Category Archives: Inspiration

We see things as we are.

I’ve been listening to a book lately by Deepak Chopra called Synchrodestiny and it’s an amazing book about manifesting change and creating abundance in your life using intention and synchronicity. Since he’s a scientist, the book is heavy on quantum theory and mind-bending things like particles that can exist in two places at one time… but I love that he does this with full reverence and honoring of the magic and mystery too.

He also explains a theory about how things don’t actually exist for us that we don’t have language for, that we don’t have a concept around. They are literally invisible to us/our brains because we don’t have the software to process them.

Like that story of the South Indian island that had always been isolated, and how when explorers arrived on big ships and the islanders asked “How did you arrive here?” the Europeans said, “The ships,” pointing to the ocean. But since the islanders had no concept of “ship” they literally couldn’t see them in the water.

I had a flicker of understanding this recently when walking in downtown Berkeley the other night. My date and I peered into the window of a cafe and watched the people inside for several moments. “It’s a board game cafe,” he said, and it took me several beats more to actually see that what I was looking at was not people sitting across from each other with mugs of tea and chatting, but a full cafe of wall-to-wall people playing Parcheesi, Sorry, and The Settlers of Catan.

I saw what I expected to see, not what was right in front of me. Only when my friend said, “board game cafe” did it all come into focus. And there has to be a reason why I’m telling you this, why this story won’t leave me alone.

Maybe this is the point: We see what we expect to see, not what is right in front of us.

And maybe this is wisdom for me right now or wisdom for you. That we can choose other ways of seeing, that we can be open to other realms and other ways of knowing. We can create new possibilities and experiences if we can let go of the rigid ways and habits we have cultivated.

What was that quote by Anais Nin? “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

As I navigate the world of dating these days, I am having to manage my energy and mind in big ways. It’s easy to get lost in fantasy… to see things as I want to see them and not as they are. It’s easy to get lost in negative fantasy too – to make the person wrong or bad, to cast them away as flawed so as to not be in that vulnerable middle place where we just don’t have enough information or lived experience yet.

I watch myself vacillate between these two extremes… and the up and down can be uncomfortable, even crushing at times. I shared this with my friend Carvell recently, telling him how excited I was about a new person I was seeing. “I’m afraid to be too excited though,” I told him, “because I get excited about people and then I get disappointed and I plummet… I want to let myself have the excitement, but I also don’t want to keep skidding on the rocks.”

He responded in the wisest possible way: “Here’s the thing. Right now, all you know is that you’re excited about this person. And… you don’t have a lot of information. Anything else you add is fantasy – positive or negative.” This has become my own little personal incantation: I’m excited about this person and I don’t have a lot of information… I chant this to myself when I see myself go to extremes. It keeps me grounded in what’s true. It helps me see things as they are.

 

Ponies, donkeys and unicorns. In praise of not knowing what’s real.

“But ponies aren’t real…” Nico said to me yesterday as we walked away from school, his warm little palm in mine. I laughed, “Yes they are! They are baby horses!”

“Oh, right!” he replied. “It’s donkeys that aren’t real!”

And for a moment I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t.

I recalled seeing a burro in San Miguel de Allende just a few days ago. Mati and I were walking to a rooftop restaurant to watch the sunset and have a cocktail. A man was pulling a donkey, decorated in dayglo pink flowers and wool blankets with aztec patterns on them. Playing his role perfectly, the donkey was resisting… and the man pulled harder on the rope while a gringa- one of the thousands of retirees from the states – ran behind them on the cobblestone streets trying to take a picture.

Are donkeys real? for a moment I couldn’t remember.

“And unicorns?” I asked Nico. “Are they real?” I liked not remembering. I liked not being certain of anything. I liked this space between… the doubt. It made me feel free. It was like theta space, those moments when you wake up and you are still between worlds – liminal space between waking and dreaming.

This is valuable territory for creative people. When you write, paint, draw it feels like magic to find this place of soft focus, to not be sure, to allow your imagination full reign.

The rational mind is more like a donkey – stubborn and sure.

There are pale pink blossoms springing up all over Berkeley these days… they were just beginning when I left for Mexico a couple of weeks ago and now they are like bright bouquets lining the streets.

Do you want to know something? They smell like corn tortillas. And I mean exactly like corn tortillas. If you close your eyes and stand in the sun while you inhale, it’s even better.

