Giving, receiving... and the courage to ask

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Asking, Giving, and Receiving have been very much on my mind recently and I offer my learnings in case they inspire or awaken something in you.

To walk through the world with open hands, rather than closed ones, requires a courage and vulnerability that scares most of us. It’s a courage I have not always had. It’s the kind of person I want to be.

Money has come to carry such weight with most of us (as the representation of security, abundance, worth, etc) that to ask, give, or receive on that level can carry extra levels of fear and other emotions.

I received some feedback from someone that my starting a GoFundMe for this next step in my life was inappropriate and that I should work to earn it rather than asking others for financial support.
I understand this voice… I have had these same thoughts about myself (and others, if I’m being brutally honest) for years. In fact, I resisted staring the campaign for months for that reason. And I finally did decide to ask because of what I learned by looking more deeply into my resistance.

My first level of resistance? The age-old question of worth: who am I to…?
During this deep humanitarian crisis… who am I, as a privileged white woman, to ask for help, especially financial? Who am I to ask for help when there are children and asylum seekers being separated from each other, put in cages, and treated as animals? Who am I to ask for help when black and brown men and women are being incarcerated, killed regularly by cops, and are far more likely to die in childbirth from different access to resources and the stresses of living in a deeply racist world? Who am I to ask for help when the indigenous people of this country are having their rights to land we limited them on to threatened by big oil and White Indifference? Who am I to ask for help when our non-binary conforming and queer citizens are having their right to exist, safely and with dignity, threatened? When our public lands and the health of this Earth are being ravaged and squandered? Who am I?…
If a client posed this question to me, I would tell them you are you - doing your best to live a kind and meaningful life. Feel the pain of the world. Don’t become indifferent or look away. Look, specifically, at your part in it. AND don’t make yourself smaller just because of its heaviness.
So I am taking my own advice. If you find my request for financial support inappropriate, I hope, with every ounce of my being and my heart, that you will consider giving money to an organization doing important work in one or more or any of the areas right now that need our help, especially those headed by people of the community impacted - use your resources to raise their voices. I haven’t done enough of that. I have let my sense of lack keep me small in my giving, as well as my receiving. I want that to change.

My second level of resistance - should I let my business go and ‘get a real job’? At what point is this just irresponsible?
I want to be clear that to start my own business and to keep it going in these early years while money is very tight is ABSOLUTELY a privilege. To have the support network and social/cultural capital to choose to follow my heart and do the work that I KNOW I am here to do is not a decision that is accessible for everyone. I recognize that. I have been able to be with family during the holidays because of my parents’ support. I have had clients show up with food. I have bartered with many people for services. All of that counts. In all of it, I am grateful.
Could I get a job that would pay me a lot more? Yes, probably (although in this economy even that is not as easy as it is often made out to be).
Would I then be able to continue putting my time and resources and skills towards sharing my calling with the world? No.
Would I be making as much of a difference in people’s lives? Not in the same way.
Every time I decide on pricing for my offerings, I walk the balance of what my experience, training, and time is worth… versus what many people can afford to pay. I continue to learn a lot about myself and my own feelings of unworthiness, which make themselves heard every time I take an unapologetic stance. So although my decision is a privilege, it is not frivolous.
I have a job. I work hard at it. And through it I provide deeply meaningful work to this world. Our society does not often value emotional labor. But I have spent a lot of time and financial resources training myself to be the kind of fearless, compassionate listener that frees my clients/students/friends into their soul’s deeper truths.
And I hear often from them that I have made an impactful difference in their lives. So when I stop empowering my own doubts and sense of unworthiness, what is left is a stance that is strong and clear - I have a responsibility to offer my authentic self in all of its messiness AND I have earned what I have already received and everything I have yet to receive, too. I suspect that many of the people who have chosen to offer me financial support through the campaign have benefited from my offerings and feel that I have earned their money.

And still I live with the constant question of: ‘at what point do I throw in the towel?’ For many years now, I have been living a very frugal life in order to continue making a difference. When business expenses are accounted for, I have had about $1000/month left - just enough to cover rent/utilities, health insurance, car insurance, cell phone bill and a little bit for food and gas. Not enough to put money away for retirement or any kind of safety net. My safety net has been entirely outside of myself and the part of me that ‘doesn’t want to be a burden’ or ‘wants to be independent’ is scared. And through this fear and resistance, I learn that reciprocity is multi-faceted. That support is not the same as dependence. That we can be open and also independent. That we humans do not exist in a vacuum. We are, in fact, mirrors for each other.

