Monday, February 28, 2011

Let's All Do the Gratitude Dance!

What fun!

Quien Sabe?

Quien Sabe
Who knows?
Who knows what this day will bring?
Who knows what this life, this year,
This minute will offer us?
But here in Boca de Tomatlan
There is a rich sweetness that only
Seems to show up at the fringes
Where one field bumps up against another.
River and sea, jungle and beach.
Cement pourers shape a living room floor
Eighty-five steps up the side of a mountain while
Touristas pour space-age dollars into a timeless past.
Diversity flourishes at the edges.
Here there are many edges –
A man in an orange t-shirt casting a
Turquoise fishing net;
A grandmother pounding clothes on river rocks;
A child playing with a mountain mongoose
Under the multi-colored criss-cross of drying laundry …
Scenes captured through a ten megapixel Canon
That would feed a family of four for months
By a visitor whose vacation dollars
Will help feed the multitudes.
Bountiful nature does her part also with unlimited
Red snapper, grouper and shrimp from the sea,
Sweet jack fruit and papayas as big as pebbly footballs;
Backyards filled with banana and coconut palms.
Nearby, Los Arcos shows off its underwater diversity
As white-striped angel fish writhe in a purple and orange 
frenzy for bits of bread dropped into the water 
by giggling children of all ages.
Multitudes of striped jacks join the fray while a stately pair
Of Moorish Idols glide disdainfully at a distance
Their long, graceful plumes waving above them.
In the bay, fishermen pole their boats around the shallow
s-curve sand spit that divides river from ocean even as bells 
announce the first Sunday mass over the chorus of roosters
while in the distance mariachi music pulses into the morning.
Soaring inches above the flat, green water, brown pelicans  
Scout breakfast then return from their fishing forays 
To make their stands on the silent, rocking outboard motors 
While a snow white heron stretches its long thin neck
In a rhythmic sun dance to the sound of the surf.
Across the river at Casa de los Artistes,
Paints, canvases, brushes and dozens of gel mediums wait
For another day of immersion in the creative spirit.
Here even more edges mix and mingle as
The hard edge of Photoshop blends into the soft edge of collage
While an arrogant rooster demands a place in every art piece.
Quien sabe?
Who knows?
Who knows what life will bring us?
Sometimes an answer, more often a question,
But always, always and in all ways,
A reminder to live each moment and
Grow where we’re planted.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Goals or NOT!!

For years I've harbored a secret ... setting goals doesn't work for me.  I've tried over and over, invoking the SMART acronym (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) and reminding myself frequently about the gold standard story.  You remember the story I'm sure.  The Yale study that showed that the 3% of the class of 1953 that had specific, written goals twenty years later had greater net worth than the 97% who didn't have written goals ... combined!

But, my inevitable result with goal setting was failure.  I decided it was a character flaw and just put the whole goal-setting thing in a box labeled "maybe someday" (landing right beside New Years Resolutions) and threw a tattered quilt over it.  Funniest thing ... after I quit making goals and just started doing what I wanted to do, things started falling into place.

Every once in awhile however, I'd feel like a slug and bring out that goal thing, dust it off and try it again.  The result was always the same.  When I started thinking about "intention statements" and trying to figure out how they were different from goals, that old Yale story bobbed back to the surface creating a ripple of confusion.  Then I made a discovery.

THERE WAS NO YALE STUDY!  The whole thing was a concoction.  Fast Company magazine (perhaps the best thing to ever happen to business education) debunked it in one of their earliest issues.  It never happened.  They couldn't find the original source of the story but they did go to the source and determined that there was never such a survey of the Yale class of 1953.

So what now? will be the subject of a later post.  In the meantime, do more of what makes you truly happy and less of what you think you "should" do.  (You may have to ask whether or not that third jumbo triple chocolate cup cake would truly make you happy.)

About the image:  About this time last year I was at Kiawah Island with my friend Suzanne so I'm reliving the trip through some of the photos I took.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Finding the Purpose Intersection

Our purpose is not a secret written inside a fortune cookie or a secret branded deep in our soul that requires years of searching to find.  It’s actually not a secret at all.  It’s more of an intersection, plainly marked once we can see the signs.  

