Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Recalibrating October 12, 2009

My little boy is 10 weeks old. It’s hard for me to imagine it sometimes, even though I’ve been living and breathing his development for the past year. It feels like he has always been with me, yet he is brand new. Motherhood is a natural progression for me, yet a huge shift in the way I live my life. This adventure is a daily experience of the divine dichotomy.

It’s as if I’m having to relearn how to ride a bicycle. There is definitely a part of me that has never forgotten how, that flows effortlessly, that rises to any and all occasions, that is connected to Source and grounded in Gaia and in sync with my son and my center and the Universe. But there is also a large part of me that is tongue-tied, lost in the woods, feeling my way around in the dark.

Someone recently described parenthood as the hardest best thing they have ever done, and I have to agree. It is at its hardest when it is three o’clock in the morning and I can’t figure out what my baby needs and I feel completely alone and like the world’s biggest failure; and it is at its best when (sometimes five minutes later) the right thing clicks and his face lights up and he smiles up at me with such pure joy and my heart just sings.

Everyday I feel more surefooted, more self-confident, and those hardest moments become fewer and farther between. But those joyous moments, where it’s as if I have wings, are getting closer and closer together as he learns a little more each day about this human he has come here to be, and I learn more about myself in this new role as his mother, his guide, and his student. He is such a divine gift, such a divine teacher, showing me the ways of love and life and laughter and light in ways I never even dreamed possible.

I thought I was prepared for this journey, but I have to say, I am living the idea that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. And that’s okay. I am excited to see where this journey will lead. I may not always have time to write about it, but I am learning to be okay with that too, and I will share what I can when I can. Balance is coming, of that I am certain! Namaste.

Photo: “Apple Blossom,” originally uploaded by Jonathan Gill


Birthing May 6, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 5:26 am
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Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers — strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.
~Barbara Katz Rothman

I suppose it is natural for me to have the concept of “birthing” on my mind these days. In 12 weeks, give or take depending on when the baby wants to arrive, I will be participating in a literal birthing of the new addition to our family. I’m shifting into a “preparing for baby” phase — we started registering and figuring out what kinds of things we’ll need before the baby arrives, and we start childbirth classes next week. My body is continuing to change in new and unexpected ways, and baby’s movements are getting more consistent and pronounced.

But birthing has always been about more than the literal to me. One of my favorite songs is Far Far by Yael Naim, in which she talks about giving birth to yourself. For those of us who are walking the path of spiritual growth, the process of giving birth to ourselves is somewhat constant. There is always something “new” we’re uncovering within and learning to show the world. This year that “newness” within that I’m uncovering is mostly about how the divine feminine shows up in me, and how I can share that powerful feminine side of myself with those around me. I am giving birth to myself as a mother, to myself as someone who truly loves her body (perhaps for the first time in her life) now that it is home to her child, to myself as I embrace being a member of the community of woman in ways that my masculine-focused energy used to reject.

We all have both masculine and feminine energy, and it balances (or imbalances) within us differently depending on many factors, like how we were raised, what we value now, what phase of life we are in, etc. I was severely out of balance on the masculine side of the spectrum for the first 30+ years of my life. While the pendulum has been swinging quite a bit towards the feminine, I have often felt that masculine energy still in dominance. This year is really the first time I’ve felt the balance shift towards the feminine. It doesn’t mean that I’m rejecting the masculine energy within me, but it does mean I’m finally finding a way to balance those energies and to embrace my femininity as part of what makes me powerful, as part of what makes me Who I Am.

Mother’s Day is this weekend, which is always a wonderful time not only to celebrate the women who gave us birth and the mothers we are close to, but also the feminine energy that lives within us. It is time to let go of the doing energy–we’ve already planted plenty of seeds– and instead to celebrate our BEINGness, our unconditional love, our connection to Source, our connection to each other, our ability to allow things to open up and unfold. What are you in the process of birthing? “There’s a beautiful mess inside . . . Take a deep breath and dive . . . I guess I’ll have to give it birth . . . There’s a beautiful mess inside and it’s everywhere . . . Deeper than you ever dared . . .” Namaste.

Photo: “Viceroy on the Butterfly Bush,” originally uploaded by Benny Mazur


When Death Comes June 5, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 12:17 am
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I feel like the clouds parted and let the light shine brightly into my life today. I had been feeling untethered, but today I am full of newfound purpose. Thinking about the Anais Nin quote, “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” I felt drawn to my lovely book, Risking Everything. The first poem speaks to today’s enthusiasm for living life to its fullest. Namaste.

When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Photo: “Daisy Refraction,” originally uploaded by Audrey


Connecting through nature March 24, 2008

Filed under: connection — jennsheridan @ 4:36 pm
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I had a wonderful weekend. Interestingly, however, I was all over the map emotionally, a regular roller coaster ride experiencing everything from being on top of the world to feeling smothered by doubt and fear. So how is that I can call it a wonderful weekend and feel so optimistic this morning? Because I spent so much time in nature, soaking up the beauty of the world around me and reveling in its glory.

