Tag: Ireland

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.


The Vision

The Vision

For over two years I’ve been moving through a threshold. In the Celtic way of thinking, a threshold is a place of transition where something is changing but you haven’t gotten to the ‘new’ way yet. It’s like a doorway in the realm of the psyche. Or a tunnel….and sometimes that tunnel can feel never-ending.

I remember telling our small group meeting in Inish More, Ireland, back in September 2017 I was navigating a threshold and knew a lot of changes were coming. It had begun in November 2016, when I was in northern England. I had no idea the journey through it would last this long.

A tremendous love of the planet and all life here has guided my travels, photography and writing over the past 12 years. The desire to connect with underwater realms, sacred landscapes and wildlife has fueled a passion that led to the creation of several books and presentations to schools, libraries…anywhere people would listen.

So when I kept sensing that a radical change was coming I couldn’t imagine what it could be. How could I be more in alignment with my heart’s work?

Enter a time of Void; a going into intense darkness. For a very long time. Stumbling, trembling, groping through a maze of emotions, behaviors, patterns. Mucking through a dark cave…or as I like to call it, a messy treasure hunt.

Thankfully I have had guides met along the way to help navigate this journey. First, a white horse I met in Ireland has become a spiritual companion of strength and wisdom. I feel her run beside me as I cycle and journey with me in meditation. When I first saw her, I was walking by myself in Ireland at an old beehive hut made of stone where hermit priests lived during periods of intense spiritual practice. I saw her from a distance but couldn’t reach her due to the maze of stone walls. Our group returned later that afternoon and she was standing beside the hut waiting. And each time I visited solo, she would be there.

The rocks and land and sea of the west coast of Ireland awakened me…profoundly so…to a deeper connection with the planet and myself. I would walk up, by myself each night, to one of the ancient stone forts, maybe 5000 years old, and sit 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean listening to the sea, to stars, to ancient voices that still speak if one can quieten the mind to hear.

During those walks up the steep path in darkness–with only starlight guiding me–I developed courage to walk in the dark, trusting that I would be okay. Those experiences helped me develop the ability to walk in darkness with courage.

Another guide I have had is a wholeness coach. She has been a true light in the darkness. Rose allows me to safely journey deep by holding a lantern and shining light on little gems that want excavation. Without a doubt, our work together has helped me move from a very stuck place to a place that is once again beginning to flow.

For many months it has been intense…an inner pilgrimage that has uprooted fears and shaken me to my core. In the process, parts of myself–seemingly lost lifetimes ago–are being reclaimed…really wise parts. Integration is happening. And finally, the vision is unfolding.

It’s not about saving the world or being a better photographer or writer or producing more books or giving more talks. It is about holding clearer space for love to move through and guide me. It’s about being an anchor of light for a planet in need of more light. And from that, everything will unfold.

It’s not a grand vision needed from any of us. It’s a simple vision of getting to a place where we can hold love in our hearts and let go of judgment, fear, resistance, anger, hate…the things that keep us stuck.

The most difficult thing I’ve ever done is face my own darkness….not the dark, creative realms of rich fertile, inner ground…rather, the darkness that seeks to snuff out light, like the Dementors in the Harry Potter movies. Those vile creatures gloried in despair and drained peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them. We all have at least one inner Dementor.

Each of us must come to terms with this light-stealing darkness as we open to love. Whatever it is that takes us out of the pure expression of love is what needs examination. It is hard work… maddeningly difficult and exhausting. Should you wish to make the journey know there are others of us making it as well. You are not alone. We can all shine a little light for each other.

We can lovingly take responsibility for that within us which lessens the true self, the light-self, that is wanting to shine.


Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

the full moon through

oak limbs shines the silver

light of solstice time

and chilly air, crisp

with winter’s grasp,

makes steam as wonder

escapes my quivering lips.

honor darkness born

from light’s journey

to far lands.

now celebrate the return

of longer days, as

darkness retreats.

oh, the sacred dance

of the wheel as it turns

and moves, ever onward

through its seasonal march

and brings mere mortals closer to

the divine as we journey

through age-old rhythms.

sun, moon, earth

in sacred harmony

among the music

of the spheres.


