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Cutting Down

What’s it going to take for us to believe in our own potential and resiliency? I think about the impossible feat of a tiny acorn becoming the majestic oak. Looking at that dinky seed in our palm, our mind would never believe it. Greatness? In this? Madness! But, yet, it is true. Somehow, that little seed undergoes miracle after miracle, rising a little more each day. Wilting perhaps, or even getting trampled upon. But this is the glory of nature, and the great wonder of the Universe. The inconceivable occurs every day. We, dear ones, are like this too.
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And what keeps us going? Faith.
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What keep us buried? Doubt, darkness, and staying in our little shells.
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I’m a recovering self-bully. The shit that’s come out of my own psyche in my own direction is downright cruel in many instances, and I share this not for sympathy because I know this self-sabotage is RAMPANT among damn near everyone I know. Even among the brightest Lights and the most gifted Artists and Leaders. Role models even!
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Enough! When did it become so normalized to treat ourselves so badly? When did we forget that inside of ourselves was the seed of an incredible Tree of Life, waiting to root down into Mother Earth and stretch our limbs to the Heavens? This is our Truth, and we must not forget it.
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I, for one, am so over not believing in myself. Because whether or not I acknowledge it, I will always have the capacity to grow that much. To GIVE that much (I mean, just think for a moment how much LIFE is sustained by a single tree.) We must not dishonor our own beautiful potential with harshness and criticism. Our work is to get quiet—watch and listen for what we ourselves need in nurturance to grow into our fullness and rootedness. And then do it.
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As a sapling in this Circle of Life, I see and honor each of you in your growth, your process, and your potential. I believe in you, and I pray you can believe in you too.
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Sending Light to all beings, Danielle

Another Woman Steps Forward

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When I woke up this morning, my Facebook feed was flooding with two simple words—”me too.” Two words that encapsulate a lifetime of the feminine experience.

In light of breaking news about Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long history of Hollywood sexual assault, women around the world are stepping forward on social media in solidarity. The task, introduced on Twitter by actress Alyssa Milano, is simple but strong:

Over 6,000 women have since stepped forward; I am one of these women.

The first time I was sexually abused was before I had the cognitive capacity to even understand what it meant to be female, or what it meant to have a body that was my own. A man 35 times my age took me, a golden-curled infant girl, into the bath and probed his fingers inside of me. This was not an isolated incident, and it continued without anyone’s knowledge for several years. These remain my earliest memories—ones I’ve spent most of my life trying to forget.

The trend of sexual violation continued into my adulthood:

When as a teenager, within a month of drinking alcohol for the first time, I woke up after a party with my pants twisted half-way off my hips and hazy flashbacks of my barely-conscious body being picked up off the couch and carried into a side-room to be fondled in my sleep by a boy I had barely spoken to.

When in college, I went out for a night of dancing with my girlfriends, only to have a stranger appear behind me and literally shove his hand up my skirt and into my vagina. On the dance floor. Surrounded by people who did nothing when I screamed.

When I woke up in the morning with my boyfriend’s d*ck prodding up against me as I lay quietly, pretending not to notice, because no one ever told me that partnership didn’t equate to unlimited consent.

Or when I moved to Hollywood and attended a movie premier and had to literally fight off some big-wig producer who was drunkenly dragging me into his Uber to “just have some fun for the night”—as if my shaky-voiced “nos” sounded like I was having fun.

And don’t even get me started on the infinite micro-violations of cat calls, uninvited d*ck pics, ass-grabs, and sexually-charged comments I’ve gotten from men I didn’t know, worked for, or straight-up had no interest in.

It took years of emotional therapy, meditation, and yoga for me to put the pieces together. When the light bulb moment went off, and I understood that what happened to me was in fact a real and formative trauma, it was like the missing piece to the puzzle of my life. Suddenly every mystery of my being made sense.

