Journey Wisely

"My Raspberries"A piece of artwork in progress.

 “My Raspberries”A piece of artwork in progress.

” The sun will rise and set regardless.

What we choose to do with the light while it’s here is up to us.

Journey wisely.”

~ Alexandra Elle

My raspberries are still producing. Every time I see new fruit on the vine I smile because I notice that I’m surprised – I don’t expect that to be so. But my raspberries don’t need my approval, my logic, my understanding, or my love to live their life according to the timetable that is deeply and eternally connected to their divinity.

They just keep popping out juicy little berries that I pick and eat on my way to my car as I say to myself, “but it has been so cold! Aren’t you supposed to be asleep by now?” etc. On the one hand I love them, am grateful for them, and in awe of their tenacity to be what they  were born to be regardless of my opinions and judgments, conscious or unconscious. On the other hand their presence stirs my soul to contemplate how my limiting beliefs about them are a reflection of my limiting beliefs about myself – beliefs that have NOT come from a dialogue with God, but whose seeds are planted by others opinions and judgments that were never  meant to take root in my mind.

I am the gardener of my life. I have seeds of divinity planted in me. I feel them. Every morning when I wake I know what to do to nourish them. I’m amazed that they still produce fruit. I’m in awe that I’m more fruitful than I ever thought I could be.

When I stop and listen to the thoughts that don’t resonate with that growth, I am like the gardener who stops expecting the fruit to be hidden beneath the vines. It’s true that there are seasons and physical realities and circumstances in our lives that feed the thoughts that we are past producing. But all I have to do is look at my own experiences to know how harmful it is to let them take root.

I look back on my very productive year and all of the destructive thoughts that would have hindered my progress had I not been aware enough of feeling guided by a light, a spark of something better inside me. My reluctance to start things  – unlike my raspberries who are perfectly obedient to their divine nature – is always present. It never gets easier no matter how excited I am to get going on a project or an adventure.

Every day I have to consciously choose to sit down and put pen or chalk to paper if I’m going to have a new piece of artwork to eventually frame and display.

Every time I decide that it’s a day for a Polar Plunge I still have to take that first step into the frigid ocean no matter how rain, windy, or miserable I feel.

Every day I have to choose to do the small and monotonous things like laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and reading and praying with my children, hoping that those things are making a difference in the overall atmosphere of my home, feeling that those fruits are the hardest to look for.

Every day I have to choose to be aware that today is a gift not a guarantee. Who I’ll “be” from sun up to sundown is up to me. Responding to the slivers of light that I let into my heart is really the only step that matters until…. “Until” takes care of itself.

My raspberries have taught me to get out of my head and to pay attention to the light that tells me to feed my gifts – to do things that make me feel alive and me in the world – every day, and to pay attention to those people who are fellow gardeners and can collaborate to ensure optimum growth. I will always listen to lessons from nature before opinions of others because nature really does do a perfect job of being magnificent.

You are magnificent. Journey wisely.

Navigating the Writing Path:From Start to Finish

I love to write. I’ve said a few times over the last few years that I don’t. But that’s because it’s challenging. I love a good challenge, one that opens up new paths in my brain and heart and makes me question thoughts, beliefs and practices. Writing does that for me in so many ways. Before I continue I have to admit that I am an advocate of writing by hand and then transferring it to the computer. It’s a more powerful experience. Never skip that step as a writer!

When Shelley Lundquist, who writes at Let Me Move You, invited me to this Summer Blog tour sponsored by I C Publishing, I jumped right in because that’s what I do. I figure the Universe provides in mysterious ways. So why not? I’ve blogged for about three years, not so much lately. It has been a journey of self-expression and building online relationships – something I didn’t expect!

You may not know this, but I love family history for the stories of my ancestors (“Rememeber was my first blog). I started writing about the process of finding them which was dry and boring. Then the people I was researching started to take on a life of their own. Literally. That was a turning point for me in my writing AND in my family history experience.

