So Strong

I have not underlined this much in a book since graduate school.

Bright Spirit, the spiritual book club that I co-host with Dina of Crystalicious NYC, studied Rising Strong by Brené Brown as our most recent pick.   This book quickly became a part of my soul.  I, too, struggle with vulnerability.  I was the girl who knew all of the answers in elementary school.  That girl became the young woman who never asked any questions because she didn’t want anyone to know that she didn’t know something.  That girl-turned-young-woman equated knowing and being right with being accepted and loved.  She may not have been able to do it all, but she sure knew her stuff.  And no one could peek behind that all-knowing curtain.

Rising Strong is the first of Brown’s works that I read, although I was already familiar with her through Her Royal Highness Ms. Oprah Winfrey.  I enjoyed Brown’s talks that I watched but didn’t really “get it” until I read the book.  It’s always about timing.

Here are just a few of the thousands of words I underlined…  literally picking these for you by opening to a random page and sharing.

On “reckoning with emotion,” Brown directs the reader to, “Give yourself permission to feel emotion, get curious about it, pay attention to it and practice… awkward, uncomfortable practice.”  For me, this was a clear reminder of what I teach but don’t always remember to implement myself.  We must attend to our feelings, emotions, joys and pains if we want to grow.  If we are good with sitting exactly where we are right now, then just ignore the tough stuff.  Stuff it down.  Keep busy and try not to feel.  But, when we are ready to thrive, we must examine those feelings, white, black and every stormy shade of gray, to work, heal and flourish.  That often takes help.  Remind me to ask for help when you see that I need it.

Brown writes, “…our silence about grief serves no one. We can’t heal if we can’t grieve; we can’t forgive if we can’t grieve. We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach toward grief because the broken parts want to mend.”  When we lose someone or something, it’s like there’s this designated period we are supposed to be sad for—no longer and definitely no shorter.  At my day job, we get 5 bereavement days when a family member dies. I have a sinking suspicion that it will take me more than a week to get my head together after one of my parent’s passes.  In that same vein, if someone is back after 1 day, I’m not sitting in judgment.  I’m just hugging in support.  Face it on your own time.

Brown enforces from C.R. Snyder’s research that “Hope is not an emotion: It’s a cognitive process… Hope happens when we can set goals, have the tenacity and perseverance to pursue those goals, and believe in our abilities to act.”  Hope carries varied connotations.  I’ve heard people instruct others not to hope because that’s giving an option for something not to happen—like I hope I get the promotion vs. I will get the promotion.  While I agree that we should manifest our desires with unwavering certainty, I feel like hope is a beautiful thing.  I hope for a beautiful future for everyone on the planet.  I hope everyone can find the peace that I feel right now.  It’s kind of mincing words… but that’s what we do, isn’t it?

After this… I’m jumping (albeit backwards) into Brown’s Daring Greatly.  Join me?  Much love.

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Let’s Get Together 

For some glorious reason, I listened to the travel agent when she recommended the upgraded airport lounge prior to my departure home from my dear friend’s wedding in Jamaica. For $30, I get to spend the next 2.5 hours before boarding (the company determined the pickup time— not I) in a comfy chair with fewer screaming children (but there’s always one), a small buffet and, gratefully, plenty of outlets to charge my phone that loses battery faster than you lose your $20 in a slot machine.
But anyway… a funny thing happened when we arrived at the reception last night. The following is in NO way a criticism of anyone or anything— just an observation. 

There were no assigned seats. I traveled alone to this destination wedding and only casually know maybe 7 of the 60 attendees. The bride is one of my very closest friends. We met through business, became friends quickly and most days are in contact from eyes open to lights out— we just vibe like that. I latched on to one of the bride’s very good friends whom I met twice before and her cousin with whom she was traveling. Sweet women. We picked a table at the reception that wasn’t on top of the speaker and wasn’t too close to the dais— leave that for family! 

As the rest of the guests filtered in, they chose their tables around the dance floor. No one sat with us. Then came the awkward “Is anyone sitting here?” moments as, one by one, the 7 empty seats at our table were dragged through the sand to other tables. The table diagonal from us now sat 15. To our left, another crowd. I eyed the buffet with fervor until it opened.

