How can words express what I feel? What do my eyes see?
I have chosen to live in a home hugged by trees. It's equally valid to say: "the home has chosen me." My trees are the first thing I see every morning.
Do you know trees are capable of friendships?
Do you know that trees feel and use scent to communicate with each other?
That is if we don’t chop them down and break their line of “speaking” to each other.
I have learned trees do experience pain. Trees have memories and live together in community to support each other!
Trees would shake their crowns at such a notion as - the survival of the fittest - Trees could have come up with the saying:
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
I am deeply grateful to live so close to trees. When I am still enough, I can hear their stories. And when I am slowing down enough I let them listen to mine.
This connection I feel in my bones. It’s something that knocks on my heart the moment I open my eyes in the mornings.
When I c h o o s e to see.
Yoga has taught me the difference between looking and seeing.
Just like we are t a k i n g a breath versus r e c e i v i n g a breath.
To see means to P A U S E , let our eyes soften to receive what’s unfolding in front of us. It’s the opposite of what we are in the habit of doing. We're always looking for something or are on the lookout for what’s next.
Like the breath. Of course, we are breathing as long as we are alive. But if we pause long enough, soften our shoulders and replace doing with being, the breath will flow through us. We are receiving the breath! It becomes a gift we can cherish rather than something we take for granted.
Imagine a dry sponge expanding in the water. It opens up, it grows. It's effortless. That’s how an inhalation can be.
If we are too busy, too fast, too exhausted, we cannot receive.
I learn this on my mat, and I want to expand this lesson by learning from my trees. Trees grow at a leisurely pace. The word "too fast" is one I want to replace in my life with the word s l o w . Better yet, I want to s l o w d o w n .
Have you picked a word or two for this New Year? Share it with me if you'd like. It's a beautiful way to stay connected. In communication, like the trees!
I am too often in the fast lane when I am not on my yoga mat or sitting by my trees. Yes, it's part of my temperament and brings a lot of joy and fun into my life. But also fatigue.
I see my father, the king of too fast! The adventures I experienced with him are breathtaking. And my mother the queen of surrender. Poise and gentleness are qualities she owned. The understanding and unconditional love she expressed are the solid ground I walk on.
I know it's the middle ground that will protect me and help me live the life I want to live. A bit slower will be it for me.
And here is my wish for you:
Please start this fantastic New Year with a
⭐️ An exhale
⭐️ As a receiver.
Let the next breath be your eternity.
Let your breath flow and your eyes see.
Each time I look at a tree, I will slow down, tune in, surrender and receive!
Let's say 100% YES to this New Year.
Let's fill our cups by receiving so we can offer a hand and share our abundance with those who need us.
Peace and Abundance of Health for 2018!
PS: A few weeks ago I noticed a grove of younger trees next to a path I like to walk in the morning. Standing in a circle like children holding hands they look like a tipi offering some mossy rocks in their center to sit down.
They are young bay leaf trees. Sarina and I did a few counts. And ended up with 44 of them! Angel Number! Of course we named it: The Angel Grove!
Here are the two people I dedicate my slower pace and the year 2018 too:
I am reading a fantastic book: The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Here is a link for you:
Lately, I find that the word happiness comes across as being muddied by too many headlines blurs telling us things like: "all you have to is: be happy."
Is it? and if yes how can I do it?
It's like the word LOVE. If it falls out of your mouth without a connection to your heart, it's missing the power to heal yourself and your listener. Faked happiness does the same. If behind the facade, you are struggling to give your life lasting meaning without the action step necessary to create it, it will make you miserable. You might look at the word happiness with a smirk as if happiness belongs to a certain type of chosen people.
A friend pointed out to me that she cannot always be happy. She said: "if I try to be happy all the time where would I hide the hard feelings, the sadness, the anger, the unhappiness?"
How I understand true happiness comes from my lifelong commitment to the practice of yoga and the mindful life connected to it. Yoga on the mat can be blissful and rewarding but also testing and very challenging. Just like day to day life.
I am not about to hide when life sucks. But at the end of the day, I remember that no matter what I will cultivate the feeling of contentment which in turn allows me to be happy with what is.
