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Category: Musings of a Mystic

Benton Hot Springs

Benton Hot Springs

 

The Wind Speaks

Crickets sing as the veil of darkness descends

Sun and moon dance together, with no need to defend

Silence surrenders as the silhouette of a moon remains

Softy the wind speaks, all else abstains.

-Lavinia Busch, 2018

 

 

I can breathe once again. My soul feels the weight of all that is heavy being lifted and my heart sings with joy. It is one thing to proclaim a letting go of unnecessary obligations, yet quite another in practice. The logistics of this transformation have been suffocating and at times so confounding I thought myself crazy.

 

Now, a few days after setting down the road of the new, I sit here typing in a place of arrested beauty rather than decay. Nestled between Mono Valley and the vast emptiness of Western Nevada is a place that has ushered in a serenity long in the making. In what can only be labeled an old dilapidated ghost town resides nourishing hot springs for weary souls. The geothermal activity that fuels these deep wells results in a healing tonic of mineral water, fresh air, open valleys, mountain views and a quiet reserved only for the most spiritual of places.

 

As the sun set in the evening, the heat of the road and the long day of travel melted away.  Hypnotized by a crackling fire and a chorus of crickets, the warm water lapped against my skin with a smooth touch. Clothing is optional in this place and as one might expect, I have not been fully dressed since I arrived. The weight of conforming has been lifted and my skin is breathing a deep sigh of relief.

 

“I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars …. I awaken everything to life.”
~Hildergard of Bingen. (11th century)

 

Absolutely nothing brings one closer to self than communing with the natural world on its own terms.  This place has settled my anxious mind and soothed my restless heart. Quite a feat given the preoccupations of late. I hear the wind speaking to me as if to say, “Breathe in, breathe out…you belong here.” The trees seem to hug me as they gently sway in the softness of this system.

 

After a restful night, I begin the morning by floating in the hot tub listening to the rustling leaves as the sun stretched its rays between the branches. The most glorious natural piece of art appears as the light dances among all else, a symphony of spectacular beauty. I could stay in this place forever, if only the world could stop the constant beckoning of the busy. The hot springs have been rejuvenating in reminding me of this connection. The trees do not compete to see who has the strongest and best-looking branches…they just grow. I too must remember, I am enough simply because I exist. My life has no binding rules, expectations or constraints unless I allow them.

 

Just as in the natural world, I must continue to forge a balance between obstacles and my true self. The trees are confronted by all types of elements, yet they continue to thrive by stretching their limbs to an ever-clear blue sky. Each one is beautifully unique and impressively resilient. I leave this place knowing how important resilience will be moving forward. Let the trees be my inspiration and my salvation. Listening to the wind speak among a gallery of natural wonders, the message is clear. Breathe…just breathe.

 

Find Your Magic

Find Your Magic

 

 

The Day Sky

 

Let us be like

Two falling stars in the day sky.

 

Let no one know of our sublime beauty

As we hold hands with God

And burn

 

Into a sacred existence that defies –

That surpasses

 

Every description of ecstasy

And love.

 

Hafiz

 

Life is funny. Everyone hopes to be seen in some small way. Moving through life feeling invisible is such a state of separateness, debilitating to both heart and soul. The dichotomy being we are all “seen” each and every day just by being ourselves. Lest we forget when dwelling in the space of obscurity, being here right now is profound and creates a spectacular energy. We are all a bit of magic, pixie dust, elemental and soulful. Our desire to be “seen” has already come to pass simply by being in this moment. There is nothing left to be gained, we are given all we need and will ever need.

 

It is so very easy to forget what a miracle it is to live this very human experience.  How fortunate that yet another day of a messy and unpredictable life is upon us. Many leave this world far too early, a sober reminder of the value of life despite the many peculiar and sometimes unforgiving detours it may take.  

 

 

“If a man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.”

― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

 

 

How do we best live with this knowing? I believe the only way to honor this universal connectivity is to be true to self and share this truth with a loving heart. Living in a modern and fast paced world, the simplicity of this becomes blurred in the busyness of a task-oriented lifestyle.  The ease in which we forget our magic is astonishing. As in the zombie movie trend of late, we are all the walking dead unless we stop to really “see” those around us.

