Tag: BEAUTY

Joyful Mysteries

Joyful Mysteries

After searching YouTube for John O’Donohue videos, I came upon an unedited conversation/interview he had with Krista Tippett on NPR. It was over 90 minutes filled with little jewels of wisdom and ideas for deepening our soul experience.

He was a former Catholic priest and to me, one of the great Celtic philosophers and healers of our time. One of the ideas he shared in the interview was applying the Joyful Mysteries to your own life and seeing what arises from the depths of soul experience. I was very intrigued by this and decided to work with it. I’m not Catholic nor religious but am a spiritual seeker, one dedicated to deepening my soul experience.

For background information, the Five Joyful Mysteries is a way of praying the rosary. They are centered on the life of Jesus. They include the Annunciation–Gabriel’s announcing to Mary of the Incarnation; the Visitation–spiritual being appearing; Nativity–birth of Jesus; Presentation–when Jesus was presented at the Temple at age 12; Finding–when Mary found Jesus after he stayed behind and was ‘lost’ from her for three days.

These questions relate to the Five Joyful Mysteries and how we might apply them to our lives: When was there an announcement so big it changed your life? When have you experienced a visit from the spirit world? When have you been reborn? What experience do you have with initiation? When have you recovered lost parts of yourself?

O’Donohue suggested naming four times for each of the Mysteries to give yourself a sort of soul map of your life. Just coming up with one for each was an interesting exercise and I look forward to more exploration. Here’s my short list of Joyful Mysteries.

Announcement–Years ago I made a promise to the Universe that if I ever had the money to support myself, I would dedicate myself fully to helping connect humans to Nature through photography and writing. The money came through from a land sale and for the past 12 years I have fulfilled that promise.

Visit from the World of Spirit–My father died during my senior year of college. My family had traveled to Auburn to attend my graduation. On the morning of the ceremony, I awoke suddenly. The house was very quiet. I heard my father say, “I am so proud of you.” I didn’t see him but I felt him in the room with me. It brought me so much joy to feel the connection with him.

Rebirth–After a time when I experienced deep loss in every aspect of my life, I came to a place of total emptiness. It felt like there was nothing left but ashes of my former life. From these ashes, I rose like a phoenix. It took time but it happened and after this death and rebirth, the money became available to dedicate myself fully to the promise mentioned above.

Initiation–Through deep explorations with Nature there have been many spiritual initiations that have changed my life. One in particular stands out. I was on a boat, anchored 90 miles offshore of the Dominican Republic, on a humpback whale encounter. I was up on deck before sunrise doing yoga and as part of my practice that morning began doing a dedication, renewing the promise I made years before to Spirit. The nearly full moon was bright yet stars were hanging so close I could feel their brilliance. Whales were nearby as evidenced by their loud exhalations and fishy, misty breath illuminated by the moonlight. As I stood on deck and spoke, it was as if the whales knew exactly what I was doing and came closer. I felt surrounded by intense energy, as if engulfed in a blue then purple flame as my heart opened more to the whales, stars, moon…to the Universe. It felt as if I was anointed with spiritual fire. (Even as I write this, I feel the power of this experience).

Recovering Lost Parts of Self–Just recently I have been working with a  part of myself that I re-discovered in Ireland. I call it the Warrior Priest. I was at a retreat on Inish Mor and took a couple days afterwards to be by myself and explore the island. On the last day there, I walked to a chapel ruin on the hill above the inn. I felt pulled further over the rocky terrain to the edge of the cliff. As I expressed gratitude and love for the powerfully beautiful place, I turned to leave and felt a presence follow me….not just down the hill but all the way home. As I have worked with this presence I recognize it as a part of myself that I found waiting in Ireland.

Pondering O’Donohue’s suggestion was powerful. It wasn’t difficult to come up with an example for each of the Joyful Mysteries and now I have a greater sense of appreciation for the work I’ve done of creating more wholeness in my life. For each Mystery there are other experiences I can use to create a map of my soul experience.

