Tears, Joy and Homecoming

While out of town last week I received this beautiful email from Andrea, one of Ian’s (my 12-year-old son) extraordinary companions. She’s been with our family for about a year and is moving to San Francisco to attend graduate school at USF and receive her masters in marriage and family therapy. What a gift it was to read Andrea’s words expressing how Ian has influenced her life.I asked how she would feel if I shared her story on my blog and her jaw fell open and eyes opened wide with surprise and joy. Her expression said it all.

At the end I also share a video from a talk I gave in March at the Martha Beck Coach’s Conference in San Diego about what Ian teaches me every day about love and presence.

He’s one powerful teacher.

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Andrea's Story

Ian and I were relaxing on the couch in the living room after dinner. He sat on the couch, smiled and looked at me so sweetly and continually asked me to give him squeezes, noses, hugs and kisses. We just laughed and laughed together.

Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, I started crying.

In this moment it dawned on me how next week is my last week. I became unbelievably sad and thought about how much I'm going to miss Ian.

I told him that I can't even imagine him not being in my life and how I really want to keep him and your family in it. I sat there holding his hand while I cried and laughed all at the same time. I reflected on the things that I've learned from Ian and everything I have loved and appreciated about meeting him. He gazed into my eyes and sweetly touched my face while tears streamed down my cheeks.

It was the most raw and beautiful moment I've experienced in a long time. He slowly and gently fell asleep while we sat there clinging our arms together and I continued expressing and releasing every emotion through my body. It felt really good to let this out and share with Ian.

I am excited and ready to move on and pursue my dream of living in San Francisco, but admittedly, I'm also incredibly scared. I occasionally experience self doubts and insecurities about whether or not I can really do it. Then I remind myself that I can! And it's especially moments like this when I'm sitting here with Ian, crying and laughing, overfilled with sadness and joy, that I remember how much I love and feel a sense of purpose in creating, developing and maintaining these extraordinary relationships, such as the connection that I have been so fortunate to build and share with Ian this past year.

It's really made me think about what makes us who we are - how it's not just the tool of verbal communication that makes us human beings. It's our ability to sense and understand each other's bodies, energies, and souls that allows us to experience the deepest trust, love, and intimacy, completely transcending the power of words, you know? That has been a powerful realization for not only my relationships with my family, friends, boyfriend, and even complete strangers... but very importantly, with myself.

The last two years have been a long ride for me including the loss of my grandmother, a really ugly breakup and the transition from college it became an important time of self-exploration and soul searching. Up until these last few months I felt like utterly lost and disconnected. But it's moments like these that remind me that at the end of every long, busy, stressful, sometimes pain-in-the-ass day, it's just about being present with yourself, and being genuine with yourself.

To just breathe, let all of that go, and keep trucking through because of all thetiny, little beautiful things in life that make all of that B.S. worth it. That's how I feel with small moments with Ian - every time we just sit and laugh and play and he's smiling and we're looking into each other's eyes, it genuinely feels like the world stops spinning, and for that small moment, all of the other "big," not fun, ugly, scary stuff in life doesn't matter.

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And it's so funny because those are the moments that you live for and that you make the conscious effort to notice and appreciate with every person that you love and encounter especially with yourself! It's small moments like this that I want to remember and embrace every day.

I believe I was meant to meet you, Ian, and your family because there are so many things I've learned here that I am taking and carrying with me wherever I go. :)

Ian taught me to be here.

Love, Andrea

Proof of Heaven

I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Eben Alexander share the extraordinary story of his near death experience at Sofia University in Palo Alto. He spent 7 days in a coma and wrote about what he experienced in his best-selling book, “Proof of Heaven.” It is an amazing, compelling story of consciousness and healing that resonates with many as it has been on the NY Times Bestseller List since the first week of it’s release. I highly recommend it.

SOUL SCHOOL

Eben used the term Soul School to describe the human experience. I LOVE this! We ask to be here to learn, practice, integrate, play and experience love and joy in our physical bodies…to live “in joy.”

As Eben spoke, my body responded in the space of being. It laughed and smiled. It sat in wonder. My hand reached out to hold the hand of a friend. My body leaned forward to catch the eye of my husband. A constant buzzing sensation moved through me.

Vibration.

