Hello, Mystery

I spent last weekend in Fernie with my guys.

While Jacob hit the mountain bike park on Saturday afternoon, Stephen and I strolled the sidewalks and checked out the shops. I spent a wonderful half hour (or more) in an art coop looking at local art. Stephen spent five minutes inside and the remaining time people-watching from a bench outside.

(The perfect holiday — something for everyone!)

I was particularly drawn to the work of Karen Tamminga-Paton. I wish I could have come home with the painting, but made do with a beautiful card that spoke to me.

She calls this, “Hello, Mystery.”

mystery

On the back of the card, Karen writes:

No one who has gained wisdom wishes to be young again.

In these between years of elderly parents and fledgling children-no-longer-children, we stand in a marvelous and unique place. We have finally accepted the fact that pain and suffering are unavoidable, but in it, we find mystery, too. We have learned to recognize the presence of joy and love, even there.

The Friesian horse — a creature of near mythical stature — stands as the figure, Mystery. May we have the courage to lean into it.

Beautiful.

You can check out Karen’s work here. Please do.

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A Button Tree!

Last spring, five lovely ladies joined me over the course of six weeks to explore tools for healing and growth. We so enjoyed our discussions that we decided to keep meeting. Using Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, as the basis for our meetings, we gathered once a month to share our discoveries as we strived to live the principles laid out in the book.

We finished the book last month and, to celebrate, decided to do something fun and creative together.

Enter Creatively Cali Art and Performance Studio.

We are so fortunate to have someone like Cali in our little town, offering art and drama classes to the community. She also teaches drama in our high school. I’ve had the opportunity to help out with a few of my sons’ performances over the years, but it had been years since I attempted to BE the artist rather than be on the sidelines supporting the artists.

It was a little daunting!

Words I can do. I love playing around with color in my journal, attempting cartoony, stick-people sketches. But paint? On a canvas? Without the little numbers to follow or someone giving very explicit, now-use-this-brush-to-put-this-color-here instructions? Not so sure.

Cali and her mom, Sandy, had everything ready for us. Four spots in the front and two in the back. My walking partner and I arrived early so we snapped up those two back row seats, but everyone else who entered after us would immediately head to the empty table in the back and then have to be coaxed the the places prepared for them at the front.

Funny, eh?

When we’re taking a creative risk like this, we’ll try to hide any way we can. Somehow, even in a tiny room, the back row is  ‘safer.’

Cali started by showing us some examples to give us ideas and then told us to choose the color for our backgrounds.

That was Deer-in-the-Headlights Moment #1.

How does one choose a color from all those luscious choices? What if it doesn’t look the way I think it will look? What if it’s too dark? Or light? Or I change my mind?

I finally chose my color and then headed to the back of the room to pick out my buttons. There were a lot to choose from! In fact, we all spent a lot of time huddled around the table, poring over the choices, because the longer we took to choose our buttons the further back we pushed that moment of applying color to canvas.

Cali had to keep inviting us back to our seats for the painting part of the evening.

We joked that painting would be a good activity for commitment-phobic people. There are a lot of decisions to make, many of them irreversible. Or at least they seem irreversible to neophyte painters. Once the paint is on the canvas, you are committed, and every brush stroke ties you to something you may or may not like in the end.  There’s no turning back.

Yikes!

And then a mantra started playing in my head:

Don’t be tentative! Paint with gusto!

Like any new thing we try our hand at in life, it’s that first, tiny step that is the hardest. Once that step is taken, the next one is revealed and everything else grows from it. It’s not to say that there won’t be other hard steps along the way but, by the time they show up, we’ve proven to ourselves that, scary as things look, our actions have been successful in the past so there’s no reason to believe we can’t manage — and even master — this next hurdle.

All evening, we peppered Cali with questions about how to do things or whether to do things and Cali would unflappably respond, with variations on a consistent theme, ‘It’s all a matter of personal taste. What do you want? What do you prefer? What would you like?’

Aaaaaargh!

I want it to be beautiful and lovely and pretty and . . . perfect.

And yet, by insisting that we follow our own creative urges, Cali ensured that when the last button was glued into place, the work was all ours. Yes, she provided examples for ideas and inspiration, and showed us various techniques, but ultimately the work — the creation — was ours.

The most intense moment for me came as my brush hovered over the canvas, preparing to paint the tree — trunk and roots and branches. This was the moment of truth. Could I actually paint a tree that looked like a tree?

Good thing that mantra was playing in a continuous loop.

Don’t be tentative! Paint with gusto!

