Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Krah-koove, maybe

For a long time, I've wanted to go to Poland, specifically to Krakow (correct pronunciation: Krah-koove). It's kind of a long story why. The short version is, it would be a roots trip, to reconnect with the landscape of some of my ancestors, specifically the ones who died in the Holocaust. My ancestors' shtetl was about fifty kilometers east of Krakow, close to Lvov, now a part of Ukraine.

There's nothing left of the shtetl except a railroad crossing, so, not much to see which is probably the reason I could not inspire in my siblings much enthusiasm about a journey to that now barren place. My brother said, "OK. Well, we could go to Ukraine ... or ... we could go swim with the whales in Maui." Put that way, I really got it, that my sibs (at least my brother) preferred to celebrate life rather than experience the landscape of the lost world of old Jewish eastern Europe.

My brother DID swim with the whales in Maui. From the pics and stories it looks like it was a great trip. L'chaim, Josh! Eventually, I put aside my hopes and dreams to connect with that land. There's no way I would go alone, no way. That was a few years ago.

Last night a dear friend told me she's planning to visit Poland sometime next year. As she regaled me with stories of past visits, my interest and enthusiasm for this journey returned. Last night in my dreams the ancestors showed up in force. When I think about going, I experience so many potent emotions, so much energy runs through me. There's no way to describe how I feel when I imagine putting my feet on the ground of eastern Poland, especially Krakow.

What good does it do to visit the old country? Why not choose instead to swim with the whales in Maui? What am I hoping to gain from such a journey? And how the heck can I afford to go? These are interesting questions I'm going to be thinking about today and for the next little while.

I'm kind of in awe this morning. You never know what's going to come up, you never know what will happen next. All I can say is: wow.

Monday, November 29, 2010

One foot in front of the other, through the holidaze

T-day weekend is over. Thank the lord God! Not only will today be a "normal" day of work (no family souls to work with, just regular individuals ... ahhh), but the energy within which I move and live will shift from that hyper-whatever wall of energy that is characteristic of holidays, back to the usual craziness of this beautiful, powerful, wounded city in which I live.

I could tell almost to the minute when the energy shifted last night. Everyone was back in front of their computers, ipads and iphones, hacking back into their email and facebook accounts. The internet was so jammed I couldn't even get on last night after 8:00 p.m. EST. Sometimes it's healthy to get tossed out of cyberspace (does anyone still call it "cyberspace" ??) I spent my evening looking at Christmas cookie recipes, contemplating the possibility of getting a tiny Christmas tree. Should I?

Happy Monday, y'all. Shalom.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It'll all be over soon.

Today will be another day of working with family souls. The people involved will feel different, though - if today is like T-day Sundays of past years. The L-triptophan stupor is lifting, and folks are now more focused on getting home without having to be overly humiliated while moving through security at the airports, than on the recently concluded sacred family dramas.

Sunday of T-day weekend is a kind of denoument, when people wrap up the energy that's been unleashed. Today they'll be thinking more about whether, when they get home, they will lick their wounds or take it out on someone else (depending on whether they're inclined more towards the fight than the flight response).

My job is more or less the same: stay grounded and cheerful, remind these once-a-year clients that all the sturm und drang of family get-togethers is grist for the mill. As Steven says, "The natural messiness of clusters of people is the essence of family, not the smooth as silk dreaminess of a movie or a tv family. It's the messiness that helps us figure out the early bits of who we are and especially where we need to move."


And ... when holiday weekends are over, it's such a relief! Even for me, She Who Supports those dealing with the messiness. The holidays generate a whole lot of energy, oh yeah! Shalom.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Soul Food

It's so interesting when clients I work with on a regular basis send their visiting family members for healing, a situation that often occurs during holiday weekends when everyone is home to celebrate together. Watching the familial energy flow through various individuals is fascinating. It's like watching a person with multiple personality disorder. There's an unmistakable energetic "flavor" every member of any family shares with his/her sibs, parents, kids, in-laws, cousins and such - but oh my, the way each individual manifests that familial something is very distinct.

Family get togethers are a form of sacred drama, each person enacting a role that in some way helps the family oversoul evolve or work through issues (at the very least). People seem to both regress and progress simultaneously at holiday gatherings. I believe they are shape shifting like mad in order to help develop something in the overarching family soul. It seems to be very hard work, from what I can see, often creating good humored, or not so good humored, friction. Sometimes this evolutionary process goes smoothly. Sometimes, heads bump, folks get hot under the collar, act out, and such. I think that's why there are so many movies based on the theme of family gatherings at the holidays; the fussing and fighting - and loving each other when all is said and done - are almost universal experiences.

I never travel at the holidays which means I'm never in contact with my own very wonderful family at this time. During the holiday season, I'm very busy at work; one must make hay while the sun shines, after all. So I "see" my family on facebook, or we talk on the phone, or perhaps skip the ordeal of contact entirely. I know this approach is odd, but it works.

