Just South of Zen

What Did You “Do” Today?

“An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of
preaching.” Mohandas Gandhi

We, as humans, spend a great deal of time “doing.”

We go to work and “do” our job, we “do” the laundry, we “do” the housework, we “do” the carpool, we help “do” the homework. We “do” our hair and grooming and we “do” our make-up. We “do” our hobbies, we “do” our exercise. We “do” the bills and we make “do” with what we have at the present moment. Sometimes we even “do” things we don’t want to do. Sometimes we refer to an unpleasant task or obligatory event as a “have to-do.”

A lot to do. Life is filled with it.

But the question is what are you “Practicing?”

“Doing” can be a mindless, almost reactive approach to the opportunity to be present in a world that constantly demands us to be “not” present. Distractions, multi-tasking, back to back appointments, television and negative news stories throw us into a state of confusion and frenzy. The illusion of this world summons us, like a carnival hypnotist, to move away from our inner self and be distracted by the bright shiny objects of the modern world.

The act of practicing encourages us to be present with what we are “doing” at any given time. By slowing down and actually choosing to be a part of the process of “doing” whatever it is we are engaged in – be it dishes, laundry, giving the dog a bath or simply sitting and looking out at the world – we are able to not only enjoy the action itself but to be fully engaged and be involved in what is happening.

By practicing we go deeper. We go deeper into ourselves and we go deeper into our experience of being here. If you believe that being here is simply about getting by and getting what you can until you get out, you are kind of missing the point. I am not standing in judgement of you by any means. But one of the basic ways of helping us to remember why we are here is to be more present in our every moment.

Once we start to “practice” instead of “doing,” we grow richer. We evolve from darkness and we move toward the Light that is within us. Our darkness will convince us that we are all separate and that what we are “doing” at any given time is more important than what the person next to us is “doing.”

We need our time to get it done. Don’t get in my way, I am “doing” something.

But as we practice instead of doing and live within our present Divine self, our Light begins to burn out the darkness. We suddenly find we have more time and practice takes on a new dimension, one of service.

When we move into service, we start to see our daily actions as part of something greater. We seek ways to serve others. We see how our “doing” has actually been a kind of “service” all along. We embrace that. It raises our energy to a higher vibration. Then we start to seek out ways to serve others in a greater way. We feel an undeniable need to grow beyond the mundane and contribute to something, to help, to lend a hand, to raise a spirit or simply to bring a smile.

As Mother Teresa so poignantly pointed out, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

How may I be of service? Is it helping my boss with something at work? Is it helping a senior at my place of work? Is it serving my family by taking care of things at home or cooking them a high vibrational nutritional meal? Is it being kind in traffic? Is it volunteering in the community? Is it choosing kind words instead of gossip? Is it letting someone who seems in a hurry behind me in the grocery store to go first? Is it donating to a charity?  Is it loving my neighbor, no matter how challenging they may seem to my ego? Is it teaching yoga in the community for free? Yes, to all of those things.

Yoga Without Walls was created from this desire to serve others. We wanted to bring yoga to the community for EVERYONE. Regardless, if someone could not touch their toes, or even stand for long periods of time. In a time when the world seems to be falling to pieces, what better way to reach out and help others to find the present moment? When we teach a class, no matter if we did downward dog or we did not or we did more breathing that day or more Sun Salutation does not matter. What we bring to those classes is our spirit and our will to serve.

Yoga is one of the best examples to illustrate “doing” and “practice.”  You can do yoga. You can achieve the most challenging poses. You can do a perfect crow or the most pristine head stand. Yoga is a wonderful exercise.

But true yoga does not just exercise the body, it exercises the mind and spirit. It shakes up your energy and wakes up the chakras. It gets to your core. The prana starts to move through you differently. You start to understand the breath is a powerful force. You feel comfortable being quiet and your mind learns to be silent as well.

You can do the asanas. Anyone can. But the litmus test is if you do not experience some kind of personal transformation over time, you are only “doing’ yoga you are not practicing it.

Practicing yoga takes us deeper.  It takes us into uncharted territories in our very being. It awakens things in us we never knew. And very often, if we are truly lucky, it helps to awaken the great monkey archetype, Hanuman, which encourages us to serve others.

“you’re compassion in action devotion in motion / with the strength to leap the length of  the ocean” – MC YOGI, Rock on Hanuman

There is an old saying “Practice makes perfect.” Maybe practice does not make us perfect. Rather, it brings us closer to our sense of perfection, the Divine. Perhaps, in a wider sense, practice makes us whole. It helps us to remember who we are, why we are here and helps us to remember that we do in fact, “belong to each other.”

I encourage you, if you have not done so already to view this video about Narayanan Krishnan.

And then ask yourself, “What did I do today?”


Where it Begins

New Moon Landing
Image by Avital Pinnick via Flickr

“….and that if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I shouldn’t look any farther than my own back yard.  Because if it isn’t there, then I never really lost it to begin with.  Is that right?”
– The Wizard of Oz

There is something about the Energy of the New Moon that inspires us to start something new or perhaps begin again for the first, second or third time. Where we begin does not matter, whether it is at the very beginning of the yellow brick road or somewhere down the line.