I’ve been thinking about an exercise Laurie and I did at our last workshop, one where we asked people to riff on this line: “I wish people would pay me to…” and then repeat it over and over again.

I found myself writing things like, “I wish people would pay me to cry on their couch. I wish people would pay me to tell them stories. I wish people would pay me to walk with them and show them what’s beautiful…”

And now I would add that I wish people would pay me to tell them things like this – that the cherry blossoms in spring smell like corn tortillas.

And that unicorns may or may not be real. I don’t remember.

 

Because what we think we deserve is not enough.

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I wrote a piece for Postpartum Progress years ago about getting more help than you think you deserve. I wrote it as a love note to new moms, but I’m realizing that this mantra might apply to lots of other times in our life as well. (Like for me, now!)

Because what we think we deserve is not enough.
Because what we think we deserve is just the tiniest slice of what we actually need.

Because needing help, support, company doesn’t make you needy, it makes you human.

I’ve been practicing this lately and it’s vulnerable stuff. But honestly, I was in such a place of despair last week I really didn’t care. In addition to calling for support from my virtual community (oh my goodness. thank you) I also sent an email out to some local friends. It went something like this:

Hey sweet friends,

I’m not doing particularly well.

And I have the kids all weekend by myself.

I’m thinking having company would make a world of difference! If you have any pockets of time this weekend, or if your kids want to play, let me know.

XO

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And then a wash of shame came over me. And some thoughts: What’s your problem? Why are you so needy? Are you ever going to have your shit together? And I remembered that mantra again – Get more help than you think you deserve.

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And then there’s the other side… and I remember how honored I feel when a friend comes to me with the real deal of her life. How it feels like a blessing to be included and to be able to offer my support.

It’s intimacy.
It’s connection.
And that’s soul food for me. I’m guessing it’s soul food for you too.

So can we just make a little deal here?

Can we just declare right now that it’s okay to not have our shit together?
That it’s okay to feel lost.
Or lonely.
Or in need.

Let’s decide that it’s actually a gift to include others in our (sometimes messy) process. That by showing our own vulnerability, we make space for others to do the same. Let’s create that kind of world for ourselves, shall we?

Some years ago a friend of mine was telling me about an icky procedure she was going to have to do the next day at the hospital. “Do you want me to go with you?” I asked. Tears welled up in her eyes. “That would be so nice,” she said. “I didn’t know I could ask for that.”

And I LOVED being there for her. I felt so happy to be the person that got to give that gift. It was good. It was her medicine and it was also mine.

Yes. Yes. Yes to this.

We can ask for this.
We need to ask for this.

This is how we are going to survive the messiness of life. This is how we are going to thrive.

We stay connected. We stay real. We stop pretending. We tell the truth.

When we do this, we are shining a light in the dark places for each other. When we offer the light of our heart, our attention and our compassion we help each other move through to the other side.

And when YOU decide to be the brave one, the one that reaches out first… you give your loved ones permission to do it the next time. You create a loop of mutual support + connection that will not only feed you, but save your sanity. This is a crazy ride folks. We need each other. Let’s be brave together.

 

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P.S. Ready to do some Brave Blogging with me? The class begins on September 5th. More details here.

 

The alchemy of grief

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When I saw those words in my calendar – Grief workshop 10am-6pm – I thought “What the heck was I thinking when I signed up for that??!” And then I thought, I don’t have anything big to grieve anyway. I will feel like an imposter. 

But a few beats later, I remembered: Your marriage. You need to grieve the death of your marriage.
Oh yeah, that.

We do so much to distract ourselves from loss. We get busy. We numb. We hang out on social media, so we don’t have to feel our sorrow. Our aloneness.

As I walked into the meditation center where the workshop would be held, I felt it begin to bubble up in my chest… and the tears began to pool in my eyes. It was as if my body was already thanking me – thank you for inviting me to the party. Thank you for putting your attention on me. I never get invited to the party!

And I found myself so grateful that I had finally been invited to inhabit and express my sorrow somewhere. There was something to do with it other than suppress it or contain it.

Francis Weller writes and speaks beautifully about grief. I’ve watched this talk over and over again. (Watch the whole thing. It’s life-changing) He talks about the extent to which we can carve out space for our sorrow is the extent to which we can make space to feel joy. He talks about how we have become a flatline culture – with a narrow range of what we’re allowed to feel. He talks about coming together in community to grieve as part of our “soul hygiene.” That to “speak of sorrow works upon it.”

