Tuesday, July 30, 2013

what matters (and what distracts ...)

This is a post I've resisted for some time ... partly because I know words set down have the ability to shift understanding and then I feel the need to rewrite, clarify, adjust and yes, defend my perspective (which is rests on shifting sands of awareness, so not an easy thing to do!)  But it is a gray morning, I slept in and am moving slowly and certainly I am procrastinating on other projects.  But there is this pebble in my internal/emotional shoe that has irked me for far too long and I feel it is time to shake it out.  I can't seem to move forward unless I do so.

My confession: I am weary of the talk around finding one's tribe.  Okay, back-pedaling already ... it is not the experience or act of discovering others who share in, support and understand my values, interests, and ideas around purpose and meaning that fatigues me ... it is all the fanfare and smudge wand waving, look-at-our crazy quilted wild selves in  Photoshopped  dreamscaped images strewn everywhere as confirmation of belonging.  As confirmation of being vital and plugged into something essential.

I'm all for feeling a part of something larger.  I understand feeling of being outside and wanting in so very, very badly.  But what I am seeing in this celebration of tribe is a new group or layer to the experience of feeling excluded and overlooked.  My sense is that the more I go outside of myself -  for confirmation of my worth, the value of my voice, the validity of my experience - the less secure I will be in myself and my path.  

After all the dancing is over and the bonfires have turned to ash, I am still walking my path alone and on my own.  I can share parts of the journey - through wildflower fields, sandy beaches and mountain meadows  -  but in the end I am the one who chooses to continue on over slippery and rocky mountain paths, through the desert, through the mud pits and into dark forests with nothing but the next step visible before me.  

What matters then is who I trust and believe in: myself connected to a higher purpose.  All the work I do to heal myself is not so I may fit in; I work to heal myself so I may have access to my full range of gifts and potential which I then can offer in service to support the vital work of healing in our world.  

What matters at the end of the day is who I am with myself and my family; how well I love and forgive, myself first and foremost.  If I can not be in right relationship with my own self, how can I give freely, honestly, lovingly and compassionately to others?  What matters is not how my life appears on screen, in Facebook, in glossy magazines but how my life feels to me and those whose lives intersect with mine.  It is nice to have validation, but approval is not my goal.  My tribe - yes, I do believe I have a core group that understands, accepts and more importantly, challenges me to be the best expression of myself - is a space I rest in while gathering inner resources, but it is also the place where I set off from.  Finding one's tribe is an important and affirming stage, but it is not the end point.  It can be an platform for diving into the deep work, the hard, challenging, heart-rending work of attending to our planet, to our lives and to lasting change, healing and care. It can also become a trap or a distraction from what really matters: self acceptance, individual empowerment and expression.  

 These are my thoughts today.  There is a discussion buried amid these thoughts that begs to take place.  Forgiveness, understanding, belonging, purpose, inclusion, and responsibility are some of the themes.  I would love to dialogue in that space Rumi speaks of Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing ... I want to own my role in contributing to another's pain of disconnection but I also own my responsibility to tend to and heal my own woundedness.  No tribe can do that for me. The deeper work is mine alone and it is time to shake off the distractions and get on with the task.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

hanging on tightly ...

As  a yogini, I'm suppose to practice non-attachment but seriously ... a 70 degree midwest summer day?  Hell YES I am holding onto this day!  And with less than three weeks until Cowgirl heads back to school (I never will adjust to this calender that has school out before Memorial day and in session before Labor day) we are doing our best to squeeze the most out of each luxurious, spacious, sun-filled, lavender-scented day.

Today we are celebrating ...

Cowgirl passing level four swimming test.  I believe it was her fourth try?  I couldn't pass it - it requires front crawl, back crawl, butterfly and breast strokes among other skills - and my stroke is the old lady not-getting-her-hair-wet breast stroke. I call it froggy swimmin'. In our house, ramen noodles are a very acceptable form of celebration.  Note the sudden and newly embraced use of chopsticks.

Staying on a roll ... we have fruit popsicles prepared and ready for the festivities to continue into the evening.  Nanny McPhee Returns arrived via Netflix and we are set for a girls night in the recliner chairs.