Happiness on my mat and in my life exists at the very moment when I notice my frustration, my pain, my dark side and react with kindness instead of rejection or disappointment.
It's not easy. But it's possible. It's a daily practice.
If your answer to the question:
"Do you want to be happy?" is yes but it's startled by a but-if you're tying your happiness to your circumstances.
There cannot be any ifs, ands or buts attached to it. It's not a question of whether your happiness is under your control. Of course, it is! No qualifying needed. If we can only be happy when x y and z are in place, we missed the boat.
I have many reasons to give up on being happy, and I am sure you do too. But I refuse.
Yoga taught me to pause and to practice self-reflection and self-love. I am deeply grateful for that. Rarely have I stepped off my yoga mat without feeling grounded in my world and intensely aware of what is going on. It's not all about me. It's about my connection to everything around me. What I think, say or not say and how I act or not act.
I can wholeheartedly say practicing yoga reminds me to stand in my truth and as a result, I step off my mat and can say: "I am happy."
In this groundedness, I can look my humaneness in the eye. I catapult the problematic feelings to the surface like today when I lost it with my daughter. Again. She triggers me like no other. Of course, she is the person I am most passionate about in my life. And the one who needs my support.
It doesn't help my feeling of self-worth that she is special. She sees and understands the world differently. Her neediness coupled with her brilliance can drive me into despair. How can I lose it with her? It's by far the most painful emotion I know.
In the moments when the sky turns dark, and I feel crushed to the ground Yoga has taught me to re-bounce, to find my breathe and move on. And reaffirm my commitment to find happiness on the other side of fear.
I am keeping Pema Chodron's words:
Fail, fail again, fail better
as a mantra in my imaginary back pocket. It works.
I collect quotes. I still love the first quote I put on my wall back in 1999 when we moved to California.
Happiness is a how; not a what.
A talent, not on object.
by Hermann Hesse
I am the witness to this process. We learn what happiness is through understanding that:
It is a choice!
Trees have been part of me forever. From the first love in my life, the cherry tree in my fathers gardens to the "secret" hollow trees of my childhood where we escaped to from adult-supervision to the "tree house tree" in Sarina's childhood home. Trees hold a magic that stops me in my tracks.
We live next to Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, Northern California. A magical place to live. Sometimes I think we were called to move up here because of the trees. I am blessed, I can walk out the door and find groves of trees within a few steps.
This Christmas season my love for trees sparked two new traditions.
Every Christmas Eve we will walk by my trees and adorn them with an ornament.
And inspired by Judi Dench, who plants a tree on her land for every friend that passes away, I will name a tree on my hill for friends I lose. Judi, like myself, belongs to a group of women called "Tree Sisters".
Tree Sisters is a global network of women who donate monthly to fund the restoration of our tropical forests as a collective expression of planetary care.
Join them: www.tressisters.org. The air we breathe, and the world we leave behind for our children depends on our trees.
Finally, let me introduce you to and celebrate my trees:
He was love at first sight. The first time I drove up the road to my street I had to stop. The name Adam just poured out of me. Adam is stunning. Adam is strong. He stands as a guardian for everyone coming up the hill.
Adam has become my go-to place when I need support. When I want to lean on something that is stronger than myself. I read him my stories, tell him what aches me.
When Sarina dressed up as a "human bouquet" to deliver joy "one 🌷 at a time" to the fire victims who were still in shelters at that time we had to pay tribute to Adam on our way home. He too kept our hill from burning.
I always walk away feeling happier. My small world opens up just by listening to Adams stories.
🌳 Hugo - the patient
Hugo is on every sunset you might have seen me share on my Facebook page.
Hugo was the tree Sarina and I hugged when we came home in October of this year after the wildfires threatened to burn up our hill.
He stands outside my dining room window, leaning onto a large boulder for assistance. Someone butchered his wings before we moved in. He is still healing, still a patient needing extra support.
We sit next to him to watch the sunsets. I swear he hears our stories. I can climb into him and feel free. Hugo is a symbol of healing for me.
