We Are So Thankful

In honor of and in gratitude for our Native American brothers and sisters, here is a poem by Joy Harjo, a member of the Mvskoke Nation and United States Poet Laureate for a third term.

Eagle Poem
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River.
Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Taking Responsibility for My White Fragility

I have been at a loss for words hearing about another death of a person of color by the hands of the police. The stories feel heartbreakingly painful to me even as I sit here holding the privilege of being a mama of two white daughters. I am free from explaining to them how to safely interact with a police officer, go for a run in our neighborhood or even sleep in their beds.

I have been silent these past few weeks because I have been mindful of how I want to share my thoughts. I am choosing to come from a place of love and compassion for all of us.

I want to say that I have much respect for police officers. I have dear friends are on the force. I honor them and their work in keeping us safe.

At the same time, a truth has been undeniably revealed in our country. We white folk have declared ourselves privileged over people of color. It is a truth that has been here since our country’s origin and is still here today both in subtle and not so subtle ways. We are unable to hide this truth anymore. Our culture supporting white privilege has been brought up for healing and the time is now.

The task can seem insurmountable. I know at times it has seemed that way for me. How can I change the huge systems in our country that continue to ignore the needs of people of color? How can I change the minds of others who believe that some of our lives are more valuable than others? My only answer is that I can start with myself.

The way we heal is for each of us to look inward– to listen to the words we speak and the claims we make, to feel the discomfort of making a mistake in our conversations with others, and to take action when feeling called to do so.

One way to get started is to read “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo. There are so many other resources out there to continue the conversation.

“Until white people understand that racism is embedded in everything, including our consciousness and socialization, then we cannot go forward.” Robin DiAngelo

Winter’s Gift: The Power of Water

Chinese cosmology is very aligned to the natural world. In it, winter corresponds to the water element. Water represents power, strength, flexibility, flow and potential. Water has enormous capacity to change shape, stay still, move, flow, and even become firm and resolute. Water can be as powerful as Niagara Falls or as gentle and playful as a bubbling brook. It can be as shallow and light as a small puddle or as deep and dark as an ocean. It can be flexible enough to flow around rock and at the same time be stronger than that rock as it wears it away over time. 

Water also represents our reservoirs. At times, it is critically important to save our reserves of energy and time while at others, we need to flow at all costs.

I think about the power of water and since the majority of our human bodies are made of water, the power inside of me. What a gift to know that I have the capacity to stay still and listen, move when action is needed, become gentle and comforting, and firm when a boundary is tested. I trust that I have this wisdom already within myself.

This season, experiment with a new view of water. Look at the different water sources that are in your life and see how its properties and movement might be a metaphor. Say a small blessing of gratitude as you drink your water. Listen to what your inner wisdom is telling you. And, finally, let the water wash away anything that needs to go.

Check out my Facebook Professional Page

Hi everyone–In December, I created a Facebook Professional Page- “Gina Strauss-Professional Page”. Each Sunday I have been posting a video or doing a live to share a tool or inspiration that I use to stay grounded and inspired in our shifting world. I have also been posting a quote, a link to a video, or an image to uplift us each day. Please pop over to check it out!

Illuminating the Shadows and Dancing in the Light

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow?

I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole.”

Carl Jung

At the end of December last year, I claimed my motto for 2019 would be “live life completely on the dance floor.” Maybe it was because I felt my 50th birthday looming or maybe it was because I had felt the rumbling of my heart calling me deeper. Either way, life heard my intention and gave me the opportunity to grow into it.

It first started with heart palpitations and panic attacks. I woke up one night with my heart racing and an intense feeling of anxiety. I was convinced that I was having a heart attack. I had never felt this way before in my life and I was so afraid. I took a long walk the next day, mostly to convince myself that I was okay. I would feel fine for an hour and then the panicked feelings in my body and my mind would return with a vengeance. I remember sitting in a restaurant on New Year’s Day feeling as if I needed to get out of my body in order to find any comfort. I couldn’t eat, got sick in the bathroom and had to leave early, It felt uncontrollable and so very overwhelming.

I needed to know what was going on and I needed to know right then so I headed to Patient First. After several worrisome hours, I found out that my EKG was normal and the male physician diagnosed me with anxiety caused by peri-menopausal hormones. He prescribed me a ton of Prozac (I know, a whole other story there) and sent me on my way. I was grateful that the tests came back normal, but I was scared of the thought of medicating myself, especially when I wasn’t sure of what was going on. After a panicked phone call to my friend who is a general practitioner, text messages with my friend who is a nurse and has dealt with anxiety herself, a few connections with my spiritual/life coach, and a visit with my regular doctor a few days later, I started to believe that there wasn’t anything physically “wrong” with me. So what was it?

