Mama needs a yoga practice

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Matching my outfits to my lunch (here, curried cabbage soup) is a great start to helping my body reach its full physical expression, but it’s not enough. I need to do yoga.

My body has brought it to my attention that it is feeling a tad undervalued. In the mind-body-spirit enterprise known as Emily, body has asked for a raise.

Yes, the organization that is Emily may have a committed meditation practice (raja yoga), which my entire being relishes, but my good ole fashioned physical body is requesting a promotion. In the form of purposeful exercise. Not boot camp. Not weight lifting. Not high-intensity training. Not swimming (my old sport). Not jogging. My body has put in a specific request for hatha yoga.

Ok, body wants yoga. Do yoga. Easy enough, right? Nope. It’s something of a logistical nightmare.

There are excellent yoga classes at my gym, which would be perfect if I could get there. It’s a likely story, but it’s just really hard for me to make it to classes. Here’s why:

a.) It’s been a horrendous flu season in Chicago and at least one of the three of us (Charlie, Kip, me) has been sick for months. (snotty kids = totally uncool to drop them off in gym nursery = mama misses vinyasa)

b.) I’ve got one son, possibly two sons, whose inner peace depends on simplicity of schedule (to oversimplify it), so getting in and out of the car and various buildings several times a day really pushes his limits.

c.)  No, seriously. I’m not making this up. It gets patently crazy in my world when I don’t keep a steady family rhythm and, if it seems like rushing out the door too many times a particular day might drive my finely tuned fella to overstimulation-town, it’s not worth it to me to make that yoga class. (Except, of course, when it is worth it. But, thankfully, it’s rarely so dire.)

Last night after meditating, as I checked in with myself—a board meeting of sorts—I noticed I’m neglecting a part of me that’s alive and ravenous:  My body wants to move, and move with intention.

ASIDE: It’s not that I’m not physically active. I probably spend a cumulative 30 minutes a day racing in a circle around the first floor of our home, I bounce around the tumbling mats in our basement like a kangaroo for another 10 minutes and sprint-chase kids down our sidewalk for five more. I easily do a hundred squats a day, blowing noses, giving kisses, wiping spills, nuzzling dogs, putting on shoes, picking up toys, etc., and I get in a few reps of bicep curls lifting those 30- and 40-pounders off the ground all day long. Then there are the vigorous dance parties that crop up a few times a week…

However, despite my general activity level, what I’m missing is a dedicated time for strengthening, stretching and communing with my physical body. So, I’m out to uncover new ways to fit in yoga for myself while keeping things slow and steady for the boys.

I can’t imagine staving off kids and dogs for more than 15 minutes in the morning, so I need a framework in which to tune in with my body, get the oxygen flowing and move some energy around in that time frame. I want to raise my pulse, enhance my body awareness (the healthy kind) and give my body the chance to experience a fuller expression of itself. Can I accomplish this in 15 minutes a day? At least to start? With what series of asanas? Devising an action plan to make my body feel like a valued member of Team Emily, this is my new project.

Issues in my tissues

My tushie has been in major pain for the past two years, two months and four days. Alternating sides of my sacrum become so out of whack that I limp when emerging from a sitting position, and sometimes I lie in bed at night with throbbing pain racing from my sacrum past my hip flexor and all the way down to my knee. Nonetheless, there’s no clear event I can recall that could have brought about this pain.

“It’s your IT band,” my family doctor said. “It’s probably too tight. Try this stretch.” I turned my right toe perpendicular to my left arch and palmed the floor. He literally shouted. “Whoa! I wasn’t expecting that. You’re really flexible.” He told me to take Advil before exercising.

Childbirth does a number on a woman, doesn’t it, ladies? So when traditional medicine didn’t answer my question of why it was hurting, I traced my pain to the day of Kip’s birth. Surely the ole hips were just taking their sweet time getting normal again. Then, for many months of Kip’s infancy, I carried him everywhere in a sling, often while wearing cute but unsupportive shoes. And, when he got too big to be tied to the front of my body, he took his place on my right hip, where he perched while I cooked, vacuumed, fed the dogs and shielded him from the advances of his older brother. Even after he was walking, my right hip was always tilted ergonomically to suit him. So, it made sense my body was hurting.