Why I was terrified to use a tampon for years. Why I cried the first time someone showed me porn. Why I was ceaselessly attracted to every kind of unavailable man. Why I consistently convinced myself that turning down someone’s sexual advances was “harsh,” “bitchy,” or “mean.” Why my nervous system shuts down after witnessing a man become hostile, leaving me physically collapsed for hours even when the aggression isn’t directed at me.

I speak from personal experience, but this is not just my story.

When I reclaimed my truth as an abuse survivor and started opening up to people in my life, woman, after woman, after woman met me with another tearful “me too.” It became shockingly clear to me that not only was my experience not rare, but it was one that a majority of women share. Nearly every woman I confided in had their own painful story to share. At one point, I started a women’s healing circle, and as we went around sharing our opening intentions, we realized that literally every single woman in the room had been molested or raped.

According to non-profit organization “Safe Horizon,” one in five women today have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. One in ten women were molested before the age of 18. The statistics are even more horrifying for LGBTQ women and women of color. And that’s just those of us who choose to report.

And could you blame us for not wanting to? Case after case illustrates how women’s honest accounts are invalidated, ignored, or worse, met with more violence and hostility. The past couple years alone have been a testament to this. Brock Turner’s scott-free release, Bill Cosby’s shameful trial, or most recently, Rose McGowan’s account of being blacklisted after her own rape. Beyond this, one look at the comments section of any woman coming out of the closet with her story online is filled with minimizations, hatred, and cries of “not all men.”

So what do we do? Because I’m not willing to spend my life in fear or in silence, and I never want any other woman to have to do it either.

As f*cking frustrating and scary as it is to share something this vulnerable—knowing on a societal (and often interpersonal) level many people will completely reject our truth—we just have to do it. We have to start with owning our stories. Saying, “Yes, this happened to me. And it wasn’t my fault. And I see you and believe you too, sister.”

We devote ourselves to healing our past, accepting ourselves unconditionally in the present, and fighting for a future where sexual violence is an unacceptable offense. Because while we couldn’t control what happened to us then, we can control how we meet ourselves and our sisters now—with the patience, gentleness, and love that we needed before.

If you or a woman you know has experienced sexual trauma or violation, from the bottom of my heart I ask that you seek out healing and support however you can. Start by getting the words out of your body—whether to a loved one or in the privacy of a journal. Healing starts when we express our truth. Then, I highly recommend seeking counseling. Whether in a women’s circle, or with a therapist, or a sexual survivor’s support group—talk with other women. These spaces exist in every city I’ve ever been, and they really do help. I also have found expression through yoga and art to be profoundly healing. Be willing to try different modalities until something starts to move the pain out from where it’s been buried inside all this time.

My path of healing has been a long and winding road filled with mistakes and tears, but also profound connection and love. This is a lifelong work, but it is worth it. Because when we honor our experience and make space for healing ourselves and our sisters, we reclaim our pleasure, our feeling, and our very aliveness.

I refuse to be a victim in this life. I refuse to let my story limit who I get to be in this world. I believe in healing, I believe in the power of love, and I’m committed to being a voice for this movement. We can—and we will—rise above.

The social structures that allow sexual violence to continuously occur are not going to transform overnight, but we can contribute to being a force of love and change in this world.

If you feel called to take action, here are several trusted organizations doing amazing work to prevent sexual assault and support victims of sexual abuse:

RAINN: the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the country.

NO MORE: prevents sexual violence through programs with a coalition of allies, advocates, survivors, government agencies, and individual citizens.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC): prevents sexual violence through education, collaboration, and resources for survivors.

End Rape On Campus (EROC): works to specifically address and prevent widespread sexual assault that happens in colleges.

The Consensual Project: partners with schools to educate students on consent. It’s giving young people resources on how to have conversations about consent.

We cannot fear our truth, or that of any other human being we share this life with. I honor each of you in every moment. I honor your experience, your process, and your path.

We are here, and we are not alone.

In Soul, Danielle

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Why we Willingly Carry our Burdens Around

I’ve noticed how often myself and those around me convince ourselves that carrying burdens is worth the weight (and the wait).

