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Death, Dogs, and the Triad ~ Lessons in emotional mastery.

A strange thing happened to me the other day. Actually, nothing really happened to me, other than a flash of awareness. I received some very sad and shocking news, and I had a prime opportunity, kind of accidentally, to really absorb one of the great lessons of the coach training I have been in, and to see, feel, and understand it clearly in my own life.

One of the main principles in Strategic Intervention coaching is that we have the ability to take control of our emotions at any time. It is suggested that we are not manipulated by our emotions but rather we actually do our emotions, and it is possible to then change our emotional state, “in a heartbeat”, as Anthony Robbins says. Good or empowering actions and decisions arise from being in a resourceful state of being, “resourceful” meaning being able to access all our inner resources. The value of emotional mastery is that, if we can take command of our emotional state, we can then access all those inner resources and make better choices for our lives, rather than make poor decisions as a result of being in a poor emotional (unresourceful) state.

This is not to say that we are to be always positive and upbeat, just that it helps greatly to be able to access a more powerful or cheerful or present-focused state on demand, than to try to make decisions from a place of fear, guilt, worry, anger, despair, hurt, etcetera.

Before this training I had also learned in an audio program called “Emotional Genius” by Karla McLaren, something to the effect that a spontaneous emotion or feeling tends to last, when triggered, approximately 90 seconds, and then kind of dissipates or normalizes….unless we keep re-triggering that emotion by the thoughts we think and the stories we build around it.

Another version or understanding of this I recently found is that once a memory of something is triggered, or a “file is pulled”, as psychologist Joseph M. Carver calls it, it is actually 90-120 seconds before the emotional component of a thought or memory kicks in:

“Once we pull a file, after 90 seconds the emotional component begins. Our mood starts to change, returning us to the mood which was present when the file was made. As an example, remember someone discussing the recent death of a loved one. The first two minutes of conversation may go well – then they become sad. The longer the file is out (being discussed), the more the emotional component surfaces to the point that they will become tearful. If the file remains out, the exact feelings made at the time of the funeral and death will surface – they will talk about loss, love, guilt, or whatever other feelings are in the file.”

(“Emotional Memory Management: Positive Control Over Your Memory”, article by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D.)

So, whether the 90 seconds is actually the length of an average emotional response once triggered, or is rather the time it takes for that emotional aspect of it to filter through and impact our bodies once a “file is pulled”, the key point is that the emotion doesn’t stick around unless we “keep the file out” by continuing to tell ourselves the story of the triggering circumstances.

In Strategic Intervention we talk about this concept in terms of looking at what we are “focusing” on, as in, what we are thinking about. If we focus on something that brings up a challenging or “unresourceful” emotional state, it will continue unless and until we either, 1. change our focus (ie. think about something else), 2. change the meaning or interpretation/language we are giving to the situation (find a positive or more empowering “spin” on what it could mean), or 3. change our physiology (ie. what we are doing with our body at that moment).

Opening the body, saying "yes" to life!

Opening the body, saying “yes” to life!
©Canstockphoto

The physiological change is one of the fastest routes to changing our state and is amazingly effective. It can be as simple and subtle as changing our breathing pattern or our posture, going from, say, shallow breathing with slumped shoulders and a downward gaze, to standing tall, looking ahead and breathing into the belly. It can change with turning on some music, going for a walk, doing something silly or unexpected, slapping on a smile, dancing, stretching, even making a “power move”, like punching the air or raising hands high and saying “yes!” to life.

Here’s what happened to me the other day that brought this home in a very strong way, even though I have been well-versed in this concept for some time and use the physiological/focus changes consciously to switch gears on a regular basis. This one took me by surprise.

I drove home from the grocery store, stopped at the rural mailbox at the bottom of our driveway and picked up the mail. Among the letters I noticed a return address that surprised me, the name of some people I knew in another city who had been connected to a relative of mine who had passed away over a year ago. I was concerned immediately as to why they might be writing now. I knew that I had been a minor beneficiary among many in the relative’s will, but I knew these folks weren’t handling the estate.

When I immediately opened the letter in the car, I discovered that the writer had taken over the executor duties because the original executrix, the adopted daughter of my relative, had passed away. I was shocked and saddened. Although I did not know her very well, we had been together for meals and such on several occasions when I had visited and stayed with my great uncle, and had communicated with each other about him and my late aunt over the years during times of their illness. I was shocked that their daughter had passed so relatively young, leaving behind her dear husband, especially so soon after both her dad and her husband’s mother had died.

My thoughts moved from the initial shock to the “story” I then created around it…how unjust for her to pass so young and to have never had a chance to rest and really enjoy life after so much caregiving for others for so long. I thought about how very sad for her husband to lose her and how awful that must feel, and how devastated my dear great uncle and aunt would have been if they’d known (perhaps they did, in spirit) that she had died so soon. I felt sorrow and also anger at the “unfairness” of her untimely passing.  And I felt sorry that I had had no knowledge of her own illness, and been out of touch and regretted not having been able to offer some kind of support or at least conversation during this time.

This all made my tears flow as I drove up the hill from the mailbox to the house. My heart felt pressure, there was a lump in my throat as I sniffed back the tears, thinking how wrong this all was, how tragic and wrong. My shoulders got tight and tense.

When I got out of the car and began taking my groceries inside, my dogs burst out the door to greet me. It was sunny that day, there was fresh snow on the ground, and Alfie dog plunged her face deep into snowbanks, right up to her ears, then pulled out all snow-covered.

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What’s not to love with this face?

Then she started rolling around in the snow, right over on her back, fluffy feet high in the air and belly exposed for a rub. She was directly in my way behind the trunk where I was trying to retrieve the bags from the car. Two big dogs making silly moves, “smiling” faces, tails wagging around and around, as if about to come unscrewed.  Alfie was begging me to play and rub her exposed tummy. I bet you can feel it already.

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Rub my belly Angus?

My heart softened, the tears stopped immediately, the lump was gone as I started rubbing her and tickling her paws and talking in my silly dog-mom voice (you know what I mean!), and my body relaxed as I looked at her adorable face and kissed Angus on the nose. I am sure I smiled. And then my aware, coach-y self observed from “above”, “Wow…there it is, just what we teach about changing focus to change emotion. It really can happen ‘in a heartbeat’.”

I have changed moods before by deliberately changing focus or physiology as we have learned, but this was one time when it came upon me suddenly, organically and unintentionally, just by virtue of my dogs grabbing my attention, and was such a complete shift from real sadness to a feeling of love and happiness.

Joseph Carver says that one of the rules about emotional memory is that the brain only allows one “file” out at a time. And that, like the files, the brain only allows one feeling or emotion to be active at a time. “We cannot be happy and sad at the same time.”

