Consenting to Receive Ourselves Just as We Are

In her new book True Refuge, meditation teacher and psychotherapist Tara Brach talks about the practice of “consenting to receive” our experience just as it is. This consenting is really the true meaning of radical acceptance.

This morning as I sat in my morning meditation, I noticed a tension in myself of needing to push to market my upcoming talk on Radical Acceptance and the upcoming Creative Acts of Power workshop I am coleading.

In response to this contraction, I felt an inner prayer of offering myself and my gifts fully into the world and surrendering into however they want to be received. I also felt my willingness to consent to receive experiences that might feel like making mistakes or failing. Given how much I have historically worked hard to avoid such experiences, this felt like a revelation to me.

“I consent to receive making mistakes.” “I consent to receive feeling like a failure.” This consent felt like a great softening and the relief of that brought tears to my eyes.

There is so much talk about how to be happy, how to be awakened, how to “be love not fear.” I find for myself that so much of that creates an inner separation in which parts of my experience are good and desirable and others are bad and are to be avoided. That avoidance can then create self-judgment and the impulse to avoid my feelings. Instead, I am finding more and more freedom in the willingness to experience whatever is there. From this place I can bow to the contracted spaces inside myself. I can honor them and welcome them to be there because they are held within a beautiful spaciousness.

This is what my upcoming talk is about: Radical Acceptance Through Embracing Our Shadows. I would love to see you there and would also love if you could pass this email on to others in your life who might benefit from hearing about and experiencing these ideas. I only give these free talks a few times a year. I would like as may people as possible to be able to benefit from these ideas that have been so liberating for me!

This “consenting to receive” also shows up in our creative exploration. I believe every one of us has creative gifts that long to be expressed. It is a powerful thing to allow our creativity to move fully through us in its pure and raw form. My upcoming weekend retreat with artist Zoe Alowan (who also happens to be my beautiful mother) is a wonderful opportunity to feel the depth and power of our own self-expression. I hope you’ll check it out and also share it with others in your life who might benefit!

Lastly, I invite you to notice in the moments after reading this what aspects of your experience might be asking for acceptance. They are usually the feelings or sensations in our body that we are trying to avoid or escape from. When you notice them, I invite you to try this simple phrase “I consent to receive this …” I would love to hear how this simple practice impacts you!

Reflections on 2013


I am feeling particularly enlivened and inspired as I start this year. This has been such a powerful year for me of CREATION. I finally took the plunge and developed my own business from the ground up. This has allowed me to offer the kind of work that most inspires and nourishes me. It feels amazing to really be offering my full gifts into the world. I just love the creativity and depth I get to bring into my individual work with clients and the classes and workshops I offer. The essence of my work is becoming more and more clear: Radical Acceptance Through Embracing Our Shadows. This phrase includes both Mindfulness and Shadow Work® and really speaks to the connection between the two.  You can check out my Free Talk at Ashland Public Library on February 3rd to hear more about what this phrase really means to me and how it is the essence of my work.

There is so much I am GRATEFUL for from this year. My family and friends have given hours of time and heaps of energy to help me think about my work and bring it out into the world. February 2013 saw the birth of a wonderful partnership with my mother, Zoe Alowan, in offering our newly created PaintDanceSing workshop. Our retreat was so well received that we offered two more within just a few months and are getting ready to offer our 4th retreat at the end of February. Our workshop has a new name- “Creative Acts of Power”- and is now open to all genders. The dates are February 28th-March 2nd. See the flyer below for more details!

I am also very grateful for all my clients this year. I have been so delighted to work with motivated adults who are willing to dive deep and explore their inner landscapes. It is a new experience for me to feel so greatly enlivened by my work. This is in large part due to the quality of the people I get to work with as clients.

I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had this year to share my passions with my community and for all of you who showed up to make these events a success.

