Category: Spiritual Self

Lassoing the Light

Lassoing the Light

ScanI have a clear memory of waking up from a nap when I was a small child. My grandmother Lipscomb was outside planting or watering flowers. I leaned against the windowsill and told her I needed glasses because I couldn’t see. She was holding a coffee can and asked me what color it was. My reply was, blue. She was surprised and replied she didn’t know I knew my colors. I was frustrated though because it wasn’t colors to which I was referring. I was losing my sight and now I know that I was losing my spiritual sight. I was forgetting that beautiful glory from which I came.

simonelipscomb (5)“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,

And by the vision splendid

Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.

-William Wordsworth

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My daughter Emily

What did you dream of as a child? What was your passion? Authentic play and imagination expressed your deepest longing and biggest strengths; what was your play?

In the hours spent riding Champ, my spring horse, I sang my way back into the dreamtime. What was I remembering, trying to bring into the physical, from that place before birth where all things are possible?

Hoh Rainforest
Hoh Rainforest

You know the place. You know the dream…the ideas…the path. It’s that creative impulse that stirs our emotions when we are small children. We cry when a favorite song isn’t known by an adult. We’re surprised beyond belief when our mother doesn’t appreciate the red-ink birds we draw on her favorite painting. We become frustrated when adults in our lives don’t see the genius of our soul’s purpose to which we are still intimately connected. We are masters of our craft but in tiny physical bodies, unable as yet to fine-tune our bodies to the demands of our art.

Scan 1
Practicing piano, age 9

As we ‘grow-up’ we perhaps forget about the dream that was birthed with us into this physical reality. Society conditions us to fit into a mold, become one of the tribe. We can be left feeling as if we never fit in with the rest of the world. The only way we feel genuine is to touch the dream we were born with and allow it to come forth into expression.

Some of us hold on to that clarity of dream, of purpose, from the beginning while others appear to lose it and struggle all our lives to reclaim it. It can be very difficult to sort through the many voices telling us what to do and what they think will be best for us. Not only can we lose our spiritual sight, we can lose our ability to hear our soul’s voice.

simonelipscomb (19)I posed this question to my mom: What did I dream or fantasize about as a child? I wondered if her version and my version would be the same. She said horses were my fascination and that I was fiercely independent and strong willed. She said I would get up every morning and climb on my spring horse Champ and play music on my record player. She said I set it up so I could listen to music and start the needle over again from the back of Champ. I climbed trees and wasn’t a ‘doll’ kid. She mentioned that I enjoyed piano with my first teacher more than with my second teacher. And that I had every Barbie character Mattel made with suitcases full of clothes.

Love of horses, independence, music, trees and yes, I created endless stories with my Barbies. Mom forgot to mention my flair for drawing birds on paintings…mom later corrected me after reading the first version of this story and said I drew ropes on the boats because there weren’t any and I told her there needed to be ropes to tie the boats. I think I was about to add the birds when she caught me. I took piano lessons for ten years but grew weary of the classical music and rigid sight-reading drills. My teacher drilled classical music into my soul while I wanted variety and color and spark. I needed it to be fun! Cowgirls need that element of life.

Repeatedly I got the message to do something with which I could make money. This came from school teachers and others. My grandfather, who grew up in the Depression, wanted me to focus on finances. As I teen when I talked about what I wanted to do with my life the ideas of photography, writing, music and other creative pursuits that really made my heart soar were discouraged. He wanted me to succeed and have the resources to survive. Mom encouraged teaching and she was right…I love to teach and find it one of my greatest joys although not in the traditional sense.

I purchased my first SLR camera with money my grandparents gave me for high school graduation. After many years of college studies, degrees and careers…state park naturalist, psychotherapist, massage therapist and energy work practitioner and instructor… it was my grandfather that supported my artist endeavors, posthumously. Selling a large piece of property I inherited from him provided the resources (and thus the time) for me to immerse myself fully into my creative pursuits that are centered around my passion for nature. Writing and photography are the tools I use to express my love of the Earth.

If I could journey back into time to that three year old child and ask her, What do you want to be when you grow up?  If I told her she could be anything she could dream I imagine she would say, I want to be a cowgirl!