 

 

“Many of us have made our world so familiar that we do not see it anymore. An interesting question to ask yourself at night is, What did I really see this day?”

― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara:

 

How do we see others? Stop this culture of busyness and breathe into your life. We are all wonderfully unique and a rainbow of precious personalities. I simply adore the weirdness, quirkiness and uniqueness of everyone I meet. As a subject of the human condition, it is perennially fascinating to hear stories, observe interactions and get a sense of another. Each time I do so, I learn more about myself in the process.

 

You see, in this magical tapestry, threads of myself are intrinsically woven within the seams of all else. I cannot help but marvel at the complexity of these interconnections. Be it the way someone catches my eye, speaks to a friend, walks to the store or holds a child close. Both the light and darkness of another have gifts of self-discovery if I choose to look closely.

 

Take a moment and look for the beauty in others. See the rainbows of colorful energy and honor what you see reflected back at you. Just as a mirror gives face to name, so too does the act of “seeing” another as part of self. Look for what is familiar and what is not. Remind yourself how absolutely special you are in your very own configuration. Don’t let anyone take ownership, criticize, assign blame or look down upon you as you are meant to be. Find your magic and carry it with you always. Shine brightly.

 

Dreaming My Way into the Next

Dreaming My Way into the Next

 

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

 

It is often in the most heated of summer days that one feels the need for utter surrender to all that is being held back. Emotions simmer as the final days of summer vacations, pools and adventure draw to a close. Being on creative leave from work,  I find myself vacillating between an uneasy anxiousness and a building excitement of the unplanned. Gently, I remind myself this time has been granted so I may let go of the burdens of the typical and allow creative forces to guide me to the unexpected, a logistics free zone if you will.

 

The difficult aspect of this place is that my thoughts, the constant narrative in my mind, continue to barrel towards the typical. The tug of all sorts of responsibility is ever present and it takes “work” to let go. It is only in the dark of night and in my deepest of dreams where a momentary respite is found. As one that has always dreamed, I find that the messages of purpose and direction are flooding my sleep as if a tsunami of suggestion. Avoidance of such messages is always attempted, but alas I am unable to resist the call of my intuition.

 

Dreaming is never just a downloading of useless information, but rather a convoluted storyboard containing information my psyche is begging me to hear. Dreams can contain morsels of suggestion that are meant to be heeded and applied in daily life. Sadly, I often reject what I have seen. I am one that has learned many lessons the hard way and have paid the price for my refusal to listen to spirit.

 

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Paulo Coelho

 

 

In the heat of a summer night, with the new moon and Venus caressing one another, I sense a quantum shift has begun and feel a bit helpless in the midst of such tumultuous celestial activity. This shift has been in the making for some time with many experiencing great change in all aspects of life. This is no easy transformation, on the contrary it has been quite painful at times. Having deep wells of emotion bubbling under the surface, I find myself teary and completely overcome by the onslaught of this atypical energy.

 

I have no shame in stating my current emotional temperature. What troubles me is the persistent awareness of things looming yet not discovered. This foreshadowing has built to a spectacular crescendo and all I can think of is when will it be over. Yes, I have many dreams, hopes and aspirations; some of which I tremble to say out loud. I dream of writing. I dream of finding others who are moved by my ideas and I dream of wide open spaces, nature and solitude.

 

I understand that by speaking my dreams out loud, I must make a choice to move in their direction or stay frozen in a sea of contradiction and worries. The simple act of speaking my truth somehow provides strength and hope in making decisions that are otherwise uncomfortable. Along with these truths, I would be reticent to ignore the other elephant in the room, my self-confidence. By stating my dreams and listening to my intuition, I honor the Divine within me. This builds layer upon layer of confidence over the heaps of “not good enough”  that have littered my subconscious for years. It is exceptionally difficult to move past the stories we tell ourselves. If not careful, I easily fall back into untruths that subtly smoother me in thinking I am less than. It is only in my deepest of dreams that relief is found, if only I pay attention.

