Sacred Journey: Personal Mapping

We think we know our stories well because we’ve told them so many times– tales of the choices we made, choices we didn’t make, & things that happened that were out of our control.  Time changes our stories, smoothing the rough edges of some experiences; eroding others until they fade from memory; & leaving some to stand as monuments to who we “think” we are.  We believe what we can articulate is the whole truth about ourselves.  Quite often, words are not enough & we must use a different modality to reveal what lies under the surface of our story.  The deeper meaning of who we our… our Pure Selves.

Each of us is a pilgrim on a sacred journey, where the past shapes the present & the future… & even doubles back on itself at times.  Yet, the past does not define us.  The past is the part of the path we have traveled & the present is the place on the path where we are standing at this moment.  Seeing life as a sacred journey doesn’t erase painful memories but it softens them & helps us view each experience as a source of wisdom or at least, a lesson learned.

Replace the tendency toward judgement of “good” & “bad” with the understanding of “wisdom gained” & “lessons learned”.

I believe the intellect can get in the way of spiritual growth.  We want to analyze situations to get clear, easy “answers” as to why things happen.  Sometimes, the only way to get beyond the logical mind is to try a non-logical approach.  This is why I challenge workshop participants & clients to use creative expression to more intimately connect with their authentic selves, diving into the deep waters where the heart & soul can speak their truth.

My Sacred Journey: a treasure map of my past & present, ending with an image representing my future.

My Sacred Journey: a treasure map of experiences & people who have influenced my spiritual growth.

I developed Sacred Journey: Personal Mapping as a visual way for members of a newly formed womens’ group to introduce themselves to one another & beginning forming meaningful connections with one another.  I explained that there would be three components to their maps.  1.  Images or words portraying their spiritual path to this point.  2.  A representation of where they are, spiritually, in the present moment.   3.  A symbol of where they would like to be, spiritually, in the near future.   That’s it.  That’s all the direction I gave.  You can imagine the variety of reactions I got from each woman, depending on her comfort level with artistic expression.

The point of Sacred Journey Maps is to express something the intellect cannot easily explain with words.  Creative expression gives voice to the soul.  Something surprising & yet recognizable emerges, when you act from heart rather than the mind.  That something is Pure You, your higher self.  You know it when it happens because when your soul speaks through the creative process, there is a physical reaction in your body, usually the solar plexus region or a tightening in your chest… the heart chakra.  There is recognition & an acknowledgement that this is your truth.

After a guided visualization designed to prepare the way for the soul to speak & a brief period of meditation, I set the women free in a room full of art supplies– magazines, adhesive-backed letters, inks, paints, markers, embellishments, scissors, glue, & large sheets of Bristol board.  The images below show the wide variety of Sacred Journey Maps made by the participants.  Each map is a powerful reminder that life is a sacred journey.

Kathy MapCatharine Map

Molly Map Joanne Map

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A Meditation Buffet

My early perception of meditation was that I had to sit still, be quiet, & clear the mind of all thoughts.  I tried.  I tried often over the years but each time, I got discouraged, believing that “I wasn’t doing it right.”  I’ve since redefined meditation for myself.  Meditation is about listening, taking the time to focus on my own well-being & need for a bit more tranquility in my life.  It doesn’t necessarily require sitting in silence on a cushion, although that method works well for many people.  Instead, it might be a method that incorporates chanting or walking as a way to focus the attention.

I recently offered an evening session called “The Meditation Buffet” for curious women open to exploring different meditative techniques.  Just like some of us recharge our mental/emotional batteries by being alone while others get energy from being in a group, we have different spiritual needs as well.  Some people need singing, dancing, & movement while others need contemplative, serene spiritual experiences.  It’s not surprising that we are different in the way we meditate, too.

The Meditation Buffet came out of conversations with friends & a few co-workers.  Most either had no meditative practice or if they did, it was infrequent.  Why?  Three statements frequently come up…

“I don’t have enough time.”

“I can’t sit still for that long.”

“I can’t clear my mind of thoughts.”

