Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Short Ghosts Stories and a Lengthy Recipe

I have had so many embarrassing encounters with ghosts. I remember a Halloween when I stood with the other members of my Very High Profile Coven in front of 1,500 people in the midst of our largest community ritual. My Very High Profile Coven was supposed to channel the wisdom of the Dead. There was a microphone set up in the middle of our circle of six, so that every single person in the room could hear us. We held hands, closed our eyes ... and then ... we channeled the stupid dead, or the stoner dead. I don't know who we were channeling but nothing we said made any sense at all. It was SO embarrassing.

Or the time we went to Gettysburg, five of us Powerful Wiccan Practitioners, just to map the energy, or so we said. One thing we agreed to, on the way to the battlefield, was that the five of us would stick together. But the moment the car was parked, we all jumped out and headed in opposite directions. Not only were we unable to map the energy of that haunted place, but on the ride home we couldn't agree on anything. We didn't shout at each other, but we were definitely quarrelsome. Oops. One-upped by the dead again!

Sometime I'll write about Gettysburg as the icon of divided America, not today though because I promised Willow I would publish a "recipe" for helping ghosts gently cross over to a place of healing and renewal.

Clearly I am no genius when it comes to dealing with the dead, but the following ritual IS genius. It comes from Pomegranate Doyle who was one of my Reclaiming wiccan colleagues.


What you'll need:
Someone to work with (you need two people for this ritual)
Black or white candle
Two face-sized hand mirrors. They do not have to be fancy - drugstore mirrors work just fine.
A black cloth big enough to wrap around the mirrors
Smudge stick or a dried sprig of rosemary, or bells, singing bowls, or salt water (to cleanse the space afterwards)
A sense of humor
The ability to behave as if you know what you're doing

Choose a place in the house where you feel comfortable. You could go to the most haunted space, but if it creeps you out to work there, the ritual won't work as well. Let your intuition guide you.

Light the candle. If you feel the presence of the ghosts, proceed with the order of the ritual. If you don't feel them you might have to "wake them up." That involves going to the haunted spaces and clapping your hands, snapping your fingers, knocking on the walls, saying things like "Hey! WAKE UP!" Again, let your intuition guide you.

Order of ritual:
Place the hand mirrors back to back so that the mirror surfaces are facing outwards. Hold the mirrors tightly together between the two of you, at the level of your faces.

One of you will be working with the ghost(s) themselves, the other person will be calling in loving ancestors of the ghosts who will guide the lost spirits to wherever it is they go after death.

The person who works with the ancestors simply needs to be sincere in calling them to come to "the gate" (the mirrors form a portal through which the dead can pass on). Appeal to them in terms of how they once loved the ghosts, let them know how stuck the ghosts are and how much they need the help of loving ancestors. Be firm, yet respectful. The ancestors will come, I promise.

The person who works with the ghosts needs to be more "in your face." What I do is look into the mirror and speak plainly and loudly. The point is to make the ghosts understand they are DEAD and it's time to move on. Ghosts are no smarter than you or me, and they're just as deluded. I loved the movie The Sixth Sense because Bruce Willis is so perfect as a ghost that is clueless about what happened to him.

I hold the newspaper up to the mirror and point out the date. I always say, "Look at how I'm dressed!" The last time I did this I held my ipod up to the mirror and said, "Do you know what this is? OF COURSE NOT, because it's 2008!!" When I feel that the ghost finally understands he/she IS dead, then I tell them that their ancestors are present and ready to guide them to a place of healing and renewal. I tell them it's time to go as if there is no other choice. The more conviction you can muster, the better.

When you feel the presence of the ancestors (feels very calm, wise and angelic) and when the ghosts seem to be aware of what's happening, then both of the living people begin to blow into the mirrors, each from his/her respective side of the gate. Often one person will feel warm while the other feels cold, though that doesn't always happen. You don't have to blow as hard as you can, but consistently. It might take two minutes or it might take ten minutes. You don't have to blow for an hour though - ten minutes is the absolute maximum amount of time I've ever had to blow, and that was for a LOT of ghosts.

At some point it will feel like Something Has Happened. Both people doing the ritual will know when the ghosts have crossed. Something in the room changes. Check in with each other.

Trust your intuition!

After Something Has Happened, immediately turn the mirrors to face each other and hold them together tightly. Blow out the candle. Both of the living say out loud "THE GATE IS CLOSED." Mean it when you say it. Wrap the mirrors in the black cloth and tie them securely together with string.

Some people bury the mirrors or throw them in the river. I like to get them outside of the house but I'll admit I've never buried them. After awhile the energy fades and they're just mirrors again. At that point I use them to apply mascara or whatever.

After the gate is closed and secured, cleanse the house by lighting a smudge stick and waving it around the whole house, or ringing bells or sprinkling salt water in the corners. Imagine that all the energy that doesn't belong in the house has dispersed.