– Public Talks at both the Ashland Public Library and the Ashland Food Co-op

– Sensuality workshop at Love Revolution

– Stress Management Class for SOU’s Music Department

– Monthly classes on Radical Acceptance and the Four Archetypes of Shadow Work®

– Three PaintDanceSing retreats

– My annual ReWilding the Body retreat


AND, I am so excited for these next steps for 2014:

  • A new website with a Blog
  • An interview in the February issue of the Locals Guide
  • Another Free Public Talk at Ashland Public Library

– The Creative Acts of Power Retreat in late February

– A new series of 1st Monday classes on Radical Acceptance of Our Emotions (Sadness, Joy, Anger, and Fear) starting in March

– 3rd Mondays Mindfulness Groups

– Developing and Facilitating an Online ReWilding the Body Course

– Offering Despair & Empowerment Groups in Joanna Macy’s tradition

– and much much more!

Running from the Bogeyman

In every moment our inner world is active with emotions (joy, anger, sadness, and fear), thoughts about past and future, and sensations in our body (pressure, aching, spaciousness, expansion, etcetera).

Modern culture, the media, maybe our families, our jobs, sometimes our peers ask us to be productive and to fit into a box of what kinds of emotions and expressions are acceptable. We learn to avoid our internal experience in order to try to fit in.

But this comes at a cost. We become anxious about our fear, depressed about our sadness, enraged about our anger. We don’t learn how to “be” with ourselves, with our dynamic inner world. It becomes like the boogeyman in our closet and we run from it. We do this through all kinds of addictive behaviors- drugs, alcohol, food, sex, love, TV, movies, internet, Facebook, overwork, perfectionism, etc.

Mindfulness is about pausing the urgency to escape, without making those urges wrong or bad. It is about becoming aware of what drives our own running… learning how to sit in the discomfort of that urgency without needing to run anymore. Mindfulness is about being willing to experience pain in life, because pain is an inevitable part of being human. But it is also about moving away from suffering, because suffering is pain + the belief that our pain is wrong. When we learn to sit with the pain, the suffering eases.

Right now, as you are reading this, can you pause and feel into your body? Maybe close your eyes… Take a few breaths into your belly. And just notice what is there, inside. What emotions are you experiencing? What sensations are present in your body? You could ask yourself, “What is asking for acceptance right now?”  Can you welcome your experience, just as it is? And can you also give permission for the parts of you that want to change your experience, or to run away from it? As you move through your day today, I invite you to continue asking this question, “What is asking for acceptance right now?” This is a process of ever widening circle, allowing one part of yourself, one feeling to be okay and then another, and then another.

This is courageous work, to stop and turn to face ourselves in this way. And I believe that it is an essential part of returning to our own wholeness. I would love to hear about your explorations!

What in the World is Radical Acceptance?

Radical= relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.

Acceptance= the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.

Radical Acceptance means consenting to receive all of ourselves, including those parts of ourselves we have rejected up to now. It is about the willingness to undertake the lives we are living rather than constantly waiting for the lives we think we should have. What is radical about it is to continue widening the circle of what we can accept to include more and more of ourselves. We may feel at first that we can accept this quality, but certainly not that one. Then, as we grow in practice, we come to discover that our acceptance can be more far-reaching, more thorough. The more we bring this quality of acceptance into our lives and ways of thinking, the more it starts to impact the fundamental nature of our relationship with ourselves. We start to move through the world with a sense of deep relaxation into being just exactly who we are. We feel ourselves centered into the core of ourselves rather than leaning out into trying to be some other way. We come home to ourselves, to the bare reality of who we are. When we live from this place, we have greater access to our gifts and our unique place on this earth.

Radical Acceptance Musings

Last month I had the joy of sitting with six people and facilitating a journey for them of Radical Self-Acceptance. One of the powerful exercises we did was the “turn-around” from author Byron Katie. Whether I am struggling with self-judgment or judgment of another, I find this exercise incredibly valuable!

