Compassion, Gratitude, Present Moment Awareness


Art by Foster Turtle

“Maybe it is time for you to walk into your fears.” 

Where do I begin? 

Dr. Lindley explained that people oftentimes seek out their fears in order to build courage. Some opt to walk on fire, others swim with sharks. I decided to start with the most accessible route: my fear of needles.

I decided to start with the most accessible route: my fear of needles. 

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of needles. I have passed out on many occasions while getting my blood drawn. With each of my three pregnancies, I declined an epidural, because my fear of the needle was greater than my fear of labor pain. 

I immediately went home and contacted a tattoo artist. 

I decided my fear of needles was a perfect starting place. Michael Brown suggests that the things that are difficult, like triggers, are messengers that point us to our unfinished work within. Michael suggests figuratively dismissing the messenger (the difficult person or situation) and breathing through the difficult feelings that come up without resisting them. 

I had never before entertained a tattoo. I decided to go with something that represented my journey into fear. A Triskele is an ancient symbol found in many cultures. The Celtic version of the three legged spiral represents a journey of forward motion to reach understanding. The three connected spirals represent everlasting cycles, transforming at each point. The three representations that held special meaning for me:

  • Body, Mind, Spirit
  • Father, Son, Holy Spirit (Divine Feminine)
  • Life, Death, Rebirth

I especially connected to the Triskele as a reminder to not forget my body again. As a child, I learned to forget. There were a lot of good reasons to not trust the sensations of my body or the emotions of my heart. My little girl (me as a child) coped with the chaos by disconnecting from her body and living in her mind. The coping strategies of a little girl are necessary and work for a time. But, these coping strategies became an obstacle to living life fully as an adult.

My fascination with the  Enneagram began to open my eyes to how fragmented I had become. Like the Triskele, the symbol of the Enneagram is also divided into three parts that make up the whole: body, heart, and head. The Enneagram teaches that we develop unconscious coping strategies at a very young age to manage overwhelming fears. When we are afraid, our strategies corner us into rigid unconscious patterns. We unconsciously fragment ourselves, relying on one strategy, while neglecting the other parts of the whole. I relied solely on my thoughts, while neglecting the body and heart. 

My coping became an obstacle to living fully.

I was missing the gifts of the whole.

Unfortunately, the mind by itself has no anchor in present moment. Thoughts by themselves reel haphazardly between past and future like a ship missing its compass in present moment awareness. The sensations in the body; the breath, contractions, lightness, heaviness, etc., always exist in the present moment. Your body sensations are always now. The itch on your foot happens now. A mind that is anchored in the sensations of the body is here now. Emotions anchored in the body are here now. Sadly, a mind all alone by itself is left to think constantly and unproductively with no hope of discernment.

I chose the Triskele as a reminder to not forget my body again. 

I picked out the image of the Triskele featured above. I loved that the three spirals were not perfectly symmetrical, each one is a little different. Each spiral has its own unique wisdom. I could learn to honor the wisdom of each as an experience of the whole. I also loved the three dots that are not typically part of the Triskele. For me, they represented the tools I would need on my journey: compassion, humility, and gratitude. The entire image with its spirals and dots represents Divine Love. 

I decided the image would need to be somewhere I would see it every day because of my tendency to forget myself. I wanted to fully commit, no matter what anyone thought, to really taking on this journey whole-heartedly. I chose my inner left forearm – also connected with my heart. 

Perfect love drives out fear. Love is the guide. Open in love.

Honestly, consciously choosing to get the tattoo gave ample opportunity to work through my fear of needles. For four weeks, I meditated every morning and night. I breathed through the sensations of fear without resisting them. On the day I received the tattoo of the Triskele, I felt completely peaceful. I experienced a needle for the first time without fear.

When the artist was finished, I looked down at my arm and smiled. 

And now it begins…

I commend my Spirit
unto the grace of the Great Way.
Whether consciously or not
this has always been
the doorway to liberation.

All you lovers of truth
and all you true lovers
now is the time to be done with it.
Wash your battle-scarred hands 
in this Presence among us.

Cast off your warriors’ clothing
and slip into your night slippers.
Untie your hair or cut it off.
The Hidden One is present
and doesn’t care where you’ve been 
or what you’ve done
or what you are doing now.

Commend all of yourself-
body, mind, and spirit
to this Grace.
Slip out into the night air
into the waiting
quivering birth of this Golden Heart.

Lean down now
like wet, green grass and
kiss the bottoms of your feet.

Present Moment Awareness

Walk Like a Tree

Art by Foster Turtle

Fear of life is really the fear of emotions. It is not the facts that we fear, but our feelings about them. Once we have mastery over our feelings (experienced in the body), our fear of life diminishes. We feel a greater self-confidence and we are willing to take greater chances because we now feel that we can handle the emotional consequences whatever they might be. Because fear is the basis of all inhibitions, mastery over fear means the unblocking of whole avenues of life experience that previously had been avoided.”