The Presence…A Short Story

The Presence…A Short Story

Chapter One

 It had been a long journey. It seemed like lifetimes of struggle to get to a place where everything could be prepared and set in place. It wasn’t the beginning, but rather an end. He was hopeful that someday it would be a beginning, but not now. This was his end or at least the end of this life he had known.

He traveled light with only bare essentials. Everything unnecessary had been left behind with no regrets, no grieving. He felt free even though he was fully aware of his ending that was soon to come.

He had seen it coming like an approaching fog. He knew it would envelope him and take his body. But the body was simply a vehicle. The spirit would survive. His goal was to find the right place to leave the gift.

The landscape was gray. Rocks seemed to be split open with wide cracks criss-crossing as fissures that gave deep texture to the rough surface. Small, green plants peeked from the dark crevices but grew mostly horizontal through the gashes of geological artistry.

Walking on the rocks was challenging. His boots were worn and the cold made his feet numb but not enough to deaden the pain of many miles. The woolen cloak kept moisture away from his clothing but low clouds seemed to trap the ill wind arriving from across the massive ocean.

His pack had grown progressively lighter as the days passed. The meager food was nearly gone and the only thing of value he carried was within him. The entire purpose of his journey from the mainland to the sacred island was guided by a vision that called him forward even as his body was wasting.

He had to use care as tribal influences were strong. There was no desire for conquest or even for refuge. His singular goal was to find the place his vision had shown him with increasing urgency.

The wind across the bay had been fierce for the small sailing vessel he hired to deliver him to the shores of the rocky island. More than once he had doubted if he would arrive, if he would be able to fulfill his final purpose.

His life had taken him throughout Eriu as he wore the vestments of a warrior priest. He carried a shield but the emblem carved into it was one of peace. The simple outline of an oak tree was emblazoned on the wooden shield. His was the path of solitude with short periods of life among villages as he performed the duties of the priest and healer.

But mostly his days were spent in communion with the living landscape and all creatures that lived, moved and had their being on the sacred land. On occasion he traveled to the islands off of the west coast of his beloved Eriu where he would seek deeper connection with the wild sea spirits and it was here he returned at the end of his life to implant his wisdom into the landscape, readying it for its long sleep until it was awakened far into the future.

He paused to look at tiny, white flowers growing deep in the rock fissures. Such strength is found in tender vulnerability, he thought. As he knelt, immense feelings of gratitude rushed through him as he reflected on the tremendous beauty he had experienced in his life.

Tears slowly slid down his cheeks and were dried by the salty wind. So this is where my pilgrimage ends. So many days of beauty and I meet death with tenderness and acceptance. This has been a good life.

Suddenly from across the slabs of rock came a faint yet distinctive sound. The deep booming bass followed by high-pitched, eerie notes. His vision was unfolding in physical reality.

He stood and carefully hurried forward through the field of uneven slabs. The sound was coming from a rocky beach and as he reached it, the creature singing was beached—half out of the water yet not struggling.

He moved down the slope with grace and calm even with growing excitement of the prophesized meeting that was about to happen. This meeting was the final act in the culmination of his life. The importance of it was not wasted on him.

The water was cold, very cold. He knew he had to reach the whale yet to wade in leather boots and heavy woolen garments was to risk ending his life sooner than was necessary to fulfill his final acts. But to strip down to bare skin seemed unthinkable in the cold sea and air. He paused and allowed his thoughts to become silent.

The ocean seemed to mirror his stillness. The surface grew slick like nothing he had seen. An eerie glow from clouds overhead signaled to him that the time of transmission was upon him. The whale lifted its massive head, which was his cue to proceed.

In faith he stepped and as he did the water withdrew. He knew the whale couldn’t survive long on the shore as the body weight would crush its lungs. He proceeded, confident that all would be well.

As he approached the whale he noticed the long, white pectoral fins stretched out like wings of the white horse he journeyed with through the heavens. The large eye followed him as he moved closer. When he reached the eye, he knelt on the wet rocks and placed his hands on the creature in a blessing and closed his eyes.

In his mind arose images of a woman walking these shores on pilgrimage. He saw her kneeling over the same small white flowers but she was dressed differently than women he knew. Her clothing was made of odd materials. Her boots were strange and she carried a black box with a shiny sphere attached to a black tube. She pointed it at the flowers, at the sky, the rocks, the ocean but he could see no change in the landscape after she did so. She knelt in prayer. She stood at the edge of the sea and sang songs and laughed. Tears ran down her face.