Then imagine a secure boundary about the outside of the house. Sometimes it "looks" like a soap bubble, nice and shiny, that encircles the space. Turn on all the lights in the house, play music or sing, laugh, dance around like an idiot. When the house feels full of living energy, you can turn off all the electronics.

Eat something and have something non-alcoholic to drink.

That's it ... good luck!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ghost Stories, Pt. I

I've been in contact with ghosts all my life. Go ahead and be skeptical, shake your head, decide I'm a few chips short of a fish dinner, whatever you want. It's Halloween, (well tomorrow) so I'm going to tell some ghost stories. Trick or treat? Oh yeah!

Part I

The basement of the house where I grew up was haunted. It's likely that the ghosts down there would have minded their own business, except that my family inadvertently encouraged the hauntings. Almost every time we went down to the basement, we interacted with the ghosts. Of course we didn't think about it that way, but in retrospect I see how we beckoned them, by almost everything we did, to come closer to our reality. And it wasn't the good ghosts we encouraged, oh no. We called in every creepy psycho ghost, just because we didn't know what we were doing.

The kids in the neighborhood got into it, too. I think especially of my friend Dell (still a friend to this day, I should add) with whom we sat around the Ouiji* board for hours, just asking for trouble. We covered the windows, lit candles, held hands and asked the spirits to join us. What were we thinking?

One of our favorite games was Covered Wagon. We layered blankets across the ping pong table, then crawled underneath where we pretended we were traveling across the prairies. Our take on the journey was that it was quite grueling. In fact at one point we made a life-sized poppet, dressed in our clothing, that represented one of us who had died. At first it was fun to travel with the corpse, lamenting her sad death, but eventually it got really scary. I'm certain some ghost or another ensouled the poppet, just to frighten us. "Bad" ghosts really love giving us a scare, who knows why?

After awhile we had to dismantle the poppet since it creeped us out so intensely. What, or who, did we invoke? Guess I'll never know. It was quite a macabre game, when I think about it now. Traveling with a corpse? Yikes. We must all have had past lifetimes from that era.

Did we learn our lesson about poppets? Uh .. no. One year at Halloween we made a full sized coffin out of black corrugated cardboard, and laid a man-sized poppet inside it. That poppet was even scary when it wasn't in the basement. We set it up in Dell's house, put it in funny positions and everything, yet still it scared us.

One summer, we created a split-stage theater in the basement. One of our favorite plays, written by my sister Deborah, was about a poltergeist. For heaven's sake.

Looking back on it now, I'm sure the ghosts were highly entertained by our interest in them and in all things metaphysical. That basement was so creepy; in our innocence, we made it creepier. By the time my family vacated the house, the ghosts were so vivid that going down to the basement was truly terrifying. Life upstairs among the living beings wasn't so great either. I have no doubt that certain family members became possessed by spirits. I'm not blaming the ghosts for all of my family's tragedies, but ... if only we'd known what we were doing. If only.

Oh well. That was then. I know a lot more about ghosts now, including a very gentle ritual to help them cross over to a place of healing and renewal. Want to know how to do it? Part II tomorrow.

Sleep well and sweet dreams, ya'll!

*Ouiji boards invoke only the most demented spirits. If there's one in the back of your closet, I recommend that you ditch it immediately. Seriously. Ouija boards are bad news.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Art of the Compliment

Criticism is an art that has been carefully explored and fully developed. There are so many books, classes, therapy sessions in which we can learn how to be "constructively" critical in personal relationships, with employees, colleagues, neighbors, etc. There are art critics, book critics, music critics of course. "Critical thinking" is a highly valued skill in my culture. At the end of art classes, teachers deliver "critiques" of students' work. I love that word, critique - it's so ... French??

But the art of the compliment has not been researched except in the context of manners. "This pie is delicious!" is, to me, not a compliment. It's something I say to be polite and often has nothing to do with whether the pie is wonderful or not. What I'm really saying is, how nice of you to feed me. Sometimes the pie IS wonderful, but I still think that kind of statement is more about good manners than about being complimentary.

"I love you!" or "I love the way you dress!" (or whatever) also seems to be somewhat to the leeward side of a true compliment. It's a statement of personal affection, it describes an emotional response to a person. That seems distinct from a genuine compliment.

Compliments are often hard to take in, hard to take seriously. It's embarrassing to be complimented unless that compliment is perfectly constructed and sincerely delivered, but without too much energy around it.

Flattery is far worse than a simple compliment. Flattery, given or taken, gives me the willies, even though I've used flattery more times than I care to remember, in an unconscious effort to get people to like me, I'm embarrassed to admit.

Yesterday I received two compliments from two different people, both of which were so skillfully articulated, and so masterfully delivered (with just enough spin, not too much) that I was able to take them in and feel happy to have received them. Wow. It is an art.

Someone should write a book about how to issue compliments with skill and finesse. Don't you think?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First Winter Day

The rain yesterday was cold. The overcast lay low and dull in the sky. I had to keep the lights on all day at work, for the first time this season. Oh yeah, winter is definitely on its way.