David Hawkins, Letting Go

Not long after my training with Craig Penner, I visited Dr. Joe Lindley. Dr. Lindley is a gifted diagnostician and master clinician who has studied with healers from all over the world. His care has been an integral part of maintaining my health over the past 10 years.

I told him about my experience with Craig and the deep sadness I discovered underneath my smiling demeanor. With a gentle, kind expression, Dr. Lindley looked me in the eyes and said, “Maybe it is time for you to walk into your fears.”

Walk into your fears.

I was confused at first. No one had ever invited me to walk into my fears before. I wondered if that was even possible? His suggestion to walk into my fear was inconsistent with the message of “overcoming” fear I had heard all my life. “Overcoming fear” always feels like a never-ending battle against a challenging foe. “Walking” into fear” felt oddly conscious, like intentionally opening a door into unexplored territory. What is on the other side of the fear? I was intrigued and desperately ready to find out. 

I decided to start with something I already knew and move forward from there. 1 John 4:18 would be my starting place: “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.” 

Perfect love drives out fear. Love is the guide. Open in love.

I opened myself up to trusting that love would show me the way through the door of my fears; love would walk with me into the unknown terrain. I learned from various teachers the art of being with fear without resistance. They described imagining yourself as a tree rooted deeply in Presence. A tree has the capacity to move with the wind and allow even intense weather to move through when it is deeply rooted. In the same way, over time, I learned to root in present moment awareness and allow the sensations of fear to move through without resistance.

To recover from fear, let go resisting it. Surrender to the fear and allow it to run. Stop resisting the fear and stop calling it “fear.” You cannot experience fear. You can only experience the sensation. Fear is not “what you are afraid of,” but the experience which is sensory. You cannot experience hunger either, hunger is a name. You can only experience the physicality of hunger. What is the sensation of fear? It is a shaking in the knees, a pressure in the chest, a dropping of the stomach, a trembling of the nerves, a bracing in the shoulders, a holding of the breath. It is a feeling of terror and pending doom. Let go resisting the sensations. This is how you get rid of pain. All feelings have a limit. They are not limitless. Eventually they will drain out.” 

Paraphrase, David Hawkins, Transcending Fears

I leaned on the most current neuroscience understandings of how the nervous system works. Each state of the nervous system (engagement, fight and flight, and collapse) have different sensations and body posturing depending on the level of survival. I learned to track the sensations and watch myself move through fight and flight, into collapse, and back into fight and flight again. I learned the importance of gauging my level of presence when I was experiencing overwhelming and intense sensations, or when I suddenly felt nothing at all. I used the quality of my vision to determine if I was present enough to stay with what was coming up in my body. The numbers on the digital clock in my room became a baseline for my vision. When my vision was a little blurry, fuzzy, darty, or tunnel-like, I knew that I was not present. I would take a break and re-orient with my senses until my eyes could see the clock clearly again. Then, I would return to the difficult sensations and stay with the experience in my body. 

Love is the guide. Open in love.

I learned to let go of thoughts. Centering Prayer became my compass with its silent invitation that no matter what happened with my thoughts, body sensations, or emotions, I could return to the center: the Presence and Action of the Divine. I meditated in the morning and at night, relinquishing and growing in trust.

I hit a wall on many occasions. Sometimes the wall would last a couple of hours or several days. Sometimes I would reach an impasse that felt like it would never end. I could not stay with the intensity of what I was experiencing in my body. It felt too scary. My meditation experience would be a litany of endless, looping thoughts. In those moments, my centering word became, “I don’t know how,” and I would give up completely into the Loving Presence of God. The letting go of knowing forced me to let go of the way I was still unconsciously trying to control what was happening. The release would give way just enough to allow for things to start moving again and my mind would quiet down.

As an adjunct to Centering Prayer, I began to work through the 10-week program developed by Michael Brown called the “Presence Process.” Michael emphasized the practice of focusing on continuous breathing as an anchor in Presence. The conscious breathing practice proved to be profoundly helpful. Whenever I would get sleepy during meditation, I used his advice to double up on the pace of the conscious continuous breathing. Increasing the pace of my breath allowed me to move through difficult subconscious material that was surfacing into consciousness. 

I decided it would be imperative to use the support of knowledgeable guides to move through this process. Sometimes, no matter how hard I tried to stay with it, I could not move through something on my own. I began to work with a somatic EMDR therapist, a cranial sacral therapist, and a spiritual guide.

Love is the guide. Open in love.

When Dr. Lindley challenged me to “walk into my fears,” it opened the door to a wild, incredible adventure. Little did I know that the year to come would bring about opportunities to face and resolve many unfinished experiences in my life. The Universe just came alongside and said, “let’s do this!”

How Surely Gravity’s Law

How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.

Each thing—
each stone, blossom, child —
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.

If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

​by Rainer Maria Rilke

Present Moment Awareness


“Conscious awareness is the foundation of healing. Blocked awareness is the foundation of disconnection, and separation from self and others.” Craig Penner

Art by Foster Turtle

I brace my body. I can feel it. I hold my breath. She unloads her words on me. I feel my face turn into a plastic smile as I hear my friend yelling at me through her tears. We are in the middle of a dining area in a Hampton Inn. The smell of hotcakes hangs in the air. People pause, trying not to look as they glance uncomfortably in our direction. 

