Friday, April 5, 2019

❓What if...⁉️

What if crashing my car last month and narrowly escaping death combined with an almost comical (in retrospect although certainly not the time!) cluster of misery inducing events was my choice?

I am not saying that it literally was my choice, either consciously, subconsciously or on some metaphysical level*, but merely posing the question causes physical, mental and emotional changes (many of which are scientifically measurable). And each one of these changes affects my ability to respond to what ever I need to address in any given moment.

When I say "ability to respond", that is also the meaning of responsibility. Not to be confused with blaming myself for attracting "negative" experiences. There are some people (such as those referred to by Jeff Brown as "New Cagers") who might tell a person with cancer that they chose it and they're responsible for healing it with higher vibrations and a positive attitude. The implication being that if they don't heal, they're doing something wrong and it's their own fault.

I don't agree with that, nor do I believe in spiritual bypassing, where I might tell myself, that no matter what happened, I just need to have a beatific attitude, showing the world only Love and Light and proclaiming to myself and anyone who will listen that "it's all good" --rather then fully feeling all of those uncomfortable, "negative", messy emotions and/or painful sensations.

I do not have all The Answers, I don't even have all the questions. But I'm finding more and more that the questions are way more important than The Answers.  When I am able to ask from a place of genuine curiosity, and compassion without expecting the reassurance of certainty, the mere act of asking opens up new possibilities that offer me totally unexpected gifts that are nowhere to be found when I'm focused on figuring out The Answers.

There were tinkling wind chimes and a little treasure chest with tiny gifts tumbling out of it in the crook of this magnificent tree.  The tree was itself a totally unexpected gift that I discovered when I recently stumbled on a new trail with a surprise Fairyland right in the middle of an area I would have sworn I had thoroughly explored. I found it exactly 4 weeks from the day of my car crash, when I asked the question : "I wonder where this goes...?" And then (one baby step at a time) I faced the fears of pain from my injuries/ticks/Poison Oak that had been keeping me on only the most familiar and safe trails for the previous month.

On 3/22/19, I listened to the beginning of a free workshop from Jamie Catto entitled "Monster Hunt and a Bit of Death" --part of his Academy of Sacred Fools program. He suggested asking something like "what if I had planned this as a training to teach myself valuable lessons? Why might I have chosen this and what are the gifts and how might this ultimatly be beneficial?" 

I didn't get the exact quote and may have mashed up a little with some other teachers who have suggested asking similar questions, but the point is that reframing something like a seemingly random crisis or series of unfortunate events has the power to transform to what will happen next.

  • Like my car crash/tick bite/allergic reaction/poison oak/virus/plus a bewildering array of related chaos 
  • OR my previous life implosion nearly a decade ago, of losing my husband/ best friend/family members /adored children/home/dog/community/"secure"future/identity 
  • OR insert your own "clusterfun" from your life

But don't take my word for the power of asking questions; try a little experiment for yourself. 

First, imagine either a crisis or loss (minor or major)  from your past, present or something you dread that could happen in the future. Take a quick dive deep into the feelings that accompany this scenario.

Tell yourself that this is not fair. It shouldn't be happening. Consider who is to blame. If someone else, ruminate over their culpability and what makes them wrong and bad. Possibly consider how you might make them suffer for the pain that they have caused you. 

Think about how you might have caused or contributed to the situation, castigate yourself thoroughly for having screwed up. Ponder the many ways in which you are wrong and bad. 

Consider the worst case possible scenarios that could result from this terrible thing that is happening to you. 

Doubtless you could find other ways of continuing this probably all too familiar process, but take a moment to pause and pay attention to how you feel in your body. Do you feel tightness and constriction, shallow breathing, a furrowed brow and frown, concave chest, hunched shoulders and/or perhaps a disturbance in your digestive system. 

Now, as you pay attention to your current physical, mental and emotional state of mind, think hard and fast about how you need to figure out how to fix this problem or how desperately you need an addictive fix of some kind to deal with the pain of these stressful thoughts, emotions and sensations. 

How likely do you think you will be to take effective action which will result in a favorable outcome from this place?

Now activate your imagination and switch to curiosity.  What else is possible?  

