Hope’s Arrival

hope's arrival

“Lisa!” a neighbor called to me as I rushed to my car to pick up my daughter from school. “I have something for you” she said as she walked toward me.

“Do you like mint?” She asked me as she opened her hands to reveal one little vine of mint with delicate roots in her palm.

It was cold outside – again. Too cold for early April. It had been a long winter and signs of green life were still yet to be found in the everyday landscape. I looked at the little mint plant. I suddenly smiled and felt myself slowing down and opening. In that moment, this bright, lush, green herb held in my neighbor’s palm contrasted sharply with the background that surrounded us. Tree were still bare, grass was still mostly brown. This little plant – a sign of hope.

Until I looked at the lush greenness of this little plant, I didn’t realize how much of me had been dead and used to seeing bleakness all around me in this long winter. I didn’t realize how I had been just going through the motions of daily life during winter – hustling out of the car and into the house, shoulders slumped forward around my heart, and not taking much time to appreciate the landscape of winter. And I also sensed the parts of me that were growing, beginning to sprout, wanting to be birthed after being quiet and near the hearth for several months.

Often during Holy Week, I reflect on Holy Saturday. Not much is said about Holy Saturday. It’s a bleak, dismal day, a time of much despair and anxiety. Jesus is dead; his body is in the tomb. The rug has been pulled out from underneath his family and friends. Each is reacting in his or her own way. Some are freaking out, others want answers.

On Holy Saturday, nothing appears to be happening. What they know is that Jesus is dead. What is unknown is who they are to become – as individuals and as a community. That is yet to be born.

For me, Holy Saturday is the space between death and birth.

We can find ourselves experiencing seasons of “holy Saturday” – this space between death and birth. I call these “Holy Saturday moments.” We’ve lost something or someone dear to us. We’ve lost our footing due to a big sudden change – in our relationships, job, faith. What we know is what we’ve lost. What we know is that we’ll never be the same. What we don’t know yet is how who we will become. What we don’t know yet is how hope will sprout and what will be birthed from this experience.

So what do we do? Do we wait? Do we hide out or go looking? Do we turn on ourselves and turn away from others…and life? Do we get lost in the story of our pain?

I know this: there is no “shoulding” ourselves out of anything. There is no “forcing” that will heal us. What does heal?

~ Just like my neighbor had gently tended to this plant all winter long, we too can compassionately and tenderly tend to ourselves.

~ We can have the courage to be with our pain – breathe with it and ask others to “stay with us” as Jesus did.

~ We can have the courage to lift our heads and look around us for the quiet displays of “miraculous” all around yes – yes, even on dismal days and seasons that seem to last so very long.

~ We can have the courage to honor our hearts, deeply listen to our hearts, and discover again how the heart calls us to delight. Whether that is taking out paints and a brush and painting, planting seeds in a small garden, calling a friend to go for a walk, writing poetry, taking pictures of flowers blooming, or going to be early for a change – we can begin it.

When we follow what gently delights our hearts, we align ourselves again with a deep truth within us. Slowly we discover we are being birthed anew.

“The heart’s language is one of tender whispers and deep delight that we can hear when we create the sacred space to listen deeply.” ~ Lisa A. McCrohan

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Dear Friends, what is being birthed and called forth in my life are beautiful ways of inspiring delight, compassion and connection in your everyday life. For years I have created poetic greeting cards for friends and family — to frame and look at everyday and to give to others and share the delight. And this spring, I am now offering these Gems to the world for you and your dear ones. Often people tell me that they want to say something to their partners, moms, and soulsisters, but don’t know where to begin. Let these lines of poetry and words of inspiration accompany you as you write and express your love from your heart. You can find these Gems here at my Shop.

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan, MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Delight Passionista. Poet. Compassion Coach. Mom
Barefoot Barn

Moms – how we need each other

One of my new handmade greeting cards I'll be offering on my new website...soon!

One of my new handmade greeting cards I’ll be offering on my new website…soon!

Most of the time, it’s just down right HARD to be vulnerable – to show your imperfections, to let others in on the “secret” that you are not perfect, that your thinking is all over the place, you feel neurotic at times, and yes, you, too feel ALONE and insecure and you want people to like you. It’s hard because most of the time we are living in our own little worlds and get little TRUE connection with others, and we think, “Holy crap, is it just me?!”

And then you sit and have coffee with a friend that maybe took a whole month to plan and make happen. You know that friend – someone who really is about you, who looks at you and sees your goodness – even if your hair is a mess, even when you share a story of something you aren’t proud of but is real and raw, even if you might sound insecure. That friend whom you can ask, “Can you help me figure this out?” Whether it has to do with your relationships, your work, your kiddos, your dreams – she gets you and supports you.

It takes less than an hour to feel heard, to be seen, to feel regarded…and refreshed – to go “back out there” and be in the world.

I had that kind of coffee date today.

So often in my work, I am used to the one doing the holding – the one doing the regarding and the “holding space” that it has grown hard for me to share, to be vulnerable, and to ask for someone to “hear me out” or “help me figure this out.” But every time I go into my vulnerability, acknowledge it’s there, AND still choose to open, I am met with such compassion. It reminds me that we have to keep being vulnerable, keep opening to a few close ones, keep reaching out, and keep asking for someone to just “be alongside us” in the everydayness of our lives.

