Wednesday, September 17, 2014

9/18/14—Making What You Have Work

There's this tree in my neighbor's back yard, behind their shed. It's an evergreen...a cedar, I think. It's sort of a Charlie Brown tree in a way. It's not symmetrical. The branches reach every which way. It's top heavy. Awkward. Lopsided.

You might consider this tree "unfortunate" were it not for the fact that it has somehow managed to grow quite healthy with a shed on one side blocking the afternoon sun, a fence a fence and vegetation on the other side blocking the morning sun and a bunch of bigger trees above it blocking the daytime sun. But I've seen this tree grow pretty big over 15 years with all these obstacles remaining constant.

One thing that helps is that it's an evergreen. When everyone loses their leaves, the evergreen gets to bask in the sun. I have a pear blossom in my yard that buds and blooms before the maple above it gets its leaves. Otherwise it wouldn't get the sun it needs to do all that. Once it has leaves, it's happy to live under the maple, but if the maple grew leaves sooner, the pear blossom never would have made it.

Both the evergreen and pear blossom are able to get what they need to survive, partly because of the kind of tree they are. The evergreen is evergreen, so it gets a good five months out of the year without any competition for sunlight. The pear blossom is an early bloomer, so it gets a valuable month's head start on establishing its leaves and gets all the power it needs to bloom while the maple is still making whirlybirds.

But beyond the tree type...what's in its DNA...the evergreen thrives as an individual by poking its branches out wherever it can to catch sun and rain. Which is why it's so oddly shaped. It is, in fact, NOT oddly shaped, but instead, perfectly shaped to take advantage of its environment. Same with the pear blossom. It's grows thin and tall with more leaves higher up because it competes with two much larger trees and has to find that bit of clear airspace available to wash as much surface area with sun and rain to keep it going.

So there's a tall, fat tree using its tall fatness to make the most of its mission on earth—growth and light. And there's a tall skinny flowering tree that's tall and skinny for the same reasons. They focus what they have on the light, instead of wallowing in the dark focusing on what they don't have. 

Most of my life I've resented the body I'm in. Like the evergreen, I'm an apple...leaner legs with all my weight around the middle. It's no mistake I have this body, though. Like the evergreen, the universe planted me where it did for a purpose and I grew as I did—not just size-wise, but every which way—for a purpose, too. Some of the evergreen's awkwardness isn't awkwardness at all, but what that tree needs in order to face the it copes to both protect and expose itself to the right elements. I suppose I'm the same way.

Same with my pear blossom. In fact, one day the maple will have to come down and that pear blossom will change in all sorts of ways because of it, just as the evergreen would change if the shed or one of the trees around it came down. But then again, we don't know what other issues something like that may trigger. Right now, everything is thriving just as it is. 

And as long as we allow our special kind of DNA and our weird and awkward ways of coping to keep focusing on our unique missions of growth and light, it's likely we'll continue. What the trees don't have to struggle with, but we do though, is accepting that they will never be an oak or maple—tall with an impressive canopy to drink in the elements. Oaks and maples have their own issues to contend with. The lifespan of a maple, for example, is centuries less than the lifespan of a cedar. But that's just it...the trees don't struggle at all. They just work with what they have and make what they have work.

This is a repost that was originally published on 2/24/14.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

9/15/14—Contemplating the Hard Questions

Symbolically, spring is the time of great renewal. But in my life, that time is autumn. I emerge from my cocoon, head into winter, which is a favorite season for me. Then when spring rolls around, it's a time of preparation to weather the long, miserable summer. 

So I dug up this classic post about feeling lackluster about your life or in a rut. That's often how I feel at the end of summer. And with autumn's energy sweeping in this past weekend, I thought I'd revisit some questions that can help us see a way out of the rut.

A sad fact of life is that we can everything we want and still not be happy. Sometimes it's because we're depressed. Or maybe you're someone who likes the process of creating something, but feels restless once the world is done. It could be for a lot of reasons. But more often than not, I'll bet, it's because the things you want and have aren't the things that make you happy. Or things that once made you happy no longer do so. 

