soul out in ways that don’t come easy to most people.

But Daniel is more than his important work.  I saw someone who had been doing a tremendous amount of healing and inner work that had propelled him up to a mountaintop with a view that, once discovered, cannot be unseen.  I didn’t personally witness what that upward journey was like for him, but I can guess it was no casual skip on a paved path of roses.  At best, it was a brutal, lonely climb with frequent uncertainty about where and how to proceed through the elements.  But now, here this man stood at a mountaintop of self-love that it took nearly a life time to reach and there was no going back for him.  Witnessing his ability to honor himself by lovingly communicating what he needed from others without passing judgment was like having a match thrown onto my gasoline-soaked heart.  I wanted more of that kind of love for myself and from myself.

I’ve been dating for several years now after being with the same man for 23 years.  I have learned much about myself and others from my courting adventures and I’m still learning and growing through this experience.  I seek always to remain open even when I get hurt…and the hurts of my life have left some pretty deep wounds and beautiful scars.  As much as I want to stay open, I can find plenty of reasons to throw a wall up around my heart in order to protect it from being hurt any more that it already has.  But there is another part of me that is more courageous than that.  That part of me knows how to strip off her armor, throw down her sword and whisper (in a sexy, raspy voice) “Come at me, Baby.”  to the swinging blades that sometimes fly too close for comfort.

From our many conversations and Daniel’s sincere interest in stretching my capacity for self-love, he was helping me to step more firmly into the strength of emotional nakedness.  The kind of nakedness that separates the professionals of the human experience from the amateurs.  Daniel challenged me in several situations that arose during that month to put myself out there and take some risks.  I accepted his challenges and not all of my attempts had pleasant outcomes.  Some were very painful but he was there to encourage me to pick my ass up and try again.

After several let-downs, I was facilitating a final dance party in one of the Barcelona plazas that Daniel and many other MVU tribe members attended.  As we were winding down, Daniel approached me to apologize for not showing up in his usual, full-tilt energy (And, if you’ve seen his amazing dance moves, you know exactly what I’m talking about!).  I was simply thrilled that he and other people were there and that was all I needed.  As I proceeded to share that thought with him, he stopped me with a piercing look in his eyes and put his hands on my shoulders, forcing me to look back at him and see what I wasn’t understanding.  Then he said “I’m trying to love you from my standard of loving, not from the standard you’ve been used to.”  I could hear my brain firing warning shots to my mouth: “Say something quick to deflect this madness!” But I was staring into the eyes of truth and there was nothing I could to deny it.  I also knew that he was no longer going to tolerate watching me grasp for breadcrumbs when he and I both knew I was worthy of a king’s feast at the finest of tables.  So I kept my mouth shut, smiled and allowed his loving, healing words their rightful place on the wounds of my heart.  Those sincere words are a balm that will last a lifetime.

Through his friendship and his skills as a coach, he reminded me that if I want to show up as love in the world, I am going to have to risk some rejections and undesired outcomes.  He also reminded me that the rejections don’t have to be unpleasant at all.  I just need to detach from the outcome.  These reminders ignited powerful questions of my own that were rooted in “enoughness”.  What if, I just gave love and stopped needing anything in particular to happen as a result?  What if a compliment to a stranger or flirting with a man I’m attracted to were offered up simply because I want to put out something good in the world?  What if the gift became the same thing as the action?

What if “The gift of loving a person is…loving a person.”?

Love will always involve some risk.  That is one thing that makes it so damn worthwhile when it goes the way we want it to. But it’s worth it even when it doesn’t go well and when it hurts like hell.  That’s where we refine the art of loving and it is the only way that we can create true, lasting beauty on this planet.

To learn more about Daniel Packard and all that he has to offer, go to:  https://www.danielpackard.com

 

Making Love to Barcelona

18951370_10154727416977685_2800854125178326557_nMy month-long adventure here in Barcelona is rapidly coming to a close.  There is so much more I would like to do here in the next 6 days before I leave and I know I won’t be able to cover a fraction of those things, even if I had another month or a year.  I’ve only been to the beach a few times, despite the fact that it only takes about an hour to walk there or 10 minutes by taxi.  I have seen very few tourist attractions and been to few restaurants.  I’ve done very little shopping even though there are pretty things in the windows of the shops that line every street on my regular walks to and from my place to the venue where our work spaces are and workshops are held.

