Whispers in Reflection

I truly had no idea how dark this year has felt for me. Oh, I’ve moved along with each crisis, celebration and life event. And yet–I somehow stepped out of a sacred space, immersed more and more into the physical reality that swirled around me. The details don’t matter because my focus here is really the journey back into myself. My beloved soul companion Joss Burnel articulated it perfectly in saying that we each have times in our lives where our lives demand much of us and we exist in a different space. But when we come back into the quiet, the serenity, we feel before us a newness of ourselves and an opportunity in which to determine what pieces of our former life we will take forward. There is an energy of discovery in this new way of being that Life Herself has ushered us into.

DSC01356The whispers are returning, sweet friends. Those heart whispers that allow me to close my eyes and feel the Grace move through–those whispers that indeed allow each one of us to do that in our own unique ways. It’s not that we’ve been disconnected, only that for a period of time our attention and energy were needed elsewhere. It’s the ebb and Flow of our lives, though, isn’t it? It certainly has been for mine. I’m not sure I can recall a period of time in which so much has occurred in such a short space in my life. And I must admit I did find myself feeling it was absurd for all of this to be in MY life!? How on earth did this come to be? I don’t live this way. All those silly, false truths floated their way to the surface. And in reflection I see that I am human as are you–we each have these times in our lives and we are each given the gifts that reveal themselves as the dark veils begin to lift.

Our Sacred Circle gathering today was centered around the following passage from Circle of Stones. Upon reading it, I could sense the relevance to other times in my life, but it wasn’t until I sat in the beautiful, sacred circle of women I love that I really felt the truth of the darkness in my life so recently. It didn’t the look the way one might expect. I remembered to find consciousness through it. But that’s very different from moving into a deeply sacred, soulfully present space. THAT is the space I so love and find myself longing for. And that, my dear friends is the space we share here together. Thank you for bringing your presence into this extraordinary virtual sanctuary that is ours. We revel in the light of Divine Presence, and isn’t that, in truth, the space from which even the darkness originates?

From today’s event:

“How might your life have been different, if, as a young woman, there had been a place for you, a place where you could go to be among women… a place for you when you had feelings of darkness? And, if there had been another woman, somewhat older, to be with you in your darkness, to be with you until you spoke… spoke out your pain and anger and sorrow.

And, if you had spoken until you had understood the sense of your feelings, how they reflected your own nature, your own deepest nature, crying out of the darkness, struggling to be heard.

And, what if, after that, every time you had feelings of darkness, you knew that the woman would come to be with you? And would sit quietly by as you went into your darkness to listen to your feelings and bring them to birth… So that, over the years, companioned by the woman, you learned to no longer fear your darkness, but to trust it… to trust it as the place where you could meet your own deepest nature and give it voice.

How might your life be different if you could trust your darkness… could trust your own darkness?” ~ Circle of Stones by Judith Duerk 

The Art of Allowing

Oh my, it feels as though I have so much to say after not writing here for quite some time. I always know it’s time to return–when I’m having conversations with you all in my mind.

I wonder if you feel what I do at just this time–a great shifting in how Life experiences you, and in turn how you experience it–but in the most subtle of ways. Undoubtedly many of us are continuing to move through the spiral of our own journey, unearthing pieces of ourselves, dismantling layers of beliefs and barriers no longer needed. But what has occurred for me over the last couple of months feels quite extraordinary, in the most simple of ways.

Gorgeous Beach Roses, overlooking the marsh at Moody, Maine.
Gorgeous Beach Roses, overlooking the marsh at Moody, Maine.

It’s the first time–EVER–I was on my own for a few weeks this summer, and it was extraordinary. My husband’s father passed away three years ago, and his mother just this January. That leaves my husband as the ‘elder’ in his family, which in itself is quite surreal. There were two properties to be managed – her home to be sorted through, cleaned out and put on the market to sell – and a family cottage on the coast of Maine to be transferred into our ownership and oversight as it’s also a rental property. A friend and I traveled together up to New England and spent a week cleaning, packing, making repairs in the home to be sold. Our time together was filled with laughter, lots of dust and we even managed to get in a few nights out on the town. She then went on to visit family in Canada and I spent the next week by myself at the beach cottage.