Every single mom (well, and really – every single PERSON I know) needs spaces where she can be vulnerable, imperfect, not all together…and not be judged. But that takes slowing down and SEEING our fellow mamas – and listening to the need – spoken and unspoken.

THAT is a rare treasure in this culture of hurry where we are all so busy. Well, I don’t want to be too busy to “not see.” I don’t want to be so isolated in my own little world of thinking that I do not ask “to be seen.” I know that there is a LOT wrong with this culture here in the U.S. There is an epidemic of loneliness. But I continue to be on a mission to cultivate and nourish community. And often it’s just with one look of regard as we pick up our kiddos from school, inviting a friend to “hear you out,” and making the time to be with each other.

So let’s just assume that every other mama is neurotic in her own way, she wonders if she is a good mom, she doesn’t have it all together, she feels scared at times to show how alone or lost she is, and she could use a good cup of coffee…and a chat.

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The "Thank Mom" Collection...just in time for Mother's Day

The “Thank Mom” Collection…just in time for Mother’s Day

Friends, if you are in the Frederick, MD area THIS Sunday, I’ll be at Spirit Fest! Come to the Delaplaine Visual Arts Educational Center from 11-5. I’ll be debuting several new collections of my greeting cards. While I’m really good at supporting others in pursuing their dreams, I’m reallllly shy about inviting others into my dreams and helping me. Well, it’s been a dream of mine for decades to put my poetic words out into the world in beautiful ways to inspire more delight, compassion and connection in our everyday lives. And little by little, I’m finding the courage as people tell me again and again how something I shared so deeply resonated with them. So…thank you! And if you are in Frederick, stop by and see the handmade cards I’ve been working on so much lately!

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight Passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** Check out my “work in progress” and “almost there” new website! Visit the Barefoot Barn for the 411 on psychotherapy and compassion coaching. Stay tuned for the big move – this blog will be going to my new website. And I thank my awesome web designer, Rachel, for definitely seeing where I am soooo not perfect and where I’m vulnerable, and making me feel empowered and supported!)

This is Holy

This is Holy
By Lisa A. McCrohan

You touch the holy each time you slow down to your daughter’s pace,
each time you decide to linger in her embrace.

You touch the holy when you tenderly wash your son’s back,
when you give your partner a little slack.

You touch the holy each time you see yourself as enough,
each time you tell your boy it’s ok and he doesn’t have to be tough.

You touch the holy in the mundane, the ordinary, the mess,
and in the moments you choose to do less.

The holy is right here in your hands, your touch, your presence, your smile.
The holy is right here in the moment you decide to pause and linger for awhile.

Lisa A. McCrohan, © 2013

beholding my little one

beholding my little one

Recently, my family and I went to the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, VA. And while it was a fun time filled with good friends, adventures, and lots of swimming, I found myself reflecting on the experience.  I like going on adventures.  I like exploring different parts of the world.  I am grateful we can offer our children these experiences.  However, these vacations don’t and can’t replace how we go about the ordinary days at home.  They don’t make up for the times at home when we forget how to just BE – be kind and be present.

When someone asks me about my own childhood, the memories that come to my heart are the “everyday moments.”  How my mom – a mom of four children in the span of nine years – would tuck me into bed and sing to me.  How I’d wait at the end of our street for my dad to come home from work, and we’d be together – just me and him – up the short drive to our house.  How I’d get up early and go to mass with my dad.  How my mom would take the time to put French braids in my hair.

Yes, and I also remember the hurts.  These, too, happened in the “everyday” of being a family – harsh ways of talking to each other, not being there, wanting attention, wanting things to be quieter (in a family of six!).  The hurts aren’t over NOT going on vacation to Aruba, NOT getting a car when I turned 16, NOT getting every single thing I wanted.  No, the hurts happened in the ordinary, too.

And so while we are making Summer plans – deciding on camps and vacations – I am also reflecting on how extraordinary the ordinary is.  I’m reflecting on how I don’t have to GIVE my children much in terms of stuff or even wild adventures.  My loving presence in the most ordinary of days is enough.

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Friends…What do you think would happen if, today, you believed you didn’t have to do anything more?  That you didn’t have to try to be a good parent, partner, friend, coworker?  What if you just decided to offer your loving presence and believed it is enough?  That what is extraordinary about you is just…you — your voice, soft touch, full attention?

So many people I talk to in workshops, counseling, coaching…friends over our house and in our kitchen chatting – want to be “better.”  Better parents, better partners – better, better, better.  I get sooo caught up in this, too.  We believe we have to offer more, do more, be more, try more – more, more, more.

What if, today, we just offered our loving presence – in the simple, everyday ways that arise as we wake, as we see our children, as we see our partner, as we engage with others?

Today, try believing that you don’t have to do anything more to be extraordinary. Just your loving presence is enough. Really.

You pausing in the chaos of getting out the door to school and to look at your child. This is holy. This is enough. Keep weaving these little ways of connecting into your day.

You pausing as you look in the mirror to say something kind to yourself. This is holy. Keep speaking gently.

