Tuesday, March 24, 2015

'tis the season (& don't let the turkeys get you down)

 I couldn't resist ...

Actually, I am always excited to see turkey.  He comes around a lot when I am with Cowgirl and his presence reminds me abundance is always afoot.

Still, as the calendar pages flip over to a new season I remember: transitions are always dicey.  Stepping off a stable dock and into a wobbly boat, usually there is someone ready to assist with a steadying hand. How then to step out of winter's inertia and into the energy of Spring without slipping or falling?  What steadies me?

Even thought it is still March, I find myself reciting the opening lines to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land":

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering     
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

There is something challenging in the promise of Spring finding its foundation in the death and decay of Winter. I remember according to Ayurveda the three qualities - the Gunas -  that describe all of existence: tamas (inertia, darkness, impurity), rajas (energy, action, change, movement) and sattva (balance, unity, purity). These principles also describe the cycles of creation, preservation (living), and destruction that are in constant motion even though we prefer not to dwell on the fact that the only certainty in life is that things - ourselves included - will change, will never stay the same.

I catch myself thinking that death seems to be winning.  So many around me have been touched by loss in recent months.  Just this week a neighbor went to the hospital and it is unlikely that he will be returning home. Yet this is the way of life: birth, living, then death. The cycle isn't amplifying so much as I am noticing it more. 

Winter is tamas: the time of rest, decay, the natural conclusion to all that growth and activity of the previous seasons. When the time comes, when Spring arrives, it brings with it energy - heat, sun, light - to awaken the earth and to start the cycle of living/growing once again. So too I must reinvigorate myself. I must generate within myself some heat, some energy and coming out of a dark phase, this is always clunky, always challenging.

Thankfully, I have a few go-to moves that I've collected over the years.  Actions that help jump-start my day and in turn my inner engine so that I find myself moving in the direction of wholeness, happiness, joyful action transforming into joyful being.

It's really ridiculously simple.  I attend to the clutter. I find an rhythm to my day. Tidying up the morning breakfast, feeding the dog, then heading upstairs where I toss a load of laundry into the wash. There is  something about tackling the ever-present piles of dirty clothes that acts as a reset button.  It is my feeble nod towards productivity. I may get little else done, but there will be some clean clothes by the end of the day. I then hop in the shower and after I have bathed and dressed, I go through the house opening up all of the blinds, letting in the morning light.

Spring cleaning ... it makes total sense.  Before new growth can happen, I've got to clear out the death wood, tidy and prepare the way so whatever wants to be born has a place to land.  I'm itching to get outside, but the weather gods are not ready for me just yet. 

Inside there is plenty of half baked projects shouting out for my attention.  I start small, finding paintings in various states of completion ...

Pushing paint is what my one friend calls it ...  getting the juices flowing ... I know from past experience it doesn't matter so what I do as long as I do something. It is about stoking the internal fire, moving energy.  Some of the best advice I received from a yoga mentor was to consider before eating which foods would give me energy versus take energy to digest and assimilate. Expanding upon that idea, what can I do to support healthy energy flow within myself?  

The answer for me has been taking time to read, reflect, and meditate; daily prayer outside; cooking and consuming fresh foods, exploring new recipes; exercise (oh to run in the warm sunshine); and play. Lots and lots of creative play.

In the face of so much loss, there is a pull towards collapse, an impulse towards inertia.  The only valid response to death - in my humble opinion - is to live. The counterpoint to tamas is rajas, action. Both are necessary, both are part of the ever moving wheel of birth, life, death and the dance of opening, receiving, and releasing.  

The way I move out of Winter mode and into Spring is to follow the energy. Nurture and support it and then allow it to support and carry me. I am amazed to discover there has been so much all around me, so much waiting to engage and awaken me.

paintings in various states of completion; my intention is to offer them for sale soon!

What are you finding as you move out of Winter's cave and back into the sunshine? What gets your juices flowing?


