Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Balancing act

Ma Joad, I was thinking as I slid into a yogic forward fold, noticing my grounded wide feet, spread toes and heels sunk into the mat. You know, the mother and driving force in Grapes of Wrath.

I had not thought of her since high school, when I wrote an essay for an exam, choosing her as the topic of my response. I don’t remember the question, just how her solidness struck me as the pillar of the family as I described her physique as a metaphor for her place and influence on the Joad clan. Promptly after, as we all discussed the test, much to my horror, I discovered no one else elected to answer the question citing the Grapes of Wrath. I must’ve screwed up, I stewed until a few weeks later as I gingerly opened the scoring envelope, squinting and steeling myself for bad news. All for nought: I captured the highest grade. I need to remind myself of that time and its lesson of not doubting myself – especially when I take the road less traveled. I had felt really good about my answer until I compared. That’s what typically gets me in trouble.

As we transitioned from the cascading bend into Warrior III, lifting one leg and spreading our arms, I felt balanced, graceful and the feminine foundation for my daughters, 121/2 and 151/2. I am their Ma Joad, even the days I struggle. I want to be perfect for them, there in every way conceivable, but, alas, I can not. So I do my best, which isn’t so swift some days, but pretty on-target others.

I’m trying to get my act together much as I can. That seems like a life’s work . Five weeks of physical relapse has taken me back to high school and doubting myself, but not totally. Something tells me on a deeper level that I am not in the place I was in high school or even last time I experienced a flare-up. I think I’m a bit higher up the mountain with a little more or, at least, different perspective. Both my pastoral counselor and chiropractor insist I’ve opened an old wound and am shedding or healing.

Right now, yoga hurts more, it’s hard to get up at 6 to swim laps when sleep comes as a luxury, yet I persevere no doubt thanks to divine grace more than any of my own. And another old nemesis has come to haunt me: the flirtation of money.

I believe it’s also haunting my youngest. She can’t manage to hang onto it and craves more. I tend to save it and disassociate from it. We’ve always been mirrors for each other. I think the learning now is for me to worry less about it and for her to see it’s not that important. Perhaps my dislike of it has forced her in the other direction. We both need balance. Seems I must find mine first as an example.

As we tackle our hurtles, I have decided we need to meditate every evening before bed TOGETHER. She needs it. I need it. We need each other. And, when two or three are gathered, you know what transpires.

If Ma Joad held her family together, then I can try likewise, reinforced by allowing space for Spirit in my life and my daughters’.

• When have I felt like the pillar of the family?
• When have I felt unbalanced?
• How does doubt topple that balance?
• What throws me off?
• What helps me rebalance toward Spirit?

firm and functional,
maybe not pretty

flat and strong,

they carry
me through
thick and thin
health and illness
isolation and oneness

they keep my

and I am

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Friday, April 26, 2013

[Ar]resting truth

Divided heart/unfired clay
Tonight I’m teaching, but today I am exploring and learning. Something for which I am granting myself more permission because I’m not going to get it in our culture. We all desperately need time for reading, reflection and self introspection. I’ve been told it’s a selfish pursuit, but my soul and its response suggest otherwise.

About ten days ago, I was combing the magazine section of Barnes & Noble and delightedly stumbled onto a spirituality section. I picked up three or four issues, took them back to the table and a warm coffee and started to peruse them. One I just could not put down. Even the $10 price tag did not dissuade me.

At night, I’ve been savoring the articles, which are “tastes” of new books published by Watkins Bookshop in London since 1893 specializing in “mind body spirit, modern teachers and magick.” http://www.watkinsbooks.com/

I can’t tell you how joyful I have become in recognizing just how many other people hold the deep concern for authentic spirituality and community that I do. It is so refreshing because, in my slice of reality, I see too much dependence on and worship of the material, money and power. Things that cause me strife because I have no real place for them except to negotiate that world. These articles illuminate for me a reality much more suited to my passion and calling. One where my heart would be comforted and more alive.

Just this morning, I’ve highlighted this jumble of excerpts from a variety of pieces:

“…’What was going on when you became ill?’ Time and again, they relate events which, in my mind, contribute greatly to the onset of the illness. Not because the individual has done something wrong but because their soul loves them so much, that it has developed the illness to attract the individual’s attention, in the hope of guiding them back towards their own sacred center.” [The Healing Power of the Sacred Woman: Health, Creativity, and Fertility for the Soul, Christine R. Page, MD]

Makes me wonder if my night-waking/anxiety, while hormonal, is reflecting the division between my brain and heart. I think my soul may be telling me it’s time to choose and become unified.