In fact, yesterday was the first winter day. I'm sure autumn will return shortly, and reappear often in the coming months. The seasons tend to dance back and forth here especially at the junctures. We'll have some winter days, then a whole week of autumn days, maybe even a summer day or two in November. By December, when all the leaves have fallen, winter will settle in, dark and quiet.

Strangely I am looking forward to the holidays this year. Usually I dread them because as a single woman with no children, and family all so far away, I can't help but notice what a freak I really am. I get lonely, wonder what's wrong with me that I'm so off the mainstream path, etc. etc. It's such a pointless self flagellation, since most of the time, I'm perfectly OK with who I am and how I live. And, it's boring!

Recently, I've been diligently practicing the art of reframing my experiences, thanks to the Sufi acupuncturist who reminds me on a regular basis that "reality" is - as he says - "a leaky boat."

This year I'm reframing my sense of the coming season. I'll gather with others when I feel like it. Otherwise, when I'm home watching Hugh Grant movies, I will remember to be grateful that I'm not having to negotiate long lines at the airport, endure the inevitable family melodramas, or deal with the exhaustion that results from spending time with too many people all at once.

Life is good. I am really learning how to be grateful. At last!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Theory du Jour

What's the difference between laziness and stuckness or inertia? Isn't the term "lazy" a judgment? It means the same thing as being stuck or feeling inert, but with a sense that someone is at fault, that someone has control over whether or not there is inertia.

There's no such thing as a perpetual motion machine (though there are many thousands of Washingtonians who try to embody that idea). So sometimes things, people, ideas, projects grind to a halt and sit there until something happens to get them moving again. It's inevitable.

Stuckness, like bad moods, serves a purpose. I believe that even though sometimes the purpose is not apparent. Today's theory is that it has to do with timing. If I were in a mood to get all judgmental about human behavior, I would say that one of our big flaws is impatience. Seen through that emotional filter, nothing moves fast enough.

Once upon a time I thought laziness was connected to some kind of paralyzing fear that stopped people dead in their tracks. These days I'm questioning whether or not there really is such a thing as laziness. What do you think?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Even David Blaine Can't Hold His Breath for Nine Days

It's slower than the last nine days before a dream vacation, or the last nine days of a horrible job, the last nine days of the school year. It's worse than waiting for the results of an important medical test, for an acceptance letter into the school of your choice. You're up for an Academy Award, but it's nine days until the ceremony. You're ready to have the baby, but it's nine days until the due date.

I'm talking about the final nine days of the U.S. presidential campaign. Here in Washington DC it feels like everything is on hold until November 4. Everything. Every damn thing.

One way to pass the time is to go here. Turn up the speakers on your computer and click on everything in the room. Click more than once. It's a mindless way to amuse yourself for a few minutes while you wait, as we in DC wait - and wait - and WAIT - for election day.

Any other suggestions as to how to get through the next nine days? Please?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


One thing I appreciate about moods is that they pass. Impermanence is a large component of moody feng shui.

There are steps a person can take to enact an emotional pivot and therefore move through moods more quickly. There are countless other methods that can be employed for mood improvement, like all the alternative healing modalities, psychotherapy, etc. There are drugs (prescription, over the counter, and illicit) that will mask and/or obliterate a mood in two seconds flat. (Well ... two seconds after the drug enters the bloodstream.)

But the other way to deal with moods is to just wait. They will pass of their own accord, maybe not as quickly as they could, though sometimes they pass even more quickly if left alone to do whatever it is they came to do.

I'm not against foul moods because I think they're part of being a human being. Sometimes artists create their finest work when depressed, cranky, ill tempered or sad. I'm sure there are other benefits to bad moods, don't you think? They aren't pleasant to experience, but they can bring about good things. At least I think so.

It's when they get all sticky and adhere themselves to the heart and mind, that's when moodiness gets toxic. That's the time to use the techniques spelled out in a million self help books, or call the therapist or do something to unstick them.

My bad mood from yesterday passed quickly, mainly because of my profession. Going to work always helps. It helped, too, to see that people from all over the earth left comments about how it has been a shit week for them, too. By far the finest visual depiction of last week's mood is featured on Pod's blog.

Among many things I'm grateful for is my blog family, thanks, ya'll. I also greately appreciate the ephemeral nature of moods. They're just like the weather, shifting and changing. What a relief! Oh yeah.

Friday, October 24, 2008

(The Angels Want to Wear) My Red Shoes*

Sometimes I feel so old. I am getting up there, so I guess I'm entitled to the creaky knees, etc. Part of feeling old is a particular middle aged incredulity about the way people conduct themselves. I know, from having been around the block a few dozen times, that people don't have to be so inconsiderate.

I'm thinking about kooks like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly (American radio talk show "personalities" for those who don't know) who use their on-air time to lie about anything they want to. Why is that OK? Why are they paid millions of dollars to do so? Naturally the Republican candidates for president and especially vice president come to mind. Why is it OK to commit libel during a presidential campaign? I don't get it.

