Change- The Painting

Last summer, I had a reading from a very gifted Tarot reader named Marcy at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.  She explained that if one wants positive change in one’s life, one must break the old patterns and do something new.  Anything new.  To paraphrase– If you always eat a ham sandwich for lunch, eat something different.  It doesn’t matter if it’s tuna fish or pastrami on rye.  Just try something different.

I’ve used the analogy before of sledding down a snow-covered mountain.  We are so used to doing things one way, seeing the world one way, and responding in one way.  Like a sled going down the same well-worn path, we go down the same path with friends, co-workers, & our significant others.  Even though this path no longer suits us, it’s hard to break free.  But consider this, by lifting the sled out of the rut, even slightly, a new path will automatically be taken.  All it takes is a slight adjustment.

Change: a mixed media piece on canvas.

I’m making a real effort to do that in all aspects of my life, including my art.  Change, a mixed media piece on canvas, exemplifies that for me.  My previous work is known for bold blocks of color or pattern and solid outlines, usually black. With Change, I’m loosening up and allowing greater energy and movement in the piece.  Who knows, this energy and movement could translate into something wonderful in my life.  It’s worth a try!

Advertisements

Does the dream align with joy & meaning?

I’ve been intrigued by what I’m reading in Brene Brown’s book The Gift of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are.  “Gosh Susan, why are you reading that?”  Because I’m a recovering Type A, overachieving, perfectionistic, list-maker… emphasis on the word “RECOVERING”.  Years ago, when I was first told that I had type B negative blood, I seriously thought, “Why couldn’t it be an A?”  I’m not joking.  That was honestly my initial thought!

That’s how much my perfectionist tendencies were ingrained in me.  I can laugh at that now but it’s taken a while to see that this perfectionism, while it helped me get where I am today, didn’t just prevent me from enjoying success.  It kept me from enjoying the present.

So I’ve chosen a path of greater self-acceptance & gentleness.  I’m by no stretch of the imagination a “reformed perfectionist” but I’m well on the road to recovery.

If there was a 12-step program for overachievers, it would include:  

1.  Gentleness

2.  Patience

3.  Gratitude

4.  Love

5.  Acceptance

6.  Trust

7.  Surrender

8.  Bravery

9.  Joy

10.  Openness

11.  Passion

12.  Nurturing

Brene Brown asks us to consider whether or not the dream we have for our future aligns with what brings joy and meaning to our lives.  Or, is the dream list merely a list of accomplishments and acquisitions, such as “get a promotion”. “add a new addition to the house”, or “buy a boat”.  Am I driven to follow a path of joy & meaning or is the perfectionism driving me to pursue things that keep me chained to a life of constant reaching, striving, gaining, & reaching for more?  Am I trying to please myself or impress someone else?

Intriguing… and an opportunity for me to make TWO lists!  (I said I was recovering.)  I eagerly grabbed a sheet of loose-leaf paper (the best for list-making) & divided the page into two columns.  The left side was “Joy & Meaning” and the right side was “My Dream for My Future”.

Let’s see how well these two align…  Under Joy & Meaning, the list included my boyfriend, dogs, creative expression, nature, good food, friends, serenity, and my spirituality.  Easy.  Let’s see what’s under the dream category…. more time with Jim, dogs, my art, nature, friends, and spiritual exploration.  (Quite a few that relate to my professional life but I’ll keep those to myself.)  There were no material possessions on that list and no accomplishments outside of the burning desire (need) to have a more meaningful, joyful professional life.  For me, what I dream of having in greater quantities are those things that already bring joy and meaning to my life.  (And having the wisdom, courage, & support to shed what doesn’t.)

“Is the dream you are pursuing aligned with what brings the most joy and meaning to your life?”  

 

 

Kundalini Rising

It started as a dream.  No, it started with an escalating restlessness, an adult version of “growing pains”; then came the dream…

I went up to the counter to buy a snake.  The salesperson grabbed a large one, as wide around as my forearm & shoved it into a white plastic shopping bag.  This took considerable effort as the snake coiled tightly around her arm, struggling against its confinement.  I reluctantly took it & held the bag against my body as I walked to the car, the entire time thinking, “I just wanted a cute little garden variety snake, why am I bringing home this 6-8 foot long powerhouse that could strangle me or even eat my dogs?!  They scare the hell out of me.  Why am I doing this?”  I felt both the weight of that snake as I walked & it’s restless movement inside.

I set the bag on the passenger car seat and stood there staring at it in amazement; the bag wasn’t even tied shut!  I could see the snake’s head, the size of my open palm only narrower.  Again, the doubts banged around in my brain like a ball in an old-fashioned pinball game.  “I don’t have a tank and I wouldn’t want to give it a life trapped in a tank anyway.  Snakes should be free to slither & roam.  I don’t want to confine it.  What am I thinking?”

