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Ah, Self-Doubt, You Are With Me Again

We are often too hard on ourselves.

We are journeying towards greater consciousness, self-awareness, and understanding of ourselves and others. We acknowledge the triggers, the hard things, the contrast (as Abraham Hicks calls it), and then we shift and grow and level-up (as Martha Beck refers to it). We begin to evolve, perhaps even change–not in our fundamental nature, but rather, in our ability to discern that the very core of our humanness flows from the Divinity sprouting in the very depths of our hearts. Source, God placed it there. It existed before our form took shape around it. Like the energy that birthed the essence of our souls, we, too, are eternal.

So, why are we hard on ourselves? We struggle, because this evolution is not a linear progression. Rather, it mirrors the spiral of the sacred nautilus. We begin in the center, and as we gain experience, both painful and joyous, we follow the turns of the spiral, moving further away from the central point. We don’t however, lose sight of that beginning place. It is always in view, as are the turns we have already traveled.

Inherent in this journey, then, is our ability to witness our trials and mis-steps among our joys and successes. And when we witness them, like weeds sprouting impertinently among our carefully curated flowers, we feel sad and frustrated. We might even lose faith and hope. We are experiencing self-doubt.

We wonder, why we are here again? We ask ourselves, didn’t we learn this already? And then we self-chastise for all the things: we’re not good enough, smart enough, evolved enough, worthy enough. If we stay here too long, we lose our way. We slow our pace within the spiral. We are looking so intently on the lack and what we are calling failures that we cannot continue the journey with faithful clarity.

However, once we discern where we are, when we are able to see the “as is” of our reality at any point in time, we can choose to reshape these thoughts. We must remember that even though we can see these “faults” or shortcomings in our past, we are able to witness them with compassion. We view them for what they are, because we have moved through and past them. We can only see these elements of ourselves, because we have journeyed further up the spiral. As if on a tall stairway, we are looking down at these parts of ourselves that constitute who we were earlier in our travels. We feel “less than,” because we can still see and perhaps even feel these pinched parts of ourselves. But we are not the same as we were earlier in the spiral. We are actually not at all in the same place. We have evolved. And we will continue to elevate and grow.

Self-doubt will indeed reveal herself repeatedly on our journey. We will notice her, perhaps even say hello. We need not hold her hand, however. We don’t need to sit with her for hours. We can if we wish, maybe when we take a break on the journey and rest awhile. But that’s all.

And in discerning that it is we who decide how often to gaze at or walk with self-doubt, we ultimately acknowledge that we are free. That our journey, however, long, is our own, and we alone will decide how to take the next right step.

On Mothering, part 4

I have been trying to get to this post for about a day and a half. I now sit at 7:54 PM, tired and uncertain that I have anything interesting or helpful to say. And so, this is the theme of today’s post.

Ironically, I was trying to finish dinner and housework by 7:00 PM to attend a live call about essential oils and self-care. I have to laugh as I write this; the extent to which I am lacking in the self-care department today is testament to how much I need it. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

These days, how many of us are doing even more mothering than usual in all areas of life? Work outside the home has diminished or stopped altogether. Kids are homeschooled. Extra-curricular activities are no more. And yet, I believe most mothers (and fathers) would agree we are busier than ever. As parents, we are now full-time teachers, creative directors, technology managers, kid-friendly household-job creators, spiritual directors, and counselors, in addition to non-stop domestic servants and large and small animal pet caretakers. It’s not that any of these jobs is completely new; it’s that they are now constant with very little down and alone time.

I don’t feel sorry for myself. I’m not even complaining. I’m simply stating what is. And as I have presented in my previous posts, our refusal to witness and confront what is, as well as our constant self-emptying without refilling, are not only exhausting, they are also unsustainable. Feeling overwhelmed or tense or constricted in service to everyone else all the time is NOT a requisite for mothering. The socially accepted declarations, “Now that I have a husband and kids, it’s not about me anymore,” and “it’s all about what’s good for them, not me,” are tired and incredibly damaging. Indeed, too often feeling and behaving as though we matter less than anyone else will cause us to turn against ourselves. And worse, we will be unable, truly unable, to hold and reflect the compassion and love our children require from us in order to form their own autonomous, healthy, self-possessed spirits.

So what to do? When we have days like the several in a row I’ve had (which I know you all have also experienced), how can we return to ourselves to refocus and refuel? A friend of mine posed this very question to me today. “How do I pay attention to myself,” she asked, “and manage my own state of mind when my kids are yelling, the dog is barking, and I have to make dinner AND fold laundry?” Yup. That’s about sums it up. Not easy. But not impossible either.

