Friday, February 5, 2016

For the Horses (HeartFull Living 2016)

Tuesday and Thursday mornings I make sure to eat a hearty breakfast. Normally, mornings are me-times with Cowgirl at school and the Husband at work. But this year I have re-envisioned what that means. Rather than staying cozy inside the house and inside my head, I fuel up and suit up before heading out into the cold.  

I make sure to dress in layers for warmth: wool socks in neoprene boots; thermal long johns and non-holey (but oh so holy) blue jeans; a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and finally my frayed and wool-lined barn jacket. I grab a wool hat and gloves along with a tote bag holding a bottle of water, a Cliff bar, an apple, my driver's license and cellphone. 

yes, it IS cold outside!

Tuesdays are my day to volunteer at HETRA: Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy. I help out on Thursdays as well with stall cleaning and turning out horses, but Tuesdays I am a sidewalker for therapy sessions.  The mission of HETRA is "to improve the quality of life both physically and emotionally of adults and children with disabilities through equine assisted activities."  

In my year of volunteering I have seen students arrive in wheelchairs and after months of intensive physical therapy, including the therapeutic riding sessions, they come to session using a walker. In the beginning, many will  require the full physical support of two sidewalkers (a volunteer on each side of the horse assisting the rider) to stay in the saddle but as they grow stronger they advance to less support. They are able to ride with minimal assistance and often  are controlling the horse. It is an exciting moment to watch people who perhaps cannot communicate verbally still speak to their horse. Normally dependent upon others, in that moment the rider and the horse are a team.

Several of the students I have assisted are living here from out of state. They are in town for intensive rehab therapy for spine or brain injuries, often staying months away from their families and the support of their local communities. As a mother, it is humbling to watch the parents who drop everything to rally around their child. The love, optimism and determination of both the student and their family members to do whatever it takes to foster healing, independence and strength brings me to my knees every week. 

Over twenty years ago, I broke my neck and was confined to a halo brace for three months. At the time I was aware that my physical limitations would be short-lived, yet more daunting than the screws in my head were the dark emotions I battled every day. The strength of spirit and emotional fortitude I see in the students and their families has been a continual source of inspiration for me, especially as I worked through grieving of death of my mother.  

Each week I arrive to volunteer, but I bring home far more than I offer. Love and  generosity of spirit abound in the barn, spilling forth from all who participate. Each rider has a team of supporters, many volunteers. There is the person leading the horse, the therapist conducting the lesson, two sidewalkers and the horse. 

Star, a 21 year old palomino and mascot for HeartFull Living 2016

Oh, the horses. After the student, they are the stars of the show. Incredibly well-trained they are equally patient and gentle. Surrounded by a huddle of people and carrying an often unbalanced rider, they focus upon their task. They can be goof-balls and chow hounds out in their pens, but in the arena they do their job. You can see they know they are doing important work and that they enjoy it.  

Leroy, an 11 year old Belgium/Haflinger "Mister Blue Eyes"

As I prepare to dive into the conversation that is my HeartFull Living offering, it is this experience that fuels me.  It is for the benefit of the horses that I dedicate the fruits of HeartFull Living (all monies are being donated to the care of the Hetra horses). The horses model Love in action as they support the students in their healing work. These horses have  supported me in the journey of remembering myself Whole, Loved and in Love. They continually bring me back to the fire of Love I knew as a young child for horses and all that they represent: freedom, connection, individual power, and strength united with grace.  

HeartFull Living begins February 14. I hope you will consider joining me in what always turns out to be a magical, juicy, rich conversation on the ways we support and spread  Love and Loving throughout our world. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Mission Love: HeartFull Living 2016

Every year I dig deeply to uncover my New Year's Intentions. Filling journals, creating vision boards, mind maps, or listening to various podcasts, I attempt to decipher what is ripe and ready for manifesting in the coming year. Feeling cuffed by all my detailed soul-maps and plans, I head out to the grocery store where the wall of red Valentine's Day offerings greets me. Hand slapping forehead, I remember what really guides me year after year ...

How can I best serve Love in my life? What does that mean for me on a daily basis?

Rather than a cheesy holiday for Hallmark and purveyors of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates (which I do enjoy, don't get me wrong!) I choose to view Valentine's Day as an opportunity to recommit myself to a life devoted to Love and Loving in thought, word, and action. Each day I have an opportunity to realign myself to Love, and exploring the many ways I can exercise that choice has me bubbling with excitement and ideas. 

This is the intention behind my online offering HeartFull Living 2016: Devotion to Love.

I cannot believe this is the fourth year for HeartFull Living?!  I have to confess: each year I think "This is it ... I have said all I have to say ... I have nothing more to offer."  I don't plan anything, I don't think about it at all.  And then something happens.

I'm not sure I can even explain what that something is ... I wish I could say it was a brilliant flash of inspiration, a flood of insights threatening to spill over. But the truth is I recommit myself to this offering out of a selfish need for inspiration, for the light of love and a place of warmth to move me out of Winter doldrums.  Each year I discover I must dive back in. Each year I place my trust in the notion that Showing Up is the first and really, the most essential step. I am never disappointed by the magic that always follows.

