Who or what are you “trying to love”?

Who or what are you trying to love?

But, of course, what is not said in this quote is how to bring into your heart this extraordinary thing called love.

How do we love the guy that flipped us off with our kid in the car?

How do we love the dog shit we found in our shoe this morning?

How do we love the cockroach that just crawled across our glass?

We don’t.

Notice Krishnamurti isn’t saying you need to do anything, such as “loving” someone or something. He’s saying you need to allow love in and then your experience of the world – including the other driver, the dog shit, the roach even (or so I’m told – yet to get there myself on that one) – will do the changing right before your eyes.

Who or what are you trying to love?

Why are you working from the outside in?

I’m officially the mom of a teenager (is this what I hoped for?)

He'll be a teenager tomorrow. #zeb #play #lego

I am officially the mother of a teenager. Today is Zeb’s 13 birthday and he’s sleeping in, as is custom for his current body needs of non-stop eating and sleeping. 😉

12 was a tough year. Justin and I found new parenting triggers we got to DIG IN to, and Zeb transitioned through many tough phases. But once we found our emotional footing and our patience and compassion for his experience, we were able to help him over the hump and meet his deeper needs.

And it’s been amazing since then.

He cracks everyone up, makes interesting conversations, has firm opinions, and opens car doors for me. *heartmelt*

He’s kind, considerate and patient in ways you begin to wonder will ever happen when they are 4 or 7 or 11 and you’re dealing with your own fears of raising them “right”.

And that thought got me thinking yesterday.

I got back from a walk in the harbor and had sticky mud up to my ankles (it felt amazing by the way). I couldn’t go inside, so I interrupted Zeb’s project for help.

He said “sure!” and jumped up to get a bowl of water, asked me how my coaching call had gone and made friendly conversation as I washed my feet and legs. We talked about lunch and when I offered to make sandwiches he sweetly replied with a “yes, please” and then “thank you mom”.

He was friendly, and helpful.
He used his manners.
He was mature.

All the things we hope to see in our kids.

But a curious thought crossed my mind…(I like curious thoughts. I like to challenge myself and ask hard questions and look at things objectively.)

“This is what I’ve been hoping for. But have I parented for what I really want?”

Friendly, helpful, kind and mature are wonderful things, don’t get me wrong.

But my thought was on the deeper aspects.

Have I at all parented in a way that has taught him to please me? Or have I parented in a way that has allowed him to make genuine choices based on something more than what others think of him or how they’ll respond to him?

I do think I’ve worked hard at parenting in a way that does not make it his responsibility to meet my needs or please me or others.

But I haven’t been perfect by any means.

And that was the curious thought.

We all hope our children will behavebut do we really want children who do what they’re told without questioning and examining for themselves if it feels right to them?

We all hope our children will be kind….but do we want to raise people-pleaser who are fake in order to be accepted or generous in order to manipulate?

We all hope our children will make good choicesbut do we want them being told what those choices are when that is the exact opposite of making a good choice for oneself?

Is what I’m creating what I REALLY hope to see?

(I remember having a conversation with a dad once when he told his 12 year old daughter to not resist his wishes. It brought up some discomfort within me and I asked if he really wanted her to learn never to resist what a man tells her to do, and how she can learn to set those boundaries without being allowed to resist the most trustworthy man of her life. It was an interesting convo that left us all thinking. The best kind.)

I’ll admit, as much as I’ve tried to quell my own parenting expectations and base my relationship with my child on honor and respect for his innate spirit and autonomy, I still get trapped in the ideas of “molding” a child.

Heck, even “modeling” for a child could be seen as manipulative if we’re doing something not because it is based on our values and who WE want to be, but based on who we want our children to become.

That’s not how I want to parent.

I choose to consciously parent based on relationship.

In a relationship, I don’t act phony to get the other person to do something. In a relationship, I don’t correct their behaviors. In a healthy relationship, I don’t make it someone else’s job to meet my needs.

In a relationship, I connect with the person, strive to understand their needs, share my own needs and come together to make us both happy and safe.

