Elephant Parade

If anyone has noticed my limited connectedness since early October, it is because I gifted myself with an investment in learning. It happened at the behest of synchronicity, which I consider to be the voice of my internal guidance system. Within one week it was suggested by two unrelated friends that I should consider writing for Elephant Journal… the second recommendation came with a link for Elephant Academy. The Academy is a quarterly online school for writing, editing, and social media. I didn’t hesitate to apply when I received the link. It was as if I was on autopilot.

I confess that I argued with myself about the cost, being newly retired and exploring the possibility of living simply enough to avoid returning to work. Ultimately, I decided that personal development and spiritual enrichment is worthy of every penny spent. Also, I figured I might meet some lovely people of like-mind.

I definitely hit the jackpot on that last expectation. I love it when hope is rewarded! Don’t you?

The first several weeks included a writing assignment that could be published in Elephant Journal. The gift of this process was the opportunity to receive guidance and feedback from editors. Either they would accept your work and make it elephant-ready, or they would provide two rounds of support, to help you get it there.

What I hadn’t counted on was that my 81 year old father would end up hospitalized after a fall, and spend the next month in rehab. Talk about synchronicity. Every ‘voice’ I followed this year led me somewhere wonderful… including the guidance that led me to a financial planner who enlightened me on 72T (detailed in a previous post). This retirement income has enabled me to be fully present for my parents during difficult days. If I had to work a full time job as well, the stress would have been overwhelming. I do not take for granted this great blessing.

My first article was published, and my last (thesis) article was published, but with daily visits to rehab, I chose not to spend more time on the articles that required editing. Perhaps they weren’t meant to be seen. One of them was extremely vulnerable, and I might just be relieved that it didn’t fly. Ha!

I feel that I have learned a great deal during my weeks in Elephant Academy, but far more valuable to me has been the relationships birthed and nurtured. The nature of writing for a journal dedicated to mindfulness leads to a kind of vulnerability and openness that one does not often find in community.

When we have the courage to be authentic with one another, we have no choice but to fall in love, just a little. It’s like exposing your fears and flaws to a room full of people who are willing to look you in the eye and say, “We see you. We accept you. You are one of us, now.”

The courage to be vulnerable is a gift to everyone in your orbit. Don’t you know that we love to see you twirl? We are points of light surrounding the globe, and we shine more brightly for the illumination we bring to one another.

And so, for the third time in my life, I feel as if I have found my people… my Trunk Tribe.

It may not be a journey for everyone, but for those who choose to accept the challenge – be it to strengthen your writing, find your voice, or learn more about navigating the world of social media, I have a feeling that falling in love will be in the cards. The people one meets will be extraordinary. It will feel like money well-spent.

If you are interested in reading what my classmates and editors helped me bring to birth on Elephant Journal, I will post links below. And should you choose to look around while you are there, I guarantee you will be moved by the strength and courage of the other writers in this beloved community.

Thank you for walking this path with me. You are the light that guides my way on.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/10/a-samhain-practice-to-fill-you-as-the-nights-grow-long/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/now/walking-the-labyrinth-a-tool-for-healing-a-metaphor-for-life/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/12/when-death-came-to-dinner-taught-me-how-to-live/

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[Photo from Gregory Colbert’s Ashes and Snow Exhibit]

Journey Into Sacred Space

The purpose of the next few minutes of our time together is to step out of the world where we are responsible to others, and remember that we are especially responsible to ourselves. I’ve written this as a guided meditation that I would speak to you, but understand that you may still ‘go within’ through reading, even without being able to close your eyes.

Our wellness and self-care is more than the concept of taking care of the body that is our temple… it is also a gift that we give to those who love us.

You have likely heard the term coined by Carl Sagan, that we are all ‘starstuff’. The particles that come together to make up this human form are the same as those found in all that surrounds us, including the Universe which may seem beyond our reach. The truth is… we ARE the Universe. All we need to do to connect with that larger than life energy is to simply go within.

Creative visualization is a tool that allows our minds to release our worries of the future and our regrets of the past. It takes us on a journey that is at once outside of ourselves and deep within. It provides a sort of guidance along a path which our minds may travel, in order to find focus and nurture intention as we create a foundation for the reality we desire for ourselves. Guided visualization doesn’t require that you go where the reader takes you, but that you follow the voice to find the path that you wish to blaze.

Consider that you are being given a metaphor or a story outline into which you have the opportunity to fill in the blanks, or to create your very own tale of becoming.

So now, I invite you to find your comfort, whether seated or reclining. If you choose to lie down, be sure that you are not too close to needing a nap. Though, should you suddenly wake to find you have slept through parts of this journey, know that you have not done anything wrong. Your mind and body will take you exactly where you need to go.

We will begin with deep breaths that make your belly rise. And then we will allow our breath to settle into a normal flow, In through the nose, and out through the nose. If you have sinus congestion, breathing through the mouth is fine, but having your tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth, while inhaling and exhaling through the nose is recommended.

Our breathing connects our mind and our body in a rhythmic flow which allows us to journey beyond the confines of the room in which we are seated. Being mindful and connecting with gratitude for that which we take for granted can be a simple way to connect with the energy of all that is.

Breathe into your belly the element of air which fills your lungs and delivers oxygen, and exhale with a prayer of thanks for the expansion of your chest as you receive the light of love and release the burden of tension.

Breathe into your belly the element of fire which warms your body and delivers healing where needed, exhaling with gratitude for the inner flame of metabolism and energy that powers your body’s machinery.

Breathe into your belly the element of water which washes through your body with cleansing and quenching fluidity, exhale with a prayer of thanks for the blood and saline liquid that delivers life through the body and back into your beautiful heart.

Breathe into your belly the element of earth which creates the foundation for all other elements to flow and grow, exhaling gratitude for the strength of your bones and the whole of your body which holds and nurtures your sacred soul.

We come to nature to be reminded that we are not separate from all of life, we are one with it. We can connect with our breath and imagine sitting on a boulder of granite, warmed by the sun on the edge of a mountaintop, or in our mind’s eye see that boulder turn into a billion grains of sand, washed by the vastness of the ocean as our feet sink in and waves rise and fall upon the beach where we stand.

When you think of a place in nature that makes you feel calm and connected, be it ocean’s edge, mountain view, or a tree you climbed in childhood, which made you feel safe and held within an embrace you did not yet understand, consider making this place, real or imagined, your meditation safe place. This is where you may go to connect with your breath and enter sacred space.

Sacred space is a sanctuary. It can be any place that allows you to feel safe and loved. It can be a physical place, like a church, a temple, or your living room, and it can be inside your mind, which is so powerful that it can create for you a safe place in which to dwell. The beauty of creative visualization is that you are not limited by physical surroundings. In this realm, you may swim in a pool of starlight and be held in the embrace of the being who has made you feel most loved in this lifetime, regardless of your ability to do so in the physical world.

If you have in mind your sacred space, take yourself there now. Experience in your body all of the sensations that come with feeling safe, feeling free from distraction, feeling present, feeling at ease, feeling loved. Know deep within your bones that this is truth, you are enveloped and protected by the light of love.

From here you are able to connect more deeply with the energetic force that surrounds you and flows through you. Imagine that from where you are, your energy reaches like tendrils of light, downward into the earth and through saline water, through rock, mud, and crust into the molten core coursing with the fire of passion. Gather that source and pull it inside of you, allowing the lava to soothe aching joints as it delivers healing light.

Now, sense the sparkly white light of creation raining down on you from above. Imagine the crown of your skull opening like a funnel to receive this light, which spirals downward through your body to mingle with the light you’ve pulled from below. This is your connection with your higher self, the wisdom that you have carried with you from a time before memory.

This swirling light of gold and silver moves through your body to deliver comfort and peace that calms a worried heart and allows you to see with clarity your best path forward. Let it expand beyond the boundaries of your body to encapsulate your auric field, which extends a few inches further than your body’s full height and wider than your outstretched arms.

This is a sphere of protection that you can invoke at anytime with a simple deep breath. When you are here, you can imagine pushing out all thoughts, emotions, and energy fragments that do not belong to you or no longer serve your highest good. You can also command that nothing may enter your sphere of protection other than pure love and healing energy.

Once you have declared this sacred space and the gathering of earth, body, and universal energy… sit for a while to feel this love filter through every cell of your being. If you are seeking answers to your own heart’s wondering, you may ask here and listen. [long pause before continuing]

It is time for our journey inward to come to a close, but know that this space is always safe and waiting for you at the close of your eyes and deepening of your breath. When you are feeling frazzled or disconnected, you can come here for renewal and to reconnect.

Picture your energetic being, as if you are outside of yourself, or perhaps looking into the reflection of a mirror. Allow the brightness of the light to fade into the scenery of your sacred space in nature, but know that you shall remain protected and safe.

