Body and Place



As I’ve pondered this word (today’s blog challenge prompt is ‘The best place’), I’ve thought of many places I love:

walking in Tilden Park (I live across the street from this wild heaven)

on the dance floor on Sunday mornings at 8:30 in Sausalito with 149 other sweaty and passionate 5Rhythms’ dancers

sitting on the floor in a puppy pile with my three grandchildren, 2 great-nieces and 1 great-nephew on Thanksgiving

doing yoga in my sister’s (the one and only Molly Fox) incredibly physical, and joyously lyrical yoga class

listening intently to my clients on our coaching calls as they share the most intimate details of their ‘one wild and precious life‘ (prostrations to Mary Oliver)

sitting in meditation with the most amazing teachers Lynn Barron, Amma and Adyashanti

simply being with Jeff, the man I share my life with.

I am struck by these things:

how crazy fortunate I am to be living the life I am living


how integral being in my body is to the ability to ‘be’ in any place and ‘know’ how it feels to be there. My body is my doorway to place, because I experience place through my senses. I drink place in with my eyes. I touch place with my heart. I feel place through the cells of my body.


The ‘best place’ to ‘be’ in is in this body, this sensuous female body that feels deepy and loves completely.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t always been the best place to be. In fact, for many years I wanted nothing to do with this place. I stayed way up in my head, or at times, was nowhere to be found even in the vicinity my body.

Now, after much ‘work’ and lots of great body practices, I know differently. This female body is divine. Not just mine. All female bodies are divine.

I remember being at and Adyashanti retreat when he was speaking about the divine nature of all of life. As I listened, I had an epiphanic experience (fancy way of saying an ephiphany, because I love the word epâ‹…iâ‹…phanâ‹…ic). I suddenly knew, in the embodied way, that my female body, and all female bodies, are divine. We bring life into life in a myriad of forms. Our female bodies are gateways to this amazing thing we call life. If we are in our bodies, we feel deeply, we connect with the earth.

As this was satsang, when the time came for people to share experiences or ask questions, I raised my hand, was called upon, strode up to the mic, and said, loudly and clearly, “I just got that this body (pointing to mine) is divine”. I suddenly heard a chorus of female gasps arise around the room. I obviously wasn’t the only one who had missed this message growing up.

So in wondering about place, I now see, and taste and touch and hear and feel, that body needs to be in conscious relationship with place, any place, to know it.

As Mary Oliver writes,

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

This post is part of Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge
Day 11: The best place. A coffee shop? A pub? A retreat center? A cubicle? A nook? A BODY!

Image credit: Place of Healing, by Mara on Flickr


For the Love of Music

Bloom Project
Bloom Project

Today, in thinking about which ‘night out’ of 2009 was the best for Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, I realized just how much music has to do with enjoying an evening out for me. More than anything, I get so much pleasure from hearing live music, or dancing to music, or both. All three experiences that made it to my final selection revolved around music.

In the end, though, my choice came down to passion, love, creativity and synergy. I love passionate performances. I love creative expression and synergy between performers. And, I love it when musicians play from the love in their hearts.

My favorite night out this year contained all of these things. In an intimate live concert with Bloom Project, at a small church in Berkeley, I became a fan of improvised music. The October concert was an improvisational duet with pianist Thollem McDonas and saxaphonist, Rent Romus.

These two men are incredible musicians. They are so good at improvisation, that you feel both the synergy of musicians playing as if they have known each other their entire lives, and the flow that comes when perfromers are completely in the moment, perfectly attuned to each other’s next impulse.

Thollem McDonas
Thollem McDonas

Thollem is an amazing pianist, and he is my brother. He is actually my half-brother, as we have the same father, but different mothers. Life is funny. In 2008, both our mothers passed away. When you arrive at the home page of Thollem’s web site, you see a dedication to his mother, Geraldine. Gerry, as we knew her, was a pianist, too, as well as piano teacher who taught for decades. Thollem comes from piano genes, as my father plays as well.