I think we all feel that way now and again. I used to take a lot of interest in my tarot deck collection and card reading, for example, but those things just aren't calling to me anymore. And because we tend to grow and change over time, it's a good idea to take stock of ourselves now and again and ask questions like: 
  • How have my values changed in the past five years or so and what in my life has not changed to greet those new values?
  • What do I believe about who I am and what I deserve? How has that changed and do I act in alignment with those changes?
  • What practices or actions no longer feel genuine or comfortable in my life?
  • What drains my energy and what fuels it?
  • Do I ever find myself doing something I used to not question, and now I wonder why I'm doing it?
  • Are there behaviors or actions or attitudes I'm ashamed of...or feel it's time to let go of?
  • What is missing in my life?*
These are just a few of the kinds of questions that are good to take time to ruminate on as we move toward our own personal "renewal". I know for a fact that we all know someone who hasn't changed their hair style in 30 years. I know this because I'm that person...haha. And sometimes we tend to do with our lives what some of us do with our hair...we tend to pick a course of action and stay on it until the bitter end. 

We rarely take the time to proactively examine who we are, who we want to be and what to clear out of our life to get it. Instead, we allow cobwebs and clutter to accumulate within our spirit and then end up like the guy who has everything but contentment. So if you're feeling that way, maybe take a look at who you are today and start living for that person instead. It can take time to figure out what kind of things "the new you" enjoys, but it can be an adventure all along the way. 

*This last question is almost always a trick question. The thing that is almost always missing is connection with "source", however you define that to be—a higher power, nature, whatever. Gratitude and meditation/prayer are the best ways to reconnect with our higher power, our significance, or mission and/or our role here on earth. While we often feel alone and powerless, the opposite is true at all times, whether we choose to embody that reality or not. May as well embody it. 

This post was adapted from one written October 18, 2012.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

9/11/14—Discovering My Inner Risk-Taker

I recently learned something new about myself and it's kind of a boost to my self-esteem. 

See, I've always viewed myself as not much of a risk-taker. Sure, I've taken risks. Self-employment is a risk. But I don't take risks often and try to avoid them best as possible. The way I see it, navigating life itself requires enough risk. No need to go all crazy. 

In fact, I've been accused of being a fraidy cat, before. Two ex-boyfriends told me I needed to find myself a nice banker when we broke up...haha. I was never sure what that meant, but always assumed they meant it to mean that I can't handle rebels such as themselves. If you were to replace the word "rebels" with the word "assholes" in that last sentence, they were probably right. But the point is, I always took comments like that from them and others as being critical of my low-risk preferences. 

But recently I've come across things on social media that have me re-thinking where I stand in the risk-continuum. Like someone posted a picture of a scary roller coaster and everyone was saying they wouldn't ride it. But I would. And someone mentioned the Grand Canyon Skywalk. I'd do that, too. I even posted something myself about doing a lock-in at a haunted location and was surprised at all the people who said they'd never do that. 

Of course, all of this is theoretical. I say I'd do it. But in the moment? Yeah, I think I'd do it, but who really knows? I'd be scared, but I'd do it. All of those things are fairly low risk in my mind, though. I mean, how often do people die or are maimed on roller coasters, skywalks or by ghosts? Sky diving or those wing suits? That's a whole other level of risk and not one I'd take. 

So, based on the reactions of others to things that feel fairly safe to me, I'm more of a risk-taker than I think. One day you think you know yourself and the next day things are different. It's not often you learn something new about yourself. Or maybe I'm just learning that society is more of a wuss than I think...haha. Either way, it makes me feel better about where I stand in the continuum and might even mean I'll be more likely to take risks in the future. When you perceive yourself differently, you behave differently. 

And, see, nothing in me has changed but the perception. I spent too much time listening to the people who wanted me to *think* I was a wuss simply because I didn't follow their plan for me. So I thought I was a wuss. I bought it hook, line and sinker because it was plausible enough. It's not like I'm any kind of a daredevil. And, to me, sitting at the edge of a cliff isn't a huge risk when there's half a mile of rock underneath you and little chance of falling from a sitting position. But it turns out that would terrify a lot of people. 

All of this makes me wonder what other self perceptions I've adopted over the years that are off base. And not just the ones where I under-estimate myself, but the over-estimates too. And since we can just as easily fool ourselves that we're smarter than we are, why aren't we taking advantage of that? If the power of perception is that strong, why aren't we all perceiving we're hugely popular and desirable? What if we used our talent for delusion to believe we're good enough and happy enough and just plain "enough"? What a shift that would be for mankind!

So, if you could choose to delude yourself, what delusion would it be?