The first time I sat on our sofa and admired the view, Victor smiled at me. His shape is precise: "Victory" is what you see. He stands firm, protected from the winds. When things don't go my way, he nods at me: "you can do this!" is what I hear.
It took me a while to find Eva. In proximity to Adam, I thought, healthy and impressive and stunning was what I wanted to see. Eva bears all of that and more. She stands protected in a grove of smaller trees. Above Adam on the same hill but not immediately visible from the path. You have to hike off the trail to find her. Her crown is full, giving shade to the siblings below. Her canopy reaches far down to the ground.
"Protected" is what I feel when I sit with her.
I dedicate the next tree to my friend of more than 40 years
who suddenly passed away in October, a day before the wildfires devastated part of our city.
She died at age 56.😔.
When I visited Corinna in August this year we spoke about her bucket list wish to visit me in California. She loved to learn about my life in the US, was a dedicated student of yoga, a devoted friend and admired my trees from afar. She loved Sarina.
I picked this tree because it stands firm, like Corinna did, across the street from Adam, hugged by beautiful flowers. I pass it every day on my way down!
More of my tree stories and adventure will follow.
Leave me a comment or write me a note if you have named a tree and why.
On the picture you see Sarina jump in front of the library of Santa Rosa Junior College. I took it on the last day of her 1. Semester when all the finals where done. That was just two days ago.
She scored 100%/100% on all of her courses. A significant milestone for her!
Determined, willing to show up, doing the work and a never ending up hope in her heart made her first chance of going to college a full success.
You might know, Sarina has been waiting for this chance since 2009. Living with the challenges she faces on a daily basis make steps like this like a walk on ice.
Now we are holding another hope: her moving out and to start living on her own again. A fantastic supported living program in Sonoma has one spot open. She had an interview there last Thursday. Three young women have been on the waiting list before her. Send your love and support. She deserves this chance. I choose to envision her there already and breath when doubt kicks in😊.
2017 was a roller-coaster year for us on many levels. Losses and victories shook hands a few times. We're grateful to celebrate today in the home we love, the place we want to be!
I have been reflecting on where we as human beings can find the ongoing courage to be brave, be daring and leap when needed.
I find it in my practice, out in nature and in the yogic texts I keep going back to for the last 30 years. I cherish what I learn by my ongoing study of the Yamas and Niyamas. They are yogas ten guidelines on how we should behave in the world and how we need to pay attention to our inner practice.
The tree below is in front of our home. A colorful thank you that our neighborhood survived the fires.
And this is what I stand for:
⭐️ I'm sending love to you and your loved ones.
⭐️ Healing and strength if life is challenging for you right now.
⭐️ Time for reflection and pockets of silence to breathe.
⭐️ A walk under the sky.
⭐️ And a smile. I also often smile for no apparent reason!
PS. Some of you wrote to me that you have not been able to open links included in my letters to you. I have not figured out why but will try to do so. In the meantime, if you want to read about my yoga life and my life with Sarina, just visit my website. You can click the blog link or the Sarina inspiration and choose what inspires you. Of course, if you let me know I will also try to send my blogs via email to you.
I have a collection of "magic moments."
They are what sustain me and feed my hungry soul when lives challenges are closing in on me.
It's the "not having enough time" that makes me suffer the most. I feel it as tight chains around my body that threaten to take my breath away and dampen my massive joy for life. I get angry quickly in that state, I lose it with my daughter and don't like myself that way.
Do you know that feeling? The constant rush, the endless d o i n g and no time for b e i n g ? I think most mothers do when their kids are little. And mothers like me who are raising a special child. Of course, this hits home for anybody who is struggling with a demanding life. With old age and illness, with injury and loss and grief.
What are you doing to take care of your body? When the energy is low, and the mood turns grumpy? Do you numb it? So you don't feel it?
I have a few things to share that help me stay sane and energized. I will not give up on being vibrantly alive.
They are my "magic moments." I pop them into my day. On the spot, before I roll out of bed, in the shower, in my car, in the grocery line, etc.
You need to p a u s e for a few minutes of your time to experience them ☺️.