After this week, during which I've worked with two extended families, wrestled not only with muscles and trigger points, but with the uber-soul of both clans, a theory is taking shape about why we eat so many rich, heavy foods when we gather with family for the holidays. It's pretty simple, actually. I think all that food puts a damper on the urge to strangle each other. When we're doped up on L-triptophan, it's all we can do to get the TV tuned to a football game. I think the beached whale result of too much food is connected to the survival instinct, helping to curb what might otherwise become quite destructive within the sacred dramatic unfoldings of our beloved family souls.

It's a working theory, undocumented and unproven. What do you think?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Frankie say ...

In the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving is, for many people, a day of rest and recovery. I can only think of one other day in our society during which it's OK to relax: New Year's Day. Both of these days of relaxation must be earned - either through hard work cooking all day, as is the case on Thanksgiving, or by drinking hard all night, which is traditional on New Year's Eve.

We are so overamped in this society, so driven to be productive or at the very least to stay in motion At All Times. It's no wonder our immune systems are compromised, our attention spans are fractured, for heaven's sake. It's no wonder we're so darn cranky about everything all the time. We stretch ourselves so thin.

I think we should strive to be a little more like our animal cousins who hunt, play hard, but spend the rest of their time hanging out - like cats and dogs, for instance - rather than our overly zealous, hard-working cousins, like bees and ants.

Ah, mine is tiny voice completely drowned out by the American social imperative to always and forever kick it up a notch. Ironic, then, to face the truth - that while most of my fellow Americans will spend today relaxing, shopping or otherwise goofing around, I have a full roster of clients at work.

Yeah, that's my story, always (it seems) swimming against the prevailing current. Que sera sera.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches

Am I thankful? Yes, I am. Because I'm lucky. I'm so damn lucky it blows my mind. I live in a beautiful, intense, bizarre city, the citizens of which are the smartest and most hardworking I've ever encountered. I spend my days and nights in a beautiful little chateau on a gorgeous street in the friendliest neighborhood I've ever lived in. I am seven blocks from the U.S. Capitol, an icon and a friend. When I need light, heat, or coolness, or music, or when I want to connect through the internet I only have to flip a switch to make it happen. I cook, read, clean, sleep, laugh, and dance every day. When I need to, I cry. For the ability to express and release sadness, I am very grateful.

I love my profession and am uniquely suited to it. I adore the people I work with and my colleagues at work. My "commute" is a ten-minute walk. My office environment is a beautiful, exposed brick townhouse, cozy, quiet, and gorgeous.

Though I rarely see them, I love my family, not only my sibs but my nieces, nephews, and grand nephews. Soon I will have a grand niece, too. I have the best friends anyone could ever imagine, both here in Washington and elsewhere. I have friends of all ages, from all walks of life, with every kind of world view you can imagine. Some friends I see often, others only every now and then, but our heart connections are potent no matter what. I am so well loved! And I have so many opportunities to feel love for the wonderful people who are a part of my life! The love flows in and out with ease. Ahhhhh.

My health is very good, I can still think (more or less), and actually I love being middle aged. When I dress well I can still turn a head or two. I'm comfortable in my body. I'm a shaman but somehow I have figured out how to practice that crazy spiritual path with good humor. Mostly I shy away from going off the deep end, something that's very easy to do as a shaman. I don't want to be nuts, you know?

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Today in the U.S. we celebrate our harvest feast by giving thanks. I am thankful because I am SO lucky! Oh yeah. L'chaim, happy T-day. Shalom.

I'm very grateful for the convivial atmosphere at the Matchbox bar.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What a poem. Holy cow. Thanks, T.

Waving Adieu, Adieu, Adieu

That would be waving and that would be crying,
Crying and shouting and meaning farewell,
Farewell in the eyes and farewell at the centre,
Just to stand still without moving a hand.

In a world without heaven to follow, the stops
Would be endings, more poignant than partings, profounder,
And that would be saying farewell, repeating farewell,
Just to be there and just to behold.

To be one's singular self, to despise
The being that yielded so little, acquired
So little, too little to care, to turn
to the ever-jubilant weather, to sip

One's cup and never to say a word,
Or to sleep or just to lie there still,
Just to be there, just to be beheld,
That would be bidding farewell, be bidding farewell.

One likes to practice the thing. They practice,
Enough, for heaven. Ever-jubilant,
What is there here but weather, what spirit
Have I except it comes from the sun?

Wallace Stevens

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's a problem

I have a friend in Texas who has poultry. She keeps geese, ducks, chickens. She is so loving with these animals. One of them got very sick last year, spent her final months napping on my friend's lap. The stories she wrote on her blog and especially her photos of the poultry are compelling, funny (because poultry is, by its very nature, kind of dorky) and beautiful.