Now, see the image of your sacred space within your mind begin to fade, bringing you back into the room where you are. Carry with you, into the here and now the awareness of the messages you may have received, and the shield of protection you created for yourself. It will continue to protect you throughout your day. If you begin to feel uncomfortable or out of sorts, you can take yourself through an abbreviated version of this journey to recharge those boundaries.

When you are ready… you may open your eyes and resume your day. Thank you for walking this path with me.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

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Your Light ~ Required

On a normal day devoted to writing, I typically sit down at the keyboard, empty my mind and ask for inspiration to come.  Words flow from my fingertips without a conscious direction… my writing is a mystery that is revealed to me as it comes.  It reminds me of the metaphor my soul-daughter has used for my current path:  She says that I am on a long, dark highway and I can only see what is illuminated by my headlights.  The road is safe, and my GPS is leading me to where I need to be, and my car is safe with a full tank of gas.  All that is required is to keep driving forward, pay attention to what is being revealed as I go, and know that I will be informed when it is time to stop driving.

On these days that I am focused on writing, I am often reaching into my past for a story to tell, through which some level of insight or self-healing may be revealed.  Today is different.  Today, I am writing about something from my future, and I’d like to engage your support.  I promise that it will not cost you more than a moment of thought, and what I know for sure is that the light produced by your mindful awareness will add to the light of mine, and together… we may just permeate the darkness descending upon a sacred soul.  Now, the soul of whom I write is specific, but together – our reach may be more broad.  Each of us may be just a drop of quenching rain, but together we can be a monsoon of healing light, a tsunami of love.  The holy one of whom I write is the beloved sister of a dear friend.  In this year of transformation, she has selflessly offered her gifts to me, as she does to anyone in need, asking for nothing more than the pleasure of my company in return.  She, herself, is a warrior of overcoming – and she has reached to me with a request to grab my bow, and lead this Tribe of loved ones through a circle of healing.  The invading predator is fierce – ALS invades the body and robs it of its strength to move, and eventually… to breathe.  You see… this is why I need you today, and your stunning, radiant inner light.  My love is great and enveloping, but OUR love?  It is all consuming… a cloak of comfort on a cold dark night.  Please take my hand and share your light… I can see it growing brighter as you approach, and it is sweetness to behold – love made manifest.  Further, I hope you would not consider it greedy to ask that you share this post with others.  Imagine the power of our light when it is passed from one sacred soul to another!  We are each torchbearers… passing our light from one to another, until the whole world is aglow with a radiance more powerful than the sun.

For the purposes of our focused connection, I am going to refer to our sacred vessel as Juno.  For clarity, if you are reading this after the date of this gathering to which you are contributing… know that time is not linear, and your light will still make a difference.  Also understand that if you are in need of healing light, you may pull it from this cosmic gathering, and when you offer your own healing energy, you are never depleted, for this is a divine force that moves through you… you cannot help but receive through the giving.

Great Spirit, Mother / Father God, Universal Force of Creation, Powers that Be, Elements that surround us and flow through us, All That Is:  Allow this sacred circle of beautiful beings to become a combined vessel of your love, filling up and spilling forth with an abundance of healing light energy.  Allow the light of love to flow freely, without obstacle, and let it drip down the healers’ hands, washing away our sorrows, our fears, our hunger and thirst, our aches and pains, self-doubt and false limitations.  As we are made of celestial matter, we contain the healing power of a thousand suns, and the distant light of a billion stars is ever present in the combustive force that warms us from within.  Let this divine energy rise up through Earth’s core and crust, through saline ocean, and forest floor, through the soles of our feet, rising up through the roots that are our legs, lighting up our energetic being as it is filled – (red) root, (orange) sacral, (yellow) solar, and into our (green) hearts contained by strong and resilient trunks, and let this molten, healing light flow through arms to hands that are our branches, through (blue) throat, (purple) mind’s eye that sees what is not visible, and (white) crown through which we connect easily with all that is… rising up and out to deliver exactly what is required, be it for the good of all.  Amen, So Be It, Blessed Be.

If it is difficult to connect with the soul of someone you do not yet know, think of someone you do know who has made you feel completely loved.  Hold that beloved being in your heart and radiate and reflect that love back to her or him.  As you feel that radiance shared between the two of you, allow that light to expand to encapsulate others in your circle – family and friends for whom you feel a sense of affection.  Now, expand that light even further, beyond those you know well and out to acquaintances, and then to people you don’t know in your community, in your city, in your state.  Let your light of loving compassion grow and spread beyond the boundaries of country, continent, planet.  Let your love reach and grow into the darkness of space, surrounding the galaxy, and then every galaxy – known and unknown.  Know that your light is expansive and boundless. You are one with the universe and all that is.

Now, bring your focus back into your center.  Visualize this place that is in a realm that is not limited by what we know in this world.  In this place, there is plenty of room for all of us to gather.  We are each standing in our own strength, prepared to share it freely with one another.  If you once felt alone in this space, feel the arrival of other light beings, as the palms of your hands are filled with the palms of two others.  As each of us arrive in this sacred circle, a pale blue light radiates from each being, and as hands are linked, the light begins to pulsate and grow stronger as it flows gently in a clockwise motion, from heart to heart and hand to hand.  As the circle is made complete, you look before you and see Juno seated at the center, enveloped in the pale blue light of your loving presence.  Let Juno be represented by that being who has made you feel most loved and cherished, and let that love be reflected back to her.  She is surrounded by Universal light delivered through sacred souls from all over the planet.  You may be holding hands with someone from America, from Canada or Ireland, from India or from Africa… your light is mingling with the light of people from countries whose names have never crossed your lips.  We are all one, and there are no barriers here.  We are all here for one purpose… to bring divine healing light to the soul of another, in whatever form is needed.  When we offer our healing energy, Reiki, Theta, our thoughts and prayers, it must be unattached to outcome, for we cannot know the destined journey of one’s soul.  We can only trust that exactly what is needed to bring healing to that sacred soul, in any form, will be delivered by our care.

As the light surrounding Juno grows and pulsates, it is like a magnet that is pulling from her body any residue of past harm, be it betrayal, fear-based thought, denial of success or personal worthiness, food-born or environmental distress or illness.  As all remnants of negativity and dis-ease (mentioned and unnamed) are removed from her body, her energetic being, her DNA, and her beautiful soul, all areas of exit are filled and sealed with golden light.  The pale blue light, which has grown in strength as each new soul enters the circle, becomes a beautiful emerald green.  As Juno has been emptied of what no longer serves her, she has become an open vessel to receive the light that we offer, as well as the sparkly white light of creation that flows from above.  We are grateful witness to the arrival of this light, and are awed by the beauty that illuminates Juno’s own beauty as she is filled with this light that is like the golden light from a holiday sparkler, or a downpour of luminous glitter.  This light fills every cell of her body with divine healing energy, as it delivers strength and fortitude for the road ahead.  Juno is receiving through her open heart, the wisdom of the universe, the strength of earthly ancient mountains, the air to fill her lungs and speak her truth, the fire to move her muscles and accomplish every task she seeks to fulfill, the water to wash her spirit clean of fear, anger, bitterness, and regret.  Juno is filled with divine light and soothed by the love that surrounds her.  Whatever is required for her peace, comfort, and transformation in the form that her soul has chosen will be provided with grace and ease.  She is one with all of us and we are all one with the Universe.  Together we transcend the limitations beholden to the confines of the human body, through the power of the mind, which is greater than our understanding.  Once again, we place our trust within this truth… that assistance is given to those who reach.  Together we reach beyond what we can see, feel, understand, and know that this mystery is received and freely given through the love that resides within each of us.

Finally, in this sacred place where we have gathered, we raise our hands toward Juno, and send golden light energy from heart to palm and into her being, so that she may carry the love of this circle within her through all of her days upon the earth and into the mystery of what comes next.  And when you feel that you have given what she needs, place your hands upon your own heart, and receive that same energy that flows through you and each sacred being within this circle.  Allow your own body and energetic being to be filled with this Universal Light Energy.  Feel the light and love of this vast community surround you and enter your heart.  Know that you carry this love within you, and that it seeps through every pore with a radiant light that brings healing to old wounds, and attracts an abundance of goodness to your life.

When you are ready to return to the place where you are sitting, reading these words that have somehow come through my fingertips and onto this page, I hope that you hold onto my gratitude and my love for the light that you have offered, and for the healing it has provided.  You are loved and valued beyond your previous imagining.  Hold onto that and let it grow in your awareness.  Your light will illuminate your path, and beauty surrounds you, every step of the way.

Thank you!  I love you!  It is done!

