Thursday, December 6, 2018

🌘Darkness & πŸ•ŽπŸŽ…πŸ§˜‍♀️☀️🎊

"Frozen Road to Nowhere"
On This New Moon, I am modifying a Full moon post from December of 2016. The theme of darkness and the strategy offered here continues to be quite relevant.
Before you read this post, close your eyes for a few seconds and think of the words that come to your mind when you contemplate the word "darkness". You might even want to write them down.

Ready?

Go!



Were the first associations "negative" ones like "fear", "shadow", "gloom", "danger", "ignorance", "depression", "evil" or "death"?

Or were they neutral like "black", "night', and "winter"?

Or perhaps you thought of some that were more "positive" like "rest", "quiet", "relax", "renewal", "rejuvenation", "Mystery" --as in THE Mystery.

If you had a good mix of all three, congratulations! You will find life easier than those who can only see the "negative". And you will be better able to keep yourself safer from harm then those who only want to look at the "positive".

Fear has many benefits. Those who have no fear are less likely to survive.  I would not be writing this and you would not be reading it if our ancestors had not been vigilant and fearful. It truly is dangerous to be unprotected in places where scary predators lurk in the dark. And sometimes fear can propel us out of habitual inertia into necessary action.

However, the vast majority of the fears that trigger our fight or flight survival physiological responses are not real in our present experience and will probably never happen.

Yes, some of those things we fear will happen. Like death. But we will not prevent them by living in a state of hyperarousal.

We certainly need to pay attention and take appropriate practical actions, especially when we or others who are vulnerable are in immanent danger, but the more we focus on what we fear and resist it, the more we attract it to us. This is not just a New-agey aphorism, it is actually proven in numerous studies.

A lot of what looks dark is just because we're wearing dark glasses and don't even know we have them on. These lenses were created by our unconscious conditioning from our earliest years, our biological genetic programming, our ancestral legacy, and cultural misconceptions -- as well as the fear mongering media.

That said, darkness is of course real --both literally and metaphorically. And we are currently experiencing both at this time of the year and at this time in our world. Blinders or rose colored glasses are not the solution either.

Mostly, in our Western culture, we don't like darkness.



So we resist it with bright lights, frantic busyness, and multiple fixes. These fixes can take the form of fixing what we believe it is undesirable or threatening in ourselves, those in our close circles or in the larger world. Fixes can also be addictive substances or behaviors that numb the pain and discomfort that dark time bring up for us.

I am not advocating disconnecting your electricity, refusing all medications or not repairing items that are broken. But sometimes sitting quietly in the dark, staying present with pain and looking for whatever gifts might be found in brokenness can be enormously beneficial.

Fighting, fleeing or freezing in response to a genuine predator is usually a good plan. That's why our bodies infuse us with hormonal surges to help us protect our lives.

On the other hand, when we fight against darkness, we make it worse for ourselves. Especially if it involves the fight or flight response. When we fight fear of the dark or attempt to flee or hide from it, we intensify it.

So here is an alternative strategy, which I adapted from Shawn Achor's research on re-framing stress (pages 30 - 34 of Before Happiness) and another one he did demonstrating the  effectiveness of using a 1:3 negative to positive ratio.*

Ready?

First name the three things you like least about the increased physical darkness in December.

Then see if you can think of nine equally true ways in which this darkness is or could be beneficial.

As a hint to get you started if you haven't already come up with some, there are the benefits that nature requires from dormant times and you are a creature of nature.



Don't try and get rid of your first three dislikes or hide them under pretty colored blooms and say "it's all good". Just notice that there are other perspectives that are equally true and notice how you feel (emotionally and physically) when you think about each of these alternative truths.

Which viewpoint do you think is most helpful to you?

Now do the same exercise with the darkest current worry you have in your life.

List the three worst things about this circumstance and then think of nine equally true ways in which this situation is beneficial either now is likely to be in the future? Don't pick pie-in-the-sky scenarios that you don't believe are possible and avoid imagining ones that involve harming any "bad guys".

Again, pay attention to how the difference perspectives make you feel and notice how you may not have chosen the unfortunate circumstance causing you distress, and you didn't get to choose the number of minutes of daylight you got today, but you do have a choice about how you think about it.

You just did it. And you can practice for longer periods of time, paying closer attention how that lands in your physical and emotional body.

Your thoughts have a direct influence on your feelings, which in turn have a strong influence on your actions and ultimately on the direction your life will take.

Keep in mind that you actually do not know what the future will bring. We can make predictions, but life is full of surprises! When I look back on my life at the most traumatic dark events, every single one of them has proven to be of benefit to me. Some in astonishing ways that I could never have imagined.

I am betting you and others in your immediate circle and whom you have witnessed in the public eye have had similar powerful experiences of unexpected blessings from challenges.

It's always difficult to remember this truth when we are in the middle of pain. Perhaps part of the reason is that we actually need to feel pain and discomfort in order to evolve.

We need to experience darkness in order to have fallow times necessary for growth. And darkness also helps us learn how to appreciate and amplify the light that is available to us.

If you play with the concept of making darkness a friendly ally who is here to serve you in your growth, I promise it will not just be a more enjoyable way to live, but you will also be more effective in whatever it is you most want to do-- in all seasons of your life.

Wishing you warmth, beauty and cozy long nights with friends and family or rejuvenating solitude as you celebrate whatever winter holidays are your tradition or that bring you joy. As always, I will be honoring all of them -- or at least all of these!

