Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Can Happen in the Face of Everything :: A 2011 Reflection

She's speaking all the time.

I've been wondering lately... 
What if being friendly with Everything was enough to change the world? Or at least, change your life?

2011 asked me these questions over and over again.

Most days, I was challenged to confront reality, head on. Wake up, pack up, gear up, and go. Weather, terrain and mood, be damned! How will you be in the face of Everything?--In the face of hopelessness, loneliness, an aching body, a tired heart?  

How will you greet your life today? 

So often, my answer felt embarrassing, devolved, pathetic. I generally sucked balls at being friendly with Everything. In turn, I felt pain like never before. Pain from wanting to run, but having to stay put; wanting to escape, but having nowhere to go. You'd think on a bicycle in the middle of nowhere, that would be your escape. But it's not really like that when you're an unenlightened human on a quest for truth and love. When your plopped into extreme conditions. When your strength and surrender are tested.

It's more like being slapped across the face. More like, What just hit me?? And then, Why does that god damn thing keep kitting me?? And then, I just got hit again. Oh well. Fuck it.

Rarely did it become, How sensational!... How wondrous!... The feeling of being hit! Rarely did I love life that deeply.

But when those rare moments happened...

A holy moment story

Maybe finding God looks like holding hands with mystery. #thephotoessayproject #found

One of our last big climbs was through a stretch of ancient Redwoods. The road was narrow and steep, nothing but bends and swerving cars for four miles up. Great for extending hyper-alert paranoia, if you're wired that way, (which, cough, I am). The only calming force was the treeline of Redwoods--their long lineage an unspeakable tribute to survival and strength.

We were trekking and chugging along, and I was trying my best to let my minds' worries subside, when a massive truck swerved past, overflowing with chopped down Redwoods.

My heart sunk, fast. For a moment I was overwhelmed with shock (and anger, and wonder, and resounding sadness). But only for a moment. Then, in a split second, something in me rose: a deep knowing, an unquestionable truth that everything eventually surrenders.

That truck marked death. It marked the inevitable loss of all living things. It marked what I could no longer avoid: I will die. I will die, and who knows when. Maybe sooner than I want to. Maybe before my body is ready to go.

My death is not in my control. Only my life is. This life. This moment. This split-second of consciousness, and how I choose to be with it. Why struggle? Why suffer so much? Why be so unfriendly? Why not lean in, wink, offer a kind hello?--even to this--this pain, this challenge, this fatigue of riding my bike over another steep pass? After all, I'm here. I'm alive. I'm able.

It was time to practice a new way of being--an unconditional sort of Love. 

On that final four mile climb--sweat dripping down my face like rain, legs tingling with ache--I smiled, laughed even, at the holiness of being so alive. I got so close to my vitality that I felt as grounded as grass, as ancient as the ocean. I let the sting of sweat seeping into my eyes persist, wiping nothing away. I let the moist air gushing from those holy trees soak my lungs, penetrate my body. I weaved corner after corner to the top of that cliff like a monk who knew that pain was not something to run from because it would always catch up. When Brian was waning in spirits, I sang from the soul of the earth to keep him going. I let life move through me, for him. I opened up. I held on to nothing.

After we made it to the top, I hooted and hollered the whole way down, my face sore at the bottom from such an unwieldy smile.

What's becoming so clear...

I'm beginning to know now that we are STASHED with reserves of strength and surrender.

Yet, we access so little of what we are made of. We let so much of our time go by in an endless scurry away from that which may cause pain. I get it. Pain is painful. But not as bad as the stories we attach to it--the projection into the past or future, what we think it means about who we are or are not.

Pain can just be pain. Tingly, exciting, as vast or holy as the sky. Sharp, immediate, breath-taking. Pain can just be a moment. It lasts forever only in our minds.

I admit I'm a beginner with this stuff, so if it sounds like I've got things figured out, may you know that I'm fumbling, but continuing anyway. May you know that I'm just a human who tossed herself onto a path, and...