Welcoming the mystery, relaxing into the not knowing is one way to navigate through the transitions.

Friday, March 20, 2015

gentle transitions ...

Tomorrow would have been her birthday. 

She would have been ninety.

A Spring baby ... the youngest of three children and the only girl ... I wonder what blessings her mother bestowed upon her when she was fresh and new? What secret hopes did my grandmother hold in her heart, in her dreams for her only girl child?

This Spring arrives in the nick of time.  I know grief is not finished with me, but I am ready for the heaviness within to lighten and I feel my heart turning towards the horizon, towards new beginning, new cycles and new growth.

For months I have been in deep conversation with the Moon ... unraveling her meaning for me and coming to understand the extent to which she illuminates my relationship with my mother and with myself. My moon mandala practice has ushered me into the mysteries of Maiden/Mother/Queen/Crone and unusual for me, I am relaxing into an understanding that lies beneath language, below what the mind can grasp.  

I tried to explain to the Husband how my relationship with my mother is best described by the moon: how all my life has been a continual journeying out and away from her, collecting experiences, gathering knowledge and but always orbiting back to be seen and understood by her light. Now I journey out and I must make myself return ... I must find a new source of illumination to guide me, a new anchor to hold my sense of self tethered to life.

I am finding my way through simple practices.  Each morning I feed myself one poem, moving mindfully and attentively through River Flow: New & Selected Poems by David Whyte.  

As someone prone to gobbling books up, it is beneficial practice to make myself take time and care, savoring the words, the lines, the rhythm of his art.

I am cycling back to beginnings, remembering how it felt when I first returned to creative play years ago. The simple pleasure of gathering materials, creating bright, colorful things because they pleased me, they brightened my day. 

Getting out of my way and cleansing myself of thoughts about Bigness and Importance and Grand Acts. Enjoying the simple, the playful, the tiny bright moments that lift my spirit and refresh my heart.  

These are all things she would understand ... she delighted in my creative play while quietly pursuing her own.  I mark her birthday with colorful adornment (she was known for her stylish outfits, beautifully coordinated and accessorized) ...

and I honor this season of new beginnings, new growth, and new opportunities to choose Love. I honor the mystery that calls me forward, that carries me through the darkness for I know in my cells, in my soul, it brings me home.

And so to these
unspoken shadows
and this broad night
I make
a quiet
to the
great paternal 
to hold her
when I cannot,
to comfort her
when I am gone,
to help her learn
to love
the unknown
for itself, 
to take it 
a lantern
for the way
before her,
to make her see
where ordinary light
cannot help,
where happiness had fled,
where faith
will not reach.
-David Whyte (excerpt from My Daughter Asleep)


Happy Birthday Momma. I lean against your cloak of darkness and I feel your love. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

conjuring love ...

I am finishing up my HeartFull Living circle and what a magical gathering it has been! With one more post to go up, I woke today wondering where to find inspiration?  I didn't have to look too far ...

Can you believe it?  From a smudge of grime or dirt on my front door window this rainbow heart appeared on the wood floor.  I couldn't have create such a perfect heart if I had tried! The art historian in me can't help but think of the stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals and how light was understood by the Medieval to be an instrument and aspect of the divine.

Certainly we've been conjuring up love over here ...

creating farewell offerings to send out to the women who circled with me this past month. 

Keeping hands busy stitching and embellishing a new set of prayer flags (part of Em Falconbridge's A Year of Soul*Makes offering) has the entire house humming with creative play. Messages from HeartFull living spilling over into my day, my work, my world ...


Trying not to think too much, but relax and enjoy the flow.  The theme of the new season seems to be love and mandalas ...

