Category Archives: Inspiration

On trusting our intuitive and creative selves

I’ve been taking an online course called Emerge.  The course is designed around developing the creative tools we need to help us face our seasons of change. It’s little wonder a friend recommended it to me. For two years (it’s hard to believe that I’ve been working on Project Finding Me for that long!) I’ve been going through a period of intense personal growth and change. And while I’ve certainly been moving forward, I’ve learned that ultimately there is no final destination. That said, my interest in this course came from the notion of learning to emerge from a life transition and become more fully myself. Interestingly, this is the very place I find myself now. I’m learning what it means to get out of my own way, to finally embrace everything I’ve learned and finally live the life I want to lead—a life that feels right, and comfortable and true.

So I registered. This week, we’ve been reading about and doing exercises on trusting our intuitive and creative selves. This is a huge weakness for me. I’ve been a people pleaser my entree life and as a result I’ve never learned how to trust myself, much less to feel confident following through with any sense of intuition. So these lessons have hit hard. It’s at the heart of the work I’m focused on, and  has a lot to do with improving my sense of self-confidence.

So, we’ve been encouraged to write the following lists as a way of tapping our intuitive, creative selves. I’m supposed to let my gut take over and write anything and everything that comes to mind. So here goes:

My obsessions and preoccupations:

  • Social media
  • A clean, organized house.
  • Constant professional advancement
  • Starbucks
  • Self-understanding
  • Whether there should be a third baby in our family.
  • Paper, and pictures. And putting them together into art.
  • Being good. And liked.
  • How to nurture self-confidence in my children.
  • Anything Apple.
  • Flannel sheets.
  • A hot, flickering fire.
  • Being very, very good at my job.

What I know:

  • How to plan, and build a house.
  • How to start and stoke a fire.
  • Patience is never easy, and takes constant practice.
  • It’s very hard to still the mind.
  • There isn’t enough time in the day.
  • How to make a buttery, flaky pastry.
  • How to pitch a story and get it covered by media.
  • What it’s like to lose a loved one.
  • Bi-polar affective disorder sucks.
  • I can’t stand seafood.

What I don’t know:

  • The right way to discipline my children.
  • How to cook without a recipe.
  • If writing is really my calling.
  • How to change a flat tire.
  • How to start our snowblower.
  • How to trust myself.
  • How to set a table.
  • If I’m making a difference.
  • If I’ll ever feel like I truly know myself.

 

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Personal navigation system

navigationYou might think that acknowledging and listing your values is a simple and straightforward exercise about asking yourself what you believe is important. Indeed, it may be. But when I started to look at my value system as part of an ongoing project to uncover your personal dream code, it took on a whole new meaning, a significance beyond the purely rhetorical. I had to consider what my values really mean about me and how they matter in terms of reaching my dreams. Important stuff, heady stuff, and somewhat intimidating I’d say—particularly since I’m entirely unsure.

This is what we’ve been asked to do in this round of the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab. I decided to propel forward on my journey by continuing the work I started in The Gifts of Imperfection Dream Lab with another session of the Dream Lab. I’ve come so far, but I’ve no doubt that I this inspiration to keep going.

This week in the Lab, we’ve been encouraged to name our values as a way to “create an important avenue for identifying your deepest dreams.” Jen and Andrea have suggested we make a commitment to share this with at least one of our friends. Since this is where I come to flesh out my thoughts and ideas and to fully embrace words as a means for creating personal clarity and connection, I’d like to share them with you.

As I move ahead and continue to dig myself inside out, I begin to sense and follow new patterns and directions. From this I can recognize several core values. Each describes a starting point from which to navigate my life.

Here they are, and what they mean to me.

Faith & Spirituality – The belief in myself and others around me. A deep understanding that by simply living my life and striving to do it well, all will fall into place. An acceptance that there is a higher power ready to guide me, and provide me with comfort when I need it most. Faith is my anchor, a place to hang my worries and hurts and find deep comfort.

