The Turning Point

Writing about grief, teaching journaling techniques to widows and widowers for healing through grief, and having lived it myself I find my world is often times full of death. Is this a bad thing I wonder? The answer is no, for oftentimes a part of us must die in order for another part to come alive. This is the natural rhythm of life. At this very moment in the Northern Hemisphere we can witness this cycle with the autumn season, things are slowing down and dying so that they may come alive once again in the spring. It is time for a rest, time to heal our souls and give way for an internal shift. This happens in everyone’s life, even if we are unaware, as we pass from infancy to childhood, from childhood to becoming an adult, etc. It is part of the cycle of nature. When these shifts occur, it is often confusion and disorientation that act as the messengers to indicate that a shift is taking place within us.

Oftentimes in our lives we have stored up some type of trauma in our souls and have formed a protective shell around ourselves to function. If we take the time to look into the changing surface of things, we will find that a shift is taking place within us. When we feel this shift, which might be as simple as feeling confined, we can begin to let go of some of the trauma we carry and move forward and begin again. We can make room for death, and in that moment we are reborn. This rebirth allows for us to continue to live our lives, and to fully stand in our light and shine.

Walking The Camino de Santiago this past summer I often felt like I had died, both physically as well as mentally. In my death, I experienced a rebirth, a lightness of being and an ability to see things clearer and to be able to listen just a little longer. It was a tremendous gift to be able to make this journey, but one need not leave their own surroundings in order to obtain such gifts, all one has to do is to surrender to the idea of death and allow for the shift to take hold. Wishing you peace for your journey and as always, love.

After a time of decay comes the turning point. The powerful light that has been banished returns. There is movement, but it is not brought about by force . . . The movement is natural, arising spontaneously. For this reason the transformation of the old becomes easy. The old is discarded and the new is introduced. Both measures accord with time; therefore no harm results. ~ I Ching

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Letting Go

What is your spirit communicating to you precisely at this moment? Is it calling you to look within, to see who you are and to see that we are all interconnected? Or are you holding on to the past, unable to move in a forward direction? Tonight, September 25, 2014, is a good time to let go of all the debris you might be holding onto from the past, all the things the ego likes to clutch onto that are toxic to our overall health, both to our minds and our bodies. With this date coinciding with the new moon (which commenced last evening), and the celebration of Navaratri as well as the Jewish New Year, it is an even more auspicious time to clear out the old, to make way for the new. It is an optimal time to purify and cleanse in order to set the stage for restoration of that which we desire to manifest in our lives. Tonight, create a ritual for yourself by lighting a candle; saying a blessing, gazing up at the magnificent universe in the starry night sky, while perhaps using a crystal of your choice, I am being called to anything that is light blue. Blue marks the beginning of life and emotion. Within the light shades of blue crystals we find acceptance, forgiveness, reconciliation, patience, dealing with guilt, and recovery. So grab a beautiful Angelite (love the name), a Celestite, or a Blue Chalcedony and go sit outside under the stars and let go of all that is keeping you from living your best life.

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We are earth people on a spiritual journey to the stars. Our quest, our earth walk, is to look within, to know who we are, to see that we are connected to all things, that there is no separation, only in the mind.

~ Lakota Seer

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Change

The moment of change is the only poem ~ Adrienne Rich

However much we may try to deny it, change is a constant aspect of our lives. Some changes are small, others may seem enormous and life altering. Sometimes we have weeks or months to prepare and ease into these changes, but more often than not they are unexpected, jarring, confusing, and very stressful. For better or worse, change is a fact of life we have to come to terms with, or we get mired in the mud of the past unable to move forward into the only moment that really matters, now. But change is difficult, whether individual desires or cultural ones, we prefer the familiar, the known and therefore we give it value. We avoid change. We deny our intuition and avoid transformation. When you feel conflict, pain, and tension, fear or confusion this is a sign change is occurring. Don’t try to avoid it or withdrawal. Lean into the change, take a risk and allow yourself to fully embrace life.

In my own life, change has often occurred in unexpected and jarring ways, but there have also been instances I have had the opportunity to prepare for change. When I have time to prepare for changes, I often turn to crystals to help with healing and keeping my chakras open and flowing. An excellent crystal to use during times of change is Watermelon Tourmaline. This crystal is exceptional for applying mental and emotional clarity to a transitional period of your life. On a mental level it brings patience and understanding to learn to accept the situation. Emotionally, it relieves stress and supports inner peace so you might move through this transition as painlessly and securely as possible. Like all Tourmalines, Watermelon Tourmaline is a metaphysically protective stone that is said to balance and harmonize the chakras. It works with the heart and higher heart chakras, cleansing and removing blockages, soothing and relieving stress. Watermelon Tourmaline is thought to help lessen depression and mend emotional wounds by allowing one to see the meaning and purpose of certain life events. It also aids in removing insecurities and calming overactive emotions, and it is believed that it also helps attract love and resolve issues in relationships, infusing them with joy and Divine Love.