The Energy of this particular New Moon, that is tied into the last harvest of the season, is inspiring me to get back to my intentions. Back to my roots. Back to the beginning.

There have been so many things started, left unfinished, discarded and just hidden from plain sight.

Coming to South Carolina, now almost six years ago, was meant to be a new adventure for us. We had every intention of pairing down, simplifying, living close to the Earth and most importantly, living with intention. Those basic concepts should not have been, or should have ever been impacted by outward circumstances. Yet, for some reason, they were. Perhaps that ideal mission statement or intention that we had when we chose to move to South Carolina, was not strong enough at the time to endure some fairly heady and dramatic stuff at the beginning of our journey. It wasn’t even strong enough to pull us back to the basics even after the drama passed and after the healing had started. (I am speaking of my father passing away right after we moved here).

As I have mentioned or hinted at before, it was way easier to fall into old habits. Filling our time and life with mindless activities. Hiking in shopping malls instead of the woods. Staring at movie screens in crowded theatres instead of amazing sunrises and sunsets. Mindlessly buying packaged bread instead of digging fists into dough and kneading positive energy into a fresh, baked loaf of bread.

There have been challenges, I won’t kid you.

And I will take full responsibility for all of them.

I have learned so much since moving here.

I have learned that one of the greatest spiritual practices we can undertake is to not expect people to show up like we “want them to.” But rather, accept them however they show up. In each challenging personality, the Divine is present, smiling underneath frowns, judgements and gossip. We must be wiser than the world and see through the disguises that people wear. Below even the darkest ego, is a beautiful light.

I have learned that home is not where you used to live or what you use to do, it is where you are right now, this very second. It is the place inside your skin. It is the place on your yoga mat or meditation cushion. It is where you are and what you carry in your heart that defines home. The love, the memories, the friendships, relationships and the depth of your being is what defines home. No matter where you are in the world, these things are your furnishings, your roof and your front door.

I have learned that I can make friends here. I have learned that I have the capacity to stop being so freakin’ scared of being judged and ostracized because I may not fit the mold of what is expected or accepted geographically. I have learned that if I open my heart to others, they very often open theirs in return. I have found friends who I love and that make me feel like I have known them  since the beginning of this reality.

I have been happy,  bitter, elated, frustrated, angry and depressed living here. I I have also found the sublime state of bliss living here as well.

But here’s the funny part.

That could have happened anywhere.

Resistance is futile.

By consistently resisting this experience, I believe the negative has continued to persist.

Harder and faster lessons have come. Challenging people, challenging situations, uncomfortable moments, periods of isolation have all come about not because of where I am geographically.

I have clicked my heals together and repeated Dorothy’s mantra of “There’s No Place Like Home.” Standing confused in the shade of magnolia trees, I scratched my head and wondered why my ruby slippers were not transporting me. Yet, they were doing their magic all along. Because unbeknownst to me, I was home.

The truth is, the challenges (or perhaps lessons) have all happened because of where I was within myself.

Very, very far from center.

So my beginning, during this amazingly auspicious time, is not at the beginning of the yellow brick road.

My beginning and forward movement is from a new place.

It is from my center.

I can’t wait to share the adventures I will have on this new journey with you.

Will you join me?

Procrastination Sucks

Teletubbies say Eh-Oh
Image by TheGiantVermin via Flickr

When I first started this blog, I spoke in length about procrastination and the energy that it takes from our daily lives. I think, at the time, the mountain in front of me was planting sweet potatoes.

Lately, the mountain has been carving out the time to write in this blog. Yes, that is a recurring theme. We can certainly scroll back to when I went on at length about it and actually dedicated a whole paragraph to discussing how I should address it.

Not making the time to write here makes me a little nutty. I make a note to myself that I should bring something of value to this little page on the huge world of the internet for the few faithful people who check it everyday. And to you my friends, I apologize. I also thank you for sticking with me even when I go M.I.A. for inordinate amounts of time. I thank you also for your kind e-mails to check to make sure I have not been abducted by aliens or moved to an EarthShip in New Mexico and have no access to the blog. Rest assured, it’s neither of those, though the EarthShip does call to me on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, here I am, humbly thanking you for your inspiring words and for being my inspiration in spite of my absence.

I have these weird dreams that I have this apartment that I haven’t been to in a really long time and then I find myself there. Usually, the place is dark and dusty and there is an empty dog bowl on the floor and I worry about the dog I left behind and wonder how the heck the rent got paid if I clearly wasn’t living in the apartment. There are things of mine that I recognize in the rooms and on the walls. The whole dream causes me great anxiety.

When I am away from writing here at Just South of Zen, I often experience the same anxiety. However, instead of moving forward, the energy of that anxiety leaves me stranded on the island of procrastination. No, this is not a cool island with frosty drinks and awesome waves. It’s more like something dark and a little scary like Alcatraz. My very own procrastination prison.

Ahh, but if you know me, you know I find a lesson or message in this whole thing. I look not just for the silver lining, but the magic, little message in the bottle that comes with this experience. What have I learned? What gem will I share?

