A prayer for walking through fire

I am barely settled. 

Fire Walk Honoring.png

Photo Credit: Artem Zhushman via Stocksy

One day up, one day down, most days sideways. A transcontinental move of epic proportions from Colorado to Zambia. I'm in it. I'm in the fire, facing the challenge of overwhelming change. This missive is for me as much as it is for you. A smoke signal rising from the ashes for those of us who are walking through the fire of challenge. 

As I take one step and then the next through the fires of change, I'm reminded that there is a particular set of circumstances that feels like fire, but also a choice and a practice that has guided and shaped my life and my work: I believe that the way we dance with and walk through the fires that we face both within ourselves, and those that life provides, reveal the heart of who we are. 

I believe that the way we engage with the fire, more than anything else, defines our lives. 

We humans tend to seek comfort. 

I've experienced my share of fear and anxiety -- I say this to affirm that I'm no different from anyone else. I identify myself as someone who is sensitive, intuitive, a certain level of trauma in my life, self-aware, a body that needs extra care, spiritually oriented and committed to making a positive contribution to the world. I'm guessing you have some, or all, of these qualities as well. These qualities point to a greater need for safety. 

These are real aspects and qualities that require compassion and care and tenderness and, can be a real strength when tended well. I would even go so far as to say that when tended through diligent and honest self-care, these qualities are the foundation of being a skilled fire walker in day to day life. On the other hand, they can also become reasons that sensitive souls might justify disengaging. Wrapping up in a soft warm blanket of comfort zone and keeping the world at bay. 

The fire, and the reward on the other side, beckons us. 

We can recognize the call by paying attention to our fear and our resistance. Taking a moment (or two) to notice if what we are feeling is the signature of wise fear (full stop, turn around, don't do it) or if it's the signature of resistance/fear (there is something amazing on the other side of this fear... I wonder what it is?).

Listening beneath the fear for the truth: is there something beautiful, powerful and true waiting on the other side of this fear?

You know. 

This skill, this capacity to turn and face our fear, to meet the challenge, to walk through the fire, to vanquish our demons teaches us who we are. It expands our world and transforms us into the people we truly are, the women we were born to be. It gives us joy, presence and strength. 

Whether it's learning to stand up for yourself and what you believe, or marketing and charging appropriately for your work, or learning to set boundaries and say no, or speaking out and educating your family about racism, or learning how to push yourself physically by mastering a new skill (like surfing) or even moving to Africa - this is the invitation. There is no room for cynicism or apathy or numbing out. This is life itself calling you out, inviting you to risk it. 

Walk through the fire. Face the fear. There are endless opportunities for each of us to walk through the fire and in doing so, we expand into more of who we are here to be. There is gold waiting for you on the other side.

If you are afraid and it's time to walk through the fire, time to face you fear, this prayer is for you.

A prayer for fire walkers.

Fire. I honor you.
I honor you as a master of alchemy. An agent of change.
I honor you and the way that your smoke and flames wake me up, bring me to full attention.

May I be alert in your presence and listen closely to your wisdom.
May I easily discern whether to flee, or to brave the fire and face my fear. 

Fire. Guide me.
Teach me how to tend you wisely. 
Teach me how to be consumed by you, renewed by you. 

May I have the courage to be the warrior you ask me to be.
May I commit to knowing your power and in doing so, know my own.

Fire. Light my way.
Inspire me to burn bright, to ignite the courage of those around me. 
Inspire me to speak truth, and in doing so, inspire others to know their own truth. 

May I know the gifts you offer to those who are brave enough to court you.
May I enjoy the abundance of fertile wealth that you leave in your wake.

Fire. Knowing my truth, I face you.
Eyes and heart open, I walk through the embers, the smoke, and the flames.
Eyes and heart open, I surrender to your teaching, one step at a time. 

Show me who I am. Burn away what I am not.
Transform me into the woman I am in the heat of your glorious flames.

Fire. I honor you.
 

May you walk with courage through the fire you face.

I am with you, sister. Share with me what you are facing with courage -- let me hold it with you and affirm your power, your affinity with the fire itself. 

xoxo.nona


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The light-bearing gift of addiction

I've been thinking a lot about addiction and recovery as I've been winding down my work in preparation for our move, and feeling all the feels about all of it. Because I'm recognizing the clear signs of withdrawal from work. From WORK for crying out loud. It's been like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland -- I keep thinking I'm going to get to the bottom but I keep falling, my past rushing by, offering me greater wisdom and healing around the gift of addiction and the call to recovery. 

I know this place. 

