Standing on Solid Ground

On Solid Ground by Susan Korsnick

On Solid Ground. Mixed media piece by Susan Korsnick

Standing on Solid Ground in Shaky Times

This past week, I realized that many of the women I came in contact with were voicing the same concerns that I was voicing to myself.  “How do I keep getting up in the morning when all I hear is news about hatred, greed, ignorance, deception, and abuse of power?”  “How do I keep vigilant and actively involved when I’m so exhausted?”  “I’m only one person.  How can I possibly do this?”

One of the most important things I can do is continually remind myself that there are millions of people around the world doing great things– speaking out in support of diversity, doing what they can to safeguard immigrants, actively engaging in ways to help Mother Earth and protect all beings, defending women’s rights to have autonomy over our own bodies, voting, marching, RESISTING.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;

only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate;

only love can do that.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our current “situation” is calling us to take a stand like most of us have never had to do before.  I’m a baby boomer, born in the 1960s.  I was still crawling when Civil Rights supporters were marching.  I was wearing rompers when women were burning their bras.  For most of my life, I took for granted that someone else had done my fighting for me and the fight was over.  But now, we are all being called to resist darkness in all it’s forms and the emotions that often accompany challenging times- fear, despair, anxiety, and depression.  At times, I want to say “I don’t have it in me to fight.”  But I do.  I know I do.  We all do if we do it together and maintain our footing on solid ground.  Stay grounded in what matters most.

What does LifeBook have to do with it?

I’m quite an admirer of Tamara LaPorte’s LifeBook online art class.  The yearlong online art class approaches art as a pathway to self-awareness, healing, and creative expression.  Each week, Tam or one of her many guest instructors share a lesson that participants can follow closely or use as inspiration for whatever their intuitive knowing calls them to create.  There is a Facebook group where we can share our art and personal journey with others.  Having a support system is vital to creative expression and resiliency in difficult times.

Lindsay Weirich recently offered a lesson called Solid Ground, which profoundly moved and inspired me to create the piece you see above.  There is deep shadow and contrasting light on the woman and subtle hearts around her.  She is me.  She might be you.  The words say “Self Love is not self indulgence.  Self Love is self preservation.”  It is my reminder to stay grounded in love.

Self Love is a Key to Wellness

Staying grounded, for me, is a multi-faceted approach to wellness and at the core is Self Love.  We have to take care of ourselves in every way.  Physically, we need to stay rooted in the present moment.  This keeps fear of the future and imaginary “what-ifs” at bay.  Mentally, stay focused on what we can do and how we can do it.  Then, recognize when it is time to stop and honor our need for rest.  Emotionally, stay heart-centered and express gratitude for all that is good in life.  Spiritually, stay grounding in what we believe and our connection to Source, Universal Love, Spirit, God, or Goddess (however you identify the divine).

A few years ago I hosted a Red Tent Event where self-love was our focus.  I reflected on this in my blog post Refilling the Well.   When we are under stress or fearful, we forget that we have the answers available to us if we listen to our inner wisdom, to our higher selves.  The Red Tent participants explored ways to ground themselves and shared their experiences in a sacred Wisdom Circle.  Each woman had unique ways that nourish her.  I can’t remember what I shared that day but I can share what keeps me on solid ground today.

