Dreaming to Play – A Second Chance

(Part 2)

“You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful – or where you always wanted to be.  You will be grateful that things didn’t work out the way you once wanted them to.”

For most of my life, I’ve lived in the serious adult realm.  My Dad always tells a funny anecdote of me when I was six years old.  He was supposed to pick up my grandmother from the airport in Tijuana, Mexico, and the flight had been delayed.  He didn’t have a clue as to how to dial a long distance phone call to Mexico, and definitely did not know enough Spanish to figure out when my grandma’s flight was arriving.  In a matter-of-fact tone, he requested that I’d call the airport and get the flight information.  I pause for a moment, and confused responded, “Daddy, I don’t know these things.”  He nicknamed me “things” ever since.

While this is a story that always makes me chuckle, looking back, I realized how much of my childhood play had often been eclipsed by serious adult worries and responsibilities. I had few friends as we moved a lot and my time was taken up by the necessities of survival.  As a teenager, I don’t remember spending much time in malls or hanging out at friends’ houses, or participating in after school clubs.  Mostly, I spent my time doing homework, helping my mother and grandmother with my four younger siblings, translating for my grandmother at doctor’s appointments, helping with filling out school documents for my brothers, or forms so my grandmother could continue to receive medical and food stamps for us, or standing in long food bank lines.  I can’t remember when I stopped playing all together, or perhaps I just forgot how.  What I do remember is I became an adult before I discovered how to be a child.

At eighteen, I graduated from high school and gave birth to my only daughter.  Life was a very serious affair.  I had to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of it and raise a daughter whose success would be fully dependent upon my abilities to make the right decisions in our lives. I had no time to play.  I enrolled as a full-time student at city college, and before long took on a full time job, all while breast-feeding, reading to my daughter every night, and ensuring she was thriving in her development.  I was following in the footsteps and along the path that was most familiar at the time, functioning constantly under survival mode.  The next few years of my life would be dedicated to continuing my studies, being a loving and nurturing mother, launching my career as a teacher, and taking care of my grandmother who had raised me from the time I was born.  There was practically no time left for me.  Everything was a serious decision.  I never gave myself time to live.

When my daughter was ten years old, I got married to, my now husband, David. What attracted me to David was his easy-flowing, light-hearted spirit.  Subconsciously, his state of being was something I was yearning for.  Soon, the expectations that come with marriage seeped into our relationship: buying a new house, home-improvement projects, mundane chores and pursuing graduate degrees to continue our upward mobility. David and Carmen maintained their playfulness, while I became a serious wife and mother.  It was easy to get more serious and take on more responsibilities as life evolved – this was the role I had stepped into since childhood.   Even when I allowed myself to play, I wasn’t present. I wasn’t at ease. Constantly thinking of what needed to be accomplished.

I began to live my life as if I were the outsider looking in. By not giving myself permission to live and play with others, fully, I was also alone, often times lonelier when there were many people around. It began to erode my relationship with both my daughter and husband, though mostly, I unloaded all the frustration and repression from this pattern developed in early childhood on my husband. My husband had lost his best friend and gained a mother instead. I write more deeply about this in “First I Had to Ask For Forgiveness.” While there was still some spontaneity and play with my daughter, interactions had also gotten a lot more grown up between us.

At some point life became real serious.  A few months, five to be exact, after my daughter left to college, my grandmother, whom I had lived with my whole, passed away from cancer.  I became her main caregiver, taking her to radiation appointments, handling and coordinating home care and ultimately hospice care, nursing her until she took her last breath in our home, and coordinating her cremation and after-death arrangements.  Then in 2011 my husband and I were in a horrific accident in Philippines in which he suffered eight broken ribs.  I held his hand the first night of the accident, not knowing if he would make it to the next day.  By that time, he and I had done a lot spiritual and emotional growth in our marriage, and ease and light-heartedness had been introduced back into our relationship.  Once again, the opportunity to step into the serious, driven, determined role was never too far removed. More on that experience in “Coconut Trees and Sky.”

In 2012 I decided to enroll in a Masters of School Leadership, thinking my dream was to work with a group of innovative and passionate educators to open up an amazing school where children would feel whole and thrive.  In the fourth month of the program, the work I was doing began to feel like an obligation.  I couldn’t understand why, because it was what I finally thought I had always wanted – education reform, social justice, human rights – all encompassed in the training and education I was receiving. In that fourth month, I discovered the debilitating condition of sciatica nerve pain.  For two months, I could barely stand up straight – I had the posture of a question mark – and it was agonizing to walk.  I found myself often crawling at home.  The condition gradually went away a couple of weeks into deciding to leave the Masters program.