”In time, I eventually concluded that it is the emotional basis behind clinical symptomology that has been largely overlooked in conventional medicine. However, it is an ingrained habit that is not easily changed.” [When the Next Step to Take is a Life-Changing One, Dr. Peter Mack] 
What ingrained habits could I address more effectively?

“When the mind becomes too full to process all the data, this can lead to a lack of sleep. Information is processed through the subconscious mind during our REM sleep and what we don’t finish processing in sleep, wakes us up in the early hours to be processed before the working day starts.” [Making Decisions without Thinking, Becky Walsh]

What could I process before bedtime that will offer a better sleep? I have read about writing concerns on a piece of paper before sleep and releasing them. I think I’ll try that again, regularly.

”The divine feminine is re-emerging and leading the way to co-create personal and collective abundance, health, well-being and unlimited possibilities.” The Miracle Workers Handbook: 7 Levels and Power of Manifestation of the Virgin Mary, Sherrie Dillard]

I am reminded to look to the feminine side of Spirit, the Goddess I have always loved, for making my world, the entire world, abundant, healthy, happy and unlimited.

“Claiming and celebrating your voice often takes you to the edge of your life where you discover the center. 
– The old way of being seduced you into believing that your voice, actions and imagination do not matter. The new way to be says that your every contribution is of inestimable worth to the ecosystem of life. 
– The doubts that our fears reveal are grand birth-givers of new consciousness. The disillusionments we fear reveal unexpected blessings.” [A New Way to be Human – Loving Abandonment, Robert V. Taylor] 
Where to start? This is so very rich. I have de-valued my voice far too long. By claiming it in my current endeavors, I do feel very on the edge. I had not recognized it as a vehicle to the center. I am learning to value my contributions, even if they seem minimal, as very much a new way of being, personally and globally. I am holding doubts and fears, but now with new hope for transformation.

“Because the letting go mechanism reveals your own inner truth, nobody can take it away from you. You are safe from disillusionment.” [The Pathway of Surrender, David R. Hawkins, MD, PhD]

I yearn to surrender deeper and deeper and understand it will be in my own way, not someone else’s.

The desire to be special is the shadow of an infantile relationship with the Inner Judge – the internalised representations or our parents; the values, beliefs, attitudes, standards and prejudices we have inherited and made ours.” [YOUniqueness, Avikal E. Costantino]

I know that Inner Judge much too well, to the point of not separating myself at times. Harsh as it sounds, it’s time to be adult and abandon this “infantile” frame. I had not realized I was stuck here. I much more fully embrace the concept of uniqueness.

Hard for me to believe all of that astounding truth that leads me deeper into my own came from a mere nine pages of a an 82-page publication. Well worth the $10 because these pieces can be woven into a larger message for me and all of us:

I’m in the midst of an integration of head and heart, living on that edge, which will bring me to my center, where the Sacred Feminine (God/ess) resides. Part of the process is releasing negative habits and cares to Spirit, to claim my voice, honor my wisdom and know doubt is being transformed. I will trust in this process and re-imagine it as a new beginning, not just a phase of life to numbly get through.

• Where have I sought wisdom lately?
• When has an unlikely source deeply spoken to me?
• What’s the connection between self discovery and my spiritual life?
• How do I recognize the masculine and feminine Divine?
• How do I view the Divine? As within, without or both?


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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Badges of survival

Him Kitty napping in the sun/Tad Barney

Soooo not the morning I expected, yet I think I was open to it. Open being the key word here. Maybe open and present.

I was jarringly awakened with my chest pounding. Thankfully, it was 5:40 am, much later than I had expected. My alarm was set for 6 and I soon heard the comforting sounds of my oldest closing the bathroom door, then flushing. It used to annoy me, now I embrace it.