My ability to shift my state so quickly (whether intentionally or not) doesn’t mean I no longer cared about the loss of this lovely woman and the impact on her family. It doesn’t mean I don’t still think of it as “unfair” and also sad that I did not get a chance to reconnect with her before her passing. If I decide to ponder these thoughts for more than the next 90 seconds to two minutes, I have little doubt some strong feelings will still emerge the more I dwell on it. In fact a certain tension in my heart has begun now as I write.

But I could choose now, in honouring her, and deciding not to sink into that sad state, not to focus on the tragedy of it all, but on what a gift she had been to my great uncle and aunt while they lived. She came along as an adult and became the child they’d never had and they became the loving parents she’d always wanted. She and her husband completed their family, celebrated holidays and family events, and supported each other in difficult times. She took great care of them during their old age, illness and passing. She added joy to their lives as they did for her. It is great that they found each other.

Thinking those thoughts gives me great comfort actually, as I hope it will at some point to her dear husband who must be missing her terribly. I can be more detached because she was not a regular presence in my life and we lived far apart. For loved ones left behind, however, I know a simple change of focus or meaning may not be enough when your whole pattern of living and loving and communicating has been broken. The rhythm of your days has suddenly been changed and the mirror of relationship is gone. There may be a huge loss of certainty and connection as the predictable patterns of your day, or a loss of income, or physical support and companionship, is now gone.

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Rainbow & prayer flags.

There goes the pressure in my heart again, as I guess I am tapping into my empathy thinking about this. I can imagine somewhat how that might feel. I never want to have to experience that loss of my spouse in my own life, but presumably one of us will be left behind at some point. I hope if it’s me that I am able to call upon some of these inner resources to cope with the changes, and create empowering meanings and stories that make it hurt less and uplift more.

This reminds me that grief is a funny thing, “funny” as in strange. It varies from person to person and definitely from culture to culture. Feelings may be formed by our thoughts, but our cultural, societal and familial contexts shape what those thoughts are or “should be”. They tell us that we should grieve a loved one’s passing, often in a certain way, by showing certain emotions for a certain period of time. Sometimes you see some cultures on the news where there has been tragedy and the people are wailing and screaming loudly in grief. You’ll see people in others be much more restrained, shedding tears but no wailing allowed, stiff upper lip and all.  And apparently there are cultures in the world where there is no real “grieving”, but rather celebration that the deceased has gone on to a better place or fulfilled their mission perhaps. It is not seen as an occasion to be sad or feel loss.

I know these are sweeping generalizations, but we’ve been trained by our society’s “rules” to believe that “appropriate” grief in certain contexts takes x-amount of time and is displayed by certain behaviours and words. So we let others really dictate what thoughts we think, and then our emotion follows accordingly. Strange isn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be nice to become masterful with our own thoughts, with emotional mastery following accordingly? Not that we can’t or shouldn’t experience a full range of emotions, they add so much texture and depth and contrast to life. And really our emotions are our warning systems that serve us by trying to make us more aware of things we really need to know about ourselves and about others and the world around us.

But it is good to know that when we start to get stuck in emotional states that do not serve our highest good, that make us unable to make good choices or are disempowering, that we can have the awareness and ability to shift gears, by using the triad of our focus, physiology and meaning, to help us live happier lives.

Can you remember a moment when you went so quickly from one strong emotion to another, due to a change in the focus of your thoughts or how you were using your body? What happened and did it surprise you? Let me know!

Happy 2014! Goals, habits, and support from the oracles.

It’s odd isn’t it, at least here in the northern hemisphere, that the “New Year” occurs in the “dead” of winter. Well, I am not sure technically when the dead of winter falls, if there is a time, but even this early part of winter feels pretty dead outside. We have been covered in a blanket of snow and ice for weeks now, and today on the first day of 2014, it is sunny but frigid, with a bitter wind chill here on our hill.

Snowy Trail

Snowy Trail

But my point is that we are celebrating newness, new beginnings, a rebirth of sorts, at the same time when nature here is dormant and the summer annual plants are dead.

It’s a time of paradox really, when we, in these cold climates, have turned inward, in hibernation mode, some of us being introspective and reviewing our lives, but yet are challenged to look forward, outward, and plan ahead, making resolutions about how this year is going to be different.

We’ve already passed the Solstice where the night is longest, so days are lengthening, drawing us toward summer, but we are still just entering the usual time when weather is coldest and most restrictive, keeping all but the hardiest outdoor enthusiasts close to home.

So there feels like this strange push-pull, to look inward and outward, backward and forward, as we crest the hill of New Year’s Day.

Winter on our hill.

Winter on our hill.

I decided to come downstairs to my sunny office that faces west to get away from household distractions to write. Just before I did, I had been thinking about the “rituals” as Tony Robbins calls them, the habits that we repeat daily, and how mine have been holding me back. One of his principles is that we are shaped by our rituals, so if you don’t like where you are or how your life is going, look at what your current rituals are, and then consider what new rituals you would need to create and practice in order to build the life you want.

His state-changing “Hour of Power”* is an example of one such ritual that can empower people to get motivated and to be in a “peak state” for taking on each day. I confess I had been practising it but have let it slide, and it is something that needs to be re-introduced into my daily routine as it really does energize me. It’s a combination of exercise, breath-work, expressions of gratitude, and visualization with “incantations”, his word for affirmations said with great physical emphasis and emotion.

I had been thinking about all the rituals I have that are counter-productive to achieving what I want. A big one, which is embarrassing,  is lingering too long on Facebook, scrolling the newsfeed then being distracted by interesting articles that take me off on all sorts of tangents.  Another is hitting the snooze button in the morning, or otherwise crawling back into bed for another half-hour…turning to an hour sometimes…if the cats wake me up just a little too early for their breakfast.

And then I thought about what I do in areas where I am mostly successful (for eg., monitoring my eating habits to keep my weight where I want it). Just as I had that thought, a bald eagle flew past the window. If you have followed me before you’ll probably say, “Big deal, you often have eagles fly by your place!” But I say, “Timing is everything!” When an eagle flies past just when some significant thought runs through my head, I take note and decide, “pay attention!”

Recognizing that I do have some supportive rituals in place for some areas of my life, but not for others, I decided I need to attribute as much or more importance to the other areas where I want to improve, as I do, say, to my general health and fitness. If I can have discipline there, where I have had to rewire my desire for indulging in some pleasures from food, for my ultimate long-term health and well-being, then why not extrapolate the ability to do that into all the other areas of my life that I wish to improve?

If I could give up wheat and corn, for heaven’s sake, getting up an hour earlier and turning off social media should be a breeze! Especially if I can replace the “payoffs” I get from the old bad habits with the far greater rewards from developing the new habits.

The snooze button/crawl-back-in-bed-for-a-snuggle habit actually makes me feel worse! I re-awaken later much more groggy and tired than upon initial waking. And of course there is no payoff for having fewer productive hours in a day (unless of course you truly need some extra rest, or some intimate time with your sweetie! There are exceptions!)

