I’m Back in Time for the Solar Eclipse!

After a six week hiatus, I am happy to be back blogging.  I will have insight into my time away, as well as what I learned on vacation and where I am headed for the rest of this year in future blogs.  But first I have to discuss the eclipse.

I’m sure you have heard all about it by now, but the solar eclipse provides us a wonderful time to close the book on things that no longer serve us, and bring forth a new self full of purpose and inspiration.  In the midst of getting your eclipse glasses and perhaps planning a trip to witness the eclipse, I have a few recommendations for preparing your spirit for the eclipse:

  1. Spend some time in silence – quieting the mind allows you to be more receptive to the energy around you at this time, and allows you to hear any important messages that may be given to you.
  2. Create a simple ritual to honor the eclipse and nature in general – the sun and moon are obviously part of nature, but they have power over our Mother Earth that we cannot live without.  We need the sun to warm the dirt for our food to grow and the moon to affect the tides, just to name a few.  The ritual could include gathering natural things from your own backyard and arranging them in a way that resonates with you.  Or you could visit a park or water feature and bless all that is around you with gratitude.  Or buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers to remind you of the earth’s gifts.  The sky is the limit!
  3. Set an intention – the eclipse is a powerful time to set intentions for yourself.  For me, intentions need to be positive, with results that go beyond just me and posed as a question.  For example, I may set an intention such as “How can I bring more harmony to my community?”  There are many ways to answer it, and the community in question could be your literal neighborhood or town, or it could be your family or group of friends.  Do whatever feels right for you in this moment and time.
  4. Create a memento of the occasion – not only is it fun to be creative, but each time you look upon your creation you will be reminded of the eclipse, your connection to nature, and your intentions.  Place your creation where you can see it daily, such as next to your bed or on your desk.  A beautiful reminder of an important time in our lives.

So there you have it–four simple ways to prepare your spirit for the solar eclipse.  If you need more inspiration to prepare for the eclipse, check out NASA’s website for some great facts about this particular eclipse, the history of eclipses and common misconceptions.

If you would like a real treat, check out this video from The Shift Network featuring don Oscar Miro-Quesada, “a Peruvian curandero (healer) and world-renowned shamanism teacher.”  He provides some insight from a shamanic perspective as well as provides an Alignment practice that gave me goosebumps!

It is good to be back.  To be honest, I was waffling about continuing my blog, but I think the solar eclipse energy has answered my questions about it with a resounding YES.

Spend some time in ceremony with the eclipse, and let the magic happen!

Six Week Plan to Re-Setting Your Foundation

It’s 4th of July weekend, and most of us looking forward to cook outs, time with friends and family and fireworks.   The Fourth of July celebrates our country’s independence and established the foundation of the United States we know today.

So how established is your personal foundation?  Are you feeling a little unbalanced, overwhelmed, or have too much on your mind?  Here are my six steps to re-establishing your foundation:

  1. Connect with Nature:  Whether it is visiting a park or sitting in your backyard, getting close to Mother Earth will reinvigorate your spirit.  Take your shoes off and stand on the grass or earth and imagine roots being planted from your feet down through the soil as deep as possible.  Remember when you were a kid and shoes were an afterthought?  Yeah, you want those tootsies touching the ground.
  2. Rediscover your passion:  What do you do that brings you immense joy, where you lose track of time and wish you could do more often?  For me it is yard work.  I dig, plant, and weed until my legs shake and I can barely lift the wheelbarrow–all with a smile on my face.   Pursuing your passion can ground you in your being and help firm up your foundation.
  3. Keep a steady sleep schedule:  With the longer hours of daylight you may be tempted to stay up later, and with all the family and friend gatherings you may find yourself not getting as much sleep as you are used to.  Being in a steady state of fatigue can put major cracks in your foundation.  Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.  I am not opposed to the occasional nap though.
  4. Move your body:  Sitting around a campfire, sitting on the deck, sitting at your desk at work all lead to a shaky foundation.  Get up, take a walk around the block, dance to your favorite tune, walk the neighbor’s dog.  Of course one of my personal favorites is to walk on the gorge trail at our local park, which also helps me connect with nature.  Move your body in a way that moves you and your foundation will firm up in no time.
  5. Spend time in silence and solitude:  The constant noise that surrounds us can shake our foundation to its core.  You don’t have to sit cross-legged on a pillow and say Om in order to do this.  Take a walk without your iPod.  Read a book without the TV on.  Drive without the radio on.  Silence around us helps to quiet our mind, and drain some of that energy from around our head to settle in our foundation.  Solid!
  6. Put your phones/tablets/computers away:  In my Intuitive Plant Medicine class part of our homework was to create a nighttime routine.  We all have seen the studies that show staring at our electronics before bed can interfere with our sleep (See #3). I started putting my phone away at least an hour before I go to bed.  I have to say, it has been quite freeing.  It also critical to put them down in the presence of other people.  If you need to check your phone for something important, let your compatriots know, but otherwise put them down.  Make those around you feel important by giving them your full attention.  Your foundation will thank you.

