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Stumbling Part Four ~ Signs, Snakes, and Shedding Skin.

Stumbling Part 4 ~ Of Snakes, Signs, and Shedding Skin.
This past winter I was depressed. Pretty seriously depressed I think, although I was in denial to the degree that I refused to use the “D” word until only recently, and did not seek any medical or psychological help outside of my own resources. And, I might add, the determinedly loving and grounded presence of my wonderful husband. Not sure what I would’ve done without him.

I had refused to use the word “depressed” or “depression” because I have this idea that if I label it, or label myself as “depressed”, then I own it, and it makes it not only more “real,” but I risk identifying with it. I didn’t want to become that.

In hindsight, as a coach, if I’d had a client presenting as I did, I would’ve been urging them to get some other professional help, as well as working with me on breaking the habits of thought and physiology that contribute to depression and creating something to lift their focus. But for myself… the same reason you shouldn’t be your own lawyer or therapist… we lose objectivity about ourselves, and it is difficult to see the way out alone when you are in such a dark place.

Despite all I know, all my studies in coaching, and readings in self-development, I found myself in tears almost daily, for a few months, not for the whole day, but in waves. Sometimes I was just feeling hyper-sensitive to the state of the world and various incidents I would hear about on the news. But mostly it was a result of a downward spiral of negative self-talk, basically carrying a huge load of shame around for not being the “success” I’d imagined I “should’ve” been by now, having passed my 55th birthday in December.

I’d had a vision for how my life was supposed to look, and although I’d really abandoned it years ago, I was nevertheless regretting not being “there”. My coaching practice was not where I’d hoped it would be by now, I had a frustrating lack of income, and periodic regrets about not being more conventional and sticking to some job that would’ve offered a pension and all those things I’d imagined in my 20’s as I finished law school.

I looked at one of my older brothers, recently retired, government pension from a life-long career… he’s happy, fit, traveling, exercising, having fun. Why did I have to be the “creative” in the family who couldn’t stick to one thing long enough to make something prosperous of it? And who were all these coaches on Facebook or sending me emails (to which I’d foolishly subscribed), telling me about their system for making “Six Figures?” Not that I really believe them, but I couldn’t help but think I should’ve been “more”.


Ah yes, I know, I know. I had once drawn a Mary Doodle cartoon with the Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Indeed it is. The constant reminders of how I wasn’t as successful as so-and-so and of what a “successful” life is “supposed” to look like (a materialistic point of view), took their toll on my confidence and self-worth.

The revelation I’d had in the fall as well, that I wasn’t really congruent in terms of who I was, what my true interests were, and how I was presenting as a coach, also threw me off-kilter. I had discovered that in my quest to look more mainstream in terms of how I coached and what my focus was, I had abandoned a lot of the things that drew me toward coaching in the first place, which was the SOULful part of Soul Coaching®, the guided journey work, the work with cards, signs, and spirit guides, the creation of altars and sacred space.

I was confused about what I had to offer. I hadn’t been following my spirit’s calling because I guess I couldn’t really believe that I could do that kind of inner, soulful work with people that I wanted to, ie. that not enough people wanted that. I thought my coaching practice had to look a little more like some therapeutic psychological model, which isn’t necessarily “coaching” anyway.

To compound my frustration and fears, we had some big financial challenges this winter, unexpected expenses that kept mounting for treating our elderly cats, several surgeries for our dog Angus’ cancer, and a huge expense for our aging automobile. Combined with a downturn in business for both of us, this added to my feelings that I was not enough, that I needed to be contributing much more to our household.

My denial that I was capital “D” Depressed was supported by the fact that I at least was determined to get out of bed, showered, and dressed every day. I still went to town for groceries, wrote a few blogs and newsletters, managed to run my winter coaching class, had some dinner guests over and talked and laughed, walked the dogs, and did the laundry. I was functional, but very, very tired. And I cried… a lot, mostly out of sight of my husband.

And I had some really dark thoughts that scared me._MG_1672

And I would spiral downward because then I would think, “See?? What kind of coach am I that I feel this way?” And then my shame would feed on itself and take me even lower.

Maybe menopause had a big part to play, messing with my hormones with all the attendant mood swings. But nobody knew about my sadness except my hubby, and he didn’t see the full extent of my pain. Eventually, when it became too much, I was able to simply tell him, and being able to be totally upfront about how I was feeling helped me through the worst of it. He didn’t treat me like I was the crazy person I felt I was. He was a rock. He knew the only way out was through it, and was willing to hang in there with me all the way.

But there were other things too that started shifting everything for me, or, I like to think, that I started to shift.

In May we were scheduled to have a booth at the local mind, body, spirit fair, and in my enthusiasm before I went south into my “spiral of despair”, I had committed to giving a talk at said fair. As the date approached, I started experiencing anxiety, not only regarding my own concern about my mental state, but about the fact that I, a life coach, was supposed to give a talk teaching or inspiring others when I was still in the throes of my own deep pain and confusion. Who the heck was I to offer any help on happier living when I had fallen into this hole?

Indeed that’s one of the biggest hang-ups of many coaches…the “Who am I to coach anyone…?” question. Coaching isn’t the same as advising or mentoring (although that may be a part of it), but it helps to be congruent in your life about what you offer in your work. I certainly wouldn’t offer to mentor or teach anyone about running a profitable business! But often we do “teach what we most need to learn” (that’s a broad “we,” not coaches in particular), and sometimes it is something we already know very well but have simply gotten off course and need to find our way back. We don’t have to be “perfect” on all levels of our life to be an effective coach to others. But we do need to be always aware and doing our own work in order to stay in alignment with who we are and what we project and offer.

_MG_2486According to my journal, on Mother’s Day, a week before the fair, I took the dogs on our usual walk to my sacred stone circle at the back of our woods. I had started the return toward home but then went back again to the circle, feeling suddenly quite overwhelmed with tears, feeling bad about myself once more. I think I spent an hour or so there, asking for guidance, praying. Worried that Edward would wonder what had happened to me, I finally pulled myself together and headed home.

On the way I stopped by the pond, walked around the small stone circle I have there, saw a turtle slip into the water, then re-stacked some of my rock piles along the trail.

Suddenly something moved in the grass in front of me. I stopped. It stopped. It was a handsome garter snake, about two feet long. Luckily the dogs seemed not to notice him. I said, “Oh! Hello!” He just stayed there at the edge of the path, flicking his red tongue at me as I talked to him. I had my gardening gloves on, so I took a chance and gently picked him up to have a closer look. Not wanting to stress him I put him back down quickly. I had rarely seen a snake on the trail and certainly not one that had stopped and allowed me that close._MG_0059

The next day on the dog walk I saw him again on my way down. At least, I think it was the same snake, he looked the same kind and size, although further down the trail. Alfie had noticed him first and before the dogs could get too close I tied her and Angus to a tree. This time I had my camera with me, and again the snake stopped and let me get really close. I got down on my knees and elbows to take some photos, then thanked him as we continued on.

However on the way back, although he had slithered off the trail several feet when I had taken the pictures, there he was, back again in the middle of the path. This time Angus saw him first and pounced as I shouted at him “NO!” Snake slid safely away._MG_0057

Heading home I realized I had encountered him three times in 24 hours. It can be considered a “sign” from Spirit if you have such an unusual experience or see a particular animal three times. When we do shamanic journeys we are told that the animal we encounter three times in our first journey is likely our power animal, especially if they acknowledge us or stand out in some way.