As it writhed & heaved inside the bag, I decided the only thing to do was take it back to the store.  Quickly, I snatched the open top of the bag, holding it at arm’s length away as I ran.  As I handed the bag back to the salesperson, the snake lunged out of the bag with all its power.  It stayed stiff the way my arm would if I pushed it out straight from my body, parallel to the ground.  Here was the snake, half out of the bag– straight & strong– and half coiled in the bag, ready to push out at any moment.

I pushed the bag forward, in a way trying to contain the snake & trap it inside.  It didn’t work.  I knew then that this was not something to play with.  Holding this snake humbled me.  I should not have this if I don’t know how to take care of it & dare I say, “control” it.  I felt remorseful because I know I take very good care of animals.  I just didn’t think I could manage this.

I’ve been studying the work of Robert Moss, founder of Active Dreaming, and he suggests giving a dream a title upon waking, for the title is often a clue as to its meaning.  I woke with the words “Kundalini Rising” in my head.  I know what kundalini energy is (Shakti energy, the divine source of all energy, the Holy Spirit within) and I know the snake is a symbol of it.  But what is “kundalini rising”?  The term was vaguely familiar but I had to do a little research.

When interpreting a dream,various meanings may come to mind but you’ll know when it’s the true meaning by the way it stirs your soul.  Honestly, it will just feel right.  The description on kundalinicare.com resonated deeply within me.  “… some form of sensitivity and yearning and a talent or quality that stands out to some degree.  Such an individual is more aware of the subtle aspects of life and is unsatisfied enough to seek more from life.  This may develop into an intense longing that urges the individual to find purpose, meaning, and spiritual life, if they are not unduly distracted into less satisfying temporary substitutes in the mean time.”

At this stage in my life, I recognize what’s happening.  I am going through growing pains of a sort. I can either rebel against it, fighting change every step of the way (a technique I’ve tried with immense failure over the years) or I can honor it & go with the flow.  Change is inevitable.  In fact, I desire change right now so I need to embrace it.  And more importantly, not get distracted by trivial concerns.  Be still.  Listen.  And worst of all… BE PATIENT.

These feelings and the accompanying messages in my dreams & awake life signal a time of important growth.  The snake represents my energy and as my boyfriend pointed out, even though I tried to contain it, the snake got out.  Kundalini energy was released.  This is a true calling.  When dreams like this occur or when you experience coincidences (which are, by the way, NOT an accident but synchronicity at work), you must honor them and work with what’s happening as its for your highest good anyway.  Notice I say “you” but actually mean “me”, too.  I’m learning all of this by trial and error.

I’ve finally learned that an important aspect of profound change is saying “Yes” to new opportunities as they arise.  We may know we are on a path but none of us can predict exactly where that path may lead.  It’s our job to stay open to possibilities and accept whatever happens as necessary for our individual evolution.

 

Slow and Deliberate

I’ve been recording my dreams for over 30 years, keeping journals & reflecting on the meaning of my dreams for I believe they are messengers that can inform our lives.  In the past few years, I’ve extended my dreamwork wisdom to workshops & women’s groups, with the intention of helping others use their intuitive wisdom to interpret their own dreams.

Our inner council (intuition, gut, guardian angel, etc…) works for our highest good.  It’s up to us to acknowledge that & make changes as needed.

In a recent dream, a white alligator protected a younger version of myself.  The alligator sat half-submerged in the water, unmoving yet vigilant & alert to her surroundings.  Nothing escaped her notice.  I sat timidly in the shelter of some exposed tree roots where the water met the shore.  I was hiding but never saw what the danger was.  The alligator knew… she would make sure I stayed safe.

When I awoke,  I referenced Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.  This resource is full of animal facts & symbolic interpretations that have guided me well for years.  Even if I dream about the same animal more than once, I’m able to get something different & relevant from this book.  This time, the part that resonated for me was a few sentences on the alligator’s eating habits & how it digests its food very slowly.  That spoke to where I am now.  I’m taking in a lot of new information from a variety of sources.  Some is worth retaining & applying to my life.  Other information is merely that endless stream of garbage from the internet, the news, & print media.

If the alligator dream wasn’t enough of a message, I read Grandmothers Counsel the World by Carol Schaefer.  The passage I read aligned perfectly with the dream.  In it, Schaefer quotes a Yupik elder (a tribe of indigenous people near the Arctic Circle) who said, “Yupiks believe it is significant that we are born very small & grow slowly, not eating right away, slowly developing our awareness of the world.”

