Life, death, and our entitlement to nothing…

“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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I am attached. To birth, beauty, wonder, awe, love and laughter, to all the precious awarenesses that electrify and fill me with aliveness. We are in a season energized with new life. We feel it when we walk in the woods, when the deep green around us permeates and feeds us to our bones. This fawn, and her mama, were in our backyard a few days ago.

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Deer are a common sight in Boulder. We love them, watch them, make way for them, sometimes help them, and protect them as much as we can around here. They are a symbol of the natural balance we work so hard to achieve, a gentle remedy that cures us of our own human-ness for the few short moments we watch them pass by. If we are truly conscious, we understand these little moments are the precious ones we live for.

The following day …

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She was lying under our apple tree in our backyard, near the creek.  I was stunned when I saw her. The thick weight of sadness grew heavy in my chest, and I could feel myself sinking deeper into the soft earth. I have no idea how she died, but her body was without injury and as beautiful as it was the day she was born.

Life and death are not so far apart as we think. We tend to think in terms of years, when we need to be thinking in terms of moments–precious, fleeting, impermanent moments.

After finding her, I ran inside, found my smudge wand, then sat down quietly beside her. I offered love, prayer, and gratitude to the Mother for the short time we had with her. I was reminded that despite what we might think we are owed in this life, we are entitled to nothing. Birth does not entitle any of us to a long, healthy life, it never has. What we are given are chances, chances to discover that life is fully lived in the moments we are awake and paying attention, and each one is a gift not to be taken for granted.

It is difficult to remember this every day, to not get caught in the nettings of our human mind and to-dos, to not be so hard on ourselves, to want more than what we already have, to not judge each other, and assume we have time to make amends. To embrace death so close to the bosom, and sit with knowing we may be far closer to our last breath than we ever imagined is intense, and exhausting. But I believe it is this very intensity that allows us to wriggle free. It is this vulnerability that allows us to dance with abandon, belly laugh out loud, and see the wonder and awe in anything and everything. It is this wide-eyed wakefulness that allows us to roar “YES!!!!” and say thank you, thank you, thank you.…”

With love,
Misa

EPILOGUE:

I soon learned that the fawn beneath our apple tree was not the fawn I had seen the previous day. Shortly after sitting down with this fawn, I felt the presence of something to my right. I looked over and it was the mother, the same mother I had seen the day before. She stared at me intently as I slowly backed away from her fawn and walked back up onto the deck. I then saw another movement out of the corner of my eye. Another fawn, trotted over to the mother, the same fawn I had seen the day before, and sibling to the one that had died. This mother deer had two babes.

They had come back to check on the one that no longer lived. I cannot accurately describe the emotions I felt in those moments. A spiritual and emotional concoction of compassion, sadness, awe, elation, revelation, wonder, reality, gratitude, and gravity. What I witnessed was the beginning and the end all at once, life and death in full bloom. The three of us held each other’s gaze, in curiosity, intensity, and for me, complete and utter love, compassion and reverence. I could only hope that their higher developed senses could receive and feel all I was sending.

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I am a Death Doula

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I can say with certainty, I didn’t see it coming. The call to become a Death Doula was a gentle one, more a searching tap on the shoulder than loud trumpets or fanfare. Death, wrought with mystery and reeking of intense emotions, sits in the seat of promised impermanence and transition, a transition many of us don’t want to consider until we absolutely have to. While most acknowledge kindly the significance and importance of such a thing as helping individuals to embrace death and die consciously, the question “Why?” is often the very next I receive. I know enough about this question to recognize the reticence behind it. Why would anyone choose to put themselves so close to such a harsh reality as death? Why would anyone stand beside the suffering hearts of such intense loss and grief? Do I not see my own death as I stand in the face of another’s?

Beyond the well sown seed of wanting to help people, beyond sublimity, or the sheer goodness of heart, the answer reveals itself clearer to me the longer I sit with death in all the ways possible. By attending bedside, offering and sharing in ritual and ceremony, by having deep conversations about grief and loss, grieving in community, in doing life reviews to remember meaning, and even planning for what we want our death to look like, the answer lies in understanding death not to be the cruel termination of all we know and love, not for us or for the loved ones we’ve lost. Death is an invitation to bare and stand naked with the rawest parts of ourselves, the part that is scared, vulnerable, authentic, and real. It is an invitation to consider what truly holds us earthbound and attached. Is it our relationships, our families, our bodies, minds, looks, our titles, identities, our money, our past and future?