I invite you to think of a judgment you have of yourself or another, and write it down. Let yourself be honest with the thoughts that are in your head. It might sound something like: “X shouldn’t be so angry.” or “I should have more control over my emotions.”

The turn-around exercise is to rewrite this sentence in as many ways as you can, simply by using the reverse of the words written. “You” can become “me.” “More” can become “less.” It may seem more like a grammatical exercise at first, but as you do it you may notice feelings of relief or revelation with some of the new sentences you come up with. These are cues that there is some useful direction with this new thought.

Using the example above, one of my favorites is: “I shouldn’t have more control over my emotions.” This invites a perspective of radical acceptance, of deep allowing for me to be just as I am. When I remove the sense of shame from how I see myself, much of the struggle can lessen.

You could try doing the exercise above in a journal or with a friend. I would love to hear how it goes for you! You can learn more about Byron Katie at

Reclaiming the Wilderness of Song: How ReWilding Returns Us to Our Original Nature

The natural world was my second parent. I spent my first two years of life in a tiny mountain town outside of Boulder, Colorado. My young body was imprinted with fresh mountain air and the smell of the evergreens. In high school we lived half an hour from a northern California town down a two mile long dirt road. We had acres of land filled with manzanita, gray pines, ponderosas, and large granite boulders. There were fox and coyote and mountain lions. Our land faced west and we had stunning sunsets every night.

I never fit in at school. The combination of moving every couple years and coming from a very alternative family left me always feeling on the outside. But when I was on the land, I felt a deep sense of home. I spent many hours as a teenager sitting on a granite boulder overlooking the great valley below. There was a peace and a belonging that I only felt on the land. I felt I could be most fully myself at these times. Sometimes I prayed or did sun salutations, but what fed me the most was to sing. My voice rose out of me so naturally, pouring notes of song over the valley. I sang songs without words, songs of pure emotion and prayer. The wildness of my voice met the rawness of the land. There was no judgment. Just an invitation to bring myself fully forward into connection with my surroundings.

I believe that we all have this wildness inside of us. Sometimes it is buried deep and comes into awareness only in brief glimpses. Sometimes it expresses itself in ways that are surprising or even shocking. I have now facilitated many circles of people singing their “Spirit Songs.” In many ways it is such a simple process, but I am in awe over and over again at what happens when a person opens their voice in this way. There is something deeply archetypal and magical. Something shamanic, and that is not a word I use lightly.

Our voices are so close to our inner world, especially when we open them to song. Babies explore their voices from an early age with absolute freedom. Children sing exuberantly until they are conditioned by societal norms. One dictionary definition of “wild” is “uncontrolled or unrestrained, esp. in pursuit of pleasure.” Opening our voices to allow our authentic expression to move through us can be profoundly pleasurable. It can also open layers of grief about all the ways we learned to restrict ourselves, to control and restrain our original nature.

The full expression of your voice is your birthright. It is a powerful channel we each have to connect with our deep insides, to reveal ourselves naked and full to those we trust, and to return to our original belonging with all that is wild and untamed on this earth.

Seeking the Holy Grail of Differentiation: Holding Onto Myself Through the Layers of the Onion

My favorite author on relationships, David Schnarch, speaks about differentiation as a kind of “holy grail” of relationships. He says that the deepest and most lasting form of intimacy is born from ones’ capacity to both hold onto oneself and stay open to another at the same time. Through Shadow Work®,  I know that I live much of my life in the loop between the energies of Lover and Warrior, which are in many ways diametrically opposed. Lover energy wants to stay connected with the other and is willing to sacrifice connection with self in the process. Warrior energy is all about building and maintaining a sense of self and cares little about staying connected with other. I’ve played out this roller coaster ride in many of my relationships- going to one end of the extreme and then compensating with the other.