Ways I Stay on Solid Ground

  1. ART–  Creative expression is a powerful outlet for feelings and a way to nourish myself at the same time.  When I play music (current favorites are Shamanic drumming, Reiki CDs, healing mantras, and songs of divine feminine beings like Kuan Yin and Tara) while I create, the very act of creation becomes a contemplative practice.  My art is sacred.  This holy act of creation connects me to the Divine and my highest self.
  2. NATURE– From my earliest walks in the woods of central Pennsylvania with my beloved grandfather to a vision quest in the mountains of Vermont, I have always felt a deep connection to Mother Earth and all beings.  I feel at one with the wildlife, every winged, four-legged, slithering, swimming, being in all of creation.  I feel a kinship with the rocks, trees, sky, earth, and water.  All is one.  Mother Earth is what I value above all else for I know that without Her, there is nothing else.  This is what nourishes me and what I am fighting for.  I live my life to protect and honor nature as best I can.
  3. BODY WORK– Massages and related services keep me grounded in my body and relax me so I can maintain my energy level and health.
  4. GRATITUDE– I balance the messages in the media with a daily gratitude practice.  I give thanks for all that I appreciate having in my life.  Focusing on the positives provides the balance I need.  I often call these gratitudes my “Little Joys”.
  5. RELATIONSHIPS– Here, I’m talking about all of my relationships- family, friends, colleagues, as well as other like-minded people who value what I do and stand up for their beliefs.  Being in community with like-minded individuals dispels the illusion that we are alone in this.  We are not!  There are grassroots groups in just about every town and city in this country.  There are online groups as well.  Find your tribe.
  6. SLEEP– I am getting better at listening to my body and honoring my need for rest.
  7. EAT WELL-  As much as possible, I eat a rainbow.  That is a wonderful visual for reminding me to eat fruits and vegetables that are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  I don’t want to leave out brown so I eat plenty of chocolate and drink good coffee, too!  (These are little luxuries that make life worth living.)
  8. ENERGY WORK– Reiki sessions align my chakras, keep the universal life-force energy flowing, and allow me to relax.
  9. INSPIRING PEOPLE– Focus on the inspirational people, past and present, who are way-showers for me.  I particularly find comfort and inspiration in the stories of everyday men and women who stood up for what they believed in despite their fear or anxiety.  What can one person do?  One person can change the world!  There has only been one Mother Teresa, one Gandhi, one Rosa Parks,… just one of each.  There is only one you and only one me.  We matter.
  10. HAVE FUN–  I can walk the dogs, watch Grace and Frankie, go out with friends, or just play with my art supplies enjoying the process with no thought of product.

May you identify what keeps you on solid ground.

May you find peace and balance.

May you find your tribe and your strength.

May you always know that you matter.

Namaste

 

We The People- Part 1

 

We The People- Part 1:  mixed media on 18 x 24 paper.

We The People- Part 1: mixed media on 18 x 24 paper.

WE THE PEOPLE

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Preamble to the US Constitution

Do It Anyway

Here’s my little secret for conquering the Inner Critic… Do It Anyway!

When fear threatens to stop you in your tracks, DO IT ANYWAY.

When fear threatens to stop you in your tracks, DO IT ANYWAY.

Each of us contains two small voices– the loud panicky Inner Critic who feeds our fears and insecurities through negative self talk as well as a much quieter, gentler, loving Intuitive voice who is our muse, our biggest supporter, our source of creativity who only speaks through positive self talk.  The Inner Critic is the critical father who never encouraged you, the dismissive teacher who didn’t nurture your talent, the coach who said you couldn’t play sports, and the significant other whose negativity proved he/she wasn’t that significant after all.  The Intuitive voice is your authentic self, your true nature revealed when you pull the debris of the past off of you and let your inner light shine.  Your Intuition is you.

I know this.  I’ve known this for many years as you probably do, too.  Yet, occasionally, that Inner Critic speaks up at times that surprise me.

A little while ago, I ordered a roll of Strathmore Mixed Media paper… 8 yards of it!  It’s beautiful… durable, pure white, and full of possibilities.  I couldn’t wait to unroll it across a long table and play with my watercolors.  What happened next came out of nowhere.  I heard the Inner Critic say, “Are you crazy?  You better not use this paper; it was expensive and you’ll only mess it up.”

Are you kidding me?!  I’ve been an artist my whole life and had a very successful solo exhibit last summer, thank you very much.  Where’s this coming from?  In the past, that negativity might have stifled my creativity.  I might have rolled up that lovely paper and pulled out a sketchpad, working on a smaller space and coming from a smaller place within myself.

I didn’t do that.  I chose to say, “Enough!”  I have jumped out of a plane at over 10,000 feet.  I have moved to an unfamiliar place full of strangers.  I have had the guts to walk away from relationships and jobs that do not support my highest self.  I’m going to let negativity stop me from playing with art supplies?! I don’t think so!

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her ground-breaking book Women Who Run with the Wolves, states, ” Negative complexes that arise along the way are banished or transformed- your dreams will guide you the last part of the way- by putting your foot down, once and for all, and by saying, ‘I love my creative life more than I love cooperating with my own oppression.'”

So when fear, doubt, and anxiety try to talk you out of being your adventurous, wild, creative, loving, lovable self, take a deep breath and go from being a Survivor to a Thriver by “Doing It Anyway.”

Can I Be Authentic Here?

I just passed a chiropractic office message board that read, “Listen to your body whisper to avoid a scream.”  I want to add two more sentences to that seemingly casual yet profound wisdom…

“Listen to your HEART whisper to avoid a scream.  

