Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Death in the midst of a non winter

This is not photoshopped. The light really looked like this at sunset the other day. Wow.

The windows are open. A soft, silvery-gold light, accompanied by birdsong, is streaming into the chateau. We are allegedly going to be able to walk around this afternoon in tshirts, shorts, and flip-flops. You would think this is a morning in April, not January. It's so weird!

I was going to host a gathering this week in which, through the reading of poetry and eating of chocolate, we would invoke the birthday of spring. But I never got around to inviting anyone. We had a few cold days, one snowy morning, but that's it. How could I call people together to invoke the warmth of spring? It would have felt completely wrong, like bringing coals to Newcastle.

In spite of the weather, the threshold between this world and the next is wide open at the moment. The souls of people and animals have flown through that threshold during the past week, including the young daughter of friends/neighbors, beloved pets, a baby not quite ready to enter this world, a client's father. They say that everyone dies alone, but I'm not sure that's true. These events seem to occur in clusters, at least it looks that way to me. Today I am steeling myself for the news that a dear friend's mother has crossed over.

I'm reminded to seize the day, not to sweat the small stuff. You never know when your number will come up, never. I will walk and take pictures today, I will attend a meeting with some folks who work with the Capitol Hill Foundation (because I'm doing some writing for them). I will work a little bit, meet a friend for dinner. Today is a good day and I'm grateful to be alive. L'chaim!

Monday, January 30, 2012


I don't have money or real estate, a car, savings (to speak of) or a retirement account sitting in a bank somewhere. Nevertheless, I am rich in friendships and sisterships and brotherships, first and foremost. I'm stinkin' rich in professional satisfaction - I love my work! I'm also rich in history and experience here at the end of the decade of my 50s.

The blue skies and warm temperatures this winter in DC, though decidedly weird, have made my walks a pure, rich pleasure of comfort and beauty. Hence I've been out there more often than I usually am during winter, collecting images of rich beauty, like the ongoing series of portraits of my buddy the Capitol dome, richly adorned by clouds.

A friend and I walked down to the American Art Museum Saturday to see the Annie Leibovitz "Pilgrimage" show. It's incredible - no people in these pics! Beautiful. I will definitely return to see it a few more times. One thing I love about Smithsonian museums is that they're free, enhancing the richness of experience since I can pop in and out as often as I like.

Many of the riches that are part of my life are available without ever leaving the chateau. Yesterday I listened to Krista Tippett's interview with John O'Donohue three times. Beautiful!

I'm off in a little while to buy groceries at Whole Foods, a temple of foods. Every time I walk into the produce department I think of that famous story about Khruschev when he visited a grocery store during a visit to the U.S. in 1957. They say he teared up, seeing all that fresh food.

May I PLEASE never take for granted the riches of my life! May it be so. Happy Monday.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Be here now

I saw an old couple on the subway a few days ago. I couldn't take my eyes off them. They looked relaxed and cheerful, were having what appeared to be a very fun, interesting conversation. Their vibe was great, but just as great was their appearance. Neither one of them was trying to look young. They were grey haired and it was clear neither had had "work" of any kind. She was dressed in a colorful tunic and leggings, her long hair in a braid down her back. He wore a simple sweater and pair of jeans, black Chuck Connors. I always notice shoes, so I can tell you she was wearing some version of a clog; I didn't recognize the brand. Maybe she was wearing a little make-up, maybe none at all. They were stylish in an age appropriate way. More significant, they looked comfortable in their wrinkly skins. It came to me that the only time old people look really weird is when they try to look younger.

It's sad, the way our culture vilifies aging. It's not like we've done anything wrong by growing old, we just haven't died yet. Watching a family close by who is about to deal with the untimely death of their 28 year old daughter makes me want even more than ever to embrace the wonders, beauty, wisdom and liberations of older age.

For a long time, in accordance with cultural hatred for old age, I tried to slam the brakes on my aging appearance; I colored my hair until just a few years ago, for instance. I loved it when people said, "You don't look THAT OLD!" because I didn't get it. I really didn't get it, how powerful and freeing it is to grow older. I had no idea I would like it so much! I also didn't understand that when people say I look young, they are insulting me. Why is it wrong to look my age? It's like saying, "Don't worry, you can hide your dirty little secret. No one will know." Please!

Researchers and scientists work their asses off every day, figuring out how to help us live longer and longer. But no one is putting two and two together: that a long life, in this culture, means you'll have to spend the last half pretending it isn't a long life. Or said another way, do these people want to be old for a really long time? Crazy.

Yes yes, life is precious. Being young has its pros and cons, just like every age. For those of my age who try so hard to act/look young, I want to say we had our time to do all that! Now it's another generation's turn. Same as it ever was.

Live well and fully. Be who you are, act your age! L'chaim.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

When I walk, I am sane

From inside the summerhouse on the Capitol grounds.

What a gentle "winter" we're having in DC. I can remember a time when I would find nice, warm 50 F. days in late January upsetting. For the life of me I can't remember why, because it's wonderful to be outside on a day like yesterday, walking around without gloves, a scarf, a hat, earmuffs, heavy coat, etc. Maybe for real I'm becoming a southerner! Is that possible?

