Use It Or Lose It

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I have a confession to make….my comfortable fall-back position is to look outside myself for guidance when I’m in a period of turmoil, whether it be job concerns, relationship issues, or spiritual questioning.  I grab the nearest self-help books, take the workshops, & listen to all the audio-recordings from motivational speakers & gurus that I can find.  Someone “out there” must be able to help me.  Right?  Not necessarily.

Here’s the bottom line.  All of those are wonderful resources BUT…. if I don’t internalize the lessons & APPLY them to my life, none of them will work.  Would I expect to get benefits from a piece of exercise equipment I never use?  Would I become a better artist if I never picked up my brush to paint?

I’ve learned to ….USE IT OR LOSE IT

Here is a short list of useful strategies I have in place to center myself- tools that both nourish & nurture me.

  1. Meditate
  2. Journal write
  3. Create art
  4. Work in my garden
  5. Go for a walk
  6. Connect with nature
  7. Pray
  8. Listen to music
  9. Spend time with those I love
  10. Read
  11. Take time to be alone
  12. Get a massage
  13. Give or receive a Reiki session
  14. Take a power nap
  15. Rattle or drum to change the energy around me
  16. Use positive affirmations
  17. Hold a smooth stone & get grounded again
  18. Play with the dogs
  19. Focus on the many gifts & blessings in my life

I have a great many tools in my “self-care” toolbox but it’s up to me… and only me… to use them when I need them.

 

 

Create While I Wait

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I’m taking a new approach to situations that usually trigger a measure of impatience in me, such as waiting for the mechanic to finish a car repair or sitting in the doctor’s office because he is running behind schedule.  I’ve tried reading the outdated magazines and I’ve tried to watch whatever happens to be on the television in the corner of the room, neither of which appeal to me.  The phrase, “Do what you love”, inspired me to create a traveling art kit that fits easily into my purse.

Traveling Art Kit:  can hold everything from watercolors to a glue stick & bits of fabric.

Traveling Art Kit: holds my small watercolour set, pens, brushes, & a mini sketchpad.

An old cosmetic bag gets a new life as the keeper of my pens, brushes, and mini-sketchpad.  It’s a treat to be able to take out my art supplies & play until my name is called.  Now, I’m more likely to say that the wait time was too short!

A fun little doodle in shades of Payne's Gray.

A fun little doodle in shades of Payne’s Gray.

I don’t have large blocks of time to explore my creativity on most days but a few minutes here and there can quickly add up.  It’s so much easier to maintain a positive attitude in less-than-ideal situations when I’m doing something joyful.

Zinnia blossom in watercolour and pen.

Zinnia blossom in watercolour and pen.

“Create while you wait!”; the perfect mantra for someone who waits impatiently.

Things We Don’t Talk About screening

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I’m extremely honored to be co-hosting Things We Don’t Talk About: Women’s Stories from the Red Tent with the award-winning filmmaker, Dr. Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost in October.  I’ve seen this ground-breaking film several times and cannot wait to share it with both the women & men in my community.

Things We Don't Talk About screening comes to York PA

Things We Don’t Talk About screening comes to York PA

Dr. Leidenfrost created this amazing documentary to chronicle the Red Tent movement that was sweeping the United States at the time she was filming.  Just 2 short years after it’s release, the Red Tent movement is now a worldwide phenomenon.  (On a personal note, it’s this movie that inspired me to start a tent in York PA.)

I’m thrilled that men are welcome to the screening, not just because they’ve been curious about what goes on inside the tent but also because they have mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, and wives.  What impacts women impacts men and they need to be welcomed in the conversation about how we nourish each other and care for ourselves in a sacred space.  Though they cannot stay for the Red Tent celebration after the screening, the men will get a picture of what women do once the flap closes and we are sitting in sisterhood.  Briefly put, the Red Tent movement allows women a safe place to share their stories, nurture themselves, hear the wisdom of others, & honor the divine within.

While I’ve written about the Red Tent movement & my role in it before, this screening with Dr. Leidenfrost takes it to a whole new level.  May women and men find the experience profoundly moving and inspirational!