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I loved wearing my babies. Kip liked it, too.

Fast-forward another 12 months. I had my right hip to myself most of the time, and it was still hurting. I went to see our holistic doctor. He’s a chiropractor and nutritionist who also practices homeopathy, applied kinesiology and muscle testing. He got down to business on my muscles, spine and glands and the pain was released. Two weeks later, it came back and this time it was in my left sacrum. My attempts both at energizing my root chakra and at asking my body “why is my booty hurting?” in the stillness following meditation were fruitless, so I returned to Dr. Dan and asked him to tell me why this pain was occurring, and why it wasn’t going away for real.

He silently took me through a series of questions, testing the strength and resistance of my upraised arm when pushed in response to his prompts, and uncovered that I was holding a deep-seated hesitation dating to preconception. (It sounds completely batty, and I don’t really get how it works, but often with muscle testing, together with Dr. Dan, I’ve been able to pinpoint a specific age, place, circumstance and long-lost memory that’s been causing pain in a certain part of my body. Following the treatment, any physical and emotional pain around the memory is gone.)

It took me a while to pinpoint the memory behind the information he was uncovering from my own body, but the tears flooded once I did. And then, like magic, the pain was gone. Only this time, there was a catch: If I wanted a pain-free tush, I needed to practice a new way of thinking and being. My body is telling me it’s time to a.) Embrace a partnership with my divine self, but, in order to do that, I need to b.) Let life flow, be lighter, have more fun in each moment, be less rigid.

“You know when you’re meditating, or even just living your life, and you’re trying really hard to just make something happen,” he says, gritting his teeth for effect. “And you think, ‘I’m doing the work, so where are all the results?! I’m doing the practices just like I’m supposed to and I’m working really hard at it and nothing’s moving.’ It’s kinda like you’re banging your head against a rock, you know? But the really cool things happen in life when you’re just kind of joyfully floating along, kinda like ‘la, la, la.’ More like water.”

And he prescribed a Bach flower remedy, the label for which says: “Rock Water helps you to enjoy life’s pleasures rather than stick too rigidly to your ideals or personal habits.” In other words, he told me to stop being such a tight ass.

“The issues are in the tissues,” Dr. Dan said. “It’s funny. You hear about someone who’s a real ‘hard ass’ or something, and then they come in here and they’re on this table and you see there’s really truth to these expressions.”

I’m definitely no hard ass, but uncovering what’s been up mine all these years has been, I’m delighted to report, liberating. Yet it’s not without difficulty. First of all, the appointment with Dr. Dan was no joyride; before the muscle testing, he dug into some deep physical pain in my glutes. Then, last week after a few days of zero pain, I discovered myself whirring around the house with my jaw clenched, my nerves raging and my eyes eager to spill tears. I repeatedly banged the vacuum into the table legs without noticing, the dogs were running away from me, I hadn’t paused my rabid housework in 15 minutes to so much as glance at my family, and my inner self talk went something like, “This place is a pit. Look at that clump of dog hair. What’s wrong with you that you can’t keep a clean house, Emily? Oh, please. You’ve stepped over that toy 10 times and now you deign to pick it up? What’s the occasion? Geez, and now your hip and leg are hurting again. That’s just what you need right now…”

Whew! That’s some mean talking! If it weren’t for the pain waving a huge flag, I might not have caught myself in the act of banging my head mercilessly against the rock and then I’d be right back where I started: unaccountable for and unaware of the source of my own physical pain. Breathe. Hit reset. Return to the visual of Material Me and Divine Me holding hands, laughing and dancing around like happy little cherubs. Smile. Return to housework with great joy and ease of purpose.