And while my facebook “ritual” (well….lets call a spade a spade…it’s almost an addiction) offers me a certain level of connection with friends near and far, most of my time is not spent truly “connecting”, but scrolling past many posts that are not at all relevant to me. Very few of my “friends” actually post things that are personal about their lives and work, they merely share images, quotes and links to items from elsewhere. Sure, these give some insight into their interests, but I don’t really learn much about who they are or connect to them in meaningful ways. There are a few with whom I do, who blog or write about their lives and work, or local events, but most people do not share in that way.

Date night

Date night

So, why not replace that illusion of connection with real connection…by finding more time in the week to actually meet up with the friends I want to know on a deeper level? Or to connect more deeply with my own husband for that matter? Instituting a weekly, non-negotiable, internet-and-tv-free “date night” with my husband has been a mutual decision this new year. It’s already in the calendar!

Finding more time in the day to develop my coaching practice will bring more and deeper connection too, as I meet with more clients. And my thirst for learning and growth that I think I’m getting through the internet? That is easily more than replaced by what I will learn through personal contact with friends, husband and clients. Relationships always expand your knowledge. And my life is so enriched when I work with someone and see a light go on, an inner shift experienced. Creating more time in my life for this to happen more often, and also for me to keep learning through the pile of books I have awaiting me, will reward me on so many more levels than momentary comforts or superficial connections and distractions ever will.

Many of these things have already become some of my written goals this year, as Edward and I worked through a program on goal setting offered by Michael Hyatt** over the past five days.

When I came downstairs to my office to write this blog, after seeing the eagle fly by, and began to ruminate on all these things, I glanced at my little treasure chest of oracle cards. I thought perhaps a card could help inspire this post and also inform me in my current goals.

I chose the “Spirit of the Wheel” Meditation Deck*** and drew “30 ~ Renewal ~ Spirit Path of the North”.  The keywords were “spiritual progress, success, hope.”

Although it speaks of new growth after the snow is gone (metaphorically of course), it is a card from the North (suggesting winter time as we are now in), and features on the front two bald eagles (also apropos today). And is about renewal, progress and hope…very New Year-ish and forward-looking!

Part of the description in the guide book says, “This is a particularly good time to work on your dreams and goals. [hmm… my goals eh?]  The positive and free-flowing energy signifies a time of success and good fortune. Your confidence grows as you begin to come more fully into your own power. With the growing recognition that you do have something to offer the world, comes renewed belief in yourself.”

There is more, but the mantra or prayer at the end says, “I welcome the hope and inspirational energy of the North into my life. I work towards my goals with renewed confidence and determination.”

It’s interesting too that today, New Year’s Day, also falls on a new moon. New moons are considered “auspicious” in many cultures, signifying new beginnings also…a great time to initiate new projects.

I do believe that when I choose to draw an oracle card to inform my writing, that the message is equally intended for my readers as for me, even if eagles and snow do not abound where you are.

The card guide book also says, “Renewal suggests opportunities are all around you to develop your gifts. Your life is truly a blessing right now and you have much to be thankful for.”
Dreams take flight
As you step into 2014, step up into the fullness of who you are, stay alert for the opportunities that challenge you to grow and offer your gift to the world, and make conscious decisions to act on your goals. Don’t just be the victim of old, unproductive habits. Be proactive, not reactive! I know that’s one of my big challenges.

There is an energy supporting us at this time, the collective vibration of all the others who are committed to make big changes in their lives, and especially to be a positive force in the lives of others. It really is palpable this year. Tap into that by fully engaging your intention, changing your habits, and be ready to soar! I’ll be there, doing my best, right along with you!

Happy New Year,

~Mary

* Anthony Robbins Hour of Power

** Michael Hyatt
*** Spirit of the Wheel Meditation Deck  was created by Linda Ewashina and illustrated by Jody Bergsma, wonderful artwork that is available here.

(As well as strategic life coaching and Soul Coaching® practices, I do also offer readings with various oracle or divination decks, although I prefer to see these also as coaching sessions with the insight of the cards, as opposed to predictive readings. Contact me at www.co-creativehealing.ca)

A Crabby Cat, family patterns and emotional regression.

I have a cat I sometimes call “Crabby Cat”. His proper name is Jack, a beautiful, senior, brown-black tabby. I first saw Jack as a pair of dark, triangle ears poking up from behind some goutweed along the border of my garden at the house I used to inhabit in town. I’d be puttering around the garden and notice the ears or some movement, maybe a faint meow, and I would start talking to this mysterious visitor. I eventually got to see his beautiful face, distinctive markings and paler tan colouring outlining his large eyes. I was smitten.

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Over a period of months, back about 9 years ago, I determined he was a stray. Since he got along with my other cats out in the garden, I enticed him to hang around. Once he got close enough, I noticed he had an oozing wound above his left eye. I decided to take my chances on trapping him so I could get him to a vet, to clean up the wound and neuter him too, after which I would release him and hope that he might stay with us.

I succeeded, with the deft use of a can of tuna placed in a cat carrier just outside the kitchen door. That, with some vigilance and fast action, caught him. He had the abcess drained, got “fixed”, tested for diseases and vaccinated. After a night in my basement I released him, and after three days of nibbling the food I left out, under cover of darkness, he showed up for a proper visit and never left.

But Jack, as I chose to call him for his sense of sturdy maleness and street-smarts, brought a little “cattitude” with him. The vet had estimated Jack was about 6 years old at the time, so possibly he’d been on his own quite a while, avoiding or surviving the dangers of foxes, raccoons, owls and cars, let alone winter. Life on the streets can be rough for a cat.

He had a short fuse, not totally trusting us, batting at the others and hissing, although I don’t think anyone was ever actually scratched by him, cat or human.

I spent a few years without Jack when I moved and could only take one cat with me, leaving Jack with my former partner. But a year ago Jack, and another cat I had adopted, Rosie, were offered back to me, as my ex had decided to move away. Jack would now be entering a new house with three other cats, two dogs and a new “dad”.

It was then that I started to call him Crabby Cat, as he would hiss at us for no apparent reason, the cats, the dogs, whomever walked too close by. He’d wave his paw to swat at the other critters who were basically ignoring him as they tried to pass him in the hallway, (maybe he just wanted attention?) Sometimes he’d make contact, batting one of the dogs right on the nose, but it seemed no claws were extended. They learned to give him a wide berth.

He’d also eat his food in a terrible hurry, flinging bits here and there outside his dish, uttering a snuffling, growling noise as he gobbled it up, looking worried that someone would snatch it away if he didn’t. Sometimes he’d eat so quickly it would all back up onto the floor a few minutes later. He did eventually slow down as he came to trust in the supply.