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A cowgirl is a woman who exhibits the skills necessary to succeed. Skills such as resilience, self-reliance, strength, will, courage and determination are necessary to be a cowgirl. The journey from birth to my fifties has called for these qualities and thankfully I was born with them and have honed them through walking the Path. I write stories, although not about Barbie and Ken. I photograph the natural world, in celebration of beauty and light. I give myself permission to paint murals on walls, not red-ink birds but fun stuff just the same.

simonelipscomb (13)Mostly I dream of bringing forth the beauty of that place many of us have forgotten. The language of the heart speaks through poetry, music, prose, paintings, drawings, sculpture… It takes a cowgirl to lasso the light and bring it forth into our physical world and I’m in very good company, my friends. Many of you bring light into this world and share it through the talents you brought into your life. How wonderful to share the journey with other souls who are bringing the language of the soul into manifestation.


Cape Flattery, Washington
Cape Flattery, Washington


What Love Can Do

What Love Can Do

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Lately I’ve been asking the question, How can we really make a difference? Actually, for several months now I’ve been walking with this prayer in my heart and mind. I breathe it in the morning….walk with it during the day….rest my head on my pillow at night with this koan echoing through my spirit.

SimoneLipscombDocumenting the Gulf Oil Spill broke my heart and mind open. It brought me to my knees in the truest sense because I saw how everything precious and sacred can be taken away by careless human acts and ongoing choices and behaviors that are centered on profit…at any cost. After struggling with emotions of anger, grief, frustration, helplessness and more I connected with Joanna Macy‘s work and traveled to spend a week with her and others committed to creating positive change in our world. Without hesitation I can say that the week spent in Massachusetts helped me climb out of the emotional hole that I fell into witnessing first hand the oil spill.

Once among the living, however, my sense of direction faded. I realized I could no longer approach my work with anger or frustration because what I felt so strongly was love…for the planet, for creatures, for humans. I couldn’t bombard people with the horrific images that had filled my nightmares any longer. I didn’t want to be in denial about what is happening in our world but focusing on the terrible seemed only to perpetuate more of it. I felt that people were grieving the destruction of life, even if they weren’t consciously aware of it. And perhaps seeing beauty would inspire them to engage, encourage them to care a little more.

Water captivates me and my favorite images center around water...waterfalls...big water...underwater.

The theme of beauty and more specifically, focusing on beauty, became the answer I began to hear each time I asked the question, What can I do to make a difference? Yet that answer didn’t give me complete satisfaction or a sense of true direction. It was a start though.

Many more months have passed and the question still pulls me to deeper understanding. It seems quite simple but how difficult it can be to live the answer I received: Love. Love is the answer I’ve been hearing lately.

It sounds cliche. It sounds so ’60’s. Yet as I’ve explored and read….listened deeply to my core…it’s that simple.

Standing in love doesn’t mean we are powerless or squishy. Sometimes love looks powerful and strong. Other times it is enfolding, soft. It seems we are at a point of powerful change in our world. It takes radical courage to live from Love for most of what is modeled in our world is power-over, squishing the competition, winning at any cost….more…more…more. To observe this way of being and step away from it, to stand centered in love and compassion is radical. And yet history  has proven that power for power’s sake never works.

Or moments of intense stillness and inner quiet.

In some philosophies there is a diagram that is helpful. In it two lines intersect. One runs up and down and is considered to represent Spirit. The other crosses it and is representative of the physical path. In the center, at the intersection where Spirit and physical meet, is the point of becoming. It’s the place where we can, in a physical experience, balance our life with the qualities of Spirit, of Love.

Wendell Berry states, “Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a practice.” He also said, “What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness.” This leads me to conclude that what leads to love isn’t hate…it’s love.

800_1019If we really want to change the world for the better, our first task then is to clear all obstacles within ourselves that keep us from truly knowing love. This means letting go of judgment of self and others, letting go of hate of self and others. Selfishness, ego…all must go as we open our hearts to the absolute power of love. When we do this, when we have such radical courage, we will see what love can do.

No Ego Needed

No Ego Needed

Pam Wooten, Jill Heinerth, Simone Lipscomb. Photo by Rick Crawford.

The weekend before the New Year found me in Cave Country–North Florida–once again. I was drawn there to take a course in side mount, or so I thought. It wasn’t until after the trip was over and I was home that I realized the deeper reason I made the trip.

My friend Pam and I decided to take the class with Jill Heinerth. Pam knew Jill but I simply followed the recommendation of another friend and cave instructor. I won’t go into the details of the course because that’s not my focus. But I would like to share about the women that were present that weekend.

Connie LoRe, a role model for me in cave diving.  She has led trips to the beautiful caves of Akumal, Mexico for many years. Photo by Ed Jackson.