In discerning how to answer, this quotation from modern-day mystic, writer, and Episcopal priest, Cynthia Bourgeault, came to mind. She writes, “When the field of vision has been unified, the inner being comes to rest, and that inner peaceableness flows into the outer world [as] harmony and compassion.” In order to move towards a place of peace and wholeness, then, we must find a way for our “field of vision” to become “unified.” How do we accomplish that?

The answer is simple, but hardly simplistic. We must first learn to practice stillness and centeredness before the contrast and chaos and noise arrive. If we are moving through life often feeling barraged with negative stimuli and experiencing the momentum of much that is unwanted, we usually are unable to slow down sufficiently to turn toward the direction of what is wanted. It’s like making a sharp turn driving at 80 miles per hour. It’s very challenging, quite dangerous, and if you drive a big car, you’re likely to tip over and roll. It won’t end well.

However, if we are practiced at calling on, and sitting with, serenity, we are more likely to recover it in the early stages of being triggered when the chaos visits. This is the purpose of daily meditation, contemplation, and breathing exercises. We practice finding and resting in quiet and stillness in order to recalibrate our energy. We can also experience these moments by paying attention to, and appreciating, when conditions make it easy for us to feel relaxed and focused–when the kids are quieter, when the dog is resting, when there is no dinner to prepare, and when the laundry isn’t screaming to be folded. We learn to be unconditional in our ability to self-regulate, and at the same time, we are able to see and feel and have gratitude for the moments when the conditions reflect back to us our inner stability.

One day last week, I was trying to help all three kids start their school day. They had Zoom meetings, work to do, and tests to take. As I stood in the kitchen, attempting to corral the cats, so to speak, one asked, “Can I have some eggs?” Another declared, “I’d like some tuna.” And another requested a smoothie. I took a breath, and said, “Sure,” frustrated not that they were hungry and wanted to eat, but rather, that our morning start felt like wading through a muddy, rain-soaked steeplechase course at Radnor Hunt in Wellies with no tread. We were slipping and sliding and could not get any traction to get to our destination.

And then it started. Each child, in a different part of the kitchen and family room, started humming a tune. Not the same tune, mind you. Three separate ones at high volumes that were anything but harmonious. The playful rogue cats image returns readily here.

For a moment I thought I might just lose my mind. Cacophonous noise on top of the already pear-shaped work schedule? Seriously? But then… I grabbed on to the tail of that cranky momentum and yanked it back. I gazed at my three children, each singing untethered and with joy, and my spirit joined them. I saw them and the whole scene for what it was–fun, a little wild, and free. This is the good stuff, I thought. This is what we get to experience at home on a Tuesday morning with our kids. In other words, I experienced, as Cynthia expresses, a “unified” “field of vision.” My restless “inner being” came “to rest.” And as a result my “inner peaceableness flow[ed] into…[my]…outer world [as] harmony and compassion.” I experienced clarity and calm and profound love.

The question before us right now isn’t, when will this all end? When will life get back to normal? The question, rather, is, what are we doing right now to be present to life with all its moving parts? To witness the messy living room, the kids’ loud music, the breakfast room table full of half-finished crafts, and even the periodic grumbles and complaints.

Yes, fellow mothers, we have a lot to do everyday. A lot. And yet, it is in this mix of frustration and ease, challenge and joy, that we can find purpose and meaning and clarity. Every experience is an invitation to evolve and consider more deeply who we are and who we want to be. To be a mother is to know, almost daily, the pain and the ecstasy of life. This is the ongoing journey of mothering.

On Mothering, part 3

If love doesn’t feel like benevolent light, it’s not love, it’s attachment. If you’re afraid of losing something and are grasping it tightly, that’s not love, it’s attachment. Love has no grasping, wanting, need, or fear of loss. It exists in a sea of itself. You can’t lose it. (Martha Beck)

When we speak of motherly love, it would seem to be quite straightforward—simple even. We all share a basic common understanding. Motherly love is self-less, forgiving, undying, and constant. Yes. Mostly. Often. Usually. But there’s more.

Martha Beck, with her inimitable grace and poignancy, reminds us that love (and I would emphatically include a mother’s love) must remain detached to be healthy and true.

How this contradicts the paradigm of motherhood most of us have come to accept! A mother who doesn’t cling or hold tightly to her children doesn’t really love them, we are told. A mother who doesn’t empty or martyr herself often enough isn’t worthy of the title. We have been socialized to believe that needing and grasping and fearing make us good mothers. Loving mothers.

