The sacred version of embodiment

“We want them to have an experience of God”, she said.

She being, my mentor, coach, and teacher and founder of Embody, Nadia Munla.

If you go to her website you will be greeted with an invitation to embody your pleasure, power, and play. Those are beautifully alliterated ways for your mind to wrap itself around what’s happening, and know that the deeper invitation is to connect with God, through your body, and if you so choose to, through dance.

If I was reading these words even just a few years ago, something inside of me would have squirmed.

“God, in here? Through my body? Not out there somewhere?” I was taught to pray to an omnipresent being that existed everywhere; except in my body, nature, others, and anything physical really. Except for Jesus. Jesus, and only Jesus had access to God in his body.

And God and dance meeting each other in the same sentence? Whoah. That was cutting edge and slightly secular and new age sounding.

I was taught to meet God through stillness. Pray on the side of my bed, maybe through reading the Bible. Even church wasn’t really a place to meet with God, more a place to practice a collective worship of God. Music was allowed, but not dance (unless it was scripted and choreographed as part of the Broadway-esque Christmas pageant or 4th of July show.)

The idea that I might be worthy enough for God to make his way into my being, to express itself through the expression of me; that was a message that didn’t make its way into the sermons I heard.

Over the past 6 years I’ve been on a journey that has blown my heart wide open while my head has been left spinning, as very little of this new experience of what I would call God fits into the box I used to squeeze It into.

And yes, I just called God and It. Not a He or a She, because for today, a genderless all powerful, all knowing, all present source of life seems more like it.

As I’ve been trying to reconcile my history with the story I’m living, I’ve wrestled with facilitating a movement experience that invites women, and more recently, all humans, to move their bodies to music. Not only was that in and of itself forbidden, could you imagine if the music got a bit sensual, inviting in the exploration of one’s turn on in their body through their senses? Clearly sacrilege.

Except what I found is, this movement to music is a most sacred practice for me. A way to connect to the core of who I am; call that my soul. Which then intersects with the source of my soul; call that God. Which means I’m connecting to God through the very thing that was once deemed dirty and unholy; my body.

So can you imagine the liberation and ecstatic excitement I felt what it was stated out loud that the version of embodiment we’re offering to you through Embody has full permission to give you an experience of God, if that’s what you want it to be.

It was like the explosion that happens when the music has been building and building in a club and finally the bass drops and you’re like, “YES! That’s what I’ve been waiting for this whole time!”

My hunch is that is what we are all waiting for. We are all waiting for the energy to build, the bass to drop, the rhythm to carry you on to a new wave of whole-self full-bodied connection with It All. With nature, with others, with your self, with the stars, the seaweed, and source it all came from. For in that moment, everything becomes magical, possible, accessible. You don’t need anything outside of you to fulfill you. You are full because you are in complete union with It All. There is no void needing an object or substance to help you bridge the gap. There is no gap. No separation.

For me, this is embodiment. The trick is of course, to maintain that 24/7. Here’s where, unless you’re Jesus, I’m not sure it’s gonna happen. And who knows, maybe it wasn’t there for him either.

And so for me, embodiment is like a wave. There are moments of that complete union of your physical and spiritual self. And then there are those moments of disconnection, where you feel so far away from who you were created to be, as if you were living someone else’s life. Which is easy to do these days because there’s so many voices reminding you that you are lacking and need xyz in order to be complete.

Which is when discerning between the thoughts in your head and the intuition that lives in your body can be so helpful. To be able to filter through the voice in your head that says dancing is dangerous and sinful and the experience you have when you let your body move freely to music. And not just the feeling, but the sensation that you have while you’re doing that, which somehow communications to you that somehow this is another sacred act of honoring who you are, how you were created, and that the things that light you up and turn you on, are actually OK. And that by allowing for them, you are actually allowing for God to move through you. That as you take action from that super connected ‘embodied’ place from within you, whether it is in your dance, your boardroom conversation, your cleaning of your house, or your creating in the art room… that embodiment is God moving through you. You are an extension and expression of It.

And that’s why we invite you to dance. To remember who you are. To have an experience of God.

 

Photo by timJ on Unsplash

Are you dancing with, or running, your business?

Food. Faith. Feminine. These words keep boomeranging back to me. Five or so years ago they were on my website as the placeholders for the women that I wanted to help. Then I gave myself a reality check / had a self-doubt driven panic attack that I couldn’t do this; mostly because I had more questions than answers on the faith front, and I realized I was living the furthest thing from an embodied feminine life.

So I scrapped that version of the website and the three F’s have sat on the shelf since, until a month or two ago when they came to pay me a visit. It was in a meditation/yoga/journal/prayer session.

