Tag: LIGHTWORK

My Life is a River

My Life is a River

Over a week ago coastal Alabama had 8 inches of rain in a short period of time. This created a great amount of water than ran into our creeks and rivers. The Magnolia River, where I live, was no exception.

Beach across the river
Beach across the river

After the high water subsided I wheeled my SUP board down to the little beach near the headwaters of the river and noticed quite a change. Brilliant white sand had built up on the beach across the river and on our little beach.

This might not seem like such a big deal but since Hurricane Isaac last summer, high tides from the storm had deposited large amounts of very dark, sticky mud on the beach so every step left feet or sandals caked with mud. It stained feet, gummed up flip-flops and was a nasty mess. That’s the thing about this tidal river–it is affected by whatever is pushed into Week’s Bay or Mobile Bay.

The beach where I put in used to be a muddy mess...now white sand graces the shore
The beach where I put in used to be a muddy mess…now white sand graces the shore

It was exciting to see that the old snag by the rocks had been flushed away. There had been too many close calls with that bit of debris and my SUP board narrowly escaped slices and gouges from the old, dead wood laying just beneath the surface.

Taking a moment to contemplate life
Taking a moment to contemplate life

As I paddled along today I thought how my life is like this river. There has been a lot of dark, sticky yuck that has lurked just beneath the surface for many years. Finally, a series of events brought these unpleasant, dysfunctional behaviors to my attention and I’ve been working to clear them.

A big gully-washer of tears from grief and sadness over what I have lost throughout my life flushed out of my unconscious in bits and pieces. The darkness was loosened and freed and the beautiful light within was brought up. I call it love…unconditional love. Like the white sand on the beaches, new ground has formed for my life. The old inner snags that hooked me have been flushed away and I’m left with clarity and peace.

Clowning around for the camera
Clowning around for the camera in Crystal River, Florida

There will continue to be tides that bring change and heavy rains that clear away the old but one thing is certain to me–my life is a river of love and light. I finally understand that. And so is yours. And someday, maybe we can have ‘inner rivers’ that are crystal clear and filled constantly from the Source of Life.

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Awakening from the Dream

Awakening from the Dream

View from Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC
View from Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC

It was a dark and cloudy night. I was riding my bicycle in the mountains and had followed a friend to a turning point. After he made it to his driveway, I turned to go but mistakenly took a wrong turn and ended up behind a fence and at the bottom of a very steep, winding road. I knew the road would take me home but the danger involved was too great in the darkness.

So I turned around and headed back beside the fence to the main road. But along the way saw huge, fresh bear tracks or scratches where a bear had claimed his territory. I got very frightened and as I pedaled faster, I passed a large, dark shape. I became even more frightened. Then something started chasing me and as I glanced down I saw it was a large coyote. I pedaled faster. Another large coyote appeared and both were attempting to drag me off my bicycle. I tried kicking them and launched my cat off the bed. He wasn’t impressed.

Coyote
Coyote

My legs actually ached and I was so shaken that I sat up and wrote notes on the dream and attempted to decipher it. What the heck had I eaten for dinner? 

When I went back to sleep I dreamed I helped people speak to large gatherings. In fact, I even helped Bill Moyers speak to a group of students. His chair, for the gathering, was beautifully colored in white with red and purple flowers.

Maybe the answer to my nightmare came in my final dream of the night–Bill Moyers. He worked with Joseph Campbell in a series entitled The Power of Myth. As I started researching on the internet I found an interview Moyers did with Campbell on the journey of the Hero archetype. Within this 51 minute recording I found answers.

Entrance to underwater cave in Akumal, Mexico
Entrance to underwater cave in Akumal, Mexico

Campbell  spoke of this journey we undertake–that of slaying the ego–to find our true nature. In this journey there must be courage as we face our darkest, deepest fears. The journey includes a theme of death and resurrection…a dying to a part of us that no longer serves us and being born into a greater version of ourselves.

The journey always begins by going into darkness, our unconscious.This triggered an experience I had in meditation last week where I journeyed into dark water, through a vortex and ended up connecting with a huge whale. Campbell spoke of the whale as being a symbol where all that is unconscious within us is held. He says the unconscious is the edge or interface between what can be known and what can never be discovered. We must learn to live life with knowledge of its Mystery and our own Mystery.

Pre-dawn Gulf of Mexico
Pre-dawn Gulf of Mexico

Life is an adventure of being alive. We journey into our own unknown in order to slay the ego so that we can follow the soul’s path. He said the journey to save the self actually saves the world. We bring the world to life by bringing life to the self.