PS:  If you can please like and share this post, it will multiply the intensity of our combined healing light.  As I was lying in bed this morning, thinking about ‘Juno’, I could feel a heaviness and shortness of breath that was overwhelming.  I could feel the fear of those who suffer, and the sorrow of those who would give anything to be able to help.  I was strengthened by the thought of touching your heart, that you might touch the heart of another, and so on.  You can help.  We can help.  Somehow, in a place beyond our understanding… we shall rise…  warriors – all!

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A Blessing or a Curse…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble remembering.  Many of my friends will joke about how they can’t remember why they entered a room, or what they had for dinner yesterday as a commentary on aging.  And though I am only five months from 50, I have to confess that this has been my truth for quite some time.  One of my co-workers from my former life in the corporate world affectionately nicknamed me Dory, after the character in Finding Nemo, voiced by Ellen Degeneres.  That came after only a few months of our partnership, since her desk was right next to the copy room, and I was frequently sighing as I exited to return to my desk – hoping for a clue why I had gone there.

I once may have believed that it was due to an easily distracted mind in the chaos of a corporation.  Having been liberated from office life for nearly a year, I don’t see anyone often enough to live up to that nickname, but that doesn’t mean my memory has grown stronger.  In fact, these days if I visit with a friend who inquires about how I am spending my time, I may have to refer to my calendar as a guide to share… ‘oh, yeah – my grandniece stayed with me for a week’, or ‘I went to the mountains with the boys in July’.  Truly, the best way to share where I’ve been and what I’ve really been up to lately is to refer them to this blog.  This is where I have been placing my thoughts, my discoveries, and well… my memories.  Actually, looking at the beginning of this paragraph, I realize that if I were still in that world, if someone asked me what I’d been up to, the conversation would have led to how everyone around me was doing, having considered the responsibility and wellness of others to have been more important than my own.  Having the heart of a caregiver in an executive office means that you are holding space for the enormous stress of others, where fluctuations in stock somehow reflects on your worthiness to lead.  Have I mentioned how completely I do NOT miss that world?  My stomach flips at the thought of such an atmosphere.  Gratefully, those memories, too, are fleeting.  They are at my reach, only when I need a reminder of where I have been and where I may choose to venture forward.

I’ve often wondered when and where this memory shortage began, and I have wondered if it was that moment when self-doubt set in at the age of 9.  I wrote about that event in my post called ‘My Favorite Tomboy’, when my friend’s father accused me of lying to him.  I was so dumbfounded by the accusation of a grown up, that I must have questioned if I had actually done so… even though it makes no sense at all.  In recent years I have decided to let go of identifying a cause, and simply accept it.  This is what I have chosen to believe:  The Universe has gifted me with a deficient memory to enable me to live more fully in the NOW!  Think about it.  Eckhart Tolle urges us to discover The Power of NOW, suggesting that we “Realize deeply that the present moment is all [we] ever have.”  When your memory is limited, there really isn’t much choice but to be present.

At times, this can feel like a curse – especially when you are in conversation and wish to add value to the discussion.  But it can also feel like a blessing – as having a poor memory makes you a great secret keeper.  I’m sure that would look amazing on my resume, right?  I call it Swiss Cheese memory, because I may recall having a conversation with someone, but I may not remember the outcome… some of the details seem to have fallen through the holes.  Another benefit to this condition is that it can make you extremely efficient.  I was known to complete a task within minutes of assignment, because I feared that I might fail to do so if anything got in the way of that intention.  It can be a tedious skill set should you work for someone who changes his mind with some frequency, though.

In my current world, where more time is spent with those I love and cherish, I am witness to memory loss suffered by my parents and other elders in our beloved community.  I’m sure that this is not uncommon as we near or surpass our eighth decade upon the Earth.  My parents seem to lose things easily and may not recall the specific instructions from a doctor visit, and if you have an hour with a friend of ours, you may hear the same story about her youth more than once.  I always listen to each tale-retold, smile and nod, and say, “I know!”  I have to admit that I have been caught telling a story of something I have recently experienced to a friend who was actually with me at the time.  This probably happens more often than I realize – I just have really compassionate friends.  Oy…  this does not bode well for my future!

My favorite tomboy (my lifelong friend) has shared with me in recent years that one of the obstacles that has held her hostage from leaping toward the life she truly desires involves leaving the job she has been doing since she was 19.  She doesn’t love her job, but she does it well and it has delivered comfort and prosperity for which she is grateful.  Recognizing that her memory is not what it once was, she fears having to learn laws and regulations for states that would be new to her.  She is convinced that she may not be able to learn new things… and so her dreams are left waiting to be realized.  Truth be told, I had to leave my job at Dairy Queen when I was 16 because I couldn’t remember how to make each item on the menu.  Each time was like the first time (this is true for movies and television I may have seen before, as well).  So, I feel her pain and share her concern.  I’m hoping that if I have to go back to work in a ‘traditional’ workplace someday, someone will want to hire me for my obvious positive energy and extraordinary inner light…. somehow valuing my ability to not dwell on the past.  Ha!

In my last post, Transformation Dawning, I wrote about a trip to a local spring with my grandniece, and how I found myself wondering why I had allowed decades to pass since my last visit.  Well, yesterday my friend and I made another trip.  This time we were able to get into Kelly Park, which offers a lazy-river feel to the public swimming area.  You may notice that I am writing this post on a Tuesday, which means that my friend and I escaped the routine of our individual daily lives on a Monday.  A MONDAY!  This is not something one does when trapped in the monotony of a corporate work week.  On vacation, maybe… but never on a work day.  My soul-daughter (a blossoming medium) tells me that I am learning to let go of the structure I once held as law… that I must have specific structure in my life to get things done.  She says, intuitively, that my future prosperity will not fall into such an oppressive mold.  I’d love to know what that future holds, how an income will be generated to support the lifestyle to which my cat has been accustomed.  However, if I am to glory in the gift of my poor memory, unable to wallow in the regrets of the past, I should be reminded not to drown in the worries of the future.

For now, the only plans I make (unless a reservation is required) shall be somewhat spontaneous and with an aim for joy.  I did not need the books and materials about becoming an end of life doula to inform me that there is no guarantee of future days over which to worry.  Each day, in this new existence, is met with my commitment to hold space for myself.  I am madly in love with this life, right now… not ‘someday, when’.  My funny memory just brought to mind the turtle that we saw near the spring yesterday.  I meant to look up the symbolism (and of course had forgotten until now), and this is what I’ve just learned:  Turtle symbolizes our peaceful walk on the earth, representing the path we take on the journey through life.  The way of the turtle anchors our personal unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation.  So… that’s all I need to know about the future.  I am firmly planting each footfall upon this sacred ground, allowing transformation to come when it comes.  There is nothing more to do, than to simply be.  That seems pretty easy to remember, don’t you think?

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Transformation Dawning

My grandniece stayed with me last week, and though we ultimately had a ‘staycation’ (for me, anyway), I still consider it to have been a glorious escape.  My brother and his family live a few hours away, so we shared the burden of driving and met half way.  I fetched her on a Saturday and gave her back on the following Saturday.  This was the longest period of time we have had alone since she was 18 months old.

13.5 years ago circumstances were such that I felt compelled to offer my support and provide her with a safe place to grow between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while her grandparents met work obligations out of state and dealt with some obstacles at home.  I will never forget the sound of relief in the voice of my sister-in-law, when I somewhat jokingly commented on how cute she was and that she should just leave her with me… “Oh, Melissa… I would be so relieved.”  With wide eyes I looked at my parents who said they would help, and I cried all the way to the airport in the rain to fetch my Tribe brother.  I cried as I told him what I was considering, both of us single and childless at the time, he understood the importance of the task and the sense of overwhelm, too.  Neither of us would have imagined then that he would be married with three children of his own now.  That night I sent an email to friends about the crazy commitment I was considering, and by morning I had been offered all of the support required to make it possible.