In 2013 I resigned from teaching. That’s when I started to slowly bring play back into my life, and for the first time, I experienced what it meant to date myself. I recognize, now, what my soul was guiding me to do. I started allowing myself to live!

That summer I joined Global Leadership Adventures and spent 10 weeks in Costa Rica mentoring youth and being carefree along with them.  The next summer, I spent another 10 weeks in Peru.  I began to explore other passions such as photography, salsa dancing, and delve more deeply into writing, mustering the courage to begin this blog! I started to volunteer in organizations that sparked my passion for social justice and healing, but without taking the lead in any projects. Everything from a place of passion, exploration and wonder. Though even then, my mind was always subtly prompting me to observe these experiences as examples for what I could someday create.  Play was always conditional.

 

I want to work without being so driven; to have playfulness in my working.  The need to champion for a cause has always been strong in me, but I have found, that if I’m not intentional, my drive innately takes over, and I end up giving so much of myself that in essence nothing is left for me.  When I became a teacher, this is exactly what happened. I took on the world and got burnt out.  I was still passionate and motivated by my work, but the absolute joy and inspiration had been lost. I’ve returned back to teaching, but only part-time, serving no more than fifty students.  I am filling my days with compassion, playfulness and joy – learning to live with lightness and being centered. I am finding that in this space, the students are much more engaged, and they are also learning what it means to work with a sense of ease and flow.

Last summer, one of my friends and I decided to go to a nudist beach.  A friend that also lost her childhood  way too soon. It was so liberating to be free of judgement and intimidation from our bodies and feel the sun kiss every part us.  We spent a full day playing in the beach, splashing in the waves and laughing uncontrollably, becoming the little girls we had always wanted to be.

Because for the first time I have the opportunity to play and see the magic of life, I am resistant to any venture that might slightly threaten that light-hearted, carefree state of being my soul is yearning for. Every logical part of me wants to pressure me into setting my next goal, figuring out what dream I want to accomplish next, and having a purpose and a plan. After all, my whole life I functioned under these terms. Not to mention, we live in a society in which our worth is closely tied to what we create and produce.  We constantly find ourselves having to prove we are good and have a value. While this drive, determination, and focus are part of why many people have become successful, and at some point of my life, helped me to overcome great challenges, they are not part of my truth, today.  And I have to honor that and trust that my soul always knows what I need.

I am still following my heart and moving toward my yearnings, but I am being asked to move playfully, carefree, and with ease; a very unfamiliar way of being for me. I am sitting with all of these complex and multi-layered feelings – meditating and processing them one moment at a time.  I think it’s important to sit with the most vulnerable part of self when we are searching for authenticity, so we don’t mis-take fear for truth.  One lesson I am clearly hearing from my inner-self, other than PLAY, is to not be afraid to discover that what I needed yesterday is no longer what I need today. And this requires that I am willing to let go of my past identity.

“Some day we will find what we are looking for. Or maybe not.  Maybe we’ll find something much greater than that.”

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Dreaming to Play

In my last post I wrote about longing for a dream, one that feels like my life-long calling.  At eighteen, after I gave birth to my daughter, I attended community college, though  I can’t remember how I ended up applying, because up until the day I graduated from high school, I had no plans for my future. Community college gave me a place to be during a time in which, other than being a mom, I had no idea what I would do with my life.  A year into college, I had to decide whether I’d get an associate degree or transfer to a four-year university.  I decided if I was going to do two years, I might as well do all four.

It wasn’t until college that I read my first novel, “. . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him,” which lead me to have a new-found love for literature.  That coupled with my 12th grade English teacher inspired me to pursue a degree in literature and go on to become a high school teacher.  The more I succeeded in college and the closer I got to graduating, the more becoming a teacher felt like a dream.

I don’t remember being asked what I wanted to be  when I was a kid.  I don’t remember what I wanted to be.  I have a feeling this is why I got pregnant so young. I found purpose in Carmen, in being a mom. And it was a beautiful experience. I wonder if I’d been exposed to many other things growing up, might I have chosen another career.  Maybe graphic design, photography, journalism, film, painting, music, a travel writer, a chef, a boxer, who knows! I have loved teaching and working with youth, and whatever I do next, in my heart, I know I will continue to work with youth.  I don’t know what my heart is longing for, now.  Why don’t I feel the drive that so many people who have followed their dreams talk about?  I have ideas that excite me, fragmented visions that  come in my dreams like pieces of a puzzle for which I don’t have the complete image.  Sometimes, I feel dreamless.