What if I play with the idea that I chose this challenge --like if it showed up as an obstacle in a game I had designed or a plot twist in an adventure story I had written? 

Or what if I imagine I was planning what I most needed for my evolution before I came into this life and decided this experience would be perfect --what valuable lessons could I learn from it?

IF I had on some level, chosen this, what unexpected gifts (even if even if small or slightly silly) could possibly come of this? 

Let your imagination run wild and and ask more "what if " and "I wonder" questions involving best case scenarios and at least somewhat plausible, happy repercussions. 

Once again, assess how you feel physically mentally and emotionally as you ask these questions and contemplate what your imagination offers in response. 

You are likely to feel more relaxed, breathe easier and maybe even smile a little. Both curiosity and smiling will release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin to help deactivate your fight or flight survival conditioning and also help with discovering unexpected solutions. 

Research (from numerous studies) shows that when we focus on a happier or more successful outcome, it is far more likely to happen. Just a simple reframe of how we perceive stress, for instance, changes the physiological effects on the body and performance.

Plus when we feel like we have some kind of agency (even if only imagined) it gives us a sense of sovereignty. And this level of confidence helps with moving forward.

AND we just make better (and more "responsible"!) choices when we feel better. 

I wish I could tell you that knowing all of this will help you navigate your "perfect storms" in life, with total grace and ease. 

That has not been the case for me. πŸ™ƒAlthough I am way more functional (not mired in suicidal depression or frozen in anxiety, numbing with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs) and kinder to myself,  I still resort to addictive fixes (junk food, novels and DVDs) when it feels like too much. 

I still struggle with embracing the mystery as I ask questions while trying not to demand immediate definitive answers. Part of me still believes I am entitled to certain outcomes if I follow what I think are the "correct "steps that a "good girl" "should" take.  

And yet, despite my imperfect results (it is so humbling to be human!), being willing to show up, ask different questions, try new behaviors in the middle of all that mess gets easier for me each time I practice, and I AM becoming more graceful in my responses to stress. Given my history, I am pretty sure that if I can do this; you can too!

Stressful times tend to be messy times. It's not comfortable to peel off layers of old conditioned behaviors. But it is way better than keeping all those layers! 

Shedding another layer, having an opportunity to practice what I have been learning, a renewed layer of gratitude and joy for my life, learning how to receive more gracefully, and feeling bathed in love and support from friends family and community, and cool insights are just a few of the gifts I got from my most recent catastrophe.  So whether or not I actually chose it on some level, it was beneficial for me in many ways. 

This Eucalyptus I encountered last week (photo by 7 year old boy --5 year old hidden in the tree --have I mentioned how much I love my job?!) peeled off swaths of outer bark and was beautiful to behold.

* although I am not completely ruling out this possibility. There are many fascinating philosophical theories.  I do not have the definitive answers on how the universe works, so I keep an open mind.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

πŸ› The Only Constant...πŸ¦‹

Scroll to the bottom for quick update if have not already heard about my accident on Monday. Fortunately I had already written this blog over the weekend, because I would not have had time since then!

In the above image, the magic is taking place inside the closed chrysalis. But it's not a pretty process. It's gooey bug soup. A very messy transformation --as most significant changes are in life. But it's also noteworthy that the bug soup is made of what some creative scientist named "imaginal cells".

There's no guarantee that a butterfly will emerge. It might not make it out of the chrysalis. Especially if you try to help it, because then it won't develop strong enough wings to fly. This is a process it has to do alone.

The cycle of Life/ Death/ Life is not negotiable. Change is constant and death (both actual and metaphorical-- as in the endings we experience in our lives) comes to all. This much we know for sure. Whether there is a glorious rebirth/ afterlife following death is a matter of faith.

But even if you are one of those who has that faith; losses (whether they involve an actual death or other endings), are not easy for any of us.

I know I crave constancy. Everything in my survival conditioning strongly compels safety and security and sounds the amygdala alarm when there is chaos, confusion, pain or even the threat of loss.

I can only imagine what the Catapillar feels.