Listen to your SOUL whisper to avoid a scream.”

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’ve gone through periods of intense growing pains, as I’m sure you can relate to.  We’ve all been there… some of us more than once!  And we’ll go through even more as we grow in wisdom, strength, and self-awareness.  We are able to recognize our authentic selves and step more fully into the life we are meant to lead.

Label Me 1

                           We are so many things to so many people. Who is the Authentic Self?

The first thing that happened to me is exactly what the chiropractor’s sign said, the whisper became a scream or as I put it in my blog post titled Intuition: Trusting the Voice Within (9/13/2015), the breeze became a hurricane.  Suddenly, I realized that while every situation in life contains positive and negative aspects, the negative in my job outweighed any positive benefits, including money.  I wrote in What is My Tipping Point? (7/10/2015) “When the negative outweighs the positive in our relationships, careers, or other aspects of life, it’s time to ask, ‘What’s my tipping point?  How much will I tolerate before I say ENOUGH?'”

I heightened my awareness of the whispers in my body, heart, and soul.  I more fully honored my intuition.  “To successfully experience life’s constant changes, I must heed the still, small voice within so I can wisely decide what must be done for my greatest and highest good.  In other words, I must TRUST MYSELF.”  That’s what intuition is really… trust in one’s self.  I was at my tipping point and I said “ENOUGH”.

Label Me 2

                      By listening to intuition, we can hear our soul beckoning.

So now what?  At 47, I was asking “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  I felt ridiculous and a failure.  I should be planning my approaching retirement not a new career, right?  Wrong.  The best thing to do when my life feels like a size 8 foot trying to cram into a size 6 shoe is make a change.  And sooner is better than later or not at all.

I knew I wanted to have meaning in my life, find greater joy in what I was doing, and do something that spoke to who I am creatively and spiritually.  I had to be authentic and let my talents and skills shine.  As I considered what to do next, I asked myself what has become the most important question of my life.  “Can I be authentic here?”  If the answer is “Yes”, I am right where I should be on my journey.  If the answer is “No”, it’s not time to panic… it’s time to TRANSFORM.

Label Me 3

                             Peel away anything that gets in the way of discovering who you really are.

We want to be where we belong, where we find meaning, where we experience joy, and where we can be ourselves.  I’m not talking about modifying behavior to appropriately suit a social situation.  I’m talking about having the courage to be who we are.  Instead of playing the role of “the chameleon” to fit in with others, having the self-love and self-acceptance to be authentic and see how life blooms in a richer, deeper way.  Doors will open and opportunities will come your way.

Authentic living is empowered living.  

Authentic living is the life you are meant to lead.  

To be authentic takes great courage and strength.  There is a vulnerability in letting people see that we are who we are.  Once I let my authentic self come out to play, I found a career where my experience as a world traveler, artist, teacher, writer, and spiritual being have a place.

I’m still growing, learning, and trying new things.  I’m making richer, more meaningful connections with those who matter.  And every step of the way, I continue to ask, “Can I be authentic here?”.

What’s Your Tipping Point?

“What is your tipping point?”

Years ago, a friend posed this question to me when I was going through a particularly challenging time.  In other words, he was asking me, “How much are you willing to put up with before you make a change?

I’ve always seen life as a hero’s journey, an adventure filled with great challenges and great joys.  It’s not the challenges that defines us, but how we act when facing them.  Do we run?  Tackle them head on?  Or wait to be rescued?  In the end, we all want to live happily ever after, with meaning, joy, health, and security.  Right?  I know I do!

When the negative outweighs the positive in our relationships, careers, or other aspects of life, it’s time to ask “What is my tipping point?  How much will I tolerate before I say ‘enough’?”

The particularly challenging time I faced all those years ago was an unhealthy relationship.  I had spent months trying to “fix it” alone.  He wasn’t going to be what I needed and I couldn’t make him.  The tipping point was the realization that the only thing I could change was me.  Was I willing to put up with his behavior or was I going to walk?  With clarity I saw that failure wasn’t in leaving the bad relationship; failure would be staying where I was crying more than I was smiling.   Ending it took immense courage and strength but proved I loved myself enough to rescue my Self, be the heroine in my own story.