I have at times been a terrible partner in this relationship.

I have made it his responsibility to make me happy.

Or his responsibility to worry what others might think (of me!).

Thankfully I’ve also taken steps back to look at hard questions like these, to correct my own behavior – not based on what I want him to do or become, but based on who *I* want to be and how I want to love others. And all of this has made me an expert at apologizing. 😉

After I was examining all these thoughts yesterday, I was editing Naomi Aldort’s interview for the Organic Parenting e-course (coming next month!) and loved how serendipitously she talks about the guilt we can experience as parents.

It was a sweet little reminder to myself that it’s okay to not be a perfect human being, but to just continue doing my work as a person right along side this incredible person I have had the honor of sharing the last 13 years with.

Yes, I’m the mom of a teenager.

And it’s bittersweet, challenging, FUN (oh my goodness, he’s so much fun!), and curious all at once.

He shows me what I get to examine and I show him how to be a full human being and love and forgive yourself anyway.

My child IS amazing. He’s kind and considerate and helpful. And thankfully, I don’t think I had much to do with that. 😉

Psst! This is just a friendly reminder….

The registration for the Organic Parenting e-course will open on September 3.

But Organic Tribe members get it free.

Along with over $1,000 worth of other goodies.

The price for the Organic Tribe rises on Sept 1, so join today!

Right when we need to love each other most

Green and Red

You build with mortar the barriers around you
Going into shutdown mode
With robotic automation

And I pick up the slack
With my overwhelming frustration
An attempt to bulldoze your red brick wall

My mind whispers otherwise
Reminding me its compassion that tears down fences
That creates safe spaces that coax you out of hiding

But usually my ego wins
Responding from the fear recalled by my previously wounded heart

You’re not him
Any of those other hims
And I’m not the girl I was then either
Nor am I the person who taught you to withdraw

But still we slip into those places our experiences have created
Those places that tell you to hide
And me to fight for my life
That forget the safety we can celebrate in the other’s arms

And I’m thankful for those moments for two reasons.

One: that they never last long
That what used to be my entire experience of love
Is now merely a glimpse of a little girl’s fear that overtakes me momentarily
Before I remember who I am
And where I am
And who I’m with
And what we both need.

And Two: that they remind me of those things at all
Of who and where I am and with whom
That they offer the contrast of a previous life I thought was normal
And the wonder I still dwell in because I’ve discovered that its not
That those places are no longer comfortable
No longer the first place I go
No longer the last place I want to leave
That they no longer threaten me
Or you
Or us together
But that they merely happen as a glimpse of an old self
A history we get to rewrite
And not a destiny we’re doomed to repeat
That it’s never long before your arms are wrapped back around me
And I’m sinking into your heartbeat
And we’re smiling again
With the reminder that decades past is not our reality
Even if we momentarily relive it
For old time sake perhaps

Yes, I’m thankful for the times you trigger my old shit
(although you’ll never hear me say it in the moment)
Because I want to be the woman who loves you that fiercely
As to lean into compassion instead of bulldozer mode
Into love instead of my own fear
Into what you need instead of what I’m afraid to give
(Yes, I have walls of my own
Not the kind that go up in a flash
But the more insidious kind
That stay up all the time
And are made of clear glass
Giving you the illusion of openness
Until you face plant against them.)

And I’m thankful for another thing:
This sacred little space we’ve created between the two of us
Where you learn to open up
(and I learn to shut up)
Where I learn to be patient
(and you hurry up and get there already)

Yes, we have our moments of fear
That manifest as anger and disconnect and hurt
But damn, only moments?
(I’d call it easy if I didn’t remember how fucking hard it was there for awhile
and how much we worked at this
and how we almost didn’t make it work)

I guess what I’m trying to say
Is your damn sexy
Red brick walls and all
And I’m glad you think I’m cute when I’m mad
Because I must be breathtaking to you
Right when we need to love each other most.

Organic Wisdom :: When Fear Is The Cause…

Every Friday I try to share some of the quotes I post on Twitter and Facebook, with some of my expanded thoughts and feelings on it here.