May I name a very politically incorrect personal truth? Here goes: I don't enjoy sharing the streets with people on bicycles any more than the people driving cars. Some bike riders are calm, but a great many of them are just as likely to get all worked up about the flow of traffic as the people driving cars. They are far more likely to run red lights, weave in and out of cars and people, swear audibly and act crazy because a pedestrian (that would be me, for instance) DARES to walk and stroll, looking at the sky and taking pictures. No one in a car whips by me while I'm on a sidewalk, but bike riders do so all the time. No bell, no warning, no "on your left." Sometimes they come within an inch or two. It's as if they're entertaining the thought of running me down. It is unnerving.

It's better for the environment, but really what is up with people who ride bikes?

This morning the birds are singing and the squirrels are dashing around, hither and yon. It's going to rain today, but again the temps will climb into the 50s. After work, I'll be able to get out for at least a quick walk around Lincoln Park. I'll stay on the brick sidewalks where I stand the best chance of avoiding cyclists.

All is well. Shalom.

The green world is trying its best to go with the flow of this non-winter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bring it on

DISCLAIMER: It's a weird one.

"Speciation is the result of rare events in the environment, such as genetic mutations, a shift in climate, or a mountain range rising up." --evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel

Because there are so many of us, and we're a little bit too clever for our own good, the climate is shifting. There's no doubt that much of what we do, how we live these days, is creating genetic mutations.

And, too, we've reached the the end of the rope in terms of how we've evolved to this point. Our evolutionary strategy, increasing cranial size to accommodate ever bigger brains, has lead us to a place in which childbirth is dangerous and inordinately painful. Our heads literally can't grow any bigger. Hence we must learn how to use what's inside our freakishly huge skulls. Something's got to give!

I've been thinking about this for awhile now, noticing how ripe the environment is for change, looking for signs of an evolutionary shift.

Technology is the mountain range rising up, providing we homo sapiens a step-up to the change. The internet is, in its own way, a neural network. Through blogging, FB, twitter, even old fashioned email, a fairly hefty percentage of the seven billion of us on planet Earth are discovering ways to interconnect, to cooperate with each other in brand new ways. All together, through the internet, we are forming networks that have never existed before. This interconnection is physically changing our brains, also the way we think.

Any evolutionary leap brings with it chaos, at least initially. I see the fallout every day, don't you? Attention Deficit Disorder, for instance, did not exist when I was growing up. There was no such thing as multi-tasking. No one drove a car while texting or surfed the internet. There were no remotes, and only three channels on TV. To change the channel, you had to stand up, walk to the TV and manually turn the knob. Two generations prior to mine, there were no cars, no electric lights, phones or travel by air. Think about it.

When I was growing up, very few Americans did yoga or T'ai Chi or meditated. These practices, that steady the attention and help people feel centered and grounded, are an important anchor, a counterbalance, to the chaos of change.

It's happening fast!

“I’m certain that rapid evolution occurs. We just don’t know to look for it,” --evolutionary biologist Michael Travisano

Open your eyes, Dr. Travisano, and behold the iphone, an almost miraculous tool with which to further evolution. This device has become, for many of us, an extension of the body. I'm fascinated and thrilled, knowing that in my brain, there is a map that includes the iphone as part of my body/mind. I'm not at all embarrassed to admit it. Learn the technology, people! It will help us move forward, out of the era of fallout and chaos, towards what lies ahead.

Is what comes next the singularity? I have no idea, but if crazy dudes like Raymond Kurzweil are correct, it will behoove us all to learn the technology now, before it's incorporated into the body. Work with the algorhythms of Facebook, Pandora radio and such. Get inside the way these things work. It can only help.

Go ahead and multitask - safely, please! - because that practice creates neural networks of great complexity. Also, please meditate - you MUST meditate, actually. You must. Do yoga or take up a martial art; find a way to practice steadying your attention between bouts of multi-tasking. Stretch your mind in ways you've never stretched it before. Otherwise, the world will only become more bewildering to you. Eventually, those who resist this leap will die out, like the poor Neanderthals, the dodo, and all other species who could not, for one reason or another, adapt.

We can't keep doing what we've been doing. If we persist, it will be the end of us all. C'mon, y'all. It's happening, right now. Jump in with both feet, hey? Oh yeah.

We were so idealistic in the 70s - and may I say it straightaway? - dorky as all get out. But we saw something coming, we did.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Revelations about happiness, pt. 2

I'm almost halfway through the Track Your Happiness study. The process continues to provide one revelation after another. I am a devoted naval gazer, and still, every day my eyes are opened to patterns and habits I had no idea existed.

My participation involves keeping an eye on the iphone (never a problem for me). Three times a day, at random, a text arrives with a link to a short survey. The questions are simple, but provocative. Almost always the first question is a slider from "very bad" to "very good." The question is, "How good do you feel right now?" It's a vague question, oh yeah. I have to stop, scan my body, mind and heart, I have to ask myself how good I feel at that second. When I meditate and pray in the morning, I do this sort of scan, after which I forget to check in with myself for the rest of the day. It is so interesting.

One of things I've learned is that I'm happier indoors than outdoors. This may be true only because we're in the middle of a dark, cold, gray winter weather pattern. But I would never have guessed that since I value spending time outside so deeply. Values and reality can clash. Wow.

