Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Does Money Want to Come to Me?

Now that the unpacking and re-organizing is winding down, I've begun to think about what's next.  A couple of projects have presented themselves.  Both have attractions and both seem to be not quite right.  My friend Diane at Contemplative Photographer recently posted about strolling the "Via Negativa."  She quotes David Whyte from The Heart Aroused:
"The Via Negativa is the discipline of saying no when we have as yet no clarity about those things to which we can say yes.  We take the via negativa when there is not yet any sign of the via positiva.  But in the continuous utterance of the no is a profound faith that the yes will appear -- not just because of the law of averages, but because we have said no to so much.  In a way, if we treat our destiny as a potential marriage, it chooses us as much as we choose it, and like a seeker for our hand, deems us to be serious about it through our continued refusal of the wrong suitors.  We create in effect a kind of energetic vacuum into which something we recognize can appear."
I looked at my life this morning and realized that I am in love with it and refuse to say "yes" to anything that would disrupt the incredible beauty that has formed itself around me.  But, if I continue to say "no" to projects that come my way, how will I allow financial abundance into my life?  I decided it was a topic for my morning walk and as I walked, I asked the question in the subject line.  It was a different way of thinking about it ... rather than how can I make money? ... how does money want to come to me?

The answer that formed in my mind was that it was like pollen from trees.  Amidst the pine trees here in the foothills every spring a soft yellow dusting of pine pollen covers everything.  The image that came to me was that money wants to come to me as naturally, organically, gently, periodically and without effort as the pollen from trees.  The trees are already planted, there is no need to shake the trees or pick the pollen.  I just have to let what happens naturally happen and be awake and aware of the season when the pollen arrives abundantly.

It is not pollen season right now and I do not yet have clarity so my job is to continue on the Via Negativa, living in the energetic vacuum that will attract the right project, the right motion, the right activity that will prepare me for the next pollen season.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Artist's World

It's a faint path, this trying to live life as an artist in the later stage of life.  I keep looking for signs that say "This Way. 433 Miles to Destination."  There are no signs.  But fortunately there are guides who leave bread crumbs along the way.  And, if you're lucky ... and diligent ... you can find the trail before the birds and the winds and rains have erased the path.

One of my favorite guides is the artist and world traveler Robert Genn who writes a twice-weekly newsletter that is always filled with encouragement, advice and tales of explorations of new places, whether geographic or creative.  Today he writes about the artist's world and states: Thriving artists remain curious, experimental, joyful, self-critical and driven by a state of perpetual studenthood.

"Perpetual studenthood"
really struck me because that's what I want to be for the rest of my life ... a student of  life, the world and of the process of capturing small glimpses of reality and possibility in some form of art.  Perhaps in this statement there is an answer to the question I've been chewing on.  While I still have some difficulty proclaiming myself as an artist, I relish the idea of being a perpetual art student.

Genn always includes a PS that is often my favorite part of his messages.  Today's PS is a quote from Samuel Adoquei:
"Combine all your healthy wishes, dreams and hopes into investing in your talent and in the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. If your art contributes to society, or to the art enthusiasts around you, then you are rewarded honestly, and more so if you make yourself useful to the world around you."
After the PS, Genn ends each message with an "Esoterica" ... today's is:
When you start to see your art as a service to others, and you begin to believe in the societal aspects of it, you begin to thrive. It is a benefit for others to invest in the character you have nurtured and developed. Your world can be larger than the worlds of others, because you exact standards from yourself that others may not reach for or care to grasp. Our world is a privilege, an opportunity and an obligation.
Living a life that is a privilege, an opportunity and an obligation ... does it get any better than that?

About the image:  On my morning walks while I was staying in Bass Lake, I would pass this incredible rock wall filled with trees, streams and forest creatures, all crafted carefully from natural rock.  This is just a small piece of this work of art.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Alchemical Path: Step Two: Earth Agent

This series is based on an invitation from Jean Houston to join the Alchemical Path. The steps are hers; the thoughts are mine.

Two: Greetings, Earth Agent. Acknowledge that you are ready to put yourself in the big picture, and take on the role of planetary citizen.
"You have to be able to risk your identity for a bigger future than the present you are living." -- Fernando Flores
"In a small affair or in a big affair, first consult yourself and find out if there is any conflict in your own being about anything you want to do. And when you find no conflict there, then feel sure that a path is already made for you. You have but to open your eyes and take a step forward, and the other step will be led by God."
-- Hazrat Inayat Khan
Interesting question ... am I ready to put myself in the big picture? Do I want to take on the role of planetary citizen? I think there is definitely a conflict in my being about this possibility. I'm not sure if it's a sense of inadequacy, a fear of failure (or success), or just complacency. I know there's a little whiny voice somewhere behind me saying, "Why do I have to do it? ... Why can't someone else do it? I'm not big enough. I don't know how. It looks too hard. I just want to play."

My belief is that being in the 'big picture' would be hard. That I'd have to travel and wear real shoes ... that my time would be sucked up by meeting the demands of other people. Since this train of thought was started by Jean Houston, I think of her as an example of someone in the big picture ... a larger than life person who is always speaking, doing conferences and workshops, writing books at a ridiculous rate, truly being a planetary citizen.