I recognize these projections and judgements you have thrown at me, because they are the voices in my own head. I am not willing to give them power any more. If what I am asking for invokes strong emotions or judgements in you, I invite you to look inward and realize that they speak more to your own relationship with yourself than to your relationship with me. And I also ask that you respect my boundaries and instead of using my space where I requested support as a place for you to project, judge, etc… that you do your own work or schedule a session with me where I would be happy to help you look at how your limiting beliefs may be causing you stress in your life. I have a lot of experience from working with my own…. ;)

This is not a vacation that I am taking or asking for you to fund. This is an investment in my own development, in what I have to offer many communities rather than just one. I don’t anticipate that living and working on the road will be easy. It’s going to be challenging. At times I will probably feel lonely and afraid. Which is why I am practicing opening myself up rather than holding myself aloof.
I don’t expect any of you to give money, but I have hope. It will go a long way and make a huge difference, I promise you.
I am also choosing to trust. To open my hands. To put myself in situations where I know I will have to learn and grow and come out the other side stronger, more compassionate, and more able to be the presence that this world needs each and every one of us to be. For those of you who have invested financially or verbally in me, thank you. I feel re-inspired by your support.

A friend supported me with this video and it speaks eloquently to so much of what I have been sitting with and struggling to put into words. It’s an inspiring 15 minutes, and I hope you’ll watch it: https://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking

Freedom isn't a lonely word

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What does freedom mean to you?

Is it something bestowed upon you by someone or something else or is it yours to embody, to live? Do you believe you find it in this life or is it something you hope for in the future? Can freedom exist with responsibility and roots or must you be completely untethered to find it?

It took a trip to India and back again for me to shake up another sediment layer of my life - a layer of assumptions, judgements, and comfortable blindness - and to re-awaken to something I hadn't felt it in a long time… hadn’t even really thought about… But then I set off into the great unknown for three weeks with not much more than two outfits, a toothbrush, and a whole lot of trust. And what I discovered was joyful, flowing, surrendered, freedom.

I was vulnerable, yes. But vulnerable is not weak… it’s not even necessarily dangerous. It’s peering out a window at a whole new world and drinking it in with all of your senses as if it’s your first day alive and you can’t wait to run outside and splash around. It’s a not knowing and a not needing to know - an allowing, a flowing. It's meeting myself where I am and meeting everyone I encounter without the labels, roles, and assumptions that keep me from truly seeing their unique soul. It’s the confusion and discomfort of the unfamiliar, but without doubt - with, in fact, grace and forgiveness. It's guts, heart, and head... all dancing together for survival, joy, and the simplicity of a life being fully-lived.

I was 18 and solo when I first fell in love with the freedom of travel, heading off to New Zealand for three months with two outfits, a tooth brush, some camping equipment, and as yet untried-trust.  How liberating to take a deep breath, dive into the deep end, and discover that being in unfamiliar territory with only your guts, head, and heart is actually your superpower. And how intoxicating to realize you like who you are in your own company when until now you’ve only ever thought to see yourself through the eyes of others.

I began a period of time where I let how good I was at travel be something to keep me safely distant from the real work of rooting. It was a freedom without responsibilities - superficial, avoiding complexity and familiarity and the burden of connections… because while I might have liked who I was when alone, I didn’t yet know how to be myself around others. Eventually I realized that I would never be able to run far enough or fast enough to avoid the loneliness of not being willing to look in a mirror.

So for the past nine years or so, freedom became more of an inward journey. I set myself the challenge of learning to build, to sustain, to grow a foundation, to live fully in my body and community. I worked on farms, I got certified to teach yoga, and then I taught it.. a lot of it. I started a business and set up an intentional home-space with a compatible roommate. I embarked on a 2+ year journey into the world of energy medicine and after that, I opened my private practice. I learned about the kind of compassion it takes to love people even on the days when they drive you crazy. I developed the courage it takes to have the hard kinds of conversations that allow any kind of relationship to weather the storms and tides of life. I softened into the kind of person who can actually let other people in, while setting boundaries based on a strong sense of self-worth. Without knowing it, each small and obvious step forward, I lived my way into a deeper place of inner freedom.

And then I arrived at a threshold. So many of the threads that I had followed on this inward journey were naturally coming to an end and the new pattern to be woven wasn’t clear. I paused in fear and uncertainty. Where to go from here? I heard the call of the wild wolf in my belly that always hungers and wants for more but when I looked out my window for clues, all I could see was the sediment of roles, assumptions, and familiarity that had accumulated during this last phase of my journey. In the world of roots and responsibilities, the next step is almost always to buy a house. To create a home. I figured that’s what I would do.