Earlier in the week I drove an hour to sit with a Tibetan Buddhist who is allegedly a great teacher. Tara Brach (who is a great meditation teacher) said, before he began speaking, that her work with him had had a profound effect on her spiritual path. But all I saw was an egomaniac telling rambling stories about his own life that he obviously felt were tremendously amusing. We in the audience were trying to be good sports, but it was hot in there, and his stories were truly boring. At times he had to say "joke" so that we understood we were supposed to laugh. Worst of all, I didn't learn a thing from him. The title of his talk was "The Great Perfection." Huh?

Maybe this has nothing to do with getting older. Maybe I just had a lackluster week of encounters with people I believe should open their eyes and look at themselves in the mirror. I'm certainly not 'the great perfection' either, for heaven's sake! Perhaps it was just an overload of inconsideration that got me so cranky.

Whatever the reason, I'm happy this week is over. Onwards and upwards to the weekend!

*Thanks, Elvis Costello, for that line, "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused ..." I'll keep trying!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Am I the Only Person Who Thinks About This Stuff?

Genetic paleontologists believe that birds are modern day dinosaurs. In fact, chickens are the closest genetic descendants of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Can you wrap your mind around that without laughing? Wow.

What I've been wondering is whether anyone has tried to figure out if dinosaurs chirped. What would "tweet tweet" sound like, a couple of octaves deeper than what we're used to, and really loud?

How about big ole T-Rex? What does "cluck cluck" or "cock-a-doodle-doo" sound like coming out of a mouth that's five feet long?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pronounced Healthy

The doc listened intently to my lungs today while I took so many deep breaths, I got a little bit dizzy. Her diagnosis? "Your lungs are perfect." What a relief! I've felt completely healthy for about a week, but was still nervous while I waited for this morning's exam. What if? I asked myself over and over again, sitting in the reception area, pretending to read my book. You never know.

On the walk home I was almost skipping with happiness. The day was resplendent, overflowing with ample gold sunshine, interesting cloud formations, finch and cardinal song and fluttering leaves. The day was, as always, a perfect reflection of my inner state of being.

The Dead were pressing close to me as I walked home. It's their time of year, which makes them especially vivid. I try not to get annoyed with all their moaning, chain rattling and dragging of limbs, try not to stare at their grey, hollow faces too much. I try to make room for them. But this morning they were really in my face, probably because I was feeling so fine.

Most ghosts don't remember coughing, congestion, earaches, sore throats, or upset stomachs. They can't recall how a broken bone or sprained ankle feels, nor do they have even the vaguest memory of chills, fever, headaches, toothaches, or other awful sensations like real hunger, real thirst. All they seem to remember about life is the sensual pleasure of it all. They yearn to taste something delicious, have sex, stop and smell the roses - literally. In fact, ghosts are stuck in a romanticized fantasy of what life is, or what life was for them, oblivious of the fact that they could move on, any time they want to, to a place of healing and renewal, not to mention reunion with their own beloveds.

It reminds me of the way we living humans romanticize our ideas of a perfect life in which we would be rich, famous, thin, gorgeous, brilliant, perfectly safe or secure, confident, happily married or whatever. It seems a human trait, whether living or dead, to long for perfection.

As much as they were bugging me this morning, I can't blame the Dead for wanting to experience again the intensity of the five senses. Being alive - especially when healthy! - is a precious existence, particularly on a glorious fall day like today. It won't last forever, so don't take it for granted, OK? A toast to life! Cheers!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Never Said It Was Rational

Brother Sun is sleeping in later each day, sneaking away beneath the western horizon earlier each night. Because the leaves haven't yet fallen off the trees, it's hard to catch any direct sunlight except at midday. The little pools of gold that do find their way to the ground are like treasure chests - fleeting, ephemeral treasure chests that disappear within minutes.

Autumn is the time of year when my primitive lizard brain gets activated by the sunset. I'll be in the middle of working on a client when suddenly I notice I'm very anxious, almost panicked, as the day fades away. What am I afraid of? The dark?

Can't be night I'm reacting to, since once it's completely dark, I immediately calm down. Strange, isn't it? This fear of sunset thing never happens during the spring or summer. By the time it gets dark in summer, it's usually a relief. The land can cool down, I can rest. But late fall/winter sunsets completely freak me out. Go figure.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Musical Chairs

Watching the Rajasthani musicians at the Sackler this morning as they enthusiastically invoked Ganesha, I was imagining that each of them must be firmly seated in their faith. Surely none of them sit around and wonder if Christianity might work better for them than Hinduism. Right?

I know plenty of Jews who are 100% Jewish, and Christians who feel very settled and proud to be exactly that. I know Pagans who long ago shrugged off whatever religion they were raised within. These people embrace their Paganism fully and enthusiastically; they never look back.