This particular caterpillar (found recently by one of my charges) was doubtless alarmed by suddenly finding itself on the hand of a giant human, and I'm sure had great stories to tell it's friends about miraculously escaping death!

Despite my understanding that attempts to control endings or prevent pain are feeble, futile and usually only exacerbate the situation causing me distress, I still scramble to protect myself.

Obviously sensible measures need to be taken to prevent harm, and sometimes pain requires alleviation.

But when I notice that I'm going through life with rigid armor, impenetrable walls and addictive behaviors that do not allow me to be present for the magic of life (especially during those times of "bug soup"), I am slowly starting to trust that the constant changes are almost always ultimately beneficial.

AND I understand that I can't do a spiritual bypass to get past the "bug soup" by cheerfully chirping "it's all good, I am love and light". I have discovered that when loss is dark and painful, I need to FEEL it all the way through in my body mind and soul.

I have heard from many others (I've actually been obsessed with hunting for real life stories and have found a huge abundance of them!) who have endured hardship, that this is true for them as well. It's fascinating to hear how the most devastating experiences become portals of transformation and evolution.

But we all have our own ways of coping with the pain and loss of life changes.

I created this collage to put on my altar in honor of a 6 year old girl who died last weekend. I would never presume to tell her loved ones how to process their pain or talk to them of butterflies, portals or even the arms of the angels.

The quote from Heraclitus :change is the only constant in lifehas been on my mind due to another recent death. And a coincidence of names.

Someone I know, who is deeply loved by people I care about, died unexpectedly last week. He was the picture of health and vitality. And he even cofounded a healing center that is renowned for cutting edge technologies in assisting people with serious health issues. 

Because of this paradox, I immediately thought of the first man I met when I moved to Marin County who also died before his time. My former housemate was the picture of health and vitality and associated with helping people with their health issues as well. He taught fitness classes and took people on adventures into the wilderness. 

Although I did not have a long or deep friendship with either of these men, their deaths were disturbing to me.  They seemed to do everything "right" in terms of taking care of their body mind and soul. So why did diseases take them out? 

As I pondered that question, I suddenly realized that they shared a name. Constantine was the first name of one and the last name of the other. Hence my musings about the name Constantine which is derived from "constant". Meaning that which does not change.

But of course, despite our best efforts to do everything "right"; losses,--both expected and unexpected, minor and the ultimate (loss of life)-- are the only constants upon which we can depend.

I was deeply affected by the loss of my father (whose birthday was Monday 3/4 --Happy Birthday Dad, I miss you!), but certainly not surprised.  He was the poster child for an unhealthy lifestyle, and actually took pride in that!* And yet he lived to be older than both of the Constantine's. 

Monday was also the Hindu holiday of Maha Shivarati. 

This little statue of Shiva is holding my wedding ring --with it's inscription : "surprise me"

This holy day celebrates the god Shiva and his dance of creation/ preservation/destruction of life. (For those who are interested, here is the story of how Shiva came into my life on the eve of my most devastating surprise life implosion). It was the death of a way of life -- among many other losses from that ending.

Maha Shivaratri is a floating Hindu holiday, that is celebrated during the dark of the Moon. It occurs in either February or March and is a very solemn introspective occasion involving fasting.

Today, is Ash Wednesday. It is also a floating holiday associated with the New Moon that occurs in either February or March and is a very solemn introspective occasion involving fasting.

The ashes from the burned palm leaves of the previous years Palm Sunday fronds are applied in the sign of the cross on the forehead, with the words "remember you are dust and to dust you shall return".

But of course, as with Shiva's dance, where creation follows destruction, Ash Wednesday is also part of a cycle of death and rebirth. This day marks the beginning of the Easter season which culminates in the story of a miraculous rebirth. Butterflies abound in Christian symbolism at this time of year.

We humans create so many stories and rituals to help us dance with the mysteries of life and cope with our fears about the pain and loss we all inevitably experience. 

Although I love the many stories, holidays and rituals we humans have created and celebrate a ridiculous number of them, smearing palm ashes on your forehead may not do it for you. 

So perhaps just consider the (scientifically verifiable!) story of the caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by difficult changes and painful endings. 