Monday, September 8, 2014

9/9/14—Talking About Manifestation

Here's a new radio program from the Three Muses, which are me, Sheila Cash and Mary Phelan. We're talking about manifestation. I think you can download this as a podcast, but I'm not sure how. 

Check Out Spirituality Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with 3 Muses and a Universe on BlogTalkRadio

Sunday, September 7, 2014

9/8/14—Living On The Downswing

Truth is, I don't feel very spiritual lately. I haven't for a while. 

My inner peace and Kumbayah-ness has turned itself over to anger, stress and frustration. I know part of what I'm angry about, but much of it is stuff I can't or won't talk about here. But let's just say that, on one level, things usually go my way. I mean that in the sense that the universe supports me in my dreams and aspirations. If I don't have everything I want right now in that realm, it's because I'm not doing my part. And I have good, smart reasons why I'm not doing my part right now. 

But on another level, things really aren't going my way. I have no doubt I bear responsibility in that, too. I just don't have the clarity of mind to figure out why just now. And I'm off-balance. And out of touch with that which brings me peace and centeredness. And it's not for a want of trying. I still meditate every night. I'm still strong in my beliefs. But I'm not at peace. If we're all spiritual beings having a human experience, I've supersized my human experience for the time being.

These are the times people lose faith. When things don't go their way for some time, they give up on believing there's any sort of higher intelligence out there that cares. Like me, they're usually focusing on one or two struggles in particular while most everything else in their life is actually OK. They just can't see it through the pain of whatever they're facing. 

When it comes down to brass tacks, I live a blessed life. I don't have a whole lot of legitimate stuff to complain about. I do think I have trouble reaching out to others, though. It seems like, when I do, people want to share their experiences or advice, when all I want is someone to listen and comfort me. Right now I don't have a lot to give in return and everyone has crap they want to unload, so I'm keeping to myself. Of course, I'm guilty of the same thing. Sometimes I'm a good listener, but more often I'm not. So when I'm really scared, worried or vulnerable about something, I tend to go inside and keep it to myself, because that's where I feel safest. 

Thing is, I've been here before...disconnected from spirit, feeling less spiritual, feeling alone. It's all part of the gig. What I know from being here before is that it's temporary. Everything is temporary. Joy is temporary. Sorrow is temporary. Aloneness is temporary. Connection is temporary. And when we make it to the other side of the downswing, we find ourselves in a better place than before. 

Sometimes we get stuck on the downswing. When you lose someone you love, for example, you get stuck on the downswing because being on the upswing feels like a kind of betrayal. Or we might get stuck because our situation is maybe we're unemployed or going through a protracted period of crap. Sometimes the downswing comes because we fought it and denied it so long...saw it through rose-colored glasses for so long that it comes crashing down on use because it needs to happen and be acknowledged. Downswings need to happen for upswings to occur. And even if we try to walk an even path of balance, there are still ups and downs. It just is. 

A lot of us are good boys and girls who try to "do it right". And we have a vision of what "right" is. And that vision is that "right" is always smiling, always connected, always able to withstand the slings and arrows. And that's just not right at all. We are spiritual beings having a human experience and getting pissed off and having emotions that go up and down and feeling happy when we should feel sad and sad when we should feel happy—that's all part of being a human. 

Yet we still beat ourselves up because we "could have handled something better" or because "we're having a good time while our spouse is at home sick" or whatever. We try to control what is sometimes uncontrollable, sometimes god's hand trying to help us and sometimes just life. We judge, like I've been judging, the downswings in our life as "bad" or something to be tolerated, when all of it is part of the journey. Like on a roller coaster when you have to face that tedious first climb before all hell and fun break loose. It's all a necessary part of the ride. 

So that's where I am right now. Actually, though I'm afraid to admit I'm on the upswing, I am on the upswing. There are times in life we just have to remind ourselves that this, too, shall pass and it's here, no matter how it looks otherwise, out of love—love for us and the progression of our soul. It seems like things started to turn around for me some when I just gave in to the crappiness I had been fighting for so long and stopped putting so much pressure on myself to cope or power through....when I gave myself over to my  own powerlessness. Which is not to say I stopped trying to find a way out, but rather I stopped resisting where I was. If you're where I am now, that may work for you, too. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

9/4/14—Making The Big Move

OK. I hope you all still respect me when I'm done saying what I'm about to say. 