But, once again, is that the only way to be a planetary citizen? Of course not, my rational self says. So I google "What does it mean to be a planetary citizen?" and find a book Planetary Citizenship, Your Values, Beliefs and Actions Can Shape a Sustainable World by Hazel Henderson and Daisaku Ikeda. Introductory blurb: Two world-renowned global activists explore the rise of “grassroots globalists”—citizens all over the world who are taking responsibility to build a more peaceful, harmonious and sustainable future. Arguing that a positive change of heart in one person can lead to a change in the world as a whole, they present compelling insights that will move and challenge the reader. By focusing on the spiritual values necessary to construct a better world, the two link complex global issues to ordinary people and assure us that we have the power to make a positive difference in our families, communities, countries and the world at large.

In something called the wisdom archive of planetary consciousness, I found this definition: planetary consciousness ... Awareness and experiencing the Earth as a living entity. So it would seem to make sense that a planetary citizen would see the earth as a living entity.

Apparently one of the early uses of the term "planetary citizen" came from U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations when he called a meeting of twenty leading and thoughtful citizens on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the UN (1970). Called the "Conference on Human Survival," it recognized the need for a "second alliance" recognizing the global interdependence of all people and an identity as "planetary citizens." Out of this came a movement based on caring, sharing, frugality, simplicity and earth-friendly use of resources.

So the circle spirals back to me. I don't have to "do" something to be a planetary citizen; I have to be something; conscious, grateful, caring, balanced ... and, perhaps the biggest of all, willing. Willing to be who I am and willing to reveal that to the world. Willing to follow the path, one step at a time. I am but a cell in the body of life, but each cell has a function in the big picture. I simply have to do my part and it doesn't matter what shoes I wear while doing it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hugs to Each One of You

For one moment our lives met,
our souls touched.
-- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Embrace Life

The power of creativity.  Don't miss this one.

Monday, July 26, 2010


People travel to wonder at the height of mountains,
at the huge waves of the sea,
at the long courses of rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars;
and they pass by themselves
         without wondering.
                -- St. Augustine

About the image:  Not Yosemite.
While the tourists are inching bumper-to-bumper through Yosemite, a few miles away this view and the lakes and streams that go with it remain almost untouched.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Gratitude Sunday: Dogs

Anyone who has ever lived with a dog understands the magnetic pull of their unconditional love.  Since this is gratitude Sunday, I will attempt to express my gratitude for all dogs and the love they give us and, most specifically, for Missy, the ten pounds of dog that warms my heart every day.

As I was thinking of what dogs bring us ... besides love, they make us laugh, teach us patience and at least try to improve our health by requesting, not so patiently, that we walk them once or twice a day ... I had to wonder what the world would be like without them.  Love changes us so what would we be without the daily dose of pure love from our four-footed companions?  Could we stop wars by encouraging dog companionship?  Imagine if everyone in Congress were accompanied by their dogs.  Conversations change when dogs are around ... we talk about their cute tricks, their allergies, what toys they like best.  Maybe we should elect politicians based on how well they take care of their dogs.  It couldn't be much worse than the criteria we currently use.  Maybe they would be so busy taking care of their dogs and cleaning up their messes that they would be too busy to make more of a mess of our economy and social systems.

Dogs teach us to read expressions and body language and I know that Missy often thinks I'm a dunce when she's making it very clear what she wants and I keep saying, "Just tell me what you want."  The slightest twitch of an eyebrow should be enough to tell me whether she's wanting to walk or is simply bored and wants to play.  But all too often I miss the point and she repeats the message a little slower and a little louder, carefully enunciating each signal as if to a befuddled child.  But she never holds my shortcomings against me.  Finally I get the message and every inch of her body celebrates the success in a wild yo-yo dance of delight.  One step forward in my training.

A friend of mine was fond of telling me that dog is God spelled backwards ... perhaps he's right ... maybe dogs are God's way of teaching us what love is and what life could be like if we just accepted and loved each other.  Our dogs give us that gift ... perhaps they could teach us to pass it along ... maybe that's what they're here to do and trying to do and we're just too slow to get the lesson.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alchemical Path: Step One: Wake Up

This series is based on an invitation from Jean Houston to join the Alchemical Path.  The steps are hers; the thoughts are mine.
One:  Wake Up. Become aware of what works, and what doesn't, in your life, and in your world. -- Jean Houston
"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens."  -- Carl Jung
I played hooky from unpacking yesterday and headed off to a delicious alpine lake for swimming, photography and sucking warmth from a granite rock like a white lizard in the sun.  Jean asks what's working and what isn't in my life and my world.  My life is charmed ... I am happy, healthy and have incredible freedom to follow my whims.  Sitting with Missy on my deck in the cool morning with my newly-installed electrical outlet waiting in case I over-task the battery of my laptop, I'd have to be an ungrateful wretch to be anything but awed by the perfection of my life.

But, Jean charges us with looking for what's not working also so I dig into that space and come up with two things:  equanimity and contribution.  Equanimity is one of my words for the year, generally defined as steadiness of mind under stress.  I want to learn equanimity.  Life always sends us challenges to our equanimity ... I want to be able to face whatever comes my way with calm steadiness.  But, I'm approaching equanimity in the same way as someone who wants to lose weight approaches that issue by reading diet books ... just reading, not changing.  Meditation is an equanimity practice that I'm not practicing.  And, I'm rapidly running out of excuses.  Now that I'm basically moved, there is nothing standing in my way.