Deborah has no problem with the cycle of life. As close as she is to those birds, she still eats meat and poultry. I don't know if she eats her own birds, but it wouldn't surprise me if she did. Her belief is that as long as we are respectful and appreciative, there's nothing wrong with being omnivores, or as Kim says "flexitarians."

Me? I'm a hypocrite. I've tried being a vegetarian but it didn't work. And though I don't eat a lot of meat, it's still a basic in my diet. I am all the better for it since my kidney jing is so weak, or so the Sufi acupuncturist tells me. But - I like a couple of layers of obliviousness between me and the reality of my food. I recoil from shrimp served with their heads still intact. When I see cows or bison, I admit, imagining eating them turns my stomach. But then the next thing you know I'm ordering a burger at the Matchbox bar.

I have trouble at Thanksgiving. The whole gigantic bird, trussed, stuffed, roasted to a golden brown, sitting in the center of the table, kind of freaks me out. Inevitably that sight brings to mind the chicken scene in the film Eraserhead. I'm sorry, I can't help it! All the jokes about turkeys making a run for it so as to survive Thanksgiving make me want to cry. And the presidential pardon of one turkey? Just. Plain. Weird.

This year I'm invited to share the feast of Thanksgiving at a friend's house who is a vegetarian, so there will be interesting options other than turkey, though of course there will be a turkey as part of the meal, sitting there, on display, in the center of the table.

T-day is about eating turkey. It is a ritual meal. I respect that, and I really enjoy the conviviality of joining with others to toast and feast, but oh, the turkey. God.

Perhaps someday I will grow up and resolve this hypocritical personal kink. Or not. Maybe this year I'll opt for a strong drink before dinner. A shot of Wild Turkey would be an ironic choice. Maybe that will help. Ya think?

Monday, November 22, 2010

More a postscript than a post

Yesterday's post was so big, I thought it would take awhile before I could think of anything else to write about. Ha ha. When does THAT ever happen? I thought maybe I should wait before posting again, to give yesterday's thoughts some space, also as a way of acknowledging that timing is everything. But I have all these cool pictures hanging around, all of which are just dying to be showcased here. At least that's my excuse for today's ramblings. Here goes:

The only way to know when to release old karmic attachments, break oaths that no longer serve any purpose, or tell a secret whose time has arrived, is by cultivating intuition. There's not a book anywhere that can explain how to determine the timing of these things. No one has a secret formula for figuring it out. Your friends can't tell you, there's no therapist, doctor, teacher or newspaper columnist who can help. Even the Dalai Lama doesn't know. Only your soul knows when the time is ripe.

The practice of listening to intuition is an art, not a science. It can't be quantified or even understood. But ignoring your intuition (as we are accustomed to doing in my society) is so sad. Intuition is a human birthright, a beacon, a guide that can help steer us as we wander the meandering path of life.

One of the things the Sufi acupuncturist often says is: Speak from your heart! What is your heart trying to tell you right now? Are you listening? Well? Are you?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The chalice and the blade

Secrets, commitments, loyalty, karmic bonds - this assortment of topics from recent days here all seem related, particularly when I think about keeping secrets, making commitments, the pervasiveness (or not) of loyalties, and the nature of karmic bonds.

All of the above situations involve the creation of energetic containers that have enough structural integrity to hold something that would otherwise be quite ephemeral. What's a secret anyway? What is it made of? What does it look like? It's dust in the wind unless kept. A well kept secret is remembered but never spoken - which isn't as easy as it sounds for many people. Secrets are precious and lively; sometimes it's like they're begging to be set free. When spoken aloud, inappropriately (to the wrong person or at the wrong time) secrets become gossip which is always harmful and hurtful. I learned this truth the hard way, from gossiping and from being gossiped about. Ouch.

The brilliant Glenn said, about commitments and loyalties, that it isn't a matter of waiting for an expiration date before they become sacred rot, but that what he called "completion stipulations" are a necessary prerequisite to letting them go. Hmm. It made me think of what my spirit guides have said about marriage, that it is a "crucible in which two families come together to work something out." My guides say that every marriage, whether it's "good" or "bad" or short-lived or long lasting, creates an alchemy between two families. It's interesting to think about.

Of all the topics I've been pondering, only karmic bonds seem timeless. Or - should say - seemed timeless. Based on what I've learned in the last few days, karma, just like everything else in the multiverse, can be shifted, altered, strengthened - or in some cases - broken. Even a soul mate doesn't have to be a soul mate forever. What a revelation! Wow.

I had a particularly unpleasant role in the crucible of one organization I was involved in, one in which we had meetings, lots and lots of long, excruciating meetings. The energy of those meetings often got stuck. It was so frustrating. Inevitably at some point I would lose my temper. Someone else at the meeting would burst into tears, and I would stomp out of the room. Strangely, right afterwards the meeting would get back on track. So the truth is, my bad behavior helped break the stuckness. My bad behavior served as a big ole sword, chopping the stuck energy into manageable pieces.