I've been watching Big Brother this year. I actually have a very long and checkered history with this show. For those of you who don't know, Big Brother is a show where a bunch of people are locked in a house all summer and they vote each other out, one by one. 

It makes me shudder to say this show has been on for 16 years. I shudder, because I was there for the very first show. Back then, I even watched online. They have cameras all over the house and you can watch 24/7 online. I did that for a few years, I think. And chatted about it on message boards. But online communities were significantly uglier and nastier back in those days, so I gave up...on the show, on online communities, and on reality shows in general. 

So for many years, the internet was only about doing research and work for me. That's it. Then, a little over five years ago or so, I reluctantly joined Facebook at the urging of my brother. And the last couple of years I've peeked in on Big Brother from time to time. But this year I've watched all the way through. But all of that is just background, because the truth is, I have a love/hate relationship with this show. And, in some ways, that's part of the experiment. 

See, Big Brother started out as a kind of sociological experiment. What would happen if you lock a dozen or more people in a house all summer—with no contact from the outside world—film them 24/7 and put them under constant pressure of being voted out of the game? Well, spoiler alert, a lot of boredom happens...haha. A lot of paranoia. And a lot of people selling their integrity for what it, perhaps, the crappiest prize in all of reality television. The winner only gets $500K. That's half of what contestants earn on Survivor or the Amazing Race and these guys are in the house 97 days (vs the 39 of Survivor). 

Another thing that happens is constant talk about "The Big Move". The big move is when you put up a player who dominates or is threatening or is part of your alliance for eviction. Every year there is a lot of talk about the big move. Everyone wants to make it. And, ultimately, it rarely ever happens except when the options are so few that you have no choice. 

Think about that for a second. Isn't that how we approach the big moves in our own lives a lot of the time? I know it's true for me. Over the years you guys have heard me talk about making big moves and some of them I've made without thinking. I started teaching tarot and reading professionally. I wrote my first book and got it published. But then other ones—writing another book and making changes in my career—seem to be waiting until they're one of the few options I have left. 

What often happens on these reality shows is that people put off the big move for so long that it ends up costing them the game. It's infuriating as a fan, because the "big move" often means the underdog you're rooting for will get another chance. But because the big move is never made, the game ends for your favorite player and, often, for the person who didn't make the big move. While real life isn't always so final, it can also have the same results. Someone comes out with "your" idea before you do. You wait too long to take serious measures to improve your health. You stay too long in an abusive relationship and end up mentally or physically devastated. 

The older I get, the more aware I am that there will never be a "right time to make a big move". Sure, some times are better than others, but if we wait for the right time, we could wait forever. There is no way to avoid the pain and difficulty of change, no matter how long you wait. 

Which isn't to say I'm on the verge of making a big move. For the first time in years, I can confidently say I'm not. But I do think I now know why I've been waiting and have a clear progression in mind about what has to happen first. My problem has always been that I try to take on too much at once, thereby stressing myself out of any chance of making progress. It's self-defeating. So I'm not even looking at big moves right now. But I admit I wonder each night as I drift off to sleep if I'll ever make them. 

Big moves, I think, are important to our lives. They're what keep us moving forward. Imagine what life would be if we ran out of aspirations to follow and leaps to take. There seems to a certain friction point we need to achieve with our big moves. We can't just envision them without pursuing them or we'll end up disappointed in ourselves and feeling defeated by life. But if we just knock them down one after the other, never giving them time to develop and tempt us, then that's like eating chocolate without even tasting it. What's the point?

I think I'm ready to make peace with my big moves, which is a big move in and of itself. While the pressure of big moves bearing down on us can propel us forward, it can also paralyze us. My big, big move, which affects my body, career, home—everything—is really just a series of smaller moves. I feel confident that, one day, the big move will be made, because I feel it's part of my purpose here on earth and I knew from a young age what that was and have been working on it all my life. In some aspects, I'm very ready. But in other ways I don't yet have what I need. Right now I have to be right with myself. I need to feel better physically. I need to reduce stress. And I need to stop dogging myself about the big move! Then when I get the energy back to face what's waiting beyond the edge of the precipice, I'll leap. 