Then I returned from India. And in the time away, I had switched glasses - removed the ones which had guided me as I was doing the work of rooting and put back on the ones that I wore when I was discovering how at home I was in my own body and soul, connected with all other souls, but with no one to answer to but myself.

With the edges of my old life now tugging and squeezing like a sweater shrunk in the wash, and two pairs of glasses that showed me two possible lives which felt completely contradictory, I closed my eyes and leaned in to the space between… trusting that my way would appear.

After a few weeks of discomfort, of grasping at strands and watching them pull me in different directions before unraveling, I finally landed in an inner space large enough to hold the paradox of both my desire for roots and my longing for movement. From there, I could see clearly that the way I lived my 'home' was based upon control. I stressed when I didn't have the answers because I had internalized a standard where I 'should.' I defined myself and my voice by my roles. I often stopped truly seeing the people in front of me because with familiarity often comes assumptions. I felt the smallness and guilt of my circles and routines and unquestioned everyday-ness, but daunted and overwhelmed by the work of stepping outside the walls I, myself, created.

And so I whispered a prayer: I am willing to let it all burn down. Every last bit of it. Everything I believe to be true. Everything I think I am.

In the next few weeks of even more discomfort, very little actually changed in the specifics of my life  but who I was within them changed. As I began to say yes to a life of freedom, I began awakening to not only what that might look like, but also all the ways I was self-sabotaging and holding myself back. Between where we are and where we want to be are aways stumbling blocks of our own making. And so I began the disciplined work of freedom - dismantling another layer of self-created, internalized prisons.

As I dismantled and wiggled and created more space within the idea of home and more roots within the idea of movement, I landed in a truth that I am finally ready to embrace:

I am leaving my current residence and buying (for full-time living) an RV so that I can be at home, wherever life takes me.

There are a lot of reasons for this: I want to travel and see more of the country. I am tired of spending so much of my free time taking care of a house and yard, large portions of which I barely use. If my living space is large, I will continue to hold on to more things than I need, all of which weighs me down. I love the community and roots I have here, and I am excited to get to meet more people and build connections and community wherever I go. I want the constant reminder to be present, awake, without blinders and assumptions. I want a life that uses resources differently, leaves a smaller footprint, involves less debt, that participates less in a system that seems to me to only benefit a small few. I want a life that is a little more raw - with fewer walls, more in tune with the seasons… a life the reminds me that we can never truly own a place or things. That everything we have is merely on loan and in service to us on our journeys.

At times it feels exhilarating and clear and at other times uncomfortable and terrifying. It brings up all my fears and stories around money, around responsibility, around what being an adult looks like. What if my business takes a big hit and I can’t make any money? Do I really want to start over all the time? How much debt am I willing to go into to make this life happen?

It brings up fears about asking for help and my prison of unworthiness. Out of the all the pain in the world, who am I to jump into a life that might at times require the support of others? I should be self-sufficient and independent and try for a life where I don’t need anybody! Do I even trust that I will be supported? I should be able to give more than I receive. Am I a hypocrite for thinking that but talking about connection and community?

It brings up my fear of standing out, speaking up, rocking the boat. Will I be too messy? What will others think? Why do I still even care?

It brings up stories around being a woman and what is expected of us, and also awareness of how my life choices continually seem to reinforce my privilege as a white person and all that is messy and ugly in that. Do I want a family and kids? And if I do, which by no means is certain, are all my life choices making that harder and harder? And is this drifting just another way for me to avoid engaging with social justice? None of my life choices have been made outside of the context of my skin color and socioeconomic class - what is my responsibility in all that and am I truly living what I believe?

It brings up my fear of just how vast I am and my fears around success as well as failure. What if I get what I want and discover it’s not what I want? What if it’s lonely and hard? What if I lose the friends and support network I have here? What if I can’t actually handle just how fucking awesome I am?

For several months now, I have held this deep desire tenderly close. Wanting to wait until the camper was mine and the pieces had begun to fall into place before sharing. Expecting ease and only good news to share. And instead, I’ve found lessons and stumbling blocks. I started the journey thinking I wanted one thing, only to realize that wasn’t what would serve me best and learned some things about minimalism versus self-denial. Then the search for my new home became frustrating and shitty while I encountered more than one scammer and had the legitimate campers I was excited about get sold out from under my nose. I quickly spiraled from a place of deep trust into a place of deep doubt. And there’s a little voice that whispers now how much easier it would be to just give up the dream and continue quietly in a life that I know is too small. And that’s how I know I’ve held it too close for too long and that it’s time to share. It’s time for some accountability. It’s time to stop thinking I need to do it all alone and to speak up so that I allow myself to receive support.