Don't say no. It's simple math... only 5 "pockets of silence" a day and you will fill your happiness account with about 25 golden minutes.
In that pause, you can refill your cup and connect with yourself.
Feel your body and notice your breath. Acknowledge your feelings and raise your vibration because you're connected to your source again.
Here is my # 1 pause:
🚿 Magic in the shower
Instead, to continue to think of the million things on my to-list or my despair, I step into my "to-be list" once the water is turned on. I love to "wash" away the stories that cling to my body and run through my mind. I step into my senses and the present moment on the spot. Water is a great metaphor to help me do that. It hasn't failed me. The success is in my smile.
🚿 Stand facing the shower head and allow the water to run down directly onto the back of the neck.*💡
Focus on feeling the water on your back for a few moments.
⭐️ Let your shoulders drop
⭐️ Let go of everything else you might be holding on to by relaxing
your hands and your grip
⭐️ Take three deep breaths - feel yourself breath - make sounds if you like
⭐️ Listen to the water
⭐️ Feel it touch your skin. Feel the temperature of the water
⭐️ Smell the aroma of the soap
⭐️ close your eyes and feel
Become super aware of everything you are feeling and experiencing in that moment. No judgment needed. Just being present! Give yourself a smile!
Take this peaceful moment with you in your day.
🌷 I am a believer in visualization. When challenged during the day, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and visualize this moment in the shower. Before you know it you created another magic moment. Another chance to be you.
It's a charm. Own it!
Pause - Please!
⇰sign up for my newsletter to add my other treasures to your list. Next is a guided 2-minute mindfulness moment
*💡 Let me add a short info from my yogic life. We have seven main energy centers in our body called Chakras. Another one worth understanding is an energy center right where the neck meets the head. It's called the Cerebellum Chakra. That's where you want to feel the water. When this energy center is balanced, it manifests as feeling in touch and inspired by our dreams. It lets us access our soul contract. It connects us to our intuitive voice.
Today, is the 4th of December. It's my grandmothers Birthday.
She would have turned 140 years old! 🌷
I feel more connected to my tradition this year. I feel connected to my home in Santa Rosa, more than to any other place I have lived for a long time. I remember my roots as a reflection of who I am. I mirror my life in them. I am curious.
What lessons did I receive? What shaped me? Which stories burn in my heart? Which ones have I let go? Which ones are still waiting for their exit?
My grandmother was a grumpy even bitter old woman. She didn't like me much because I was my father's child. Very much like him. Too fast, to sporty, to noisy, too much laughter. Too much sun on our skin and not well behaved enough. Not a good Catholic, not good enough in prayer was one of the sins she despised me for. I was afraid of her harsh judgment. And for my father? He was not good enough for my grandmothers standards. End of story.
My mother suffered under her meanness. She was not like her.
I revisited the hurt I felt by her rejection for as long as I needed to heal and move on. I did. I learned from her behavior: I will have nothing of this. There is no such thing as not a good enough human being. I will not bigger behind people's back. Well, I learned not to. I worked hard to find my voice and I am still learning.
The last Christmas season we celebrated in the United States after moving here in 1987 was in 2009.
We lived in Orinda, CA at the time. In 2010 we moved back to Germany. To our roots we thought, but now it feels more like an uprooting to me.
In 2015 we moved to Texas... let me tell you, that's another adventure of it's kind. Sarina stayed on in Germany.
In an almost overnight and very happy decision, we moved to Santa Rosa in April of this year and Sarina followed.
Goodbye Empty Nest for me. For now. For a bit too long I feel, but what do I know which lessons I will get to cherish from this?
I vow to have an Empty Nest again. I ordered it. Yes. It's one phone call away.
There is a whole story written of what happened this year. So much did not go as planned. And much more did. LOL, who invented the word "plan" anyway? As I reflect, I learn that one of my superpowers is
Another one, I am a
💪🏼 WARRIOR WOMAN.
I don't give up. I fight back. I know how fear looks like and challenge it. It has to go on its knees so I can move towards my dreams. With a deep breath I step over my obstacles - every day.
💪🏼 I bend but, I don't break.