So, spoiler alert, tonight I'll watch yet another opportunity for a big move to made in the Big Brother house. And tomorrow I'll get to see what, if any, repercussions come of it. But instead of being angry and frustrated about all this talk of big moves that never get made, I'll see myself. Ultimately that's what we're always seeing when we look outside of us and get angry and frustrated with "them", whoever they happen to be anyway. 

And for the ultimate spoiler alert, I'll say this. Sometimes we get so caught up in achieving the next thing, crossing the next item off our lists or caring who's watching us succeed or fail that we don't allow ourselves to simply be and enjoy the experience. I beat myself up way too much over items of ambition. The big spoiler is that everything ends up the way it's supposed to whether we kill ourselves making it happen or not. We simply cannot do this thing wrong. Life is a win-win situation if we allow it to be. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

9/2/14—Hearing The Signs

WARNING: I've had the same song stuck in my head for days now! And I will reveal the song below!

It all started a month ago. In Virginia, your car has to go though two inspections every year. One is a safety test to make sure your brake lights are working and your tires have tread and whatnot. I've failed that one in the past for everything from bad windshield wipers to bad brake pads. Then the other test is the emissions test, which basically ensures we suffocate the human race with CO2 at the slowest rate possible. You can take both tests at the same time, but sometimes, if you fail one or the other, the tests will be offset by a month or so, doubling your joy.

And so it was that last July as my PT Cruiser took its safety exam, I tried to get the two tests in sync and asked the guy to give me both. But I had a check engine light on in my car (anyone who owns a PT Cruiser knows that it comes rolling off the shop floor with the light on) and he said he couldn't inspect it until I got the issue causing the check engine light fixed. But the good news was that I had a month to figure it out.

So anyway, I wait until the last minute to get the car fixed. And, in the spirit of emissions, I take public transportation back and forth to the auto repair shop. And then when I get my car, my mechanic tells me I have to drive at least 45 miles without stopping in order to even take the test. Now, I live in Washington, DC. There's nowhere you can drive for 45 miles at 10am without stopping. It's just not possible. So I try. I get about 20 miles before I hit a backup. But I figure you don't have to be religious about this, so I carry on. By the time I get to the emissions checking station, I've clocked 43 miles. Close enough.

I fail.

So my emissions guy tells me to drive it even more (because, apparently, it takes some driving around on the fixed system before all the sensors in the car catch on.) Now, to set the scene for this, I've had a very busy month at work. I worked the entire weekend before so I could take this day off to do all this crap. In the end, I ended up driving 75 miles over the course of three hours and sat in line at the emissions station twice. So I'm freaking out. If I don't pass now, what am I going to do? I've just paid $300 to have a valve replaced so I can even take this test! So I'm stressed from work, stressed from traffic, stressed from auto repair and stressed from these damned tests.

While I was still out driving, I asked for a sign as to whether or not the car was going to pass and I some lame song, like Barry Manilow's "Looks Like We Made It" comes up on the radio (I can't remember the real song, but that's close enough.) Now, I don't want to be a snob about signs, but I didn't feel like this was a DEFINITIVE sign. It held me over in the moment, but definitive? So I make my way to the testing station, get in line, ask for another sign and, while I'm texting my sister a play-by-play of my day because, god bless her, she has little else to live for*, another song comes on the radio—Bob Marley's "Don't Worry About A Thing" (because every little thing's going to be all right.) Now THAT is is a definitive sign. And every little thing turned out to be all right.

There are plenty of people who will say it's just a coincidence. But I don't believe that for a minute. Both songs came in direct response to a request. And they could have come in other forms...a license plate in front of me or some other natural sign, like an animal crossing the road without getting hit, an overwhelming feeling of peace. Whatever. But they came in the form of songs with a message this time.

There are also those who say you shouldn't ask for frivolous things like this. I disagree again. Why would our spirits and guides and messengers do it over and over again if it was beneath them? They're not our slaves. They're happy to help us when they can. We can't apply earthly judgments and characteristics to non-earthly things. In fact, I think they're less likely to help us with things that would change our trajectory or our mission here—big things—than little things like emissions exams, which don't matter to anyone but me.

So long story short—we have these resources available to us. And today's post is a reminder of that. But we do have to ask. And then we have listen and observe to catch the sign they're sending us. And then, more than anything, we have to trust. There is a gentle hand there to guide us every day and all we have to do is believe.

*Just kidding. My texting did make her day, but for other reasons. Not because I was boring her with my travails. :)