Expanding the view

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received in the past few years has been some dear friends in Colorado that invite my family to pet/housesit when they travel. I just returned to Austin from there, and while the spirit of the forest is still present in me, I’d like to share it with you. Every morning last month, I woke up hours before my first appointment and hiked down and up the mountain to take my morning shower in a waterfall a little ways away. Before I start waxing on, let me warn you: I am in love with this waterfall. I don’t mean I think it’s beautiful or that I like listening to it, though those things are very true. I mean I am in love with this waterfall! There’s something instinctual about hearing the sound of rushing water that makes me feel both abundant and safe. The freezing cold stream woke up every cell in my body and erased every thought in my mind those mornings. All this while looking out onto pine trees and mountaintops, hummingbirds and butterflies.

On my last full day there, I got to spend a more extended time with my beloved. I sat there watching and listening to the cascade, mesmerized by the movement of water over rock. I loved noticing how it all goes downstream. Some drops might bounce off a jagged edge and spray out at a wild angle, but all the water knows which way to go. If only we humans could maintain such flow and clarity of direction. I sat there contemplating how to let my own life choices head downstream, letting what’s easy and obvious lead. 

Then some hikers came by and decided to have lunch, at which point I realized I better move on. I was feeling wistful and not wanting to leave, especially knowing that the town plans to close the trails next year. I headed down the path to a spot I had never stopped at before. As I sat there watching the milder stream, I saw that every time we adjust to a new situation or changing reality, we are just like the water rushing down over the rocks, moving over and around the obstacles, flowing through the crevices. Maybe this moment-to-moment adaptation is all it takes to be in the flow. There’s nothing more to figure out about it. More importantly, the mountain is more than just one beautiful section of waterfall. A mountain is made up of many different elements, just like we, too, are whole beings that encompass scared parts, pleasure-seeking parts, ambitious parts–the inner child and the inner elder too. In the big picture, we are all of these parts and more, just like the mountain isn’t separate from individual rocks and trees, waterfalls and dirt. When I am the mountain, I know everything that’s happening is happening over and through and within me. I don’t have to hold on to my favorite parts; they are already encompassed within something much larger and quite majestic. Some of you may remember how well the trees reminded me to root back into the earth in December, pre-pandemic. I think our current times call for something even more grounded, more vast. Perhaps it is time to be the mountain itself, where the trees and the waterfalls and the flowers are born, grow, die, change, and in some sense, are always one.

Are there ways you could move more easily downstream in your own life? I know there is much that will never be the same again. Even the waterfall I fell off of two years ago is unrecognizable today, so many pebbles and boulders have shifted since then. Sometimes, I find, letting go is easier when we expand the view. What would it be like not just to let change happen, but to be the ground upon, the field within, that change occurs?

Somewhere in between trying really hard and giving up, there is a place of alignment and power. It’s a place where we move with the twists and turns in one particular moment and then the next, nothing more, nothing less. I wish this place arrives for you as often as not, and I send you the blessings of the mountain, the waterfall, the eagles, and the bears. May we remember where we came from and why we are here.

Big big hugs to you,
Julia

PS– I know I can always use a reminder about how powerful even thirty seconds to a minute of standing under a cold water shower is as a nervous system reset, anxiety soother, anger cooler, immune system booster, skin refresher, pain reliever, and overall wake up. If reading about cold water here didn’t do it for you, you can research not only the science of it but also the different traditional cultures that have utilized cold water plunges for spiritual, emotional, and physical renewal for many generations. Simple healthcare you can do yourself.

PPS– I find so much to gain from ritual, showing up for what heals me on a regular basis, regardless of how I’m feeling that day. Like the cold waterfall, it’s about starting over, regularly. My morning walk and prayer/meditation time are like that and so is Release & Empower, an online self-healing practice community. Tuesday evenings, this is where you’ll find me. Together with other genuinely caring and quite responsible women, we loosen up the body and relieve the mind, returning to our own wild hearts. Everything is changing and plans are pretty impossible. But if you’re a woman who spends a lot of time attending to other people’s needs, this community is a place you can rely on for you. It’s flexible, affordable, and currently has openings, so you can start any Tuesday after having a free Q & A call. New creative solutions to personal and world problems originate from relaxed nervous systems. There is a lot we can do on our own, and so much more we can do together. 


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Who do you want to be in the chaos?

Lately, I’ve been sitting with this question. I started contemplating it when a series of events involving structures crumbling, health breakdowns, and fallen leadership occurred in my personal life within the span of a few days. There’s nothing particularly unusual about this kind of chaos right now. The disruptive energy of change is here. There is no avoiding it. When everything starts falling apart at once, my automatic response is multi-tasking, over-helping, and overdrive. But that sort of high-speed crisis management is not really the best I have to offer, and I’ve been learning how to consciously shift out of that pattern more quickly. It’s actually not who I want to be in the chaos. 

I was sitting in the silence of Community Wellness Hour a few Wednesdays ago when the answer to my question came.

It was a tree.

A huge redwood tree, rooted in the mountains for more than a hundred years, reaching into the sky with branches that dance in even the strongest wind. 

But that’s not it!

Also a bird in that tree.

A bird like an eagle, or perhaps a phoenix. A bird who soars above, seeing what only one with such freedom and perspective can see.

And…

A nest for that bird in that tree, made out of what is available. Holding what is most precious.

A safe place for the vulnerable growing strong.
 

There’s a whole lot going on out there, and in here. Change, especially big change, is messy. And change at a large scale is kind of terrifying. When the structures, the leadership, and the systems fall apart, as far as I can see, there is only one way to turn: inside and to each other.

This is exactly why I started the women’s release and empower group. If we don’t give ourselves permission and space to release the stress that builds up, no one will. We have to move through the chaos we’re absorbing so we can be strong, clear, and wise when we need to be. No one–no therapist, no doctor, no teacher, no guru–can do this for you. They can guide you on the path, but only you can walk it. We need to do our own self-healing work, and we do it best when we’re together. Only then can we show up with the kind of loving presence and courage that is needed in this crazy world.

One thing I know for sure: everything can fall apart, and you can still have your heart. There are a thousand examples of this. Take Victor Frankl of Man’s Search for Meaning or Anita Moorjani of Dying To Be Me. Take every brave person who keeps their compassion at a job in the hospital, the prison, the social service agency, the shelter, or the walk-in clinic. A holy mess is happening, and it may become the norm for periods of time. So I ask you, who do you want to be in the chaos? We are all needed here.

With so much faith in you,

Julia

PS– Let me know soon if you’re interested in joining us this winter/spring for Release & Empower! There are only a few spots left, and the early bird registration discount ends January 10th. We’re looking for women who do a lot of caregiving at work or at home, women who are good at doing what needs to be done but who need more healthy release in their lives! This season, the group meets Thursday evenings in south Austin. It will be a beautiful way to start the new year with intention and care. Details here!