It’s as if we’ve accepted that feeling weighed down by life is just a “part of the deal.” We’ll feel light and good when we get the promotion, when the kids are out of the house, when we retire—there is always another mile marker before we get to rest and enjoy.

Is it ever worth it? And what are we carrying anyway?

Most often, it’s the people, places, things, and parts of ourselves that we feel like we couldn’t possibly live without. And I say this quite literally. I’m talking about the things that, when even entertaining the thought of letting them go, we’re met with so much fear that we feel like we’re actually facing death.

These “things” are what we build our sense of safety around—most often our primary relationships (partners, spouses, parents, best friends), our homes, source of income, and material belongings. But sometimes they can be aspects of our identity that we believe are necessary to protect ourselves—strength, independence, likability, privacy, intelligence—anything we’ve deemed “good enough” to catch us when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan.

We hold onto these things for dear life because we don’t trust that we’ll be supported if we let go. We don’t trust life, and we don’t trust ourselves. Without this trust, our very livelihood feels threatened—basically all the time.

I, like all humans, have had my own flavor of vices and crutches to maintain a sense of control in this wild world. Some are a little more trivial, like how keeping a perfectly decorated apartment made my historically missing sense of “home” feel a little closer. But others have embedded into the web of my psyche much more complexly, particularly in the realm of relationships.

Over the past several months, I’ve been learning to see relationships through a new lens. I’m speaking up more, spending more time alone, and letting go of people who I realized weren’t unconditionally supportive of my growth, my well-being, or my loving requests for healthy boundaries. On one particular occasion, with my mouse hovering over the “send” key on a goodbye letter I cried my way through writing, I felt like my heart was breaking beyond revival or repair.

This very real reaction is so extreme because it is, in fact, a death. But the really messed up thing is that it isn’t ours—it’s our ego’s. When we face ourselves with courage and challenge ourselves to let go of everything we’re attached to—everything we’ve told ourselves we “need” to be safe and happy—our ego panics because it knows it cannot survive the sword of truth. The truth that we already are enough, are lovable, and have everything we need for a comfortable, happy life.

From the other side of countless experiences like these, I can tell you it’s always worth it to push through this temporary pain. The weight of living under the thumb of fear (of loss, of losing control, of being alone) is a burden we need not bear any longer. Because what lays on the other side is an incomparable freedom. An unspeakably beautiful lightness. To the mind, it makes no sense, but the rising peace in the heart needs not ask questions.

What’s right for us will always make us feel lighter. What’s right for us is always in support of our freedom and peace. Unconditionally. That’s why, even through the tears of grief, we feel an underlying sense of relief when we let go of something or someone out of alignment. And we are all deserving of this feeling.

If you’re reading this and the stir of anxiety is tousling in your tummy, or the quiet voice in the back your mind is nudging you about a certain someone, job, or whatever it may be—you know what it is, and I know that you can do it. You can let go.

Trust in your deepest inner-knowing so you can live a little lighter.

You already have everything you need.

In Soul, Danielle

(This post was originally published on Elephant Journal)

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Emotional Whiplash—What it is & What to Do About It.

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We all chase good feelings—I think that’s a given.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that, for a majority of humanity, this is what we make life all about. Even when we do things that are hard—things we find highly unpleasant—we do so with the self-assurance that some better feeling will be born of our efforts.

I love feeling good; I mean, who doesn’t? And I fancy myself as pretty “skilled” at it. I’m a relatively happy person, and when I feel joyful it’s a whole-body, sunshine-out-my-ears kind of joy. Even more, I love making other people feel good too and will expend a great deal of energy to support them in finding it.

No problem here; right?

Wrong.

Because eternal states of happiness are about as elusive and mythological as “The Last Unicorn,” despite there being exceptionally less skepticism about it. Frankly, I think more of us believe in the destination of “true happiness” than we do in Spirit or God.

The main problem with chasing happiness isn’t even the impossibility of it. Rather, it’s the effect it has on our emotions the rest of the time—when we’re not blissed out.