The fact that he actually stopped and I was able to pick him up and later photograph him, seemed pretty significant to me, and I thought perhaps I was receiving a new power animal.

In the book for the “Medicine Cards” oracle deck by Jamie Sams and David Carson (St. Martin’s Press), Snake medicine is “Transmutation”. Transmutation is basically the changing of one thing into another, something bad to good, as in alchemy, turning lead into gold. In the medicine of some indigenous peoples it is about turning poison into healing.

“The transmutation of the life-death-rebirth cycle is exemplified by the shedding of snake’s skin. It is the energy of wholeness, cosmic consciousness, and the ability to experience anything willingly and without resistance. It is the knowledge that all things are equal in creation, and that those things which might be experienced as poison can be eaten, ingested, integrated, and transmuted if one has the proper state of mind. [……]

“If you have chosen this symbol, there is a need within you to transmute some thought, action, or desire so that wholeness may be achieved. This is heavy magic, but remember, magic is no more than a change in consciousness. [.…]”

“Look at the idea that you may fear changing your present state of affairs because this may entail a short passage into discomfort […..] In order to glide beyond the place which has become safe but nonproductive, become Snake. Release the outer skin of your present identity….”_MG_1290

In light of my encounter with snake and these words, I asked myself, “What is my poison and how can I turn that into healing?” In my habit of second-guessing, snake’s medicine was not quite enough for me. I decided I had also to consult some other oracle cards for guidance on what to do about my upcoming talk. I consulted the “Soul Lessons and Soul Purpose” card deck by Sonia Choquette (Hay House) and got the cards “Become a clear channel” and “Bust out of your cocoon”.

The guidebook for these said the “clear channel” card was about clearing “mental debris, confusion, psychic clutter” to “be a clear channel for myself and Divine Spirit”. And the one about “busting out” said one phase of my life was ending and a new one beginning (a message I’d received several time over the course of the winter).

It continued, “Do you feel on the verge of exciting new possibilities but not sure where they’ll come from? Seems like life as you know it is crumbling? It’s okay — you’re breaking free from past karma and releasing your spirit to a greater tomorrow […..] You’re on the threshold of spreading your spiritual wings in a brand new direction of understanding and embracing your full potential […..] release what no longer attracts you. Drop what’s in your hand to reach for something greater. You’re reaching spiritual adulthood. All that’s ending is an old, stagnant self that no longer serves your spirit, so turn your fear into action.”

Hmmm..sounds remarkably like the shedding of snake’s skin…my old identity…and transmutation…turning fear into action.

Once again the signs and messages coincided, and my takeaway was that my “safe but nonproductive” work as I’d been offering it was something to release…to shed like a snake skin or bust out of the cocoon of that phase of my life, where I’d been trying to be someone I was not again, and to become a clear channel for Spirit. I had to have a change in consciousness, maybe an uncomfortable phase, in order to let go of a past identity that wasn’t serving my spirit.

The transmutation? Turning the fear (of being unconventional as a more soul and spirit-focused coach) into action. I knew I had to take action and create something.

And how would I turn the “poison into healing” right now? By telling my story about this very situation, about how I could turn it around from being depressed and despairing and offer up creative action to heal both myself and others in a similar situation.

So I started writing my speech for the healing fair…on the Friday, the day before my talk. And as I created, my mood improved and more clarity emerged about what I was doing, and that inspired the writing. The action of keeping my commitment to the fair and making something that could help others, became for me a magical process…. heavy magic, as the cards said, creating a change in consciousness.

One other thing had happened. On the Thursday I ran into a friend at the farmers’ market, where I had just started a part-time job selling wine for a local vineyard. It was great for me to get out into the community doing something fun, talking to lots of people, selling a great product, and also bringing in a little additional revenue to the household. Just the commitment to doing that weekly also helped me turn things around and made me feel useful and outward-focused.

My friend mentioned something to me about a comment I had made on her Facebook post…it had made me think about my struggles of the winter, and when she inquired about my comment I started to tear-up, and told her about what had been going on with me. I also told her of my need to get a presentation together for the fair and what I was thinking about writing. She suggested I incorporate some of my “Mary Doodle” doodles in my talk to illustrate it, especially since I had done a presentation about the creation of Mary Doodle the previous year.

I thought if I could make the time, I would draw on a big flip chart to illustrate each of the main points in the talk, which was becoming how I got myself out of my dark hole. But my friend Karen said, “But you have to do one of the despairing, depressed you too.” Mary Doodle’s misery. That could be challenging.

After writing my speech on the Friday I stayed up until 2:30 a.m. doodling….including a drawing of Mary Doodle with her darkest thoughts._MG_0171

The next day in the noisy conference room I managed to keep the rapt attention of around 10 or 12 people who’d stopped by for my talk, including at least 4 who stood at the back of my audience for the whole 45-minute presentation. I received some great feedback. By sharing my story and my perspective on getting out of that situation, I turned my poison into my own healing, and possibly some healing for those in attendance.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I have also begun attracting clients and potential clients, who resonate with the kind of spirit-based work I really love to do. In fact, as a result of a client I met at that healing fair and another who called me based on my last blog entry here, I have created a new program for the two of them, and hopefully for others in the future, which is in progress now. It is an experiential journey over eight sessions intended to be an introduction to the ideas and many of the processes which have been personally helpful to me in connecting with Spirit and with my Soul or Higher Self. It was exactly what they were looking for.

The fact that both of these people could only fit in their first appointments with me on the very same day in back-to-back sessions was a delightful synchronicity that helped confirm for me I was on the right track in getting back to offering the work that is closest to my heart.

But my story of Snake doesn’t end there!

_MG_9219We have a large garden we created several years ago which had been our “Medicine Wheel” garden. It is 32 feet in diameter on the inside of the circle, ringed with lavender plants (originally there were 32 lavender plants). Inside the circle we planted beds in 4 quadrants to represent the colours of the Four Directions as conceived of by certain native American tribes, and we had paths running north/south and east/west, as well as a kind of zigzag path through the beds. It was lovely at its peak, but due to it’s location in a very dry spot far from our water hoses, it became a real chore to maintain. The lavender did well but the other plants suffered and I gave up and let it get weedy.

But we still had a vision for that spot as some kind of healing space. So finally last month Edward scooped out the interior plants with the tractor, leaving the lavender ring, and we found a design for a small three-circuit labyrinth. We decided we would fill the centre with gravel and mark the pathway with larger rocks, keeping it simple to maintain.

A couple days before the gravel was to be delivered I went into a garden shed nearby to get something. The next morning Edward asked, “Were you in the garden shed yesterday?” “Yes, why?” “You killed a snake. I found a snake dead with the door closed on him.”

“Oh no!!” I cried, “Not Snake!!”

I felt terrible to have killed a snake which I felt had just become my new power animal and who’s medicine had helped me so much. I wondered what meaning do I make of this?

Edward said he had just put the snake to the side of the shed so I went down to find it. It was the same kind of garter snake I’d found in the woods. His form and skin was still intact.He was quite beautiful, with a little green tinge that the other snake did not have.

I asked myself, if Snake medicine is to turn poison into healing, how can I turn this situation around? Perhaps Snake is a sacrifice to bring healing to the labyrinth. We want it to be a healing space after all.