You pausing as a friend stops you at the bus stop to really look at her and listen to her.  This is holy. Keep mirroring your sister’s goodness.

You pausing to notice the good in your partner – AND TELL HIM ABOUT IT. This is holy. Keep noticing how he lights up when you see his goodness.

As many of us planners start to look at the summer agenda, let’s not forget to be RIGHT HERE.  Let’s remember that these moments are holy.  And slowing down enough to offer our loving presence is way more than any vacation or grand adventure.  It’s enough.  It’s more than enough – it’s HOLY.

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight Passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** Do you feel like you could use some coaching in bringing mindfulness and compassion into your daily living, loving, and working? THIS IS WHAT I LOVE DOING! Let me accompany you! Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information. Email me at lmccrohan(at)gmail(dot)com. And check out my website that is in a state of “under construction” as my awesome designer and I work on a new site. Stay tuned for the big move!)

How to get out of prison

befriend what imprisons you

Your partner does something to upset you once again.  Your boss is a jerk.  That one other parent in the PTA is always putting you down.  You have cancer.  Your child just threw a tantrum and kicked you.

Your limbic system tells you to either to stay and fight or run the other way.  Your mind tells you that whatever hurts you, makes you feel anxious, gets you sick is the enemy.  And yet…you’ve tried denying, tried fighting against, tried running away, tried getting rid of it (or him or her!).  And you still feel trapped by your anxious thoughts, held captive by your habitual ways of reacting, stuck in the mess of emotions, and no closer to peace. You’re still in hell, imprisoned, stuck.

It’s completely counterintuitive.  It’s the last thing you feel like doing. It doesn’t even occur to you that there would be another way.  But…it works.

Befriend what imprisons you.

WHAT?!

I know.  And I’m hesitant to even share this practice because it is advanced and it stirs up a lot.  It takes a deep commitment to practicing mindfulness and compassion in our everyday lives.  It’s not “nice and easy”.  There’s a lot of resistance to it because when you are triggered, your whole limbic system is raging.  You want to blame.  You go into your default mode of feeling entitled, being a victim, wanting to be rescued, and focused on the other person changing – NOW – so you can be happy.

But blaming, shaming, playing the victim…it never heals.  It never “gets us happy.”  It never brings the peace we so long for.

There is another way.

Nelson Mandela embodied this practice while he was imprisoned for over two decades: befriend it all.  Instead of seeing the prison guards as his enemy, he befriended them.

But Nelson Mandela had to “start closer in” before he was able to befriend even his torturers.  He had to start with his own self.  Befriending every single part of his own self.

There are parts of you that you keep at bay – that you treat at the enemy.  You speak harshly to the part of you that is sooo not confident and is so insecure.  You shame the part of you that couldn’t control yourself and you ate the other piece of chocolate cake.  You judge the parent in you who yells at her kiddos and “should” all over her.

When did we ever learn that beating ourselves up “works” or motivates us to make positive changes?!  It doesn’t.  And when you’ve exhausted yourself going at it again and again…try this…

Instead, befriend every single part of you.  The shameful part.  The addict.  The yeller.  The insecure part.  The anxious part.  The totally imperfect and never gets it “right” part.  The ugly part.

How?  How do you do that?!  With mindfulness and compassion.  With all the skillful means that I’ve written about on this blog.  By turning inward, pausing, getting grounded, offering yourself gentle words of understanding, tuning into your breath, and allowing every single sensation, emotion and thought SPACE TO BE.  By giving yourself compassionate presence.

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THIS IS WHAT HEALS.

This is what I do as a compassion coach and psychotherapist.  This is the work that nourishes us.  These are the keys to open the prison cell…and we walk out.

This is what I so desire for each and every one of you.  Say “yes” to freedom.  EVERY single person can do this.  It takes mindfulness and practice.  But it isn’t work — you’ve already done “the work” of holding too much for too long, of being harsh toward yourself.  I want you to LIVE and LOVE with an open, liberated heart.

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight Passionista.

barefootideaslogo **  Do you feel like you could use some coaching in bringing mindfulness and compassion into your daily living, loving, and working?  THIS IS WHAT I LOVE DOING!  Let me accompany you!  Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information.  Email me at lmccrohan(at)gmail(dot)com.  And check out my website that is in a state of “under construction” as my awesome designer and I work on a new site. Stay tuned for the big move!)

The Power of Forgiveness

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“You are not too old

and it is not too late

to dive into your increasing depths

where life calmly gives out

it’s own secret”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

As I turned 40 a few months ago, I felt a call to “let go.”  I was carrying too much — too much of the past, too much responsibility in the present, and too much worry about the future.  I wanted to live with more ease. Carrying around too much was keeping me from embodying a sense of calm in my everyday life. Tied so tightly to the past was keeping me from delighting in this very moment.  Being so responsible about the present kept me closed off, scrambling for control, and reacting with harshness to those I love.  So worried about the future kept me from living TODAY without regrets.

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And, to tell you the truth, mulling over the past, trying to control the present, and being anxious about the future are ways our minds keep us from touching what we THINK will be too difficult to heal.  Things like shame, regret, and where we feel “not enough” — those aren’t easy places to go to.  The busyness of our day, the “stuckness” of repeating habitual ways of avoidance keep us from going into those places within us to heal them.