Nature for me is a direct connection to the divine. It definitely helps that it was a beautiful weekend–70’s and sunny–and that we had so much rain this winter. Everything is still so green, so full of life–I just opened the blinds and looked out over the valley beneath my apartment and it took my breath away. However I can find the divine in a gray and rainy day as well. What’s important is that I make sure I get outside, go for a walk, pay attention to the landscape and how the seasons shift it, see what is blossoming and what is waning, smell the fragrances of the flowers, notice the quality of the air.

On Saturday, we went up to Mount Diablo for the first time. Now that I’ve seen its beauty, I can’t believe I’ve never taken the time to experience it before. You can see most of the Bay Area from its peak, and its foothills are spectacular. Seeing it in all its green splendor this weekend brought to mind my mental image of what Ireland must look like. On Sunday, I took a walk through local neighborhoods and had a similar experience of the beauty around me. Walking along residential streets is a much more up-close-and-personal view, but all of the blossoming trees and flowering gardens still played their part in helping me feel connected.

Being in nature makes me come alive, increases my sensitivity to my own sense of vibrancy, of vitality. When I touch the earth I can feel its energy, feel it connecting to my own energy and providing its strength to support me. I have this fantasy of becoming a gardener, of putting my hands in the soil and taking care of plants and helping them grow. My brown thumb suggests that might not be wise, but I yearn for that direct connection with the earth. That might be why I enjoy camping so much–even when I’m sleeping on rocks and roots I wake up with a surprising amount of energy quite likely because I’ve been soaking it up from the ground. I have this childlike desire to go rolling down the side of a hill, and maybe I will.

What makes you come alive? What steps can you take this week to embrace that vitality, regardless of what is happening in the world around you, regardless of how you are feeling? Join with me in a quest for the divine, a quest for connection. Take some time this week to walk with your feet touching the earth. Bend down and smell a flower as it blooms, touch the grass as it reaches for the light. Notice the beauty around you whether it’s gray or sunny, whether there’s still snow on the ground or the world is blossoming around you. Feel the energy of the earth and let it strengthen you, let it feed you, let it ground you. Namaste.

Photo: “Sun over Pine Ridge in Mount Diablo State Park,” originally uploaded by Miguel Vieira

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Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 4:00 pm
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Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to singin my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope,
the rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing in the
surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes,
arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the
clear water of a pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who,
approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly
weapons to Uganda.

I am the 12-year-old girl, refugee
on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after
being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with
plenty of power in my hand,
and I am the man who has to pay his
“debt of blood” to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is likes pring, so warm it makes
flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it
fills up the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughs
at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Earth Prayers

Photo: “Peacock Butterfly in the morning,” originally uploaded by Hans-Peter


Spring has sprung March 20, 2008

Filed under: inspiration,links — jennsheridan @ 6:02 pm
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The first day of spring is one of my favorite days of the year. Every season is my favorite until the next season comes, but I love watching the days lengthen and the feeling that the world is waking up from its winter slumbers. Today I feel such deep gratitude for the path I find myself on, for the blossoming that is taking place inside of me, for the beauty that is showing up in my life and the world around me. There is an incredibly bubbling of ideas and opportunities happening for me right now, which just feels so timely with the advent of spring. I want to celebrate, to dance and sing, to be silly and playful and, well, me–yet another thing to be grateful for!

While working on a project this morning, I stumbled across some fun blog posts talking about spring. I had lots of fun and learned so much from some of the posts I found that I wanted to share them with you. Consider this Jenn’s ode to spring, ending with a lovely poem from the wonderful Risking Everything collection.

For anyone who is curious about how the vernal equinox works and why we are celebrating the first day of spring on March 20th this year, I give you the farmers’ almanac:

For the Irish, spring began over six weeks ago:

Spring on the farm means a new season of growing potential:

I loved this celebration of rebirth and renewal by a self-described eclectic Wiccan. Now where’d I put that Chia Pet?

Curious about what happened on this day in history? And hey, happy anniversary, Legoland!

Welcoming spring means celebrating a happy new years for the Persians:

And finally, some lovely photography celebrating spring and the Persian new year:

i thank You
by e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Photo: “Believe in the Spring!” originally uploaded by Hamed Saber

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Step 6: Come Out of Hiding February 29, 2008

From the Steps to Learning How to Fly series.

When I woke up this morning, the world was covered in a blanket of fog. I love mornings like this, when it looks like I’m all alone on top of the hill and there’s nothing past the edge of my balcony. As the morning progresses the fog lifts and ultimately burns off, revealing the beauty of the world it was hiding from me earlier. While the fog is beautiful in its own right, what lies beneath contains a much deeper, more vibrant beauty. Very appropriate, then, that today I get to talk about coming out of hiding and unleashing your inner beauty that is begging to be revealed.