I was reminded of Sunday in worship just how comforting my children have always been to me; not, of course, that that is their main function in life. They certainly have their imperfect moments, illiciting comments I’d rather not repeat here. When I ambled into worship, then, too, my chest was pounding. I asked God for peace in that hour. No sooner was it off my heart then I felt the whirlwind of nearby activity (my eyes were closed) settling as each of my daughters took a seat beside me – bookends. And I felt great and deep peace.

The residue of worship must still be with me as I lolled in bed another 15 minutes, sat up to gently stretch and realized I’d experienced a solid night’s sleep. A little more alert this morning, I descended the stairs, debating whether there was time to make coffee before I swept the kids to the bus and hit the pool. While I was measuring the coffee, the girls announced that the cat was having a “spaz” attack. By the time I could turn around to look, he was still and staring into space, his typical past-time at the ripe old age of 18. Then I noticed the puddles and my heart fluttered. I have been dreading this furry friend’s imminent end. He has weathered thick and thin with me. Three years ago we thought he was a gonner after surviving what we believe was a stroke. Him Kitty made a strong comeback: his constant circling to the right and occasional staring at the fridge, the only tell-tale signs.

I cleaned up the mess, grabbed an old towel and cuddled him in it. He purred, which signaled things were ok. I whisked the girls out the door and returned to Him Kitty napping in the bay window. Nothing unusual. Before heading to my studio, I asked my husband to bring up a litter box up in case the cat couldn’t manage the basement stairs. I was finally out the door when the unearthly distress cry cats make made me drop my wallet, keys and laptop.  My instinct was to return to the living room, but I had just checked that cat and the noise was outside. I looked and saw our other indoor cat staring out the porch door at our adopted outdoor cat wrestling in the bushes. “OMG, the groundhog’s got him,” I thought. I went closer and saw there was only one animal and no struggle. Patches was experiencing a seizure. Tad had seen it once before and almost gave him mouth-to-mouth. I spoke soothingly to Patches to let him know I was there and perched on the edge of the deck as his white-with-black body thrashed in the brush and branches. It broke my heart. I prayed and began to weep. He sensed me there and I spoke again, softly, telling him not to worry about me. A few long, excruciating minutes and he was up, at my hand nudging to be petted … as if business as usual. Except that my heart was ripped to shreds.

I have been struggling with my own resiliency only to witness the suffering of these two cats. It’s really made me ponder how our society treats usefulness. I instinctively knew to tend to these creatures, maybe only accompanying them as they suffered. God was responding through me and, perhaps, I complied because I was opened and present this morning. Maybe it was the worship experience or the fact I’ve been bumbling through a fibro flare-up and empathetic.

However, I am beginning to think it’s because I have been faithful in doing something my heart has desired for a VERY long time: offer spiritual-nurture classes in my studio. What I affectionately call my Turtlebox group. Our first three sessions have been on pain as teacher, opening to the Divine and deep connection. I can’t teach what I don’t know so, in prepping for these, I have explored all of those in myself and opened some wounds.

After a wonderfully long run of high energy and low pain – enough to get Artsy Farsty, a non-profit art exploration for under-served, local kids launched – I hit a blip and, I freely admit, sank into some self pity, whining and yelling at God.

Perhaps, if I take the example of these two cats, I can pick myself up and carry on. I may have a little pee on my tail or dirt on my coat, but I can look at those as badges of survival and carry their wisdom with me … out into the world.

• What has opened me recently?
• What affect do children and animals have in opening me?
• How have they been a comfort?
• What have they taught me?
• How can I carry their wisdom out into the world?

happily napping
in the sun,
circling only
to the right
or staring for
what seems like
forever at the fridge

I know my Him
Kitty is all right
when I cuddle
him and he purrs

It’s our signal

the constant
contact and
from all
of us
his motor

Spirit do
the same
for me?

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Breaking free

Swimming seems such a metaphor for dancing between inner and outer, water and air, soul and ego, life and spirit, ethereal and material. There’s such fluidity; the body weighs next to nothing, yet resistance is eleven times greater than on land. Everything’s cloudy down under: warm, dark and womb-like. Mystery beckons. The body is burdensome once it surfaces; shockingly so when you set your foot on the top step. Much more personally alluring to glide back in.

And yet the land and air sustain us. We can not live naturally under water.

I am more comfortable inside and stumble navigating the external. I was abruptly reminded of this in the locker room as an acquaintance discussed a recent college visit with her high-school daughter. I silently gasped at the numbing amount of tuition she rattled off. “No worse than anywhere else,” she said.