Well, procrastination kind of sucks.

Sucks the life out of you, sucks your joy, sucks your center and sucks your peace. Yep, just like a vacuum or the proverbial “Noo Noo” from the Teletubbies, it will suck your very essence right out of your being. Let me be honest, this is not a good place to be. (Yes, I know I made a Teletubbies reference. I do kind of channel what I am writing, but I did see that and I am just going to let it sit there and let you all think I have completely lost it).

When we finally get out of the mode of procrastination or avoidance or whatever it actually is for us personally, we are liberated. Even if it is just taking a tiny step in the direction we feel we need to move. We break out of the gate and scream all the way to the finish line. Maybe we stumble on the way. Maybe we skin our knee. Maybe we get a little lost. But the fact of the matter is we are on our way to the finish line. That actually counts for way more than standing behind the starting gate, shuffling our feet, clearing our throat and making excuses. (Guilty)

But  the simple act of moving in the direction of whatever it is that calls us starts the momentum towards freedom and a feeling of greatness. It lifts us out of our physical experience and elevates us to almost a spiritual place. When we push past our own self-created resistance or procrastination prison, we open up. Not only that, we find our egos being impressed, if only for a brief moment, with what we can do when we put our minds to it.

Is it easy?

Heck no.

It is challenging as hell and we find ourselves often times kicking and screaming all the way.

Until we realize we are actually “doing it” instead of sitting around worry about doing it or thinking about doing it or “planning” to do it or talking about doing it. We are doing it. Wow!

And if I do my math right, that actually means we are engaged in this little thing called life. Which is why we are here.

So if it is writing a blog, building a website, sending out your art images, switching jobs, starting a running program. learning to hang glide, starting a yoga practice (highly recommended), sky diving, traveling to Bali or a myriad of other things one may yearn to do, start somewhere.

Take a step in that direction.

Ditch the worry, the fear and break free of the procrastination prison.

Start saving money for that Bali trip (I am using giant water bottles), sign up for sky diving lessons or open the classified section.

Get beyond the fear and the excuses that hold you back.

Swim away from Alcatraz island to the island that does serve cool drinks and has awesome sunsets.

And when you get to that beach raise your fist and scream “Libertad!”

Or something as equally as inspiring.

Oh yeah, send me a postcard too.

Moving forward one step at a time….


Come on Open the Door

 When everything feels all over
When everybody seems unkind
I’ll give you a four-leaf clover
Take all the worry out of your mind
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
to your heart
              – Pete Townsend

Today was a beautiful day here in the South.

The cold, harsh winter obviously took a little break from its chilling and blowing and headed of to Florida for a Mojito and dominos. I am sure it will be back on the job in no time. Its shift isn’t technically over for another two months. However, it was so refreshing to open up the windows and the doors and to have fresh clean, WARM air dancing through the house.

There is something so amazing and liberating about opening doors and windows. When we turn that knob and throw open that which has been shut for so long, we invite the beauty of the world and all of its experiences into our lives. We take a chance and often times we find ourselves pleasantly surprised.

I am speaking figuratively of course. Even though I did open the doors to my home today, I have been attempting to open doors to my heart consistently for the past few months. This is no easy task. It is a strange side effect/by-product of my compassion practice. Frankly, it is almost impossible to live closed off when you are consciously practicing compassion. It’s like the crazy buzz you get when you drink Turkish coffee. Suddenly, the whole world has sped up and you walk around with your arms wide open muttering, “I love everybody.”

Cleary, I am exaggerating.

Sort of.

Look, I will be the first person to admit that I am not the most open person. At least not until recently. I have always had the by the book, get to the point kind of personality. I am not always like this. There are a few people in my lifetime who I have opened up to and have gotten all gushy and vulnerable. But for the most part, I have always had this whole “distance thing” that I practice. It keeps me safe and it keeps you safe. It has kept me safe because, gee, I just won’t get hurt, experience failure or suffer drama or trauma. It keeps you safe because then I won’t have to get angry at you when you hurt me and I won’t feel compelled to make voodoo dolls out of your old socks or hair clippings.

But strange, mystical things start to happen when you practice compassion. Your heart starts to open up and the world starts to rush in. You find yourself embracing people who you thought were out to get you or that you didn’t have patience for. You start to find the beauty and the divine in everyone. You open up wide and amazing things dance into your life that you never expected.

When we are not present or living with intention, we tend to play a loop in our heads. It is usually something negative about ourselves or perhaps someone else. Maybe someone has hurt us, maybe our ego doesn’t like the pitch of their voice or maybe our ego is threatened by their work, their joy, their spirit. For whatever reason, we start to develop this negative dialogue in our head, “my hair is horrible, my thighs are fat, she is talking about me behind my back, that person is out to get me, he took my project.”

The loop plays.
and it plays
and it plays

Until we finally say “enough.” But often times we don’t even have the consciousness to say “enough.”  We often just move on to another dialogue, another loop and another villan.

Compassion is kind of the anti-inflammatory drug for this. A little compassion goes a long way in alleviating this little imbalance in our life.

I knew I had these dialogues in my head. Hell, I was often an active participant in them.