Part of what the researchers are trying to correlate is the relationship between happiness and what is now called "flow" - the state of being fully present, focused and in the moment. The survey asks how focused I was on whatever I was doing just before the text arrived. If I'm not fully focused (most of the time), the survey will ask if my extraneous thoughts had to do with judgments about myself. The possible answers include "no," "yes, positively," "yes, neutrally," and "yes, negatively."

I am such a self-scolder! Almost always I must answer that I'm negatively judging myself. Even when I'm doing something very positive, productive or fun, I'm simultaneously waving a finger at myself because it's not good enough or I should be doing something else. Good lord.

It's a very low level sort of thing, which must account for why I have not noticed this before. Ten years on the couch in therapy helped me turn down the volume, but it's still there, ongoing at all times. Dear friends mention often that my self esteem is not up to snuff, but I haven't listened to them because I'm mostly happy, especially compared to when I was younger. I see now that I must unhinge this thought pattern, because life is short! What am I waiting for?

Who knows what else I'll discover?

Here's the link to the Track Your Happiness site. It only works on iphones. If you don't have an iphone, for heaven's sake, get one. It opens doors and windows to experiences you can't get any other way. Here's a link to my original post about the study.

Have a happy day! Shalom.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


It was many years ago that a client I'll call S. died from breast cancer. She was 32 years old. Yes it was tragic, though she had suffered from the disease for four years. By the time she passed, she was ready. She was a soldier as is her husband. They had no kids, so they didn't have to contend with that. They were practical people. It was sad and it was a relief.

Here on Capitol Hill we are rallying around a family dealing with the imminent passing of their 28 year old daughter from a cancer so aggressive and rare, no one from Sloan Kettering to NIH has had a clue how to treat it. They tried every concoction of toxic chemo, all of which made this young woman miserable. Nothing slowed the growth of the cancer. The lesions are everywhere, growing exponentially.

She was diagnosed in September 2011. She's at home at last this weekend, away from the hospital setting. Home hospice has been set up. Now the family waits. It's the worst part.

This family has a lot of support from neighbors and friends, also from their spiritual community. Still, and of course, the parents are a wreck. I'm sending them a steady stream of Reiki, holding them in my heart of hearts.

In a situation like this it's hard to know what to pray for. I think it's more about giving it up, turning it over, surrendering to a greater wisdom, than asking for a particular outcome. Actually it's probably always better to surrender to a greater wisdom when praying. Yeah.

Like everyone else in the community, I'm waiting, thinking about the family, feeling grateful for my good health and well being, appreciating in ways I'm not normally able, how precious and beautiful life is.

Thanks for allowing me to share this sad news. Shalom.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dance of the Lizard Brains

Contemplating the reasons why unrequited and star-crossed love is more compelling (in movies and books at least) than "live happily ever after" love, brings me back to a thought I often entertain: most, if not virtually all of our behavior is linked in some way to instinct.

The life force is very influential! That force powers survival and procreation of the species on a personal as well as tribal level. Because we can't help but create stories about everything - it's how we're built - of course the story of consummation would loom large in our psyches. The story of how we consummate love is more interesting than the settle-down-and-live-happily-ever part. Once a baby is conceived, the instinct to procreate has been satisfied. Without instinct driving the storytelling we're always engaged in, interest drops off.

We aren't the only species to do the mating dance; in fact I don't know of any species that doesn't have some form of mating ritual. With these dances, back and forth, closer then further away, fighting, making up, making love, we honor the life force in all its majesty.

Hence in fact the drama of star crossed love is a sacred enactment of one of our most deeply seated instincts. We make these stories fantastic, complex, heart warming or wrenching, even funny, but the behavior from where these stories arises comes from the brain stem, not the fancy machinations of the frontal lobes.

It's interesting to think about.

Today in DC is icy, bitter. The lizard brainstem inside my big ole skull is directing me to stay safe. What that looks like from the vantage point of my storyteller cerebral cortex is a day mostly indoors, drinking tea and listening to music. In so doing I serve the will to survive by staying safe and warm.

I'm good with that! Shalom.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's not to love?

At last, it seems, winter has settled in and on the swampy landscape of Washington DC. It was not quite 20 F. outside this morning when I checked the thermometer at 7:00 a.m. I turn the heat down before I go to bed at night, which means by the time I rise, the chateau has cooled to about 60 F., but this morning it was a seriously chilly 55 F. according to the indoor thermometer. Brrrrrrrrr!! Fortunately the radiant heat works quickly in this small space. In the meantime, my cup of hot coffee visibly steamed and of course tasted even better than usual.

Because I'm lucky enough to live indoors, I enjoy the few very cold days of a typical DC winter. A hard freeze clears the insects and sets the bulb flowers. Energetically a hard freeze is cleansing. Cold brings stillness and quiet; the birds and squirrels tuck themselves away, and so do the humans for the most part. We go on about our business of course, but instead of strolling, gathering, and chatting, I see my fellow Washingtonians dashing to their cars, hunkering down within the hoods of their parkas while they wait for the bus, walking fast and furious to the subway stations.