For years I’ve had this refrain in my head that states, “If you were a really good person, you would go tend the starving orphans in Africa.”  Then I’d wonder if that were truly my “purpose.”

The plight of the orphans in Africa is a world challenge that touches my heart.  I could drop everything in my life and go find a way to serve that challenge.  I’m sure there would be many ways to use my skills of writing, communication and willingness to do whatever is called for.  I could make that my intersection, my purpose.  

But, there are many intersections and choosing that one would be like signing up to do a triathalon if I didn’t know how to swim, ride a bike or run more than a short block.  I need a purpose closer to home, closer to my current skills and talents.  Then, perhaps someday, I will approach that intersection and know that it is now the right purpose.  
Or, perhaps not. Perhaps that little voice is just a distraction that creates inaction.  By focusing on a purpose that is too big, too far beyond my current scope, I just feel overwhelmed and quit looking altogether.  Far better to find a humbler purpose that I can do now, today and tomorrow.
The perfect purpose for any of us is the intersection of a service opportunity and our own unique talents, skills and passion.  We can go searching the world for the shining intersection or we can look around and ask, “What needs me?  Who needs what I am uniquely able to give?”  
Purpose is about service ... serving the world, serving those we love, serving ourselves, serving the creative force we sometimes call God, Allah, Yahweh, or, simply, the Universe.  We too often think our PURPOSE has to be noble, selfless, and sacrificing when actually our purpose is to simply put our gifts into action in a way that creates benefits for the world and our self.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh, That Old Thing

Threads come together; form a braid, form a pattern; form a new awareness.

Last night an amazing woman shrugged off her brilliance like it was a scratchy sweater.  A few hours later, I turned a page in Dawna Markova's insightful book,  I will not die an unlived life and read:

What are your inner gifts and talents?  Most of us are reasonably articulate about our deficits and weaknesses--how many we got wrong on our spelling tests, how many things we have failed to accomplish during any given day.  We become fluent at explaining our incompetencies, but look straight at our gifts and talents and then mutter, "Oh, that old thing?"  This leaves us awkward and confused about how to bring our assets and resources to the rest of the community.  Too many of us believe we don't matter, and that what we do doesn't really make a difference."

The truth of that stunned me.  That is what we do.  It may be a stereotype but it seems that women do it more often than men.  We go back to school and get one more degree to prove that we have the right to say what we know to be true.  We hide our brilliance because it might be perceived as "showing off."  We call it "that old thing" because it hasn't earned the golden coin that validates it in the eyes of the world.

What treasures we leave moldering in a "maybe someday" chest, afraid to take them out and show them to the world.  What will it take for us to realize that life is a giant jig saw puzzle that needs our piece to be complete ... the authentic, whole, brilliant self each of us is?  Perhaps that's the only real purpose in life ... to live each of our gifts and share them back with the whole.  

Otherwise, we may never know what the glorious picture is on the cover of the box we call life.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Levitating through StumbleUpon

There is so much ingenuity in the world ... it just bubbles up and creates the most amazing things.  StumbleUpon sent me this image and story about Natsumi Hayashi, a young Japanese girl who loves to levitate.

Don't miss all the great shots of her ... my favorite is a street scene where no one is paying any attention to the beautiful young woman levitating right in front of them.

How fun!

Monday, February 21, 2011

One Day You Finally Knew

The combination of Mary Oliver's poem "The Journey" read by David Whyte to his dog Ginger is a charming and powerful version of this poem.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dear Dad

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude ... more specifically about saying "thank you."  What I'm realizing is that it's easy to give thanks to the Universe for the great blessings in my life.   It's far harder to say "thank you," especially in person, and especially to people I have conflicted relationships with.  I've tried to find an easy way to be more grateful without facing the truly difficult task of saying "thank you" to my father.

My Dad will turn 90 next month and I am going to visit him.  I know this is the time to say what needs to be said but everything in me is screaming in protest.  I don't want to visit him.  I don't want to say what needs to be said.  I am afraid of him.  I am afraid of myself.    A friend who is counseling me on this suggests that I write out what I want to say so this is it.

