Monday, January 26, 2015

Leaning into Love (and HeartFull Living)

An interesting side-effect of grief is in the upheaval of emotions, memories and stories long forgotten come to the surface and in this new place of identity (who I am now that I no longer have my mother reflecting me back to myself?) they take on deeper meaning.

I remember being a little girl with my mother at a department store and deciding I was ready to step onto the down escalator all by myself. Or maybe my mother was ready for me to be more independent. I can't recall, but no doubt her unwavering belief in me encouraged a momentary flash of bravery unusual as I was a somewhat timid child.

I stood at the top, my foot hovering in the air, trying to figure out the timing of placing it upon the swiftly moving step. Finally my mother moved in front of me to demonstrate how to step on ... "Like this!" she said with a bright red lipstick smile. And off she went down the escalator and away from me.

Of course I then panicked and I could see in my mother's face her realization that this was not going to go as planned.  I stood there, frozen on the edge of the second floor of Hanes Department store, blocking the other customers ready to exit the Ladies Lingerie and Nightwear section. Just as I was about to descend into full blown despair, a woman reached down and taking my hand she glided me forward and onto the cascading metal stairs and down down down to my much relieved mother.

Life, after the loss of my mother, feels like that disoriented panic where moving forward seems beyond my abilities.  The days spread out before me like that moving escalator and calculating how to step squarely onto the step - to step back into my life - seems inordinately complicated and confusing. All sense of timing is off.

I hadn't realized it, but I've been waiting for a competent hand to find mine and swoop me back into the flow of living.

Apparently, I needed more than a hand - I needed an entire horse.  Well, his belly.

Right before my mother's death, I signed up to volunteer for a local equestrian therapeutic riding center whose mission is to provide emotional and physical healing to children and adult with a wide range of disabilities. Shortly after my mother's passing, I trained as a sidewalker - my job being to hold onto the client and walk alongside the horse throughout the therapy session.

My first shift came and I arrived at the barn eager to begin. The therapist I would be assisting greeted me and then immediately asked "How tall are you?" Um ... just slightly above average height for an American woman (my stock response whenever I feel I am being labeled diminutive). Apparently the first client was not a child, but a young woman and I would need to support her with one arm fully extended, hand under her armpit, and my outside arm over her leg and holding onto the saddle.  The.Entire.Time.

I was instructed,"When you feel your pecs starting to burn - and they will burn - let me know so we can switch sides." Not for my comfort, but because the slight turning movement of the horse could pitch the rider off to one side and if my arm was burning, no way would I be able to keep her from falling off the horse.

The rider arrived with her mother and therapist.  It is humbling to witness the full on dedication of all involved - therapist, rider, her family and the horse.  The determination, patience, persistence and passion each member brings to the endeavor was a privilege to experience.  As I watched the assisted mount (via a wheelchair ramp and hydraulic lift) I was aware of my role in this formidable equation.  

Sidewalking - sounds simple? Well, simple in the sense that my task was to hold on at all costs. I could just barely reach up to meet the rider's ribcage and shoulder wing. I wasn't sure if I was supporting the rider so much as clinging to her and clinging to the horse.  With the horse's first steps, I was leaning my full weight into his rounded side and to his credit, he carried me forward.  I quickly discovered I could keep up as long as I leaned into Charm, my new horse buddy. 

The session lasted 28 minutes and while my arms and pectorals did tire, I never felt like I couldn't keep up or hold up the rider.  Resting upon Charm, I was aware I wasn't so much doing the work (of holding or supporting), as I was acting as conduit for energy to flow through me.  It was a quietly miraculous experience.  Effort was involved, but not in the sense of "I alone must do this."  It was a beautiful expression of being in service to something greater than my small self, but which both contains me and is contained within me.

Driving home, I recognized the sensation.  Leaning fully upon Charm and allowing him to support me, was no different than leaning into Love itself. This is the hand I've needed to guide me back into my life. This is the way I move forward into an unfamiliar, but welcoming world.

I am excited to announce HeartFull Living: Conversations in Loving 2015 begins on February 16.  I wasn't planning on a session this year, but Charm convinced me. I want to consider fully: What would it mean to live my life devoted and in service to Love?  What would that look like? How do I nurture and support that intention within myself and for my family?