I’ve spent most of my time in workshops, doing yoga and other forms of movement with new friends, communing with other Mindvalley U participants, dance-walking around town and taking in the city, dancing in the plazas with my tribe and total strangers and giving daily hugs and little gestures of love to a homeless man who sits on the corner near my place.  Some people might say that I’ve wasted many perfect opportunities to see the sites of Barcelona and take in all the rich history.  It’s not that those things do not matter to me.  It’s just that I only have 1 month and those are not the things I feel are most important.  I’m sure that many people have covered more ground and checked off an impressive list of attractions in a week’s time than I’ve even come close to in my month here.  But so far,  I’ve seen and done what I came here to do.  I came here to grow, to learn, to be stretched, to dance, to take in the culture and to share the human experience with other souls who are also trying to be total pros at being a human being on planet earth.  And, that is exactly what has happened so far.  I have no regrets.  There is nothing so far that I feel I have missed out on.

It doesn’t matter where I go, I tend to avoid the places most tourists go.  I don’t need the crash course on the culture.  I would much rather experience a city on a deeper level through her streets, her small businesses, her homeless, her children, her people and how they respond to strangers, especially strangers who just want to dance with them and share a moment communicating in a beautiful universal language.   I have done these things and it feels perfect.  I came to give Barcelona a big hug and kiss and I made love to her instead (and the party isn’t even over yet).

I can learn about the tourist attractions online.  I can study the history in a book.  But I can only experience Barcelona by getting naked and intimate with her (and though it’s legal to walk around naked, I only meant that metaphorically, just to be clear…though I might want to add that experience to my bucket list, so one never knows what could change over the next few days).  The same is true wherever you go and with whomever you share space with.  You can only know them by engaging in open, vulnerable communication, both listening and sharing and looking into their eyes.  And you can’t even do that until you purchase your ticket for life and show up.  The rest will take care of itself.

Choose the Gift

I could hear it faintly calling me.  Tender notes of musical poetry being lured from the strings of a harp into the Barcelona night air by the hands of a 24-year old entrepreneur  named Guillaumme.  He was sending sounds out of his instrument that mirrored the beauty of prayers being lifted up to God.  It took me away from the lovely conversation I was having with 3 out of the 14 people who were all inhabiting our temporary home together for the last 3 weeks.  I had been sleeping on the back terrace on a chaise lounge with my blanket and pillow for the last several nights because the breeze, the moon and the stars made me feel like I was sleeping in God’s lap while He lovingly stroked my hair (dreads, extensions, hair products and all).  That alone was a unique gift, but now I was hearing harp music playing out on the terrace?  It was as if God was whispering in my ear “Oh, my sweet child, I have so much more for you.  You have NO IDEA.”

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I wasn’t going to waste that opportunity to receive such a gift, so I grabbed my blanket and pillow and rushed outside to lie down and take in the musical confetti that was swirling all around and gently landing on my spirit.  I stretched my body out on the blanket and took a deep breath in….then exhaled with a smile.  The stars were magnificent, the breeze was a comforting expression of connection, the sounds I was hearing put me in a state of beauty and peace and the cherry on top was the fact that Guillaumme is not only a dear friend that I’ve come to know in the last few weeks, but he is also an angel and not just because he plays and owns a harp.  He has so many qualities that are like that of a child and he expresses that nature of himself so beautifully and perfectly.  One of many ways he does that is he invites other people to re-enter their own state of childhood wonder that none of us should ever disconnect from in the first place.  He is an invitation to life.  And now I was being sung to sleep by his harp and it felt like he was playing it just for me.  It could not have been more perfect.  And then God’s playfully twisted sense of humor happened.  I heard some laughing from a few floors up.  That might’ve added to the beauty of the moment if not for the fact that the laughter sounded like what fingernails on a chalkboard might sound like if it were personified as the most obnoxious female person you can dream up in your mind.  And she was not alone.  I began to hear what sounded like an army of cackling, howling women carry on as if their whole agenda was to drown out every sound possible within a 5-mile radius with their voices. Guillaumme’s harp-playing continued.  He did not not stop playing just because they were poisoning the sound waves.