“Follow your bliss,” he reminded as I listened intently. The ego tells us why we can’t follow our bliss, the path of the soul. It’s what keeps us small. The adventure of the Hero is having the courage to do it anyway.

There is within each of us a quiet center and from this center is where all action comes. Unless the center is found, we’re torn apart because we act from outside ourselves. This always leads to ruin in some form, he reminded.

Magnolia blossom
Magnolia blossom

The dream was a reminder for me that I am on a journey into my own life, my own unconscious. I choose this journey willingly and admit it is scary as hell at times. We all have darkness or unknown dragons or coyotes nipping at our heels. And it may indeed feel as if they want to slay us.

Campbell said that as the Hero leaves the realm of light and moves toward the threshold of the unconscious, the monster comes. The Hero is either resurrected after being torn to bits by the animal or kills the animal, tastes the blood and transcends.

I suppose we each have the choice of continuing our slumber or taking the journey of the Hero and risking everything to find our true nature. Ultimately it is a journey we do alone but made sweeter by those who have the courage to shine a light for us as we emerge from the dark waters to welcome us back home.

Sunrise in Akumal, Mexico
Sunrise in Akumal, Mexico
The Conscious Act of Letting Go

The Conscious Act of Letting Go

Hot air ballon at Foley Festival
Hot air ballon at Foley Festival

Attachment: “A feeling that binds one to a person, thing, cause, ideal, or the like; devotion; regard: a fond attachment to his cousin; a profound attachment to the cause of peace” (dictionary.com).

One of the most difficult lessons I have learned is to let go of expectations. It started with my work as a state park naturalist many years ago. With deep love and passion for nature, it was difficult to watch as politics won over nature so many times. Environmental education was barely funded while other programs–the money-makers–were funded. I struggled with the question: How can you place a monetary value on environmental stewardship?

Then as a practicing psychotherapist I struggled with my attachment to clients understanding their issues and working to resolve them instead of expecting me to use a magic wand to make them feel better. (Draw circle on wall, bang head….).

Armondo, an artist in Akumal, Mexico, creates beauty on his property
Armondo, an artist in Akumal, Mexico, creates beauty on his property

And again, as a massage therapist and energy work practitioner, my attachment to clients taking responsibility for their health–physical, mental, emotional and spiritual–caused such turmoil that I invented a new kind of therapy. I called it Slap Therapy. And of course it was a joke that I shared with students and colleagues but in reality I was trying to work out my frustration through humor.

But it doesn’t stop there…no, this pattern continued. I want people to love the planet. I want them to feel their own value and worth. I want them to treasure themselves and the planet and place self-care and planetary care at the top of their to-do list. And so forth…until finally I realized that the only way to find peace within myself (and therefore model that which I am wanting to help create) was to end my attachment to anyone ever gaining understanding or waking up to their own beauty. If I base personal joy and contentment on other’s actions I’ve got some long, frustrating years ahead of me.

Mantee interacting with woman at Three Sister's Springs
Mantee interacting with woman at Three Sister’s Springs

Can I be detached and still have passion, feel love and continue on the path? Can I let go of ego and surrender to simply loving for the sake of loving?

Sunset at Gulf Shores, Alabama
Sunset at Gulf Shores, Alabama

Can I continue the work, the love, the expression of beauty I experience without knowing if it is received?

I recently discovered that all I have ever wanted (since childhood) was for the love I feel for others, animals and the planet to be received. And truly, the only way I know to experience that wish coming true is simply to keep loving, regardless. I will always love but I am no longer attached to knowing this love is received. (deep breath….heavy sigh). Perhaps the biggest magical transformation in life is to let go of all attachments to what we want the most and simply keep practicing, keep loving.

Orchid...their faces amaze me
Orchid…their faces amaze me

It is the flow of love itself that is my focus. It is not conditional. It is not a faucet that can be turned on and off. It is a state of being that I choose each day, every moment. No matter what. That’s all I’ve really ever wanted.

Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday

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I was standing at Lulu’s Homeport in Gulf Shores, Alabama, listening to a band play a traditional Mardi Gras tune and felt a subtle, inner shift. A small glimmer of something started to awaken within me and it made me smile.