The hissing and growling have decreased too, but it is still there on an almost daily basis at some point or other, and I have started to see a connection between Jack’s seemingly out of place hissing and some of my own bad habits, namely my habit of worrying “what people will think”, or more particularly, worrying about the possibility of being criticized.

I was working recently with a coach on one of my own issues, a certain stuckness and procrastination that arises when I am just on the precipice of really getting somewhere and then I backslide, partly due to an underlying fear of receiving unfavourable criticism by putting my work “out there”.

I have always know where the fear comes from, inculcated at a very early age as I watched my siblings either be onImage the receiving end of criticism, or else trying to avoid it, as they and I observed judgments being doled out about others by our father. I learned well, as they say, to “fly under the radar” –  to be a good girl, be quiet, not cause any trouble, and of course not to have an opinion that might not be the right one. I had observed too many times how quickly other opinions could be shut down just by his tone of voice. I learned it was not safe to speak up or to be noisy or very different. The desire to conform in order to feel safe was paramount. This still happened into my 30’s when I spent some time back at home one year.

As Tony Robbins, one of the founders of the Strategic Intervention coach training program I am in, says, “Our two greatest fears are that we are not enough, and we won’t be loved.”  We do a lot to fit in.

In my case, as I expect for many (as the feeling of not being “enough” seems to be pervasive in our culture), this sense gets implanted at a very young age, and reinforced by our observations as we grow up, even if we are not directly criticized and even when, as I was, we are told we are loved. The messages are absorbed by observation. We learn to contort and stifle ourselves to make sure we are never a target. Some folks go the other way and act out and rebel. But not me. I had learned that security was more important than speaking up and being yourself. I believe it was indeed true that I was loved by both parents, but I also observed that “approval” could be taken away. I am quite sure my dad had learned this with the help of his own family conditioning too, and he was passing on his own insecurities to us.

So, you ask, as you scratch your head, that’s all too bad, but what does it have to do with a crabby cat?

Well, seems Jack and I may both get stuck in a reactive loop from time to time, growling and hissing at perceived “dangers” that are no longer there and are no longer relevant. Jack is no longer out on the streets or in the woods fending for himself, fighting off other stray cats and raccoons looking for a bit to eat, or even being vulnerable to owls or foxes who might be around and hungry. He’s got the “good life” now, constantly being served, snuggled, attended to, in a warm and comfortable home. He doesn’t need to growl and hiss and bare his teeth to protect himself.  When he does, he’s regressing to an earlier time, running an old program.

And sometimes it would seem, so am I! I don’t do much growling and hissing, but there are certain triggers that bring me to a state where the old programs run, just like Jack…times when I feel vulnerable, where I fear I might be exposed to judgment or criticism, where I feel I have to “measure up” in order to get approval, and therefore to feel safe. Just being aware that such emotional regression can occur can save one from reacting in a way that is out of proportion to a given situation.

Because of all the study and self-development I have done over the years, I am much more aware and less likely to fall into such a trap. I have learned through Strategic Intervention and other concepts to create new beliefs for my life that are more empowering than beliefs I held as a child, and to let go of old beliefs that are no longer true for me.

Sadly, my father passed away many years ago.  It would have been nice to have gotten to the stage where I no longer felt that childish vulnerability and could relate to him adult to adult, having open and honest discussions without fear. And perhaps he would’ve finally appreciated that too. But I need not fear his disapproval anymore. The fear of being rejected by my family is no longer relevant. I do want us to stay connected and loving, but as an adult, it is no longer a matter of my personal security if anyone disapproves of me.

So, as the holidays approach, and new leaps are taken by me in my coaching career, I remember to stay aware of old triggers and emotional habits.  When something pops up, I can pause, step back and evaluate my response. If it looks like I have responded from an old pattern that is not based in the current reality of my life, then it’s time for me to take a deep breath,  “put on my big girl panties” as Cheryl Richardson is fond of saying, and act from my older and wiser adult self.

As for Jack the Cat, I am still not sure how to break him of his regressive hissing habit, except to keep loving him and helping him to feel secure in this house until he can form a new belief that being close to other critters is not a threat, that they all get loved and treated equally, and that he is finally…safe.

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To read about the concept of emotional regression see John Lee’s book, “Growing Yourself Back Up”, which I first learned about from Hay House author and coach, Cheryl Richardson.  Also helpful in terms of breaking away from the disempowering patterns often passed down through generations in families, see Denise Linn’s Book, “Four Acts of Personal Power”, which adds elements of meditation and ritual to help free oneself and free the generations to follow.

Of dogs, eagles, and following “the signs”…

It’s a cozy Friday night here on We Are One Farm, cold outside, the wood stove in the basement has been keeping the house toasty all day, along with lots of sun that streamed in the windows this afternoon. It’s late now, I am on the sofa flanked by my dog Alfie to my right, on her back, legs splayed out and up, and of course, her furry butt aimed at me. It’s what dogs do, right?

Dog Angus is across from us, occupying an armchair, nose tucked into his tail, and glancing up from time to time by raising only his eyebrows, giving a hound-doggish look.  
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Rosie the calico cat has just returned from having a snack, curling up in her special cat tree. And just for something to break the monotony, Jackie Cat suddenly has “the wind up his butt” (lots of butt references, I know) but he has suddenly gone wild for all of a minute, pouncing on and batting around a cardboard paper towel core that was lying on the floor, formerly one of Angus’ trophies (a “bone” to play with), then leaping onto the window sill and hiding behind the curtain until his name is called and he peeks out.

Alfie, awakened from her dog dreams by the ruckus, slides off the sofa and onto the floor to retrieve the “bone” and take it to another chair to gnaw on until I snatch it away. Not good to eat cardboard. She’s eaten a lot of things she shouldn’t.

Reflecting on my day, it was quiet, alternating between periods of intense focus on computer-y things like getting a newsletter done for the business, and spacey moments when I felt like I really needed to plop my head on a pillow, as I am still recovering from a cold that seems to have sapped my energy.  Angus’ incessant whining to go for another walk interrupted my one attempt to rest, finally late afternoon, in the warmth of the low sun that flooded the room. Oh to be a cat on a sunny windowsill.

Our morning walk in the woods was a high point, as I could see in the distance three huge bald eagles perched in the top branches of a huge, dying “wolf” pine down by the pond. (A wolf pine, in local parlance, is usually one which is multi-forked, not a single, straight-up trunk, and considered not great to harvest.)  

A lone crow was hanging out with the eagles, until, of course, the dogs raced ahead to the pond and started barking up their tree. Not that a dog is likely to pose any threat to these giants, but I’d take off too if I’d had to listen to that racket. By the time I’d reached the big pine they’d all taken flight and disappeared from view. While eagles are a fairly common sight overhead here, I rarely get to see them perching.
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I’ve been noticing eagles lately too from the office downstairs where I see clients. I have my chair facing the outdoors and my client’s chair with their backs to the window. I don’t want them distracted by some crazy free-ranging rooster peeking in, although in certain circumstances it could be a great opportunity to break someone out of their funk! “Hey…look at that crazy rooster!” That’s what we would call a “pattern interrupt”! You never know when a rooster could come in handy as a Strategic Intervention technique.