 I designed The Meditation Buffet to address those three concerns & offer possible solutions to busy women who may not have the time to explore these techniques in-depth.  (Like a quick taste of an unfamiliar food on a buffet table, a 15-minute introduction to a meditative technique is sufficient to determine whether or not it suits your personality & lifestyle.  Let’s face it, you know when something’s right & when it’s not if you let your intuition guide you.)

“I don’t have enough  time.” With full-time jobs, kids, errands, & other obligations, the time to care for our whole self- physical, mental, spiritual, & emotional- slips to the bottom of the list of priorities.  Everyone & everything else comes first.  Eventually, this catches up with us in the forms of anxiety, sleeplessness, & illness.  We can’t continue to give when we have nothing left to give.  Meditation gives us an opportunity to center ourselves & find peace among the chaos.  When I was a girl, I had a friend who came from a large family.  The only time she could study quietly was in the bathroom.  She’d lock the door then climb into the dry bathtub, shutting out the world with a shower curtain.  You might be laughing but for some people, that’s a possible solution for a bit of privacy.  So, before you say you don’t have time to meditate, get creative.  Think outside the box.  Maybe you need to think inside the bathtub!  This is the hardest excuse to overcome because it means making a commitment to yourself.  It means saying “I’m worth it” and following through regularly.

“I can’t sit still for that long.”  In the workshop, we tried a couple of techniques described in John Hudson’s book Meditation: Simple Steps to Peace, Well-Being, & Contentment  and a few that I learned from other sources, including a beautifully serene walking meditation I first practiced at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.  A participant in the group introduced the rest of us to Birds’ Nest Meditation, which required us to sit in nature, as if in a nest, & heighten our awareness of the world around us.  I found this grounded me & brought a sense of peace from being fully present in the moment.  I recommend Hudson’s book for it has “everyday techniques accessible to everyone” on topics such as postures, mantras, & visualizations.  It’s definitely worth reading if you are new to meditation or still searching for a method that works for you.

“I can’t clear my mind.”  That’s perfectly natural.  I’m not aware of anyone on the planet who is able to free their mind of every thought every time they meditate.  Sometimes, the best we can do is respectfully recognize that we have a lot on our minds & with loving kindness toward ourselves, let each thought drift away like a colorful sailboat on the river of our consciousness.  Acknowledge the thoughts & let them flow.  Do this over & over if you have to, breathing deeply each time you notice another thought trying to distract you from the process.  Do the best you can with this & let that be good enough.  You will improve with practice.

I’m far from perfect when it comes to meditating regularly.  I, too, use excuses when it “doesn’t suit me”; however, I fully admit that I feel out of alignment with my higher self when I neglect my need for solitude & peace.  I’m writing from a place of knowing.

Spring Beginnings

Mourning doves coo from rooftops & robins happily chirp on bare branches, announcing the arrival of Spring.  “Welcome back, everyone!”, I say with a smile, always glad to see animals return to the area.

Smaller birds are gathering straw & twigs for the nests they are building in my 14-room bird “palace”.  Soon, baby birds will be heard calling out to their mothers, “Feed me!”  Last month, my boyfriend took down the birdhouse, cleaned out last year’s abandoned nests, replaced rotting wood, & raised the birdhouse back on its post to make it an inviting space for expectant moms.

Birdhouse

Look closely, the middle room on the upper level is already someone’s new home.

Bright greens, yellows, & purples replace the greys, browns, & whites of winter, brightening my mood as well as my yard.  After months of drab neutrals, pops of color dance before my eyes.

crocus1

crocus2

daffodils

I can’t help it; I’m excited!!  I want to clear away the dead plants that no longer feed or shelter wildlife.  I want to throw open the windows so the brisk breeze can deliver freshness & positive energy to my home.  And, I want to give myself a thorough “spring cleaning”, too.  For me, this means releasing thoughts, habits, & experiences that no longer serve the greatest & highest good.

What has been outgrown?

What should be nurtured?