Maybe it's because I'm such a spiritual misfit that I sometimes envy those who have a serious grip on one, just ONE, religious path. Me? I'm a JewishTengriBuddhistMysticTaoistPaganSufiAgnostic. I even feel Christian, at least for Easter, a holiday I adore. Confusing? Yeah. I think so, too.

Am I a "well seated" JewishTengriBuddhistMysticTaoistPaganSufiAgnostic? How in the world could I be? My goodness.

In the realm of the spirit, I belong everywhere and nowhere. Usually that's OK with me, though some days I have a secret hankering for spiritual monogamy. I imagine that identifying with a specific religion would bestow me with a crystal clear head, a crystal clear heart.

It's a fantasy, isn't it, to think a well defined path would somehow be better for me? Isn't it? In my heart of hearts, God whispers Oh yeah!! Nice fantasy though.

In spite of my multiple spirituality disorder, I feel so well loved. Thanks God!

Invocations of Ganesha: Rupayan and Kalapriya
10:30 am each day
Freer steps and plaza (rain location, Sackler pavilion)
To inaugurate each day’s activities, Rajasthani dancers from the Kalapriya dance company of Chicago join musicians from the Rupayan ensemble of Jodhpur to invoke Ganesha, the deity who removes obstacles to all endeavors.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Down the Drain Goes John McCain

Though I did watch Keith Olbermann, I took the advice of many people whose opinions I respect and avoided all the other talking heads last night. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

The Washington Post (finally) endorsed Obama. I think Joe the Plumber (who isn't named Joe and isn't a plumber and doesn't make the money he said he did and doesn't even pay his taxes) might have, once and for all, convinced the editors at the Post that it was time to take a stand. "Joe the Plumber" is the perfect trickster archetype. Wow.

I'm still not sure what will happen November 4th. Plenty of Americans think differently than I do. We'll see.

In the meantime, it's heartening to see the Post support Obama. Read it and weep, John.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Solemn Oath

After the elections, I'm going to quit watching the news cold turkey. Mark my words! (There's no point in trying to stop now - it would be like starting a diet right before the holidays. Forget that!)

It's a pernicious addiction. It feels noble, because I'm Staying Informed, but my goodness it has gotten a bit out of hand. I dreamed that Keith Olbermann of MSNBC wanted to receive a massage. Once he was on the table, I realized he was just a wax figure, like one of those creepy statues in wax museums. Last night, after the debate, I dreamed I was married to Obama. We were about to sit down for Shabbat dinner together when a client walked up and told me she had to change her appointment. She said, "Now that you're the first lady, can I still email when I need to change appointment times, or do I need to send a formal written letter?" I was considering what might be proper when I woke up. It was 4:00 a.m. I wanted so much to go back to that dream, but to no avail.

In two and a half weeks the campaign will be history. Maybe then I can get back to my usual pursuits - reading books for instance! Drawing, writing, playing my drum. Even watching movies would be better than having my eye glued relentlessly to the news.

For now, though, my days consist of a series of talking heads on the boob tube (as we used to call it), occasionally punctuated by actual "real" life activities. For heaven's sake, Reya, GET A LIFE!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shadows of Past Lives

Disclaimer: Many people in many cultures throughout history have believed in the transmigration of souls from one body to the next. So although this is not a popular belief in this culture at this time in history, I'm not really a weirdo, just a stranger in a strange land. ... end disclaimer ...

I've always envied (and felt suspicious of) people who have had glamorous past lives. You hear about them, they write books and go on lecture tours because they can remember living on Atlantis. Or they were Cleopatra or Jane Austin, you know. They brought all the glamour and wisdom of those famous people with them into this lifetime and now they're making a buck off their memories. OK. Why not?

I remember past lives, lots of them. Unfortunately my past lives were anything but glamorous. In the recent past I was a military nurse which meant I cleaned up blood and vomit, and mopped the foreheads of young men while they died of infections. Not glamorous. No one is going to give me a book contract to write about those lives.

I've also served many a lifetime as maid, cook, and nanny. It has been my job, over and over again, to make the beds, do the laundry and clean the quills of folks like Jane Austin, to ensure that these people could write down all their beautiful words for posterity. Actually, those lives weren't all bad. I believe I remember having a lot of fun in those lifetimes, you know, nipping a shot of the cooking sherry then sneaking out for wild trysts with the gardener. Oh yeah.

Of course I've also had thousands of lifetimes as a shaman, dancing around like a madman, battling demons, beating my drum, trancing ecstatically and often getting sucked into power struggles with other shamans, never to a good end. Shamans do not necessarily ever develop "people skills." Maybe that's why I'm so introverted in this life.