So I immediately chose to bless the space with an empowering meaning. I scooped a small hole in the earth in the very centre of the labyrinth-to-be. I picked daisies and some artemesia and lavender to make a bed for the snake and coiled him gently on top. I surrounded him with some stones, some amethyst, for healing and connection to Spirit, some red granite for grounding the energy, red jasper for grounding, healing, and emotional stability, and some clear quartz underneath him to amplify the healing energy of my intentions and of the other crystals._MG_0858

I brought some sage for smudge from my office and burned it and smudged the snake, asking forgiveness for killing it, giving thanks to Snake for his medicine, and asking that the gift of transmutation and healing be brought to the labyrinth. I then proceeded to walk around in back and forth rings as if the labyrinth paths were already there, offering the smoke to bless and purify the space and make it a place of healing for all.

Then I covered the snake with some handfuls of sand, pulled the weed mat over it, and placed a smooth flat rock on top of him and a wild pink rose on top of that, for love._MG_0865

The next day the gravel was delivered.

The day after we‘d leveled the gravel I was gathering more rocks from the edges of our property and piling them at the entrance to the circle to use to mark the path. One pile had already been there for a couple of days, but I started laying them out using the ones I had just dumped out of the wheelbarrow.

_MG_1039When I’d used up that pile I started to pick rocks from the one at the other side of the entrance. As I lifted a rock a large garter snake slithered out from the pile and onto the lavender bed surrounding the circle. Angus was with me looking quizzically and I told him to “Stay!”

The snake moved around a large rock at the entrance to the inside of the lavender bed (I was on the outside of it) and stopped, raised his head above the earth to see us and flicked his red tongue. I was so excited! In my meaning-making mind I chose to see this as a sign that Snake was indeed blessing the labyrinth with his presence. I thanked him for showing up while I laid the path, and as I spoke I moved gently over to my right to get a little closer and knelt in the centre of the entrance, with the snake to my left now. Unbelievably, Angus did not pounce.

And then, the snake turned right around and moved across the entrance, curling itself against my bare knees as it moved across the path to disappear under a plant to my right. I was delighted to have contact!

I guess there must be a few good-sized garter snakes around here this summer, enjoying the heat. Edward says he’s seen some others in the pile of old lumber not far from the labyrinth, and there’s been at least one in the greenhouse which was curled up in a plant pot for a while. He also found a snake skin that had been shed there. So I pop into the greenhouses myself to have a peek now and then, to see if I can spot one. The other day I also found a snake skin near the entrance of the large greenhouse and minutes later found another in the small greenhouse, right where I’d seen a snake the day before. Seemed as if he’d used a pile of bird netting as a tool to help pull off his skin, as it was trapped inside the net.


Once completed, I noticed that the labyrinth itself is somewhat snake-like…not a proper coil or spiral, but having snake-like curves. As I walk it daily, and have witnessed the immediate insights it has already provided for my clients who’ve walked it also, I feel the healing is happening, for me and for others. I will write another post soon with the main content of the talk I did at the fair and the accompanying doodles, to describe the eight steps that seemed influential in my pulling myself out of my downward spiral.

But for now I would say that ultimately it was a matter not only of those steps, which included creating and contributing to others as well as reconnecting with my spiritual guidance. But it was also a real letting go, of my fear of being seen and judged for who I really am. I did shed my skin…and not just the skin of the person who was depressed and had struggled greatly despite all my training and advantages. I also shed the skin of the person who was fearful of being seen as embracing the metaphysical, the mysteries of things like signs and synchronicities, one who creates my own ceremonies and rituals to celebrate and honour my intentions, my gratitude, and prayers, and who makes meaning that ultimately is proving to empower myself and others.

I used to think that becoming one’s authentic self was like peeling the layers of an onion, always another layer to reveal what’s inside. While not a bad analogy, as you peel those layers, the onion gets smaller. But if you become like Snake, you shed your skin as you grow, you become more and more of yourself, and cast off what no longer fits. I think I like that version better. My authentic self is not some static thing that was once covered up and is being revealed. It is constantly evolving, growing, and changing, repeatedly bursting out of a skin that’s too tight, like Snake._MG_1059

Stumbling Part Three ~ Messages from Spirit and The Healing Power of Ceremony.


One of the most interesting and mind-shifting episodes in my journey towards connecting with the spiritual realm was when my mother’s ghost turned up bothering a friend of mine, just after I’d had an almost hysterical experience getting messages from “The Beings” while saying affirmations, which led to a journey in which Otter, my power animal, told me, point by point, what I needed to do to relieve my friend of Mom’s spirit and ultimately make me feel better about myself. Whew! Sounds crazy huh? It sure felt like it at the time!

This is a long story. Make yourself some tea.

In my last writing I made reference to Otter, my power animal (actually one of several I have since encountered). I have received great wisdom through him in circles where someone has drummed (usually my husband) for a small group of us to journey.

During my first couple of years with Edward it was like I was exploding into discovery of the spiritual resources at hand, with journeying being most profound for me. But I was also working on exercising my intuitive abilities, playing with things like oracle cards,  automatic writing, and pendulums, to divine answers to my many questions about the direction of my life and the challenges I was experiencing.

One of the fun things we did was take introductory and advanced classes in “Mediumship and Psychic Development,” to work on tapping into our intuitive skills. The mediumship was more of a secondary interest, but really opened my eyes and heart to the idea that there is another plane of existence (perhaps many).

There was a point around this time that I was going through some personal difficulties and was feeling extremely down on myself, judging myself harshly for some poor decisions I’d made in the past, and feeling great regret. No one can punish me like I can punish myself. So I decided to try working with affirmations to see if it would shift my mindset about how I felt about myself and what I felt was possible for me.


Some of Louise Hay’s “Wisdom Cards” and “I Can Do It Cards.”

One of my affirmations was about loving and accepting myself unconditionally. I read them aloud several times one day. The next day I decided to take it a step further, and as Louise Hay suggests, say them to myself looking in a mirror. These were about loving myself “just as I am”, that I was “worthy of love”,  and similar statements. When self-esteem is low it can be challenging to say this aloud to oneself and believe it. It started to bring a few tears to my eyes, and I thought, well, I guess this is the stuff I have a hard time believing if it’s making me so tearful.

The next day I tried again, thinking I would keep repeating these to myself until I lost the emotional charge and really started to accept this. I had added in words like, “You are a divine being and have a right to be here.” But rather than losing the emotional charge, it became greater. My throat constricted, and I became very physically uncomfortable. So I asked…Spirit, The Beings, whomever was out there, I asked, “So what is it now?? What am I so upset about, what do I need to know??”

I kept talking aloud and asking what this strange feeling meant. And then I kind of lost a grip… started crying, then giggling, felt a little like I was going crazy, having some kind of breakdown. So I asked aloud, “Am I going crazy??” But I really didn’t think I was, and the answer that came to me as if from “The Beings” was, “No, you’re not going crazy, you’re just scared because this is new and unfamiliar to you, but it will pass over time.”

I actually felt what I think some might call hysteria. It was like I had broken open, but I knew on some level I wasn’t losing touch, I was actually getting in touch, with Divine Consciousness. I started to get messages about what I was here for, what my role in this world was. And I asked again, “Am I going crazy?” And they said, “No, you are just remembering who you are — a divine creation.”

