Category: conscious change

Building

Building

I was about four hours into a very labor-intensive project. As dust swirled around me in my basement workshop, I stopped and looked at the many pieces of wood laying on the work bench, floor and the cutting table. What if this doesn’t turn out like I envision? My aching neck and shoulders grumbled and I recognized the risk: It could be a flop.

The project began as a desire to abstain from the commercialism of Christmas. After several years of not having a tree or decorating, I really wanted to bring lights and celebration into my home. There were excuses: Nobody every comes to my house anyway, so why bother? Or, It’s too much trouble, bah humbug! I think it was just a time in my life where I wasn’t feeling it. But now, I’m calling my passion back in, lighting up my life again.

I’m not sure how the idea of building a tree from scrap lumber started. It was a glimmer of a thought on a Saturday morning during breakfast and by lunch, dust was flying and I was wondering if I was wasting a perfectly wonderful rainy day. 

It took a lot of thinking and figuring how to design it so it could be disassembled and stored, and yet be sturdy. And a favorite way I create is to challenge myself by not buying anything for projects. How can I create something using materials and supplies I already have on hand?

During that dusty pause, I realized the project was much more than building a Christmas tree. It reminded me of dreams and life and passions. We never know if an idea we have or the path we take will lead to success, yet if we engage in life and take the risk to dream and infuse our dream with passion, we are actively engaging in the process of living, of being alive. 

As I looked at the stacks of wood pieces, I wondered if they would become the object of beauty I envisioned or firewood. Likewise, will my dreams and all the energy and time I’ve devoted to them become dust or will they flourish some day? 

We can’t answer those questions in the middle of it all. We can only keep creating, keep feeding our passion into our dreams and take the risk to continue on the path we build as we move through life.

I’m inviting light back into my life this holiday season and actively engaging in celebrating with childlike wonder. If nobody else sees the Tree of Life I built or the many lights winding around my stair banisters and fir tree that grew a few miles from here on the mountain slope, it’s okay. I see the lights and smell the wonderful fir smell and I’m nurturing the kid in me who loves Christmas and the adult in me that understands and honors the Solstice. It’s time to nourish my dreams once more.

How I built the Tree of Life:

I started by gathering all the scrap lumber I had. I used a slab of oak for the base and drilled a hole using a Forstner bit. I added a piece of 2 x 4 and also drilled a hole and matched it to the base and screwed them together. I used an old wooden handle as a dowel and sawed to proper length (finished the length sawing after I assembled). I used pieces of 1 x 6 boards for the cross pieces and cut them to length using a skill saw and then used my fabulous cordless jigsaw to create funky shapes with curves and angles. Each of these pieces also had a center hole drilled. I used a longer piece of 1 x 2 inch board for the spaces, each needing the center hole as well. I painted everything after doing basic sketches on the cross boards. I use a funky folk artsy style. In a little over 8 hours, I had the tree cut out, did a test assembly, took it apart and painted it and put a semi-gloss clear coat on it. I woke up the next morning with a lingering dream of how to design the star. I created it after breakfast using a piece of 2 x 4 drilled in the vertical end so it would sit on top of the dowel. I cut the star out of a square piece of plywood. I drilled onto the 2 x 4 before painting just in case anything cracked or broke. Once I had it screwed together, I painted the star. I ended up with about 10 hours of hard work in this project. I’m super-happy with the outcome. It’s fun and happy and makes me smile.

Taking It In

Taking It In

The beauty was absolute. I found myself struggling to take it in: gray boulders; clear, cold, rushing water; soft, green moss; trees standing naked in their late-winter/early spring anticipation; intense, crystal-clear, blue sky. 

I breathed and opened my heart. It was it challenging to create a space large enough, within myself, to receive such profound and amazing beauty.

I sat and allowed my mind to still. As I scanned my body, I discovered something akin to pain as I attempted to take in such bountiful beauty. In stretching on the inside, and releasing whatever blocks kept me from receiving, I moved deeper into communion, into Oneness.

