Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions, or Devotions?

As the very first breath of 2011 approaches, I am reveling in a year filled with grace, growth and grand adventure. I have a queue of at least ten blogs waiting to be written. However, I am finding that this gift of a month with my family, living with FOUR generations under one roof, is joyfully consuming all of my time and energy (whew - my nephew is three years old, need I say more?). What I am trying to say is that my desire to be as present as possible to this experience has unexpectedly moved my writing to the proverbial back burner.

And yet, here I am, at a local coffeeshop, my family back home preparing for our evening of year-end festivities. The truth is, I cannot NOT write right now. All this annual talk of resolutions reminds me of the Soul-driven purpose of this blog.

We are in the danger zone. This is the time of year where self-image attempts to divert much of our attention. Many of us vow to lose weight, gain muscle, accelerate speed, increase activity, decrease caloric intake, achieve goals, make more money, buy more stuff, get rid of stuff, and, in essence, FIX ourselves in some manner.

This is not to say that any of the goals we set are wrong or solely self-centered. And I am not outside of this collective annual renewal of goals to "be a better person." My list of New Years resolutions include: Train to get back into running; drop a lot of weight; eat better; be in better touch with loved ones; launch my wedding biz more actively; start climbing again; do more yoga; dance more; sing more. And the list does not stop there.

But here today, after months of looking at my life and my beliefs about my self-image and self-worth in a new light, this list leaves me wanting. I want a
new way of thinking about the freshness of a new year, the clean slate we are handed at the turn of the calendar. So I do what I love to do, I get to digging deeper into the meaning of words. Today's object of my affection: resolution.

According to my dear friend,
Oxford American Dictionary, "resolution" has many definitions, among them:
1. a firm decision to do or not to do something; the quality of being determined or resolute
2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter

This dictionary also lists resolution as one of the many facets of
courage, but explains,
"Resolution also implies firmness of mind rather than fearlessness, but the emphasis is on the determination to achieve a goal in spite of opposition or interference." The word
resolution comes from the Latin root resolvere which means to "loosen, release", and is also the root of the word resolve. Now, I love this idea of loosening the hold of some belief, pattern or habit that we no longer wish to carry around. I also like the notion of releasing something we no longer desire to have as part of our experience. So I can go with this line of reasoning when referring to making New Years resolutions.

But this restlessness I feel inside shows me I am less than satisfied. So I still my thoughts and dive deep inside. What more can I see here? Often, finding a new word that feels truer to where I am in my growth helps. And then it comes,

Again, Mr. Dictionary comes to my rescue defining
devotion as:
1. love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause

I dig a little more, always working down to the root.
Devotion is synonymous with consecration, both from the same Latin root which means "dedicated, devoted as sacred." A warmth spreads in my chest, and I know I've hit it dead-on.

Here is my new approach to a fresh start. Tomorrow, I am going to sit with my heart and listen to what desires bubble up from the pool of knowing I hold inside. And from this place, I will make my New Years DEVOTIONS. From this place, I will choose activities and commitments that honor the sacred quality of my life, and set forth in practice thereof.

Will you join me? What New Years devotions are you willing to honor in 2011? How will you show up to your ever-unfolding journey in a new and more supportive way? How will you love yourself and others even more this year?

I leave you with a quote I heard from Maya Angelou this afternoon (quoted in Oprah's Master's Series preview on the Oprah Winfrey Network website): "Love liberates. It doesn't just hold. That's ego. Love liberates."

Happy New Year to one and all. Here's to a fresh start. May you choose resolutions that are devotional in nature, honoring how sacred every one of us is. May you choose Love and make room for it to set you free. MAY YOU CHOOSE LOVE.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Freedom of Movement, Movement of Freedom

I am lounging at a cafe in Plano, Texas, enjoying my first moments to myself since I arrived here a few days ago. Technically, I am here to pounce on some of my homework that has been piling up (I am enrolled in a course at But part of my catch-up routine includes, of course, a visit to my community on Facebook.

My dear friend Carol Ann has been on my mind, so I pop over to her page to peek in on her life. There are photos posted recently of a mountain-biking trip she took. Miles of rolling rock, and beautiful vistas, plateaus and mesas, desert sand and gnarled pinons, redrock and blue sky. YUM! And even a photo of her friend on top of a rock ledge about to go over the steep face. At the sight of this photo my gut response is, "I WANT THAT!"