“You are always too happy,” she screams. “You are always too good. I never see you upset. There is always a smile on your face. How is this possible? You are untouchable.” 

She looks down in frustration and defeat and asks, “What is wrong with you?”

That was 15 years ago. Our relationship never recovered. She never trusted me again and I never trusted her. Her words undid something in me. But she was spot on.

People knew me as someone constantly upbeat. People called me “Sunshine” because my presence lit up a room. Even my daughter wondered aloud at how different I was from so many of her friends’ mothers. 

Most people did not know that I was sick much of the time. This is a little embarrassing, but it feels important to be fully honest if this is a “fully human” blog. 

For many years, I suffered from a number of health issues. I had chronic bladder pain, yeast infections, vaginismus, chronic anxiety, chronic fatigue, chronic achiness all over my body, hypoglycemia, debilitatingly painful menstrual cycles, rosacea, Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder, and a painfully clenched jaw. When I was in my early 30s, I carried Metamucil packets with me everywhere. I was the only one I knew who would ask for an extra glass at a restaurant for my regular orange fiber drink ritual. My sister lovingly began to call me the regularity fairy.

I walked in my sleep and had night terrors since I was a teenager. I almost broke my nose one time walking into a wall. My poor husband frequently awoke to screams of terror or horse whispers, “There’s someone in the room!” He would gently pat my head and reassure me that it was just the two of us and open his arms for me to snuggle into his comfort.

In my mid 30s I went to see a doctor for a yearly physical. I expressed what I was experiencing in my body. He looked down at me calmly as he said dismissively, “That’s not possible,” and walked out of the room. I wish I was exaggerating here, but this is a true story. I was devastated. He did not believe me. I was too dramatic. There really must be something wrong with me. 

What is a girl to do? Keep on smiling? Fake it until you make it? Ignore the chronic health issues and keep pushing through. I did not want to be a burden. I ignored my body with a smile.

As an emerging therapist, I tried a number of different types of therapy steeped in shame resilience, self-compassion, mindfulness, and empathy. I became a certified EMDR therapist and attended multitudes of trainings. I learned important coping and grounding skills, but I found myself in a constant cycle of managing symptoms. I knew people who experienced healing with EMDR and I also knew people who were so overwhelmed by the experience, that they vowed they would never try it again. I was missing something.

Fast forward to three years ago. Right around the time of my sailing adventure on the Heritage Schooner, I was exploring the Enneagram and read something that made me stop in my tracks. People who identify as “Type 2” are often known to have a characteristic “forced smile.” I had never really noticed my smile before, but come to think of it, I had an unusual amount of jaw pain. I noticed this “plastic smile” during difficult interactions, when I felt anxious, or stressed. Then, I remembered how my face had hardened into a tight smile during that fight so many years ago.

And then I met Craig Penner. I signed up for yet another EMDR training in Dallas. But, this time I was hopeful. This one seemed different. Craig, a master therapist from Santa Barbara, combined several therapies including Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, and present moment awareness. He called his fusion of therapies Natural Processing.

I arrived at a home in a suburb of Dallas filled with 30 therapists. The living room was arranged with chairs, bean bags, and meditation pillows. The smell of fresh coffee lingered in the air. Bright colored fruit, vegetables, crackers, and various snack bars sat on the island in the kitchen. Craig welcomed us with a gentle smile and encouraged us to enjoy ourselves as we sipped our drinks and circled around the PowerPoint presentation. We nestled in, feeling at home. Craig’s demeanor was open and warm. He encouraged our questions and took careful time to understand and answer fully. He created a safe, cozy environment to learn and explore. 

We started the training learning Daniel Siegel’s Window of Tolerance using the present moment experience of our own bodies. Using this model, we can track when we are operating from presence, our best selves, or reacting from survival. We explored our senses: vision, touch, taste, hearing, and smell. As we practiced, I became more aware of my senses and internal experience. For example, sometimes my vision was blurry, tunnel-like, but then sometimes clear. I never noticed this before or connected the experience of my vision as one of the ways to track when I was present and when reacting from survival. This was all new to me. I suddenly realized how disconnected I had been all my life.

Craig believes that the conscious awareness of both the therapist and the client are key to successful EMDR. When we become overwhelmed, we go into survival, and do not have the capacity to move through traumatic material. Conscious awareness offers resilience to stay with what is difficult. Awareness is a muscle that can be learned and expanded. When determining the outcome of therapy, the complexity of the trauma is secondary to the potential of a client to grow their ability to become present. The ability or inability to come back to awareness is the key that explains why some people immediately heal with EMDR and some do not.

On day three of the training, I volunteered to be the demonstration client. Craig and I were seated facing each other in the middle of a circle of therapists. As I looked around the room, kind faces waited in expectation. Craig asked what I wanted to work on. I remembered the fight I had all those years ago.