Back ... since I have no excuses, I decided to do a 20-minute meditation ... even found an online timer so I wouldn't have to go get a clock.

The second area to think about is my contribution to the world.  Part of Jean's invitation was to become a Social Artist and she is offering a week-long training in Ashland, OR, in early August.  Click here for more info. 

I'm not sure I want to be a "social artist" ... but I do want to be an artist who is making a social contribution.  While my life is close to perfect, I would have to be among the not-breathing to fail to see the pain, despair and inequities in our world.  I would like to make a difference and, somehow, leave the world a little better for my having been in it.  For years I have equated making a contribution with "feeding the starving children in Africa."  I know that's silly ... it doesn't honor the millions of ways people make contributions every day. 

So I want to open up to new ways of making a contribution ... ways that feed my spirit as well as nourishing the world.  I've never thought of making art ... my making art ... as anything other than something that makes me happy ... now I'm going to think of it as, somehow, the way I contribute to the world. 

That would be a way of waking up.

About the image:
  Driftwood floating in Mammoth Pool.  Last year I bought a Native American flute and this looks like that flute and makes me think:  Equanimity.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Invitation to be a Social Activist

Jean Houston is inviting people to Ashland, OR to become social activists.  I spent a week in one of Jean's workshops once and it was an amazing experience.  I can't attend this adventure but I thought I'd pass along her nine steps to engage the "alchemical path."  I'm going to devote Thursdays for the next nine weeks to delving deeper into these steps ... and invite you to join me either through comments on this blog or by posts on your own blog.  If you do blog, please leave a comment with a link to your post.

Engage the Alchemical Path
  • One:Wake Up. Become aware of what works, and what doesn't, in your life, and in your world. 
  • Two:  Greetings, Earth Agent. Acknowledge that you are ready to put yourself in the big picture, and take on the role of planetary citizen.
  • Three:  Get Clear. Discover and practice your essential gifts. What gives you meaning and purpose? 
  • Four:Take a Stand. Make boldness a habit. Be willing to stand for your life and the earth. 
  • Five:Explore Resources. Tap into the riches of your inner treasure house and learn to find their appropriate associations in the outer world. 
  • Six: Create a New Story. One that heals, sustains and enlivens your presence in the world. 
  • Seven:Take Your Show on the Road. Join with allies, make plans, set projects in motion. 
  • Eight:  Burn Through, Not Out. Learn and practice techniques, skills and processes to help you keep on keeping on with a high heart. 
  • Nine: Begin Again. Learn the joy of always being ready to spiral up to the next level.
And, if you'd like to join Jean, here's the link for more info:

About the Image:  I didn't move to California to spend my life unpacking boxes so today I headed up to Mammoth Pools where the water was clean and clear and I found this dragonfly playing around in one of the streams.  By the way, the color is not altered ... that stream is filled with iron ore and I found the most incredible colors.

Since he showed up and held still long enough to get this photo, I looked up dragonfly medicine and found the following ... I think he wants to share his medicine with all of us!

Dragonfly embodies a stripping away of all the beliefs that say we cannot do this or that, achieve a dream or goal, it is to remind us that anything is possible when we really get the understanding that we are part of Spirit and as such we have the power to manifest anything that we desire.  
Dragonfly is the keeper of dreams, the knower within that sees all of our true potential and ability. Dragonfly strips away the illusions that say to us we cannot achieve our dreams and goals, that we are not worthy or capable when in fact it is our birthright and our true power to create anything we choose!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


"And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -- Anais Nin

Maureen at Writing without Paper shared information today about Meg Wheatley's new book:  Perseverance.  Maureen does a lovely job of introducing the book which will be out in September.

Characteristic of Meg, she is generously offering a free 8-week email taste of the new book which you can sign up by clicking here.

Perseverance is an important topic, one that we sometimes put aside because it normally means keeping on even when times get tough.  But that's when perseverance is most needed.  Several years ago I wrote a poem on Perseverance after I saw the Chinese ideogram in a catalog.  I thought I needed it then but I've found it's a reoccurring need, so every so often I re-read the poem to strengthen my decision to keep on keeping on.  Here it is and may it bring you strength also.


Two hundred years ago today Nanzan brushed
perseverance on a scroll and added his chop.
Did he know I would need that message
on this very day when my spirit dropped?
What was he doing on that day
long ago that focused him so
on this one word among all others?
I see him sitting there, brush in hand,
ink pots ready, rice paper stretched flat:
His heart dripping rejection onto the paper,
His mind retracing the long, circular track.
What dream had just died?  What
long-held belief turned brown on that
winter day?  Which lover walked away?
See him as his chest rises on a deep
inhale and releases in a day-long sigh.
He looks around, sees what no longer is,
Picks up his brush and puts away why.
What brings him back to this place 
of paper and ink?  What solace is there
in this forming of art from pain?
We see him bent over the page, characters
flowing, his graceful, steady hand 
sending his only gift down the days and
hours straight into the waiting pool of our minds.         