I would choose one ancestor, find every document and picture I could of them, draw a timeline of their life and do a bit of research of what the world was like when they were alive. Then I’d sit and stare at the piece of paper filled with all the data and wait. I’d wait for the anomaly, or an event that triggered an emotion from which a question would form. Then I’d write a story around it using all the data I’d found, adding other “characters” that I’d found from the documents, living with or near them, employing and interacting with them as I imagined. It was loads of fun. It has been to date the most powerful tool to learn about why I am who I am as I’ve unearthed patterns of behaviors that make sense to me now. But the process of writing the story has also taught me to stay with my thoughts and emotions and to pay attention to the triggers I find in other people’s stories. Those are the “issues” that I work through and turn into strengths. It’s a fascinating process.

These days I draw more than write. But it’s really all the same thing – collecting data, framing the story, and feeling the elements of it, learning who I am in the process. This blog reflects my spiritual journey more than anything else. I write when I feel like I’ve had an aha moment and can stay with the thought long enough to develop it and find something positive to share from it. Those moments happen every day, but I’m out of the habit of sharing on this blog. Mostly I share a condensed version on Facebook. Writing is like that for me. The platform might change, but I go where people are listening and where the amount of participation and reciprocation required matches my energy at the time.

Essentially, I guess I write and draw for myself. It helps me to grow as I learn to express myself. But what good is self-expression without an audience? THAT was an eye-opener for me. I knew the answer to that question when I was a dancer. I can dance for myself because it makes me happy. But there comes a point in time when I crave sharing the experience. It’s the same with my artwork and writing.

I love the blogging community because of the relationships and the feedback. If the comment section didn’t exist at the end of each post I wouldn’t have continued writing. It’s an essential element to the experience. To touch someone’s heart and mind in such a way that they want to respond is beautiful. But many times the writer has no idea that connection was made because the reader either doesn’t understand their value to the writer or they just haven’t connected. Either way, feedback is a treasure to the writer. I got to know the people who commented and shared my posts on Twitter as friends. I’d hop over to their blogs and read and comment, too. I will always remember those few years of relationship building that strengthened me as a person and a writer. I am very grateful for the blogging community, Twitter and Triberr that connected me to some amazing, talented, interesting and genuinely friendly people.

Two people who’ll be sharing their writing journeys next week are  Kelly Orchard and Amber-Lee Dibble.

  • Kelly Orchard is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Speaker, Author, and Personal Growth Coach. She is on a mission to help women make that pinnacle life transition on their path to success!

Her website is It’s Only Victorville http://victorville.redslippertherapy.com/

  • Amber-Lee Dibble lives, works, and is raising a family in Chisana, Alaska. She is an Alaskan Big Game guide and guide trainer,  Wilderness Horseback guide, manager of Pioneer Outfitters, and the webmaster for PioneerOutfitters.com. She desires to share Chisana through Pioneer Outfitters with the world. In her words: “As you look, really look, and find no words; feeling both, your heart healing and filling to an inner bursting point and feeling that your soul has been laid open to the breeze and wind like a raw wound. This takes you beyond the physical, past the mental; this is the spiritual element. This is Chisana.”

 

 

Where Does Strength Come From?

 

 

apple-tree-print

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”  ~Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

“You’re a strong woman,” I’ve heard too many times. I honestly don’t know what strong means. People are people. We are all making our way.

I don’t see strength or weakness. I see humanness.

I don’t see broken people. I see moments of falling apart before the coming together begins again for the zillionth time.

I see life.

Perhaps what I have is a unique perspective? Maybe we have the same one?

Some say that strength comes when you believe…in God, a Higher Power, etc. I possess that knowledge, but that alone doesn’t strengthen me.

I believe my strength comes from a Knowledge of God’s character…at least the beginning of an understanding: I have a desire to know why things are the way they are and what’s LOVE got to do with it anyways? I have found a way that makes sense to me and makes sense of life.

I no longer feel like life happens to me or even for me as if my job is just to show up and make the best of it.

In other words, I’m not a victim.

Believe what you will about your life, but that’s my truth.