Whether you are aware of its presence of not, each of us has something special, something unique to share with the world. As children, we often learn that being different is a bad thing, and yearn to be just like everyone else. We ask our parents to dress us in the same clothes the other kids are wearing, enroll us in the same activities our friends are engaged in, watch the same TV shows and movies, play the same games, eat the same foods. Even when we rebel we tend to do in along some socially acceptable guidelines, just falling into another clique with its own rules for how to fit in. As adults, this same idea shows up in the kinds of work we do, the places we live, the cars we drive. This conformity is all outwardly focused as we worry about how other people view us, looking for external accolades to make us feel like we’re really doing okay.

Your uniqueness, your specialness often gets hidden away in all of this, which is somewhat ironic considering the surest way to really feel like you’re doing okay is uncover your gifts and share them with the world. There are quite a few forces at play here–need for approval, discomfort with vulnerability, lack of belief in yourself, fear of commitment, of making a mistake. I know for me that the process of eliminating these issues is ongoing and somewhat circular–the more I learn about myself and the world I live in, the more what I know to be true really sinks in, the more I can release these issues and allow the real me to come out and play. For me coming out of hiding is a practice, like meditation, that I make a priority every day, with three primary pieces to it:

1. There’s no such thing as a mistake. I don’t know where I first got the idea that mistakes were something to be avoided like the plague, especially since now I recognize there really is no such thing. When I look back over my life I know now that I would not choose to have anything play out differently, because each moment in time makes me who I am today. The relationships that turned sour, the jobs that didn’t lead where I’d hoped they would–I learned so much from each of them, knowledge I get to use now as my life unfolds in the direction of my dreams.

The natural extension of this is that there is no such thing as failure. The world’s most successful people are also the world’s biggest failures in the sense that they have explored many different avenues in life until they found the one (or the many) that worked for them. Without that experimentation, those supposed mistakes and failures, they would not have discovered where their true talents lay, where their success would be. The lesson I take away from all this is that I need to explore more, try more, put myself out there as much as I can. Not everything I attempt will result in success, but that’s okay–I know to keep learning, keep trying new things, keep exploring until I find what works, and then explore some more in order to expand that success into new realms.

2. What you think of me is none of your business. There are days where I need to write this in foot-tall letters and display it prominently around me. The gist here is that we do not need external approval. Seeking the approval of other people means you’re living someone else’s life, not your own. The point is to discover what makes you happy and then do it. If people want to approve or disapprove, that’s their prerogative. Trust me, even when you’re doing things that impress those people whose approval you’re seeking, they often find ways to disapprove anyway. How they feel is about just that–how THEY feel and what’s up for them right now–it really doesn’t have anything to do with you.

Harold Whitman offers me better inspiration: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I try to ask myself this question everyday–what makes me come alive? Some of my answers so far: loving my friends and family, myself, my world; connecting with people, with Source; dancing (with and without music); learning new things; living consciously; making a difference in other people’s lives, in the world; creating just about anything; being in nature; and, perhaps most of all, laughing.

3. Will the real me please stand up? One of my daily goals is to allow the real me to stand up and announce its presence with authority. In fact, that was the first sentence I wrote when I was putting together my initial notes for this topic–this idea just speaks to me in such a huge way right now. The persona I developed as a child was shy, with very few opinions of her own, a follower. I was somewhat surprised to discover that my natural state, although always open to learning new things, was to be very clear on how I feel about things, to be a teacher and a leader, and while I am introverted in the sense that I get my energy through my time alone, I love to meet new people, to spend time with my friends and family, to share and connect.

I’ve learned to stop labeling myself, to stop trying to pigeonhole myself, to allow myself just to be who I am with all of my quirks and differences, and I’m learning to apply that concept to others as well. What I’m still working on is integrating all of the different parts of me into one cohesive whole, and then showing up as simply myself when I go out into the world. I am spiritual, I am playful, I am peaceful, I am powerful. The more I show up like this, the more clarity I have about my choices, and the more the universe seems to open up, provide me with the answers I’m looking for, and say “Yes, please!”

What parts of yourself have you been hiding from the rest of the world? What gifts do you have that are still waiting to be shared? In what ways are you not showing up authentically? What seeds are you ready to plant today, and what is ready to blossom inside you? What makes you truly come alive? Start asking yourself these questions and others like them today. Begin the process of exploring, of experimenting, and come back and let us know what you’ve learned!

Recommended Reading:
The Holy Man, by Susan Trott
Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by M.D. Herbert Norton
Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation, edited by Roger Housden
What Should I Do with My Life?, by Po Bronson

Photo: Coming out blues, Originally uploaded by Jurek Durczak

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