I don’t quite have all the words to describe this experience, but I know it changed me in ways I’m not yet aware. When I met my husband nearly 22 years ago, we fell in love and married within less than a year. I moved from my parents’ home to his. So being in this sacred place I love so much and having it all to myself as the energetic shift in ownership occurred was a beautiful gift. I loved every minute. My dear friend Joss unknowingly spoke what’s true in my heart – Moody Beach is a healing space for me. In years past, it has felt very much in my awareness. This year, it was much more as though I was simply allowing myself to love each moment for what it was. There wasn’t anything BIG or earth-shattering that I felt or recognized inwardly. The movement has been subtle, beautiful, gentle. And I feel that is the energy currently settling into our consciousness as the old paradigm of fear and ‘doing the right thing’ march silently out of focus.

There’s so much I could say, but I do tend to write long posts already, so will try to simplify. I have witnessed the delicate grace having a similar impact on several occasions–moving my spirit when I wasn’t even aware it was happening. First, after a week by myself, I was uncertain if I was ready for my family to arrive. We return to Moody Beach each summer – sometimes just my husband and I, other times the kids will go with us; this year everyone journeyed north. They would fly in on Tuesday, but Sunday evening and even a bit on Monday morning I was concerned I might not be so happy to see them. A gentle breeze of grace shifted my feelings as Monday went on – and I felt a bit lonely accompanied by a longing to connect with my family. When they landed on Tuesday, my heart leapt with joy to see these amazing beings who chose me for their wife and mother.  I felt – and still do – quite amazed with how my emotions and heart moved just as was needed in those moments.

On a brilliantly warm and sunny Friday afternoon, I walked to the nearby marsh to find a large flock of geese enjoying the high tide. They reminded me....'you do not have to be good.'
On a brilliantly warm and sunny Friday afternoon, I walked to the nearby marsh to find a large flock of geese enjoying the high tide. They reminded me….’you do not have to be good.’

Similar experiences happened when it was time for the kids to go, for us to come home from the beach and most recently with my work. My husband and I would spend the remaining week together in New England, and although I so looked forward to that, I felt pangs of grief as I watched my children walk towards their gate for the flight home. When we traveled back home to Atlanta over two days’ journey, I wasn’t so sure coming ‘home’ would be welcome. Halfway through day two, I sensed the shift and desire to be in my beautiful Atlanta HOME once again. And with Sacred Circle Retreats – upon leaving closing out our Spring Program in May, I felt burnt out, unsure about continuing this forward. That feeling of uncertainty seemed to increase as my distance from the work and community did. Just a few weeks ago I wondered if I would be canceling the Fall Program because my heart was no longer in it. My friend and mentor Fay Hart is always talking about miracles and how they are everywhere. I’m convinced a miracle occurred because the passion for this work, for our Fall Program and the women with whom I’m so honored to work has only grown immensely over the last few weeks and I’m elated to launch our new series of events this evening.

Two quotes come to me in closing. The first I read just this morning and shared on the Sacred Circle Retreats FB page, which then led me to write this post (finally!):

Nonresistance is the key to the greatest power in the universe. Through it, consciousness (spirit) is freed from its imprisonment in form. ~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

The second seems to sum up my summer retreat (because for me it WAS a retreat, they come in many forms, my friends):

You do not have to be good…..
You have only to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. ~ Mary Oliver, Wild Geese poem

Authentic: With Emotions on the Floor

Being authentic. Deep in the core of my being, I’m desperate to live in that space. And yet, as I continue to move through my own journey and look inward at the truth of my whole self, the power of the mind becomes increasingly clear. It occurred to me suddenly that in my desire to be authentic, my cleverness has found a way to define what that should look like. (Feeling like I want to say something like ‘AHA–caught you!’ here.)

Authenticity doesn’t have an image. She carries no labels. You won’t find in her purse or wallet a list of rules to remember to live by. There wasn’t any formal training on the proper etiquette, being politically correct, attaining success, dressing in designer clothing or even being a good parent. Authenticity just IS.

One of the best words I found in the thesaurus for authentic is ‘genuine.’ GENUINE. Not ‘pretty, attractive, proper, kind, conscious, organized, generous’ or any of those other words we get ourselves caught up in. GENUINE. To be genuine is to be true to who you are, what you feel; to honor the moment for what it is rather than what someone else or your this-is-how-it-should-look-or-feel mind pulls it together. 

Captured this beautiful image while walking on the greenway nearby. Feels like love shining through.

I found myself in an authentic moment recently, and not the kind that makes one feel a swell of pride in who you are. In a moment of overwhelm–physical and emotional overload, my mouth spoke before my mind caught up with the words. They were out and there was not a thing I could do to bring them back. It wasn’t the words themselves, but the scorn with which they were laced. It was ugly–at least to me. And I felt horrible about it for a while. That voice inside myself went into overdrive trying to bring it all back into order. I apologized, I talked with my life coach about it, I was open with those close to me in my family. Guilt, angst, horror at the way I lost control of myself…all set in. 

