My destination was in a private home in a completely open-aired palapa roofed home situated right on a beach with it’s own surf break. A place where the last time I was there I had spent eleven unsuccessful days of surfing, even though I had worked hard on meditating away my fears of sharks, “be the pebble, you are the pebble floating effortlessly in the water,” and watching surf films like Momentum Generation and Kissed by God.
In the mornings we would load up in the van, blast loud music and head to the beach with the “perfect” outer wave. In the beginning I took on the role of protecting our youngest boy in the inner wave, but when he graduated to the outer wave, I was left with no excuses, and humbly stayed by myself in the inner wave, that really wasn’t a wave at all but a cool whipped crest over treacherous rocks and sea urchins. After using my daily oms to convince myself that sharks in Mexico were as friendly as the tequila slinging locals in the surf shack, I realized that it wasn’t only the sharks I was afraid of but also the waves, and all the creatures I could get speared by if I put my feet down, therefore I didn’t, only to create bloody shaved skin appetizers from grazing the rocks in ankle deep water.
As the days progressed, I became more and more depressed wondering why I could not get out of my own head to not feel like an outsider from the rest of the happy sun-kissed surfers. Dragging my depressed self to the dining table I did my best to put on a cherry persona, so as not to worry my hosts that one of their guests had gone dark – and then we’d all head out to my nemesis, and there I’d wave goodbye to my husband as he’d paddle off behind our hostess, a long-legged She-Ra of a woman, her sun-kissed lioness golden mane blowing in the wind over tight glutes spilling out of her (one of many) Brazilian string bikinis, glutes as firm as the ripe coconuts we drank from every afternoon. Good-Bye I’d sing cheerfully, my inner voice busting out bassist expletives in sonative measures. Tossing my long frizzy locks back, while separating my white thighs lest the sweat stick them together forever, I’d grab my beast of a board and wrestle it to the water, taking breaks from being raked over the rocks to sit on the dirty sand with no comfy lounge chair to fall asleep and snore loudly on. All I had was myself to discuss all the things that were wrong with me, and I caved in deeper and deeper thinking about an escape route of leaving this paradise I had no place in.
Since we were there with 12 teens, my husband and I had no privacy and were bunked out with half of them. In the beginning of the trip as we lay in our bed, the mosquito netting serving lamely as our only privacy, he did his best to console me with encouraging pleads to join him in the outer wave, but as the once spunky adventurous wife he knew drew more and more inward, he grew further and further away.
The meditation I had practiced was put to the test one day, a day where our hosts decided that we would skip a day of surfing and go with friends who were having a pool party up the coast. I was so absolutely elated to get relief that I headed to the bar and sucked down a margarita in the hopes that everyone would see that I indeed did have a personality and was back to my regular fun Jillian-self. Scouting for another alligator floaty to join the lobster red non-surfer party-goers in the pool, I spotted on the horizon all the kids stripping down to their bathing-suits to body surf in the enormous swell that had come in. Slurping the last sip through I straw I overheard She-Ra invite her new BFF and surf partner, my husband, to go play in the waves, but he knew better and instead suggested that she take his now drunk wife. He had moved his King and the Queen was moving in for the Pawn.
Standing their looking at the swell I wrestled with my love for adventure and my fear, that we thankfully numbed by tequila, and I took the leap. “DIVE DEEP JILLY,” She-Ra yelled as the enormous wall of a wave approached. “HOW DEEP????” I screamed back. “DEEEEEEP,” I heard, and that’s what I did, grabbing for the sand as I felt a steam engine of power rage over my back, chanting to myself, “Be the pebble, float like a pebble, be the f*##’in pebble.” When I arose gasping for air before the next monstrous wave came, my hostess was nowhere to be seen. In an effort to help me she had gotten tossed like a piece of tissue in a funnel storm. When she appeared, seeing the panic in my face, she yelled to her son who was right next to me watching me drowning, taking in water in every orifice. “Put your feet down,” he demanded, “you can stand here.” And so I did and ran like an Impala running from a Leopard to get myself out of the ocean.
I never did catch a wave, and in the last few days I gave up altogether, swapping out my surf board for a boogie board, and actually began to have fun in the waves which had decreased in size – only to end up hitting my head with the board and throwing my neck out causing major back spasms that I had to endure the entire flight home.