I also believe diet plays an important role in our healing, so why not eat some watermelon as well when dealing with lots of change in your life? Watermelon is a high lycopene food. Lycopene is important for our cardiovascular health and increasingly a number of scientists now believe lycopene is important for bone health as well.   Your diet also affects your chakras and your overall well-being. Be open to change, especially at this time of the year when the seasons are changing and we are about to experience the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere (Vernal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere) as it can be a wonderful gift if you learn how to fully lean into it and listen to your inner guidance.

 

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Heart Opening Along The Way

Extending my greetings to all and thanking you for your patience during my absence from writing. I went away to get in touch with my self. Having been called to walk the Camino de Santiago, I was able to clear my schedule and arrange my life so that I could go travel for 35 days. Even better, my 22-year-old son was able to join me on this journey.

You might ask, what did I find on this journey? Since my return many have asked this question, probing as to what it was all about? I have been asked over and over, “how did I feel”? “What did I find along The Way”?  “Was it all I had expected”? The questions are numerous; often I am unable to answer them. How do I begin to explain what this inner journey represented to me? I find it almost impossible, and my voice has remained silent.

I have written a lot about finding one’s voice, and in fact that was the premise of this blog, to find and hold my voice. As I am just beginning to reflect and process the pilgrimage, one thing I have found is that it is okay not to have a voice to answer the numerous questions and in that I feel at peace. There is a time and place to use your voice, and a time to remain silent, reflecting inward.

I will share that the journey was many things from beautiful, joyful, happy and fun to challenging, painful, gut wrenching and physically demanding. Oftentimes I did not think I could take another step. The Camino is a metaphor for life, it offers up a little bit of everything and it is up to us as to how we greet those challenges and joys. There were times I did not meet situations in a most prudent manner, and others when I was able to comfortably sit with whatever emotion arose.

We had walked from Atapuerca to Burgos one day. I knew the day would be a challenge in that there was much walking to get to the city center through a vast industrial area, in other words not scenic. It was also hot. I wanted to take a taxi from outside of the city into the center, where we would be staying, at least that was the plan, thus avoiding the industrial walking. This did not happen. We walked, lost our way on The Way and were unable to effectively communicate with the gas station attendant as to where to go. We saw no other pilgrims in sight. When you walk The Way you are known as a peregrino, or pilgrim. It was frustrating and my son and I became cross with one another. I asked myself why was I doing this? Whose idea was it to walk 500 miles across Spain anyway? I was miserable. Not from the physical aspect of the walk, as it was a relatively easy walk. As we made our way further and further across the dismal industrial area, which thankfully was silent as it was a Sunday, it dawned on me that I had read there was no bus service in most of the villages of Spain on Sunday, which clearly included Burgos! Just one more frustration to my day as we were standing at a large bus stop noting there certainly were none to ride on this day! I wanted to be done with this part of the walk now and I could feel my impatience mounting combined with the heat.

Suddenly, I took note that I was angry. Yes, on this pilgrimage I was angry. At first I felt ashamed. However, I stepped back and acknowledged this anger and allowed it to be. I did not shame it, stop it, or feed it. I simply allowed it to be what it was. In that moment I began to soften, I was no longer acting from fear, the fear of being lost in this city and believe me after coming out of tranquil rural villages a city the size of Burgos is an overload for the senses. I simply let go and observed what I felt; I told my son, “I am feeling angry”. It was a beautiful release, which lead to a softening of my heart.

That was part of the journey for me, the softening of my heart. I have been through many difficult and traumatic situations over these past 12 years and I have hardened my heart to a lot of life. The Camino was telling me to soften, to acknowledge things when I felt them, to observe, and to let go. This was only one of the many gifts and blessings I received along my pilgrimage. I hope to carry my lessons forward into my daily life because consistent softening of your system dissolves blocks in the flow of your life energy. It connects you with the life force in the universe. As you soften you let go of the stress and strain that have blocked your vitality. What can you do to soften your heart?

You can practice this exercise whenever you feel stress in daily life.