“Organic Wisdom” is what I have found speaking to me in those quiet moments, that guides me and that echoes Truth in my life. Please feel free to download, or share this image in any way you’d like.

When we fear our children’s behaviors, we act out of control and our compassion, patience and relationship suffers.

When we fear others will hurt us, we throw our barriers up and our ability to trust ourselves and others suffers.

When we fear our lover will leave, we act out of neediness and our love suffers.

When we fear there won’t be enough for us, we act out of greed and our gratitude and generosity suffers.

When we fear we will fail, we hold ourselves back and our dreams suffer.

When we fear what others think, we act inauthentically and our spirits suffer.

The solution? Lean into love.

Anxiety, Overwhelm, Sorrow :: And All I Heard Was Love

It’s Sunday evening and my spirit feels spent but at peace.

It started Thursday, as we were driving the 5th wheel through the hills of Tennessee, reaching Knoxville during rush hour traffic, when the engine began to struggle for the power to pull 16,000 lbs up the steep incline.

We were on our way to surprise our family, who was gathering in Nashville to celebrate six generations, and my heart wanted to be there, not broke down in the parking lot of a Toys R Us.

It started there, but it didn’t stop there. Our weekend looked a little like this:

  • Stress: The feeling when you send the truck up the hill on not much more than prayers.
  • Anxiety: What creeps in when you almost don’t make.
  • Frustration: When it’s 6:20 but everything closes at 6pm and you realize you’ll be sleeping in the parking lot right in front of the No Overnight Parking sign.
  • Overwhelm: When the part you need is 24 hours away and you’re not certain it’s the right one anyway.
  • Disappointment: When you have to cancel clients and the Organic Tribe.

And then it shifted into something like this:

  • Sadness: When you see the stress on the face of your niece who is a new, young mama.
  • Heartbreak: When she cries in your arms from exhaustion and the loneliness that can come after having a little one.
  • Helplessness: When you see the unhappiness written on your brother’s face and peppered through his words from overwork and under-joy.
  • Hurt: When you recognize that the only way the people you love know how to connect is through sarcasm and criticism
  • Worry: When you see the lack of light in their eyes and the resistance to fun in their lives
  • Concern: When the people you love are struggling to love themselves or their lives
  • Powerless: It’s difficult to know the joy and love that are a part of your life are hardly a possiblity in the hearts of those you love.
And then the weekend hit me with this:
  • Sorrow: When I discovered that my paternal grandfather has passed away weeks before.
  • Frustration: That I heard it through the grapevine, instead of through my paternal family.

It sounds like a difficult, unhappy weekend.

Six months ago it might have been. 2 years ago it certainly would’ve knocked us off course. It wouldn’t flipped our switches to anxiety, fear, and frustration, leaving us feeling sabotaged and unhappy and reeling for days.

But it wasn’t any of that.

It was beautiful. It was full of joy and connection and wonder.

Because we had love.

Love we received when I sent out a text to friends and family and received support in the form of prayers, Reiki, and kindness.

Love we found ourselves surrounded by on the side of the highway, with family and offers of help just 2 hours in one direction and three in the other.

Love I gave myself when I was about to snap in frustration.

Love I found within myself to give to my husband as he struggled with overwhelm and frustration.

Love that became awe and appreciation when he turned misfortune into miracles and rebuilt the part we couldn’t order to get us into town.

Love and gratitude we gave each other in a dozen moments, in the parking lot, at dinner out, before we got back on the road.

Love we found in the form of peace as we reminded ourselves that we are safe, that we all is well, that we are exactly where we’re meant to be, even if we can’t see why.

Love that gave us the ability to access peace, lean into Trust, practice mindfulness and patience and radical acceptance.

Love that reminded us to choose fun, gratitude, and beauty at every opportunity.

It seems only right to hang our blessings up after being showered with travel blessings <3

Love that I called on and found within myself to shine light and joy into the hearts of my family.

Love that I found in holding my great-niece, dance her to sleep and watch her eyes as they tried to tell me the secret of the Universe.