We laughed, we danced… I stayed out way, way past my bedtime, even with a looming 5am wake up call. I had a truly great time. But the table thing got me thinking about separation and about comfort zones. Most people stick to what they know, who they know and what feels safe. Most people stay in that comfort zone, even when uncomfortable in it. Maybe today, say hello to someone fresh. Take a different spot in yoga class (just don’t take THAT lady’s spot). Angle yourself on a new perch. Join that group you’ve been considering, even though none of your current friends are involved… yet.  

Now, a large yet sparse table at a wedding is not a bad thing— but separation in life can be. Separation can lead to judgment, fear and a host of other elements I’m prepared to rage against. Someone has to. Our separation last night was momentary; we all joined on the same dance floor and I wouldn’t be surprised if some are still there dancing as I watch the sunrise from this airport lounge.  

Embrace another perspective. Dare to leave the chair there and sit in it, rather than drag it over to your comfort zone. Much love.

Ella and Monkey

The Catnip and Carrots waiting room is like Cheers for our rabbit rescue family.  Anytime you walk through those doors and sit on those benches, you are bound to meet someone who knows your name, even if it’s just from interaction in our incredibly supportive online community.

An afternoon in July of 2014, I sat on one of those benches.  Two women, a mother and a daughter, sat on an adjacent bench.  In their carrier was their elderly guinea pig.  From careful eavesdropping (teacher-hearing comes in handy outside of the classroom too), I learned that they take this beloved guinea pig to the vet weekly—sometimes several times in a week.  Considering that most guinea pigs don’t get any medical care, I judged this family to be super pet parents.  I was right.

The daughter looked at her phone and started to read an email to her mother.  The email was an apology for a delayed response.  I heard her mention a big rescue case in Mastic that was the excuse for the delayed response.  I realized that I wrote that email.  These are people that we are screening for adoption!

I’m not shy.  I said, “Excuse me.  That email is from me.  I’m Denise.”  They introduced themselves and we conducted the step in the screening process that is usually a phone interview, live in the waiting room.  Each answer confirmed the judgment I already made about them—these women are part of an exceptional pet family.  Home visit… adoption day… they brought their adorable Monkey Bun to “speed date” with several of our adoptable rabbits.  Monkey chose Elke on July 20, 2014.  Elke was renamed Ella.  They never bonded—it happens.  They live side-by-side in happiness now.

Ella is estimated to be around 10 years old… maybe 8… maybe 12.  With age often comes some health and mobility issues.  I was honored to visit Ella and Monkey this past week and share some Reiki with them.  In connecting with Ella’s energy, I felt a beautiful sense of patience.  Before I entered their pens, I poured several drops of Frankincense essential oil into my palms and called on our guides and angels to support and heal all who are open to the energy.  I stepped into Ella’s pen first.  She spent most of our session together in her cardboard hut.  She has a green light surrounding her metaphysically.  She “told” me that she doesn’t feel old, which put a big smile on her family’s faces in our post-session conversation.  When working on Ella’s chest area and heart chakra zone, I felt a big shift, like an obstruction began to dissolve.  She feels blocked physically so we “worked” on that through most of our session.  She “showed” me the numbers 10 and 11 and that she prays with the family, so whoever is praying or doing some spiritual work, keep it up!  Ella is working with you!

Ella

I hopped over to Monkey Bun’s pen next.  He’s much more curious than Ella is so we did more hands-on work together.  He “showed” me the number 3.  We worked to soften his heart chakra.  He “told” me that he knows he’s a little boy but he’s NOT the baby of the family!  He is solid and healthy.  His solar plexus chakra is very guarded (common in prey animals) and he “shared” a turtle shell energy with me, a hard exterior for protection.  Where Ella is blocked physically, Monkey is guarded or blocked emotionally.  They are in great balance of each other.  Although they never officially bonded, there’s a lot of love in that bunny room, just like there’s a lot of love in that entire house.

Monkey Bun

From our chance meeting in the waiting room at the vet’s office… Ella’s adopter has become one of our most dependable volunteers, which is not surprising.  They are a family of compassion and dedication.  They show that in the way they cared for their ailing guinea pig, the way they opened their home to Ella, who was a bit older when they adopted her, and the continued care every animal (and person, from what I gather) in that family receives.  It is my true honor to share Reiki with Ella and Monkey and to be around such a wonderful family.  Much love.

Father’s Day Pivot

60,000 thoughts per day.  60-80% of those thoughts (depending on which research you follow) are negative.  That’s part of the negativity bias.  And hey, the negativity bias does protect us.  It plays a needed role in our days, but maybe we don’t need it as often as it shows up, like it did for me this morning.