Happy Hanukkah (12/2-12/10), Happy Belated St Nicholas Day, (12/7 -yesterday), Blessed Bodhi Day (12/8), Happy St Lucia Day (12/13), Lo Saturnalia (12/17- 12/23), Blessed Yule (12/21 - 1/1), Joyous Solstice (12/21), Happy Festivus (12/23),  Merry Christmas (12/24 -12/25), Happy Kwanzaa (12/26-1/1), Happy Hogmanay (dusk - dawn 12/31), Happy New Year (12/31-1/1) and Feliz Three King's Day/Epiphany (1/6)



* And by the way, the exercise Achor did on re-framing stress resulted in astounding measurable results in health and productivity. I highly recommend checking out his work. Here's a video of his Ted Talk to get you started.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

🌟This Little Light of MineπŸ•―


I found this image today on the cover of a journal at the book store at Spirit Rock.

By the time you read this, you will know more than I do right now.

Yes, I am referring to the election but no, this is not a political post.

I am writing this on the Dark of the Moon (the night before the New Moon --which as you probably know is considered to be the best time for new beginnings).

Darkness and mystery are under-appreciated in our culture. We demand light and definitive answers. And we want that now. 

On Halloween this year, I dressed all in black as "The Mystery". I introduced myself to people in a portentous voice:  "I am the Mystery. You may ask me anything you want to know."  I listened carefully while people posed their questions. And then I responded by saying "Yes, I do indeed know know the answer to your question". {pause} 

"But I'm not going to tell you, because {pause} I am The Mystery". 

And then I would open my arms and say "Embrace the Mystery". I got lots of hugs.

I thoroughly enjoyed being The Mystery. Especially since it helped me playfully embrace all of the uncertainty and mysteries that I am experiencing in my life and as I survey the world right now. 

I was wearing a string of crystal balls (combined from both of my Grandmothers gifts to me) which I also consulted.


We may not always enjoy mystery, darkness or chaos* but it is out of these states that creativity and new possibilities arise.

Consider the Big Bang theory of the creation of our world --or for that matter creation stories from around the world.

The known feels reassuringly safe, secure and comfortable. But that is an illusion. We are not living in safe, secure and comfortable times. Old paradigms and institutions and ways of life are crumbling all around us. And our planet (or at least the creatures --like us who live on it) is in serious peril.

Difficult challenges, rough transitions and nasty surprises are unpleasant. No one wants them. Not even people like me who have experienced miraculous benefits as a result of them! 

But rather than despair and give up, or fight/flight/flee/fix (which includes both desperately trying to fix that which might be fortuitously broken or getting addictive fixes to numb the pain of those sharp broken edges) we need to awaken our creativity and get really curious about what else is possible. 

 Once our eyes adjust to the darkness of a black night, we begin to see the infinite stars of the mysterious beautiful universe. 

Those stars represent so many bright possibilities that we might never have seen before.





"The stars are always there, just that they are not visible to us in the bright sunlight. In-fact, we would never know of their existence if it wasn’t for the night. And the darker the night, the more it brings forth the brightness of the stars."

Furthermore, the stars represent each of us.


“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.
– Carl Sagan
We are ALL made of stars and all literally a part of each other. 

However this election turned out, whether in your mind darkness or light triumphed, (or some murky twilight in between, where some "bad guys/gals" won and some "good guys/gals" won but no one is happy), we can appreciate our own light and look for it in others. AND appreciate the gifts of the darkness/ mystery and chaos that reside within ALL of us.


You can't see my red leggings, but I dressed in red white and blue. After voting, I took my little nanny charges to a polling place to fill out practice ballots. Then we went to hang out with the giant redwoods to get their perspective.

This New Moon is also Diwali, an Indian festival of lights that symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance." Many candles and bright lights shine beautifully in the darkness on this holy day.

So many of our stories involve this theme. From ancient myths to popular culture, we want that victory.

But what if we look at some of the deeper meanings of those old stories and/or create new ones. 

Rather than focus on the ways in which I fight the darkness, solve the mysteries and conquer chaos, I am trying something different.

I am focusing on the gifts to be found in the dark and celebrating both the darkness AND bright sparkly light.

I would gratefully welcome answers to the big questions in my life, but I'm paying more attention right now to living into the questions.

Chaos is definitely challenging for me at this juncture of my life, but I am remembering all of the stories in which Chaos (represented by characters like Eris and Maleficent) wreaked havoc upon those who did not invite her. So I am doing my best to welcome her. She's going to show up anyway!

So on this New Moon/Diwali/ Post election, I plan to explore how I can best let my little light shine and to shine the light of love on all in my world --as best I can.

I invite you to try this as well. Can you imagine what our world would look like if we all did this?


A Diwali festival




*Last year for Halloween I went as the Queen of Chaos in a wildly colorful costume and the  previous year I was the Queen of Death -- carrying a small Glass cauldron filled with pomegranate seeds which I offered to people, asking if they would like some seeds from the underworld, and asking what in their life they were ready to let die. Unless that was the year I went as a sparkly pink fairy granting people's fondest wishes, I don't remember.🧚‍♀️

And just in case you noticed and you're curious, it is a complete mystery to me as to why the font shifted. It had something to do with the captions under the images, but nothing I do will fix it. I am finally surrendering. If that's the only price demanded by Chaos today, I'm okay with that!

Monday, October 8, 2018

⛵️Exploring a New WorldπŸ—Ί

Photo of me by 4 year old on a "Pirate ship" in a marina playground  

I invite you to set sail with me to discover a New World.