Magic happens because HeartFull Living is not a classroom, it is not a course ... It is a community. It is a space of sharing, a place to witness and be witnessed. It is an invitation to talk about what really matters, what inspires all that we do and all that we yearn to do and be ... Love. 

Three years ago I wrote the following: 

My heart is my anchor, my compass and the source of my deepest truths, the container for my greatest challenges.  How to tend to and care for this precious part of ourselves?  How to step forward into a chaotic and uncertain world with our hearts wide open, willing and ready to give and receive?  How do the wounds we hold in our hearts offer us the opportunity for growth and strength and understanding? How can we support each other in living our lives with radiant and loving hearts, extending compassion for ourselves and our world?  
Each year I write to a number of friends and colleagues who inspire me and I ask if they will share something with the HeartFull Living community. I hit send on the email and then I cower. To ask share my dream and to ask for support is one of the hardest things I can do. To be vulnerable, to open myself up to rejection? 

So I am always blown away by the responses, many coming within minutes of my email being received. The generosity of friends and the enthusiasm of their responses is like sunshine warming the soil of my heart. I can immediately feel the ideas germinating, excitement bubbling over and a rush of energy that comes from sense of empowered action.

This year I asked my guest contributors for responses to the following questions: How do you turn yourself towards love, towards joy each day even when it feels especially hard? What do you call upon in those moments to reset your inner compass towards Love?

For me, HeartFull Living 2016 will be a daily reflection: On this day, how can I realign myself with Love? 

Putting HeartFull Living in action, all proceeds from HeartFull Living 2016 will be donated to Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy (HETRA). I have been volunteering for HETRA for the past year and it has been an incredible opportunity to witness the power of Love to inspire and heal. HETRA's Mission is "to improve the quality of life both physically and emotionally of adults and children with disabilities through equine assisted activities." 

HETRA is a non-profit 501c3 organization. They rely upon donations and funding to keep services affordable for the 115 or so participants who ride each week, supplementing approximately $75 to $90 for each rider. They offer a variety of services in Therapeutic Riding, Hippotherapy, Equine Services for Veterans,  Therapeutic Carriage Driving, Day Camps, Life Skills Training and Special Olympics. In the Winter HETRA runs their Horse Penny Race, a campaign to help raise funds to offset the care and training of their 16 therapy horses, the heart of their programs.  I am part of Team Star, a handsome 21 year old Palomino Quarter Horse and Star will be the HeartFull Living 2016 mascot. 


For the heart empowers us to do those things we otherwise believe ourselves too small, too ineffectual to take on.  Like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, we embark on a journey certain it is ours to make even though we know not the way. This is one of the many insights of HeartFull Living.  

Fresh insights and ideas are bubbling up and I can feel the energy of this gathering stirring me in exciting and fruitful ways. I would so love to have you join me.  Star could use the support ... and so could I. Because HeartFull Living is All of Our Stories and All of Our Voices bringing light and hope into our world.

For more details and to sign up go HERE 

Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Moon Play (SPECTRUM giveaway!)

Winter certainly seems to have a firm grip upon us - at least here in the Midwest. After subzero temperatures, snow arrived wrapping my world up in a lovely, but icy blanket of whiteness. All the more reason to stay hunkered down inside, my diffuser puffing out a steady steam of essential oils (ah, spearmint, lemon and rosemary wafting green freshness throughout my kitchen!) and a cup of tea ever by my side. 

I may be living in a monotone world, but inside there is colorful chaos as I finish up my deck of Alchemy Air Cards. I look around and realize I have 4 art journals going ... one for sketching practice (holding wonderful Scribble drawings inspired by the juicy online offering of the same name, Scribble Art)

another journal as a form of conversation with mama Nature (my response to the ideas presented in Reclaiming the Wise Woman by Sharon Blackie)

my ongoing Sketch Diary (stew pot of everything bubbling up in me), and my Moon Mandala practice. (Okay ... I am not including writing journals ... the composition book holding tarot explorations or my new The Moon Is My Calendar journal ... sigh ... I apparently have a little journal problem ... as do many of us ... )

Yesterday I had my yearly physical (you know, that one ... the quick check under the hood physical - eek!) and new to me were all the questions apparently screening me for depression. "Do you ever have days where you are not enthused to get out of bed?"  Goodness me, no! I can honestly say even on these frigid grey mornings when I wake up and realize I have a day ahead of me to immerse myself in creating, I bound out of bed.  (Okay, I shuffle towards the coffee pot and then I bound and bustle about

There is just so much to learn, so much to discover. I cling to my creative practice as a life raft to carry me through the challenging days (the low light days of winter, the days of confusion, the days and months after my mother's death) and I gleefully dive into my practice on those days when Life feels full and abundant. My creative practice keeps me anchored firmly in the center of this Wheel of Fortune, this Wheel of Life. And now I see Cowgirl reaching for her new journals immediately upon finishing her homework. She immerses herself in drawing dragons and the deep engagement, the transformation of her art, continue to astonish and inspire me. 