If we look closer, it’s not death that we are afraid of. It’s not having enough time to finish–finish our relationships, finish our dreams or experiences and living life as we have always wanted. Death in many ways is fearing abbreviated time and having regret that we didn’t do, feel, or heal all that we wanted. Death reminds us we are all in cycles, we grieve and have loss every day, not because it sucks to be human, but because we have understood and experienced love in all its intensity, pleasure, pain and joy. We cannot have love without loss and grief, just as we cannot truly live without embracing our death. We are a complex, colorful and impassioned lot, and our relationship with ourselves and with each other are the only thing that will matter to us in the end, did we do it the way we wanted? And if we didn’t, what would we have changed? I am trying to answer this for myself now. Can you? If you can, then you are seeing life through death’s eyes, and as of this moment, you still have time.

I am a death doula and I stand breath to breath with death. And in that death, I have the extreme privilege of seeing the enormous, jubilant life that person labored to create. I hear their story as told by the ones that loved them so completely, so absolutely, and I am overcome and humbled by it. This nourishment of love touches a familiarity we recognize in our own lives, a life trying to be lived in the full spectrum of color with emotions that burst and bloom in priceless memories. A life that seeks gratitude and meaning for all the heart-filled and heart-breaking stories it carries. This is what death offers, a daily invitation to remember what we have labored and loved for, what we have learned by doing so, and finally, what more do want with what we have left. Death encourages us to reveal our truest selves and share them with others as generously as possible. Fear is always nearby and embracing death does not mean letting go of fear. Embracing death means witnessing and participating, in full presence, every moment we live–ours and the ones we love. It is creating a life we want to manifest wholeheartedly, and exactly how we write the ending to our own story.

Nameless yet extraordinary

oneIf I lean deep into the blood red curves and crevices that mold and hold my heart, I can see them, the winding spiral of stories strung like garland and sewn together with ache and love. It’s all there, layers upon layers of divots and dents, bursts and blooms, composted and collaged together laying fertile for the next planted seedling. I till and I till, waiting for that fresh smell of earth so good I could swallow it down in gulps.

Without really knowing why, I say “yes”. Yes to whatever comes, yes to the unknown, and I walk with eyes closed across a bridge lined with roaring waters. I smell salt, I smell the vast open space, the cool breeze and sun kissing my skin without promise, only trust. Trust is my word this year, and I have taken it into my belly without question, letting it grow and squirm and turn like a new babe waiting to be birthed. I do not recognize myself anymore, I am changed and I am good, so good.

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Magnificent things happen in nameless moments, like pushing a strand of hair away from the eyes just so we can see. We can’t help feel the most dramatic shifts, the ones that steal our minds and drag us through the torrent, the ones that make us grip firm with our toes and dig deep into the dirt that birthed us, the ones that burn our flesh free like the phoenix in promise for something new, but it’s the softness in the subtle that begs me to peel my eyes and watch more closely. I don’t need to fly too high or dive too deep to find the magic that exists behind nothing special. All things can end and all things can begin in every given moment, and that makes any given moment the most important one of all.

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This September, I will begin my journey into becoming a Sacred Passage Doula, or a death doula. It may be the most important thing I ever do, and yet maybe it won’t. Things–people, animals, cycles, relationships, jobs, seasons and so on… die all the time, and my little human brain cannot even fathom the whole of it. I am humbled by all that I cannot conceive and yet I am drawn to this work, to witness with respect, love, and compassion the passing of a soul from this life to the next. To embrace the ultimate vulnerability, work at death’s side by holding hands with the last breath of a human’s heart. Dang… The enormity of it overwhelms me, yet I believe my whole purpose is living this life so deeply and fully that there is nothing  left to feel except the”yes”–to bury myself further into the watery womb of connection and sync my breath closely with the sea of souls that push past in crowds or run and dance through the streets alongside me. This, this is a purpose well worth witnessing and surrendering to.