I am aiming for The Land of &. Please scroll down to the bottom of this post under the image of the green hill if you are unfamiliar with this place*

It is a land of extreme paradoxes and radical inclusion and it is a place where hero/ines, villains and victims find common ground.

I'm warning you ahead of time that the waters we sail today will be turbulent and chaotic.  I anticipate there will be mutinies along the way. AND if you make it all the way to the shore without abandoning ship or having me keelhauled, I trust it will be well worth the journey.

Today's New Moon (readers of this blog know that I consider new moons to be a time of fresh starts and that I believe those new beginnings to be even more powerful when they follow extremely challenging times) falls on Columbus Day. This day is also celebrated by many now (including me) as Indigenous People's Day.

It is also Canadian Thanksgiving. They are ahead of us in their celebration due to an earlier harvest. And perhaps they are ahead of us in some other ways as well.

But whether or not you are in love with the (admittedly imperfect, but still a heartthrob for me😍) Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau; celebrating and giving thanks early and often is a really good idea!

The practice of gratitude and focusing on the harvest is one that I guarantee will offer a cornucopia of benefits.

I am overly ambitious in the abundant themes that I want to offer to you today, but I hope you will find nourishment here if you have the time to pick through this profusion of ideas.


This New Moon is also on the heels of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation on the Supreme Court.

Feel free to skip the orange highlighted part unless you question my motives for the rather controversial stance I'm about to take --I don't want to be dismissed as someone who doesn't take this seriously.

I make no secret of my political leanings. I am way left of Bernie Sanders. I believe Dr. Ford with all my heart. I have my own #me too stories. I have a minor in women's studies and have been a very strong feminist for most of my adult life.

If I added up all of the protests I have attended, all of the petitions I have signed, all of the political campaigns I have devoted time, energy and money to, as well as taking into consideration the variety of actions in the public realm and my private choices in life that I have taken, I'm pretty sure no one could fault me for being a slacker in taking action on behalf of my beliefs.

 In addition to politics, my spiritual beliefs include being a champion of the Divine Feminine in the world as well as part tree-hugging, Earth worshiping Pagan AND I am part Christian, as well as actively celebrating a wide variety of holiday/holy-days from many traditions around the world.

AND I drive a car, use a cell phone, and (despite very limited purchases and most of them either used or local/fair trade etc.) purchase other products that were brought to me by exploited people.

I have an enormous respect and admiration for the way of life and teachings of Indigenous People all over the world (most recently I have been blown away by the people at Standing Rock), AND I live happily on stolen land.

It is a messy, chaotic time and we all do our best to make our way through it according to our individual belief systems.

So here comes the part where those who are feeling anger, betrayal and despair about Kavanaugh, Trump, and all who support them might follow my more conservative readers-- who probably jumped ship as soon as I described my beliefs.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope all of you "hoisted the sails of willingness" (as Caroline Casey says) and are willing to hear me out. If you are still with me and haven't read the part that explains about this land we are sailing towards, now would be a good time.*


In The Land of &, Christopher Columbus, Brett Kavanagh, Donald Trump, (or if you take the opposing viewpoint, Christine Blasey Ford, the conniving Democrats, and witch hunting women), all took the actions that YOU would have made if you would have lived in their life circumstances with their unique conditioning.

This does not in any way justify any harm perpetrated by anyone. Rape or any form of sexual intimidation is wrong. As is lying. Or (from the opposing perspective), a political pawn lying to destroy a man's life for political gain is wrong. Exploiting an entire people, (as Columbus and other conquistadors/conquerers/dictators have done) leading to destruction of their way of life is also not okay!

We, the observers are affected by what happens and should not be complacent, neutral or passive about what we believe to be harmful AND we need to reconsider the strategy of fighting --especially when it involves vilifying "others" who are not like us.

We, the perpetrators (and we are all perpetrators at one time or another as even minor, subtle unkindnesses and untruths ripple outwards), should not be self-righteous about what we believe "they" deserve. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions AND forgive ourselves and others for past mistakes.

I am Christine Blasey Ford (I have been abused in various ways and have courageously stood up for what I believed even when I knew it would be detrimental) AND I am Brett Kavanagh (when I was younger I drank to the point of blacking out and did shameful things I don't remember. I have also lied to keep from getting in trouble or to get what I wanted at various times in my past.)

We all have our shadows and we have all harmed others. We did what we did largely because of our life experiences and cultural/ancestral/neurological conditioning.

I'm not going to get all new-agey on you and say we should not fight because we are all a part of Source/God/Love (although I do believe that) nor am I advocating that we all act out of open compassionate hearts because that's what Jesus/Buddha/ Quan Yin or your deity of choice would do. Although that would be awesome --if everybody did that!

History has shown what happened to the openhearted, trusting and innocent (or in some cases just less well armed) Indigenous Peoples of the world. History also showed the abysmal failure of appeasement in dealing with Hitler.

Oh sure, why not throw in Hitler and (by extension) maybe some pedophiles and terrorists at this point just to make things a little bit more challenging for me?! Can I just say that I am not enjoying what my Muse directed as my assignment today?! I had other plans for this blog...



AND history has also shown the endless perpetuation of conflicts with continual fighting. Even when the "bad guys" are conquered, whatever it was that caused them to "go bad" does not just disappear.

It really is true that what we resist, persists AND we can't just roll over, expose our throats and soft underbellies while trusting in the best nature of predators.