I took the above photo of a palm tree recently while on in the company of two little friends of the girl who died. They had a blast finding creative uses for the dead Palm fronds they found on the ground. 

As always on our adventures, a huge amount of my focus is on keeping my little charges safe. 

We (me too!) climbed several trees that day and there was one minor fall.  

It can be exhausting to monitor all of the potential hazards of two exuberant boys and scary when they fall, but even if I kept them safely on the couch all day, there's no guarantee they will be spared from harm. (Superstitiously knocking on wood right now!) 

And so we playfully explore the wonders of the world with curiosity and courage and the willingness to muck around in the messy, muddiness of life! Way more fun than sitting on the couch!

This was not my plan for last Thursday, but my boys were running down a hill, skidded at the bottom and went down. Since they were already covered with mud,  I decided to let them wallow. And to mud they joyfully returned --thank heavens with exuberant aliveness!

* My father's cancer diagnosis was not enough to make him quit his decades long habit of chain smoking. However when the Democratic governor of Minnesota put a tax on cigarettes, my staunch Republican dad was irate and adamant that he would not contribute to the agenda of this politician. He quit cold turkey and never smoked again for the months remaining to him! 

On Monday afternoon, on the way back from the doctor to deal with a scary looking tick bite, my car spun out of control going around a curve on a wet road. As I was headed down the embankment toward the creek, I was sure that I was about to die. Miraculously, I hit some trees and although my sweet little car car was totaled (I am grieving the loss of this faithful friend) and I have some minor injuries and am in pain, I am alive! I did not have to go to the hospital, and I am deeply grateful to be typing these words! I am currently extremely dealing busy dealing with the aftermath (so much paperwork and so many communications..!).  I welcome all love and healing that is sent my way, but please be patient if you write or call and I don't get back to you for a while. 

And yes, for those of you who I know would be advising this, I am on antibiotics for the tick bite and am under the care of a chiropractor

Monday, February 4, 2019

☂️The Magic of the Doomsday ClockπŸ•›

Of course I had to see Mary Poppins Returns (spoiler alert!). The reviews were mixed, but MP has been a lifelong mentor for me. And I think it's high time for her return!

One reviewer demanded to know why Mary Poppins made the lamp lighters (love the symbolism!) go through the dangerous climb up Big Ben at five minutes to midnight, when she had the power to just float up there and turn back time herself.

I have an answer to that question and it also may be the answer to some really big questions we are facing right now.*

First I want to point out that the "Doomsday Clock" (based on the likelihood of various man made global catastrophes --according to scientists who first invented the "clock" in 1947) is currently set for two minutes to midnight.

Midnight is the death of the old day and the birth of the new one, and is often portrayed as a scary, supernatural time.

Midnight is also the time when we celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one.And by the way, tomorrow is the Lunar New Year,** so there will be great anticipation at five minutes to midnight tonight, with fireworks and parades.

What if we welcome midnight and the celebrate the possibility of magic?

Of course I do not want the so-called "Doomsday Clock" to go off, but there are many old paradigms that are dying, and this process, as intensely chaotic disturbing and painful as is for many of us, may also portend what Charles Eisenstein calls "the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible".

Every beginning is preceded by an ending in the cycle of life.

Every fetus must leave the safety of the womb in a painful journey, every caterpillar turns to bug soup and every seed must be cracked open, before the new life can begin.

This buckeye seed, I recently photographed will be completely destroyed so a new tree can grow.
In Mary Poppins Returns, the family she cares for is going to be evicted at midnight by an evil banker (also symbolized by a cartoon wolf --both of whom initially seem friendly and benevolent), unless a miracle occurs.

Of course Mary Poppins makes that miracle happen --at the last possible moment.

If Mary Poppins represents the forces of magic and miracles in the world why doesn't she immediately handover the missing paperwork (the shares needed to prevent foreclosure which are currently patching a kite) or at least do her magic with the clock sooner and save everyone all of that angst?

And why are there SO MANY stories in which ticking clocks/ bombs, and even hourglasses are counting down the final nail biting seconds before some miracle or courageous act saves the day?

Obviously, it wouldn't be a very good story and characters would not be developed without dramatic tension. And nothing says dramatic tension like ticking clocks and sand running out!