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Until then, there is summer, sun-drenched and heat brimmed summer, lazy mornings, long hikes, voracious reading and wet afternoons summer. Watermelons, sparklers, dancing with friends, and tubing kind of summer. The digging in the dirt, cooking dinner for the homeless, making trails kind of summer. An “I just turned 45 yesterday” kind of summer. A boy’s 14th birthday, a visit from my brother and nephew, a trip to California to house/farm/garden sit for a beautiful Songbird and friend that I can’t wait to meet in person kind of summer. This will be the best one yet…

Wishing you a wonderful summer, the nameless yet extraordinary kind…

XO

Misa

Swirling…

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Acceptance, it’s something I think about all the time. The concept is a paradox really. In one moment I can love and embrace all that is, and in the next, recognize the need to question, challenge and evolve. There is always work to be done, a new piece of self-awareness to be uncovered, old demons that lurk, moments urging us to keep digging and keep addressing the things that draw us back into the shadows. Like tides that reach then pull, I vacillate between gratitude for all that I’ve faced, to the discomfort required to keep carving the spiritual landscape within. Transition is a trickster–a short term shifter, but a wicked, long-distance runner. Transition never ends, and perhaps this is where acceptance resides best, on the heels of “then” and on the brink of “now”.

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These latest days of mine have been spent building–building a business with my husband, building dance classes, building choreography inspired by soul and muse, building and creating a movement and empowerment curriculum for a kids’ dance class, (and seeing it come to life thanks to the sisterhood and dance studio that has become my second home). Meanwhile, as new friendships cultivate, my sacred circles are manifesting hand in hand with a deep, spiritual appreciation for the containers that have allowed me to feel vulnerable, accepted and powerful all at once. Finally, I see my own colorful thread weaving into this gorgeous, conscious community, and perhaps for the first time with steadfast commitment and unapologetic confidence, I am unafraid for what I have to offer and give.

Through this collective process of creating, this swirling dance between the feminine and masculine within, I have moved past the knowing of potential and found birth through accepting responsibility for what I can do and doing it. So this is what self-trust looks like :-). I ‘ll take it, I’ll ride this new wave of fortitude, at least until the next lurking Shadow with his sidekick and travel companion Transition. They are there watching and waiting always…and you know what? It’s all good….

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Love to you… XO

Winter

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I thought about her so much yesterday as I was writing this. Within seconds of finishing it, I received the call that she passed.

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A gnawing at the edges beneath my rib cage confirmed what I already knew. She looked so small, so crumpled in the wheelchair, breathing tubes in her nostrils, IVs and machines attached to her wrist. The sour air in the nursing home was hard to take, but watching the beautiful mind of my grandmother struggle beneath her 95 year old shrinking body of bones and skin was almost unbearable. Her strong blue eyes softened as she drew them up to mine, both of us crying now, both of us shriveling at the heartbreak of saying goodbye. I reached for her frail body and rested my chin on her bony shoulder. “I love you”, I whispered into her ear. Her tiny arms did their best to wrap around me one last time and she whispered back “I love you too, thank you for being a wonderful granddaughter.” And I clung, I clung to every last memory–our road trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway, our epic cookie making holidays, BBQ’s spent at her lakehouse, learning how to fish on her dock. She, the only grandmother I’ve ever known, was fading from me and there was nothing tangible I could hold onto except a fragment of her little, naked body under an ugly, blue, hospital gown.

And then I remembered.

I remembered the strong, proud woman that supported and encouraged me through the years, the woman who loved to sing, play the harpischord and survived 3 cancers. I remembered her love for crossword puzzles, pumpkin pie and rivel soup. I remembered her caregiving, generous heart and how she nursed my sick father until his last breath. I remembered that no matter how much aging or disease takes from any of our bodies, what remains is the impenetrable imprint of love on the all lives that we’ve ever touched and that touched us back.

I finally pulled back and looked into her eyes one last time, noticing they really were no longer blue, but a light, hollow gray. She smiled at me, reached for my hands, and we gazed at each other in saturated silence as all that was left to say hung in the air between us. I leaned in, kissed her on the cheek and hugged her one last time.

“Bye Grandma.”

“Bye Honey.”

I walked out backwards from her room, pressed my fingers to my lips and blew whatever I had left into the air, as if it could ever be enough.

***

RIP Grandma. I love you.

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merging into one

familyhikeI wrote this piece several months ago when I first started considering the difference between Then–any then–the 12 year old then, the 20 year old then, the 38 year old then, and Now.  The process is inescapable if we are to shake ourselves loose of any attachment to the past and invite possibility. Combining MJ and Misa was a huge step for me, though when it came right down to it, it was only a click, one moment, one action, one decision. I actually submitted this piece to Bella Grace Magazine, but haven’t heard back from them since my first submission so I am posting it here, the birthplace of all the shifts that helped challenge and shape me, and will continue to do so. As always, thanks for reading.

