Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Weekend With Oprah

In the last year, I have managed to cross three things off of my bucket list, in this order:

1. Visit Israel
2. Drink a bottle of Petrus, and
3. See Oprah

For nearly 20 years a friend and I have sought to get tickets to "The Oprah Show" show or various of her venues, albeit unsuccessfully. But when Elizabeth Gilbert, of "Eat Pray Love" fame mentioned in her newsletter she would be part of an Oprah weekend and that tickets could be had before they were released to the general public, my friend and I jumped on the bandwagon without the slightest hesitation!

And it did not disappoint, though we nearly waited a half year to attend!

Oprah's "Live the Life You Want" event was perfectly planned and orchestrated and it was a marvel to be with 25,000 other similarly positive individuals and her "trailblazers" - the extraordinary teachers that accompanied her on this tour: Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, Mark Nepo, and Iyanla Vanzant. It was one of those events where each person was worth the price of admission, and which was inspirational beyond words. 

I took copious notes, but I will leave you with just a few inspirational highlights from the weekend:

There is no life without the spiritual life. Our being in disconnection is directly proportional to our connection to the spiritual life.

The energy we put into this, is what we get back.

We are not responsible for others - only for ourselves. We have no power in someone else's territory.

Our power comes from our strength. 

We must learn to set our intentions and use our power to co-create what we want.

Every day we wake up is a gift and we can begin again. We can decide to live is a state of Grace.

Love is all that matters...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Feather on the Breath of God

I am drawn to go to the river on this windy, and beautiful fall morning...

Several years ago, I began so many mornings like this, going down to the river, with my kayak in tow, which I had aptly named "Grace," and into the waters we would go, to pray, to meditate, and commune with nature...

I am not able to do this at the moment, for I lack a vehicle in which I can haul my kayak, and so today, I simply sit on a bench, looking out at the broad expanse of the river in front of me, and begin to do Metta practice for many in need. I give thanks and express gratitude for so many things in my life, chanting the Reiki precepts slowly, and with great care, mindfulness, and devotion, as if lost in a reverie not of this world...

As I lose myself deeply in these spiritual practices, I feel buoyed by the Divine Presence surrounding me - and tossed about like a leaf in the wind and grace of God's love...

I dance joyfully, following its gentle lead and rhythm...

I marvel at the lightness I feel - pliant, and subservient  to the wind's dictates and whims. I am as Hildegard of Bingen once wrote of herself, simply "a feather on the breath of God..."

I do not know where I will end up but the wind carries me, like the wings of angels beneath my feet, and for a few moments, the incredible sense of lightness and freedom, and deep abiding love totally consume me. And I truly know and believe, in those moments - that all shall be well...

"I am the fiery life of the essence of God;
I am the flame above the beauty in the fields;
I shine in the waters; 
I burn in the sun, the moon, and the stars.
And with the airy wind, I quicken all things vitally
by an unseen, all-sustaining life.
For the air is alive in the verdure and the flowers;
the waters flow as if they lived;
the sun too lives in its light;
and when the moon wanes it is rekindled 
by the light of the sun, as if it lived anew:
Even the stars glisten in their light as if alive."
~ Hildegard of Bingen


On A Day When the Wind is Perfect

On a day
when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open 
and the world is full of beauty.
Today is such a day.

My eyes are like the sun that makes promises;
the promise of life 
that it always keeps
each morning.

The living heart gives to us
as does that luminous sphere,
both caress the earth with great tenderness.

This is a breeze that can enter the soul.
This love I know plays a drum.
Arms move around me;
who can contain their self before my beauty?

Peace is wonderful,
but ecstatic dance is more fun, and less narcissistic;
gregarious He makes our lips.

On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open
and the love starts.

Today is such
a day.

~ Rumi

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Preparing for Autumn

We are almost half way into a new month, and I am beginning to think of the fall season...

I am beginning to look forward to nesting, to journeying inward, to curling up on the couch with a  warm throw, and a steaming cup of tea...

It is a time for reflection, and greater contemplation...