Kundalini Rising

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It started as a dream.  No, it started with an escalating restlessness, an adult version of “growing pains”; then came the dream…

I went up to the counter to buy a snake.  The salesperson grabbed a large one, as wide around as my forearm & shoved it into a white plastic shopping bag.  This took considerable effort as the snake coiled tightly around her arm, struggling against its confinement.  I reluctantly took it & held the bag against my body as I walked to the car, the entire time thinking, “I just wanted a cute little garden variety snake, why am I bringing home this 6-8 foot long powerhouse that could strangle me or even eat my dogs?!  They scare the hell out of me.  Why am I doing this?”  I felt both the weight of that snake as I walked & it’s restless movement inside.

I set the bag on the passenger car seat and stood there staring at it in amazement; the bag wasn’t even tied shut!  I could see the snake’s head, the size of my open palm only narrower.  Again, the doubts banged around in my brain like a ball in an old-fashioned pinball game.  “I don’t have a tank and I wouldn’t want to give it a life trapped in a tank anyway.  Snakes should be free to slither & roam.  I don’t want to confine it.  What am I thinking?”

As it writhed & heaved inside the bag, I decided the only thing to do was take it back to the store.  Quickly, I snatched the open top of the bag, holding it at arm’s length away as I ran.  As I handed the bag back to the salesperson, the snake lunged out of the bag with all its power.  It stayed stiff the way my arm would if I pushed it out straight from my body, parallel to the ground.  Here was the snake, half out of the bag– straight & strong– and half coiled in the bag, ready to push out at any moment.

I pushed the bag forward, in a way trying to contain the snake & trap it inside.  It didn’t work.  I knew then that this was not something to play with.  Holding this snake humbled me.  I should not have this if I don’t know how to take care of it & dare I say, “control” it.  I felt remorseful because I know I take very good care of animals.  I just didn’t think I could manage this.

I’ve been studying the work of Robert Moss, founder of Active Dreaming, and he suggests giving a dream a title upon waking, for the title is often a clue as to its meaning.  I woke with the words “Kundalini Rising” in my head.  I know what kundalini energy is (Shakti energy, the divine source of all energy, the Holy Spirit within) and I know the snake is a symbol of it.  But what is “kundalini rising”?  The term was vaguely familiar but I had to do a little research.

When interpreting a dream,various meanings may come to mind but you’ll know when it’s the true meaning by the way it stirs your soul.  Honestly, it will just feel right.  The description on kundalinicare.com resonated deeply within me.  “… some form of sensitivity and yearning and a talent or quality that stands out to some degree.  Such an individual is more aware of the subtle aspects of life and is unsatisfied enough to seek more from life.  This may develop into an intense longing that urges the individual to find purpose, meaning, and spiritual life, if they are not unduly distracted into less satisfying temporary substitutes in the mean time.”

At this stage in my life, I recognize what’s happening.  I am going through growing pains of a sort. I can either rebel against it, fighting change every step of the way (a technique I’ve tried with immense failure over the years) or I can honor it & go with the flow.  Change is inevitable.  In fact, I desire change right now so I need to embrace it.  And more importantly, not get distracted by trivial concerns.  Be still.  Listen.  And worst of all… BE PATIENT.

These feelings and the accompanying messages in my dreams & awake life signal a time of important growth.  The snake represents my energy and as my boyfriend pointed out, even though I tried to contain it, the snake got out.  Kundalini energy was released.  This is a true calling.  When dreams like this occur or when you experience coincidences (which are, by the way, NOT an accident but synchronicity at work), you must honor them and work with what’s happening as its for your highest good anyway.  Notice I say “you” but actually mean “me”, too.  I’m learning all of this by trial and error.

I’ve finally learned that an important aspect of profound change is saying “Yes” to new opportunities as they arise.  We may know we are on a path but none of us can predict exactly where that path may lead.  It’s our job to stay open to possibilities and accept whatever happens as necessary for our individual evolution.

 

Refill The Well: A Red Tent Event

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“Refill the Well” was the focus of the 2nd Red Tent Event that I held in York Pennsylvania this past June.  Women, across several generations, came together to experience techniques & share their wisdom regarding ways to take care of ourselves so we have more to give– refilling our wells.  I believe that nourishing & nurturing ourselves isn’t selfish or self-centered; it’s self-preservation.

An inviting place to gather with women & share our stories.

An inviting place to gather with women & share our stories.

 

Each Red Tent Event that I host strives to be a balance between quiet time to reconnect with one’s highest self through meditation, journaling, or art as well as social time to connect with other women in a safe, sacred space.

Spaces for women to gather in community or take time to be alone with their thoughts and feelings.

