Being seen doin' the damn thang unlocks the doors that keep us fenced in.

I’ve always considered myself an introvert and only very selectively “expose” myself to live interactions with large groups of people. But an opportunity came up to participate in the Conscious San Jose Festival as a vendor and something in me said to just do it. Although I’ve never participated in any large public events and I’ve held an insecurity about being rejected or ignored, something in my heart pulled me to participate. And so I signed up.


I planned and strategized my offerings and put it out for the public to view and sign up for ahead of time through Facebook and Eventbrite weeks ahead of the event. I envisioned my setup in my head everyday and when I did a practice run in “real life” I had to refine my ideas because they didn’t translate into “reality” as well as I’d hoped. Although it was a lot of work and kind of nerve wracking, not knowing what to expect and who was going to show up (what if NOBODY wants what I have to offer?!) being in creation and innovation mode was FUN.

So, the day finally came. How did it go? Only a couple of people signed up ahead of time for the readings and group meditation sessions and I honestly wasn’t sure who or how many people would be interested in my services. I had to wake up at 5:30am with only a few hours of sleep. There was traffic from an accident right before my exit on the freeway that made me worry about getting to the venue on time because I needed every minute to setup. There were grass clippings that were just getting on EVERYTHING. Nobody showed up/signed up for my first group session. I was sweating and rolling from the heat and activity of the day and then my pants got wet from the pee on the floor of the portapotty and I couldn’t escape the smell of myself. the wind blew my sun shade off mid-afternoon. It took me about two hours to take down my setup. I didn’t eat all day and had a raging headache by the time I got home...


And yet. the day. was.


Not a lot of people signed up for my offerings ahead of time, but I was so excited for the ones who did. I was too busy having fun being in creation mode trying to figure out my setup during the days leading up to the festival that I didn’t have time nor energy to worry. Waking up early sucked, but the stillness of the morning calmed me. There was traffic, but I still made it and setup on time with the help of @malaea.simone and Paulyn . We finished setting up at the perfect time for Joey to be able to capture a relaxed picture of me before the festival started. There were grass clippings everywhere but they provided extra cushion under our butts. Nobody showed up for the first group session but I got to relax, have meaningful conversations and connect with the people around me. For the next group session, of course the most perfect people showed up. It brought out our vulnerabilities and hopes as we inspired each other through our shared stories.


(And everyone enjoyed and appreciated my handmade MacGyver’d A/C contraption!) And the rest of the day brought people in to my tent who walked out, not changed into a different person, but activated to be a truer version of themselves, ready to paint the world in a way only their light can- including me. I even learned to appreciate the lingering smell of sweat and pee that followed me at the end of the day. I kept apologizing to the people I was hugging, but they reminded me not to apologize and squeezed me tight anyways. I learned to appreciate it as a testament to the creativity, attention, work and effort I put into the experience of the day. With the organizers and volunteers of Conscious San Jose, every person who came by, whether it was to say hi and check on me or join me in a session or for a reading, whether or not I saw you as you walked by or gave you a big sweaty hug, I totally felt the love. Thank you. And thank you to the wind who blew my sun shade off right at the perfect time when I said something pretty cool during a reading(as if on cue to emphasize “See the light!”). And thank goodness nobody signed up and showed up for my last group session because I had enough time to roll around in the grass to carefully and lovingly take down my setup. (And thank you Venus, Cindy and Alice for continuing to check on me and say hi at night). Raging headache was remedied by pho and decompressing with an awesome neck massage from Malaea and cuddles from Joey .

Lesson of the day? So many. But I’m just simply so grateful for all the connections made, the activating experience of being seen and others allowing themselves to be seen. I’m giddy over how PERFECTLY everything happened, even if at first glance everything might’ve seemed to go wrong. I don’t even doubt life’s perfection anymore. It’s ALWAYS a given. 

Was it hard work? HELL YEAH! But it was all done in the spirit of playful creation, so it was enjoyable. It all boils down to the fact that our experience is simply what we make of it. You are everything that you make of yourself. 

What are you going to do with everything that you’re given today?

Self Love Challenge

I haven’t treated myself to a massage in a looong time. It used to be a treat for me when I used to work out hardcore as a reward for all the physical hard work I put my body through. I haven’t worked out hardcore in years and over time it turned to an occasional treat whenever my neck and shoulders would seize up. Even then,  I’d only allow myself to go if I’d shaved my legs and my toes were presentable, if not pedicured. I haven’t shaved my legs in a looong time and I've been picking at my toe nails sooo bad that I have none left but last week my headache and tense neck were just begging for release, so I gave in. Since my husband and daughter were off on a hockey date, I invited my mom to a mother-daughter date.