She is an incredible woman this little one

Love that I saw all over my brother’s face as he held and kissed and lit up around his beautiful granddaughter.

My brother's a grandpa!

Love I felt between our hearts as I hugged longer and listened deeper and offered hope and support where I could.

Love that I continued to receive from my circles of friends in the form of texts and messages and emails and energy and prayers that I felt all weekend long.

Love that I dwelled in at the celebration of six living generations and the wonder and growth that this new little girl is bringing into our lives.

Six generations

Kisses

Nieces are just incredible

Granny's Fingers

Love at the sound of laughter from my nieces as we hula hooped, visited the zoo or went horseback riding.

Love I felt with the dozens of small heart connections Justin and I would continue to make with a touch, a hug, a look, a reminder of one another and our support for each other.

Love for my husband as I saw him inspiring fun and laughter, silliness and playfulness for his nieces and the whole family in the ways that only a juggling, kilt-wearing, bike-riding-inside-Target uncle can.

Love for my son as he held my hand as I cried for my grandfather, or told us how luck he was to have parents like us, or made the whole family laugh.

And love for myself. As I acknowledged my own growth. My own strength. My own ability to remove the barriers to love I’ve held within myself and the beauty and joy accessed when I do.

My ability to continue to shine my own real self, not the person my family has known me to be in the past. My ability to continue to make my own joyful noise to fill the quiet spaces. To inspire fun and connection. To reach out. Love deeper. But not deplete myself.

I can’t tell you exactly why Life is so tough at times.

I can’t explain why we were meant to break down, why my niece gets to struggle as a single mama, why my brother has gotten to experience so much hurt in his life, why any of us have.

Except maybe that it’s so we can discover that love can still be found in those moments.

That joy can still be accessed when stress is threatening.

That beauty and wonder are always present, not despite the heartache, but sometimes because of it.

That the Truth of what is can overcome the fear of what might be.

To discover that fear needn’t be “pushed through” but simply loved on.

That peace and Trust come from within, not from the circumstances in our life.

I can’t exactly show you how all the dots of my weekend are being connected in my spirit, how the contrasting emotions played themselves out moment by moment; I can’t tell you exactly what it all means and why.

I’ve barely had time to process it myself…except to say that when I close my eyes in stillness all I hear echoing is the power of love.

And that sounds about right, the purpose of all of these messy bits of our lives – to understand what is and what isn’t love, and how and where one can and can’t access it, and how this incredible force of Nature is like the air, waiting to be breathed in or carried away on.

Ebb and Flow and Love Notes

My hubby and I.

Who knew you could still love someone so much after nearly 12 years? (I didn’t.)

It’s not always pretty love notes around here. In fact, about a month ago we went through several weeks just. Not. Connecting. We couldn’t reach each other. We were overscheduled and underenergized and it sucked.

But life ebbs and flows like that, and we’re learning to flow with it. (And making time for lovin’ doesn’t hurt either.)

This week brought a flow of hidden love notes to brighten me day.

Hidden in my laptop….

Love notes hidden in my laptop <3

In the bathroom….

Another love note in the bathroom lol

Wrapped around my toothbrush….

And this one was around my toothbrush :)

Stuffed in my makeup bag….

Found another in my makeup :)

He’s a keeper this one. ♥ ♥ ♥

47 Ways to Love Yourself Better

3:52
freeplaylife photography

We give and we love and we ask for love in return.

We wait and we hurt when the people around us don’t show up…or only show us their messy side.

And we forget.

We forget that we can give to ourselves. That we can shower ourselves with love. That we can fill ourselves up.

We forget that we need to. That others need to see us valuing ourselves. That others learn how to value us by how WE value us. That no one can love us when we feel unlovable.

My mama posted something on Facebook last week that brought tears to my eyes…

“When I was single for YEARS, I used to buy myself flowers on Valentines Day. Just because I hadn’t found my knight in shining armor yet, didn’t mean I was any less of a princess….

There’s a whole lot more to life than just being in a relationship with another person. Be in a relationship with your own LIFE. There are lots of ways to love. Spread some around….”