If you've been here for a while, you know that I freely identify myself as a woman with a body that is addiction-prone. I've not drank alcohol for fifteen years and so many other addictions have shown up for me to circle this particular pattern within myself over and over: money/over-spending, sugar, information mining, Facebook, my silly iPhone... and here we are, with work. 

I'm grateful that I recognize addiction as one of my life lessons and frankly, I believe the world might be a kinder and more intelligent place if more people would make room for addiction and recovery to be part of their story. Because it probably is, to some degree.  

Addiction is a light-bearing gift.

We live in a world addicted, for good reason. Addiction is a reasonable response to living in a dysfunctional society. Addiction is a reasonable response to living in a system that devalues and dismisses women and destroys our habitat, Earth. Addiction is a reasonable response to families and societies that were never taught to value emotions or how to meet needs in truthful, life-giving ways. Addiction is a reasonable response to wanting comfort, joy and fulfillment, but not knowing how to cultivate those qualities in meaningful ways.

So what is addiction? 

Definition of addict {Merriam Webster}

transitive verb

1:  to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively was addicted to gambling

2:  to cause addiction to a substance in (a person or animal)

Origin and Etymology of addict

Latin addictus, past participle of addicere to favor, from ad- + dicere to say.

What I love about the definition and etymology of the word addiction is that the cure is written into the definition itself. To loosen the chains, our call to action is to surrender to the truth — to face ourselves and our habit: the sugar, the work, the alcohol, the endless seeking, the desire to transcend, the drugs — our habitual reliance is harming us, causing pain, or keeping us from what we truly desire. 

Addiction, no matter what form it takes, is the obsessive creation of space between a person and their life. The space between you and your light. The space between you and the discomfort of unmet needs and unseen emotions. The space between you and what you really want. The space between you and being too much. Addiction, in all it's forms, creates space through distraction, through numbness, through disconnection. 

Addiction is not a personal failing, it is an indicator of sensitive bodies and minds living in a society that requires distraction and distance in order to survive the violence and suppression that is the norm. The continued use of violence and suppression to "get over it" is not supportive of the psyche's need for safety, affirmation and great care.

The longing for a different path, opens the path.

The pain that creates the addiction is deep wisdom -- a call to meet one's needs, it is a healthy instinct gone awry. As the addiction itself stops working (almost always), it brings you back to the initial pain and then some. Though it’s a place where you are suffering and you may feel broken, incapable and unworthy, the longing for a different path, opens the path.

Addiction, and the inevitable longing and urge for healing, points to the wisdom and wholeness that is alive and well within you. The indomitable human spirit KNOWS that there is something else available. You can trust your instinct to heal and the mere fact that a particular addiction has come to the end of it’s useful life is an invitation to wake up. You, me, we are made for so much more than a life of addiction, distraction and numbness.  

The light at the bottom of the rabbit hole.

In a long conversation with a friend I hadn't spoken with in three years she said to me, "You look great. Softer. There is something different about you and your energy now." I feel that, deeply. I'm grateful for that reflection. 

Seeing my own relationship with addiction and distraction presented to me as I've stopped working has been difficult, and it's been like falling into a state of full on grace. The ways I've wanted work or sugar or marriage or staying ridiculously busy or money or spiritual practice (and previously, alcohol) to support me, to protect me from my own anger or grief, or to make me feel important and relevant are astonishing and oh so human. My pull to these destructive ways of being has stemmed from a deeply rooted neural pathway that told me I was nothing without "important, relevant work" and my feelings? Well, since my anger and grief are related to unfixable circumstances, I best just bury them in sugar instead of feeling through it all. And my desire for real support: to be seen and held and treated with tenderness? I've sought those things in the solace of a spiritual practice instead of the hard work of asking for what I need from actual humans.

Let me be clear, there is nothing to fix and, nothing innately wrong with any of the above - nor are they always addictive. It is my relationship to these things that kept me hidden from myself. As I said, addiction is a reasonable response to an unreasonable world. And, that doesn't mean that it is the response that we are meant to have or that I want to live. My pain tells me there is something far better, far more real available. Despite of, or maybe because of, addiction, I am a fully functioning swirl of human and divine and I feel lucky (yes, lucky) that I knew early on that addiction would be a companion on my life's journey as it has been a constant invitation to move toward recovery -- the call to ever-increasing closeness with myself and with life in nourishing, authentic ways. 

I believe that humans are wired for devotion.