When I was back in the comfort of my own life, I attacked the things I could do well with vigor, all the while analyzing what messages were thrown at me from my inability to let go while in Mexico, coming up with the conclusion that it is okay to not face your fears, and just say no to the things one is uncomfortable with, but to live hard and appreciatively of that which does give one joy.
And here I was returning to that place, but this time with my sister who was very comfortable in stating that she was quite fine walking and reading on the beach and was going to forego the surfing.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
[su_heading]A Mother Gives Thanks[/su_heading]
If we could, would we raise our children any differently knowing then what we know now?
The woman who submitted her story for me to publish to my readers listened carefully as I trepidatiously asked her for more details. I appreciated her wanting to tell her story, and I knew that I was venturing toward raw territory when I asked her to touch more upon what lead her son to use drugs and become angry at her, and the world.
Her story was not about what she could have done differently with her son, but it was a story about what she needed to do as a parent to keep her son alive. The story, as currently written actually made me angry at her for not trying harder, and I didn’t want the same judgment to be passed by other readers. We needed more information.
As we progressed in our conversation it was revealed that she did try. She tried everything she could. But it was thirty years ago, she was a single mom going to school and working, and had neither the money nor the resources to help her son, the love of her life, deal with his behavioral issues. Realizing that it was not only about writing it all down, but about revealing all the truths that have caused her so much pain, she asked me not to publish her story. A story that I felt should be told.
As my husband and I experience our eldest son’s teen years, I feel this mother’s pain as if it could be my own, but I cannot fully empathize. I am not her. I did not raise an only son all alone at a time when the internet was not available to assist in research, and ADD was not yet a common label attached to kids who could not stay focused. I have not had to endure the bullying of my child from relentless children who have not been taught tolerance or acceptance of others different from one’s self, and I have a husband as my ally as we work together to help our children get back on the right track when they fall off.
As parents of three boys, my husband and I have been riding an erratic roller coaster – the kind that all of your senses tell you not to trust. From the rickety noise it makes as it careens across the track, to the sketchy operator who appears as if he left a child locked up in a cage at home after drinking a fifth for breakfast, to the feeling of being harnessed in by a simple bar that you’re not sure if you heard click into place between the rusted bolts.
This ride called parenting has taken us on hairpin turns that jerk us into steep descents leaving our stomach at the top, and slow ascents allowing us to recover before we get pitched back into another thrilling drop, screaming and hanging on for our lives.
This mother is paying the price for steering her son away from hurting others and himself, but she is living peacefully knowing that he is more than just alive but is living well with a wife and a child, of whom she is not allowed to visit. As I worked on her story, I was filled with fear that I too could be that mother who loses her son from disciplining too hard, or not disciplining enough. But I refuse to allow fear to run my life, and at the moment, I want to drop down on my knees and thank whomever is listening for allowing me the strength to do what it takes to raise three healthy boys.
I am thankful for learning the tools to help guide our eldest son into taking accountability for his life and turn it around before it was too late, and have him still tell me how much he loves me.
I am thankful that my boys still expect me to kiss their warm cheeks and say good night and good morning every day.
I am thankful for a husband who has changed his tune from calling me paranoid to praising me for being present and mindful with our children.
I am thankful for having had the time and the resources to conduct the research into raising teen boys and the effects of drug use on developing brains. Research that empowers us to stay the course as we implement guidelines and expectations.
I am thankful for children who aren’t afraid to speak to me and tell me their fears so that I can help them.
And I am thankful to live in a place that breeds spirituality to allow me to not get caught up in all of the noise so that I can hear the cries for help, even when they are not spoken.
My heart goes out to this mother and I praise her for not being afraid to do what she knew she needed to do to save her child. I hope that one day her son will thank her for being strong and accept her back into his life. She deserves that right.
Follow ConsciousED for more stories on mindfulness.
Author, Aspen Chapel Minister Nicholas Vesey
Nicholas Vesey has been working as a spiritual teacher for 30 years. He has studied many of the ‘Wisdom Traditions’, and is as much at home with the Tao Te Ching or the Upanishads as he is with the 4 Gospels.
Before taking this path, Nicholas worked as a ranch hand on a sheep and cattle station in Australia, in advertising ending up at Saatchi and Saatchi, as a political consultant and campaign director for a UK General Election Party, as a self-awareness trainer, as a marketing consultant and as a broadcaster.