I have yet to find my true calling from the center of myself.  I want to create something of my own.  Something that allows the full expression of myself, my life and my creativity.  I get to do some of this as a teacher, but it’s often modified and adapted to fit the greater structures and expectations of the education system.

“She turned her can’ts into cans and her dreams into plans.”  My friend who I was walking with when the hairy caterpillar was ran over (see last post) during our discussion of dreams sent me this quote and suggested we set a goal for the week or the end of June.  She asked me what was one thing I’d want to accomplish? As soon as I finished reading her message, a little girl’s voice inside of me said, “No, I don’t want to do that. It feels like too much work,” and I felt a tightness in my stomach that almost did not let me breathe. That response made me so uncomfortable; it went against all the belief systems I had functioned under my whole life.

  • To be successful, one must be driven.  
  • You must work hard, to play hard.  
  • If you really want it, you’ll find a way to get it.  
  • You must be intentional and focused to achieve your dreams.
  • Have a purpose.

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The next day, I decided to hold a ceremony and ask spirit to guide me and help me understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling. I’ve been journaling as part of my preparation for a Reiki course I’ll be taking in August, so after my ceremony and meditation, I opened my Reiki workbook and there, staring at me, as if Spirit was questioning me directly, read, “What do you remember about playing as a child and who were your playmates?”  

Play was always sprinkled into the adult-like experiences I lived as a child, and it wasn’t always a positive memory.  There was the time I remember sitting with a little girl who lived in the downstairs apartment of our complex while she was taking a bath and pointing to her areola, or touching it, not knowing what it was called and asking her why “they” were so big.  That resulted in my mother being told something negative about my interaction with the little girl, because the next thing I remember, I was being dragged down the cement flight of stairs, being slammed by my head against a metal post, and hearing my mom tell the little girl’s mom or older sister, “There, she got what she deserved – are you happy?” All I remember is my mom’s legs moving like baseball bats up the stairs, and the lady  looking down at me as if I were a lost puppy. The clouds floating above. The loud music and honking of the cars passing by. The throbbing on my knees and the pressure in my forehead.

I was six when I asked the man at the liquor store if I could work in exchange for eggs and milk. I knew my mom struggled to feed us. Play wasn’t a priority.

One of the best summers was when we lived in a house on Hightree Place.  It was pretty empty. We owned too little.  There was an old couch in the living room draped with a faded quilt.  No end tables, lamps, nor wall art, just the couch.  The rooms were empty, too. One bedroom had a mattress and our clothes were in black plastic bags.  The windows were covered with sheets. Still, I spent one of my best summers there.  My brothers and I would fill up an empty gallon of milk with water, tie it with a rope and hang it from the stop sign that was on the corner, just like our house.  We’d play tether ball for hours.  There was also a large cement patio in the back yard.  We’d wet it with a water hose and slide on it like a slip-n-slide even though sometimes we’d knock our heads hard on the cement.  We’d also play tag, jumping the side wooden fence to go from the front yard to the back yard and vice versa. I almost felt like a kid.

Except, I also remember a van bringing lots of people to my house, at times as much as twenty.  A white van would pull into our garage, and once the door closed, quietly and nervously, women and men, sometimes children, would get out of the van and all huddle in one of the bedrooms. They’d all sit on the floor with their backs against the wall, lining the whole perimeter of the bedroom.  After a few days, another van would come to pick them up, before a new group of people were dropped off.  It wasn’t until I was older that I realized we were harboring undocumented immigrants.

Play was something I did only when I wasn’t helping my grandma.  I’d help her prep meals for the immigrants.  Sometimes I’d usher them, five at a time, to come eat to the small kitchen table.  Other times, when it was just sandwiches, I’d take the food to the bedroom.  I’d also help with washing dishes and any other chores that were needed.

In recalling my memories of childhood play, I’ve come to realize that I never really got to play.  Not as a child, and most definitely not as an adult.

To be continued in “Dreaming to Play – A Second Chance.”

 

 

 

The Caterpillar that Could. . .

 

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Yesterday I went for a walk with a friend.  At the beginning of the walk, from afar, I saw a duck standing still in the middle of one of the lanes.  I alerted out loud that it would get hit if it stayed there.  I approached it slowly and hesitantly, and as cars approached it, they went around, while I flinched at each close encounter.   I didn’t want to startle it and get it accidentally hit.  Finally when the coast was clear, my friend and I shouted at it to move, and so it went on its way toward the bay.