 

In the approaching dog days of summer, I commit to making every effort to listen for the messages meant for me. I promise to believe in myself and dream BIG! Nothing is ever achieved in the status quo.  I allow myself to bloom by being beautifully different, embracing all that is unique about myself, while forgiving missteps along the way. No one is perfect, but the critic speaks from a position of judgment and it is a choice to silence that beast. Lastly, I chose to swim freely in the depths of my dream world and explore all that resides within. The shift beckons and I will follow.

 

The Full Moon Speaks and I Listen

The Full Moon Speaks and I Listen

Art- Jonathan Solter

 

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the door sill

Where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

-Rumi

 

Looking out the window, all I see is goodbyes. A sense of lingering lasts being rustled away by uncertain firsts. Being well familiar with long goodbyes, the feeling is still unwelcome. The winds of change have been a constant, yet more like turbulent storms instead of gentle breezes. Reinvention is a dear friend; the kind you wish would not stop by unannounced. It is terribly difficult to only see unknowns, a blank canvas.

 

On the eve of yet another full moon, I have agreed to step out of the life I know and into the unknown. Never one to do things small, the looming storm clouds of change are rumbling above. As with any electrically charged storm, I feel the hair standing up on my arm alerting me to pay attention. “Listen to the moon speak”, it says.

 

My work life is shifting with a six month creative leave. What a blessing it is to be able to move at my own speed, no rushing from one fire to the next. Stepping onto this blank canvas requires letting go of everything I know and facing the storm head on. I must leave my overpriced townhome, pack up my belongings and live like a nomad for a while. As a Cancer and homebody, this is excruciating. My home is my sanctuary and I cling to it always. It is no mystery that this move is taking place on a full moon, in the month of July and with a bevy of celestial shenanigans happening at the moment.

 

Dwell as near as possible to the channel

in which your life flows.

Henry David Thoreau

 

This shift also calls for faith. Financial security, while a falsehood, has always been something I struggle with. Living in relative poverty for so long, it is difficult to let go of an imagined security blanket. Frightfulness is the only word that comes to mind. Once again, the full moon is speaking. A profound letting go is required with the belief that all will be well. This is not just a letting go of material items, but emotional wounds, fears and insecurities. All WILL be well. It will be stormy for a while, but the sun will shine again.

 

My children are also on the move with my daughter moving with her long term boyfriend and my son in a beautiful relationship and moving forward with his life goals. Once again the full moon speaks. No matter where I travel, I carry them in my heart. Love does not require being in close proximity, love is universal and boundless. I am so very proud of how they have grown into such beautiful souls. It is time to let go of the need to “be close by” and fly.

 

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

Begin it now.

—Goethe

 

Finally, Dylan and I have agreed to take this journey together. An unsigned contract with two souls entwined. We offer support for one another and are willing to stand in the middle of the storm, holding each other tightly. Each with our own scars, our own work to do; but together we are stronger. As Goethe writes, “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Dylan, we must be bold now. We must face everything with an open heart and mind and be gentle with each other’s wounds. We must listen to the full moon speak and keep stepping out into the stormy winds of change. It is only when facing the storm that one is blessed with the rays of light shining through the clouds. We have many sunrises in our future and that is something beautiful to look forward too.

 

Let your full moon speak and choose to listen. The moon is wise, intuitive and ethereal. Bath in the light and be quite. What does it call you to do? Is it time to take that leap of faith?  Listen and believe all will be well. Face the winds of change with a brave heart and a calm mind. 

 

For My Children: Move to Your Own Music

For My Children: Move to Your Own Music

 

FOR ANY DAUGHTER/ FOR ANY SON

Do not let yourself be blindfolded early on.

Do not accept harsh or kindly lashing, slashing …

even when it is called “traditional,” “required.”

Do not be lulled by sensations…

soft velvet wrapped around your head

will blind thee nonetheless.

Do not hide behind, “It can’t be bad,”

“It’s not that bad,”

“No real harm’s been done. . .”

Do not try to convince yourself by bargaining,

“See, they’re such exquisite velvet blinders. . .

a cut above the usual.”

Be wary of “doing what we do here,”

“doing as we have always done.”

Withstand grinning Death in his many disguises;

he will promise fleeting excitement ,

a once a year glory in exchange for forfeiting

your one precious and wild life forever.