Dear Dad,

Thank you for coming along when you did and falling in love with my mother.  At 19, she was still a child and a difficult child, all prickly and hard on the outside and soft in the center.  Uneducated, unskilled and still undivorced, she was working as a waitress and we were living in a tiny house with her sister's family when you swept her off her feet.

I don't remember that time since I was still an infant but I know now that without your steadying influence and ability to love my mother even when her temper ran wild, my life would have been very different.  Thank you for your generosity even when we had very little.  When I wanted a chemistry set, I know it was you who made sure it was under the Christmas tree and I loved it even though I never really used it.  When I wanted to play basketball, you built a basketball setup in the backyard.  When I wanted a car, you rebuilt a Nash Rambler for me and years later, when money was a little freer,  bought me a 1966 Mustang that was my pride and joy.  When I wanted to go to college, you helped as much as you could when Mom just thought I should get married.

We moved a lot and you and mom fought a lot.  I know money was tight and stress must have been great.  But you stayed and because of that, my life was relatively stable.  I've had a good life and, while you may not have given me life, you gave me a foundation for living my own life.  So thank you and I love you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Passion Clarity?

"The most renewable energy we have 
is our potential and our own passion."
  -- Bertran Piccard (first solo balloon flight around the world)
Passion comes easily to some. "I just knew" rings sweet and clear.  Some kids hate school ... except for science where they excel.  You can almost see a path stretching out before them, heading for the halls of science, medicine or engineering.  
Some people tell stories about seeing their “first” -- quilt, mountain, airplane, concert, poetry reading, ballet, baseball game, homeless person or microscope -- saying, “I suddenly knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”  For the rest of us it’s more like C.W. McCall’s description of Wolf Creek Pass:  “it was hairpin county and switchback city. One of 'em looked like a can full'a worms; another one looked like malaria germs.”  
Translation:  for us, finding our passion is not a straight and logical path.  For those of us on this path, the advice to “follow our passion” or “follow our bliss,” is a hollow, magical wand that we don’t know how to use.  We see it’s magic in someone else’s hand but, in ours, it just lies there taunting us and we begin to ignore it, thinking the message is not for us.  It’s for them, those people who have been called, who actually have a passion, and, perhaps even, a purpose.

The above is the opening to the chapter in Dragon Country that deals with finding our passion.  I would love to hear from you about the clarity of your passion.  Are you one of the "I've always known" or one of the rest of us who've had to discover our passion slowly over the years?  If you are a passion "discoverer," how have you gained clarity ... and do you now feel that you are completely clear?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Valentine to Myself

While yesterday was the official day for valentines, I think there are many ways to say I love you that do not involve red hearts and chocolates.  Last year I wrote my first "real" intention statement and later realized that it was a gift to myself ... a way of saying "I love you and you deserve to live the life you want ... so go for it."  As the year progressed, the intention statement almost miraculously started to become reality and I decided that it deserved to become an annual tradition.  

It has taken awhile for this year's statement to solidify itself, but here it is:
It’s December 31, 2011, and I’m delighted about how easy and effortless it was to get the Dragon Country book written and published ... and how well it is selling.  What an amazing thrill it is to hear from people who say it has changed their lives. What truly excites me though is the reaction to the Dragon Country experiment where thousands of people around the world are learning how to create joy and turn their dreams into reality by igniting their own creativity.  
They are working together in small groups to develop new possibilities and opportunities for their communities, their families and themselves.  The media has been enchanted by this rapidly spreading wave of positive action and it has been written about around the world.   And today I just learned that the experiment will be featured on a major television show.  What fun!
So many new doors have opened this year, bringing me new abundance, new friends, new experiences, and new invitations to participate in exciting projects that serve the world.  It has been a year of growth and joy and I am truly grateful to the creative Universe that makes all things possible.
Please feel free to post your intention statements in the comments section.  I would love to support you on your journey.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine for You

Life is an interesting adventure.  Many wags tell us we're "human beings not human doings" and yet, life requires that we "do."  Some mystics have been able to take themselves out of the world to sit in a cave fasting and praying but that wouldn't work for most of us who have bills to pay and families to care for.  

For us, life is a dance of doing and being.  Doing done with awareness gives us insight into who we are in our deepest corners; being done with awareness gives us clarity into our relationship and connection to our selves, each other and the world around us ... and what needs to be done next to more clearly understand who we are.  Being and doing creating a mystic circle.