But what I have found, is that the further I go with compassion, the less these dialogues develop. I find that when my ego wants to pipe in and take offense to something or someone, there is another voice that referees the situation. It starts to connect with the experience and it helps me to see my place in things. It also helps me see other people’s place in things. And the riveting thing is, we are both in the same place and we are connected. We are experiencing whatever it is, we are co-creating it. And as a co-creator I have a vote in the outcome. I have a vote in how I will respond, how I will feel and what I carry away with me. I create my future in that single present moment.

We all have this ability. Sometimes it’s hard to see it when we become angry, outraged and hurt by another’s actions or words. It’s hard to sift through the feelings to always feel compassionate and embrace the experience. I am not saying that going beyond that feeling is always easy and there are certainly situations and experiences where we just can’t do that. But what I am referring to here is the every day exchanges and battles that we have in our daily life  – at work, our children’s school, with our children, with our parents and with our spouses. Families are often the most challenging battle grounds.

“If you think you are truly enlightened, go spend a weekend with your parents.”  – Ram Das

Of course, when we open the door, we take a risk. It’s a huge risk. What if something scary flies in? What if something awful shows up and I can’t shoo it away? What if? What if? What if?

Okay, try this.

What if something wonderful comes in? What if an unexpected opportunity presents itself? What if I open the door to possibilities and I evolve just a little bit?

What if something wonderful happens?

It’s all in how you look at it. We can look it with shadows or we can look at it with light.

I opened the door.

I stopped being so bitter and cut off. I stopped being angry. I started seeing people and seeing their spirits and embracing their energies. Amazing things have happened. Amazing things keep happening. I have found a beautiful soul and good friend in someone who I had cut  myself off from for reasons I don’t even understand (even to this very moment) I can’t tell you why. I think it was my ego doing “its thing.” And with that friendship, more opportunity and possibility has found its way into my foyer.

 You know what? Sometimes I get hurt.

Sometimes some buzzing thing comes in and stings me. But instead of smashing it to death and complaining about it for the rest of the day, I take it back to the door and release it with gentleness and compassion.

I like the door open.

It’s a breath of fresh air.

And with it, comes the light.

And the light ALWAYS chases away the darkness.


Compassion in Action

Woman applies red powder onto the forehead of ...
Image via Wikipedia

There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving,
and that’s your own self.”
                                 – Aldous Huxley

It is not always easy to choose the path less taken.

You know the one. The path that requires you to work through the high grasses and the weeds. The path that challenges you to face your fears. The same path, that when taken, can lead to higher ground, inspiration, oh, and if I dare say it, enlightenment. If not enlightenment, then certainly personal evolution.

It is much easier to take the other path – the well-worn path. The path where the lines between walking space and the unknown are clearly delineated. The path where you know it is “safe” to walk because you have walked it a thousand times before. You have walked that path behind others and in front of others. It is the path we take out of conditioning, based on our personal story, the path we ALWAYS take. There is no adventure here nor learning necessary. We simply respond as we have always responded, step as we have always stepped and glide forward half-looking ahead.

Now that other path, the one that is less familiar, can be challenging. It requires us to override habit and move away from  “comfortable and safe” responses. It requires us to seek beyond ourselves, and seek within ourselves. And as we trek into the unknown, stepping tentatively through god/dess knows what, we have to trust that by choosing this path we will still be “okay.”

But let me tell you my sweet potatoes, we are not “okay.” Having chosen this alternative path just yesterday morning, when confronted with a situation which was less than bright and sunny and more like uncomfortable and unforgiving, did not leave me okay. Having to choose compassion over ego reaction was a momentary challenge. A challenge that seemed to resonate with me throughout the day being played like a broken record, or scratched cd, or corrupted mp3 in my head.

There were moments throughout the day when I longed for a simpler time. A time when my Ego was in control and driving me like Miss Daisy. It would have taken control of the situation and come back with some quick-witted response, something clearly condemning and abrasive.

But the Ego and I kind of have this weird relationship. It’s more of a back seat driver these days. As I work on my practice, it is my heart and energy of compassion that rules my responses. It is the lighter side of my spirit that voices a response and the ego screams from the back seat angrily, “What are you, an idiot? Say something ELSE! Don’t just nod and smile. Don’t send them blessings! For Ego’s sake stand up for yourself! Tell them what’s up sister!”

I hear this of course, in the back of my head. Yet I take that extra moment to choose. I choose to respond with thought and compassion.

Here’s the kicker.

For the rest of the day I carry the hurt, the frustration and the imbalance with me.

Until I take a hot shower and drink some Crown.

And Crown makes it all better.

Or does it?

Isn’t the true meaning of my practice being able to embrace the challenges, respond with light and then release it.  I don’t think it means carrying it around all day, pondering why people feel they have to be so judgemental, controlling and hurtful. Then drinking Crown to make it all go away.