Of course I'll get out there for awhile today. I'll be bundled up and it's likely I'll be walking more briskly than usual, but I'll be smiling, yes indeed.

Brother Sun is a shiny shade of white today, the sky is a dainty blue. The day calls! I love winter!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Revelations about happiness

Just two days into the happiness project and already I've learned so many things. One is that being able to focus on the task at hand greatly increases my enjoyment, whether I'm cleaning house or taking a walk. It's not the activity or where I am, it's how much I'm able to be present that counts most. Even daydreaming about fun stuff while doing something else decreases my happiness. No wonder I meditate! Also, no wonder I love my work so much. When doing massage, I can't get distracted, I must be totally focused on my client. Very cool to know its the ability to focus as much as the work itself that is rewarding.

I'm wondering about my experience with NaNoWriMo, how obsessed I was, how totally focused I was on the writing. Was I happy? Because I've also learned that after sitting in front of the laptop, I am in general very physically uncomfortable. During November I was in front of the computer a lot. I don't remember feeling physically stiff but i must surely have been! It's interesting to think about.

Two of my happiest mundane activities are shopping for food and cooking, both of which I did yesterday. If that's the only thing I got out of my marriage, well then, ok!

Do these conditions apply to everyone? I wonder because I know folks who can focus for hours on their work, but have no clue how to relax. I always thought that was a problem, but maybe I'm wrong about that. Hmmmm.

Have a happy day today, yes? I say yes. Shalom.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I recently signed up with Track Your Happiness. That means I'm now an official participant in the Harvard Happiness Study. If you don't know about the study, check out this story from the Atlantic Magazine. Fascinating stuff, and so American, isn't it? Talk about the right to pursue happiness! Oh Thomas Jeff, are you smiling at us? Ha.

Three generations of Harvard researchers have worked relentlessly to understand the mysteries of happiness. I find this encouraging and kind of funny. The history of the project is interesting. In the 30s and 40s when the project began, they only studied the lives of successful white men - of course! Sometime during the 60s or 70s it occurred to the second generation of researchers to expand the focus, include a variety of people. Now the new generation of scholars is conducting study through an app for the iphone, thereby including virtually everyone, well, anyone who has an iphone. The study of happiness has adapted to the Age of Aquarius. I love it!

One unexpected benefit of joining the study is that the prompts and mini-surveys I receive every day make me actually stop to think about what I'm doing at that exact moment, whether that activity/thought form/behavior is satisfying. I'm asked to notice whether or not I'm happy to be engaged in my regular life. I usually attach happiness to either special events, like a vacation or special dinner date, or in general. Am i happy in general these days? Yes! But it's interesting to look at the mundane events - do the small moments of this or that make me happy?

I'm finding out a lot about what does and doesn't add to my happiness. Really cool! If you have an iphone, click on the first link above and join. If you don't have an iphone yet, I highly recommend you get one as soon as possible.

Life is short. Why not?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Butterfly Effect

I'm continually bewildered by the popularity of books like "The Secret" and a hundred others in which the author asserts (maybe even believes?) that the only thing you have to do in order to change your life is to imagine what you want. Visualize your perfect life, et voila! - everything you desire will manifest. I mean, really, who believes it's that simple? If that were true, wouldn't everyone have the perfect life? For heaven's sake. The worst twist this line of non-logic takes is when it blames anyone who doesn't have the perfect life for not visualizing clearly enough. As if the starving kid in rural India created her situation. Talk about mean spirited!

On the other hand, what we think, how we behave and what we actually do in the world has impact. Like the butterfly effect, a careless word spoken in haste can cause all kinds of trouble. An act of kindness can radiate good vibes, yep. Every decision we make - changing jobs, partners, moving to a new house or a new city, affects the people, animals, and landscapes surrounding us.

The way we think, what we think, matters. There's a good reason placebos are effective; the mind is powerful. That saying, Be careful what you wish for, is well worth heeding. But the mind isn't ALL powerful. Hey?

Nothing about the way life unfolds is simple. I would like to sit down with Abraham Hicks, for instance, or with the author of "The Promise" (whose name I can't remember) to ask what they think happens when everyone's slightly or extremely different visualizations collide in the matrix of interconnection among all beings. Whose dream prevails? Which visualization has the right of way?

I may not be the superhero of my destiny, but I am the central character of my life story. Trying to be mindful, I dance the lead in my personal myth, sometimes gracefully, other times not so much. When I trip and fall, I try not to blame myself for not visualizing clearly, or others - unless they intentionally threw a banana peel on the path in front of me. My goal, as I pick myself up, is to learn something.

I learned a lot during the past few days. I am again standing upright, and I believe I might have come out of this a little bit smarter. This is a good thing!

Happy Monday. Shalom.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Separation of Church and State, as it were

I live in a small village inside a large city. In our village of Capitol Hill, many of us embody several roles, i.e. neighbor, client, doctor, friend, business owner. We have professional personas, private personas, business personas ... it can get tricky in ways that don't exist in more anonymous locations where folks are known mostly in one role or another.