It’s Father’s Day.  My father is awesome.  I count him (and mom) in my top 5 best friends of all time.  We are a triumvirate.  But, thank you negativity bias, when I started to think about Father’s Day and father-stuff, I started beating myself up about all of the times I wasn’t nice to my dad… thinking about the countless times I was impatient, rude, defiant to the bad-ass who raised me.  Thinking about the moments that I wish I could go back and repair.  Thankfully, nothing horrendous happened, nothing so irreparable that I should be thinking about that today.  But that’s the negativity bias, the same part of our conscious mind that replays the one time we flubbed a word reading out loud in class rather than the thousands of words we read out loud with perfect pronunciation.

I’m not letting the negativity bias win.  Instead, I’m letting it work for me on this sunny, warm Father’s Day.  Rather than ruminate on past cringe-worthy moments, I’ll step into my loving light and make beautiful memories for today.  At any point, we can pivot and choose again, choose differently.  When those thoughts of a rougher nature crop back up today, as they likely will, I will lean into the lesson and the love.  My pivot will cultivate positive moments and memories.  When Dad has the Mets game on louder than I would like, I can choose to accept the volume, curb the eye rolls, let the man have the volume he wants in his own home on the day we designate to celebrate him.  That small right action will keep the negativity bias away for that moment.

And I’m just enjoying this Father’s Day, moment to happy, silly moment.  That man makes me laugh, but not as much as he makes himself laugh.  It’s endearing.  See, I sat down anxious and angry at myself for being occasionally imperfect as a daughter over the past 36 years yet I took this time to process, to share with you and now I’m smiling, choosing some of my 60,000 thoughts to be of those moments where Dad cracked himself up to happy tears.  In classic Leo fashion, his self-esteem is solid.  I’m grateful to have inherited that from him.

Pivot.  Choose again.  Smile.  Happy Father’s Day.

Vortex of Appreciation

Sunday morning.  I’ve been out as a morning person for quite some time now.  Even the word morning sends a tingle through me.  Know thyself and embrace those strengths.

Just before these manicured fingers began to dance across the keyboard, I was listening to a podcast recorded by my teacher Gabrielle Bernstein, available through her Miracle Membership program.  The podcast was on in the background as I was organizing some of the piles of work on my desk and my conscious mind heard my teacher say the phrase “vortex of appreciation.”  I put down the pile, paused the podcast and began writing to you.  As per usual, these love letters come from divine inspiration—rarely do I have a plan.

Now, I have an idea for you.  Close those beautiful eyes.  Visualize yourself in a cup, a beautiful container large enough for you to feel comfortable and cozy enough for you to feel safe… surrounding you, cushioning you, pouring all over you are the things you love and appreciate… the people, places, things and ideas for which you feel gratitude… the elements of your day that light you up.  Sit there.  Soak it in.  Splash around in it.  Pick it up and toss it like some glittery confetti.  Feel the appreciation surrounding you.  Bask in it.

Flutter those beautiful eyes back open.  Do you feel that?  That glow of everything you love all around you?  You can access that feeling anytime and anywhere.  It is within you.

What’s in my cup?  (And no, I don’t know where the cup idea came from.  I heard Gabby say “vortex of appreciation” and I got a visual of myself in what I can best describe as a stemless wine glass.  We just roll with these things).  My cup overfloweth with you, dear readers, with my furbabies, with my family and my famOILy, with abundance, with mornings and sunshine, with beautiful things.  If your cup feels empty or if it has sprung a leak, I’m down to pour some of mine into yours or you can even dive into my vortex— plenty of space in my cup for you.  Plenty of gratitude to share.

So take a moment to feel it, emotionalize with the vortex of appreciation.  And anytime today you feel yourself slipping out of appreciation and gratitude, know that you can visualize and dive back in.  Some days, I stay there with ease and other days I have to dive back in many, many times.  Big smiles.  Much love.

Going Back In

In four days, I’m going back.  I’ll sit in a blue and teal chair on an hour long trip to the greatest city in the world (arguably, of course, but that’s what we’ve told to call it).  I’ll walk several blocks, check in to my hotel, and head to the SVA Theater. There, I’ll sit in a red upholstered chair and soak it all in, taking copious notes over the course of our three days together.  Yes, this weekend is Spirit Junkie Masterclass.