So this Lenten season, I decided to take a courageous step:  practice forgiveness.  To begin and end my day with forgiveness meditations and practice “in the moment” forgiveness as I go about my day.

I dedicated myself to doing it with gentleness and tenderness.  I told myself I would force nothing.  And if shame would arise, I told myself, I will hold it, welcome it, and tend to it.  I dedicated myself to practicing tenderness.

she took a deep breath and softened lisa a mccrohan

You see, in order to live with ease and be at peace – we can exclude nothing.  Nothing. Everything must be welcomed with gentleness, tender honesty, mindful awareness, and compassionate presence.  Even the ego.  Even the shadow sides of us.  Yep, that means even the dark parts of yourself that you think, “no one would love me if they REALLY knew who I was.”  Those parts.  Nothing can be excluded from our tender care if we truly want to live with ease and abide in a deep peace.

So,ten days ago, I began to practice a forgiveness meditation and forgiveness “in the moment.”  I didn’t know how I’d feel or if there’d be any shift.  Well…it’s only been ten days.  TEN DAYS.  And…Whoa.  Slowly, sweetly and with gentleness, there is a clearing within me.  Layers around my heart are beginning to just unfold.  A deep quietness and peace are resting within me.

And it’s through denying nothing, but rather embracing tenderly.  It’s through doing very little.  Less trying.  More allowing.  And a willingness to be with whatever arises.

So what have I been doing?  What can you do?

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Practicing forgiveness in everyday life.  If I speak harshly to my kiddos, close myself off from Brian, or start to judge myself or someone else, I put my hand on my heart and speak kind words of forgiveness: “It’s ok, Love.  It’s alright, Lisa.”  I tend to whatever hurt there is – in that very moment.  I extend forgiveness to myself and to others — in the moment.

** You can do this, too!  Throughout your day when you wake up and realize you’re about to be harsh with yourself or start judging someone else, pause.  Put your hand on your heart.  Speak words of kindness to yourself.  Even say, “Forgiven. Forgiven.”

Beginning and ending the day with forgiveness meditation.  I recorded a forgiveness meditation.  (If you’d like it, just email me lmccrohan {at} gmail {dot} com.  The file was too large to put here!)  It’s a beautiful meditation that gently grounds you and takes you through seeing the pain you’ve caused others, reflecting gently on the times you’ve caused yourself suffering, and extending forgiveness to others who have caused you suffering.

These practices empty us out, clearing space for new delights in our lives…and living with a deep sense of ease and peace.  And I’m just nine days into it!

But here’s the thing: while we can practice meditation on our own, we need community. 

We need each other to keep up the practice, to keep going into the places within us that we don’t want to see or think will be too painful to forgive and extend forgiveness.  Because forgiveness isn’t a “once and done” deal.  We have to keep practicing, keep being tender, keep softening.  And that takes courage.  And that takes community.

So…is something within you calling you to practice forgiveness in this season of your life?   Email me.  Comment here.  Let’s build community to support one another in this journey.  I don’t know where this will lead us.  I just know that we need community.

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden.”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”  – Dorothy Day

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight Passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** I hope you are nourished in your day and you are inspired to live with more delight, compassion, and connection in your everyday life. Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information on compassion coaching, psychotherapy and workshops – it’s in a state of “under construction” as my awesome designer and I work on a new site.  I’ve been told that when we move the blog over to the website that all the followers here will automatically come with us!  We’ll see!  So if you are new here, click ‘follow’ on this blog.  And everyone stay tuned for the big move!)

Devotion

“The deepest form of generosity is presence.” – Tara Brach

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I don’t remember a moment from childhood where my mom hurried me.  I’m sure there were moments – given how much my parents went through in their twenties, God, there had to have been moments. But what comes to mind when I think of my mother’s ways when I was a young child is how she was present.

She took the time to read to me, put French braids in my hair, pack my lunch (a practice she still will do today, almost 40 years later, if I am staying with them!), and sing to me at night to tuck me into bed.  I remember her taking me to a park that I loved so I could climb and run.  And now as a mom just to two children, I think, “How did she do that?!  How did she create the space for just the two of us to do something together?!”  I remember her creating space for me to put on a record and dance in the family room.  I remember my mom sitting with me and looking at the JCPenney catalogue where we’d order a new bedspread and curtains for me.  Most of all, I remember my mom looking at me with total devotion – as if only I mattered in that moment.  I have no visceral feeling of being rushed or hurried.  I remember being seen and held in those moments of my mom sitting with me.

My mom would’ve had valid reasons to not be present, to hurry me.  She was friends in high school with the gentleman who would later be our dad and supported him through a tragic loss at the age of 18.  All before the age of 30, she and my dad had four children, she nursed her mom through cancer and dying when she was 21 and pregnant with me, she lost her dad suddenly three years later and she had pneumonia so bad that one of her lungs had to be removed.  This is all while my dad was in college full-time, studying for his CPA exam, and working full-time.

She would’ve had good reason to turn negative, to turn inward and think the world – including God – was against her.  She could’ve closed off her heart, keeping all she could for herself.  But she didn’t.  In fact, I’d imagine her heart opened even wider – because that’s what I remember about my mom.  Her heart was open, welcoming…and devoted.  Yes, that’s what I remember about my childhood – her devotion – to us, to this world, and to the Divine.