A number of other messages were given to me, that I was finding hard to accept, positive messages about what I would do with my life, what my purpose was, messages I have kept closing the books on and “forgetting” about because it all seemed so foreign to what my upbringing led me to expect in my life. It was the strangest, scary/exhilarating experience having this “conversation” and feeling so agitated, and yet, on a deeper level, knowing it was all okay.

As I kept speaking aloud, the grip I had felt on my throat gradually released. I guess I must’ve been in the middle of a photography project at the time because I then asked, “So should I go do some printing in the darkroom now?” and they said, “Yes, you need a distraction, and you need to create.”

After this I felt really cold and I decided to go into the kitchen, just around the corner from where I’d been doing the mirror work, and I started to make myself a snack. Two of the three cats were outside and Sophie cat was sitting across the living room looking out the door to the verandah. As I was in the kitchen I suddenly heard a loud “thunk!” as if someone had dropped a large book on the floor, in the area of the mirror where I had been a few minutes before. My cat Sophie heard it too as she suddenly turned around to look in that direction.

I went to see what could’ve fallen over. Nothing on the floor, nothing on the staircases, nor in the adjacent bathroom, nor in the hall closet.

I thought maybe the mirror was calling me back so I looked at it and said, “You hooo… are you there? Do you have something else to say?” I really didn’t get anything except a thought popped into my head that “my mother was fine ‘over there'”, and that the “ghosts of her past” she’d alluded to (noted in some of her old day calendars I’d found) were not any traumas in her past, but rather the voices of the Divine trying to get her attention, to “remind her of who she really was… she had totally forgotten”. But she couldn’t believe them, the voices that is. And as she had no one she could share such thoughts with, she though she was going crazy…. at about the same age as I was at this moment.

Of course I second-guessed and asked, “How do I know this is your voice and not just my head, my mind or imagination?” And they said, “It will come more quickly than you can normally think, and in ways which you might not normally speak.” The answers had certainly come quickly.

That was all that came to me that day. I think one has to keep talking to keep the flow going, because once you stop it gives space for the left brain to interfere and question it all.

I wasn’t really sure why my mother came into the picture at this time, about 13 years after her death, but what happened next became more and more intriguing.

Two days later, Leap Day, February 29 of 2008, we were hosting a drumming and journey circle, with Edward, myself, and three friends. When we all drum together before the actual journey part where we lie down, occasionally people will take little journeys in their minds while drumming. When my friend Jeannine shared her journey after the drumming, she was actually having a mediumship experience. Jeannine had also been in the class we took on mediumship and psychic development. (Note: I do have her permission to share this story since it came as part of her journey).

Scan 145

Strangely, I cannot find any photos of me with my mother when I was 11 or 12

She told us that she saw this woman with dirty blond-to-brown, curly hair, wearing a pink nightgown. She said she was told to give a message and the person for whom it was intended would know. The message from the woman was that “she was okay”, and that the person receiving the message was “on her path and not to worry”. She said the woman looked very loving and nurturing and that the little girl of 11 or 12 was just looking  up at her trying to get what she could from her. Jeannine had thought that the message was for someone else in our circle but I immediately knew it was for me, as tears welled up in recognition. I just knew. And I had not previously told Jeannine of my weird experience two days before. But the message was the same…that she, my mom, was fine or okay.

As I write this now, going through my journal notes I had recorded at the time, I notice the part about the 11 or 12 year old girl…me…looking at my mom. I was about 11 or 12 when my mother wrote those day-book entries that alluded to her “ghosts” and where she had seemed to be feeling really low about her life. I guess that’s the stuff she wanted me to know that she was now okay about.

Later in my own journey that night I asked Otter if he had any other messages from my mom. He said, “No, that’s enough.” I said, “What about her ‘ghosts’?” He said, “You don’t need to know. It doesn’t matter.”

So I said, “Oh… hmmm, what else do I need to know today?” He answered, “That you are loved beyond measure.”

I said, “Wow… by Edward?” He said, “Could be, but it doesn’t matter if Edward’s around or anyone… if no one is here… know that you are loved beyond measure.”

I said, “Anything else?”

“You have nothing to fear.”

I said, “Wow, I am loved beyond measure and have nothing to fear. That’s pretty good news!” And Otter replied, “Yes, it’s pretty good news. And it’s the only news you’ll ever need.”

There was another brief message after that but this exchange really felt amazing. It seemed the message about love and nothing to fear was really universal… like it was meant for more than just me.

But back to my mother…. Two days later Jeannine called. She said she couldn’t wait any longer to tell me… my mother had visited her in her car while she was driving alone to the city the previous day, the day after our journeys. Jeannine said Mom was very insistent on coming through even though she tried to push her away. Then Jeannine got a big pain at the base of her neck and as the day progressed she became hunched over with back pain and stiffness. She felt it was coming from my mom. She was getting a message of “not to fear or not to resist….not to fear moving ahead”. It was not clear to us what it was really all about, so Jeannine called our psychic development teacher George for advice. They both picked up on some sadness.

In the few journal entries from my mother’s old day calendars there were indications of some real sadness and frustration, but it was cryptic and poetic. Nothing clear about what was actually going on at that time. I had been, as I said, about 11 or 12 when those were written, just a few odd notes between pages of records about the weather, social engagements, which of my older brothers were coming home for a visit, and what she’d made for dinner that night.

Our mediumship teacher George thought that because he and Jeannine sensed her sadness, perhaps my mother had not fully “crossed over” into the light. I wondered, my mother being quite a pious and faithful woman, if she for some reason felt unworthy. My mother was a beautiful, gentle, and kind woman, a philosophical searcher I think, like I am, looking for meaning in her life, although her faith was directed toward more traditional religious beliefs. Although raised an Anglican, she had actually loved being taught by the Catholic nuns in a convent school she’d been sent to as a girl from her small outport village. She was devoted and had a real faith in God. I wondered if for some reason she didn’t feel good enough to go “into the light”, whatever that might have meant to her, in spirit. I believed she’d had some suppressed anger and resentment when she died, after many painful and difficult years with cancer, and perhaps from some other life challenges, and may have felt that being angry made her not good enough in the eyes of God.

On George’s advice, Jeannine bargained with the spirit and refused to pass on any more messages unless she released her back from the pain. It started to ease a little as Jeannine spoke to me on the phone.

The next morning, she called again and asked to meet at a café to discuss this further, as she still felt the presence and was quite at loose ends experiencing this. This time I took some old photos of my mom to show her, ones where mom had curlier hair, one in the ’60’s and one from the time she was undergoing cancer treatments and her hair grew in curly.  Jeannine connected with the one of her in the 1960’s, where she looked more glamorous. No messages came through however, and I went home, feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable with all of this, wondering why it was happening.

Seeing my anxiousness to know how to solve this situation and relieve my friend from the apparent grip of this spirit, Edward offered to drum for me so I could take a journey and ask my power animal for advice. We did so that evening._MG_0395

I connected with Otter immediately. My left hand started twitching, which it often does when I am deep in trance in a journey, aware that I am twitching but still fully in the experience too. Usually just my middle finger jumps but this time my whole hand started lifting right off my chest.

Otter let me have it. For some reason I never journalled his instructions, but they are as clear to me now as on that night eight years ago. “You know what your problem is?” he started, “You have been remembering your mother in exactly the wrong way! You have been holding onto all the bad things about her life rather than all the good things!”