I looked down and there they were on the page. Clearly I had written them, although I’m not sure I know why. They just appeared in my conscious and my hand game them form.

Huh. Something about them was familiar.

Oh yeah, that’s where I started from!

Funny how life takes you on a very non-linear journey just so you can find yourself right back where you began.

When I look back at my younger self 5 years ago, I see a woman who was so eager, kinda like a puppy dog. Every business or income generating idea that came to her, she ran with. And because she used to be a runner, and a decent one at that, she thought she knew how to run things on this front too.

Pound the pavement, work it out, get to the finish line as fast as you can. A flurry of action that got webpages up quick and made it look like she was busy and winning.

And she was, for sure, doing quite a lot; working on her website, answering emails, writing blog posts, and filling her schedule in a frenzy to ‘get it done’.

As you might recall from yesterday, she didn’t make much time or space for the ideas to fully flourish and blossom. Once the inkling of one appeared on the horizon, she reached out, grabbed it by its horns, and started squeezing it into the size and shape that was most familiar to her.

Which didn’t leave a lot of room for the inspirational guidance to take its natural shape.

That’s the difference between running and dancing.

Run with it and you and move things along quickly, but the idea, product, or creation never really matures past its infancy because you’ve clipped its wings by grabbing it as soon as the gun goes off. 

Dance with it and you get to learn how it moves, the pace that suits it best, and together you co-create something new and beautiful together.

I didn’t know how to dance 5 years ago. Ok, well, I mean, my body knew how to move to music, but I wasn’t letting it do that. Mostly because I wasn’t a ‘dancer’.

The biggest thing that’s changed in those 5 years? Now I dance.

It’s not that I am, or am not, a dancer. It’s just that if the music is right, I let my body respond how it naturally wants to. Sometimes I don’t even need music. Sometimes my body hears a rhythm that I can’t see. I’ve learned to get out of the way and let something beautiful unfold. Plus it usually feels good for me too.

It’s harder to do that with my work, I’ll admit. I still get excited when an idea for a product offering or operational efficiency comes and I want to micro-manage its every step into the thing I think it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to just take one step, and then let the idea grow, and then take another step, and then let it move again.

It takes a lot of patience to dance with your business and let its natural shape come into the light. Staying present to yourself as you take action takes practice. Taking embodied steps that are true to yourself, is a counter-cultural lesson with many bumps and bruises along the way.

It’s ok if we trip over our feet though; as me and these inspirations that bubble inside me get to know each other’s body language and rhythms. Eventually, with time, we’ll be swinging in and out of each other’s arms.

This is the more feminine way of being that was missing for me 5 years ago. The ability to surrender my ‘doing’, stay present to my ‘being’, and attune to a body wisdom that speaks very differently than my head. It’s taken me awhile to recognize the difference, because after all, I had 34 years of fine-tuning my logical, analytical, binary brain.

I am massively grateful for that brain, and I also have become grateful for my other brain. My sensual, intuitive, cyclical body.

And so as I find myself back at what looks like square one, I am asking my Self, how can we dance together this time?

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

A not-so-new way to recharge your Love life

Yesterday was Sunday and I didn’t write like I said I would. I woke up planning to, but as the day went on, I realized there was something more important to be doing than writing.

Doing nothing.

If the idea of ‘Sunday as a day of rest’, or ‘keeping the Sabbath day holy’, grates you too, don’t worry, I’m not here to pour salt on Biblical wound. The rebel in me resisted these rules that, in my house, meant I had to miss soccer games that fell on a Sunday. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t go do what I loved, just this once, when every other Sunday (and Wednesday) we were at church, and sometimes twice in the same day.

The ritual was empty for me and as an adult, quickly fell to the wayside.

In more recent years my Sunday’s have become more soulful; long walks in the hills, writing under a tree, or sometimes it’s when I get to dance and teach Embody. The meaning that was lost on me as a child has revealed itself; a time for me to connect with my understanding of God in a number of ways that look different depending on the day.

This summer I read Mirabai Starr’s Wild Mercy, a beautiful exploration of the divine feminine through the lens of various cultures, theologies, and human experiences. There is so much goodness in there, it’s one of those where every page could take a week to digest and actually put into practice. I had to talk about it with people. So some friends of mine got together for a Wild Mercy book club, which meant I opened up the book again, and this time, the part that hit home was about honoring the Sabbath.

You can read the book for yourself to get Mirabai’s perspective on why this is so important, and I’ll share with you why it struck a chord with me.

The Rebel in me that was fighting so hard to protect Sundays as a day for freedom, could finally chill out as my inner Lover showed up; the part of me that craves ecstatic intimacy and can not wait for some alone time with her Love.