I am reminded of a Zen story about a Zen master and student who are walking through a village when a  daughter of the upper class demands that they carry her across a large muddy puddle with all of her purchases. The student does not wish to do so but complies only when the master takes the lead to assist the demanding young woman. When they are done, the woman does not offer so much as a thank you but rather insults them and stomps off. The master and the student walk on until the student, fuming with built up frustration demands to know from the master why he has allowed himself to be treated in such a way. The master’s response is quite beautiful and simple. He responds by saying, “”I set her down on the other side of the mud puddle, while you are still carrying her.” (Note: there are many variations on this story, this is simply one of them).

Yes, I was carrying the insulting woman throughout the day. I should have had the sense and wisdom to set her down. Yet she corrupted me, my balance and my energy long after the encounter. Finally, after I realized that my “carrying” her was counterproductive I released her. I released her, her energy and her judgement to the outer nebula.

There is an amazing quote from Wayne Dyer that I have now adopted as my personal mantra:

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

This is a powerful statement. One that bears repeating.

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

We cannot control other people’s thoughts, words or actions. Sometimes other people cannot control their own thoughts, words or actions. But that does not mean that we should become victim to them, buy into them or even lash back. Honestly, mean people suck. They do.  I am not a psychoanalyst nor do I want to focus my time and energy trying to figure out why people have to be controlling, judgemental, mean, rude, or whatever. That is their job to figure out (if they choose to seek a wiser and kinder path). What I am is someone who is attempting to practice compassion. And (unfortunately or fortunately) that means choosing the higher path  or the one less traveled when confronted with someone or something of a less than kind or enlightened nature.

It’s not easy my chickadees. Oh, no it’s not. It requires a serious pause. Because our gut reaction is to throw something – words, fists, an iron. But if we pause and wait for the voice of spirit to speak up and allow its echo to carry over EGO’s shouting, we will know what path and what response to take.

So maybe it’s a smile. Maybe it’s as simple as saying, “that’s interesting.” Maybe, if we are really feeling Hanuman-Strong, filled with compassion in action and devotion in motion, we can actually embrace what the person is saying and send them blessings.

I am not saying I am there yet. Heck No. That’s why it is called P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E. Because I am working on it.

Some days are clearly harder than others.

But what I hope to learn is to let it go, really let it go. And as I release these difficult situations and difficult people, I release them with love and kindness and send them blessings and hope that they too can find a way to PRACTICE compassion and know that their karma lies in their own actions.

And my karma (thank the heavens) lies in how I respond.

So I choose to respond with compassion.

Like my mother use to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

In those cases, I simply respond with a smile.

By doing so, I still stay true to my practice and choose a compassionate path.

We always have a choose.

Make it a good one.


Finding the Gems

Pocket watch, savonette-type.
Image via Wikipedia

“Everyone has a song
God gave us each a song
That’s how we know who we are
Everyone has a song”
            – Robbie Robertson
              Making a Noise

There’s a tendency in human nature to make excuses.
For ourselves, for our actions, for our thoughts.
We do it as a defense mechanism for the EGO because the EGO always has to be “right.”

My first thought when beginning this blog post was to make excuses for not posting in such a long time. The thought flashed across the screen of my mind like an audience actor from a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture show, blabbering in a strange primitive language. It caused me to pause. What was I going to say if I didn’t start this blog with some sort of explanation about my disappearance? Should I just start writing like I have been here all along? Should I start off with something witty and profound? Should a I write a whole paragraph discussing my thought process?

I bet you can guess which one I picked.

The truth is, I have been really caught up on many exciting things that have been happening here in the land of Just South of Zen. Recently, I made two commitments to myself (1) that I would make the best of living here in the South, embrace every moment and take from those challenging moments the learning experience that it was clearly intended; and (2) to truly live my zen practice and be fully present with each action, moment, breath and event and not overextend myself to the point of chaos and confusion.

So just to be clear – things around here got pretty chaotic for a little while.

This blog is important. Sharing my random thoughts and experiences is a way for me to truly process some of the major personal evolution I am experiencing. Most importantly, I want to be perfectly in the moment when I sit down at the keyboard to write. Each time I tried to do this in the last two months, something seemed to come up that was more demanding or pressing. 

Lucky for me, and the forward-moving energy of this blog, the chaos has slowed down. Life is always crazy, but when you are developing anything (yoga practice, teaching yoga classes, working on your art, learning something new, etc.) things will jump into your way. It’s the nature of this crazy thing called “life” that we all signed up for. The trick, of course, is being able to separate the garbage from the gems. Sometimes that means really stepping back and taking stock in what you  have, what you want to achieve and just as importantly, what brings you joy and brings you to center.

I have learned some interesting lessons in the last few months – like learning to say “No” (in a kind and compassionate way of course); learning to set boundaries and resetting priorities; and learning how to do this in a non-selfish way.

No easy feat my lovelies!

But as I have mentioned in other blogs, as you start to clear the clutter out of your life  – thoughts, relationships, food choices, the “junk” around you, how you spend your time – you start discover things about yourself and your life that are truly interesting and inspiring. When we have our lives so filled with “stuff” we can’t see the forest for the trees or the flowers for the bees. We can get so bogged down with the have to-dos and the need to -dos that we lose touch with the things that inspire us, we lose the ability to hear the music inside of us.

