Friday, November 28, 2008

Sweet Smells~

Isn't smell an incredible sense? The journeys I find myself on because of a delicious scent wafting through the air, the places I go, the images that are conjured when my nose finds something to delight in.

Mmmmmm, yes, sweet scents, those good smells that whirl us away to exotic places, or lead us to a magical memory from childhood, or who knows, maybe even another lifetime. Are they not completely wonderful, like a kind of invisible gift? The power of a good smell is something to marvel over I think, something to give thanks for, something to cherish before it's gone, a kind of fleeting treasure of the air.

Press your nose into the pink bloom of an old fashioned rose and breath in, and you know what I mean, walk down to the sea at first light, and breath in, get down on your hands and knees and bring the soft earth up to your face, and breath in, press your face against the chest of the one you love, and breath in, stand under the sky of the first snow fall and breath in....and breath in...and breath in.

On these wintry days, I open bottles of Indian rose oil and frankincense. Somehow they have the ability to pierce the darkness of a winter's night and wrap me up in desert sunshine. I drop them into the bath water with dried petals from summer, and burn them in diffusers. I add them to jojoba oil and rub them in to my hair, so that wherever I go, the smell of petals and tree resins from warm faraway lands escort me.  

I think the sense of smell is not given enough credit, often forgotten in our culture. We live in a world dedicated to sights and sounds, and not necessarily smell.   

I recently read  that "In the East, no sense is more lovingly cared for than that of smell, which is regarded as the most "spiritual" of all." (Grandmothers Secrets, The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing, Al-Rawi, Rosina -Fawzia)  I thought there was something beautiful about that.

So, this post is dedicated to good smells and the wonderful ways we experience our lives, because of them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beautiful Words from Rabia~

~Rabia of Basra ( c 717-801) Islamic Saint of the Sufi Tradition

I know about love the way the fields know about light,
the way the forest shelters,

the way an animal's  divine raw desire seeks to unite with 
whatever might please its soul- without a single
strange thought
of remorse.

There is a powerful delegation in us that
lobbies every moment for

How will you ever find peace
unless you yield to love

the way the gracious earth 
does to your hand's

Friday, November 21, 2008

At Home~

Yesterday my plan was to garden, but then the rains came, and they came down at a nasty angle, and the winds whipped the garden about, and all the leaves that were clinging on to the bare trees for just a little while longer, they let go, and gave themselves back to the damp earth. 

I changed my mind about gardening.  Instead I worked on my book (more on this topic soon), made endless pots of tea and distracted myself from the tedious stages of editing by rearranging my tea shelves and putting all my loose herbs into tidy jars. 

Gus invented a new game involving an Indian blanket and an orange ball. He discovered that if he hid the ball on himself, in the blanket, there was no need to bother with his busy human friend and he could enjoy hours of entertainment, without the slightest desire for human company.  

During all this drinking of tea, and arranging of tea, and re-arranging of words, I paused in my day, chamomile petals and rosehips spilling across the table.  I paused there, hands full of nettles, and I thought to myself, "I feel at home in this moment".  It was a feeling that came bubbling up, like a kind of underground stream, a nourishing spring from a deep down place. Yes, indeed, the feeling was of being "at home," content, perfectly safe, warmth in my bones and love in my heart, as I pottered about, doing all things precious to me, in my little green house, with my fluffy white dog, on this cold rainy old day.

And then I wondered where that feeling of "being at home" comes from, that feeling that assures the heart and makes every little thing okay.  The warm feeling that soothes us to the core and envelopes the soul in a blanket of contentment.  The radiant light of mother that reaches down into the very center of our beings and reminds us of something true, and real, and steeped in love.

Sometimes, for me,  this feeling of home, comes from the physical arrangement of things.  I am someone dedicated to creating 'home' wherever I am, usually it involves cooking something wonderful and allowing the smells to waft through the surrounding air.  When I am camping I create tables from tree stumps and arrange bouquets of flowers in empty wine bottles.  I hang special things in the branches around my campsite, and make soft beds out of cedar bows and wool blankets.  I carefully arrange feathers and stones under moonlight whilst saying prayers for all beings.  I stir pots of chai tea on campfires and let the smells of cardamom and cinnamon rise into the night.  And when my camp is set up, and I have a hot chai cupped in my hands, and the lake is still, and the moon shines bright, I sit beside the warm flames and I feel, at home.