I call this problem “emotional whiplash” and it goes something like this:

We’re going about our day, doing all our normal things—drinking coffee, going to work, checking our Instagram, meeting up with friends in town—when something surprising and great happens. Maybe we ran into an old friend, or perhaps we got a positive report at work, or we watched an inspiring Ted Talk—whatever’s our own flavor of a joyful experience. And when it’s happening, we’re in it. We feel great. Totally in the moment and blissed out. I call this the “emotional high.”

What’s the natural response to this? We want the feeling to last as long as possible, of course! So we feed the good feels to keep ‘em going.

I’ve discovered a few go-to ways for extending my emotional highs—including calling a loved one to tell them all about the great things happening or listening to hyped-up music. I distinctly remember going out for a “joy ride” in my car listening to my “Good Vibes Only” playlist on many occasion, even when I had nowhere to go. Some people go out for drinks to celebrate. Others might go shopping. We all have ways to light the fire.

None of these things are bad, per-se, but it’s important to note when we’re intentionally revving ourselves up even more than an original, organic experience.

Sure, it’s natural to feel more expressive, energized, and open when we’re on an emotional high. But the thing is, no matter how beautiful, exciting, or rewarding life was in that moment, no good feeling lasts forever.

Enter: emotional whiplash.

Because, as the old adage says: “what goes up must come down.” In other words, we crash. And, often, we crash hard. It’s like simple physics really; the height of our emotional high is directly proportionate to the depth of our following emotional low.

When we go chasing all those blissful, good feelings, and then further fuel them with artificial energy sources, we’re actually setting up the conditions for the direct opposite feeling we’re trying to create. We ping-pong between intense joy and intense exhaustion, and we never know when the switch is going to flip.

Here are some traits to look for if we’re experiencing either end of the emotional teeter-totter:

Signs of an emotional low include:

>> Exhaustion
>> Lethargy
>> Irritability
>> Mental fog
>> Sudden sadness
>> Mild depression

Signs of an emotional high include:

>> High energy
>> Enthusiasm
>> Open-heartedness and connectivity
>> Bursts of creativity
>> Heightened awareness of the senses
>> Easy joy and love

While the bliss of an emotional high may seem worth it at the time, chasing good feelings puts us at the mercy of our emotions. It’s difficult to depend on ourselves to show up for ourselves on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis in this condition. We lose our sense of self-trust.

Luckily, not only is there another way, but there’s a clear path to take the reins back from our emotions without compromising our natural joy.

The goal is to move from emotional whiplash to emotional equanimity.

This doesn’t mean we flatten out our emotions altogether, there is a natural ebb and flow to our emotional selves as human beings. Rather, we learn to not chase the “good” ones while rejecting the “bad.” We do our best to notice and appreciate when pleasant experiences enter our lives, and offer just as much presence and love to ourselves in times of challenge or sadness.

In this way, we might be surprised to find that our natural happiness comes with a sense of deep appreciation and ease. We don’t have to try so hard to feel good. It’s just there.

This is something I am challenged with on a daily basis, but every day that my intention to honor my natural feelings is in place, I feel the pendulum swing lessen.

Let’s free ourselves from the instability of emotional whiplash and remember that just being ourselves, at level ground, is actually a really good place to be.

In Soul, Danielle

(This post was originally published on Elephant Journal)

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I Still Care, Even if I’m Not There

Life has a way of taking us away from each other.

We leave for so many reasons. Lovers’ quarrels. Moving cross-country. University graduations. Even the slow passage of time simply changing us. The chemistry loses its magic. Surely we never intend for relationships to deteriorate, but that thing life puts in our path becomes undeniable—so irresistible—that we part ways.

I don’t even fight it. I’ve been at the steering wheel of countless turns that changed the terms of my connections (I’m a bit of a vagabond in that way). And when it happens that I’m on the opposite side of the decision-making, it hurts like hell, but I understand. I understand why we have to listen to the stirrings of our soul and let go.