That month was probably the most traumatic for all of us, as some navigated separation anxiety and heartbreak, while I spent each day in fear of getting something wrong.  Above all other worries, I feared for her the abandonment issues she would surely have to face in therapy (waves flag of abandonment issues – yo!).  I took my responsibility to her so seriously that I was determined to do anything I could to ensure she would not feel abandoned by me.  I remember one weekend that my Mom came over to offer me a break and an escape, but even when I left the room she would begin to cry, and I simply could not bear to leave.  I remember friends and co-workers saying to me… “Oh, Melissa… this is going to change your mind about having children.”  Well, it didn’t.  Not because she wasn’t precious, because she was.  And not because the work of caring for a child is thankless, because I know without a doubt that that month of my life was quite possibly one of my most important and greatest accomplishments of this lifetime… after all, I managed to keep her alive for an entire month!  She had never been around other children, so of course she immediately caught a cold from daycare, and she also cut a couple of molars during the time that I had her.  Every day I would drop her off and she would cry, and every day I would cry all the way to the office.  Did I mention that empathy is my number one strength?  I would tuck her into bed each night, and collapse in a heap in the silence of the living room, hoping to have a moment to myself, but feeling too exhausted to do anything else, and not wanting to make any noise that might disturb my sleeping angel.  I remember waking each morning and hoping that I could run to the bathroom before she woke up, so that I could tinkle without having to have her on my lap while doing so (because if she was awake, and I left the room… she would cry – and I could not allow her to feel abandoned by me).  Good golly, people!  How on earth can you possibly choose to be responsible for the entire life and well-being of another human?  What a horribly overwhelming task.  I remember how I would hear her cry and it would feel like my heart was beating on the outside of my chest.  I recall the  mornings when I would hear her stir in the makeshift crib that was next to my bed, and I would look over and smile to see her standing up and holding onto the edge, with her beautiful tuft of light brown curls, greeting me with a smile – that and when she tossed her head back to take the medicine for a cold or teething always reminded me of a baby bird.  I would have done anything to keep her safe, healthy, and happy.  Her happiness was my joy!  One night, I pushed past fatigue and put up the Solstice Tree, and delighted in the look on her sweet face the next morning as I carried her into the darkened living room lit by those magickal lights.

I have to admit, having a 15 year old in my guest room was much easier than having an 18 month old beside my bed.  I just caught myself wondering why we had never done this before… and remembered that this, too, is a gift of the year of time and reflection I’ve given myself.  Not beholden to anyone to grant me time off, I had the freedom to ask… and to receive.  It was pretty awesome.  She cooked for her great grandparents and me, and we shopped for school clothes.  She attended an event I co-hosted… a sort of female empowerment and expressive arts evening with friends.  She WOWed me with her openness and authenticity.  She spoke her truth and shared her vulnerability, knowing that she was in a safe place.  Her courage to share encouraged the same in others.  I introduced her to the art of acrylic pour, and she suggested that we do a project together, each creating a piece that would be symbolic of how we felt about each other or what we meant to one another.  Into the colors I chose – each as vibrant and rich as her stunning brilliance and personality – I stirred my hopes and dreams for her… to see her own true value, to seek her own truth and follow her own north star, to be filled with utter joy, and fulfilled by purpose and passion.  When it was dry, I wrote on the back of her canvas:  “Beloved – This painting contains my love for you, and symbolizes the beauty that you are and that which is on the horizon for you.  Love, M”  In turn, what she created for me contained many shades of green, with an additional image that she brilliantly added into negative space, which started as a Stag (sacred to Artemis, you know) and became a tree.  She told me that in meditation the forest is her safe place, and that I, too, am her safe place.  On the back of my canvas she wrote:  “To a GORGEOUS Goddess – You deserve the care you provide for everyone else.  You will get all that you need and want because you’re a beautiful soul.”   (I hope you’re listening, Universe!)

So, all of this was pure delight, and I loved every moment with my girly, but one of my favorite parts was meeting her request to enjoy a bit of nature together.  A friend of mine had suggested taking her to one of our local springs, and that is what we did.  We grabbed another friend of mine, and headed off for adventure.  We packed some snacks, put on bathing suits, and traveled just 30 minutes from home to reach a piece of paradise, Wekiwa Springs.  Knowing that the water would be shocking to our delicate systems (we Florida girls aren’t used to diving into 70 degree water), we chose to take a hike, so that the (literally) breathtaking plunge might feel even more welcome.  We traveled along the path and boardwalks, and delighted in the flora and fauna, as well as several winged creatures that were surely faery folk in the guise of dragonflies.  We saw them in many different colors, including green, silver and blue.  The presence of dragonfly informs us that transformation is dawning on the horizon – and I do believe all three of us can feel it coming.  As we completed the trail and began to hear the sound of others splashing in nearby water, we determined we were definitely ready for a swim.  This was the first time my grandniece had ever been to a spring, but this adventure brought back memories for my friend and for me.  My friend recalled many wonderful visits shared with her beloved, whom we lost to leukemia last fall… and having been away from this glory far too long, my own memories were of trips to the springs with my parents and brother when he and I were young, when we could dive for fossilized sharks teeth and swim until our lips turned blue.  I even remember a time when I was maybe 4 or 5 and my parents swam next to me – atop a raft, and there were people up on a bank who were tossing marshmallows into the water to feed an alligator.  I may have to check this memory with my folks to determine if that particular recall is based in fact or childhood fantasy.  Anyway, we swam for a while, and I began to worry that my toe rings would fall off, because the usual swelling of heat and gravity was totally lacking in this element… and they started to feel rather loose.  So, we each made our way up the hill to the shaded spot with our blanket and snacks.  We reflected on the connectedness we experienced with nature (and with the boy my grandniece met at the edge of the spring – oh, to be fifteen again), and after a while, we determined our needs had been filled.  We finished off the afternoon at my friend’s house with a few rounds of cards.  It was a perfect day!  Ever since, I’ve been asking myself why I had taken these gifts of nature for granted… feeling like I had to drive ten hours to find a piece of heaven, when it was right here… just a short drive from my front door.  I feel as if I will need to make up for lost time, and spend the next several weeks escaping to a local spring to dance with the dragonflies and swim until my lips turn blue.

As I summarized this delightful week to my soul-daughter, sharing how I felt badly for having shirked my responsibility to the end of life doula study… she once again reminded me, with that wisdom-beyond-years way that she does, that though I may have spent fewer hours at the computer or reading a book on death or palliative care, I had most certainly been ‘doing the work’.  You know what?  She’s right!  I am less sure today that my path is to become a doula, but more certain that there is purpose and meaning in doing this work.  Every single day of this sabbatical has been filled with a certain kind of mindfulness and gratitude that comes with the absolute knowledge that our time here is limited.  If the beauty of a natural spring doesn’t bring a sense of homecoming to your soul, you are denying the importance of the element of water in your very existence.  I mean…  you are made of mostly water!  The Earth is bubbling with this cooling, soothing salve for your tired and aching spirit, and She invites you to enter her healing embrace.  The cicadas are singing for the resonant pleasure of your eternal spirit – reminding you of the freedom of summertime on a hot afternoon, how could you fail to recognize their tune?  And everywhere you turn, the dragonflies are bobbing and dancing, then gently perching upon branch and limb, hoping to get a closer look at your vibrant being, knowing that the symbolism of the human body is to be reminded that you are looking upon the Universe itself – in which all of the elements, air, fire, water, earth and spirit, are contained.  The dragonflies know this about every human they pass, why must so many of us fail to recognize this truth, whether passing another on a trail, or seeing our own reflection in the living waters?  There is so much tragedy in what we fail to see.

I am growing more certain with each passing day that this sacred journey upon which I embarked last fall is really about learning to truly see.  I am learning to see what has always surrounded me… that beauty is before me, behind me, above me, below me, and within me.  I am learning to sense what I cannot see with my eyes, allowing energy to be felt with my heart and words that are not heard through my ears to flow with grace and ease through my fingertips and onto this page.  Through the study of death and dying, I am learning how to truly live.  Every time I wish I could see the future and how my financial security will evolve from something I no longer care to do into something I was born to do, I am reminded that I don’t need to see it to know it is on the way.  I don’t need to define it to be able to manifest it.  I am already in the spring and it is carrying me forward, and I have no choice but to stay open to receive and appreciate all of the rich beauty that awaits, as I mindfully and joyfully go with the flow.

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Homecoming

I drove home from Tennessee on Saturday.  It was a nearly ten hour drive that was fueled by my desire to squish my kitty after two weeks of abandonment… hoping as each mile passed that she would welcome my arrival and not remind me of the betrayal with a cold shoulder attitude.  Instead of the career focused reading on palliative care that got me to the mountains two weeks before, I chose to listen to one of my very favorite fiction novels on the journey home.  Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees never lets me down.  If you’ve only seen the movie, you’ve missed the most important feature of the story… the divine mother.  She comes through in a thousand beautiful ways, if you know what to listen for.

With Lilly, Rosaleen, and the Calendar Sisters’ company, the long drive was made even more picturesque.  Driving along highway 26 through the Blue Ridge Mountains is always my favorite part of the journey regardless of direction… coming or going.  The saddest part of going is when you are about to enter South Carolina, and you see the last glimpse of those beautiful mountains in the rear view mirror.  I don’t know how to explain how this particular mountain range affects me, but it is something akin to coming home to the lap of the most nurturing embrace.  I have visited other mountain ranges that may be beautiful, but they’ve got nothing on these ancient and wise, healing mounds of rock and blue-green earth.  It is always a bittersweet departure.