Kindness – To myself and to others: my children, who test its limits everyday; my husband, who is so good at showing it and deserves it in abundance; and those around me both online and offline, who are struggling in their own way.

Providing comfort – By honouring routine, and knowing my limits. To my family with a safe home, healthy meals and warm arms to cuddle and cry in. To others, with words, and through a willingness to listen without judgment.

Confidence – To find this within myself so that I can move forward feeling secure and self-assured that I am good enough and have something meaningful to contribute. I want to be very good at something, using skill in ways that are both fulfilling and that allow me to help support my family.

Organization – Where I am ready and able to tackle the breadth of my life, and all the tasks associated with the roles that I play. I don’t want to feel tethered to chaos, I want to feel supported by stability and predictability.

What values help you guide your life and dreams? Which do you hold true and strong and that have made all the difference as a personal navigation system?

Image: ‘navigation‘ by marfis75 via a Creative Commons license.

My superpower

my son gives me strengthToday in the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab Brené Brown discussed the definition of meaningful work—meaningful work as it relates to our personal gifts and nurturing our true selves. She encouraged us to think about our gifts as superpowers and to ask ourselves the question—What is it that I think I am really good at doing?

I have to be honest, I find the concept a bit prickly, just like that wool sweater you keep hidden away in the back of your closet because when you wear it, you pull it away in discomfort. Even writing this post about it makes me squirmy. I’ve got nothing. I’m not confident enough to own my own superpower.

So I asked my husband what he thought. I needed a starting point, some inspiration. He stood thoughtfully for a few moments and came up with Tornado Woman: Everything you try to achieve gets done. He described it like a swirling windstorm of activity with me as the conductor at its centre.

When he said it, I nodded and admitted I could see it like that too. I am that person. Or rather, I was that person. The thing is, it was that very windstorm that led to my undoing. Certainly it isn’t the personal gift that has helped me rise to the occasion and nurture my true self. I used to be good at juggling a lot of balls. I gave that up months ago.

So I’m back with nothing.

But here is a theory. An honest admission.

Brené argues that just as we all have a superpower, so do we have a kryptonite and I have a hunch that mine are integrally linked. I think my superpower is offering comfort to others, for the very basic reason that I seek it so intensely myself.

This realization runs very deep. I think it reaches back to the loss my mother at such a young age. Having enjoyed the comfort of a mother’s loving arms for such a short time, I’ve spent many years searching for a replacement. I never felt this more acutely then when I faced my deepest inner turmoil this past year. But it started even before that. When I had my boys, it was my undoing. Suddenly I recognized the feeling of a loving mother’s arms, but in a cruel and wondrous twist of fate, the emotions were reversed. I understood for the first time what I had lost by offering that very thing to my boys.

In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brené argues that “if we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.”

I’ve lived this. I felt it in the deepest, darkest recesses of my soul. I’ve craved comfort for so long. The loving arms of one who loves me for nothing more than just being. And so I believe my superpower has become offering to others what I lost many years ago.

I believe this is true, and to be completely honest I’ve only just worked this out now. More pieces falling into place. But as perfect as this fits, I’m having trouble owning it. I need to sit with it a bit.

Have you ever thought about your own superpower? Are you willing to own it? What would it mean to you? Are you cultivating it in your life?

Image: ‘my son gives me strength‘ by Jeff Meyer via a Creative Commons license.

Writing and speaking truth

humanity. love. respect.We’re a week into the Mondo Beyondo Winter Dream Lab on The Gifts of Imperfection. Though it’s early days, I’m certain that it’s perfectly timed to keep me moving forward, doing the hard work I need to do.

As promised, I’m checking in and exploring some of the ideas and concepts we’re discussing and thinking about in the course. One that hit close to home for me as I read Brené’s book The Gifts of Imperfection and when Jen, Brené and Andrea introduced it as part of the course is the power of being brave and speaking your truth.