Yes, I am squeezing tightly onto every minute of these blissful days ...

and relishing every single drop of goodness that spills my way.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I know ... there are no such things as accidents ... but perhaps it is more accurate to say accidents happen but the possibility for insight, learning, or growth is never accidental.

My yoga lineage, Kripalu yoga, is a heart and body based approach to accessing transformational wisdom. The starting point is to always come back to the body, which is to come back to the present moment.  From there, the mind and spirit will follow.  Grounded in the experiences of the body, of this moment, I am better able to access the deeper wisdom of heart and soul.

All of which is to say ... the teachings of Life are conveyed to me through barked shins, banged heads, funny bones triggered and a nail in the foot. (Because I am stubborn and require such broad gestures!)

That is how my week ended last week.  After the excitement of house guests - and the  exhaustion ... I am by nature a solitary creature and social encounters exact a huge toll upon my emotional and energetic reserves -  I was attempting to shift back into "business as usual."  Cowgirl had swim lessons, then zoo camp to attend; the house needed tidying in preparation for the Husband's return (which is another long story of mishaps, misadventures and travel torture); and the yard cried out for attention.  I actually weeded! 

Puttering about the garden, listening to the birds chatter, enjoying an unusually cool July morning, all the elements of an idyllic moment-of-being you would think, right?  As I sauntered around the side of the house to water my new geraniums (set upon the front porch for a splash of color - how domestic of me!), a searing pain in my foot halted my movement, but not my voice as I screamed out "Son of a ..."  (my go-to phrase it appears for any sudden and painful moments.)

I picked up my foot to discovered a nail embedded in the purple foam of my croc sandal, piercing the joint of my second toe.  Stunned, I pulled the nail out and continued on my way, hobbling to the front porch, watering the plants, then making my way inside the house, hopping through the first floor and up the stairs to my bathroom.  Sticking my aching foot under a stream of cold water, I sat straddling my bathtub and gave myself over to the full extent of the pain.

And then I cried.  Big, hot, sloppy tears that spilled over a very red, blotchy and now snot-streaked face.

At first, I cried because my foot hurt that much.  But then I cried because I was frustrated.  I had been trying to move forward, make progress, tend to my life in an active and energetic way and look where it landed me!  But then I cried because I was all alone and the immensity of my aloneness was overwhelming.

I had to wash out the wound and I realized there was something still embedded in the hole.  So I hopped into Cowgirl's room to retrieve the magnifying glass from her Dumpling Dynasty Explorer Kit ("Explore with JOY") and grabbing my tweezers I sat back down on the edge of the tub to attempt to extract whatever was lodged in my foot.  And I cried again, this time with the awareness that I was having to hurt myself - a lot! -  in order to care for my toe. 

I don't know if I need to say much more.  The wisdom of the moment felt pretty obvious to me: Life delivers a fair share of shock and pain and unexpected blood and those moments can feel like ruptures in the dream or story that we create about ourselves and our lives.  I act as if I can control my life and an accident reminds me that in truth my only choices are to flow with it (or roll with it as it felt that day) or resist which only shifts the suffering from my foot to my Self. 

If my practice has strengthened anything, it is my ability to slip into Witness consciousness.  As I gave myself fully to my tears and sadness, I was also able to witness myself in that moment.  I could see and remember the small child I once was, crying from fear of never fitting in, never finding her place, and the pain of feeling hurt, rejected and isolated.  My tears were a cleansing of those wounds.  Once spent, I recognized that I have continued to carry feelings that no longer describe the deeper truth about myself  that I know from living this life. I may feel alone - certainly I walk my path on my own and the real work of healing is mine alone to tend to  -  but the truth is I am never truly alone.  

That day's accident, the nail in my toe, punctured a hole in the illusions I've held onto so tightly. It is painful work to dismantle and examine delusions, fears, strong memories and emotions.  But it is necessary for true growth and understanding.  Frightened child, lonely woman, wounded toe all describe what I knew about myself in that instant, but those experiences, those labels, do not define me.  As I hobbled through the rest of my day, I understood that what limits me is not what happens to me, but what I choose to believe about myself and life.  A nail in the foot can shut me down but it can also be the opening into a greater freedom.  It is my choice. 