He proceeded to give me a list of what I must do to fix it. I had to have a ceremony and invite a couple of my friends from the previous journey circle. I invited them and they were able to arrange to come the very next night.

First I had to create an altar in Mom’s honour, representing only good, happy times in her life. So I dug through boxes of old letters of hers that she had written to her own parents during her boarding school and nursing school days, and selected ones that told cheerful stories. I knew that those times in her life held very fond memories for her and she’d built life-long friendships during both.

I found photographs of her smiling and having fun, mostly in her youth and long before she got breast cancer, and when my siblings and I were much younger. I laid some of these out on a table and added some pieces of her favourite gold jewelry, some antique chains and watch fobs that she’d collected. I added some of her scrap-booked recipe collections since she was known for her great meals. I added a copy of a funny joke sent to her by her favourite uncle, her confirmation photo, and a small framed image of Mother Mary that she had kept on her dressing table._MG_0385

I also laid-out a couple of her beautiful old dresses from the ’60’s that I had kept, ones that spoke of her more elegant and playful times. I had always thought she was as attractive and sophisticated as Lauren Bacall in those days. I also made a fast run to the city to buy some crystals, both for the altar and to give to my friends who were coming to help me create ceremony. I bought rose quartz and tiger’s eye, to represent the message Otter had given me, “You are loved beyond measure (rose quartz for love) and have nothing to fear (tiger’s eye for courage and confidence).

The next step as per Otter’s instructions was to write out all the things I had felt sad about for mom’s life, the places where I felt, rightly or wrongly, in my own perception, that she was unfulfilled, where she was disappointed, and also the things that I wished had been different about her, that I thought would’ve made her life better, happier, and more confident. These included the things about her that I did not want to emulate.

Third step was to write out all the gifts she brought to me and the world that I was grateful for… her affectionate nature, her humour, her worldly intelligence, and artistic ability and interest, her philosophical inquiry, her great hostessing and culinary skills, her sensitivity to and appreciation for people.

Evening came. I had the fire on in the wood stove and had lit candles around the room. The altar spread across a coffee table and the sofa that had the dresses on it. We brought out our drums. My friends Christine and Jeannine arrived together. They and Edward said the air felt “thick.” I was so focused on getting everything in place for this ceremony I had not noticed.

After showing them the significance of all the items on the altar, we sat down, me in front of the fire, my friends on either side of me. I knew I wanted feminine energy to support me in this. Edward opened the circle by calling the directions, then I asked them to drum for me while I read all the items on the “sad” list. It was an emotional moment. Then, as per Otter’s instructions, I rolled up that list into a scroll, lit the end with a match, and said words about releasing all that sadness and disappointment, asking for Mother Earth to transmute the energies of the ashes into healing. When I could no longer hold the burning paper I threw it into the fire._MG_6702

After releasing the “negative” aspects I’d been holding onto about my mother,  I lit the candle on the altar and placed the rose quartz heart and tiger’s eye crystals there too. I then read the papers upon which I had written about all the good things, the gifts my mother brought to my life for which I was and am grateful. Lots of tears were shed. It was good. I rolled up that scroll, tied it with a ribbon, and placed it on the altar to keep.

Jeannine had brought a dozen long-stemmed pink and fragrant roses which she’d held onto until that moment, when she said they were for me from my mom. She told me Mom was there with us and was happy and pleased with what I had done. It wasn’t quite clear whether Mom was complete with her messages or not, although Jeannine was going away for a while shortly afterward and I don’t think anything else came through to her.

Once we ended the ceremony everyone commented that the air felt completely different. I noticed it seemed a lot cooler, fresher. I gave my friends each a copy of my teacher Denise Linn’s book, “Four Acts of Personal Power” which is about healing family legacies using ceremony and meditations. I thought perhaps that was part of the gift in receiving these messages, that we needn’t carry around the sadness or hurts of previous generations and wear them as our own. We could let go.

Then we all enjoyed some food and tea and talked around the table for quite some time afterwards. The energy was really very buoyant then, just lovely.

After the evening I put the scroll of “good things”, the photographs, letters, and a dried rose, in a keepsake box.

It was such a gift to have all this guidance, from “The Beings”, from Otter, from Mom via Jeannine, and the support of intuitive, understanding, and open-minded friends, as well as a husband willing to support me in creating this healing ritual. The result has been freedom from a weight of seemingly inexplicable sadness I realized I had been carrying around like someone else’s backpack for many years, likely even from before her death from cancer. It really dissolved that very night and has not been back.

That is not to say I haven’t had bouts of sadness or even depression, as I think I experienced this past winter for a little while. But I can distinguish that from the earlier feelings, and I know that I had been carrying a sadness that did not belong to me… it was either her sadness, or perhaps my projections of what I thought she felt… a sadness that I held onto as a way to stay connected to my mother who left too soon… Too soon for me to know her really as I grew into my fully adult self… Too soon for us to have deep and heart-felt conversations about the meaning of life and our respective takes on spirituality. Too soon for her to see me as a middle-aged woman who now expresses so many of my mother’s attributes like creativity and gardening and a love of hosting people, for which I am truly grateful.

It’s a lot lighter and happier to feel connected to her through focusing on what was really good about her life and what gifts she brought into the world.

Thanks Mom.

(My mother died 21 years ago last week.)20080305_0001

(In my work as a coach I love to help people connect with their own well of inner knowing and guidance from Spirit in whatever way they can conceive of that, through conversational soul journeys as well as teaching them how to journey with their power animal and facilitating that for them with drumming and ceremony. And I am happy to help people create their own healing rituals as I did to move forward in their lives.)








Stumbling, Part Two: A Meditation, The Beings, and our Stories

About 10 years ago, in the early stages of my life “post-hit-on-the-head”, there seemed to be an extraordinary flood of insight and messages coming to various people, professional intuitives and “channelers” and “ordinary” folk alike, about great changes coming to the world, things like “the Ascension” where humankind would go through some kind of evolutionary rebirthing into a more spiritual or enlightened phase. We would move from the “dense energies” of the third dimension into the higher vibration of the fourth dimension.
That’s about all I know of this idea, I am not sure where it comes from or even if I have the right notion about it. Obviously there have been Ascension ideas around the biblical Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. Maybe there are others associated with the Mayan calendar or ancient Egyptian stories. I guess this is the more new age/non-religious version of the same idea, but that it is available to all who are willing to work towards that more high-vibration state of being.  I am not pooh-poohing it, I just have no personal knowledge of what it’s all about or who started the idea, and it would seem it is something that many different spiritual channelers write about.

Some talk about it being connected to returning “home” to other planets with the extraterrestrials, others refer to angels and/or the ascended people developing angel wings as they shift into a higher state of consciousness.  I read a long list of “ascension symptoms” the other day on someone’s blog and pretty much all of them sounded like the stuff I am experiencing lately…and here I just thought it was menopause…seriously! (No angel wings appearing so far!)

But as I say, I am not pooh-poohing it because, well, it could happen, although I don’t like theories that leave people behind only because they didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to raise their vibration.  And I expect for the masses of people in the world right now suffering armed conflict, persecution, poverty, and environmental devastation, not to mention abuse even within their own families, the concept of “keeping your vibration high” would sound ridiculous and insulting. I think a lot of this ascension stuff is for people who are in westernized, developed, reasonably-educated countries, who are not so totally overwhelmed with basic survival needs that they are barely treading water.

