Tag: nature

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.

 

Brick By Brick

Brick By Brick

Even in the thick woods the fiery sunset illuminated the sky with intense color. I paused and listened to birds singing their last songs of the day and in those soft notes felt the hush of twilight surround me. My dog Buddy gazed into trees in search of squirrels and in that momentary stillness appreciation grew for the small strip of woods that have been so healing in the last few weeks.

Several weeks ago Buddy and I were walking and ended up at the trail entrance. I had never walked the trail…didn’t know it was there…after nearly 7 years of living here. I stopped, fearful to move forward. It surprised me, this fear of a woodland path. But I remembered that when I was in Asheville a couple months ago I drove to a familiar trail and began walking. That same fear gripped me and I was surprised then as well. What the heck?

I am a cave diver, a solo traveler. I spend most of my time alone so what’s with the fear? Over the following weeks I tugged on that question, gently though. I allowed it to play in my mind–a loose feather floating on currents of thought.

What has happened to me? I don’t recognize who I have become.

The answers kept pointing toward fear. I felt myself growing smaller and my world growing smaller as well due to fear. But it wasn’t new fear…these are the fears buried from long ago. Aware that major changes were coming in my life, all the old programming began to be activated. It was like, ‘Oh, she’s getting ready to make a big change…let’s show up NOW!’

Many months of deep inner excavation work have uprooted many fears which needed to be illuminated so I could move into the next phase of my life with more freedom.  Even knowing that was the issue, I still couldn’t walk down that wooded path. So every day Buddy and I would walk to the path and pause. I would stand there wondering….

On the island of Inis Mor, Ireland, last year a most amazing experience unfolded. It was sunset. I stood on massive, ragged limestone rocks at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and tearfully said my goodbyes after a solo day of cycling, hiking, singing and connecting deeply with Nature. As I turned to walk back to the ancient chapel ruin and then down the hill to the inn, I felt a massive presence behind me. I paused and then walked onward. The presence followed me.

All the way through the cow pasture, past the chapel, to the gate, down the street….I felt a massive presence behind me. Two days later, on a crowded trans-Atlantic flight, the seats next to me in my row were ’empty’ and I felt the presence enter beside me and settle into the space. I wasn’t sure what to make of it but knew that something significant had happened.

When I arrived home I connected, through meditation, with this presence and felt it was a guardian and felt strongly It was with me to help fulfill a great task I was to do. It felt like a protective energy, a partner, a strong, masculine presence and a great comfort. It was as if the lush grass, gray rocks and sea combined into a palpable energy that followed me. After arriving home I didn’t know what to ‘do’ with It so presented the landscape here and let it go.

Over 18 months passed. Then…BAM! Fear of a narrow strip of woods. Who have I become? Then….the presence tapped me on the shoulder. I remembered the confidence with which I strode down the hill in Ireland and walked with the strength of the ancestors behind me. What happened to THAT woman?

So I began to invoke the presence each morning as I did my daily dedication. It was as if I had buried it there in Ireland lifetimes ago as a treasure that would be waiting when I was ready to reclaim it. As I have worked with it a profound shift has occurred within me. I feel like this big, energetic presence is a part of me that I went to find and now it’s integrating into me, helping me feel more whole.

In doing the inner excavation work I have uncovered some deeply rooted operational errors. I read a book by Edith Eger and this passage could have been one I wrote, “I have become my own jailor, telling myself, ‘No matter what you do, you will never be good enough.’ The number one demon I wrestle with is this lie. Invoking the presence…what I now think of as my Higher Self…I have gathered the strength to deal with deep-rooted beliefs such as this.

The prison I built was built of fear…that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t lovable if I was myself, that I would never succeed, couldn’t be who I was in my truest self. These fears began to overshadow me as I prepared to move forward, as I dug deep to heal on a deeper level.

The commitment to growth is the most challenging and scariest one we can make. I had been in relationships for over 30 years. Finally I took the time, after my divorce, to be by myself. Edith Eger explains the opportunity perfectly, “Divorce empties the room of other distractions, of the habitual targets of my blame and resentment, and forces me to sit alone with my feelings.” And there it is…the past six and a half years of living alone, not being involved in a relationship, have been about me finally facing the emotions…and fears…that shaped my life. It has given me the opportunity to discover not only the fears but also the way forward.

From my journal on the pilgrimage to Inis Mor…. It’s not about changing the world. It’s about opening more to the wisdom found in Nature that reminds me of cycles and seasons and persistence. I met blueberry bushes on the tops of cliffs that have grown horizontal rather than vertical, toward the sky, to avoid being stripped by wind of leaves and fruit. Their stems are deep within the multitudes of cracks in rocks and they barely lift their fruits above the ground. They take their cue from the elements and thus have found a way to thrive in conditions most plants would die from. I’ll take my cues from nature.

I see how persistence has led me to a solitary life these nearly 7 years so I could have the space to look inward and take full responsibility for my life. And so I could take the pilgrimage to the dark recesses and scary places within to discover what holds me captive, what keeps me from shining to full capacity.

Edith Egers also wrote that in the sacred present she can celebrate the choice to dismantle the prison in her mind, brick by brick and can choose to be free. A few days ago Buddy and I walked the wooded path as I envisioned removing brick after brick after brick. No longer resistant to what I’ll find within myself, I discover freedom.

Goodbye to the Weavers

Goodbye to the Weavers

The tattered web dripped with raindrops as the old, faded spider held on to it. No longer able to repair her artistry; unable to do anything but await her death.

For seven seasons the golden orb weaver spiders have instructed me on the cycles and rhythms of life. From the first April I moved into the home, the tiny hatchlings began their life full of vigor and determination to educate me on spider life.

Gradually the stronger females created territories and webs that amazed me. They grew in size and their color deepened as they captured insects and feasted around my home. The tiny males stayed out of reach of the females yet reaped the benefits of close proximity to the amazing predators. After mating, the females dined on the males. And this year, I was able to see the wild dance between a male and female as he mated with her and then ran for his life. Two days later, he was gone.

Each year the same process has been carried out. Little cocoons woven with spider silk are attached to the house, shrubs, and trees awaiting the spring. All through the winter they wait….and wait….and wait.

When I put my home for sale this past summer, I fretted over the spiders. Most people don’t share my intense love of critters, especially spiders. I asked the spiders to keep the front steps and porch clear this year, which they did. In years past many visitors to my home were squeamish over the large, colorful gals and their cool webs. I couldn’t bring myself to ‘neaten’ the outside of my home by removing the spider webs….couldn’t do it even if it meant offending potential buyers.

So now that the weather is chilly and the season of cooler weather is upon us, I say goodbye to my spider friends. One-by-one I have said goodbye over the past month as they disappear, their webs falling apart with winds and rains and no spider strong enough to repair them. I feel such sadness when they die but they leave behind hope for their future with bountiful cocoons filled with eggs, ready to devour insects next year.

By observing nature so intimately, I am reminded of the cycles of my own life. There are times of intense productivity, times of waiting, times of going within and times of expressing myself with immense joy. I consider the spiders my friends…Betty, Gertrude, Sally, Trixie and your hundreds of sisters….thank you. Rest in peace sweet ones. I hope the next owners of this home give your babies space to grow and be the amazing insect eaters they are born to be.

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.