Are you more overwhelmed now than at the beginning of the blog?  No fear!  I recommend focusing on just one item a week.  Notice how you feel at the beginning of the week compared to the end.  Perhaps spend some time journaling about the experience.  Was it easy or hard?  How did you feel physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?  I like to have at least one word in each of those categories to fully realize the experience.

Example:  Putting my phone away an hour before I go to bed.  Was it easy or hard?  At first it was hard because my friends and I have a chat going and I was probably missing out on some conversation.  I turned that around by looking forward to a surprise conversation the next morning.

How do I feel?
Physically:  Relaxed
Mentally:  Clear
Emotionally:  Happy
Spiritually:  Connected to spirit

Reflect and jot down a few words, that’s it!  Now it is no accident that I chose six items over six weeks.  I have decided to take a little vacation from blogging, and plan to return to it sometime in the middle of August.  I felt it was a good time to take a little time off to recharge and restore.  You have been given your homework assignment, so I expect your foundations to be strong when we reunite!

Please stay connected with me through social media–all of my links are after “Leave a Reply” at the bottom of the page.  I will be posting short items, pictures and quotes to guide and support you on your healing journey to wholeness.

Have a great and safe Fourth of July, and I will be back to blogging in the middle of August!

 

The Benefits of Childhood Creativity

This past Saturday I went to a class that was all about making a fairy garden.  As you can imagine, there were many parents and grandparents there with their children and grandchildren.  I overhead conversations on budgets for the extras, like fairy houses, animals, signs, etc.  I thought it was a great way for kids to learn the power of money and decided what they could “afford” vs. what was too expensive.  However, I also noticed something that wasn’t so good – adults not allowing the children to express their own creativity.

I heard things like, “That house doesn’t belong there”, “It doesn’t make sense where you planted that tree”  and “we don’t need any more colors”.  And I saw a lot of adult hands placing and rearranging things in their child’s fairy garden.  This bothered me as I thought it was really detrimental to the child’s creativity to be told something they did wasn’t “right”.  Who cares if the house is shoved in the corner, the tree is planted right next to it and the grass is 8 different colors?  It was a project designed to let the child’s creativity shine and it was being trampled by adults (well-intentioned, I am sure).

Full disclosure, I don’t have children.  But what I see all around me is play and creativity being replaced by sports regimens and electronics.  Families sitting together at the restaurant where everyone is on their phone.  Children crying on the airplane because it is time to turn the iPad off.  Parents run ragged shuttling their kids to some sort of practice, game or tournament.  How much time is left for the kids minds to run wild, use their imagination, problem solve?

Second full disclosure, I was a child of the 70’s.  Fancy electronics didn’t exist, our phone was connected to a cord to the wall, and my weekends and summers were spent playing in the sandbox, pretending to be a teacher or run a restaurant, or making up stories about my Barbies.  I not only interacted with my friends, but we collectively used our imagination to decide playing cards could be food for our restaurant and Barbie’s best friend would be Bionic Woman and they would share a house together.  I know, I’m getting dangerously close to shouting “Get off my lawn!”, but now more than ever we need to set up children to be the collaborative and progressive thinkers the world is going to need in the future.

Now to be fair, I think many adults could do with rediscovering their creative selves, and this involves putting down the electronics and engaging in some play as well.  The excerpt below is specifically geared for children, but I think adults could take the recommendations under advisement as well.  I mentioned we need more creative thinking in the future, but what could be possible if we ALL learned to problem solve more creatively right now?

Creative Thinking & Imagination for Child Development

Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Imagination is the door to possibilities. It is where creativity, ingenuity, and thinking outside the box begin for child development. Imaginative and creative play is how children learn about the world. During imaginative play, children manipulate materials, express themselves verbally and non-verbally, plan (intentionally or unintentionally), act, interact, react, and try different roles. Great opportunities for learning are possible when children participate in creative play with dolls, vehicles, blocks, rocks, cardboard, or boxes. Employing creative thinking while manipulating play dough, creating recipes by mixing dirt and water, working with art materials, splashing in puddles, or pretending to fly can further child development.