THIS is it! Be in a relationship with LIFE!

And dammit, let’s all starting being in a loving, committed, generous relationship with OURSELVES!

Be in a relationship with your passion, your voice, your style, your purpose, your curiosity, your kindness, your self-discovery, your growth, your experiences.

Let’s shower ourselves with the things we need, the things that light us up, so that we can SHINE and THRIVE!

Let’s spread THAT around!

Clients ask me how to love themselves better all the time. And so with my mama’s inspiration I’m sharing some of the ways to love yourself better…

This is just SOME ideas. Use it to inspire you to find YOUR way.

47+ Ways To Love Yourself Better

  1. Examine the feeling of not being good enough and the reasons you struggle to love yourself and replace them with a sense of wonder and ease.
  2. Create a long list of all the things you do well and read it to yourself often.
  3. Say only nice things about your body and the amazing things it enables you to experience in your life.
  4. Lift your head up as you walk – and SMILE as you go!
  5. Listen to music with a positive message of life and love (try Blessed by Brett Dennen)
  6. Hire a photographer to take amazing photos of yourself to see your beauty as others see it.
  7. Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for about Who You Are.
  8. Every night before bed tell yourself and your body how much you appreciate it.
  9. Stand naked in front of the mirror and make peace with the physical body that houses Who You Really Are.
  10. List 7 reasons why your hardest challenges or worst mistakes or most unloved qualities have been a beautiful thing for you.
  11. Then ask yourself for forgiveness for not seeing it all earlier.
  12. Tell others what you love about you.
  13. STOP doing exercise that doesn’t make you smile or laugh! Go roller skating or dancing or trampolining instead!
  14. Chew your food slowly, savor each flavor and focus on the nourishment you’re offering yourself.
  15. Take everything out of your closet and only put back in the things that make you FEEL amazing when you wear them!
  16. Allow yourself time to “do nothing”.
  17. Give yourself time to understand that all these ways to love yourself need to be done with passion and authentic intention, and not just something you tick off a list.
  18. Stop making excuses for what you love and just LOVE IT OUT LOUD dammit!
  19. If you’re not feeling “good” when someone asks how you are, give yourself permission to be authentic and tell the truth (and maybe ask for some support).
  20. Spend lots of time in meditation or prayer or stillness.
  21. Light candles, put on sexy music and make love to your own body.
  22. Eat when you’re hungry. Rest when you’re tired. Tell the world your needs matter by making them a priority over the dishes or the laundry.
  23. Surround yourself with tribes of amazing women who will remind you of Who You Are when you forget about the ways to love yourself.
  24. Throw your head back and laugh out loud!
  25. Two words: Body. Paint. (Bonus points if you share the photos.)
  26. You know that one thing that looks so cool but you’ve been rattling off excuses why you can’t try it? Go do it.
  27. Join a daily or weekly self-portrait challenge and see yourself in a new light.
  28. Understand how it is you learned to not love yourself so you can break the habit for good.
  29. Give yourself permission to sob when your heart is hurting.
  30. Write down 5 ways to love yourself each morning before you even start your day.
  31. Celebrate your scars and stretch marks.
  32. Commit to only using positive words to describe yourself…instead of “I don’t know how” say “I’ve yet to learn that”. “I screwed that up” becomes “I learned some really good things here.” I’m serious, try it.
  33. Replace “have to” with “get to” and begin to see that life is always an opportunity for you to show off your prowess.
  34. Find the one hairstyle that allows your inner self to glow and rock it – no matter how wild it is!
  35. Create a list of people you deeply admire and why. Then remember that you can only admire in others what your heart calls it’s own Truth. Stand in that Truth and be what you admire.
  36. Stop calling yourself “lazy” or “stupid” and replace it with a compassionate description of Who You Are
  37. Buy or gather your favorite flowers, and write yourself a love note to go with it.
  38. Make yourself a yummy meal or take yourself out to dinner to eat in the peaceful company of YOU.
  39. Choose to be in a relationship with your life and experiences.
  40. Give love to others, not because of who they are, but because of Who You Are.
  41. Schedule your own spa day and pamper yourself. Include the kids! Or the partner! Or your best girlfriends!
  42. Learn to listen to and trust your intuition.
  43. Practice Nonviolent Communication with yourself.
  44. Go get a chair massage at the mall.
  45. Let your toes loose and go outside (or even to the store) barefoot and free.
  46. Replace one food that makes you feel bad with one yummy food that makes you feel great.
  47. Give yourself permission to say no to the things that make you unhappy and yes to the things you’d rather do instead.
  48. Share a photo of your imperfect booty with the world.
  49. Make one small space in your home a reflection of Who You Are – ditch what you don’t love or use often, paint the walls, bring in a comfy place to sit, light your candles, pile up your journal, books and art supplies, listen to inspiring music and dwell there often.
  50. Write yourself a love letter. And frame that bad boy. Look at it anytime you need to remember how beautiful you are.