Synchronicity… I’m hearing the same message to “slow down & be deliberate with my actions” from more than one source.  I take this to mean that I need to limit the intake of information so I can slowly process what I’ve already learned.  Digest what I’ve already bitten off before taking another bite.  To stay in balance, I need to proceed at a pace that’s right for me.  These messages alert me to the fact that I’ve been so eager to learn, grow, & move on to a new project that I’m at risk of making careless mistakes. Instead of working shallow & broad, I need to work deep & narrow, focusing on what truly matters.  What I do is meaningful & I need to take it to a new level without being distracted by the rest of the information bombarding my mind, heart, & soul.

Dreams are powerful.  I’ll honor my own inner wisdom & heed what they have to say.

Dreams Illuminate the Soul

We are physical, mental, emotional, spiritual beings and we are dreamers.  

Light in the Darkness: How Dreams Illuminate Your Soul is the title of the workshop I led for almost 50 people last Friday.  I was glad to see people of both sexes, all ages from pre-teen to elderly, & a wide variety of faiths represented for this is a natural experience that has no boundaries.  Our dreams have messages meant to illuminate our souls & guide our lives if we are aware of our personal symbols & have the courage to act on what feels right.

My background includes over 30 years of dream journal writing & interpreting the dreams that resonate on a deeper level than ordinary dreams influenced by the day’s events.  I believe the awake life informs my dreams & that my dream life informs my awake life- two aspects of my total being.  Over the years, I’ve studied the work of Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, Sandra Ingerman & other shamanic practitioners, & Robert Moss.  His particular viewpoint seems very much aligned with mine.  Writers coming from a shamanic background or those with native influences understand the importance of dreams for they can impact the individual and even the entire community.

I spent part of the evening describing different types of dreams from daydreams that we have when we are totally awake to lucid dreaming (that in-between state where we are aware of dreaming) to night dreams that occur while our body is asleep.  These “asleep dreams” were my focus.

Dreams are your personal oracles, coming to you in ways you can understand with imagery that means something special to you.  Even if archetypal symbols such as angels, fairies, Mother Earth, Merlin, an eagle, a cave, or the Tree of Life appear, they are appearing because they have personal meaning in addition to their cultural symbolism.  Messages are always for your greatest & highest good.  Nightmares, although terrifying at the time, are unique opportunities to face our fears, reflect, explore, & grow.

Dreams can…

  1. be little dreams that simply reflect your day’s experiences- books you’ve read, things that happened at work, or stories you saw on the evening news
  2. allow your soul (spirit) to travel across time or space
  3. connect you to the deceased, who are letting you know they are ok and still with you in some way or maybe they are trying to impart wisdom to shine a light on something you haven’t seen clearly
  4. inform decisions you need to make in your awake life or offer a creative solution to a problem
  5. connect you to spirit guides, power animals, or magic objects like flying carpets or hollow tree trunks that lead to other worlds
  6. reveal your deepest desires at soul level regarding your higher purpose, relationships, career concerns
  7. be premonitions of events in your life, those around you, or the greater world community

For each of those examples, participants had dreams to share, dreams that demonstrated the importance of recalling the dream & opening to the dream’s message.  I was very clear to state several times that only the dreamer can accurately interpret his or her dream.  I can suggest strategies to improve dream interpretation but I cannot say what the dream means for the dreamer.  Even dream dictionaries & books about symbols can only scratch the surface.  You’ll know when an interpretation is correct by the way it makes you feel.  This is an intuitive process.

The last segment of Light in the Darkness explored ways to increase dream recollection…

  • journal writing
  • orally sharing dreams with others
  • dream reentry (a technique suggested bu Robert Moss)
  • dream reenactments (another Moss-inspired technique)

It’s not at all surprising that profound things happen when participants share their dreams & perform reenactments.  I look forward to going through my own dream journals to discover even more about this fascinating phenomenon that defies scientific explanation.  Yes, we can study REM sleep & brain waves but the mystical messages & imagery in dreams remains a mystery.

I Succeeded Because I Tried

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”

Elbert Hubbard

IMG_0658 (2)

Last weekend, I debuted my new business venture Pure You: Awaken Your Authentic Self at the New Visions Celebration of Life Expo in York PA.  This popular holistic health expo attracts everyone from reflexologists to Reiki masters as well as vendors selling products including crystals, jewelry, essential oils, & books.  It was the perfect place to share the philosophy of Pure You & the services I offer.