What if that is true for us now?!

What if we need to experience that dramatic tension and encroaching danger to break us open, make an evolutionary leap AND to discover through that painful process that there is magic available to help us?

No, I'm not advocating that we sit back on our couches and wait for some Deus Ex Machina to save our world from imminent destruction.

As the saying goes; "God helps those who help themselves".

I firmly believe miracles and magic happen in times of the greatest peril and we need to have faith to have that occur. AND we also need to be resourceful and diligent and keep showing up taking action even when it looks hopeless.

All while realizing there is no guarantee.

Here are a few things that have made miracles more likely in my life, and what I have observed in the stories of many others:

  • Fully FEEL (on all levels --especially physically and emotionally)  that tension/fear/grief/anger and whatever else comes up as while surveying the dangers and losses that are present during times of change.
  • AND AT THE SAME TIME,  relax and nurture any feelings trust (even though this seems nearly impossible sometimes)
  • Physical movement (even if just a token, ritual gesture or baby step) is necessary
  • AND AT THE SAME TIME, summon inner stillness and know there are times when rest and non-doing is called for
  • Surrender expectations as to outcomes
  • Time in nature is essential --although in a pinch, even viewing nature and listening to nature sounds helps
  • Activate curiosity as to what might be possible
  • Discover your unique quirky gifts and superpowers. Use them whenever possible
  • Remember every time in the past when significant turning points occurred and how they came about. 
  • Reframe the story to one where there is an opportunity for evolution
  • Cultivate courage 
  • Offer love, empathy and compassion for all involved --especially yourself!
  • Invite allies (internal and external, includingfriends, family, magical characters --huge bonus points if you can convert an adversary into ally!) to join in on the adventure.
  • Integration to dis-cover wholeness is key. 
  • AND AT THE SAME TIME, as keeping your heart wide open to be nonjudgmental, compassionate, connecting and inclusive; be mindful of boundaries and protection of the vulnerable.
  • And always invite playfulness --especially when things seem particularly serious and grim!

I wish I could say I always remember all of these and perfectly follow through. I'm still a novice. But as I keep practicing, it gets easier and life gets more joyful --and filled with more magical synchronicities that seem to prove the Pronoia theory (that life is conspiring on our behalf)!

Evolution is not a neat and formulaic process. It is riddled with bewildering paradoxes and painful uncertainty. There are no guarantees and it's not easy.

But what I love about hearing so many real life miracle stories (as well as being inspired by the fictional stories of protagonists overcoming seemingly impossible odds or being saved by a magical hero/ine --like MP with her umbrella!), is that they inspire and invoke the possible.

You may think magic is not real and miracles are not possible, but I beg to differ. And my mentor Mary Poppins will back me up on this. She is all about making the impossible possible!

She also points out that "In every job that must be done There is an element of fun You find the fun and snap! The job's a game.

So this is why I am in the process of creating a game. I want to make it easier and more fun to do the seemingly impossible at this time before midnight --whether in our personal lives (many of us have ticking clocks of one kind or another) or in the world at large. And I promise the game is filled with super practical material and backed by peer reviewed scientifically proven research.

If you would like to be a part of my game creation and discover my gifts for you (there is a category called the "Magic Umbrella" which allows you to create your own gifts), please check out my Patreon Page.  And just a reminder, that I will not be back in your inbox again until the next New Moon as Full Moon Blogs are now through Patreon.

I also invite you to practice willfully suspending your disbelief (as you do when watching a movie) in your life and in looking at the world, so that you can be more open to making the impossible possible.

Happy New Moon and Happy New Year!

* I am using enormous self-discipline to not also dive into the themes of turning back the hands of time and the cracked bowl , wolves as villains and "turning turtle" from the movie and the theory of the original Mary Poppins in the book as a shaman.