When embarking on a course of action it’s not necessarily easy because you (finally) found your path–your direction. When I answered an inner call to document the Gulf Oil Spill in my home state, I never imagined the emotional wreckage that would occur within me. I remember days before the oil began washing up on the Alabama beaches fervently trying to photograph as much of the Gulf beaches and marshes as possibly and while doing so sobbing, sometimes uncontrollably. Then when it began coming ashore and coating animals, beaches and filling the air with toxic fumes I was in a state of near exhaustion from anger, sadness, grief and the physical challenge of exposure to the toxic soup in the water and air.

It changed me. I remember going back to my mountain home for a few weeks each month and finding it very difficult to connect with anything pleasurable. I was numb from what I was seeing. Traumatized. And in some sort of cosmic disbelief that humans could destroy our planet…not just by an oil spill…but by endless sins committed against this beautiful planet and its inhabitants. Nothing touched me. Beauty was painful to see. Yet I couldn’t look away from the environmental destruction because finally I felt I was doing my legacy work.

Sometimes the cost of that commitment is high.

There was healing during the many weeks spent along the coast. Realizations, moments of inspiration but it was a week spent with Joanna Macy, in a Work That Reconnects workshop that truly helped me understand and process what I had been going through. And healing continues since my move back to the Gulf Coast.

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Yes, I enjoy SUP boarding and walking the beaches and diving in the Caribbean. I’m not walking around in a constant state of gloom and doom. Yet finding a space for personal pleasure….just the inkling of fun for no particular reason…has continued to be challenging for me. The burden of our planet’s plight is heavy.

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But yesterday, while riding my sea turtle volunteer team’s float in the Gulf Shores Mardi Gras parade and hanging out at Lulu’s with my friend and her family provided a little spark of fun for the sake of fun….with the intention of fun. Imagine that.

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Gratitude for a day of fun runs deep within me. It helps to balance the deep grief that fuels my work to share the beauty of our planet…in the hope that people will realize the beauty of Earth and will do everything they can to help heal it. And heal the human relationship to it…and each other.

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Communion

Communion

Curious about the SUP board, the juvenile says hello.
Curious about the SUP board, the juvenile says hello.

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that my best friends are finned or flippered, feathered or furred. My heart is touched by an encounter with wild dolphins or a gentle nuzzle of a manatee in ways that surpass any human connection. Maybe that’s why men I’ve shared my life with have moved on…never content to come second after my love of wild animals. Connection with all creatures wild is my Communion, a way to rise above the mundane and connect deeper, more fully with beings more evolved than humans. (Personal bias).

Today I received an early-morning call from a friend and she tearfully expressed her love of the woods surrounding her home was about to be logged, destroyed so the landowner could purchase a vehicle for his son. How can you put a price like that on a sacred woodland? When will humans learn that the planet is not a commodity to be pillaged, a land to rape for spoils but rather a sacred cathedral?

The mentality of profit at any cost is not a luxury we can afford any longer.

Joanna Macy’s teachings come to mind. She explains the necessary evolution from a life-taking society to a life-sustaining society. We are in a time of moving from a profit-at-any-cost world to a life-sustaining world. We are in the middle of the dissolution of the old way and are awakening to the reality of the mess we’re in economically, socially, environmentally. And within the mess, within the reality of how we have treated the planet and each other, we find positive change occurring. Many, many people are choosing to act from a place of responsibility, a place of compassion and love. We are waking up to the idea that it is possible to live in balance with respect for all life.

simonelipscomb (5)Wildlife reminds me of the connection we have to the whole. The manatees scarred by propellers remind me that humans still have a huge impact on fragile species, that we have done great harm to our planet. And when I see volunteers paddling their kayaks, overseeing interactions with these gentle beings and acting as protectors, hope is refueled.

While snorkeling recently, a juvenile manatee came to me and demanded my attention. My goal is passive observation, in or out of the water, but while filming them, one insisted on connecting face-to-face and drew me out from behind the camera. He swam in front of me, stopped and I felt his gentle spirit guiding me to remove the camera from between us and commune, one wild heart to another. I gently placed my hand aside his face and channeled as much love as I could to him and his kind. And I listened in silence to him.

In those moments we were one with each other. There was no me, no him. In that neutral stillness was birthed understanding. Deep, profound understanding.

simonelipscomb (4)As we parted, sobs wracked my body and soul for the trust demonstrated by a species so abused and wounded by humans. The future of this planet is in our hands. That is both frightening and empowering. What will we do to create a better world?  Will we do anything?

It can start with daily communion with the natural world. Let it show us our next step each day.

He checked out my dry suit, my fins, my snorkel, my camera...always learning more about humans, these little ones.
He checked out my dry suit, my fins, my snorkel, my camera…always learning more about humans, these little ones.