Throughout my life, people have told me what a lovely person my mom is.  She embodies a powerfully feminine way of being compassionate, focusing on what matters, and prayer.  She has transformed suffering with a deep devotion to love.

That’s what suffering can do – if we choose.  In every single moment there is a choice – to open, to surrender, to let go, to embrace what matters, and to let Grace pick us up off the floor and show how to heal by taking the next right step to choose love in this very moment.  Suffering – the “everyday” kinds of suffering and the deeper, tragic sufferings – can sift out what so doesn’t matter.  It can wake us up to how we are devoting our time, energy, thoughts, and heart.  It can call forth a deep devotion to love.

And as we celebrated my mom’s birthday last week, I am reminded of how even today, her deep devotion to love is evident in everything she does.  From how she carefully selects and cuts strawberries in bite sized pieces for my daughter, smiles so deeply at my son as he whips by us on his bike, and brings pistachios for my kiddos to have protein, to how she sends me a text reminding me of my goodness, the need to rest, how exquisite my poetry and eyes and presence are, and how my deep capacity for love flows into how I love my family and this world.

I think that I, too, am living a life a deep devotion to love.  Letting go of any trying, pushing through, or “making happen,” and surrendering to Love.

holding her against my heart

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Friends, there are many pressures on us to hurry and rush.  I find that today, in this day and age, when someone is actually fully present with me, tears come to my eyes.  This is not how to live.  This is not how we care and feel cared for.  And while, yes, we “have to get things done,” can we look at our lives and say, “But do I have to do so much?!”  Together let’s look at what we are devoted to.  I spent years devoted to “doing good” in this world – and getting really burned out.  Over the years of being a mom, I see how, more and more, I am devoting myself to THIS moment.  THIS opportunity to pause and be present.  THIS look of love.  I surely don’t do it perfectly AT ALL.  I just yelled at my kiddos last night to hurry up and get into bed.  BUT my attention and intention is on living with a deep devotion to love.  And loving in ways that are slow, nourishing, and tender.  And I know that I am embodying such tenderness and devotion with every little choice of how I go about my day.

So maybe today, ask yourself, “What am I devoted to?  Where is my attention?  What is my intention?”  And choose to follow the deep devotion of your heart.

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** Folks, currently I have TWO OPEN COACHING SPOTS.  If you could use some compassion and mindfulness practices in your everyday life to feel nourished and to more deeply be present to the dear ones in your life, please contact me.  AND…soon this blog will be totally integrated with my website and I’ll be closing this blog.  The website is in a total state of “under construction” right now!  But soon, we’ll be moving the blog over there and I’ll be asking all of you to sign up for blog updates on there so you can continue to get these gems.  I hope you are nourished in your day and you are inspired to live with more delight, compassion, and connection in your everyday life. Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information (again, it’s a work in progress right now!)

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Every Day

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A month ago, I started to ask myself three questions.

See, I had fallen into the habit of staying up late and then getting up when the kiddos get up. Disaster! With “no time” for my morning meditation practice, I often felt frustrated with one kiddo jumping on me in bed, another wanting milk. I’d get all agitated with everyone in our bed – all before 7:30 a.m. I’d end up feeling like crap because I just started the day off for everyone by reacting and getting annoyed. And come evening, I’d stay up late trying to get things done and then not have the energy to really reflect on my day.

I justified staying up late because there was work that I just “HAD” to do. Brian once asked, “What can you let go of?” I nearly bit his head off and said, “Nothing! It’s ALL important! I have to do it all!”

The truth is, there was (and still is) lots I can let go of. (That’s a whole other post). The truth is some of my priorities were all off. I realized that, again, the wise sages throughout the ages are right on: BOOKEND your day with meditation when you wake and meditation in the evening.

So, I started to get back on track by waking up before the kiddos. I ask myself, “How can I love today?” And I start to visualize loving – starting with myself and the dear ones in my life and then extending out to those I see in our day. Even if it is a brief moment of “turning inward,” tuning into my breath, and preparing my heart for the day, I am doing it.

While I’m used to practicing (practicing!) pausing in my day, I started to get really focused and ask again and again and again, “How can I love in this moment?” Sometimes, I’ve still held back, still closed off my heart. Some times I’ve chosen to open and soften.

And in the evening, instead of staying up late and trying to get more work done, I decided put aside writing the next blog post, returning emails, etc. I get real with myself. “Ok,” I ask, “How fully did I love today?” I ask this with gentleness, tenderness and honesty. And I’ve started to open my eyes to really see how I’ve loved or not loved. And I’m letting it inform how I wake up and imagine me going through the day.

And I notice three things:

~ I noticed that I react a lot during the day when I was multi-tasking. Loving in the moment is difficult if I am trying to get myself ready, get the kiddos ready, make breakfast, make my to-do list, be present with the kiddos, make sure we aren’t missing anything important for school – oh and get everyone out the door.

And I have a choice — I can slow down. Do less. Let go of what reallllly doesn’t have to be done. And focus on what matters most.