I say I am a massage therapist, but the truth is that no one comes to see me more than once who is looking strictly for massage. People who become ongoing clients are looking for something more complicated. They come for spiritual counseling, energy work AND bodywork. They come for healing. This is my best thing, sitting with the things people tell me (you would not believe what people say before they get on the table!), dealing with the details of their illnesses, injuries, with the revelations that come to them when they're on the table. Just plain bodywork, without the counseling, listening, encouragement and energy work, would be intimate - as bodywork always is - yet I believe the sessions would be unremarkable.

May I say before I continue that Mama Gaia Reya, the name for my role as healer, is a beautiful experience for me as well. I am encouraging, positive, a careful listener. I implore my clients and students to forgive themselves and others, I take the high road. Ah, Mama Gaia Reya is really something!

Likewise here and on my other blog, what I decide to publish is a careful selection, including today's post, should say. People tend to say, "Reya I can't believe how you say EVERYTHING on your blog." I've said it before, let me say it again, I do NOT say everything! I am NOT saying everything today. God no way! I have a way of sounding personal when in fact my deepest secrets and truths are well hidden behind a smoke screen of theories, contemplations and philosophical discourses. I do that on purpose.

The regular, everyday me can be officious (ask my sisters), bossy, a terrible listener, judgmental, high-fallutin', pretentious, argumentative and sometimes just plain rude or even mean! I know some bloggers love being snarky on their blogs. I could be, trust me. But I'd rather put a different quality out onto the network. I try not to cultivate the parts of myself that aren't very nice, but they are there, of course. Makes sense, right?

No matter how often my clients and students say they understand this reality, somehow, somewhere inside, they don't believe it. When I've attempted to become friends with people who came to me originally to study the Art, or for healing, it always ends in disaster when I relax and begin to relate to them from my wholeness rather than a selected role. At that moment, I'm feeling enough trust in the other person to reveal my less than noble personality traits. It's always a big mistake. They are so SHOCKED to find out how deeply flawed I really am. And then things go downhill fast, next thing you know they are no longer coming for bodywork, AND they hate me. It is not pleasant for either of us, I can assure you. Holy cow.

Brother Eagle tells me I do a great disservice to my students and clients by trying to become their friends. This morning, I am at last seeing the wisdom of this boundary. Oh Brother Eagle, you are so wise! Thank you for continually repeating this message to me. At last, I've got it! Clean boundaries are healthy. I'm going to clean up my act in this area of my life at last. I will be proud in a healthy way. Thank you!

And to the rest of you, thank you for listening!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brain Stew

I'm standing on a Connecticut Avenue bridge looking out over Rock Creek Park near the zoo. Creepy!

I've got a bunch of great new photos to post, but too much to say, all of which is not yet speech ripe. Here's a list of things I have nothing smart to say about ... yet.

1. I am, and am not, the superhero of my personal myth cycle. (The name of this half-formed post is "The Butterfly Effect.")

2. I'm thinking about pride as Goldilocks would address that quality; not too proud, but not deflated either. In particular I'm realizing that self-confidence (NOT arrogance) involves understanding that what I say and do has an impact.

3. When I cook, I'm happy. So my marriage wasn't actually a total wash.

4. I re-arranged the furniture in my bedroom this week, after which the feng shui within and without shifted. An old friend I've known forever started flirting with me (so weird! I'm sure this phase will pass.) Also, suddenly half and half tastes strange in my morning coffee. WTF is that all about?

5. People come and go from the saga of my life. Thinking about people who were, at one time, close friends until suddenly, from out of the nowhere (or so it seems to me) they are beamed out of my saga. Someone has recently removed herself from the saga. I'm feeling sad and perplexed about it and even though she wishes to blame me, it's very clear that she created the crisis that broke the connection. I've experienced this before; I will accept it eventually but it's so weird.

I could go on, but you get the idea. I watch the thoughts whirling around my head but for some reason I can't grasp them, I can't get them inside a cage of words. Not yet. C'est la vie!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Appreciation for my teachers

I love delicious serendipities. For instance yesterday, one of the group of people I usually refer to as "my very great teachers" just happened to tune in here. She read the last post about storytelling. It's just perfect because she is the great teacher who introduced me to the idea of sacred drama in the first place, many years ago. She doesn't always come to see what I've written as she is a university professor, mom, married person and keeper of Very Energetic Dogs, so she really hasn't a lot of spare time. Still, something inspired her to come have a look. That makes me smile.

Great teachers are rare; I'm talking about the people who know what they're talking about, have a certain flair for dramatic presentation and some kind of odd, nerdish charisma that creates an atmosphere in which students actually want to pay attention. Really great teachers become excited when they see lightbulbs above their students' heads. They are able to magnify their excitement until it fills the room.

Today I'm wondering about the people who eschew good teachers, who want to learn everything themselves (for reasons I can't comprehend - is it necessary to reinvent the wheel?). Likewise I'm wondering about those whose arrogance prevents them from admitting how wonderful it is to be a student. What is up with that? I don't get it, but I wouldn't, would I?

I am in awe of my great teachers, all of them. That includes Jake, who was a formidable teacher in so many ways, the human teachers from whom I've learned so much, also my spirit guides who never steer me in the wrong direction (though sometimes I don't listen to them) and the weather, which always explains everything. For instance, today it's sunny and sparkling after a heavy rain last night. The high today will be close to 60. You'd better believe I'll be out there, walking around, taking pictures - and no doubt learning something or another. Oh yeah.