My friend and I continued on our walk, stopped for breakfast, and when walking the last portion of the route, I noticed a hairy caterpillar crossing the sidewalk in front of us.  In part I noticed his fragility as the wind made him tilt over just a little bit, like a piece of paper. But I also observed as he walked on with such determination.  As we moved a few feet from him, we turned around and saw that he had made it down the side walk onto the street.  He was going for it!

There he was, this tiny, delicate being crossing a vast sea of asphalt.  Something urged me to keep watching, so I turned around, told my friend to wait so I could see the caterpillar’s journey.  I saw cars turning onto the street, but only to turn into one of several parking lots in the marina park.  We stood there with wonder, watching how the potential obstacles were diverted one after the other from the caterpillar’s path.  All of a sudden a car began to approach, but missed him.  Then a motorcycle.  I walked urgently closer to him, telling my friend I wanted to help him get to the other side.  But my friend advised to let him be; she said it was his destiny to journey on his own terms.  And a part of me thought he would make it.  The universe had conspired on his behalf so far, and he was 3/4 of the way.

These caterpillars are known as bag shelter moth caterpillars, and stay sheltered in a big silk bag at the base of wattle or eucalyptus trees. They feed on leaves all day or all night. Characterized as determined and persistent, they line up, single file, and head off to find another tree, crossing any terrain, when searching for more food.  Sometimes the thread of caterpillars gets broken and caterpillars near the end of the convoy may get lost for a while, journeying alone.

Maybe the caterpillar was lost trying to make it back to his community.  As I stood there cheering the caterpillar on, a car ran it over.  (It’s okay if this made you chuckle – there something humorously dark about this scene). My heart sunk. I stood there in disbelief. I went to it, hoping, maybe it had been spared, but it was completely smushed on the asphalt. As I walked back toward my friend, with resignation, I said, “I guess it wasn’t in the caterpillar’s destiny to make it.  And in that same breath, I wondered, “But what if I noticed him – what if I was placed in his path in that exact moment so that I could help him across?”

My friend then interrupted me and said there was still a lesson in it all.  She said her advice to leave the caterpillar alone had come from a place of fear.  That I had noticed the caterpillar, just like the duck, earlier, because I had developed a connection with nature, and that connection should have given me the drive to act on what was in my heart.   She told me the lesson for me was to listen to my inner voice, no matter what anyone else around me thought; to never let anyone, no matter how close they are to me, dissuade me from my heart’s calling.

I went home and thought about that little caterpillar for the rest of the day.  I realized that whether it was in that caterpillar’s destiny to survive or not, I was there and had I helped him across, he would have survived that part of his journey.  I thought about how many times in my life I had struggled and kept going through sheer determination, finding along the way folks who supported and lifted me.  I don’t know if it was my destiny to survive and overcome, but those who noticed me on my journey did not leave me to be smushed by my circumstances.  If that caterpillar had been a child, I would not have stood there to observe.  Our interconnectedness requires that we value all life as sacred.

Just as I was finishing up this reflection, it hit me – there was another lesson that was asking my friend and I to pay attention. Our conversation that morning began with us discussing our students who are having a hard time figuring out what they want to do with their lives; leaving high school without an idea of what they are passionate about or how they want to serve in the world, and many don’t even think they have a gift or an ability. I then confessed that the last dream I had for myself was to become a teacher, but there was a yearning to now pursue something beyond teaching.  I left teaching, only to come back part time, so that I could pursue other goals and experiences.  And I have, but none of them feel like I have a dream to run after, so like the students, I feel dreamless. I’ve been working on many projects, none of them my own, helping others pursue their vision.  I watch in admiration as many people who I am surrounded by pursue their dreams relentlessly and are manifesting their creativity on their own terms – from a friend who was a teacher and now runs a shamanic healing center, to a young woman who sells Mexican pop culture nail decals inspired by the art and beauty of being Chicana and Mexicana and uses her art as an education platform, to an artist whose drive has made her into a renowned activist across the country.  My friend shared examples of people whose journey she has been following and admiring as well – from a woman who used writing for self-discovery and healing who now uses her skills and abilities to teach workshops and inspire other women to use writing as a healing tool, to a woman who started tweeting “Notes to Self,” and went on to write several books and teaches personal growth workshops.

I’ve been wandering for a few years, wondering what I am supposed to create.  My friend talked about having similar experiences. She knows what her gifts are, knows her purpose in life, but doesn’t have a clear dream to run after.  Both her and I have envisioned having a center for youth, but we wondered, if that is truly our dream – why don’t we feel the drive that so many people who have followed their dreams talk about. We explored possible answers, but did not find a resolution to our questions.