The Lover in me wants peace and quiet, a spacious day where lounging in bed is more than allowed, it is invited.

She wants to wear a long silky dressing gown and glide around the house without noticing (or caring), or doing anything about the cushion that might be out of place. That can wait until tomorrow, because today, her sole responsibility is to take pleasure… in her body, in her surroundings, with her partner, her children, and with the Divine.

Perhaps she meets with the Divine alone, or perhaps she shares communion as she lays in her partner’s arms, or watches her kids draw purple elephants.

Pleasure, intimacy, union, can come in many shapes and forms, but its bedrock is a spirit of Rest, and the Lover in me has been called to protect this bedrock from the stress of the to-do list and ‘having to get it done.’

You know how this works. A spontaneous, ‘let’s go for a walk’, is so much more joyful than fitting in the walk in between picking up the milk, dropping off the dry cleaning, and timing it all perfectly so you don’t burn dinner in the oven.

There is definitely a time and place for the list, and the focused, disciplined, energy it takes to make a plan and stick to it. That’s how great things are achieved and cool things are built.

That’s not a great way to make love though. The Lover is relaxed enough to notice a desire and act on it with full presence and devotion, where nothing else matters in the moment other than the recipient of its love and affection.

In Wild Mercy, Mirabai shares that, “in Judaism, the highest blessing and commandment is to make love to your spouse on Shabbat… [it is a time to] reach for your beloved.”

Of course, this all makes sense now; reach for your be – loved. Reach for the thing that you love and BE an expression of love towards it. It doesn’t have to be a spouse; just any part of creation that you can open your heart to, and make room for some Love to pour through.

Love is rarely hurried, frazzled, stressed, sharp, or too busy to listen, care, or share.

Reserving Sunday’s as a day to re-charge my Love life is only recently weaving its way into my story.

When I was in college, Sundays were for ‘the long run’. We’d bust our ass on Saturday at a race and then Sunday ‘recover’ by running 9-12 miles. I still marvel at how my body did it; 7 days a week without a guilt-free break.

Once I started working Monday-Friday, the weekends became the time to ‘catch-up’ on the work I couldn’t fit into the 40-50 hours I was at the office during the week. And because Sunday’s were quieter, with hardly any emails coming in, they became very productive days.

Working for myself, not much changed. I’m in full control of my schedule and yet I waited until the weekend to write that post I wanted to write, or send those few emails. It’s like I had a hangover from my M-F job; fill my schedule with busy-ness (which looks so vaguely similar to ‘business’…) that by the time the weekend came, the critical things weren’t done, but I finally had the ‘space’ to do them.

Except with this pattern I still never had a day off; a time to recharge, reboot, let alone be still long enough to hear myself think. And a day just for love making? Never.

As I’m entering my 7th year of working for myself, this go-go energy isn’t working for me anymore. I need more ebb and flow to sustain me.

Which is why I opted out of writing yesterday. Yes I won’t have longer than a 6 day writing streak, but I will have more life in me. Last I checked, that’s kinda the point.


If you’re liking this idea of revisiting the Sabbath… a day off to reboot recharge, do nothing except make time for Love in your life, I highly recommend Mirabai’s book. In case you don’t pick up the book, here’s some suggestions to play with. See what works for you. There’s no right or wrong here, or rules to follow (or break), just making room for more pleasure and your inner Lover to be in charge.

Make a date. See what feels right… is it one day a week, a month? A 3 day break each season? Can you reserve a full day, or is a few hours the place to start? You pick.

Create a container. What and who is joining you and what and who is staying behind? Eg phone, email, social media, laptop, kids, partner, family, friends? Say Yes to what is going to give space for more nourishment, pleasure, Love. Say No to what feels depleting, stressful, even toxic. (This is basic boundary setting.)

Intention. This is different to a plan, and you’re not here work on that DIY project you keep putting off. What is it you want to reserve this sacred time for? Try playing with things like Rest, Silence, Stillness, Spacious, Pleasure, Nourishment. I know, slightly counter-cultural, but see what happens when you let these forgotten beauties become your guiding light for the day.

Feed your inner Lover. Make time for the caress, the kiss, the squeeze. Which might look like letting yourself experience the joy of ice cream for breakfast. Or skipping the run if it’s pouring rain outside (unless running in the rain is your thing). You don’t need to make love to another person (although that’s allowed), just let that part of you that wants to delight in your life actually experience a delight.


If you run your own business, consider encouraging your clients and customers to honor their own version of Sabbath, as in, time for them to connect with their off-line life; which might mean honoring their weekend and staying out of their inbox until mid-week.