HeartFull Living is a month-long virtual chat session, offered to inspire and support community, conversation, and loving intentions. This year I am excited to have weekly guests offering their perspectives, their experiences in approaching life with an open and trusting heart. These are the people I turn to when I am needing to be inspired, filled, or supported.  I am certain the exchange of ideas will be a catalyst for a HeartFull Living renaissance of Love, respect and trust. 

 Full details for HeartFull Living 2015 (and to sign up) can be found HERE.  

To honor the inspiration of Charm, I will be donating 50% of the proceeds to HETRA (Heartland Equestrian Therapeutic Riding Academy) and specifically to sponsor Charm for Horse of the Year in the organization's annual fundraiser Horse Penny Race

I'm totally smitten,in love and charmed by this fellow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

the bare minimum (in a day ... of practice)

I had to add the above parenthetical clarification alas the prudence of anticipating perverse online lurkers (I just deleted ten gibberish comments on previous posts, the work of a computer Hal, offensive only in that it makes no sense.)

What I was thinking as I caught myself about to sling-shot into my day, was that in honoring Simplicity (my walking stick for the year) I need to clarify what constitutes the bare essentials for my well-being. What am I able to commit to on a regular basis? What is the bare minimum required to keep me more or less balanced, by which I mean, not capsizing into fast moving, murky waters?

So there I was, finishing my morning levee, mind racing with the to-dos for this packed day of appointments - Yes, I have the burden of an 11 am massage and 3:30 eye doctor appointment - and I had mentally squashed a half dozen activities into the coming 2 hours when I remembered: This.

It took my breath away.  All that anticipated hustle and bustle halted by one word: This. Well, two words really. And this ...

seeking: connection & simplicity (a spoonful of wisdom from a dear friend)

My life - this, and this - the threads that will form into some sort of pattern or design. Yet who is the weaver? Who is in charge of quality control? I immediately made my way to my meditation cushion, recognizing the need for a sacred pause.  As I settled in (okay, attempted to settle ... thoughts being like wild horses, they rarely become docile in an instant) I promised myself Ten breaths. This is doable. Ten breaths focusing upon rooting, grounding, connecting. Ten breaths to gather the energy of earth and heaven, bringing that into my heart and exhaling it back out into my world. Ten breaths done with full attention, commitment, gratitude and love can make a difference in my day and that is all I really need to think about. This day and how I choose to welcome and receive it.

I confess, I have a couple of bare minimum practices that I struggle to maintain. Yet doing so makes all the difference in how I experience my life. Still sketching daily (adding color through watercolor paints is a necessary prescription to combat The Blahs brought on by January's monochrome palette) and taking one photo a day.  Because life does change in the course of one day and I am committed to paying attention. You know, not wanting to miss the miracle ;)

And speaking of magical thinking (well, I was headed there and hoping others are following me) ... 
I am happy to announce the Winner of Spectrum 2015 membership: Laurie!

I have decided to take the time to think about things before immediately saying "Yes, I'll do it!". This year, if it doesn't feel right to me, I'm going to decline even if it makes someone not happy with me. Sounds simple but I know myself well enough that if I am not constantly present and aware, I will fall back into this self-defeating bad habit.

Congratulations Laurie! And here's to honoring your boundaries, honoring the space that "no" can allow.   Oh my woman, you have created some of the most lovely zentangle spirit guides and how have I missed reading your blog? Thank goodness for Connection and rediscovering your gifts.  

Spectrum 2015 launches May 1 but there is an early bird discount registration available through the end of January, so get thee over there soon to sign up and save! 

Thank you everyone for your comments. It was inspiring to read the many ways you are choosing to show up for yourself and honor sacred care. I know I will be borrowing some of your ideas. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

uneasy comfort

This is where I long to be ... this is where I all journeys begin and end ... this is where my deepest work lies ... this is what I strangely resist ...


As much as I give it lip-service, it is hard for me to wind down. I hop from space to space, task to task. Without limitations or real time constraints  (other than the obligations of Cowgirl & Moose Dog) I seek something solid to lean into. Usually that means tossing myself into a commitment which then provides me a direction and focus.  Like George Costanza, I recognize I need to do the exact opposite of what compels me ... not overriding intuition, but bypassing reflexive habit to allow myself time to perceive the quiet guidance.