Imagine an ironic look on my face. Imagine me shaking my head back and forth, knitting my brows. Why me, oh lord? Why was I chosen to take on the role of "Reya, destroyer of energetic crucibles?" Please explain.

One of my big lifetime lessons this time around has to do with letting go - of commitments, loyalties, and karmic bonds. I'm supposed to continually lighten my load, at the perfect moment of ripeness, that is. Except for secrets. With secrets I've learned to keep them - into perpetuity when necessary. Both of these ideas - letting go and keeping - when done well, are good deeds. And good deeds strengthen the soul.

I'm really going on and on and on today, eh? I'll stop now! Shalom.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

That was easy

There is so much more I want to say about secrets, for instance I want to write about how secrets are capsules of energy, liberating when released at the perfect moment, but really harmful when released inappropriately or before they become ripe for telling, or when told to the "wrong" person.

But that's not what I'm thinking about today.

What I'm thinking about today is the ephemeral nature of spirit. I'm remembering how, before I let go of my identification and association with Reclaiming and Feri traditions, I thought those two strains of energy were completely embedded in every strand of my DNA. I thought it wasn't possible to emerge from that involvement, that somehow I was stuck with it forever and ever.

However, once it became clear that I needed to "break up" with those traditions, the energy drained out of my body and being in a matter of a couple of days. The clean up, following the release, was another story, but the actual letting go? It was EASY. Go figure.

Someone told me a long time ago that it really is possible to break karmic connections with other people. I did not believe her, but this week I found out that not only is it possible, but in ways quite similar to my experience of moving out of Reclaiming and Feri, karmic connections with people I've known over many lifetimes can melt like ice on a hot summer day. The key isn't about struggling or fighting or pushing away. Nope. All I had to do was sincerely ask. I did a small ritual, but it wasn't the ritual that helped me make the break; that was divinely bestowed. Because I meant it when I asked, I think, and also because - at last - it was time.


Are you feeling trapped by a situation you sincerely would like to be free of? Is the time ripe for emerging from that situation? My advice? Just ask. From your heart of hearts, just ask.

I love the mysterious way in which life unfolds. Thanks angels, guides and God. Thank you so much!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Secret Lives

My mother loved Danny Kaye. I mean really what's not to love? God, he was SO GAY. All gay people were closeted at that time. It must have been so hard.

I remember, on National Coming Out Day sometime in the mid-1990's, when I admitted to the people I worked with at that time, that I was a witch. It was a really big deal - much bigger than I thought it would be. The experience was not only exhiliarating but exhausting, and to be honest, a little bit traumatic. Even in San Francisco at the height of the revival of post-modern witchcraft, revealing such a deep truth about myself was a rite of passage.

Everybody carries at least a few shameful personal secrets, right? Some personal secrets aren't shameful, but in the mind of the keeper of the secret, they aren't anybody else's business, so best held close to the chest as they say. There are also professional secrets. I can't talk about what I experience at work, after all.

Last night I was wondering about the impact, energetically and emotionally, of keeping quiet. What changes when we confide in others, what happens when we at last voice what has been stuffed into dark corners of our hearts? It's interesting to think about.

Not that I think everyone should reveal everything - oh no. I really have no desire to know everyone's deepest secrets! That said, it's always an honor to be seen as trustworthy, right? Witnessing deep secrets is a responsibility, one I take on in my profession every day.

Are you a secretive person? I'm both secretive and very open, paradoxical, don't you know. What's your story?

The following vid is long but just so hilarious. Oh Danny Kaye, you were such a sweetheart! Bless your heart. xxoo

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Me and my devotions

Is it possible to be overly devoted? Of course it is! I often suffer from that malady. Over-devotion is - like anything taken to the extreme - unhealthy, unbalanced and, well, not a whole lot of fun for anyone.

Another word for over-devotion is fanaticism, something I actually try to avoid as much as possible. Even when my sense of devotion comes from a very pure place, every time I crank it up to eleven, what was once pure inevitably becomes toxic. I was overly devoted to my dog, Jake, (for instance) which is one reason that the people who know me best say I should wait a long time before welcoming another dog into my life. They know how far off the deep end I went with Jake. My devotion to that dog was sweet, yes, but too extreme.

Last night I realized that my preoccupation with the philosophy of loyalty was (among other things) an attempt to justify the way I tilt into my devotional nature. I don't need to justify my intensity; it just is. I'm putting my thoughts about loyalty and commitment on the back burner for awhile; going to let those ideas simmer while I mindfully detach from philosophical devotions in order to address more mundane concerns. My plans for today include a whole lot of laughing at myself. Ha ha. I am such a character.

Though, philosophy is an interesting way to rationalize, isn't it? Seems quite high-minded. And I learned so much from everyone who was willing to leave comments here. Thanks!! All further thoughts are very welcome! Happy Thursday, y'all. Shalom.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Promises, promises

Yesterday's rain was very photogenic.