Which isn't all that unusual as I am working under deadline to complete my contribution to Spectrum 2015, Mandala Moon Meditations.  I've got mandala fever and am excited to be sharing my monthly moon mandala practice there.  Tuning into the moon's energies, creating my mandalas, working with ceremony - all these activities are fueling insights as I shift through the layers of daughter/mother/queen/crone which seems to be the hidden wisdom within my grieving process. 

a sneak preview of my Moon Mandala Meditations process; visit Spectrum 2015 to learn more

And as Spring awakens new growth within me, projects are popping up including a  collaborative learning/sharing lunar cycle circle with my wise and inspired sister, Kristina Wingeier as part of her Inner Wisdom School.

Oh, much love and magic is afoot ... I dare not think too much.  Just opening and receiving and saying thank you thank you thank you ...

Beauty + imagination + conversation = love.  That's my kind of sacred mathematics.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

what is lost ...

Last Saturday ... oh, last Saturday!  Saturdays are busy days for us ... sleeping in means an extra hour of sleep (which I argue is NOT sleeping in ...) and a breakfast pace only a smidge leisurely compared to school days.  I have to rouse Cowgirl to head into town for our Chinese class. It is not her favorite way to spend the morning, but it is what we do.


I say we because for years I attended Chinese language class by myself. When Cowgirl was old enough, I started back at book one with her.  I held my head high in those early days having mastered "Hello. My name is Lisa.  What is your name?"  and "I like green. What color do you like?" Not fluent, but rattling off my phone number in Chinese sounds impressive. 

Fast forward a couple of years and I can barely hold my chin above water.  The class transitioned from conversation to reading and writing which causes my brain to cramp. Seriously. I'd swear you could hear gears grinding and pieces of my mind breaking off with a rattling clattering clunkAnd then that hissing sound of an exhausted engine.

I joke (but it is true) that together Cowgirl and I are a B+ student.  Divided, we would be crushed under the 公共汽车 (Gong gong qiche - bus).  The teacher is very kind, generous and patient which makes it all the harder when the verbal grilling begins.  今天天气怎么样We startle, looking at each other in panic, Cowgirl hissing at me "You're suppose to help me!" and me snapping back "You should know this!"  We (by which I mean "I") talk a lot about being more kind to each other in Chinese class and about the work of learning and how anything worthwhile is often challenging and requires effort and patience. Yes, Cowgirl's eyes glaze over and I'm sure what she hears is yadda yadda yadda Chinese

When the hour and a half class is over, there is an audible gasp of pressure being released.  Usually we head home but this past Saturday I had errands I wanted to run while in town.  So off we went to the Asian market to pick up the rice crackers Cowgirl loves. She gave me grief when I first bought them.  "Hello Kitty crackers?!" She was concerned they might tarnish her image (the logos she prefers are KU Jayhawks and Nike) but her fear of trying another brand that she might not like outweighed her disdain of cute, girlie things. 

Then we got wild. Impulsive.  We bought a new soup bowl (so now we have three! Once for each of us) and a much needed rice cooker to replace the one falling apart. After the market we had one more errand which brought us in the vicinity of the French Bread bakery.  "Let's swing in for a roll!" I gleefully suggested. Cowgirl does not like bread products except for artisan breads. Of course.  So we ducked into the warm and bustling bakery café.  It had begun to snow outside making the bakery that much more inviting, the smells more intoxicating and tempting.  We bought croissants, a baguette and some soup to take home for the Husband who was sick in bed with a man cold. We had to wait for the soup. Standing off to the side, Cowgirl proceeded to eat her entire croissant while I eyeballed a giant cookie.  

We waited. And waited. Usually (I am ashamed to say) I can be impatient waiting. I am ready to be off to the next event. But this day -  with the snow gently falling, the hum of conversation in the café,  the whirl of the bread slicer, and the fragrant smells wafting out from the kitchen - I was content to steep myself in the moment.  And it was a moment. Golden and rich like the croissant my girl wolfed down. A moment that I could sense transmuting into a memory that I would call upon at some later date.  Realizing that, I leaned in to kiss the top of my girl's head and to whisper to her "I love spending time with you."