In the meantime, here is one of my favorite poems. I post it regularly here because it is absolutely true. Have a wonderful Thursday. Shalom.


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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What's the story?

We had some snow yesterday for the first time this winter. It's all gone today.

Besides being a social, optimistic, audacious, creative, ambitious species, we homo sapiens are quintessential story tellers. In fact, a big part of what the brain does is interpret and shape incoming information so as to create the story of "reality." Yeah, reality is nothing more than a story our little buddy the hippocampus tells us.

We enact the stories we tell ourselves with great drama and great flair. All of life's a stage on which we play out the ancient myths, generation after generation. Choose any myth based on the archetype of the hero's journey, from the Odyssey to the Quest for the Grail, to the movies about superheros - all these stories are artful creations that describe the experience of transformation. Becoming (another way to think about it) is the essential "truth" of life lived in a human body. Who among us hasn't, at one time or another, had to slay a dragon, capture the golden fleece, behead the gorgon, travel to faraway lands and places, face hardship and fear, and finally endure a rite of passage in order to become more fully realized? Coming of age, graduations, marriage, pursuits of spirit and body, as well as climbing the ladder at work, all require valour, courage, and persistence. To prevail on planet birth, you must be a hero, hence the stories of derring do.

The hero's journey arises from the story of birth, told from the perspective of the baby. It is the foundational event that becomes the foundational myth describing the way our lives unfold in ever changing environments. We re-enact that myth countless times and in many arenas during the span of our lifetimes.

We are profoundly ingenius. Even at night we tell ourselves stories in dreamland. If we weren't storytellers, what would "reality" look like? I guess I'll never know which is fine by me!

Yesterday I told a friend that if life were a movie (and oh my it surely is), then my marriage was a rather prolonged intermission. She laughed, but then said I was incorrect to assert I gave my husband the best years of my life because this period of time, right now, right here in the chateau on a beautiful street in a magnificent city - THESE are the best years of my life. Oh yeah, she is spot on!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it! Shalom.

Tonka twitched and sniffed in his sleep, telling himself a story of canine heroism, no doubt!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I should always listen to my sisters

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung

Uncle Carl said so many wise things - wow. The problem with the above is that it's not possible to make the unconscious conscious, not all of it, not even most of it. Just as the universe is made mostly of dark matter and space, so are we mostly unconscious. In fact part of the job description of consciousness is to block out huge swaths of what we perceive and experience. If we were consciously aware of everything we receive through the six senses, if we were conscious of everything that resides in the shadows of ourselves, we'd be reduced to slack-jawed, wide-eyed, drooling beings, unable to do much more than say Oh wow all the time. Thank god for our little buddy the hippocampus, choosing what and what not to notice. Our species would be long gone from planet earth except for it.

We can't make everything conscious, hence there is fate. It's interesting to think about.

My great teachers always said that the key to mastery has nothing to do with how much psychic information a person has access to, it's all in choosing what merits one's attention, because really I could stand outside, gazing at the sky, taking in the shapes, listening to the whispers of Brother Wind all day and night, no problem. But would that help set me in the direction of my soul's purpose? Sometimes, yes, other times, a cigar is just a cigar and a cloud shape is just a cloud shape.

When I've wandered afield, away from the river of my destiny, my emotional responses act as an internal alert system. When something feels off, I can then, with great intention, begin to work my way back to a place in which I'm best able to embody my soul's purpose. Though it would be gratifying to believe my marriage was an important part of my destiny, in my heart of hearts I am at last admitting it was just a big ole waste of time. It felt wrong from the get-go. It did not nourish my heart, body or spirit, did not further my soul's evolution. Can I say it here and then let go once and for all? I gave that man the best years of my life! Ha.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” ― C.G. Jung

Yeah. There was no reaction, no transformation. Nope.

Many thanks to all who hung in here the last few days as I wrote about my failed marriage. All that talk of destiny was my way of sounding high minded, but really it was navel gazing. I'm now accepting what my marriage was - and wasn't. I feel at last I can put that chapter of my life back on the bookcase where those memories can gather dust into perpetuity. It no longer merits my attention. Was it boring? Probably. Thanks for listening and happy Sunday. Shalom.

“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”
― C.G. Jung

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's complicated!

I'm having so much fun thinking about destiny, reflecting on various eras in life, thinking about what has, also what has NOT, furthered my process of becoming authentic. Thanks for joining me!

"Why am I here?" is a question a whole swack of smart people have asked themselves at one time or another. We are a curious species; it's no wonder that we wonder about it.

For some, there is a predetermined path laid out before them at birth, one from which they couldn't stray no matter what choices they make. For people who believe that what happens is exactly what was supposed to, there is no regret. How could a person feel regretful if it's all part of the greater plan? In a way, that kind of world view is very liberating. Do whatever the hell you want - it's all part of the Plan.

There are many for whom the idea of destiny does not strike a chord. For them, life on earth is random and unstructured. In a sense these people's values are similar to the ones who believe in predetermined fate. Do whatever you want because there is no master plan or even a river in which to get into the flow.

Not to say that either the fatalistic people or those who have no link with destiny are careless, no way! I know a lot of people I love and respect who try to make the best choices they can in order to live a happier life. There's nothing wrong with that!