I say that I like to think, but the truth is: I feel. I take in facts, read books, articles, etc. but what follows is hardly analytical. Nope. I drop into my heart, into my body, and feel. I'll admit it: my mind is so inept that I often say things like "My brain was the last to know ..." So true!!

Oh yeah.

Loyalty feels heart-based to me (and to some of the people who commented on yesterday's post - excellent comments!) while commitment seems head-based. Loyalty arises from the heart, making itself known after it has already established itself, or so it seems to me. Loyalty creates energetic connections. Commitment is a decision, and manifests in the "real" world through contracts, agreements, hand-shakes, signatures. I loved what Dan said, that proximity also plays a part in the distinction between loyalty and commitment. That feels absolutely true.

There's a forever quality attached to both of those ideas that feels both noble and confining to a free spirit such as myself. The forever part is, strictly speaking, untrue, since nothing is forever, absolutely nothing. What I'm thinking about this morning is that the authenticity of loyalty is what makes it a noble quality. As for commitment, how true are we to our commitments? Rather than a timeline attached to commitments and loyalties, doesn't it make more sense to periodically check out whether or not our loyalties and commitments are working for ourselves and others? Are they serving their intended purpose, or are they empty promises? Because really how noble is an empty promise, even if it lasts into perpetuity?

In the spirit of embracing holy compost and sacred rot, what I'm wondering today is how to figure out when a particular loyalty has passed its expiration date. The king to whom you've sworn loyalty passes away. So - does that mean you must swear loyalty to the new king or are you free to go your own way afterwards? These are exactly the kinds of questions that philosophers - people who really CAN think - have been wondering about for hundreds of years.

Perhaps I'll leave it to the philosophers for today at least. It's an unusually warm, very windy, sunny day in Washington. I'm going to get out there, let Brother Wind blow through my hair, heart, and soul, loosening my connections to outdated loyalties and commitments that no longer serve anyone or any purpose.

Onwards and upwards! Shalom, y'all. Yeah.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The contemplative lifestyle

Autumn's gloriousness is softening, slowly of course because that's how the seasons proceed in the American mid-Atlantic. Some of the leaves have fallen; the ones that remain on the trees, though still colorful, are no longer vivid. The land is settling very steadily into the monochromatics of winter.

It's a nice, not too chilly, rainy day in DC, a great day to clean the chateau, cook something soupy or stewy, listen to music, kick back and ponder. Oh yeah!

Today I'll be contemplating the idea of loyalty, a philosophical quagmire to be sure. A quick google of the word brings up old ideas about loyalty, and more modern thoughts, too. Philosophers differ in their takes on the phenomena. They even argue about the objects of loyalty. Whoa. For a free spirit such as myself (i.e. commitment-phobe), I'm way more loyal in many cases than you might expect, indeed far more than is warranted sometimes. What's the difference between commitment and loyalty, do any of you know?

Putting on my thinking cap. Shalom.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Soulful, Complex, and Completely Adorable

Hey Rapunzel! Let down your hair!!

I believe the Buddhists when they say that this existence - as a manifested human being - is precious. It really really is. In this form we are able to work through so much stuff - karma, life purpose, soul purpose - whatever you want to call it. Wow. In this form we are able to enjoy the five senses; we get to eat, hear music, make love. Also we get sick, bump our heads. Sometimes we go nuts for awhile. Working through any and all of the above, we resolve many issues. Through living, both the fun parts and the unpleasantnesses, our souls evolve, at least I think so.

In spite of the accomplishments that are possible within this precious existence, the paradox of an eternal soul living within a finite body isn't easy. Hello! It's no wonder soul retrieval has been practiced for tens of thousands of years in every culture I know about. In American society, we retrieve our souls through psychotherapy, prayer and worship, Chinese medicine, the arts, travel, and various feats of power like running marathons or climbing mountains, swimming in ice cold waters, etc. We don't call it soul retrieval, but I think that's what we're doing.

Within the strain of Mongolian shamanism I was initiated into, the belief goes something like this: every human has three souls. There is a "nature soul" that enters the body at birth and leaves at the moment of death. That soul incarnates as a human only once, then returns to nature never to live as a human again. Those who have strong nature souls radiate power and strength. Michelle Obama has a seriously powerful nature soul (for instance). In addition there are two other souls that dance in and out of the body, entering and exiting through the chakras. The energy of their dance creates the aura and is shaped somewhat like the snakes on a caduceus, looking a whole lot like the two strands of DNA models. I "see" that, I really do.

Sometimes one of the dancing souls gets lost, stolen or takes off for extended periods, spending time in the upper and/or lower worlds. Hence the need for soul retrievals because although we can live for awhile without the dancing souls, just as whales can stay underwater for a long time before surfacing to breathe, if we try to exist too long without them, we become very ill, emotionally and physically.

Does this sound crazy? Shamanism makes perfect sense to me.