How misguided we are. For the love, the truest, healthiest, most compassionate love, we have for our children emanates from open-hearted freedom, not constricted anxiety and fear.

The highest form of motherly love comes from our knowing that first we must love and accept and have compassion for ourselves. In order to love the child who is distinct from us, not a mere reflection of us, we must become love and allow it to flow through us without judgment or anxiety. Without needing the child to fill and define who we are.

This, then, is the motherly love I aspire to express and share. As I connect with the love of Source, of my true self, I both receive and then emanate it to my children. I share it freely with no expectation and no demands. I cannot lose this love, because I am one with it. And in this oneness, my children and I are complete.

On Mothering, Part 2

I first met Shelly Lefkoe, renowned parenting expert and cofounder of The Lefkoe Institute, two years ago when she gave several presentations at Dr. Mark Hyman’s Feel Good Summit. Her humor and passion and wholeheartedness were inspiring and infused the information she shared with warmth and wisdom and compassion.

I listen to Shelly’s talks wherever I can find them. During one of her presentations at Mindvalley, she offered the following thoughts about conscious, mindful parenting. They resonate with me deeply. They remind me that, as a mother, I am only capable of supporting my children’s autonomy and self-possession to the extent that I can also do the same for myself.

Your number one job is to parent your children so they conclude positive beliefs about themselves and life.

Every child needs to know:

I am good enough.

I’m powerful.

I’m important.

I am worthy because I am here.

What makes me good enough is I believe in myself.

To learn more about Shelly’s work, go to:

empoweringthenextgeneration.mykajabi.com

On Mothering

Mother’s Day is in seven days. Many of us have conflicting feelings about this holiday, varying from the cynical to the sentimental. On the one hand, it’s a marketing campaign to sell cards and increase restaurant revenue. It’s a means of seducing or guilting us into buying more stuff. On the other hand, it’s an annual opportunity to acknowledge our mothers or mother figures. Maybe we don’t thank them enough for all they do, so at least on this day we can buy a nice gift or take them out to lunch.

Any combination of these positions is possible and acceptable, of course. For me, though, the approach of Mother’s Day is an opportunity to more deeply contemplate motherhood itself.

Simply writing these word gives me pause, though. After all, the ubiquity of motherhood (we all have or have had mothers in some fashion) seems to, by definition, undermine the need to call attention to this life choice or station. We get married (or not), have kids, do the best we can, and life goes on. Women have been mothering for millennia.

Still, even those of us who proclaim we don’t care about a day set aside for special acknowledgment can get caught up in cultural sentimentality. We can say we don’t want flowers, cards, and gifts on Mother’s Day, but we most likely do appreciate them. Perhaps we even secretly expect them. (“Seriously, is it so hard to buy a card?” we might say under our breath, or maybe out loud if none appears by noon on the designated day.)

As I contemplate larger themes associated with mothering, though, the holiday itself doesn’t much inspire me. I don’t care much about the pastel-colored-card expressions of motherhood with their rhyming verses printed in swirls of calligraphy.

I am, however, deeply intrigued by, and devoted to, the much more profound and influential idea of mother—how she is shaped; how she influences, and is influenced by, macro and micro culture; and how her sense of herself almost inevitably determines her children’s understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

With this in mind, I offer a quotation, which presents the idea of mother, not as a loving, self-less caretaker, but rather, as an emerging, empowered force. By birthing children, she is not only offering something, someone, new to the world, but she is, just as significantly, birthing and re-birthing herself. She, too, is made new. She, too, becomes an expression of new energy and creativity. Somehow, we have lost or ignored the implications of this profound co-creative process. We have been socialized to see motherhood as worthy and significant only when a woman empties herself to such a degree that she is weary and worn. And from what? From loving? From supporting and helping others? From assisting others in experiencing joy and becoming themselves, while she loses her own sense of truth and value?

It is time, way past the time, to reject this notion and see mother as strong and creative–an ever-renewing force of power and abundance. Not just because she is giving life to a new human, but because, in so doing, she is also being born again.

Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.

Barbara Katz Rothman

Easter Biscuits

Biscuits special enough for a holiday or everyday

Sean has been requesting I make these biscuits. During my days at Chou-Chou (my one-girl baking company), I prepared these goodies regularly to sell at local markets.

I hardly bake like I used to anymore. We are gluten and dairy free, and we consume limited sugar. Every once in a while, though, if the desire is strong enough, I will prepare a batch of these buttery, somewhat flakey and somewhat cakes biscuits. Although not essential, I do like to use organic ingredients, as well.

