From Outlet to Outlight

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Alternative title: Unconditional love and how to stop being an Emotional ATM

Yup. Just finished crying on the couch with my husband. It was a happy sad cry. It was an I can’t figure it out cry. It was an I’m lonely and I feel so loved cry.

And then came the a-ha:

I have everything I’ve ever wanted in my life.

And I’m not living in fear that I have to anticipate every scenario that could upend this happiness.

I have faith.

I am a vessel for unconditional love.

What on earth does this mean for me?

And what about you?

This means:

If you are feeling, lonely and sitting in a church full of people

If you are sitting alone in your apartment facing an open day in front of you with a to-do list chomping like the childhood monsters under your bed

If you can’t sleep

YOU ARE LOVED.

By whom?

You don’t have to believe in God for this one. I believe in God and lots of other fantastic and fantastical things.

There is a universal force out there and it is this: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Now unconditional love is so dang different from TRANSACTIONAL LOVE.

I have had people very close to me offer transactional love.

If you answer my 911 calls, then I love you. If you listen to all of my problems and do not introduce your own into the conversation, then I love you. If you call me, then I love you. If you send me one of your signature care packages, then I love you.

I used to try to keep up with the people whom I love by “holding space” for all of them. A text to let you know I was thinking of you, a voicemail, a card. And then, I started to do that for myself.

I slowed down and sat in my own pain. That experience actually stinks. What I found however, even this morning, is that I was missing Father Jerry from my old church in Chicago. When he got reassigned, I tried the new priest a few times, but I basically left. Like a kid who didn’t get her way in the kickball game, I picked up my ball and went home. I didn’t leave God. I didn’t leave faith. But I left Regina and Greg. I left Mrs. Clayton. I left Liz. I left my friends and I left my community.

Then I left Chicago.

So I’m rebuilding again. I’ve sat in meditation. I’ve embraced yoga on an entirely different level than ever before in my life. I’ve prayed. I’ve tried two churches here. I’ve met God in the ocean, on the mountain and on the trail.

Yesterday, I went to the Catholic Church in my town and kneeled and prayed. And all I got was, “You don’t belong here.”

Last night I went swimming and I asked God, “What do you want me to know?”

And here’s what I heard: “Stop trying to figure it out.”

So this morning I sat with it. I just shared with my husband:

“I miss Father Jerry. I miss my church community. I’m lonely. And I feel more loved than I ever have in my life. I only have people in my life who love me unconditionally.”

I’m no longer an emotional ATM. Occasionally, people make deposits via the ATM. But usually, folks use the ATM to withdrawal funds.

What if I were to tell you that you are actually a vessel for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE?

Yes, the capitalized version of those words.

I have found my path to unconditional love to be painful and messy and beautiful and illuminating and magical and fantastic.

Here’s what worked for me:

  1. Receiving: the next time someone thanks you, pause and take it in. Or if it’s a compliment, receive it before you volley back a reciprocal compliment.
  2. Pause: I am the fastest emailer in the west. I cannot wait to finish typing this to send it to you right now right now right now. Yet, I’m going to re-read it. I’ll ask myself if it passes the vulnerability meter. Like have I written anything that I cannot live with? Does this story represent a wound or a scar? Then I’m going to ask my husband to read it. And he’ll ask me questions and point out areas that don’t make sense. And I’ll have to pause and fix. And wait to see. You can pause with any action or reaction. You may not have control over an event, but you do have control of your reaction to an event.
  3. Boundaries: Sometimes boundaries can be made in silence. It’s worth avoiding engaging in gossip or even the pretend kind in which you’re sharing someone else’s story without their permission because you’re concerned for them. My boundary-making was learned the hard way. Childhood trauma actually has helped me understand and make better boundaries as an adult. I have a major radar for what is not okay—even in the simplest interaction in the grocery store. I’m safe. And the way I keep my heart safe is to be particular about which people I allow into my life. If something or someone’s behavior makes you uncomfortable—watch how that shows up in your body. Maybe when you read an email from that person, you notice your jaw clench or your back stiffen. Your body will often signal you before your heart and mind catches up.
  4. Detachment: This is about allowing for what is, to be. You cannot save everyone. You cannot actually change people. It’s the ultimate act of taking action on your end and letting go of the result.

And finally, there’s big faith. I have big faith in “if not this, then something better.” And I know I’m a vessel for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. And it feels so good.

I want you to feel that way too.

I love you. I love me.

