I don't want a photo of a gun on my blog. Or anywhere my eyes can see. The image of a gun has me shaking my head in sadness. It makes me angry that we've let ourselves be so sick as a human species. And once the anger is felt for a few moments, great grief enters. It burns my heart to think of what's possible with humans -- how we can learn to communicate through conflict, to heal old wounds -- and yet how often we resort to defensiveness and violence.
As a kid in Catholic school, I decided religion wasn't my thing. But God is. Because God is Love. And Love is definitely my thing.
Love is what makes life worth living. It's the most powerful force in the universe.
Love is universal, spanning above and beneath all religions, swallowing them whole, together. Love is beyond religion.
Words can get messy. No single word is adequate to express things as powerful as Love or God... yet we do our best, since we are creatures of relationship. And communication is the hardest part of relationship. And a lot of how we communicate is with words.
After the recent shooting in Orlando, Florida, I wished I had a magic wand to ban guns from the planet. Nowhere do they belong. I feel this in my heart of hearts. Humans are capable of learning to communicate with wisdom and maturity; guns should not be necessary. If we want to hunt and eat non-human animals, there are other ways.
Love doesn't kill. Guns don't kill without someone pulling the trigger, either. But dang, can't we do better, people?
If nothing more, this is a plea to each of us. EACH OF US. To humble ourselves, to open our hearts and exhale our defensiveness, so we can become more effective communicators. We are all learning to be better communicators. Let's stop pretending we're not. Every time we choose to slow down and be curious in the presence of conflict -- instead of being defensive -- we open up a space for Love to come in and speak through us. It's absolutely not easy, and it is a significant part of the required work of being human. If not in this life, it'll surface in the next.
I don't want to argue about this. I don't want to be right. I just want to share my heartfelt words on my blog. They're not meant to judge anybody.
Out beyond ideas
of right doing
and wrong doing
there is a field
I'll meet you there
I’m grateful. Really, I’m grateful for you. You were the 3rd migraine in my life and all three happened over the course of one year.
Clearly, you have all been trying to tell me something. Clearly, the human body is a messenger letting us know what needs attention. When we listen, things go well. When we don’t, we tend to suffer.
But you see, Leadership. You know?
No, no, not status or a professional or scholarly title. Leadership: the art of expressing your vision in the world, giving it your best so that it thrives, thereby having more of what you want, and creating more of the kind of world you want to live in.
Beginning in childhood and throughout my life, I’ve been supported vigorously enough to believe my vision mattered. Confident and resourceful, I’ve started numerous businesses and not-for-profit organizations, and given birth to many movements, ideas and pieces of edgy, thought provoking writing. Leadership? I got this. Even in the realm of romantic relationship, at least three times I have written and refined a list of what I wanted in a partner, only to have that vision show up right before my eyes.
So after giving birth to my daughter at home without any drugs or interventions, boy I sure thought I could do anything. And anyone could do anything, as long as the essential ingredients are present: Vision, Alignment, Action, Surrender.
Wait. That last part.
Sigh. Apparently you, dear Migraine, came to help me with that part.
After a vibrant launch of my new project, Leaning into Light, a hub for human fulfillment offering phone workshops and blog posts addressing the deepest, most fundamental human needs, you showed up. Weeks of pressing on, trying to figure out how to make income from this project, investing potent heart, wisdom and soul into it… It wasn’t giving me back one of the fundamental ROIs a business should give: income. Press on, persevere, figure it out… Boom. You arrived. And as with the last one, my head throbbed painfully with a message I still needed to hear. Again. Surrender.
Wait. Just surrender. Let go. Release. No figuring it out. No pressure.
Spaciousness. Relax. Joy. Ease. Allowing. Spaciousness. Right underneath you, dear Migraine, was a layer of communication saying, “Spaciousness.”
That’s when I posted a note on the Leaning into Light website about how spaciousness came calling, and I answered. Prince had just died; I wanted to dance. And cry. The whales were migrating down our coast; I wanted to tune into their big, slow song.
So I did.
I didn’t know what would happen, I didn’t know where it would lead, everything was unpredictable but I knew one thing: Living my truth is the way I want to live. Anything else is a disgrace to this precious life I’ve been given.
The day after I made this decision, I was still breathing.
My daughter was still the most magnificent thing I’d ever known. Our family was fine, sheltered, and happy in our simplest moments. Nothing exploded. And within two days, you were gone.
I stopped trying to figure anything out.
I opened up to let the voice within take center stage.
I got quiet.
And when I get quiet, as in, days of defaulting to quiet, that’s when I know things are gettin’ real good.
Here I am now in the Great Unknown. I’ve heard it is Love, and I trust that even though my faith wobbles, fragile, in occasional moments. I know it in so much of me; I want to know it completely.
You came to lead me back to the greatest truths I know:
I am here to be happy.
Joy is my birthright and welcomes me as much as I am willing to allow it in.
I can recover to feeling good every time I slip.
I am blessed beyond words.
Love is who we are, and our natural state of mind is always available.
Circumstances have no power over our experience unless we give them power.
I know how to feel good, and my choice to feel good is a gift to all of Life.
These are inherent human truths, and anyone can choose to accept or deny them.
Enough about me. What’s next for Leaning into Light?
