I Am Not My Body

Women are trained to see their bodies with a critical eye. They see their friends and their mothers and their friends' mothers and even their grandmothers do it. They see it in the magazine headlines that promise "quick fixes" and a "better bootie" and "flatter abs" and "toned thighs." They see it in the reality television shows that push people to exercise until they vomit or the beauty pageants that parade women around in a bikini for a prize. In these instances, the body ceases to be a vehicle for living and experiencing and loving, but rather something that requires a full-time job to maintain. I have succumbed to the pressures. I have weighed and dieted and binged and ran and pinched and obsessed and hated my body. I have shed tears over stubborn flesh. Finally, I have come to realize that these nonsensical beauty standards do not serve me. The less I focus on my body's appearance, the more I love it.

In my twenties, I slowly learned how to take good care of my body. I was not always kind to it, but for the most part, I exercised in healthy amounts and I ate fresh vegetables and fruits and I allowed my body time to repair. I rooted into the earth in a profound way as I experienced the miracle of feeling a child grow inside of me. I released residual guilt for consuming animal products. Instead, I gave gratitude to the animals for their lives and their sacrifice so that I may be nourished with adequate levels of protein and iron, both of which I was deficient in while avoiding animal products.

And of course, I finally eschewed my old friend, the scale.

Now, at age 30, I have reached a new frontier with my body. Recently I saw a photo of myself, and my ego self, who would have once criticized the beautiful curve of my hip, fell into the shadow of my true self who saw a happy healthy woman, well-fed and strong, using her body to hike with her family and carry her children and commune with the California redwoods.

When I saw the picture and I heard the angel and the devil juxtaposed on my shoulders, I received a third distinct message: you are not your body. It was not a passing experimental thought, but a truth I knew in the center of my belly. Peace overcame me. For a brief moment, my own image became unfamiliar. If I am not my body, then what am I?

I am a being of light. I am vibrating matter. I am an expression of source. I am that which beats my heart and opens my eyes, but I am not my heart nor my eyes. I am not my body. I am the spirit that encompasses my body.

I will not attach my worth to its shape. I will not feel entitled to disparage it. I will not deprive it from what it wants. I will not stuff it nor poison it nor neglect it.

I am not my body, but my body is me. My body is here for me to live in and because I love to live, I love my body. So I will treat my body like I treat anything I love. With care, devotion and gratitude.

This is day 8 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow the blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Behind Closed Doors

So much to do so little time. Ya feel me? So many books to read and stories to write.

So many faces to kiss and smiles to feel.

So many experiences to have and restaurants to try.

So many sites to browse and things to know

So many cities to visit and songs to sing.

So much creativity pulsating behind so many closed doors.

I like to put myself in the bird's-eye view and soar overhead. I try to stay on this peninsula we call San Francisco while I am here in body, because if I don't, I might get lost out there.

I see the beaches and the tall trees and the harrowing hills. The Golden Gate Bridge and the Victorians and Coit Tower, and then I go deeper. I see people walking and running and talking. I see them tapping away at their computers and moving across the land because they always have places to be. I see them wanting, wanting, wanting so much. I see their creative energy bolstered by mine and vice versa. I see our work weaving in and out of each other even if we're not sure how or why or what the end result will be. I see tapestries of thought, intricate patterns emerging, ideas becoming things, an invisible and indivisible underbelly of love.

The work you do in your mind is the work you do for the mind. The work you do from your heart is the work you do from the heart.

I hope you know where you fit in today. I hope you can step back and admire your patch in the tapestry, whether it be tangled and tight, or lovely and loose. I hope you know your value. I hope you do work and I hope you own it. I hope you do things that scare you. I hope you aren't too scared to back away.

I hope today is your perfect day. I hope you embrace imperfections as perfections, and death as life. I hope you see two sides of the same coin. I hope we can all understand the paradox that in order to create, something must die.

What are you creating? What's happening behind your closed doors? Have you thought about opening them?