I'm thinking about infinite souls in finite bodies today after looking at pictures of old friends I knew in high school and before. I see in each of these friends, by their postures and the details of their graying hair or whatever, how much all of them have worked through as manifested humans. The mileage of soul work is clearly visable. Amazing to look at these pictures. I marvel at the courage and strength, as well as the liveliness of these friends. Actually I am in awe. We humans are really quite extraordinary, we really are. Believe me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Many recent studies point to a single factor as the most important contributor to good health. To keep your brain facile and plastic, retain memory, strenthen the immune system, stay positive and cheerful, reduce anxiety and stress, successfully heal from injury and surgery, recover from traumas of all kinds ... drum roll ... the Very Most Important Thing is: sleep. (Sound of a single, loud strike on the high hat cymbal.) Indeed, sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Those who go without sleep become psychotic. Prolonged sleeplessness will actually kill you. What a hideous way to die!

Getting good, consistent sleep where I live, on the American east coast, especially in the cities, is like rowing upstream without the proverbial paddle. Sleep deprivation is a way of life here. Getting enough sleep is seen as a sign of laziness or lack of motivation. I hear people say things like I shouldn't need this much sleep. What does that mean? Based on what? It's so weird, but maybe that's the sleep deprivation talking. Who knows?

I am ordinarily a great sleeper (thank you God!) There are exceptions, however, including the last few days. My sleep has been disturbed by powerful dreams, astral visitations, unexplained fits of sudden wakefulness and plain old insomnia. Too much sleeplessness makes Reya a dull girl, oh yeah.

I'm hoping to invoke the Sandman tonight after my day of work. I'll count sheep (I've tried - it actually works), cast protective circles around my bedroom, drink warm milk (YUCK) if that's what it takes. Dang, man, I'm tired.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spiritual Awakening

The 1988 journey to Benares I mentioned yesterday was part of a trip I took around the world with my ex-husband. By the time we got to Benares we had already been to Japan, Thailand, and in India to Delhi, Jaipur, Jodpur and Udaipur. So when we arrived in Benares, I thought I was well acclimated to the exotic world of Asia. My my, when will I ever learn not to make such assumptions?

After Benares, we continued traveling west - first to Italy, then the U.K., New York, and finally home to San Francisco. What a trip! So many stories associated with that journey, wow. Nevertheless, I can say without a doubt it was Benares that had the biggest impact. Watching people worship and pray as a matter of course, watching them stop by the Shiva shrines on every street, in every part of the city, to leave an offering of marigolds or pour some Ganges river water, was a revelation. In Benares the manner of worship is completely integrated into their "regular" lives. The people worship the same way we drop our Netflix DVD's off at the mailbox. The life of the spirit is absolutely integrated. Wow. When I got home to San Francisco I realized I didn't ever have to wait for a proper occasion in order to talk to God. I could worship and pray whenever I wanted.

Right after that journey, I began listening to the wind, fog and crazy landscape of San Francisco. Imagine how surprised I was to realize that the land, weather, the sun and the moon had so many stories to tell. I had lived in San Francisco for years, but until I put my feet on the ground in Benares, I was oblivious to the liveliness of the world, completely unaware that I could be in relationship with the elements, weather, planets and stars. Benares opened my heart to my spiritual path.

In spite of how traumatic that experience was, I am deeply grateful. Maybe I am a little bit more like George Harrison than I think I am. He was more graceful about it, but he, too, was utterly changed after visiting India.

My dream lingers in my heart/mind. It was powerful!

Onward and upward to Saturday. Shalom.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I am no George Harrison. Nope. When I was in India in 1988, though I was indeed undergoing a spiritual rebirth, I was unable to take it in gracefully. Before that journey, I'd spent my entire life in the U.S. and western Europe. I'd read about Asia, I'd seen Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian movies - lots of them - but at the deepest level I didn't understand that the worlds described in those films, in the books, actually existed. My sense of Asia was purely theoretical. Coming face to face with the reality of India was a true initiation. After India, my whole life changed.

My ex-husband is in possession of the photos we took in India. How I wish I could see some of those images again. What I remember about the pics of me is how afraid I look. My condition went way beyond apprehension; I was deeply frightened, yet also fascinated and too, my experience of Inda was exactly like tripping on LSD. Whoa. India shattered my western ego into a million pieces.

In my dream last night I was back in Benares (also called Varanasi), Shiva's home town, walking down the steep ghat steps by the river Ganges. One of my friends "drove" up to the shore in a red convertible. It must have been a boat but it looked like a Chevy to me. In the dream she had come to pick me up so we could go see the Apu trilogy. But I was reluctant.

Bathing in the Ganges is a holy ritual to Hindus. The river is a goddess whose powers include relief from the endless cycle of lives. Gunga delivers the souls of those who bathe in her waters to a place of healing and renewal. She provides liberation, moksha.