But I digress. What has been interesting to me lately is that, when I am coaching someone, and the opportunity seems right to introduce some kind of journey work or guided visualization, some opportunity for the client to connect with their Soul or “Higher Guidance”, or perhaps a relative who has passed into Spirit, bald eagles seem to show up in the sky within my window view. In fact a couple of times when I have mentioned to my husband that I had added a Soul journey of sorts with a coaching client and saw the eagles, he had also noticed one or more overhead when on his way in or out the door, almost hovering or circling the house for what seemed longer than a simple fly-past.

Are we making something out of nothing? Or is this one of those “signs” that we have learned to look for? And if it is a sign, what is my message?

I like to think that when I am inspired to change tacks and work on a more spiritual level in the midst of psychology-based coaching techniques, that I am being supported and affirmed that this is indeed what is needed in the moment. One comment I found on a Shamanism web site about Eagle medicine expresses this exactly:

“Tying in with this thread of thought, one of the lessons to be learned from eagle is not to depend exclusively on intellectual solutions. Through its connection to the air element, eagle is connected to intelligence, but also to Spirit, the knowing that goes far beyond intellect.”

The author suggests as well that solutions often need to come from a higher perspective, with the broader vision that Eagle would have, not so earth-bound and limited as we humans often are.

So, as I hone my Strategic Intervention and NLP-based coaching skills, I am reminded to leave room for Spirit and for my intuition to guide me to the right solution or technique for the person at hand. And even if seeing eagles at certain times actually means nothing of the sort, it’s still a good idea to keep that flexibility and allow room for the Soul to speak! Choosing empowering meanings for the events that happen in our lives is one of the things we teach as coaches. Why not take advantage of an eagle sighting at a synchronistic time to believe that it means, “Hey, I am doing exactly what I should be doing…I am on track and supported by the Universe!” I’ll accept an empowering sign any day.

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Sometimes I think what is lacking for many people today, is a sense of connection with a higher power (God, The Universe, The Matrix, Universal Consciousness, The Great Mystery); Or even the idea that soul or spirit lives on after we die and can communicate with us; and that we ourselves have a place of deeper knowing, that inner wisdom of our own souls that holds the real truth for us, if only we can quiet the noise enough to hear.

I realize the world is a very challenging place, with so many people facing incredibly tough circumstances that are beyond my ability to comprehend. But there is that “still, small voice within” that offers space for peace to emerge, if only for moments at a time. I am truly blessed with a lifestyle that allows me such space, like my daily walks with the dogs in a forest, the chance to see eagles and hawks overhead on our farm, and especially the chance to connect with my beautiful clients.  Being with them to support and offer them the space to hear and recognize their own truth is an honour and a privilege. To have a chance to help them see their own beauty and the beauty of that inner knowing is a gift. That really is my mission, for which I am grateful.

Quest

As I anticipate leading another six-session run of the “Soul Coaching”® group program, (based on the book of the same name by my teacher Denise Linn), I recall the times I have gone through the program myself over the past few years. I do it annually usually to kind of “recalibrate” and get in touch with aspects of my life I may have been neglecting.
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One of my favourite things about it has been the very last part of the process, after the exercises of the core 28 days have been completed — the personal “quest”.   The core of the program, as you may read on my web site, is 4 weeks of different themed activities and assignments, a huge toolbox of techniques for gaining self-knowledge, a connection to your spirit, and finding ways to rewrite your life story in more empowering ways.

After doing all that, Denise suggests that you wrap it all up and integrate the learnings by doing a quest, a kind of gentler version of a native American style vision quest, although you may do it as intensely as you choose. The origins of the word quest is the same as for question…from a word meaning “to seek”. Basically we quest to seek answers about ourselves, our life, our purpose.

A full-fledged vision quest typically involves going out on the land somewhere, usually wilderness, for perhaps three days, maybe more in some traditions, with minimal equipment or food. These are best undertaken with an experienced quest leader who knows the area, the wildlife, the issues that may arise, and can prepare you for such a journey.

These are very challenging, often emotionally taxing, experiences where one is left alone with themselves in an unfamiliar environment, with no-one to call upon but their inner strength and their allies in the spirit realm, as they search for a vision or answers to questions about their lives.

In the Soul Coaching® program, we do a modified version, mainly because not all of us are trained wilderness guides and many people who just read the book on their own are doing this self-directed. In the quest suggestions, it can be as little as a couple hours or as long as a full day, even indoors if absolutely necessary due to winter weather. It must be spent alone, in silence (although drumming is permitted), within the circumference of a sacred circle created by the participant.

My first attempt was in our own woods, just out of sight of our house, where I had intended to spend a full night beginning at 5 p.m. one July evening. I created my circle of stones and branches, carefully blessed and smudged my circle with sage and honoured the four directions, and spoke my prayers for the evening. I brought a tarp because the forecast called for showers overnight, and a sleeping bag, and lots of bug repellant! Image

Yes, it was mosquito season, and try as I might to sit in a contemplative fashion, calling upon my spiritual guides and helpers, my power animal and all, I was essentially tortured with stinging needles for 6 hours until I gave in. No amount of toxic Deet, layers of denim and a sleeping bag pulled over my head was a match for hungry ‘skeeters.

Despite all that distraction, in the pitch black of the night before I surrendered, the sudden snorting of two deer behind me ran chills up my spine, as they stomped on the ground. I was an intruder in their territory and they were letting each other know, or maybe warning me. It was exciting and frightening as I tried to remain calm, not being able to see a thing.  And a few minutes later they crashed into the bush and were gone.

I struggled with my frustration over my inability to persevere amidst the onslaught of bug bites, to receive any messages from Spirit, and decided after 11 p.m. to head home up the hill, feeling like a failure for not sticking it out.

I should have thought about Deer’s message as I proceeded to beat myself up. “Deer medicine” is gentleness, and in my case, it was to be gentle with myself. In hindsight, several years later, I would say that that was a great lesson of which I have often needed to be reminded. I am one of those many people who is my own worst critic, disappointing myself far more often than I disappoint anyone else. And I am rarely disappointed in others. But as I have learned in my Strategic Intervention coach training, I “create my own rules” about how easy it is or is not  to disappoint myself. So, the rules are changing.

In spite of my aborting my first quest early, I really learned what I needed to that night, that I was enough, something I coach others about! When I checked in with Denise Linn and my class from soul coach training after that quest, her simple reply was, ”You don’t have to suffer to grow”.