Beingness.

Love.

Soul School is so very cool.

If you’ve been taking a heavy course load in Soul School, this past year was likely packed full of challenges and the feelings and emotions to go with it. What Eben shared, and I completely agree, is that we learn the lessons in this life by feeling them. We entered our bodies to feel and we feel in the present moment. As a collective, we are ready to listen and connect with our hearts to reach higher levels of consciousness.

Some emotions for many of us feel painful and scary and we use patterns of control and suppression as a method of protection. This sets us up like a pressure cooker. The emotions under pressure eventually get expressed with a hiss, moan and screech igniting reaction and that just gets messy.

If you’re done with the mess, I offer below a different way to feel emotion that I learned from Dr. Rick Hanson and the intention for this practice is to provide a method to respond rather than react to emotions that come up in any given moment. You do this by feeling them move through your body rather than act them out or react to the emotion.

PRACTICE TO FEEL EMOTIONS: GET STILL AND FEEL

1. Settle into a comfortable meditation posture. Sitting or lying down, whatever is most comfortable.

2. Breathe normally and bring your attention to your emotions and ask yourself “What am I feeling?” Answer may be “I am ….(fill in whatever emotion comes up)” Stay just with the emotion and don’t go into the why and the reasons.

3. Find the emotion somatically. Once you detect an emotion, see if you can find its expression in your body. Maybe there is a feeling of tension, gripping, tightening, burning, twisting, throbbing, pressure, lightness, openness, etc. Notice the physical sensations in your body. Example: I feel a tightness in my belly that is uncomfortable, the tightness has a burning sensation, there is heat and I notice my heart beating faster and my breath is shallow like I can’t get a full breath and my lungs feel a squeezing sensation.

4. The cause of the emotion is irrelevant. The practice is to feel the physical expression of the emotion as completely as possible. Each time you detect an emotional body sensation, try to feel the sensation as completely as possible.

5. With each breath, now consciously breathe space into the areas of your body where you feel the sensations.

6. Let go of any ideas you have about why the emotion is arising. Return to the body sensation and feel the sensations that come up in your body without judgment. Continue until you feel the body sensation dimming.

Meditating on emotions is a traditional part of Vipassana practice in Buddhism. Rick Hanson references the above practice by American Buddhist teacher Shinzen Young.

If you try the steps above, I invite you to please share what you notice in the comments. Or if you have another method that works for you, please share in the comments too. I love learning from you.

Peace, Diane

Feeling Fear, Dentist Drills and Autism

With a swift motion, the anesthesiologist pulled Ian onto his lap and faced him out towards me. He folded Ian’s arms across his chest and held his arms and hands in place to try to prevent Ian from getting down. Ian let him know that wasn’t his idea with a verbal “Eeeeyyyyy”

Please take the mask with the blue rim and place it over his mouth” he asked his assistant.

I knelt in front of Ian and let him know I would be with him through the entire procedure.

The assistant placed the blue-rimmed mask over his mouth and I watched as Ian processed what was happening. He didn’t seem so sure about breathing the strange smelling air coming in through the mask.

Then he surrendered.

The doctor spoke words in his ear of candy canes with red stripes and dogs running through grass and my hand rested on his leg letting him know I was there.

Within 30 seconds, Ian’s body started to relax and his eyelids began to droop. The gas was doing its job. Ian’s body was letting go.

I noticed I didn’t feel very comfortable. It was a strange sensation watching my son go to sleep so quickly.

I recognized it. Fear. I surrendered and the sensation moved through my body.

Another few breaths and we’ll move him to the table.” said the doctor.

As he and his assistant moved him, Ian’s head rolled sideways with absolutely no support and they gently and swiftly placed his sedated body on the table. There was no reason for me to linger. I didn’t need to see the next steps of preparing his body for the procedure.

I walked into the waiting area, sat down and breathed. Fear, swelled again in my body and moved through like a wave. I could hear the voices of the doctors as they began to do the job of cleaning Ian’s teeth and taking x-rays.

This is the process of a dental procedure for a child with autism.

At one point, the office assistant came in to have me sign some paperwork. I could feel my mind wanting the distraction but my body said no, stay with the feeling. I heard her words move through the air and I tried to process them then I just surrendered and let her know I would talk with her later.