I’ve often described the idea of birthing a new idea to birthing a baby.  A mother doesn’t give birth expecting a child to come out fully formed as a veterinarian or fashion designer; she knows it’s a baby who will develop as it grows.  Ideas are exactly the same.  They, too, evolve over time.  I kept that in my mind as I set up my booth, arranging the banner, business cards, & flyers promoting my upcoming workshop “Light in the Darkness:  How Dreams Illuminate Your Soul”.

I’m not going to mislead you.  Putting myself out there in a new way was scary.  There were feelings of vulnerability, a fear of acceptance, & moments of self-doubt.  All I could do was reject the negativity & stand in the knowledge that no matter how Pure You was received, at least I had the guts to try.  I had the courage to make my dream a reality.  I know myself well enough to know that if I didn’t put my heart & soul into this venture, I’d have a lifetime of wondering “What if…” in addition to the understandable feeling of failure that results when I don’t even try.  That’s not my style.  I’ll always be a dreamer & I’ll always do my best to make my own dreams come true- being the hero in my own life story.

My best advice to any dreamer longing to make the dream a reality…Don’t let fear paralyze you.  So what if something you try doesn’t turn out the way you want?  By trying, you are opening the door of possibilities that remains forever closed to those who “settle” for what is.  Stand in your own power.  Be the co-creator of your life.  Success comes with trying.

Baby Steps

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, & endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”  Henry David Thoreau

I gravitate to inspirational quotes like this when I’m preparing to go in the direction of my dreams & hoping to meet with “success unexpected in common hours.”  Keep talking, Thoreau; I hear you & I know you’re right.  And while I’d like to stride confidently in the direction of my dreams, more often than not, I take cautious baby steps instead.  Why?  Because I can’t see the destination & running in the dark seems a certain way to trip & fall.  I prefer baby steps, slow & steady.  I’ll pick up speed when I’m more sure of where I’m going.

Change is scary but staying in a situation that you’ve outgrown, that makes you unhappy, or that causes you to compromise your Self is scarier.  I know this from experience.  A little over a decade ago, I was in a position where I had to ask myself, “Is this really how I want to spent the rest of my life?”  The answer was an emphatic “NO!”   I couldn’t articulate exactly what I wanted but I knew what I didn’t want.  That’s the time to take a baby step, when the dream is germinating but hasn’t pushed through the soil into the sunlight of awareness.  Baby steps are perfect for when you aren’t sure which direction to walk, you just know you don’t want to stand still.

Baby steps are also a great way to proceed when the journey seems overwhelming.  For example, when I graduated from college, I had a mountain of debt that seemed impossible to repay.  I had no idea how I’d pay it off but I knew drowning in debt wasn’t an option for me.  Giving up is never an option for me.  I paid $10 here and $100 there, month by month, until it was finally gone.  Baby steps.

Am I writing this for you, dear readers, or am I writing this for me?  Yes & yes.

It’s time for a baby step.  To be continued…

What Are Dreams?

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”  Marsha Norman

I’ve always been a vivid dreamer– having use of all of my senses & emotions in full color dreams that are so “real” that I now refer to my total experience in physical form as my “awake life” & my “dream life”.  Two parts of the whole– equally important to my well-being.

In my childhood & early teens, I relished going to the bookstore where I could wade through multiple dream “dictionaries” & be told the meaning of my imagery by some “expert”, as if a total stranger can define my personal symbolism.  Eventually, I found myself saying “No, this doesn’t sound right” more often than not.

Not knowing what else to do, I began keeping a dream journal by the bed so I could record my dreams as soon as I woke up, before the scenes became fuzzy or lost forever.  I highly recommend this practice, especially for people who say they don’t dream or they can’t remember their dreams.  It’s like anything else you want to get good at, the more you practice, the better you’ll become at recalling this part of your life.  Set the intention before you go to sleep & write down anything & everything you remember when you wake up, even if it’s just a sentence or two.

Dreams fall into three categories, judging from my experience & decades of recording dreams. 