Formerly an Anglican Priest in Norwich, England, he is now the Minister at the Aspen Chapel.
Nicholas will be part of the conversation at our next Aspen Business Connect event on October 11th, 5-6:30pm at The Aspen Chapel, along with Yogarupa Rod Stryker and Neshama Center Aspen’s Rabbi Itzhak Vardy. The conversation will be moderated by Lead with Love Founder, Gina Murdock.
You know the interesting thing about spirituality is that it is like gravity, it affects you whether you like it or not. When you step off the roof of a building you do not have to decide whether you believe in gravity or not. The fact that you are on the ground with a broken leg tells you all you need to know. The same is true for spirituality in business. It is there whether you choose to believe in it or not. And if you do not deal with it, you will find yourself on the floor in one form or another.
Because Spirituality is primarily concerned with the human spirit, and whether or not you want to include anything in that about the divine, you all know that the human spirit is affecting your business whether you like it or not. If there is a lack of spirit around the place, you soon know it, and if there is an abundance of spirit, well you see it on the bottom line. So any talk about spirituality is really about managing something that is already at work, whether you like it or not. If you do not take responsibility for the spirit in your business, then it will come back to bite you. So spirituality in business is a fact. How greater context you make for it is the real question.
There are plenty of books written about team spirit and creating a success culture and I am sure we are all familiar with that stuff. Where it gets interesting from my perspective is where you push the understanding about the context of spirituality. Now I’m not here to convert you to believing in anything. Well, actually I am, that is what I am paid for here at Aspen Chapel! But let’s just say that I am not here to argue the existential nature of being and its relationship with a greater force, that will be covered in my Developing Consciousness course, Thursdays 1.30 – 3pm beginning September 27th. But setting a context for spirituality in business that is greater than team spirit is one of the key facets of corporate success.
[su_box title=”Developing Consciousness”]The course is based on the book “Developing Consciousness: A Roadmap to the Journey of Enlightenment” by Nicholas Vesey. Each week participants are given tools to navigate the journey to “modern” enlightenment through discussions, shared experiences, and exercises. While this course covers eight weeks of topics, each class can be taken as a stand alone.[/su_box]
I used to work for a lookalike of the EST seminar. We did trainings in human potential. That was in the 70s. As a result of that we set up a marketing company with people that had been through the seminar. At its peak we employed about 350 people. And the context that we were able to set with them was that their work was, in fact, an context of social transformation. On the biggest level that meant that they understood that the energy they put into their work somehow affected everything around them – their clients, their suppliers, even their families. We created a metaphysic about it that bordered on theology, however at the next level down it also created an expanded sense of community, and that in turn created a culture of loyalty, of commitment to each other, of a willingness to go the extra mile, and the learning of communication skills that we ended up training others in.
Much of the work done in the area of human potential has ended up in corporate training programs run today and, whether or not they call it spirituality, that is what it is. Taking responsibility for the human spirit we are dealing with beyond just esprit de corps and team building into more traditionally religious themes such as the creation of a community, of the idea of a higher and nobler cause, of the idea that work has meaning. That the idea of work is greater than just a job, but is a contribution to the greater whole.
To really have a workplace transcend the ordinary, you have to have people see work in that spiritual perspective. To see there being an inner aspect to their contribution, which, if engaged will transform their effectiveness, and the effectiveness of those around them.
Einstein said that none of his great ideas came from rational thinking, there was a leap made beyond the rational. And that is what you strive for when you place work within that spiritual context. Because the question is not how do we bring spirituality into work? but rather how do we discover work as being a part of a greater spiritual context. That transforms things. And it brings up all sorts of other questions around how we do our business. Honesty, commitment, loyalty. The idea of sabbath……England. All of which makes people feel valued and a part of something that is actually making a difference to society.
So for me the main message is that spirituality is already there, in your work, in the people, in what they think and how they behave.
Our task is to manage that and use it to create a context that will serve the community we call our business.
It is with bittersweet emotions that I post these pictures taken by Michele Cardamone on prom night 2018. With our boys growing up so quickly before our eyes, I meditate religiously and do yoga to do my best to slow down and soak in every moment in time that I am with them, even if it is spent getting reprimanded for lingering too long in their room to stay connected, or staring too hard at their transformed faces in order to relearn their being.
My boys have been my everything for over 18 years, and although it has definitely NOT been easy learning how to raise teen boys after myself coming from a family of girls, I believe that they are on the right path to becoming the grown up men we have done our best to help develop.