What made this night so special was something less tangible than the incredible music. In listening to him play, I could feel something deeper and richer in his music than I had ever heard before in his concerts. As I sat listening, I was carried back to his mother’s memorial service in early January of this year, when Thollem played Clair de lune live, dedicating the song to his mother. In the five minutes or so that Thollem played that day, he poured out his heart into every note he played. Each note was filled with so much love for his mother. This love was present, again, in this evening concert.

As in most beautiful magical moments, something came together for me that night. Something so simple. I listened to the love for music that infuses Thollem’s notes and I felt his love for life, his love for his mother, and my love for him. This music itself was beautiful, and the experience was unforgettable.


Libido, Hana & The Sensuality of Life



Today, I’m writing as part of a December blog challenge, The Best of 2009. In this challenge, I’ve been asked to write about a topic each day, a topic that focuses on the ‘best of’ for this year. We’re given a prompt for each day – to use or not – but today’s prompt, What was your best trip in 2009?, is way too juicy for me to pass by…juicy, because my best trip for this year was the two weeks I spent in Maui.

Ahhhhhhhh… Just writing that begins to bring it all back. The sun, the fruit, the amazing water, Haleakalā, and Hana. Oh, and my Libido dance workshop. Yes, all of these delicious things were rolled up into two weeks in paradise. I personally don’t know how anyone lives there and gets a lick of work done.

The trip began when I read about a 5 Rhythms dance workshop on Libido to be held at Studio Maui over three days in July, one of which was my birthday. How could I resist? Maui, libido, dancing, all to celebrate my birthday. When I told my partner Jeff about it, he was in. You see, his birthday is five days after mine. We just happened to be born the same year, five days apart. We always try to find some great place to go and unwind for our birthdays. While Jeff doesn’t dance, he was more than game to find something to do on Maui for those three days that I would be dancing.

We landed a few days before my workshop was to begin, and started out by just lying on the beach in West Maui. The water was divine and I let myself just melt into it, and into the warmth of the sun. We did nothing. For two days. Swam. Slept. Ate. Drank in the sunshine. Then, we packed up and traveled to Haiku, a small town on the North side of the island.

Dancing libido was beyond description. 5 Rhythms has been my main practice for over seven years now, and I know it is what has kept me sane as I have dealt with life’s offerings: death, birth and all the experiences in between. The workshop invited us to open to, and dance, our libido, what Carl Jung refers to as, “…the energy that manifests itself in the life process and is perceived subjectively as striving and desire.” While we usually think of the more narrow definition of libido as sexual desire, it is really so much more. Dancing this energy of desire and sensuality, creativity and expression, was a very powerful way to open to the sensuality of Maui. Little did I know at this point just how sensual a land Maui is.

Dancing the 5Rhythms is such a compassionate and loving way to exlpore realms of self that have been pushed into the shadow, realms that seem to powerful, dark and primal to allow out in everyday life. The dance is a way to let the body bestow its wisdom and ability to heal upon the psyche. Being in a room with so many other dancers exploring this primal and love-filled energy is a gift of major magnitude, for there aren’t many places in our culture where we can learn to be comfortable with this power that rises up from the core of our nature. I emphasize love-filled, for my experience during this workshop was of the magnitude of the power of this love. Love is at the heart of our life-force, the force the is the heart of all creation.

After the workshop was over, we made our way to Mama’s Fish House – very much a touristy restaurant, but an incredible dining experience, too. My birthday dinner there was most memorable, as my entire being was still aglow from my dance experience.

The next morning we made the trek to the top of Haleakalā. Being on top of the island, looking down into the crater is an experience I’ll never forget. The beauty and power of this place is something you can’t describe in words. I’ll just let the pictures speak for me…


We then made our way back down the mountain and over to the coast, where we picked up the “Road to Hana”…and yes, it is quite a drive! You can buy T-shirts that say, “I survived the road to Hana’. The lush green of the vegetation as we arrived in Hana took my breath away as it lured me into my most animal nature, awakening something very old. I knew I had come home…it was as if I knew I had been here before. The only other time I have felt this totally delectable feeling in my body was when I was in southern India, in Varkala. There is something about the tropical land (Hana is as close as you can get to old Hawaii from what I understand) that just soothes my body and soul and brings me into complete presence with the land.