Fast forward several years and the next big obstacle on my life’s journey was a career that was in conflict with everything I value and hold sacred.  It started out small, as many problems do, easy to dismiss as just a bad day or an isolated incident.  Then, the problem grew.  It was harder to ignore but the positive still outweighed the negative so I stayed.  It started to impact my life mentally and emotionally through worry, stress, and dread.  It affected me spiritually, compromising my principals and integrity but still I held on, thinking “It could be worse.”  And finally, because I ignored all of the warning signs, the Universe said, “Ok, Susan, I’ll get your attention with this!!” and I suffered physically- chest pains, insomnia, nausea, lowered immune system…  That was my tipping point.  I felt something powerful awaken in my Soul and I knew I had enough.  My health and well-being had to be the priority.

I resigned from public education in June of this year for reasons that could fill a book, not a blog post.  Suffice it to say that it took everything I have inside of me to make this leap of faith.  I was terrified to leave but more terrified of what would happen if I stayed.   Every aspect of my life has improved since making this decision- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Calling it a “leap of faith” is an oversimplification.  It was a leap of faith based on intuition, intellect, and imagination.  And if I can do it, you can, too!!

So why am I sharing something so deeply personal on such a public platform?

For years, I’ve been leading women’s spirit circles, workshops, and Red Tents with the intention to celebrate, honor, empower, support, and awaken the authentic Self in each woman and girl who attends my events.  How can I continue this purposeful work if I’m not willing to celebrate, honor, empower, support, and awaken my own authentic Self?  In other words, I need to walk my talk and come from a place of knowing.  Otherwise, I’m a fraud and a hypocrite, and that’s not an option for me.

Reaching the tipping point and choosing to change is empowering and scary at the same time.  I know.  But I also know this… people don’t regret leaving bad situations.  They regret staying.  So when intuition says “You’ve reached your tipping point”, honor that still, small voice inside and take the leap of faith… faith in your Self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make Sacred Space

Earlier this month, I spoke on the subject of Making Sacred Space.  The transcript is below….

We’re going on a journey this morning to explore the concept of making sacred space, as far as the outer edges of the universe & as close as your own soul.  To me, making sacred space is the ability to create a holy connection between our highest selves, other beings, & all that is.  I’m offering the suggestion that this holiest of ideas begins & ends with you.  This is a deeply meaningful concept for me & by the end of this contemplative, participatory service- where you’ll have opportunities to meditate- I hope it will be for you, too.

Energy is all around us, going in all directions, but it’s the energy that you put out that you’ll receive back.  If you set the intention & make authentic connections, any space can be sacred.  Both intention & connection are equally important & completely in your power to manifest.  Sacredness is a choice.

We’re going to start with our intention & open our arms for a holy hug, embracing all that is.  Then, we’ll slowly close our arms to embrace the greater community… closer still to embrace our loved ones…. & closer still until we are embracing our Selves, with a capital “S”, creating the ultimate sacred space within.

I.  UNIVERSAL/GLOBAL/COLLECTIVE/ARCHETYPAL

On a grand scale, there are collective sacred spaces made such by the intention of those who created them AND their spiritual significance to others who experience them.  These places are highly charged for generations of people feel this concentration of energy.  It’s not just the physical aspect of place but the power felt there.  These places include burial mounds, temples, mosques, & cathedrals.

I grew up in the Catholic tradition so for my earliest years, churches, places that housed the relics of saints, & the Vatican were considered sacred.  I distinctly remember when I was 9 or 10, sitting in the pew with my family… physically present but mentally, spiritually, & emotionally cut off.  The space was no longer sacred to me for although the intention of those who designed it was there, my spiritual connection to it was not.  I could appreciate the stained glass, statuary, & intricate carvings… but they held no sacredness, no significance for me any longer.  I learned fairly early that it’s not the space alone.  It’s our emotional engagement… our relationship with it that makes it sacred.

An open mind & an open heart don’t allow for narrow views & soon, my view of the sacred expanded to include much, much more.  I’ve been very privileged to travel the world for most of my life, getting familiar with other cultures & opening myself to other points of view.  I’ve walked on paths around Walden pond, immersing myself in the spirituality of the transcendentalists.  I’ve descended into the tombs of the pharaohs, put my hands into the cool water of the Sea of Galilee, stood in the remains of a temple to Diana on Crete, & removed my shoes before entering Al-Aqsa mosque where beautifully ornate prayer rugs covered the floor.  “This mosque is sacred.  That temple is sacred.  And this pond is sacred, too.”  How can that be?  I believe it was my intention to be fully present & feel the holiness as well as my connection to each of these places-  no boundaries & no limiting labels.