It's these photos that got me to thinking about my past lives. Gazing at the shadows of these objects is somewhat like looking at their past lives, at least that's what I see. The leaf at the top, for instance, must surely have been a bird in a past life, yes? And the twig below? A little garden snake. Don't you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Crazy Sky

Do you pray? I do, every day. Sometimes my prayers are nice and neat, following a graceful curving trajectory of devotion. Some days my prayers lurch forwards like a car with a bad transmission. Some days - like yesterday - they are just all over the map, chaotic and perhaps even incomprehensible, yet sincere. I'm always sincere when I pray, which, according to Rabbi Manewith, is the only thing you really need in order to communicate with God.

Yesterday's sky was a perfect reflection of the haphazard melange of my prayers. On the way to work I noticed that the clouds had formed an oval bowl over Capitol Hill (see pic above). The bowl was filled with wispy clouds, like steam rising from soup. Very weird. I've never seen cloud configurations like this and wonder what kind of celestial energy could cause it. It looked to me like the soup lifestyle, also kind of like the "empty bowl" I try to be when I meditate. Except it wasn't empty. Hm.

Later in the day the sky went completely crazy. It was as if every kind of cloud formed all at once, layered one on top of the next. There was no rhyme nor reason to that sky, just like my prayers.

Please let the rains come to southeast Africa, as soon as possible, OK?
Please help my clients with cancer find the right drug cocktails so they can tolerate chemotherapy.
I can't find my favorite healing crystal. You know the one. Will you help me locate it?
Can you PLEASE teach me how to be as calm as Barack Obama?

There were more prayers of request, but I will spare you the whole list.

No doubt yesterday's cloud formations were also reflective of the chaos and confusion we're enduring here leading up to the presidential election, and with the financial markets bouncing up and down like yo-yo's. Talk about no rhyme nor reason. Looking up at the crazy sky, I thought, Beautiful! But I also thought Uh-oh. Disturbing!

What next?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Perhaps the Idea of Organic Hierarchy is the Problem

I've been reading about brain plasticity, a topic fascinating to me, but ... uh ... perhaps not so interesting to other people. That grey goo up there in your head? It "knows" so many things! Even more impressive, the brain can improvise when little bits of it get injured. Wow. No wonder scientific culture has elevated the brain to top dog status in the hierarchy of human organs.

Traditionally, the heart is king of the organs, and it's true that the heart has its own little brain, its own customs and behaviors that are as marvelous as the brain. In fact I prefer the heart at the top of the pyramid of organs.

Oh but I am enjoying learning about the quivering, mushy, wrinkly mass that lies just behind the eyes, sending and receiving its tiny bolts of lightning, making decisions and sending those decisions back down the spinal column all day and night. Very cool!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Glorious Melancholy

It was a nearly perfect summer here in Washington DC - warm but not too hot, not too humid (except for a few days). It was sunny, but not relentlessly. The storm gods blessed us with many beautiful, vivid and dramatic thunderstorms. Summer segued gracefully into a perfect fall. For weeks it's been sunny and warm enough during the day to wear teeshirts and shorts, yet crisp and cool at night. Who could ask for anything more?

Like many of my blog buddies, I feel at a turning point. The bout of pneumonia was transformative for me, maybe just because it made me stop - really stop - and think about things. It scared me into an appreciation of life and health. I don't mean to, but I sometimes take my good health for granted. Not this year, though.

As a result of being ill, I can remember again that everything I need is right here at my fingertips - both "good" and "bad." Even the chaos in the world financial system and the downright nastiness of the presidential campaign (now in its final days, thank God), is motivating me to think carefully about what is and what isn't important. The result of these contemplations is a sense that something wonderful is right around the corner, and that with my renewed sense of liveliness, I might be able to recognize the wonder when I come into contact with it. It's an interesting paradox to be lovingly guided in the aftermath of illness and in the midst of chaos. But - isn't that how fall always is, full of sadness for the waning light and shriveling of summer's green lushness, but also exciting and full of promise?

The weather always explains everything. What it's telling me this year is that everything is exactly as it should be. Not to worry, let the leaves fall where they may. In the midst of paradox, still getting my energy back, I can say with certainty that life is good, and I am grateful. Onwards & upwards! Oh yeah.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Shame on You, John McCain!

I'm sick of the presidential campaign. I wish we were voting today. It's still three weeks off, three more weeks in which to worry and thrash and pray and get angry, feel ashamed of the stupidity of some Americans.

What's got me so worked up this morning is the behavior of John McCain, egging on the bigoted nut cases who come to his rallies, juicing up prejudice and fear. Many of those nut cases have guns. Many are very angry, full of rage. Does McCain really hope one of them will try to kill Obama? McCain's behavior is despicable.

Watching the vids of people coming away from McCain rallies, mumbling things like "Obama is a muslim," "He's a terrorist," and other insanities is deeply upsetting, painful. They are the ugliest of ugly Americans. I am ashamed to share a country with them. If I were muslim, I would be especially offended.

I've read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the U.S. I understand that slavery seemed like a good idea in the beginning, when Europeans were literally starving to death over the harsh winters on the east coast of what is now the U.S. The damage that resulted from that choice - to keep slaves - even though it was a decision made in desperation, can't be measured. The wounds left by our heritage of slavery still run so deep.