Cave diving has progressed from a male-dominated sport to one in which women are routinely participating, instructing and exploring. I thought it was rather awesome to be in a cave course taught by a woman with a female classmate who excels in the field of dive instruction. One of Jill’s friend’s was teaching a cavern course. Renee was another outstanding woman. As we were figuring out our new gear yet another amazing woman showed up to dive. Barbara am Ende, cave explorer and writer, came over and started chatting. I was a bit distracted with all the learning to realize the powerhouse of women standing around us.

Renee Power
Renee Power

Our first day ended with a dive in the Ginnie Bowl and Ballroom. Renee accompanied us. I’m not sure if it was because Pam and I were giving Jill more challenge than she bargained for and she was about to pull her hair out in frustration or if Renee just wanted to come along for the fun. Regardless, it was a very nice dive once we got our gear situated. We played around for over 30 minutes in the cavern and it was quite lovely surfacing after dark to a beautiful sky and clear water surrounded by cypress trees. After we finished Jill left to join her husband for dinner while Pam, Renee and I chatted. I felt an immediate kinship with Renee as we shared about our experience instructing scuba with wounded soldiers. Exhaustion finally overcame me and I headed for a hot shower and food.

At lunch Jill was telling Pam and I about an expedition Barbara had been on and mentioned something about a book. I emailed a note to myself to read the book…Beyond the Deep.

Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long
Barbara am Ende. Photo by Mark Long

The following day of class I got to chat a bit with Barbara. She was super-nice and was interested in my photography of the trees, water and light. She shared her card so we could keep in touch but we didn’t have a chance to really visit too much. And for some reason I didn’t associate her with the expedition and book Jill had referenced.

I had to end the diving a bit early due to a cold virus that had been challenging me during the course and the dives. I had no energy and had to focus really hard just to stay present so perhaps that’s why I ‘missed’ the profound women gathered together. Or maybe it was because there was no ego, no chest-beating, no race to see how far or how deep cave penetration was that day. It was friendly, supportive sharing and everyone was equally bringing her best self forward.

WAWhandLOGOwebsiteOnce I got home and was recuperating on my sofa, I watched Jill’s video. We Are Water is a beautiful story of water and the importance of it to us but more than that, it is the story of Jill’s passion and love for the planet. And that resonated deeply with me. Her words echoed my own as she described entering the caves as a spiritual experience; a kindred soul indeed. I’m not an explorer into the deeps of caves or icebergs but I am an explorer of our relationship to nature. I see that in Jill as well.

After the movie, I wanted something else to help me make the best use of my down-time so I downloaded Barbara’s book to my iPad. As I started reading I thought, Oh, my goodness! This is the woman I met? The expedition to the cave in Mexico in which Barbara participated was intense. Over a ton of gear was transported by a system of belays to sumps far below the surface. I couldn’t put the book down and so stayed up late reading in awe of such an amazing journey. It was a powerful venture into the unknown.


I emailed and chatted with my friend Pam after the trip and shared with her my disbelief that such powerful women came together that weekend. It wasn’t planned. The timing of meeting Renee and Barbara was truly profound. I think this is so because there was such friendliness and approachability with everyone present.

It wasn’t just Jill and Barbara that brought tremendous strengths and gifts to those picnic tables at Ginnie Springs. Each one of us has an authentic way of interacting with the world and we each have something beautiful to offer the world. But so does every woman…every person.


Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director.
Pam Wooten, PADI Course Director. Photo by Simone Lipscomb

The weekend was made especially meaningful as Pam and I shared about our lives…openly, honestly. What a gift to experience the deepening of friendship.


Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson
Simone cave diving in Mexico. Photo by Ed Jackson

Terry Tempest Williams said that if a woman ever honestly wrote about and shared her life story, the world would split open and be forever changed. As I reflect back to that weekend, gratitude overflows as I treasure the gift of wisdom each one shared. Perhaps the biggest gift I received was the assurance that wisdom comes with gentleness, straightforwardness, honesty, play, self-awareness in a space where no ego is needed.

Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

simoneOver 28 years ago I was sitting in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee. Going through a major upheaval in my life caused me to seek guidance from a therapist and I was using the before-session time to sit quietly and collect my thoughts. During that time in my life I was awakening to my spiritual path and trying to figure out who I was…normal twenty-something angst.

A quiet corner of the park drew me and I sat in a glider. As I watched the trees and squirrels and people, I noticed what appeared to be a homeless man walking with strong intention from the far corner of the park. I was a bit uneasy as I was alone and he seemed to be heading straight for me.