It’s an idea that I’ve struggled with throughout the evolution of Coffees & Commutes and on my personal journey of self-discovery as I share it here. In this place, I often write about feelings and emotions that I don’t otherwise talk about in my offline life.

I write about it. And sometimes when I do, I worry about writing it.

I’ve always considered myself to be honest and open by nature. But in the last year, I’ve realized that I’m not as comfortable talking about my feelings as I thought I once was. It’s hard to share your worries and fears when you are slugging through mud thick with insecurity, to confess your vulnerabilities even with the people who are closest to you. I think that I believed that speaking it would make it more real and leave me open to judgment, judgment I couldn’t afford because I was too busy criticizing myself.

When I first confessed my battle with depression, I went through the motions of letting those in my real life know. Even my closest girlfriend was surprised. She felt it had come out of the blue and told me that from her perspective I had my life completely together, that I was doing a good job.

Though I appreciated the sentiment and words of support that were intended to bolster my confidence, it confirmed to me just how sucked under I was. I had spent months internalizing my grief and lack of self worth. It had welled inside of me cloaking my chest in a heavy, grey blanket. I would cry all the way to work and then home again. I had reached the point when there were days that I even cried at work. Secure in my home I would sit and stare. I could not muster the energy to do the simplest of tasks. Everything was a chore, and everyday living overwhelmed me. I wasn’t sleeping, and most nights I spent hours tossing and turning. I dreaded time alone with my children, so much that I did whatever I could to avoid it. Just writing about it makes my heart race in fear. The memory is painful and acute.

Brené defines shame as:

The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

She says that we’ve lost touch with the power of speaking honestly and openly about who we are and how we feel, suggesting that “ordinary courage is putting our vulnerability on the line.”

When I read that, I cried. I cried because I felt like someone who understood where I was coming from was giving me permission to be honest. To share. To fully explore my feelings with myself and all of you. That maybe, for once, I was doing it right. And it was okay.

For almost a year, I’ve been opening myself up to virtual strangers, writing words that sometimes leave me feeling vulnerable. And though it doesn’t always sit comfortably, I keep doing it. I do it because it provides an outlet to fully explore and release my thoughts. I do it because I enjoy your comments, your ideas, your support. I do it because of the sense of community that comes from getting to know each other, from becoming friends. And I do it because so many of you have said here and through private e-mails that you identify with my struggle. I hope my journey can be an olive branch to someone else when they need it.

But most importantly I do it for me. I do it because it forces me to be honest with myself.  And by putting it in black and white I’m more likely to follow through. This blog holds me accountable—and that is exactly what I need.

Brené says:

Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it—it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy.

I think she’s right. There is power in words. There is power in sharing. There is power in community. I believe this more and more everyday

Image: ‘humanity. love. respect.‘ via Creative Commons license.

Mantra

Autumn Tornado

I am here.  I am now.  I am enough.

This is what I silently chant to myself when I meditate, particularly when I’m having trouble quieting my mind. As I work to lengthen my breath and feel my lungs filling and emptying, these simple words help me push past the buzz of thoughts and anchor me to the moment. They offer clarity, which in turn, leads to focus and perspective. They are a lifeline at the moment.

Several people commented on my meditation posts about how hard they find it to sit still and empty their mind. I struggle with this too, but I find when I repeat this mantra to myself and focus on believing the words and feelings that go with it, then I come closer to that place of replenishment.

At its root mantra is the repetition of sound. Think of a bubbling creek, or the soft rustle of leaves in the summer. Consider how they soothe and calm. It is it’s own form of meditation. A natural mantra reaching into our soul, enticing and casting a spell once we allow ourselves to really stop and listen. Mantra in your mind acts the very same way. It lulls you, settling and offer respite. Just as nature is powerful, so is the simple repetition of words.

According to Wildmind, a website on meditation that I recently found and enjoy:

The word mantra is said to come from a root meaning “that which protects the mind.” In Buddhist meditation, many things can be used as objects of concentration — as “mind protectors.”