I cannot turn back
May you #find yourself in unfamiliar places, walking paths you've never seen & know not where they lead. In mystery, there is #liberation. This much I'm learning along the way. #thephotoessayproject

I cannot consciously devolve, despite the awkwardness of experiencing myself in such novice stages. I cannot devolve, despite how easy it would be to join the ranks of the half-awake. Because that's not what I'm meant for. It's not what we're meant for, to be half-awake. We're meant to feel joy and freedom and surrender, the cathartic release of letting everything flow out.

The sweet spot is in that place of greeting Everything with a friendly hello. In a place where we show up, connect, follow, breathe. Where we're alive and we really feel it.

New year, new intentions...

I'll be ringing in the new year with immense gratitude for the journey 2011 took me on.

In 2010 my word was daring. In 2011, power. I'll let you know my word for 2012 so soon. It has to do with this surrender stuff... this holiness... this journey of letting go into love.

Until then, wishing you each a chance for sound reflection and renewal as we enter a new year on Earth, a new holy trip around the sun.

Tell me: Who have you become thanks to the journey of 2011?

deep love & tenderness,

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Matters, For Real

the real look in my eyes. today. this moment.

That you are able to see the suffering in others, underneath their defenses and attacks made to shield
That you are able to see the suffering in yourself, underneath your riots of internalized pain
That you are willing to learn the word forgiveness and practice the word acceptance
That you are open to people who love you unconditionally
That you are becoming a person who loves unconditionally

That you are never too old to be surprised, too young to be wise, too tired to be kind
That you give every ounce of your gifts
That you generously receive what is given to you
That you lay in the grass and listen to the wind, because the earth is your mother and losing her is like losing breath
That you are honest

That you believe in people, in humans, in each other
That you do your part
That you honor what you can and cannot do
That you be yourself, all of you, over the top
That you find friends and lovers who love you for you

That you can laugh at the very bottom
That you can cry and the very top
That you can dress yourself in clothes that feel powerful and divine and true
That you are humble in the face of critique or caution  
That you tell the ones you love it's so; today, right now

That you bring everything in you to the table, every time you sit down
That you hold zero judgment about what you're able to bring
That you can say "oh well" and "fuck it" and "I wish"
That you can practice letting go of so much pain and so much suffering

That you are able to see yourself as strong and sweet, even now, even this time, even as your heart hardens and cracks

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You're Invited: Take the Ride

It's been a long time in the works, but I am so happy to have the stage set and the space ready for you to join me on this ride--this exploration of the true you. If you feel called by this invitation--if you know in your heart or somewhere in the back of your mind that a more alive you is waiting--take a peek at the MadLove Coaching page to see if we'd be a good fit.

I'll give you a few hints here + now:
  • I work with passionate + creative people who are eager to revolutionize their lives and the world at the same time.
  • Why? Because your liberation is part of my liberation.
  • And you deserve deep + abiding belief in your brilliance. No more selling out or selling yourself short.
  • The world needs you to become fully self-expressed. 
  • Your sense of meaning and our sense of peace depend on it. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Every Picture Has It's Shadows

Sometimes it's too soon to tell the blessings from the perils. What parts of the darkness were for the light. How to make severance with all that had to happen, when you're not sure why there was no easier, simpler way of getting you here to this place of unspeakable understanding, of complexity and hard-earned love. Who knows. Maybe God or the Devil understand, but not you. Not now. Not yet.

Sometimes it's just too soon to tell. Don't try. It will only exhaust you further or take you down a long road called the Illusion of Control that leads to a very unpleasant dead end cliff. Turn around. Relieve yourself of needing to know. Draw yourself a steaming bath, light a ring of candles around you, pour in the salts, turn on the most godly music you can find, and scrub away your dead skin. Watch as the old parts of you fall aside. Witness as your heart tries to speak in quiet tears. Forgive as your protective troops make their rounds to stop your sobbing, to keep you seeming strong, to keep you from falling face-first into loss. Forgive. Let it all go--the expectations and hopes and reasons why you thought you were getting in this very bath; the things you thought it would give you; the happiness you thought you would earn for your dutiful self-care. Let it go.

You do not get to decide when things will feel normal again. You do not get to determine the path or how many hills you will have to climb before you can rest. You do not dictate how healing happens.

You get to choose to show up and scrub away your dead skin. To stay in the steaming bath for four songs longer than you were comfortable with. To listen to your teachers and ask for guidance from the universe. You get to surrender. You get to see. You get to really listen. You get to pray. You get to follow.