Do not pour salt

into the earth of your mind

and expect lilies to grow there.

For us, resistance is ceremony.

We are the proof that the soul’s truths

transcend the oldest time-honored lies.

 

“For Any Daughter, For Any Son” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Nothing feels stronger than the tug of tradition, an incredibly magnetic pull toward the past. Traditions are an important part of any family story. What would we be without those that have come before? That being said, it is important to understand that we have no obligation to take ownership of what may not be meant for us, including our family traditions. We flex our courage muscle each time we resist doing things as they have always been done as opposed to listening to our hearts and moving in that direction.

 

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “Do not pour salt into the earth of your mind and expect lilies to grow there.” Breathing in these words, I experience an instant release of the unwanted. Salt is an abrasive yet essential mineral for life. The metaphor of a mind filled with this life mineral, yet unable to blossom, is powerful.  Why not sprinkle salt and leave some room for the lilies to germinate? After all, beauty is discovered only by giving breathe to an otherwise constricted way of being.

 

Resisting the status quo can be difficult. By its very nature, resistance can be insidious.  If I wish my daughter and son to be strong minded yet gentle hearted, I must let them forge their way into this role even if their path differs from mine. Who is to say one way is the only way? Walking through life with a different cadence does not dishonor.  It takes many cadences to create the beautiful music of a symphonic variation. One cannot possibly bloom if trying to walk, act or behave as everyone else.

 

The harsh words of the critic will sound, seeing all that is different and speaking to these differences without permission.  Forget what you hear and see. As Dr. Estes writes, “For us, resistance is ceremony. We are the proof that the soul’s truths transcend the oldest time-honored lies.”

 

The following thoughts are for my beautiful children. My wish for them is that they continue to honor the voice within and dance to their own music, no matter how different it may be. Dance my loves and live fully.

 

Know your truth and honor it with every action and thought. Be freely and unabashedly yourself and revel in knowing that no matter the outcome you have lived life on your own terms.

 

Be brave and circle your on wagons as need be. Bravery is hard fought each time you face a fear that is not yours to hold. Toss out the ceremonial makings of the expected and dance a new war dance of your own. Listen for direction on the winds of change and let the breeze elevate your soul.

 

Face hardships with a humble heart and know that this life was not meant to be easy. Everyone, no matter how they appear, has experienced darkness bringing them to their knees. It is only face down in the dirt that one can finally let go of all expectations, inhibitions and unwanted observation by committing to the blooming of a beautiful soul.

 

Let go and flower into the sun, dance in the wind and smile broadly. This life is such a beautiful and precious gift. Remember that each new day is filled with possibility no matter what obstacles you may experience.

 

Smile at your troubles, laugh during your hardships and release the fear of the unknown. Silence the voices and refuse to change the music of your own drum. It is only when being completely self that life unfolds as it should.

 

Love unconditionally. Love those that make you uncomfortable, love family that you do not understand, love strangers that appear odd and love those that argue for the obscene and confrontational. Approach all with love in every instance. Think before you speak and hold your tongue if you do not trust what might be said in haste.

 

Do not acquiesce to others but simply send them love as you move in your own way. Try not to hold hate in your heart. Hate is a darkness that will take root and strangle the bloom before it has seen the sun.

 

Finally, dance. Dance to the music in your heart and the soothing sounds of the universe. Feel the rhythm of your day as if turning pages on a score. Balance moments of excitement with moments of repose just as an allegro meets an adagio. Feel joy in your body and do not be ashamed by this. Jump into the freedom that comes from moving your body in your own unique way. Embrace the oneness you experience in this movement and cherish the togetherness of body and soul.

 

Dance your way through the hardship and heartbreak and continue to listen to the music of your heart…turning it up loud. Be simple in your complexity, an open book that sits on a shelf waiting for those that wish to read you. Stand in honor of this authenticity and refuse to back down. Never forget, you are a beautiful soul and deeply loved.

 

Pieces to Our Puzzle

Pieces to Our Puzzle

 

“Longing may be our legacy, but wholeness is our birthright.  It lies at the heart of the disappointments and delights of everyday life.  In weeding the garden and burning the toast. In falling asleep alone or enfolded in the arms of another.  In reading poetry instead of watching the news. In missing the grandmother you adored and becoming the father you never had.  In weeping for the suffering of the oppressed, the degradation of the planet.”