Because, sweetheart, you’re worth all that and more.

Is Our Anti-Child Society Your Fault?

Choco-fingers

We live in an adult-centered, anti-child world where mistreatment of children is considered, not just appropriate, but preferred.

At best, kids are considered loud, messy and exhausting.

At worst, they are considered inherently “bad” and in need of training, which is usually doled out in the form of mental, emotional or physical abuse.

It’s true that children are the only group that is still boldly and legally discriminated against. They are the only people who are legally allowed to be hit, stolen from or held against their will. There is even a movement to ban the “brats” from public places based on nothing but their age.

Think about any of these sentiments said about a particular race and you’ll see my point. It is a very anti-child society we live within.

Of course, all of this instills in children a belief that they are less than, broken or bad. And unless they heal that belief, because children are the only oppressed group who will outgrow their oppression, it’s a belief they will continue to carry into their unoppressed adult life and inform every choice they make, including the treatment of the next generation.

So, we are essentially creating an entire culture of broken, hurting human beings for generations to come.

And I keep hearing so many parents complain about this and the so-called “brat bans”.

We are all appalled and offended when someone speaks condescendingly, assumes a child’s guilt or otherwise passes judgment on them based on their size.

But how many are doing anything about it?

Guess what?

If you want the anti-child treatment to change you’ve got to come out of your hiding places and start talking about.

Not just on Facebook.

Not just on your blog.

You need to start speaking up. At family reunions. At the grocery store. With your best friend. With strangers at the park.

You need to grow some cahones and start creating real awareness by speaking your Truth.

You need to live with Integrity.

Last week I got the opportunity to ask an older gentleman to drop some anti-semetic remarks he was making in front of us.

This was a strong, opinionated man who never backs down. He’s the kind of man that constantly makes racist, classist or sexist remarks and is used to winning arguments. The kind of man no one even bothers arguing with anymore.

I knew all of this going in. I’ve seen how people will sit uncomfortably and listen as he makes these remarks and not say a word, because they don’t feel it’ll help. They all looked pained as they shrug their shoulders and ask “What can I do?”

But I live by my own integrity.

And according to my integrity, all people should be treated with honor and respect and compassion. Even this man who was making anti-semetic remarks.

So with respect for him, I clearly stated that I was uncomfortable with his remarks, explained why and stated that I would appreciate them not happening in front of us.

Because I spoke with respect, not anger or fear, he did what no one had ever seen him do before.

He apologized and said he hadn’t looked at it that way.

We then went on to have a nice conversation for several more hours.

The One Rule To Speaking Your Truth

It doesn’t work when you speak from a place of anger or fear.

It doesn’t work when you fight or demand or criticize.

People shut down when they hear your anger, or feel attacked.

But people hear Truth.

Truth is not angry. It’s not fear-based. It’s not judgmental.

It’s just Truth.

And real Truth comes from a place of love. It comes with compassion and acceptance and gentleness. It doesn’t back down or hide.

And it speaks volumes louder than anger.

If we want to change these anti-child views…if we want to promote respect and love, compassion and kindness…we get to speak out while we set an example of what respect, love, compassion and kindness look like.