But here’s what’s true my friends: being authentic is just that. I was fully authentic in that moment. If you’re reading this, then you’re likely someone who practices your beliefs, who takes seriously this spiritual journey, who craves connection to the sacred. We value consciousness. We strive to live with respect for all Life, to tap into BEing all of who we are. And we sometimes lose focus of what is true. We are all emotional beings. We will experience times in our lives when we feel turned upside down, when we don’t have the level of awareness we might have in another moment, when we simply CANNOT pull ourselves together. We forget: this is part of our authenticity too. It’s not just the ‘nice’ parts. 

I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry the strings wrapped so beautifully around my desire to live more consciously loosened enough to let Jackie’s feeling spill onto the floor in front of everyone. And like you–I’m not always ‘ok.’ I don’t have to be. But what is always true, is that beneath all that – is a space to which I can return where everything IS Divinely beautiful, sacred and at peace. I would love to say I live there, and I can say I am able more and more to get balanced and be in that space. Yet, I continue to be a human being whose job it is to live on this planet and experience the fullness of what She offers. As I allow myself to do so, I invite the sacred to enter more deeply into my being. I awaken my soul to the healing needed, I meet those whom I love on the plane that is this earth. 

This planet is our earth school. In school there are things to learn, ways to grow, relationships to navigate. Each one offers to us a mirror through which to see our full selves. We can either look deeply into the reflection, or we can close our eyes and see ourselves as we wish to see. 

I’m walking forward with eyes wide open. And when I walk into walls anyway, I’ll simply get up and take another step. Love to each of you. xo 

*I would also like to share with you a newly created space: Sacred Circle Retreats. Our first virtual retreat/soul workshop ‘Through the Looking Glass’ will be Sunday, September 23. We invite you to visit us on Facebook and through our website

The Cause of Our Suffering

The message seems clear as to the cause of our suffering: Us

It was when I first listened to Thich Nhat Hanh share with Oprah on her Super Soul Sunday series that a deep shift in my consciousness really began to take hold. Our ‘suffering’ is in direct response to what we think, believe and feel from within. And then within my own life it became abundantly clear. The last year of transformation in my relationship to our son–the pain and heartache I’ve felt have not come from him and what he has or hasn’t done–it’s in proportion to my own inner dialogue, my own grief of him growing up, becoming independent of me and making choices of his own that I wouldn’t ever make on his behalf. 

This has been such a year of deepening what I have felt and shared as truth. I find it now seeping into and out of this new space within myself. Realizing that how much or little I feel pain, grief, anxiety is truly emanating from the space within myself. The beliefs we take on as our own–be it through the nature of who we are or the social environment and programming we all undergo in some way–form the way in which we view our world. As a mother, if I am seeing through eyes of always wanting to comfort, love and nurture my children (as though they are young children rather than grown adults) on the one hand, and feeling I need to adhere to certain standards of being a parent on the other, either of these can lead to inner pain. The key to release is shifting perspective and looking through a fresh lens. I can love my nearly adult children. I must grow and mature as they are. And together, my husband and I can determine what OUR style of parenting is, setting aside what we feel is expected of us from society or our various tribal members. 

Yesterday, as we shared together in my extended family, yet another wave of this truth set in: it’s not what others do to us that causes us pain, it’s what we choose to believe about ourselves as a result. When something occurs in our lives–on either end of the emotional spectrum of happiness/sadness–there is a response we feel in that moment. Yes, there can be pain in THAT moment. But the lingering effects are born of what we take on and believe as true. We weave a new ‘truth’ into our belief system. In this case, a family member experienced abuse at the hands of his mother for telling the truth, and so decided that the most important thing is to look/be good rather than just be himself and be honest with his own inner truth. His truth took on the shape of whomever he might be with, in an effort to be pleasing to them. 

The pain experienced for him all these years is so much more about this belief system. The abuse he experienced from his mother is long gone, but the emotional, spiritual and psychological impact lingers on….until we are able to recognize it and transform it through our soul’s truth. The soul does not lie, my friends. And the soul is not in pain. She is beauty, sacredness, all things filled with love. She is the miracle of our very existence. When we are disconnected from her sacred truth, we experience pain and inner turmoil. 