**The year of The Earth Boar --not seen since the year of my birth!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

🧜‍♀️Overflowing Magical Gifts πŸ›

Yesterday at an overflowing waterfall.
On the first New Moon of the New Year (featuring a solar eclipse), and on the eve of Epiphany, I am overflowing with gratitude for gifts more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Some of the gifts have been actual presents over the holidays that have stretched my capacity to receive graciously (knowing I am unable to reciprocate in kind and judging myself for not being able to do so) and some have been gifts of incredible beauty in Nature beyond my ability to fully convey (with either words or photos), as well as Love (even more indescribably beautiful in both the giving and receiving to the point of nearly bursting my heart), and many moments of quiet epiphanies, luminous joy, sparkly delight, and playful fun.

All of this amidst the ever present chaos of my inner anxieties, some minor kerfuffles (with judgment for the others involved followed by judgment of myself for judging them and spending time down that rabbit holeπŸ°πŸ•³), and the cacophony of increasing dissonance in the world around me.

More and more, I am genuinely saying "YES" to ALL of it.

To be clear, there are things to which I say "no". For instance, I work with children and "no" or "stop" can save a life. To say nothing of the scared and belligerent inner children of many decision makers--and not just politicians. Sometimes "no" or "stop" are essential here too.

On yesterday's hike to the waterfall there were many occasions where I said "stop"! 
Also, I live the time and place where there is an overwhelming plethora of possible activities and companions with whom to spend my time. I truly feel like a kid in a candy store, and I know what happens when I overindulge...So sometimes I need to say "no" to myself and others.

What I mean is that I say "YES" to accepting whatever is happening (even while sometime taking actions to prevent harm, which may include a "no" or a "stop") and to trust that there is a gift somewhere within the situation.

Each time I lean into whatever is not comfortable, I feel my heart expanding to make room for more love (which in turn leaves me increasingly vulnerable to heartbreak --because the more people I care about and the more deeply I feel Love for them, the greater the risk).

I'm certainly not asking for the excruciating pain of heart break (despite knowing that it has ultimately benefited me greatly every time).

There is only so much heartbreak I can take in a world where I have the opportunity to take in the anguish of witnessing the immense pain that is available 24/7 courtesy of the devices (including my telephone) that connect me to the world at large.

To say nothing my face to face encounters with those in need.

There are still many ways I guard my heart and I often fail miserably with automatic "HELL NO" responses rather than the calm and kind acceptance I aspire to and advocate in my words to you.

And I say "YES" to that as well, because that's the way it is in the moment. My hope is that being more openhearted towards myself about not being openhearted, I will become more openhearted! So far it seems to be working --just not at fast as I want and the whole lot messier.

YES to slow and messy failed attempts 

According to the astronomers, this New Moon eclipse is a particularly potent time for creating change.

Of course, not everybody believes in astronomy or Epiphany.

They are stories.

And I believe wholeheartedly in the power of stories.

I share stories to offer alternative possibilities for those who might need them in the midst of grim "realities".

I borrow magic from wherever I can find it.  I celebrate as many holidays (Holy days), sacred possible moments in time, and Life affirming stories as I can include in my life. And I share them freely with those who might be too busy to discover them.

What if, connecting to the stories/ celebrations that others believe in, connects us in some way to them and the collective power of their beliefs?

There are actually fascinating studies (some using random numbers generators) that show how when a critical mass of people are thinking the same thought or feeling the same feelings the same time it affects the collective field.

Whether or not the power of magic sacred moments in time to affect my life is real or imagined, it has helped me measurably on more occasions than I can count. Perhaps just because I believe in it.

If you need a little magic at this time in your life, why not temporarily suspend your disbelief (like when you're watching a fun movie). Let your stodgy, logical, rational intellect have a little mini vacation.

A dragon and mermaid I encountered on an adventure with a friend and my little charges a couple of days ago. 
It will still be there, ready for you to pick up the weary load of all of the serious, important burdens whenever you want.

I'm well aware of the necessity of what it takes to survive in difficult times and am not advocating magical thinking and mad frivolity at the expense of fulfilling essential responsibilities.

But I invite you to join me in welcoming the possibility that this moment could be a moment of profound change.

Which begs the questions :

What changes would you like to see in your life at this time and in the year ahead? What gifts and epiphanies would you like to experience?

I am adding my overflowing love (and a little bit of magic) to whatever you most wish for in 2019.

Can you feel it?!

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.



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.*


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.