I hope to always choose joy and what better wisdom than Explore with Joy? But I will add: explore with Joy and a fair share of humor and patience for the random appearance of nails on the path, never forgetting to hold much compassion for the vulnerability and tears that will inevitably greet them.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Indie Kindred (thank you Jen ♥)

It is quiet in my world today.  Midwest summer is in full swing which means window shades down to keep the house cool and very little activity other than couch lounging or napping.  I sit here with the phone by my side willing it to ring -  unlike my adolescent self who spent many a day wishing others would call her -  now my dreams are pinned upon the air conditioning repair man to come and save our bodies and souls from the July heat. 

Okay, let me back up a bit ... 24 hours ago our house was bubbling with games of hide-and-seek, busy hands making pictures and writing postcards, one Moose dog being loved up by a vivacious 6-year old pixie sprite of a girl, 2 "older" girls with heads bowed toward the other cooking up new antics, and 2 mothers sharing food, stories, favorite films, books and other sources of inspiration along with queries as to how do we put all of this together?

It was the whirlwind of Indie Kindred on tour with Jen Lee.

It was effervescence in action.

Jen and her girls rolled into town late on Tuesday and had barely an hour before guests started to arrive for a screening in my home of Jen's film, Indie Kindred.  Fortunately Jen had arranged to stay an extra day to recover from a long day's drive and to rest up for the next leg of her journey cross country.  Things moved so quickly, it feels like I dreamed their visit except the house holds the energy of absence and longing.

Amid the carnival environment that results from 3 highly energetic, articulate and imaginative girls, we two mamas were able to slip to the sidelines and sink into rich conversation.  There is a cutting out the insignificant and getting to the meat of things which happens best with another who understands the rarity and value of focused attention. 

I find myself thinking about my mother's world when I was a child and how every adult I knew I called aunt or uncle.  We often gathered as families, the kids left to commandeer the backyard and surrounding neighborhood while the adults congregated around bridge tables or dining room tables.  There was always a pair of extra hands ready to help out; we kids had a wide circle of adults looking out for us.  Of course half the time those adults were probably drunk - "stoned" my parents would say - but there was a sense of community that I felt lacking in my own adult life.

This Spring and Summer I have been gifted multiple opportunities to be with friends and their families and to have my family blending with another for an afternoon, evening or weekend.  More than anything, this rich sense of connection and multiple layers of friendship have fed me in a way I never realized I so sorely missed.  But today, in the quiet of an empty house, I am able to clearly perceive the outlines of what I crave: community and connection.

I am able to take a deep breath and feel within me an immense gratitude for the community that miraculously seems to have sprouted up around me over the past 4 years.  As we sat in circle around Jen after her film, I saw the separate pieces of my world being stitched together.  Friends from my women's circle (who have heard me speak about Jen's works) and family friends all brought together to watch a film celebrating  supportive community and deep connection.

We are so much more fertile when we can come together with our ideas and questions, exploring new perspectives or - as Jen puts it - providing a loving mirror for the other to perceive the fullness of their gifts and contributions.  While the online world has opened up vast worlds of community and interaction for me, it is moments like the past few days spent in the physical presence of a kindred, witnessing both the sublime and ridiculous moments (besides the upstairs a.c. breaking down, I had a smoke detector with a dying battery chirping instantly as I madly dashed about the house trying to determine which one?! before wrestling with the ladder to climb up and fumble with the blasted cover), sharing meals, sharing family, sharing real moments of precious time with an equally precious friend.


When I think about creative work, I often remember the story about the hen who laid the golden eggs.  We are so product and results driven in our culture that we want to ignore the hen and just get to the gold already.

But here's the thing - if you don't keep the hen alive by feeding and nurturing her, the golden eggs stop coming.

You are the hen that lays the golden eggs.

I believe I feel a cluck coming on ... (and the a.c. man still hasn't called!)