This morning I read an article by Christine Valters Paintner, "Abbess" of Abbey of the Arts, an online virtual monastery, that a wonderful friend introduced me to, and she spoke of autumn and winter and being the seasons of the monk. So true!

After the buoyancy and openness of the summer months, there is a true desire for me to retreat, and to give myself wholly to the coming season...

The days are getting shorter, the sun sets earlier, and in a few days the Autumnal Exquinox will arrive, followed by the High Holy Days...

Paintner began her article with this beautiful poem by Rilke, which I shall leave you with, and I've included another autumn poem by Rilke translated by Stephen Mitchell:


The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leave falls as if it were motioning "no."

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We're all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It's in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, are holding up all this falling.

~ "Autumn" by Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Robert Bly)


Autumn Day

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heat wine.

Whoever has no house now will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander along the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

~ Ranier Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Season Ends

A season ends, and so it must if it is to yield its turf to a new one...

The days are getting shorter, and the darkness lingers longer into the morning...

The warmer days will soon acquiesce to the onslaught of cooler and crisper days...

This is simply the nature of things...

And here I am, two weeks after having returned from the mountains out west, and still my head seems to be up in those clouds...

So many projects and plans had I laid out for this summer, and nothing turned out as I had imagined. I lay out some more plans for the coming months, curious as to whether defined goals will be met. But in the final analysis, does it matter?

Life is about the journey - not the destination - you'd think I would have learned that by now. And it is certainly always about the lessons - so many of them - always arriving in constant succession - a never ending flow and stream...

Thus we reflected, my friend and I, as we lunched and sipped on dark rich coffee - our conversation as deeply textured as a finely woven tapestry. We laid bare morsels, deep within our souls - defiantly agitating and vying for our attention. Sharing for me was cathartic, and I slept better than I have in a while...

A season ends, and a pile of books remains unread, various projects are still just seed thoughts, and deep longings to walk alongside the ocean remain unrealized...

A season ends, and another begins, and I have no idea what it will bring. But whatever comes, it will surely be what it must be. The new season will arrive, like the ocean tide - bringing new experiences and new directions. It will arrive bearing lessons I need to learn and play out, and the truth is simply - that I know and believe, that in the end, all shall be well...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Power to Move Mountains

I spend a week in the mountains out West, and even though I have difficulty breathing at high altitudes, my spirit is awash in its energy...

Meditations are deep and expansive, and there is a clarity that comes in high elevations, as if one could reach up a finger to the sky like E.T. and touch the very presence of the Divine...

At times, I sit barefoot on the grass, lost in exquisite meditation. The air is fresh and light, in more ways than one, yet certainly devoid of all the oxygen I need...

Over and over again, the words of the Psalmist come to mind as I behold the breathtaking beauty of the mountains:


 "I lift up my eyes to the hills,
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth..."
~ Psalm 121 NRSV

There is a power here that I feel, and it is the inherent power to move mountains - and to do and be - anything and everything...

There are insights and intuitions that are granted and which tumble out easily from some deep recesses within - ascertained without the arduous attempt of a Vision Quest. It is as if sight were given to the blind and I am simply led into the light...

Re-entry is jarring and difficult and I seem caught between two planes - the physical and one that is truly an altered state that I seemed to have brought back as a stowaway in the luggage stored deeply in my heart...

I arise knowing I will receive a needed message this morning, as I have every morning this week, arriving as a poetic re-imaging of this psalm that has sustained me through many decades. In the words of Stephen Mitchell, it takes on new meaning for me...


Psalm 121

"I look deep into my heart,
to the cores where wisdom arises.
Wisdom comes from the Unnamable
and unifies heaven and earth.

The Unnamable is always with you,
shining from the depths of your heart.
His peace will keep you untroubled
even in the greatest pain.

When you find him present within you,
you will find truth at every moment.
He will guard you from all wrongdoing;
he will guide your feet on his path.

He will temper your youth with patience;
he will crown your old age with fulfillment.
And dying, you will leave your body
as effortlessly as a sigh."