Spaces for women to gather in community or take time to be alone with their thoughts and feelings.

 

Part of the social piece is a Sacred Wisdom Council.  We gathered together in a circle to share our experiences on the topic of self-care, each of us walking away with at least one new idea.  Among the suggestions were…

1)  Visualize a sacred space within yourself.  Here you can dance, connect with ancestors or other spirit guides, and tap into your own intuition.

2)  Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal.  For some, this daily practice is enlightening and often points the way to solutions.  It also lightens the heart & spirit by putting concerns on paper rather than dwelling on them.

3)  Take time to be in nature.  I shared that I occasionally set “intentional” walks with my dogs.  One morning, I may decide to focus on the sounds around me; another morning, I might focus on the sights in the neighborhood.  This practice keeps me grounded & present.  It feeds my soul.

4)  Try yoga.  It connects body, mind, & spirit through a variety of postures.  Some find this calming while others find it energizing.  All that tried it expressed it’s benefits in their lives.

5)  Schedule an appointment with a Reiki practitioner.  Reiki is the exchange of universal life force energy through light touch or a hands-above-the-body approach.  As you can see from the picture below, I set up my Reiki table behind some red curtains so that each person could experience it for herself.

A secluded area in the tent for Reiki sessions.

A secluded area in the tent for Reiki sessions.

Magic happens when we stay present in the moment.  

Without any prompting, women seemed moved by the moment & offered their gifts to one another.  One woman gave bodywork consultations, another gave individualized yoga training, and another gave Tarot readings!  The beauty of the Red Tent lies in the beauty of each woman who enters with her own unique blend of experience, wisdom, & talent.  By sharing these gifts with one another, we lift each other up in loving arms of support & encouragement.  Throughout the day, we were each teacher & student, safe to be our authentic selves.  The cornucopia of positive energy & acceptance overflowed.

I’m looking forward to our next event in September, when the focus will be “In Celebration”, celebrating what is unique to each of us & honoring our beauty inside and out.  Details can be found on this website under “Events” or on my Facebook page.  Also, we are now registered on http://www.redtentmovie.com/red_tents_near_you.html .

Portrait of an Artist

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This piece is dedicated to artists, songwriters, poets, & all others who create from a deep place within their soul.  

For, I believe, creation is a sacred act performed in collaboration with the Divine force that inspires & co-creates with us.  

I hope you see yourself in this portrait.

 

I enter the passageway, regal yet humble, confident yet scared- bare feet purposefully connecting to the cool rock beneath them.  Moss cushions one footstep while jagged rocks poke savagely at the next.  No right or wrong… just being.

There is drumming but no drummer.  The heartbeat of the earth itself.  The heartbeat of this cavernous temple.

Long skirt, bare arms- warm there, cool here.  I continue to be pulled in deeper & deeper.  The drumbeat-heartbeat echoes in my ears, pounding in my brain until thoughts are blessedly mute.  There’s just the pounding rhythm.

Small torches give life to shadows that dance on the walls.  Spirits are here.  I am the priestess, the High Priestess, of this temple, standing in the power of connecting and belonging.  A larger light beckons from deeper within.  I walk up to the shallow copper bowl on its pedestal, coals glowing inside.  Such heat blows the hair back from my face, drying my lips & eyes.  I shut them both & raise my hands to either side of the bowl, moving them first closer to the heat then into the coolness before settling comfortably in the warm middle space.

I peer down into the embers, where more spirits dance.  Such power- an energy that dances in me, too.  What is the message?  “This cannot be rushed.  Demands & impatience have no place here.  Look & listen.”

I genuflect, hands before my face, palms pressed together in prayer position.  I touch them to my core- a place of right action, my heart- right emotion, my throat- right communication, between my eyes- right thought, and the crown of my head- right connection.  This sets the intention for sacred work to take place.

Drumbeat-heartbeat no longer a sound, now a feeling.

One knee senses the small pebbles beneath, grounding me to this place and time.  When ready, I rise and bow to the fire- giver of life, destroyer, and transformer.  I proceed to the dark recess where torch and ember cannot reach.

Wetness… bare feet slip on rocks and hands slide along slick walls.  I smell the dampness that blankets my skin and fills my nostrils.  I drink with every breath.