Imagination fosters cognitive and social development. Everyone wants to raise children who reach their highest intellectual and social/emotional potential. In early childhood education, critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving abilities are goals for children’s development. Imagining, trying new ways of doing things, and experimenting help develop critical thinking in children and foster creative problem solving. Furthermore, imagination builds social-emotional development by allowing children to contemplate different resolutions, thus boosting children’s confidence, which can be used in interactions with others. Imagination and creativity are also skills that our children will need when they join the workforce of the future.

Creativity for Kids: Tips for Nurturing Creative Minds

Below are tips and suggestions for nurturing your child’s imagination and creativity:

  • Spend time outdoors. The benefits of nature for child development are endless. Because nature is ever changing, it provides countless opportunities for discovery, creativity, and problem solving. The natural world inspires children to think, question, make suppositions, and develop creative minds. Children can draw in sand, make designs with twigs, build forts with branches, or simply lie on the ground and look up at the sky
  • Invent scenarios. When your child invents a scenario, he tries on lots of different roles and organizes his thoughts while developing social and verbal skills. Encourage your child to play house, doctor, zoo, farm, space station, school, or store. Join in the imaginative play by taking on a role yourself. Play with stuffed toys or puppets (make simple puppets by putting your hand in a sock). Let your child lead your playtime together. If your child is into superheroes, think of the power your child might want as his own superpower feeling. Consider having your child create a new superhero!
  • Verbal activities. From rhymes to riddles, silly sounds to phonics, games such as “I Spy” or making up lyrics to common tunes, verbal interactive activities can inspire and nurture creative minds. Simultaneously, these activities build vocabulary and help your child learn phonics. These games are also the perfect and fun way to spend time in car rides.
  • Encourage art activities. Art is creative expression that nurtures imagination, not a lesson in following directions. Through painting, sculpture, collage, clay, drawing or any other medium, art is a way for children to work through emotions, make decisions, and express their ideas. Manipulating art materials provides a sense of freedom yet also encourages focus and concentration. Art activities also develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Furthermore, art activities build confidence because children gain a sense of mastery over materials resulting in a new creation.
  • Share literacy activities. Make reading time memorable and discuss other possible scenarios or endings for the story by using your child’s imagination. Make up stories with your child, at times with her as the main character; other times propose moral dilemmas. Take turns making up a continuing story.
  • Ask open-ended and thought-provoking questions. Asking questions that provoke imaginative and creative thinking is an effective way to invite your child to express his ideas and share his visions, while giving him the message that his ideas are important. “What do you think would happen if….?” “What’s the difference between a dog and a cat?” “What are some other ways to do this?”
  • Limit screen time (television, movies, computer, tablet, smart phone, handhelds, video games, etc.). Nurturing imagination and parenting in the digital age can be tough. Focusing on a screen is a passive way of learning for children. An alternative would be to encourage children to create something new and different. Engaging children in a kinesthetic manner using their entire bodies and their five senses also opens the mind.
  • Remember to allow for down time. Unstructured, unscheduled time allows children opportunities to imagine and create.    

Early childhood is the peak time to nurture children’s imaginations. So if your child comes home and says, “…and then we drank purple milk that came from a purple cow,” or something similar, offer encouragement for their creativity and imagination.

Source:  www.brighthorizons.com

7 Ways to Rediscover Your Innocence

Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence
-The End of the Innocence, Don Henley

Remember summer days as a kid, without a care in the world?  When days were spent riding bikes, swimming in the neighbor’s pool, eating Popsicles or falling asleep in front of a fan?  Life was so easy back then – get up, play, eat, play, eat, fall asleep.  As adults the “play” is replaced by “work”.  So many responsibilities, things that HAVE to get done, it leaves little time for play.  However, according to the book I am reading, there are ways we can rediscover our innocence.

The book is called Nature and the Human Soul:  Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World by Bill Plotkin.  In a nutshell, the book:

“…introduces a visionary ecopsychology of human development that reveals how fully and creatively we can mature when soul and wild nature guide us.  Depth psychologist and wilderness guide Bill Plotkin presents a model for a human life span rooted in the cycles and qualities of the natural world, a blueprint for individual development that ultimately yields a strategy for cultural transformation.” 

Some background first:  The author makes a distinction between soulcentric culture and egocentric culture.  Soulcentric cultures “are designed to assist all members in discovering  and living from their deepest and most fulfilling potentials (their individual souls), in this way contributing their most life-nourishing gifts to their community and environment and, in doing so, actualizing the culture’s potential (the cultural soul) and supporting its ongoing evolution.”