You get to become the survivor of your story. The warrior who starts a new. The shaman who speaks in six word sentences.

You get to know that everything mattered in fucked up, unbelievable, universal, cinematic ways. You get to know that nothing was wasted.

But not right away, not without practice, not without attention or time or hope. Not without blindness... blindness and sight.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Because You Are Able

just go all the way. 
far past your limits and comfort and usual standards. 
go because you know, in earnest, 
that you'll never really discover your favorite version of 
being alive 
if you stay here, 
in this way, 
in this cell. 

because you are able. 
because your body's asking. 
because you can't explain why. 
because twitter is so god damn boring. 

because your toes want sunshine 
and your nose wants ocean. 
because every reason for not going 
comes out of your mouth like middle school busy work 
that you're far too intelligent for. 

because your going will definitely change you, 
and in turn, change the world. 

because it's love who's asking. 
and it's love who you answer to. 
and it's love that makes you able, 
that got you here in the first place, 
that will be there as you go. 

go. go. go. 

because you must. 
because you are able.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Where Travel and Loss Will Lead You

Traveling so many miles, you're bound to lose things...

Your mind, your comfort, your stability, your prisons, your sense of self, your phone charger 1 million times.

This is why I urge you to travel.

Traveling invites loss. Loss invites you to be achingly alert. When your eyes and heart are wide open, despite what they see, there's a way that you're liberated from the anxiety of occupying more than one space at a time.

I invite you to lose it all.

Lose the words you don't have the time to write. Lose your favorite ring you don't have the wits to turn back for.

Lose your temper. Then really lose it. Then lose it so often that you stop looking for it and you just chill out, turn toward laughter, start calling your lover nonsensical nick names that make you both giggle like 7 year olds.

Lose hope. Rub so hard on that tattoo you've marked to your ring finger that you make a rash. Go to the wits end of your faith and fearlessness until you begin to learn that those qualities derive from hitting the bottom and surviving. Sweat and tears, and then more sweat and more tears.

Lose your cool. Lose your shame. Lose your self-awareness in public places. Be too loud for the timid small-town diner. Order pie at 9 am. Moan. Excessively.

Lose yourself completely.

I promise--you will have regrets and you will be wiser for each one.

Lose weight. Lose options. Have 3 outfits and 3 pairs of panties that you wash in the sink when you're lucky enough to remember. Lose your sex appeal.

Lose money. Tip too much to the woman who gave poor service. Get haggled by the homeless man and drop him a big fat 20. Lose your so-called standards.

Lose your future investments. Lose your illusion of security. Lose your maybe-one-day dreams and just do it already.

Lose your map and your perfectly calculated directions. Lose your battery life. Have nothing left to do but flag down a stranger and ask for help, stick your thumb out, become human again.

Lose your vanity. Lose your make up, your razor, your deodorant, your hair products. Take a scary-as-fuck picture of yourself and post it on Instagram for all the world to see.

Mostly, lose what you grasp the tightest... Your safety, your soul, your sense of purpose, your image.

Lose it for just a month, a few days, an afternoon in mystery walking down the block. But lose it wholly, with no reservations.

When it's all said and done, you won't feel "found", per se. Rather, you'll feel as though you've arrived carrying only what's truly needed in your bags. Nothing more, nothing less. And it will be strange and vulnerable and magical.

You will know that the sweat and tears and suffocating bike shorts were your uniform of sacrifice. You had your protests, and rightly so, but that uniform brought you to the boundaries of your dark territories, the terrors of life you never wanted to see, the edges of your strength and also your humility, your meek existence in this glorious, overwhelming world that you absolutely needed to travel in.

You will lose a handful of illusions in this sea of loss. The greatest of which being that things last forever. No. You will see clearly that everything eventually surrenders.

One day, you will not only understand, but accept, this jewel of truth. Perhaps the deepest truth you could ever grasp.

Until then, you will continue to travel, to lose things, to wander at the crossroads of terror and letting go into love.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Calling All Celebrators!

LOVES! We have almost completed our crazy MadWard Adventure!