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A beautiful hue of weathered, orange rust collects around my edges, an alchemical shift that coincides with age and time and an invitation for bitter and sweet to mingle between my teeth. I try not to move as quickly as I use to, preferring a slow of motion like Tin Man getting caught in Spring’s rain. I remind myself a hundred times a day (still not enough) to stay present, that the next moment is always uncertain, no matter how much I plan, prepare, and (try to) predict. Peering into the vastness that is my open heart, I see only tiny speckles of regret, not enough to sprinkle an ice cream cone. And so, let this be my crystal ball, my fortune cookie and soothsaying prophecy, I must be doing something right to sink with peace into the soft morning light.

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There was a time I felt all too well the vast chasm between who I was and all that I ever hoped to be. Most of us have stood in that place, ripe with feelings of not enough-ness and arms bundled with ways to hide those feelings. There is futility in trying to manifest perfection and uselessness in hiding from our darkest demons, yet to do such things is part of our endless education. We must begin somewhere to ever progress to anywhere, and to dance with those demons is the only way I’ve learned to overcome them. Through challenge and fire we melt masks and shed the costumes that once protected us. We expose a fleshy, soft vulnerability– our truth and our first birthplace of authenticity. And in the deepest, richest dirt, we emerge over and again, rooted further to the earth but with a greater capability to fly. We are something more now than we ever knew we could become.

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”
~ L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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Spiraling upward, I’ve had more than twenty years to reconcile the parts I once thought irreconcilable. To look back and acknowledge what we’ve created, and to recognize the thickened walls we’ve smashed to expose new truths are the irreplaceable moments that help harmonize our past with our present. We must remember to kiss the moments that marked our growth as they are the ghosts that made us real. Then, if we are so blessed, we can continue on to the next pregnant moment. The work to mend, strengthen, and fearlessly reveal our truths will never truly end as Ego is here to stay with us in this life, wholeheartedly essential to our human’s nature. We are, as ever, continued works of unparalleled art, in process and in progress. In knowing and accepting this with deep certainty, we allow grace and patience to arrive on seasoned wings, giving us gratitude for where we began, acceptance for the choices we’ve made, and love for what we continue to become. This is the absolute gift of merging into one.

“It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
~Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

With all  my love,

Misa

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A little bit messy

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I wish I could say 2016 has been off to an extraordinary start. Well, it has been extraordinary but not in the way that lifts me off to the moon in a surreal sort of ecstasy. This is more of the messy kind of extraordinary, the kind where I am desperately trying to grip the mane on an unbridled, runaway horse, trusting that she will take me somewhere I am suppose to go, I don’t know where.

My word this year is trust. Trust what comes next, trust I am where I am supposed to be, trust my children, trust my husband, trust the growth and the shedding process, trust the ever changing ways of evolution, from the magical microcosm within my cells to the expansive universe that I can only fathom in an elusive corner of my mind.

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To dwell too much in the woe of Mercury Retrograde would be self serving, but the parts I do want to share have to do with death and the parting of old souls, letting go and letting shit just happen.

My grandmother is dying. I leave early tomorrow morning to hopefully see her one last time in the body that is no longer hers. At 95 years old she has experienced and seen far more things than I could ever write about. I tried once to record her life story while we were on a road trip together, but in the end what we shared instead was a conversation. A conversation about life and living, sorrows and regrets, the things she will never forget, and the things that made her life worth living. What I know most about her is that our souls touched, connecting on a level beyond language and family. All the other details of her life don’t really belong to me, they are hers and hers alone.

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This week I’ve been locked out of my house twice, my old van’s radiator broke and the garage door cable snapped. Meanwhile, I’ve become the new director of operations in my husband’s business and I will start teaching the love of dance to children next week. My daughter turned 11 last week and we spent her birthday re-creating Alice in Wonderland, having our own Mad Hatter Tea Party while soaking in the wise words of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll.

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A wise friend wrote this past week “The less you focus on how external things, people, or events, are affected, and more on how YOU are handling the letting go and it’s repercussions, and what it means for YOUR purpose, the stronger your spiritual evolution.”

