Tuesday, November 24, 2015

thriving the holiday season

I was recently chatting with a wise friend of mine and we were bemoaning the challenges of the upcoming season. She pointed out how this is the time of year seasonally when we should be slowing down, resting, going within, nurturing ourselves in order to weather the coming winter months. Yet the holidays are anything but restful! Already Christmas music is playing on the radio and my neighborhood is ablaze with holiday lights. I take it as a sign of my success that upon seeing the latest lawn vignette of the 3 Wise Men (complete with cardboard camels) Cowgirl bemoans "We still have Thanksgiving People!" Oh yes, she is her father's daughter.

It is hard for me to balance my natural hermit nature (I am my mother's daughter) with the pressures that the holidays bring. Going out, gathering in large groups, feasting and celebrating ...  oh, I love all of that ... just in small and managed doses ... and that being on my good days, say days long with abundant sunshine. But right now? With the days short and the nights long and cold?  

So how to survive thrive in this season that demands plenty?  If ever there is a time for best practices to be implemented, it is now.  Here is my spin on making a list and checking it twice ... 

#1 Build into the day structured down time. It is law in this house that before bed, we read. As Cowgirl's bedtime is a few hours before mine, I have the opportunity to double the pleasure as I join her upstairs, in the big bed for a half hour of reading and snuggling before tucking her into her bed. And yes, often times I go back to the big bed, read for another half hour and slip into the land of Nod. Getting enough rest is essential for me physically and emotionally. My batteries need the frequent and lengthy recharge.

Both Cowgirl and I are in love with the Terry Pratchett books that chronicle the adventures of Tiffany Aching and the pictsies (or Wee Free Men) who assist her. Tiffany is The Best and most inspiring role model for myself and my girl. 

"This is the school, isn't it? The magic place? The world. Here. And you don't realize it until you look. Do you know the pictsies think this world is heaven? We just don't look. You can't give lessons on witchcraft. Not properly. It's all about how you are ... you, I suppose." (Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men)

#2 Mindful scheduling. I love my phone calendar but I still need a wall calendar. I need to be able, in a glance, to see how much white space there is in my week. If I see writing in those squares, I know not to add more. I've learned to accept I am an extroverted introvert: I enjoy being around people, but I need loads of recovery time. When I don't honor this about myself, I am not being kind to myself and I cannot be fully present and kind to the people I am with, especially my family. Cowgirl knows when I say out loud "I am feeling grumpy" her best move is to skedaddle and allow me space and time to collect myself.

#3 Hands on/mind off activity. Every day. Creativity is my form of meditation; it is how I empty out and how I check in with the inner chatter. I cannot and am mindful not to multitask so for me, knitting (or sewing or painting or sketching) is usually done in silence or with calm music playing. There is nothing more grounding for me than a good hour by the fire, a cup of tea by my side and my knitting to help me settle in. All the energy of the day pools away and I am always left refreshed and restored by a session of creative play. 

#4 Essential oils. The past few months I have been consciously working with certified pure oils. These are oils I know to be safe for my use and for my family's use. I have been slowly incorporating oils into my every day routines and introducing Cowgirl and The Husband to the benefits of essential oils in supporting natural immune function and wellness. My favorite tool is adding a drop of lemon or wild orange essential oil to my drinking water. Not only does the water taste yummy, the smell is uplifting and energizing and the oils beneficial in supporting healthy respiration and/or immune function. Now I have Cowgirl asking me to rub oils on her feet before bedtime and we love lavender and a calming blend to assist us in winding down after a busy day. 
{If you want to know more about using essential oils or the oils I prefer to use, please contact me  - lishofmann88(at)gmail(dot)com - and I would be happy to answer your questions or share more information!}

#5 Get outside. Even though the temperature has dropped significantly, I am still grateful to Moose dog for the incentive to head outside on a daily basis. When I walk him at night, I like to look up at the night sky and remember that I am a part of the vastness. There is nothing more nourishing for me than to fill up the spaciousness of nature: to pause and soak up the sound of trees dancing in the wind, the wild geese flying overhead or the sensation of sunlight or moonlight or starlight upon the skin. 

The world rests in the night. Trees, mountains, fields, and faces are released from the prison of shape and the burden of exposure. Each thing creeps back into its own nature within the shelter of the dark. Darkness is the ancient womb. Nighttime is womb- time. Our souls come out to play. The darkness absolves everything; the struggle for identity and impression falls away. We rest in the night.