I’m sure I had a hundred thoughts on writing during my long day’s travel.  I started out at 9am, and at 3:42pm I looked at the GPS to see that I had 342 miles left to drive.  I did stop to buy lottery tickets in two of the states through which I traveled… because I have decided that if I didn’t have to worry about an income, I could simply be of service to those I love and those in need, without making a business out of it.  That’s one of the questions in the end of life doula study… if you didn’t have to worry about an income, what services would you most like to provide?  The truth is, it would look something like what I’ve been doing since I left the corporate world.  I would walk through the world of uncertainty with those who are facing new challenges in health or in life, delivering comfort, listening with great care and without judgment, advocating for the patient’s best interest, hand holding, wheelchair pushing, driving, reminding, recording, and above all… holding sacred space throughout transition, transformation, and healing.

My soul-daughter and I had a video conference while I was away, and her epiphany was that I was her end of life doula, as she transitioned from her former life where she grew up, into her new life where she will continue to grow in a city where everything is new to her.  For the two months prior to her move, I listened to and affirmed her plan – even when others couldn’t understand a young woman following her inner guidance which might have defied logic at times, I helped her pack up the old apartment, and was with her when she found her new apartment, being witness to the magick that kept showing her that she was on the right path.  I made a trip over to see her when she was all settled in, and remain connected to learn about all of the wonderful things she is manifesting in her new life.  What a gift she is to me!  We are gifts to each other.

As I drove onto my street, somewhere around 7pm, I was excited to stop at my parents’ home, which is seven houses away from my own.  I carried in mountain gifts of tomatoes, apples, and pickles (Dad’s one request), and visited briefly before heading home to squish my cat.  Here’s the really good news…  she wasn’t mad at me.  She was at the door as I walked in, and when I pulled her into my arms, the love fest began.  I didn’t want to leave her until she felt adequately adored.  Eventually, I did feel I should bring in things from the trunk of my car.  That’s when it happened…  Not when you’d think it would happen, while lifting my 26 inch suitcase up and out… no.  The snap in my lumbar occurred as I simply turned and lifted the lid of the trunk.  It was that simple.  One moment you are feeling fine… and the next… excruciating pain through lower back and hip.  Oy!  Hence, the radio silence since homecoming.  I have found it really difficult to concentrate on anything resembling coherent thought since Sunday morning.  I asked the Universe why I needed to be going through this right now, and the answer I received was… empathy.  My reply was that I really feel like I’ve got this one down already.  After all, empathy is at the top of my list of top 5 strengths from StrengthsFinder.  I guess I need to listen harder to find another reason.  This is what I decided… I shall move through this pain and suffering, reminding myself that there are many living with chronic pain on a daily basis.  I am reaching out to the healers in my community, and remind myself that we are never alone and that there are people in our lives who hold wisdom and possibility in the palms of their hands.  With each form of treatment, I find some relief and some agitation as healing moves through bone and muscle, fascia and flesh.  Earlier today, pain came while walking and this evening it was walking that brought relief, as I headed over to see my folks – feeling badly about coming home and then disappearing again to nurture my wound.  So I know that tomorrow will be twice better than yesterday… reminding myself that suffering is temporary and that this, too, shall pass.

As I walked home tonight, twilight was bathing my surroundings in that magickal light.  The waxing moon was reflecting the radiant sun no longer in view.  I thought about how I am already missing the fireflies that danced through my friends’ yard… here in Florida we spray for mosquitoes, so firefly sightings are extremely rare.  But as I looked around me, I was thrilled to recognize that the magick and beauty of nature that I could see, hear, smell, and feel in the mountains can also be found right here at home.  As I looked up at the radiant moon, I saw our beautiful bats in exuberant flight – dashing to and fro in a dance of joyful mosquito consumption, and I could hear the cicadas screaming their deafening chant of summer evening delight (our cicadas sing a different song than the one heard in Tennessee – and I love that sound, which reminds me of summertime in childhood when the streetlights came on and it was time to leave friends and head home).  It had rained in the late afternoon, so the earth was moist and I could smell the color green that pours forth through lush trees, plants, and grass, and the air was delightfully cool as a result of that earlier precipitation.  As I walked along the familiar path between the home where my parents live and the home where my grandparents once lived, I realized that though healing in my back is not complete, it is in progress – and though I am no longer in the mountains, I am still surrounded by overwhelming grace and beauty… and though I have not yet won the lottery or determined how a future income will present itself, I am not fearful of the future and I know that divine timing will allow all that is needed to fall into place exactly as it should, and for all of this… and I mean all of it… I am eternally grateful.

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The Journey Inward

Yesterday I visited a nearby mountain park to get an added dose of nature before I head home at the end of the week.  I hadn’t really thought it out very well, because I stepped onto the Lakeside Trail in my traditional open-toe shoes, instead of something more trail appropriate.  I could have turned back early on, but the path kept calling me forward… and so forward I went.  The ‘lake’ was more of a reservoir, and was not round like many lakes back home, but more like a wide river with end caps.  I started my journey, like most adventures in life, without expectation or awareness of what I might find or experience along the way.  At the beginning of the trail, as I traveled counter-clockwise on the map, I found a bench at water’s edge, and so I sat for a moment to contemplate the beauty before me.  The water was filled with all sorts of plant life, and there were trees that had fallen on the bank and into the lake, that were left to become a part of the landscape, creating homes for the creatures that live there.  As I sat there, I would occasionally hear a sound that informed me that something was moving in the water, but each time I heard it, I would look and see nothing more than a slight ripple.  It reminded me of how we often assume that a situation is how we perceive it, based on what we can see on the surface, but how reality is that there is often something of greater depth actually going on beneath the surface.  I took a moment to honor all that was present which I could not see, and then I continued my walk.

Next, I came to a boardwalk structure that crossed the water, and before I was half way across, I gasped to see a young deer with antlers grazing on plant life in shallow water.  This is not something we get to see where I come from, and the sight took my breath away before it brought me to tears.  A couple who were hiking in the opposite direction came upon us, and respectfully stood quietly for a few minutes before gently passing.  I thought about how magick happens throughout our lives, if we are open to it, and how special it can be to have it all to ourselves at times, and also to be blessed to share it with others.  I could have stayed all day to simply stand witness to such grace and beauty, but I decided to offer my gratitude for this moment, and asked to be WOWed again somewhere along my journey.  I was not disappointed.

As I moved forward on the path, having no idea where it would take me, or if I would regret not having turned back for better hiking gear, I couldn’t help but think about my personal life experience with the Artemis Archetype.  After all, the stag is one of her most sacred symbols, and the mountain forest is her realm.  I might turn a curve along this winding path and see her in the distance drawing back her bow.  I thought about how alone I felt on this path, as I could hear no human sound at this point.  I realized that my footwear could betray me on a path filled with tree roots and loose stones, or how I might slip and fall somewhere on this journey and that no one would be around to see me, hear me, or come to my rescue.  It made me think about how unprepared I have been throughout life for the obstacles that would appear in my life, leaving me hurt or disappointed by the actions of others.  But then I realized that my travels with Artemis have always been that way.  I may have had the support of my band of nymphs that I call my Tribe, but the work that I did to move through self-loathing to find my true self-worth and value was always a solitary journey.  It never mattered how emphatically others would assure me of how worthy they found me, I could never find it to be true until I felt it for myself.  And every betrayal and wound I’ve received has always led to learning and the positive evolution of my soul.  And so…  I chose to continue… believing that I was well protected, and that I would find more moments of magick if I simply refused to give up on myself.

As I moved further into the forest, and away from view of the lake, the feeling of solitude grew more profound.  I realized how similar this world that belongs to Artemis resembles the world that belongs to Persephone.  In the non-patriarchal version of her tale, she has chosen to go into the underworld to welcome the souls who have transitioned from the world of the living and are now seeking passage through the veil.  On this lonely mountain path, I could feel the isolation of one’s journey from human form into the mystery of what comes next.  There might be loved ones present to hold your hand for a while, but at some point… you must move forward on your own.  But then I realized through much of my hike that I would hear a recurring sound that was lacking form.  I imagined that it might be the sound of hooves on forest floor, an unseen squirrel or chipmunk, or a bird taking flight in the canopy above.  The message that I received from this awareness was that our perception of aloneness throughout our sacred journey is an illusion.  Even when we cannot see others around us, the truth is that we are never alone.  Whether it be the consciousness that we can step into to deliver strength in a moment of weakness – becoming the warrior and rescuing ourselves, or the presence of guides and loved ones that some of us may never connect with and recognize without the support of a medium, or at the end of life – as witnessed by Hospice Nurses again and again, as their patients acknowledge days or moments before death, alerting them to call the family, for departure time is near.