Love thyself. Start there. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Thank you for reading. This has been my Father Jerry moment. I feel in community with you. I needed that today. Thank you for loving me unconditionally.

Rebecca

P.S. I’m currently obsessed with the work of Glennon Doyle Melton. I’m listening to her book, Love Warrior. Tomorrow* I start The Wisdom of Story course with her and Brené Brown. The code LOVE20 gets you 20% off. I’m not an affiliate, just sending you big love to write your own story and your own ending. In case you’d like to get to know Glennon better, I enjoyed her interviews with Marie Forleo, Lewis Howes and of course, with Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday. For more on Brené, check out aisle 2 of this post. I have a selection of her resources there.

*A week later…

P.P.S.: Well, I let this baby marinate for an entire week. I actually wrote it the morning of Sunday, September 11th. It’s been a beautiful week of healing. The Wisdom of Story course has been phenomenal. I also created this downloadable Ocean Meditation in the middle of the week which addresses many of the themes above. It’s only 10 minutes and it invites you to keep a paper and pen handy in case you need to get some things out of your head and on to a list. I hope you enjoy it! Sending you big UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for a phenomenal week. Witness a miracle because you are the spark behind one (or more!) every single day.

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The Slowdown–a parenting poem


To listen to this poem, click here.

Blowing whistles
and the wonderings of a mother

who hasn’t signed up for

soccer

baseball

swimming

art class

Spanish immersion

instead she shifts her son’s head

to drop in a remedy for swimmer’s ear

from swimming

playing

dreaming

Saturday marked by ten, twelve hours sleep

a body in repair

and the luscious knowledge of the intangible

it’s called Rest

“You know the park is just down the street.”

“He can walk there on his own.”

“Everyone here does it.”

What choice does she have?

Sign on the dotted line

put a number on his back

swear fealty to the clock for fear of falling behind

Or what if stop-motion movies

puppets and pizza tag

riding bikes till twilight

made for enough of a childhood?

What if boredom became a challenge?

Live in the world

surf on worksheets

dig up Redstone

write the series about

Super Parnassus the Potato

and his Grape sidekick, The Greginator

this verse is homage to the slowdown

allowing for mothering and fathering

any which way

in the gray lies truth, freedom

and knowing the human who chose you

Put Your Wholehearted Pants On

Friends, this vlog post has been bursting out of me. You’ll see why. And yes, I’m scared to share it. But I’ve come to the point where it’s no longer optional. So here goes:

In the video, you’ll hear me talk about the following people and resources which have helped me to take small, measured steps into wholehearted living.

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Me & Carrie Hensley–my favorite yoga teacher and one of my best friends in the world. 

Do you want to get stronger inside and out? Making me stronger than ever before: It started with the 30-day yoga un-challenge by one of my best friends, Carrie Hensley. It’s free. It starts September 1. And guess what, it’s okay if you miss some days! You can sign up here.

Have you always wanted to write a novel?  Beth Barany has been a wonderful coach to me, helping me unravel Selma’s story and get extra curious about my characters. Her “30-Day Writing Challenge for Novelists” runs October 1-30. And after that, you’ll have lifetime access to the materials. She’s even providing three bonuses for those who purchase the course by August 31. Beth also offers scholarship applications until August 31 at 9pm Pacific Time. If you want to get a sense of Beth’s style (and that of her awesome husband, Ezra), you can sign up for her webinar replay here. The webinar is called Planning Your Novel: Essential Plot & Character Tips. Check out the course details here.

Do you want to live a wholehearted life? Yesterday, I signed up for The Wisdom of Story course by Courage Works with Brené Brown and Glennon Doyle Melton. Check out the course here. Use the promo code WARRIOR to get 20% off. I did!

Specific goals of the course include:

  • Identify the “bru-tiful” (brutal + beautiful) adventure that you’re on. Maybe it’s your job or your role as a parent or partner. It can even be a life stage.
  • Use the classic three-act story framework as a powerful tool to create awareness around the connection between your thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
  • Learn the “rules of the world” – these are the expectations and messages that fuel shame and often provide the conflicts in many of our stories.
  • Discover why owning your story of struggle, whether heartbreak, disappointment or failure gives you the power to write your own daring ending.
  • Identify how the wisdom of story has the power to make a difference in the world.

For some of my favorite Brené Brown resources, check out “aisle 2” in this post.

Kick tribal shame to the curb.