I feel a few more superpowers arising as I type. I am growing something big. I dare to say this out loud:
💪🏼 I do manifest. It's in the power of my soul. I am getting clear about what I want and: I ask for it out loud.
Oma Aloisia would not want any of that. Her imagined resistance to the woman I am makes me smile today. I would stand up to her now and love her anyway.
🎄Crafting our advent wreath and preparing the home for the Holidays brings me back to memories of her and my childhood. To my roots. I feel them grow strong and reach out to the word. I know they give me the strength to stand up when I fall and to stand tall.
Being in this reflective mood, my grandma's birthday today is one of the memories that just pop up. Perhaps she wants me to celebrate?
She gave birth to 10 children! Only 4 survived into adulthood. Two lost their lives in World War II. My mother, the youngest, and her brother Leo, the oldest were the only one still alive when they had to leave their home, their friends and memories behind. They were part of the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II. I am a child of all of this.
So much to tell here. I feel it coming... the book I have been dreaming and speaking about? It wants to come out. I had no plan to write this much today. My fingers did!
As the sky turns dark outside my window, I look at that picture of her. I will get up now and light the advent candle for her. She would approve of that. She would smile. Sarina will soak up the story. She is our families history queen.
I will bow my head to everything my grandma went through, everything she taught me. I will salute her tonight!
Happy Birthday, Oma Aloisia!🌷
Here is a thing that slipped in... sorry Oma... AND thanks to my older sister Evi for picking it up and counting better.... OMA ALOiSIA TURNED 130 yesterday not 140! ☺️
🌷FREE PRIVATE YOGA SESSIONS FOR YOU IF WHO LOST YOUR HOME IN THE FIRE🌷
I opened up my schedule to share what I love most. Yoga and Mindfulness practice feeds my soul and connects me to my core and the universe.
I love private yoga session. Click the link below to read more.
I am no stranger to grief and loss. The tragedy of the wildfires that changed all of our lives up here in beautiful Santa Rosa keeps walking around with us like we are wearing a different and unfamiliar layer of clothes. We are living with the sadness and we know we need to move on.
I want to share my 30 years of yoga and yoga therapy practice with you.
My family belongs to the "lucky" ones, our home and neighborhood survived the fire but the strain of the evacuation and fear are still hanging on.
FOR THE ONES WHO LOST EVERYTHING I AM OFFERING FREE💗PRIVATE YOGA SESSIONS IN MY HOME STUDIO. PLEASE TAKE ADVANTAGE - YOGA IS A HEALING TOOL FOR LIFE.
For everyone else, if you are new to yoga, give it a try. I support you on your path. If you are already a student, please keep it in your life!
I have different packaged available. Talk to me if you have questions.
If you like to gift someone with Private Yoga Session, I have gift certificates available.
💡click below for more information or to book your session.
"I don't shine if you don't shine!"
Pause - Please! is a collection of "little moments" that help me keep the magic in my life. If you are dealing with loss and grief or overwhelm from daily life you must learn to p a u s e and take care of yourself. My daily friends are: Small steps, Patience, Self Care and Self Love and the magic of pause.
I'm no stranger to loss.
After my daughter was born at 24 weeks, everything changed drastically for me.
As a mother of a special needs child, my personal time collapsed into caring for her. The dream I was holding died. I had to create a new way of life.
This is true for any devastating experience we are going through. What happens to us takes over our lives and we leave ourselves behind. As we grieve our loss, when everything falls apart, we need to find a new way of living.
Pause - please, is a gentle offering for you from my life.
When I was at the end of my rope because my now special needs adult daughter moved back home and took over my life, I started to remember some of the tools that helped me through difficult times when she was little.
I have collected "little moments". Things that wouldn't take much time. I had to take care of my needs at home. To "pause" became my mantra. And "little moments, that aren't little", became my survival tools. They belong to me now. To me alone!
✬In that pause, I can refill my cup.
✭In that pause, I connect with myself. Feel my body, notice my breath, acknowledge my feelings and feel ✬connected to my source again.