I am not sure what it all means really. I like the notion that we might become more evolved in some way so we could stop the cruelty in the world. If it means looking for some kind of saviour to rescue us however, alien or otherwise, I’m not so keen.

As much as I have been a skeptic in my life prior to my meeting Otter (my power animal) during a journey, and receiving his helpful wit and wisdom, I dare say I have had the odd experience of my own which I call channeling, for lack of knowing really what else to call it. Some would say dreaming or hallucinating or simply imagining. Come to think of it, I am not sure even what imagination is.


There are times now (since the event I am about to recount) when I just sit with a journal and ask “the Beings” my questions, and sometimes I get something that seems like an answer, and sometimes I don’t. When it comes it seems to flow (some call the process automatic writing), and feels like I am not “thinking” it up. It’s coming through me not from me. Many authors and songwriters talk about this kind of flow, like their work is not being written by them but through them. Maybe it is all the same. I have never had a message about an Ascension, but I have never asked, and I don’t actually do this kind of asking very often.

Back in 2007 there was an event that we’d heard about that was inviting people to meditate at a certain time on a certain day and to send loving thoughts to the world, with the intention that this would be a mass meditation of millions of people worldwide creating a wonderful healing energy for the planet. We don’t know how many folks actually participated but we thought “that sounds like a nice idea”, and invited some friends to join us.

Only two friends showed up, so the four of us (including my hubby) sat outside on the beautiful summer morning, closed our eyes, and imagined sending only loving thoughts out to the world.

As soon as I settled in with my eyes closed, and began focusing on sending love, this happened. Imaginings, dreams, delusions, or real messages from….something? someone? I don’t know. All I can tell you is the following is part of what I wrote in my journal immediately after we ended the meditation. It’s my personal experience, make of it what you will. I think the message is pretty good. (I am adding a few comments in brackets that I am making as I write this for clarity’s sake.) This writing is how it flowed, basically unedited.

A conversation began in my head, the “Beings” I guess — just like a journey, just a dialogue — I said, Are you the Beings, or “Light Beings”? The “Emissaries of the Third Ray” as Sonia Choquette (a well-known intuitive and author) calls the ones she speaks to?

“They” said “Yes, but we are whatever you call us. There is no hierarchy — We are your Higher Self, we are your Otter, your power animal, although that is indicative of some personal characteristics you possess, your human nature, but it is all the same voice.”

As I write it becomes a summary or rewording of what “They” said, but the meaning becomes clearer.

“There is Source, from whence we came, to which we return, the Creator, a Universal Energy, that is us, that connects us, that powers us. It is the electricity, the spark, the life force, the Love — pure, essential, unconditional Love.

The “Beings”, our Higher Self, power animal, spirit guides, angels, are all forms or conceptualizations of our Higher Self or Light Beings. They/It are the voices of experience, the Ancestors, those who have come before and who have experience to guide us in our incarnation. They are our conduit or connector with Source, our translator to help us use or reconnect with Source Energy.

There is no hierarchy — names do not matter. Just like near death experiences they vary according to one’s own set of beliefs, one’s history, one’s literary imaginings. So if you think that Light Beings are like extraterrestrials or interplanetary entities, sure, we can be the Emissaries of the Third Ray, or we can be from the planet Zorgon. It doesn’t matter.

We can be tall and thin and white and glowing, or winged angels or fairies. We are all just a means, a phrasing, a framing, for you to connect with your Higher Self —your connection with Source — the intermediary between the earthly you and your divine origin or Creator.

If you still haven’t accepted ownership of your divine nature or trust in your own intuitive voice/Higher Self, you may be more comfortable having a third party give you advice — something majestic, glowing, pure, white-robed, Godly, extraterrestrial —you’ll trust anything before (you’ll trust) your own divine and miraculous self.

In your DNA and in your energy body is imprinted all the history, all the ancestral experience on earth to date — you have only to access it — and if calling on “external” guides rather than your own Higher Self is more comfortable or more “trustworthy” to you in your current state of still not accepting your holiness, then that is what you may do — until such time as it becomes clear that the messages are all from within from the beginning.

The essential journey here is finding your way back to remembering who you really are, while having experiences on earth with all its “apparent” limitations.

In order to find the way there are two essential hurdles:    

First, give up your history, or at least, your “attachment” to your story, your history, which involves the labels, I am a survivor, or I am privileged, or I was poor, or disabled, or was abused, or was too ugly, or too pretty, too rich or addicted, as while they are your experience, they are not you, and while they define partly where you are now, they are not who you are. (Not necessarily my personal labels/story noted here, just examples of our stories).

But as long as we hold them, the stories, as defining us, as our “identity”, then we are blocking our acceptance of our true identities as being of divine origin. Who can believe in themselves as a child of God, a divine creation, and the equal brother and sister of all other beings, as long as we hold to those stories and our identification with them? They limit us. Let go.

Likewise as many have also been saying, “relinquish your need for the approval of others”.  As long as you hold to their approval then you are living the story or history that others believe is you, or ought to be you — or is their history and therefore yours. By seeking approval you are seeking to live someone else’s story, and that gets you even further from knowing your own Divine Nature. You can never measure up to someone else’s story, and so you will always feel you are failing — and as long as you feel you are failing then you take yourself further from the knowledge of your own original greatness, goodness, divinity.

Regarding Mary & Edward — you were put together because you are at a similar stage in your evolution to finding your true selves, and as each others’  “earth angels” as you like to call each other, you are serving as mirror-holders, reflecting back your divinity and beauty to each other because so far you have been unable to see it within yourselves unaided. This will cease to be a crutch and your relationship will flourish once you know and accept your own greatness and not rely on your partner to continue to mirror this to you. Then you will be free to have a mature spiritual relationship.

(There were a few other things said here that are a little too personal for me to share, but were very helpful.)

(While I was writing some of this message in the journal that day about our relationship and the kind of work Edward and I would be doing, I recorded that a hawk flew over and screeched, which I took as a spirit messenger, it seemed so apropos, adding significance since in first nations traditions Hawk is known as a messenger.)

The last thing that was said in this stream was (when I had asked about some other people close to me),

Unconditional love is what they need — we all do — being stuck in a history that was full of conditions and full of needing others’ approval, leaves no room for unconditional love and acceptance. It starts with the self — one cannot unconditionally love others until one has found it in oneself.’
And that was the end of the message. I was surprised and delighted and a little bit stunned. Some folks will think I’m nuts or making it all up. Chances are we make everything up anyway. But I guess I needed to hear this.

Four months later to the day was my next entry in my journal. The night before writing, we had hosted a drumming and journey circle. In my journey I met with Otter. I had asked a question about how I could help some friends who were going through a rough time in their business and relationship, and Otter just told me to send them love, to let them know I cared and if they needed my help to feel free to ask. Simple.

So then for lack of a more pressing question, I asked, “What else do I need to know?”

Otter said, “To approach everyone with an open heart and compassion.”  “Yes,” I said.

He continued, “And to let go of your attachment to outcomes for yourself or for anyone else, for example, your attachment to having anyone else respond the way you’d like, or anything to turn out the way you’d like.”

Me: “Hmm — yes — you’re sounding like a regular Wayne Dyer in his ‘Ten Secrets To Success And Inner Peace’!”

Otter: “Right, and also, let go of your ‘story’.”