If we tune in to nature & tune in to ourselves at the same time, we’ll find that what’s happening around us is happening in us as well.  New ideas flow like sap.  Dreams blossom into reality like crocuses rising from the decaying leaves.  Seeds planted in our lives mirror the seeds planted in the soil.  The interconnectedness of all things…

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.

Reiki- Balance, Harmony, & Healing

Everything is made of energy… finally, something spiritual people & scientists can agree on!!  You, me, the maple tree in my backyard, rivers, animals,… all energy & all connected.  The potential for balance, harmony, & healing is immense.  That’s what I love about Reiki.  It’s universal life-force energy, flowing through everything & everyone.

As my Reiki practice grows, I find that it helps my clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually because the energy flows where it’s needed most.  I don’t use the term “healer” to describe myself because I’m a hollow reed, a vessel, for the energy that flows to the person or animal I’m helping.  It’s not my energy that heals; it’s the energy available to all of us with proper training & heightened awareness.  It’s very exciting that the Western medical profession, from doctors to insurance companies, is publicly acknowledging the benefits of energy work.

Every session is unique, allowing me to use a variety of sources, including Usui Reiki, to help my clients.  The work I do falls into three general categories– hands-on, animal Reiki, & distant healing.

Hands-on work means an adult or child comes to me in person for reasons including but not limited to– past trauma, illness or recent surgery, stress or anxiety, and self-awareness to identify a drop in energy or a feeling of disconnectedness.

Animal Reiki is performed for pets who’ve experienced neglect or abuse, anxiety, illness, & even aging issues.  The flow of positive energy & love to the animal can relieve negativity, increase a sense of well-being, & lessen pain & suffering.

Distant healing benefits the client just as hands-on work can do & helps those who cannot see me in person for whatever reason.  The only difference is that it requires more of a time commitment from both me & my client to communicate via phone before & after the service is provided.  The results can be just as powerful.

I’ll explain more in future blogs but wanted to send out this general information because so many people ask, “What it is energy work?” and “How can it help me?”  Websites & books have more background information so my blog posts will focus on my personal experience & what kinds of results I’m seeing in my practice.

Wonder Woman & Superman

When I was younger, I wanted to be Wonder Woman.  Lynda Carter starred in the hit TV show that got my imagination soaring right along with her in the invisible plane!  I made a golden lasso out of my jump rope, bullet-repelling bracelets out of cardboard & tinfoil, & an invisible plane out of… well, nothing,… it was invisible 🙂  I fought the forces of evil– feeling strong, brave, & powerful.

Wonder Woman played by Lynda Carter. Thanks to wonder-woman.wikia.com for the photo.

It takes the qualities of Wonder Woman & Superman to break old patterns & have the courage to create a new reality based on love, light, & all things positive.  When I blogged about being “Cracked Wide Open”, I realized it’s going to take the superhero in me to continue the growth from that experience, standing up for what I believe is right.

Isn’t it an amusing image… you & I walking around like so many mild-mannered Clark Kents & Dianna Princes, until we must summon our super-power & stand up for the environment, those whose voice isn’t being heard, truth, love, peace, equality, religious freedom, etc…?  We throw off our glasses… women twirling magically, revealing their red & gold bustier & knee-high boots while men are running into phone booths, coming out in flowing capes, ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound!  There aren’t very many phone booths anymore so you guys have to get creative.

No one would suspect that mild-mannered Dianna Prince is really Wonder Woman. Thanks to superseventies.tumblr.com for the photo.

We can be active agents of change in our lives if we empower ourselves.  Stop letting negative people, fear, or doubt limit you!  It’s time for the shift in energy that many of us are feeling to become permanent.  Forget the inner critic & inner victim you’ve heard so much about.  I’m telling you that there is a superhero inside of you just waiting to come out!!

Sing- For the Spiritual Journey

“Sing”, the 11th of 12 collages depicting aspects of our spiritual journey, recognizes the importance music has for people of all ages no matter their spiritual beliefs.  In practically every culture around the world, lifting our voices in song is a way to honor & connect with what is greater, either individually or in groups such as a choir or chorus.  Instead of focusing on a group dynamic, I chose to celebrate the individual, one voice rising in song.