What's incredible about this vid (made in the 1930's) is that the shoreline of Benares was almost exactly the same in 1988 as it appears here. I have no doubt that it still looks almost identical. Imagine cell phones in the hands of the people on the ghats - I'm sure that's how it looked yesterday, and how it'll look tomorrow. I love the narration. The music is hilarious, too. The "white races" eh? Oh my. And yes the cows go wherever they want there.

My reluctance in the dream was somewhat similar to the reluctance I felt when I went down to the river in 1988. I can't even imagine what's in the water there, I mean - the germs, bacteria, cholera, not to mention the chunks and bits of human remains since the ashes of the dead, after cremation, are placed in the river.

I don't remember getting into the boat with my friend or the cruise down the river, but I know that I did enter the divine Ganges in my dream because later on we were at the cinema, settling in to watch Apu.

In addition to being completely awesome (in the truest sense of the word), last night's dream is telling me that all this work I've been doing lately to compost old patterns, to let go of my "mistakes" through the process of sacred rot, is working!

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (I can hear the recording of MLK, Jr. at the end of his "I Have a Dream" speech anytime I think of these words. Thanks, Martin!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The once and future student

Anytime I learn anything I don't already know, I'm happy. I'm sure that in some way or another, studying (anything) creates a neurological sparkle, a twinkle inside the gooey mass of my brain. Learning is pleasure, it really is. Oh yeah.

Lately I've been remembering, with immense gratitude, the great teachers I had when I lived in San Francisco. The 80's and 90's were a golden era there for those of us interested in studying the subtle arts. I learned to meditate from Jack Kornfield, studied shamanic healing with Vicki Noble, took classes in storytelling from Angeles Arrien. During my tenure with Reclaiming, I studied with spectacular teachers from whom I learned, among many many many other skills, how to groom energy (both my own and the energy of groups). I'm still so good at grooming energy that I'm told I radiate a sense of peace and hope.


I'm anything but peaceful on the inside - but how cool is it that my energy "reads" as peaceful? Very cool, if you ask me. My San Francisco teachers were (and are) top notch.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I loved studying the bass guitar, I did. I learned so much about so many things from that experience. Not only do I now hear bass lines in every piece of music I listen to, but suddenly I am really interested in drums and drummers, something that never caught my attention before.

As for the bass itself, well ... trying to play made my left hand cramp, something that I can't work through since I use my hands in my profession. Also, it wasn't fun. I loved picking up the instrument, I loved how I felt holding the bass, but the playing part just didn't work for me. OK. I gave it a go, and I'm so glad I did, ah but it was not meant to be. The idea of me as a bass player in this reality? Just one more thing I can put into the metaphorical holy compost bin. Onwards and upwards!


When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

Water that once could take no human weight-
We were students then - holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

--Robert Bly

It really looks like this right now on Capitol Hill. Spectacular!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's a stetson

It's all about the hat these days, seriously it is. I'm talking about my new cowboy hat (see profile pic on the sidebar). A friend convinced me to buy it while we were in Branson a few weeks ago. I hesitated since I am so NOT a cowgirl, or so I thought. Since then it has been hard NOT to wear it.

People notice the hat. They notice ME when I'm wearing it. They smile, they speak to me directly which is astonishing, since this is not a common urban behavior. On Facebook I've received several friend requests from people who love their cowboy hats. There's a whole sub-culture out there consisting of those of us who wear cowboy hats. Who knew?? Wow.

Just today it occurred to me that maybe I feel at home in the hat because I was born in the American west, in Denver, Colorado where cowboys and cowboy hats are not a fashion statement or a lifestyle choice. Cowboys in Colorado just ARE.

I'm thinking cowboy boots, too, might be a good idea. I don't want to go overboard or start looking like a cartoon version of myself, but a pair of boots would be appropriate, yes? I say oh yeah.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The impatience of a metaphorical gardener

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. - Henry David Thoreau

My dreamscape has been crazy of late, wow. I wake up every morning these days still swimming in the imagery, the colors, the players, the plotlines, the drama. All my dreams have been focused on a particular life episode and though these dreams are not sequential in any way, nor do they seem thematically integral, I believe I'm working through something big. Sacred rot, holy compost! Yeah.

I'm breaking down in my mind/heart events that, until recently, seemed set in stone, unchangeable. One cool thing about the idea of holy compost is the recognition that EVERYTHING composts. Even plastic breaks down after a million years (which, in terms of the lifespan of the earth, is a pretty short time). So even the ideas I hold most dear can and will eventually compost. It's a liberating thought, it really is.

There's nothing I love better than changing my mind/heart about something I thought was untouchable. The paradox here is that I am a romantic, such an idealist. When I fix upon an idea I think is noble, I develop a loyalty to it. I kind of WANT my ideals to be set in stone. It's a misplaced loyalty, perhaps. All is change, yes? I say yes.