If innocent people (or creatures or the planet) are being harmed, those who have the capacity to protect or offer justice need to take action.

We need to take action AND we need to very carefully consider what actions will be most effective.

There are circumstances where violence is absolutely necessary. If a hungry tiger is leaping towards your helpless baby, there is no time to consider an alternative to shooting if you have a gun.

Obviously there are less extreme examples and there are more subtle forms of violence as well.

For instance, shaming or mocking can give a self righteous pleasure (and one I am totally guilty of indulging in --mostly passively by laughing at clever humor when I'm feeling despair), but ultimately this only adds fuel to the fire.

Those who are shamed or mocked may be burned by that fire, but they are even more likely to come back to burn those who treated them that way --to say nothing of those innocent bystanders who get torched as well. And furthermore those who wield the torches are also harmed, whether they realize it or not.

Rather than make further assertions as to what I think you should believe or do at this point, I just want to ask some questions. They are, of course, leading questions, πŸ˜‰ but I'm hoping you'll overlook that and answer them as honestly as you can. I'm asking the same questions of myself and doing my best to recognize the ways in which I too, perpetuate these dynamics.

?????????????

What if fighting against the villains only makes them fight back harder?

What if "they" (and maybe even peace-loving you?) are addicted to fighting due to unfortunate choices made a long time ago? Getting a fix feels good in the moment and may temporarily "fix" a "problem", but what if fixes are not the answer?

What if in escalating conflict, you are encouraging them to perpetrate even more harm on themselves and others?

Are your friends, (including "friends" on social media) family and community members with opposing views all wrong, bad and stupid? Should you just push them out of your life? Will that resolve anything?

What if (as Charles Eisenstein advocates) we sincerely ask the question "what's it like to be you?" And then genuinely, empatheticaly listen to what they say and ask more to learn why it is that they believe what they believe?

What if you also paid close attention to what happens inside of you when having these conversation? Do you recognize some things you share that you don't like? How do you handle feeling triggered and vulnerable? Can you sit in the middle of that without running or fighting?

What if we look for common ground, even (especially!) in the midst of the worst conflicts? Is there even a faint possibility that we can find that? And if it is possible shouldn't we give that a try?

What if things need to get really bad to get our attention and force us to do something different?

What if we view what is happening in our World right now as a powerful time of evolutionary change and brainstorm ways to respond in a new way to disturbing events and behaviors?

What if you believed in the concept of Pronoia (Life is conspiring on your behalf)? If you play with the thought that this outlandish belief might be remotely possible; what creative possibilities can you come up with about how this present time in our country and on our planet could somehow be beneficial?

If you have your eyes on the prize, what is that prize? If that prize is living in a happier, healthier and more harmonious world (which I think everyone agrees upon, even if they don't agree what it looks like or how to get there), how likely is it that we will attain this prize by fighting with each other? Has that ever worked for very long?



In the midst of ever widening polarization, where the stakes get higher and higher and behaviors get lower and lower, we can do what we've always done. We can assign roles to our selves and others of villain, victim or hero/ine who will fight forever.

But what else is possible?

Typically those who have little power are unlikely to gain access to people who are in the positions of the greatest power.

Realistically, I can't literally go up to Donald Trump and look him in the eye and ask "what's it like to be you"? Even if I could, and could spend enough time with him to gain his trust to have an in-depth conversation, it would probably be pretty difficult for us to find a lot of common ground. But I'll bet we could find enough to at least allow for some tiny shifts.

Of course, when someone is entrenched in extreme views and attached to the power that goes with them, it is very difficult to connect if you are coming from the opposite extreme.

But we do have access to plenty of people in our circles who disagree with us about many things.

What if we start where we are, with whoever is in front of us --or on social media or however we connect?

What if we treated everyone (especially young children whose views of the world are just being formed) with a little more kindness and compassion? What if we listened with our full, open, honest attention not only to what they say but to what they're truly longing for that is under the surface of their words?

Can you imagine how different the world would be if someone wise and kind had taken Little Adolph under their wing?

I sure as hell don't have all of the answers to all of these questions, nor do I always walk my talk. I do, however do the best I know how to do. And I'm betting you do too!

I didn't get to go where I wanted to with this blog. I wanted to play more with the paradoxes in The Land of & and explore more about the role of gratitude and celebration in the midst of (or on the heels of) difficult times when we feel scared, despairing and betrayed. I know a lot about that.

But this post is already way too long and convoluted. And I do not have the time to do the ruthless editing that is needed. Fortunately, there are gifts to be found in chaos, and there is always room for more exploration in The Land of &!


This is a photo I took on the shores of Lake Lagunitas that I am using to represent The Land of &. And yes, it is for sale !
*If is the first you have heard about The Land of &, here is an excerpt from a previous post:

I have been using the theme of the Hero/ine's Journey (which is the theme of a huge number of our best loved stories from ancient times to popular culture's Blockbuster movies and best-selling books) as a way of exploring those in-between places where an old life or way of life is ending (or recently over) and the new one is still a mystery.

Joseph Campbell called the place in the Hero's Journey after you cross over the threshold from the ordinary world; The Special World. Charles Eisenstein describes what he calls The Space Between Stories (in reference to our world right now). SARK calls it the Marvelous Messy Middle. William Bridges in his enormously popular and practical book Transitions, calls it the Neutral Zone. Lewis Carroll called it Wonderland.