Staying open ... waiting for the miracle to arrive ...  this is challenging when everything in me screams to get up, get a plan together, and get going. This seems to be the online fortune du jour "don't leave before the miracle happens" and my unofficial research (thank you, Google Now) tells me this saying comes from AA. Which seems right as chronic busyness is  certainly a modern addiction and one I am susceptible to caving into. 

So home is where I meet myself. Home is where I can be myself and it is where I face my greatest discomforts with self. When I've peeled away all the distracting babbles, the pressures to live up to some new cultural ideal - the attentive mother, empowered wild woman, transforming light-bearer, inspired & uplifting entrepreneur - I behold what I truly want to be.

Home-maker.  In the fullest sense of the word.  Home as described here. Home as a center of balance within, approached through quiet, solitude, inner conversations, deep listening. I am inspired by this home-lover.  I am preparing to tackle worn-out beliefs about who it is I want and believe myself to be ... revising my story if you will.  Sitting back and digesting this juicy bone:

What would happen if the stories we have been telling only exist because we tell them? (Nissa of Soul Craft, The Stories of Now starts February 1)

I'm beginning by the way I respond to the question: Employer?  I take a breath, make sure I am sitting up straight, gaze directly at the person asking and respond "I work on home; I'm self employed."  Every night, when the Husband comes home and inquires What did you do today? I am going to notice my desire to squirm, to snap, to launch into how many loads of his laundry I did for him (housework is a favor ... one granted out of love ... but a still a favor and not a de facto responsibility) and  instead I will truthfully answer him "I was busy loving life."  It's not a job, but it is a responsibility, a privilege. 

There is so much beauty, there is so much to cherish and enjoy.  Making things difficult, choosing the hard path, that's another threadbare story I'm ready to pitch out. Struggle does not automatically make me more worthy, the prize more valuable.  It's like wearing comfortable shoes:  You cover the same distance but in ease and enjoyment of the total experience and not dwelling on each painful step. 

There's a story that goes like this: An old woman was out on a street searching for a lost needle.  People passing by stopped and offered to help her look for it.  As they joined in on the search, they quickly realized the road was very wide and a needle very small and difficult to find.  Hoping to narrow down the search they asked the old woman "Grandmother, where did you lose it?"  She replied "Inside my house." The people were perplexed. "Why are you looking out here?" She explained to them that there was more light outside to see by. That inside is dark.  She smiled at their confusion. "Don't you do the same?  Why are you searching for bliss in the outside world? Have you lost it there?" 

What I seek is within me.  It's not about answers to questions, it's not about defining my purpose, it's about coming home. Being home. It's about greeting each day as another opportunity to deepen my connection to the love affair that is life ... my life, as it is.  My new mantra it seems is one word: This.

This day ... this meal ... this conversation ... this moment ... this wound ... this healing ... this incredible gift of loving and being loved.

I know, it sounds lovely ... it sounds effortless.  But ... but what? Sitting in the discomfort of being comfortable, contented, happy with the simple things. It's a new character trait I'm trying on. Growing into. It will take time.  Well, that's about all I've got: time and opportunity to keep practicing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Spectrum 2015 (giveaway!)

I am excited - and a wee bit daunted! -  to announce that I am part of an amazing array of instructors participating in collective offering known as Spectrum.  This is the love child of Hali Karla who has done an inspiring job of gathering a beautifully diverse and rich group of women dedicated to self discovery, healing and celebration through a variety of means including art, photography, meditation, sacred ceremony, and so much more. In Hali's words:

Spectrum is a collective of holistic-minded artists, healers and visionaries
that have come together to offer a unique online experience devoted to awakening, exploring, deepening & celebrating your innate wisdom and intuition through visual journaling and more.

When you sign up for Spectrum, you will be receiving access to 25 workshops offered by some of my favorite teachers, writers & artists including Jamie Ridler, Julie Daley, and Lisa Sonora Beam, to name just a few.  Content will be delivered in 4 installments of downloadable PDFs which means you can work at your own pace, dip in and out and revisit whenever you like! And you will want to revisit some of these beauties ... just take a gander and drool at the individual listings HERE.