As I walked the Lakeside Trail, wondering if it would ever come to an end, I walked through fear and kept going.  I walked through solitude, and realized I wasn’t really alone.  I walked through self-doubt and negative self-talk about the foolishness of being ill-prepared, and I kept moving forward.  I walked for three hours straight, and never grew weary.  I acknowledged that my twice-weekly time in the gym had been time well spent, as my legs were strong enough to carry me up hill and down again without complaint.  I passed an occasional human, and while I was glad to see them and smiled as they passed, I was also grateful to continue on my own.  I realized that walking with Artemis brought me to this place… where being alone with myself is a wonderful place to be.  Once filled with self-loathing, I now feel that I make for really great company, and I was so happy to be walking with my own best friend… ME.  As I began to hear the sound of traffic on the mountain road upon which I entered the park, I was pleased to be coming full circle.  I had hoped to be shown the blessings of nature, and I was rewarded with three different deer sightings, each bringing me to tears.  For three hours, I was honored to walk beside two Goddesses who are ever present in my life, and I bowed my head to Persephone in reverence for the guidance and comfort she provides as I explore the path to the underworld, hoping to be one of her torchbearers in the future… holding the hands of those transitioning from human form, until they are finally able to see those who shall greet them on the other side.

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Light Up and Be Happy!

I’m in Tennessee for a couple of weeks visiting friends who have a summer home here.  Tonight, after we took the dogs for their evening stroll, as we returned to the house a firefly landed on my hand.  My friend took the dogs inside so that I could ‘have a moment’ without disturbing my new friend at rest.  It wasn’t even close to twilight, so he wasn’t ready to light up, so as he rested on the back of my hand, I sang to him a little song about the evening to which we both looked forward.  You know… that old favorite from Styx…  “Light up everybody!  Join us in this celebration.  Light up and be happy!  Sweet, sweet sound will fill the air.”  I bet you didn’t know that was a song about fireflies on a summer night, did you?  Ha!

I just love these moments, getting to connect with nature.  It’s not something I often do back home.  From where I sit now, I can hear traffic and neighbors coming and going, but there is also the sound of wind in the trees, crickets chirping, birds singing, and cicadas humming.  I find myself, at times, resenting the obnoxious sound of vehicles passing on the highway nearby, as it feels like such an insult to the orchestra that is playing a temporary tune.  Did I mention that we are also near an airport?  Sigh…  but eventually I am able to refocus on the sounds of nature, and the volume of wind chimes and insect instrumentals rises to the forefront.  Encore!, I say.

As I glance into the yard, I can see the fireflies finally at play.  They lift from grass and tree branch with a spark of light that reminds me of the sparks that pop forth from a blazing fire… rising upward and fading away.  It makes me wonder if they are playing a game of ‘ghost in the graveyard’ together.  “Over here!”  “No, over here!”, they say as their light teases one to follow.  But then they are gone, and another flash of light appears in the periphery, and you turn your head… but…  gone again.  It looks like enormous fun, and yet we are both excluded from the game, and delighted to bear witness.

I alternately enjoy these moments of solitude and wish to be sharing them with others.  So, here I am… inviting you into my solitary moment, so grateful you could join me.  I imagine that car in the distance is yours, winding up the hill and onto our street.  That you walk through the grass and open the gate, then pull out a chair and join me for this exclusive performance of the most beautiful concerto to be heard by human ears.  We reach across the table and hold hands for a moment, breathing deeply of the gratitude for this sacred moment upon the earth… together.  From this view, we can see that everything really will be okay.  I promise.

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Mountain Music

I am sitting on the porch of my friends’ Tennessee home, and the breeze offers a slight chill as it plays with my hair while the lowering sun caresses my skin with warmth.  A variety of birds are singing their evening songs which speak of a beautiful day blessed by sunshine and the smell of sweet grass.  Several are dancing around the nearby feeder, reminding me that the term ‘eats like a bird’ doesn’t mean what most people assume.    My friend lost his sweet mother last year, and this space that we are blessed to enjoy was lovingly referred to by that kind and generous woman as Mockingbird Cottage.  Her gentle spirit still surrounds us in this heavenly place. and I can sense that she is near… laughing at the hungry birds at play, and recalling the way the wind once felt against her skin on a cool summer evening.  She and I close our eyes and breathe deeply of this moment of shared peace and solitude.  We anticipate the arrival of fireflies within the next hour.

I drove up on Friday, and the journey was pleasant as the companion I chose read to me his words of experience and wisdom with the voice of a philosopher.  I downloaded required reading for my end of life doula coursework through Audibles, and Stephen Jenkinson’s voice fed my mind throughout my ten hour journey with his thoughts on palliative care from his book called DIE WISE: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.   Eight hours of reading remains, and he has already given me so much to think about… mostly about the way that death, though it is the one guarantee that comes with birth, is something that most people fear and run from.  Many of his patients who chose palliative care when a diagnosis became a prognosis would later come to curse the effectiveness of their treatment, as it was keeping them alive long past their wish to continue.  In other words, it may have given them more time, but it did not necessarily give them more ‘life’… just more suffering.  That kind of took my breath away.  It made me think more clearly about the wording I would use in my advance directive, the official forms which will state my wishes for end of life care.

It also made me think about the act of dying, and the choices one makes for how to spend their final days once a deadline has been given.  And if one would choose to do things any differently, at that point, (assuming the body was able) why we would wait until we’ve been given a deadline to start living in a way that would finally feed our soul.  Should we not be spending all of our days that way?  I mean, the day we are born the one thing that is certain is that we will also die.  It seems to me that there is always a deadline, its just that the expiration date is hidden beneath the fold of awareness.

I wonder what that might look like for me… a well-fed soul, and I believe that it looks something like sitting outside on a summer evening to hear the cacophony of birds chirping, cicadas humming, and distant dogs barking.  It also looks like valuable time spent connecting with dear friends, and making new ones at a mountain art festival.  It looks like smiling at the tiny green bug that just landed on the keyboard, and resting until it is ready to take flight.  It looks like taking the time to dive into a topic that once felt overwhelming and frightening, so that I may one day be of service in a way that transcends and ascends my former level and ability of caring.  It looks like choosing to fill the rest of my days, be they long or few, with greater purpose and meaning.

Sitting here, in this sacred space outdoors, with the spirit of this sweet lady that I was blessed to know and shall always adore, I can list the messages that nature has delivered for my inability to hear her voice.  The symbolism of the mockingbird is overcoming fear.  The symbolism of the hummingbird, whose presence inspired the urge to write, is lightness of being and enjoyment of life, as well as the reminder to be more present.  The symbolism of the fireflies for whom we wait, is self-illumination, guidance and freedom.  As I glance over my shoulder to see if they have yet arrived, I see a cardinal at the feeder and smile to myself to realize that the symbolism of this particular bird is a reminder to realize the importance of your purpose in life… while for some, it informs them of the presence of a loved one lost.  She knows I’m thinking of her and that I know she is here… affirmed by a glance before me to see that cardinal making his way across the darkening yard, stopping to look back at me from a moment’s perch atop the umbrella in the yard.

I am grateful for this time that I have given myself… to explore the depths of my soul before stepping blindly into a new chapter that might be less than fulfilling, to breathe deeply with gratitude for the beauty of nature and for that which we cannot see or hear without the courage to open our hearts.  After all, love is not something visible to the eye… it can only be felt with the heart.  So, I dare you, dear ones to close your eyes and open your hearts.  There are messages flashing before you, like the fireflies who have just arrived.  I’d love for you to join me in this reverie of light and flight!  Tell me…  what do you see?

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The Umbrella Principle

There are five things, according to Dr. Ira Byock who wrote Dying Well, that can bring comfort and closure at the end of life.  In each of our relationships, as we near the end of our days, we may pass through the veil without regret if we are able to tell those we love the following:  Forgive Me, I Forgive You, Thank You, I Love You, Goodbye.  My study of end of life doula work has opened a portal for conversations with others about their own experiences with death, and I am grateful for these opportunities.  There is obviously overwhelming heartbreak involved in each story, but there is also a call to mindfulness, and at times… grace.

But what about the relationships that never have such closure, because those who were departing did not exactly plan to leave their bodies behind quite so soon… or because they were too fearful to broach such topics with those they love?  If life is filled with lessons, perhaps unexpected loss is a reminder to each of us that such endeavors need not wait for the clarity of a terminal diagnosis.

Though my parents and I hope to be in each others’ lives for years to come, we have taken time here and there to discuss our thoughts.  With their recent update to their “Last Will and Testament” documents, which came with buying a new house up the street from me, Mom and Dad each completed the “Five Wishes” form, which provides a format to help us consider our end of life wishes.  A few items for consideration are who can speak for your healthcare needs when you are not able to speak for yourself, in what situation would you deny life-saving efforts, who would you like at your bedside as your spirit returns to its original energetic form (that’s my wording, of course), and how you’d like the body you’ve left behind to be cared for at that time.