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Lessons from my children: it's okay to be real

My girls need me. They need me to pay attention, soothe, be steadfast. But I am erratic. My attention is scattered in piles like fallen leaves in the autumn. Cayenne crimson, turmeric orange, ginger yellow. The colors of my temper, spicy like the evil twin who lives somewhere in my head not my heart (I wrote about her on Mamalode). The earth spins and circles the sun and the leaves die and emotions gallop into uncharted territories like wild horses and no one can control any of it.

I see it in my daughter. Four years-old with feelings loud as a train wreck. She opens up her heart when its bursting and spills her frustrations all over the universe. Like fallen leaves in the autumn. Though I may grow angry in response, I prefer to be calm. In my center I am glad that she expresses herself with the freedom of a person who is safe.

Wild horses do not do well in cages or suppressed by crowds, but in wide open spaces where emotions have room to dance and turn, an ever-shifting kaleidoscope, its beauty a product of all the colors.

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Funny how I can celebrate my daughter's colorful feelings and yet feel shamed by my own. What if we extended the same love and sympathy we show our children to ourselves? What if the chubby pieces of our belly are actually endearing, indicative of pleasure and humanity, and not something we need to hide beneath big shirts or use as a catalyst for deprivation or guilt? What if our stupid mistakes are not stupid but natural and productive?

Maybe I'm not a failure for raising my voice or losing patience. This isn't Pleasantville, this is Earth in all its grit and glory. Maybe I don't have to pretend to be calm when I'm not. There's no shame in being real. Right?

At a birthday party recently where GiGi knew no one but her big brother, she covered her eyes when the party coordinator asked her a question in front of a small crowd of (older) kids. She didn't try to pretend to be bold, she didn't speak simply because someone asked her to. She let herself be shy and she opened up to the others when she felt comfortable. And ready. She stayed true to her emotions.

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It all comes to holding these emotions inside vs. feeling them and letting them go. There's a fine balance between keeping your cool and causing a fuss, not only for parents but adults everywhere. I'm not suggesting we go around town honking haphazardly at other cars, arguing with hostesses or dragging our children by the ears, but rather that we feel okay about it when we do lose our cool. We aren't bad parents or road ragers or terrible people, we are people. Terribly fallible, terribly sweet people.

To read more of my musings on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

We Are All Babies

We think we're so grown up, don't we? We understand so very little about the vastness of the universe, about the force that makes the sun shine and the flowers grow and the rain fall and our hearts beat. It's not our fault. We are only human. We can only see ahead of us so far as the earth curves. Just like our babies can only focus on objects 8-15 inches in front of their eyes.

And yet we think we know what's best for us. We think we know what makes us happy. We think we know what's important. We think we know how to live.

Because how else could we function if we didn't pretend to know what we're doing and where we're headed?

(Fake it 'til you make it.)

Like my 7 year-old stepson, Emile, says: "I know all the facts about life." If we listen to children and consider deeply their feelings and motivations and opinions, we can learn quite a lot from them. How often do we think we know "all the facts" about something, only to find out (seconds or days or years later) that we were missing vital pieces of information? How often do we think to ourselves, if only I knew then what I know now?

(Hindsight is 20/20.)

We have ideas about death but really we have no idea what happens to us after the life-force that lives behind our eyes goes away forever. Does forever exist or is time cyclical like the days and the seasons and the years? Whose to say we know any more about living than we do about dying?

And whose to say adults know any more about life than seven year-olds? In the grand scheme of creation, aren't we all babies?

I look at my baby and I can see that she is perfect.

According to certain spiritual teachings, this is how God sees us. We are perfect in all of perfection's shades of gray. Imperfectly perfect. Perfectly imperfect. Sinners with full redemption.

My baby scratched herself on the nose recently. I was sad that she accidentally hurt herself with those flailing little arms. She didn't mean to. But she's okay. Wounds heal.

Isn't it the same with us? God, the Universe, All That Is watches as we hurt ourselves. We undervalue, we doubt, we over promise ourselves. We flail about and we fall. God knows we don't mean to do it, but we are confused, we are disorganized, we don't always see what's right in front of us.