As they grow and desperately try to break free and gain their independence, but still don’t know how to cook a meal from start to finish, or do their own laundry, I still wonder what I as their adoring mother have done to mess them up. Was I too demanding, or not enough? Was I their guide as they navigated through life, or too demonstrative? Was I too strict, or not enough? Were my expectations too high, or not enough. Did I hover when I should have backed off, or back off when I should have leaned in? Was I listening, or inflicting my agenda and wants on them, rather than actually hearing their needs, wants and desires?
All I know is that I have lead with such absolute love for them, as has Baddy, and we have, and still do, lead them the best we possibly can given the tools that we have to work with. Our work will never be finished but hopefully, at this stage in their lives, and ours, we have given them a solid, loving base from which to pull from when they need it, and we have provided the soundbites that will enter their heads when deciding which direction to move in. We can only hope that they will move forward with integrity, valor and honor in their every breath. We shall see, and then we shall know for sure. Until then, we watch and breath them in, and as we exhale we slowly allow ourselves to let them go, little by little until they fly off.
Parenting Teens in a Legalized Marijuana Resort Town
When people think of life in Aspen, some may sneer at thoughts of kids being dropped off at the high school in cars that cost more than thir homes. They may feel envy for families with private jets who fly off on a whim on exotic adventure trips for the weekend, or for the year if their kids are misbehaving. I myself have felt that envy, especially when experiencing the wrath of teendom.
There have been many a day when my husband and I felt that this task was far bigger than what we could handle and I spent many a day exploring the options of sending our oldest son to a place specializing in teaching civility, grace, and the importance of contributing to humanity. Every lead circled back to the reality that we could not afford any programs and that we would have to deal, using the resources available to us in our valley.
Being a Stay at Home Working Mom has its benefits, but financial freedom is not one them, and thus, with no budget for summer camps, I have played the role of camp counselor for many summers taking the boys on travel gigs for the blog, and out on daily wilderness excursions through enchanted forests of pristine white Aspen Groves and fields of wildflowers, sometimes ending into icy plunges into mountain lakes.
When the oldest turned 15, those adventures came to a rebellious and abrupt stop. To our newly teenaged boys, just the mention of adventure or hiking brought forth a litany of grimaces and rejections. This is when our freestyling son’s summer consisted of hucking off ledges at the Aspen skateboard park and throwing misties off of the Stillwater bridge into hypothermic rivers, until we demanded that he throw himself into a job instead.
That 8th grade summer is when parenting kicked into high gear. No longer were conversations enough to talk him through unnecessary outbursts of dramatic eruptions. Our breathtakingly adorable, entertaining curly headed little boy had transformed into a volcanic mythical creature with beautifully carved horns that he butted into us with every attempt we made at parenting. Enduring punched in walls by bloody fists and explicatives that left us gasping for air as if we too had been punched, we navigated the storms swirling around us as best we could.
Just after that summer, Colorado Amendment 64 was passed and pot shops quickly began to emerge on the streets of Aspen. Soon after, Denver released its first public education campaign in the post-marijuana legalization era, “Don’t be a Lab Rat”. At the time, our boys ranged in age from 8–13 and were the lab rats that they were targeting for their campaign warning that the risks of marijuana on teenagers were still unknown. We knew they could be rat-like at times, but lab rats? I worried.
Soaring into the high school like a gorgeous scaly, charcoal black dragon with leathery wings he discovered his tribe and together they puffed out sparks of fire and herbal scented smoke rings and his sweet breath turned skunky. The angrier and harder the punches, the more we knew he was about to do something he shouldn’t be at his age.
Giving in to our obstreperous teen to avoid the painful outbursts would have saved the vice that was growing between my husband and I. Our relationship had suffered before from financial stress, but nothing until now had threatened our marriage. With each fist thrown we grew further and further apart, he thinking I was paranoid and hovering, and my thinking he was in denial that our son was partying, and not being the disciplinarian that our son needed.I began the process of meeting with the counselors in our valley to learn how to raise a teenaged boy in a town where supervision ran thin. It was then that I realized why many parents chose to take a big step back in their parenting when their kids turn into teenagers. Teenagers were angry and scary and extremely difficult to manage. The less discipline and expectations there were, the less confrontations and anger one had to deal with. To take the path of least resistance would have allowed for my husband and I the freedom to rekindle our passions together. If we let our boy loose, thinking that the best way to learn is through trial and tribulation, it would have lessened our parenting responsibilities, but also would have set a horrible example for his younger brothers.