As I sit and type this, I continue to check in with my body and ask “what am I feeling?” I stay with it even though my mind wants to run away. The sensation moves through. I then check in with the present moment to find there is nothing. This is big.

There is nothing to fear. It is my thoughts that create the fear.

In this moment, Ian peacefully sleeps in the chair while the dentist skillfully cleans his teeth and fills his cavities. I hear the anesthesiologist chatting with the dentist, the drill spinning, and sounds of suction. I hear all the normal sounds from a dentist office.

The emotions come. Fear, gratitude, love. I feel them move through my body. I sit in this chair. I breathe. Soon I will be asked to go back and hold Ian as he wakes. All is well.

Always.

Love.

Take Time to Listen and Return to Love

Image Sitting in a chair, gazing out the window, I contemplate the affect stress has on our bodies and our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

I set the intention to quiet my mind and be present in the moment. I focus my vision on the oak tress outside and they begin to move together as a whole as if they were breathing in a much slower rhythm than my own breath.

As I observed this, I noticed my breath slowed down.  My body completely relaxed, all tension dropped.  The words and thoughts flowed through my mind and didn’t stick. I just sat, noticing the trees breathing to the rhythm of nature.

Return To Love

The message I hear over and over is "Return to love. Love heals." I notice the pulse of my blood moving through my body with an ebb and flow, the in and out. My chest rises and falls as my body is breathed, expansion and contraction.

No control required. Only noticing.

Then comes the familiar hum in my ears, the vibration of sensation. I hear the beautiful sounds of my boy’s voices below. Ian’s “vowel songs” and Lane’s voice in play.

The vibration of love permeates my body.

This is such a peaceful state, where breathing slows down, goes deeper, feeds oxygen-rich blood to all parts of my body. The stories swirling in my mind quiet down and in this moment, all is well. I am home.

Take Time to Listen

It doesn’t always feel like this though, which is why I took the time to sit in the chair. My body was talking to me, letting me know it was time to stop and listen. I’ve been feeling exhausted, afraid and ungrounded. The stress I was feeling was the result of me disconnecting from love and I had some debris to clean out.

Stress is a toxin that eats away at love; sometimes a nibble at a time and sometimes in giant devouring bites that create visible destruction in it’s path. But most often it acts like a slow growing crack in your water pipes, causing damage not visible to the eye until the floor starts to buckle from the warping wood underneath.

At this point, mold infiltrates the wood structure, water saturates the insulation and the entire subfloor needs replacement. The entire support system continues to deteriorate beneath the surface every day until it’s dangerously close to collapse.

So how do you find the leaks before the damage reaches the point of a break down?

Explore Under the Surface

Pull open the door to the crawl space, turn on the flashlight and look inside.  Become a detective. Get super curious and find the pipe that’s leaking all the love and joy out of your life.

What are your symptoms trying to tell you? Yes, this can be super scary to think about looking within yourself to find your cracks underneath. It takes courage and may get messy and feel like you're trapped in a dark crawl space for a while but what happens if you don’t and you continue to avoid the scary stuff?

The body just gets louder until you listen. It gets tired, rejects foods you used to be able to eat, gets migraines, colds, digestive problems, pelvic pain, chronic fatigue, auto-immune syndromes and diseases, back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, vision problems, memory problems and the list goes on and on. The body breaks down under the pressure of continual stress.

You’ll feel depleted with nothing left to give either yourself or others. You’ll be left curled up in bed asking yourself how did I get here.

And if you find yourself curled up in bed feeling like it’s the end, that’s okay. It is the end. The end of that moment….now the end of that moment….and now the end of that moment. Then somewhere down the line of moments, the next becomes the one you say to yourself “this is the end of suffering and a place to start.”

There’s always a place to start.

And when you decide you're ready to shine the light under the surface, I believe in you.  I believe you have all the courage and strength you need to find the cracks, clean out the debris and return to love.

Sitting in my chair, gazing out the window, the sun has now set and the dark blue sky creates a silhouette for the trees that continue to breathe  just as I do.

If all you do is breathe, that’s a darn good place to start.

Love, Diane

P.S.  If you feel inspired to share a moment when you returned to love, I invite you to share in the comments below.  I always love to hear from you.

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