Sunday, January 22, 2017

1/23/17—Floating on the Breath of God

I came across this quote today while poking around in old posts on my blog. It's for all of us with trust issues or who get held up on wanting to know WHY something is happening. 

I'm going to quote someone who's quoting it, because that's the only way I know the quote. Richard Bruxvoort Colligan* quoted St. Hildegard by saying:
"Hildegard of Bingen said a faithful life means 'to be a feather on the breath of God.'
And what does a feather know about wind?
What does a kite have to understand in order to fly?
How much knowledge of meteorology does a sailboat need to feel the strength of full sails?"
This quote is so great because it captures the essences of trust, letting go and surrender all in a single, beautiful snippet. Personally, I usually visualize letting go and surrender as laying, arms stretched, in a river and allowing the river to carry me to where I need to be. 

The river is God or the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in. If you try to swim upstream, you'll waste a lot of energy and not get very far. That's what happens when we try to control situations...when we fight against what "is". We may make some progress in the direction we think we want to go, but eventually we end up where the universe wants us to be. And, from my experience, where the universe wants us to be is generally a much better place than where I think I want to go. And the more I fight against it, the less benefit I receive at the ultimate destination. So letting go is really the smartest way to get there. 

The quote also captures the "why" aspect. "Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening now?" Have you ever noticed the answers to those questions never come until you've reached—and embraced—your final destination? So the whys are just more wasted energy to add to all the swimming against the current we tend to do. 

Finally, though, this is about trust. It's about lifting all the questions up to the universe and allowing the answers to come in their own time. It's about trusting that you're being led to a place that will serve your higher benefit. That doesn't always look like a winning prospect in the beginning, but my experience in life is that we have no way to lose. If you believe everything happens for a reason, then withholding trust is, again, more wasted energy. 

What's key to know here is that things like trust and letting go aren't necessarily talents you're born with. More often, they're skills you develop. So when you say, "I wish I could be more like you and trust in the future," you can. If you work at it as hard as the person you're admiring, that is. Trust and letting go and surrender are all practices. They're things you work on every day in your relationship with your higher power. 

So when you notice yourself letting fear creep in, stop yourself and visualize yourself floating down the river toward a magical light or soaring through the air as a feather on the breath of God. Just absorbing the idea of floating on the breath of God alone will fill you with the faith you need to weather the storm. Over time, the trusting and letting go will become more and more automatic as you begin to see the wisdom in the practice. 

We don't need to know or understand why things are happening the way they're happening. We just have to let ourselves be taken away by the breath of that which has always looked after us, whether you call it God or Allah or Yaweh or the Universe. It has never failed you yet. And if you think it has, then you haven't yet embraced where you've landed. Regardless of whether you like an outcome or not, though, it is what it is. And you can live there in bitterness or gratitude. That's your choice. I choose to let go and trust. 

*If you want to read the Christian sermon this quote came from, follow this link or the link above (you'll find the links on The sermon goes on to help you with a prayer you can say and it references scripture and stuff. It's a good post.
This post originally appeared on 6/25/14.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

1/16/17—Remembering Source

Image from the Tarot of Transformation, The Devil.
Lately I've been feeling disconnected from source. And by "lately" I mean for well over a year.

Each Friday on my personal and public Facebook pages, I do a weekend reading where people get to choose one of three cards, then find out their reading for the weekend. And one of the three cards got me thinking. It was The Devil card, which speaks of addiction, self-defeating behaviors and our inner demons. And this particular Devil card was subtitled "Separation from the Source."

For me, it was a reminder that feeling disconnected from the universe and feeling depressed and self-defeated aren't two different things happening at the same time. They're the same thing, happening in a chicken and egg I having difficulty because I'm disconnected? Or am I disconnected because I'm having difficulty? Probably a little of both.

I've always liked this card for that reason...for its reminder of how the distance between us and source is relative to the distance between us and happiness. And health. And success. And manifestation. And love. 

It's also a reminder that the more we indulge our demons, the further away from source we get. And that the way out of darkness is to keep moving toward the light. And the way to transform demons is to lift them up to the light. 

It sounds so simple, but it's a logic that becomes clouded the deeper you get away from source. It gets buried under, "I'm not a good person" and "I'm not capable" and "why would anyone care anyway?" But our doubts and our fears are just distractions...symptoms of our distance from source. 