What if you don’t have the ability to work full time, like me, to earn tens of thousands of dollars I silently mumbled. I am coming to terms with imbedded bitterness, feeling robbed of a career 15 years ago because of a car accident and the onset of fibromyalgia. Of all places to voice it, it spilled out in worship week before last. The message focused on women encountering Jesus at the tomb after his resurrection and yet they were not considered credible. In example after example, Jesus uses worldy weakness and turns it around.

Including in me, I said.

It surely was nothing I wanted to say out loud, in church, but the way it arrived and I bucked, then stood and had no idea what I was saying, I identified it as vocal ministry.

Three times last week, I heard references to fruits of the spirit or spiritual gifts and I understood it was time to pay attention. Once as I was channel surfing checking the weather and evangelist Joyce Meyer stared at me and said that everyone’s all interested in spiritual gifts, but we need to focus on the fruits and the fact are lives will be long suffering. L–o–n–g suffering.

The next day I found myself outside of Panera, bumped up against to a pre-teen and middle-aged woman during an informal confirmation-counseling session, mostly discussing the girl’s spiritual gifts.

Sunday in worship a friend also referenced the fruits of the spirit.

So I have begun to play with gifts (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, kinds of tongues, interpreting those tongues, etc,) and fruits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control).

While looking up the Joyce Meyer quote, which I jotted down, but never did find, I uncovered a letter from a teacher of both of my daughters. It was a thank-you note from last spring. She ended it with “You are a very special mother and I await the news of all the love and good your daughters will bring to our earth because of your love.”

I think I was supposed to find that today as I tottered among guilt for not having ample material wealth for my daughters, finding my gifts and looking at the fruits of the Spirit evident in my life.

Those eyes/cut paper on paper
When I took all of that into prayer, I said:
“I am always comparing myself and falling way short. How can I look at myself with new eyes, God, your eyes?”
I soon understood that, although I am called to work outside of the worldy system, I am still judging myself by it.

Don’t use any of its values, especially NOT to judge yourself. Use mine and don’t judge. Just love and enjoy the freedom of who you are in all of your glory. Break free, I release you.

• How do I dance between external and internal, worldy and divine?
• When the world butts in, how do gravitate back to Spirit?
• What are my spiritual gifts?
• What fruits have I experienced?
• How has God released me?

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Playfulness: portal for the soul

Two important parts of my life converge this week: hosting a deeply spiritual gathering, then re-grouping two days later for a wild, wooly and lovable gaggle of preteens to teach them about photography. Rather, my talented and loving other half is doing the camera gig as our guest. Still, it's a big turn-around and juxtaposition in which I am finding great joy.

The Thursday night kickoff with what I call my Turtlebox group seemed perfect. We focused on the idea of opening to the Divine or whatever one feels is greater than themselves. My mantra in this series is not to get too hung up on language ... that we must translate for one another so that we may read between the lines and listen by heart. For me, it is all about Spirit/God, but I don't want to impose my language on another when, in fact, I believe we are referring to the same energy.

In luring participants more toward doing than just discussing, they graciously partook in what I call "heart play," something I was introduced to by a wonderful art coach and have since expanded and adapted to a more spiritual setting. 
Heart-play stash

It also allows me to imbibe my penchant for collecting things, interesting things and displaying them in baskets for just such an exercise. I ask people to select whatever materials – from natural and earthy objects to shiny ribbons and gems and a lot of childhood trinkets such as building blocks, Tinker Toys and puzzle pieces – appeal to them, mindlessly, and begin assembling them in a temporary sculpture of sorts. Playing, arranging and freeing their mind. The point it not to over think, not even to think. Then, when you feel finished, you reflect and journal on the experience and creation. It's pretty amazing what transpires and what people learn from their play. Once, we all happened to unconsciously create altars.

This has always been one of my most favorite activities when I facilitate others in spiritual nurture. Always. Several weeks ago when I had an astrology reading for my birthday and the astrologer got to my soul purpose, she said mine was to teach adults to play. Hum .....
Heart-play temporary sculpture

After the heart play, I will ask when was the last time you played? I understand that having children gave me back that permission and last night, someone said the same for being a grandparent. But we don't need those excuses.