-Mirabai Starr

 

As spiritual beings, we are made up of a unique collection of pieces to our very own life puzzle.  These pieces represent the work in moving from immaturity to spiritual wholeness. It is often with this soul work of reassembly that one can get stuck, wondering how to bring wholeness to a chaotic and sometimes unforgiving worldview. This begs the question, maybe we are not meant to reflect some spectacular version of perfection after all.  Could it be within our imperfections that we exist in our truest form?

Growing up, I loved doing puzzles. What began as an unorganized slurry of parts, transformed into the most beautiful of pictures. This final image instantly made sense of the mess, as if it had been there all along waiting to be discovered. Working on this discovery was meditative in practice. Methodically lifting each piece, trying them in numerous places and looking for the smallest of details was a deeply introspective activity. I remember the tangible exuberance when arriving at the very last pieces. It was as if all of a sudden every angle sharpened and each piece seemed to effortlessly slide into the whole exactly where it was meant to be. The simplicity of it was startling. What seemed impossible from the beginning became instantly possible.

Life is not much different than the work of completing a complex puzzle. We enter this world with such possibility and many different pieces of self that will be tested in a plethora of ways. Each role that we try on is evaluated and considered. Is what we are doing or who we are leading us closer to this wholeness or further away? Each day brings new opportunities to evaluate our pieces under new circumstances, lending to endless amounts of feedback.

 

“Many of us have made our world so familiar that we do not see it anymore. An interesting question to ask yourself at night is, What did I really see this day?”

― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Just as with a puzzle, when finding ourselves at a dead end, we can remove layers that do not serve and rebuild our puzzle into wholeness. It is in this constant evaluation, continued work, and correction that one experiences the true practice of spiritual discovery. It is never too late to redefine our life. We are each given a blank canvas along with a bag full of pieces that represent our genetics, personality, birth status, family orientation, etc. While some of these pieces may be ill fitted from the start, we have the ability to build upon them in order to create a more beautiful self.

My marriage was a good example of this correction. In marriage, I tried out a piece of myself and worked tirelessly to make it “fit” the reality in which I found myself. It was only after years of hardship, I finally discovered my path was harmful and not in any way healthy for my heart and soul. I slowly became to undo these pieces, all that tethered me to another in an unhealthy way, and began the arduous work of rebuilding my puzzle one piece at a time.

 I will most certainly encounter many more moments of setback in which I move away from that beautiful image awaiting me.  Life is an endless cycle of expansion and contraction. All that matters is my intention. If I set an intention of spiritual growth, I can use this intention as a reevaluation tool along the way. If a piece does not seem to be fitting my intention, it may be time to make a change. In doing so, I continue to learn, grow and test this bag of pieces in as many ways as my precious life will afford. These pieces will begin to fill in the shadows of my soul leaving a beautifully clear image, representative of all that I am and all that I will ever be.

 

Life is Not A Rough Draft. Write Your Story

Life is Not A Rough Draft. Write Your Story

The Mystic Cookie mobile writing sanctuary. Photo by Dylan Mattina

 

All the “not readies,” all the “I need time,” are understandable, but only for a short while. The truth is that there is never a “completely ready,” there is never a really “right time.” As with any descent to the unconscious, there comes a time when one simply hopes for the best, pinches one’s nose, and jumps into the abyss. If this were not so, we would not have needed to create the words heroine, hero, or courage.                            

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

Here I stand, on the precipice of great change, with a familiar shudder barreling up my spine. A feeling of extraordinary unease settles in, as if crawling out of my skin. I know change is coming and contemplate what it might feel like. This story of mine will shift and become new, unfamiliar and written in wet ink. My current place will be forgotten just as in the past, a turned page to a well-worn book of my life.

 

As with any book, I may or may not pick it up and reread sections, sharing stories of the past and lingering in that space. If I linger too long, I risk never writing the final pages. I could quite possibly overstay this chapter and ultimately miss what is meant for me. What a tragedy to never fully live into potential by becoming frozen in the now.