Years ago, I made this picture:

Now look around me and I see many faces smiling at me across the miles and across my living room and I feel fortified and inspired to plug along with The Work that is mine to create and share.  This is the message and gift of Indie Kindred:

Indeed, I am holding space for you and I am so grateful for the space you so loving hold for me.

Friday, July 12, 2013

quiet times?

My summer days just keep on rolling.  The husband will be out of town for work, so needed was a lesson in running the riding lawn mower.  Alas, no photos of what was akin to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (and probably more appropriate for America's Funniest Home Videos - did you know you can make a riding mower buck like a bronco?  Well, I did!)

Then there was my day as a chaperone for Cowgirl's play date with her BFF, who happens to be a boy and sadly is moving out of state come next week.  So it was their last day together and we did it in style, beginning with fine dining at Taco Bell. (It is a real challenge to eat one's burrito and not be listening to the conversation which was baffling anyway - something about Mind Craft?  Diamond armor being harder than gold but not as strong as obsidian - duh! Any reaction on my part elicited fury from Cowgirl "Mommmmm!  Stop listening!) Palate cleanser of some Wii Mario Cart, followed bya movie and then (yes, more!) the Aquatic center.  I let two 8-year-olds pressure me into the platform waterslide.  Oh yeah, this 50-year-old screamed her entire way down (no surprise to you, eh Diana?)  but at least I kept my legs together and didn't go bottom up, especially since my swimsuit wedged all up around - or is that in? - my bum. (But I went three times and only screamed twice.  I let Cowgirl know I was very proud of myself.)

No photos of that event either. 

But amid the craziness I am snatching bits of quiet time for myself.  It has been an unusually mild summer here, so whenever I can I head outside with my notebooks and pencils and paints which is my way of meditating these days.

Amazing what we discover when we give ourselves time to look and see and receive.


My yoga teacher once said "A little bit of practice is freedom from fear."  My practice is to show up on a daily basis for my life.  I also read  - in some magazine at the dentist's office which is proof wisdom can be found anywhere, anytime - that we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and underestimate the results  of small actions performed regularly.

So I am practicing regularly in whatever form practice chooses to assume each day and trusting those efforts will meld together some kind of wonderful and certainly crazy colorful result.  

Or a manifestation of magical crop circles/ley lines in my yard, reminding me that I am always in exactly my right place for growth and discovery.  Time to paint ...

How is your summer rolling?

Monday, July 8, 2013

reframing "significant"

I found myself writing to some friends:

Life inside a mix master blender: the Universe hits puree randomly and unexpectedly.  Such is my life! 

I admit, I foolishly imagined this summer - and my time unencumbered by a day job - as a fertile period of creative work bursting the seams of my life.  Today I realized I needed to let go of the notion that any significant work would take place while home with husband and child underfoot (the dog at least sleeps quietly and comfortingly at my feet.)

But maybe my attitude is wrong; perhaps a chance of perspective is all that is required.  Summer time is crazy with spontaneity: lady bugs hatching, fire flies beckoning, swimming pools, bike rides and patio time all vying for attention.  Much of significance is happening, just not in the manner that I had expected which is par for the course and far more exciting, enlightening and nourishing when I can remember to adopt a more spacious attitude.  

One thing that keeps me riding the waves of my life is the structure of practice.  It is a huge concept for me.  It began with my yoga practice and has spilled out into life off the mat.  It is how I connect with growth, learning, change and insight.  Practice frames my relationship with living:  I want to be learning, expanding, connecting and embracing my life and I see all my action as effort expended towards that intention.  I don't think it is so much about Practice make Perfect; I think it is Practice makes me more attention and aware.  Practice makes me more flexible, and not just bendy in body but in mind, attitude, heart and soul.

I am working on an offering to share this fall entitled The Gift of Practice: Nurturing & Nourishing Creativity. I am curious to delve into the role of practice in creative expression and a significant part of what I want to explore is the way practice is experienced by other creatives in various expressive forms. (There is significant again!) Of course my hidden agenda is to strengthen my own unique expression of creative practice!