I receive more insights on this silent morning, and the comfort that I need as I try to navigate a world filled with brutality and violence that makes me question my very existence here and  makes me want to cry at the senselessness of so much needlessly inflicted pain...

Awash I am in serenity, and the firm belief that realms unseen have my back - for I do not often feel that support from very many - in the realms that are seen and which I must inhabit.

There is much to reflect on and process, and all will be revealed in due time...

Yes, I look up to the hills and mountains looking for guidance and wisdom - but the source of that guidance and wisdom is simply within.

I look up to the sky and am reminded instead to look deeply into my heart...

I meditate and I pray, and in the quiet and stillness of the cave of my heart, I am alone with the Alone, and I simply hear, the Alone's Voice, reflecting back to me:


"Everything you need is inside...Look always within..."

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Power of Choosing Positivity

I read an article this week that has made me reflect very deeply on the choices we make and the effects that negativity have on us and those around us.

Yesterday, I subbed for a friend's yoga class, and in my centering, I spoke to the students about how heavy this summer has been - so many tragedies - and most of them resulting from the direct expression of hatred on somebody's part.

The essay I read explained that in our world of duality, negative and positive energies are more accurately redefined as destructive and creative energies.

If you are an individual that is relatively open on an emotional, psychological, and spiritual level, you are more apt to be affected by negativity than others around you. Negative energy is insidious and destructive in its essence. But even though you as an individual may be very much affected by the negative energy of others, it is important to note that it affects the sender even more so.

This essay also pointed out that hatred and fear share the same source and are actually the same energy. Love is it's opposite. And love and creativity go hand in hand...

Earlier this day, I shared some of these insights with a dear friend, who like me, has been engaged in a creative venture, but hers was birthed out of unspeakable pain and loss. I reminded her that she was able to make lemonade out of lemons as it were. Instead of wallowing in bitterness she arose out of her own situation to shine tremendous light through her creativity and thus brings love and happiness into many lives on a daily basis, throughout all the corners of this world.

We can choose positivity over negativity and thus choose to change the world!

Years ago, I abandoned a secure career because the environment I worked in was so toxic. The negativity was eating me alive, as I soldiered on, year after year, tortured by the horrible things I witnessed people say and do that haunted me constantly. I knew I could not survive in that place in the long run. So I took a big leap into the unknown, in my middle forties, and while not financially lucrative, it allowed my soul the space it needed to breathe, explore creative opportunities, spread its wings, and soar.

Hatred and negativity affects the one who expresses it the most. It grows like a malignancy within them, but it also has the ability to infect all those around them. The essay adamantly pointed out that negativity and its effects are more far reaching than we can even imagine.

Conversely, love and positivity have the power to change the world and its impact ripples much farther away from us than we can ever imagine. We often never know on which distant shores those ripples will land.

I thought of all of this as I considered the audience for the free meditations I create and post daily as a labor of love. What I have discovered, is that my audience is not the one I originally envisioned - which is to say, a wealthier one, here in the United States, able to buy  my products. Instead it consists of a lovely group of people largely clustered in developing societies who choose to listen to my humble offerings.

Hatred and negativity have the ability to manifest as disease over time and they do have tremendous karmic consequences, whether you believe in such things or not. As the old adage acknowledges, "What goes around, comes around."

Every day, we are given a choice. We can strive to make this world a better place, or we can decide to poison ourselves - those around us - and even the very planet itself.

You have the ability and power to choose positivity and you are able to express that in very creative ways. Do so. The world will be better because of this one simple choice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blue Herons and Things

Sometimes, messages come to us in the strangest of ways...

In something someone says to us...

In something that we read...

In the presence of an animal...

And sometimes, in all three...


And that was the morning I had, so I share these messages with you, hoping they may yield an insight or two for you...

I began my morning by reading and sharing this poem by Mary Oliver:


Heron Rises from the Dark, Summer Pond 

So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

open
and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself --
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn't a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.
~ Mary Oliver ~

And then, at the end of my quiet morning walk, a magnificent blue heron, gracefully took flight across my path as I was coming around on the wooden bridge, over the wetlands behind my home. I have missed seeing and encountering them regularly, at close range. 