Each day we were there, we would wake up before the sunrise, walk across the street to Hamoa Beach (yes, our cottage was across the street from one of the top 10 beaches in the world) and swim as the sun rose. Almost every day, we had the beach to ourselves.


Ever since I was young, I have loved fresh fruit. I could live on it. That’s the other thing I loved about this trip. Each day I feasted on the most luscious fresh fruit that we purchased at roadside stands. We were even served fresh bananas, right off the tree, in Haiku, by the woman we rented our apartment from.

The land in Hana just feels so welcoming. In writing today, I realized how certain cultures seem to know they are part of nature, unlike our culture here in the States, where I hear all the time people say they are going to ‘go spend some time in nature. When I was in southern India, I felt completely one with my surroundings, not just a visitor in nature. I felt this same way here in Hana. I could just breath in and drink up the divine force that is both the creator and creation itself. We don’t have to go to nature. We are nature.

Each morning in Hana, I would sit and feel the warm tropical breeze across all parts of my skin and experience the sensations of my sensual animal nature. The sun, the wind, the water, the fruit, and the earth all fed me in a way that felt as old as earth itself. I felt held by the Great Mother, the Big Womb of Life, and began to know another part of me that had been dormant for so many years, perhaps even lifetimes. It was very simple. And profoundly humbling. The earth still holds us, even though we haven’t been such loving, grateful children to Her. In Hana, they are so respectful of the land, the ‘Aina‘. They get that She holds us and they revere Her.

Upon my return from Maui, I realized I now know myself more deeply, more sensually, and more primal than before. It’s all right here within us, this libido that is our creativity, our sensuality, our primal life force. Oh how we try so hard to deny our nature- that we are nature, that we are animals with a big, over-active, self-reflective brain, and a divinely sensual, loving life-force. This is at the heart of wild creativity.

This was my best trip of 2009.


Both/And | Yes/And


IMG_6728I’ve noticed a curious thing as I inquire more deeply into the awakening Feminine. There seem to be two (at least) threads of conversation around the Feminine: awakening feminine consciousness in both women and men, and finding balance within our own beings between our masculine and feminine aspects; and, women awakening to their own unconditioned, organic way of being, and the natural power that comes from this energy becoming conscious. Unabashedly Female is a place to converse about the latter, to discover together what is coming into consciousness solely through women.

Most of the time, I read about the former, feminine qualities that both women and men are finding again, such as receptivity, collaboration, relationship and a host of others. When this is the conversation, women and men are included together because these aspects are part of coming to wholeness in every being.

Many times when I speak (or write) of the latter, as in this blog, I ‘hear’ people being in the either/or mindset, a mindset that comes from the culture we are swimming win, one based on a patriarchal perspective. Ubiquitous in this perspective is the notion that things are either/or: that one is either for or against; that either something is true or it is not true; that if I speak of one thing, then I am negating its opposite. This either/or perspective shows up often when I write about women and re-discovering our own nature, that of the sacred feminine. It’s as if our conditioning as women tells us we can’t or shouldn’t look at ourselves with curiosity and wonder as different than men. Or, perhaps it is old conditioning about needing to support everyone else rather than seizing the opportunity to REALLY give ourselves time for reflection and meditation on our own nature. Or, maybe it is based on fear and is a way to avoid the looking within that is necessary.

When I write of women being loving and compassionate and wise, I am not negating that men can also these things. When I write of the ‘Mother’ being absent from our culture, I am not saying that the ‘Father’ has been truly available to men.

What I know to be true is that a compassionate, relational humanity is based on a both/and model. In the humanity model we are opening to, one that is becoming more balanced between the masculine and feminine, we will see from a perspective of both/and, where we agree that we are different beings because we are different genders. Through this perspective we celebrate all of life and the differences that flow through our experience because the spirit we are flows through different gendered bodies.

Celebrating differences is celebrating the diversity of nature. It doesn’t mean continuing the sense of separation or the better than/less than  that has been a hallmark of our patriarchal culture. Instead, celebrating the organic truth of our nature allows us all to bring our full selves to the world, to honor the elegant unique simplicity of our design.