One of the most powerfully poetic statements of this dance was written by Dawna Markova, as she says, "on the night my father died with a shrug."  In her book I will not die an unlived life, she explains, "His heart was hollow and vacant of dreams.  He was convinced he didn't matter."  Dawna's book is a bright song reminding us that each one of us matter.  It truly is a valentine to all of us.  Below is the poem that sparked the book.

And on this celebration day of love, please remember that each one of you truly matters.

I will not die an unlived life.
by Dawna Markova
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Posttraumatic Growth

This was a new concept for me and I was interested to see how much work is being done in this area.  The excerpt below is taken from a write up from the Psychology Department, UNC Charlotte.  As the authors state, just because there is growth, does not mean the suffering is lessened but perhaps we can learn to use trauma to stimulate growth rather than treating it as a wholly negative event.

What is posttraumatic growth? It is positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Although we coined the term posttraumatic growth, the idea that human beings can be changed by their encounters with life challenges, sometimes in radically positive ways, is not new. The theme is present in ancient spiritual and religious traditions, literature, and philosophy. What is reasonably new is the systematic study of this phenomenon by psychologists, social workers, counselors, and scholars in other traditions of clinical practice and scientific investigation.
What forms does posttraumatic growth take? Posttraumatic growth tends to occur in five general areas. Sometimes people who must face major life crises develop a sense that new opportunities have emerged from the struggle, opening up possibilities that were not present before. A second area is a change in relationships with others. Some people experience closer relationships with some specific people, and they can also experience an increased sense of connection to others who suffer. A third area of possible change is an increased sense of one’s own strength – “if I lived through that, I can face anything”. A fourth aspect of posttraumatic growth experienced by some people is a greater appreciation for life in general. The fifth area involves the spiritual or religious domain. Some individuals experience a deepening of their spiritual lives, however, this deepening can also involve a significant change in one’s belief system.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ordinary Miracles

Diane Walker is an ordinary miracle whose words, images and dedication to her spiritual practice grace the Internet and the lives of all of us who follow her work.  Here's an opportunity to spend 23-minutes with her ... it's like have warm honey poured over your soul and worth every second of the time.  And don't miss Diane's blog Contemplative Photographer.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't Pick Him Up

I've been particularly blessed the past few days to read books written by two friends.  When I was a young girl in Kansas with my nose stuck almost permanently in a book, I never dreamed that I would someday know people who actually wrote books ... it was simply incomprehensible.

There is a special joy in reading a book written by someone you know, a poignant connection to the stories, a familiar ring to the rhythm and words, a reminder of things known and an introduction into corners unknown.  The one I just finished is by my friend Jerry McNellis and his mother, Helen McNellis, a very young 98-year-old.  The book, "Don't pick him up" is the story of the McNellis family dealing with Jerry's polio which he contracted in 1946 at age 3.

It was early in the epidemic which would spread fear across the land for a decade as hundreds of thousands of children and families were changed forever.  The title comes from the doctor's advice when Jerry came home after four months in the hospital ... "Don't pick him up."  Let him fall and let him find his own way to get up.  Imagine being a mother watching your three-year-old child struggle, fall, injure himself and never allowing yourself to pick him up, resisting the urgent desire to help him.

The book is written as excerpts from interviews Jerry did with his mother, three brothers, other family members and doctors.  Its straight-forward, unembellished telling adds a starkness and immediacy to the story.  You become part of it ... part of the 17 surgeries and dozens of body-casts ... part of the endless doctor visits, hospital stays, home exercise routines ... but, mostly you get to watch the development of a soaring spirit that never saw disability, just a need to do things in a different way.  Jerry played football, rigged a contraption that allowed him to ice-skate, climbed trees ... and fell out of them ... with a cast on ... danced, dreamed and lived life on his own terms.

One of the things that drew me to Jerry was the way he approached things.  If he was going to do something, he was going to do it in a way uniquely his and in a way that would delight others.  He always found a way to add a deliciousness to everything.  We met not long after his first marriage ended and a few years later he was ready to find his new life partner.  He embarked on that project with that same spirit of joy, creativity and an eye for fun.  Every once in a while we would talk and he would tell me stories about dates he arranged ... they were all so creative and funny that I finally told him he had to stop.  Every woman he went out with was going to fall in love with him and he'd never be able to choose the right one.  But he didn't stop and he did choose just the right one.