So if you read this and want to send some prayers on my behalf out into the universe, please do. If you know of a camper that might want to be my home, let me know. My roommate has been encouraging me to start a gofundme, so if you feel inclined to offer financial support for this endeavor, that is welcome and deeply, deeply appreciated (https://www.gofundme.com/kate-goes-mobile). For those of you who have offered me and my things space in your houses if I haven’t found my camper before the end of this month, thank you.

It’s time to stop thinking freedom is only when I’m alone. And just like I do when I travel, it’s time to trust in all of you, my Earth angels and guides, just as much as I do my heavenly ones and my own courageous heart.

Our Wild, Sacred Journeys

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There are moments when something softens or cracks us open enough that a wisdom deeper than anything we could produce on our own comes through.

It was one of those times in a meditation during my training in Integrative Energy Medicine when I heard the words: “Out of Nothing, you could have been Anything.. and you are you.”

I would be lying if I said I’m not still unpacking the full depth and meaning of these words. But I remember this sense of the vast space of creative potential… the cosmos. And then this sense of me: a bundle of contradictory perfections… of hopes, joys, and fears… of heart break and of the deepest and most sacred love. And I felt the completion of these seeming contradictions within each other.

I would be lying if I said that like that, out of the blue, wisdom entered and my whole life shifted and everything settled into perfection…. and yet, I wouldn’t.

Because in that moment, while my life didn’t shift, my perspective did. It widened out and put my whole life and all that I am into a context so expansive that self-acceptance, self-love, and compassion were inevitable. My definition of perfect cracked open like a seed and blossomed into possibility and not because I was different, but because I saw differently.

Several years later, I am still practicing this new way of seeing, both on my yoga mat and through energy work. As someone who has believed for many years (as all of us do in some way) that I was only worthy through the things I did and achieved, that I had to constantly strive to be better or do better because there was something fundamentally wrong or broken about me… the idea that I could’ve been ANYTHING and came into this world AS ME and that that act itself is THE ONLY service I actually need to offer to life in order to fulfill my destiny… is radical and, at times, extremely difficult to continue to trust. And so I practice, and I learn, and I question, and I live, and I surrender, and I grow.

Sacred, pure Love is so different from how we humans love when we learn to love as an equation, as a give and take. We come into this world as and knowing only the sacred and pure Love. But this world does not (yet) operate on that frequency. And so we learn that there are people who fear our purity, who do not yet own their own. In order to fit in and survive, we send parts of ourselves to live outside us, to be dimmed down, we come to inhabit these human parts of our experience willingly, imperfectly, and in fragments.

And so our journey is not one of fixing, or becoming anything new… it is actually one of reclaiming all those pieces of ourselves. Instead of remaining a colander, we gently invite our fragments home to plug the holes and we seal the cracks with a deeper love for ourselves, and we become a container… something much more capable of holding the innocent Spirit that is each one of us. In so doing, we take sacred, pure Love to new depths with us because now it has been tested, and its weak spots have fractured, and when it gets built again… it will be even stronger for knowing its own weakness. Turns out, Life is just a stress test for Love… so that it continues to evolve, stronger and purer with each test.

What a precious gift then YOU are to the Divine. It is only through your struggles and challenges and joys and love that it comes to know itself. Nothing cannot know itself. You, however - as Something - can be its mirror. And so our ego’s mission impossible, should it soften enough to allow our heart to accept it, is nothing more or less than to live courageously, fully, freely, expressively, creatively, and in full embrace of all the colors and textures of our unique and collective humanity… and to offer all that beauty and messiness as a prayer to a Love so deep, it can feel as overwhelming and frightening as an ocean.

What a wild, sacred journey we are on.

**This post was written as a guest blog found at: http://thepoweryogatribe.com/wild-sacred-journey-kate-powell/ **

Mess and Miracles

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What is a miracle?

In common usage, we often think of miracles as something magical, divinely-sent, extraordinary. We expect fireworks.

But I'm coming to see that true miracles are all around us, everyday. They are quiet. Often we don't truly know they are happening until after the fact. The true miracles we experience are nothing more or less than coming back to a state of love when we have fallen into fear.