Or consider when you choose a date for the event; is it for the highest good of everyone to hold it on a Saturday or Sunday?

As someone who offers group events that tend to fit with weekend schedules, this re-evaluation for my own work feels risky. Will I lose potential clients if we only meet midweek when there is usually more competition for time, including career and childcare commitments?

This way of thinking feels scarce… the complete opposite of how I want to feel about my work. I’m going for spacious; the same way I feel after an actual day off.

I’ve also had to ask myself, when will I bring the most replenished version of me? Sundays are rarely a high-energy day for me. I learned that the hard way.

I’m experimenting with a way of doing business that does not require busy-ness, scarcity, or squeezing offerings in. While at first it might mean not everyone is free on the days I’m available, I’m also trusting that there is a way for our contribution to the world to be aligned with values that nourish, instead of deplete, our vitality.

As you start to give care to your own personal Sabbath, see what starts to feel right for your work too.

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

The Path

All the things you didn’t see

All the things you wouldn’t hear

All the colors, sights, and smells

That aren’t on the path


You don’t know where you’re going

You don’t know when you’ll get there

All you know is, you have to go

You have to go the way you don’t know


At first it’s an adventure

Then getting lost gets old

Then just when you’re ready to turn around

You see a sight, you hear a sound, you find that you are found


You aren’t where you want to go

That doesn’t really matter though

The place of found’s not there nor here

It’s when you realize you can hear


Hear the whispers of the wind

The flutters of your beating heart

So still inside you start to know

There’s no other place you need to go


And this is when you really know

That following the ‘way to go’

Only keeps you round and round

In places where there’s too much sound


Too much sound to really see

That here’s not where you want to be

So take one step and you will find

That off the path lies peace of mind


Dedicated to Lee Michael Tanner

Photo by Gustav Gullstrand on Unsplash

Cutting myself some slack

I’m tired of wearing hats that aren’t mine to wear.

Like accountant, immigration lawyer, marketing guru, social media genius, SEO pro, management consultant.

They are sexy, intriguing titles, but they aren’t me.

In my 20’s my job required me to have a certain level of expertise when it came to taxes and immigration for US residents working overseas. It gave me a leg up when I took the plunge and moved countries, and enough knowledge that I could do my own US expat taxes. Then life got more complicated, beyond the scope of what I had experience in, and I still thought I could do it anyway.

That little ego trip cost me over four grand in accounting fees to get my taxes in order.

Aside from costing me money, it doesn’t make a lot of money either.

I should know this. My husband and I started a brick and mortar business 6 years ago, and after 4.5 years we had to close its doors because the two of us were trying to do it all then too. I was once again trying to be the accountant, legal liaison, investor relations, business plan writer, web developer, community outreach, and cleaning lady. He wore an equal number of hats, and we couldn’t do it all well, (and still stay married).

He has since regenerated the business, with a TEAM. PEOPLE that round him out so that he can focus on what he does well, and they can do what they do well.

Amazing.

It’s not rocket science, but sometimes you have to really slow things down and see things from another perspective because your standard MO of ‘crazy-town’ feels so natural.

I learned a trick from Rachael Maddox in the context of trauma-sensitive sales, and from what I can tell, it applies across the board.

There’s three questions you can ask yourself that I’ll paraphrase:

Safe: Do I know what I’m doing here?

Ideal: Do I like what I’m doing here?

Doable: Do I have the time, money, energy, and other resources to do this and do it well?

I can’t even tell you how much this is rocking my world. I’ve put myself in a number of situations where the answer to all of them was No. And while I believe there is a time and place to stretch yourself, bite the bullet, or make do with what you have in the name of growth, character development, and resourcefulness, those weren’t my reasons.

Survival was more like it. Not so much life or death survival, but the, ‘I have to do this otherwise my fragile sense of self will fall apart.’, version of survival.

I always did well in school as a kid, and there was an unspoken expectation that whatever subject came my way, I could ace it. College was a little more challenging, but my typical liberal arts education was spread over a wide range of subjects ranging from Chemistry, to Adolescent Psychology, to Architecture, and Wine Tasting. And in that setting, there was definitely an expectation that you had to excel at it all.

In my career I’ve kept my basket very full and varied, both in corporate employment and working for myself. The variety kept in interesting.

What I’m realizing now is that if I continue to wear all the hats, I’m asking too much of myself. While it’s what I needed at some point, for my own self worth, and the realities of starting from scratch; now it’s a stress that keeps my nervous system on high alert. It’s a burden I no longer want to carry.

So I’m cutting myself some slack. I no longer have to wear the hat unless it fits; unless it is safe, ideal and doable.