 

I looked up at the sky and gave God a request:  “Please make these bitches stop.  This is not something that happens every day and I just want this moment.  Please.”  I waited.  More cackling.   I started thinking about how good it might feel to throw a rock at their window with a note reading “The next one will be aimed at your big mouth and there’s no way I can miss.”   Then I thought about how I might sound if I were up there with them joining in the party.  I’m pretty sure I would sound exactly like them.  They were just a bunch of women (my Earth sisters) having fun and enjoying life.  They had no idea they were jacking my God moment.  I asked again (but more lovingly):  “Please make them go out or shut the window or something.”  The hen party continued.

And then it occurred to me:  “Don’t waste this precious time concentrating on what you don’t want.  Focus on what you want.”  I wanted to revel in the beautiful art of an angel.  So that’s what I did.  I let the ladies have their moment and I had mine.  When I let go of wanting what I wanted in a specific kind of way, I got to enjoy it in the exact way it was being presented to me.  What a waste it would have been if I had allowed those women who were merely enjoying each other to ruin the moment of profound beauty I was experiencing.  What’s even better is that, when I chose what I wanted, even what had originally started as an annoyance had merely become another thing to feel happy about – there were women upstairs enjoying life and each other.  What’s not to love about that?   It was a moment I will never forget in my lifetime.  It was beautiful.  And it was also a lesson.

We all have opportunities every single day to choose what we want and when we do that, we often transcend even that which we don’t want into something to be grateful for.  We get to choose.  No one can choose for you.  Choose what you want…every fucking time…and you will create magic you did not realize was there.  It’s always there waiting for you in a pretty package.  We may see that package but we fail to see our name on it.   It reads:  “Dear (insert your name here), I made this just for you.  Please accept it as an expression of my deep and wild love for you.  You don’t have to accept it, but it is just for you.  No one else can receive it but you, and, should you choose to receive it, you will have more to give to others.  But you have to receive it first before they will benefit from it.  You get to choose.   Love, God.”

The Eyes of a Student

The first time I saw him, there was just something about him that I couldn’t ignore.  I will admit, I have become somewhat desensitized to homelessness.  You see it all the time and you can’t stop and chat or give out food, water, etc. to every homeless soul on the street, so I sometimes turn my blinders on and plow past like I didn’t see them.  I had just passed several homeless men on the streets of Barcelona on my spirited dance-walk back to my temporary living space.  I was in my own little bubble, feeling good about the day’s events and the people I’ve been connecting with.  My spirit was full.  But then I saw them…and it reminded me that there is much work left to be done.  Part of me just wanted to be in my feel-good box and not have that space be disrupted.  But I know better.

Then I saw the little old man on the corner.  He had set up a space on the sidewalk near an intersection with his sign and a few belongings.  I couldn’t read the sign because I don’t speak or read Spanish.  His face and clothes were dirty.  He looked indifferent standing there.  Or maybe I mistook indifference for the feeling of emptiness or loss.  Either way, there was also something very kind in his eyes.  As I said, I was putting up my protective wall by not making eye contact so I didn’t have to feel the heaviness of their story.  I tend to feel a lot from other people and sometimes I just want to protect myself from that.   I love smiling into people’s eyes and sending that smile into their spirit, but when there is that kind of heaviness or suffering, that can be harder to do when you want to cling to life’s good “highs”.  I’m working on breaking through that.  So I allowed myself to make eye contact.  I smiled at him, feeling a little sad that all I had to give him in that moment was a smile.  But I saw something light up in him when I did.  It was like a switch had been hit and the “I’ve been acknowledged” light went on inside of him.