 

Writing is a metaphor for life in so many ways. A writer begins with an idea, broad in vision, small in detail. As each page is completed, the characters come alive. Characters may surprise by leading the story in an unintended direction. Life, just as in writing, begins with the stories we tell ourselves. We “write” an idea of who we are, what we do and how our life should evolve. It is often quite a surprise when our story veers off into uncharted territory.

 

As one that rewrites this internal narrative many times over, I am still caught off guard when being assaulted by the winds of change. It is clear that people, including myself, struggle with discrepancies in our stories. I compare this struggle to a new pair of shoes that just don’t seem to fit, but after being broken in become the most comfortable shoes owned. This “breaking in” of fabric is time consuming, uncomfortable and may result in blisters. A new direction will feel alien at the onset. It takes some time to declare ownership over any new perception of place. Soon, it will be as if the now has always been, fascinating how this new reality becomes singular so quickly.

 

Even with this feeling of trepidation, It is important to make every attempt to sit with this discomfort. As the author of my life, I am afforded creative license to rewrite anything I choose. Why wish for a riveting story, when I can write and live into it! Remember, it is not only in moments of joy, exhilaration and passion that good stories emerge. It is also in moments of trepidation, sadness, anxiety or fear when a story becomes intensely meaningful, profoundly moving and beautifully intimate.

 

Write your own story and enjoy the process. Don’t be afraid to edit at will, making adjustments as needed. Find the joy in the process, not the conclusion. Just as with a good book, curl up in a window and find joy in observing the unfolding. If lucky, our stories will have more twists and turns than a great mystery novel. Given the journey I am about to embark on, I am certain mine will.

 

Womanhood and Finding Beauty in the Divine Feminine

Womanhood and Finding Beauty in the Divine Feminine

Feeling the sacred energy at Trona Pinnacles. Photo: Dylan Mattina

Imagine A Woman

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.

A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.

Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman who trusts and respects herself.

A woman who listens to her needs and desires.

Who meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman who acknowledges the past’s influence on the present.

A woman who has walked through her past.

Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman who authors her own life.

A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.

Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and wisest voice.

Imagine a woman who names her own gods.

A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.

Who designs a personal spirituality to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman in love with her own body.

A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.

Who celebrates its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman who honors the body of the Goddess in her changing body.

A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.

Who refuses to use her life-energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.

A woman who sits in circles of women.

Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

© Patricia Lynn Reilly, 1995

 

Women, sisters, daughters and mothers; the beauty of the feminine takes many forms.  Being a woman comes with a veritable list of expectations, inhibitions and even privileges. Women are expected to be caretakers, lovers, nurturers and collaborators. At the same time, we are encouraged to aspire to lofty goals albeit, politely, gently and fairly. All character traits forced without consent, by a society that values female submissiveness.

 

Being one that is sensitive and soft spoken, it stands to reason my personal conflict between expectation and reality is minimized. This has not always been the case as I have struggled stepping into my true self, finding my voice and shedding layers of expectations. This paradox is confusing. I cherish being a part of the divine feminine, the wellspring of all life and the universal heartbeat that connects us all. At the same time, I have a deep desire to live strongly, independently, authentically and free. The idea that I need to be taken care of is foreign to me. No one can own another person. We all must ultimately stand alone when our end is near and answer for the choices we have made.

 

With all of this being so, why is it so difficult for women to be heard without shouting, be taken seriously without being brash or express emotion without being labeled neurotic? Why is it a woman’s outside appearance becomes an open invitation for criticism, a way to discredit simply by the clothes worn or the style of hair?

 

“A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is. Who celebrates its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.”

-Patricia Lynn Reilly

 

As a former dancer, I was judged on my physical aesthetic, never my intelligence or depth of insight. Dancers are silent tools of a choreographer’s vision, very much like clay to be molded. This extreme drive for a perfect aesthetic was difficult to let go even after I retired. I suffered from some degree of body dysmorphia and an acute discomfort with my sensuality apart from the characters I played on stage. If not pretending to be someone else, who was I?