So many times we expect our growth must arise from dark, difficult times. But what if inner growth can happen just as powerfully from experiencing good things, beautiful things. 

For many years I’ve asked Spirit, What can I do to make a difference?, I received the same two words: GO OUTSIDE. I challenged the answer, doubting the significance of how that could make a difference, yet it hasn’t wavered. I follow that direction more often as I have discovered that Nature draws me into deep communion with all life and helps me be grounded and present. If distractions keep me from the friendship with Nature, I get out of balance quickly.

Today, as I melted into Oneness, I felt intense grief arise for every moment I’m not in deep communion with Nature. I was in my natural state of being…in wonder and awareness of Oneness. I wasn’t separate from the water, rocks, trees, sky…until my mind took me out of that harmony and I felt that deep longing for home.

It reminded me of a story a teacher once told. He said he walked along the sea and saw millions of fish swimming, crying out in desperate need,  Water, water, water, water!!! Sometimes we mourn separateness while the only thing separating us are our thoughts. It’s here, in front of us, within us, all the time. Can we recognize it? Can we feel it? Can we take it in?

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To dive deeper into Nature and the path it offers to wholeness, I invite you to pre-order my new book, Book of Nature. I opened myself for Nature to speak through my photographs and words as It guides us into deeper relationship with Spirit, ourselves, and all life. If you pre-order you’ll get free shipping and a matted 5 x 7 photograph from the book. Send money to a friend ($18 each) to my PayPal email: [email protected]

My two editors….
Stay with Yourself

Stay with Yourself

The path of the Soul leads us ever onward to a clearer expression of our true Self. That sounds wonderful, but the journey involves stripping away everything that isn’t who we are…in our truest expression of that spark of Cosmic Light. 

In other words, it can be crazy-difficult to become real.

Thankfully, we don’t walk the path alone. When we pause, breathe, and gaze into the face of the Unknown, we begin to see allies, helpers. My greatest allies and teachers are found in Nature. Trees, wild creatures, rocks…entire ecosystems speak to me, calm me, and help me feel less alone. Yours might be human friends or music. We all have allies and sometimes it takes a little work to find them…or let them find us. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “I need help!”

Almost every day, I spend time listening and allowing guidance to arise. It helps me navigate this intense time of change. Most of us are challenged with the long-term stress event caused from a tiny virus, but that’s just one expression of the many changes happening with this beautiful planetary evolution taking place-an evolution I consider to be of deep spiritual healing for our planet and all Her beings. But let’s face it, growth is rarely easy because it involves releasing that which no longer serves us…even if it has been a big part of our lives.

It could be a person we release, an old version of our self we say goodbye to, an old habit that is holding us back. Evolving might involve a move to a new place geographically or simply a new place within our own skin.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a large rock in the middle of a creek teaching me to stay present with myself. That teaching has taken root and expanded. Last week, a week of truly hellish pressure from many parts of my life, I kept hearing, ‘stay with yourself.’ As external events unfolded, I found myself in the future or the past and that inner voice would come alive….‘stay with yourself.’

When we allow our minds to race into the future or stay stuck in the past, we totally abandon our self in the present moment. My experience was like being a child in a really scary place and having the adults rush ahead or backwards to tend to random events while leaving me alone and afraid. ‘Stay with yourself,’ I kept hearing. ‘Stay with yourself.’

When I can breathe in this moment and be aware that I am breathing, I become master of my life in that moment. Thich Nhat Hanh reminded us of that truth. So, my goal is simple: breathe in and know that I am breathing in. I practice this on my walks in Nature these days and it makes all the difference. I’m not running in fear to the future or the past. I’m just ‘breathing my body,’ recognizing the beauty of the trees or the river, the otter or elk or rock…or this life form known as Simone. 

True transformation is wildly supported as we learn to stay with our self. 