Sure enough his long, purposeful strides brought him directly in front of me where he stopped and held out his hand, as if to shake mine. Without knowing what else to do I simply held out my hand and shook his. He simply said, “My name is John.”

SimoneLipscomb (1)When our hands touched and he spoke, it was as if my heart and mind expanded. I felt as if everything changed in that moment. It felt like an electrical jolt awakened me.

I believe John was an angel in human form. He disappeared after shaking my hand with the same purposeful walk. But my life was never the same.

Yesterday as I was leaving the Starbucks in Lake City, Florida I noticed a man with a heavy beard, cammo jacket, rough skin and very sad eyes drinking a cup of coffee. I paused, made eye contact, smiled and nodded. When I stepped outside I noticed his beautiful dog sitting next to his pack and bedroll. Alert and watchful, he observed me cautiously as I said hello.

SimoneLipscomb (2)I got to my car and felt my heart open and tears began to pour down my face. First, I felt tremendous gratitude for my many blessings…friends, family, home, car, food, and lots of fun toys for scuba, SUP boarding, cycling, photography. All of this abundance for which gratitude and humility bubbled up within me. Then the tears intensified as I wept for people that are alone or lonely or in pain. And I thought about how humans are so disconnected and how each day we have opportunities to make a difference in other’s lives.

It was New Year’s Day and so I was already pondering changes I would like to make in my life during the upcoming year. The weekend had given me much to ponder as I trained in a new form of scuba and cave diving. Challenges always bring up my ‘stuff.’

SimoneLipscomb (3)My instructor and I connected through email after I shared a blog entry I wrote about my experience and through her reply I had a major self-realization: I have consistently felt the need to be strong, to not show weakness. For decades I’ve put an intense effort into being strong. I did this from the time I was a small child riding a tricycle. Always independent and capable, refusing to ask for help. After over 50 years of this, I’m tired.

Nobody asked me to be strong or fiercely independent and it has served me well in much of my life. But a hard edge developed and I felt protected and guarded…not always, but much of the time.

Tears flowed as I read my instructors beautiful comments. I realized how much I’ve had to demonstrate strength and power to be accepted in relationships…or at least that was my perception. I never knew those scars were present until her kind words found their way to me.

SimoneLipscomb (5)When I greeted the man in Starbucks, when our eyes met, I was reminded that an open heart and mind is what I want to offer the world this year. As I drove, I pondered the entire weekend and resolved to bring all of who I am into the world. Refusing to hold back parts of myself but to joyfully express love and compassion, to allow myself to be vulnerable.

SimoneLipscombI’m not sure how angels work among us but I believe they do. When we drop the walls of fear erected to protect ourselves, we begin to know them, to learn from them. And can then pass along the love given to us.






jill's photo 2 (2)The last time I was in an underwater cave was April 6th, 2010. Over three and one-half years ago I was at Peacock Springs State Park and dove in 25 foot viz in green water. I spent 54 minutes with two dive buddies and went up the Peanut Tunnel entrance. My gas was 31 % EAN (enriched air nitrox). I wore two steel tanks in a backmount configuration (meaning they were banded together and joined by a manifold with an isolator valve). It was my 85th cave dive.

Over ten years ago I was riding on the back of a motorcycle and the guy operating it hit a pot hole on the interstate going about 70mph and the result for me was a compression fracture of L5 and a small piece of bone that floats around a bit…not much but just enough to cause a lot of pain when my hip is compressed by carrying anything heavy on my back or doing exercise or movement that pushes the bone fragment against my sacrum. It’s not serious or debilitating but carrying heavy steel tanks on my back created too much compression to enjoy cave diving. Additionally, I lost my dive buddy due to divorce.

I’ve missed cave diving–or certain aspects of it. The feeling of being surrounded by earth while underwater is one of the most holy experiences of my life. This is especially evident in caves found in the Akumal, Mexico region of the world where the once-dry caves are heavily decorated with stalagmites and stalactites and the water is crystal clear and 78 degrees. And still. The water generally has no flow in the Mexico caves.

It’s different here in north Florida. First, there are no decorations in the caves. They are seep caves formed from underground aquifers that create tunnels–lots and lots of underground tunnels filled with water.And it’s different because it’s only six hours from home by way of I-10 instead of a jet ride down to Mexico. However, the most important distinction for me is that many of the caves here have significant water flow.