 

Despite this long and hard fought battle with body image, I now feel absolutely no shame in embracing my femininity. Every single thing that makes me courageous and adventurous is seeded in this strength. I am stubborn yet soft, determined yet pliable, wise yet young at heart and sensual while intelligent. All states are a part of the whole and it has taken many years to welcome them all back to my table with an open heart. I no longer feel a sense of the forbidden when feeling my sensuality bubble below the surface. I no longer feel stern when stating a difference of opinion and I no longer feel meek when choosing not to be boisterous or openly bold. I honor my gentle hearted manner and pay little mind to what others opinions.  

 

“Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman. A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories. Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life”, I too have shed layers of shame for choices made out of fear, carried forward from generations that came before.  These ancestral cords are shared biological remnants of abandonment, low self-esteem and self-hate. I no longer have to remain tethered to these emotions; they were never for me to begin with. I freely cut these ties and feel stronger for doing so.

 

Perhaps someday there will appear a poet courageous

enough to give expression to the voices of the “mothers.”

~Carl Jung, Letters Vol. II, Pages 386-387

 

Similarly, women in my family are incredibly sensitive to energy and well aware of the emotional temperature of a room. It stands to reason that we hide some of these gifts in an attempt to avoid labels of “hormonal, overly sensitive or believers in wacky pseudo-science.” Imagine having the intuition that something is amiss and not being able to find words to describe why? Very few are able to move forward when a woman answers “I just know” to the question of “Why?” There is no tangible data to cull, no statistics to list and no definitive proof. It is a matter of faith, in being a woman and embracing self.

 

If I could share one thing with women today, I would implore them to wear energetic shades deflecting expectations, norms and criticism. Embrace all that is beautifully feminine about you and pay no mind to the naysayers. In an effort to be seen, do not change your manner by becoming aggressive or loud. Those that need to see, will. They will notice you just as you are and embrace all that makes you so beautifully strong, nurturing and feminine. Be yourself and relish in this wholeness with each breathe, hearing the whisper of the Divine feminine all around you.

 

Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love

 

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”

― Thomas Merton

 

 

It can take a lifetime to understand how to love unconditionally. Later in life, reflection and a deep sense of regret can occur when a relationship misses the mark. Age heralds clarity, shining a light on the shadows the sit between two people. This is especially true among those who have allowed unrealistic expectations to be voiced as harsh judgments. Harmful criticism forces distance and is never acceptable in a loving relationship. Sadly, this revelation often present after the damage has been done. Such is the irony of life.  

 

 Each generation seems to become more and more consumed by self, completely missing the importance of showing compassion to others. Separateness is the norm with love of self being paramount to love of others. This is no more self-evident than in the intimate relationships forged with close friends and family. The “need it now” and “me before all else” mantra leaves little room for the practice and disciple of deep love. In addition, the voyeuristic culture of social media lends to a feeling of greater importance or unnatural hubris fashioned from the imaginary world of pictures on the internet. It is a viscous cycle.

 

In practice, love requires a letting go of the desire for control in all instances. This letting go while difficult, is necessary for love to flourish.  One must peel away a multitude of protective layers intended to soften the weight of living in a less than forgiving world. This takes great courage and an ability to feel fear but not be paralyzed by it.  Unconditional love finds breathe, when changing the lens in which one views another from the rose colored glasses of the ideal to the clearer lenses of the actual.

 

“Real intimacy is a sacred experience. It never exposes its secret trust and belonging to the voyeuristic eye of a neon culture. Real intimacy is of the soul, and the soul is reserved.”

― John O’Donohue

 

As is often the case, people are much harder on those they hold dear. Business associates and acquaintances received endless amounts of patience and support while a spouse, child or sibling can be the recipient of a critical barrage of judgments. I am just as guilty of this as the next, especially with my siblings. If not being careful, I only see the things that irritate or rub and completely overlook the beauty in the other. This beauty is always found in differences rather than similarities, the way in which one navigates the world apart from a tribe. What may appear to be foolhardy or even ill advised to one can be a great learning opportunity for another. If I love someone, I love all of them. I love the many ways in which they chose to show up in my life and at times, I love them from a distance as is necessary for my well being.