But then sometimes home has nothing to do with arranging physical objects, nothing to do with arranging anything, nothing to do with cooking, or creating, or camping. Like the first time I walked through the streets of Kathmandu, or the feeling I felt upon hearing the sound of wooden flute being played in a Balinese market, or being in the arms of someone I love, or putting my face in the soft fur of my beautiful dog and breathing in the hay barn smell.  

I think the Great Mystics have been discussing this one for a long while.  And I am sure that they are on to something when they say that home is where God is, and that God is everywhere, in everything, in all of us~ 

(Great Mother, Great Spirit, Buddha, Brahma, Allah, Jesus....).

"May the long time sunshine, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide your way home..." ~Sufi Chant

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Prayer~ A Poem

This is a poem which was just introduced to me this past weekend.  It is one that I have read every day since our initial introduction.  I have read it in the bath, in the mornings whilst sipping nettle tea, in the evenings after supper, in candle light, out loud to my animals, and on my sunny front porch.  And oh, how happy I am, to make this wonderful acquaintance.  I find poems are like that, like new friends, friends that I look forward to getting to know beyond the first impression, beyond the first moment of soulful recognition.  

By Lisa Colt

May we reveal our abundance without shame.
May we peel back our sleeping wintery layers
like snakeskin's, like the silk chrysalis,
like clothing cast off during love.
May we unravel with abandon like lover's knots
before knitting ourselves back to the heart.
May we settle into our own
 rhythms as tides do-
within the borders of the moon's calling.
May the music of our souls
be accompanied by grand gestures
and the persistent clapping of humming
bird's wings.
May the milky fingers of the moon 
reach down nightly to cherish and unveil us.
May we turn our bodies generously in its light
like tranquil fish glinting underwater,
like precious stones.
When we open our mouths to sing
may the seasons pause in their long journey
to listen and applaud.

Artist's Unknown~  Images from Internet

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Alchemy of Spring Bulbs~

"Nature Loves to hide (Becoming is a secret process)" 
~ Heraclitus, 6th Century Philosopher.

Today, I take these words of Heraclitus with me, to the dusty little gardeners shop just down the way. Today I am filling my cotton shopping bags with spring bulbs of every size, shape, and color.  I really don't think one can plant enough tulips and daffodils and crocuses. Each year I wonder if I need to plant more, and then, barely a moment is past before I quickly I realize that, yes, indeed, I do! When these spring beauties burst up through the earth's surface, in all their radiant glory, it is pure magic.  The exquisite timing of spring blooms after the dark winter is something to marvel at.

And then, whenever I put a bulb or a seed in the earth, I think to myself, "this is alchemy." What a miraculous transformation is taking place down there below the surface, in the rich dark underneath.

Alchemy, defined by the Oxford dictionary is: "a miraculous transformation or the means of achieving this."

So the earth then is an alchemist of the highest order, wouldn't you say? 

It makes me wonder about what is happening in my own being beneath the surface. What is stirring in the deep downs of my own heart, what seeds are sprouting, what is transforming, being born out of the fiery ash of my own living, the Phoenix of the soul if you will? 
Image of woman by Mara Freidman

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Plant Magic~

One of the things I love about the winter months, is the time I spend in my warm little kitchen, opening jars of dried herbs and bottles of flower essences that I have stored away during summer's harvest.  

I have a tendency to put my nose right up close to their open lids of dried goodness and breath in the sweet freshness of mint, and nettle, and chamomile, or rose petals and lavender.  It's as though the light of summer's sun has also found a way into the jar.

Flower essences in little blue glass bottles line the shelves. Each one is its own special healing magic, and when the rains outside refuse to cease, I open these wondrous elixirs and take the sunshine in.  The medicine of flower essences is as ancient as Egypt, medicine to open the heart and stop the worry, to bring peace and take away anxiety.  The teas I sip while reading good books, in comfy places, on cold days, strengthen body and soul, constantly reminding me of the many blessings bestowed upon us by our Mother Earth.  