I'll save all the notes on HOW for another time, and just say this much for now:

It took a village of support to get us here (really) and it will take a village of support for us to finish. So we're going to make a request:

A spiritual exchange of motivation.

Yes! This is hippy-dippy! Yes! It is also fun!

Okay...We are traveling the Pacific Coast and it is an endless road of ups and downs--this time I'm being literal.

We need your motivation (really!!) to make it to Mendicino, CA where we're meeting my parents in 9 DAYS!!!

Give Mojo
Will you call us & leave silly/serious/suspicious voice messages? Will you tweet/text us daily with encouragement? Will you let us know, in one way or another, how our journey has affected you? The small seeds of courage we've possibly planted? What it would mean to YOU if we were to finish?

Get Juju
In exchange, when you send us some good mojo, we will climb a hill with you in mind. Really!

It will sound something like this:

Huff, puff, this hill is for Jen... huff, puff... And all the people who aren't sure if true love exists...huff, puff... And all the people who are piecing their lives back together...huff, puff... And struggling to get over yet another hump.....huff puff huff puffgg HUFF!

You can start with a comment right here. Fill in the blank:

This one's for me & all the people who ____________!

Heaps of gratitude for your solidarity as we run the final mile of our marathon. Lovin' the spritz of bubbly and marching band already!

Rach & Bri

Monday, October 10, 2011

Let's Liberate | Part 2

The Ebb and Flow of Liberation

A photo-exploration, via #thephotoessay project with @binduwiles and countless talented new friends.

For the introduction to this series, click HERE. For Part 1, click HERE.



The movement moves #thephotoessayproject

Moves with passion & joy #thephotoessayproject

It's not the sign; it's the smile, the hands holding each other like an infinite yes, marching come hell or high water, together.




It's not the sunset; it's the mist against your skin, the birds gliding, the calm falling of dim-lit waters singing freedom for just this moment.



It's not outcome; it's the intention. "Death! How lucky!" she giggled. "With death we are certain to see new life. We couldn't have gotten a better read!"



And so, when we feel an undeniable pull toward the light, our only job is to begin walking.

the paths we travel

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let's Liberate | Ourselves, The World, Together | Part 1

Sometimes it just works out that your deepest life goals can fit on a protest sign. #occupyportland #thephotoessayproject #liberation

A Story
When I was young, say--6 years old--my family shuffled into the station wagon and drove down to Washington, DC for a figure skating show. It was one of my first times in the city, and definitely my earliest memory of it. As we were walking from car to arena, I noticed a homeless man on the side of the street. He wasn't begging. He was just sitting there. Sitting with a small pile of belongings beside him and wrapped in a grey blanket--the kind that was a mix of all the scraps--a sausage of blankets. I was carrying in my little backpack a bag of Cheeto's that my parents had packed as my snack. Walking past this man, hand-in-hand with my mom, I stared him down in all the ways you shouldn't as an adult but can get away with as a child. My heart dropped. How did this man end up here--and isn't he cold? He must be hungry. Tired. Sad. Lonely. We walked a few more blocks before I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn't let it go. My mom asked what was up, and I told her how sad I was for that man who was sitting on the sidewalk, and could I give him my Cheeto's because he must be hungry?

The next thing I remember is walking back to him, approaching his space with quiet reverence. He was sleeping. I tucked the bag of Cheeto's in between his belongings and body like a fragile package, not wanting anything to crumble or crack. I walked back to my mom with a lump in my throat and she gave me that look of hers that read Your heart is so huge and I'm so proud of who you are.We went to the ice skating show, and on the way back, I noticed that the Cheeto's were gone. He must've eaten them. Good, I thought. But still, the lump.

I could not get rid of the lump.

I've never really been able to stomach that lump.

Years have passed and more lumps have formed. More people witnessed. More privilege noticed. More questions roused. More sadness. More anger. More confusion. More education. More listening. More wonder.

I've learned from many people and places, and I've grown braver because of them. More confrontation. More speaking. More shining light on what most people would like kept in the dark. More humility. More vulnerability.

In speaking, I have received many things: More attacks. More sarcasm. More resistance. More defensiveness. More wounded, terrified, name-calling.