I notice the small pots on the stony ledge and pick one up.  It’s half full of russet paint, the color of dried blood.  I push my finger into the warm thickness then streak the bridge of my nose and under each eye.  I hold space for a still moment before I take that pot to the place where dark meets light and magic takes place.  I dip a crude brush into the paint then hover above the place on the wall where I want to put the image.  Wait.  Keep waiting as long as I’m thinking “I want.  I want.”  When “I want” becomes “thy will”, place the brush on the rock and let it move.  It will be what it will be.

Back- long and strong, around the haunches- muscular and determined, shoulders- curved and coiled for action, neck- supporting the regal head, and face- alive and knowing.  What else?  I wait for it to come.  If nothing comes, I stop for stopping is all I can do.  This is a collaborative piece that I can never own or dare to take credit for.  My body, like my brush, is a channel.

I stand in the silence… feeling the blood course through my veins and pound in my ears.  All the pounding- my heartbeat, the drumbeat, and the animal spirits stampeding on the wall.  I know this is all for now and I am at peace.  I return the bowl to its place on the dark shelf and I return to the light beyond the embers and the torchlight to the fiery radiance of the sun.

Sensory overload as macaws scream, monkeys screech, insects rub legs and wings, birds chirp, and the waterfall roars.  I cover my ears with my hands.  Too much to take in.  Too many objects… too many sounds… too many scents vying for attention, rushing me all at once.  I long to return to the cave, that place far removed yet more deeply connected to all that is.

This, too, is my world.  Men feeding elephants.  Women feeding babies.  I take from the cave and bring to the village as a gift.  I take from the village and bring to the cave as a gift.  All of life committed to being an offering.  An expression of gratitude for the light and the darkness, the noise and the silence… gratitude for all that is.

Wisdom from My Garden: Meditation on a Blueberry Bush

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Picking blueberries in my back garden in the coolness of the morning is both a meditation & a prayer of gratitude for me.  I planted the 8 bushes that line one side of my yard, nurturing them over the years so they can produce flavorful berries that nourish me, my loved ones, & the local wildlife (which I also consider my loved ones).  The act of gardening is a spiritual experience, connecting me to all that is.  It also allows me to quickly disconnect my overactive mind & fall into a gentle easiness that a familiar task can bring.

There is no need to analyze or worry for I know from a lifetime of experience that all I must do is pluck the plump berries that fall easily from the branch.  If I have to tug at the berry to get it to fall into my pail, it’s not ready& all I gain from forcing the situation is a hard, sour berry that is unpleasant to eat.  I’m finding life works in exactly the same way… if I have to force it, whatever “it” is, it’s most likely not going to work out the way I’d like it to.  Yes, I must show up & invest wholeheartedly in the moment, but it’s equally important that I willingly surrender to the natural flow of things.  We’ve all been there & we all know the difference between when something feels right & when something feels forced.

Blueberry Bounty

Blueberry Bounty

I have also learned that if I look at the bush from one perspective, I may think I’ve seen all there is to see, missing out on the bounty that may be tucked under some leaves or hidden around the back of the bush.  Shifting my perspective allows me to see  a treasure that wasn’t visible from my own narrow viewpoint.  I can carry this lesson into my daily life & relationships… acknowledging that my point of view is just that– one point of view– and that there are other perspectives I can consider, opening my soul to understanding, compassion, & empathy.

There is wisdom in books, gurus, & retreat centers but there is a simple yet profound wisdom gained by being still, being present, & being authentic.  This I can do in my own back garden, among the blueberry bushes.

A Blessing To Each Flower

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For Summer Solstice, my friends and I are gathering to honor this special day & recommit ourselves to one another… unique blossoms that together form a garden of incredible beauty, grace, & strength.  I wrote this poem to remind us of what makes us thrive.

 

A Blessing To Each Flower

A seed secure in the soil asks not, “What shall I be?”

It’s unique beauty comes naturally, effortlessly.

Nourished and nurtured, it grows more fully into itself

And what it is IS what it is meant to be.

 

The birch envies not the willow

Nor does it strive to be anything other than Birch.

Daffodil degrades not the dandelion

Nor does it mock the maple.

 

For all have a place in Gaia’s garden.

All are loved & accepted unconditionally.

And while each has needs that differ from another

All radiantly bloom with this blessing….

 

May we each have the tender care we need,

May we each be given the space to grow,

May we see our own beauty,

And may we celebrate the uniqueness in every blossom.