I think it is important to be in touch with that song within us.  That “song” is the creative part of us, the divine music that we long to connect with either through creating sound, writing, drawing, teaching, sewing, painting or photographing or building a giant sculpture out of scrap wood, stone and drift wood in the middle of the desert (you know who you are).

When we get bogged down by the stuff that surrounds us, we lose our valuable connection to this magic.

And then life and our actions and our moments can turn into a crazy spiral. There is never enough time is there? There is always something to do! There is always somewhere to be!

My suggestion would be to stop and simply “Be Here, Now” (thank you Ram Das).

If we take more moments throughout the day to simply Be  – be in the moment, be in the present, be the breath – we find that there are more moments in the day and time seems to expand with each breath. The things that we NEED to do, find their way to completion and by moving through them, we find ourselves on the other side of them with time to focus on connecting with our “song.”

This has been my experience. Not having time to write or put my fingers on the keyboard for this blog, or finish drafting the next five chapters of the book, I started really working on my present moment practice. I don’t mean “working” on it by talking about it or thinking about it or “planning” on doing it. I don’t mean writing in my date book that I planned on being present and breathing while writing a Strategic Marketing Plan. No, I stopped where I was and moved into the present while I was folding my son’s boxer shorts. I smiled with gratitude and joy because he fills my heart with gratitude and joy. I breathed and was fully present while I cooked brown rice and listened to black beans simmering. I breathed while I balanced the check book. I smiled up at the crisp blue sky. This practice has translated (almost) effortlessly into the more challenging things associated with work and business. Perhaps it requires being more diligent with our thoughts and mindfulness practice when are filling our business requirements. But, even more  importantly, it requires compassion when we find ourselves slipping away. 

I have found that  I breath and I am present in each thing that I do. Then suddenly I find myself quite content and on the other side of the “have to-dos” and embracing those things that bring allow me to connect with the song inside of me. So here I find myself in a quite space and time carved out perfectly with intention to sit down and write a the computer.

so here I am again – Hello!

I am glad to be here, now and I thank those of you who sent encouraging words and e-mails to start writing again. Each one of you is a wonderful gift. I look forward to us inspiring each other as time and space unfolds!

Remember breathe my darlings!
Breathe and know that you are this moment.


Discovering the Wild Wise Woman Within

Native American woman

To be awake is to be alive.
            ~ Henry David Thoreau

Discovery is an adventure and at the same time an awakening.

Far too often we live our lives in a state of sleep. We wake from the land of dreams and stars to a morning where we begin the daily rigors of our lives. We shower, we drink coffee, we shuffle to our jobs, we perform our jobs, we shuffle home, we participate in some activity and we once again toss ourselves into a state of sleep to regenerate for the next day. We do it again the next day and the pattern continues until the weekend or our day off where the routine takes a slightly different turn, but probably similar to the weekend before.

For those who have not yet woken from this sleep state, there is a longing for something greater. There is a sense that beyond the drudgery and the mundane, there must be something grander, more joyful, inspiring and freeing. We read books about people who have followed their dreams and have left their days jobs to start and finish novels. We read magazine articles about people who have moved to Oregon to take over an organic lavender farm. We wonder what it would be like for us to be the woman who left everything to move to Greece and live on the ocean.  And while these all sound like wonderful adventures that most of us women would embrace whole heartedly and with great enthusiasm, they are in fact someone else’s experiences.

This is often where we get ourselves into trouble. We long for something different, yet at the same time, we  may long for someone else’s experience.

I read.

I read way too much.

 I read books on nutrition, yoga, voluntary simplicity, spirituality, travel and other people’s’ life changing experiences. (Eat, Pray, Love – anyone?)

Every time I finish one of these little treasures I think, “wow, I can do that” or “wow I should do that.”

I become profoundly affected by what I have read. So much so that I often fantasize about what it would be like to own an apple orchard or start a farm or move to a remote island in Hawaii, grow organic coffee and live off the grid.

But in retrospect, these are someone else’s experiences. And why they may have found happiness with pursuing and eventually obtaining their dreams and have been so kind to share them with me through writing or video, they are not my experiences.

That is where the Wild Wise Woman comes into play(and for you gentlemen, the Wise Man). No, I am not talking about three of them that travel in packs and follow a star.

I am talking about the essence of who you truly are. The core energy that lives inside of you.

So often we don’t listen to that true self that exists just below the skin. You probably listened to that energy when you were young because no one told you different. You probably also loved ice cream, coloring in a coloring book and staring at the sky for no apparent reason.

But as we grow older and we seek wisdom in the world we live in through study and reading and living, we often lose connection with the wisdom within us.

We read things or hear things that often times cause us to live from a place of fear. Maybe it’s not an obvious fear, but we start to be cautious with what we do, what we eat, where we go, how we live. We base much of this not so much on our experiences, but what others have told us, what we have read or heard on television or what we overheard in a grocery store.

We stop listening to the wisdom within us and we lose connection with the very essence that can bring us peace and happiness.

I realized this in a moment of utter clarity. It was on Halloween.