No Earth shattering news here. Deep in my bones, I feel resonance with this project, this endeavor of art and soul. As the main steward of Leaning into Light, I will keep writing blog posts to express my love for the human spirit, and to invite others to embrace their own authentic lives more fully. Workshops are paused at the moment, but only to give them some breathing room away from the incessant noise of left-brain planning, internet marketing and automation technology. They will be back with more refinement, more punch, more power.
Brewing slowly yet with giant fire underneath the blog posts and workshops is a deep-core vision I have had for years. It’s that “one thing” I’d do if I knew I had one year left to live, type thing. As in, the thing I am supposed to be doing n-o-w because this is it. This is what I’ve got and all I’m guaranteed. The here and now. It is about the illumination of the beauty of the human spirit. Yes... more of that.
This piece? It's close.
I feel its breath on my face. I feel its hand in my pocket. Truth. It’s right here, whispering to me. And I am listening. There is no hurry. It is my art.
Farewell Migraine. I don’t really like your company but I appreciate you. I see that you’re just the rough side of an inner messenger trying to guide me to Light. And if I ever said I didn’t need help leaning into light, I was ridiculously mistaken.
I’m calling on the Vocabulary Angels to help me out here. Describing something this rare isn’t easy. But it’s worth a shot because I’m talking about one of my great pleasures in life, and I really believe if more people knew about it, there would be more of it in the world.
Foam. Thick, glassy, tight microfoam, silky whole cow’s milk foam, the kind you find in an epic cappuccino or a deep wet foam latte.
Not the airy foam you can spoon out of the milk pitcher, that sits stiff and puffed-up, holding its form as the barista reaches the spoon back into the pitcher to pile more on top.
Not the foam that says, “Our cafe is too cool for foam, so there’s your millimeter of foam that’s gone in two sips,” or, “Latte art is more important to us since it’s the trend. Sorry, no deep thick foam for you!”
Think totally different. Possibly even something you’ve never had before, because of all the times I’ve asked for it this way, I mean really tried to describe what I’m wanting to the barista… it’s still only like 3% of those times that it’s actually been delivered.
I’m talking about foam that makes your whole mouth collapse into a silky cave of bliss.
Foam that sits at least one inch deep in the mug, and with the best baristas, almost three.
Foam that seduces your lips to sip it right away, so you miss as little as possible of it, as it dissolves from the bottom, into milk, and you’re left with one last mouthful of puffball silk to swallow at the end of the mug.
Foam that’s an explosion of creamy hum.
Foam that caresses your mouth in a puddle of succulent pleasure.
Blissed out lips, straight to the tongue, ecstasy in a mug. Getting a feel for it now? Or perhaps you're thinking, Old news... because you live in a part of the world where this foam is the norm, and I need to visit more often. (Do tell.)
Thing is, in a Northern Sacramento Valley, California college town called Chico, I’ve been able to get foam like this for years. Not every time, but usually. I don’t know where it all started, and I’ll skip the history I do know to just say that as of today there are still at least three people in town there who can bust the deep-wet-foam moves like no other.
My foam maestros, who often light up at the chance to make an oceanic mug full o’foam, are Sara Baxmeyer and Josh Gladfelder at The Naked Lounge, Garret Goodwin at both B Street Public House or Great Northern Coffee Company in the old train car on 5th & Cherry, and Kyle, who might be taking a break from the coffee world for a while but once worked at both the Naked Lounge and Great Northern.
As soon as I walk in, I see their eyes catch blaze and their sleeves roll up, ready to show me what they’ve got. Sure maybe they like me, but it’s not about me. These people take pride in their art. They’ve got latte art tricks up the wazoo, but they know making foam like this is few and far between. And they love the challenge, not to mention my moans of appreciation.
On and off, I surrender my shameless sermon for this kind of foam. I am not that annoying customer who acts all entitled to their quadruple shot, half caff, 145 degree latte with milk from pink cows.
Then I drink some again.
Is it the espresso machine? How good or clean it is? The quality or temperature of the milk? Barista skill level? The size of the pitcher used to steam and make foam?
Depends on who you ask.
And my main desire here is to: 1) Celebrate something that brings me great joy, pleasure and delight, and 2) Support a few open-minded baristas who’ve expressed genuine desire to learn how to make foam like this.
So, I filmed all the maestros: Sara, Josh, Garret and Kyle.
Ladies first. Here’s Sara, who emphasizes a clean, large pitcher, very cold milk, very brief steaming followed by removing all the bubbles, and how she works the pitcher at the end.
Next up is Josh, who’s been a master with foam for as long as I can remember. Ten years? 15? It doesn’t matter to him whether the pitcher or the milk is super cold, but the finished temperature of the milk definitely matters. He also uses a bigger pitcher “to contain all the foam” (oh gawd that part got me excited). Undoubtedly, Josh has made me 100s of the best Apple Style espresso drinks I’ve ever had.
The gifted Garret didn’t say much about how he does it, but he did bust a norm by using a small pitcher and still delivering stellar foam.
Woe, I can’t find my Kyle video right now. But those three alone are gold.
It feels good to give voice to something we love, however rare it is in the world. Maybe there’s someone else out there who devours the decadence of foam like this as I do? Or someone who knows of another town with at least a few cafes known for competence in great foam? Or someone with a Magic Wand to mobilize a movement for deep wet foam lattes, a revolution in Apple Style mania.
Please introduce yourself.
Our featured free recording for September is a 35-minute conversation with mailman Sean Lanham called Mailman Magic and the Power of Letters. You can listen here!
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternal fan of Mr. (Fred) Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.