Me: “Yes well I actually think I’ve been pretty good at letting go of my story — I am reinventing myself daily and it’s really changing.”

Otter: “Yes you’re right, you have done pretty well letting go of your story, but there’s something else you must do — you must let go of your story about other people.That is, whether your story of others comes from your observations of them, your projections onto them, or what they have stated as their story, you must nevertheless let go of your story of them because it doesn’t help them progress. It reinforces their story whether it is the story they subscribe to or the one you project on them, and all stories are limiting. If they choose to remain bound by their story that’s their issue, their path to sort out, not yours.

Me: “So what do I do?”

Otter: “Go back to step 1 & 2: Approach everyone with an open heart and compassion.”

Me: “That’s it?”

Otter: “That’s it.”

I hadn’t planned to write today about anything beyond the event in July ’07, but when I saw that next entry in my journal months later talking about the stories we hold onto, this time about others as opposed to ourselves, I thought it relevant to add.

When I am conscious and not distracted, I seem to make great strides in creating a happy and energized life. But then life gets busy, my focus gets shifted, I get preoccupied with some issue, I fail to meditate or journey, and the journals stay on the shelf, unopened. And I forget. I forget all the messages I have already received. I fall into my story (probably a couple of stories), the ones that limit me and sometimes make me downright miserable.

I forget that all this wisdom, as simple as it is profound, is available to me. It came through me, perhaps from me, from my Higher Self, sometimes in the form of Otter, sometimes in the voice of The Beings. Their voices sound a little different, but in our inability to trust our own divine nature as “they” said, I need to hear from someone or some thing “outside” myself, and sometimes one voice serves me more than the other.

Sometimes I realize I need to journey again. Other times I realize I have already been told, over and over, the essential truths I need to know. My left brain has been so conditioned to look for “proof”, facts, consistency, in order to know it is trustworthy, that I need the proverbial 2X4 to the head to get it.

But when I do these kinds of journeys and the information just flows, like I’ve turned on a tap straight from the Source, I just know. I know.
(Note: Sharing one’s journey of this nature is usually only done in the safety of a sacred circle or space convened for that purpose. Feel free to comment if this has helped you in any way, but I ask that in the spirit of sharing journeys that you don’t attempt to analyze or reinterpret my experience. It is my experience. While others may gain insight, a message, or resonance for their own lives, which is the benefit of sharing, it is not appropriate to deny or challenge or analyze what I experienced, or what others may respectfully share in the comments. It does not have to be your truth, you need to find your own. Thank you for respecting this space.)

Cleaning Toilets and Summoning the Goddess.

While cleaning the toilet this morning I recalled one of my Mary Doodle doodles, wherein she was also cleaning a toilet, and musing that her Inner Goddess must be on vacation somewhere else.
Scan 61
Then I stopped myself and said, “Heck no… the Inner Goddess is right here, right now!”

My Inner Goddess is a powerful warrior queen who is creative, loving, AND gets shit done!

She honours cleanliness and health. So she does the work like cleaning the toilets and sinks and sweeping floors and taking out the garbage and scooping litterboxes, along with feng-shui-ing the house to help the energy flow smoothly to make a clean, welcoming, and peaceful space.

My Inner Goddess is a divine mother goddess, who loves fiercely, mothering six pets, half of whom need a lot of veterinary care lately, so does trips to the vet, twice-daily medicating of two elderly cats, feeding special foods to two of them, dealing with one cat’s chronic diarrhea (most of which at least makes it into the litterbox) , and managing post-op care to the dog who had cancer surgery, along with daily walks.  She is a goddess of love with a big and tender heart.


You’re going to try to pill me again aren’t you?

My Inner Goddess may not resemble Botticelli’s version of Venus, but she loves her man with a devotion that is deep and commitment that is strong.

My Inner Goddess values physical well-being. She makes the effort, along with her warrior man, to eat healthy, local food, which they prepare from scratch after taking the extra time to go to the farmer’s market to shop every week, for the freshest produce and pastured meat. She also values community and they go there to connect with friends they care about who share the same values. And she helps to grow some of their own food too.


Fresh from the garden.

My Inner Goddess loves beauty, and helps to create it by getting dirty in the muck of the garden, digging, weeding, preparing beds, moving, pruning, and nurturing plants, and sometimes (often) lets the floors in the house get dirty with paw prints and fur balls while the outdoors gets even more lovely as flowers bloom.




and after.

My Inner Goddess may not pray at temples in Bali and do rituals at Glastonbury, or even belly or pole dance or do tantric yoga, but she prays in the temple of the forest behind her house, honouring nature and animals and the earth, walking dogs daily in her worn rubber boots, enjoying the holy simplicity of the woodland trail and perhaps communing with the elementals.


A friend stopped by in the woods to say hello.

Some days, if she gets up extra early, she might actually squeeze in a round of sun salutations and a 15-minute meditation to feel more centered and strong before cleaning up the breakfast dishes.

She chastises herself for her seeming inability to stick to regular, consistent practices even when she knows, as a coach, and from previous experiences where she has succeeded, that  developing regular practices leads to mastery, productivity, and greater confidence.

But my Inner Goddess creates and inspires nevertheless, making photographs, writing, and doodling in erratic but concentrated spurts of project focus, working well to deadlines, and still manages to keep the pantry stocked with all the essentials, so the toilet paper never runs out.

My Inner Goddess is not some winsome being, wandering around in robes fit for wiccan priestesses and doing full-moon drumming ceremonies (although the latter sounds possibly within her reach). And while she is not averse to creating ceremonial altars from time to time to support her prayers and intentions, she is more likely to light candles and place flowers on a table laden with good food surrounded by jovial friends, an altar to hospitality and good fortune and gratitude.

_MG_9569 - Version 2

Friends who love food, laughter, and conversation are the best.

My Inner Goddess is not one who reigns above the fray, always composed, feeling powerful and untouched by uncertainty. She is a warrior of the heart who sees and feels the fullness of her wounds and what they’ve taught her, riding her life in waves, ebbing and flowing, from excitement to frustration, from focus to confusion, from creation to reflection, from action to rest, from expansion to withdrawal.

My Inner Goddess is a creative force who conceived this whole article while cleaning a toilet. She is not on vacation. She is always here.

A dog, love, and living in the now.

There is an unsettling north wind blowing today on our hilltop. The sky is grey, flat overcast, just a hint of a pale, turquoise-y blue on the western horizon. It is cooler than average for this time in April and the 60 kilometer gusts make the house shudder a little.

While I love the views of the forests all around us and of sunsets to the west, I don’t like wind. Even on a sunny day I can feel a little uneasy when it is gusting like this. But my mood is likely amplified today anticipating a visit to the veterinarian with our dog Angus. I fear there may not be many more visits to the vet with him, and despite the onerous expense of our vet bills lately for Angus as well as two elderly, ailing cats, for once that’s not a good thing.

Last fall we took Angus in for dental surgery to remove a broken lower canine that was down to the gum line and had a dead root. He needed it removed before it became infected, as well as a cleaning. He also had a wart-like growth on his paw that was to be taken off as it was vulnerable to tears with all his running about the woods.


Angus passed-out on painkillers after dental surgery and wart removal.

While in surgery the vet called us to ask if we’d known about the strange kind of hole or opening tucked high up in his groin. No, we did not! It was not in an easily accessible spot, not at all visible unless he was splayed out, belly-up on the couch or the bed, and even then you had to poke around a bit.