How It Feels To Speak & Be Heard
My body literally feels fear every time I speak. Walls go up. Muscles tense. Fears of being confronted with anger or "fuck-off" vibes, for my simple attempt at speaking out with love, in the name of justice, bubble to the surface. (Fears based on unfortunate experience).

Perhaps my communication method is off. Perhaps in our world today, if we are to get navigate past people's debilitating fears, guilt and loneliness, we have to be particularly gifted with words and the human condition. Or just always extremely compassionate and forgiving in our intentions.

All of this to say that the more I look, explore and speak on behalf of liberation, the more I am shown the distances we have to travel. The more I am called into my work. The more I am seeking people who are also called into this work. The work of navigating self-love and love for all living things, personal empowerment and global emancipation, honest communication about the injustice in the world and deep forgiveness toward our common lot that has allowed it.

The Truth At The Heart of Things
I am not interested in going on a righteous kick, shaming the "oppressor". We are all suffering. So deeply. As Julie Daley just wrote in her Girl Effect post:

Privilege also causes suffering. It hurts the heart to turn away from others, to not have to consider others.
It also hurts the heart to turn away from our sisters and brothers who are not, in one way or another, free to be fully expressed souls, free to live a life that is a reflection of the sacredness of the soul.
There is a very real benefit to all of us, and to all of life, for each of us to enter the realm of the broken-open heart.
I am interested in working--gently, honestly, courageously--on developing radical compassion and radical connectedness in the realm of the broken-open heart.

My working definition of liberation, as of now, is this:

Sustainable flow of expression by and for all living things.

Liberation isn't an end-result. Every piece of the puzzle is moving, and all the moving parts are always, at best, a practice. We already have liberation. Just like love. Just like holiness. It's one of those things that only has to be realized.

There's nothing to change, necessarily. And then, there's everything.

If we think of forest fires as necessary events in the sustainable flow of expression for the life of the forest and the ecosystem it's a part of--then even the dark, even destruction--are an essential part of liberation.

Everything's allowed in liberation.

Perhaps, even our resistance to this destruction--our dampening of the forest fires that emerge--are part of a larger sustainable cycle that we are far too small to see. If I am to really explore this theme, I must be willing to sit in the mystery, to take a deep breath of humility that there is so much I cannot know.

Okay. Truly. That breath was huge.

What's emerging for me now, is that we're still here in this world with people living on the streets, working in sweat shops, being removed from their homes, being traded as commodities. We're still here in this world with so many harsh realities.

And as conscious living beings, we have the power to express deeply, fully, courageously--what we deem worthy of expressing.

Our expressions can come in the shape of words, action, work, art, steps, stillness, breaths. It matters not how we express. It just matters that, when we feel a holy force within us, we do not hold back. We flow. Radically. Freely. Daringly. We flow not only for ourselves and not only because we want to, but because we are part of a larger force, a surrounding rush, that is moving us as part of a whole. Our expression is our surrender. Our surrender is our holy love. Our holy love wants all living things to thrive. Our holy love leans toward the path of liberation.

May we walk, humbly, together, with grace.


This is the first in a many-part series on Liberation. I'd be thrilled for your voice in this conversation. What are your thoughts on what's here? Ideas about liberation? Hopes for the world?

Will respond to your thoughts in the comments below.

with love and honor,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Liberation as a Theme to Explore

When exploring a theme it's important to be brave--to go to both sides of rediculous and back, in order to know where your true foundation is felt.

After riding a bicycle across the country with my partner & lover, exploring the theme of "personal power"--after ego-wars and 80 mile days, after nights in plush hotels and nights on the side of the Interstate, after choosing to take the day off or choosing to fumble through--I know now that personal power is not at all the same as strength.

Power is choice. Power is having the awareness that you are free to choose how you would like to do things now. and now. and NOW. And then using your awareness to decide, to act, to do it.

Power is not always strong. In fact, realizing your power can be extremely vulnerable--a release of control over anything other than your choice and the moment. But it's beautiful and fulfilling because when you make choices for yourself in the moment, you are taking full responsibility for your life. And that's really, truly, the most we can do as individuals. (At least, this is the foundation that I'm working with, after a vast and gory exploration on the subject).

So, what is liberation? I don't know yet. How could I? I must go, full fledge, to both sides of rediculous and back in order to find my foundation.