Here is my # 1 pause:
Magic in the Shower
Instead, to continue to think of the million things on my to-list or my despair I step into my "to-be list" once the water is turned on. I love to "wash" away the stories my body and mind cling to. I step into my senses and into the present moment on the spot. Water is a great metaphor to help me do that. It hasn't failed me. The success is in my smile.
💡 Let me add a short info here from my yogic life. We have seven main energy centers in our body called Chakras. Another one worth understanding is an energy center right where the neck meets the head. It's called the Cerebellum Chakra. When this energy center is strong, it manifests as feeling in touch and inspired by our dreams. It lets us access our soul contract. Connects us to our intuitive voice.
You can skip knowing that but don't skip this:
🚿 Stand facing the shower head and allow the water to run down directly onto the back of the neck. Focus on feeling the water on your back for a few moments.
⭐️ Let your shoulders drop
⭐️ Let go of everything else you might be holding on to by relaxing
your hands and your grip
⭐️ Take three deep breaths - feel yourself breath
⭐️ Listen to the water
⭐️ Feel it touch your skin. Feel the temperature of the water
⭐️ Smell the aroma of the soap
⭐️ close your eyes and feel
Become super aware of everything you are feeling and experiencing in that moment. No judgment needed. Just being present!
Take this peaceful moment with you in your day.
💡 I am a strong believer in visualization. When challenged during the day, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and visualize this moment.
It's a charm you own.
Pause - Please!
🌷"I DON'T SHINE IF YOU DON'T SHINE!"🌷
Love to here from you. Do you experience Magic in the Shower? Or have little moments that help you keep your cup full?
This is a reflection I shared on Facebook about the poster I created a year ago.
the message is what I am reflecting upon...
- the body is just one of the many parts that make us human...
- flexibility is not just a shape of the body, it is much more a quality
of the mind. -
For me it's much more connected to:
- where to give - where to take.
- say yes or say no. etc.
- to be adaptable not holding a grudge E.g.
All of the opposites (triggers) that keep knocking on our door daily.
I have been after this kind of flexibility all of my life. It taught me to notice and be fiercely aware when I get stuck. It's our human conditioning that it happens.
Triggers are everywhere. I could tell you about 20 of mine on the spot😆. Perhaps I am diving into this later😏.
Here is what I learn as I go:
1. my noticing it is the first step to get unstuck. Noticing with curiosity not defeat and blame.
2. choosing something different, like from a different view, different mindset, not from an old habit. That is the work we need to do... it is difficult. That means "bending" so I don't break to me.
3. Step three is the life challenge we have: making this a way of life
I am on this journey with you... as a yogi, I can offer this:
When you notice you are stuck:
💡remember to notice your breath
💡take refugee in a moment of pause
💡give yourself some flexibility around the helpless feeling of being
💡 look for a different angle...
💡 choose a different approach
I promise you this works!
It is a practice... we are not suddenly enlightened and never get stuck again....LOL... But the reaction to being stuck can change...one trigger at a time.
Happily unstuck in this moment ... Manuela
"I DON'T SHINE IF YOU DON'T SHINE".
Sarina's world was brutally rocked out of shape when the wildfires broke out on our hill.
Just like ours.
The "only" difference? Sarina lives with the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
She deals with challenges differently.
Her emotions can lock her up inside her own world. Her interaction with others is often challenged. How could she deal with a life-threatening event like this?
It was this picture, this grief she showed but couldn't express, that kept pushing me to write about this experience. In order to help her, I needed her to open up and be able to talk about what's hunting her. It was the enormity of this immensely difficult time that the story grew big and bigger. I divided it into three parts.
Part one is here.
If you are reading this and are caught under the impression that autistic people don't feel emotions, let me help you understand why this is wrong. It's my deepest hope to shine a light on the way how my daughter lives her life and how deeply she feels. I burn to learn everything I can about Sarina as much as I burn to heighten the awareness of people who cross her path on how to be with her. Any small act of kindness, or guidance and making her feel included means the world to her.
Sarina is highly sensitive, compassionate and vulnerable. Time has a different meaning to her. She processes things very slow, she cannot be rushed. Her actions get very chaotic when under pressure or when she tries to be fast. A threatening reality when faced with a burning hill behind you.