Egocentric cultures on the other hand,  “prioritize the lifelong comfort, security, and social acceptance of the early-adolescent ego.  An egocentric culture has a dysfunctional notion of the self, which it sees as an isolated, competitive entity, a free and autonomous agent…The primary values of an egocentric society are safety, comfort, middleworld pleasures and enhancement of socioeconomic status.”  The author believes this type of society gains wealth without soul, and this “leads to its inevitable pathological outgrowths:  power differentials, socioeconomic (class) stratification, and exploitation of minorities, women, children, the poor, and all the “resources” of the natural world.”  (I think this culture sounds all too familiar.)

Mr. Plotkin posits a Wheel of Life with eight stages of development of the individual to create a soulcentric, evolutionary culture.  The first stage in the life cycle is “The Innocent”, and it covers from birth to around age 4.  It has many aspects, but one of the main developmental tasks in this stage is to preserve innocence.  The author feels this preservation of innocence is so critical, he states, “A society’s return to soulcentric life begins with the care of childhood innocence.”

Whew!  I know that is a lot to take in.   And now you may be thinking – where the hell did my innocence go?  My sense of wonder?  Can I go back and get my innocence?  The answer is YES.  According the Mr. Plotkin, you can revisit past stages in your life and rediscover what was lost.  He lists the following 7 ways to reclaim your innocence and I add my own take aways:

  1. Meditation.  “In meditation we practice fully inhabiting our experience right now just as it is.  We practice non-attachment or nonclinging to particular memories and people.”  Take away:  Be Present.
  2. Solitude in Nature.  “The important things is a joyful mindfulness to the wild world”.  Take away:  Rediscover your connection with nature.
  3. Creative Art Process.  “It’s about surrendering to what is immediately present–your art media and whatever impulses and feelings arise within you.”  Take away:  Let go.
  4. “Psychotherapy and therapeutic practices that emphasize present-centeredness”.  Take away:  Seek the help of professionals if you feel called to do so.
  5. Attend social occasions:  “Drop expectations.  Don’t hang on to memories.  Let go of desired outcomes.”  Take away:  Practice awareness of self.
  6. “Get in the habit of reviewing your day to find one or two situations in which you could have been more innocent and present had you been more mindful.”  He continues by asking you to revisit the scene and imagine acting more present and noticing the potential differences in outcome.  This will help you the next time the situation arises.  Take away:  Self-reflection prepares.
  7. Hang out with babies:  “Why not sit at the feet of a master?”  Take away:  Go to the source.

So are you ready to rediscover your innocence?  Let’s prove Don Henley wrong–innocence is not ending, it is just beginning.

How Dead Trees Can Transform Us

I have written extensively on my love of trail and how the trees make me feel alive and restored.  So why the heck would I write about dead trees?  Because we can return the trees to the Earth as ash through FIRE.  And sitting around a fire can bring us immense peace and a sense of renewal as we watch it transform the branches and logs that feed it.

My friends and I love to have backyard fires, where we pull up a wobbly camp chair, put on some music and talk about what ever topic happens to come up.  It is so easy to slip into a relaxed mode when seated around a fire.  Fire makes the outside world drop away and you are immediately present with the faces around the circle.  You are also reminded of the mystery of the darkness beyond those faces!  The flicker and dance of the flames can mesmerize and be meditative, giving our brain a much needed rest.  It is quite magical.

So when I saw the article, Returning to the Campfire, Our digital age requires an analog flame, I had to share.  It echoes my thoughts and emotions about fire to a tee.

The Lindy Effect, named for a longstanding New York deli, is the idea that the longer an idea or practice has survived, the longer it will survive into the future. It’s why, despite fidget spinners being the talk of the summer, jump ropes are much more likely to be around in 50 years. Newfangled technology may thrill us, but it’s the allegedly boring, familiar stuff that lasts, burrowing into our routines and longings.

The really, really old stuff even burrows into our evolutionary makeup, marrying its survival with our own. This is the case with humanity’s oldest and greatest technological achievement: fire. Fire ushered in cooking, radically reducing chewing time. It provided a new way to ward off predators, lengthening our lifespan. It heated and lit us up, increasing how far we could travel. It not only changed our lives, it changed our bodies: our brain and stomach size evolved to fit our newfound ignition.

How fire ignited our emotional lives
Most relevant to our purposes, fire changed our emotional lives, too. In fact, one could even say fire created our emotional lives. Firelight extended the day beyond daylight, creating a social time after work but before sleep. According to research by anthropologist Polly Wiessner, this exciting new time of day — which mixed the energy of firelight with the impossibility of hunting and gathering — unleashed the magic of human community:

In hot seasons, the cool of the evening releases pent up energy; in cold seasons, people huddle together. Fireside gatherings are often, although not always, composed of people of mixed sexes and ages. The moon and starlit skies awaken imagination of the supernatural, as well as a sense of vulnerability to malevolent spirits, predators, and antagonists countered by security in numbers. Body language is dimmed by firelight and awareness of self and others is reduced. Facial expressions — flickering with the flames — are either softened, or in the case of fear or anguish, accentuated. Agendas of the day are dropped while small children fall asleep in the laps of kin. Whereas time structures interactions by day because of economic exigencies, by night social interactions structure time and often continue until relationships are right.