What bridge carries his touch across two
hundred years to give me the strength
to pick up my choices once more?
(c) Joyce Wycoff, 2007

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Illusion of Nothing

Today's post from Louise at Recover Your Joy  titled "Turning Away from Nothing" began with this quote from John Muir:  "When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world."  Her words threw sparks into the my own bubbling cauldron, resulting in the following:

The Illusion of Nothing

I once had an illusion and believed it was Love. 
Till it curled away like smoke in a gentle breeze,
I tucked the last wisp and my confusion
Into a tiny box placed on a dark, hidden shelf.

Years later, the box reappeared and,
When opened, the illusion flew into the light,
Sparkling and radiating bright new colors.
Once again, I believed it was Love. 

Too soon, it spiraled off into the morning fog
Leaving only Confusion in a hollow,
forgotten place I thought no longer existed.

This time, though, I do not stuff it in a box.
I do not turn away from it.
I fall into its nothingness.
I fall for a thousand years
Until I feel the soft center of Self
And know that this is no illusion.
This is Love, eternal, real ... everything.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It's gratitude Sunday and I just came back from kayaking on Bass Lake so this week's gratitude is water.  How fortunate most of us are to have clean drinking water and lakes, rivers and streams that invite recreation and renew our spirits. After the BP oil spill in the gulf, there is an even deeper feeling of gratitude for this abundant and life-supporting gift.

But what is this stuff we call water and know from grade-school science as H2O?  It turns out that even scientists don't know everything about this most basic substance and it has some very strange properties. states:

  • The solid form floats on the liquid form. This property also explains why water pipes will burst when they freeze - something opposite of nearly every other simple substance. Mercury thermometers, for instance, do not explode when the temperature drops below the freezing point of mercury.
  • The temperatures at which water boils and freezes are both higher than other molecules of similar size.
  • Water has a large heat capacity; it can take in a lot of heat without its temperature increasing very much. This makes it an especially good coolant for a car radiator, and it's the main reason temperatures are moderate for coastal communities - as the ocean is slow to cool down or warm up.
  • The high surface tension of water - its tendency to fight being pulled apart - explains why it forms droplets and why it climbs up the sides of a straw. It may also play a part in how the water strider walks on water.
Perhaps even stranger, there is a widely-held belief that water holds memory.  While not completely accepted by the scientific community, it is creating a lot of conversation and controversy.  Below is an interesting video telling the story of this thinking (this is just the first part of a multi-part series).  In the meantime, it's probably enough to marvel at this mysterious substance that forms most of our world and our own bodies ... and be grateful for it ... whatever it is.

Zebra Medicine

Yesterday morning I mentioned the zebra and showed a picture of him.  Since I've spent a lot of time and effort getting the zebra, moving him around, getting him a new coat of color and finding just the right spot on the deck for him, I decided he might have more to tell me.

The backstory:  Almost four years ago, I was walking through my new neighborhood when I saw zebra sitting on a shady rock.  I fell in love instantly and always enjoyed seeing him on my walks.  But then the neighbors moved and left him behind.  So I asked the new neighbors if they wanted him and they weren't sure.  They left for a long while and he was out in the cold and rain so I zebra-napped him and left a check on the neighbor's door and told them to call me to bring him back or to keep the check if they didn't want him.  They never called so he went with me to Arkansas and then Colorado.  By the time we got back to California, he was in the sorry state you see here.

Since I was working with Minarets High School, I asked the art teacher if any of her students would be willing to give him a face lift.  She said yes and I donated some money for art supplies and he became a multi-colored zebra.  When I looked online for "zebra medicine," I find that the primary message is individuality and balance and seeing in black and white, clarity without filters (see below for full message).  Zebra's stripes protect him as he blends into his surroundings but also identify him since each zebra's stripes are as unique as fingerprints.  The stripes represent the balance of yin and yang, harmony and enable us to see a deeper truth.

Without knowing it, I've been carrying around a power animal.  Here are some highlights from the message below:
  • Zebras enjoy challenge as they know that all challenges are a chance for growth.
  • Questioning reality and illusion is common amongst people with zebra medicine ...
  • The zebras pattern of black on white, or white on black implies that what you see is not always what you get. Occult knowledge seen and unseen, dimensional shifts, new journeys and worldly endeavours are all aspects of this.
  • Zebras seek balance in what they do, and they are sure of themselves, standing confidently in the middle of opposing forces.
  • When the zebra comes into your life, change is signified in one or more areas of your life and hidden knowledge will be uncovered. Stand strong, develop trust and simply flow with the rhythm of a new creation.
Now my question is:  What have I done by changing him from his black and white self to a multi-colored zebra?  Does he still have his magic?  Does he still have his balance?  He's no longer black and white ... he's black and pink and yellow and blue and purple.  Does he like that?

Looking at another site for other interpretations, I find that zebra does not like to stand out and be judged.  Maybe by going to a multi-colored zebra, it's an indication that I'm ready to stand out and be judged.

Perhaps the message that I like best is:  The zebra will also teach you how to seek out others who are like you, finding comfort and company in groups, while maintaining your own unique identity, your pattern of stripes like a fingerprint, unlike any other.  This combination of individuality within community will be a very powerful force in your life.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Universal Whisperings

It's Saturday.  Most of the boxes are unpacked and the basics are working ... kitchen, bedroom, computer.  Missy and I took a long walk this morning and I'm in a state of lassitude (def:  a condition of indolent indifference), sitting in a shady spot on the deck, listening to neighborhood sounds, catching up on blog entries, doing as close to nothing as one can and still be awake.  Lynne's step-father calls it the "don't wanna ... don't gotta" state.  I like that.