The idea of both/and is becoming more prevalent in many places, but I first encountered the power of it in an improvisation class I took a few years ago. We did an exercise called, “Yes, and” where you willingly accept the last improvisor’s choice of action and build upon it with your own. IN other words, you don’t block what they just brought to the experience, but rather build upon it. This experience was an amazing learning opportunity for me in two ways: 1) I got to see how conditioned I was to block, to take in another’s experience and want to change the direction, say ‘No’ to it, find some problem with it, or to see it as an opportunity to disagree with it and come up with something better. While most of this was pretty unconscious for me, the exercise brought it out. 2) By having to accept where the improvisation was going, which meant accept the other’s choice and position, and then finding a way to build upon it and move from it forced me to acknowledge the other person’s AND their experience and find a way to create and collaborate with inclusiveness. It was an experience of connection rather than separation, opening rather than closing off.

I see Both/And | Yes/And as two very similar world views we can hold in these times of deep chaos and churning. There is no limit to what we can create together as a world of human beings yearning for peace when we come together, when we honor where the other person is, when we act with reciprocity and empathy.

What if our design as woman and design as man is exactly perfect?

What if under our conditioning lies the intelligence of our being, an creative and cooperative design that fits together like a 7 billion piece jigsaw puzzle?

What if our solution can only come out of a clear seeing of all that exists right now and a new possibility that can come from everything that is here?

Our evolution as humans depends on the power of Both/And. It depends on the full flowering of the female gender and the male gender, blossoming out from the constricted conditioned attitudes we’ve been holding.


Sending Love on This Day of 9/11



Beginning in 2003, I had the honor and privilege of working with many women and men of Tuesday’s Children. These women and men were directly affected by 9/11, losing loved ones that day.

In my role as coach and teacher, we journeyed together through two different courses I taught: one on personal creativity and how to go back into life more vibrantly and authentically by tapping into ones creativity; and the other a dating and relationship course, From Alone to Alive, that utilized the same concept of personal creativity, while adding the concept of opening one’s heart fully to life and love again.

Each year on the anniversary of 9/11, I remember each one of these courageous human beings. Their courage, gentleness, resilience and willingness to be fully alive again never ceased to amaze me.

Over those years, they discovered a determination to share with, and give back to, the depths of their wisdom and heart.

What I learned from them is this ability to be fully alive to one’s own pain, heartache, and understanding, and to transmute these qualities into active service to others. Most of us shy away from the pain of our experience, believing it will be too much to bear. But, it is by directly opening to this experience, that we as human beings can transmute our own individual heartache into a powerful presence. It is in this presence that we can truly be of service to others, both individually and collectively.

With love, gratitude, and deep respect, I send each of you love from the depths of my heart.

photo by Julie Daley




Dusk Light

There is no house, like the house of belonging. ~David Whyte

A week or so ago, I spent a couple of days at Esalen. On the Monday morning I was visiting, there was a dance session offered and I jumped right in. As I danced in these new surroundings, with other dancers I had not danced with before, I felt completely at ease in my body, with my dance, and with the others in the room. The word belonging came to mind, and I began to feel a deep sense of belonging there in the moment to this new place. As I danced, I could feel the peace that comes in knowing one belongs: to the group, the community, the world; to the earth and the land; to this life, and to something greater than oneself.

Belonging gives us a sense of peace. It allows for an opening to life, a trust, a reassurance that we can let go of our armor and be real with ourselves and each other. When we realize we belong, a letting go naturally occurs.

When we are born, we naturally belong to earth and to life. Eventually, though, we learn to believe the story that we have to earn our belonging. And, depending on our race, gender, sexual orientation, and other factors beyond our control, we learn what our earned belonging entitles us to, and the rights that go with it.

Dancing last week, I came to finally see through the illusion that we have to earn our belonging. As I looked out over the waves breaking against the rocks at Esalen, I realized the truth: we all belong to life, to this earth, to each other, to the world community. While nothing belongs to me, I belong to the world. I am a part of this big family called Life. Nothing belongs to me, yet I belong in the deepest, most freeing sense of the word.