~ I’ve noticed that I tend to pull back from loving when I feel alone, responsible for everything, and that my deeper need is not being “seen.”

And I have a choice — I can choose to tune into my breath, put my hand on my heart, give myself loving attention and then see how this softens me, connects me, and helps me let go of old worries and responsibilities I no longer have to carry.

~ I’ve noticed that I really am mindful and heartful. I’ve noticed that by forgiving myself, seeing the good, and gently bringing to light the shadow sides of me, I let love in. I soften. I go to sleep with fewer regrets.

Here are a few Haiku poems I wrote to inspire us all to ask these three questions every day.

Regret
I held back my love
Did not share what’s on my heart.
Fear lodged words inside.

Let Love In

I want to pull back
Old habits weaved within me
Yet one choice now: Love.

Now
I opened my heart
Spoke the words I longed to say
Freedom kisses me.

Lisa A. McCrohan, © 2014

******************
Dear friends, try “bookending” your day with these three questions. Begin your day with visualizing how you can love today. SEE yourself as you go about your normal, everyday routine — and see how there is an opportunity for you to choose to love.

As you go about your day, ask yourself how you can love in this moment. THIS IS HARD when you are stressed (being hit by a toddler, yelled at by a teenager! I know!) But the more and more you practice, it WILL come into your mind as an option!.

And in the evening, get real with yourself by asking how fully you loved today. Be gentle and compassionate toward yourself. Remember to ask how fully you loved YOURSELF! And let that inform how you will go about your day tomorrow.

Share how this practice changes you and your relationships!

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** Folks, I’m glad you are a part of this community. If you’d like to receive Gems in your inbox, click “follow.” I hope these gems nourish you today and you are inspired to live with more delight, compassion, and connection in your everyday life. Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information or contact me about mindful/compassion coaching, psychotherapy, workshops and retreats.

Stop What You are Doing

kissing kiddos in office

This morning, my husband, Brian, took the kiddos to their dentist appointment. Ahhh, a few hours at home by. my. self.

I have needed this time alone. I had the (crazy!) expectation (ohhh how expectations create suffering!) back in December that “once this holiday season is over, once I am done with a few big projects I am working on, I’ll have more time to write and attend to the Barefoot Barn.” But then new “to do’s” happen. And while I feel like I am pretty good at time management and limit-setting, it is a CONSTANT mindfulness practice to remember: THIS is what matters. To remember to mind your time, energy, attention, and focus “output” because the abyss of social media and distractions in our lives can keep us doggy paddling, panting for a rope to pull us to shore.  To remember that we’ve got to PAUSE in order to WAKE UP and CHOOSE how we are going to live this moment.

So awhile back, I made a pact with myself: whatever I am doing – whatever project I am working on or email I am in the middle of – when my kiddos arrive home, I stop what I am doing. I turn my body toward them. I give them my presence. I hug them, hold them, look them in the eye…and I linger.

It only takes a few minutes. But for those few minutes, I am present. Totally.

I used to do this when they were little — either putting them into the car seat or getting them out of the car. Just pausing, looking in their eyes and smiling before we ventured off into the world. It was a tender moment of us connecting. It could easily get hustled, hurried, passed over or ignored. But somehow I had the wits about me to do these “car seat moments.” And now, they don’t need help getting into and out of the car. They are growing up and more independent. That moment is gone.

So now here is this moment, this opportunity: they arrive home, I stop what I am doing.

There are other “mindful moments” in our day:

~ in the morning when we all wake up, we linger. We hang out. I look at them. We cuddle. I give them my presence.

~ before they walk in to school, we pause and we hug. I give them my presence and my smile. No matter how late we are. No matter how hurried we might have felt. I want the last moment before my babies head off “into the world” to be one of connection…because, you know, you really never know if that’ll be the last time we see each other or not.

~ at bedtime Brian and I both lay with our kiddos. Yes, I am often REALLLY tired. I’ve been “going” for 14 hours (oh why even count the time, right?!). But we lay together in the darkness, after brushing teeth, after a story. I feel their bodies become still. I feel their breath become deeper and longer. Some times there are things that they bring up and talk about – in the darkness, in the stillness. And I tell myself, “This is what matters.  Just be here.”  Yes, there are times that I just gotta get up. There are times when I am like, “OMG, you gotta go to sleep.” But I’ve eased up on myself about that. That’s ok to feel.

I see these exact “mindful moments” in our day as ritual, sacred…and prayer. As though we were in a monastery with bells ringing at specific times in the day to remind us to “come back to center” and a “call to prayer,” these “mindful moments” ARE my meditation bells. They are my time of prayer. They are weaved into our bodily memory so we do them so instinctively now. And when we’ve had a really crappy day – I’ve yelled, been all focused on work, harped on Brian in front of the kiddos – having these “mindful moments” structured into our day — they are a built-in invitation to reconnect and begin again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear readers, you can try this: “schedule” these mindful moments. Put them into your calendar until they become habits. Let them become a ritual so deeply weaved into your heart and body that when things get really hectic and crazy, they serve as meditation bells, a call to prayer, a call to remember that connecting with our dear ones matters most.

Do share the “mindful moments” of your day with us so we can all learn from and empower each other.