What I knew from the bottom of my heart was that he was going to learn life’s lessons even if we were to be mindful and present, and I was certain that to turn a blind eye now would be the worst thing we could do. Just as we guided our toddlers from veering too close to the wood burning stove, I was determined to guide our boy away from danger as much as possible.
My fear that addiction may set in, either in our boy, or in ourselves, intensified my search for a counselor. One year and six counselors later I found the right fit, and received a grant from a local community foundation to pay for in-home counseling.
When the counselor walked through our front door, rubbing his belly bulging over his belt as he took in the family vibe, I worried that I had made yet another mistake. His resemblance to Robert De Niro was uncanny. It felt as though we were the cast in a Quentin Tarantino movie where everything was about to go very wrong.
He asked that the family all sit down together and as we all slumped down in our chairs, our youngest wide-eyed and confused at the age of 9, the counselor began by asking the boys if they knew how many rights kids had until they were 18. The boys, and my husband, looked over at me simultaneously with “what the hell” expressions on their faces. What cocamamy thing had mommy set up this time? The counselor answered for them, “They have the right to be fed, they have the right to an education, and they have the right to be safe.” I held my breath grasping at straws for what his point was. The air began to thicken as he launched into his next question that made my walls of parenting and hard work crash down around me like the bombing of the Parthenon. “Why do you feel the need to tell your mother the truth?” He asked. My son was all ears. “Because she doesn’t want me to lie,” was his answer. “Buuutttt,” the counselor went on, as I gawked at his Eagle-like features waiting for him to swoop down and grasp my boy in his talons to carry him away forever, “If you give your parents the ‘impression’ that all is okay, than they do not need to question you … do they?” And there, with one statement, he transferred the responsibility and accountability from us to our son —and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Turns out his point about their rights was to let them know that they actually did not own the world like they thought they did, and that while they were under our roof, they abided by our rules.
Things got better as our son realized we were watching his mood, the smell on his breath and his grades, and he was doing a good job of giving us the impression that all was good, until the calls started coming in, from the principal, the teachers, and from the police. Each weekly visit at 9pm, the counselor walked through the door asking who needed the counseling. Since the oldest already got the message on what he needed to do to get me off his back, and since my husband resumed to looking at our family through rose colored lenses, it usually would be me asking for more guidance on how not to worry and trust that the training I was getting was legit. Working with me late into the evening as I recorded each conversation to playback over and over again when troubles heightened, he helped me to understand his personalized method for consequences, and how not to worry so much.
This was four years ago, and my husband and I have crossed the gamut of emotions, veering closely to destruction and back to oneness at any given month, and now, with our third child turning thirteen in a few months, we can only hope that we are that much further ahead in our parenting than we were then.
What we do know is that we live in a town where unsupervised parties are allowed by parents who believe that it is better to provide a safe place for kids to party, than to not know where they are at all. Two false negatives that we don’t need to abide by. We also know that these obstacles exist no matter where one lives, and that it may take time that none of us have to move beyond the tip of the iceberg on how to effectively parent them. For the moment though, we all seem to be on the same page as a family, and recognize that we have progressed by leaps and bounds, and we are hopeful that by being present and mindful our boys will grow into healthy, responsible, happy adults, without addictions, and with THAT I’ll leave you until the next story.
During the Yoga on the Mountain festival in Snowmass, I experienced a highly energetic class on the concert stage on Fanny Hill with Diana Vitantonio, founder and creator of Breathless Yoga.
The class began with a calming and meditative deep breathing, which then transitioned into sun salutations and yoga postures flowing into a steadily increased pace, and as the music got more rocking we moved to a breathless state pounding out mountain climbers, crunches and pilates moves, ending where we began with the calm breathing.
When the class was over I was so invigorated I had to pull Diana aside and ask what just happened, which culminated in our impromptu conversation.
Diana’s breathless yoga style begins with the intention to heal the inner self from trauma and to live and breathe wholeness. Her hope is to keeping healing and to teach others that no matter who you are, you have a creative genius inside you and your voice deserves to be heard.
Find Diana on Instagram @Soul Activist and visit her Breathless website here.