Going back to childbirth, I’m sure it’s not inconsequential that my hip pain surfaced after the birth of my second child. That kind of massive physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual rite of passage is bound to release, uncover and potentially create new cell memories. Labor and delivery, paired with my renewed commitment to nightly meditation around the time Kip turned one, meant I was ripe for the rising of unresolved issues.

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Charlie getting in touch with the gardens at Paramahansa Yogananda’s hermitage in Encinitas, Calif.

People often think meditation is all about finding inner peace, and it truly is, but it takes a bit of weed pulling before the beautiful blooms reveal themselves, and as with an actual flower garden, the weeds in a spiritual garden have a tendency to keep popping up. Meditation quite literally stirs the soul, a process, which, on occasion, can be most unpleasant. Memories surface, tightly held ideals crumble, unexpected truths are revealed and, yes, physical pain is unearthed. It takes some chutzpah to dive into the inner depths of your own consciousness. However, once you do it, once you shine the spotlight of your perfect, nonjudgmental spirit into your tightest corners, you release the muck you don’t need anymore, bit by bit and, even in that potentially terrifying moment, you soar. You positively triumph. And then one day you suddenly notice you’ve come a long way from wherever you started. You don’t always get as ruffled about things as you used to. And, even if you’re not living in a state of enlightenment, you’re more able to snag a moment of inner peace even in the midst of your own personal worldly chaos, which, we all know, is unavoidable for those of us who aren’t living in a Himalayan cave devoted to God for all eternity like Mahavatar Babaji.

We  can at least try to dabble in enlightenment. When I’m tuned into God and my divine self, I’m not easily fazed, the details of life come together, things make sense and I generally have a ton more fun living. When I’m not tuned in, I get all peeved that things like physical pain in my hips have the nerve to surface, weakening me and distracting me from more important aspects of life and self. However, I’ve grown to know that pain in my body that cannot be traced to a physical event is a clue about something deeper that’s begging to be recognized and possibly even released. As many healers, including Dr. Dan have told me, if it’s coming up, it’s because you don’t need it anymore. Observe it. Now let it go.

Breathe. Hit reset. Cut to the visual of Material Me and Divine Me holding hands, laughing and dancing around like happy little cherubs. Smile. Return to life with great joy and ease of purpose.

Old as eff.

Oh, my ego had a workout last weekend. Just when I notice the effect of bliss from increased awareness of my ego at work, she pipes up with a “Hey, missy. You may be making progress toward your higher self and all, but I’m about to get up in your grill. Heh!”

For my best girl’s birthday dinner at Chicago fab-spot, Paris Club, I carefully selected my outfit and applied a whole bunch of eyeliner. Stepping out the door, I was pretty sure I owned the night. (who can stop me in a hot pink tank and heels?)

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But it’s a treacherous kind of fun for me to make plans that involve crafting a certain look to fit a certain event. My otherwise subdued what-will-people-think-of-me? demons tend to surface and stealthily string me up in the familiar balance between triumph and devastation and, depending on how I *think* everyone in my periphery perceives me through the course of the event, I soar or I crash. I’ve come a long way, broken free of a lot of those old chains, but my tricky ego gets hungry and needs to feed every now and then, so I have to be on high alert.

The plan was to dine in the restaurant, then head up to the club. Simple enough mission, so I left my inner observer at home.

With the words of the ultra delicious shop boy ringing in my head (“You have to wear a dress to Paris Club,” he admonished. “When I went there after it first opened, the girls were in lace maxi dresses. I would definitely not wear black jeans.”), I pep-talked myself all the way to Hubbard Street:  “You look great, Emily. You don’t have to wear full-length lace to look like you’re somebody. You’ll totally get in. It’ll be so awesome. Just have fun.”

Fast-forward through a scrumptious dinner, good giggles and a bottle of gifted champagne, we were ready to get our club on. We just weren’t ready to order a bottle of anything, which was what the twisty-faced doorman told us we’d need to do to get in.

What?

Wait? Since when do I not merit a parting of the velvet rope? Ten years ago, if I went to a club, my recollection is that it took a little half smile and maybe a smoldering glance, at most, for my girls and I to skip the line and be on our way to drunken dancing.