That a presidential candidate, a person who is seen by some as an authority figure, would consciously pour salt into these wounds, purposely stoke up racism and fear at this historically precipitous time, is truly unforgivable.

John McCain? How do you face yourself in the mirror every morning? Shame on you!

Friday, October 10, 2008


I love Fridays, probably for a different reason than most working people. Friday is the beginning of my work week, and I love my work. On Fridays, instead of worrying about my life and problems, instead of fussing and thrashing and flopping around inside my own stories, inside my own busy busy head, I get to focus on other people's stories. It's such a relief!

Every one of my clients has a fascinating story of his or her own. They speak their stories to me of course, but they also embody their stories in their bones and blood, muscle attachments and fascia.

It's an honor and a pleasure to work with their complex, embodied stories. All I have to do is move their fluids around, warm up their muscles. It's a thrill to watch them relax, get into their bodies, release some of the many tensions and worries they carry around with them. It's astonishing to see how drastically a person can change his/her story simply by having someone address the physiology of his/her situation. Really cool.

Some folks here are very happy that it's Friday because the stock markets do not open over the weekend, or because their work week has been hell and now it's over. For me, it's just the opposite. Thank God it's Friday! Oh Yeah!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Crisis or Opportunity?

Based on the continuing bad news about the financial crisis, my prediction is that it's going to be a scary Halloween. That's OK by me - a good scare once in awhile can be invigorating. Lord knows we Americans have become so numb, we probably need a good scare to get ourselves mobilized.

Maybe it's the smell of fear in the air that has the Dead stirring more perceptibly than usual. They're always active around Halloween, but this year they are especially palpable. Ghosts love it when we get a cold chill up the back of the neck; I think it's mostly harmless, but they do enjoy creeping us out. Since we're already creeped out about banks and money and the stock market, maybe they've decided to get into Halloween mode a bit early this year. Why shouldn't they have a little fun?

As for the non-humans among the citizens of the living world, they seem completely oblivious to the financial crisis. Do you think the squirrels care about the ever sinking stock market? They could give a rat's ass. They know winter is coming so they're doing their squirrely thing, you know, scampering, grabbing big acorns, building their nests, chasing each other around in circles.

The mockingbirds and cardinals that live in the trees on Tennessee Avenue are singing their beautiful songs, the crows are cawing and scolding. Dogs are sniffing and peeing as they're taken on their daily walks, then curling up for long naps in the afternoon as if nothing was wrong. The trees are pulling in the chlorophyll from their leaves, and concentrating all their energy into seeds and berries. The trees are looking ahead to next year, undaunted by the headlines.

Maybe the animals and plants know something we should pay attention to. Maybe nothing is wrong, maybe this is one of those turning points during which everything feels more dire than it has to. Things will change, things are changing - at a fundamental level - and yes, Americans are going to have to rise to meet the challenge. But perhaps it's all for the best. Maybe the time has come when we will finally really get it - that the way we've been living here at the top of the food chain, at the expense of the rest of the planet, really and truly is NOT sustainable. Duh!!

I'm dancing in alignment with the squirrels today. I'm going to cook something good, clean my "nest", take a nice long walk in the gold light, and keep breathing. I might even smile today, have some fun. Life unfolds to the better way. That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Money Changes Everything*

A whole bunch of common expressions used here in the U.S. have just become obsolete. "Bank on it," "Like money in the bank," "Laughing all the way to the bank," etc. - these just don't make sense anymore, here or in many places around the world.

It's completely bewildering, watching it all come down, like 9/11, except in slow motion. One of my friends said it feels "biblical." I know what she's talking about. The way we live, our societal structures, are crumbling right before our eyes. It's awesome in a very scary way to be living in the middle of history. Maybe that's why the presidential debates last night seemed so boring, so beside the point.

I've been contemplating the way in which illness and trauma create fundamental change, but my thoughts about the phenomena were cast in the light of personal illness or trauma. What about societal illness, societal trauma? How big is this change we're now experiencing?

And even more frightening, what's next?

*There's an incredible Youtube video of Cyndy Lauper performing this song, wearing a 1950's style girdle and the biggest hair in the world. The guy on keyboards has a mullet that would make 1980's era Hammer extremely jealous. Ah ... those were the good old days, when you could bank on things. Remember?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What Changes, Pt. II

Only one commenter, responding to Sunday's post, said she didn't think people could change at a fundamental level. Everyone else has experienced fundamental change in themselves or others, or at least believes it's possible.

Of course my post did not produce a valid statistical result. It was not a Wall Street Journal poll, thank God. The responses confirm what I believe, that change at a fundamental level is always possible. Even old dogs can learn new tricks.

I have learned new tricks time and time again, sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance, sometimes by force. Even the smallest change in the way I think or frame my experience resonates throughout my whole being. You could probably find traces of these shifts on my DNA, well, if you knew where to look and had a big enough microscope.