I believe we were all given the opportunity to see the intricate patterns of intersecting lives before we were born. I believe we understood what we were coming to and saw how the perfect people and situations would come into our lives to be our teachers. We knew they would  give us opportunities to practice the many faces of love. We saw how so many people’s choices would appear random, but would actually be miniscule and necessary parts of a larger tapestry that was, is, and always will be a beautiful work of art. We agreed that experiencing a life was the only way to understand. I believe that we also understood completely that even though there is one goal – understanding and growing into the love of God – there are as many paths as there are people.

I’ve come to the conclusion (aka  “the truth”) after watching patterns outside of myself trigger patterns inside of me that I’m the author of my life. I’m a co creator of it with God, and it’s creation started long before I was born. My life is the manifestation of sacred agreements designed out of my awareness of my desire to understand how and why God thinks and acts as a god thinks and acts, and to put myself in situations where I could figure that out. My only weakness is my humanness, and my only strength is found in my ability to find love (God) everywhere.

Love is an incredible subject to study. Everyone has issues with many parts of it. But we can all be masters of it when we use our life’s moments of uncertainty, disappointments, cruelty, meanness, as well as moments of joy, happiness, ease, and peace as tools to learn more about this enabling power. I have found that ofttimes that is the only good choice I have – the only one that frees me from despair and cyclical blame and complaining.

My lessons in love have taken me down paths mostly of self-love.

The prerequisite to that course is coming to terms with how your life choices reflect the amount of self love you’ve mastered. I can love (see the godliness) in anyone. That’s not hard for me. What’s hard is understanding the strength of love for self  that is required to walk away from anything and anyone as a gift (of love) to them as well as myself – when too much collateral damage stares you in the face and refuses to move – when you have to stand in that place that can’t deny any longer that this is one of the faces of love that  God has mastered and patiently waits for all of His children to understand – boundaries.

Sometimes love isn’t all that pretty. But it’s always kind. I’ve learned that I’ve made excellent choices to put myself right in the middle of what I refused to believe was true. I say I had no idea because of my innocence or ignorance, but the truth is I have needed the expriences I’ve been through to know what I now know. So, I’m kinder when I look back now. I say, “Good job! Now move on!”

In all of my experiences I’ve learned a basic truth about love:  I truly feel stronger and like a better version of myself when I know I’m loved for the person I am in the world. I don’t mean the generic love that’s cast like a wide net over humanity. I mean the looking deep into my soul kind of thing that says, “I know you. You’re cool. I wouldn’t change a thing about you because I know you have that handled. Wanna go for a walk?”  kind of love. Lao-Tzu put it plainly:

“Being loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Yes, I’m all over the place with this one. I know. But if you take anything away, take this: you are not a victim. You are a student. You chose your curriculum and teachers. Have fun with it and don’t forget lunch and recess. Find someone to love because it make the journey better.

 

The Strengthening Power of Silence

 

unknown photographer

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing  and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”~Rumi

Alone.

I’ve said I’ve felt “all alone” before, even recently.

Truth be told, I never feel alone.

I may feel alone in my values, alone in my convictions, alone in my stand, but I never feel like I’m unsupported or without comfort.

There is something so powerful being connected to nature. People come and go – each living a life that intersects mine randomly, but nature stands still. It’s energy is intense and vibrant, reflecting and emanating only truth. That’s very comforting. That’s very energizing.

Those who can’t feel things like trees reaching down, grass breathing upward, flowers exhaling , or wind dancing, miss the divine and eternal strength right before their eyes, under their feet, and messing with their hair.

When I pull into the parking lot of the beach I smile. There are so many secrets the ocean holds. Sitting in the sand and opening my mind to contemplate it’s stories, they start to unfold and entertain. But it speaks so softly one would say it doesn’t speak at all – that it’s silent.

There’s a lot to be said for silence. It protects the truth and veils the meaning of wonderful stories for those who are patient and desiring to delve deeper into the heart.

When I was a very little girl, until I was in my early 20’s, I was very quiet. I spoke when I had something to say. Otherwise, I watched, listened, danced and drew pictures of nature. The music and movement expressed my heart perfectly. The art expanded my mind to different worlds.

Then I started a family and had to learn the delicate and fascinating art of verbal communication.