I have never been the kind of person who “tells myself things” so that I can believe them. I don’t make a habit of looking myself in the mirror and peppering compliments that seem false and cheap. When it comes to mind associations I am a bit of skeptic. Admittedly I never really tried until I started using this personal mantra. What works for me is the power it has to quiet the mental chatter. In repeating the same nine words, gradually with more confidence, I physically force all other thoughts from my mind.

Whatever the reason, it works. And the message I’m reinforcing is important. So overall a win-win.

I’m curious. If you were to be honest with yourself, what do you think you would recite in your mind? If you really think about it, what would help you to focus and leave all other thoughts behind?

This post is part of my ongoing series for 2011 to pick a new area each month to fully immerse myself for personal growth of understanding.  January is mediation.

Image: ‘Autumn Tornado‘ via a Creative Commons license.

 

Embracing my imperfection

Some of you will remember my life altering post from last fall when I declared my perfect protest. I laid myself bare, confessing my battle with depression. But I didn’t sit and wallow. I expressed my intent to fight back and fight back I have.

In the more than three months since that day, I’ve stayed the course on my medication despite my unease and fear of it, I made small changes in my personal and professional life, I looked inside and evaluated, I’ve had groundbreaking and profound personal realizations through therapy and I focused on acceptance and forgiveness. I’ve been reading and reading and reading. I’ve been inspired, I’ve cried, I’ve yelled, I’ve felt humble and even joy.

With the benefit of a mind free of cobwebs, I can see how these months have in many ways been a gift. I have a deeper understanding of myself which allows me to clean up the mess. Sarah Napthali expresses it perfectly in Buddhism for Mothers:

Nobody finds the journey along a spiritual path a straight line of progress: life still has its highs and lows and with them our commitment travels through peaks and troughs. Our emotional life may even become worse before it gets better. Uncovering hidden or suppressed wounds is uncomfortable and can trigger unexpected emotional reactions. Healing is highly likely to be our first priority after years of denying or ignoring inner pain. In the long run we can only benefit from the internal spring cleaning of any mess that blocks our joy in living.

And I’m not done. In fact, I’ve only begun.

While I battle against a sadness and fear such as I have never known, this awakening has ignited a wonderment at possibility such that I have never known. All of it important, all of it part of me. The difference is that now I can cope, I can do this hard work without falling apart. I feel stronger. Every day.

On Monday I’ll take another step on my journey toward filling my life with “compassion, connection and courage.” I’ve registered for the Mondo Beyondo Winter Dream Lab with Brené Brown. It’s so poetic and perfect. The perfect protest which led me to today was first inspired by Brené. The course will explore the ten guideposts of wholehearted living found in her book: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You are and Embrace Who You Really Are. This book, which I’m almost finished consuming, deserves a post (or several) of its own. You can be sure they will come.

The course will provide weekly prompts to help us process what we are learning. I plan to bring some of my work here to share and be honest. Over the eight weeks, I’ll continue to explore my themes for 2011, this month being meditation. So things are busy, but in a good and exciting way. And it’s all part of me remembering to Be Me.

Setting a course for 2011

My delight at the dawn of a new year will come as no surprise. The sense of feeling new and fresh and starting over is intense and important to me this year. It’s fitting that 2011 begins with a renewed sense of optimism such that I haven’t known for a very long time. I’ll take it as a sign of  things to come. I choose for it to be  sign of good things to come

To say that I would prefer to forget 2010 is an understatement. But I will not. Neither will I dwell on the darkness that defined most of the last 12 months, and to be honest even longer.

Instead I choose to honour it and look forward to the possibilities that were unearthed through my struggles.  Today I lay down a map for the year to come, a map that I hope to fill with new directions and undiscovered spaces. There is no destination, only a journey to uncover the richness of  these new territories with patience and compassion.

So what will the new year bring? I went back and read the post I wrote one year ago today and realized that while so much seems to have changed, really so little actually has. In 2010 I was inspired by the idea of discovering revelations for a new year instead of resolutions as catalysts for the rewriting of old and tired scripts and roles. I set a course to examine my life from the inside out, to become the woman I wanted to be. In many ways, that is exactly what I did.