And then I remembered, I had a banana in my bag that I hadn’t eaten yet.  So I gave him another smile and handed it to him.  Now he was looking like a kid on Christmas morning!   I would like to believe that the shift in his expression had little to do with the banana.  Since that day, I’ve been seeing him on that corner as I sashay my way to and from workshops and events and I’ve decided to focus my love and attention on him for the rest of my time here.  Every day, I am prepared and ready to leave him a little nugget of encouragement or support should I see him.  And every time I see him, he gives me a gift in return.  He says thank you with his wide eyes and reminds me that all we want and need is to be seen and acknowledged.  Everyone deserves that and it’s not too much to ask.  We don’t have to agree with a person…we don’t even have to like them, but we are responsible for how we treat others and we owe it to our brothers and sisters on this planet to allow them their human experience and to respect the fact that they are doing their best with what they have.

It is not our place to judge or condemn.  We all have something valuable to teach each other and much to learn.  There are teachers all around us, but we won’t see them if we don’t have the eyes of a student.

What predators are willing to do for our kids that we may not be…

There’s so much I want to share with you about my first week here in Barcelona at Mindvalley University but doing so would resemble a dissertation just tell the short version, so I’m going to just say that I’m in the company of some of the most bad-ass game-changers and freedom-hustlers I’ve ever met who are all inspiring me to be a better, stronger person and giving me enormous doses of love and support with my work as well.  As you know, I’m very passionate about creating opportunities for humans to connect and become total PROs at being fully present as human beings on planet earth, so this is a dream for me to be in this space with other people who are passionate about similar things.

In this first week, I’ve been inspired by several people to create more out of what I’m already doing and I’ve had some things come up that I can’t wait to share with you around this.  But I have something heavy on my heart, so right now I just want to get real with you and drop some truth about “that thing”.

I want to give you a little breakdown of how easily a pimp lures a young child into sex trafficking. (In case you were not aware, the average age of entry into prostitution in America is 12-13 years of age.)  It doesn’t take much really.  All they need to do is find a young girl or boy with low self-esteem.  Predators can spot them a mile away and they know exactly what to say and do to get them exactly where they want them.  That’s it.  Yes, it’s true that some of the victims have suffered abuse or come from low-income families, severe neglect, etc. but it can happen to ANYONE…that also means YOUR child, boy or girl.  They find kids who are confused and don’t know their value and they pour into them with support, gifts, they listen to them and show compassion and understanding and they make them feel loved and like they belong somewhere.

Imagine your are a child who thinks all of your friends hate you or don’t understand you.  Imagine feeling alone and then having some dude come along and fulfill many of your emotional needs.  You’re going to begin to trust and adore that person and be grateful for them because now you don’t feel so alone.  You might even fall in love with that person.  And then imagine that person tells you one day that he needs you to do this “one little thing”, which would be selling your body, for a while so that the two of you could run away together and live happily ever after.  You aren’t sure you like that idea so he applies whatever pressure tactics he needs to, whether it be emotional manipulation or physical force and the next thing you know, this child who just wanted to be understood and loved (like we all do) is now being raped and used every day for someone else’s pleasure.

Why am I telling you all this?  It’s not to dump a trauma bomb on you and ruin your day but it is meant to disrupt your comfort zone.  What I keep struggling with is how the hell did we get here?  How is it that clever, hard-working pimps and predators are pouring more into our kids than we are?  They are willing to do for these kids what we are not and that is why we are losing them, not just to things like sex trafficking but also to drug addiction, suicide and just plain and simple apathy.  Where has our community gone?  We as parents are so concerned about what people will think of our kids or of us as parents and grades, and performance driven outcomes (and let’s face it, that fear is real because the gossip and slander and insecurities in our communities are a cancerous road to isolation that none of us want to experience) that we keep quiet and we don’t reach out FOR help or TO help.  As long as we are in that place, we are going to continue to lose our children.

Imagine what we could do for them if we were willing to pour into them what gangs, pimps and predators pour into them.  Imagine how the thumbprint of your community might look and feel different.  When we pour into them, we pour into ourselves and into the entire planet.  It’s an outrage that such smart, clever people are working so hard to output suffering on the world.  We have to create a shift, which means we have to become a little more courageous and vulnerable.  What does that look like for you?  How can you pour into, not just your own child, but maybe your child’s friends or some kid you know who is struggling in certain ways?