When we realize we belong, and I mean realize deep down in the cells of our body that we BELONG, we finally we can take up space here. We can settle in to the fullness of our soul. We begin to relax and breath deeply. We are finally home. Belonging is a natural right and consequence of being a child of Mother Earth. We are Her children. She is the Mother. She provides for us. When we know Her this way, we begin to honor and love Her.

When we know we belong, we don’t have to keep proving it; we don’t have to deny others’ right to be here; and we don’t have to keep asserting our power. We can simply take our place, alongside each other, alongside all of Life.

Stop for a moment to see how you feel about belonging. What do you belong to? How comfortable are you in taking up space in this world, taking your rightful place, alongside all of Life. Where do you shrink back? Where do you feel you don’t belong? How might belonging be different for you as a woman in this world? What would be different if you realized you belong completely to this world, and this Life? Where is your house of belonging?


Make Love to Life as if It Were Your Beloved


Maui, Highway on the Back-side

Make love to Life today as if It were your Beloved, for It Is.

We live in an erotic world, a world full of the sensual. We are sensual beings. When we are here, in this moment, we experience life by way of our senses. This is the nature of the sensual, experiencing life through one’s senses.

The word erotic might seem strange to describe our physical world, but when you really open to and receive Life into your senses, a natural love pours forth into you and from you, a connection between the sacred in you and the sacred in all of life.

The origin of ‘erotic’:
1615–25; < Gk erōtikós of love, caused by love, given to love, equiv. to erōt- (s. of érōs) Eros + -ikos -ic

This world, this Life that we are swimming in is ’caused by love’, is ‘given to love’, it IS erotic in the largest and deepest sense. We are swimming in love, we breathe it into our cells with each breath we take in, and we breathe love out into the world with each breath out. We take love in with our eyes, when we really look, and when we are open to it, we give the look of love back to Life as It holds us in It’s Gaze. The other senses are no different – they are the vehicle to give and receive love to the All that holds us in each moment.

I took a moment to look the word sensual up in the dictionary:



1. pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or appetites; carnal; fleshly.
2. lacking in moral restraints; lewd or unchaste.
3. arousing or exciting the senses or appetites.
4. worldly; materialistic; irreligious.
5. of or pertaining to the senses or physical sensation; sensory.
6. pertaining to the philosophical doctrine of sensationalism.


Some of these simply describe the simple nature of the word: pertaining to the senses. Others contain judgment, judgment that you have probably grown up with and internalized, because we live in a culture that equates sensuality with sex, and the culture has much judgment and condemnation about sex and pleasure as well.  Sometimes, we are made to feel that our love of the sensual is bad or wrong, or that we are bad for enjoying pleasure.

But, what if that judgment was the illusion and the reality what you experience through your senses? What if Life expressing itself through your sight, taste, touch, smell, and hearing is reality, and the illusion is the judgment that your mind attaches to your experience and thoughts? How might your relationship to the present moment be different?

What if Life were your Beloved?

Stop for a moment and take Life in through your senses. Be with Life as you are with a Beloved, someone you feel unconditional love for. Open to It. Receive It. Feel Life caressing you, tenderly, not wanting anything from you except your undivided attention, your unconditional love, your rapture with its exquisite beauty and simplicity. As you receive It, simply notice how you feel.

Now, for just a moment, make love to it. Caress it back with your eyes, your ears, your heart, your touch. Simply allow yourself to love it without judgment, to receive it without aversion, and to witness the miraculous mystery that It is and that You are.

How might your day be different if you made love to Life in each moment, awaiting Its expression as if awaiting a beloved’s embrace?

Spend today, and perhaps tomorrow and this week, (maybe even the rest of your life) making love to Life. I would love to hear what you discover.

With love and great respect,



Independence Day for All


On the 4th of July, Independence Day in America, we celebrate our independence and the birth of our country. In the spirit of independence for all, I want to celebrate the fire and passion of the soft power and green revolution in Iran…as well as in all places where people are fighting for their right to vote, their right to speak, their right to freedom of expression.