My offering is Mandala Moon Meditations, my on-going practice for the past years of creating a mandala each month to investigate and celebrate the wisdom of that month's moon cycle and how I experience that energy manifesting in my own life and consciousness.  It has been an incredible vehicle for deepening my connection to Nature and to understanding my own inner cycles and rhythms. By understanding the impact of the seasons upon my own energy, I have been better able to utilize that energy, knowing when to flow, when to create, and when to rest and recuperate.  I am excited to deepen my own practice as I share my work with others.

The first journal (pdf with 6 workshop/lessons) will be sent out on May 1, 2015 with subsequent deliveries on June 15, September 1 and October 15, 1015.  Right now there is an early bird reduced registration price of $99 available until January 31.  After that, the price is $120.  That's less than $5 per workshop! 

I have one membership to gift and am offering it via a giveaway here and through Facebook.  Leave me a comment here (or on the corresponding Facebook Thread) and let me know what is your intention for self care in the coming year? What one-thing could you commit to right now to deepen your relationship with yourself, as an on-going act of befriending and honoring the sacred being that is you? 

I will draw a winner on January 20 (the new moon of course!) and announce on the 21st.

Good luck! 

Full disclosure: I am an affiliate of Spectrum, so when if you register after following the link here on my blog, I will be receiving a percentage of that registration fee.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

happiness is ... (post-break edition)

 These moments together ...

It is easy to slide back into well-established grooves ... as Cowgirl gets older, she is quick to retreat to her room to listen to music, draw or read and it is easy for me to busy myself with dinner prep, the mail or any of the quotidian tasks that tend to overpower one's sense of priorities.  Slowing down helps to provide space and perspective: what really matters in this moment? A washed and sorted pile of laundry? Or the last minutes of sunlight and together time disguised as a new project?

Tomorrow we will sew our new prayer flags.  I don't believe in limiting myself to the number of prayers released into the world, do you?

No, I believe in maximizing the opportunities for giving voice to our hopes, our prayers,  and I definitely seek out opportunities to maximize more sunshine in my world. The brightest, warmest light? This smile ... it never fails to melt my heart ...

Watching her grow into the brave, trusting, adventurous girl that I first knew as a babe in my arms now skating away from me and into the world brings both happiness and no small amount of mama fear for bruised knees, bruised heart.  

But I trust in the foundation we've been building and I lean heavily upon the hope that she knows that love, comfort, support and safe haven wait for her and welcome her home. Always.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

frozen (no, not THAT "Frozen" ...)

Trudging into the new year ... can't say I've found my rhythm yet. It continues to be cold and snowy here which has me wandering about the house thinking of all that I would like to be doing (painting, writing, playing with some new art toys) but stalled by inertia and hands tucked under armpits.  

my boot scrapper hedgehog in hibernation

Even coming here, I find myself wondering why am I sharing this? Nothing inspiring, nothing enlightening, nothing noteworthy.

my altar ... my commitment to connecting with Spirit, with the Sacred, with Nature on a regular basis

Ah, yes ... just life as it is I suppose.  I move through my days not sure what I do matters much at all but trusting somehow it all will add up to something important, useful, empowering.  It is like japa meditation. Holding my mala (strand of beads) I move one bead for each recitation of my mantra.  Sometimes I do it with real connection and engagement in the words, with the vibration of the mantra (mine is a Sanskrit mantra and Sanskrit is a vibrational language - rather than be descriptive, the word conveys meaning  through sound/vibration), but more often than not I simply going through the motions. Yet each time I perform japa, I do believe I am adding to a reserve of energy that one day will rise to support or carry me. I know because I've experienced it. It is both amazing and so ordinary.  Of course the net will appear ... when you trust fully. 

So I keep showing up ... as best I can.  Flung myself into another photo-a-day project because in all honesty, it is the best way I've found to manage memory.  Crazy as it sounds, staying at home the days blur together. Okay, perhaps that is also due to shifting hormones (a blog unto itself) but when I need to remember what I did when (or even that anything remarkable happened) I turn to either my photos or my sketch journal.  In the moment it is hard to recognize what is happening. But with even a small gap of time, I am better able to tease out the narrative elements.

life is what happens ... just over your shoulder and in the kitchen ...