Choices

Choices

Yesterday the entire day was spent moving furniture down stairs and up stairs. I moved a queen sized bed and natural latex mattress that is like a 200 pound gorilla made of Jello. Books, chairs, musical instruments…I finally sent out a call for assistance with the dresser and electronic piano. Thankfully my neighbors braved the chaos and helped with those items. God bless good neighbors.

It all started when I moved into the house. It’s a quirkily designed little mountain home that I love. But when I moved in, I had been on the road 9 hours after a few hours sleep with a dog and three cats and movers with a 26 foot packed-to-the-max truck. The wired money hadn’t arrived at my seller’s attorney’s office so I had to rent for three nights and in theory not move any furniture out. Yes…it was fully furnished with older vacation cabin ‘stuff’ so it was almost all going somewhere else. But for that night—that drizzly night—it was going to the basement or the porch. It was the most stressful move ever…which included having to pay my movers extra to move all the furniture to these spaces so my truckload could come into the house.

It has a loft, a small main floor and a finished basement. I had no ability to think about much with the cluster of chaos, so quickly made the decision to put my bedroom in the loft…along with my office furniture. For 18 months I’ve had this expansive, open bedroom susceptible to bright moons, rude cats, heavy rain on the metal roof and stairs to navigate should the need to pee arise. Many times I’ve thought I would like to move my bedroom to the main floor bedroom but it seemed small. So…I lived with my clothes split between two floors and my life feeling split. 

Finally, I decided that I would make the move downstairs after Tawanda cat kept waking me up at 4am every morning. Enough. So yesterday morning after breakfast I started and turned my house upside down and inside out in a very short time. 

I’m strong enough to handle nightstands, head and foot boards, chairs, huge crystal bowls, gongs, books and even that silly mattress that sleeps great but is truly dead weight and nearly impossible to deal with but somehow I managed all that with well-thought out and slow movements. And my neighbors helped with the two things I couldn’t handle. 

I finished the bedroom last night and the loft this morning…which is now my yoga studio, recording studio and office. Everything makes sense now.

I write this because sometimes we fail to see options clearly. When I moved in I didn’t think I had a choice regarding my bedroom. Now, it’s the most beautiful, cozy place that feels like a peaceful cocoon. And having all of my creative/work space together makes so much sense energetically.

We limit ourselves when we fail to realize that every decision is a choice. Even the decisions we don’t make. There is always choice, even when we think there isn’t. I spent a year and a half in an uncomfortable sleeping/working environment because I didn’t allow myself to see other options. Lesson learned. 

And while I didn’t get outside to enjoy the day, I did get 5.34 miles walking inside my home and 90 floors of stairs. I now have room for a student or two for yoga, a gathering place for women’s groups and an integrated space for creative work and play. And a blessed, amazing bedroom where I can close myself off from the demands of three cats and two dogs and not have to navigate stairs in the middle of the night.

All along I had this choice but thought I didn’t. I wonder what else I have ruled out because I didn’t think I had other options….what about you? 

Walk Open

Walk Open

There’s a guy where I bike and hike that walks with his palms facing forward. We usually walk with the back of our hands facing out so this unique difference captured my attention and I began experimenting.

What I noticed was my entire body opened as I simply rotated my thumbs outward as I walked. It felt as if I was unlocking an inner door. Such a simple act yielded appreciable results.

As I practiced I felt an immediate receptivity at my core. I began to sense a beautiful eye within my heart. The green of the trees was greener. The sounds of rushing water became more musical. Birdsong was sweeter. It felt like a more natural state of being…to walk exposed with mind, spirit and body.

Now as I’m walking, paddle boarding, sitting in my car or doing whatever I can simply think of opening my core and feel the connection to all life…to everything.

There are reasons we close ourselves. Good reasons. Trauma. Abuse. Emotional overwhelm. Meanness. Fear. We don’t want to walk around totally unprotected from behavior of strangers, friends or family.