Perhaps the most beautiful idea to arise from this are more sacred threads to weave into the tapestry of my life. It’s very integrative to search for Joyful Mysteries that have formed this soul experience so I offer this idea to others who might wish to expand their life’s tapestry. Sometimes tools come along that help us acknowledge the path of power we have walked and claim it as our greatest work of art.

 

Breadcrumbs and Buried Treasures

Breadcrumbs and Buried Treasures

When I was a child I instigated buried treasure hunts in the bay where my grandparents lived. A great uncle told us the story of pirates using Week’s Bay as a hiding place and pointed to a place where they used to anchor their ships. He suggested there might be a treasure hidden there in the depths of the sticky, thick, muddy bottom. Every time the tide was low enough, I’d try to recruit my brother and cousins to search for it. We never found it but the seed was planted in my subconscious….buried treasure lies hidden in the dark, sticky, thick mud.

In an effort to clear my phone of clutter, I’ve been sorting through photos and videos. There are many that need to go; however, there are some real jewels that are beautiful and quite amazing in their ability to remind me of not just of good times and travels but of the strong, wild, adventurous person I was. Yes….I said ‘was.’

Over the past year (plus some) I’ve been clearing inner debris…diving into my depths. The phone cleaning is like a final polishing compared to the deep, inner work I’ve undertaken. During this descent into my Underworld I’ve met up with all kinds of ‘fun.’ Fears, anger, resentments…did I already say fears? It’s like the lid was removed on the well-hidden psychic debris and I did a deep dive into it.

One of the gems I discovered on my phone was a letter I wrote to a workshop facilitator from Ireland. I went there for a Celtic spirituality retreat in September 2017. In the letter I described an experience I had there and as I re-read it again yesterday realized that was the entry point into the Underworld.

We were singing a Brigid chant and I saw arise within me a primitive form. It was slick, wet, dirty and it unfolded within me. It felt like this being had been cramped and shoved down into the muck for a very long time. As the day progressed I observed as the figure became progressively clear and more humanoid. Later that night I did a solo walk up to the 5000 year old fort perched atop a 700 foot cliff on the Atlantic Ocean. As I climbed in darkness of night, I could feel Her given space to breathe and freedom to unfold. The next morning She was shining and beautiful. She was a goddess. The Divine Feminine literally born within me. I had been waiting my entire life for the rebirth and worked hard for that moment.

As I walked the next day along the narrow roads of Inishmor, it was Her voice that spoke through my voice, arising to protect the planet and all Her creatures. Something had shifted within and it opened a doorway to a journey…remember Innanna? Her journey?

This experience was the invitation to go deeper, to excavate the inner realms. Not as a way to punish myself (yes, it’s been that hard) with difficulty and pain but so I can discover hidden treasures buried within the fears, resentments, anger. It’s all in there in one massive debris pile and sorting through it is the way to discover the strengths, talents, and gifts.

More sorting on my phone unearthed a video I created over two years ago within a stone circle in Northern England. It was the day after the US election. I was heartbroken as I saw clearly the suffering and darkness that would envelope our country….a lessening of human rights, an increase in social injustices, an attack on the environment and innocent wildlife. That morning I checked the news and fell to my knees in the cottage where my friend and I were staying. I sobbed with grief as the vision of what was to come unfolded. Then it felt like a push and message interrupted my spiral into despair. “Go to the circle.”

I quickly dressed in many layers as it was November and Northern England is quite cold then. My friend was asleep so I left a note and drove to Castlerigg. I was alone there for a while as it was early. I went to the main stone and fell on my knees and simply listened. Very clearly an inner voice said this: This is necessary for there is much darkness hidden. This president will take the country into the depths of hidden darkness so that light can be shone onto it and healing can take place. It will be a perilous journey but one that is necessary. Do not despair.

Foggy dawn below Castlerigg Stone Circle

Two years ago the preparation for my personal descent into the Underworld began. Nearly a year later is when She was freed from the prison of mud and since then it’s as if I’ve been in explorer mode, going where I’ve never had the courage to go before and facing the root of fear within myself.