As my friend and I connected from opposite corners of the country to discuss her experiences, I shared with her the memory of the departure of a mutual friend of ours in the late 90’s.  He was only 32, and though he had a serious diagnosis, a side-door illness swooped in and took him from us with unexpected haste.  I can see his final days, dimly lit, in the back of my mind.  He had refused to discuss his wishes with his partner, and as we set to the task of planning and arranging his memorial service, the grief seemed greater for the fear of getting something wrong.  At the time, my (then) partner and I were only 28, but within weeks of our friend’s celebration of life, we celebrated our own with official documents that stated our wishes should one of us be lost to the other without warning.  As for the stories my friend shared with me, she suffered a few tragic losses in her youth, but one that was expected was that of her grandmother.  Now, her grandmother had been incredibly mindful of her wishes, and was mostly clear… mostly.  She had planned and even executed her entire funerary arrangement… right down to purchasing the flowers for her casket and securing transport of her body from hospital to funeral home.  Her loved ones would not need to do anything but grieve at her loss.  However, her advance directive left for her doctors to follow was not so clear, and there was some confusion.  In other words, if you are ready to go, but you’ve not declined life-sustaining treatment with your healthcare providers (and your health surrogate), they are honor bound to provide them.

I know that the end of life is a difficult subject for most of us to consider, but I wonder if it might be easier to think about it a little differently.  You know how it seems to rain when you don’t have an umbrella, and how when you are mindful enough to carry one, no matter how dark it gets the rain never comes?  Well, that’s how I see this form of preparation.  Not that having these discussions with loved ones and securing official documentation of your preferences will keep the inevitable at bay… after all, it is the one guarantee in life that is presented on the day we are born.  But I submit for your consideration that if you have done the work of mindfully caring and sharing your authentic wishes for a peaceful transition from this world to the mystery of what comes next, you will gift yourself and those you love great freedom to live each day fully present.  I updated my own documents before my last trip abroad, in case I were to fall off of a cliff in Ireland, and I recently wrote a ritual of departure for such an occasion though I’m not sure of when I will next enjoy such adventure.  It was a surprisingly cathartic exercise.

All of that said, I would like to take a moment to tell you that if I have ever wronged you or caused you harm in any way, I am deeply sorry and I hope that you will forgive me.  If you ever wronged me or caused me harm in any way, I have come to understand from my own deep regret that such actions likely came through suffering of some kind, and I forgive you.  For your presence in my life and for even the tiniest expressions of kindness and care, I offer you my gratitude.  For the love that you have offered so freely, not only to me but to your family, your friends, your community, our planet and all of Her beloved creatures… I love you more.  There’s one more thing… but I’m not quite ready to say goodbye (I hope).  For now, I’ll bid thee hail and farewell until we meet again.

If you are interested in learning more about determining your own advance directive, you can check out this link:
http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3277 , you can also google Five Wishes.

My Post (2)

 

Transmute and Transcend

Today has been a difficult day.  Not really for any good reason… it seemed like an energetic thing.  Kind of like an indescribable ‘ick’ that sits thickly within one’s surroundings.  I sat down to my end of life studies and found no drive.  I opened the book I penned earlier this year, and I had no will to read.  I glanced at my blog, and had no words to share.  My soul-daughter reminded me that Mars goes retrograde tomorrow (in my own sun sign, no less), and that it means we will all be reviewing the past… so that we may then be free to move forward.  This is our chance to slow down and consider past actions and patterns, and how they have served us… and what habits might be hindering our progress for the evolution of our higher selves.  Sigh… if I get it all done today, can I just go on vacation from the hard work for the next two months, until Mars goes direct at the end of August?  Please?!  Well, no… my goddess girlie assures me that we will all get to face these old issues for the next two months, so let’s just plan to get through it… feel all the feels, and be prepared to move forward along with the perceived trajectory of Mars.

Being only a little stubborn and wanting to get the show on the road… as she headed out – I started my journey in.  On Saturday, a few members of my spiritual community gathered to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  The meditation guided us through a honeycomb beehive of past mistakes and regrets, and when we emerged we focused those morsels of restriction into honey and beeswax candles to be transmuted and transformed… into the sweetness of life, which only occurs when we are able to acknowledge how far we’ve come, and how much we’ve grown.  “Last night, as I was sleeping, I dreamt that I had a beehive here inside my heart.  And the golden bees were making white combs and sweet honey from my past mistakes.” ~Antonio Machado

This evening I continued that process, and I lit my beeswax candle along with some sage and dragonsblood incense.  I called upon that which I cannot see with my eyes, yet is always present, and moved into the sacred art of flow.  I set pen to page and awaited the words.  They came as they always do, in curving lines of surprise.  Who knew THAT was still in there?  A list of names unworthy of her love and affection (save for one) – that girl I used to be, going back three decades… the pattern identified as giving at a deficit of receiving.  All she ever wanted was to be loved enough… but she didn’t even love herself.

Words written in the color of blood, she poured out of her heart every ounce of bitterness and sorrow, then sealed it up with smoke and flame.  Five pages consumed by ink, and then by fire…  into the bowl of banishment.  Ashes smoldering then doused by the sacred waters from the heart of Ireland… St. Brighid’s and St. Brendan’s wells.  Then taken to that place in the side yard, near where her sweet Arthur was lost – has it been three years passed?  Asking her beloved boy to help with the transformation from ash to resurrection… delivering the kind of deep-soul-love that his adoring gaze once made her feel.

Sage and incense still permeate the air, but it does feel less heavy… the ‘ick’ is gone.  The candle has only moments of flame remaining, the light flickers in the base of its holder, the stick no longer exists.  Transmutation is complete.  Thank you.  I love you.  I love me.  It is done!

Dear ones, should you find yourselves in deep reflection of your personal past over the next several weeks… please be kind to your heart.  It was doing the best it could.  Your soul appreciates the lessons and remains unharmed.  These are lessons in forgiveness.  Forgive yourself for the ignorance of youth and for every lesson that arrived ‘the hard way’.  With mindful awareness, we do have the freedom to move into the future with an intention of continuing the process of growth and evolution, asking the Universe to deliver each ‘the fun and loving way’.  That is MY intention, anyway.  Make it so!

(St. Gobnait – Patron Saint of Bees and Beekeeping – Gougane Barra, Ireland)stgobineta (2)

Release and Receive

Next week I will go back into the studio to record more of the meditations I’ve written over the years.  As I was reviewing and selecting which ones I would share, I recognized a common theme… releasing, banishing, or letting go of what no longer serves us.  If each of these meditations relates to a Celtic holy day, that means that at least eight times a year I am asking my listeners to just let it go already!  Of course, if my listeners are anything like me, they may just need the reminder.

On the way to finding self-love, if one has spent a lifetime reciting a list of accusations and false claims about one’s appearance and worthiness of deserving good things, one might take a while to break such habits, especially if one is nearly a half century along in said habit.  As for me, I have been vigilant about reprogramming negative self-talk, and yet every once in a while, I find myself berating my body for not being the size or shape of what American structure dictates to be acceptable.  And every time I catch myself falling back into this despicable behavior… despicable because if I were ever witness to someone saying these things to someone I loved, I would stand with the power and passion of mother bear to demand they consume their own words, and dare them not to choke on them… I must go back to the beginning and do it over in a way that is loving and kind.  Constant vigilance.

Though the Celtic New Year is at Samhain, which is October 31, I consider the cycle to begin at Imbolc, which is February 1.  Since the Celtic culture revolved around farming communities, the symbolism is based upon our relationship with the land.  Imbolc is when seeds are planted, and for me it seems like a logical place to start… first, we decide what we wish to bring to harvest in the coming year, and then we plant that intention.  If we were actually to plant something in the ground, as I witnessed my friend who doesn’t have a brown thumb do for my parents this evening, we would first have to prepare the soil by removing any obstacles that may be in the way.  We pull weeds and till the soil… as we must in life… remove those limiting beliefs and open our hearts to receive what can only come our way in this state.  If our palms are tightly clenched, there is no way to receive the treasure being offered.  Being open is key to receiving.  For this reason, I find myself in a perpetual state of letting go.

With the Celtic Wheel of the Year being conveniently spaced out in eight week increments, it seems like a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves to take stock.  If we planted symbolic seeds to start a new career, we can reflect on our progress and decide if we’ve been procrastinating or slacking on our commitments.  If our intentions were to build community or create a tribe, but we haven’t left the house since Imbolc… well, we need to make some plans and get out into the world at the Spring Equinox.  The thing about planting seeds is that they need to be watered, and if weeds have begun to choke our precious sprouts, they must be liberated from such obstacles.  Our minds work much the same way.  How can we attain the joy and happiness we desire if we are allowing negative thoughts to own real estate in our minds?  Bitterness and regret are the weeds that crowd our sacred garden, and if we allow them to flourish, our harvest will be bankrupt.  Do you want to harvest sun flowers or poke weed?  If you never do the work of clearing your field, you won’t have the freedom to plant your desires.