Remembering this doesn't make everything better. But it's a start in the right direction. The more time we spend in the presence of grace—out in nature, in meditation, in gratitude, with people we love, in prayer...however you access it—the less power our fears hold. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

1/9/17—Flying With The Squirrels

The squirrels in the back yard are at it again...teaching me lessons.

We've had an unusually warm winter so, instead of shivering in their nests, the squirrels are out to play. And there seem to be an unusual number of small ones for this time of year, too.

So the other day, four younger looking ones were running along the utility lines, chasing and playing. When they got to the utility pole, they chased each other up and down. Then there was some sort of argument and three ran off with one lagging behind. Then the lagger came back, climbed up the pole, all the way to the top where he stood on his hind legs and touched the very top of the transformer with his paw, just within a breath of the live wire!

I audibly cried out "no" when I saw it. My god, why would he do that? There didn't seem to be any other reason for him to climb all the way to the top by himself and do that. But it turned out the squirrel was fine. He ran back down the pole and his friends joined him and they ran off.

Since then, though, I've witnessed more feats of incredible daring from the local squirrels. 

A couple days after the transformer incident, I'm sitting outside and my dogs go after a squirrel, who escapes easily up the neighbor's tree. Then that squirrel makes an easy hop into a tree in my yard. Then he leaps, spanning a chasm of maybe four feet to my stump and he's 20 feet off the ground...if he miscalculates, he will land in my dogs' mouths. I literally gasped aloud. Without missing a beat, he then sails a good six or seven feet off the top of the stump to a tangle of brush behind. Granted, he lept from above but it was a shocking, gravity-defying leap. It is not the normal path they take, by any means. This guy was an athlete among squirrels.

Then yesterday, I saw two squirrels chasing each other on the telephone line. As they are running at breakneck speed, one literally flips over so he's running along the line upside down, directly beneath the other squirrel! I can't swear it's the same guy, but there is certainly a daredevil in our midst. There was a squirrel like this many years back that used to make me gasp in awe. Maybe they are from the same distinguished line of super-atheletic squirrels.

It also occurred to me...maybe touching the transformer was a "dare". Maybe it's part of the tradition of daredevil squirrels. A ritual, of sorts. Maybe it's a way of releasing fears...and claiming fearlessness.

I've been watching the squirrels for years. Some are cautious. Some are just normal. And every once in a while I see one be super daring like the squirrel who made the leaps. I know, with dogs, a low fence will keep a capable jumper in if the dog never realizes he can jump the fence. So many dogs will see a fence and think "I'm trapped". But more daring dogs will find a way

My childhood dog, Valcour, was like that. It was impossible to contain him. We moved once, a few miles down the road from his girlfriend, Sunny. Sunny lived behind a six foot wooden fence. Valcour somehow broke free and made his way to Sunny more than once. One time, he was gone for days. No lie...when he returned, he returned without his balls. He had somehow managed to castrate himself on his journey. After that, the poor boy lost his randy nature, got fat and stopped running away. Not sure there's a moral to that story or not...haha.

In order to know you can jump fences, fly through the air or run on a wire upside down, however, you have to take the risk of jumping a fence, flying though the air or running upside down on a wire. Not all can do that. But in order to know you're capable of doing something, you have to take that risk at least once.

Sometimes, though, you have to break through a wall within you before you're ready to attempt flight. So you do something totally random like showing a live wire at the top of a pole you're not afraid. And if you're not afraid of the live wire, then flying into some brush is a piece of cake.

I see where I could use a live wire to shake me out of complacency right now. Not sure what that translates to in my life though, but it's got me thinking. I feel like I'm at a point where "comfort" and the status quo is beginning to suffocate I'm at a critical juncture between eternal stagnation and perpetual thriving and, although my choice would seem obvious, I don't seem to be making it. Momentum has been pointed toward stagnation for so long, it seems. 

I remember hearing a long time ago that you should make a big change in your life every ten years or so. Whatever change I made ten years or so ago—or didn't make, I suppose—led me to and through some heavy, dark years. I had forgotten all the awesome things I'm capable of, and all the things that fueled my spirit. It's time for me to remember that, even though I'm older and tireder and creakier, I can still fly.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

1/2/17—Rembering The Roadshow

This is the time of the year when I usually do my normal retrospective of the prior year, complete with an intention for the new year. But I'm not doing that this year because, frankly, I really don't want to revisit 2016. 

The year sucked for me in every which way. Not just because my candidate lost the election. It sucked every month, in every corner of my life. I thought after years of being sick and finally feeling physically good, that it would be a good year. There were many lessons. And I had my health. But I lost a lot of other things. 