As I look over my nearly 40 pages of notes from last year’s class, I see a beautiful parallel between my teacher’s “Steps to Stepping into the Fear” and the experience with and lessons from our rescued rabbits.  I’ll list Gabrielle’s steps below and annotate my rescue musings.  My rescue colleagues reading this can nod along…

  1. Honor your wounds.

These abandoned, neglected and abused rabbits did NOTHING to deserve the treatment they got (or didn’t get) before they came into our care.  We celebrate, love and care for their backgrounds.  We work tirelessly to ensure they will never be wounded again.

  1. Stop trying to outrun fear.

Dear ones, let us bring you to safety.  We are the good ones.  I promise.  The only thing you have to fear now is the Shop Vac cleaning your enclosure.

  1. Show up for your assignment.

Once they are “ours,” these rescued rabbits have a big job.  They are tasked with completing families.  That said, it is NEVER their assignment to teach children responsibility–that’s the job of human adults.  But it is their job to soak in all the love.   I’m smiling so big, thinking of all the ways my boys have been there for me over the past 6.5 years, showing up for their assignment.

  1. Build new momentum to create confidence.

With this step, I’m thinking of the shy ones.  The scared ones.  I’m thinking right now of Aspen.  She was rescued last year, and shortly after, gave birth to 8 babies.  Aspen is the softest and was the shiest rabbit I’ve ever met.  In a series of foster homes she wanted nothing but to hide.  And then… she moved in with a new foster family, where she’s an only rabbit, and her personality is shining!  She’s flopping, she’s running and she’s posing for pictures with sass!  She’s come into her own, created that confidence.  It’s incredible what a change of surroundings can do.

  1. Affirm what you want to feel and who you really are.

Oh, these rabbits have personality.  I have a 4-pound lion with the attitude of a 420-pound King of the Jungle.  He’s the King of the Living Room.  When we pay attention to what they are “showing” us, our rescued rabbits are all sorts of perfect and loving.  Some, like Aspen, need to be solo buns to shine.  Some, like my Peanut, need to come to you on their own terms and not be approached quickly.  Trust, they always affirm what they feel; sometimes, we need to listen better!

  1. Be more you.

Here’s where rabbits (and any animal for that matter) can really show us the path.  They know no other way than to be themselves.  Just like little kids, they show and share how they feel.  Take a lesson from the furry ones.  Be silly when the mood strikes you.  Take multiple naps a day, if that’s what you’re craving.  Chew the molding in my living room… wait.  Scratch that.  But seriously, use those instincts—don’t squash them!

 

Spiritual Running Buddies:  I’ll see you on Friday.  Rescue Fam:  You inspire me.  Much love.

I’m Telling

I’m telling on myself today.  A friend who is relatively new to the DB Fam called me yesterday.  For every ounce Out There, Open and Tell It Like It Is that I am, she is Reserved, Private and Keep It to Yourself in counterbalance.  I take our new-found friendship not only as a treasure but as lessons for me to learn to protect and preserve myself and my energies.

While we were on the phone, New Friend asked me a question about someone we both know.  Not a gossipy question or even a judgmental question—just a question.  And there I went, shady as all get out in my answer.  The words felt icky coming out of my mouth… yet there they tumbled.

Our conversation ended shortly after.  I felt unsettled with myself, as I spoke from a place of spiritual misalignment.  There was nothing in my response that was constructive, helpful or even that answered her originally question.  I caught myself falling off of the Judgment Detox wagon.  Old me would have relished in the negativity.  Current me corrected course with humility.

I texted New Friend and said, “I feel like I was super negative. I apologize.”  I then answered her original question with a more appropriate, yet still honest answer (all of this personal development has not taken away my honesty!).  I started to justify and judge myself in reaction.  I even wrote, “Insecure low moment.”  All of my Spiritual Running Buddies who are reading this are yelling at the screen for me to witness my judgment without judgment.  I hear you.

It’s a work in progress.  It’s a practice.  I’m proud of myself for sharing the missteps with you, dear readers.  I teach this work.  I live this work.  And foundationally, I do this work… so it’s not a perfect dance for me where I slay every step.  It might not ever be.  I decided to tell on myself to you today because I grow when I share the journey and because I’m so grateful for the lessons that New Friend imparts on me through her kindness and the way she protects her own energy with ease.  Much love.

JD humility