This time, I was waiting in the cold, and I wasn’t drunk or wearing the dress I was instructed to wear. Maybe they really didn’t have room up there? After all, it was 10:30 on a Friday night in the big city. But when two gorgeous brunettes in their early 20s tiptoed toward the rope and wordlessly gained entry, my stomach turned. They didn’t even look at us. Kiss of death in the world of women:  if a chick doesn’t look at you, you’re not much to look at. Oooh, wait, have I been here before? I flashed back to my younger days and realized that, yes, I had. So I etherically nudged my 24-year-old self, “Don’t be such a snit. You’ll be my age someday, too, so give those cute moms in the line a break.”

My friends grumbled. My fears of a Knocked Up-style encounter were coming true. The doorman didn’t say it, but he may as well have spelled it out for me: “I can’t let you in ‘cause you’re old as fuck. For this club, you know, not for the earth.” (Knocked Up, 2007)

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Taxi! Valet! We bolted. I wanted to laugh it off like my friends did and be totally ok with being a decade past automatic VIP entry, but I admit I shed a tear or two on the phone with my sister on the way home. “I tried so hard to look cute and now I just feel so dumb. I mean, do I look like an old chick trying to wear going-out clothes? I guess I am just too old for ‘scenes’ these days. I’m 32—I know I’m not old-old, but I’m apparently just not young and cute enough anymore…” Momentously, this was my first official brush with looking “too old” for something I actually desired and, for about 30 minutes, I felt myself teetering before the crash.

The difference between 10 years ago and last Saturday night is that now I am in control of the ropes, even when the ego furtively laces them up, and I can pull myself back from the devastating ledge of perceived inadequacy before it gets ugly. I am more loving, more tuned in, more powerful and even more beautiful than I was when I was 22. Thankfully, my expansion has been vast in the last decade and now, when my inner observer is on post, the risk of self-definition through others’ perceptions is diminished. The doorman was just doing his job.

As one of my most refreshing friends put it to me, we’re a decade too late for Paris Club. And, really, so what?

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Another year older? Bring it on.

Emotional superheroine saves the day, rescues me from my crazy

I barely even know her. She usually keeps to herself, breezing in at drop off and pickup, scooping her cutie up in snuggles and whisking her out before I can catch her eye for more than a quick smile. That’s how a working mom of three has to do it, I surmise. Pleasant efficiency.

I, on the other hand, am one of the chattier moms at preschool. But yesterday I sat silently on the hallway bench fighting back tears as I watched Charlie fasten and unfasten the Velcro straps on his shoe. As with many things, he is particular about how the Velcro is arranged and, when I reached over to help him with the process, he gritted his teeth and growled. For minutes after, he sat, looking on, with one stocking foot and one shoe on. Diddle diddle dumpling.

He’d bucked and writhed with face contorted as I pulled him off the crying neighbor baby’s scooter earlier that morning, and then shrieked at me with wild eyes for suggesting he wear a different outfit than the day before. All day, he had not ceased whining, crying, demanding snacks—not THOSE snacks but a different snack. A good one. Like a treat snack. Now, Mommy! Please get me a snack right NOW!”—and by 11 a.m., I was done. There’s only so much patience in my well.

I almost kept him home from school. As he stood on his bed crying about something that had to do with his coat, Kip said, “Tired… Nap?” and I had to dig deep to figure out how to make it out the door for the 20-minute drive to school. “Come downstairs, guys. Let’s get boots and coats on.” They didn’t follow me. “Now! Come downstairs. We’re gonna be late.” They came downstairs. “Put on your boots, guys. Please?” I whined. “Put on your fucking boots!” I’m sure of a few things: vessels were popping in my face, my fists were clenched, a conscientious passer by would’ve called the cops on me and my eyes were looking scary.

“No, Mommy! Stop!” Kip admonished as my emotions ratcheted up. Charlie erupted.