How to heal the suffering? Evaluate a place in your life where you feel it. Go into that space and allow the emotions to speak to you. Listen to what they share. Ask what you have taken on as a result of your experience, and then examine its purity. We must then consider if the belief we’ve created within ourselves is one we wish to continue living and playing out. 

In THIS moment, the pain of an experience years ago exists only in what we carry within. That moment has passed. The event is over. Perhaps it’s time to let it go and form a new belief system. We are all pure in spirit. There is no need to ‘be good,’ to do the right thing and to try to keep those around us happy. Inevitably this results in stress, suffering, turmoil. We are already ‘good,’ loved ones. The struggle to be so is what creates the holes in our spirits. Time for healing, letting go, connecting to the purity of who we truly are: Divine beings. 

Sharing this meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh: ‘Humans are born as flowers.’ ~ xo

Cocoon of Illness

Rarely do I actually ‘get sick,’ but this last week was a clear exception. I seemed to have caught the virus going around and felt poorly for several days, even spending the entirety of Saturday on the couch. As you know by now, I believe everything has purpose, including illness. Sometimes just to give us space to rest or focus on taking care of ourselves. We–especially women–aren’t always so good at turning our loving and nurturing inward, and yet we would drop everything to be sure we were present for a loved one. Certainly that is part of what was occurring with my illness. There’s been a lot–and I mean a LOT–of tense activity with our three teenage children recently. Accidents & traffic tickets are beginning to pile up. As parents, we’ve been pretty open with them growing up, and now it all shifts to having to deal with something beyond mom and dad–the lessons are endless. So certainly stress and an outpouring of energy and resources to others has played a factor. 

But even with that realization, I was unprepared for what I was going to feel on Sunday when I woke up feeling great! It was literally as though I had entered into this bubble of time and space, only to come out renewed and feeling so alive. Never before have I encountered an illness in quite this way. This felt very much like a death and rebirth. Some of my instinctual ‘fix-it-ness’ died while I was in that cocoon of self awareness. I surrendered–without even realizing it actually–some of my drive to take care of everyone else, to make it ok, to be sure they all have what they need. Instead, the lesson my son’s spirit has taught me in this last year–that of trusting the Universe/God is holding us all and can take care of what is needed–expanded into more of my heartspace. 

I’ve understood illness can be an impetus to connecting to the Divine, to healing and releasing what no longer serves us. And yet, this was so much more than those words convey. It was so very much like emerging from the tomb, awake and aware of Life once again. There is a deep appreciation of who I am, what my life is. When I look at my husband and children I feel so much love. Being in our home fills me with gratitude and yes, even a desire to honor it by keeping it picked up and cleaned. I feel like I want to eat better. Some people have an intense life changing experience that is filled with the sound of angels singing. This was much more subtle while in process, but feels exhilarating on this side. 

Everything–everything in this life is a gift to us, even when it doesn’t feel to be so. Grace comes disguised into our lives at times, and we can only recognize her when we stop to look back at the paths of our journey. Yet, if we are open to seeing her, we find She was there all the time. Reminds me of Footprints….there was only one set ‘because I was carrying you.’ Even when we didn’t know it. xo 

 

 

Undoing ‘Good’

The first line of Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese, playing with my thoughts, my heart, my emotions this morning–and quite suddenly. 

‘YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE GOOD’

It’s one of my most favorite lines of poetry, seared into my consciousness during an intensive with my beloved teacher Andrew Harvey. I loved it as soon as I heard it–felt something release inside myself, liberated. 

Raw, random, personal thoughts fill the space in this post….followed by a pause, feeling, listening, tuning in. What does that mean: ‘You do not have to be good’ ? 

It seems to be a statement to define the unraveling of who we ‘thought’ we were–who I thought I was. 

Every time it comes around again, it feels as though there is a clear shift occurring in my belief system, very visible, very palpably felt. While I’m not yet ready to share the details of this transition, I’m soothed by Mary Oliver’s statement to us all: You do not have to be good. 

Funny how it is, though isn’t it–‘good’–a goal we can chase all our lives and never quite reach it. 

Because it’s a fallacy, an illusion that we have taken on and decided holds our truth. 

Then just as we release one layer of that illusion, another reveals itself–opening the cracks that lead to healing, surrender….wholeness. 

And so it goes….the spiral, the cycle of this journey. Letting go….of ‘being good.’ 

Instead….just BEing. Allowing. 

Thank you, Mary Oliver for sharing such richness and Universal truth. 

My statement to myself this day: I do not have to be good. 

I have only to be ME. And THAT is enough. 