He spoke about how we have undigested sorrows… and that grief is a capacity we can build, a skill that we can strengthen. It requires courage and vulnerability. It requires a willingness to be with things as they are.

He says: “Grief might be the remedy that heals us. Grief is wild. It’s feral. And when we touch it, we are alive.

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There were about 70 people in the room and we began drumming and singing. I was amazed by the beauty of all the voices (just regular people singing, young and old) and how it sounded like the most exquisite church choir.

We broke out into small groups to share and did several powerful writing assignments using prompts like: I remember.. I wish someone would ask me… and my real grief is… 

Then the ritual began.

We had all brought special things to put on the altar – photographs, flowers, rocks, anything that felt sacred. And while the whole community sang a kind of mantra (putting us in a kind of meditative trance) we each went to the altar to grieve. You could do whatever felt right up there – shout, cry, be silent – while the rest of us held space for you. When you came back you were received by the community with hugs and loving attention.

The alchemy of this process was palpable. You felt transformed by it.

Francis spoke beautifully about how it was an alchemical process – “how bringing some heat to it transmutes it into medicine. We feed the fire with our attention, our compassion, our curiosity and our affection.”

It’s taken me months to write about this, but as I ride new waves of grief, I needed to remind myself again.

That by bringing our sorrow into the light we have the opportunity to heal.
That by bringing loving attention and compassion to it, it softens and changes in our hearts.
That by taking it out of the shadows and into community (even just another person) it becomes an offering of healing for all of us.

Thank you for being part of my loving community that helps witness my process – my joys and my sorrows. I believe we are all lifted up by this energy and I’m so grateful.

 

Oh my goodness. You all blew me away this week.

Wow.

I sent a call out this week for metaphorical doulas… stories, kind words of support and encouragement to help me across this incredibly hard threshold in my life. I am so honored and blown away by your responses – your blog comments, your wisdom, your love-soaked emails. Oh my goodness. Thank you.

You burst my heart wide open.

And I cried for the rest of the day. Not out of fear or sadness, but out of the pure joy of being connected.

Thank you for you reflecting my spirit back to me.
Thank you for reminding me of all the kindness + goodness in the world.
Thank you for the understanding that we are never alone in whatever we are going through- that we are all just walking each other home.

An unexpected serendipity happened that day as well.

One of my oldest friends (who I consider part of my soul family) immediately called when he saw the post in his inbox. I burst into tears as I answered the phone (we haven’t seen each other for almost 10 years) and it happened that he was flying into SF the next morning.

We met the next day for lunch and as I sat down, he placed the following pieces of paper in front of me:

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There were a few more pages… and he instructed me to check all the boxes that felt right to me.

It was one of the kindest possible things.

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Big heart-full of love thank you to all of you for being a part of my community. I am wowed by you and feel so grateful for each and every one of you.

XO Andrea

P.S. You will be getting another missive from me today with a video describing my upcoming class – Into the Mystic. Excited to share that with you!

Francis Weller on grief + anger. Life-changing wisdom in this talk.

Listen in as psychotherapist and author Francis Weller, MFT discuss the communal nature of grief, the expressive virtue of anger, false happiness, and the two hands of grief and gratitude. Interview recorded at the 2013 Minnesota Men’s Conference. Give yourself the gift of this 13 minutes. Totally life-changing wisdom.

 

 

Understanding is love’s other name.

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Found this on Brain Pickings. So beautiful I had to share!

At the heart of Nhat Hanh’s teachings is the idea that “understanding is love’s other name” — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering. (“Suffering” sounds rather dramatic, but in Buddhism it refers to any source of profound dissatisfaction — be it physical or psychoemotional or spiritual.) Understanding, after all, is what everybody needs — but even if we grasp this on a theoretical level, we habitually get too caught in the smallness of our fixations to be able to offer such expansive understanding. He illustrates this mismatch of scales with an apt metaphor:

“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”

“The question then becomes how to grow our own hearts, which begins with a commitment to understand and bear witness to our own suffering: When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness. Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”

 

When I shared this on my Facebook page, the wise Lauren Rosenfeld responded with this:

“Sometimes we stubbornly refuse to understand because we believe that understanding is a zero sum game: If I reach out to understand you, I must give up a part of my self that I am clinging to as if it were a raft on turbulent river of life. But, in reaching out to understand, what I truly give up is self certainty, which is ego driven and illusory. I let go of the raft of self certainty and find that the flow of the river of Life will carry me and you together.