This serenely beautiful woman is outside, communing directly with the Divine.  She’s not lost in her song… she IS her song.

The girl, with eyes closed, is blissfully unaware of anything but the music coming from her heart.

Morning Dew

I have the intention of starting each day in nature, offering a prayer of gratitude or blessing, no matter the weather.  I’ve set this intention before but sometimes the bed is so cozy or the day so cold that going outside to pray takes a lot of effort.  I’m so glad I did this morning.

It was cool & foggy in the predawn hour.  Secluded & silent.  The world belonged to me, my cup of coffee, & my dogs.  I gave thanks for my many blessings then lifted my eyes to the maple tree praying next to me (or perhaps it was listening to my prayer).  I gasped with amazement & awe.  The patio light illuminated tiny, perfectly-formed droplets of dew on every blossom & twig.  It also revealed countless delicate spider webs, draping the tree like glittering garland on a Christmas tree.  Dewdrops are more precious than diamonds, in my eyes.

There is nothing man-made that can surpass the beauty inherent in nature.  I’m no poet & my words will never do justice to the magic of being PRESENT this morning.

After breakfast, I walked around my back garden, marveling at the spiderweb “hammocks”, made visible by shimmering dew droplets, nestled in the shrubs, like cupped hands cradling something fragile.  I imagine these exquisite webs to be fairy beds.  (Yes, I fully intend to keep my imagination & childlike wonder my entire life.)

This morning is definitely one of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had.  Others including a perfect rainbow arching over my house a month or so ago (how tempting to search for the pot of gold) & a moment in the mountains when the world was black & white like an Ansel Adams’ photograph because bare trees black with wetness contrasted so dramatically with the fluffy white snowflakes that landed on them.

What richness there is around us when we take time to see!

Drum- For the Spiritual Journey

I’ve always loved a good drum beat… it seems to vibrate to the core of my being, even getting my heart to pound along with its rhythm.  While drumming isn’t a part of my cultural upbringing, I can appreciate how meaningful it is to others.  Drum is the 6th collage in my series of 12 focusing on aspects of the “spiritual journey”

A very talented Hindu in my community inspired this piece.  I couldn’t resist the urge to sketch him as he shared his deeply moving music, becoming one with his drums, entering an altered state of consciousness, & pausing to chant as the spirit moved him.

Over the years, I’ve experienced drumming from a variety of spiritual traditions including pagan drum circles & Native American powwows where the drum connects the drummer to the Divine… a form of prayer or meditation.  These ceremonies & rituals aren’t drum “performances” but a way to direct participants inward.  Shamans are able to take this to another level, journeying to other realities on a drum beat.

Connection to Self.  Connection to Spirit.  Drumming may not be part of my heritage but the fact that it moves me (& so many other people) tells me that it’s worth exploring for myself.

Visualization- For the Spiritual Journey

How might your life be different if you saw yourself as divine?  Are you one of the fortunate ones who already does?

“Visualization” has multiple meanings, depending on the context, but when it comes to my spirituality, it means that I see a connection to something that is greater than myself yet is my Self.  Simply by being alive, I’m connected to the Spirit of All Life.  This knowledge has transformed me, inspiring me to live more fully in light & love.   Don’t misunderstand me; I’m a flawed human being but seeing myself embraced by Divine light enables me to better accept myself as I am & pick myself up when I inevitably stumble along the way.

“Visualization” is the 4th in a series of 12 collages that explore components of a spiritual journey.  While all 12 are not part of my journey, I offer them to you as options… opportunities to explore & grow.  I chose to make this serene woman green to represent women of all ages, races, & cultures.  She’s glowing with an inner light, illuminated by her understanding of how she is sacred, made in the image of the Divine.

Seeing the light in ourselves fuels it to burn brighter, encompassing others in its radiance.  Can you imagine how the world would change if we all did that?  Visualize your own pure light & share it with those around you.

Visualize your connection to what is sacred to you.