Sarina was born in Cincinnati, Ohio at 24 weeks. Weighing 1'15", she did spend the first 6 months of her life in the NICU trying to survive. Her differences stem from this early birth. There is really not one label that fits her. Autism Spectrum next to Sensory Processing Disorder is just one part of who she is.
At our home, we frequently say:
"Think outside. No box needed."
That's really what it takes to understand each other. Not just the people who are different.
Sarina is part of the high functioning population who is very capable but cannot live alone. She speaks two languages fluently. She is intelligent and hungry for knowledge. Since 3 months she is enrolled in a special college track at Santa Rosa Junior College. Planning for a career in Social Justice. The college has become her sanctuary. Finally, a place where she is seen and challenged. It's the eye level relationship that people like Sarina crave. The college does an amazing job offering just that.
But she is also very distractable and absentminded. Following directions is hard for her - for many reasons. Not processing the spoken word like we do is just one of them. Words or sentences spoken to fast get lost. Having a mind that cannot concentrate and constantly bombards you with a library worth of information doesn't help the process of paying attention to what's in front of you.
She has a big zest for life. She wants what we all want: She yearns to belong, have a partner, have friends and a meaningful career.
But she needs someone who helps her hold it all together. Daily life is challenging when your drum has a different beat than most people around you.
Right now and for the last eight months I have been holding that space. Supporting her growth, helping her along. Before, she lived in a supported living arrangement in Germany for a couple of years. Yet the lack of academic possibilities made us search for another solution back in the U.S. were she has lived most of her life.
When we learned about this special college program we moved to Santa Rosa, California and she moved back in with us. It was meant to be a temporary hop back into the nest. A new supported living program was also planned to open here. Sadly we just learned that it did not get licensed. We lost that opportunity.
My nest will be full for a while longer. A demanding job for me and my husband and a challenge for Sarina as well.
I believe that there is a bigger plan.
I know I'm made for this. When the challenges become all-consuming, like when dealing with the extra fear of losing our home, I remember: I will not let my crown slip. I will not break by this challenge. There is more for me to learn. There must be a bigger plan. When I am close to falling down I pick myself up again. It happens that the never-ending need my daughter has become too heavy to carry. I have to go back to my tools. When I remember to pause, remember to breathe and tap into my source I gain strength and support because I am not doing this alone.
I do this for myself. I do it for my daughter. I do it for every mother, every parent raising a special child. And in terms for everyone who deals with extraordinary challenges. My tools can be yours. We special moms are not meant to break. We are meant to hold the torch out in front of our children to lighten their path and at the same time igniting our own light. We are meant to brighten the sky with all the stars that have been denied by society to right to shine. Can you imagine how bright the sky can be if we help our children star to shine?
I can. I see it every day.
It's my mission to gather all the tools I use to help me keep my dream alive and carry my crown high while supporting Sarina to live up to hers.
Sarina teaches me to not get stuck in assumptions: there is not one correct way to show our feelings. Emotions and how we live with them come in many shapes. It takes a willingness to be fresh, to drop our expectations and become super curious about who is in front of us. I am learning this every single day.
Sarina feels deeply. But her communication of what she feels is often either off or on. "Off" is the harder one to deal with. What to do when I can't reach her? "On" happens when she tends to be obsessed with something. But she can be guided out of the "on" phase a bit easier.
People on the spectrum often feel more intense then we do. Often hidden from our view. Especially when Sarina withdraws behind a veil of silence for no apparent reason it's patience and surrender that keep us afloat. It's that place we as Neuro Typicals (NT) cannot go. When I run because we are late she might be sitting in self-talk not able to move.
"I have to sort out what's happening on my own terms first", is how Sarina explains this. "I cannot respond to you, my neurons don't understand. It's when I am on overload when it's too loud, too busy, too much everything that I need to give myself a break".
It's not natural for her to share her feelings the way its second nature for most of us. We all know someone who "ticks" a little different. I choose to be an open book. I am gifted with a strong sense of connection and sharing with others. I am committed to speak and live by my truth. What if this is not a concept you understand?