Art, my friends, is our medicine, our therapy, our prayers of gratitude and our songs of love and joy.  I truly believe it is part of our human (and divine) nature to create. The impulse is as common as a dandelion popping up in an empty field but the impact upon the spirit is akin to light passing through the stained glass of a Gothic cathedral. 

Transcendent. Transformational. Holy. Sacred. 

The best way I've found to experience the power and potential of creative action is to surround myself with others engaged in creative exploration. Ever a student, I find much I can learn and try on by taking courses, looking at books, watching videos and practicing practicing practicing. (Hence the justification for so many journals!)

I have some exciting news to share today: I am going to be a guest teacher in Spectrum 2016 this year - and I have 1 spot to give-away here at my blog as part of the Give-Away Blog-Hop! 

Spectrum 2016 online art & creativity workshops

Spectrum is an online Holistic-Creative workshop going on its third year, and organized by Hali Karla of Hali Karla Arts. Spectrum 2016 will be guided by 20 NEW featured teachers and more than 20 returning contributors offering a variety of workshops, inspiration and invitations - all intended to empower, nurture and celebrate your innate creative expression, healing journey, and personal development! 

That's over 40 workshops/lesson ideas to support and inspire endless days of creative and personal exploration.

There will be weekly inspiration and reflective activities related to mixed-media art-making and journaling, guidance on integrating your creative process and holistic awareness into your day-to-day life, and a variety of opportunities to connect, support and share with others in the growing Holistic-Creative online community.

The themes that will loosely guide the 2016 Spectrum experience are Forgiveness, Shifting Perspective, Navigating Uncertainty, Integration, Alchemy, Connecting with Nature, Honoring Body, Trusting Joy, and Expressing One’s Truth! You can expect a variety of perspectives on these - and so much more.

To learn more about the details, including all of the contributors and workshop offerings for this course CLICK RIGHT HERE. 

My previous Spectrum workshop - Mandala Moon Meditations will be made available again as a bonus offering for the 2016 journey, so if you missed it before, now is your chance OR you can re-visit it to see how it speaks to you in the coming year.  (Go HERE see examples of my monthly moon mandalas.)

Pre-registration for Spectrum 2016 officially opens on February 1, 2016 (and the program will begin on May 2). So be sure to bookmark this page (or link) - so that you can check back to see if you win the giveaway here or sign up just as soon as it goes on sale.

About the Give-Away:
 I have one spot for Spectrum 2016 to give-away to a lucky winner in our January blog-hop - but if you follow the blog-hop list below, you will have an even better chance of winning a spot by entering the other give-aways as well.

All of the new teachers are playing along - and quite a few of the returning contributors volunteered to join in the fun, too - so there are over 30 chances to win a free pass!

Thank you to everyone who participated! I so enjoyed reading your responses and your intentions for incorporating creative play into your daily life - so inspiring!

The name my Cowgirl pulled out of the hat (yes, I wrote out everyone's name who commented or emailed me and also added extra slips for sharing on social media!) is ...

Angela! "Creative play means freedom to make a mess, follow a wild idea, be present to the fun of color and texture. This year I plan on dusting off the art journals and letting myself loose on the page! Miss the vibrant feeling that arises from this kind of creative joy."

Pre-registration for Spectrum is now open!  As a thank you for all the enthusiasm and interest, Hali is offering a 3 day registration special! The regular price is already an *excellent* value at 98 USD, but if you sign up in the next three days,  between February 1-3, you can claim your pass for just $88 – so don’t miss out.

If you didn’t win a spot this time, and you are facing financial hardships, you may be eligible for the new Spectrum scholarship program this year.

The eligibility requirements and application open up today as well and can be found over at the Spectrum Registration page.  Head over there, make sure the program feels like a strong YES for you and if so, scroll all the way to the bottom. There you will find a green button that will lead you to the scholarship details. This will be open until the spaces are filled. They will go fast, so don't wait!

Spectrum 2016!

Just below is a list of the other teachers who are playing along in the Spectrum 2016 blog-hop, with the dates their give-away goes live - so be sure to visit their site and enter there, as well.

13 January: Hali Karla

14 January: 
Andrea Schroeder                     
Angelique Arroyo

16 January:    Briana Goetzen Paige

17 January:    Cat Caracelo Catherine Anderson

18 January:    Chris Zydel Wild

19 January:    Elloa Atkinson Howes

20 January:    Gretchen Miller LC Jones

22 January:    Kristal Norton Hofmann

23 January:    Lisa Wilson Pearce

24 January:    Malini Parker Genge

25 January:    Melissa Harris Turbide

26 January:    Petrea Hansen-Adamidis Rice

27 January:    Robin Hallett Klammer

28 January:    Suki Ciappara Ka'Pinao Leaver

Enjoy the blog-hop, good luck on the give-aways, and I hope to see you in Spectrum in a few months!