“I want to work on my tight smile,” I replied. I told him about the experience of the fight and the other times that I had noticed myself tightening up, jaw clenched, smiling like a plastic Barbie doll. 

“What do you notice in your body right now as you tell me about this memory?” 

No one had ever asked me that question before, and was astonished that the tight smile was on my face at that very moment. I described the unnatural tension on the corners of the mouth, the way the lips tightened over the teeth, the pressure on the corners of the jaw. I also noticed anxious energy and tension in my chest. My stomach hurt. 

Craig repeated back what I was describing and mirrored the smile back at me. “Like this?” 

“Yes. Yes, that’s right,” I replied as he described the sensations I was experiencing. I felt both anxious and comforted with his precise attention. He then said something like, “You couldn’t tell your body to do this, right? I am seeing this, too.”

I stared at him. He actually saw me. He did not immediately dismiss me and walk out the door. Maybe I am not making this up after all. Maybe there is hope.

“Conscious awareness is the foundation of healing.”

“Do you think you can stay with the sensations in your body in this moment?” Craig asked.

I noticed the tightness of my smile and nodded, “Yes.” I closed my eyes to concentrate. Craig began tapping alternately on each knee to add the EMDR processing to the somatic awareness.

Soon after Craig started tapping, I felt intense fear in my stomach. Something inside me knew I was not supposed to notice this smile. This was off limits, and at the same time I desperately wanted to know. I did not want to keep pushing past myself anymore. My shoulders and arms tensed. My legs began to contract. I felt paralyzed all over my body. Almost as soon as the fear and tension arose, it was gone. A deep heaviness settled over my shoulders, arms, and the back of my head. I felt my torso dipping forward, the heaviness pushing me down. My chin tucked in. I wanted to get as small as I could. I wanted to be invisible. All I could see was blackness. I am so alone. Desperate sadness settled over me. I remember this feeling. I felt like this throughout my entire childhood. I felt myself sucked into a black hold of despair.

Craig softly spoke, “I’m right here.”

I could feel the reassurance of his presence as well as the despair. Somehow, I did not feel as alone while at the same time experiencing how alone I felt all these years. My hands covered my face. 

Craig gently invited, “Notice your hands.”

I had not noticed my hands until he spoke.

I could feel my hands covering my entire face. I waited. 

A memory from when I was 14 began to surface. 

My family had just moved to Kenya. We were somewhere out in the bush about four hours south of Nairobi. My parents were out with another missionary couple getting to know the area. They left my sisters and other children in the care of a kind Maasai woman. 

As the day drew on, conflicts broke out between us, the kids. No one seemed to get along. I was jetlagged, lonely, and the fighting took me over the edge. I curled up somewhere in a hidden corner and silently wept. I just wanted to disappear. Somehow, the Maasai woman found my hiding place and crouched down beside me. She placed her hands over my face and held them there as I cried. Her hands had the combined smell of smoke mixed with the wash that she had just hung out on the line outside. She stayed with me calming cooing and reassuring me in her language. I had never experienced anyone comforting me in this way. She really saw me, moving into my sadness with gentle presence. I had no words. I did not know the language. The wordless comfort and gentle touch spanned cultures. She remained with me until I settled and was able to rejoin the other kids.

Back in the training with Craig, when my hands were covering my face, it reminded me of the feeling of the Maasai woman’s gentle hands on my face. My torso began to lift. My deep sadness intermingled with the compassion I had received from this woman. My shoulders relaxed. My breathing calmed. I felt a peace settle over my entire body.

I opened my eyes.

Craig asked, “How is it for me to be here with you noticing?”

I gasped as I bit my lips and pulled them in. I realized the vulnerability of what just happened. I was so into my experience I forgot that he and the 30 therapists were all around me.

Craig pointed to his own lips and pulled them in mirroring mine. “We don’t do this for nothing.”

I became aware of my own lips and let the words sink in: “We don’t do this for nothing.” 

I am speechless. I am not making this stuff up. He sees it too. His presence welcomes my genuine experience without judgement. I feel the opposite of feeling like a burden. I feel human.

As we begin to finish the work, I share that I am now aware of a deep sadness within, but I do not know why or where it comes from. Craig notes that this work is still “midstream.” This is just the beginning. Is this something I would like to continue to work on with someone?


“We cannot change what happened to us. We can change our relationship to what happened in our body.”

“Conscious awareness is the foundation of healing.”

He looks at me with a reassuring smile. “This is workable, Jennifer.”

I looked out at the faces circled around me. Some of the women in the group were wiping tears from their eyes. Several began to place their hands over their hearts as I caught their eyes. In the group processing, many expressed their gratitude for allowing them into this space with me. Several shared that the experience of watching me brought up something within them that may need to be explored further. We were all humans sharing what it means to be human together. I felt supported and encouraged by their words and actions.

During my experience with Craig I learned that I could be present with my body. I still did not know what it all meant. But, I felt hopeful. Instead of running away, my body could be my healing guide.