Holding pain for another is yet another way in which unconditional love thrives. We are all delicate and fragile souls, baring scars from both intentional and unintentional wrongdoing. No amount of letting go will set us completely free from the conditioning of our upbringing and life experiences. It becomes a choice, when seeing scars in another, to gently soften the wound rather than rub salt. It is always easier to find fault in foreign ideas, actions and thoughts rather than looking intently within ourselves. Mirroring or projecting on to others all that we dislike about ourselves will never improve our lot. Reflecting pains and sorrows outward in the hopes of improving self-worth is not love but selfishness.

 

Therein is the beauty of unconditional love. It demands holding another’s heart while setting boundaries needed to honor spirit. There is never a rule book as to how this should play out, each individual is gloriously unique and so too is the act of loving. The goal should always be compassionate listening, gentle guidance and a letting go of the outcome.

 

Ask Me

Ask Me

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me

mistakes I have made. Ask me whether

what I have done is my life. Others

have come in their slow way into

my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt: ask me what difference

their strongest love or hate has made.


I will listen to what you say.

You and I can turn and look

at the silent river and wait. We know

the current is there, hidden; and there

are comings and goings from miles away

that hold the stillness exactly before us.

What the river says, that is what I say.

   

William Stafford

 

We all have our secrets, if someone tells you differently they are selling a mistruth of the highest order. Each person harbors shadows and darkness that linger among the embers of the light. It is because of these shadows one can see how extremely fragile we are. This life is living as if a delicate flower waiting to bloom yet instead choosing to close off out of fear and a need for self protection. No one leaves this world unscathed, in fact we are all marred by missteps, regrets and an underlying sadness for what we had hoped life to be.

 

Nothing speaks more beautiful to the irony of this condition than William Stafford’s Ask Me. He states, “Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life.” Having always cherished time spent hearing others stories and words of wisdom, it is difficult to comprehend that I too have a plethora of life experiences, yet feel less than worthy of imparting any wisdom earned onto others. Simply put, I am still trying to figure it all out and am doubtful that I will ever have complete understanding. Can it be possible that life continues to ramble along leading one further into the clouded beneath of uncertainty and fear? Is the only true meaning of it all persevering regardless of uncertainty?

 

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön

 

I am not alone in holding illusions and fantasies of what living a storied life entails. The house with a picket fence, well behaved children excelling at everything they undertake, a job that is both satisfying and financially rewarding, physical health the sustains throughout the years and love. All possible scenarios but not always accomplished in the same stride as others. The frustration of delays, detours or missteps along the way can lead one to doubt what if anything holds meaning and true value in the wells of our soul. What if anything matters at the end of days?

 

As a young girl I pictured myself experiencing a great love affair with someone that held my heart just as I held his. This love would know me from my earliest of days until my ultimate departure from this world, a familiarity that would be both comforting and enduring. As fate would have it, this was not in the cards for me. I did in fact have a long marriage that proved to be barren of love and appreciation.  A dear friend once told me that nothing is more painful than indifference and this did, most sadly, prove to be true. I made myself small for two decades of my life and for that I harbor deep regret. Stafford’s line, “ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made” speaks to me like no other. Hate can be as transformative as a powerful love in ways that reverberate throughout a body and soul. Hate and indifference block energy, creating barriers that can only be overcome with much time and self work. Pains such as these will be worn for as long as the river runs deep.

 

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

― Gautama Buddha

 

Staying with the metaphor of a river,  I can review  my life and see that I continue to flow whether under the ice, in the depths or on the surface. It is never a matter of time standing still but rather a rushing forth of water the proceeds all else. Water can move mountains and so too can time. In fact, the only constant I see thus far is the march of time. Stafford continues with, “and there are comings and goings from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us.” What may seem like only the distance from one side of the bed to the other or one chair among many in an open room, is an acute representation of stillness often left unspoken. Distance is palpable even if only a few feet when defined by emotional numbness.

 

One of my main regrets is remaining in this space, this stillness, this separateness far too long. I am imperfect as are all others, yet I now choose to stand and speak my voice regardless of imperfections. If only I had known this a few decades ago, my river may have represented a much gentler flow with far less rapids and undertows. One might say however, that without all of those rapids I would never have reached this point of letting go. This may be true and as Stafford says in completion, “What the river says, that is what I say”. Here is to many more years of gently floating down the river of life, observing, learning and living.