Then the whale moved and he was brought back to the present. Sounds began to emerge from the whale. The booming bass and high notes once again began to fill the air. The vibration was so powerful he almost fell against the creature. Sound filled him and he was transported to another time in space where the woman was and he stood behind her resting his hands on her shoulders. Through him the sounds of whale song filled her and she felt her heart awaken with purpose. Truth blossomed within her and she surrendered resistance held rigidly in her body.

She felt his presence. Of this he had no doubt.  A communion flowed between them, a strong connection that was deeper than anything he had experienced in his life. And it was happening in another dimension.

The link of whale, man and woman was strong. The elements of sea, wind, rock seemed to interweave among them and wrap a strong bond between them. The expanse of the universe was felt among them as they communed in the realm of stars.

How long the link lasted, he did not know. It could have been lifetimes or an hour or a moment. So transcendent was the connection that time lost all meaning. Eventually he felt the whale move beneath his hands. He opened his eyes and saw the water was rising and would soon overtake him and the whale.

He wanted to let his end be with the whale, taken back to sea with the rising tide yet his vision guided him to the place where the woman stood, somewhere in the future.

As he arose, he bowed in deep reverence to the whale and held his hand out in a blessing. Tears flowed with joy and love for the encounter with the whale and the mysterious woman.

Back up the slope he climbed, looking over his shoulder often to see the progress of the whale. The water rose quickly and as he reached the top of the embankment, the whale was lifted free and floated back out to sea.

The final part of his quest lay ahead.

He climbed up the grassy hill as it rose above the shore. As he gained height he gazed out over the ocean and the whale breached high into the sky and landed with a thunderous splash. He waved and continued on toward the stack of large stones nearby.

He could still feel her there, even though she would not arrive for centuries. Her essence permeated the air like sweet perfume. Her hand had touched the rock there, in the heart-shaped marking.

Gently, as if not wanting to disturb her lingering touch, he placed his hand where hers had been. A tingle of electricity flowed into his hand and up his arm. This woman, who is she? We are like one person. My heart flows full of love for her.

Slowly he felt his life force waning. Everything left within him was for her, this woman of light. He sat with his back against the rock and closed his eyes. From his pack he removed an amulet, made with his hands and blessed with sacred words. He held it and spoke words of love into it and placed it at the bottom of the large rock, between smaller stones at its base.

Here is where you will find me, my love. This is where I wait for you.

Sleep overtook him as he released his body. 

Chapter Two

It was the end of a most amazing week of exploration on the wilds of Inishmore. She made one final walk through the cow pastures to the chapel ruins. She could feel the reverberation of the sea through the hash-tag carved stones yet the sea was a distance away.

I’m going to walk to the edge today. I want to say a proper goodbye to the island.

Camera in hand, she walked carefully across rugged terrain toward the edge of the shore. The Atlantic Ocean was booming with thunderous voice as it crashed into the island. Tears began to flow as she considered leaving this place that had awakened her to the deepest connection to Nature she had ever felt.

She came to a large group of rocks that stood as guardians along the shore. The blue-green sea stirred within her deep love and gratitude. The chilly wind was refreshing and made her skin feel alive. She lifted her camera and tried to capture the mood of the sea and rocks, the emotion she felt as she communed with Nature.

Finally she lowered the camera and glanced at the rock. How amazing. There’s a heart-shape.Without hesitating she placed her hand inside it.

With eyes closed she opened herself to the texture of stone. The sea seemed to come alive around and within her and tears slid down her face with sobs of joy for the freedom she felt.

I love you, she heard herself say. I love you so much!

Stillness grew inside her as she connected with immense gratitude. She was aware of everything within her shifting. Darkness threatened to overtake her as the sun set but she found it nearly impossible to move from the place.

Without a flashlight it would be nearly impossible to navigate the uneven stone and grass landscape safely. So with a suddenly heavy heart, she turned to leave. But as she turned she felt a presence behind her. She glanced back but didn’t see anything so continued onward.

With every step she took, the presence followed her. As she passed the chapel ruins, it was there. Down through the cow pasture, it was with her. Through the stone step gate, it came. Along the street she felt the immense presence like an ancestral guardian.

Two days later the seats next to her on a crowded trans-Atlantic flight were empty and the presence slid in beside her and sat with her across the ocean. She wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but that is was she was certain.