So I did. And I learned a few things:

There are no mistakes. A brush stroke gone awry can lead to a new effect you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

Never judge a work in progress. You may not like how it looks mid-creation but the final details, added at the end, change everything.

When you enter into the spirit of play and discovery, you invite serendipity and surprise. Like the delicious moment when I discovered that gluing small buttons into the center of large buttons created a whole new look. I’m sure others have discovered that while playing with buttons and glue (no doubt many of them in the pre-school set), but I discovered it for myself and it was an exciting final touch to add to my painting.

I did have one regret.

I wish I had taken the time to look more closely and more often at what my fellow painters were doing in the course of the evening. There were a lot of good ideas that I would have liked to incorporate into my painting. Something to keep in mind for us Lone Wolves who get so caught up in the solo-vision of what we’re creating that we forget the power of collaboration.

Except that, had I kept wrenching myself away from my painting to look at what was going on around me, I might have missed out on that delicious feeling of flow that happens when the outside world disappears and nothing exists but this moment and the colors expanding under my brush.

So, scratch that regret.

Everyone’s going to bring their paintings to our next meeting so we can adequately ooh and ahh over each other’s creations and make note of those ideas and techniques we like — for next time.

It’s amazing when you think about it.

In the space of two hours, six blank canvases showcased six very different paintings — all of them beautiful . . . and lovely . . . and pretty . . . and perfect.

My seat mate beamed at her painting. “It contains everything I love.”

And every time she sees it, she’ll remember that she is the one who created it. It contains her artistic choices and is a beautiful reflection of her. Hopefully she’ll also remember how much fun it was to create. How nourishing and uplifting.

I know I slept like a well-fed baby that night and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I wish I could show you all the paintings so you could see for yourself how varied and beautiful they are, but I only have access, and permission, to share one.

Mine.

IMG_0015

Bet it makes you want to pick up a paintbrush, doesn’t it?

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Before Enlightenment . . .

Before enlightenment — chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment — chop wood, carry water.

After the retreat — author visits.

Talk about being flung full-tilt back into life!

No time to write this week, but time enough to ask a question:

Arrival postcard - Mary Oliver on front

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Sometimes There Are No Words

I like to publish my posts on Fridays and I’ve found the best way to be sure I have something ready to share is to write every morning — adding, deleting, refining as the week progresses.

Sometimes the words come in a rush and it’s a challenge to keep up. Other times, they need coaxing.

And then there are times there are no words at all.

Or rather, there are lots of words, but none of them do justice to what I’m attempting to articulate.

This is one of those times.

I’m spending far more time staring at the screen than filling it, reaching for and then rejecting those inadequate missiles known as ‘words.’

How does one explain the unexplainable?

I guess one just dives in and begins where they are.

I spent last week in the company of a remarkable group of women.

I emptied my savings envelope and travelled far from my home in search of I wasn’t sure what, with I didn’t know who, in an unfamiliar land. Some mornings, as I looked out at the misty landscape, I felt like I’d been transported to Avalon.

And maybe I was.

Avalon is a magical place and so was Carmen Spagnola‘s Gathering of Souls on Vancouver Island. Carmen is a gifted and powerful guide, whose commitment to Spirit is palpable.

I knew this retreat was for me from the moment I heard about it. And every time I thought about it, I wanted to run for the hills.

Just a titch paradoxical, wouldn’t you say?

Yes. And no.

Because the things that call to our souls are the very things that, when we finally lift our heads and look them squarely in the eyes, snatch our breath away — with their beauty, their power, and their pronouncement that ‘yes, you are equal to the task.’

I started this blog on my oldest son’s first day of high school when it hit me that my full-tilt mothering days were slowly winding down and I had no clue what else I had to offer the world. Writing the blog was my first step into becoming visible in the world, giving voice to the thoughts running amok in my head, despite my fears about what ‘they’ would think (and, believe me, those fears are there every time I push the publish button — especially today.)

I published a couple of books. I started doing author visits in order to erase the debt that acccompanied creating the first one. These were satisfying pursuits, but none of them were ‘it.’

I wrestled with tempting thoughts of slipping into early retirement. No one was requiring me to do anything more than spend my days writing and reading and being present for my family and friends. But something was clamouring for expression. Something I didn’t even have words for.

And then my oldest son graduated and moved to the other end of the world and my youngest son got his driver’s license and was suddenly gone more than he was home. And my angst increased.

Who am I? Why am I here?

If there’s a plan for every soul, tell me mine.

Tell me, damn it!