Soft Power is a term that’s been in the news since the Iranian election and the protests in its wake. In PeaceXPeace’s blog, Week X Week, Mary Liston Liepold’s post of July 1, Peace The Soft Power of Iran’s Green Revolution, describes soft power and the velvet revolution in Iran:

“Governments aren’t good at soft power; their feet are too big. It’s exactly the right size for citizens like us. Our Sudanese friend Dalia Haj-Omar reports seeing these words on a protest sign: “Calmness, Hope, & Patience: The Keys to a Green Revolution.””

Along with calmness, hope and patience, I would suggest determination, fire, wisdom and heart. Soft power is fueled by the deeply profound outrage and determination found in women, when they reach the point of “Enough is enough”. And, women all over the world are reaching this point.

In the patriarchy, women have been conditioned to be afraid to cross the line. In her incredible book, Healing Through the Dark Emotions, Miriam Greenspan speaks of this line that women dare not cross.

“Fear for women is not an enemy to be conquered but a warning track that says: Go no further. It is the demarcation line that points to the bounds of possibility and permissible behavior. If you’re a woman and you don’t use fear to limit yourself, there is an implicit threat of violence.”

The “powers that be” (in Iran and all over the world) don’t want the status quo upset, and women are conditioned to not upset the status quo. This has kept us in line, or I should say “behind the line” in the past. However, the women of Iran are no longer behind the line. The women in Iran, and many other parts around the world, are fighting with soft power every day. They have decided to cross this line of demarcation. They are willing to upset the status quo.

Here’s the question I am holding: What does it take to push us past the point of fear, past the point where we are no longer stopped by this conditioned implicit threat of violence? What does it take to say, “Enough is enough”?

Women’s second-class status here in the west is not as obvious as it is in many other cultures. It’s easier to keep a blind eye to it here. In Iran, and in other places where women have risen up to fight against their lack of rights, it is much more obvious. And, it’s obvious to women here in the West that other women around the world face much more serious, and consequential, attacks on their personhood.

How can we develop the solidarity necessary in order to galvanize us to stand with our sisters? How can we link with each other across the miles to help us to know we stand united? What kind of infrastructure do we need to support our solidarity?

Peace X Peace has women’s circles for just this reason, and other ‘Networks of Grace’ (a term coined by Andrew Harvey) are possible as well, through the Internet and other channels.

I’d love to know how you feel about this and what vision you might hold for sisterly solidarity in the service of birthing a new, profoundly loving and compassionate consciousness.


Woeser, a Woman Willing to Write the Truth


WOESER, a Tibetan poet and blogger, is struggling for visibility. In today’s New York Times This Saturday Profile, Woeser (going by a single name as is tradition in Tibet) is highlighted as a Chinese woman of Tibetan ancestry who discovered her roots and moved back to Tibet. She began to research the history between Tibet and China and began blogging and writing about what she saw was happening. In 2003, her first book, Notes on Tibet, was published and quickly sold it. But before the second run could be printed, the Chinese government banned the book.

Needless to say, the Chinese government has gone to great lengths to silence her. They have blocked her blogs and her travels to Tibet are scrutinized.

From the Times, ‘Despite her relatively high profile both inside and outside China, she is well aware that her liberty is fragile. Since 2004 she has been waiting for a passport, which would allow her to travel and speak abroad.

“I feel so insecure inside,” she said. “I feel like I’m sitting on the edge of a cliff and I could fall down at any moment.”’

I feel great respect for Woeser for her willingness to write the truth as she sees it, regardless of the dangers she faces in direct response of her doing so. She is honoring what she knows to be true from within her, finding the courage to keep going in the face of strong condemnation from the Chinese government.

More and more women are finding the courage to step forth and speak out. I feel it is of utmost importance that we support these women in solidarity…all of us, both women and men. Women such as Woeser are exhibiting leadership of a new kind, leadership that comes from listening to what one knows to be true deep within and having the courage to express it from the heart.

What can we do to support Woeser in her vision to travel and speak in other parts of the world? I welcome your comments.

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