Words. Endless words rearranged countless ways with different emotions sprinkled in to convey a heart that speaks a different language – one that nature understands, but loses a lot in translation. Years and years of words that go in circles around truth. Silent truth.

I’ve concluded that very few if any words are needed to convey truth. If one can’t feel your heart, words get in the way and complicate things.

It may be time for silence and more communion with nature.

That feels right.

I Loved You First

It’s dark when I wake up. I mean that in more ways than one.

I feel his whispers in the darkness and I open to his love that is nudging me to let him in. A familiar energy slips itself inside of me. Joy. I’m what we call alive, whereas moments before I was living elsewhere, dreaming.

Another day full of minutes and hours remembering him awaits. I look for evidence of him everywhere, all day long.

I feel him on the floor beneath my feet and drop to my knees to thank him for the ground I walk on.

I walk into the hallway and hear him in the soft thudding of eight little kitten feet trying to catch up with me, and he reminds me as I switch on the hallway light that he’s always there, following me around, illuminating beauty and truth as it shows up in things like the stairs I am about to descend.

I see evidence of his visit the night before strewn across the living room, and as I put the chaos back in order I hear his giggles and see his joy played out on couch cushions and rugs rearranged to make ramps and forts.

The kitchen smiles back at me, and in a shared sigh shows me all that was done for my family. He was there in every bite and swallow, glad to fill bellies large and small, making sure that crumbs were left for the tiniest creatures to enjoy at their leisure.

In the quiet I make room for him beside me in my comfy chair next to purring babies. I feel him fill me up and strengthen me as I tie broken thoughts to the ends of their beginnings that dangle from heaven. They will anchor me in his love before the waves and the whirlwinds catch me off guard.

And then he sends me the sun – the crowning moment of new beginnings. And as the rays of light meet my gaze through the bay window, there is an exchange – one that I must understand and remember if my day will be meaningful and happy:

“I am the source of all light, God says, whether it be from the sun that warms the ground you walk on and dig in to sustain life, or the light that is in hope and joy. I am in the dark clouds and stormy days. I’m always there. See me first before anything else and you will never be alone in the world. I’ll wrap my arms around you and share the journey with you like nobody else. That is why I gave you the morning – to remind you that I loved you first. Thank you for remembering me. Carry on.”

Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow!

God DNA

I woke up at 3 am this morning because my new little kitties willed it to be so.

I walked through the darkness and made my way downstairs as they followed. I was on automatic again, doing my routine stuff when I opened the bathroom door and there they sat waiting for me. They looked up at me with big green eyes and I stopped and looked back at them. We made our way to my overstuffed chair in the living room and got comfortable – Onyx at my neck, Noir curled up at my feet. I listened as the slow purring started and immediately melted into the day. What a gift they have become. A gift of awakening in many ways. Their presence opened up my heart and gave me a few thoughts to share with you:

What if today you knew who you really were, where you came from, and what would make you feel connected and alive?

What if everything inside you shifted and your eyes were opened to see things as they really are…who YOU are?

What if you found a way to never be shaken from your center again – to feel so secure in the world that no matter the strength of the whirlwind circling you, you felt steadfast and immoveable even if you had to sit still with arms wrapped tightly around bruised knees, sitting on cold ground every once in a while?

I feel that way all the time.

I have a knowing inside that tells me I have “God DNA” and so do you. I’m made of the same stuff and come from the same place as joy and light and love. I am connected to all things and everyone as you are, too.

My gift is that I know it.

The ocean, the trees, the wind – they all know me, I think better than I know myself. I can feel it. On my walks or swims or even driving, when I open my spiritual eyes – the ones that have a veil over them that I have to consciously part – the world becomes a different and more real place. Everything in it is a teacher, a friend, a gift that reminds me of who I really am and why I’m here. I remember how precious and perfect each moment is, how incredible and unique every soul I meet or pass by is, and that I can deepen my joy as I choose to experience all of it as the spirit whispers how.

My challenge is that I forget that sometimes and I’m not sure how that happens. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way so that I’ll treasure remembering?

But when I remember, I feel it again. I feel the life in life. I see the beauty in the simple things. I once again know who I am.