At this level, sacred is archetypal & collective… we agree that this building or that burial mound, even this canyon or that mountain are sacred.  We join a “sacred” already established… Dome of the Rock, Stonehenge, Notre Dame.  There is magic in these places & I find it nourishes my soul to visit them whenever possible for the collective energy of so many people throughout the ages sanctifies the space…relationship building… place to person, person to place, & person to person.

Navarre Scott Momaday, a Southwest American Indian writer wrote, “To encounter the sacred is to be alive at the deepest center of human existence.  Sacred places are the truest definitions of the earth; they stand for the earth immediately and forever; they are its flags & shields.  If you would know the earth for what it really is, learn it through its sacred places.  At Devils’ Tower or Canyon de Chelly or the Cahokia Mounds, you touch the pulse of the living planet; you feel its breath upon you.  You become one with a spirit that pervades geologic time & space.”

I’ve opened my heart to the Universe & see all things natural as profoundly sacred.   Almost 30 years ago, I sat on a grassy mound near a field in central Pennsylvania, in silence & stillness, in that moment, learning (although it’s a lesson I need repeated periodically) that stillness & silence are a direct line to the holy.  Bucks & does emerged from the woods on the far side of the field & cautiously ate… pausing to sniff the air periodically…. Could they sense my presence?  Over a couple of hours, I was joined by butterflies, bees, rabbits, & birds.  I laughed inwardly with joy.  Eventually as the sky grew inky blue just before darkness covered us all… the bucks came leaping & playfully scuffling ever close, within just a few yards of me… We made eye contact.  Then my quiet laughter gave way to enormous teardrops streaming down my cheeks & splashing on my knees as I sat motionless, part of this sacred moment.  I was connected to the divine & for me, this place was… and is… divine. Each animal from deer to ant was divine, the ancient oak in the middle of that field was divine, & I felt my own Divinity in that moment.

Cathedrals, burial mounds, & temples can be agreed upon as sacred sites but how are places like Aushewitz, the 9/11 Flight 93 plane crash site in Shanksville, PA, & Pearl Harbor sacred?  Are they sacred?  The original intention without a doubt, was NOT sacred but have been made so…by collectively honoring those who suffered & died in these places, creating hallowed ground.  I see it as a reclaiming of sorts… empowerment.  There is a new 9/11 museum opening in NYC on Ground Zero.  The reporter on the Today show referred to it as sacred space.  Is it? Last summer, returning from a trip to Vermont, we stopped in a small town for lunch.  As soon as I parked the car & got out, my breath left my body for I saw a sign hanging on a storefront that read, “Welcome to Sandy Hook.  We choose love.”  After losing 20 children & 6 adults to a killer with a gun in Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, the townspeople reclaimed their power, set the intention to choose love, & made their town sacred.  Sacredness is a choice.

So yes, the city of Jerusalem is holy but so are the olive groves outside the old city walls.  And yes, Stonehenge is sacred but so are the rolling fields dotted with grazing sheep in the surrounding countryside.  And we’d probably agree that Notre Dame is sacred but I propose that sacredness can be found in a nearby café sharing a warm baguette & espresso with someone you love.  It doesn’t have to be grandiose.  The ordinary can be sacred if you let it be so.

Daniel Taylor wrote in In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands,“If you have been in the vicinity of the sacred—even brushed against the holy- you retain it more in your bones than in your head; & if you haven’t, no description of the experience will ever be satisfactory.”

I’ll pause for 1 minute to give you the opportunity to visualize some of your most sacred spaces-take this time to travel the world.  

II.  COMMUNITY

Let’s return to this place, this time & bring our embrace in a bit closer to consider the sacredness of community. Intention + connection = sacred space.  Creating sacred space for others in our community comes easily to some, not so easily to others, sporadic for others still.  It looks different for different people.  A drum circle, a book discussion group, men gathering to stain bookcases, families working together in a community garden, congregants on their knees laying pavers or mosaic stones in our labyrinth nestled in the sacred space between the memorial wall & the breathtakingly beautiful beech tree.  At this level, the sacredness is in our connections to those around us & in the relationships we build.  We honor what we need spiritually & consider what we can bring to others to create a sacred space that is inclusive.