This recipe comes together and bakes quickly, so you can whip up a batch on the fly. Unique to most pastry recipes, this one doubles very nicely, too. So whether you need a handful or many, this method will serve you well.

Makes about 6 large biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 stick (1/2 cup, 4 ounces) cold unsalted organic butter, cut into about 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup organic half-and-half, light cream, or heavy cream

Raw or crystallized sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly (visible pea-size bits of butter are fine). (You can also do this in a food processor.)

Add the half-and-half and stir with a fork just until the dough comes together. If it appears too dry, add a bit more half-and-half until moist. (You want the dough to be moist, but not really wet.)

Using your hands, divide the dough into 6 equal rounds and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheet. (You can also roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured work surface and cut into rounds.)

Sprinkle with raw sugar, if desired. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until fragrant and golden brown.

Serve warm. Store in a resealable container for up to 1 day.

It’s Easter Again

This morning, I eagerly read Father Richard Rohr’s Easter message from his Center for Action and Contemplation, entitled “Death Transformed,” and then watched his brief video, which accompanied it (https://cac.org/death-transformed-2020-04-12/). As he always does, Father Rohr inspired many thoughts and ideas within me. I share some of them here. Perhaps they will resonate with you.

The title of this blog might seem cynical or careless. It is anything but that, however. In fact, it is meant to emphasize that the themes of this most sacred holiday on the Christian calendar are essential to examine and then affirm everyday, again and again and again.

And what are these themes? As Father Richard explains in today’s video and in his many books, especially in The Universal Christ, the contemplative, awakened life is based on universal truths. One is that God, Spirit, the Divine are soaked into the very essence of life itself. Every sunset, every blade of grass, every chipmunk, every flower, every precious baby, every loving (and even unloving) vibration reflect the oneness of God. Divine presence is everywhere and every expression of life reminds us that creation is imbued with God’s love. What we recognize as life and spirit are never separate; they are intimately interwoven. Together they form oneness. The desert fathers understood and expressed this. The mystics wrote about such themes and even suffered for expressing them.

Which brings us to another essential truth. Suffering is part of the very experience of life. And it’s not a by-product or a shadow side or even the downside of being human and having free will. It is much more integral to truth than that. Without the suffering, the breaking open, the moments of emptiness and grief we all experience at some point in our lives, there would be no opening for Spirit to enter to lead us to elevation and evolution. The suffering is the invitation. It is the call to more. It is most often only in the darkness of despair that the spark of truth and inspiration is visible and meaningful to us at all. In the well-lit arena of our “normal” days, we usually not only fail to notice the Divine spark, but we are also unmoved by it. A candle in a lighted room appears irrelevant. In a dark space, however, it is essential; it is not only light itself, but it also illuminates everything around it.

As Father Rohr expresses here, the cycle of birth, life, and death (as represented in the life of Jesus and which culminates in His passion, crucifixion, and resurrection) is woven into the very essence of life itself. Life is never static; in every particle, cell, living organism, there is an energy which becomes, exists, and then dies. This is the endless ebbing and flowing. This is the forever cycle of becoming, being, and perishing. The energy never disappears. It simply transforms and transmutes. And this pattern occurs over and over and over again.

Although Christians celebrate this Sunday, Easter Sunday, as the most sacred holy day of the year, in truth every day offers us the potential to experience Easter. Every day can avail us the resurrection–not just with a capital “R,” as it relates to Jesus, but also in any moment of rebirth, new life, and refreshment of the spirit. And we are reborn to what? We are realigned and renewed with Source itself. We are resurrected into our true selves, reunited with the Universal Christ that calls to us unceasingly.

Any time we are able to turn our attention away from pain and despair, even if just for a moment, and appreciate something joyful and beautiful, we are refreshed. Every time we are able to show another person kindness in spite of our own disappointment or pain, we are reborn. Every time we are able to love unconditionally, which is to say above and beyond cultural conditions or egoic needs, we are resurrected from old behavioral patterns or imprisoned thoughts.

On this Easter Sunday, whether we are Christian or not, whether we are traditionally religious or not, let this be part of our experience, that we seek the mystic message of Easter in all things and at all times. May we not save these celebrations for specific days or times on the calendar. Rather, as Father Rohr, St. Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, and other mystics and theologians have taught us, let us seek to understand and celebrate the very essence of Being and Source as described as the Three Transcendentals: what is good, true, and beautiful. They are everywhere, everyday.

Yes, let us happily proclaim, “It’s Easter Again!”