And we do fall into fear. It is part of this human experience. We live in mortal bodies and on some level are always afraid that everything we have and want could at any moment be taken away. That if only we were good enough, worked hard enough, lost enough weight or looked a certain way, cared for others well enough, planned carefully enough... that only then will we be able to live happy and meaningful lives that can't be shaken. And then if we do manage to get what we want, we spend so much time trying to hold onto it. Convinced, on some level, that we only got it by cheating because how could we ever truly be worthy of it? Or what we wanted becomes not enough and then we want more and we are never satisfied.

All of this is fear.

The true miracle is to find ourselves caught in the middle of these stories our mind spins, deep in fear and a sense of limitation... and to take a deep breath... and to ask ourselves: In this moment, right here and right now, what is lacking?

Try it.

When I ask myself that question, what comes to me is silence. Grace. Love. When I look at someone in front of me who I have hurt or who has hurt me and I feel fear and guilt and I ask myself, "In this moment, right here and right now, who is this who stands in front of me?"... what comes to me is a stranger. Someone I have no history with. Someone I can now discern in this moment if I need to fear or if I can forgive and love. Because forgiveness is not a choice we make, nor is it something we can give to other people. It is the result of loving ourselves enough to see our mistakes and not get hung up. To see our fear and to realize that we don't need it and to shift back to love. And when we do that, we are free.

I have made a practice of these kinds of questions. I have made a commitment to miracles. I can tell you that it is simple, but not always easy. That it can be messy. But when I see how how much more peacefully my life flows, when I take deep breaths and feel space and grace, when I see my ordinary life take on the glow of something magical, I can tell you - to me, it's worth it.

Reflections on the gift of this human life

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I knew it had been a while since I'd written a blog. But I just looked, and it's been over a year.

Words are powerful. They are one of the best tools at our disposal for creating our lives and our stories. They shape how we receive the world and also how we are received by it. They clue us in to how we feel and where we have been wounded. They shake with our passion and our fears. They ring out with our victories. They connect us and disconnect us.

Sometimes we hide behind them or try and use them to control how others perceive us. When used kindly, they can lead to an unfolding like a flower or the cleansing rain of tears. When used to manipulate or deceive either our own selves or others, they become like a weapon which can cut deep, with no truth to rinse the cut and begin the healing.

Have you ever been through a transformation so deep it felt like being born anew? All the words and stories you were so used to using suddenly weren't right... You shed all your identities like skins and in your new naked, tender, vulnerability it was like learning language and life all over again. In times like that, all you can do is hold yourself close and love yourself back into who you always have been, but fresher, clearer... perhaps more minimalist. And a little closer to your own sweet soul.

To speak preemptively during this period of incubation would be to throw the new baby out into the harsh world, defenseless and soft. Sometimes we need to hold our tongues and allow what wants to be born through us it's gestation before we voice it and watch it being blown around in the wind, from ear to ear.

This last year has been one of deep transformation for me. It's held unexpected news, deaths, miracles of forgiveness, some increasingly deep and rich friendships and the soft disintegration of others. It's held sacred ceremony and work and adventure. It's held successes and failures. It's held mistakes and lies - the biggest mistakes being the lies I tell myself. It's been letting myself be opened again and again by the beauty of this world... no matter how many reasons fear finds to close myself off. In this last year, I began traveling again and I had incredible adventures in India. I also finished a two-year program in Integrative Energetic Medicine. I have had periods of disorientation and confusion, followed by such deep clarity and knowing... only to lose myself again, at a different detour in the road.

And now I rest in the sweetness of seeing how all of these experiences have brought me to deeper levels of compassion, presence, trust, and vulnerable authenticity.

In closing out 2017, I found myself filled with wonder at the very simple truth (and the key to why energy medicine works): that there is almost nothing in this life that, when looked at with a loving and compassionate gaze, won't soften.

Now I'm not talking about the kind of love that is fear in disguise - the kind that wants, that fears losing. No. I'm talking about pure Love. The kind that sits in silence and waits for us to reveal ourselves. With no expectations or agenda. That doesn't see us as we were or as we could be, but sees us right here and now. Exactly as we are. And that sees our beauty, not in spite of our imperfections, but because of them. The kind of love that this life has guided me back to, the kind of love that we each deserve to receive, and that we each are capable of giving. The kind of love that we fear, while we so desperately long for it, too.

To look at the world with that kind of love is at once so simple and yet also one of the most challenging choices we have. So once more so you can really take these words in:

There is nothing in this life that, when looked at with love, won't soften.

I invite you to try it.