I talk about tribal shame in this blog post specifically in #2 in the bottom of the post. This is also when I just scratched the surface of what it is to allow joy & sadness to coexist inside of your heart without fighting them.

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Remember, I love you with my whole heart. Bring yours to the table. Plant it and see what grows. I promise, it’s going to be BEAUTIFUL.

The music sampled in the background of my video is from the brilliant soundtrack by Sondre Lerche to one of my favorite Wholehearted movies, Dan in Real Life.

Happy Birthday Selma! Let’s celebrate!


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Happy 1 year birthday to The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage Food and Friendship! I’m buzzing with excitement, gratitude and Assam tea. I love you. I love you for reading. For showing up again today! For supporting me here in this blog and with my novel. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And please keep spreading the love and magic–I’ve put the Kindle version on sale for 99 cents here through Tuesday!

1. Live Party on Facebook: Come party with me! I’m having a Facebook party on Thursday, August 11 at 5pm PT/6pm MT/7pm CT/8pm ET. If you’re outside of the U.S., you can use this handy time zone converter. The link to RSVP for the party is here. I hope you can join us! WHAT THE HECK IS A FACEBOOK PARTY? It’s where we hang out together right here. We’ll celebrate the 1 year anniversary of the publication of Selma. I’m going to ask questions like where you’d like to see Selma go next, where you personally like or wish to travel, what books you like and easy fun things like that. Of course, we’ll talk food too! And there will be prizes like gift certificates and Skype book club visits with me!

2. Photo Contest: This week, I’m also announcing a contest to win a $50 gift Visa e-gift card! If you want to jump on the train early, all you have to do is snap a pic with you or your pet or someone or something like food or nature and my book (hard copy or e-reader) and tag me on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #cucalacas. I can’t wait to see what you share!

3. Documentary Trailer for Book 2: I’m writing Book 2 like crazy! I spent nearly a week at Drop Out on Orcas. An amazing internet- and cell-free refuge for creatives in the woods. Just me and the trees. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve always wondered what it’s like for writers when they go off in solitude and write. I figured you may wonder about that too. I’m editing my documentary! I recorded videos every single day to share the process. Oh and please sign up for updates on my site rebeccavillarreal.com where you’ll get the first view of the full documentary once it’s complete. Click here for the trailer.

5% of net proceeds go to Teaching for Change! If you want to relive some of the fun videos and interviews from the last year, check out this blog post!

Two of my favorites and big, big honors for my heart are:

Dharma Blazers interview with Carrie Hensley
Huffington Post article by the talented writer Brandi Megan Garett, PhD 

Thank you again and go bravely into your world…and er, um, one last gift, I recorded this downloadable meditation titled Made of Stars Meditation to Trust in the Divine Plan which has really helped me believe there’s a plan even when things get a little unsteady. I hope it serves you!

Remember, find magic in your everyday life. It’s there!

When everything changed: my best resource so far

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Beloved Readers!

Be-Loved readers, get it? Be loved. Because you are, by me! I’ve got something so major to share: The Four Desires, by Rod Stryker has changed my life.

You know how I am. I find lots of things inspiring, but this book has literally changed everything for me. I’m undoing unhealthy patterns, I’m getting braver and more courageous by the day (even as scared or anxious as I get over some of my decisions) and I’m feeling a level of contentment which I’ve never felt in my life.

Full disclosure: it took me six months to read the first eight chapters. I had started a new job and was still (and still am) going through lots of transitions of creating a life here. I was fascinated by what was in the pages, but I could only read a chapter on Saturdays, every couple of weeks. (It won’t take you that long.) Then, something clicked in me. And there were more clicks and a-ha’s. Also, I went on a vacation to a dear friend’s house and had been diving into the book more during the previous weeks and brought it with me so that every morning I could read it. Then BOOM. Everything shifted.

Why?

I explain some of the amazing insights and steps in the book in the video below. It can be accessed by clicking here too:

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If you don’t have time to watch the video now, here’s the gist: The Four Desires come from the ancient Indian spiritual texts called the Vedas:

Dharma: the desire to uncover your unique purpose, that longing to thrive. Sometimes your dharma is quite simply what’s in front of you.

Artha: the desire for the means such as money, security and health to help you fulfill your dharma.

Kama: the longing for pleasure in any and all forms–friendship, sensuality and more.

Moksha: the desire for spiritual realization and ultimate freedom.