Thanks to fire, humans had time to talk through their emotions about themselves and each other. We could start bonding within and between groups. We could create and pass along culture and tradition. Without fire, all the stuff we like about being human might never have happened.

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Finding the spark again
As the nightly campfire has come to be replaced by gas light, lightbulbs, and, eventually, the blue glow of screens, we, as a species, have forgotten about the joys of this special time of night: campfire time. However, our bodies and minds have not forgotten. Anthropologists at the University of Alabama have found that sitting by a campfire lowers blood pressure and other stress indicators: the longer we sit by the fire, the more relaxed we become.
This mirrors studies about what happens to us in all natural environments: fire, like the woods generally, produces what researches call a “soft fascination,” modestly grabbing our attention while allowing the analytical parts of our brain to rest. This is the “restoration theory” of nature: nature allows the always-on, critical part of our minds to take it easy, while prodding the long-dormant, open-ended part of our minds to come alive.

And, as any scout or camper knows, our emotional lives are also rejuvenated when we return to the campfire. The Boy Scouts acknowledges this with their opening ceremony for campfire sessions:

As glow the hearts of the logs upon this fire,
So may our hearts glow, and our thoughts be kind,
As glow the hearts of the logs upon this fire,
May peace and deep contentment fill every mind.

As Wiessner mentions at the end of her study on the early social effects of fire, the Danish idea of hygge, or coziness, calls for the heavy use of candles to, like the fires of old, “stimulate intimate conversation.” The culture of ghost stories around the campfire, too, reminds us how well burning embers pair with being open to strange and fruitful thinking.
It’s no wonder that the oldest way of gathering has lasted this long: it relaxes us, warms our hearts and takes us to another plane. And, in line with the Lindy effect, gathering around the campfire is likely to outlast the latest wellness crazes, continuing to be humanity’s go-to way to escape and rejuvenate. Perhaps all the answers you need are not inside of your cellphone screen, but rather among the sparks and flicker of your next moonlit blaze.

Source:  Thrive Global

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A Visual Way to Gain Confidence

Am I doing this right?  I keep asking myself this question during my Intuitive Plant Medicine class, and I am not alone.  We have had several conference calls, and I keep hearing my own words echoed by others.  The funny thing is that the current topic we are studying, Flower Essences, really has no rules.  In fact our instructor, Asia Suler, provides some guidelines then tells us point blank to crumple them up and throw them away.  As long as we have heart centered intentions in making our flower essences, they will be “right”.

But I think most of us like rules and guidelines because then a positive outcome is almost guaranteed, right?  And we want the “right” result now.  We don’t want to fail.  We don’t want to have to slog through trying something new and having it not work and throwing it out.  However, I am slowly learning that the process of trial and error has its own beauty and benefit.  That if I want to try something completely whack, and it doesn’t work, I learn from it.  I try again.  I experiment, I listen to my intuition, I trust that through the process the outcome will be what I intended.  And that is the only thing I need to make it “right”.

Somewhere along the way we lost our ability to trust ourselves, and that involves being OK with failure sometimes.  It’s called learning.  We need to find our confidence, set our intentions, and go for it.   The infographic below from Happify.com provides good information about confidence and how we can develop in it ourselves and others.

So if you see me standing like Wonder Woman next to a bowl of water with flowers floating in it, you will know exactly what I am doing!

 

Who Has a Bigger Impact on our Wellbeing-Friends or Family?

“Friends are flowers in the garden of life” – Proverbs

Over twenty years ago I made the decision to move to Cincinnati from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It was hard to leave my folks and extended family, but my brother lived in Cincinnati so I had family nearby.  Lucky for me, my friend Gail decided to pull up stakes and move with me so I had an instant roommate and someone to share the experience with.

Recently Renu, my lifelong friend (and my college roommate all four years) contacted me and a couple of our other friends to make the pilgrimage to Detroit to see U2.  It has been years since I saw her and our friend Erin, and we all jumped at the chance to see each other and catch up.  I can’t remember the last time I saw either of them in person.  We are still hopeful that our friend Jennifer can join us too.

This weekend I went to an art show where a new friend, Carolyn, was showing her art.  We ran into a few other friends (Betsy, Amy, Carrie, and Marianne), and then went to a taproom to meet our friend, Alexis.