During the middle of this intense year the Thai boys trapped in the cave were rescued in a most amazing rescue. In an odd way this gave me hope that I would survive my own descent into my inner ‘cave.’ My guide, instead of a cave diver, was a wholeness coach who offered to work with me in my journey. She has been holding the lantern as I make my way back from the long, perilous journey.

Earlier this week I released a lot of anger and resentment and found myself deep in forgiveness…of myself, of others. It felt like the hard kernel of angst had cracked. I wrote that it was like a dark sphere of polished stone cracked open and from that cracking released me to experience more space and freedom within….freedom from the gripping anger at being wronged by others, at being wronged by myself.

Inanna’s descent into the Underworld, to visit her sister, required her pass through seven gates. At each gate she had to remove one of her royal garments….her crown of heaven, breastplate, gold rings, beads, and scepter–rod of power. When she finally gets to the bottom,her sister curses her with a word of power and she dies and is hung from a hook to rot. She is rescued and arises from the Underworld three days later.

She isn’t a whole person until she becomes vulnerable before her dark sister, dies and returns to life. Inanna’s story is a template for those wishing to be whole. There is sacrifice. We leave the trappings of the ego behind–all of who we think we are must be removed. The ego is stripped of its power, which feels like death. Then we return, cleansed of ego and born into our true self.

Making the journey to the inner depths can be disorienting. All of who we think we are must be surrendered. We learn to be okay with uncertainty. The Unknown becomes a friend or fiend depending on our attitude.

The journey to wholeness isn’t easy. Often I have questioned the reason for going through such painful excavations. Years ago I was given the answer and it continues to be true and grow in power: The clearer and more open I am, the more I can truly live and feel the life force within and around me. The subtle energies of Nature can be felt clearer. The communion with wildlife is sweeter and stronger. I am a clearer channel when I clean my Underworld.

Sometimes it can feel like self-punishment…this relentless quest for wholeness. Ultimately I am simply discovering the treasure that was buried by pirates who plundered and pillaged long ago. Thankfully I have left breadcrumbs in the form of photos, videos and writing.

The following note was written by me on the title page of Matthew Fox’s book, Original Blessing. It is dated October 6, 2005:

It is an outpouring of God from my depths that comes out of me, that demands attention, and I know that surrendering to this passion to express God’s love through me is the only path that leads to happiness for me. When I allow God’s awesome beauty to move through me and express itself through my thoughts and words I am transformed. I become something greater than I imagined I could be. Writing about these transcendent experiences is my salvation. 

Until I saw myself happily talking into the camera on my phone, I didn’t realize how much I have changed…I don’t recognize who I have become. The descent has taken a heavy toll. However, I feel a growing flame of friendship with my self that is hopeful and reassuring and holds within it the promise of light-filled adventures of joy and beauty.

“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.”–Mark Anthony

May we have the courage necessary to explore not only our individual darkness but our collective darkness that is now exposed for the world to see.


As I was adding photographs to the blog post an email dinged in…it was from the sweater market on Inishmor. It felt like a little pat on the shoulder from the Ancestors saying, ‘we are proud of you…we support your journey.’ That’s where the descent began….that’s where the deep healing journey kicked into overdrive.

 

Remembering the Whales

Remembering the Whales

As I was doing my sunrise, front porch yoga this morning, I flashed back to pre-dawn yoga anchored 90 miles offshore of the Dominican Republic. The moon was still hanging low in the sky, the stars were visible even with the white light of the moon. All around me whales were floating, silent in their reveries. Their misty, fishy breath drifted across the deck as I moved through my practice.

During that time there was no doubt they were completely aware of my consciousness and intention. The words I held in my heart to connect with the Ocean, Stars, Whales were magnified with love moving between my heart and their hearts. As I type this even now I get goosebumps….more than two years later.

In my book, Cosmic Whales, I describe in detail the experience of feeling a purple flame of light surround me. “Halfway through my yoga practice, I face the port side of the boat in a wide, squat pose. White whale breath nearby is illuminated by the nearly full moon. A whale exhales close to the boat and I feel the breath drift across my face and arms. A shooting star arcs across the sky, over the whale….I am awestruck and stand in mountain pose in contemplation….It is a moving mantra of love for the Ocean. The whales respond by coming even closer to the boat….In the moonlit, pre-dawn light I hear them exhale and see their misty, white breath as it drifts across the calm, black surface of the water….I hold my hands overhead in prayer and feel myself engulfed in spiritual flames of blue, then violet.”