I am beginning to understanding that the house in my dream represents my body. I have tried all my life to run away from myself, be a good girl, and leave the past behind. But, the discomfort, pain, and physical illness is giving me the opportunity to turn back around. My body calls out over and over offering the opportunity to heal. I can trust the experience of my body.

“Conscious awareness is the foundation of healing.”


Sailing into the Unknown

Art by Foster Turtle
The Heritage Schooner, art by Foster Turtle

We sailed for a week. Island after island welcomed our boat, their shorelines waving to the lines of water we sent their way. It was the summer of 2018. My husband and I were aboard the Heritage Schooner, a hand built 95-foot historic vessel. I had everything I needed. Layers of clothes, and a copy of Traveling with Pomegranates

I felt adrift in my life. Earlier that year, my husband and I had walked alongside our teenage daughter’s downward health spiral. Over months of watching her deteriorate, I became more listless, afraid, and unsure of myself. My relationship with my daughter was strained after months of doctors and dead ends. She planned to leave for college in a week. I felt a mixture of relief and dread. When I carried Traveling with Pomegranates aboard the boat that summer, I was stunned to learn that the book was about Sue Monk Kidd’s own journey transitioning into empty nest, as well as an effort to mend the relationship with her own daughter that had become distant. I had read some of her earlier works and liked them. But this time, I found solace in the pages of this book that became my traveling companion. 

Somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to write. When I started this blog several years ago, it felt like a natural part of me. Each post came easily, and I was delighted to share the experience of gratitude with all of my readers. But after my mother died, I could not write without tremendous effort and anxiety. I worked with several therapists and tried EMDR as an attempt to jump-start the process again. But, to no avail. 

But then, we set sail. The land fell away in the distance, land that had somehow come to represent the burden of having to carry the world everywhere all the time. I started to ease my grip on the world, bobbing this way and that to the rhythms of the water, listening to the slosh-sloshing sea slapping the sides. The ocean comforted me in a way I had not experienced. This was more than a vacation. I was setting sail from the port of my old life as a home-maker, adventuring into the unknown, a voyage that would require going the most important destination of all: deep inside myself.

“We cannot fill up our emptiness with objects, possessions, or people. We have to go deeper into the emptiness. Then we will find beneath nothingness the flame of love waiting for us.” John O’Dononhue

During the first full day of sailing, I began to meet the crew and other passengers. We shared hours amid quiet conversations taking in the beauty of the Maine coastal islands. Our vessel cut through the cold, fresh sea air leaving the taste of salt on our lips. Snuggled up in an oversized hooded sweatshirt, I felt myself begin to unravel, let go, and open to the aliveness of each moment. Plus, I had a good nap.

And then… the dream…

I was about to embark on some sort of expedition, and I was in a hurry to be on my way. I was carrying my dad’s old 1950’s Underwood typewriter. Very heavy thing to lug around. I stepped outside while lugging the bulky typewriter. About halfway up the sidewalk, I looked down at my feet. No shoes. I was stunned. I set down the hefty typewriter and went back inside. I opened a closet door to discover a sizable pile of shoes. I searched desperately for several minutes, but then discovered that not one of the shoes had a match. 

And then there was a dream interpreter. Seriously. I had a vivid dream on the boat, and there waiting for me when I awoke was a dream interpreter.

Out of about thirty passengers and crew on the Heritage Schooner, one of them happened to be a Jungian Analyst from California that specialized in dream interpretation. She was not surprised that I had experience such a vivid dream the night before. After all, we were sailing on an old ship on an ancient ocean that represents the collective unconscious. We were dots in a huge sea. She assured me that all that is needed is to be still and allow whatever comes forth from the sea. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

Her advice was to “Be as gentle with myself as a mother holding her baby. Just be curious.” She then smiled and shared that she could not tell me the exact meaning of the dream, but there were some telling archetypal images. The old typewriter could represent old parental typing, rules, and roles I still carry. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

It may have something to do with trying to leave the stuff from my past behind. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

And the shoes? I need shoes for my journey. But not just any pair of shoes. I need the right shoes. However, I have not found a match pair, not just yet. The dream appears to be some kind of “in-between space.” I am torn. I am in a hurry to move forward and cannot move until I find the right shoes. As I set down the typewriter in the dream, it appears that I am beginning to set down the old rules and roles as I become aware of them.

The dream offers a gift. It reflects my sense of wanting to hurry forward without truly understanding the impact of my past or the conditioning underneath my motivations. I was being invited to pause, become aware, and wait. The dream held a promise that there was another shoe, as well as the possibility that I could continue on my journey when the time was right. 

Be still and allow whatever comes. Which is what I did. Thus, fast forward now to 2021. 

Three years have gone by since I sailed the Atlantic Ocean on the Heritage Schooner. Three years of being still, waiting, and watching. I wrote one time at the beginning of the pandemic, but then decided to wait again. 

Over the past three years I have sojourned deep within myself, met incredible healers, and learned to walk directly into my fears. I have experienced overwhelming bouts of terror as well as beautiful moments of healing. The Heritage Schooner was only the beginning of a long-awaited adventure.