Yesterday my husband and I went to a taproom to visit our friend Kat who was bartending, and two more friends, Evan and Kaycie stopped in.  I made two new friends, Vicki and Charlotte, when I mentioned the bees the taproom keeps and we started a conversation about them and the state of the world today.  Lastly, about an hour before we left, Betty, one of the owners of the taproom and a friend, showed up and we had a wonderful chat.

Why am I prattling on and on about all these friends?  One, because they are all dear to me.  But also because a study at Michigan State University found that as we get older, friendships can become more important than family when it comes to our happiness and health.  “In a pair of studies involving nearly 280,000 people, William Chopik (assistant professor of psychology) found that friendships become increasingly important to one’s happiness and health across the lifespan. Not only that, but in older adults, friendships are actually a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members.”

Now I know some of you reading this are probably like WHAT?  My sister/brother/mom/dad is my best friend.  And to that I say HURRAY!  I love my brother and consider him a friend, but we don’t spend much time together, nor do we really check in on each other that often (much to my mom’s chagrin).  I talk to some of my friends DAILY.   I see some of them weekly.  We have a lot in common and enjoy doing the same things, and most of us are in the same cycle of life.

Why do friends tend to be more beneficial in the long run?

“According to the first study, both family and friend relationships were linked to better health and happiness overall, but only friendships became a stronger predictor of health and happiness at advanced ages.

The second study also showed that friendships were very influential – when friends were the source of strain, participants reported more chronic illnesses; when friends were the source of support, participants were happier.

Chopik said that may be because of the optional nature of relationships – that over time, we keep the friends we like and make us feel good and discard the rest. Friends also can provide a source of support for people who don’t have spouses or for those who don’t lean on family in times of need. Friends can also help prevent loneliness in older adults who may experience bereavement and often rediscover their social lives after they retire.”

I have seen this in action with my own parents.  They spend the winter in Florida in a mobile home park.  They have made a BUNCH of friends, and half the time I can’t even get a hold of them because they are playing cards, going out to eat or at a friend’s house.  When my folks are back in Wisconsin, they have family, but not as many friends.  They spend time with the extended family, but not near as much as with their Florida friends.  In November of last year I interviewed my mom about the importance of community throughout her life (StoryCorps Interview) and when asked what community made the biggest impact on her, she named the Florida friends, for similar reasons as to why I spend time with my friends.

What is the state of your friendships?  The saying goes that you have to be a friend to have a friend.  If you need a few pointers on being a solid friend, check out my blog,   To Friends Past and Present…  And if you need some tips on how to find new friends, my blog Community X 2 can help you out.  Friendships–past, present and future–could hold the key to your wellbeing and happiness.

Source:  Are friends better for us than family?

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A Truly Innovative Community Garden

I am just a wee bit giddy about my little garden.  It has been a LONG time since I have grown anything I could potentially eat.  For years I have maintained gardens of plants and flowers, but not vegetables.  This year I decided to step gingerly into the world of vegetable gardening by buying a standing raised bed and planting a salsa garden.  Peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and onions are all cozy in their little bed.  I talk to them and tend to them just like all my other kids, I mean plants.  If this goes well, then perhaps I will expand my garden by putting in a larger raised bed in the back yard and get real serious about planting a bigger garden.

I don’t quite know why I haven’t done it up to this point.  I remember fondly picking raspberries off my the plants at my great-grandma’s house, and to this day if I have fresh raspberries on vanilla ice cream it takes me back.  I also remember my parents’ garden.  Going out to check to see what was ripe, what we could pick and eat.   I did not like tomatoes as a kid, so I left those to my folks.  However I heartily ate all the cukes they harvested.  Such fond memories of knowing where my food came from and the absolute freshness that was beyond compare.  Hopefully I can rediscover that with my own little garden.

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Now I know many people out there who treat vegetable gardening like religion.   I have a friend who converted her entire backyard into a garden.  I see other’s beautiful gardens through my Intuitive Plant Medicine class.  And I have several local farms “liked” on Facebook, as well as farmer’s markets.  But what if it went even further?  What if the town you lived in literally had food planted within it and around it?  That is the story I found in this Ted talk by Pam Warhurst.  She lived in a small town in England, and they literally transformed it by not only planting within the town, but bringing it to the schools and educating kids as well as improving the local businesses.  It is really quite amazing and inspiring.  And the good news it is spreading across the world.

If you are an avid gardener, or you just enjoy fresh food and fresh ideas, this video will entertain and get you thinking.  Have a great weekend and support your local farmers!

 

How I Put Down the Gloves and Stopped Beating Myself Up

Yesterday I was tired.  Last week I was REALLY tired.  I didn’t know why, as I usually have plenty of energy and get a good night’s rest.  As I reflected on the past week I realized what was happening – I was draining my own energy by spending too much time in my head.