There are other names for it as well, but what is noteworthy is that in all of these places, the usual rules of the "ordinary world" do not apply. Paradoxes are around every turn in the path in this misty, mystical, mysterious and often maddening territory.

I came up with the "The Land of &", because there is usually an "and" (sometimes looks like a "but") between the two seemingly contradictory truths found in paradoxes.

That "and" spot in-between the two truths can be a confusing and uncomfortable tight place AND it is a zone where magic and transformative alchemy can take place.

Transformative alchemy takes us far out of our comfort zone sometimes into excruciating pain. Think about the heat it takes to melt metals, the pressure it takes to form a diamond or the bug soup stage of the caterpillar.πŸ΅πŸ›

Pain, fear and confusion cause our survival conditioning and consumer culture to warn us frantically of 🚫danger πŸ›‘ AND it is the only way to evolve so that we can reach the miraculous New World that is waiting for us. πŸ¦‹

The list of paradoxes in everything from philosophy to quantum physics and many more mundane topics about how to live our day-to-day lives is a long one.

Playing Sparks & Leaps will not solve all of the paradoxical mysteries of life (and I will explain later why this is a good thing), but it will offer alternative ways to find your way when you find yourself in the "The Land of &".

In the meantime, as I am putting the game together, if you find yourself in a confusing time of transition, I invite you to do your best to be present with the discomforts that you find there (rather than trying to figure out how to fix your problems or make the pain go away with your favorite addictive fix) AND to RELAX and soften your resistance--even when that feels impossible.

I promise you will find magic there if you can do this. Don't forget to enlist allies to support you.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

πŸŽ‰Celebration🎊

Every day, including ones that suck, I find something to celebrate. 
Celebrating everything can change everything and bring treasures beyond measure.

I know this may be hard to believe. It may seem as though celebrating everything is Pollyanna naivety or covering evil with a smiley face πŸ˜€, spiritual bypassing, or a frivolous waste of time. But I promise you, what I propose is none of the above and the reasons for doing so are myriad and compelling.

As an example, let me start with today (9/9/18). I am celebratingGrandparents Day --a day to revere our elders.

My grandparents had some pretty major "issues". This is an understatement for two of them who, in addition to being brilliant and charismatic were also often cruel in ways that rippled damage far and wide.  The spouses of those two were much sweeter, but had other issues.

Some might say they spoiled me (including both definitions of that word, when the "collateral damage"/ "friendly fire"is included with those many tiny, sweet indulgences), but I genuinely and gratefully celebrate my grandparents with my whole heart.

All four of them adored me and the feeling was absolutely mutual (most of the time!)
I miss them.
Rather than focus on what was damaged as though it were a problem, I chose to reframe it. I do not deny their flaws or the ways in which their  behaviors affected those around them --including me (mostly by the aforementioned "collateral damage"/ "friendly fire") AND I have tremendous respect, empathy and love for all of them. I believe they did the very best they were capable of doing, and in addition to their precious gifts to me, all of them made wonderful contributions to the world.

I would not be who I am today (with my unique gifts/quirks/ flaws --all of which are invaluable to me) without them.  And, of course, they are literally a part of me, inside my DNA, as are all my ancestors.

In making the choice to both honestly acknowledge the darker sides of my grandparents and how that affected me, feel all of the complicated mix of emotions fully as well as highlighting everything lovable about them, and celebrating ALL of that; the damaged parts of me became part of
a Wabi Sabi creation.



This month also marks Respect of the Aged Day (Japan 9/16/18) and Ancestor Appreciation Day (9/27/18) --just in case you want to honor your ancestors.

I will return to holidays (so many significant "holy-days" over this next couple of weeks which I will find some small way to honor) in a moment but let me shift to my current passion of celebrating minutiae and how that is changing my life.

πŸŽ‰πŸŽπŸ¬πŸŽ€πŸ§š‍♀️πŸ’”πŸ₯‚πŸ’πŸ§š‍♂️πŸƒπŸ₯€πŸ‚πŸ’πŸ’Ž

You may recall from previous posts that I am turning Sparks & Leaps into a game. The game is based on tens of thousands of hours of research on a wide variety of topics including cutting edge science, ancient wisdom traditions and so much more.

The game will help players navigate circumstances ranging from major life implosions to the overwhelming minutiae of everyday life, and in the process of playing, contribute to personal as well as planetary transformational evolution.

My ambitions are not small! πŸ˜‰

Part of the game involves the counterintuitive strategy of curiously, creatively and courageously choosing to engage with that which seems wrong, bad, overwhelming, painful and/or scary rather than follow the insistent directives of survival conditioning.

Fight, flight, freeze --or fix (as in repair what is "broken" or get an addictive fix to numb the pain) works excellently if you are being pursued by an actual tiger 🐯or stitching up wounds (if you weren't fierce or fast enough to escape that tiger), or if you happen to experience the equivalent in terms of physical danger or damage.

However, survival conditioning/fixing are actually not effective strategies for most of the problems the majority of people who are likely to be reading this blog face right now*.

In fact it causes more harm than good if your nervous system is on high alert all the time in response to the ever accelerating pace of life and the many crisis situations of which we are made aware --in the constant onslaught of information that most of us receive on a daily basis.

The game of Sparks & Leaps offers alternative strategies.

I took this photo of a mosaic in the window of the home of Sue and Greg Cantrell --who have a magical Airbnb in Portland. Artist Lianna Bud. I love the translucent SPARKleS & LEAPS of joyful fairies made out of broken pieces!
In this game, challenges are reframed, broken down into the easiest, smallest components and interspersed with rewards, play, rest, support and celebration. Celebration is key!