A lifetime ago, I was led to facilitate Bible study groups in CA & when I first arrived here, I held sacred space for gardeners & our beautiful grounds when I chaired the Garden Committee.  I’ve also held space for little ones in RE over the years.  Now, I’m called to focus on creativity & women’s spirituality with those who want to study dreamwork, intuition, earth-based belief systems, & goddess-worshipping cultures… go figure!  I’ve taught Cakes for the Queen of Heaven & Rise Up & Call Her Name workshops, holding space for dozens of congregants & members of the community.  Years later, it’s transformed into the Women’s Spirit Circle, made up of amazing, intelligent women who share the intention & make the conscious effort to hold sacred space for one another through their presence, support, & shared experiences.

And this year, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone by holding sacred space in the form of Red Tent Events.  The intent is that this will be a welcoming, safe nurturing place for women to connect with other women & reconnect with their authentic Selves in significant ways.  With lots of love & support from dear friends, we created a magical space for 23 participants last March & I’m hoping we have an equally positive response to the Red Tent being held on June 21st, when we’ll explore Refilling the Well- Ways We Nourish & Nurture Our Selves.  Just a little plug for an event that I hope will be deeply moving for each woman.

Charles W. Chestnutt wrote “The workings of the human heart are the profoundest mystery of the universe.  One moment they make us despair of our kind, and the next we see in them the reflection of the divine image.”

I know from experience how hard it is sometimes to recognize the sacredness in others, especially the ones we are closest to.  I use the term “spiritual practice” to identify my spirituality because it has to be practice… practically every day.  I’m both a spiritual being having a human experience & a very flawed human being having a spiritual experience.  For some reason, we tolerate a lot from “them”- politicians, big business, our bosses, but we tend to take it out on the ones we are closest to- friends, family, & one another in a congregation.  Why is sacredness so hard to see in others sometimes?  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.”  Maybe that explains it.

I admit I cannot make the experience sacred for my Red Tent participants any more than the ministers, choir members, or greeters can make this sanctuary sacred for each of us on Sunday.  Remember what I said earlier, it’s intention AND CONNECTION that makes sacred space.  It’s not their responsibility, it’s just as much ours.  It’s our choice to set the intention or not… it’s our choice to connect or not… it’s our choice to make this space sacred… or not.  We each have to come with hearts wide open & participate fully in the making of sacred space.  It’s not a one way street, it’s an exchange of energy.  As someone reminded me a couple of nights ago, right when I needed a loving reminder, showing up physically is only the first step.  Before I blame someone else for what I may feel is a spiritual “lack”, I need to reflect on what I’m bringing to the experience.

“Without love & compassion, nothing is sacred”, Bryant McGill wrote in Voice of Reason.

Consider your connections to the greater York community, this UU community, & your friends.  Where are the sacred spaces for you?  What are you doing to make sacred spaces for your Self & others?  Let’s take one minute to reflect on this.

So let’s tighten that embrace, bringing the circle ever closer… holding onto those we love the most.

III. LOVED ONES Around 1998-1999, all hell broke loose in my life when I lost the extremes, the anchors of my existence, the person I could never please & the person I could never disappoint.  In the eulogy to the latter, I talked about losing my home with the loss of him… my roots seemed to wither & die with my grandfather’s passing.  It wasn’t about the land or the house where I spent the best days of my childhood with him & my grandmother, it was the loss of sacred space created by their unconditional love & our connection to one another.

Truth be told, I find sacred space just about anywhere & everywhere now… at a cookout laughing with a group of friends, watching the clouds from the hammock where I gently rock with napping dogs, & in the garden where my boyfriend & I pick fresh basil & tomatoes for homemade pesto before sitting at the picnic table, watching the sun blanket the barley field in a rosy glow.

When our friends silently step off the deck & walk barefoot among the gardens, I believe they have a sense of the holy & join me in feeling the sacredness of my back yard.  When my niece takes a little bag & fills it with silky soft lamb’s ear, fragrant rosemary, & refreshing mint so she can smell these things hours later when she goes home… she may not articulate it but she is connecting to the sacredness of that space, where sunflower seeds are offertories to the birds & a homemade blueberry cobbler sanctifies friendships.

Sacred space is where you make it.  Heart open… receive it… give it.  It’s all sacred when we choose to see the Divinity all around us.

How do you make your space sacred for your Self & those you love?  What makes it so?  What can you do to make it more sacred?  Thomas Moore wrote in Care of the Soul, “Care for our actual houses, then, however humble, is also care of the soul… Every home is a microcosm, the archetypal “world” embodied in a house or a plot of land or an apartment.”  Let’s meditate on this for one minute, envisioning your intimate space & considering the sacredness there.