I sat outside in the quiet, cold, fall air surrounded by lit jack-o-lanterns and a bright moon and pondered the things that I wanted to do, the things I loved to do and the things I had stopped doing for one reason or another. Maybe some of it was out of fear and some of it was because I wasn’t a “teenager anymore” and some of it had to do with being judged by the society in which I now lived. As I pondered all this, I heard the voice of a wise woman within me telling me to be happy. Finding happiness meant reconnecting with things that I had lost and embracing things that I have always wanted to do.

So I painted my fingernails black.

Okay, you are thinking what the hell does that have to do with ANYTHING?

Well, I wanted to paint my fingernails black and I got so caught up in being judged by others that I didn’t do it. I just wanted to blend in and not “stand out” here in Camden, South Carolina.

But the simple act of painting my fingernails black opened up this whole world of ….well, it just opened up the whole world.

I stopped worrying about what was expected of me and how people around me expected me to show up.

I started showing up based on what the Wild Wise Woman within felt like that day.

It turns out the Wild Wise Woman loves to cook and bake.

So we have been cooking and baking and I love it! It brings me happiness to sit down in my cozy space in the kitchen with a cookbook to dig up ideas for dinner or for dessert. It makes my heart and soul dance to stand over a simmering pot of goodness as it bubbles its way to perfection. AND it makes my heart sing as we sit down as a family and feast on what has been conjured in the kitchen with love and wisdom.

I have been crafting jewelery again. But not like before. I released the idea that the jewelry I crafted  had to appeal to the masses and I started creating what was pleasing to my creative spirit. The Wild Wise Woman loves to sculpt with clay and metal and create things that have meaning and significance. With each piece I craft I come closer to center. I embrace the creative spirit rather than being haunted by it.

The Wild Wise Woman wakes me up in the morning with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I don’t trudge off to work. I embrace the experience with wild expectation!

 Being connected to the Wild Wise Woman connects me to my self. It brings me back to center and reminds me that life is joyful.

Living with this connection brings a sense of wisdom. Life is not about punishing ourselves nor is it about excess. It is about being true to ourselves, whatever that looks like for us as individuals. It is about having a free spirit and a wise and compassionate heart.

The more we open ourselves up to the Wild Wise Woman, the more we open up to ourselves and the deeper we connect with our life experience. Our relationships grow deeper. We open up to others, just as they are and as they choose to show up, not as we expect them to show up. We show them the same courtesy that we wish bestowed on us because the Wild Wise Wo/man is different for each of us. The knowledge and power that we carry within us is our own, to use for our spirit’s growth.

And when we connect with it, it is a power to be reckoned with.

Rather than looking at each day as a challenge to be met, I now look at is as an adventure, a journey. Who will I meet? What will I learn? How will I laugh? How will I grow? Who can I make smile? What will I create? and of course, What will I make for dinner and what will I bake?

She has taught me to dance, this Wild Wise Woman. She has taught me to trust that voice within me and to follow my bliss. She has given me the magic talking stick to speak my peace and share my joy.

She is indeed magical and wise.

And here’s the beauty of this particular kind of magic.

She lives in each one of us.

She lives in you.

She lives in me.

And she wants very much to be heard and to share her ancient power and wisdom with you.

The kicker is, we only have to stop and listen.

We haveto  slow down (turn off the televsion) and really listen and connect with her.

And the first step is to be fully present with yourself and listen.

Maybe you will hear her when you are washing the dishes, or taking a shower or sitting down for a cup of tea at the end of a long day.

Maybe it will start as a memory of what you loved to do when you were 11, 17, 24 or even 33. 

She whispers like that.

She reminds us of who we are.

She encourages us to run to it with our hair blowing wildly and skipping barefoot.

And when you reach it, for the first time, it’s like coming home.

It’s like a kitchen filled with warmth and cherry pie.

Or perhaps a front porch filled with the warmth of jack-o-lanterns and the glow of waning moon overhead.

But however you decide to get there, start your journey with listening.

And follow your bliss.


A post will be coming within the next day.

In the meantime, on this night when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest and ancestors and those who have passed travel to visit us – I give you this video.

For all your loves lost (both alive and past), for loved ones who have passed, for those we wish to reconnect with, for our truth, for our searches, and for the magic that all of us possess –
and most importantly, for all my witchy friends.

May this night be filled with blessings, joy and wishes come true. Reconnect with your self and with those you have lost connection with – both  in this world and the other. Live without regrets.

Bright Blessings.

Haunted by the Creative Spirit

Painting of Father General Saint Francis Borgi...
Image via Wikipedia

“Creativity suffers under great scrutiny from ourselves or others.”
                      — SARK

We are moving into the first full moon of October. In ancient days this was a very auspicious time. This is a time believed by some when the veil between the two worlds thins and the souls of those who have passed over enter our world. Sometimes these souls bring messages and sometimes the fae and other otherworldly creatures taunt and torment us unsuspecting humans. It is a time of magic and a time of change.

I am being haunted. I am being haunted by my Creative Spirit. It does not need a full moon to haunt me. It has been doing it without any auspicious signs for quite some time. It wants me to communicate with it, have a heart to heart conversation, perhaps even embark on a project of some sort. But I always have an excuse: I am too tired; I have a headache (oh yes, there is a sick irony here folks); I don’t have time; I have to do laundry; I have to go to work; I have to stare mindlessly at movie trailers and Ray William Johnson on the internet.