We get to live our Integrity out loud.

(And really, if you’re speaking with anger, are you really living your integrity?)

Change doesn’t happen by complaining about it.

Keep this in mind: the reason these anti-child (or racist or sexist or any-ist) sentiments make you uncomfortable is because you’re not living according to your own beliefs, your own integrity, when you don’t speak your Truth.

You’re sacrificing your beliefs to “keep the peace” (what peace?). And that’s uncomfortable!

To live with integrity means to take your authenticity and your Truth out of its box and into the world.

What do you know as Truth? What is holding you back from speaking your Truth with compassion and respect for everyone involved?

Because if you see the abuse and hate occurring towards children – or anyone else – and you do nothing about it…or you increase it with abuse and hatred of your own, whose really to blame here?

Serving vs. Being a Servant {Which one are you?}

My Heart Is Hers

In your relationship with your children…

Your relationship with your partner…

Even your work or contribution to the world

In your life, are you serving or are you being a servant?

There is a very distinct difference between the two.

The Servant

Picture the classical version of a servant; a person in servitude to another, who does their calling or bidding.

There may be little to no boundaries and she has little to no say in the demands made upon her. Her needs aren’t important, or as important, as the person or people she serves.

She is lower than, less than, beneath others. Her servitude is out of obligation: it’s a duty or a chore or a job, something that must be done.

The modern-day servant looks a lot like this:

You give to your loved ones, or even acquaintances, out of duty. You often feel less important than or diminished or blocked by those in your life. You also feel tired, drained, and dull. Your actions breed resentment and anger in your life, and you find yourself playing the victim role of “others don’t care about me”, “I’m taken advantage of”, and even “No one will support me in that.”

Serving

Now imagine a host; a person who has invited her most revered and beloved guests into her home.

She is honored by their presence and delights in what they bring to the table, their unique contribution to the conversation. She is generous in what she offers them and does so out of Love.

Because they are her cherished guests, she is kind, patient and considerate of them. She offers them what she has learned they most love and earnestly wants to provide for their needs. She takes in account their individual personalities and preferences to create an experience they will enjoy.

She sees everyone, including her, as exceptional and equal in their own right and this is reflected in both her actions toward them and toward herself. Because of this she feels love, has more energy, and isn’t afraid to ask for what she needs.

Behavior and Intention

The describable actions of the servant and the host might be the same:

  • Both may prepare and offer food
  • Both may clean and organize
  • Both may listen and talk
  • Both may support and help
  • Both may be in charge of important and delicate matters

But the intentions behind their actions set them apart.

One is being used. One is making a genuine, generous, loving offer.

Both are making a choice.

In your life, in your family, in your work…what choice do you most often make?

Ask yourself: Am I serving or being a servant?

Photo Credit

Stress, Happiness and Our Social Structure

I recently watched a National Geographic documentary called, Stress: The Portrait of a Killer. (You can find it on Netflix.) The entire documentary discussed the physiology and effects of social stress on our bodies and the sources of this epidemic of chronic stress in our modern lives.

Did you know the American Psychological Association reports about 75% of the population attests to feeling stressed regularly, and a third of all Americans report extreme stress?

Yeah, I think it’s about time we start analyzing what we’re doing here.

31/365 - Stress.
(Photo Source)

The Physiology of Stress

If you’re not familiar with stress, I’m going to give you an oversimplified idea of what exactly it is: Stress is the physiological state our bodies take on when we perceive danger or are in any situation which requires an increased reaction.

Our adrenaline pumps, our heart races and we end up with more blood to our muscles to help us run away from the flesh-eating lions. Or bad guys.

Or these days, traffic.

What originated as an occasional life-saving response to certain dangerous situations has become an everyday response to everyday situations.

Our bodies can’t differentiate between becoming something’s dinner and forgetting to pick up dinner on the way home.

And the effects of stress are pretty huge: a weakened immune system, imbalanced hormones, belly fat, heart disease, fetal disruption in pregnant woman, improper body function (because stress hormones shut down all but the essential systems in your body to help you survive an attack…as the documentary stated, you don’t need to be ovulating when you’re running for your life), and even diminishing brain cells.