Flux is a constant. Instability is constant. Death is constant, as is birth. I will grieve. I will let the tears flow, and then I will wipe them away. Love will pour in to the vacancies of my body, mind and heart because the messiness of vulnerability allows it to, because I allow it to. We are surrounded by love even when we can see beyond our nose, even in the darkest parts of midnight and the coldest moons of winter. Just extend your arm and reach, just a little further…

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Much much love to you

xoxo.

 

 

Trust and the undeniable unpredictable

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I see it now, the limitless purpose of the moving, invisible finish line.

I clasp with weathered hands, squeeze, and hold firm to the Uncomfortable. Digging my feet into the earth, I relax my lips and draw in a deep, nourishing breath, giving in to the knowledge that the full opus of who I am may never be completed. Every, single moment is a surrender to the undeniable unpredictable. Sustained, crystal clarity is but an enigmatic shadow, like the glorious pink and purple sunsets I crave, fabulous yet fleeting until the next rising sun.

“Endings and beginnings are merely paired facets of an imagined stone curtain, behind which a plethora of opportunities await.”
~Ged Thompson, Liverpool Poet

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328 year old Southern Live Oak

My daughter often asks me why good things have to end. Why playdates can’t last 3 days and why fantastical stories are only 175 pages long. She is too young to know the value of the darkness, though we tell stories in the dark, though we can only bask in the brilliant moon in the dark, though stars can only illuminate the way in the dark. Pain seeps through our soft crevices when we have to say goodbye to the things we love, to the things that make us happy, to the things that scintillate our earthly skin. But it’s never “goodbye”, only “until next time.”

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
~Frank Herbert

We are all extraordinary and the lives we paint are meant to bring shivers up any spine for the power and energy we emit. This is the shine of our radiant, authentic souls that only borrow our human body for the experiences we create. Only by diving through fire, dancing with ecstasy, and climbing through pain can true enlightenment–ever so brief– be touched. Then we must do it all over again–begin…again and again. I can accept this. I can accept this because this is the only promise I am owed. The promise that my life is meant to circle every color of the rainbow, every shade of light emitted through the living prism–birth, growth, death and rebirth. I am evolution for stagnation is a soul’s death beyond measure. The only thing required of me, the only challenge I must face with every pregnant, beautiful breath, is to trust, trust the undeniable unpredictable, love it even. Trust…trust that no matter what stops, what fails, what rises, or falls, that it will all soon begin again. There is no end, no finishing line, just one beautiful, sparkling spiral.

“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself ”

~ Maya Angelou

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Happy New Year and much love to you all….

xoxo

Wolf song

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Their howls woke me just before daybreak while moonlight and stars still swept the sky. They always begin the same way. One wolf raises her voice to the heavens and the others soon follow in unison, filling the valley with a most beautiful, haunting wolf song. As I laid in the old, borrowed, pop-up camper listening to their soulful howls, something stirred inside, like cosmic dust shifting deep within my bones, calling for remembrance of a wildness lost long ago. By the time their song quieted and the hush of the valley lifted with first daylight, an intense need lay prominent in the silence, a need for the connection between their ancient, native language and my very own.
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A wolf’s eyes are piercing and penetrating, colored by a depth that can break through any masks draped by ego and fear. Perhaps this is why the wolves draw so many people to the sanctuary. Perhaps this is why people of all kinds come to stay, work and volunteer at Mission: Wolf for months, even years at a time. The wolf embodies raw, primal wildness and holds no pretense, no lies or falseness like the kind our society so readily provides. All kinds of people stay at the sanctuary working for the wolves, many of them seeking healing, truth and integrity, bound by an unspoken desire to be seen as they really are–flawed, yet infinitely wild and free.

“To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul.” ~ Aldo Leopold

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Wolves, in the Native American tradition, are deeply respected as powerful teachers and guides. They are intelligent, social, and free spirited animals, loyal to their lifelong mates and to their strict, pack order. Most Native American cultures would never think of killing a wolf. A wolf is their kindred spirit, a brother and sister. Having watched these beautiful animals play, nuzzle, and greet humans with friendship, it’s hard to think of them as the terrible predator that they’ve been targeted as. What makes me sorrowfully ill is the existence of people and websites that promote the hunting of wolves for sport, claiming them to be the “top predator of the Northern Rockies”. Oh the irony…I say look again sirs.