For my next quest it was the height of winter, and questing outdoors did not seem to be an option here in Nova Scotia. So I did what Denise suggests and created a sacred circle indoors, with a great view out of large windows so I could watch the sky and see the clouds and a view of nature. I found a time when no-one was home and I would be undisturbed.

I spent some time drumming and vocalizing to move energy through and out of my body as I found my jaw and throat really got tight as soon as I had settled and called in the spirits to guide me. I have learned that for me, a tight jaw and lump in the throat means something is needing to be expressed, so the drumming and singing can help release that with the vibration. It took me a while to move it and settle myself but eventually my mind calmed and I began asking my questions.

And, as often happens when I ask questions of “the Universe” or my guides, when I am in a truly quiet and open head space, answers came flooding through, which I journaled. In response to questions about the meaning of particular aches or sensations in my body, I was reminded of specific things needed to do for my general health and well being. And then the flow just continued, telling me about my life purpose or path, what I needed to learn in this lifetime to get beyond certain patterns of past lives. It was fascinating and made perfect sense. And then after watching for signs in the clouds outside, I decided it was time to get back to my family of husband and animals and ponder the advice.

My most recent quest was last December. I wanted to do it close to my birthday, and found a day, December 9, with a moderate forecast, sunny, above freezing, and no snow on the ground. As it turned out, it was cloudy with only sunny breaks, and it proved to be quite cool as I ventured down to the back of our woodlot in the shade. I had created my sacred circle the day before, having spent a week or so dragging rocks down into the woods with me on my walks with the dogs. I had chosen a favourite spot among tall pine trees with no underbrush, and a carpet of rusty pine needles, in an area we had named The Cathedral.Image

I was bundled in layers of clothes and woolen toque and gloves,  and had brought a sleeping bag for extra warmth, although I only intended to spend the day, not overnight. I wasn’t sure about dealing with coyotes in the dark of night a 20- minute walk from home.

I had set an intention for the day and a series of questions on which I sought guidance. Denise Linn gives different suggestions in her book for what you might address during a quest. I was ambitious and selected a few themes: first examining my life (reviewing my history), then confronting my fears, connecting with Spirit, and asking for my “Spirit name”, giving thanks, and asking for a vision. As I began to journal about my life and what I needed to examine or remember, words just flowed, things I had not expected or thought about in ages. I reflected on the relationships of people within my family and how I felt they had made an impact on me. I looked at turning points in my life and what meaning I had given them. Those meanings were the stories I had created around my life events, stories which had coloured my perceptions and in some cases, held me back.

At one point I decided to list all the things that I have done in my life that showed success or achievement in one way or another, as one of the ways to counter a belief that you can’t do something is to show the many ways in which you have already proved yourself very capable, even if you haven’t done the exact thing you are thinking about.  So at this point I looked for both examples of others who had succeeded or who modeled doing what I aspire to do, as well as looked at all my own accomplishments.

As I made that list, something made me glance up suddenly, and I was astonished and delighted to see a beautiful barred owl on a branch not 50 feet away, staring intently at me in broad daylight. After a few moments he flew to another tree just across the trail, and stared at me again. And then to another tree, all about the same distance from me in my circle. And then as silently as he (or she) had arrived,  flew east through the pines and disappeared.Image

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / pix2go

As soul coaches we are trained to “watch for the signs”, and I took this unusual occurrence as a big one! I walk this trail almost every day, all year round, snow pack permitting, and only once had I encountered an owl, and not like this in a staring match. The other time was searching for my dog Angus who had been missing for an hour, and the shadowy sight of an owl flying east through the trees had led me to sweet Angus,  gasping for breath, his neck in a wire coyote snare. Owl had led me there in the nick of time to save him.

The meaning I gave to this sign during my quest was that I was on the right track reviewing all I had already accomplished, to restore faith in my ability to do other things as well. I continued to journal, addressing many aspects of my life, the words just flowed that I had needed to hear. I even found my Spirit name, which I choose to keep to myself, but it resonated so profoundly that I cried tears of recognition. So many great insights came as I scribbled in the increasing cold.

I had also been blessed when I had first arrived in the circle  with the presence of Squirrel. I have seen squirrels many times on my walks in the woods, usually because the dogs are barking at them up a tree, but this was the first and so far only time in years that I have seen one in the Cathedral. They are never in that area, nor have I seen one on the ground scurrying from tree to tree as this one did. As well, the crows were very persistent that day in their chatter, and while they were not close to me, they had a prolonged period of very urgent cawing that was disturbing.

After about six and a half hours in my sacred circle I was starting to shake with cold and knew I needed to take care and get back home before dark. I packed up my sleeping bag and journal and water bottle, and just as I prepared to leave the circle I was shaken by a blood-curdling shriek that made my heart race! It came from the direction Owl had flown and I felt it was some kind of acknowledgement from Owl of my quest. Likely he was just hunting as it turned to dusk, but the timing was superb!

Upon returning home I checked my reference books about animal spirit guides and found that aspects of Squirrel, Crow and Owl were all very appropriate to the issues and questions I had been exploring that day, and the books were rich with messages that were spot on for me.

I know this is considered too long for a blog. I write lengthy emails too. But I am telling the story I want to tell…  it is mine after all. If you are not reading this on a smart phone then perhaps you’ve made it to the end, in which case I applaud your patience and attention!

Questing, even for only a few hours, can be a very profound and insightful process, especially soon after completion of a program like Soul Coaching®. If it piques your interest, my Fall offering of Soul Coaching (in-person group) is coming up September 26, there is still space available. I would love to assist you on this heartfelt exploration to your authentic self.

Watch for the signs!

With love, Mary

Here we go again….

Here we go again…

Funny how a year passes and it’s “deja vu all over again”, only in a slightly different way. Here I am, 11 months after my last blog post (what can I say, I’ve been busy!), and the theme of “letting go” is emerging once again in my life, and I think also in the lives of some friends too, some who have been or are about to, be moving across the country or from one country to another.

As I keep peeling back the layers of the amazing onion that is my life, (weird-smelling metaphor, I know), looking for that heart of me and the work that truly jazzes me, I find once again I am having to let go in order to make space for that which I want to emerge.

For the past year I have immersed myself in a course of study called Strategic Intervention, a life coaching modality (or assortment of techniques and theories), from Robbins-Madanes Training. It was created by coach-motivator extraordinaire, Anthony Robbins, in conjunction with psychotherapist Cloe Madanes, with coaches Mark & Magali Peysha. It has been a fascinating exploration. There is so much to glean from their work, so many revelations about the way people respond to their world and the people in it, myself included. Doing the program, as in most coaching schools, means doing a lot of study of, and work on, oneself as well.