The caterpillar symbolizes pure potential. It has to do with the promise of a new life indwelling their bodies, the way hope resides in the seat of our souls promising us a better day tomorrow.  It is a constant reminder of birth, transformation and opportunity for new life. In Alice in Wonderland, the caterpillar is the first character who really makes an effort to guide Alice on her journey.  He reminds Alice that changing isn’t a bad thing – after all, one day the caterpillar will transform into a butterfly and it will be a masterpiece. He teaches her to not be afraid of her imagination and how to cope with the obstacles in Wonderland.

I found the following excerpt as I was trying to understand the significance of the caterpillar:

“Are you in a creative huddle? Suspended in a state of cogitation? The caterpillar is a good metaphor for you. It is a reminder that at some point, all your mulling, processing and soul-searching will unfold into remarkable results. Caterpillars are a blessing on new ideas. They indicate promising outcomes to projects in their initial stage, and offer good juju in terms of fruitful completion of goals.

Because of their dynamic process of metamorphosis, moths and butterflies are symbolic of transformation. By association, the caterpillar is a symbol of evolution and transformation too. Specifically, they convey a unique level of patience as they surrender to the process of transformation. Let’s face it, once a caterpillar begins the process of transforming into a winged beauty…there’s no turning back. In essence, caterpillar is a symbol of never looking back on the old versions of ourselves. Rather, the caterpillar encourages plowing forward with ever-evolving, more brilliant versions of our beauty and potential.”

That caterpillar crossing the street represented our dreams and our ability to always begin anew and fulfill our greatest potential. My friend acted from a place of fear. I acted from a place of hesitation, rooted in indecisiveness and insecurity. I believe these things are what kill dreams. On that morning walk our action, or inaction, resulted in the caterpillar’s death, in much of the same way these feelings can stand as obstacles to discovering and fulfilling our dreams. We must pay attention.

So here’s my final reflection: Like the caterpillar, regardless of the end result, I want to cross with determination. I want to go for it! I don’t want to come to the end of my life and wonder if “I could have. . . ”  I will continue my commitment to listen to my heart and strengthen my relationship with my inner voice, so I may not feel the hesitation I felt standing by the street watching the caterpillar cross.

 

Full Circle

The journey isn’t always where you go physically; Sometimes its where you go spiritually. We often leave a place and go full circle, only to come back to it wiser and freer. I left teaching three years ago.  I Walked into the school district office and signed my resignation papers.  I can’t say I never looked back.  In fact, I looked back quite often that first year, wondering if I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.  In retrospect, I could have made a graceful exit.  I left teaching as an act of liberation and instead, I became burdened with great financial instability.  And while leaving teaching  allotted me more time to be in nature, meditate, write, and do all the things that have brought great healing into my life, there was always the restriction and physical constriction I felt when the bills were mounting or I couldn’t buy a plane ticket to visit my daughter.

This journey of three years has brought me back full circle.  I have accepted a teaching position in a different district, and feel just as excited to teach as when I first began my teaching journey.

I have been on a beautiful journey of healing, growth and transformation for a while, now. These past three years have left me in awe and wonder of the magic that happens when we release ourselves to spirit and the flow of life. I have been growing and strengthening my roots and connecting deeply to ancestral knowledge. I’ve had the beautiful opportunity to facilitate workshops on forgiveness, non-violence, and restorative practices to youth at various schools. I also developed personal growth workshops for youth, which I have facilitated across San Diego. I’ve worked with youth from around the world in Peru and Costa Rica through experiential learning and leadership development.  I am learning about indigenous rituals and ceremonies to heal grief and trauma. I spent this past weekend doing healing and restorative work with prison inmates. I’ve also had powerful experiences as an ally participating in boycott actions that support the work of farmworkers like Familias Unidas por La Justicia, San Quintin Farmworkers, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers fighting for social justice and and fair food programs.  I am participating in various projects with Border Angels, a human rights organization bringing awareness to the plight of immigrants and undocumented immigrants. I have participated in several marches against police brutality and state sanctioned violence. I am reflecting on all these experiences, because I understand there was a journey I needed to take, and only by leaving teaching, did I find the impulse to embark on it.  