IV.  SACRED WITHIN

So we started by radiating our holy intention to manifest the sacred out to the universe & now slowly return, back to our Selves.  The most sacred space of all is within each of us, the Divine Spark… the Light of Love… soul, whatever name you give that which identifies your highest self.

Do you feel that you are sacred?  This can be most difficult for some of us.  Yes, we believe the earth is sacred.  Yes, we see the divine in those around us.  But do we see the divine within ourselves?  Do you?  We are each sacred… despite ourselves… because of our Selves.

How do we make the sacred space within ourselves?  The good news is that you only have to recognize it– for it’s already there.  There is a divine spark in you, a life force energy, kundalini… we each have it.  It’s not about creating sacred space; it’s about acknowledging the divine spark & turning it into a flame.

How do we nurture that sacred space within & deepen our connection to it?  I’ve thought of 5 practices that I can consider when I need to nourish my own sense of sacredness.

  1. Connect to nature.  Find your sense of belonging by hiking in the woods, listening to the roar of the ocean, or lying flat in the grass, imagining roots securing your physical body to Mother Earth.

 

  1. Make energetic connections to rejuvenate your sense of the sacred.  Try reflexology, yoga, tai chi, or Reiki.

In my Reiki practice, for example, I hold sacred space for my client, myself, & the life force energy that connects us both.  If the client remains open to it & is fully invested in the experience, it goes beyond physical, and even the energetic, entering the realm of the spiritual.

  1. Pray and/or meditate.  For me, praying is more like talking & meditating is more like listening… both important aspects of effective communication & both equally important for connecting to a higher source & experiencing the sacredness of the moment.

 

  1. Creative expression, for me, is a great way to make sacred space & nourish the soul… both making art & appreciating art.

 

  1. Lastly, sacred space is best made when we simply remain still & silent.  Set the intention to be reverent for all life, respectful, & even celebratory about the beauty around & within you.  The divine in the everyday.  By setting the intention to focus on the positive, recognizing that all is holy, & connecting to it in a meaningful way, you can make sacred space anywhere.

Donna Davis wrote,  “Open your eyes to the beauty around you; open your mind to the wonders of life; open your heart to those who love you, & always be true to yourself.”

May it be so & blessed be.

Boundaries & Priorities

The other evening, I had a few moments to sit in a lawn chair in my back yard, soaking up the scenery & listening to the birds.  At one point, I looked down at the arm of my chair & saw a delicate little insect with an iridescent green body & transparent wings.  It stayed only a second & was gone.  If I hadn’t looked down at just that moment, I would have missed it entirely.

That’s when it suddenly dawned on me that it’s been a while since I just stopped & participated in nature fully.  I don’t mean glancing up at the sky as I run between my car & the grocery store nor do I mean staring out at the trees as I walk down the hall at work.  I mean sitting in stillness & silence IN nature…. feet on the earth, breeze on the face, & sun on the skin.

Participating.  Being present.

When the realization hit me that I’ve been too busy to connect, I took a cue from people who keep track of expenses so they can see where their money goes, and kept track of where my time goes.  I listed every group, committee, class, & work obligation.  I even listed my boyfriend, dogs, & housework.  I wanted to see it all in black & white.  Am I focusing on what I love or have I gotten distracted by other things?  The answer, I’m ashamed to say, is that I got distracted by other things.  And what’s worse, I make the little things the priority & pushed what mattered to the back burner.  Can anyone out there relate?  It was quite a wake-up call for me.

I admit it; I’m an overachiever.  I’m a woman who says “Yes” and “Sure, I’d love to” without thinking about the time commitment because I like to be helpful & do things I know I’m skilled to do.  We all want to make a difference & feel important.  Right?

But here’s the reality check– I can’t do anything well when I’m doing too much.  The amount of time I need to fulfill all my obligations is greater than the time I have in a given week.  And what’s worse, there is zero time for things like “fun” and “relaxation”.  I cannot do it all.  So it’s time to do 2 things…

Set priorities & establish boundaries.

I put the items on my list in order from most important to least important.  Then, I considered how to scale back.  For some things, it’s easy.  An on-line class ends at the end of the month & an art class ends in early June.  I just won’t take any more classes for a while.  For other things, it’s a little more difficult.  I have to resign from a couple of committees.  I hate to do that but I know that I cannot give my best when I’ve stretched myself so thinly.  Instead, I’ll give the few things that truly matter more of my energy & thereby, make a greater contribution than I am now.  I’m going to keep scaling back until I can take a deep breath & not feel like I’m wearing a corset!