But then, three weeks ago, I had another dream. 

I was trying to get out of a large building. All the exits were blocked. I found myself cutting through office spaces and closets until I finally found my way outside. Once outside, I could not find my car, and somehow came to the realization that I had left it a few miles away. “The dream” was kind to me, conveniently handing me a bus schedule. Thank you, dream. But still, I was a little frazzled, unfamiliar with the bus routes. 

But then it hit me: The dream was showing me something. In order to get where I want to go, I am going to have to traverse paths that are unfamiliar and new. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

The old familiar paths will not cut it anymore. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

At the end of the dream, a stranger pointed to a door and inquired, “Is that your shoe?” I glanced over at an Ugg boot hanging over the doorknob. I looked back at the person and replied with a smile, “Yes, it is. I just found my other shoe.”



Photo by Tim Cooper on Unsplash

“If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment.” Georgia O’Keeffe

My husband and I began our quarantine for the coronavirus over four weeks ago on Friday the 13th. The first week started off with intense fears: fears about being separated from my kids and family, the reality that I may lose an older family member, the reality that either my husband or I might not make it to the other side.

I sit with my fear. I realize the reality of impermanence. I am not in control, not that I have ever been. This awareness of our fragility is staring me in the face. But this is the way it has always been throughout human history, especially during times of plagues, natural disasters, and war.

What do I need to hear? What do I need to receive? What am I forgetting? As I open my blog for the first time in over a year, I make space to connect with myself.

What is it to be human?

  • To be in control? No.
  • To know what tomorrow brings? No.
  • To be certain? No
  • To be entitled to relationships, health, and money? No.

Then… What is it? What is it to be human?

  • Offer kindness.
  • Love and receive love deeply.
  • Trust and let go over and over.
  • Be afraid.
  • Be sad.
  • Be brave.
  • Be vulnerable.
  • Be comforted.
  • Be angry.
  • Forgive
  • Give
  • Receive
  • Learn
  • Unlearn
  • Make mistakes.
  • Be messy.
  • Be forgiven.

I need to live, to be fully alive in this moment without preference that it should be different. Wishing does not make it different. Learning to receive the gift of “live” is the path that opens us to the gift of life.

This moment is my life. Here. Now. A gift from God. This moment of isolation and uncertainty, silly Zoom calls, virtual meditation with friends, church services on videos, toilet paper shortages, joys over toilet paper found, masks, rising death tolls, empty streets, acts of kindness, virtual concerts from living rooms, Instagram home workouts, delivered groceries, heroic acts from doctors, nurses and first responders, comforting words from ministers, media coverage of incessant bickering, media coverage of life-saving guidance, spring blooming, birds chattering, puzzles, extra naps, hand washing, intense grief, distress, food creations made with abundant rice and beans, watching love sprout all over the place, acts of kindness crossing every neighborhood, country, and continent.

Beautiful humans everywhere join together, rising to the challenges facing us.

The invitation of this moment, a moment filled with unshakable love, is to be here. Present. Now. Everything is held in love. Open our eyes. Open our hearts.


You are loved & cherished dearly forever. You have nothing to fear.” Eben Alexander

Art by Cole Christian

Gratitude, Transitions

The Space In Between

Photo by James Wheeler

I am currently in transition at the cusp of the second half of life. My primary focus for the past twenty years has been a 24/7 adventure of homemaking where my two children could grow, thrive, and develop into functioning adults. As my son and daughter become more autonomous, I celebrate, but simultaenously feel confused.

This time of launching is messy, marked with insecurity and periods of grief, relief, and fatigue. What do I want? Who am I? Where do I belong? What is important to me? What am I supposed to be doing? As questions spin in my head, I realize that I rely on the roles of motherhood to provide my identity. I feel anxious to be doing something, but I do not have clarity. Plus, I am tired. Where did my creativity go?

I believe a big source of this anxiety comes from a dominant message in our culture that our value comes from being productive. For example, I have heard from many women about how they feel guilty in this undefined transitional space. Some of them have told me about the messages they receive from Bible studies about how they have to serve all the time in order to be “good.” Sure, service is meaningful and honors God. However, much of the Bible also implores us to be still, wait upon the Lord, and meditate on the word.

As I talk to women going through times of transition–loss of a marriage, health issues, leaving the workplace, entering the workplace, empty nesting–I hear the same confusion.

“I can’t keep pushing myself in the same way; my body won’t let me.”

“I don’t know where I am going.”

“I don’t recognize myself in this place.”

One friend told me how she risked sharing with another woman in her church group how she found herself in this disorienting “holding pattern.” She immediately felt like something was wrong with her when the woman just stared at her blankly.

savor gratitude.blogI want to be brave and lean in to this space. This space in between is a necessary time-out, a time of reflection and reorientation. I have an impulse to get busy and keep moving as a way to stave off the anxiety of disorientation. But, I have learned the hard truth: moving without discernment is movement without meaning.

Moving without discernment is movement without meaning.