Recently, I discovered that the mortgage company, which held our second mortgage to the house we lost four years ago was reporting us delinquent on our payments.  When we foreclosed, both the primary and secondary mortgages were handled under the terms of the foreclosure.  As you might imagine, this situation brought up a lot of fear around money, much of it connected to childhood financial wounds that existed from living in poverty, but also decisions I had made in my adult life that perpetuated those financial wounds – such as the manner in which I left teaching, without a plan or vision.  What had been arising to the surface during these three years were fears of not having enough, not being worthy, instability and insecurity.  I came to the awareness that as part of my healing journey, I had to also heal my relationship with money.  This mortgage situation catapulted me to begin attending Debtors Anonymous meetings.

As a result, I have begun to recognize that many of the decisions I’ve made around money are rooted in a manufactured sense of impoverishment. Poverty and scarcity have been so familiar to me, subconsciously, I continued to create experiences that put me right back in that place.  Surviving in poverty requires one to live day-to-day, even moment to moment; always in constant worry of the future without being able to plan for it.  Because in poverty nothing is ever guaranteed, one lives for today.  However, living for today without planning for the future induces a perpetual cycle of worry, anxiety, and shame.

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When the time comes for you to make a change, to grow, to do your life in a different way, the universe will make you so uncomfortable, so unhappy, you will eventually have no choice. 

SHAME CANNOT EXIST IN THE PRESENCE OF DIGNITY.

Sometimes we feel shame because we have dishonored our soul. This means we have to restore the damage/pain we have caused, integrate our mind and body with our soul so we can move forward with integrity, and begin the forgiveness process by holding compassion for ourselves.

Sometimes, however, we feel shame because we have bought into the narrative that the world has created for us: “I’m inadequate, I’m not worthy, I’m not smart enough, capable enough, good enough, strong enough, I’m not enough.  My financial wounds were carving a path of humiliation for me, and the only way to dignify my experience is to face my circumstances and confront my troubles.  It is, I have come to realize, part of the lesson of taking care of myself with self-respect and forgiveness – belief in the best parts of myself. 

You want to perform a miracle? Forgive yourself. – Rune Lazuli

Forgiving oneself starts with acknowledging the way we have wronged/hurt others, and often, ourselves.  I’ve been carrying the burden of financial wounds as guilt and shame. And I have come to realize that the longer I carry that burden, the more oppressive it becomes. As I am learning to recognize the psychological and emotional factors that lead me to inflict those financial wounds on myself, I am also observing how attached I am to self criticism and judgment; still stuck in regret and disappointment. “I shouldn’t have… Why did I…? If only I would have…” Rationally I understand that my experiences were necessary for me to learn, grow and transform. Emotionally, I have had a more difficult time releasing myself from punishment and punitive self-talk.

What I’ve come to understand, is that in order to completely forgive myself, I must take action to restore the harm that I have caused myself. Learning the lesson is part of the equation. Often times we stop at the lesson and the apology to self, but never take action in repairing the actual harm, the way we would for someone else. It is in the very act of self-restoration that I am able to heal, pay respect to myself, know I am worthy of my time, discover my power to overcome, and change my relationship with how I feel, handle, and view money. When I stand up for myself, I dignify my experiences and determination to overcome my circumstances. It is also in this act that I am able to assert my commitment to live in truth, to hold accountable the aspects of myself that might still be in denial, and to attain liberation from the limitations I have set for myself.

Pause. Research. Pray. 

Life presents opportunities to test us on the lessons we have been learning.  Many times when a difficult situation presents itself, we rush to action, sometimes even forcing a solution that ultimately hurts us more.  When I quit my teaching job, I was feeling lost, uninspired, and empty.  But I didn’t allow myself to pause and sit in those emotions long enough to understand why I was feeling them. I forced a solution, and in doing so, moved from one burden to another, instead of finding liberation.  The last DA meeting I attended, the facilitator opened with a story that relayed the power she had found in the ability to research and pray before taking any life-impacting decisions.  This was a lesson that had been lingering, waiting for me to bring it to my consciousness, and as so often happens, we hear the words we need to hear when it is the right time, when we are ready.  Pausing when my emotions are on overload, whether it’s because of excitement or trauma, has taught me to recognize what it is I need to do next. Is it something I need to find a solution for or is it something I need to work through?  I am still putting this lesson into practice, and I don’t always get it right, but I am acting more and more from a place of mindfulness and intention.