“I just want you to be Nice Mommy,” he sobbed. “Please, Mommy. Please! Be Nice Mommy!”

I started crying. “Oh, buddies, I’m so sorry. That’s no way to speak to you. Mommy is just so frustrated right now.” Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Jesus, help me. God, do your thing. Guru, come to me. Om guru, om guru, om guru, om…

I knelt and hugged the boys together, fixed Charlie’s coat, got their boots and apologized. “Now let’s go, ok? And we need to hurry a little bit.” I hoped Kip wouldn’t fall asleep on the drive. Gripping the steering wheel, I noticed I hadn’t really looked Charlie in the eyes all morning—fuck, what the hell kind of shitty mom doesn’t make eye contact with her kids?—and I slumped further down.

Bring yourself back, Emily. Find your loving place. You can do it. Love. Access it. Come on. Love. You can do it.

And then I noticed a healthy muffin top rolling over my pants. Hadn’t made it to the gym since Monday because I just couldn’t get out the door in time with the boys. There began my fast crumble. When I feel “fat,” it’s as though my value in the world plummets just because my body isn’t bikini-perfect. And, of course, when I’m mean to myself and mad at myself, I become outwardly cruel as well. I lose the ability to be the channel of love and light my kids need me to be, the world needs me (everyone) to be.

When my mind is honed in on the disappointment that my vessel for this material world is not a perfect hourglass—I’m two mid-section inches short of glory—my attunement is blocked. It’s like my ego puts up a massive ROAD CLOSED sign so that love cannot pass through, to or from me.

So, we get to school. Charlie’s teacher asks how I am today and I can barely answer her. She squeezes my arm. I’m spinning deeper into a negatively charged vacuum I can actually feel in my amped-up nervous system. Then I feel a hand on my shoulder. It’s the mom I barely know, the always well-dressed, pleasantly efficient working mom of three. She turns around to face me in the hand-washing line and her eyes are steady. “What’s up? Are you doing ok?”

I’m shocked. “Oh, it’s just been a really hard couple days,” I say. She nods and turns around to help her daughter. My eyes flood and a couple drips sneak down my cheek. I hang up Charlie’s coat and backpack, holding Kip in my arms, and I watch Charlie skip to the playdough table. He looks really happy. I hear him laughing and his little buddy saying, “Oh, Charlie Q…” in a fit of giggles. He’s amazing. How could I have missed that all day long?

The mom appears out of nowhere, and she’s right in my face. “I’m sorry you’re having such a hard day,” she says. “We all have those days.”

“Yeah, I know,” I agree, looking up to stop the tears. Truth is, though, she hasn’t had MY day. “Just to give you an idea, Charlie’s probably going to ask to put on his ‘fucking boots’ when it’s time to leave today.”

She laughs. “My girls have heard much worse. They all have,” she says with a smirk. And then proceeds to tell me about her own swearing fit on the one evening she was actually able to be home with her kids, and not at work, all week. Unlike so many “I’ve been there” stories, this one was relatable. And specific. And on a parallel plane of losing-your-shit-ness, a plane on which I was feeling shamefully alone. I know better. Lots better. What’s wrong with me? “In those moments I feel like the worst mom. I think, ‘You poor sweet kids, I’m not giving you what you need at all.’ ”

She pauses. “It’s hard. There are times I’m like, ‘What have I done to my life?’ ”

I laugh. “It’s almost unrecognizable sometimes, isn’t it?”

“Totally.”

“Totally.” And, boom, I feel better. I’m no longer alone in my horrid lapse of motherly virtue. What’s more, I’m completely inspired by this woman’s rush to my rescue. Raw emotion in friends, let alone acquaintances, can be unsettling. People aren’t very comfortable with a crying person. Awkward shoulder pats, patchy eye contact and declarations that “It’s ok; don’t cry,” accompany a general desire to get the whole interaction over with. But here was this superhero darting right into the flames of my fear, pain, self-loathing and emotional instability, throwing me over her shoulder and whisking me off to safety.