As much as I'd like to bitch about 2016 and keep that energy alive within me, however, I'm not going to. Instead I'm going to offer two thoughts. 

The first is a tool you can use to get out of a rut, relieve the blues or move forward on something you haven't been making progress on—perfect for the new year. I call it One Better Decision and I have posted about it before

Essentially, you set a goal. Then each day you choose just one thing in your day and make a "better" or different decision about it than the decision or choice you usually make. So if you usually watch the news at 6pm, skip it today and don't turn on the TV until 7pm. Or if there's a carryout you've always been curious about, stop there on the way home. Or if you usually park at the front of your office building, park in back. 

Easy peasy. Minimum effort. But it offers a big payoff almost immediately. And if you feel beaten down by the world and can't take on another project, don't despair—the decisions can be really small. One day I replaced a glass of Crystal Light with water, for example. Another day I made the decision to do another week of better decisions. They really can be that lame...haha. So there are no excuses. Just do it for a week or a month and see for yourself.

Since I came up with this method, I have returned to it time and time again. Each and every time, it shakes me out of my funk and sets me off toward my goal. I should probably do it every day for the rest of my life, but that's unrealistic for me. Which is why this plan is so realistic. Do it only as needed, and as long as is needed! The hardest part is remembering to do it.

The second thought I'll offer up for the new year is that, over the holidays, I watched Antiques Roadshow.  As a longtime watcher of this show, I can attest that it is a great equalizer. No matter how rich or poor you are, no matter where you live in the country (or world, since it originated in the UK), and no matter what your politics, we are all the same on the Roadshow. We all have "things" that matter to us. And we are all touched when we find out the things that hold great value to us—the family heirlooms, childhood possessions, cherished gifts and flea market finds—hold great value to others as well. We all hunger to be affirmed. And affirming others is such an easy way to spread light in this world (if you're looking for ways to spread light in 2017, that is.)

That's not all we have in common, either. We all want security and comfort. We all want love. We all want to feel valued and heard. We all have dreams for ourselves and loved ones. We are more alike than we are different. And when we see each other through the eyes of the Roadshow, we can't hate. We can't discriminate. We can't harshly judge.

So I'll leave you with those two things—One Better Decision and the Roadshow equalizer. If that's all we take into the new year, I think it will be a better year than last. And I'm certain that "the answer to all the world's ills" lies in opening our hearts more fully to others, rather than closing them further.

As for my plans in the new year, keep your eye out for the One Better Decision e-book! People have also been asking me to put some of my stories and lessons in an e-book or two for purchase. I have a few ideas of how to do that in some value-added way, so stay tuned. 

Also, just thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for all your affirmation. And thank you for keeping this a "safe place" where I can be vulnerable and where others can feel supported when they make vulnerable comments, too. I think I'm five years into this blog and, while the blog itself (at gets very few comments, my personal Facebook posting of it usually gets some good discussion. In all that time, there has been zero drama. So thank you for honoring this space. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

12/26/16—Wishing You a Peaceful Christmas

This repost from three years ago still has truth today. Merry Christmas to all of you and may we all find peace in our hearts in 2017.

It has been a long time since Christmas has been "magical" or even special to me. Part of that is age, I suppose. Part of it is because it's a season of togetherness and one of the rare times I almost wish I wasn't a loner ("almost" because I wouldn't feel like getting all dressed up and being social anyway...haha). 

But part of it is because, for many of us, Christmas' sparkles and cheer are a whitewash covering hurt that is going on inside. Because the season is so magical and because most of us remember how it's *supposed* to feel, the divide between what's going on inside us and all the blinking lights outside us becomes more pronounced. And because we all smile and greet others kindly as we're supposed to, there is this sense that everyone is able to feel the spirit of the season but you. (And while I'm talking about Christmas here, what I really mean is all the December holidays that people come together for, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.)

This past year, more than ever, I'm seeing people struggling all around me. Some are having monetary issues. Some have just experienced a loss. Some are alone and don't want to be. Some have just had surgeries. Some are facing serious family or health issues. Some are weighed down by enormous burdens or secrets. Some are incredibly stressed. And all of this is made worse by the fact we have extra down time in which to wallow in our pain. For me, even my good Christmas seasons have been colored by my mother's death 32 years ago. It was her favorite holiday and she died just days after. It's impossible not to think of her during the holidays. The loss of a mother is something that never fully heals. 