Then there are those of us who subscribe to the river of destiny concept - I am among that crowd, obviously. Yes there are certain aspects of life that are indeed set in stone, or maybe I should say, set in bone. Plant an acorn, but please do not hope or expect that an apple tree will grow from that seed. It ain't gonna happen! Jing ancestry is pretty concrete. And yet there's so much about life that is unformed until we put our minds and opposable thumbs to work on it. According to my cosmology, destiny requires our participation.

I work in partnership with my scarce jing ancestry by trying to take care of my health, by strengthening my relationship with my family as best I can. Likewise I try to listen to my ancestors of spirit and blood, I have a very engaged relationship with God, my beloved spirit and animal guides, my friends in the mesosphere, the mighty dead, the weather, seasons, and the behavior of the people around me. All of these relationships guide me towards my soul's purpose, whether or not the way life unfolds is rational.

Right before I got married, my sister begged me not to go through with it. I believe she was speaking not only from her own great wisdom and love for me, but also for the kind influences who wished for my happiness and evolution. But did I listen? Hell no!!

Some days I wonder what message is being put before me that I, for one reason or another, cannot perceive. I try so hard, I do, but I have often missed the mark. It's OK, I'm a human, bound to make mistakes, yes? I say yes.

When I took this picture, I thought it was an owl face in the clouds, but today it looks like a cat face.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I did not marry well

When I say my marriage was not part of the river of my destiny, I usually fail to mention that during those years I had a great many experiences I would otherwise have missed. With my ex-husband I traveled around the world - literally. That's something I would never have done otherwise, I'm quite sure.

Maybe, if I hadn't been married to my ex, I would never have learned to cook, something he encouraged me to try. I love cooking, entertaining and feeding people. Learning to cook was and has been a wonderful, marvelous, deeply enjoyable experience. Cooking is fantastic, I LOVE cooking, but is cooking part of my destiny? No it is decidedly not. Learning to cook was a side-effect of my marriage, a lovely side-effect, should say.

What do I mean when I say my marriage was an off-ramp that side tracked my quest? My marriage was "wrong," ill-fitting, like a barrier I had to find my way around rather than a situation in which my ex and I could evolve and become better suited to life's exingencies. For instance, my ex discouraged me from going to massage school. He said the idea of me as a successful bodyworker was inconceivable. OK, did I have to listen to him? I guess not, but I did take his word quite seriously. He was a smart, creative man and I trusted his opinions.

Also he was staunchly opposed to getting a dog. What he said was that if I got one, he would have nothing to do with feeding, walking or caring for the animal. So I didn't get a dog. After we divorced he adopted a shelter dog who looked so much like Jake it was weird. Who knows what THAT was all about?

It was while I was married that I began to study shamanism in earnest - with no encouragement from my ex at all. He thought I should study Buddhism. He had nothing kind to say about my teachers, dismissed my budding spirituality as total crap, refused to allow me to build an altar in our house. Should I have fought for the altar? Who knows?

It's fair to say that my ex couldn't in any way perceive my talents, my potential. He was incapable of encouraging me to do the very things that have helped me become authentic. He was opposed to all the ways in which I've become whole, happy and fulfilled in my life. My role in all that was to take him so seriously, to trust his view more than what I wished for in my heart of hearts. I'll own that bit, for sure.

I guess it could be argued that my ex was a kind of guardian at the gate, someone I could have/should have challenged, or maybe it wasn't time yet for me to find my authentic destiny. I guess, maybe I was meant to sit around twiddling my thumbs for the better part of ten years. Looking back on it, it's hard not see my marriage as a complete waste of time.

My ex is not a bad person, was not a bad person, only blind to the real me, as was I.

I think of him now like the crazy blind man guarding the bridge in Monty Python's The Holy Grail. Just as with that character, he was jettisoned from my life when I finally questioned his opinions.

I row, row, row my boat these days, gently down the stream of my destiny, single and grateful.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Steady as she goes?

What is your destiny? Do you believe in it? According to my cosmology, destiny is co-created, an ongoing, complicated performance art project, a situation in which my ancestors of blood, spirit and karma play a significant part, also the stars and planets, God (such as that force guides everything more or less) and of course me and my puny human power of free choice (only puny in comparison to the vast forces that shape "reality.")

The path of destiny creates a magnetic tug that pulls me in the direction of its fulfillment. I am drawn towards the landscapes, the work, the people and the situations necessary for its manifestation in this lifetime. Destiny is a river, one of many rivers flowing through the ocean of energy in which we live out our lives on planet earth. Anytime I find myself row, row, rowing my boat gently down the river of destiny, all feels "right" somehow, even when shit happens, as they say. Do you know what I'm talking about?

The path or river of destiny is jammed with crossroads, intersections and off ramps, making possible the use of free will, though when I stray from the path laid out before me, turn right instead of left, for instance, I know it immediately. Suddenly I feel off, I feel wrong. I felt that wrongness throughout my marriage, for instance. Oh yeah.

Earlier in life it was harder to sense, but as I grow older the feeling of offness is much more potent, far more insistent. One of my teachers used to say that the job of the Fates is to guide us back to the river of destiny. Sometimes that guidance is gentle, sometimes not so much! I remember my divorce. Oy vey!