So, here we are at the Summer Solstice and in just eight weeks we will greet the first harvest, known as Lughnasadh on August 1.  I think about the seeds I have planted and I wonder if I have been caring enough to ensure their safety.  Have I sufficiently cleared out of my life the negative influences that would stunt their growth?  As a new obstacle was discovered in my field of plenty, was I able to lift the burden from tender roots to reintroduce their sweet limbs to the radiant source of light?  I hope so!  And I wish the same for you, dear one.

May the glorious healing sun bring blessings of abundance into every area of your life.    May any perceived limitations or obstacles be easily released and removed from your sacred field of fruition.  May the coming harvest season bring all of your hopes and dreams into magnificent manifestation.  Know that your presence on my journey is among my most valued and precious yield.  HAPPY SOLSTICE!

SUNFLOWER

Thanks Universe!

There is this really cool thing that seems to happen with some level of consistency.  The Universe delivers exactly what I need or who I need at just the right moment, to ensure that I do not have to suffer a crisis of faith.  Doesn’t this happen to you?  Don’t you love it when it does?

For many years, for more than a couple of decades in fact, I was in a position of clarity.  I knew with a sense of certainty that I was in the right place doing the right thing.  I loved my work and I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved at work.  It sounds strange, I know, but if you believe that what goes around comes around, well… that was my truth.  I loved what I did for a living and I adored and respected the people with whom I served.  Over time, things changed and the joy and the love were not as clear… and the Universe delivered a message which I could no longer ignore.  It said to me, “Melissa, now that you’ve got this whole self-love thing in the bag… you don’t need to keep a job that no longer serves your spirit for the purpose of validating your self-worth.  It is time to seek and fulfill your life’s purpose.”  And then the Universe, which can sometimes be an asshole, left me hanging with no immediate clue as to what the purpose might be.  But I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about being patient, paying attention, and that purpose was slowly revealed to me… one miraculous clue at a time.

What I can tell you about this discovery is that even when it seems obvious that the correct path has been revealed, one can still have moments when clarity is lost and the struggle of insecurity and self-doubt creeps back in.  Self-doubt is an old nemesis from my days of self-loathing, and though it has been cast out it continues to lurk on the outskirts of my existence, threatening to return with all of its darkness to try once again to snuff out my light.  But alas, the Universe, not always an asshole, tends to step in just in the nick of time to deliver a booster shot of confidence to bolster the new paradigm that supersedes that former false belief of limited potential.

Today I received a text message from a dear friend I’ve not seen in several months.  “Hello.  You up for a couple visitors tonight?”  And so it was that our months of unintentional separation were ended, and the three of us were reunited with a warm embrace.  I hadn’t realized how much of my personal evolution was missing from my friends’ awareness.  I’m pretty much an open book in the world of facebook, so even my mother’s friends know what I’ve been up to, but I guess I can’t expect everyone to be checking in on my shared revelations through the world of social media.  Reflecting on more than 20 years of friendship, with most of that time seeing me in the same job with not much to report, I have probably been more of an inquirer and a listener for most of our acquaintance.  I love to know how friends have been faring and receive updates on the growth and progress of their children, and if they still love or hate their jobs, or how they are overcoming obstacles.  If I ever perceived myself having obstacles, it wasn’t very likely that I would want to ‘burden’ others with the details, and more than likely, I was in denial about having any obstacles in the first place.  Our friendship dove to new depths several years ago when he went through divorce.  Oddly, we both experienced a sense of betrayal and our friendship grew stronger through sharing the darkness through which we each struggled, and celebrating our individual journeys back into the light.  This experience, I believe, created a sense of kinship which invites deep connection, even when our time together is sparse.

When he and his girlfriend arrived, I was delighted to see them both, and we began discussing a topic about which I had inquired through text message about a week ago.  He is a branding genius, and I have found myself in the uncomfortable position of self promotion.  If you were to scroll down to my very first blog post, you would understand that I wrote a book earlier this year, and that a publisher had replied with intrigue, but required that I create a following and inquire again.  I’ve only been doing this writing thing since November, so the fact that I sat down and wrote a book from start to finish, with a complete table of contents that wrote itself and then allowed the systematic completion of each chapter within two months was pretty astonishing on its own… but now you want me to write a blog… and create a following?  Craziness!   And now, I’ve become a recording artist, having professionally produced my first guided meditation and published it through cdbaby, which released last week… and now that needs to be advertised through social media, too?  Until a few weeks ago, I had nothing more than a single page on facebook.  Now I have a whole host of sites that require titles, user ids and passwords… but now what do I do with them?!  Sigh…

So, that was how our conversation began.  What I found as I was explaining my needs and concerns was that somewhere in the fray of daily overwhelm, which comes with scrapping your entire former identity and seeking, developing, and solidifying a new one, I felt kind of unsure of where I was going.  The gift from the Universe arrived as our conversation continued.  He wanted to know what else I had been doing, you know… besides the blog… and I told him about the book I wrote about my journey from self-loathing to self-loving, and I told him about the meditation released last week, and how I had designed a series of meditations to correspond with the chakras, and oh, yeah… I’ve started writing another book based on my studies to become an end of life doula, and how it is a sister to the previous book.  Now, the recordings interested him, because he is also a musician – a collaboration, perhaps, and because he has ‘maximizer’ in his top five strengths, he was able to rattle off a list of ideas, each met with my already written plans for such endeavors.  Each time another piece of my story was ready to unfold, I would pull out something I had written which could explain where I’ve been and how I’ve gotten this far with great detail and eloquence.

All of these pieces coming together were affirming.  Perhaps I haven’t been wasting my time, after all.  Maybe I am on a path toward future success and happiness.  But it was in the conversation about end of life studies that we deeply connected, tonight.  His thoughts mirrored my own, about the way that the end of life is a natural part of living, and it seems a shame that it is feared rather than revered.  It was funny how he would make a statement about his wishes, and how mine were similar and already written down within the early pages of this new book.  All three of us want to be cremated rather than buried, and no open caskets.  He and I both, if we are given a deadline, wish to have a living wake before we go… because neither of us would want to miss a great party.  I talked about what I had learned from my studies about finding peace before departure.  The five things required for relationship completion, as listed in the book Dying Well by Ira Byock, M.D. are this:  I forgive you.  Forgive me.  Thank you.  I love you.  Good bye.

For my departure, if there is time to plan, I would want a gathering place with comfy seating and dim lighting, with the magick jukebox set for random play, to ensure a lovely mix of Fleetwood Mac, Loreena McKennitt, and KIVA (just to name a few of my favorites).  He and I would both want to have enough time to connect with each person in our lives… and I affirmed his request with a plan for each discussion.  Aside from the ‘five things’, we would each tell each other what we recall about our first meeting and about a moment in our shared history when we made a difference in each others’ lives.  It was not difficult for me to pull up these moments, and since we never really know how many days we have remaining, I leaned over and took his hand and told him, “When I first met you, your hair was down to your shoulders, and I thought you were absolutely amazing.”  And, “One of the times you made a real difference in my life was on that one terrible, horrible no good day, when the rug was yanked from beneath me, and I felt as if my world was tumbling down.”  As I cried on the phone to my Mom, her response was to have me hang up so she could call my Tribe.  The call she made was to his wife (at the time), and though she was tied up with a work commitment, she reported that HE was on his way, and would be there soon.  And he was… he arrived within the hour bearing cone cake from the local Chinese bakery.  I can’t recall exactly what he said to me, as we consumed our sponge cake made with rice flour, but whatever it was… it was exactly what I needed to hear.  Of everyone who had offered support that day, it was his presence and his words that brought me peace.  I could name a hundred other moments when his friendship and devotion really wowed me, but I think I’ll save that for couch time when one of us is preparing for departure, forty years from now.

I shared with my friends the alternative plan for my departure, which will be executed should I not have time to plan, and read to them the words that I plan to record to be played at my parting ritual.  And as they prepared to head home, we hugged a little bit tighter, a little bit longer, and once more for good measure.  And as I’m sitting here, committing this memory to the ether, I am taken aback by the realization that should I die tomorrow, I will have made manifest one of my dying wishes… to be able to share with someone who made a difference in my life the glorious reflection of his divine being.  If he didn’t recall that awful day on which he brought me such comfort, I hope that he will remember THIS day, and what a blessing we are to each other.  His enthusiasm for my writing and my work elevated my confidence level, and enabled me to sit down and share words that may inspire, or at least help someone fall asleep.

I’d love to hear about your end of life wishes, if you’d like to share.  And in case you’d like to travel with me through meditation, you can acquire a copy of “Release the Warrior Within” at cdbaby or iTunes (see links below).  I’ll figure out this self-promotion thing, eventually.  Love, love, love…

https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/MelissaBaker1
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/1399828129

(a manifestation candle made with my friends’ wishes for my 49th year)

friendshipcandle