And it better be valuable and important work because, if it isn’t, I’d rather just go Home. Because, truthfully, in my heart of hearts, that is what I yearn for. Staying here, witnessing the slow death of this wild and beautiful planet while its so-called stewards gorge themselves on mindless distractions is just too damn painful.

I asked and asked — pleaded even — and finally quit wailing enough to listen . . . and act on what I heard.

I’ve been led me to a few things. I still don’t know how some of them fit into the big scheme of things, but I’m trusting that they will. And I’ve been led to people who can only be described as godsends.

Carmen was one of those people. So when she called, I answered.

I knew it would be an initiation. Maybe even a capital ‘I’ Initiation.

But — holy crap — it was an INITIATION.

I was called to release the burdens I’d been carrying. I was called to journey inward and retrieve the wisdom that resides within me. And to share it. I was called to face the Darkness that also resides within me. Not hide from it. Not pretend it isn’t there. But face it and negotiate with it and place clear parameters around ways it could serve me as I moved forward.

And I was called to Be Present to something much bigger than me and to use my skills, gifts, and talents to bring that Wisdom — that Mystery — to other women at every stage of their development.

To the Maiden. To the Mother. To the Crone.

I still don’t know what the heck that looks like as I transition back into real life in this beautiful, fragile world.

But I see how everything in my life has led me to this moment.

Absolutely everything!

And I know that I don’t have to know in advance, or even understand, every single step along the way. I don’t even have to know what the next step is.

My job is to stand tall in this moment. To Listen. To Trust what I am hearing no matter how it looks to my logical mind (or to the people around me). And, above all, to Act on what I hear.

Already the powerful visions I received at the retreat are fading. I have to rely on the words I scribbled in my journal and the memories of the women who journeyed with me to keep me focused and on my path.

Luckily, I have a call with Carmen, my Teacher, Mentor, and Guide, this afternoon. I know she holds that vision for me. Magnificently.

I can hardly wait to speak with her again.

And I want to run for the hills.

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Apple #40

This apple was created right on the heels of Apple #39. Once I finished the ‘creative detour apple,’ I went ahead with my original idea.

And it was just as satisfying to bring this one in to being!

Apple #40

image1

Title: Apple Rising from Ngarunui  Sand

Medium: Beach finds

What can you create from items found in your little corner of the world?

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Vimala — The Love Affair Continues.

Whenever I think to check the stats for my blog, without fail, the most common search that brings people to my site is ‘the Vimala alphabet.’

Occasionally, someone will leave a comment, usually asking a question, and we’ll have a little, back-and-forth exchange. One person has even become a blog-friend. (Hi Lorien! – Check out Lorien’s YogaMom site here.)

So this is for the Vimala seekers.

It’ll be my fifth post about the Vimala alphabet. If you’d like to read the rest the first is here, #2, #3, and #4.

I have been using Vimala’s alphabet as a form of meditation since I first discovered it in December, 2010. Not faithfully as in every single day — I struggle with any practice that requires a daily commitment — but I’ve found enough benefit that I come back to it over and over and over again.

I’ve approached it all sorts of ways — at times, following Vimala’s suggestions to the letter (ha! no pun intended) and, other times, going my own way. I’ve done letters of the day, letters of the week, sometimes concurrently with a letter I’ve chosen to focus on for a 40 day practice.

My 40 Day Practice letter has been chosen because there’s a quality I want to enhance in my life or because it’s the first letter of one of my names or because there’s something I really suck at that I’d like to improve.

My latest project is to move through Vimala’s alphabet one letter at a time. I started with A and finished it just before we left on our New Zealand adventure. When we got back, I started with O, which I  just completed this morning!

No, not B — O.

Vimala doesn’t progress through the alphabet in the way we are accustomed. She divides the letters into families. The first is the Family of Communication and includes A, O, D, G, Q, and P. Each of the letters represents a Soul Quality and moving through the letters in this order is like building our soul capacity from the ground up (or maybe it’s more accurate to say ‘from the inside out.’)

The Soul Quality of A is transforming ego into Spirit and helps us to communicate from our soul rather than from our personality.

Here’s O’s Soul Quality:

Vimala O - front

And it’s Declaration of Intent

Vimal O - back

As I reflect on my 40 day journey with O, I find it interesting that, before I began, I felt compelled to have conversations with people whom I had let fall out of my life because of some truth I had with-held from them. They were very difficult conversations to broach and the subject matter was difficult to express fully, but doing so erased the horrible weight I would feel every time I thought of that person and my unfinished business (read: unspoken truth) with them.