On a very practical level, not associated with the study, is that I have recently come to some certainty that … gasp…  “I can’t do it all”!  As anyone who has followed me in my previous blog (which still languishes in obscurity over at my old, soon-to-be-dismantled photo site, marydixon.com), or in our newsletters from Co-Creative Healing Arts, Edward and I have created extensive gardens over the past 7 or so years on our little piece of country paradise, the land being our painter’s canvas and the plants our palette.
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We love the creative exercise of making beautiful spaces and growing some of our own food. Along with herb beds, perennial borders and vegetable gardens, I went so far as to create my mini (or “petite”) Provence, inspired as I was from a long-ago trip to France and the views of great fields of lavender. While our wetter Nova Scotian climate does not quite support some of the larger lavender hybrids seen in huge plantations over there, it does allow for some of the hardier, traditional varieties to flourish, with some care and attention. Between 2006 and 2009 I planted over 500 tiny plants, including about 8 different varietals, acquired from various nurseries here and in Ontario and Manitoba.Image

Most were planted to offer a view from the house of a small field, about 20 rows 60 feet long, each with 25 plants or so. At one point I also created a “medicine wheel” concept garden, which still survives, ringed with lavender, as well as two gardens attempting to employ “sacred geometry”. One featured a raised bed in the centre shaped like a large 5-pointed star, with various perennials in the centre and lavender at the points, surrounded by a 30-foot diameter raised-bed  in the shape of an octagon, all filled with lavender.

The other beds consisted of two inter-facing spiral shapes, not mathematically correct but loosely drawn along the proprotions of the Golden Mean. Alas, the area in which these two elaborate beds were created suffered from poor drainage, and for a couple of years I was replacing rotting lavenders until I threw in the towel and removed my geometric creations.

The biggest enemies of lavender are “wet feet” as they often say in the “how to grow” guides, as well as weeds, which contributes to the wetness by trapping moisture around the crown and roots, as well as chokes the plants and steals nutrients. In 2009 I replaced over 200 small plants due to a very wet winter with lots of freezing and thawing. And while the past couple of years have enjoyed good growth, this year’s rainy spring and early summer, and then a heatwave, created incredible conditions for weeds…weeds like I have never seen before!

Spikey, thistle-y weeds that stick you with needles, flat weeds that travel and form an almost impermeable mat and look like some kind of alien life form, and everything else imaginable, have been growing….well….like weeds this year, finally sapping me of my will to continue the battle to keep the lavender weed-free. This was reinforced by last year’s decision, after trying a couple summers at farmers’ markets, that, “no, this is not going to be a business, this is a hobby that creates beauty at my home.”
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Well, this year the thought finally became, “What’s the point of creating this beauty if I never have a minute to sit and relax and just soak it all in, enjoying my ‘Petite Provence’ with a glass of wine in hand? How can I enjoy it while fearing it would soon turn into a huge, ugly, tangled mess??”

It also became a huge distraction from my coaching studies and practice. For the past couple of years it seemed that everything I was working towards in that career, including my existing work as a Soul Coach and Interior Alignment® (feng shui) practitioner, got shoved to the side while “gardening season” took over my life. Remember, it’s not just the lavender crop, but all the other beds too, needing attention.

So…the choice is clear. Last week I gave notice on Facebook announcing my decision to sell off the lavender plants piecemeal. Like the market vending the year before and the photography gallery the year before that, I am once again in a space of letting go. And each time a little bit of my identity goes too, which is probably the hardest part.

Actually for me, this letting go is more about feeling that my labour and financial investment was a waste, but mostly the labour. As I have already been thinking of myself as a coach for a few years now, the identity of Lavender Farmer is much easier to shrug off than my former cloak of Photographer. More people knew me in the latter context for much longer.

And as with pretty much every change I go through like this, I have to draw on my own coaching skills, (and sometimes those of others with more objectivity), to remind myself that we are all so much more than what we do, or what we have. I know a few people have called me “The Lavender Lady”…. not my favourite moniker, conjuring for me as it does some kind of romantic English waif in a flowing dress, which I feel anything but! But it’s harmless. I am, for sure, a font of good, practical information about growing the stuff after this experiment.

But I am so much more than any label, and yet that is how we generally make ourselves known to others isn’t it? I am not much of a student of philosophy but I do remember Kierkegaard’s quote from university, “Once you label me you negate me.”  Labels are inherently limiting.

Our careers force us to wear labels to identify our skill set or products to our potential clients and customers. But it is always a danger to wear those like armour, because someday it will rust, or an arm will fall off or a joint will be pierced and we will change course or get fired or retire and then…who are we?  Some never find who they are without that career identity, and struggle with diminished sense of self while trying to get mileage out of who they used to be or what they used to do.

I am glad “Lavender Lady” has not, in spite of several years, infused my blood with its essential oil! It’s beautiful stuff, lavender. It smells great, tastes good too, but it is not who I am in my ever-evolving and unlimited Being.  Letting go once more allows “letting in”!

Have you ever had trouble relinquishing a label? How did you do it? Had trouble changing careers or lifestyle or habits because you identify so strongly with being that thing you have been? Have you experienced challenges starting something new because you have been hanging onto something that no longer serves you because your identity is so intertwined with it?

We can chat about these ideas over on our Co-creative Healing Arts Facebook Page. LIKE us on facebook to continue the discussion. And for more information on what my husband and I offer at Co-Creative Healing Arts, please check out our web site, co-creativehealing.ca
Cheers!

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New Moon Musings

Fall is finally in the air here at We Are One Farm with crisp dewy mornings and leaves starting to turn along the woods trail, sunny days without the stifling heat we had this summer, great for all the outdoor work still to be done on the farm. I still identify September with the new year, from too many years spent in school no doubt. There’s that little pang in the heart, a combined sense of excitement and dread, looking forward to something new yet with uncertainty. The September New Moon was this past Saturday night. New moons are said to signify new beginnings, or an auspicious time to start something new, to plant the seeds of new endeavours, projects, courses. So I am feeling a September New Moon must be especially powerful to begin again.

I launched a new Soul Coaching® group program a couple of days prior, while not on the new moon, at least as close as I could get and still hold the first class on a Thursday. I was hoping to draw on the energy of this phase to help propel my group into a new chapter of their own lives, to support the changes they all desire, moving from feeling stuck or uncertain into a sense of purpose and passion and decisiveness.

As part of that process of renewal however, as always there needs to be some letting go as well. It is difficult to move forward if you are holding tight to all you did or were or had before…sometimes it’s a question of making time and space available in your life, to add a new aspect, a new thing, a new responsibility. So often we must release a grip on something else simply to make room. This is not only physically or temporally but also mentally & emotionally…for example to move with confidence in a direction that is new to you, some uncharted territory, you may need to make mental space by letting go of old expectations or limiting beliefs about who you are, what you deserve, and what you are capable of.