I believe that our bodies are incredibly wise. When emotions are not fully expressed, they become buried in our bodies. When they become too hard to keep suppressed or when we are ready to fully feel them, they can emerge as physical symptoms. This is what was happening to me. Earlier that month, I had attended a very powerful event that had uncovered some old wounds I had been holding onto for decades. This emotional excavation coupled with some major life changes and my newly set intention of “living life fully on the dance floor”, set the stage for the emergence of some of my shadows ready to come to light.

I created a support system (so important!) and began working through some buried pain. I gathered with other women and shared stories. I worked with my spiritual coach. I moved my body and I journaled a lot. As I dug deeper, I discovered some old myths and patterns I was still working from and allowed myself to fully feel my emotions. I started to feel better and my anxiety began to lessened. With this new lightness, I was inspired to connect to my heart’s deepest dreams.

Little by little I am making adjustments to my life that are bringing me more joy and enabling me to live more fully on the dance floor. I am reaching out to others in a more authentic way. I am taking care of my body by committing to regular exercise and acupuncture. I am getting support when my emotions overwhelm me. I am taking time to let my emotions flow through me instead of stuffing them deep into my body. Although I am still in the middle of this time of unknowing, putting my heart’s desire as priority has saved me.

This time of year is the perfect time to look within. The natural world is slowing down and resting. The days are darker and yet there is still a light that is always there to illuminate the way. We are a part of the natural world too and we can honor its wisdom. 

Shining the light onto our dark places is an act of freedom, despite the birthing pains. It is the way to dance fully and bravely through life. As Brene Brown so beautifully said, “Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid, at the exact same time.”

Welcome Autumn: Accept It and Release

I have always found it fascinating that nature moves in cycles. We have the cycles of the seasons, the moon cycle, the water cycle and so many more. There is no stopping the cyclical motion of the natural world. It just simply happens.

We have now shifted into the season of Autumn. It is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the cooler breezes, the colored leaves falling from the trees, and the apple cider warming on the stove. I love putting on my cozy sweater and jeans and sitting by our fire pit in the backyard. There is a slowing down of energy that is in the air, even when our personal lives are still moving swiftly. If we take the time to notice it and relax into the energy, it can be a healing balm to our soul. 

This slower energy calls us to be still for a moment, to take stock of how things are going and to think of the parts of our lives that are ready for change. Just as the trees are shedding their leaves, so we can acknowledge those things that need to go.

Sometimes, I find material things: the glider that I used as I nursed and held my girls when they were infants, the pants that never really fit my body right, the oddly shaped picture frames that I have been holding onto just in case I find the right photo. All of them are ready to find a new home.

Sometimes in my reflections, I realize old thought patterns, behaviors and routines that no longer serve me. These seem harder to let go of….many of them have been with me for a long time. But, the release feels good and enables newer, healthier versions to come in. 

In these past two weeks, our cat Milo has been recuperating from emergency surgery to remove a foreign object from his stomach and intestines. It has been a challenging time–financially, physically, and emotionally. In the beginning of the experience, I jumped into my usual pattern of “poor me, why is this happening?”. I wanted him to survive and get well. I wanted things to be back to normal. I wanted things to be different than they actually were. The more I lived in this pattern, the more unhappy I became. I was living in a place of fear and resentment and it did not feel good. 

As the experience continued, I searched for another way to move through it. Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally at all I believe, my friend suggested that I listen to Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Conversations” podcast with Eckhart Tolle. I did and it was like he was speaking to me directly. Here are some of his quotes that resonated the most with me:

  • “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.”   
  • “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you have chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”   
  • *“When you complain, you make yourself the victim. Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”

Thank you Mr. Tolle. I get it. THIS is the situation. I will not leave it and I can not change it so the only option left, in order to avoid my blossoming madness, is to accept it. Accept it when I visit post-surgery and he is on the fence between life and death. Accept it when he later spikes a fever and doesn’t want to eat. Accept it even when Milo, a week into the healing process, disassembles his cone, eats the gauze roll holding it in place and causes a second trip to the ER. 

Accepting it doesn’t mean I am wanting it to happen or that it makes me feel good to experience it. It doesn’t mean I am helpless in my response. Accepting it means that I am acknowledging that it is happening and that I am not a victim. I have the power to choose my response.

With this enlightened view, the old thought of “Why is this happening to me?” is turned into “Okay, this is happening now. What is my next step?.” 

I must admit a minute or two of “You have to be f’ing kidding me” when I realized that we were heading back to the ER, but I quickly remembered Mr. Tolle’s words and decided to bring a book to better pass the time during the wait. I am not claiming this to be an easy practice to embody, but I do know that when I do, I feel so much better. A bit of the darkness lifts and I feel lighter.

Milo, thank you for giving me the opportunity to release even more of that old “poor me” victim thought pattern. Thank you also for reminding me of the cycle of healing. It is innate in each of us. I’ll even take the reminder to let go of eating things that are not healthy for me. 🙂 

As the season of Autumn moves on, may we all continue to shed those old ways of being and thinking in order to make space for newer and more enlightened ones. May we express gratitude for the release and breathe deeper with each exhale.