For at least awhile, I'm dropping out, shutting down, doing what my body wants, allowing my attention to flit from the psychedelic, blue-eyed zebra, to the light and shadow dance of green leaves against blue sky, to Missy's curly white body sleeping on the deck.  The morning is gradually warming up to hot and soon I'll have to leave the deck for the comfort of air-conditioning.  But, for right now, this moment of indolent indifference is absolute perfection.

I've been trying to make a decision about going to Italy in September.  There's a lot about the trip that appeals to me:  being with poet David Whyte, hiking through the Tuscan landscape, being with a group of, most-likely, interesting people.  But, I'm hesitating.  Partly because of money.  Partly because I'm not sure it's what I really want to do.  In some ways it feels more like something I *should* want to do.  In this moment of pure, indulgent "beingness," it feels like zipping off to Italy might be chasing something that could be right here in my own backyard.

At the beginning of this year, I had two "readings" ... one astrology and one numerology.  I was struck by how consistent the messages were and have been watching the progression of the year in relationship to the readings as my own experiment in the validity of these ways of accessing information.  Both show September as being a significant month and the astrology reading calls out 9/14 as a particularly significant date.  That happens to be the first day of the Italy tour ... it also happens to be my granddaughter Ava's birthday.  The reading emphasizes that this is a time of internal movement triggered by external aspects and that it heralds an extremely powerful emotional change. And the numerology reading says it is a time to play and to do anything to become more of who I am.

Those messages seem to reinforce the idea of going on the tour.  However, there are many ways both of these messages could play out so I've been trying to think of other ways to honor the information offered by them.  For now, I've decided to just be patient and wait for something to give me a clear signal.  So perhaps this indulgent morning on my new deck isn't just being lazy, perhaps it's getting quiet enough to allow the Universe to whisper in my ear.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sky above Clouds

Something happened to me when I turned 50 and it was just as significant as the change that happened on my 13th birthday when suddenly everything ... everything! ... irritated me.  The change at 50 was just as unexpected.  After a life-time of being fascinated by creativity ... other people's creativity ... but thinking it had nothing to do with me, it was like someone grabbed my ear and said, "You will listen to me ... now!"  I started taking workshops, writing poetry, making art and wondering if, just possibly, I really did have creativity within me.

I thought this was an unusual experience but I've been listening to a lecture by Dr. Gene Cohen (bio below) talking about aging and creativity and it probably isn't unusual at all.  He cites a lot of studies that show that under certain circumstances, the brain continues to grow and develop as we age.  The circumstances that turn on the brain's growth mechanism are having a stimulating challenge that requires learning in a social situation that is also fun.  But the part of his lecture that really struck me was his discussion about the "liberation phase" which shows up for most people around age 50.

This phase arrives after we have accumulated enough life experience, ideas, facts, concepts and mistakes to shift into a different way of looking at the world.  Cohen says that this phase is launched with "... friendly, inner metaphorical voices that are asking:  If not now, when?  Why not? and What can they do to me?  These are very empowering feelings.  They give people the comfort, confidence and courage to try something new."

He says we need new metaphors for aging and the possibilities that lie within us in the later stages of life.  He offers one from a story of Georgia O'Keeffe's life.  Apparently she had a strong fear of flying which she finally conquered in her 70s and it launched her into one of her most productive periods which included a series of paintings called "Sky above Clouds."  It is a powerful metaphor for me because I remember my first plane ride when we climbed through the clouds and I saw the floor of puffy white clouds and the blue sky and sunshine all around us.  It was a shock to realize that when we're on the ground experiencing a gray and dreary day that above the clouds there is a completely different world.

According to Cohen, the liberation phase and the surge of creativity that comes with it is a normal part of the aging process.  And, the process of exercising our creativity, stimulates brain growth.  So, paint, write, sing, play music, plant a garden, invent a new widget, improvise a new recipe, quilt, scrapbook, paint purple pansies in your kitchen ... or whatever your muse calls you to do.  The beauty of later life creativity is that there are fewer expectations so you get to just do it because it's fun. 

Plus, creativity is good for you ... and it's good for our world.  What metaphor do you have for the later stage of life?

Biography:  Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. is the first Director of the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities (established 1994)at George Washington University (GW), where he also holds the positions of Professor of Health Care Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Author of The Mature Mind.  His lecture is at  It's long and a little slow but there is some very good material in it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Italy or Not?

"The deepest hunger in life is a secret that is revealed only when a person is willing to unlock a hidden part of the self."-- Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets

Chopra calls this quest to fill that deepest hunger the search for the pearl beyond price, the breath of God, the water of life.  He states:  "Finding the hidden dimensions in yourself is the only way to fulfill your deepest hunger."