Understanding is infinitely expansive and illuminating — and in this way — as Thay explains — it is equivalent to love: it casts light on our true nature, our interconnectedness, our infinite and infinitely expansive being.”

I have read these quotes over and over in the last couple of weeks, letting it sink into my heart as deeply as it can go. It’s becoming a bit of a mantra – Understanding is love’s other name… And so I’ve been practicing lately – to get more curious, to let go of being right in favor of understanding. Sometimes it’s as easy as slowing down and reminding myself that all I need to do is listen.

 

 

Courage interview with Rachael Maddox: Healing from sexual trauma

Hey friends,

So excited to bring you this interview today! It’s a brave + vulnerable conversation with me and Rachael Maddox. We talk about her work in helping women heal from sexual trauma and how we can all move toward our aliveness by listening to our spirit and our bodies.

This conversation is deeply personal and on a topic that has normally been taboo for me – sex. I originally recorded it for the Cultivating Courage course, but realized that there might be more women out there who need to hear it. So here it is! From our hearts to yours. Enjoy!

 

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Rachael Maddox is a life coach, a trauma specialist, a singer-songwriter and most recently the author of the book: Secret Bad Girl: A Sexual Trauma Memoir and Resolution Guide.  To see more about Rachel or work with her as a coaching client, go to her website here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexy Grounded Power Fairy.

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“Sexy grounded power fairy! That’s it!” I practically shouted this on the phone during my coaching session with Rachael Maddox.

We had been exploring 2016 -what I’m calling in and what my spirit is moving towards. She helped me explore this through the lens of archetypes which was new to me and super powerful. Turns out this year is a lot about transitioning from one archetype to another – growing into a new version of myself, becoming the grown up expression of me, my essence in full bloom.

We started by identifying my current archetype (one I’ve identified with for a long time) which is some kind of magical fairy – innocent, playful, spontaneous, magic. She loves color and beauty and moves toward joy. She brings light… “

But as much as I love her (and her gifts have taken me so far!) I feel the rumblings of something new. My new life is calling for a grown up version, a heartier version, one who can handle being a single mother, one who can manifest big things… She isn’t afraid people won’t like her if she shines too bright.

What should we call her? Rachael asked.

“I don’t know… “ I began, “but the words coming to me are sexy, grounded and powerful… maybe we just call her sexy-grounded-power-fairy for now?”
“SEXY GROUNDED POWER FAIRY! THAT’S IT!” Maybe Rachael shouted this. I don’t remember.

I just remember I got chills.
And the name stuck.

I’ve been trying this out. What would sexy grounded power fairy do? She would take a look at her numbers right now. She would open these bills. She would ask for what she needs. She would say no and not give an excuse. She would just keep writing…

She’s still got the magic, but less of the magical thinking.
She’s got all the innocent beauty, but doesn’t disown her power, her pleasure or her joy.
She speaks her truth in a grounded, compassionate, heart-centered way.
She’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

How about you?

What are you moving towards this year? Who are you becoming? What would you call her?

p.s. And if you need Rachael to take you there, you can find her here.

 

Some very good things you should know about.

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1. I have been creating abstract paintings! I’m obsessed. Painting has always been my first love… and I just rediscovered it. It’s possibly the only thing in the world that puts me in a deep, mystical kind of flow. I don’t need anything when I’m painting – the phone to ring, food.  I don’t need to be anywhere but exactly where I am. It’s such a gift.

To deepen my practice, I’m going to be taking Mati Rose McDonough’s Daring Adventure’s in Abstract Painting course. I’m a big fan of Mati + super excited to learn from her. We also happen to share a studio! So I can get some one on one help as well. 😉

There are a limited number of spots at the $129 price. So grab your spot now! and I’ll see you in there.

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2. There is a space opening up in my studio here in Berkeley. If you would love to paint, create, design, write, do what you do in the company of rad women (of course you do!) hit reply and shoot me a message. I’ll give you the details. The space is the one next to mine, in the corner.

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3. I got my nose pierced! What?! I finally realized I am a grown up and I can do things like this.

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4. I knew this banana reminded me of someone. Then I figured it out.