But this year, I also find myself haunted by the experiences of two of my Facebook friends—people I've never met in person, but whose stories are heartbreaking. One is a man who can't escape the loss of his two small children and their mother in a fire 10 years ago during the holiday season. The fact that his daughter, badly burned, fought to live for a couple of days, makes the story unbearable. Everything he lived for was gone just like that. And while he's rebuilt his life and now has a young son, how can you not think of the two you lost every year when you set up your tree? While you're grateful for the second chance, how do you ever stop wondering what could have been?

Another is a mother whose adult son has gone missing. He is mentally ill and without his medicine. He was seen a couple of days ago, but has eluded the police and others who are looking for him. She uses the word psychotic to describe his state, so I imagine his illness is quite serious and getting worse each day he is without medication. She had a birthday yesterday. And while she is a very spiritual and strong woman and her son is a fully grown adult, how can your heart not break with Christmas two days away and your baby out there somewhere in the weather, wandering the streets of NYC?

It puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Sure, I'm blue, but I have a warm, comfortable place to sleep, plenty of food for my belly, safe loved ones and three dogs that worship my every breath. And while the typical nuclear family might enjoy the holidays more, their pre-holiday rush and preparation has been nowhere near as peaceful as mine. It doesn't exactly convert my sadness to happiness, but it shows me all that I'm grateful for.  

All of this inspired me to do a ceremony last night for the solstice. I built a fire and placed the "burdens" I carry into the fire...thoughts and emotions I carry with me that weigh me down. Then I smudged my house. Then I took a long shower. All of this was to cleanse the pains and shortcomings of the previous year off of me and purify myself and my home for the next six months as the sun's light expands day by day in the world and in my heart. I'll probably do something similar at the end of the calendar year to honor this past year and the coming year. 

Anyway, I share all of this not to offer spiritual platitudes to people who are feeling down. "Buck up little beaver" isn't going to do the trick, because much of the pain that bubbles up during the holidays is deep seated and comes, I believe, to show us what we still have to heal. But really I just want people to know they're not alone. Not by a long shot. Behind many smiles you see on holiday faces—even among those who will experience the day's magic once all the rushing and shopping and cooking is done—there is a person just trying to cope until the season has passed and regular life can resume. Feeling what you feel doesn't make you abnormal or a killjoy. It just makes you human.

So if you know someone who might have reason to struggle this holiday season, be extra gentle and loving. Reach out to them even if they have carols blazing and a cup full of nog. And if you are that person, muddle through. It's OK to feel the way you're feeling. The other day I did a random act of kindness for a stranger and that helped my mood. But the person you most need to be kind to is yourself. So take a hot bath, maybe write everything down in a journal, or just binge watch movies. Whatever gets you through. And when you start to feel alone or broken, remember that you're not alone. We'll make it through together.

For those who are struggling, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

12/12/16—Asking A Sasquatch Out To Lunch

Life has been busy the past couple of weeks, so I'm taking the afternoon to chill. Therefore you get another classic post. This one is from two years ago.

I have this weird thing. I don't seem remember much about who I was in the past. It's like I'm totally detached from previous iterations of myself and I don't even feel like past "mes" were me at all.

There may be something deep and psychological to this. Or maybe everyone feels that way. But when I look into the eyes of the girls in this picture I know they all look like me, but I'm not sure I can say who they were. I just know I'm a very different person now. 

They all liked to write. They all had a sense of humor. And they were all on a journey of self discovery. But to one degree or another, I was always working to leave a part of them behind me where I would never have to look at it again. That's what growth is in many ways...a constant shedding of skin in search of the ever more luminous iterations of "me" hoping to reach the surface. Or maybe that's exfoliation. I'm not sure. :D Because, like exfoliation, the minute your "new skin" reaches the surface, it begins on a course of death and flakiness until it, itself, is shed. Just exposing it to the world to interact with outside forces sends it careening into certain obsolescence. 

The girl in the top row was really just trying to figure out who she was. The woman in the middle row...she's not someone I liked so much. She fell into a superficial trap and cared more about how others viewed her than how she viewed herself. The woman on the bottom row, well she's more like the woman I am today. Still searching. But looking more inside herself for the things she needs to be happy, rather than outside of herself.

Still, it bothers me in some ways that I can't identify with any of those women, not even the most recent—the one in the sparkly fortune teller's turban in the lower right hand corner. None of them seem to have captured the essence of me, not in photos or in reality.