Yes, indeed, I am a lover of plant spirit medicine.  Summer days  are spent gathering herbs and making flower essences from my wild and wonderful garden. When the sun is out I am as busy as the bees, and when the winters come, I enjoy all the goodness that I have preserved from those hardworking, root digging, leaf picking, petal preserving months. 

This image is of a Dahlia essence being made in August of this year.

And this week, while the winds rattle the windows of my little green house, I am remembering how much I love Nettles.  Those dark green chlorophyll rich beauties, blood strengthening, full of iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B and C.  Such a deeply nourishing herb...who can resist it?

For, as the Wise Witches have been known to say, 3 cups of nettle tea per day, for nine days, is the cure for almost anything.  

And so I dedicate this post to my plant friends, thank you all for your healing magic~ My heart is filled with gratitude for your wonderful existence.  And my winter days are blessed with the light you continue to show me.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Today, upon waking, I am thinking about Unicorns.  Those mystical horned horses from whimsical places.  As a child I would stand in the hills, on the edge of the wild wood where I lived, and I would wait for a white horse with a single horn to come galloping out of the trees. I would wait there for a long time, until I heard hooves on the soft earth, until I smelled the damp sweat of horsey hair and felt the warm grassy breath on the back of my neck. I believed my Unicorn would come, that she would carry me to the land on the otherside of the wood where she lived.  The land where all creatures lived, who struggled to exist, under the adult reign of disbelief.

This morning, while I sip my tea, I am reading Rilke's poem about a Unicorn.  And I remember my love of these beloved creatures.  And as I let this poet's words into my heart, I begin to wonder if this Unicorn that Rilke speaks of, lives not in the land on the otherside of the wood, but inside each of us. Is Rilke's Unicorn perhaps the mystery of soul that we cannot always see, but only know?  A kind of wonderful mystery to believe in? 

Don't you find the most beautiful and mysterious things are like that; born from the soil of our believing?

This is the creature there has never been. 
They never knew it, and yet, none the less
They loved the way it moved, its suppleness
Its neck, its very gaze, mild and serene.
Not there, because they loved it, it behaved
As though it were.  They always left some space.
And in that clear, unpeopled space they saved
It lightly reared its head, with scarce a trace
Of not being there.  They fed it, not with corn,
But only with the  possibility
Of being.  And that was able to confer
Such strength, its brow put forth a horn. One horn.
Whitely it stole up to the maid-to be
Within the silver mirror and in her.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Friday, November 7, 2008

To Irish Jigs~

This morning I blew the dust off my fiddle case, and as the rain came pouring down outside, I took my beautiful instrument into my arms and I played.  

I let those Irish reels whirl into my heart, while my stiff fingers, rusty from lack of practice, hit every second note incorrectly. I might have played badly, indeed I did play badly, but somehow it didn't matter. That my cats went running from the room, ears down in irritation, didn't matter. There is something about an Irish reel that says, "you just can't be so damn serious."  

So I have decided, I am dedicating this day to all things non-serious.  To doing jigs and eating sweet things and wearing a silly hat that looks more like a tea cozy then anything else.  As long I am not hungry or cold and there is music, it is a good day.

After all, as I learned from the man in the laundromat, "too much thinking, makes the heart sick."  

Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed,
To see such a site,
And the dish ran away with this spoon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ooops~ A Rant on the Hazards of the Happiness Masquerade

Yesterday I read this quote, taken from an interview with Paula Reeves a Jungian Analyst:

"Following your souls journey does not grantee happiness.  The souls journey moves toward meaning.  Each time we uncover a piece of our unclaimed shadow we step into another initiation that leads us to an ever more meaningful relationship with the self. There is profound value in recognizing our own shadow, that is our own unlived, unquestioned, and rejected life.  The shadow is not a terrible, terrifying and reprehensible bit of our self that must be kept secret no matter the cost.  It is the repository for all the fragmented and unclaimed aspects of each life waiting to emerge into consciousness, allowing us to be authentic and whole."

I read this quote on a recent bus journey to my work at the Healing Center, early in the morning, on a rainy day, surrounded by fifty other people, stuffed into a cramped space, making their way to work with coffee in to-go cups.  It felt wintry and the first bit of November had soaked everyone with icy rain, hands were cold, clothes were wet and clinging to skin, the windows were all fogged up, and there was no fresh air to breath.  Most people were beginning their work weeks, and I think I can safely say that not too many of them were feeling positively thrilled about this.  