I'm interested in the intersection of power and liberation. Does personal power (as described above) automatically create a sense of liberation? Is the mere act of remaining in choice the most important ingredient in liberation? My huntches tell me that it matters on an individual level, but that there's more to liberation that just you or me remaining in choice.

My hunch tells me that liberation isn't meant to happen alone, but collectively, as people join forces to free the whole from something that has been chaining it down.

I haven't become completely self-actualized yet (hard to believe, I know ;-), but in becoming more and more empowered and in choice, I notice that remaining in choice doesn't change inequality, corruption, or injustice. It may lead to some personal healing around the matters (which IS important), but it doesn't change societal conditions on a mass scale. (And, damn, wounds that far-reaching are hard to take on alone).

As an assertion of my personal power--my ability to remain in choice and act with full responsibility for my life--I'm choosing to explore liberation--because personal power alone feels negligent and incomplete.

As the African Proverb goes, "A scar on the heart of one is a scar on the heart of all humanity."

There are scars on the heart of humanity and I feel them everywhere I go. My sense of personal power does not change the societal conditions that make daily life much more difficult for many, many people.

Don't get me wrong--I believe that remaining in choice is vital for liberation. If we become people so obsessed with liberation that we enslave ourselves to the movement, forgetting to care for our personal needs, then there's no point.

The point is to care for ourselves and the well-being of the world.

The point is to recognize that our deepest joy is inextricable from the joy of others, the joy of all, the sense that all people are afforded the opportunity to express whatever it is that they need to express. (A-la #OCCUPYWALLSTREET).

What is liberation if not a collective? If not a sustainable flow of expression, by and for, all living things?

I'll be exploring the subject over the next four weeks with Bindu Wiles' Photo Essay Project (#thephotoessayproject). Through photos and thoughts, I'll dig in as deep as I can to the theme of liberation.

You can follow me on twitter at @rachaelmaddox or Instagram at @rachaelmaddox. I'll also be posting photo explorations on tumblr at and more in-depth musings right here at the dearly beloved blog!

This is an introductory. Introductories don't have all the answers and don't come packaged neatly with a bow on top. They wonder. They let wonder lead them. The follow their hunches all the way into the dark and all the way into the light.

I hope you'll come along with me, or explore your own theme.

With a wink and a skip... I'm diving in!

Does the theme of personal and global liberation resonate with you? I'd be thrilled to hear from you in the comments or personal email ( Exciting developments are underway. Stay tuned!

with love,

Monday, September 26, 2011

If You Float Down That River

If you float down that river
with children grabbing hold to each of your legs
and a third on your back for good measure
slimy moss on rocks skimming your sun-kissed skin
and cool water bathing, baptising, your non-religious soul...

If you float down that river
with those children of wild reckless joy
and you notice that man of wild reckless love
noticing your wild reckless magic--
the way your wet shirt outlines your holy body like a prayer...

If you float down that river
letting children lead the way to freedom
around the fallen tree branches
through the sandy, rocky waters of the deep unknown...

If you float down that river
wide enough for children of all ages--
adults, too, who never dreamt they could turn back,
be led by children, pushed on tire swings, fed star shaped pancakes for dinner...

If you float down that river...
when the trees shade the sun and your teeth start to chatter
when laughter has filled your out-of-shape lungs
and your body becomes the best type of tired...
those children will carry you upstream

they will tell you to grab hold of their legs
a hand on each child, their joint strength unmeasurable
they will pull you with all their joyful might
up and out of that river

they will carry you like an egyptian princess--
not so graceful, but they will all pitch in--
bring you into the sun again
find you a change of clothes--
warm and dry like sitting near a blazing fire

and when your eyes grow heavy from such delight
they will tuck you into bed
with tiny giggles and kisses
bemused by their magic, and yours--your playing along
that a thing like you could be so free
in a guarded global prison of grown ups

then they will go out into the woods, wild with cheer
worry-less about waking you
knowing nothing could stop you
no, nothing could stop you
from sleeping and dreaming
in deep joy tonight

Saturday, September 24, 2011

For Travelers of Place and Heart

Images of people from the book Vagabonding in America by Ed Buryn.