As I showered and got ready I debated whether to shave my legs. I’ve been making a conscious decision not to shave my legs over the last year or so, so I had to pause for a second to assess whether this massage would warrant the personal statement I was trying to make to my body to love it for all of its miraculous and wonderful ways, which is so much easier to do when you don’t have to expose your personal decisions to other people. I decided not to shave in order to continue honoring my practice of self love.

Although my massage was neither luxurious nor intended to be a spiritual experience, it turned into an exercise of gratitude. Instead of grimacing and tensing up in shame when the masseuse uncovered my thick unshaven legs, I had to remind myself to relax. As the masseuse lifted my thick and heavy legs, I didn’t find myself silently apologizing that he had to carry so much weight. I simply silently thanked him for his strength and exhaled and enjoyed the sensation as he released them and allowed myself to feel the weight of them drop with a thud back down to the massage table. I didn’t find myself assuming that my extra layers of soft flesh would disgust him but instead caught myself thinking that my soft flesh was probably like a huge stress ball for his tired fingers to squish.  I allowd myself to simply relax and be thankful for the experience and my body thanked me. With every single one of the masseuse’s strokes my body screamed, “Thank you!” With every tight and painful knot he pressed and squeezed the shit out of, I exuded gratitude for his time, energy and skills to enable me to experience this release.  Instead of apologizing for my body and the state of my being, I spent the hour melting into gratitude- something both my mind and body needed.

Challenge accepted and passed. I totally got my $20s worth. 


Charmaine Illenberger
Happy Un-Mother's Day

I'm so blessed to have had the chance to spend two weeks with two of my moms- my birth mom and my aunt who was my mom for several years while my mom was away. Our trip felt like a collective introspection on what it meant to be a mom. We were all moms in different times, different scenarios, to different types of kids with different support systems. But regardless of whether we became a mother as a teenager or in our 40s, whether we have significant financial resources or we're struggling, whether there's a father in the picture or not, whether our kids have special needs or not, it's pretty clear that being a "mom" is universal. We all want the same things for our kids and struggle with similar insecurities- mostly those that revolve around "are we good enough/doing enough?" 

During a late night conversation I poured my heart out to my aunt and shared with her what I thought was my biggest mistake as a mom. And it was in that moment of sharing my vulnerability that it clicked. We were chosen to be our kids' parents for a specific reason- because all our innate characteristics, both theirs and ours, will foster each other's growth. We grow from our kids as much as they grow from us. So all of our quirks, what we judge to be our flaws, our shortcomings, and all of those moments we keep replaying in our heads when we thought we majorly fucked up all work together to encourage each other to blossom- if we allow it. But if we struggle to fit ourselves into the mold of "a good mom" and don't listen to what truly feels right in the moment, both for us and our kids, we not only stunt our kids' growth, we're stifling our own as well. 

The secret to being a good mom doesn't lie in being "a good mom". We struggle and swim in circles in the most anxiety when we're trying to be "a good mom", catering to our child's every single need, planning out every second of their lives, charting out their path as well as their destination, and layering them with every protection against all of the fears we can think of until they can't move. Our kids struggle when we're in that role too. My experience with my son is a testament to that.

What I've found to be the most liberating thing to be as a mom is ourselves and to let our kids be themselves. During a sweaty sauna session with my mom, she shared that she's just now learning that too- now that her kids are well into their 30s with kids of their own. I'd like to think that I played a role in her self-discovery BECAUSE of who I am and all the stumbling I've had to go through(both as the teenage daughter she had to painfully let go of when I got knocked up and as a mother who she watched struggle with her own mistakes to find her own way) just as much as who she was as a person, including the things she might've felt guilty about doing, were the same things that pushed me to find myself. I feel that each of us being free to do our own inner work and sharing our vulnerabilities and frustrations with each other all these years and witnessing each other's journey helped each of us find our own way in our own time. At the end of the day, we all want our kids to be empowered self-expressed individuals who live a fulfilled life- the same things we want for ourselves. 

In the moments when I feel lost and truly don't know what to do as a parent, I ask myself, "What would I truly need if I were my child in this situation?" A lot of times the answer becomes as simple as "a hug", "someone to listen", "to be left alone", "to be understood" and the unnecessary stress and anxiety of doing the work to provide the answer for someone else falls away as I allow them the opportunity to discover their own power to figure things out for themselves. I've found that empathy has been my saving grace, not only as a mom, but in any other role that I step into as well. The same works for any other situation with any other person, whether you're a parent or not. I guess that's why it's called the Golden Rule.