My baby gets very upset in the car. We never go anywhere until she has nursed. If she's fed and asleep, she usually wakes up when I strap her in. If she's fed and awake, she will last for an average of 15-20 minutes before losing her cool. And if she's fed and truly tired, she does not fall asleep peacefully in the carseat. Rather, she cries. If we're going longer than 5 minutes, I pull over and nurse her, but this doesn't usually help unless I can knock her out with milk while still strapped in her carseat, a feat of contortion and a test of patience and an investment of time, all of which are more often than not in short supply. She wails and she screams at the top of her lungs (have you ever heard the top of a newborn's lungs?) and she grows sweaty and those arms wave in the air like she's calling out to Jesus.

I hate it. Those cries scratch my heart like the keenest fingernails on the squeakiest chalkboard, like the anguish of the person you love most in the world. I want to save her. I want to wipe away her sadness. I don't want to go anywhere in the car, and when Giovanna was a baby (who did the same thing) I often didn't. But my life is a different life now. Mainly I have a 4 year-old who goes to preschool and likes to do things and if we stayed home all the time she and I might both go crazy. So I try to pretend it's not happening. Sometimes I cry along with her. And when she cries for so long that her cries slow to intermittent wails and the sweat on her head leaves wet shadows on the carseat, I think I must be the worst mother ever to let my tiny child feel such desperation.

Alas I also know she's okay. She may feel lonely or tired or bored, but she's being cared for, even strapped inside that loathed seat. It will be over soon and I will take her in my arms and make everything better. I can do that for her.

Don't you think it's the same for God? God watches us as we go through things. We become strapped to our burdens and burdened by our minds. We have bad days and depressive periods and new lows. We call for help and when no one answers we call louder. We think that maybe no one's listening, but really God is listening, waiting for the right moment. Waiting for us to arrive so we can be delivered from our pain. Because everything is temporary. And if we get out early, we won't ever get to where we're supposed to be going.

Have I told you that my baby is beautiful? I have never seen a human being more beautiful. She is beautiful because she is pure light. She shines with divinity. Her physical appearance does me in. The pocket of flesh beneath her chin and the rolls on her limbs and the rotundity of her belly. The dark brown in her eyes and the cradle cap in her eyebrows and the fuzzy hair on her ears that remind just how very new she is. The length and elegance of her fingers and the softness of her feet and the itsy bitsy milia on her face.

What if God see us the same way? Sweet and gentle creatures with cute noses and funny pimples and jiggly thighs and hair in weird places, every speck of us adorable and perfect. Could it be possible that there is nothing inherently wrong with any of us after all? Did God give us the gift of babies so we could know how much we are loved by source?

After all, we all come from God. Source. We are all God's babies.

I like to think of us this way. Smart, sophisticated and savvy humans doing complex and important things to help this planet evolve, but underneath it all we're just sweet little babes, looking for some love, wondering about this world and what's going to happen next.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." - Albert Einstein

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Skyla & Cruz, soul-cousins born 9 days apart

The Story Behind Skyla

"Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape."

- Rumi

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I already had the name Skyla on my list. I knew I loved it. And obviously I have a thing for the sky (hence my blog name). But the task of naming a child does not produce immediate answers, at least not for me.

When I saw this quote on Instagram from heathercooperloves, which was a re-gram from adonnrowley, I took a screenshot. Every time I came back to it, I got tingly.

We don't have to conform to standards or fit into boxes or worry about the outcome. We are here to do things that make us feel  good. We are here to enjoy the rainbows, bask in the sunshine, bathe in the ocean, gaze at the stars. We are here to cry in the rain and listen to the clouds and cling to one another in the storm.

We don't have to take this life so seriously. Failure is a myth, the prison walls are made of fear. We can fall and get up as many times as we want. We can fly without crashing. We need not hold back or be afraid or stifle our truest, wildest, happiest dreams.

I hope I can teach my beautiful biracial daughters to live like this.

I want them to push against the boundaries built by modern society. I want them to break through the glass ceilings and make their own joy. I want them to create anything and everything they want. I want them to follow their hearts and believe in themselves, because we are all as big as the sky.

Just as we chose Giovanna because "God is gracious," we chose Skyla to remember that we are limitless potential, bound by limitless love.