In my first book, Sharks On My Fin Tips, I related a story of my first attempt to enter an underwater cave at Ginnie Springs. I compared it to feeling like a mosquito trying to grab the windshield of a car while it’s traveling at a high rate of speed. I stuck with it because I wanted to experience the caves of Mexico and basically, it’s a unique experience that is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

Photo by Jill Heirneth

Sidemount diving gives the opportunity to carry two tanks attached to the diver’s sides, carried to the water independently and attached in shallow water, taking the stress of the diver’s back. Many divers switch to sidemount due to back issues after carrying heavy doubles on their backs. This seemed like the perfect solution for me.

After making inquiries about sidemount instructors I chose one and a friend of mine decided to take the class with me. We are both competent divers and in fact both function as open water instructors. She also teaches scuba instructors how to instruct. The first day of class we were both humbled by the new gear and configuration. It was like learning to dive from the beginning.

jill's photo 2 (6)When I first began cave diving and switched to double tanks I felt the same way. So much gear and such a hassle to even get in the water….it seemed very tedious and there was a lot of task-loading. But over time and through practice, backmount diving with doubles became like second nature. But never was the setup easy. It was a pain in the rear. And in my case…a pain in the back.

There is a lot of redundancy in gear for safety reasons so a diver still has to carry three lights, extra air, extra reels but with sidemount the configuration is different. The harness and wings (that provide lift) are all different. So it is like starting over yet again.

It’s funny how activities I am drawn to perfectly mirror my inner life. I am starting over again after a ten year relationship ended. It’s not easy. Over the past two years I have had to learn to be single again and at times it has been incredibly challenging. But over time it has gotten easier and I’m comfortable with ‘just’ me now. The sidemount class mirrored my challenges of the past couple of years.

It took a while but by the end of the first day I felt comfortable in the harness, with the tanks and was in a good position in the water…all vital to successful diving. We went on a night dive into a beautiful cavern at Ginnie Springs called the Ballroom and practiced. I liked the feel of the gear and felt comfortable in my body. It was great to be surrounded by earth while underwater.

But I knew I wasn’t ready to face a high-flow cave in my new gear. I was clear with the instructor. It had been over three and one-half years since being in an underwater cave. But it’s not the overhead environment that bothers me. It’s the flow. It has always been the flow. I abhor it. I don’t know any other way to explain it. I simply detest the high flow because I have to pull against it. After two years of fighting to find myself again and get comfortable in my own skin once more, the thought of fighting against anything made me tired–emotionally and mentally.

Photo by Jill Heirneth

Day two of class and I felt great in my gear. I changed a couple of things in the configuration and trimmed out nicely in the water once again. No issues really. But since our instructor chose Ginnie as a place to do our penetration dives I was apprehensive. Have I mentioned how I dislike high-flow systems?

I shared my concerns and our plan was to do a short penetration through the Eye, one of two entrances into the cave. As we descended into the small bowl leading into the eye I felt good. The instructor tied off her reel and I followed with my buddy behind me. We descended through rock and sand and lines of other divers. I was doing okay with the overhead but as the opening got smaller the flow was more forceful. I struggled to get my buoyancy balanced. It was difficult to continue. I stopped and regrouped and moved forward. Little-by-little I progressed until I came to a point where three lines covered the bottom. I knew because I wasn’t able to get the proper buoyancy I would most likely drag on one of the lines. So I made the decision to turn the dive.

Upon turning I realized I was already caught on one of the lines. It wasn’t a big deal though. I reached under my body and ran my hand down and removed the line from my pressure gauge then slowly ascended behind my buddy up to the light zone and into open water.

jill's photo 2 (3)One thing I have always insisted upon in myself is that I can call a dive at any time for any reason. This way of thinking is taught in the cave diving community as we never want anyone to push when they should really draw back. It’s not always an easy decision to make, however. You don’t want to let your buddies down. You want to succeed. You want to be masterful in your skills.

But what I have come to understand through over fifty years of making mistakes and growing from them is that success isn’t about pushing myself to succeed at any cost. Monitoring my thoughts, emotions and physical body helps me learn self-mastery and this leads to self-trust. And this is far more important than mastering a high-flow cave in new gear.

And too, fighting the flow of life’s journey is futile. People float in, people float out. Jobs, homes, geographic locations, experiences….all of these components of our journey come and go and to try to hold on to them, to keep things static, is futile. Success comes from surrendering to the flow, not from fighting it…not from pushing against it. I told my instructor and my dive buddy yesterday at lunch that I’m so weary of pushing against the flow of my life. I don’t have any fight left to try and make things work out a certain way. The cave flow reminded me so profoundly of this truth.

Life provides opportunities to refine the relationship we have with our self and learn the sacred art of self-mastery.

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