Blessings,
Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** Folks, I’m glad you are a part of this community. If you’d like to receive Gems in your inbox, click “follow.” I hope these gems nourish you today and you are inspired to live with more delight, compassion, and connection in your everyday life. Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information or contact me about mindful/compassion coaching, psychotherapy, workshops and retreats.

The Fears that Hold Us Back

Fears hold us back from loving and following the truth our hearts whisper.  They keep our hearts closed, our breath shallow, and our bodies tense.  But there’s something we can do.  And it’s simple, powerful, and healing.

Take Heather Von St. James.

heather-family

Eight years ago, at the age of 35, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a rare cancer that kills most people within two years of the diagnosis.  When Heather was diagnosed, she had just given birth to their daughter, Lily.   She was given just 15 months to live.  Heather had a life-saving surgery in which her left lung was removed.  Today, eight years later, every year on February 2, Heather and her family, along with a growing number of friends and folks like us, join her in LungLeavin’ Day.  Every year, folks gather around a big fire in Heather and Cameron’s backyard.  They write their biggest fears on a plate.  Then they throw them into the fire.  They gather to honor those who are no longer with them.  They gather to honor those who are in the midst of struggling with mesothelioma.  They gather to celebrate ALL of our lives – and let go of our FEARS in order to LIVE.

It’s so simple.  So empowering.  Gather together, name your fears, and throw them into the fire.

The truth is we need each other.

The truth is we all have fears that make us hold back from loving and living with full, open hearts and arms.

The truth is that there is something within us calling us, inviting us again and again, to return to a deep sense of peace, contentment, and freedom.

The truth is such freedom is possible right here in this moment – yet it often feels sooo hard and soooo far away.

I have seen time and again in my work as a therapist, coach, and yoga/mindfulness teacher how our fears keep us from embracing the life that’s right before us.  I see how fear makes us hold our bodies in tense positions, makes us hold our breath, makes us hold back our love. And I’ve seen the amazing transformation – literally visible in people’s bodies — when they mindfully meet their fears – with kindness, spaciousness…and community.

What can we do?

Take Heather and Cameron’s lead.  Gather.  Name your fears.  Throw them into a fire.

Gather.  When was the last time you asked someone to just BE with you, to hear you out, to really be present with you?  When was the last time you asked your partner to say little, to not fix anything, and just hold space for you to name the layers of your fears?  Sounds incredibly vulnerable and scary?!  Yep.  It is.  That’s fear talking.  AND when you do gather with just one other person or with a group of dear ones and you hold space for each other to name, list, write on a plate – whatever you want to do – you’ll see how fear is just an illusion.   You’ll feel empowered.  You’ll feel bigger than your fear.  And when you do it with others, you are supported by a tribe of people – and you support them.  Talk about powerful.

Name your fears.  Naming is a powwwwwerful way of healing.  Just naming.  Not reacting. Not judging.  Not beating yourself up for feeling this way.  Naming and allowing.  I wrote a great post about just this awhile back.  Check it out.

Throw your fears into the fire.  Literally or metaphorically.  In mindful meditation, when you name your fears, holding them with gentleness, allowing them to be there, staying in touch with your breath – our fears can disintegrate  ALL ON THEIR OWN.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve experienced it.  Just giving them presence, giving them spaciousness, they can dissolve.

Heather and Cameron have a lovely website.  Check them out.  Read their story.  Find hope.  Find encouragement.  Get a plate, make a fire, gather around it, and then see your fears dissolve.

Many blessings,

Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** Friends, I’m glad you are a part of this community. If you’d like to receive Gems in your inbox, click “follow.” I hope today you are inspired to live with more delight, compassion, and connection in your everyday life. Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information or contact me about mindful/compassion coaching, psychotherapy, workshops and retreats.

Today I turn 40.

Lisa McCrohan at 40

Today I turn 40. I wept last night as Brian showed me my gift still in progress. He knows that although I am an extrovert, my heart needs time, privacy and intimacy to absorb and drink in such love. He shared with me the raw footage of a gift that he has orchestrated and dear ones and strangers have so willingly and so beautifully participated in. And I wept.

You see, beneath the words we speak, beyond the anxiety of everyday life, something deep within us calls to us – calls to us through the hurry, worry, busy – reminding us “THIS IS WHO YOU ARE AND YOU ARE LOVED. THERE IS NO NEED TO STRIVE, PANT, TRY OR WORK SO HARD. YOU ALREADY ‘ARE’ WHAT YOU SO DEEPLY LONG FOR.” And sometimes, someone so dear to us, someone who so intimately knows us hears that call louder than we hear it ourselves. And they sing it, recite it, chant it for us on the outside of our body so we can hear our own Voice.

This is what Brian and dear ones have given me.

Brian looked over my binders of poems I’ve written over the last four decades of my life. He chose “Here.”

lisa mccrohan picking a good one
Here
By Lisa A. McCrohan

The holy is right here
in this moment.

Linger here
watching her eyelashes flutter
as she pulls you closer
in her fairy dress and pearls
cups her little hands so softly
around your ear
and whispers a magical secret.

Linger here
seeing he wants to be held
pausing to hear the unspoken ache
to still find healing in your embrace.