One of two things usually happens when you ignore a spirit of any sort. Either it becomes extremely angry and starts throwing things or it starts to lose its power because no one is paying any attention to it.

I think my Creative Spirit is sitting on the fence right now. I think it has its bag packed and can’t decide whether or not to throw it at me or hit the road.

I know I am not the only one feeling this way about not having time to nurture the fire within my soul. I have actually had more than one conversation with more than one person who is experiencing the exact same thing. At the end of the day, there does not seem to be enough time/energy left to do the things that we really love. Maybe those creative outlets are writing or drawing, making jewelry or making 3-d sculptures out of paper.

All I know is that I stare at my project table and sigh every night. I come to the computer, intending to write something either in blog or book form and I sigh.

It sounds horrible. ***S**I**G***H***.  It sounds like a haunted spirit. It sounds like something that needs to be exorcised.

The truth is my sweet lovelies is that it doesn’t need to be exorcised, it needs to be EXERCISED.

There are a bazillion books out there about how to ignite your creative fire, find your creative self, live the artist’s life you always wanted to, write and publish your first novel, become a famous poet. Let me tell you, I can stare aimlessly in a certain private library, in a certain house, on a certain lake in Camden, South Carolina and shout the titles out to you. Yes, I own them. But let’s be honest. These lovely little tomes are not making me a hot, fresh cup of java and pushing my butt out of bed at the crack of dawn to write a chapter before I have to be at work. These sweet little pages of good advice are not redirecting me to work on the half-finished necklace or barely started sculpture when I want to sit down in front of the computer and sip green tea and look at my friends’ photos on Flickr and Google people at random. They sit quietly on the shelf sighing. A god awful sigh if I do say so myself.

So what to do? Just go with it and wait until the mood strikes and then communicate with the Creative Spirit? Maybe never finish anything and just let it all sit there half-finished and half-baked? Or maybe get to the bottom of the issue and figure out a solution?

Ooh, now there is a novel idea.

Novel, yes, scary as hell, quite possibly.

The truth is, I realized why my Creative Spirit is haunting me. I realized today in a crazy epiphany while I was driving across a very misty swamp on my way to work what that problem is.

I am intimidated by my critics.

And the one with loudest and most upsetting voice was me.

For those of you who know me, you will not find that hard to believe.

But nevertheless, the standard obstacle for any artist of any medium is listening to our own inner critic. Because in our mind, that inner critic speaks for everyone everywhere.

The criticism is usually the same. No matter what we do, it will never be good enough. If we are wasting our time creating any “art,” we better be able to sell it; and how on Earth can we sell it if it is crap? Why bother?

Oh, that thingy you just made, don’t show it to anyone, it’s not good. That little sketch, how awful, destroy it immediately, the head is not in proportion to the body. You call that a poem? Save it on the computer with a password so if you are abducted by aliens tomorrow no one, I mean NO ONE, will ever know you wrote it and make fun of you.

Any of this sound familiar to any of you artists/creatives out there?

Okay, here is a crazy idea.

It is so crazy that the voices in my head are yelling at me as I try to type it.

What if it doesn’t matter?


Who defines if it is good?

You do.

Go back and read that.


Here is what defines it:

Did you feel the “spark” when you were creating it? Did you lose yourself as you created it, formed it, thought about it, wrote it, shaped it, or designed it on the computer? Did you smile once? Did you feel at peace? Did you lose track of time? Did you not want to stop? And when you were done, in that split second before that critic jumped in and started berating you and your creation, did YOU like it? Did it make you smile? Did you feel like you had created something?

That’s exercising your Creative Spirit.

Creativity and Art are not about producing something that you can sell or show or show off. We are so conditioned to believe that we need validation by outside sources to believe that what we create is of value.

That, my little butter beans, is a bunch of crap.

What we should measure our creativity and art by is how it makes us feel. How it ignites the fire in our hearts and souls, how it makes us come alive. 

If it makes you feel alive and passionate and happy then you will want to carve out the time to do it. You won’t feel tired or have a headache. You will want to embark on it because it helps you connect with the perfect and the divine with you. It opens up your soul to all the possibilities of beauty and light and love. That is what our Creative Spirit wants. It wants to see the light and it wants to express all that is beautiful within you. It wants to be loved.

Tell the critic to have a seat. Make it a martini in a fancy, artsy glass and tell it to chill out.

Break out the Ouija Board for your Creative Spirit. This could be a canvas and paints, a camera, a computer design program, a typewriter, a journal or hell, even a scrapbook. Open up your heart and mind and communicate with that Spirit within you. Exercise it! Not Exorcise.

Stop *sighing* and pick another verb like writing, drawing, singing, dancing or coloring.

Don’t be haunted by what you wanted to do and never got to. Instead be possessed by the Spirit of Creativity and live your dreams. There is magic in them there dreams, go out and find it!

And when you do, share it with everyone and be proud of it. Because whatever it is – it is as beautiful as you are!

Happy Hauntings!

Much Love,


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