It is easy for me to get overwhelmed and depleted this time of year, so hauling out my wellness tool kit and reminding myself of best practices is one way I can ensure that rather than merely surviving the holiday season, I actually thrive ... and stay healthy, strong and sane to boot!

{I am a veteran of many online courses and I have to say, this season I've kept my course load lite and am slowly working through and enjoying Scribble Art over on Jeanne Oliver's Creative Network ning site.} 


Friday, November 13, 2015

a dream-come-true

It has occurred to me that all our dreams do come true. Or at very least, the ones worth holding, nurturing, and carrying forward through the long haul of days, weeks and years. It is the dreams made way-back-when that perhaps slip the mind, so that when they finally do manifest, I fail to recognize their origin as a deep-seeded and heart-felt wish.

Thankfully, watching my girl often puts me in connection with my girl-self. And when I remember my child-self, I realize dreams really do come true. It just takes some time. 

But in the realm of dreaming, time is a very free form thing.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Autumn Stew

No, I'm not sharing  a crock pot recipe ... although the sudden cold snap has me thinking a pot of slow-cooking, root vegetables in a thick soup does sound warming and grounding. No, I am the one slowly simmering ... allowing myself time to enjoy this season of Harvest by allowing space and time for me to process and digest all that has occurred in the past year or so.

Carving out a chunk of my day to sit quietly, I find it best to keep my hands busy. This allows my mind to do its thing by which I mean churn and process, spew empty out, then reorganize, reconstruct and discover new relationships or new ah-ha's. In addition to writing the last three posts about my trip to Bali, I've been spending time sewing a set a prayer flags started during that trip.

The action of gathering pieces of fabric, creating and stitching has helped me seal in the magic and medicine of that journey. It is my own sort of witch's cauldron or alchemist's brew.

I've also been deeply engaged with making my Inner Alchemy Earth Coven cards. I was a guide for this session so I offered to the collective deck the word Cherish.  

I realized of all the elements, Earth is the one I actively cultivate in myself and my life. Earth is the element I lack, so I must generate it in a conscious manner. Grounding, rooting, centering myself physically and emotionally. It was helpful for me to realize I am actually quite good at it! That I've unconsciously but naturally moved in the direction of creating grounding practices for myself. 

A helpful way for me ground myself is through routine. I may shake up the ingredients: just as my soups and stews are always a free-form play with what is on hand, what appeals to me, what I crave, so too my creative routine may swing from sewing to painting to writing. But creating is something I must do and I realize now it is how I root myself in my life.  It is also how I take the chaos that is my mind and spin it into some sort of crafty/arty object. It is the process that educates me more than anything else.

I've also come to realize that just as I embrace an intuitive approach to creating - allowing the work to unfold in conversation with my creative Muse a.k.a. spontaneous action/inner guidance - so too my day-to-day life is about trusting in the process. It is karma yoga really - showing up and doing my part, but surrendering attachment to the outcome. To be more specific: letting go of believing I can - or want to - control what results from my work, my actions or my words. For this is where the real magic happens.

For too long I've agonized over what I should be doing with my life. There is an intense push in our culture to Make A Difference and Be Important. Of course, who decides what constitutes important or helpful or vital? There's what I set out to teach my daughter and then there is what she learns. I can only do what I can - what feels right for me - trusting myself and trusting her.  A trust stew you might say. 

I have no idea which - if any - of my actions will grow into something bigger, substantial or sustaining. Maybe my habit of a creative practice will be a foundation for my girl. But then again, what may make the biggest impact upon her is the way I wake her up in the morning with a cuddle. Or that I read every night before going to sleep. Or maybe what will matter is not what I do, but what I don't do? 

And by extension, my biggest contribution to this world - my legacy if you will - will have nothing to do with my daughter or anyone I know intimately but will be some seemingly random action that set off a reaction somewhere else. The last minute tossing in of an herb that transforms the stew into some new, exotic dish? 

I just can't know. So rather than squander energy trying to control it all (or plan it all or inspiration board it all) I choose to live. I mean, what is the ultimate creative act but that of living? Showing up, honoring the guidance of my heart and following the creative impulse which keeps me immersed in my life. And then trusting ... it will be what it will be and that is always something marvelous and beyond anything I could have predicted or planned for, never mind create on my own.

  I choose partnership ... with life. I embrace being surprised. Because generally, I always am. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

my Bali high (lights)

Serendipity has me winding up my Bali reflections in this third and final post.