In the Soul Coaching® program one thing that supports that is clutter clearing, and we do that on all levels through the process, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, although much of that overlaps. That is, a lot of physical clutter clearing can also release mental and emotional clutter, like the “to do” list you carry in your head from unfinished projects, unanswered mail, or un-filed receipts or paperwork, the feelings of obligation associated with certain personal objects, the things you hold onto because you feel you “should”, even though you do not enjoy or use them. All of these can feel like anchors, holding you back, slowing you down, occupying your thoughts by worry or guilt, or negative associations with the objects.

So new starts always seem to necessitate a certain cleansing. I know lots of folks making major new starts right now, so I assume it is not just this new moon, since those are monthly occurrences, but there may be something bigger afoot astrologically, although that is not my area of study! But I know folks moving on, moving away, across the continent, across the ocean, out of jobs or occupations, out of relationships, into new ones, there seems to be a lot of upheaval lately. And others who are in an in-between stage, looking for guidance, trying to make important choices about their life path.

My wisdom for today is three-fold.

1. Know that so many of the decisions we fear making really do not have to be “all or nothing”. We can (and possibly should) keep working at one job, or cut back hours a wee bit, while trying to build something new like a new business, we don’t have to chuck it all at once, nor would it be responsible to in many cases. We can take steps in a direction of a goal and test the waters, we can do our research, lay groundwork, make plans, starting with getting clear on what we want.  And there is no shame in changing your mind! I’ve changed directions so many times in my life it would make some folk’s heads spin but I have been fortunate to be able to explore, do and do over, do differently, change course when I realize I have not chosen well or that another course of action brings me truer to my soul’s path. There are no guarantees. Take steps in the direction of your dreams, but don’t throw everything out at once if you need a financial safety net to start with. It may take sacrifice, and be slow, but it often doesn’t have to be all or nothing and we do not need to make the decision any more overwhelming than it is by thinking that way.

2. Simply do some clutter-clearing here and there in your home, in your life. Make some physical space where there were piles, fold the laundry and put it away. Take the old books to the library or the charity yard sale or consignment store, and throw out that dead plant on the windowsill. Attend to unfinished business and finish it, it takes a mental load off. Whether it’s doing your overdue taxes, getting the muffler on your car repaired, fulfilling a long-standing promise to one of your children, or making an needed apology to a friend, clear the decks so you are mentally and emotionally unburdened to move forward.

3. Spend some time outside, in your garden or the woods or on one of our gorgeous beaches if you are lucky enough to live near the coast. Stack some wood for the wood stove, deadhead your perennials, harvest the rest of your beets and potatoes, get physical. If you’re a city dweller, most cities have great parks and public gardens to walk in, play some Frisbee, run with your dog. The weather in Nova Scotia has been fabulous all season and continues to be so most days, so take full advantage before winter keeps you in, soak up the sun, get your hands in the dirt or a late splash in the surf, and fill your lungs with long, deep breaths. Eat a freshly harvested apple and really savour the crunch and the juiciness and the burst of tart flavour as you eat mindfully! The grounding energy of the earth and fresh air helps clear your head of the little hamster wheel of worries and “what-ifs?”. Connecting with the earth, doing something with your body, draws that energy downward, offering a more stable place from which to make those new starts and big changes. I know none of this is new, but it begs repeating, a lot, and may be new to the person who needs to hear it right now. And it works.

Astrologers say the next little while may be tumultuous for some. I don’t know if that’s true…I would wager that at any given moment, somewhere in the world, someone is having a tumultuous time and a major life change. But unless you are in a life-or-death situation, try these three steps to reduce fear, get clear, get grounded and present to what is really happening in the moment, and take a step toward the changes you want to make, being loving and patient with yourself through it all. Best wishes and good luck to all those making big changes.

~Mary

Introducing “Soulful Ground”

Welcome to my new blog, Soulful Ground.

The name is a reflection of how I try to live my life, “soulfully”, as in, living from my Soul, guided by my heart, my spirit, my authentic self, as you may choose to call it. It has taken me a while to find this way of being, or to know it was even an option, and it is by no means an end point, but a daily practice. I am not always living from that place, as much as I’d like to, but at least having the awareness that it is possible, and having the tools to get back on track, keeps me more in alignment with that goal.

The other half, the “ground”, is living at the same time with a clear awareness of the practicalities of life, the fact that as “spiritual beings having a human experience”, we do indeed have to navigate that human, experiential, part.

Being ”grounded” is very much who I am. Partly it’s my upbringing, from a very left-brained family including a surgeon father, a nursing-trained mother, and a mathematician, a lawyer, and insurance consultant and an auto-parts worker as brothers. Indeed I did my own stint as a lawyer, doing what I thought “made sense” in terms of my early expectations of life in this environment. But it didn’t last long, and the soul-yearning for something that fed my heart and creativity took hold.

Photography was an occupation, not really a passion, but a creative outlet for sure, for many years. Showing others the beauty of this world is a wonderful thing and this blog will feature some of the beautiful things I see and experience from time to time in my daily life. Photography is a place where my vision and creativity connect with the earth, as most of what I shoot these days involves my garden (which is more my passion) or the woods behind our house.

But my soul yearning took me beyond photography,  to wanting to make some other kind of contribution, and as I have grown and changed and learned more about human nature over the years, my desire to help others navigate the sometimes confusing and tumultuous currents in the river of life has taken precedence. So I have been studying and continue to study, various healing and coaching modalities that help me help others.

That work primarily involves Soul Coaching® at the moment, although I am adding other life coaching skills as I go. And that work reflects the notion of “Soulful Ground” too in that part of it is helping people reconnect to the lost sense of spirit inside, or even to the idea of spirit guides or other beings in the ethereal realms, who may be called upon for assistance, but with some very practical tools and a very grounded perspective.

Ultimately, whether anyone believes in the existence of such external spirits or not, what I really aim to do is connect people with a sense of their own soul, with a knowing and understanding that there is a depth of inner wisdom in each of us that we often do not recognize is there or perhaps refuse to hear. It is our Soul’s knowing, something deeper, wiser and truer to our essence than we are conscious of in our often-challenged lives.

So this blog will be sometimes about my work in that regard or ideas and information related to that and also to feng shui, another branch of my work, which is all about energy and beauty and creating space for your soul to thrive.

But likely this blog will be more about my daily musings inspired by some ordinary event, that brings me to a connection with that soul part, something magical perhaps, or a moment of grace, or just those moments of pure presence and gratitude springing from the seemingly mundane. And maybe I’ll share those times when things have gone off the rails and I’m left wondering where the grace is in all of this, and scratching my head as to why my soul isn’t speaking up louder to explain it all to me.

And no doubt, especially in the summer gardening season, I’ll tell you stories about our little lavender hobby farm, about the bees in our hives and how they are doing, or about the various plants, or some cute (or bad) thing the dogs did, or about our little flock of chickens, or some amazing food experience, and so on. Complete with photos of course.

PS: I am still figuring out this new WordPress site, so apologies if I don’t get to comments or figure out how to edit the About section right away!

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