And last night — Day 39 — I received a huge insight into the not-so-sensitive way that I communicate with my husband. Day 39! I guess that’s why Vimala suggests a 40 day round for each letter.

I’m going to share Day 40 of my writing so that, if you are considering trying this out, you’ll have an example of how one person does it. I’m sure, once you get started, you’ll find your own best way to do it.

vimala O - day 40

I start every page with a line of H’s because they are about living your life path full out with dynamic self-expression. (And because Vimala says she often does that.)

Interspersed among the lines of upper and lower case O’s are the Soul Quality and Declaration of Intent and then three lines of words: 1) those beginning with O, 2) words with O in the middle, 3) words with O at the end. 

Sometimes I have to make up words — like with Q, for example — which is great fun!

I always include an invocation of sorts, asking the Guardian Protector of the letter for help living the letter’s soul quality.

And the last line is my signature — what Vimala prefers to call our autograph — and an expression of my gratitude for this system, for my own spiritual growth and for Life.

If you have Vimala’s kit,

vimala's kit

you may have noticed that the Guardian Protector of the Letter O is missing from the Guidebook. I finally emailed the International Institute of Handwriting Studies to find out if there was one or if it had been left out by mistake.

It was the latter. They emailed me back immediately with the following information:

The Guardian Protector of the Letter O is Amitiel (Ah-MEE-tee-el), the Angel of Truth.

Amitiel is the Guardian of Sensitive Truth-telling. His responsibility, as Guardian Protector of the Letter Oo, is to guide you in speaking the truth at all times, remembering to speak always to the Indwelling Spirit in another person, never to prove yourself right or to make another person look bad or appear foolish. Amitiel guides not only your speaking, but in particular, your writing, for your writing is a graphic reflection of your thought processes. The three: writing, thinking, and speaking, are his focus.

As you approach the letter Oo in a word, slow down, speak the simple prayer to him, ‘Guide my pen!’ — and he will not only guide your pen, but refine your thoughts in a positive, uplifting way. The long-hidden secret he has held all these years is this: Inscribe each letter O in a clockwise direction. Each time. Every time. No exceptions.

It’s difficult to write the O in a clockwise direction only because it’s unfamiliar, just as non-injurious speaking is often unfamiliar when we want to look good or be right. One of Amitiel’s many gifts, as you move your pen, is to allow you to release self-righteousness and instead to speak the truth kindly and sincerely. What freedom!

I did find it challenging, at first, to inscribe the O in a clock-wise direction. Now it comes naturally to me. It does, however, force a pause (however slight) as I lift the pen before inscribing the letter, to think about the truth of what I am writing.

Which reminds me of a friend who, in her desire to be more conscious about what she was saying to the people in her life, went about her day with a small stone in her mouth. Every time she opened her mouth to speak, the stone’s presence made her pause and think about what she was about to say.

Powerful, eh?

If you are one of the people who has found this blog because of your search for more information about Vimala’s alphabet, please take a moment to say hello in the comment section. Ditto, if you’ve been engaged with Vimala’s work, whether you’re just beginning or have been at it awhile.

I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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A Million Invisible Messages

I’ve been thinking a lot about a story a friend shared over tea one day.

A man was leading a cave tour somewhere in Texas when he sensed that something was not right. He immediately led the group of twenty or so people back to the top of the cave system. Within ten minutes the bottom levels of the cave were filled by a flash flood.

Ten minutes!

Had the tour been led by one of the less experienced guides that day, this story would have had a very different ending and, no doubt, a tremendous amount of news footage in that part of the world. But this man had been leading these cave tours for 15 years. He knew them intimately. There wasn’t any one thing that tipped him off, but years spent in that environment told him something was ‘off’ – a million little hits added up to ‘this is not right.’

 He didn’t second guess this information and his calm, quick actions saved a lot of people from certain death.

A couple of things struck me about this story:

1. This sort of thing happens every day. It occurs in much less graphic ways and we don’t often get the immediate feedback that our intuitive hits were good, but we are surrounded by this sort of information every day. A million invisible messages in the world around us, alerting us — or trying to — of danger or opportunity. Too often, we either ignore them or miss them altogether because we have forgotten how to listen.

2. Had there been a catastrophe, it would have been all over the news. And, in the midst of the catastrophe, had this man managed to save one of the people in his care, he would have been lauded as a hero and awarded some sort of  Medal of Honour.

But it didn’t make the news. There was no medal, even though his actions saved many lives. The fact that he followed his intuition to avert disaster isn’t newsworthy.

Unless, of course, you were one of the people whose life was saved that day.

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