Players receive points for each tiny triumph. They send their points to fellow players and allies (real and virtual) for weekly feedback. After a loooong delay, I finally came up with a workable system that is simple enough to practically and easily implement, yet with enough repetitive reinforcement to allow for the nervous system to settle and new neural pathways to form --both of which are crucial.

I am practicing breaking things that are overwhelming down into what SARK refers to as micro-movements (although I've modified her process a bit), and also sometimes deliberately pushing to the edge of my comfort zone, for another level of the game. Points are awarded according to level of difficulty.

There are additional ways in which everything from catastrophes to the overwhelming minutiae of every day frustrations and endless "to do" lists  become transformative vehicles for profound evolutionary change.

Life has always been about constant change, but the changes are happening faster now.

Fortunately, we have an incredible abundance of wisdom available to allow us to make use the hidden power of those changes. But it's really hard to do from the old paradigm of working harder and faster to fix "problems". Especially without sufficient support.

And that's where the game of Sparks & Leaps comes in-- I look forward to sharing more with you soon.
Autumn is a beautiful celebration of the cycle of life and death. 
As we are transitioning from summer to autumn, below are same ways to celebrate that. Please click here if you want to know why celebration in general and also of holidays will benefit you in surprising ways.

This lineup of holidays is pretty impressive in its diversity, synchronicity and significance.

Tonight begins the high holidays of Judaism with Rosh Hashanah --the Jewish New Year

9/11 is marked on the calendar as Patriot Day. I have respectful reverence and sorrow for all who have been affected by terrorism all over the world, but I celebrate this day for different reasons.

9/12 is Muharram (Islamic New Year). This is a floating holiday that can happen at all different times of the year, so this year it's placement next to 9/11 and so close to the Jewish New Year is interesting. I also love that Ashura which is also a floating holiday and bears many similarities to Yom Kippur is right between Yom Kippur and the International Day of Peace this year.

9/13 is the Hindu holiday of Ganesh Chaturthi --celebrating the elephant headed god of new beginnings and the remover of obstacles.

9/19 is Yom Kippur (Jewish)✡️

9/20 is Ashura (Muslim)☪️

9/21 is International day of peace☮️

9/22 is Mabon (Pagan)-- The Autumnal Equinox πŸƒπŸ‚

BTW --for those who expressed an interest in purchasing my photos, THANK YOU! I have been busy with the Game (and many other pieces of my current life). I will be in touch soon!
*With the exception of my relatives whose home was struck by⚡️ lightening ⚡️last week (they have A LOT of fixing to do!) and to whom you are welcome to take a moment to send a little good ✨juju✨. I believe in the power of sending love πŸ’žto those who need it and the more sources the better. Ready? GO!🌬✨πŸ’“πŸ™




Saturday, August 11, 2018

🏰Castles & Dragons🐲


I love that my life includes castles --and dragons! I took the above photo of little darlings on a day filled with adventures last weekend.

This month, I have been playing hard, exploring several castles and labyrinths and engaging in other magical adventures with various young companions, as well as navigating a currently overflowing life --despite my best efforts to minimize all distractions.

This has left me little time for writing over the summer, so once again, I am sharing a previous piece.

This one is from a full moon post, so if you only follow my New Moon Blog, or you are new to my writing, (this was from January of 2016), I recommend you check it out.

Dragons and Tiger and Wolves, Oh My! πŸ²πŸ―🐺😱


It has strategies for dealing with evildoers and difficult times. Even if you've read it before, IMHO, I think it's timely and worth a second look.

Today is the last eclipse of a series of three and a supermoon.

Whether or not these events in the sky have contributed to the blazing intensity of current times (as all of the astrologers are postulating), it has certainly been a fiery time for many of us recently.

One friend's home (and dog 😒) burned down during the Carr Fire in Redding CA on or near the last eclipse two weeks ago. She is a renter without insurance and no cushionand only social security for an income, since she was doing a work trade for rent. If you are feeling charitable and have a few dollars to donate, here is her go fund me campaign.

And on Wednesday (8/8), I nervously watched the firefighters (from the hill above their station at my nanny job) respond to a large nearby wildfire on Black Mountain. The kids and I watched many trucks, helicopters and planes rush to the scene. After work I hiked up a hill to view the billowing clouds of smoke in the distance and give thanks that it did not spread to my home.

I took this shadow selfie up on the hill observing and respecting the fire

You may not be in jeopardy by flames, but you may be feeling the heat of other difficult challenges right now.

If so, why not take this opportunity of this propitious occasion of this last eclipse of 2018 or go out tonight to a dark place to view the Perseids Meteor Showers (should be excellent viewing with the new moon!) and wish upon a falling star. Or invent your own special occasion --perhaps a celebration of your newly reorganized sock drawer as your token gesture to create order in a chaotic world!

Find some reason to embrace this moment and honor any darkness, burning or chaos. And then infuse this time with the power of your intention to give thanks for whatever blessings you are experiencing and begin a new chapter in your life story.

After this next busy week, I will start a new chapter with my day job and begin the last year of the decade of my fabulous 50s. It's been a very full summer of work/play and my 50s have been the best years of my life so far, so I'm eagerly anticipating this next year.

My hours will be much shorter this school year, so I will be highly motivated and will finally have time to return the creation of the game of Sparks & Leaps!