I'm thinking about it today because the Sufi acupuncturist was describing the attributes of Zong Qi yesterday - a gathering of ancestral chi in the chest. He told me about the unfolding of familial jing, the life force energy we literally inherit, the code of DNA that determines hair color and nearsightedness, for instance, also the physical ailments that are characteristic in families. In my family that would include all manner of respiratory stuff: allergies, asthma, colds, etc.

He also spoke of shen, the spirit, how that ethereal river is also part of our inheritance. Those of us who never exactly fit into our families perhaps follow the path of shen inheritance a bit more strongly than the path of jing inheritance. We dance in shamanic alignment with the resonance of Zong Qi when making choices as opposed to sticking with the pattern of inherited jing. It's interesting to think about.

A major component of my destiny involves working with people undergoing trauma. For no logical reason, I am great with women during labor and delivery. How can that be true since I never had children of my own? Don't ask me! I'm also good with very ill people, those facing imminent death, as well as with people following a huge loss, i.e. the death of a beloved.

I am honored to understand this piece of my destiny, and bewildered by it as well. At one time in my life, the situations I'm destined to witness scared the bejesus out of me. That I can now sit with folks experiencing such powerful emotions and physical states is astonishing.

Destiny is incomprehensible! I do my best to keep my hands on the steering wheel, get out of the exit only lanes when possible, keep my eyes on the prize. It seems like the best course of action, but do I understand? No I do not! The older I get, the less I know, that's for sure!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

As if in shamanic alignment with the secular new year, winter blew cold and sharp into Washington DC last night. Oh man is it cold!

Of course it's high time for winter to arrive. We had temperatures up into the 60s all the way through New Year's Day. I'm not complaining, simply noticing how different 2012 feels from the beneficent, wonderful 2011.

I know - everybody had a bad year - except me, apparently. My sister was saying the other day that even the "good" things in 2011 were hard-won, destructive or appalling - such as the pics of Gaddafi's body in a meat locker at a shopping center. Yeah.

Good point, but 2011 was one of the best years of my life. I took a few dips but only for short moments. I'm feeling a bit wistful that its over, I admit.

I remember the years under Clinton when the U.S. was happy and prosperous. We had a huge national surplus, for instance - hard to imagine after the many disasters of the Bush years. When Clinton was president, those were the good old days - except for me. I struggled through the 90s in every way you can imagine: financially, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Am I really that much of a contrarian? If so, bloody hell. Should I wish for another year like 2011? You tell me!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Go forth

I still can not believe this is the year 2012. Holy cow. Time surely does fly.

I made a few resolutions, several of which involve getting out of the chateau more. It's so cozy and comfy here, easy to hang out - too easy. Way too easy. Yesterday I gave myself the gift of a three hour walk after which I felt refreshed and renewed. Though i still walk every day, I haven't had enough outdoor time lately. I'm reminded this morning of the benefits of communion with Father Sky, the flight pattern of birds, feeling the wind. I took at least a million pictures as I wandered. it was glorious. Later, at a "big-ass buffet" a friend hosted, everyone was telling me I looked young and fresh. It was the walk, I tell you. Walking is good for me.

Another resolution in the same vein is to travel a bit this year. I hate traveling and yes I know I'm supposed to LOVE traveling. I hate airports, airplanes. I even hate airplane jargon. Stow your personal belongings where the sun don't shine, please. I dislike living out of a suitcase, get terrible jet lag so I don't sleep, and my stomach generally hurts from the moment I leave town until I'm home again. Unfamiliar settings are overwhelming, having to engage socially is always taxing.

Yeah I am a serious deadbeat when it comes to travel but I'm feeling a need to put my feet on the crazy landscape of the west coast. I want to see friends and family I haven't seen in awhile. I'm determined to get the hell outta Dodge this year.

What will you do in 2012? It's a clean slate, the sky's the limit! Onwards and upwards, yes?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Improvisation is a skill worth cultivating. ~Jeremy Taylor

Friends at the Matchbox bar asked me to make some predictions for the new year since I am a self-proclaimed psychic. This was last night before I'd had any champagne, I should say. I did try to see around a corner in time, I squinted and strained my third eye, trying so hard to peer through the swirling, pearly veil of time. I saw shapes and colors, possibilities dancing around, but everything was in flux, blurry and incomprehensible.

I am psychic but that talent applies only in present tense. I believe the future is co-created moment to moment, hence there's no way to see what's going to happen. A year ago I did not see myself working from the chateau, not ever, and yet it came to pass. That move is the smartest decision I've ever made, by the way, but did I see it coming? I did not. Did I "see" the Arab spring, the Occupy movement? Nope. Had no idea it would be such a tumultuous year.

If life were predictable, what fun would that be? Also, i imagine that approaching more difficult years, the ability to predict would only create a sense of dread. That could not possibly help anyone, hey? I prefer an unshaped future, thank you very much.

2011 was one of the best years of my life, but it's all over now. Onwards and upwards to 2012. May it be a banner year for you and yours. Shalom.

This woman gives psychic readings at Eastern Market every weekend. She is far more confidant than I am, for sure!