For emotion. For shining big light and walking in the dark. For intuition. For celebration. For stillness. We are wired to ride the rhythm and flow of our emotional waters. For wonder, joy and connection. I experience it more and more, and I hope beyond hope that you feel that, too. 

As I let my work as I know it unravel and fall away, my personal work continues to be taking a compassionate bow of reverence toward my desire to create space between myself and life and to say, "Not today. Today I am devoted showing up for the fullness of my being and the fullness of my life." I have come to believe that I cannot engage in the work I am meant to if I'm putting space between myself and my light, between myself and my needs, between myself and my emotions, between myself and my body and my experience -- all of it. 

Your invitation, and there is one, of course. 

If you are a woman who knows that you are putting space between yourself and your life with.... something (pick your soothing agent of choice) then honor that. Soften into it. Let me affirm that this is not a personal failing, but a reasonable response to what is happening in your life or in our collective experience. Only then are you free to choose differently, if that is what you want. I would invite you to get curious about your habitual responses and what might be available if you got just that much closer to yourself and your own experience? What light and treasure might you reveal to yourself and to the world?

With all of my love and adoration. I am fully on your side.  

xoxo.nona


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The Only Way Through

Let's begin with a fundamental truth. 

No one escapes the discomfort of uncertainty. That's the truth. The wisest course of action is slow down and lean towards it, peer into it's depths and soften your whole body. To welcome the waves of emotion as they crash on the shores of your being. The quickest way through (which may not be fast at all) is all the way through.

Change, new beginnings -- they are uncomfortable.

Knotted together with the wonder and consciousness-expanding experience is the inevitable discomfort. The death of something old and outdated. Uncertainty abounds. In the middle of transformation, we live in the question. And a question that always comes up for me, "How do I get away from this discomfort, this not-knowing?" (Usually repeated like a desperate mantra at one point or another.)

Humans are tender beings. 

The tendency is to protect, to create distance, when we are in the middle of change -- be it internal or external. I'm struck by knowing that there is no solid ground. We are always in a state of uncertainty, but there are large swaths of life that FEEL certain most of the time. 

And when the discomfort of change sets in, we all have ways of distancing ourselves.

Rightfully so -- we are tender beings. We have endless means to distract and numb in today's world. Some people whistle in the dark and want to stay endlessly upbeat. Others numb up in ways that are relatively benign to wildly destructive: eating all the ice cream to shooting up with heroine and everything in between. Some people try to control everyone and everything in an attempt to make things comfortable again. 

I used to drink it away, many years ago. Then I tried to transcend the human experience through becoming enlightened (so funny, right?). Now? Now I tend to vacillate between welcoming the full spectrum of experience and compulsively seeking clarity before I hunker down with cupcakes to create some space between myself and the uncertainty.  We all have our ways to soften the edges where our capacity for upheaval dwindles.

But time and again, more quickly I circle back to the pulse of my desire -- the desire behind all others that drives and inspires me moment to moment. 

I want to live with my heart wide open. 

The full catastrophe is what I want. Adventure, truth, joy, connection, love, beauty and authenticity and all the heartbreak and failure it takes to get there. This has been growing in me since I stopped drinking 14 years ago, the seed of this desire was likely the root of my sobriety. Now I want what life offers, I long to know the world and to let it change me, but I still fight against my conditioning. My desire for safety and my fear of being hurt. 

Honestly, if it were all bad and I knew I was going to be suffering in the next act, it might be easier -- pain and suffering are celebrated, respected and revered and I'm a skilled navigator in those choppy waters. However, learning to open myself just as fully to joy and beauty and love challenges me and teaches me in a way that suffering has not.  

I am committed. I stay the course with compassion for my failings and keep opening, nudging my edges, expanding my heart's capacity for contentment, if not joy, in any and all circumstances. I'm so much closer to trusting life and trusting myself to be okay with not only the choices I make, but what's offered to me.

And with this growing trust? I don't need to know anything else because the journey is going to show me what I need to know.

What is life bringing you?   

When you are in the middle of change, wanted or unwanted, no one can make your choices for you. No one knows you, and your circumstances, better than you. It's wise to be fierce in your commitment to know your own heart. 

Others can walk with you, hold you hand and light your path -- perhaps even offer you glimmers of inspiration as to how you wish to ride the waves of change.  I offer you these aspirations for your journey: may you find yourself inspired to slow down and to lean in. May you have the courage to peer into the depths and soften your whole body in a gesture of welcoming. May you savor the path and know that the quickest way through (which may not be fast at all) is all the way through. May you trust that the journey will show you exactly what you need to open your heart, moment to sacred moment. 

xo.nona