And heaven smiles.

What I Didn’t Expect…

Me and Meg Hansen in November 2013. Her expression is priceless! She makes me laugh so hard!

52.

I was 52,  so I chose that number as a goal.

52 Polar Plunges from November 2013 ’til June 1, 2014. And once I get a thought in my head it’s hard to ignore it or change it’s mind. I just go where it leads me and have fun with the adventure, knowing I’ll learn something along the way.

I knew something about the committment I’d made – cold water, cold air, laughing, etc. I knew about the 15 minute drive to the beach and how anxiety would sit on my lap and get heavier, the closer I got to the shore. I knew that there would be a lot that I didn’t know, like what the weather would be like on any given day, or what it would be like to walk through snow and over icy steps to get in the frigid water. I found out that life hands you the opportunity to face many “firsts”, introduce yourself, and see what you’re made of all the time, and when you least expect it.

The hardest part of this challenge (besides getting 52 dips in – that goal had to be changed to Saturdays only.) has been following through after the newness of the experience wore off.

I can handle adverse weather conditions.

I can calm my heart down so that I don’t die of a heart attack just thinking about the cold.

I have overcome my fears of being seen in a bathing suit, on camera, in video.

I’ve managed to push through the discomfort of feeling like a “pain” by sharing these weekly plunges on Facebook. (You might not “get” that one, but that’s huge for me.)

I’ve even kept to a schedule: every Saturday at 10 am, at Chappaquoit Beach. (this one is huge, too. My kids are used to me telling them that we’ll be leaving for somewhere in an hour and 10 minutes later saying, “Everyone in the car!” They hate that!) Schedules are good for things like trains, planes and classes. I like to know when something that someone has planned is going to happen. I just like the freedom of coming or going as I please. That can be annoying to some people.

I could go on, but I think I won’t. Instead, I’ll let you in on something that I didn’t expect – something that touches my heart so deeply it makes me a bit teary to think about. Something that gets me out the door every Saturday when I don’t see a reason any more, or when I just don’t feel  like going. I’ve noticed a pattern: when the newsness wears off it’s easy to forget the underlying joy that is embedded in the activity. It’s easy to say, “been there, done that, don’t need it.”

I didn’t expect to have a constant companion to come to the polar plunges. I didn’t expect there to be another person who’d depend as much on me showing up as I would her.

Every time I imagined the eight months the plunges would span, I pictured myself alone. I knew my best friend, Lisa would come when she could to cheer me on. But I never really thought anyone else would go in the water with me. And that didn’t matter. I don’t count on people to do what I do. I have fun by myself. That’s how I lnow I’m being true to myself.

But then Meg Hansen said that she wanted to try a plunge. She said she’d always wanted to try it and, “once would be enough, thank you very much!”

I will never forget that day. I sat in my Beetle at Nobska Beach with a new bag of Dove chocolates and was so nervous that I unwrapped and read all 36 messages wrapped around chocolates I didn’t eat! I sorted the messages on the wrappers into piles and finally saw her coming down the lighthouse hill, signalling my need to get out of the car and head for the water.

After answering her question, “So how do we do this?” with, “Just don’t think about it and run!” she ran and dove in with me.

(We’ve since stopped diving in because the cold is too much for the head and neck! We dip under instead.)

We had a blast as her husband looked on and captured the experience in a few photos.

And she kept showing up!

And getting in the water!

And screaming and laughing and learning with me!

I did not expect that.

This was MY “crazy”. Now it’s OUR “crazy”!

I not only had a friend in Meg, but I had a friend who seemed to sense a reason to be on the same path that I was on. There was no convincing her. She chose it and shows up because  it’s important to her in a way that only she could explain.. She’s not “supporting” me. She’s not “taking care” of me. She’s not worried about me. We are just enjoying an experience TOGETHER.

I think that there’s a lesson there. Don’t you?

Do what you love and the unexpected will blow your joy out of the water and into another realm…in whatever way it does.

For me, the unexpected was companionship, camaraderie – attracting a like-minded soul.

Don’t you just LOVE surprises?!