As I child of maybe eight or nine years old, I was watching a Disney program. There was an old mountain man who lived in a one-room shack. He had a mule. He saved for a long time to purchase a pane of glass for a window he had kept shuttered. He wanted to bring light to his cabin. He finally was able to purchase the glass and immediately after installing it, his mule kicked a bucket and broke the glass. My little heart broke open and I started crying. My dad looked at me and laughed and asked, “Why are you crying?” “It’s sad,” I replied. “It’s only a show,” he said. It didn’t change the fact that I felt sadness and compassion for the old man. But I learned that it was risky to feel those things. I could be made fun of or judged.

We learn to close down to our emotional truths. We are ‘taught’ how to do this our entire lives by how others witness and respond to our emotions. It’s a painful process. And sadly, they teach us how to close down but rarely does anyone teach us how to open back up.

To live with emotional intelligence is to gently close when we need to take care of ourselves but to open again to feel the beauty of life when it’s safe. And that’s the problem. When we close ourselves we don’t feel the abuse or pain emotionally but when we remain closed we don’t feel the beauty…we don’t allow anything to affect us.

Many year ago I was visiting the Alabama coast while I was residing in the Greensboro, North Carolina area. Things had been really tough for me. Very difficult. I was on the beach and was talking out loud to the Universe: ‘Why do I even bother to heal my life? Nobody cares. Most people never even bother to look inside and try to improve themselves. Why am I putting myself through such misery? Why even bother? Can’t I just forget being conscious and go back to blissful ignorance?’ Suddenly the sunset sky turned lavender and orange and I heard a voice within say very clearly: You clear out the inner blocks to being open so you can really see and experience moments such as this fully.

If we walk open, we invite life to touch us. We risk being affected by what we experience. I wonder if the root of the world’s problems doesn’t begin with refusing to allow anything to impact us.

We have all witnessed ourselves and others say, If it isn’t happening to me, I’m not concerned. When I worked in a retail outdoor clothing store near the Gulf Coast I expressed concern about a hurricane that was heading into the northern Gulf of Mexico to a customer. She said worriedly, “Oh, NO! Where is it going to hit?” I replied, “It’s east of here by about 100 miles.” Her reply, “Then I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me.” That storm was Hurricane Michael. It did horrendous damage but it didn’t touch her life so she didn’t care. But she’s not an exception. Unfortunately this seems to be the norm with far too many.

After documenting the Gulf Oil Spill for a year, I was completely shut down. Before the oil arrived on Alabama beaches I remember driving down the Fort Morgan Peninsula and seeing booms anchored in the saltwater marshes. I photographed the small, floating lines of buys and got back into my car. An unearthly scream erupted from my depths. NOOOOOOOO!!!! 

I sobbed and wailed. From that moment through the following year, I had to shut down emotionally to document what I felt called to witness. The inner voice that called me was so strong I couldn’t look away; but, to be there I had to shut down a feeling response….except for anger. I felt that strongly. It’s like rescue workers who extricate people out of car wrecks or collapsed buildings…they have work to do and later can deal with the trauma of witnessing such horrendous and sad events.

I can’t remember who referred me to Joanna Macy, but spending a week with her and 30 other people, after my year’s commitment to the coast, opened me back up in a safe environment where my peers and I held space for each other to grieve and feel the depths of our emotions.

It took me a very long time to reopen to joy and pleasure. The most amazing healers for me have been wildlife…manatees, humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins. Photographing them in their environment became profound sessions of healing and deep connection that opened me to love at a level to which I had never known.

As we open to beauty around us–receptive and exposed–we begin to see the beauty of our own presence as we come into deep communion with Nature. We discover ourselves to be part of the amazing whole. In our wisdom, we closed ourselves for protection so our psyches wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Now, let us remember what it feels like to be open…present…in profound compassion for ourselves and the world, which is really the same.

Rumi wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Walk open, dear pilgrim. Walk open.