I shared it all here, the ups, the downs, the turmoil, the confessions. I made grand declarations, and was humbled by the futility of it all. Most importantly I learned that sometimes when you are trying to do it all, you are really doing nothing. I finished the circle by coming back to the beginning. The very same place I began, with so much left to discover. In the process I learned something so important. It was a gift, that in the living of it I was blind to recognize. I learned that instead of moving toward something, a life worth living is one focused on the here and now. To be myself. Be Christine.

I have Gretchen Rubin to thank for this particular revelation, the one I intend to guide me through the coming year. How fortuitous that only a few weeks ago I finished reading The Happiness Project. It was my book club’s December selection, and to be honest I was skeptical. The amusing thing is that this book was my selection (Indeed, I am kind of funny that way). Secretly I hoped she would offer some nugget of wisdom and unlock a key to my own happiness. Outwardly I was wholly doubtful. I never expected how much I would appreciate that she would decidely not provide the key. What she did though was offer me the inspiration I needed to uncover it myself.

Over and over, through the entirety of the book she returned to this idea to Be Gretchen, the first of her personal Twelve Commandments. She writes:

I have an idea of who I wish I were, and that obscures my understanding of who I actually am.

Lightbulb! So intense was the self-awareness that came from it, that I felt as though this vault opened and released an energy that had been stored for years, perhaps forever. My whole life. Most every decision I’ve made has been about achieving the self I wished I was, not accepting who I truly am. To the point that I was making resolutions to BECOME the woman I wanted to be. Not to love the woman I was.

Be Christine.

And so this awareness marks the arrival of the new year and what I plan to do here at Coffees & Commutes. My revelation for 2011 is to be myself, to embrace all that I am and use it for good. I will do that here, and throughout the breadth of my life.  It will influence the theme of my writing—my own kind of happiness project as it were. The most obvious place to begin.

Gretchen is a kindred spirit. Our sensibilities are intensely alike down to a shared affinity for “charts, deliverables, to-do lists, new vocabulary terms and compulsive note taking.” In fact, according to Gretchen:

Current research underscores the wisdom of this chart-keeping approach. People are more likely to make progress on goals that are broken into concrete measurable actions, with some structured accountability and positive reinforcement.

So that is what I’ll do. I’ll Be Christine and I’ll do it in the most natural way. By declaring it here, writing about it, focusing on it, and providing myself a point for evaluation. That’s how I work best. It’s the professional communicator come alive. Each month I plan to explore a new topic, fully immerse myself in a new area for growth and understanding. Each will be influenced by themes from books or blogs that I’ve read. I’ll continue to organize it under the title of Simply Living. Not every post will necessarily focus on the theme, but it will certainly frame the flow of my writing. January will be all about meditation.

Of course I’ll allow myself plenty of time to think and reflect, but I’ll do that equally through unleashing my own words and the exploration of words that I have already and will read that resonate with me. This collective wisdom will guide my writing and exploration. And this place will be my chart, it will keep me on track. It will provide the ink for my map. By getting it out there, however simple or complex it might be, the words will spark more words and will set a healthy course for this year.

Image via a Creative Commons license: ‘Our Direction

Infinite and overwhelming

Have you ever visited a place where you felt completely enveloped in spirituality? A place filled with a presence so vital, so acute that emotion just washed over you—emotion so raw that you could barely express how it felt?

I did, last week on our 10th anniversary celebratory vacation. Jay and I travelled on a five-day getaway to Las Vegas. It wasn’t our first visit so we wanted to do something a little different, particularly because of the significance of our celebration. We planned a day-trip to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. It was hands down the highlight of our trip. To say I was held breathless for the duration of our visit is an understatement.