Perhaps that is why I so love Artsy Fartsy and connecting under-served middle schoolers to their creativity. We are playing because that's how they engage. I am so excited for tomorrow that I can hardly stand it. My husband has constructed something called a camera obscura in one of the empty classrooms in the building where we both have studios. He'll have the kids enter into the darkness and actually be in a camera as the windows have been draped. When he unveils a small hole, a reversed and large image from out the window will appear on the screen. It is so cool and I know the kids will love this. When I explained to one of them earlier in the week we were doing photography, she asked "What's that?" In responding that it involves taking pictures with a camera, she understood. Wow, just wait til they get to see actual negatives and film ... things they've never had occasion to experience.

Can you tell all of this playfulness brings me great joy? I tend toward being ultra-responsible and I crave the playfulness as balance. I think we all do, whether we recognize it or not.

Playfulness is a portal for the soul in so many dimensions and can connect us spiritually as well as creatively. Try it sometime.

• When was the last time I played?
• How do I give myself permission to play?
• How has it freed my soul?
• When have I connected spiritually through play?
• How have I re-engaged my creativity in that manner?

Red Bird/paster and pain on paper


Red bird is my guide.
He first led me to the
woods – to a safe and
wonderful place where
I let my heart play.
And when I let my
heart play often enough,
he appears. As if to
say I’m following the
right path. When I
dive into doubt, he’s
scarce. It’s then I
know to open up
again, become playful.
When I do, he always

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Wisdom of Mr. Slinger

What happens when we taste the full experience of life? And I mean full.

We whine, complain and, often, forget to give thanks. We take the ecstasy for granted sans offering any gratitude and grumble when it's our turn for agony.

As I entered my studio this morning, put my things away, I was drawn to my sacred circle, between the Deco theater seats, orange '70s nurse's lounger and meditation tent. It's quite an eclectic place, but where I have centered by just-begun Turtlebox Stories group. It's anchored by a primitive pottery circle of seven persons, arms intertwined.

After lighting the candle and watching the light dance among the stone faces, I sat and confessed to Spirit that yesterday was a rough day, then caught myself saying – though it wasn't really me – but today will be better. I chuckled because it's almost the identical line from one of our favorite kids' books. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. Lilly is obsessed with her new possession, distractingly waving it around in class until her teacher, whom she adores, puts it away. She is crushed and drafts a mean note for the fallen-of-her-pedestal teacher. When opening her retrieved purse on the way home, she finds a note from Mr. Slinger that says something like: "Today was a hard day. Tomorrow will be better."

Yesterday was my experience of agony: a loathsome and deep tiredness from too many broken nights of sleep. Of course, that is where I was stuck much of yesterday. Last night was not a perfect night, but improved to the point that I start my "working" day with Divine guidance. I'd already had prayer time swimming laps and in my warm caccoon of a prayer box sauna. Still, now, sitting in my circle, I seek God's shape for my day.

It's arrived in the guise of understanding that, in the past week, I have experienced the mountain-top revelation, been warmed by a charming new spiritual-nurture group and, also become somewhat of a zombie. I am living the full experience of life. 

I have been the facilitator and the facilitated, the healed and the healer, the mothered and the motherless,  the strong and the weak, the faithful and the doubting. My humanness only wants to feel the pleasantries. It's tired of the tough stuff, the things that have to be forced and worked out, the heaps of drudgery. 

My 15-year-old lens of tiredness forgets that's not all there has been. It tends toward comparisons, always making sure to inform me that everyone else is much better off in all manner of ways.

When I clean that lens and re-focus it away from myself and toward God, I get a different picture, one more like the fire-lit faces worshipping what they have been given and keeping that in their circle, casting off to the dark what is not from God.

Today already is a better day. I look forward to hosting two very special groups this week: Turtlebox and Artsy Fartsy. It will be full, but I leave the details in Spirit's hands.

• What's my fallback reaction to hardness in life?
• How can I transform that if it's not healthy or Spirit-led?
• How can I take Mr. Slinger's advice that it will be a better day?
• Where do I find my sacred circle?
• What do I receive there?

the pattern of
busyness is all
too easy to sink

until something
flares to tell us

how long must
it take for that
agony to reach
us, teach us?

how can I relax
into Spirit's work
in Spirit's way and
not my own?

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