I have a clearer vision of what I want to do with my life, and how I want to continue to cultivate my abilities and gifts to serve.  Life is not just about the actions, but also about how we use who we are and what we are learning in the process.  There are many opportunities for me to continue my learning and many require that I make a financial commitment to invest in those areas. I kept thinking, “I can’t afford that. How am I going to get money to pay for this?” Rather than become worried, anxious and inpatient, I took a step back and took a hard look at my options and my resources. I’ve been substituting as a way to subsidize my income when I’m not teaching workshops, but it has become mundane and aimless.  I often found myself feeling nostalgic about my experiences in the classroom, but wasn’t sure if those emotions were because I truly missed that work, or because I was uninspired with substituting.  Simultaneously, I was exploring job options that would allow me to use my gifts and talents while continuing to do all the projects that I am passionate about.  After working through these emotions, exploring my options, and doing a lot of praying and meditation, I had an Aha! moment.  Teaching is one of the aspects I’ve always been passionate about, but it isn’t the only.  I had gotten myself in a rut, and the classroom had become a confining space for me.  It took me three years of exploring to come back and realize that I really do miss teaching and serving students, but I also love all the work I am doing in the community.  I can do both!

hummingbirdmandala

I don’t know what the future holds.  I’ve had dreams of opening a youth center where I can merge all my passions – serving youth and working to bring change to our communities. This is where I am now.  I will continue to listen to my heart, take pause during periods of confusion, and listen to the gentle guidance of the universe and my ancestors. 

Sometimes living my truth is scary because it requires me to let go of things known, things familiar, things comfortable. It requires me to be okay with the uncertain and unpredictable road. It probes at feelings of inadequacy, insufficiency, and worthlessness. Am I good enough to do what my heart truly desires? Will I have enough money If I walk away from this job that no longer fulfills me? Do I have what it takes to start over again?

Sometimes, for those looking in, it may seem that I don’t know what I want, that I am confused and adrift. I have felt that way at times, in part because I am still learning to listen to my heart with clarity. The process isn’t perfect; I’ve made mistakes. I’ve hit dead ends, stepped back to assess why something wasn’t working, taken wrong turns, and yes, have gotten lost. But even in all of that, I have been able to continue to define and refine my vision and purpose. Along the way, I have discovered and uncovered layers and layers of truth, digging deeper and having greater introspection of who I am without the programming of the world. It turns out sometimes you have to do the wrong thing. Sometimes you have to make a big mistake to figure out how to make things right. Mistakes are painful, but they’re the only way to find out who we really are, our truth.

I have discovered the courage to speak my truth. Learning to do so requires that I speak it with integrity, compassion, and humility. For too long, I didn’t speak up because I was afraid of offending, making folks uncomfortable, not being a team player, being shunned from the group. But I have learned that in the process I have betrayed myself, and the shame of self betrayal is too heavy to bear.

In exploring my truth, I am learning to be more mindful and intentional with my decisions; to transition gracefully through my seasons, to have the courage to ask for what I want; to be truly open to receive the messages of my heart and what I am asking for; to see my relations as sacred and know they are there to teach, support and uplift me.

Living my truth and balancing my consideration for the relations in my life has been, and is, a great challenge. Compromising without betraying myself. Giving without depleting. Focusing without ignoring. Moving forward without excluding. Loving myself without hurting others. These are the aspects I am learning to balance in my life.

What I know to be truest of all is that I can’t hide from who I am and who I am meant to be. When I do, I feel life begins to drain from me, like I imagine a hummingbird would feel without his wings and nectar.

I am committed to the continuous healing of myself and all aspects of my relations. Healthy relationships go beyond my interactions with people, and also include my perceptions, behaviors, and interaction with my body, food, money, mother earth, water, Spirit, my ancestors, and all that is part of living life as a sacred experience. Each relation and encounter is a sacred exchange, and by recognizing it as such, I am able to deepen the connection I have within the web of life and experiences that connects us all. And so by forgiving myself and healing my financial wounds and relationship to/with money, I am giving myself permission to live a fuller life in which I don’t have to live in fear of not having enough. Removing the stress, removing the anxiety, removing the depression connected to money can only happen when I release the unhealthy attachments I have to it.

I am creating the intention of having a purposeful relation will all things, including myself. Forgiveness releases the karmic bonds that bind us to our relations in a destructive way, and it can only happen when we take on the work of restoring, rehabilitating, and rebuilding in a way that is whole and sacred for all relations and connections.

In every step of my journey, I am feeling more connected with the vastness and abundance of the universe. Sometimes it feels as if I can no longer contain my heart inside of me. In every being I encounter, I see myself, and I understand the oneness in which I am contained more profoundly than I’ve ever had. There is so much love in my heart, there is less and less room for fear. I don’t feel my age or any age. I am ancient and eternal.

One day I became conscious enough to ask,

“Who Am I?”