While I’ve learned a great deal over the years about how to moderate the extremes for a smoother ride, I’ve recently had the opportunity (and the challenge) of seeing how easily I give up my connection to myself when seeking intimacy with others. I often liken personal change to the layers of an onion. When I come back to the same issue again, and start to feel critical of myself for not having transcended a pattern, the onion analogy helps me recognize that I may have circled back to the same issue, but it is at a deeper level this time around.

This recent reflection has inspired me to take the next step in learning what it means to hold onto myself. I’m finding how to use my body as a barometer. When my breathing becomes shallow, I take this as a sign that I am leaving myself to focus on another. I’m discovering the subtle embodied shift that occurs when my attention resides internally rather than going out of myself towards another. And, miraculously, the result is often that I am more available for connection when I am more rooted in myself! When I stay with myself, I also come to know myself more fully. I am more aware of the emotions running under the surface, and more resourced to give them attention and care.  I feel that I’m discovering and integrating aspects of myself that have been blocked from my awareness for some time.

I could share a dozen stories of how I’ve worked with this issue over time. I believe that these kinds of relational patterns become embedded early in life, and it is only through peeling back the layers of the onion one at a time that we come to fully claim what is possible for us. If this story has inspired or intrigued you in some way, you may wish to contact me to explore how these ideas, of differentiation, and of different archetypes, can help you find greater wholeness and aliveness in your own life!

P.S. The book I mentioned above is called Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch!

Judging Our Judgments

There is a shadow in all our striving to be good: a way a dichotomy is inherently created when we label certain things as good and others as bad. Judging our judgment is a huge place where this shows up. We all judge. It is the very nature of our minds to assess and seek to make sense of our world. And yet the word “judgment” has become laden with negative association. We learn that we should be nonjudgmental. We learn that to judge makes us critical, controlling, maybe even bad or unlovable. And yet this response is, in itself, laden with judgment! “Judgment is bad” is a judgment!

So what is the alternative? Mindful awareness with radical acceptance and openness to uncover our shadows. With mindful awareness we can explore our judgment from a place of curiosity rather than shame. We can uncover the deeper layers of where this judgment originates.  Radical acceptance means embracing the full 360 degrees of our human experience including the fear, anger, sadness, jealousy, shame, hate, despair, joy, power, and so much more that we are. There is such an important difference in being able to explore our inner world from a place of openness instead of striving to get rid of our “bad” parts. When we venture inwards in this way, there is an inner emotional safety. We can be revealed to ourselves without risk of self-shaming. We can allow the parts of ourselves to be seen that are not ready to be gotten rid of.

With this approach, we become more free to recognize the feelings underlying our judgment. Perhaps there is projection onto another of our own disowned or rejected aspects. Perhaps we discover the young places in ourselves that felt they needed to control in order to survive. Maybe we uncover a great fear of closeness and recognize that judgment has been a way of keeping others at arm’s length. With radical acceptance we can give permission for these dynamics within ourselves to exist, without pressure that by doing so we are being bad. Then the invitation is to meet these younger places with our attention, care, and responsiveness, just like the most loving and compassionate parent. I call this Self-Parenting. We can engage an inner dialogue to help these parts of ourselves express their needs and to respond from our mature adult.

There is a great difference between acting out these energies in a way that harms others as opposed to claiming them and attending to their needs internally. When we do the latter, we can allow the judgment (or any other challenging emotion) to burn with all of its intensity. The miraculous part of this is that somehow, when we truly accept and give permission to a difficult aspect of ourselves, it will often relax its hold and show up in our lives with less tension. I see the practice of this in my life as being similar to nesting dolls. In any given moment, I can ask myself where there is a sense of striving to rid myself of something I am experiencing. From this awareness, I invite myself to give permission for that very thing to be there while at the same time allowing the part of myself that wants to be rid of it. A moment later, there may be another layer of resistance towards what I am experiencing. It can be a very beautiful practice to continue uncovering the layers of resistance and bringing permission to each one as it comes into awareness.