Kinda like watching grass growing.  It does grow!

So consider this post a little rest stop in your day.  A moment of fluff ... or a moment of inspired nothingness to keep us connected.  Ah ... my Intention for the year ... Connection.  Like how I wove that in?

Each day one precious bead in a full strand ... I suppose my purpose here is to remember how lovely it is to simply honor and celebrate what is ... these moments with family ...

the quiet moments that are doing their work below the surface, feeding something yet to be known. 

Stay warm. Stay connected.  Let's stay in touch, okay? 


Friday, January 2, 2015

new year; same old me

 The new year came in with a bang. 

Truly ...  we were alerted to the calender numbers flipping over to 2015 by the neighbor's fireworks. He is a bachelor with his own landscaping company which means his backyard is tricked out with a deluxe fire pit, outdoor sound system and decorative boulders creating what I imagine to be a secluded prairie love grotto. I don't know for sure ... I haven't been invited over, although I am on friendly terms with his 65 pound bulldog, Diesel. Such are the circles I run in. 

So the Husband and I were nestled all snug in our bed, reading our novels (mine, an engaging Ian Rankin mystery) when we realized we had shuffled into the new year. When you try to celebrate every day as special, I believe it is acceptable to skip the obvious and overdone celebrations. 

So, Happy New Year! We did mark the day with a family outing to our local zoo which has had a bumper crop of new additions in the zoo nursery.  A baby giraffe, aardvark (it is unexpectedly cute!), orangutan, and 3 lion cubs including a rare white cub.  

Even the Husband was undone by the adorableness of so many babies. (Penguins are prepping for their new babies.)

I took advantage of the surprise appearance of the Sun for a special new year's portrait:

As is my custom, I have rooted about for my word or intention for 2015. I feel drawn to the notion of Connection (or rooted) which had been manifesting midway through the previous year.  One thing I've been consciously invoking is a sense of Home within myself and also feeling a new attachment and appreciation for the landscape that I have inhabited but never really considered mine.  Until this year. 

So I want to deepen that Connection to this place that does nurture and inform who I am, as well as the spaces within me that hold all I truly need to explore for growth and learning.  All of my life I have been an excellent student.  I love syllabi and reading lists and a structure for learning.  But there comes a point when the filling filling filling is too much.  I am so over gathering from other people's gardens.  Without planning it, life has been emptying me out and now that I have few commitments, it is time for me to fill from within; to cultivate the seeds I've already gathered and see what they grow into. I am ready to sink into MY life and harvest what is mine.

Another concept is calling to me and that is Simplicity.  I excel at complicating things and a long-held belief of mine is that it (whatever IT may be) must be complicate to be worthwhile ... that the true wisdom is hard-earned and esoteric and difficult to attain.  Really?  Um ... perhaps not?  At least, it is worth trying the route of Simplicity and see where it leads me.

So rather than making lists of accomplishments, goals, ambitions for myself in the coming year, I want to simply step forward into each day and seek what lies within.  Oh, I have ideas and projects whispering in my ear ... and I am good about getting things done.  But I think for me the challenge -  the shift or new move - will be to stay open and resist my natural tendency to seek and fill. There is a term for this fear of empty spaces - horror vacui  - a decidedly Victorian attribute (think of their living spaces) - and I am willing to stand in a more Zen space and await what bubbles up from within. 

Perhaps a more accurate description is answering the call that originates within me; to follow the energy and to be focused upon what feeds curiosity, feeds the inner fire, feeds love.  Too often I take on tasks that sap my energy, pull me out of my center.  Instead I want to feed what feeds me: feeds my spirit, my family, my art, my home. A feeding frenzy I suppose?!

I've noticed that the past year I was attentive to the geese that pass over our house.  Whenever I hear their honking, I rush to my back door and step outsides. I love to hear the sound of their call, the sounds of their wings flapping, and I pay attention to what direction they are headed.  Lately it has been West and Northwest: the direction of release and wisdom. The direction of flow and stillness.

I will take my cue from the wild geese.  I've got plenty at home to keep me busy and I am looking forward to cooking up a homey stew.

Connection ... Home ... Family ... Friends ... Simplicity ... Ease ... lots to play with in the coming year.  Much to dig into and much to welcome.  xo