Now let me tell you a little-known fact about me: I have never enjoyed mountain biking, ever. In fact, my history shows a record of getting out of mountain biking opportunities more than once or twice. So I am just as surprised by this sudden excitement as anyone!

Now I am not going to dismiss the notion that a new love of mountain biking could be potentially taking root, a sort of setting-myself-free from a longtime fear (I have believed for a long time that I hate falling down - unless I am skydiving!). But, as I sit with this jolt of feeling, I ask myself, What is it I really want? This is what rises inside me: I want movement, soaring freedom, feet that leave land, wind that caresses bare skin, sun warming body, the lightness of flowing quickly over land, physically-embodied engagement with my environment. In short, I want to PLAY! I want the freedom of movement. And I want it more than anything, like Edward wants Bella's blood (ok, well only at the beginning of the Twilight series, but you get what I mean!).

And I hear this ring in my head, I want this. I want this. I want this. I open an album of me on my summer 2005 ascent and summit of Mt. Rainier. The drool begins to build immediately. Such freedoms have graced my experience. Climbing in Joshua Tree, sea kayaking in Baja, canyoneering and whitewater rafting in Utah, daily trailrunning and snowshoe running. But if I am honest with myself, a major reason for being in the midst of this "research" (of gaining 40 pounds and letting go of my physical fitness on purpose), and living inside this heavier body by choice, is that I could not truly feel this freedom even when I wore it as close as the lightness of my own skin back then.

So what is this lust? Because beyond the lust, buried just below its surface, is a desire that burns for progress and growth. What I find just beyond my thoughts of, "It was so easy back then," and "What an idiot - I didn't even know what I had!" Just beyond these thoughts is the reality that freedom of movement is not what I crave. What I long for is the movement of freedom. I am all that stands in the way of my own freedom, right here, right now. No future heaven. No glorious past. Only this moment exactly as it is.

The thoughts I choose to accept as "mine," my choice to believe and identify with ego's constant atrophy-chatter of "not good enough" or limitation - these are my only prison. And I can move out of that darkness into the lightness of this very moment. I take a deeeeep breath. And another, for good measure (can there ever be too many long, luxurious deep breaths - why don't we take more of them, then?).

I remember that right here, right now I can move, and am moving, in the direction of freedom - which is not a destination but a moment-by-moment way of being. As I write this blog, my precious friend, Monica has sent me a picture of her amazing sister Gretchen riding through a forest wrapped in autumn (taken by Nathaniel Wilder - I am struck by the freedom of ease, focus and clear intent expressed - the perfect simplicity of being in that moment and nowhere else.

I close my eyes and I don't need to be in that forest. I don't need to imagine being in some exotic location to be happy. I don't need to picture having more money or a boyfriend, or less flesh or responsibility, I don't need any of these in order to feel peace. Sitting right here, with an empty latte mug and Bing Crosby crooning"White Christmas" from the speakers above me, I can feel the effortlessness of dancing through this moment with the same kind of freedom Gretchen is embodying on the bike. And it strikes me, This is the freedom of being in my own skin.

What do you need to shed in order to be here in this moment, exactly where, and exactly AS you are? Is it those two deep breaths (or maybe twenty)? Is it forgiving yourself for going through your day unconsciously today, or your week, month, year, or entire life? Do you need to make peace with some part of your experience that you have been ruthlessly criticizing lately - like the size of your thighs, or the shape of your nose, or your partner, or the dollar-amount in your bank account, or how you feel like you've been "failing" as a parent)?

Take those breaths, and remember, there is no other place you can be right now but right here. There is no other skin you can be in but your own. There is no other life for you to inhabit (I don't care how tempting "Wife Swap" may appear on TV, or any of those other "reality" shows!). Right here, right now, with this breath, and this breath, we can choose to let go of the thoughts standing between us and ever-present freedom. They are ONLY thoughts, and we don't have to keep as our own the ones which no longer serve us.