The thing that struck me as odd though was the great efforts people appeared to be going to, to force smiles onto their tired early morning faces.  The sheer amount of will it seemed to take for people to muster polite and enthusiastic conversation with co-workers and classmates, despite their contemplative tired expressions.  And I thought what a lot of bother we go to, to exude a false sense of happiness, and for what purpose does this serve?

As the day progressed I found I began to notice this phenom everywhere I went, this was not something only destined to occur on city buses, in the early mornings.  The lady at the grocery store was doing it too, the clients coming into the Healing Center were also dedicated to tight smiles and tuneful "how are you's!"

It wasn't that I felt the whole world should embrace a tendency to be depressed, or that I even thought people were depressed.  Mostly I just found that people in general are often more inward and contemplative then they are willing to reveal to the world.  Some people were sad, yes of course they were, and some might have been seriously depressed. But either way, most people are not naturally upbeat and entirely joyful with complete and utter zestful enthusiasm all day long, every day, and this is FAIR ENOUGH!
That we so often feel the need to display a sense of happiness when we're not actually feeling this way can be somewhat haunting.  We live in a culture with a strong moral sense of honesty, and yet, we can hardly manage the basics here, and as far as I can tell, this is a problem.  If we can't be honest about what we are feeling, what can we be honest about?  How we feel is the foundation for our experience of living, it's how we are perceiving and relating to the world.

Anyway, as I began to think about why this "need to be all smiles" was occurring I came up with many theories. The following is one, I have since cast out, but it made me giggle and so I thought I'd share with you.

At first I thought that this strange human way was perhaps a "New Age West Coast idea gone terribly wrong.  That this whole trend focused on "creating and manifesting your own reality through BEING the change you wanted to see in your life," had been taken to some kind of distorted and ugly extreme. That our spiritual desires for sweetness and light had skewed our perspectives in a big ol'way. Somehow I don't think that we can live a human life in a state of constant joy and I don't think that this is necessarily the aim.  The desire for a life free of suffering is like a world with no rain, or no night.  Sunshine and constant daylight would kill the living things on this planet very quickly, a constant state of joy is a kind of fire that would burn out eventually, not to mention create a lopsided experience don't you think?  Don't get me wrong I have great respect for the souls journey, but over the years I am more inclined toward the wholeness of my experience, including the dark depths, including the bits that bring me to my knees, including the rage and the tears.  

Later I realized that we live in a world where honest expression of how we are feeling is taboo. And the reasons for this are many.  You know what they are, they're cultural, they're social, we learn them at home and at school, from young ages, and we carry these ideas into our adulthood etc etc...( nothing new here) I don't need to list them.  

And so, the purpose of my rant today is to remind us all that there is something wonderful to be found in the quiet moments, something deeply healing in the sadness, something unbelievably peaceful in the resting, something beautiful in the ugliness, something new in the oldness, something meaningful in the rage, something real in the honesty, something worthwhile in the tears, something hilarious in the humanness, something glorious in embracing the shadow and re-claiming wholeness, something really wonderful about having the ability to feel and live and breath and BE!  

This post is dedicated to the Women in my dance classes.  I thank you for your company and the courage with which you explore the shadowy depths.  

Paintings by: Joseph Lederer and Charles Bragg

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Oh to Dream~

  ~Image by Mara Friedman

I think that there is a secret in every dream, a message tucked away in a metaphor, written in the esoteric language of soul, to yourself from yourself.  I think that dreams are mysterious blessings. And this morning, I remembered these words from Mary Oliver, and I couldn't help but share them. 
~ by Mary Oliver

All night
the dark buds of dreams

In the center
of every petal
is a letter,
and you imagine

if you could only remember
and string them all together
they would spell the answer.
It is a long night,

and not an easy one-
you have so many branches,
and there are diversions-
birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down
to sleep beneath you,
the moon staring
with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent
all the energy you can
and you drag from the ground
the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake
with two or three syllables
like water in your mouth
and a sense

of loss-a memory
not yet of a word,
certainly not yet the answer-
only how it feels

when deep in the tree
all the locks click open,
and the fire surges through the woods,
and the blossoms blossom.