It makes me wonder if this might be the underlying cause of a skirmish that often plays its way through me.  It happened again yesterday.  I am a spontaneous creature but I'm also a practical person.  Yesterday, while I was taking a break from unpacking, I discovered an Italy tour with David Whyte, one of my favorite poets.  It sounds incredible ... a chance to spend time with someone who has great wisdom and frames it in words that are lovely and deep ... a chance to spend time in a beautiful place where I've never been.  But, it's expensive.  And, I haven't even finished moving in and I'm already starting to think about a journey away.  What is this?

Part of me says "go while you can" and part of me says "why can't you be happy staying at home and save all that money?"  Today I was talking with a wise friend about relationships with emotionally unavailable people, which, of course, don't tend to be very satisfactory.  I said my insight from my share of those types of relationships was that I need to be emotionally available to myself.  But, I'm not sure I know how to do that.  Then I began to wonder what keeps us from being emotionally available ... and the answer came up ... duh! ... fear.  But, what fear would keep me from being emotionally available to myself?

An online article states:   If you are attracting unavailable partners, there is something unavailable in you.  And I believe that. It further states:  How available are you to yourself on a deep level? Our relationship with others is but a reflection of our relationship with our inner self. Reflect on what you may be running away from within yourself with your endless external activities.  Is the thought of going to Italy ... which surfaced even before the storage pod parked outside my door has been unloaded ... just me running from myself, throwing up distractions to avoid the deeper work of being emotionally available?

Do I really want to go to Italy?  Or is this a manifestation of the secret hunger to know the unknown dimensions of myself, to know the breath of God?  Would I find these things in Italy?  Or, would the trip just be an expensive ... albeit lovely ... distraction?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To the Ones Who Can

It's Gratitude Sunday, when I look for a new gratitude.  This morning's gratitude started with yesterday's unsolvable dilemma.  A call for money from an addict prompted another round of "is she really in recovery this time? ... or is she just trying to score money again?"  It prompted a call to my blog sister Louise who works in a homeless shelter in Canada.  She, of course, could not answer the question but she did offer empathy and insight.  It made me realize how grateful I am to the people who offer care and shelter to the bewildered, bedeviled and lost souls who live among us. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that 1.6 million people spent at least one night in an emergency shelter in 2009.  And, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council estimates between 750,000 and 2 million men and women ages 18 to 24 experience some form of homelessness every year in the U.S.  It's a multi-faceted and hugely difficult problem.  The success stories Louise tells in her blog at Recover Your Joy are inspiring and encouraging but I'm sure for every success story, there are many heart breaking ones of people who never find their way back.  Louise is one of the many unsung heroes who work in this challenging field.  I am grateful to all of them who offer compassion, a warm bed, a hot meal, job and life training and hope for a better way of being in the world to all of those mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons who have become lost in the world of homelessness and addition.

I am also grateful for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), an amazing, self-organizing, free recovery program that has offered help to millions of people around the world.  For the past several months I've watched a young friend turn her life around with the help of the AA program and the generous support of sponsors and other AAers who have learned how to live sober in a world that often seems deliriously drunk and out of control.  Without AA (and it's related NA, GA, OA), the level of homelessness could be even higher than it is.

There are people in the world who have the empathy, compassion, skills and patience to deal with the most difficult problems facing the homeless, the nearly homeless, the alcoholics, drug addicts and mentally challenged.  This morning they have my extreme gratitude.

There are also people in the world who hit bottom (at whatever level) and have the strength, courage and determination to reach out for help and then accept it with humility and honesty.  They also have my gratitude for each in their own way has made our world a better place.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Living My Fantasy

For the past four months I've enjoyed a life-long fantasy of living on a lake.  While it wasn't quite my exact fantasy of being able to walk out my back door and jump off the end of the dock, it was pretty darn close.  A very short walk and I was at the boat slip where my kayak was waiting for me.  And my longer walks wound through tall pines and mountain "cabins" (even the multi-million dollar places are called cabins).  Fantasies, however, never include mosquitoes, crowds or v-boats.  Reality does.

A friend of mine has an incredible outdoor living space, complete with Bali bed and a dining area that invites long, slow Sunday mornings with fruit salad and the New York Times.  It has become one of my fantasies.  When I found a place in the foothills with six different outdoor living areas, that fantasy roared to life.  Now I'm half-way into the reality of it and a wonderful reality it is.  Last night I sat on the porch looking at the milky way with no city or neighborhood lights detracting from the show.   And this morning, I sit on my front porch writing this.  However, my body aches from the last several days of moving and the pod I see in front of me is a hulking reminder of the work still to be done. And, when that is done, there are flowers to be watered and someone planted two trees that will eventually obstruct the view so they need to be moved.

Fantasies are almost always static things ... air-brushed, two-dimensional moments in time that we frame and look at when where we are is too messy or uncomfortable.  Fantasies are powerful things.  They call to us and give us the energy we need to change and explore.  But, expecting a fantasy to be perfection leads us into an endless chase since there are always those pesky mosquitoes.  Better far to see the perfection in mosquitoes ... and what a challenge that can be!

Bottomline note to self: 
fantasies are not reality -- there are always trade-offs.  The grass may look greener on the other side but once we're there, the greener grass is suddenly still on the other side.  Stop where you are and savor the grass beneath your feet ... whether it be green or California "gold."

About the image:  Seduced by Spring.  This is one of the series of photographs I shot that convinced me that I had to move back to the Sierra foothills.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What Can I Create Today?