We can’t carry everyone with us forever.

That said, I typically lean on the romantic, optimistic end of the spectrum of humanity. So despite how history reinforces this fact (over and over again), I’m still caught off-guard when someone who resides in my heart is no longer present in my life.

It took me over a year to come to terms with my first boyfriend not wanting to stay in touch after we broke up. I know this may be naïve, but I really thought we could work it out. I still cared about him and it felt completely wrong that I couldn’t just reach out to say “hello,” ask how we was, and celebrate the many victories he was surely collecting in his new life.

Did I do something? Is he mad? Maybe I should just reach out again…

I took it, as we do, personally.

Yes, I was genuinely in acceptance of the partnership’s closure. It was sad to lose each other, but I was in full support of the directions we both had chosen to take. I wanted the best in life for him, even if it wasn’t with me. What I couldn’t come to terms with was the disconnect between the deep care in my heart and the blaring absence of any physical expression of it.

Perhaps that was my problem: I assumed that heart and life residency are essentially paired. I assumed that by releasing a relationship’s physical bond, I must also release the love I felt for the parting person. This is a painful misunderstanding.

Because the truth is, I still care, even if I’m not there.

I feel this way for past lovers, best friends, family members I’m no longer in touch with, teachers—anyone with whom I made a genuine connection. Their presence floats into my mind from time to time, and I remember fondly how we brought laughter, late night talks, and mutual, loving support into each other’s lives. I cared so much. I still care. How could I not?

I still care if they’re finally sleeping better.

I still care if the city discovered the artist I always knew them to be.

I still care if their warring minds made peace with each other.

I still care for them to know how gifted and beautiful they are.

I still care, and so hope, that they feel safe and loved. Always.

When I listen to my heart, all of this is true. But what I’m coming to know is that we can genuinely care, and also be at peace with knowing we are not there to know the answers to these wonderings. We do not have to shut these people out or shut off our hearts just because things changed.

We can learn to trust that life, and the many people in it, will be there to remind these people that they are cared for. It does not have to be us just because for a season (or even many seasons) it was.

We can hold all this care in our hearts without the aching need to act on it. Love is not dependent on a relationship to thrive. In other words, we can love without attachment or condition.

There is a beautiful Buddhist meditation called Metta, which is a practice of expressing the feeling of “loving-kindness.” I’ve found this to be an immensely helpful means of keeping our sense of care alive without suffering around the loss. There are countless guided meditations of this kind to explore, but for simplicity’s sake, it goes like this:

Loving-Kindness Meditation for Healing Past Connections:

Relax into a comfortable, seated posture.

Take a few deep, clearing breaths, filling up the chest and belly, and then expelling all the air completely.

Then, relax and bring awareness to the natural breath, rising and falling in the chest.

Start by bringing to mind a person who was easy to love.

Visualize their face before you, smiling.

Then, genuinely send the love and care you feel for them from your heart to theirs.

Visualize their heart receiving this care from you, without condition or further action.

Next, bring to mind someone you find difficult to be in relationship with—perhaps a connection that didn’t end on good terms.

Remember the love and care you felt for them prior to that difficulty, and then send that love from your heart to theirs.

Then, offer this genuine love and care to yourself in the same way, visualizing your own smiling face across from you. Send your love out and back into your own heart.

Lastly, visualize your heart, soft and open, offering this sense of care to all people. Offer love to the new figures in the lives of those you’ve let go. Offer gratitude for that care, knowing there is enough love and care in this world for all.

Return your awareness back to the breath, and your own heart, placing your hands over your chest to close.

Gently open your eyes.

This is one practice that has helped me let go of loved ones without numbing out or tuning out my own heart. We can love people unconditionally, even when they aren’t in our lives anymore. In fact, that is what this world needs most, I believe.

When we can learn to care for one another—everyone—with all our hearts, beyond the confines of a present relationship, we may someday know peace.

In Soul, Danielle

(This post was originally published on Elephant Journal)

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