Last night my employers surprised me with a love and gratitude filled card (with both hilarious and heart melting comments from the boys) and a very generous gift in honor of my one year anniversary with them.

Here is the first picture I ever took of my fearless little adventurers one year ago. I am feeling wonder and gratitude for how life has unfolded so far and curious what will happen next!























Thursday, July 12, 2018

😼The Triumph of the Cat Over the Dogs🐢


If you are not experiencing any inner turmoil today, then you can just enjoy the funny story at the beginning of my offering to you today and file the rest away for a time when you might need it.

But if things feel extra intense right now, perhaps because of the unfolding circumstances in the collective, perhaps because of these extraordinary astrological circumstances*,  or perhaps you're just having one of those days, I hope this blog from the 2015 July New Moon will help.

I am at the tail end of three overflowing weeks of adventures including just returning from eight days of travel last night, so rather than write a new post I am sharing one of my favorite old ones. I hope you enjoy "The Big Scary Kitty of Doom".

And I hope that if you celebrated the Fourth of July, or if you are planning to celebrate the other red white and blue, revolutionary July holiday of Bastille Day on Saturday, that it was/is fun.

I was at Prairie Creek Redwoods on the 4th, on my way to see my mama!

* Here is an excerpt from Mystic Mamma about this potent New Moon. Whether or not you believe in astrology, this might ring true for you. It sure does for me!
Feelings that have been dormant in the underworld of our psyches, are returning to us like waves rising toward the shore.
The past is knocking on our door, not because it has come back to haunt us, but because it has come back to heal us.
There is a part of our lives that we have disconnected from because it has left a deep wound. 
These are the imprints that we would rather forget as we continue to move rapidly into our future. But sometimes, the cycles of Life turn to bring these pieces from our past back into our present for reconciliation and healing.
The reclaiming of our past is our soul’s retrieval of power. It’s the reconnaissance of all our orphaned parts back into ourselves, back into who we are now.
And who we are now is precisely because of the past we have lived, not in spite of it.
As individuals and as a culture, we need to make amends with where we’ve been. Our histories are all marked with stories of abuse of power and we all fall somewhere within the spectrum. 
I took this photo on the 4th on the beach at Crescent City.



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

πŸ’₯πŸš‚ Slo-mo Trainwreck or Miracle in Progress? πŸ’«

I like "Miracle in Progress"

Is there anything in your life that appears to be a potential train wreck? Or perhaps you are watching someone else's impending train wreck (or looking at the world at large!) peeking through your fingers...

Unlike an actual wreck, it is possible to derail a train of thought before a crash occurs and changing stories can avert disasters. I have had success with this in the past and watched many others pull off a miracle against all odds.

So I'm hoping to do it again and I invite you to ride along with me-- or at least watch from the sidelines.

πŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆπŸ™ˆ

In my last Full Moon post, I shared some of my old and new stories about my loooong process of creating my life's work.

My old stories are not very nice ones --about as reassuring as Harry Potter's Boggarts and Dementors telling bedtime stories (which helps explain the periodic insomnia that has slowed my progress of creation). And while I would like to say my stories just disappeared *poof* when I brought them out into the light; such is not the case.

They're definitely nowhere near as powerful as they were when they were hidden in the dark, but I've been telling myself variations of these stories for over 50 years, and those neural path ways (or well traveled train tracks) are pretty well grooved.

Although I am open to the possibility of them going *poof*, I am also willing to give them my full attention so I can honor them and discover what gifts they have for me --even when they activate everything in my survival conditioning and sometimes make me feel despair and hopelessness over my prospects.

Once I have listened to them in this way, I can then create newer stories that are equally if not more true. And when I do this, the way I move forward changes.

My intention in sharing this process with you is is not to over-share to get attention and/or pity. Nor am I trying to elicit your encouragement.

Part of the reason I am putting myself through this process of publicly exposing my insecurities, is because it helps me release the need to try to win love and/or approval with a sparkly façade.

I admit I still want everyone to adore me, but even though it would be painful if my worst fears came true and everyone recoiled in horror because they believed my old stories about me too, I would rather lose that coveted warmth than to believe that only a false version of me is worthy of love.

Also, my hope is that ifwhen I actually am successful (hopefully sooner rather than later!), it will give courage to others who are wasting a ridiculous amount of energy trying so hard to hide what they believe to be their worst selves.

And just maybe whoever reads my tales will be inspired to offer their much needed unique gifts to the world as well.

If my miracle is successful, and you need one too, I invite you to give changing your stories a try! Maybe we can even change some BIG stories about our world.

Or possibly these posts will serve as a cautionary tale of a train wreck! Either way, I hope my process will have served you well!


There are so many polished-shiny-bright people with their PhD's from Harvard, perfect bodies, six-figure incomes and their New York Times bestseller books giving you the message that 🀩"you can do it!"πŸ˜€

But they're already successful, so it's a bit more of a leap of faith to imagine that you can achieve similar heights (unless you already have --in which case, let me offer you my congratulations!)

Yes, what they have to offer is valuable (I have certainly benefited greatly from the teachings of many such mentors) and it is obviously highly motivating, in that perhaps if you follow their 7 steps/ 4 pillars/10 rules/ money back guaranteed 12 module programs or whatever it is that they are offering, you too might be able to duplicate their success.

I have diligently followed the advice of so many luminaries, and yet, here's my current reality:

I'm pushing 60, divorced, in debt, and working as a part time nanny. Not exactly what most people are aspiring to achieve or willing to pay me money to learn how I did it!