I think many of us live our lives thinking too much.  For me, my head was swimming with feeling not enough — I felt I was behind in my online class, my day job wasn’t challenging me, I should be going to yoga more, I should go the gym for a tougher workout than walking at the park.  I was beating myself up mentally for not living up to what I THOUGHT I should be doing.  I preach about being present, and here I was living anywhere but.  Now I am worrying about that!

In my Shoden Level 1 training, the International House of Reiki teaches that we are all beings of brilliant light.  However when we do things like worry and not live in the present, we start putting the equivalent of lamp shades over our light, and we become dim.  In that state we are not living as our true self, nor are we available to shine our light on others.  I had essentially spent the week dimming my light, and it manifested in me as being tired all the time.  Something had to change, and I decided to get back to basics.

First, I needed to ask for help.  I have no problem reaching out to others in my time of need, as I find I always feel better when I do.  I needed to talk to someone I felt would understand and could relate to what I was going through, so I reached out to my Shoden Level 1 instructor, Maria Kammerer.

We had a wonderful discussion, and she reminded me that going through Level 1 is the equivalent of being a jar of settled mud in water that has been shaken up.  Stuff is swirling all around and it takes time for it to either leave our bodies as we no longer need it, or for the stuff we need to settle and take hold.  It was so comforting to have someone literally say everything is all right.  I am doing fine.  In fact I am doing really well and this is all normal.  Sometimes we just need that trusted someone to tell us things like that to help rid ourselves of self-doubt.

Second, I needed to get those damn shades off and start shining brighter.  How?  The Reiki precepts.  They can be interpreted in may different ways, but the International House of Reiki lists them as:

Just for Today:
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be grateful
Be true to your way and your being
Be compassionate to yourself and others

Elegant, simple and yet so powerful.  The first line leads you back to the present.  It doesn’t say “never do these things”, it says “just for today”, so already I am pulled into the here and now.  Of course my mind immediately went to “do not worry” and “be compassionate to yourself and others”.  My busy mind was worrying at a furious pace, and I was beating myself up for not only the things I was worrying about, but the fact that I was worrying at all!  Quite a vicious circle.

I took a deep breath, and read through them all. Any anger dissipated as I was reminded to be grateful and also be true to my way and my being.  Just this morning as I woke up and my inner voice starting right back to beating me up, I said stop.  What if instead of worrying about what was “wrong”, I celebrated what was right?  My online course?  I have done most of the homework, and besides, there is no time frame for it – I have as much time as I need to complete it.  My day job provides me a ton of freedom and I get to work from home.  Yoga?  I happened to read a Curvy Yoga blog about how she struggled with her practice, and decided to turn it around.  She presented an invocation, “May my practice support me how I need to be supported.”  I adopted it – when I decide to go to a class it means I need it, not that I have to do it.  And lastly, the gym vs. park.  I religiously go to the gym three times a week to do cardio and lift weights.  If I chose on day 4 or 5 to feed my soul at the same time I feed my physical body it is OK.  It is more than OK.  It is perfect.

Spending too much time in our heads creates imbalance in our wellbeing and dims our light.  If you find yourself in the same situation, I recommend reaching out for help and writing down the Reiki precepts and keeping them handy.  And of course there is always the option of getting a Reiki treatment to help you out!  (book one with me here).

How could you feel and what could you offer when your energy is free and flowing and bright?  Don’t “think” about it, just allow it to happen and notice.  Get out of your head and into your being.

Related blogs:  The Importance of Living in the Now3 Concepts for Living a Full, Peaceful Life

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Synchronicity is more than a song by the Police

So what is it then?  According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, synchronicity is “the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (such as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality”.  My interpretation is that things happen that seem related but have no reason to be and are still meaningful.  And when things like this occur, it is time to take notice and look go deeper.

Here is my story of synchronicity to illustrate the point.   In my Intuitive Plant Medicine class we are focusing on dreaming, which requires us to meditate and then keep a dream journal.  I don’t usually remember my dreams, but I thought perhaps if my intention was to remember them, I would.  The first night I had a nightmare.  A couple broke into our house, and I laid in my bed unable to speak or move.  I was paralyzed.  Nobody hurt me, but the woman went outside and chopped down a tree in our backyard and there was a fire burning nearby.  I woke up scared with my heart pounding.  Part of our homework was to “dissect” a dream to find its meaning.  I determined that this dream was related to my business and the fact that I felt stuck and without a voice.  I vowed to make changes to get unstuck and find my voice and honor that dream.