Jerry McNellis is one of the most remarkable people I know.  After reading his book, I have to add his mom to that list.  And, I'm not sure ... but this may be the best parenting book I know of.  One of the stories Jerry shares is how he and his three brothers were talking at a family gathering and somehow the subject of "who's mom's favorite" came up.  Each one of the brothers swore vehemently that he was his mom's favorite and were amazed when they found out that each of the others were also sure that they were the favorite.  What a woman.

More about Jerry and his work at:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Every Good-bye

I was only going to do one post on Maureen Doallas' collection of poetry, Neruda's Memoirs, but she called me back with her opening to Section III Exit:
Every good-bye is a provocation, an invitation to witness and ending and claim it aloud.
Without wanting to, I was thrown into her words.
Without wanting to, I was writing my own claim.
Without wanting to, I wrote:


What I awoke to was the sound of silence.
Absolute silence.
And yet it wasn't silent,

The whoosh-thunk of the
oxygen machine still
filled the room.

The sound of morning
birds speckled the
new dawn air.

Only one sound was missing
but that 
piece missing
all others,

changed life into
before and after,
broke the world
into pieces present and 

left me
waiting childlike
for it to come

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Neruda's Memoirs

Maureen Doallas in Section II of her new book of poetry,  Neruda's Memoirs, states:
Picasso once said, "To draw is to shut your eyes and sing."  To write poetry,  I would say, is to close your eyes and listen."
For a very long time, I knew to close my eyes but could not make the listening work.
The pain of loving what too soon would end, broke open her listening and poetry poured out of her ... into her blog ... into this beautiful new collection published by T.S. Poetry Press.

One of the many poems I treasure is shared below:

"What I really like

is how words
aren't needed

to hold in mind

the slant the sun takes
when it pitches
a fit

of rays on the sea
at dusk

or the cut-through line
at the horizon's edge

once you've pulled back
and turned
for one last look

at the world

you've traveled to
and through

to reach home.

New Book Adventure

Book:  Dragon Country ... an adventure in transforming your life.
Action:  Please go to to get your free video synopsis and vote for me.

Sometimes you turn a corner and hardly notice it until months or years later when you look back and say, "Wow, it all started with ...."  This time I turned a corner and knew it immediately as I was sucked into whirlwind.  It started innocently enough ... just another email invitation, one of many.  But, timing is everything and apparently it was the right time even though I was already on the late side and would have to run to catch up.

The invitation was to enter the Hampton Roads "Top Self-Help Author" competition.  I had noted their earlier "spiritual author" competition and enjoyed voting for several of the candidates so when this email landed, it was like all the cherries lined up on the slot machine and said, "This is it."  It's more than just a competition ... it's also 4 and a half months of teleconferences and information about how to publish in the new world we're in where publishers say, "Once you've written a book, you're 5% done."  (The rest is marketing.)

Joining the competition meant immediately making a video pitch and putting up a mini-website.  How simple those words sound.  Fortunately a friend could help me with the website but I was on my own with the video and it pushed every button I have and threw me into meltdown at least a dozen times over the past week and a half.  The learning curve was virtually perpendicular and I kept falling off ... finally I had a draft and a coach to give me feedback.  He said I was about "half there" so I started over. 

I still didn't get "there" but I do have a pitch for a book that I'm very excited about and would love to have your support.  Part of the competition is getting people to vote for us and pass along the information to their friends and relatives.  You can learn more about the book and the competition and how to vote for me at

I am almost finished with a fun, fast video synopsis and I'd love to send it to you ... just register when you go to the website.  And, please vote.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mary Oliver and Coleman Barks

You must marry your soul. 
That wedding is the way.
  -- Rumi

While searching for Coleman Barks reading Rumi, I found this video of Mary Oliver reading some of her poems (including Wild Geese) and being interviewed (sort of) by Coleman Barks.  I couldn't resist sharing it ... so it's sort of the encore to the Rumi/Barks Celebration.