Linger here
forgiving
when you are angry and so very right
taking your beloved’s hand
and choosing instead
to soften and let go.

Linger here
watching his eyes light up
talking with his hands
wondering how they got so big
listening to spy tales and adventures
he has in store out back
asking you to fasten all the gadgets
around his tiny waist so he can run.

Linger here
memorizing the way he still looks at you
wanting to make love to you
wanting to make you happy
wanting you to know how he sees you
embodying your power as you age,
fuller, rounder, sensual, beautiful.

Linger here
watching her walk away from you
into class for the first time
shrugging her shoulders
taking it all in
looking at you
looking back to her class
finding herself, her place
your years of loving her.

Linger here
noticing how he still calls you his little girl
now softer, now hugging longer,
now moving slower.

Linger here
seeing how all these years
she just wanted you to be happy
silently, prayerfully, gladly sacrificing her life
for yours.

Linger here
feeling your bare feet in the cool grass
the hint of fall’s arrival soon
being breathed
being blessed
believing that every scar, every giggle
every heart ache, every long embrace
in this messy, imperfect, human form
is precious
all for you to have

and let go.

Linger here in this fleeting,
fragile, miraculous moment

holy

just as it is.

Lisa A. McCrohan, © 2013

lisa mccrohan kiss

This poem was one I wrote as though God were reminding me to linger and bless this beautiful life right here in this present moment. I don’t perfectly embody the words of the poem in my everyday life. I wrote it as encouragement to me to slow down and savor and be blessed because I see two paths I can go down in this life. One is the path of being so busy and worried and full of anxiety. One is the path of embodying the image I see of myself as an older woman – still, quiet, grounded, with a heart so wide and empty that it is full of only love – and memory of and connection to the Divine – amidst the chaos in this world. And I can choose “Here” in any moment.

dawn 10

Now, a side note. I have been writing all my life.

photo(2)

From the stories and books I wrote in Mrs. Kostenbader’s third grade class about love bugs, mysteries, and poems of friendships, when I write, a peace settles within me. I am connected to the Divine and this world. I feel as though I am fully embodying a call within me. Such an act of intimacy leaves me shy to share. And for decades my words remained just within me. Gentle encouragement by my mom and dear ones, and little by little, I have started to share. There are so many poems I’ve written that I still haven’t put out into the world. Again, my soul moves slowly, prefers candlelight instead of bright light and revealing it all.

lisa mccrohan sunrise

Well, Brian chose this poem and called family and friends. He asked them to each video tape themselves reading this poem – dear friends, my parents, and even my children. Brian called a parishioner at the church where he works to ask for advice about video editing. This person thought this was such an awesome gift he said he would do it for Brian – for me.

I wept. I wept for over an hour. Loud, audible cries. I’ll cry again when I see the final product. Here are my dear ones – so so beautiful and more beautiful over the years.  Here are my dear ones reading lines of my poem. Out loud. Here are my dear ones reading to MY poem to ME. Here I am listening to their voice speaking my words written in the silence of “deep listening” – NOW needing to be heard not only in my own mind and heart, but into the world. Here are my dear ones giving sound to the words whispered by the Divine within – reminding me, tethering me to, reflecting to me the TRUTH within me.

The experience of hearing “my” words spoken outside of me and audible into the world – and have my words read TO ME…this leaves me speechless. It is prayer, blessing, and gift – opened, offered, cherished, shared. There is no striving in me for anything – even to “be” a writer. There’s nothing I NEED to accomplish. I have no need to strive…because there is nothing to achieve. I already am.

And that is what this gift does for me – it calls me forth to stand and know that all I have ever wanted, I already am. Beyond a writer or poet. Beyond even being a mom. All I have ever wanted, what my soul yearns for, is to be so connected to, to embody the Divine so intimately that I am no longer. “Lisa,” I hear, “You already are.”


My One Desire

By Lisa A. McCrohan

I look back now
and I see how all my efforts
all my trying, yearning,
reaching, searching
and

letting go

have been to
more deeply be aligned
with You.

All my desires
lead
to
just
One -

only
You.

I desire
only
to
embody
You
in every cell of me
so fully that

i am
no
longer

and

only
You
remain.

Lisa A. McCrohan, © 2013

***********************************

Dear friends, may you know that you already “are” – whatever it is you desire. May you see how all your desires lead you back to only one — whatever name you have for the divine, the “oneness” that we all are, come from and return to. May your striving be lessened and may peace settle in your heart.

Many blessings,

Lisa A. McCrohan
MA, LCSW-C, RYT
Mom. Compassion Coach. Psychotherapist. Delight passionista.

barefootideaslogo ** Friends, I’m glad you are a part of this community. If you’d like to receive Gems in your inbox, click “follow.” I hope today you are inspired to live with more delight, compassion, and connection in your everyday life. Visit the Barefoot Barn for more information or contact me about mindful/compassion coaching, psychotherapy, workshops and retreats.

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Copyright. 2013. All rights reserved. No portion of any post may be copied without written permission from the author. The advice offered herein does not constitute a substitute for professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice and intervention. The self-help contents are solely the opinion of the blogger and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction and/or diagnosis or treatment of any kind: medical, spiritual, mental, or other. If expert advice or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.
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