We can learn something from these assholes and start beating them at their own game.  They are not as powerful as we might think and though human trafficking is globally, the fastest growing form of organized crime, it is not bigger than our capacity to love and create beauty.  Anything is possible.  Every time one of our children suffers, we all suffer, every time one of us wins, we all win.  Please join me today in prayer for the empowerment of our youth and for the strengthening of families and community all across the globe.  The simple, yet powerful act of prayer can be enough to move mountains, so start there.

What is possible for you is what is possible for you.

It is there every morning to greet me when I wake up and there every night to influence my dreams…a little wall hanging that reads “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE”.   I see it and it inspires me, but I often forget about it once I leave the house.  And when I’m out there moving and shaking, those words grow smaller and smaller in my mind as the day wears on.  I hadn’t realized how much of its meaning had gotten lost for me along the road of struggle, disappointment, frustration, and heartache until the opportunity of a life time blew me a kiss.

I didn’t recognize her at first.  She came in disguise and just appeared one day across my laptop screen in the form of a video from Mindvalley Academy.  This is when she reached into my soul and stirred violently until a flood of emotions was boiling over and pouring out of me.  Of the many emotions being released into this spiritual broth being created before my eyes, the main ingredient was DESIRE.  A BURNING, UNSTOPPABLE LONGING.  I listened to Mindvalley Academy founder, Vishen Lakhiani, talk about a whole new concept on education that brings people of all ages, backgrounds, places and experiences together for 1 month every year to learn, network and grow together by immersing themselves in workshops and programs given by some of the most influential leaders, entrepreneurs, authors/speakers, spiritual teachers and healers in the world.  He called it Mindvalley University.

I was in love.  I put my daughters in front of my laptop and shared it with them.  I posted it on social media, I talked about it to others.  I was celebrating the positive shift of consciousness that this was going to create in the Universe…and that shift was already in motion.  As much as my heart burned for it, I think my original thought around it was that I was happy to see it was an option for people because many educational systems are not conducive to the needs of every learner.  I was missing the very important element that this could ever be an option for ME.

As the months went by and I saw emails and posts on how this whole thing was shaping up, I burned for it in a more personal way.  2017 has been a year of personal growth and creating for me.  I’ve been turning inward, working on myself and ways that i’ve been getting in my own way.  I’ve been exploring new territory, manifesting with more intention, building a deeper connection with my intuition and creating new content.  As a result, there isn’t much on my calendar right now and my bank account is looking more and more like a book of bad jokes as a result.  But something inside of me was beginning to feel a more intense energetic pull toward this Mindvalley University dream.

Within the last couple of months, I have manifested many blessings in my life and my life has begun to look and feel different in unexpected ways.  So a couple of weeks ago, upon receiving another email about this amazing opportunity that is taking place in beautiful Barcelona, Spain, I decided I would at least fill out an application for shits and giggles.

Keeping in mind that they were only accepting 400 applications out of thousands and that the kind of people who are associated with Mindvalley Academy are serious Freedom Hustlers and Game-Changers on the planet, this all felt a bit intimidating.  As I read through the information they were seeking, I did that thing I always do.  I doubted myself and tried to tell myself no.  As I read their request for “some accomplishments you are most proud of” my heart sank.  And my inner chatter sounded something like this:

Terrified, Lame, Ego-Driven Self:  “Looks like you’re done here.  You haven’t done anything impressive that anyone is going to see as an accomplishment.”