The book is filled with stories about ordinary people just like us. Only you know, I believe that there is always something extraordinary and magical underneath the ordinary. Rod Stryker walks you through steps to uncover your dharma and create a Sankalpa–which is basically an intention for the next 6-18 months with a ton of clarity. He helps you break patterns which impede you from living your life purpose. There’s more, but I can’t do it justice in a blog post.  Even if you don’t read or get the book soon, I’m sharing some of the meditations which I use to move through the steps in the book. Stryker encourages his readers to record them to help progress through the book or you can purchase his CDs of the recordings. He also has a workbook, but I used blank notebooks, day planners and whatever I had handy. For more information about the author, visit his site: https://www.parayoga.com/rod-stryker/

Here are the meditations** developed by Rod Stryker from the book I recorded which you can use too!

  1. The Bliss Meditation gets you into a state of clarity so that you can turn to the list of the four desires above and pick one, then mind map it. I found a link here explaining the process. I talk about this in the video, but this is what you use to uncover your sankalpa or intention for the next 6-18 months.  I actually did this BEFORE I followed the steps to uncover my Dharma earlier in the book. It’s just the way it worked out for me and so you can try it that way or follow the book’s order–which is what’s recommended by the author.
  2. The Meditation to Increase Shakti is helpful when confronted with stress, fear, anxiety or worry. I just like doing it daily because it keeps me centered.
  3. The Healing the Heart Meditation releases sadness, emotional pain and suffering and helps you reestablish your connection to joy. I just recorded this today while sitting against one of my favorite trees in town! I can’t wait to start practicing this regularly.

I also mention at the front end of the video that August 8 is the 1 year anniversary of the publication of my novel, The Amazing Adventures of Selma Calderón: A Globetrotting Magical Mystery of Courage, Food and Friendship! Hop on over to my website rebeccavillarreal.com and sign up to be the first to receive access to the documentary about my time on Orcas Island writing book 2!

Okay, it’s time to go swimming! I hope this post brings lots of light into your life!

xo

me

**One cool thing about the meditations being on Soundcloud is that you can download them onto a playlist on your phone so you always have them.

Finding Contentment in Sadness and the Best Macaroni and Cheese on the Planet


I took you on my hike this morning and shared some of the helpful tools I’ve learned and applied in the last few weeks. I edited together all the nuggets plus a 15 second avocado meditation at the end! You can view the video here.

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Some of the resources which I mentioned are included below:

  1. On allowing your feelings to move through you (rather than burying them with social media, food, TV, alcohol or busyness): Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach is a game-changer when it comes to allowing your feelings to move through you—especially conflicting feelings. The book has been pivotal for me in terms of changing my relationship to recurring themes in my life.
  2. On forgiveness and healing: I mention this SuperSoul Session by Caroline Myss, 7 Myths and 7 Truths about Healing which can be viewed here. While I’m a fan of Myss’ work, I don’t always like her tone or delivery, but this short talk is well worth it, especially the ending. It contains that apology and forgiveness exercise which I referenced on the mountain.
  3. On letting go of the effort to control outcomes: Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead and Change Me Prayers: The Hidden Power of Spiritual Surrender – both books are by Tosha Silver and can be found here. These books have felt like they have saved me–from my own thoughts–in the last few weeks. People tell you to surrender all the time, but she does it with such humor and great anecdotes to model it again and again.
  4. On letting go of anticipating and being prepared for every scenario: If you want to know more about the concept of hypervigilance, I really like this post titled Parentified Daughters as Female Leaders: Keys to your Emergence by Bethany Webster. The concepts also apply to sons, so if you’re a man reading this, it’s worth taking the time to click on the link.
  5. On boundaries which are essential to employ the tools outlined on my hike: I don’t mention boundaries in the video, but I did ask myself on the way home, “what’s missing?” “What else can I share to help folks test these tools in their own lives?” The most powerful tool for me has been to make boundaries, even with the people I love. Here’s one of my favorite short (6 minutes) videos by Brene Brown on that topic. 