We’re often so afraid to get into peoples’ business, yet what we all crave is that kind of deep human connection on the heart and soul level. Looking back on my humorously rich history of public displays of emotion, I don’t think anyone has shown such courage in rescuing me from my ledge-of-the-moment. I wish I could salute this woman, award her some sort of Medal of Honor for emotional health and bravery. However, what I will do is pull a page from her playbook the next time I see someone suffering, and reach out to them with confidence and the same open, strong gaze she shared with me. That was some real beauty.

You mean drunk moms aren’t awesome? Or, Higher Self says, “Middle way, or the highway.”

Somewhere between college and today, something happened. Out of nowhere, it just doesn’t feel cool to get drunk anymore and, suddenly, there’s no room for the swearing, sassing, filter-less, gossiping, bold-talking Emily that emerges after too much alcohol. Plain and simple, she is unintentionally holding me back from the Emily I want to be.

The awareness of dissonance surfaced after my last girls’ night as an ominous question:  Is it possible to both enjoy wine and be my highest self? It came back to me in the days following Halloween night, when we had an indulgent front-porch party with various neighbors. After a couple days of feeling just plain icky—in my heart, not my body—I’ve detected a screeching discord between the Emily I want to be and the Emily I am when I’m drunk. Drunk Emily, though she doesn’t surface that often, is begging to be phased out for a while.

I don’t recall parts of Halloween night, which is frightful in itself, but I do know I uncharacteristically spoke rudely to a friend I love and, as stills from the night flashed back to me in fractured pieces, I was riddled with embarrassment for what I might’ve said or done. Whose feelings did I hurt? Who was the brunt of my gossip? Was my bra showing the entire night? What do some of these people think of me now?

Granted, worrying about what people think of me is a worry I normally recommend against indulging. However, I’m on a sincere mission to be a channel for love and light, and as clear as I feel at the time I’m enjoying an alcohol-altered state, I’m far from an open channel for all that’s good in the world.

So, I’m delighted, and also a little bashful about sharing, that I have been free from drunkenness for an entire month. The operative word is “free,” I think. When I’m entertaining or out on the town, which is the usual time I opt to have a cocktail, two glasses of wine is my new black. I’m not sure how long this will last, or what direction I’m heading, but for now, the middle road feels really good.

Note: While my path to higher consciousness now involves a hiatus on boozing, yours might not, in which case, cheers! The important thing to me is that I listen to what my inner voice is saying, and I wish you all the best of the best as you listen to your own.

Mami quiere su Zumba

After years of patronizing judgment about stay-at-home moms who love Zumba, I’ve determined I am one. (Aside: When am I going to learn to stop making judgments?)

I was wrong about Zumba, so to all you Latin-dance-inspired exercisers out there, I apologize for my ignorance and I hope you’ll welcome me to your ranks because that was the most obscenely fun workout I’ve ever done. Ever.

I could not wipe the smile off my face. It was a 45-minute dance party complete with deep-beat, foul-mouthed, Spanish-language pop songs. After shouting, “Woo!” and rocking something akin to a Latin pop lock and drop, the instructor, Martha, that lithe little thing, told us to pretend we were at the club. Kinda hard to feel clubby with hand weights, gym shoes and fluorescent lighting, but there, swiveling my hips and popping my shoulders forward and back, I think I found the answer to my quest for a better way (than getting drunk with girlfriends) to let off steam: a dance class.

I’ve always been terrified of being in a dance class, and now I’m convinced I want to try it. Latin dancing? Belly dancing? Bollywood dancing? What it’ll be, I don’t know, but I think it might be the perfect way for my body and me to have a great time together. We’ve always had a complex relationship, and all I know is that today’s Zumba class was incredibly healing. And exhilarating.