Furthermore, despite my best efforts, I'm continually fumbling, bumbling and stumbling. But I am still showing up. I am still doing my very best to keep the faith even when I feel discouraged by the disparaging internal voices narrating my old stories and when I encounter the myriad stumbling blocks Life continues to present.

Maybe hearing my stories of the challenges I have undergone and my fears of what could transpire in my life if I fail to do what I have set out to do does not seem that harrowing to you, but to me this is what it feels like:

Okay I'm not as hot as Lara Croft, but there weren't any video game images of middle-aged nannies courageously persevering against all odds to create a game that will save the world! Plus I liked the background ship wreck.


AND I have New Stories ✨πŸ“’✨that are equally if not more true than the old ones. Here are a few (and more here):


My New Story ✨πŸ“’✨ about pushing 60 is that my 50s have been the happiest years of my life so far, and I have one more year left in this decade.  My life just seems to continue to be getting better and better. I actually kind of like the idea been an eccentric old bat or maybe even be a wise elder someday. My wrinkles and stray gray hairs don't bother me and while I would be delighted to shed a few pounds, sleep easier and eliminate some aches and pains, I wouldn't trade this time for any of the previous ones I have lived. Not even close!

My New Story ✨πŸ“’✨ about being divorced is that my surprise divorce was by far the greatest gift I've ever received! My 10 year marriage had its ups and downs, but even though my former husband was the greatest love of my life so far, and if you had asked me I would have told you that I wanted to continue that "comfortable", "secure" life forever, I am beyond grateful to not be married to him anymore and living that life.  I'm open to the possibility that there might be some other partner at some point, but for right now, I'm not looking. I love being single. Hanging out with me is so much fun! I have a great imagination and sense of adventure. I always know exactly what I most want to do and don't have to consult or persuade anyone else. I have a difficult time imagining wanting to give up even a tiny bit of this delicious freedom and whatever precious bits of solitude I can find in my overflowing new life. 

My New Story ✨πŸ“’✨about being in debt is that although I am not currently experiencing financial overflow, at this moment I have enough money to take care of my basic needs and a little bit more. I am grateful beyond words for all of the many blessings that I have. Plus, I have heard enough "rags to riches" stories to know that it is certainly possible for me to be more abundant as well if that is what I truly want. I do not aspire to live in a big house drive a fancy car, wear designer clothing, travel the world or have expensive jewelry. None of that appeals to me in the slightest. I would, however, like to pay off my debts, travel to visit loved ones and go on road trip adventures. I want to be able to continue to live here in this gorgeous place where I miraculously landed, eat pricey organic food and indulge in other self-care luxuries like my daily outings in the beauty of nature. I have faith that I will continue to be able to do so.


My New Story ✨πŸ“’✨ about my employment situation is that I love my job! The little boys that I care for in my nanny job are incredibly sweet and delightful companions. I get paid to cuddle, play, read stories, go on adventures and hike in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And I have my mornings, evenings and weekends free. And who knows how this time I am spending with these little boys will affect their future?! Plus I'm learning a lot from them.

My New Story ✨πŸ“’✨ about the long slow train wreck of my plan to fulfill my life mission and create a sustainable livlihood is that it is, in fact, a miracle in progress!The game I am creating (and the amount of time it is taking) is all coming together perfectly. It will be something that anyone and everyone can do in their own idiosyncratic ways to discover the new stories, valuable gifts and transformational portals within their unique challenges --as well as within our shared collective experience. The game synthesizes tens of thousands of hours of reading, viewing, listening to and experiencing all that my voracious curiosity has insisted I explore on topics related to difficult life transitions.  Even though what I have created so far doesn't seem that impressive to my inner critics, considering how much I have I put into it, and how long it has taken, I get that I couldn't have done it any other way and it will continue to be a work in progress --just like life. Finding a way to allow players to engage in the easiest possible ways without being overwhelmed by information overload and yet entice them to dive as deep as they want has been a bit tricky! Especially given my quirky skill set, health challenges, and a variety of "dragons" that have served to keep my game of creating this game interesting and ultimately beneficial to my personal evolution.  After all, how interesting and character forming of an adventure would it be if it were a total cakewalk for me --and what what I have to offer you if everything had come easily to me?! I trust it will be worth the wait and come together in the best timing for me and for whoever wants to play.
So, here I am sending you this blog post on the last New Moon of spring (and according to the astronomers and astrologers, it's a powerful super moon), which I had once again hoped was finally going to be an announcement of my latest offering --rather than another post about why I have not finished yet.

Just think of it like the continuing Star Wars series. It wouldn't have been very exciting to watch Luke Skywalker walk easily up to Darth Vader in the first movie, give him a hug and say let's be friends, and then watch the two of them stroll off arm in arm into the sunset, talking about what a great New World they will build together.

My game is not done, but I'm getting closer everyday to at least having the basic structure in place. If you would like me to send you what I have so far and offer your feedback, I would be delighted to share it with you I'm grateful for any input you might have. You can be a part of my miracle!

πŸ¦„πŸ¦„πŸ¦„


Send an email to michelle@sparksandleaps.com with the subject heading "Send Me the Game!".

And if you are one of those who volunteered to be an ally for me as I play my game of creating my game, I will be sending you instructions on how to do so (if you are still game) very soon.


Photo of middle-aged nanny (dressed as the Queen of Chaos) taming a dragon.