The challenging aspect of holy rot is that it takes time. Compost doesn't happen overnight. Seeing that things are taking a turn in my mind/heart, I'm ready to begin planting. But it's November, for God's sake. So I guess if I MUST plant something in my mind/heart, it's going to have to be a bulb. Metaphorical tulips, maybe?

Or - maybe I need to take a deep breath and honor the sacred rot of ideals and thought-forms that have passed their expiration dates. It's quite possible I'm getting ahead of myself. I am not a gardener so I'm unclear how to proceed. Of course this is metaphorical gardening, but I'm guessing that the same rules apply. Ya think?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Honoring the Dark

My friend Donald told me recently that he believes fear is a part of what he calls "sacred rot." He is a gardener who loves not only the beautiful things he grows, but the dirt, too. He calls compost "holy." He really gets the business of decay, how that process feeds the cycles of life.

Here at the very beginning of the dark quarter of the year, thanks to Donald, I'm thinking a lot about sacred rot, holy compost. Once upon a time I looked at all failed projects and endeavors (like my marriage, for instance) as a total waste. Maybe nothing needs to be thought of as a waste, provided I'm willing to sow the seeds of my mistakes into my heart and soul (rather than trying to ignore, detach, or jetison from them). I always thought that learning from my mistakes meant rising above them, but I might have been wrong about that.

What is a mistake? I ask my clients that question all the time, in an effort to lighten their sense of guilt or remorse over choices they've made. I'm looking back on many choices I've made, situations I've fallen into and subsequently out of, relationships that were never meant to be. I've been berating myself for my enthusiasms, but maybe I could stop that way of thinking right now. You think? I'm going to give it a shot.

Mistakes are holy compost, sacred rot. Or ... they CAN be. What a revelation.


To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and of various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.
I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.
All this serves the dark. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass. It is the mind’s service,
for when the will fails so do the hands
and one lives at the expense of life.
After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is at last raised up into song.

--Wendell Barry

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Timing is everything

Because I'm always on time, the first few days after they switch off Daylight Savings, I tend to feel a little anxious. In the mornings I feel certain I'm running late, no matter what the clock says, and in the evenings I get almost panicky when the sun sets so early. I know it's ridiculous, but there it is. I think scans of my brain stem, (the "primitive" part of the brain) would show signs of distress in locations where the survival instinct gets activated.

There are many layers of ridiculousness here: first my chronic need to always be on time, also the silliness of Daylight Savings. I still don't get what that even means. The amount of daylight does not change simply because we mess around with our clocks. When it's dark, lights must go on. So weird. And, too, there's the ridiculousness of anxiety resulting from a one-hour change in my schedule. For heaven's sake.

I hear people say all the time that they aren't going to get worked up about something because it "isn't worth it." I marvel at that statement and always wonder - are they truly able to stifle their emotions (that are, by their very nature, not rational and so can not be logically dismissed), or are those statements a reflection of incredible denial on their part?

I don't try to stifle or slow my emotions. I believe my emotions are meant to move around; eMOTION, yes? I say yes. Emotions arise (according to those books about consciousness I read last year) as physiological/chemical changes in the body some seconds/minutes/hours before we become cognizant of them. What the neurologists believe is that we can partially mask the facial expressions that accompany emotion, but we can't control emotion.

Ah but we can tell ourselves that we're controlling our emotions, we can even come to believe these stories of superhuman control. The power of the mind is incredible. As for myself, today on the first day of what they call "standard" time, I'm going to try very hard to keep breathing, I'm going to drink a lot of water (these being my two tried and true methods for dealing with stress). I have a serious workday ahead; my clients will need me to be fully present. I'll try, people, I will really try.

But for the record, may I say here that I dislike the time change? I really do. Onwards & upwards.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Go with the flow

I love all the funny little ironies of life. For instance, right now I was supposed to be teaching Reiki to someone who has both wanted the attunements but also felt some hesitation about the process. In the final hours before the training was to commence, this person developed a serious migraine. As my great teacher Rose used to say, "Body trumps spirit." Oh yeah. The attunement can wait for another day.

In cases such as this, I trust the wisdom of the body so very much. Also, the last minute cancellation provided me with an unexpected break. I have some time for myself today, before my last client. Time to walk around, take pictures, drink tea and ponder the complexities of life. Love that!

Two seconds after I locked the door to the office, I heard my name. The intrepid tree planters of Capitol Hill were busy at work, planting a new tree in the triangle park across the street from the house on Tennessee Avenue. One of the very no-nonsense members of this group told me one of the trees planted last year, specifically the tree I infused with Reiki, has flourished, while the tree right next to it (one I didn't infuse because they were still planting it when I walked by) has not fared as well. She asked if I would mind treating the tree I missed last year, and while I'm at it, work with the trees they're planting today.

Reiki was definitely part of today's feng shui, though what I didn't get till just now is that I need to focus on the trees rather than specific people. Thanks, God! I'm on it.