Though I can't honestly say I welcome every transformation or that I've been happy with every fundamental shift I've experienced, the truth is that every change has brought with it great rewards. Change opens my mind and heart, helps increase my ability to tolerate situations I don't understand or agree with, and reminds me to take anything and everything - even the parts of myself I feel most passionately about - with a sense of humor and a big grain of salt.

We humans truly are such an adorable species, always striving to be "better." Aren't we sweet?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What Changes, What Stays the Same?

Can people really change? I mean at a fundamental level. What do you think?

I believe I have changed drastically, fundamentally, over and over again. But - maybe it's just behavior and "lifestyle" that have been altered, rather than the essential Reya.

Any ideas about the power of transformation? Are we humans truly capable of change? What do you think?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Without light, there is no shadow

Slowly but surely I am making my way back to good health. My lungs are clearing, I can breathe, not coughing so much. Yesterday I went back to work. All is well in the world. I am SO grateful!

Besides the improvement in my respiratory system, I know I'm getting better because my dream life has been active and interesting. Instead of those boring dreams of everyday activity, my dreams have been vivid and fascinating. To me these technicolor dreams mean I'm getting well on many levels.

In one of last night's dreams, the oldest dog in the house, our beloved Shadow, has somehow wandered off. In the dream, I am walking the streets of Capitol Hill, calling out to the stubborn, smart and iconoclastic Shadow to come back. My sense in the dream is that I will surely find her. When I woke up I remembered that story about the boy who lost his shadow. When he finally gets it back, he sews it to his socks, so it can never be lost again.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Tending the Human Landscape

In my dream, I had the assignment of doing one massage each for Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain. I was quite nervous about this in the dream. In "real life" it would be a fascinating opportunity. One of the things I believe about my profession is that in a literal way, I am "enriching the earth" when I put my hands on people. Who knows what kind of archeology would be revealed if I had a chance to work on the two potential first ladies? What species of fossil, rock, or skeleton lies buried underneath the skin? What myths are layered into their tissues? Wouldn't I love to find out?

Today I get to go back to work with regular clients whose archeology I'm familiar with and very fond of. I'm so looking forward to it! Interacting with other human beings! Being productive! Making money! I even have an excuse to wear lipstick again. I am jazzed. Sitting around doing nothing, even when really sick as I have been, is deadening. I'm ready to rejoin the world of the living. Oh yeah!


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 Berry

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Health is Everything

I love the High Holy Days of Judaism, always have. Even at the pinnacle of my life as a wiccan priestess I was always able to tune in. Without a conscious thought about it, I would find myself, on a September day, at the beach or on top of one of San Francisco's seven hills, feeling contemplative as I watched the sun go down. Then I'd drive around, honking my horn, my version of a shofar, I guess. Whenever I thought to check the calendar, sure 'nuff I'd discover that I had celebrated Rosh Hashana (in a very unorthodox way.)

It's wonderful to have ten days set aside specifically to get things straight, make amends for mistakes made, straighten out conflicts and meditate on the past year. At the end of the High Holy Days, the book of life is closed. (I always imagine it dramatically slammed shut, emitting a little cloud of smoke or dust, like in the cartoons.) No matter what it looks like, there's no point in worrying about the past after Yom Kippur. Once the book of life is closed, it's time to move forward into the new year. The holiday is so practical, I love it!

Every year a personal theme emerges for the High Holy Days. Some years it's about apologizing to people whose feelings I've hurt. Other years I've worked with the idea of forgiveness, letting go of grudges and judgments I'm holding onto. Some years I've had to let go of people and communities that were unhealthy for me.

This year is different. This year my whole focus is on regaining my health. Though I could spend a lot of time trying to understand WHY I got so sick, WHY the dog stomped on my foot, WHY WHY WHY, it seems clear to me that this would not be as productive as making soup, taking it easy and getting lots of sleep. This year I'm getting well. That's it. Happy 5769 - may it be a year of great good health for all!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Goes Up, Must Come Down

Is soup a lifestyle? It certainly is the recovering-from-pneumonia lifestyle. Lucky for me, I like soup; it's not the worst way to live.

Soup was also the lifestyle during the U.S. Great Depression of the 1930's. My mother and father told us many stories about growing up during that time, how precious every cent was, how they wasted nothing, bought nothing they didn't need. Sound like a Suze Orman speech? Oh yeah.

My mother lived through the Dust Bowl as well as the Depression. She grew up in eastern Colorado, a truly God-forsaken place. Taken from her mother because of her "indecent lifestyle" (my grandmother was a crazy flapper), my mother was raised by her grandparents who were bible-thumping Baptists. It could not have been easy, but my mother never complained about it. It just wasn't her style.

I've been thinking a lot about the Great Depression of late because of the financial crisis our country is in the midst of. Living the soup lifestyle as I am right now, for whatever reasons I'm compelled to do so, makes me wonder if sometimes I don't take the shamanic dance of alignment too far. Sheesh.