I love you.

xo

Rebecca

 

 

 

 

Figs & Marshmallows for my son


the miracle of flight
unraveled in a big can of baked beans

pulsing connections

terminals and the salty sweat of a soft pretzel on the run

Sanskrit chants remove obstacles

promise wheels down

joy & bliss or at least some

om shanti om
you’ll grow while I’m gone

tell stories of swim lessons

episodes and the new texture pack on your list

what I do I do for you

how might I sing that in Sanskrit
I only know what I gave you these four days on soil

a marshmallow named Marvin who’s best friends with Arnold the asparagus

how their band brought everyone together for the big field trip

the nightmares on request of Annie the electric guitar-playing apple who stumbled into an easy bake oven and came out a pie much to your astonishment and

I can’t breathe through the laughter
There were cannonball demonstrations on a cloudy day

you in repose with a green cookie shake

fries seeping through brown paper on the dashboard

we made characters out of sharpies, napkins, coffee jackets

I nursed your eye

warm washcloth and headbandz

guessing cards on my head

do I have fur

legs

am I a vegetable

til you beg for more story twists

poor Carlie the cookie found the summer area at the store and took the twisty slide right into a glass of milk where the giant hand came down and

will you remember water balloons and wrestling matches with your mama the night before she boards another plane

or the stories I tell you on demand
or the late night snack attacks

details don’t matter because you know me

always resting in your center

bear

butterfly

fig tree
this is the alchemy of love

upended by circumstances

the map we can’t see with our eyes

just trusting we found home

in sand, mountains and your mama’s poor imitation of ground squirrels
you tell me the time will go quickly

murmuring this stinks in case you didn’t know

I know, my love

the echo of surrender

we find magic in portals and screens

your papa planted firmly

keeping us rooted in

kale shakes

gigantic cookies shaped like spider-man
what you don’t know is

I’m teaching you how to show up

when I show up

for you

for shuttles, flights and flip charts

I bring your rocks with me

sacred altars to us

you tell me

throw this one on the bed when you’re mad

hold this one to make you happy

you stay at my center

smoothing out the parts that cry for storyline and sweatpants
show up my son

allow for delight

see the eyes of all you meet

their hearts will follow

say thank you

for in every moment lies a gift

even when I’m missing you

because in that

lies the home we built with papa

it’s our house of gold

Legos, wetsuit, dodgeball

and that grid on the mantle

calling out

brave love

brave, brave love

Where’s your shadow? Where’s your light?

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Greetings and Happy Equinox*! Today we are lucky to have light and dark in equal measure. That’s had me thinking about our own shadows and those of others. What happens when someone irritates you? What can you do with that feeling to move out of it and on to bigger and better things? This 5-minute video sheds some light on that! We are heading into Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere and it’s a time to start fresh. What might we do to raise our awareness and be who we want to be?

During the video I refer to a few resources you might enjoy. Of course, even more came into life since I made the video! So here goes:

  1. Just Be You: If you’re human, and sometimes compare yourself to others, you might like Christine Kane’s recent post: How to End the Personal Hell of Comparing Yourself to Others.
  2. Kuan Yin Course: I mentioned the meditations I’m doing in the morning which have helped me to go a lot easier on myself. The course, created by Lynn Louise Wonders, consists of a book of 108 meditations and a facilitated private Facebook group. This link gives an overview of Kuan Yin as well in case you’re interested.
  3. Clean, Clear and Complete: For Healthy Communication: This radio show by Maria Caruso Rodriguez blew my mind. I’ve pasted the episode description below. It’s about an hour long so bookmark it if you don’t have time now. She takes her experience with a building contractor and shares her own failures in communication, which she couldn’t even see herself. She needed friends and colleagues to help her see how she was communicating in a shaming and condescending way. The show covers much more than this instance, but I share it because Maria is a therapist and healer and honestly, I never think of her as being “that way.” But what she points out is that many times we don’t even know we’re doing it! We can all learn from each other. I encourage you to make time to listen while commuting, doing dishes, or just take a walk with her and listen on your phone. It’s a complete game changer. Check out the show by clicking here.

Here’s the episode description: Have you ever had an argument with someone and tried to talk about it later, only to get into it all over again? Have you ever had an email exchange go terribly wrong? What about dreading a confrontation of some kind, doubting that you’ll be able to express yourself well and get to some resolution? There are some very specific things we can learn to do and to not do that could serve to avoid these conflicts and impasses in all types of business and personal relationships, or at the very least diffuse things significantly. There are many gifts waiting for us and for our relationships as we learn to use this Clean, Clear and Complete way more and more. One gift being that the process of getting to communicating in this way actually helps us shift inside, to a more peaceful state, a state where effective exchanges and healthy relationships can exist.

That’s it for now. Keep loving—yourself and others. This is how we are going to change the world. Happy Spring!

*To learn more about the Equinox and what a great chance it is to establish new patterns, check out this post by Chani Nicholas.