That last one probably explains a lot.

Of particular interest, though, were the two studies portrayed in the search for causes to our excessive stress in modern day living:

  1. A long-term study done on baboons (the most diabolical, back-stabbing and malicious of primates, they said). These guys all had the same diet, the same living conditions, but also had a hierarchy in their tribe.
  2. A European corporation where each person had identical health care benefits, but which also had a definite, established hierarchy. Can you see where they were going with this?

In each study the subject’s stress levels, health, happiness, ability to handle illness and life expectancy hinged not on their health care, but on where they ranked in the hierarchy.

The lower on the totem pole, the more stress and negative health impacts you experienced and the less happy you were.

The higher up, the healthier you were and longer you lived.

This was universal, across the board, in humans and animals and in multiple studies. Social ranking affects us. Social stress hurts us.

Our Social Structure is Killing Us

Do you see it too?

Our entire social structure – from politics to work to school to family life – is built upon a hierarchy.

In the political world, the very politicians who are meant to represent our choices make decisions without us. We make calls, we threaten, we argue and debate, we shake our fists and stress ourselves out over their misdeeds. Then out of fear – or possibly exhaustion – we vote them back in.

They control every aspect of our lives and freedoms
and we feel helpless.

At work, we have no autonomy, are spoken down to, mistrusted and lament that every moment of our work day (and many moments outside of work) are decided for us. Every deed is judged, our deadlines are tightened and we’re made to juggle more than we can handle. Work and life satisfaction mean little and we toe the line to meet the boss’s bottom line.

We sign over our lives for the false
promise of security.

School is probably the most obvious. Constant scrutiny and judgment, condescension, lack of respect for personal choices (we at least choose our jobs and our politicians, to some extent)…most students aren’t even allowed to control their own bodies and are told when to eat and pee and how fast to do it. Their work is criticized in front of their peers and every moment is determined and judged by someone else’s standards.

Instead of ensuring success, it’s training us for
more of the same.

And family life is not much different. Rights and “privileges” are doled out by one or two established rulers, based on age and accomplishments. Choices are not mutually agreed upon. Again, even basic body functions – such as hunger or sleep – are not entrusted to the people to whom they belong. Autonomy is lost. Trust is compromised. And we all suffer.

After a lifetime of practice,
it’s hard to see another possible way to interact.

We learn it as toddlers, it’s reestablished as children and teens, and by the time we’re adults it’s so firmly ingrained in our way of thinking that we can’t get out from under it.

We’re training stress, disease and unhappiness into our culture.

Science Reaffirms The Alternative

Don’t you love when you know the answer and science backs up your own experiences?

This documentary and all the research reaffirmed what many of us already know: that there are two main determiners to decreased social stress, increased health and long-term happiness.:

Autonomy. And connection.

(Could it be any more tailored to the message of this blog?)

Every study in the documentary showed that environments lacking an authoritative or authoritarian leader, places that we feel in control and conditions where the general energy is cooperative, mutually respectful and built on the premise of equality that stress levels and health issues were dramatically decreased.

The more choices you  control, the more time you spend on the things of your choosing and the more equal freedom you enjoy in your life, the healthier and happier you’ll be.

The research and studies also showed why: humans (and primates) that felt a part of a compassionate, connected and mutually respectful tribe increase something called telomerase, an enzyme used to mend our cells and keep us healthy.

Yup, that’s right…

Things like love, laughter, a feeling of belonging, caring for one another, autonomy, validation, equality and generosity actually HEALS our bodies.

It’s everything I’ve talked about in Being Organic: An Invitation to Change Your World.

It’s organic learning, organic living, organic Being.

And in the coming months this blog is going to evolve to reflect that even more. Subscribe, sign up and stay tuned.

So, now I’m turning this post over to you…

What are the things in your life that are causing you social stress or providing you healing?

What is it that is fostering connection and autonomy, both personally and in your relationships?

Because the science is in and our health depends on it.