Establishing boundaries may prove to be a bit more challenging for it means I have to look someone in the eye and say “No.  I’d love to help you but no.  I can’t fit anything else in my schedule at this time.”

Some people are masters at multi-tasking.  I’m not one of them.  I prefer focusing on one thing at a time & giving it my best.

Some people can run from one task to another, eating their dinner on their lap while they are driving.  I don’t want that to be my experience.  It’s too stressful.  Plus, I can only eat so many french fries & still fit into my jeans!

I want to have a quality life- balancing the giving & the receiving.  I want to support the causes I care about but I also want to support my own health & well-being.  I need time to watch the insects crawling on my lawn chair.

If it feels like you’re doing too much, YOU ARE.  

List your priorities.  

Start saying no.

There are countless takes on the phrase “Keep Calm & Carry On” but there is an alternative that I saw on a magnet… “Let go or be dragged.”   If it no longer serves your highest good, stop doing it.  Make space for what matters most.  Give as much as you want but remember you have to give to your Self, too.  It’s not selfish… it’s self-preservation.

 

 

 

Love Is All You Need

“All you need is love, love.

Love is all you need”

The Beatles

Valentine’s Day can trigger a range of emotions from joy (if we are in a committed relationship with someone who remembers the holiday without being reminded) to disappointment (if our loved one forgets to buy us flowers or a card) to loneliness (if we don’t have a special someone in our lives at the moment).  I dare say we put too much emphasis on what other people say, do, & think.  We delude ourselves into believing that our measure of worth is determined by someone else but it’s not.  It’s truly not.

You are divine, uniquely you, & beyond compare.

What if you took part of tomorrow, a day that symbolizes LOVE, to love your Self no matter what a significant other, family member, or friend does or doesn’t do?  How liberating!  Your happiness won’t hinge on their actions or words!  Imagine that!!!  If you empower yourself with the ability to love, nourish, & nurture YOU, you’ll feel light & positive energy radiate from every pore. Its all connected– love, happiness, peace, acceptance, joy– and you can give those gifts to yourself by being your own best friend, your biggest advocate, & strongest supporter.

Have you heard the saying, “You can’t take care of anyone else until you take care of yourself.”?  The same is true of love.  You can’t truly love someone else until you learn to love your Self.  All of our other healthy relationships spring from our healthy relationship with our Selves.

There are many simple & inexpensive ways to show your Self love.  Answer this question truthfully, “What nourishes me, bringing me joy & a sense of peace?”  For me, it can be time on a nature trail, lounging in a hammock under the maple tree, reading a book as I float in my kayak, a patchouli-scented bubble bath, sketching with colored pencils, slowly sipping a chilled glass of Chardonnay, eating a spoonful of batter when I make my boyfriend brownies (hope he’s not reading this), or just meditating while my dogs snuggle against my legs.

Give yourself a Valentine by practicing Self love tomorrow, the next day, & the many days after that.  You deserve the best you can give you.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Creativity Needs Encouragement

I am very lucky to have a supportive ring of people around me because their positive energy & encouragement give me the strength to pursue my dreams despite the challenge of living with my head in the clouds 🙂  Dreams can’t come true if we don’t have the courage to dream in the first place.  Negativity shuts out the light, preventing inspiration & imagination from getting the nourishment they need to thrive.  The positive people that surround me are radiant sunshine, encouraging me to try new things & stretch creatively.  They support my desire to express my vision in a unique way.  The saying goes, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”  How much more wonderful it is to travel this journey with loving, supportive people who nurture me!!  It hasn’t always been this way.  I had to make tough choices about what kind of people I wanted to spend my time with & do some pruning so the strongest, healthiest relationships could grow.  Are you able to surround yourself with positive people who nourish you or do you need to do a bit of pruning, too?

A week or so ago, I mentioned a friend who is battling cancer.  I’ve completed her painting, Ring of Friends, with this sentiment in mind.  While this is her lonely battle in some ways, she need not ever feel alone.  She’s got wonderful women from our workshops sending her positive energy, love, & light.  We aren’t in the room literally holding her hand but we are there in spirit, lifting her up.  Ring of Friends is my interpretation of the light-hearted, free spirited time in our lives where we played & laughed, twirling in the sun.  The women in this painting are us– the nurturers, the supporters, & the dreamers– holding hands & encouraging one another.

Ring of Friends- nourish, support, & love us.