Miracles & Moments ~ No Comfort Zone Challenge Week 4

I’m loving reading everyone’s movement and opening as we all go through this ‘challenge’ together. Ironic, isn’t it–that we’ve actually NAMED something meant to be part of our every day life journey and experience. S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G beyond our own comfort zone and into the space of the sacred. We are consciously choosing to go into the center of ourselves, allow our souls to guide us. For it’s true, friends, that even when we have human language for it and it looks like we are engaging solely on the level of being earthlings, it is indeed our inner voice that beckons and drives us onward, deeper and deeper into who we are.

Twice the call came. First as an ‘oh, yes, that sounds nice’ when Janece shared that she was writing less on her blog, but more in her journal which had been silent for some time. And then last week when Marge shared that her decision to step outside her comfort zone was to change up her morning routine, part of which included writing in her journal. I have books and books of journals from when I wrote every day–so filled with emotion, awe and downloads of ME that I went on for pages in one sitting. And then, something shifted. I stopped writing in my journal so much, eventually writing more and more here, in plain sight.

A ritual I set for myself years ago was to get up early, in the darkness of morning and write. There was something incredibly sacred in that time of day for me. The stillness of a household not yet awakened. Quiet hush over all of nature until that first bird begins her chirping song. The Divine seemed more tangible and alive somehow. So after reading Marge talk about the beauty of the morning hours and the enveloping grace they exude, I decided I would get up early again this last week and write in my journal.

There wasn’t anything profound, in fact it was different than those years ago, in how it fed my soul to commune with the sacred–then & now. At that time, I could say it was as though I was a new recruit to the convent, come in with exuberant passion for this journey, for the connection to something so much greater than I. In this time and place, there is a calm within myself. A settled knowing of who and what I am, and in turn an understanding of the permeating presence of Divine energy throughout my entire day. What I found instead, wasn’t so much the joy of journaling once again, but the pause to whisper ‘Good morning, Ms. Jackie’ and then to allow myself to begin preparing for this day in my home. ‘This’ being any given day. After a space of writing, I felt myself infusing a loving warmth into each task I was doing: making coffee for my husband, feeding the cats, organizing the kitchen in order to make lunches. There was a different kind of sacred hush. Just a quiet knowing, calm, peacefulness. Morning was more like a glow of love greeting me.

It doesn’t sound uncomfortable, though, does it? And in truth, it wasn’t horribly so. But on half of those mornings, as I rolled over to quiet my alarm, I found myself thinking it would be much more comfortable to stay cuddled up next to my husband, in the warm embrace of our bodies resting together. To instead get up and greet the cool air of winter–let me assure you–was not so comfortable. The beauty: downstairs a cozy blanket awaited me. Sacred morning moments.

I love the unexpected–and this week’s experience certainly was that, in a very gentle and nurturing way. Miracles often come to us in the quiet of our interior, and in ways we least expect. Before closing, I’d like to quickly (well, as quickly as possible, we ARE writers after all!) share two notes on miracles and healing. Since our ‘walk-out’ visit to the vet last week, Snuggles’ symptoms of concern stopped completely! If that isn’t a resounding YES! to the truth of my own inner voice, I don’t know what is. I’m still amazed that it was so simple. When he first came to us, Snuggles was dreadfully afraid of humans. We couldn’t ever touch him. It’s been three years now and he will actually talk to me and ask to be loved and touched. He’s still unsure sometimes, but that boy has come a long way. It’s crystal clear that he has come into our lives–my life–to teach TRUST, and last week was one of the biggest lessons yet.

The conflict with my son has also begun to dissolve after my own conscious awareness and choice to just LOVE. Let go and love him. It has served to liberate us both. I have no illusions we’ll be flitting about the clouds with blind happiness for the remainder of our lives, but I do see how choosing to allow ourselves to move THROUGH what we feel, emerge on the other side with an energy of surrender and just give in to the call of our hearts–in my case to LOVE–will reorder our interior truth. I’m grateful for the healing in our home this last week, for the trust and love we are allowing to flourish as we grow together.

I’m actually quite clear on what next week’s challenge is for myself. Paint. I have inner visions of fluid strokes, colors, energies coming together on the ‘canvas.’ Voices of doubt have kept me from exploring, and I’m feeling very succinctly the call to honor my inner creativity. So I’ll be letting go in a whole new way as I explore the art of painting….however it may come to be over the next week. As a prompt and added inspiration for myself, I’ve attached a photo of the mug I painted to honor my 40th birthday. How on earth I’ve let nearly two months go by without letting this creativity express herself, I cannot say. Next week….that changes!