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As with most of Earth’s wildness, somehow we have come to believe that if we can tame something, we can possess it, and by possessing it we can do what we want with it. Human affliction is obsession with possession. The pain and repercussions of the lies we tell ourselves is felt by every living thing on this planet. Slowly, the language of our own wildness has been lost, pushed far beyond recognition. The reality of this lies before us every single day. People have been breeding wolf and wolf/dog pups for years, selling them to humans who want to possess them as a pet. The friendly nature of wolf pups can have people fooled. Soon they learn that the independent spirit of a wolf cannot be tamed, contained or owned liked dogs. As the pups grow and mature, problems arise, particularly if genetically they are more wolf than dog. Wolf and hybrid owners eventually lose control of their pets, causing them to be euthanized or shot unless a sanctuary can adopt them. Wolf sanctuaries like Mission: Wolf exist to save these pet wolves and hybrids if they can. More often then not, pet wolves and hybrids are turned away due to lack of space and limited resources. Mission: Wolf, named in reference to the movie title Mission Impossible, has the primary goal to eliminate the need for wolf sanctuaries. People like Kent Weber, the founder, are trying to make amends for human error by making a difference. Healing for our human recklessness in every sense, can begin with just one person–or one animal inspiring us to do the same.

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On the day I met wolves, I didn’t know I would find myself looking into a mirror. I didn’t know that a wolf could reach into my soul and pull pieces I’ve left un-mended, challenge a truth I’ve left un-attended. I walked away from those wolves wanting deeply to change that truth, and become something entirely different, something already coded inside with a divine, primal right to embody my own bold and wild soul.

It was the afternoon of our first day when Kent sat us in a circle before entering the Ambassador wolves’ enclosure. Mission: Wolf trains certain wolves who particularly enjoy human company as Ambassador wolves. Ambassador wolves travel the country educating groups about wolves, allowing people to meet them, touch them, and hopefully understand them better. Currently, there are three, Abraham, Zeab, and Magpie. On this day, we were a group of approximately 15 visitors, some having had the privilege of meeting these wolves before. Kent explained that a wolf’s nature is not like a dog’s. Most dogs seek your attention and approval, needs it even, but not a wolf. In a wild setting, wolves are afraid of humans and will hide from them. In a setting like the the sanctuary, where they see and interact with humans regularly, they do not feel any obligation to humans. In daily relationships with humans, wolves will begin to treat them as another wolf, including disciplining them, seeking order and rank just as they do in a pack. Wolves must earn the respect of another wolf in order to be in their family, their pack, and a human is no different.

Wolves can sense deep fear, insecurity, instability, just as they can sense strength and confidence. In other words, they know immediately how a person feels about him or herself and will treat them accordingly. If you see your self as less than an alpha, so will they. Kent also let us know that wolves love small children and feel protective of them. They often will approach children first, sniff them, inspect them, even lick them. I don’t find this unusual, younger children have little need for self doubt as their wonderful, wild spirits shine through their skin, still unspoiled by the confines of ego. The wolves see this and are drawn to it. So am I….

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Wolves depend fully on a social order that is dynamic all the time. The one they truly need acceptance from is their alpha, their leader. They are drawn to alphas and will look for them in a group of humans such as we were. They greet the young children first, then the alphas, then move down the rank. Kent told us that as we walk in to the enclosure, walk in tall and confident, like we could care less there were wolves among us. He told us to not to appear needy or wanting of their attention because if we do, we will be ignored. In a culture where humans hunger and crave attention, recognition, praise, approval, acceptance and the need to be “chosen” so we can feel our own self worth, it can be difficult to pretend indifference to be chosen by a wolf. What Kent didn’t tell us and what I soon realized, was that pretending was useless. Within minutes of being in that enclosure, acting was utterly unnecessary. The wolves knew, just by walking by, how you felt about yourself. They could sense in an instant if you were trying to be something you were not, or something you weren’t sure you could be. For me, the challenge was just trying to muster authentic, self confidence, it did not come naturally. In that moment, the truth of my insecurities rushed to the surface exposing my weaknesses. I felt naked and I knew, I knew as I walked in grappling with those feelings, a wolf would not find the alpha in me, because I could not find it either.