Diane at Contemplative Photography reminds us of Robert Fritz's question and makes me stop to find an answer on this "window" day.  Today is the divider between two states.  Yesterday, my life was in transition, living in a vacation cabin, stuff scattered about in storage pods.  Tomorrow I will start the moving process into my new home, a place where I intend to stay for a long time, a place where all my pieces can come back together again. 

Today is a blank canvas, mine to spend as I wish, pristine with possibility.  So I sit here writing in the cool morning, Missy sighing beside me after gathering all the sniffs and sounds of our walk, birds calling their selves into the day.  I wonder what I can create today and my mind turns to projects ... writing, mosaic, collage or the new business invitation that arrived yesterday.  But, something else nibbles at the edges with a silent but perceptible push in a different direction.  I begin to feel a quiet that travels down my body, through my arms, onto this note.  Peace.  What I can create today is peace and I can let it expand like a bubble all around me.  I breathe and it expands.  I get hooked on the idea of expansion and try to grow the bubble.  It doesn't grow.  I try to push it bigger.  It doesn't push.  I relax and just breathe and it expands and takes in the whole house.  I try to consciously expand it further and it collapses back to a small bubble around my body.

I get it.  Peace is not something I can create.  The I that is conscious cannot control it.  Sitting, breathing, I can feel it in my body,  can feel it expand out a little bit, know that it could expand out further, but know that I can't control or direct it.  So maybe the question for today is not "What can I create?" but "What can I allow to be?"  What can only come into being when I am open, quiet and receptive?  A question with no answer and I am returned to Rilke's admonition to "Live the questions."
"I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear friend, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."  
 -- Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Remembering Where We Came From

It's Gratitude Sunday ... and also the 4th of July.  Seems like the two go together.  I've always been grateful to live in this country and feel like the taxes I pay are the best money I spend even if some of it goes for things I wish it didn't.  However, Gratitude Sunday is supposed to be about *new* gratitudes so I had to look a little deeper to find the gratitude that I haven't thought about or expressed.

It came as I was walking this morning and realized how grateful I should be ... and am ... for the four people who many long  years ago risked everything for a dream.  I'm not sure who they were, when they came or exactly where they came from.  I don't know if they came as couples or single people taking their chances in a new land.  I am relatively sure I know pieces of their stories ... a hard crossing of a vast ocean, little money, little education, little to depend upon once they reached this land except their wits and faith in the opportunity.

I don't know if they came before or after The Statue of Liberty was in place (1886) but it is likely that some of them entered through Ellis Island and may have seen her welcoming presence and read her comforting words:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
I hope some of them at least read those words as they headed out into unknown futures that would weave together to create, among many, the new life that is me.  I am grateful for their risk-taking.  I am grateful for my country that has shown as a beacon to the world's tired and poor.  May we remember our beginnings in all that we do.

A special thank you to Louise at Recover Your Joy, a Canadian who writes very beautifully about our national birthday.

Happy 4th of July to all ... and may it bring peace to our hearts.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Soul Food Recommendations

 I spent 25 years in Santa Barbara and one of my favorite sights was the long line of brown pelicans skimming gracefully just above the water.  I loved watching that elegant, seemingly effortless flight and it was easy to feel my way into that gently undulating column.  What I seldom thought about as I watched that low gliding motion was the fish swimming beneath the surface.  The pelicans were looking for breakfast.  I never really even contemplated what it must be like to be the fish ... the target of that predatory flight.  And, I definitely never felt my way into the consciousness of the fish ... they were just invisible.

In the past 50-some-odd hours of driving to Tulsa and back, I've listened to three books on tape, an activity that is almost like time-travel since the stories carried me through the hours almost in a fugue state, autonomic half on the road while my consciousness explored other realms.  Of the three books, one was good, one was excellent, and one was an unforgettable experience. 

The first was Fever Dream, the latest in the on-going series by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child.  An adventure mystery featuring the brilliantly quirky Aloysius Pendergast who discovers that the tragic mauling of his wife by a rogue lion in Africa was actually murder.  This series is always entertaining and the reading with the Louisiana accents is very good.

The second was the last in the Stieg Larsson series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  This excellent book was bitter-sweet because the author died before the series was published so we will no longer hear the voice of this master storyteller and no longer tag along on the unique journey of Lisbeth Salander.  His books have sold over 20 million copies and in 2008, four years after his death, he was the second best selling author.  A passionate fighter against racism and right-wing extremism, Larsson will continue to be missed.  The readers in this series are very good so I highly recommend the book in either written or audio format.

The last book was truly incredible. Kathryn Stockett's The Help, is a book I avoided buying for quite some time, dismissing it as "just another book about the civil rights movement," a subject I thought I'd already read enough about.  This book is like the story of the pelican and the fish.  Set in Mississippi in the early 60s, it is the story of black maids and the white women they work for.  It's a story of a time and culture that is aware of the pelicans but has no consciousness of the fish or the interdependent cycle of life between the two.  It is a gripping story of fear and love, ignorance and wisdom, cruelty and grace, tears and laughter and a time, not so long ago, just as change was bubbling over in a way that would transform everything. 