Bad Ass Self:  (After a brief moment of rapidly deflating energy)  “The Hell I haven’t!”  Hold my cape while I remind you about the fire I’ve been walking through for the last 6 years:  I got out of an unhealthy marriage, despite the fact that I still had mad love for him and never wanted to see my family break up.  But sometimes, you are left with few options and I had to take the one that wasn’t going to eventually destroy us all.  It cost me much to get my personal freedom back and take control of my life.  I started out with no job, no child support, no place to live and few possessions, but I had a purpose and a mission already in place and I never stopped moving towards it.  I knew nothing about running a business, but chose that challenging route knowing that I was going to struggle financially in the beginning no matter what, so I had better make sure I love what I do and that it means everything to me or it won’t be enough to get me out of bed in the morning.  And I’ve been getting out of bed every day with a joyful, passionate heart, even when I’m terrified and broke.  And it hasn’t always been pretty, but I’m still here doing my thing six years later and my daughters are getting first-hand schooling in what an awakened, authentic life looks like (and hopefully I’ve also taught them plenty about what NOT to do through my impressive collection of failures).  I’d say that’s an accomplishment worth recognizing.”

Terrified, Lame, Ego-Driven Self:  “Fine, whatever, but look they want a website and you still haven’t finished yours.  And what are you thinking anyway, you can’t afford this?  This is for successful people who already make big money and can afford to take off for a month.  Filling this application out is just irresponsible and you’re gonna look stupid!”

Bad Ass Self:  “I’m not taking off for a month – this is a month of work, of being way out of my comfort zone and being influenced by people who are further along the path than I am…this is where real shit happens.  I’m sending it and you won’t stop me this time.”

Terrified, Lame, Ego-Driven Self:  (Silence…crickets in the background).

Is this sounding familiar to anyone?  I still didn’t have the whole picture of HOW all of this would happen, but the YES from the Universe resounded the moment I hit the “submit application” button.  “Submit” indeed.  Right after I saw that my application had been sent, I wept uncontrollably.  It was very clear to me right then that everything was already in motion and that I would be in Barcelona in a few short weeks.

Now if anyone reading this is tempted to think that this was easy for me, let me turn that notion on its ass real quick.  This opportunity did not just fall into my lap.  I had to say yes to a lot, which isn’t always easy for me (or most people).  I had to say yes to believing it could even be a possibility.  I had to say yes to the unknown.  I had to say yes to the dance with my fear and anxiety that was plaguing me, especially around being away from my daughters for a whole month.  I had to say yes to a month of very little income stream and rescheduling some things.  I had to say yes to being out of my comfort zone, not speaking the language and traveling alone (this is a woman who used to be afraid to drive in DC, let alone travel across the globe by herself).  God took care of HOW, but I had to do my part to believe and agree to that undeniable longing that never lies.  That is true for all of us.

If we are going to be the most professional humans we can be on this planet, we have to say yes to things that our minds are often wanting to say no to in order to protect us from any possible unpleasantries.  I am willing to take some risks and I’m learning to take bigger onKD Paddle boardes.  This is an opportunity that I simply cannot pass up and I already know it will bring far more emotional, spiritual, professional and personal return than what it will ever cost me.  The real truth is this:  All it cost me was one word “YES”.

Anyone can do what I’m doing…the biggest step is saying yes to the possibility.  I want a life that makes me and everyone else uncomfortable.  I want a life that stretches me so I can look back and see how I’ve grown and be reminded in magical ways that faith works.  I want and choose life.  Our big risks and choices will come in different shapes and sizes for all of us, only you can say if you are playing a big enough game.  But the real questions is:  Are you even playing at all?

What is possible for you?  What will you say yes to today?

To learn more about Mindavalley University and Mindvalley Academy, check this out:

GROWING SOME COMPASSION

For the last week or so, I’ve felt less than compassionate towards others and that has not left me feeling very pleased with myself.  Most people would describe me as a very compassionate person and I’ve always delighted in that because, well….who wouldn’t want to be known for such a gracious quality?  But any professional human knows that we are not all that we or others hype us up to be on Facebook, at the networking event, in the church lobby, etc.  So, I really need to drop some truth and get my bitchy attitude off my chest and hopefully out of the atmosphere.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have moments when I’ve been sitting with someone else’s struggles or pain either from afar or in person and thought “I’m sorry, were you talking?  I was having trouble hearing you over the sound of my heart shattering into 4,627,331 pieces over my own troubles.”  Nice, huh?  It’s not really that I don’t care about them, it’s that, in that moment, I’m not fully aware that I’m giving all or most of my energy to my own hurts and fears, which will only expand them.  I’ve overcome many heartbreaking and frightening situations in life and it’s not so much the situations themselves that can potentially leave me feeling like I have forgotten how to care.  It’s really about the disconnect from the source of all good things (I call him God) that has brought me to those moments when I just don’t know how to care about anything else but ME.  It’s harder when you are in your own crisis to step outside of it and see other people’s needs.  When you feel ignored or stuck, when you are standing in a shit storm of fear and worry, when you feel shamed and humiliated by where you are in life, it can shut down compassion faster than an Air Supply song could wreck a make out session.