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In a culture where our worth is based on what we think we own and possess, our titles, and our degrees, and how we think we are perceived, it is easy to confuse what our true worth is with what we acquired both materially and egotistically. Wolves cut through the bull with one look. They can see right through you and leave you exposed and vulnerable with feelings you thought you had buried, or even worse–could live with without repercussion. And herein lies the lifelong journey to answer the questions that surface in all of us. Is it possible to strip away the burden that keeps us weighed heavy and hollow? Can we find the self acceptance, love and forgiveness needed to be the strong, confident, self-assured alphas we all have the capability of being? What keeps us down? What keeps us afflicted? What keeps us from finding the worthy treasures hidden within?

“Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?…The universe buries strange jewels within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert Big Magic

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It’s been nearly three months since our trip to Mission: Wolf and I can tell you that in that time I have accepted the challenge of excavating my raw, authentic voice. Daily, I face unforgiving mirrors and embrace my weaknesses before transforming them into strengths. I continue to climb every edge and stand at high noon, inviting failure to be another badge of courage. I am answering the primal call to seek and unearth the alpha. I can tell you that I have faced fearlessly the parts in me that have kept me tethered to ego and fragility, challenging the need for approval from anyone but my own powerful voice. I can tell you there is little use for coincidence when divine energy knows you want to abolish the shackles that binds the wildness hidden within. I am stepping into the skin that has been waiting for me and I am no longer afraid of my purpose. I am raising my voice to the heavens, answering the wolf’s howl with my own undaunted, gritty, and beautifully wild wolf song.

Much love

XOXO

Tracing tracks

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I know, it’s still summer, but the season’s permissive laze and daze has snuck out quietly and left us. Autumn’s invigorating breath has found her way into our mornings and soon I will don my fuzzy slippers, robe, and plan soups for dinner. Like many, we are into school schedules and events, after school chauffeuring, teacher meetings, Fall trips and volunteering. I look back and remember where we last left the hurry. Tracing the tracks we’ve left behind, I touch with fondness the moments that made these last few months memorable.

I started teaching dance at a beautiful studio a little over a month ago, not traditional dance like tap or ballet, but heart-centered, choreographed dances that pull from all styles to inspire soul, emotion, awareness and freedom. It’s a dance made for anyone and everyone, no formal experience required. This is the manifestation of a dream–to call myself a dancer and share my love of dance by teaching. “Inconceivable” is what I would have told you 10 years ago. Truth: The rules we live by in this world can often feel unyielding, but to challenge them, un-define and re-define them, we can surprise ourselves by becoming something completely unexpected. My choreography now unfolds on a wooden dance floor spilling from a well of creative freedom that I knew existed, but never tapped openly until now. Teaching, leading a class, and exposing my heart and creativity to be judged and used by others has brought me to challenge and question the necessity of old insecurities. I see it now and I find myself peeling again.

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This month, in Issue 5 of Bella Grace Magazine, a piece I wrote was published. For a few weeks now I’ve let this soak in, and thoughts of my father have surfaced again. I am so different from the daughter he knew before he died 17 years ago, before I began healing, before I became wife and mother, before I began my climb out of the many shells that kept my soul hidden. Yet, somehow I know I am the woman he always knew I’d become. I use to resent the goals he once had for me, like the one where I would be an engineer or the one where I would go to military school, but I understand those really weren’t the dreams he had for me. What he wanted more than anything was that I just try for the things I wanted most, that I believe in myself, and find what true happiness is. And those dreams, Dad, have come true. Perhaps this joy is fleeting, perhaps the next big catastrophe is around the corner, but for today these tracks are very real, and they are, gratefully, all my own.

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The last thing I wanted to share just happened this past weekend over Labor Day, our family’s camping and volunteering trip to a wolf sanctuary here in Colorado. I will write an entire post on how deeply this experience affected me. Wolves, truly, are one of the best teachers this earth could have ever graced us with. The problem is that generally wolves are seen as a threat to man and livestock and, by stories, movies, and misconceptions, thought to be mean, menacing, and aggressive animals. This is false and documentaries such as “Living With Wolves” and The Wolves of Yellowstone serve to educate those who will listen about the gentle and social nature of wolves, as well and their importance to our ecosystem. But this is only a micron of what I personally learned from meeting a wolf, and, as I look a little closer, flows not at all surprisingly with the undercurrent of my latest lessons on strength of character and how true we are to our spirit. This, I will share in a new post sooner than later, but for now, a glimpse…meet Zeab.

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Much love to you
XOXO