Home to coastal Alabama it followed her and she didn’t know what to do with it so turned its attention to the landscape and invited it to stay around her home. And soon she forgot.

Eighteen months passed and her life became chaotic as fears arose preceding a major change in her life. It was as if all the unhealed fears awakened as she prepared to make the next leap in her life.

One day, feeling defeated and alone, she asked for help among the trees where she and her dog walked. A gentle tap on her shoulder and a whisper to remember helped her recall the presence that followed her home.

After that, every morning, she lit a candle and invited the presence to be with her, walk with her, help her grow into wholeness. And every day she felt it there, immense and powerful.

She noticed that resistance to life, to people, to other’s negative behaviors faded. As the resistance faded, she became more relaxed and trusting of life. She often felt the presence and thanked it for being with her. Interactions with others improved, she felt old anger and resentments fade. She felt whole.

She felt the presence as a spiritual warrior, a man from another time who left a legacy of love, strength and power for her to claim. She felt him as a part of her, a greater self even.

As they spent time together, she began to feel calmer and sense that a true partnership was forming. It was as if she found her mirrored twin on the shore of Inishmore—her spiritual twin.

Time and space hold no power over the realm of soul.

Life as a Pilgrimage

Life as a Pilgrimage

For a pilgrim, the outer landscape becomes a metaphor for the Unknown inner landscape. A pilgrim travels differently, seeking a change of mind and heart, John O’Donohue reminds us. He also said, “When you bring your body out into the landscape, you’re bringing it home where it belongs.”

As I watched him speaking on a favorite DVD, I thought…My life is a pilgrimage. I remembered John saying that in the Celtic Imagination the insight is that the landscape is alive. We’re not walking into simply a location or dead space but rather we are walking in a living Universe and in this way of being, our journey becomes different…it becomes a pilgrimage.

Two years ago a friend of mine and I traveled to northern England for a pilgrimage. We called our journey that from the beginning of our planning. Our intention was set clearly and together Maria and I journeyed on a pilgrimage. We didn’t want to just visit places, we wanted to connect with the landscape–with the ancient stone circles and elemental energies of the land and water.

I located my journal from the trip and read about the first encounter with Castlerigg Stone Circle. After taking a while to connect with the energies of the place, I had a most amazing experience of shamanic journeywork. Or meditation. Or simply connection with the Spirit of the Place.

Throughout the pilgrimage, I wrote of vivid dreams, of being chased by an antlered man through the forest, of connecting deeply with the Feminine energy of Earth. At one point in our travels I drove us to Grasmere and when we parked near Wordsworth’s home, Dove Cottage, I started sobbing. There was such a powerful connection to his work and the place.

Upon returning to the USA I reflected, “Whispers of the Ancient Ones echo within me as I reflect upon the magical pilgrimage experienced with my spiritual sister and friend. Conversations with companions from a weekend retreat, that closed the journey, still weave a web of light around me. Past invasions of Romans and Saxons perhaps instilled into the Collective unconscious of the people there a maturity of spirit, a way of being civil and gentle with each other and with strangers. Every person I met was helpful, generous, supportive, kind and many had wicked and dry humor. The individual journeys and experiences will be told over time but for now, in the afterglow of it all, I feel profound gratitude that I was embraced so fully by a land and people that welcomed me as one of their own. My heart beats in sync with the land there and longs already to return and feel ancient stones vibrate and sing their wisdom and the land embrace me as a daughter. From magnificent caves to snow-covered mountaintops from villages older than the country in which I reside to stone circles dating back to 4500 BC, I traveled the path of a pilgrim–open to hearing and learning the lessons given by magical Britain.”

As I finished reading the journal, it felt as if I was back there among the stones of Castlerigg, Long Meg and Swinside circles, in Elderbush Cave, in Thor’s Cave, or walking along the trail near Keswick…or sitting at Dove Cottage weeping with joy at feeling so at home. It’s not ever simply a trip or vacation for me….it truly is as John O’Donohue says, “If you enter into the dream that brought you here and awaken its beauty in you, then the beauty will gradually awaken all around you.”

Life is a pilgrimage to me. Every day gives new opportunity to be outside in nature seeking reflection into my inner landscape…to learn more about how I can connect deeper to nature and all life and find the common threads that join us together.