To which a powerful, but at the time,

indistinguishable

voice

inside of me responded:

“Everything.”

It’s Okay If All You Did Today Was Survive

In the wake of

Non-stop violent tragedies

I ask myself,

What do we need to do

To save our world?

 

I desperately gasp

for a sense of freedom,

like air,

to alleviate

the asphyxiating

constriction

in my chest.

 

Not enough

to breathe

with ease.

 

I run my fingers

along the asperous

edges of my heart,

eroded by

constant sorrow and

disillusionment.

 

Does God make

mistakes?

Does he give

someone more than

they can handle

at times?

This is not

God’s work

to blame.

 

Am I up to

the magnitude

of this pain?

 

What do I do

with this?

 

Numb it

until I can no

longer feel

myself?

 

Stuff it

down so deep

it becomes

dense with

pressure?

 

Let it flow

through me?

Like the river, use my breath

to remove toxins,

impurities

and debris?

 

I’m afraid of

drowning under

its current, not being

able to come up,

catch my breath;

being crushed

by a cataract of

suffering.

 

Today, I allow

myself to feel

uneasy

uncomfortable

restless

tired

heavy

broken

battered

scared

 

I have enough

courage to

loosen the grip,

let go,

just a little, of

the constriction

and allow the pain

to flow.

 

With

each cry,

each tear,

each gasp,

the pain becomes

less overpowering.

I see

I’m okay.

It didn’t

break me.

It hurt, but

It didn’t

break me.

 

My first lesson

from pain:

I am whole

when I don’t

betray myself,

when I accept

my goodness,

when I don’t

need to be

perfect,

when I realize

I have everything

I need

to heal.

 

Tomorrow

I will endure

a little more.

 

Tomorrow

my next lesson awaits.

 

Tomorrow

I will have

more strength than

today.

Dedicated to my daughter and all those learning to heal, grow, and transform through their own wisdom and courage.

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De Gotita en Gotita

Why getting your dream all at once can feel like too much:

My grandma used to say, “De gotita en gotita se llena el cántaro.” (The pitcher will fill up one drop at a time.)
A dream, working toward it, and obtaining it is a process; each step like a new beautiful stone, exciting to cherish, but also heavy if one has not prepared for the weight and responsibility of carrying it.

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to contribute as a writer and photographer in an organization I have become very passionate for. I am absolutely in love with writing, and in the most recent years, I have have also fallen in love with photography, especially how it compliments my writing. These art outlets for which I have found deep admiration have become creative tools through which I heal, expose social inequity and injustice, and explore community and vision for a new kind of world.

But this invitation scared me. I wasn’t being offered a full time position nor was I turning into a full time writer, though I write an average of 30 hours a week, still and yet, it scared me. You know that “fear of failure,” kind of feeling, or maybe “fear of success,” it came over me, like the night that slowly shades in the edges of the day. I started to obsess:
What if I’m not good enough?
What if they don’t like the next piece I write?
What if my writing isn’t what they expect?
What if I lose my creativity?

You know all the if’s, but’s, and no’s we come up with when we haven’t built up to our moment of greatness. This is part of our imperfection as human beings – not being able to believe and see our greatness all at once. So the shadow helps to filter in the light, like a buffer if you will, that protects us from the fear of our own light. In part, there are many lessons we have to learn to step fully into our gifts, our abilities, our greatness, and power. Along the way, we also have to acquire knowledge, technical aspects we have to learn about our craft.

Each drop prepares us for the next. Each step for the next level of grandeur. We want our dreams, but they also scare us, so each small opportunity is the fertilizer that prepares us to grow and bloom. As we journey through our dream, we become stronger, wiser; we learn to listen to our intuition, to discern how to stay true to our passion and purpose, and to understand which opportunities align with our dream and which distract us from it. And when we reach our dream, if we have gone through this process, we will know how to nurture it, how to be responsible for it, and how to represent it with integrity.

Art by Alex Escalante

art by alex escalante

Self-Defense

heart

I grew spines on

my heart to protect

her from predators.

.

Creatures lurking

in the shadows of the sun

who would try to

devour her succulent flesh.

.

But my heart is

pulsating, and still

blooms in spring.

.

My flowers are the

inspiration of

those who seek

beauty.

.

They are the fruit

that nourishes the

longing of the seed.

.

The wine that quenches

the thirst

of the parched.

.

My flowers are

my determination

to survive amidst

the calloused landscape.

.

I grew spines on

my heart

and bloomed flowers

on the verge of the

monsoon rains.

saguaro23