At Embody we’d call this Pleasure. Does it feel good even if it doesn’t look good?

I may think it makes me look good to be able to brag to my friends that I can do my taxes AND my immigration applications. I may think it makes my balance sheet look good when I write the marketing copy, and make the pretty pictures, and facilitate the event.

But feel good? Hell no.

Taxes and immigration applications make my insides go all haywire and my adrenaline shoot through the roof. I’m a bitch to be around, my house turns into a zoo, and I pace back and forth to the kitchen.

Executing an event from concept to creation, facilitating it, and doing all the follow-up? Ugh. My shoulders sag, my eyebrows furrow, and it feels like there’s a ball of lead in the pit of my stomach. It’s enough to stop before I start, which I have.

Hiring experts in technical areas of knowledge that I have no interest in mastering? Aaaaah. It’s like sipping cool coconut water as I sunbathe on a Thai beach and people-watch. My body relaxes into the warmth of the sun and the lounger that is holding me.

Having a partner to co-create with who is more visually creative, verbally concise, and understands the ins and outs of sharing messages that connect with people? And enjoys being on their phone and social media all day? It’s like a night out where the DJ just keeps getting better and better. My body is electrified, buzzing, with enough energy to get me through a marathon of events.

This is what I’m aiming for. No more shaming myself that I am not the best at everything. No more punishing myself by making myself do it anyway.

Doing what I can with what I have. Forgiving my mistakes. Loving myself anyway. Cutting myself some slack.

Photo by Conner Ching on Unsplash

Why I’m loving my 40 Days and 40 Nights

So I started this 40 day writing challenge for myself after listening to an interview with Seth Godin on Marie TV. I have a list of books I want to write, at least 3 that I’ve started, so when Marie asked Seth how he maintains writing a blog post every day, plus all the books he’s written, my ears perked up.

I loved his answer.

“I write like I talk. Everyone has writers block, but no one has talkers block.”, or something like that. Don’t quote me on it.

But it got me thinking; oh yeah, I can talk and talk and talk, but when it comes to writing I’m always afraid I’m going to run out of things to say. My worst fear is that I won’t have enough pages to count as a proper book, and so I convince myself there is no point in doing any writing, because anything I do write will all be wasted; forlorn pages that nobody ever reads because my mind went blank.

So I thought, right, I’m going to try this. See if I can maintain writing daily, just 400 words, for 40 days.

Why 40 days?

Well, last winter, I was planning a trip to the US that turned into a 40 day road trip where I visited some old friends, taught Embody in a few new places, and caught up with family I hadn’t seen in a while. The trip started off because I wanted to go to Richard Rohr’s Universal Christ conference in Albuquerque. His book is a mind-bender if not a heart-opener, and I’ve always wanted to go to Albuquerque (I Love Lucy…), but by the time I went to get a ticket, they had sold out.

By then I had reconnected with a college friend I hadn’t seen in about 20 years and we had tentative plans for me to visit her in Boulder as a stop over on my way. I didn’t want to miss out on that, so I kept those plans, and then figured, hey, while I’m there, want to see what Embody is all about?

And so the road trip was born.

By the time I went to book my flights, the trip was shaping up to be about 5 weeks long. I didn’t mind, and neither did my husband who wasn’t joining me, but I still had this scarcity thing of, ‘I should hurry up and get back to the UK. I can’t stay away too long.’ So when I was looking at flight options, I was trying to spend the least amount of days away.

Mind you, after 3-4 weeks, it really doesn’t matter anymore. Saving a day here or there is irrelevant. It’s not like if I came back a day earlier he’d be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t notice you were gone!’.

But I was so used to trying to avoid the pain of longing for my beloved. I’ve done long distance relationships in the past, and they wreaked havoc on me. And when I was in a same-city relationship, anytime I was away from my partner for even short periods of time, I’d be pining and longing, even if only on the inside. It’s a feeling that sucks and I always tried to avoid.  Thankfully I’ve grown out of the pining, but the scarcity imprint is still there.

So last winter, as I was booking the flights, the airline’s website did a tally of how many days the trip was. Mine was shaping up to be 38 days.

At first I felt a tinge of guilt, but then something inside of me sat up straight.

38? That’s almost 40. 40 days and 40 nights. How cool would that be to take a 40 day trip? Just because.

Not that I wanted to be wandering in the desert, or floating on a boat in the rain, but I liked the symbolism; the gesture that this trip was going to be some sort of spiritual pilgrimage.

So instead of my default attempt to make my trip shorter, I breathed into the spaciousness of an extra two days away.

A few days before the 40 days were up, I was doing yoga, or maybe trying to meditate, or more likely journaling, and I had the sense to try out another 40 day cycle when I got back; this time a hiatus from social media.