Then it hit me.  A collision of memory. Past and future sandwiched together. This moment with my girl (linked to so many other similar moments we've created or shared) with memory of moments with my mother.  Other bakeries (a theme there?), other excursions, adventures in suburban travel, meals in special, tucked out-of-the-way places and journeys through museum labyrinths, movies and books and stories experienced and shared together.  It overwhelmed me, the tidal wave of all that memory, of all those moments with my mother, each one a pearl on a long strand looped about my heart. 

When I say I lost my mother, I realize what I mean is I've lost a keeper of memories.  I've lost the person who could confirm details, fill in the gaps. I've lost a companion who could travel with me back through the delight of treasured moments.  With both my parents gone, I've lost the only record to my earliest days, the years before my memory clicked on. 

I am finding my mother in new ways. In a song, in the call of the Blue Jay, in a favorite recipe, a joke, a story, the smell of her perfume, and in moments with my girl.  I know the foundation for my relationship with my daughter is strong and stable as it rests upon the deep bond my mother and I shared.  I know that as much as I may mourn the gradual fading of memories held by myself and my mother, new ones created by me and Cowgirl will flood in to fill the space.  

It isn't that I've lost my mother but that I've lost the beginning of my story. I suppose the beauty is I can continue writing the rest of the tale. It's completely mine now and I honor her by living it fully, with gratitude, with awareness of each sacred moment.   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

my everywhere ...

The rain is turning over to snow and I pause in my day to consider what now?  I've been up for hours tending to those things that each day requires me to tend to  ... making the coffee, emptying the dishwasher, making breakfast, putting a load of laundry in, walking the dog, tidying up the always threatening tower of paperwork that seems to increase even with vows of "paperlessness" ... Are you jealous yet?

Not that I've made much headway as for every paper dropped into the recycling container, I've managed to drag out bulkier odds and ends - tub of paints, pile of fabrics, cards, notebooks, knitting, books - and now here I sit staring at the visible expression of my inner landscape.  I wonder if the earth feels the same way? Heavy and full with all that awaits release, expression, transformation and slightly bogged down by it all?

I realize the beast that stalks me is the notion of something BIG ... my Big Project that keeps to the shadows yet never let's me feel fully at ease.  Even as a child I think I believed there was something Big, something Important I was meant to be doing.  I now wonder if I've been stalking it? Or has it been hounding me? 

I am dabbling with this dangerous thought: what if that something Big (a.k.a. worthy, worthwhile, significant, valuable) isn't some grand beast? What if my Big is actually no one thing, but rather the many little things that make up my day?  What if my Walden Pond or Portrait of the Artist or Starry Night is no one thing, but all these tiny pieces, fleeting moments, slips of paper, images capture, doodles dashed off and scraps of fabric stitched into prayer flags all one giant Big rolled up and held together simply because they are mine? 

Dare I admit an epiphany came while grunting away on the elliptical machine in our basement, watching a recorded episode of Girls?  I guess I dare.  In the episode Hannah, who is in the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop and tormented by the whole experience, is having dinner with her father. She wants to quit and while she wants someone to tell her it is okay to leave, she can't quite buy his advice to do what's right for you.  He then shares with her that her mother once wrote a book and was miserable in the process. But afterwards, she was able to return to doing the things she enjoyed doing. 

Which leads me to consider how I might be rather miserly with myself, parceling out odd moments to the things I love doing or worse, while so engaged looking over my shoulder thinking "Yes, but there is that beast in the corner not so patiently waiting for my attention."  

Not to say I might not one day gather my courage and head into the woods, but right now right here before me are the pieces of my life in all their wonderful chaotic beauty.  I look around me and I see much room for play and joy. I look around me and everywhere this is what I see ...

Dragons.  Dragons asking to be embraced, not slayed.  Dragons help not harm is what my girl often writes on her pictures.  So too the many bits and pieces of my passions, my interests.  They offer me opportunity to build upon happiness.  