We visited Grand Canyon West, Land of the Hualapai Nation. The Hualapai Indian Reservation is 993,000 acres. The tribe owns and occupies 108 miles of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. Here they run a thriving and growing tourism business. Visitors must purchase a tour package for entry to the Canyon which can include a helicopter ride, horseback riding, whitewater rafting and spectacular Canyon views.

We chose to walk the Grand Canyon Skywalk at Eagle Point , visit Guano Point to experience it’s panoramic views of the Canyon and to enjoy a meal eaten at the edge of the Canyon and prepared by the Hualapai people.

All of this is important to familiarize you with the experience, but for me what was important was how I felt when I was there. When we first arrived at Eagle point, and I eagerly watched out the windows of the shuttle bus, I was overcome with emotion that brought me to tears. The magnificence and sheer greatness for some reason caught me completely by surprise. When people say you have to see it to understand, they aren’t exaggerating. This place, this natural and unbelievable place is simple extraordinary. 

  

We spent several hours looking at and consuming as much of the view and feeling as we could. I was struck not only by the beauty, but by how untouched and free of commercial influence it is. It was simply pure and probably  enhanced the aura of presence that I felt. There we were in the middle of the desert, completely free of big business to temper the experience.

I am but one speck on the earth and in this place I was acutely aware of it. And that feeling, rather than miring me in insignificance,  uplifted me and filled me with a sense of peace. It was incredible.

Back in Vegas I asked my husband if he felt it—the presence, the infinite and overwhelming spiritualness of the place. Sadly he didn’t. But it was there. It cradled me in a feeling of calm and awe. I feel as though I can still conjure it now and I like how it feels. I wonder if I’ve found something, if my visit to the Grand Canyon awakened a sleeping part of my soul.

My personal journey toward better self-understanding is made up of many different pieces and I’ve always been sure that  unearthing my spiritual side would be an important part of it. I want  t0 better appreciate and honour that which is bigger than me, bigger than all of us. I just haven’t figured out how yet. Every once in a while I feel it intensely. It’s there, always there, but sometimes more poignant than others. I’ve never felt it in a church, almost always it comes when I’m outdoors, when there is quiet or beauty or substance. I want to uncover more of it, become more comfortable with it, and learn how to feed my whole life with it.

Our journey last week reminded me again how good it can feel.

Roses

 I’m away this week enjoying a 10th annivesary vacation with my husband. In celebration I’m delighted to feature a series of guests writing their thoughts on love, friendship and partnership. Please welcome Hyacynth from Undercover mother. Hyacynth is a spiritual and generous writer and mother who never ceases to warm and fill me up with her words.  I eagerly look forward to the day when I get to sit and chat over a mug of hot chai with her. I think her post is the perfect fit for my 10-year anniversary. In the 18 years that my husband and I have been together he’s never been a romantic, but he’s never wavered in his support for me. This is what it’s all about. Thank you Hyacynth.

Roses
by Hyacynth at Undercover Mother

I’m guilty of putting love into a box — a box that says a man really only loves his wife if he shows her his love in very specific, planned, romantic ways.

He’s got to take her out on dates if he loves her. He’s got to write her love letters like he did while they were dating. He’s got to send her roses. And light candles during Saturday-night dinners. And buy her sparkly, shiny rocks to adorn her fingers and wrists as symbols of his love. Oh, how, I’ve mistakenly grown up putting love into this box, this perfect and rigid box. And, oh, how I’ve been heartbroken when my husband hasn’t loved me inside the box, wondering if he even loves me at all.

It’s been a process, but I’m learning to love and embrace love outside of the box. I’m learning daily about loving and living beyond that little space in which I’ve so frequently tried to trap affection and heartfelt emotion.

I’m learning what love played out — outside of that box — looks like.. And it’s beautiful, breathtaking.

It’s forfeiting your Saturday mornings to get up with the kiddos while your wife sleeps until 10 a.m.

It’s single-handedly bathing and putting two little ones to sleep while she escapes for a bit after a long day bound to the house with a cranky toddler and teething baby even though you’ve been working all day, too.