After the initial 24 hours anxiety that my world would fall apart, it was the easiest thing I ever committed to.

It was then that I decided, I’m going to live in 40 day cycles.

Which I discovered, very closely mirrors the spacing of the equinoxes and solstices, and the midpoints between them, which are commonly known as Groundhog Day, May Day (and sometimes Pentecost depending on when Easter is), and Halloween/Samhain/All Saints Day.

Hmmmm….. my witchy priestess wheels started turning.

Could it be that the 40 day stories of the Bible, that also line up with sacred days in pagan calendars and other non Judeo-Christian cultures, that also line up with the position of the earth relative to the sun, could all be pointing to the same thing?

I’m not even sure what that thing is other than a way of living life that allows for a process to complete, a habit to be formed, and other transformations to take place, that is natural, not forced, and aligned with a universal rhythm we lost touch with as soon as we could count past 10.

All I can say is that I have felt the power of aligning with 40 day cycles over the past 8-9 months. And I am very happy to rely on that power greater than me to help sustain my commitment to writing, because personal willpower alone hasn’t been cutting it thus far.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

When Wisdom Speaks

I’m in the middle of pulling together an Embody event in London and I’m being tested. I’ve got a person who’s a Yes and I don’t have space lined up. This is backwards. It’s not how I like to operate. I want the details ironed out first so I can announce to the world with certainty that this is going to work.

But this time, I’m being asked to play. Play with my version of God and let the magic unfold without me controlling all the strings.

Before I came to that conclusion, I had a minor-mini-freak-out. I know I’m freaking out when I find myself standing in the kitchen preparing myself a random snack, aimlessly rummaging the cupboards, eating whatever my eye lands on. Peanut butter on a cracker. Avocado on a cracker. An apple. A pickle. Some almonds.

Totally ‘acceptable’ foods to eat, and while you probably wouldn’t intentionally put all these things on a plate and call it a meal, you also wouldn’t really call it a binge. But my wiser self knows this random selection of foods isn’t purely just to satiate hunger. It’s the way I learned to calm my nerves whenever I was faced with what seemed like an impossible task. 

In college it was papers on who knows what. They wanted 20+ pages on topics that I could care less about. But I had to hand it in to make sure I didn’t fail, and so I’d sit down in front of my computer, open up Word, a jar of peanut butter, a box of Cheerios, and if my roommate was around, a tub of icing, and stare at my screen, hoping I’d be able to nail this one quickly.

Once the random snack stash was sufficiently depleted, I could finally think straight and start to string sentences together.

That’s how I got through college and the first 5 years of my career. It got really messy and out of control because I didn’t want the weight gain that came from 1 am (and then 1 pm) binges.

I ended up ticking a lot of DSM boxes, then ‘got better’. However I’d be lying if I said I never stress eat.

I’m ok with that now. Mostly because I’ve learned that trying to control my imperfect way of [trying to] gain control, doesn’t really help the situation. Letting myself be a bit chaotic is sometimes the kindest thing I do for myself. I say something like this to myself: “Ah, here you go eating a random combo of food while doing laps around the kitchen. You’re stressed. Why don’t you enjoy one more cracker and then try sitting down.”

It’s like I’m learning to be a really caring mother to a toddler that still needs mother’s milk to feel safe.

Loving, instead of punishing, myself feels good.

When I finally did sit down, I pulled out my journal. That’s my more grown-up go-to when my nerves are frazzled. Writing down the God’s honest truth of what I’m feeling inside is the medicine I need 98% of the time.

“This London thing is stressing me out.”

Sometimes it’s not this PG. My journal is not censored. Language, violence, and nudity of the heart are found all over its pages.

But today was pretty tame, and I cut to the chase with some questions that help me quiet all the noise and land on a deeper wisdom.

What’s my desired outcome for this London Embody situation?

I want it to be a success. I want to make moolah. I want it to create traction for next year.

What’s the should?

I should have all the logistics sorted before people sign up. It should be in a posh yoga studio or somewhere nice like that. It can’t happen in a church because I like to play music with swear words.

Judging anyone?

I’m totally turning my nose up at the church. They just don’t get it.

Fear?

I’m gonna fail, look a fool. I’m going to book a place and then no one’s going to come and then I’ll be short on cash.

Bam…. there’s the freakout I was trying to calm down with an avocado.

Then I turn to gratitude.

And forgiveness.

And I find one thing about myself that I like.

By then the Wisdom starts to whisper… ‘Why don’t you just see who wants to come? Gauge interest. And why don’t you make a list of all the places in London you used to go to when you lived there, see what leads you might have.’