One way I thought I could do that was through yoga, so when I saw a class titled “Yoga and the Goddesses”, it felt like the perfect class for my situation. (Synchronicity #1).  The class was part of a series dedicated to learning about all the different goddesses and their qualities.  Most of the people in the class had obviously had exposure to these goddesses, while I did not, as the instructor asked what goddess resonated with them the most.  Several spouted out names I barely could pronounce, much less knew what qualities they embodied.  Summoning up the courage to speak, I said this was my first class, and knew nothing about any of the goddesses.

The instructor said it was my lucky night (Synchronicity #2) – we were studying Shakti, the goddess of creation  She provided a handout with the quote “Shakti, reveling in her own bliss, pours herself forth as the universe” by Maheshswarananda with the following picture:

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This woman was strong.  She’s holding the planets for Pete’s sake!  She is reveling in her own bliss!  I was starting to feel the empowerment I needed.  We laid in various positions observing our breath when I felt a kick in the back.  It was Ego.  Ego was telling me I would never be as learned as the instructor or have as beautiful voice as she did chanting the “Nondual Invocation to the Divine”.  Then Ego left me to dwell on that as it usually does.  But I channeled my inner Shakti and my inner voice and shot that crap down cold.  I left the class feeling light and floaty with a smile on my face.  Later, when I looked up Shakti for more information, I discovered that “Shakti especially energizes communication skills, so that our words will be heard clearly and understood.” (Source: Goddess Shakti) (Synchronicity #3)

That evening as I was going through my bedtime gratitude list, I finished by asking the universe for a sign that I was on the right path.  I asked it to show me a pink butterfly.  I had a hard time falling asleep, and actually didn’t sleep well at all.

I awoke the next day and decided to head to the park to take a walk and be invigorated by Nature.  The day was sunny and cool, and there were only a few people on the trail.  As I walked off the trail to go around the lake, I saw a dead branch hanging from a tree.  I pulled the branch down, thinking it was an offering from the tree. I carried it for the rest of my walk, and took it back to the beginning of the trail to lay in the woods as a symbol of my gratitude.  I noticed some interesting looking bud-like things at the end of the branch, and thought they would be nice on my altar at home.  I broke off the ends with the buds and took them with me.

After leaving the park I decided to stop at a garden store to look for some herb containers.  I was looking up and down the aisles, and what did I see?  A pink butterfly!  (Synchronicity #4).  It was made of sparkly pink plastic embedded in a stepping stone.  I reached out my hand to touch it, with a huge grin on my face.  I asked, and the universe responded.  I am on the right path.

I then headed home to look up my tree to see what sort of meanings it may hold for me.  Unfortunately I did not have the leaf, so I was struggling to find it online.  Lucky for me (Synchronicity #5), my friend Marianne is a tree specialist.  I sent her a picture of the bud-like things and she identified it immediately – European black alder.  I put the name of the tree and “medicine” in the search engine and the first site that came up?  www.thegoddesstree.com! (Synchronicity #6).

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I started reading about the medicinal properties of the alder, and it was historically used to treat mouth ulcers and sore throats.  Well right now I have a mouthpiece while I wait to get a tooth implant, and it is making my mouth very sore.  Now I didn’t harvest some bark to make a gargle, but I did realize the tree was giving me a gift–an acknowledgement of my pain, and a source of energy for my throat, or voice.  I continued to read down the page and came across this meaning when the Alder card comes up in the deck OGHAM The Celtic Oracle by Peter Pracownik and Andy Baggott:

You have an opportunity to set some firm foundations, although you need to guard against them being underminded by negative emotions. You have untapped emotional strength within you and spiritual help around you that you can call upon if the going gets tough. This is a time to build bridges, not burn them, so think carefully before decision making. Inspiration can come from beyond the physical world if you have the awareness to seek it. Hold steadfastly to what you know in your heart, listen to your intuition and seek guidance from the spiritual realm more than from your fellow man. Have faith in your path understanding that you make your own destiny. (Synchronicity #7)

The webpage on Alders ends with this:

I move forward with ease and grace.
I honor the energy of alder, for the protection of my inner oracle.
I will listen to the voice of the Goddess Within.
So mote it be.

Pray Peace

And boom,  I drop the mic on my last Synchronicity.  What this whole long story says to me is this – trust the universe.  The universe has my back, and will guide me in whatever way I need.  I needed to find my voice, and it took me on a journey to find it.  And I continue to discover it as I retell my story.

It is magical and beautiful, and it can happen to you!  But in order to experience this you must be present and tuned into the world around you.  You have to be observant and do things that seem weird (like pulling a dead tree branch from a tree).  Trust yourself, and trust the universe – neither will let you down.

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