It’s driving all the way to her mom’s house after a long day of work during rush hour with two irritated children just so she can cram as much time as possible with her family into the weekend.

It’s rubbing her back every night while she’s pregnant for hours, attempting to make her just a little more comfortable.

It’s wearing a silly cowboy hat to appease your two year old enough to let his mommy take a picture of him while he’s smiling.


It’s walking out the door every morning to go to a job that isn’t as exciting as maybe you’d hoped because it provides for her and your little ones.

It’s entertaining both kids and a dog during the Superbowl so she can sit alone and just breathe out the craziness of the day.


It’s holding her when she cries or doubts or fears or stumbles or falls and assuring her that you’ve got her back this time and every time.

And it’s being here. Being present. Being attentive. Being brave enough to love her outside of the box even when she doesn’t understand what that looks like or how much it means.

And the roses? Well, the roses, really, are just the punctuation at the end of an action-packed sentence that you’ve been living for the past four and a half years of marriage.

Hyacynth writes about life, love and testosterone at www.undercovermother.net.

An open heart

A few weeks ago I finished the book Devotion by Dani Shapiro. Since reading it I’ve been, in the words of Kristen from Motherese, buffering. I wanted to resist the overwhelming temptation to come running here and profess, yet again, that my life has been changed by a book.  And I’m not alone in this. Lindsay of A Design So Vast did the same after she read it.

So I’ve sat with it. Reflected. Considered. Pondered. And it has stayed on my nightstand. Whispering to me with newfound knowledge and inspiration.

What is it about these books that is influencing my life so much? Why, suddenly, do they affect me so deeply? I think I finally understand. It came to me just a few days ago as I considered, yet again, how far I’ve come and why. They are unlocking a deeply buried part of me that I didn’t know existed. They have opened up a world of deep comfort and self understanding that was previously unavailable to me. Devotion and Hand Wash Cold and Raising Happiness and several others, my treasured and dog-eared books, filled with notes in the margin and underlined passages marked enthusiastically with !!! They speak to me. The words, the wisdom, and the feelings they evoke are providing me with the path I needed to discover me. They offer the clarity I needed to burn off the fog.

Devotion is one of the most well-articulated, elegant books I have ever read. Dani’s words are full of intensity and overwhelmingly insightful and compelling. This book is simply beautiful. It’s about Dani’s journey to find meaning in the face of her troubled relationship with her mother, after the intensity of her son’s life-threatening illness, and because of her struggle with her father’s death. She writes in equal parts about her own life and in discussion of spirituality.

In just the first few pages, she says of her father:

He died when I was young, and everything I am-everything I’ve become since that day-is because of him.

Of course, you can understand how these words would speak to me. How, as I face a similar journey of my own and attempt to find my own peace as a motherless mother, this passage so simply said would evoke an intensity of kinship. She asked and I wept:

How to hold steady and also let go?

But my connection to her words transcends even this. It comes from my own desire to fill my life with meaning and peace. From my need to quiet the unhappiness and honour the joy that is right in front of me, for both my own sake and that of my family.

Just as with Hand Wash Cold, I am struck by Dani’s profound wisdom and how gentle and meaningful the guidance she provides. She reached out just by being, through her desire to untangle the thoughts in her head and a commitment to question and provide honest reflection. 

My ability to be present in the world with an open heart depends on my ability to be present to myself with an open heart.

Oh yes! So true and yet such a struggle. To accept ourselves, with all our flaws and weaknesses. Not only to accept but to love and cherish. This is truly the ultimate challenge.

I urge you to read Devotion, particularly if you’ve ever had questions of faith and spirituality or if you feel something is missing and long for a deeper sense of self. Dani calls us a seekers, “driven by an insatiable desire for knowledge, awareness, wisdom, peace.” To this I say, indeed. Indeed I am compelled to better understand myself and in so doing perhaps live a life that is a model for my children, a model of contentment and strength.

I leave you with Dani’s words:

Please allow my heart to open to all that is.

This I hope I can continue to do.