Me: But when I lived in London all I did was go to work, and church, and that one yoga studio in the community center in West Hampstead.

Wisdom: So why don’t you start there.

She’s always so simple, Wisdom is. Sometimes it drives me nuts.

But I listen.

Because I don’t have a need for peanut butter on crackers any more.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Birth

It’s October 28th, 2019. Thirty-nine years ago I was excavated from my mother’s womb, after 24 hours of her pushing and breathing and squeezing. I would not slide out of her body naturally. I was too big.

I was 11lb something ounces and no matter how hard my mom tried, her body could not expand to a size of safety for both of us. So she was sliced, and I was removed.

I was held by nurses and doctors, swaddled and laid to rest in a room with other newly born earthlings. I had shelter, clothes, and food.

I did not have my mom.

My mom and I were kept separate for 24 hours. We were reunited once it was clear we were both ‘fine’, but by then it was too late.

The knife of grief was already lodged. The seed of fear already planted.

Fine was never really an option.

I obviously don’t remember any of this. I was zero years old.

My brain didn’t know how to store memories yet. All I could do was feel through sensory stimulation.

And while I was warm, and fed, and cared for, I didn’t have what I needed. I didn’t have the regular heartbeat I was used to, the soothing murmurs of my mom and my dad’s whispers.

All I knew was that earth was a lonely, scary place.

Not that I knew this in the same way I know that the yoga mat I am sitting on is blue.

I didn’t know that lonely or scary was a thing.

But my body knew. My body knew something was off.

Instead of resting, skin to skin, heart to heart, attuning to the rhythm of life through the rhythm of my mother, I could only attune to myself.

Myself, who arrived late, was too big, and caused my mother pain.

Instead of sinking into the cradle of my fathers arm, my spine and neck supported, it was up to me to support myself. I could, and would, do this thing called life on my own.

Not that this was a conscious decision. I was too young to make intentional choices for my life.

But at some point the ache in my chest became too much and instead of feeling the pain, my body buried it deep in my heart, locked the box, and threw away the key.

And the shakiness in my muscles and limbs became too distressing so my body forced itself to stop and stiffen up.

Thirty-nine years later I am sitting here writing this, surprising myself as this story unfolds. My brain is a little more evolved now; I can find the words to tell you this. But the story is not coming from my mind. It’s not a memory I relive in the same way I remember my first kiss, or what I had for dinner last night.

As I sat down to write, the words came. And then the tears. And that’s how I know this is true.

The searing pain of grief and loss, still buried in my heart, rising and flooding my body with a soul ache I had tried so hard to ignore all this time. Tears pouring down my face, primal wails crying from my heart. My hands trembling as I attempted to type.

The memory was stored in my body; has been stored in my body all these years.

And while I have aced the effort to bury the grief and overcome the fear, it has not been without a cost.

I could explain and tell you about those costs, but I’m getting kinda bored of them now. The story is getting old.

It’s taken 39 years for my mind to catchup with my body, for my body to finally tell it like it is, and in the meantime, I’ve been cycling through those pages like your [not-so-]favourite bedtime tale.

This time, I’m ready for a new story.

One where I’m not apologizing for how much space I take up, or worried about the pain my presence may cause. I will allow myself to gracefully slip out of a cocoon of safety.

Instead of bracing myself for the big scary world filled with bright lights and sharp metal objects that poke and pry you open, I will soften into faith and trust that I will be received with open arms of love.

And instead of perpetuating a story where I relive a lack of connection and absence of support, and attempt to fill in the blanks on my own, I will open my eyes to the milk-filled breast and the supple yet strong arms of the divine that have been waiting for me all this time; and for once let myself by fed and held.

How do I know my No?

I’ve gotten frustrated with this whole ‘listen to your body’ thing when I can’t tell what the tension, discomfort, and constriction in my body is all about. It doesn’t feel good, I can’t tell if it’s my nerves or my intuition, and I don’t know how to make it go away.

All I want to know is…

Is this really a ‘No’, or just another way of self-sabotaging my dreams?

Am I pre-empting a bad situation, or just chickening out?

Is this my intuition leading the way, or the default pattern I’m used to that might not actually be so good for me.

I’ve tried to figure this out in my head. I even started writing this post making a list of all the ways to discern between the two.

It was a shitty boring read.

Because just like trying to nail down how to know your No, my mind is never really going to have the sure-fire answer of what I’m feeling in my body.

So I pressed delete and landed right back where we started. That semi-frustrating, semi-liberating place of ‘listen to your body’.

But this time, instead of worrying about whether the discomfort is my fear or intuition, my ego self or higher self, I realized, it kinda doesn’t matter.