Back in the days of the middle row, I used to feel like there was a "me inside of me" that was curled up in the fetal position, crying. Sad, I know. She would mostly come out at night, in the quiet moments as I lay down to sleep. She used to really bother me, because she felt trapped and I didn't know how to let her out. So I ignored her for years. Pretended she wasn't there. Those last two girls in the top row used to feel like her sometimes. It's like I swallowed them up and contained them within a new, shinier container, thinking it would make the pain go away. And it seemed to. For a while.

I did eventually make peace with her, though. I had to. She became to pained to ignore. So I nurtured her. I stopped a lot of negative self talk. I got rid of toxic and abusive people in my life. I learned how to handle my fears. And today the me inside of me is uncurled and living peacefully within me. But I still feel like she's captive to a degree...silent, content, but hoping to feel the air on her skin just once before she dies. She hasn't been fully integrated yet. She's just led by a kinder master.

Sometimes I wonder if "the real me" or the "authentic me" is elusive like a Sasquatch. You might catch glimpses of it, but you can never quite meet it head-on and ask it out to tea. No matter how times I've felt like I've finally reached my authentic self, I shed my skin again and that woman is lost to history. But with each layer shed and with each new iteration, I do feel like I understand my true self better. That "me inside of me" seems to fill out my skin more and more over the years. And I come more to peace with what I find inside of me, which brings me more to peace with the people and situation I find outside of me as well. 

I think we've been led to believe that "our true self" or our "authentic self" is a destination that we reach one day when we have amassed a lot of wisdom. But I'm coming more and more to believe that it doesn't exist. I think "authenticity" is more like a continually evolving journey. Sure, there's a core to us that remains constant throughout our lives. But that core is surrounded by a continually changing and evolving ether that, like quicksilver, is difficult to hold or contain. And I'm good with that. It makes life interesting. And I'm certain that if I ever stopped seeking—if there is a destination to ultimately reach—then life would lose its purpose. I've invested too much in this journey to ever be satisfied by reaching its end.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

12/4/16—Looking Below And To The Left Of Jupiter

I spent most of my day writing one blog, then scrapping it and starting another. Neither of those blogs are ready to release into the wild. So here's a classic post from two years ago. I think it's really relevant today. 

Last night there was a meteor shower. And all the shooting stars reminded me of a powerful lesson.

I went outside around 1am, my StarWalk application in tow, and checked to make sure I knew where to look in the sky. StarWalk had the meteors shooting just to the left of Jupiter and a bit lower in the sky. This was a good thing and bad thing. The good thing is that my view is relatively clear in that region of the sky. The bad thing is that, while only a half moon, the moon was very bright last night and positioned beneath Jupiter when I was out there. Ideally, you want a darker sky. 

Anyway, I got myself all comfy and glanced casually out where I was supposed to look. I didn't want the shooting stars to think I was desperate or needy or anything. There were supposed to be as many as 50 per hour, so I thought it was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel. But after about 15 minutes, I saw nothing. 

So then I decided to stare squarely at a point in the eastern sky, unblinking, as long as I could. Still nothing. By now, about a half hour has passed. I tend to see stuff in the corner of my eye, so I think I might have seen something, but there was nothing conclusive. So then I figured that maybe the moon was just too bright and they were too close to where the moon was in my field of vision to be seen. So I laid back and looked at all the stars directly overhead. It was a beautiful sight. 

Within seconds of laying my head back, however, I saw the most spectacular shooting star make a long, lingering arch across the sky. No doubt about it. I saw one! But before I was done making my wish, I saw another! Then another!

Seems that all that time, I had been looking in the wrong part of the sky. I had limited myself to what I knew—or thought I knew—about the Geminids meteor shower and I invested fully in that knowledge. But that knowledge turned out to be fruitless. I didn't see a shooting star until I put aside what I knew and looked at the sky from another perspective. 

We see this all the time, don't we? We even do it ourselves. We're so sure of something—so invested in our perspective being right—that we see it as the only way. But looking at things from another perspective doesn't have to mean you're wrong. It just means you're broadening your view of something. And as long as you hold on tightly to what you "know", you may be cheating yourself out of something quite special.

The truest thing I know about life is that none of us holds the truth about anything. We hold just one piece of the truth, a piece viewed from our unique viewpoint. But staring at, and knowing, and being certain about your part of the cosmos doesn't mean you understand the cosmos. The next time you're sure of something, remember that the magic comes not from being certain, but from opening yourself up to a part of the sky you never thought to look at. That's where the streaks of new enlightenment can be found, arching their way across the sky.