It has been two years since I have been able to go kayaking, and six to seven years ago, in the depths of great depression and grief, a blue heron regularly came to me, bringing solace, companionship, and wisdom - when I was bereft of all three - walking or flying alongside me as I paddled upstream. 

And so I revisited their meaning as animal totems:


Aggressive Self-Determination
Self-Reliance

"A Heron and Egret totem teaches balance;
the ability to progress and evolve --
to walk into deeper waters without fear.

It is important for someone with a Heron and Egret
totem to learn to stand on their own two feet,
to become independent and self-reliant.

Heron and Egret has a strong connection to the element of Earth
and you must also be aware and cultivate this connection.
The Mother Earth is a source of strength
and will help you stand strong and firm.

Heron medicine allows you to perform many tasks at the same time,
keeping in balance.
If one doesn't work, then another way will.
Heron and Egret people seem to instinctively know this.

Heron people do not need a lot of people in their life
and they often follow non-traditional roles.
They feel no need to "keep up with the Jones."
They stand out in their uniqueness
and know how to take advantage of things
and events that most people wouldn't bother with.

You know what is best for you and you should follow that path.
Be aggressive when opportunities present themselves --
don't let them get away from you.
Meditation on color with provide insight to Heron and Egret people"


I also read and shared this final inspirational quote by a dear friend, which I reproduce here 
for  all of you wonderful readers, that you may get to know her work and 
the magnificent light she shines on this planet. It too, spoke to me, so deeply, and the 
picture needs no explanation...

So some mornings, when we arise, fresh from a full night's rest and we are open and receptive, our souls are fed by the every waiting, and loving Divine Presence that permeates everything...

(Visit Every Day Spirit's website for more inspiration and information!)



Thursday, July 31, 2014

Listen to Your Intuition

I have a few people I highly respect and whose judgment I trust.

But I trust mine more...

If I do not hear that "knock" or "Voice" that tells me to more forward - or in this direction instead of that - I don't budge.

Sometimes, I do end up taking the road that was suggested - but maybe a year or so later - when I feel I am ready; when I have received the indication to do so.

The only times I've had regrets or gotten myself into serious trouble, is when I DIDN'T trust my intuition.

I was chatting with a friend earlier this week, and we both agreed that it was very important for us to follow the inner promptings and whispers of our hearts, and in fact, she suggested I write about this.

But I must insert a caveat here, because following one's intuition does not imply we make decisions on a whim. For years I taught bioethics, and I always instructed my students that one could not go against one's conscience in making moral decisions. However, a conscience also had to be an informed one, and there were methods and considerations to be followed...

Trusting implies listening. And in order to listen deeply, we must eliminate all those things that drown out the "Voice" of stillness, for it truly speaks.

I have been reflecting all week on how intrusive technology is. Just today, I read an article about Facebook's new messenger app, which seeks greater control over our lives. All around me I see people texting rather calling someone - or speaking to the person right next to them. Texting alerts litter the ears everywhere, like sound pollution.

I am not bashing technology, but I am suggesting we should not be ruled by it.

Yesterday, I visited the writing getaway retreat of a friend's husband, and I was struck by how monastic and exquisite it was. He writes there every day, surrounded by a grove of trees, reminiscent of an English forest, a well filled with gold fish, and an expansive deck overseeing a major creek. He lives like a recluse by day, and I immediately understood why he never went anywhere - I mentioned I would never leave that place if I lived here.

We spoke of rare editions of books and maps and map makers, and the many rare finds he excavated and researched in both the British Museum and Library as a professor. 

This is a man whose life is rich, because he has not only listened to his intuitions, but as a writer, it has given him tremendous insights into diverse subjects. I was fascinated by his latest book project, which has been accepted for publication.

So, create the space to listen. Lose yourself in it. Some might meditate or pray. Some who are agnostic or nonbelievers derive their "faith" and strength from nature or philosophy or universal values. And if you create this space to listen, both inside and outside of yourself, you will be able to always, wholeheartedly, trust your intuition!