Understanding it in your head, isn’t as important as just being with it in your body.

Whether or not you should date the guy, call it off, make the offer, cancel the class, publish the post, burn the manuscript…

Before coming to any conclusion…

Listen to your body.

Chances are if you’re questioning or doubting yourself, it feels uncomofortable. Maybe there’s a knot in your stomach, or tightness in your chest, a weight on your shoulders, a heaviness in your head.

That’s the thing to pay attention to, without trying to figure out what the final answer will be. The discomfort is a sign that you haven’t gotten to the end yet. You’re still in the (messy) middle of the story.

That’s the hardest place to be; the place we try to avoid as we try to get into the clear of black or white; Yes or No.

Maybe we’re afraid the emotions are too painful, or that we won’t be able to handle them, or that others won’t be able to handle them, or that we’ll wreak havoc, lose it, fall apart, or be anything other than fine, all good, keeping calm and carrying on.

Fuck that shit.

May I invite you to consider that the messy middle is the juicy part.

It’s the part of the book that you can’t put down, the part of the movie when your wide-eyed gaze is fixed on the screen and you don’t even realize you’re still popping popcorn in your mouth even after the bowl is empty.

You can’t wait to see what happens. “What’s she going to do? Is he gonna make it?”

We’re secretly hoping they rise to the challenge, slay the dragon, kick evil’s ass, be the hero, the warrior-ess, and put things back together in their rightful place.

You’re silently cheering them on because you know they’ve got what it takes to step up and into themselves.

Without the challenge, the discomfort, they’d never get the chance to become who they are.

Things need to fall apart before they get better. It’s the way the universe works.

Order. Disorder. Reorder.

Bountiful Summers. Barren Winters. Freshly fertilized Springs.                                                                                                              

We think the messy middle is the end of the world, but really it’s part of the cycle that invites us to grow and expand.

Avoiding it only leads to getting stuck in the contraction; which means the pain wins. It’s where the real havoc is wreaked.

This happened to me last week. I got off a call and something didn’t feel right. I was grumpy, annoyed, and felt icky inside. I was frustrated with myself, with them, with my body, with the dishwasher.

I started to brush it off. “Whatever, you’re just having a bad day.”, I told myself.

But that was just riling me up even more.

So I sat with it. In the sun, in my garden, with journal and pen in hand, and had an honest conversation with myself.

It was the typical childhood stuff… wanting approval from my dad, trying to get it from this person instead, attempting to fill the shoes that got me the love and attention when I was a kid, denying and rejecting the part of myself that might put me at risk of screwing up the perfect imbalance of it all.

This awareness gave me a few days breathing room. During which I went to a yoga festival. By the time I got home, I was shaken not stirred; 48 hours of vinyasas dislodged some pent-up energy from decades of self-repression and it was whirring through me.

My neck and upper back were on fire. I started throwing darts at my husband; a feeble attempt at displacing my pain.

I wanted to tear something, rip it to shreds. I shouted at my laptop. That fucking piece of shit that never works when I need it to.

I was back in avoidance. Ignoring the rage and the pain that I never allowed.

But then I tried something different. I gave it a voice. Instead of burying it further down inside me, I let it rise up, through, and out, of me.

It sounded like growling, hissing, seething. It looked like prowling around like an animal, grief and rage rippling through me.

And while the fly on the wall may well have thought I was crazy, riding the waves of this primal energy was the most logical thing to do.

When I’ve been asked to talk about my anger before, I could never really put it into words. All I could describe was a picture of me hissing and roaring, like a panther, or viper, or some other kind of beastly being.

I could feel the power, my body in full flow.

Seeing this in my mind and talking about it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I let myself embody that image, that I came out the other side.

My neck and shoulders relaxed. My whole body felt like butter. The ragey storm subsided. More loving expression started flowing. There’s some sunnier possibilities appearing on the horizon.

There will be another wave, I am sure. Another time where something doesn’t feel good and I don’t quite know why. I’ll be frustrated and doubting, wanting answers and wanting out.

And that’s where I’ll attempt to ride that wave too.

That is where we get to ‘listen to your body’. Really, you are listening to your ‘Self’.

All that discomfort, pain, something that doesn’t feel right… She is trying to tell you something.

Let yourself be with Her in the messy middle. One day it might be your anger. Another your fear. Chances are there’s lots of grief, and old dried up wounds.

Until you give them a voice, they’re going to make a lot of noise, cloud your vision with static, as they try to get your attention.

Which of course is going to make it hard to discern, “Is this my nerves or intuition?”

Until you actually know what your fear sounds like, or your guilt, or your shame, grief, or anger…

Until you let them roar, loud and clear.