I just have one little problem:  I’m embarrassed to dance in front of anyone, especially anyone who’s good. Today felt safe because my 10 a.m.-on-a-weekday dance companions were one other young mom and a studio full of multicultural seniors. However, I’ve casually avoided public, lights-on, non-drunken, mirrored-room dancing my whole life, first because my mom told me as a little girl that I was too big to be a dancer, later because I wasn’t very coordinated and still later because I just figured I wasn’t any good at dancing. But, dang, girl, I’ll be darned if I didn’t look a little bit hot doing the rumba

Duly noted that looking sexy in a geriatric gym class is not something to brag about. But it wasn’t about looking hot; it was about feeling it, and about letting myself get lost in the steps, relishing the pleasure of moving my body and shaking my booty in ways that might not be called for in my day job, for example. Today, I didn’t care about what other people thought of me; I didn’t bash myself for having inferior dancing skills and I just had fun moving my body and getting a workout. Dancing to music I love, while sweating and laughing—and catching an occasional reflection of myself doing it—was electrifying. And something I never thought I could do.

So, my newfound adoration of Zumba gives me pause…how often are the things at which I scoff the same things about which I’m insecure in some way? My hypothesis is that I could be onto the key to dropping my habit of snap judgment. And that would be truly exhilarating._

My ego posted this photo of me (in the Oprah audience.)

Oprah posed the question, “Is ego keeping you from living your best life?” on her website a couple weeks ago before her new Lifeclass show on OWN, and it inspired me to write about ego at work in my life. Following is my 2,000-character “story,” which landed me quite unexpectedly in the audience of her first Lifeclass webcast last Monday evening:

I felt like Eve realizing her nakedness when I discovered my ego wasn’t actually an attribute. Cracked open, ashamed and deeply desirous of some clothes to throw on.

I guessed the separation from ego would be miserable so, while I stuck with the meditation practice that spawned my awareness, I kept covering up with fig leaves, and my addiction to achievement and compliments thrived. Then, in an intervention of sorts, I moved to another country, got pregnant, had a baby and quit work to be a full-time mom, throwing me into the “program” of motherhood and hijacking my ego-bred world of crossed-off to-do lists, money making, comparing, measuring and praise craving.

Even in childbirth, 29 hours of which I endured to completion without an epidural, I had to prove I could handle labor and show I was a real earth mama. Yet with the birth of my baby, and my ironic inability to breastfeed, I was forced to go cold turkey on my ego. As a new mom, I was tortured with a sense of uselessness because I had nothing to show for my hard work. I’d plucked the last fig leaf. Then I had a 2nd baby 19 months later. I’d gained two awesome humans to love, and I was not handling it well.

Finally, just enough fog cleared. A healer suggested I see myself as a perfect child of God, to love myself and others without judgment and to release the idea that, in order to be of value, I had to reach widespread recognition. I heard her, and I’m trying. Now, despite my best efforts, I still struggle. On good days, I am free to live and mother with divine love and to create without attachment to outcome. On my weaker days, I live in a duality of resolve to be a nurturing mom and desire to show the world I’m not just a mom. And, on those ego days, I really hate the casual question, “What have you been up to?” Still, my higher self shows up a lot more than it used to. And, even as I end up in its throes, I know that ego holds me back from my best life. That’s got to be a step in the right direction.

NOTE:

I’m actually not an Oprah devotee—I watched only about 15 episodes in her 25 years on air—but the consciousness to which she exposes the world with every move she makes inspires me and uplifts me beyond explanation. Still, I’m surprised to find my experience in the live studio audience last night, a perfume-on-the-breeze distance from Oprah and Eckhart Tolle, to have impacted me so. But it wasn’t just Oprah and the rush-of-peaceful-power-clearly-he-has-keys-to-the-universe Eckhart Tolle who inspired me. It was the courage shown by her guests.

So, to Scott for exposing your soul to the core about your addiction to designer labels, to Derek for sharing your fears about pursuing your dreams of being an artist and your victory over ego to start your own business, to the high-achieving-collegian-turned-waitress for revealing the deepest sort of insecurity to which all of us can relate and to Rita Bridenstine, Ms. “I don’t think it’s possible anymore for other people to hurt me. They’re just giving me their observation and I’m giving it meaning,” for putting your loving wisdom out there, thanks.