First, attempt to identify where the stress or emotion manifests in your body, and then try the following:

  • Begin softening into that location in your body. Letting the muscles be soft without a requirement that they become soft, like simply applying heat to sore muscles. Softening…softening…softening… Remember that you are not trying to make the sensation go away—you are just holding it in a tender embrace.
  • If you experience too much discomfort with an emotion, simply stay with your breath until you feel better. Now, begin to soothe yourself because you struggle in this way. Perhaps putting your hand over your heart again and feeling your body breathe. Perhaps bringing kind or encouraging words to mind. Hold yourself with loving awareness.
  • If you wish, direct kindness to an uncomfortable part of your body by placing your hand over that place. Maybe even thinking of your body as if it were the body of a beloved child, and gently soothing.
  • Finally, allowing the discomfort to be there. Letting go of the wish for discomfort to disappear. Allowing the discomfort to come and go as it pleases, like a guest in your own home. Allowing…softening…soothing…allowing. Repeat these words like a mantra, if you wish, reminding yourself to feel tenderness toward your suffering.
  • As you do this exercise you may find that the emotion moves in your body, try staying with your experience, continuing to use the technique of soften-soothe-allow.

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart … Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung

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Under the Milky Way

All journeys are rhapsodies on the theme of discovery. We travel as seekers after answers we cannot find at home. … Centuries of travel lore suggest that when we no longer know where to turn, our real journey has just begun. At that crossroads moment, a voice calls to our pilgrim soul.

~ Phil Cousineau

I am about to embark on a journey, a pilgrimage some call it including myself. Having found myself at a crossroads moment, I hear my pilgrim soul calling. I don’t know where to turn any longer, and so I will make a pilgrimage of my heart.  I am desirous of an inward journey, one of self-discovery of my soul’s purpose in life. The other day while teaching to a grief group one of the women said she didn’t know what her purpose was any longer now that her spouse had died. I too don’t fully understand what my purpose is any longer. My spouse died many years ago, and I found purpose again after his death in raising our son. Now that son has recently graduated from university and is about to embark on furthering his education with a master’s degree on the other side of the world for 18 months. I don’t know when I might see him again after he leaves in early September, or if he will be coming back to live in the United States again. I have lived for more than a half-century, and thus with the purpose of raising my son complete, I am again much like I felt when he left for university, wondering what my purpose is in life? I most definitely have some ideas, however, I feel like I have become lazy, or content. Thus, on Monday morning I will be boarding a flight for Paris, and then a train ultimately bound for St. Jean Pied de Port, France to begin my pilgrimage on The Camino de Santiago for 35 days. I hope to find myself somewhere out there while walking 500 miles across Spain, and if I don’t well at least I will have had an enriching life experience with my son in meeting new people from around the world and catching a glimpse of Spain and its beautiful people. I pray for a safe journey. I pray for enlightenment, for good health, and no blisters. But, mostly I pray to find myself while I am out there under The Milky Way. And so, with that I bid you adieu for now.   To all the beautiful writer’s of the many blogs I read and savor, know that I will be back sometime in late July to join you on your life journeys. Blessings to all, and may you find yourself out under The Milky Way sometime this summer contemplating life and all its magnificence.

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Compassion

What if you extended the gift of compassion to all those you meet today by silently blessing them? This simple act will serve to acknowledge our spiritual interconnectedness. When we are able to salute the unity that binds us, we are more able to accept the journeys that each one of us is on, where all paths ultimately lead to the same universal spirit. It is only through respecting our unique differences that we may begin to affirm how interconnected we all are. Honoring this takes time, patience, and most importantly, practice. When you are able to see the value that everyone’s life has, you will find greater meaning in your own.

There is a plan for each of us, and each of us is precious. As we open our hearts more and more, we’re moved in the directions in which we are suppose to go. ~ Marianne Williamson

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The Way

I have been dragging my feet writing about this subject, however, it occurred to me I should use my voice and speak up, or rather write about my upcoming journey since my blog is all about finding one’s voice.

A couple of years ago someone suggested a good movie on Netflix and as luck would have it I remembered the name of the movie and watched it. I was completely taken in by the movie and found myself wanting to experience the journey. The movie was The Way starring and directed by Martin Sheen. Of course, as life would have it, other things were calling my immediate attention and the movie and any thoughts of actually walking the Camino de Santiago, as the walk is called, got stashed away within the deep recesses of my subconscious. However, it continued to lurk, while I continued to make excuses. I watched the movie again, and again. I watched the movie with my son, and he watched it again. There was something calling. I am not even certain how it happened, but somehow the call became more of a loud pounding and I answered and did the one thing that commits most of us to any travel, I booked the air tickets. Now it is real, I am going to be walking the Camino de Santiago with my son this June.

About now you might be asking yourself just what is The Camino de Santiago? You would be surprised how many people think it is some place in California or South America, no one thinks of Spain. Well, actually, the path I am taking, The Frances Way, begins in France. A brief history provided by the Unesco World Heritage Site follows:

Pilgrimages were an essential part of western European spiritual and cultural life in the Middle Ages and the routes that they took were equipped with facilities for the spiritual and physical well-being of pilgrims. The Route of St James of Compostela has preserved the most complete material record in the form of ecclesiastical and secular buildings, settlements both large and small, and civil engineering structures. This Route played a fundamental role in facilitating the two-way interchange of cultural developments between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. There is no comparable Christian pilgrimage route of such extent and continuity anywhere in Europe: the other two pilgrimage routes, to Jerusalem and Rome, are only recognizable in a very fragmentary fashion. In addition to its enormous historical and spiritual value, it also represents a remarkably complete cross-section of European artistic and architectural evolution over several centuries.