It was amazing to remember that less than 50 years ago, if a woman in that culture married a professional man, she was expected to fill her time with volunteering and bridge and have a maid take care of her house and her children.  This dynamic created a field of intimacy that sometimes took root in a powerful, lasting love and sometimes spawned a confused and cruelly hostile and fearful environment.  This book expertly and gently balances both sides of this continuum.

While I would highly recommend reading this book, I think listening to it is an experience not to be missed.  The reading is exceptional.

About the image:  I was passing through a hotel restaurant when I saw this image.  It amazed me with its "stop when you're satisfied" message.  My awareness jar asks me if I could have stopped in the midst of this beauty.  Thank you to the person who left this lesson for me.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Stories from the Journey -- An Invitation

There is a book brewing ... and you're invited to participate.  There are several threads weaving themselves together to form this possibility:

1. has created, a self-publishing platform that allows books to go straight into the pool of books and creates a marketing base.  It is a very well-priced option even with full-color images so we could have art work as well as stories, poems, quotes and other text.

2.  Diane from Contemplative Photography and I started talking about self-publishing a book about our journeys.  The only problem is that Diane is layering graduate school on top of an already busy schedule.  She doesn't have time to do a full book ... but she might have time to do a chapter.

3.  I keep meeting fascinating women artists/writers of a certain age who are on a spiritual journey and find that hearing their stories makes my heart sing.  I want more.  I have time and would be willing to mid-wife the project.

4.  Using a blog would allow us to gather material, find and invite others and gradually grow into a book.

So, what could this be?  A compilation that each of us could have for ourselves, friends and family.  A book that might appeal to and be helpful to other women on the journey.  Perhaps even an echo of "Chicken Soup for the Soul."

Who's Invited:
  • Women of a certain age (50?) who are doing some form of art as part of their process of connecting to spirit.
  • Women who are willing to tell their stories and have time to write a 500-word story about their journey every two weeks, accompanied by images or poetry whenever possible.  (I will post this onto the blog under your name.)
How to Participate:
  • Send an email to me:
  • Write a short bio that will be part of each of your blog posts.  It can include links to your own blog or website.
  • I will send you a list of questions to stimulate your thinking ... but mainly we want your stories.  Please no lectures ... just what's happened to you along the way and what you've learned.
  • Write your first story and send it to me with images or other attachments.  That will start the process and then a story-post every other week will be the ideal schedule.  I think it will take about 10 posts to make a chapter so you might want to start thinking about the stories that most define your journey.
Feel free to invite other women who fit the criteria.  The worst that could happen is that we have more than one book.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reflections on Intentions

Earlier this year, I wrote an intention as the beginning of an experiment to learn more about intentions.  I wanted to see if there were more powerful methods for crafting and bringing intentions to life. 

My intention statement was quite specific, involving moving to California, living in a wonderful house with lovely outdoor living space surrounded by big trees and a view of the ocean, being with my soulmate and working to help people create their own spiritual realities and being part of the consciousness that "tips" the world into a new state of being.

Results (so far):  Since I didn't know for sure where I wanted to live in California, I was determined to wait for an invitation.  It came in the form of a completely unexpected invitation to work on a video project about an exciting new high school. It made the decision to move back to the Sierra foothills a very easy one ... and one that feels absolutely right.  I expected to rent until I could afford to buy so I was delightfully surprised to be told I could afford a modest place with really "lovely outdoor living space surrounded by big trees."  No ocean view but a right nice one of the mountains.  No soul mate on the horizon but one of my best friends decided a move was called for in her life so she will be sharing my home.  No new work but a lot more clarity about what kind of "work" I want to do.

So what have I learned about intentions?  There's power in specificity ... but there's wisdom in openness.  In many ways, my results do not look like my vision but it feels like where I am is better than where I thought I wanted to be.  After living with and thinking about intentions for the past six months, I'm not sure I'm smart enough to know what I truly want.  The Universe seems so much smarter than I am.  Sometimes, it's only after something has arrived, something that I truly couldn't have foreseen, that I realize that it was what I wanted all along.

So now I wonder if it would be smarter to try to intend "states of being" and let the Universe figure out the details.  Perhaps intentions should be more of a partnership agreement with the Universe.  We could intend to be happy, healthy and harmonious and let the Universe work out the details of how that state is achieved.

With that in mind, I start the second phase of my intention experiment. Here are some of my intentions for the rest of the year:

I intend to be creative every day and to make art abundantly.
I intend to dream and be given the capacity to make those dreams come true.
I intend to be delightfully surprised every day by the beauty, abundance and magic of the Universe.
I intend to connect deeply and have inspiring, transforming conversations with my tribe.
I intend to know how deeply I am seen and appreciated by my companions on the journey.
I intend to be invited into new, exciting adventures that open up new worlds of possibilities and connect me to fascinating fellow travelers.
I intend to be vibrantly healthy and energetic.
I intend to stay on the aurora-shimmering Life Boat and unlock the mysteries of the Universe and my self with my new abalone key.
I intend to allow the abundance of the Universe to fill my spirit, my life and my bank account.

Let there be wonderful surprises beyond anything that I can possibly contemplate.
About the image:  Aurora's Guardian.  My friend Emily Meek is an incredible painter and an advanced "dream tender."  We spent the last few days together and, building on the process of tending one of her dreams, we found our art merging together, mine building off of hers and then hers building off of mine.  It was an amazing experience.