Have you ever gone hiking, and the path ended to reveal a space with several trail-heads? In this “trail-head space,” you have to pause, learn about the possibilities of each potential path, choose a path, and then move again with a sense of direction.

I am settling down internally as I imagine pulling up a rock and sitting in the middle of this trail-head marked space. As I sit, I ponder the path I just finished. I give myself time to reflect on what I learned from this leg of the journey. I allow time to grieve the parts I will leave behind.

What is important that I need to bring forward?

What parts of the journey were life giving?

What sucked the life out of me?

How can I be kinder to myself as I move forward?

Can I honor God as I sit still and wait, seeking guidance and a sense of direction?

Moving without discernment is movement without meaning.

I recently shared this metaphor with a dear friend and it gave us both comfort. We had so much fun settling into this “trail-head” space together. She pulled her rock up to mine, and we sat together enjoying good company in the midst of the disorientation. I discovered the encouragement of sharing the journey with a few trusted friends, sojourners who will simply pull up a rock and wait together. I am grateful for friends who love me right in the middle of what feels messy. What a gift! It feels easier to be brave. No one is telling me to run as fast as I can to the next busy task.

We all experience this “space in between” several times in our lives. May this reflection bring you peace if you find yourself in a similar place.

Transition feels messy. You matter. You are not alone.

Here are a few of my favorite books that have held my hand through this experience:

friendship, Gratitude

Red Sea Road

Photo by Tracy Kolenchuk

I woke up this morning to share breakfast with a dear friend at one of our favorite Indian bakeries. We savored each other’s company and the food. We laughed. We created whimsical ideas while we made plans together for an upcoming ladies’ retreat. I came home to my daughter who was dressed in overalls, potting two plants on the back patio while her curly headed schnauzer puppy danced circles around her. I feel myself settle… relief… emerging joy… hope.

Two years ago during the first week of December, my daughter withdrew from her high school with serious medical issues. For almost two years, she has had trouble functioning in her daily life.

A little over a year ago, Houston experienced Harvey. Three of my dearest friends lost their homes and most of their worldly possessions in the flood, including the one I shared breakfast with this morning.

Throughout these many months, I have struggled to find my compass. On the darkest days, sleep was difficult to come by. I found rest when I imagined I was sleeping on a cloud of prayers created by my precious friends and family.  I clung to those comforting prayers.

I clung to the prayers of our community and sweet strangers, prayed on behalf of those most impacted by Harvey.

My gratitude journal laid lifeless on my nightstand. I had no words. I had no thoughts in my head. My brain could not hold the words I sometimes attempted to read.

Last year, as part of an Advent celebration, Ellie Holcomb came to Houston for a concert. She shared how her community has also experienced a wilderness of disorientation over the past year. So much confusion, sadness, and pain. She leaned on the story of the Israelites fleeing from their slavery in Egypt, the only home they had known, into the desert filled with  fear, uncertainty, and a promise. God parted the waters of the Red Sea and made a way for them. She was inspired to write her next album, Red Sea Road, as a reminder that no matter the struggle, God makes a path and walks before us.

Red Sea Road

We buried dreams
Laid them deep into the earth behind us
Said our goodbyes
At the grave but everything reminds us
God knows, we ache

When He asks us to go on
How do we go on?

We will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road
How can we trust
When You say You will deliver us from
All, of this pain, that threatens to take over us
Well, this desert’s dry
But the ocean may consume
And we’re scared, to follow You

So we will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t see the way
He will part the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road
Oh help us believe

Continue reading “Red Sea Road”

Compassion, Parenting

What I Learned about Compassionate Parenting from Kim Fredrickson’s Book: Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children

Kim Fredricksoncompassionate parenting

This year was challenging. That is not true. Let me start over. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life. My teenage daughter has been battling chronic illness. During numerous appointments, doctors’ offices, radiologists, and people who claim to be experts, her pain increased and she grew sicker. I felt helpless. I felt scared. I dealt with my feelings of ineptness by overcompensating, suggesting constant possibilities, and staying eternally positive. The more I spiraled into “help mode,” the more she pulled away. She needed me to back off, but she did not know how to tell me. She needed me to be present with her in the middle of her pain, but she did not need me to fix things. She needed her mom.

kim Fredrickson going through difficult timesAt the same time, my dear friend, Kim Fredrickson, shared with me that she was writing a book about compassionate parenting based on her three decades of teaching parenting workshops. She asked if I could read the manuscript and then write about what the book meant to me. I immediately agreed due to the transformational impact her first book had on my life and relationships, Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend.

As I opened the pages of Kim’s new book, I found what I needed at just the right time: I needed clear guidance on how to be present with my daughter amid her crisis in a way that validated her experience. From the beginning, Kim normalized both my frustration at not knowing how to help my daughter, not to mention how much I was beating myself up inside:

“We can be hard on ourselves. We don’t mean to, we simply don’t know another way to respond to our struggles and failures as a parent. We need compassion, not only for ourselves and the impossible job of being a parent, but for our children too. We have a lot in common with our children. We’ve never been a parent, and they’ve never been a child. We are all on a big learning curve.” (2017, Fredrickson)

From this point forward in the book, I learned from Kim how my own compassion toward myself is essential for a healthy life for my children that begins with my own journey as a healthy parent. Kim speaks compassion into the pain we feel when we realize our limitations as human beings.