This is the movement of freedom - And I know for certain, I want THAT!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Welcome Izabella Rose, 7lbs 15oz, 20 inches

Have you ever noticed that from the get-go we are introduced by our size? To this day I know that I weighed 7lbs 13oz. This eventually gives way to age, then year in school, and then to profession ("So what do you do?"). Yet none of these aspects of our lives say anything truly meaningful about who we are.

This past week, on December 7th at 1:13 am, my niece made her debut 3 weeks before her due date. And I had no idea how much she weighed or how long she was for the first 48 hours. Everyone I would share these glad tidings with would ask, "How big is she?" And I know this is just our training. I ask this too. So this is not to beat up on anyone for asking.

As Westerners (and I do believe this does not apply for all cultures), we are constantly trying to categorize and label so that we know how to relate to others. When we ask about the birthweight of a baby, we plug in the data to discern whether the child is healthy and "normal", and also to get a picture in our head of the child. It is also simply a trained response passed down through generations that we ask how mom and baby are doing, and the stats - it's one of the ways we are socialized to connect with each other.

But when I heard myself saying, "I have no idea," to this usual question regarding baby stature, it got me to thinking about how little this really matters in getting to know a new little person. And then too how little these stats matter about any of us.

As parents and community members in the lives of young people, it is up to us to be very conscientious about how we are training our youth to see themselves and each other. We pass along distorted vision from generation to generation, rarely meaning to emotionally harm or damage our kids and each other. But we do. We dress it up in concern for our children's health, or in our desire for them to feel accepted in school, all the while projecting onto them our own fears about these very things and our own experience with these issues in our past.

My grandfather once said something to me that felt like a bruise on my heart for decades until I forgave him about 5 years ago. I was eight at the time, and surely he did not mean it the way I experienced it. He said, "You are going to get fat if you keep eating candy." A very simple statement, but I would later learn that he had issues and fears about obesity. As an eight-year old, I couldn't separate his words to me from how I believed he saw me. I couldn't see his fear for what it was, so I made his concern my reality and soon thereafter went on my first of many diets.

A couple of weeks ago, while watching a slide show that one of my sisters created for our youngest sister for her wedding, something struck me with ferocity. Picture after picture of me at ages seven to nince flashed on the screen, and for the first time I saw myself as I really was at that time - healthy. I had very skinny cousins and a sister who had small and delicate features. But I looked completely normal! I was running about and playing just like any average eight year old I meet on the street.

So how have I carried this story about being the "chubby girl" for so long? Even my sister Amy (the one who put the slide show together) agreed with me when I told her about my revelation. She said, "Yeah, I kept thinking the same thing as I looked through pictures of you at that age!"

In twenty-four hours, I will be on the road headed from CO to Dallas, TX to meet my new niece. As the excitement builds of holding her in my arms and kissing her beautiful cheeks, I am preparing myself to greet her in a new way. My job as her aunt is to be clear about the thoughts I am thinking of her as well as the words I say to her.

As I wrap this up, what comes to mind is a scene from the film, "Away We Go" (released in 2009). This romantic comedy is about a couple who finds out they are pregnant (unexpectedly) and who set out on a journey to find the perfect place to raise their daughter. After a riotous adventure learning how they DON'T want to be as parents (they visit several of their friends who have families), they come to a scene where they are laying on a trampoline. The entire movie Verona (the expectant mother) has turned down Burt's marriage proposals, she does yet again and he asks her why. She says she promises him that she is committed for life and does not feel she needs to marry him for this to be true.

As the scene unfolds, a sort of impromptu vow exchange begins to take place. They take turns asking, "And do you promise..." followed by saying "I do." It is one of the most beautiful love scenes I have ever witnessed in a romantic comedy. One of the expectant father's requests is that they love their little girl no matter what. I tried to find the movie clip, but was unsuccessful and wouldn't want to spoil the movie for anyone.

But the reason I am sharing this with you at all is because he says something so poignant about how he wants them to love their daughter unconditionally, that it glimmers of a new paradigm for how we can love our children. There is a glint of hope in raising our kids in a completely new way, that is focused on what really matters. Somehow this does not include their physical makeup.

I invite you to explore this new paradigm with me. I encourage all of us to catch ourselves when we are making judgments about others based on what our socialized eyes are trying to tell us. I invite us to go beyond, "How big is she?" and "How much did she weigh?"

©Heather Barron