The different pilgrimage routes converged on Santiago de Compostela, at the foot of the Apostle’s tomb, and were lined with works of art and architectural creations. The cultural heritage scattered along the length of these routes is immensely rich. It represents the birth of Romanesque art; then came the Gothic cathedrals and the chains of monasteries.

The tradition whereby the Apostle St James the Great preached the Gospel in Spain dates from the early 7th century. In the Latin Breviary of the Apostles, St Jerome held that apostles were buried where they preached, and so it was assumed that the body of St James had been moved from Jerusalem, where according to the Acts of the Apostles he was martyred on the order of Herod Agrippa, to a final resting place in Spain. It was not until the 9th century that the apostle’s tomb was identified at Compostela. The late 8th century saw the consolidation of the Christian kingdom of Galicia and Asturias in northern Spain, with the support of Charlemagne. It was to provide the base for the reconquest of the peninsula from Muslim domination, a process that was not to be completed until 1492. The apostle had been adopted as its patron saint by the Christian kingdom against the menace of Islam, and in the early years of the 9th century, during the reign of Alfonso II, his tomb was ‘discovered’ in a small shrine by the hermit Pelayo and Todemiro, bishop of the most westerly diocese in the kingdom.

The fame of the tomb of St James quickly spread across western Europe and it became a place of pilgrimage. By the beginning of the 10th century pilgrims were coming to Spain on the French routes from Tours, Limoges, and Le Puy, and facilities for their bodily and spiritual welfare began to be endowed along what gradually became recognized as the formal pilgrimage route, while in Compostela itself a magnificent new basilica was built to house the relics of the Apostle, along with other installations – churches, chapels, hospices and hospitals. The 12th century saw the route achieve its greatest influence, used by thousands of pilgrims from all over Western Europe. In 1139 the first ‘guidebook’ to the Route appeared, in the form of Book V of the Calixtine Codex (attributed to Pope Calixtus II but most probably the work of the pilgrim Aymeric Picaud), describing its precise alignment from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela and listing the facilities available to pilgrims. These structures, ranging from humble chapels and hospices to magnificent cathedrals, represent every aspect of artistic and architectural evolution from Romanesque to Baroque and beyond, demonstrating the intimate linkages between faith and culture in the Middle Ages.

There are two access routes into Spain from France, entering at Roncesvalles (Valcarlos Pass) and Canfranc (Somport Pass) respectively; they merge west of Pamplona, just before Puente la Reina. It passes through five Comunidades Autónomas and 166 towns and villages, and it includes over 1,800 buildings of historic interest; in many cases the modern road runs parallel to the ancient route. The tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago has not ceased since that time, although its popularity waned in recent centuries. Since it was declared to be the first European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987, however, it has resumed the spiritual role that it played in the Middle Ages, and every year sees many thousands of pilgrims following it on foot or bicycle.

I have not decided whether to blog or not as I walk. My intentions are probably not since I am not taking a computer. For my personal journey I want to be free of technology as much as possible. However, I will be taking a smart phone and, well, you never know, but my goal is to stay away from the Internet for the 33 days I intend to be walking. I am certain this walk will influence my feelings about many things in life. I am going with no expectations, only an attempt to keep my heart open and to fully experience all that the Camino provides for me on my personal journey. I have some 60 days before I leave, much of which will be filled with finding the right gear to take, which in and of itself is a journey let me tell you! It is a religious experience just to find the best shoes, backpack and what to fill it with! So many opinions, so many stories of what works and what doesn’t . . . all of which is wonderful advice, but in the end leaves my head spinning. Don’t even ask about all the trips to REI and discussions with sales persons, all having differing opinions as to what you should take. Of course, none have done the walk themselves! So you can see why I say it is already a religious experience simply by the preparations.   When one comes from the US, it is no easy feat to get to the start of the Camino and requires planes, trains, and automobiles! Whatever it brings, it is certain to provide me with an amazing experience and I hope to be able to share my voice in some fashion with what I find along the path. Thank you for supporting me in my endeavors and for reading my blog. It means a great deal to me and it fills my heart and soul with sustenance for just such a journey as the Camino. As the saying goes, Buen Camino

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A strong person knows they have strength enough for their journey, but a person of strength knows that it is in their journey where they will become strong.~ Nishan Panwar

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