So I am learning to see rather than focusing upon the creation of one massive opus, my way is more like japa meditation: each piece of my day, each seemingly haphazard moment of creative play  or engagement is like a prayer whispered over a single bead in a mala necklace. Slowly, mindfully I try to spread my prayers across the beads that make up my days. Eventually, if I stay committed, my life will be held together by all those prayers. And won't that be something massive and love-filled? 


Time for tea and dreams.  What about you?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

my little Black Belt

"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

It's been a long road ...

Over six years, many belts, a couple of uniform changes, 2 pairs of sparring booties, and a small fortune going to Yoyo Berri (frozen yoghurt establishment conveniently located next door to martial arts studio) for celebratory treats ... hours for me sitting on what I call "the waffle iron" but my backside surely knows as "the rack" ... countless trips to class and tournaments schlepping giant equipment bag along with bo staff, nuchaku (nunchuks), sinawali (double sticks), wooden sword and foam sword (we have a small arsenal of hard and soft weapons) ... essays, book reports (I ask you, would YOU want to read a 2000 word essay by a 10 year old? What Black Belt means to me) and checklists completed ... push ups, sit ups, jumping rope (and I started running in anticipation of the 2 mile run only to have them drop that requirement once I was hooked back into running!) ... sizeable dent to my bank account ... and I know you are wondering: Was it worth it?

For the smile on that face? For the confidence, swagger, intensity, focus, and pride in her achievement?  


In the years of preparation, I've picked up a few things while sitting on the bench (a.k.a. Waffle Iron):  besides choke hold, windpipe chop, horse bite (grab your attacker by the forearm sleeves and jerk down), ear muffs (smack both your hands into their ears, then pull their head down into your upwardly moving knee) I've learned ...

Winning Black Belts know who they are and where they are going. They understand themselves and their goals.

Winning Black Belts keep an overall attitude of optimism and enthusiasm. Winners understand that life is a self fulfilling prophecy - a person usually gets what he or she actively expects over the long run.

Winning Black Belts have the ability to accomplish anything they want to achieve. Winners understand that a strong belief in themselves and hard work will result in achieving their goals.

Winning Black Belts commit to their dreams and goals and work diligently to achieve them. Winners make a pledge to devote their energies to the successful realization of their goals


It was a very good day for all.  It was an important reminder that a strong belief in yourself is the foundation, but relying upon a host of teachers, friends, and family to encourage, support and sustain you is also required.  The hardest thing for this independent girl - and a lesson for me - is acknowledging the need for assistance.  In the end, that may be the most important lesson of them all.

"Most humbling of all is to comprehend the lifesaving gift that your pit crew of people has been for you, and all the experiences you have shared, the journeys together, the collaborations ... the solidarity you have shown one another. Every so often you realize that without all of them, your life would be barren and pathetic. It would be Death of a Salesman, though with e-mail and texting."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine (finally, friday ...)

I love the simple rituals ...

celebrating friendship, celebrating creativity ...

celebrating love in all the ways we experience it (dragons & paint of course!)

Happy Valentine's Day! It's going to be a busy weekend as Cowgirl tests for her Black Belt in martial arts on Saturday.  She's calm but this mama?  Thank goodness for the massive infusion of chocolate!  It's a whirlwind end to the year of the horse. I hope the year of the sheep - which trots in on February 19 - means slower pace, time to linger in the grass and bleating ...

Sheep year is time to heal after the chaos of 2014's Horse year. What is of value now is intimacy, family and close friendships. We can be more caring, kind and sensitive with each other. Develop a gentle heart, open to love and acceptance on all levels. Another theme of Sheep year is to express your creative side. Now is the time for art, creativity and cultivation of beauty. If you ever wanted to explore your creative side, this is your year. Do not give up, be pessimistic or become discouraged because Sheep can only move forward! This animal is unable to move backwards or sideways.

xo Lisa, Cowgirl & Moose