As in yoga practice, exploring a posture three times - once for the body, once for the mind, and a final time for the soul - I am revisiting my Soulful-Escape experience through the many images I attempted to grab onto through my camera. It is impossible to convey the fullness of Bali through sight alone. While each moment is filled with vibrant color, lush landscape, and decorative details there is also a fullness of sounds, smells and sensations (okay, and a dewiness on the skin, aka sweat) that can only be experienced in person. If you dream of Bali (and why wouldn't you?) then I highly recommend visiting the country with people who know and love it. People like Nicole and Em who offer an intimate and creatively rich immersion into Bali's special treasures and delights. 
Nicole & Em, photo by the amazing Tashi Hall

One caveat: once you've experienced Bali, you will want to go back!

And return, I will!  

Some of the highlights of my week and the reasons I yearn to return include:  

audible-gasping, stumbling-to-a-stop views & encounters with nature:

 vivid and expressive sculpture:

Bali is such a decorative place. Everywhere there are sculptures representing revered deities such Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, Saraswati (the goddess of arts and learning) or the Buddha or any number of guardian or protective figures. Usually these sculptures have offerings heaped upon or around them, demonstrating the vibrant and vital way the Balinese bring spiritual practice into everyday life ... in a very celebratory and joyful way!





 life experienced through the lens of celebration and gratitude:

And then there are the many parasols - known as tedung which means "to guard."  They are wildly colorful and whimsical, but they are more than mere decoration. Found at any temple or sacred site as well as in homes, the many colors serve to represent different deities and to describe where they are to be placed.(Red represents Brahma, the aspect of Creation in the Hindu religion and it would be used in a temple devoted to Brahma; black would be used for Vishnu, the sustainer and white for Shiva while black and white - predominate pattern throughout Bali - stands for balance in nature and the cosmos.

In Bali the spiritual and the sensual find balance. The highly decorated is often a place of worship and reverence which tends towards the celebratory rather than quietly introspective.  Every day and every place is an opportunity to give thanks to the divine. As I said in my first blog post, the first thing I noticed when arriving in Bali were many offerings or canang sari placed upon ever possible surface. They are found on sculptures, on the steps of shops or restaurants, in the rice fields and in small hut shaped altars before every home.  Each day I would wake to find a new offering placed in front of the gate to our joglo (lodgings) or in the nearby shrine. What a beautiful way to start one's day: with a moment of reverence, gratitude and beauty.

Of course these human expressions of beauty mirror the natural beauty and sense of abundance found in the vibrant plant life throughout the island.  

Dominating the floral landscape is the lotus flower. Expressive of the spiritual teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism (spiritual purity amid the muck of life; rebirth, spiritual awakening and rebirth are all associated with the lotus), everywhere perfect specimens invite yet one more photograph.

There is no shortage of sights to delight both in the countryside, but also in the city (and in our retreat setting). The scooter riders alone are a constant source of amazement for what (and who) they can carry. 

The temple complexes are well worth the short ride out of Ubud and yes, the journey down (and then up!) the many steps only sweetens the well-earned experience. We were one of the first groups to arrive at Goa Gaja or Elephant Cave and had time to take in the sacredness of this site. 

A second site we visited, Gunung Kawi, is an eleventh-century temple and funerary complex. There are numerous candi or shrines cut into the steep cliff-sides surrounding the area. There are also several holy springs and shrines found if you are willing to climb numerous winding trails. 


All of this is reason enough for my heart to be yearning to return to Bali. But you could strip it all away and still I would want to go back! For the brightest, most vibrant, most heart-filling aspect of Bali is truly the people.  Both the Balinese and the like-minded spirits who opted not to merely visit Bali, but to experience Bali.  I hold so gratitude for all that Em and Nicole created, and for women who signed up for a Soulful-Escape and who made it a dream-come-true.  Matur suksma! (thank you very much


I mean, these women! They hold up more than half the sky ...

I haven't even mentioned the shopping ... 

the joy of following behind Em in her natural environment ...

watching Kristina embrace her inner batik-pompom-tasseled self ...

Or the food ...

There is just too much ... my mind and my heart (never mind my laptop and computer files) are just busting at the seams there is so much to remember, to savor, to share.

the above 2 photos courtesy of Cassandra Edwards

the above two photos by Em Falconbridge

Did I mention I had a good time? 

Heavens, yes ... until the next trip ... this is truly

The End of this Bali Travel-log!