  • There are dreams that are obviously inspired by what you did during the day.  That category can include people from your life, scenes from a tv show, or themes from a book you read.  These are rather basic & easy to identify.  For example, I recently had a dream about waiting for people at a theater the same day I purchased tickets to a local production of Peter Pan.
  • There are dreams that help you work through an issue.  They send messages to you in your sleep about ways to resolve an issue, fix a problem, or handle a challenge.  For example, I had a dream that I was in a prisoner of war camp, planning a way to escape.  I knew I had to keep my head down & act like the other prisoners so the guards wouldn’t get suspicious.  That way, my chances of escaping unharmed would be better.  I woke up thinking, “Got it.  Message received.”
  • There are other dreams that are full of creative, unusual, or magical elements that cause you to wake up wondering, “Where did that come from?  There’s no way my imagination could have made that up!”  These dreams are the most important because they speak to the part of you that belongs to the universal consciousness, the part of you that understands ancient imagery & archetypal symbolism.  These dreams challenge us to deeply reflect on core values, beliefs, & perception of ourselves in the grand scheme of things.  For example, I had a dream that the road I travel daily was lined with larger-than-life statues of unicorns.  Nestled in the woods, a gift shop seemed to glow, beckoning me to enter.  Inside, I saw all manners of unicorn statues, art, & jewelry.  The shop keeper said, “None of these are for you.  I have what you need in the back.  Wait here.”  When she returned, she held a necklace shaped like a woman.  When I took it in my hands, the woman was me… with a unicorn horn.  That resonates with me & requires reflection to fully understand.  For now, I just marvel at how my mind works when I’m asleep & supposedly inactive or resting.

I never found a good teacher or reference book for my personal study of dreams but I don’t need one.  The messages are just for me & only I can figure them out.

Authentic Selves

Can we be our authentic Selves all the time?  This question came up with a friend as we discussed our spiritual journeys & how we try to live our truth in a world where religious intolerance leads to family rifts on a personal level & war on a global level.  (Yes, we get into heavy discussions sometimes.)  She said she’s at a point in her life where she is comfortable being who she is & will not compromise that for anyone else.  I, ashamedly, have to admit that I’m not there yet.  I was raised with the belief that you never talk about religion, politics, or money in social situations.  If people agree, there’s no point to the discussion & if they disagree, there’s still no point.  These conversations rarely lead to a change of heart.  They more often lead to arguments, judgement, misunderstanding, & hostility.

Call me a chicken but I play it safe.  I sense the climate in the room & make the decision whether or not to voice an opinion.  Is that compromising my authentic Self?  This can be a real struggle for someone in the minority– be it race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, or social status.  Too often the majority squelches the individuality of those in the minority.  We give up our authentic Selves so we can belong.  But there’s the dilemma.  We’re being accepted for who we aren’t.

So when do we take the chance?  When do we say, “This is who I truly am?”  Sometimes we make that decision & other times, someone forces our hand, making the decision for us.  My boyfriend did that to me this weekend at a friend’s cookout.  He told some of the guests about my spiritual practice before I felt comfortable doing so.  I’m relieved to say they were very accepting & curious.  As we talked, they saw the similarities between my beliefs & their own.  What began as a tense moment for me, waiting for the hammer of criticism & judgement, became a great opportunity to be my Self & share my spiritual philosophy with them.

Another dear friend uses the term “universalism” to describe the commonalities that many religions & spiritual practices share, such as loving one another, honoring nature, & believing in something greater than ourselves.  At the cookout, we celebrated those similarities & connected at a much deeper level than we had before.

So many interesting topics came up during those conversations that I want to share them with you over the next few weeks.  In addition to my artwork, I’ll be writing about dream imagery, a need for community, soul loss, ritual, honoring life & death, energy work, & love.  I hope that you’ll reflect on the questions below & share your thoughts with me.

1.  Who is your authentic Self?

2.  Have you been authentic in your interactions with others?  Why or why not?

 

Dream Big & Believe

A friend shared her dream of starting a new career in the culinary arts.  (Her current career is one that dropped in her lap after college but has no resemblance to her dream whatsoever.)  I told her to go for it.  While I can’t promise that all of her dreams will come true, I am certain that none of them will come true if she doesn’t try.

It seems that people all around me are having the “should I be content with my present circumstances or should I follow my dreams” debate as if these have to be “either/or” choices.  I propose that we can have both.  We can have gratitude for the many blessings we have yet want to have more meaning or new experiences in our lives.  We can enjoy the present while reaching higher.

Big dreams continue to manifest in my life as big opportunities so I’m speaking from a lifetime of experience, a place of true knowing.   Dreams (and courage) got me to try spelunking (once!), buy my own home, walk away from a bad relationship, & assist with Dale Chihuly’s installation of a glass exhibit within the old city walls of Jerusalem, to name a few.  I have countless other examples of how dreams became reality for me & I’m confident they will continue to do so. 

Dreaming may sound like a luxury, especially in these challenging economic times, but it’s not.  Dreaming leads to doing.  And it’s the “doing” that improves the quality of life for us, those whose lives we touch, & our home- Mother Earth.  Many of the great self-help gurus will tell you that if you are doing well at a job you don’t like, just think how successful you can be doing something you do like!  It all starts with a dream… a thought.

  And it has to start now… ONE DREAMER AT A TIME.

What is your dream for your Self?