“Self-compassion is a crucial practice for parents. If we continually give to others without nurturing ourselves, our emotional gas tank will be stuck on empty. By nurturing and supporting ourselves, we will have more emotional resources to give to our children. By forgiving ourselves for the inevitable mistakes we make as parents—remembering we’re only human and doing the best we can—we won’t waste precious energy beating ourselves up. Instead, we can learn from our mistakes and focus on the joy and meaning found in raising our little (or big) ones.” (2017, Fredrickson)

Kim Fredrickson Give Your Kids a Break compassionate parentingKim offers clear practical guidance in each chapter on topics important to the parent/child relationship:

  • Teaching Your Children Self-Compassion
  • Building Emotional Closeness with Your Children
  • Getting Your Kids to Listen
  • Healthy Boundaries: Setting Limits with Love
  • Parenting with Grace and Truth: Building Personal Responsibility
  • Helping Kids Cooperate
  • Helping Your Kids Become Emotionally Healthy
  • Helping Kids with Anger and Fears
  • Skills Helping Kids Work Through Tough Situations
  • Coaching Your Kids Through Life

The chapter on building emotional closeness helped me work on being present with my daughter during her daily struggle. Kim’s words echoed my experience:

We sometimes feel so bad for what they are going through that we want to jump in and make it better, or comment on the bright side. We may feel like it’s being helpful, but it isn’t. What they need is for us to join them in their pain and not minimize what they are going through.” (2017, Fredrickson)

Throughout the chapter, Kim guides the process of building validation of our child’s experience. She gives practical and clear directions on how to create empathy with our children when we seek to understand.

I found myself focusing more on the challenging task of moving toward my daughter’s pain, frustration, anger, sadness, and fear while focusing less on my compulsion to fix her. Every day I tried to pay attention to Kim’s compassionate guidance to simply be present with my daughter. I slipped back into fix-it mode on the bad days, especially the days that were scary like the post-surgical days when she was supposed to be getting better, but was not. In those moments, I tried to be kind to myself and called a few friends for support.

Extending kindness to ourselves means we see ourselves as human beings who are wonderfully made by God and valuable, yet who are imperfect and make mistakes. This plays out in the way we view ourselves, speak to ourselves, listen to ourselves, care for ourselves, and respond to ourselves when we make mistakes. It also means learning to comfort ourselves and tending to our needs when we are hurt, lonely, tired, disappointed, sad, or angry. This may sound foreign to you because it is such a different way to approach yourself.” (2017, Fredrickson)

Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children is one of the most helpful parenting books I have ever read. Kim’s book provides clear guidance within the context of the challenges of parenting in today’s world. She is real about the realities of being too busy, tired, overwhelmed by social media, and so many other pressures parents experience. This book is filled with practical tools for parents that desire healthy relationships with our children in the hopes they will grow into healthy resilient adults. That is the journey my daughter and I are on together, and I am happy to say that Kim’s book helped me give my daughter the space she needed while she was healing. Thankfully, after months of medical care, she is doing better.

Thanks to my daughter who read over this blog post and agreed that we could publish it. Thanks to my husband for his editing and polishing skills. And a big thank you to Kim Fredrickson. My daughter and I are in a much better place today because of Kim’s wise teachings of truth and grace.


Compassion, Loving Kindness

Self-Care Houston

selfcarehoustonPodbeanToday I am very grateful that a fun idea has become a reality. I started a podcast where I host conversations with healing professionals (therapists, physicians, wholistic practitioners, psychiatrists, spiritual figures) throughout the Houston area about health and wellness topics. 

In the first episode, I have the honor of joining Shannon McLain in a conversation about the practice of Self-Compassion. Shannon is a  mind-body medicine practitioner and certified health and wellness coach at The Center for Intentional Healing.

I am thrilled to invite you along for the ride!

Subscribe on iTunes.

Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Lenten Balance

bluebonnetsIn the previous post, I wrote down my hopes for my personal kindness lenten practice. Since Ash Wednesday, I have had ample opportunity to practice kindness in the face of hopelessness and daily frustrations. So far so good… but, the thing that surprised me the most is how this practice has begun to open my eyes to the beautiful, life-giving kindness shown toward me on a daily basis. I thought the intention was about “exhaling” kindness into the world and what I learned is how much I often forget to breathe in the kindness that others so graciously impart.
Over the past few weeks, I have had moments of tears when someone listened…. moments of joy when someone celebrated with me… moments of fear when someone was present… moments of disorientation when someone was patient and kind with me…. moments when someone provided a space for me… moments when someone smiled. I am so grateful for the sweet comfort of kindness that is all around us in a world that acts like a world.
Exhale kindness
Inhale kindness