Sarina get's caught in her own inner-world experience. In times of crisis or challenges, this has been the biggest struggle of living with her. When she is withdrawn her ability to follow through with what needs to be done is jeopardized. Discernment is not a skill she has. She can get hooked on a task and cannot stop. She cannot handle being interrupted well. Even if she wants to be adaptable her brain is wired differently. From wanting something to putting it into action she needs to walk through a labyrinth first.
Living with Sarina requires time. Time to ask questions. To listen. To explain. It requires immense patience. And most of all big love governed by an open mind to help her put into words what she feels. Or filter out what others don't need to know. TMI (too much information) can be our daily bread. And on the other ends sits NEI (not enough information), equality daunting.
It requires the trust and faith that I'm not doing it all alone. Life might not flow the way we have envisioned it but I now know there is divine timing that supports us. We are meant to fulfill our lives plan but we have to be able to step back, again and again, to surrender to the flow. To pause and breathe. And breathe again. The flow of the breath is our lifeline. Whenever we stop and harden our hearts we cut ourselves off that flow. I know how that feels.
My biggest spiritual lesson?
We need to step out of our storyline.
Pause and listen to the whispers of truth that already reside in our hearts. We cannot hear them when we carry an armor of resistance around with us.
For the last 27 years, I have observed my daughter. It's a daily practice trying to understand how she feels and how life looks from her perspective. I have learned everything I know about her in the magic moments of being truly present to her. In the stillness and gentleness of the p a u s e. I feel lucky. Lucky I have learned the gift of being a listener.
I am an observer by trade. It's the gift of practicing and teaching yoga that helps me to channel my daughter's hidden world out into the open so she too can belong. It's a big hurt for a parent of a special child to feel their loneliness. Not being understood. Not to belong.
I have learned, that we as the parents are not enough. We are in desperate need to create the famous "it takes a village" for her. Especially since Sarina is an only child, our blood family is on the other side of the ocean and we are new to this town. I am on my way to create this village for her and for us.
Understanding my daughter continues to challenge me to drop labels. There is no such thing for her. She guides the way on being open to everything that appears on our path.
And there is immense grace needed that I do forgive myself when I fail. My daughter holds everything for me. She is my biggest teacher and my biggest challenge. No one can trigger me like her. I am a temperamental being, by nature fast and wild. When I lose it with her it breaks my heart. It's her who in those moments can reach out to me saying: "Mschen*, it's o.k. I do understand."
*Sarina created the name "Mschen" for me.
That's magic right in front of me.
My daily yoga and mindfulness practice moves my self-reflection and self-love off the mat and into my daily life. It's a lifesaver for me. Spending enough time in nature especially by visiting and hugging my trees fills me up. It grounds and uplifts me. I know this is my path. My body, my soul, my spirit are all in awe when I dive into the beauty around me.
The power of those trees was also present and supported me when the devastation my neighbors and my city had to endure by those fires was nacked right in front of me.
In my yoga world, it is the "I bend so I don't break" that stands true for me. It's not just a flexibility of the body, by far not. It is the flexibility in our minds that help us to stand up after the fall.
I am on a lifelong quest to understand how Sarina experiences the world. The question: "If you had one day in your life to be someone else, who would you like to be?", I can answer on the spot.
"I would love to live in my daughter's body."
I wish every day I could feel her feelings, the hidden ones in particular. Does she feel her feet on the ground? "Of course", she says when I ask her. But observing her on the yoga mat gives me a different answer. Standing on one foot is impossible without support, standing on both still looks like she is on shaky ground. She absolutely fits the image of "she has her head in the clouds.
We love to quote Rumi:
"Your head is the ladder; bring your head down under your feet”.
The experience of the two weeks after the fire broke out when we were evacuated and fear was bigger than life humbled me. When I wasn't able to be the bridge for Sarina. I was on foreign terrain with myself, lost in fear and despair. Not being able to help her consumed my nights.
The hugs when we cried together without the answers to her fears helped us to build our bridge together and move through our despair to the other side.
Look here for part two coming up next!