Ironically and thankfully, what we need most has a way of finding us at the perfect time and help came rushing in right before I got knocked off my ass by a Tsunami of self-pity and apathy that I could see coming right at me.  I am a part of a group called Synergy Circle that is led by Magic Maker and founder of Joy Rising, Trish Kapinos.  This is a group of Goddesses with hearts wide open who are on a mission to create more abundance for everyone and to raise the vibration and consciousness on this big, beautiful planet.  I was already soured by the fact that I was not able to join in on the monthly call we had yesterday and it was all going downhill fast from there.  But when I played back the recorded call, I got exactly what I needed simply by listening in on these brilliant, wise women.   And that’s probably what God was after:  “Shut up and listen, Karen…my heart is broken too and I am watching my children suffer in ways you will never have to know about, so get over yourself and let me pour some beauty over your bitterness.”

And shortly into the call, I got the message I needed:  The question was asked “Where are you finding difficulty being compassionate towards yourself?  As I pondered that thought, Trish interjected something that hit me exactly as what I imagine a throat punch would feel like:  “If you aren’t sure where you are not showing compassionate to yourself, just take a look at where you are not willing to show compassion towards others.”  OUCH.

As I sat there thinking about my recent case of apathy, I cringed at the irony of how everything I do revolves around pulling people out of that very ditch and replacing it with passion and purpose.  Apathy is a murderous emotion and I have often failed to delight in people who show up bleeding indifference all over themselves and others.  I tend to get jacked up and vigilant towards apathy and the path of rationalizations it can lead us down…rationalizations that send us chasing things that don’t really mean anything to us and that take us away from our truth.  But here I sit, smothering my heart with lackluster thoughts that are killing one of my best qualities.  So, Trish’s question forced me to chase after the root of where my lack of compassion was growing from and it literally only took about 60 seconds to get there (That’s the beauty of powerful questions!  They get you where you want to go and often rather quickly).

I figured out that I have been afraid of heaping any more pain on my heart – my own pain or someone else’s.  I have taken on some heavy loads, including other people’s stuff, and that just never works for anyone.  Despite my awareness of this, I have not always known how to care without getting sucked in or carrying other people’s crosses.  So I have been running from it altogether.  Brilliant.  I have been spending so much energy trying to hold some of my hurts in that I am rapidly losing real estate to hold space for others.  I’ve never been afraid of going into the dark, painful places with other people or even with myself.  I have found myself avoiding it more for the sake of being able to function and do what I need to do in life without falling apart every other hour.  Humans do things like that.  Humans can grow apathetic because they just don’t want to hurt anymore and when we disconnect, there is nowhere else to take the pain, the disappointments, the shame, the anger, etc.  Humans do these things…humans like ME and like the ones I have been witholding compassion from.  Now that nasty little magnifying mirror was being held right in my face, like a sticky reminder note: “Don’t get it twisted, Karen.  You are not more enlightened or wise or passionate than your clients…you ARE your clients.  How’s that for compassion?”

In the midst of all the chaos that turned my attention from the creator of compassion itself, I have somehow forgotten that, as professional humans, we are not as apathetic as we might pretend to be.  We do care.  We can’t help it – it’s who we are.  But caring without connection is like a plant without water or sunshine.  We can’t grow that gift by avoiding the elements.  We only choke and wither…and then we die.  So, today I’m choosing life.  I’m coming at the rain with an open mouth and outstretched arms and I’ll gladly bogart as much Vitamin D as I please.  There’s enough for everyone.