I am excited that one of my favorite creative lights -  mentor, sister, guide and friend - Pixie Campbell has created an online version of her Shamanic Painting Program to launch July 29.  Visual Quest is a five week course running through August 31 although course content will remain available until March 20, 2014 (yeah!) so while it is perfectly timed to coincide with the fiery energy of summer, inspiration and action, there will be plenty of time to snuggle in with the material and squeeze all the juicy goodness that Pixie always provides in any of her programs.

Visual Quest is a five-week online art workshop that integrates
the creative process with profound spiritual discovery
and healing through the unique, holistic and shamanic approach
developed by artist and modern medicine woman,
Pixie Campbell.

Imagine a painting class that goes far beyond teaching mere
technique, delving into the inner realms of the psyche to
forge powerful links between you and the canvas—and then
imagine that intuitive richness spilling out to transform and
enhance every aspect of your life. This wild, transcendent
creativity is at the heart of Visual Quest. Utilizing the millennia-
old practice of shamanism, Pixie will guide you on a journey
into your deepest Self, enabling you to connect with the
Source of Creation within you, and interpret it artistically.

Visual Quest is a sacred, nurturing space where you can
meet yourself—and be met—where you are right now. It is
authentic growth and revelation, the convergence of passion,
art, and the divine feminine. Allow Pixie to show you how to
access Nature’s symbolic teachings and gain a deeper understanding
of the song within you as you explore artistic
mediums and express your soul’s truth


Once again, the Universe shakes me up so I can see with fresh eyes the gifts and opportunities extended towards me.  I asked to do significant work and fertile ground appears. My brushes are ready, how about yours?  


Thursday, July 4, 2013

magic brews

I do love the lolling pace of summer ... the hours and days slip by me and I loose track of time.  Today is a holiday here, but another day for me to fill with work and play.  Cowgirl and I each have our "studies" to review and then join together for some Chinese character practice which I find so fascinating.  The character for big (da) 大 looks like a person with their arms extended wide open.  It actually is the character for person (ren) 人 with a line through the center.  Put a line on top 天 and you have sky (tian).  Cool, isn't it?

One of my new summer routines is to put out a jar of herbal sun tea each morning allowing the light and the heat of the day to steep it.  The next day I strain it and enjoy it "straight" or with a little lemonade mixed in.  I don't follow any recipe; rather I use this practice as a means of cultivating intuition.  I pull out my basket of dried herbs and pick whatever calls to me.  Lately, I have been snipping some fresh mint from my herb pots, tossing in a spoonful of rose hips and a sprinkling of red leaf raspberry.  Another favorite combination is mint with a pinch of licorice root for some natural sweetness.  I prefer the mints right now for their cooling properties.  I also like to add something for calming like catmint or lemon balm.  (A hand full of fresh lemon balm steeped in a cup of hot water with some honey is my new favorite bedtime tea!)

I learned this method of making teas (or herbal infusions) from a generous and wise herb mama, Latisha of HerbMother. Her website is a treasure trove of information on working with the plant people with lots of fun activities for kids. She is my go-to when I have any questions regarding herbs and their properties and the various ways to work (or play!) with them.  (She offers many free tutorials here and a basic recipe for summer brews is here.) What I love is her encouragement that we all hold this wisdom and that the work is really about cultivating a relationship with the plants.  Taking time to select my herbs, mixing them, setting them out for the entire day to brew is an act of engagement and commitment on both our parts.  Rather than mindless grabbing a box off of the shelf, this practice brings me into relationship with myself, my inner guidance and the plants around me. 

I follow a similar tactic when visiting the farmer's market.  Rather than having an agenda (recipes/list in hand) I go and seek what calls to me.  This is a way of strengthening my ability to hear my inner guidance (when we listen to it and respond, we strength it; when we hear, but disregard, we weaken that connection) and respond to the wisdom of my body and what the yogis call Prana or the life force.   

Interestingly, the Chinese character for tea (ca - long a sound) 茶  is said to represent  grass, wooden branches and a person between the two, signifying how tea brings us into balance with nature. 

Happy magic making!  I would love to know your favorite summer drink recipes.