Moments like these can bring us joy and peace years after the initial experience. Lately, I’ve been thinking about humpback whales…a lot. They began calling me when I was just a child. And now, living far from their summer feeding grounds, I feel their insistent presence within my heart and mind. Blessed are the singers, who call me home.

Flow Like a River

Flow Like a River

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” Rainer Maria Rilke

The manatee played with my vest, searching for something interesting to satisfy her curiosity. I kept flooding my mask as I laughed into the snorkel while holding my big underwater housing at an awkward angle for a selfie with my friend. This was a moment when unbounded joy leaped from my heart and the experience of Oneness was celebrated. I think Rilke had it right….be as a child and let life flow.

I see that with musicians, especially at venues like The Frog Pond in Silverhill, Alabama, where singer-songwriters are encouraged to jam. When the minds of musicians go into that flow, they sync and magic happens. Literally….it unfolds before our eyes.

I want to explore the world with the spirit of flow and openness. When I can be in that place within my Self, I can find holy ground no matter where I roam.

 

When I was in Ireland last September, on the island of Inis Mor, I allowed the spirit of flow to take my feet and surrendered to the direction it led. The path dead-ended at an ancient bee hive stone hut. Far in the distance was a beautiful white horse. I couldn’t see a way to the horse but longed to meet it.

Later that day, our retreat attendees went with a guide to the same place and there, in front of the stone hut was the white horse…waiting for me. Excitement bubbled forth as I greeted the horse. I called her Fiona. Later, when I looked up the name, I found out it means white. She and I still have a strong connection even though there is an ocean between us.

Even in my painting, I follow the muse of humor and fun. Buddy meets a dolphin….Buddy and the whales….much of my work with paint and canvas is a celebration of color, fun and life.

You don’t have to be frisked by a manatee or meet a white horse who likes to smile to connect with the flow. Everyone’s flow and presence can look different. The key, perhaps, is to open our hearts and minds to surrender, to acceptance….and then simply play.

Musicians can be excellent examples of how to be in the flow…to not force or hold back. When they are having fun…it’s magic.

What magic would you like to experience? What calls your heart? What holds you back?

Whatever you do, stop wasting time and waiting for the right moment to be in your flow. Open your heart and mind and leap into the River of Life. “May what I do flow like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” And I might add to Rilke’s contemplation that you might find Holy Ground wherever you are in that flow.

I invite you to listen to Luka Bloom’s music and follow the way of the Sacred Child to find Holy Ground.

 

Totality

Totality

There is a beginning

a middle

and an end.

We have no say

in how long

we stay

in the middle…

but how sacred,

how wondrous

is that time.

Celebration at the beginning,

Sadness at the end.

In the middle is

where love grows.

Let not this ending

erase the totality

of beauty and magic

this amazing soul

brought to everyone

who knew her.

___________

I woke up the morning after a dear friend’s sister passed with this poem rumbling around inside. I sleepily reached for paper and pen while repeating the words as they knocked against my mind.

Roberta was a beautiful soul who did so much for the Miami community. She brought people together and they loved her for it. Her passing was a shock. It was as if a bright lamp in a lighthouse was suddenly extinguished.

I decided to share this poem because too often we forget the positive effect we have on the lives of others. Lately, life has really held me in a vise grip and I have doubted my work, path….all of it. It’s been a time of deep soul searching.

Today, a friend of mine shared how much she appreciated my writing and photography and what it means to her and how much she loves me. Tears flowed as we shared. Eydie has been a constant support and cheerleader for me here on the Alabama coast. She has championed my work like none other here.

We never know how our efforts in the world will create something that touches another person and truly, it’s not any of our business how it is received. Our only task is to listen to the call of our heart and follow its promptings. And then simply let it go.

We are all here in the middle….together. Shall we recognize the beauty and magic within ourselves and in others? Shall we begin now?