We thought it could be a wound from his runs in the woods through blackberry bushes and broken sticks and such. The vets thought it could be a fistula, an abnormal passage sometimes caused by infection or inflammation, in this case perhaps an opening in the skin indicative of some interior infection that was creating an outlet to drain. There was no extra time in that surgery to check it out so we scheduled another surgery to see if it led somewhere and to deal with any infection, cut out the dead tissue around the edges, and stitch it up.

When that was done some weeks later, there was no indication of a passage anywhere nor infection. Angus recovered well at home. But barely a month later I noticed a small bump on the suture scar. We thought it might be scar tissue. But then three weeks later, after a short vacation away, we returned to find the bump was larger and ulcerated, becoming, we thought, like the original hole. Looked like we could be dealing with some kind of tumour and so requested the tissue sample that had been retained from the last surgery to be sent to a lab. And indeed it was a sarcoma.

So in January Angus went back for surgery number three in as many months, this time with the intention to cut away far enough that all cancerous tissue was removed, meaning a bigger scar than last time. In fact two cuts were made, and tissue samples sent post-op indicated that while the “margins were narrow,” there was no cancerous tissue in the margins.


After the second lump was removed.

So now it is April, we’d kept an eye on his scar as much as he would let us see, and visibly there was nothing new. We were hopeful it was all gone and he’d have a couple more years with us. Until a couple of weeks ago, I saw him sleeping on his back and gently touched along the scar and felt a wee bump. I had hoped again it was scar tissue.

But then this week, after a big rabbit run in the woods (there were at least two hares that I saw myself, as usual going in the opposite direction to Angus!) he seemed to be limping a bit. I felt all over his legs and hips thinking he’d pulled a muscle. But as I toweled off his fur damp from the woods I reached up and felt around in his groin while he was standing this time, and was horrified to find a large, very hard and lumpy mass, in the area of his previous surgery. I think that earlier, because I’d touched him only lightly looking for something like an ulcer on the skin’s surface like the previous one, and he’d been on his back, that the lump was not apparent. Hanging down it certainly was. And this was under the skin, not just on the surface this time. My heart sank.


Chasing the stick with Alfie

So here I sit feeling as uneasy as the wind is restless, waiting to leave for the appointment in a little while when Edward’s finished work. There’s a fluttering in my chest. Maybe it’s my nerves, wondering what’s next, or just too much coffee, brewed and drunk while trying keep distracted from worry. If Angus is limping due to this lump and not from some pulled muscle, who knows what else inside might be being affected or how much pain he could be in. I just know that this mass, if it is indeed the cancer, is very fast-growing to be this big in only three months.

Despite this, he enjoyed a bit of a romp in the woods earlier today on our usual walk with Alfie. He nosed around the pond and the abandoned beaver lodge, and then chased off after a noise that sounded like a bark in the back of the woods, which I managed to call him back from moments before I saw a large deer dash away in the distance. I was feeling torn between wanting him to have as many fun, free runs as possible in what time he has left, and the fear that if he was already limping and possibly having nerve entrapment from the lump, he’d do some damage by racing off, and I didn’t want there to be even more urgent issues or pain for us all to deal with.

He is passed-out on the floor beside my desk now, as he is on many afternoons. He looks perfectly fine, just some telltale grey whiskers on his muzzle showing signs of his approximately 11 or 12 years. There was no history on him when we adopted him from the shelter 7 and a half years ago, so we don’t know his exact age, although it was estimated to be 3 or 4 at the time. Our local shelter had received him from an overcrowded rescue in the city.

I love watching him. He’s my first ever dog. I doubt I could love him any more than I would had I received him as a child or had he been a puppy. I was always an avowed “cat person.” I used to think dogs were kind of stinky and drooly. That was before I moved to the countryside and started gardening and raising chickens. But I had not met many dogs I really connected with. That is, until I took my soul coaching® training in 2008 with Denise Linn at her home in California. There I fell in love with her dog Pepper, a black and tan mixed breed who was a sweet and gentle soul.


Those eyes, those ears, that nose….

As soon as I came home from that course I started scanning the web listings at our local shelter looking for his doppelganger, until one day I saw a dog named “Bongo” smiling at me (at ME!) from the page. He wasn’t black and tan, he was tri-colour, but about the same size as Pepper, a short haired lab-shepherd mix (so they said…they missed the undoubted beagle hound part). And so Bongo became became our Angus.

I’m sure there’s nothing extraordinary about our relationship. Sometimes it seems like less of a bond than some folks have with their dogs, as he pretty much refuses to lick me although he’ll kiss visitors and Edward. I write it off as some weird mother-dog relationship thing, kind of like an embarrassed teenage boy, “Aw MOM!”. But some days when he’s overwhelmed with excitement to see me come in the door after being gone for the day, he might inadvertently let his nose brush across my face, almost simulating a kiss. I take what I can get.


No matter the weather we go together. And it’s beautiful.

Our daily walks have kept me fitter than I would be otherwise, mentally and physically, as I tended to suffer a little from the winter blahs, and he forced me outside in all kinds of weather when I was not a “winter person.” Neither snow nor sleet could keep us from our appointed rounds. Although summer’s aggressive deer flies could. But I have enjoyed many beautiful starry skies at night year-round that I would have missed had a dog not needed to pee before bed. We always scan the skies for the few constellations we know, Orion, Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper. And sniff the air for a wandering deer.


My favourite view.

The joy I feel watching him trot ahead of me on our walks in the woods with his plumy tail held high, waving back and forth fills me with real joy. His deep brown, soulful eyes with their black eyeliner and eyebrows and his floppy triangle ears melt my heart. I marvel at his big, smooth toes that can safely take him over acres of woods and beaver dams and blackberry brambles at high speeds without an injury. And his big black nose, likely inherited from some beagle, has impressed with it’s ability to find hibernating voles under deep snow as well as detect the opening of a cheese wrapper two rooms away while sound asleep.

And as he lies here beside me, those eyes and nose twitching and toes jerking in his sleep, I wonder if he’s happily chasing those hares in his dreams and if he’s ever finally caught one in them.

Well, it’s about time to leave for the vet consultation. I suspect with the speed of this growth we will not be doing further surgery. I just hope we have a little more time before any of his organs or functioning get compromised or painful. I love this dog.

P.S. After discussion with the vet, looks like the plan is to just love and enjoy Angus as long as we can, as long as he is functioning and can be kept pain-free. We have no idea how long that will be. And for a dog there really only is the Now. But I guess that’s really the truth for all of us isn’t it?  We may think we have a future, but the only thing we can be sure of is in this moment. And in this moment too I am loving this dog.


Cooling down after the daily chasing of the hares.

Stumbling, Part One: Disconnection, a hit on the head, and a new awakening.

(Some of this material originally appeared in a much abbreviated form in the South Shore Women in Business Newsletter a few years ago as “My Pivotal Moment”. I have repurposed, edited and updated this article and have elaborated on the more personal areas that I did not totally disclose then, partly due to space constraints, partly due to the nature of the publication.)

A few years ago I was invited to write a story for a local business women’s association newsletter about a “pivotal moment” in my life that had influenced my career. That was a challenge because, although I have probably had many pivotal moments altering the course of my life, I have never felt I had much to contribute about business.  This was a very personal journey, and ultimately it influenced my choice of career. While this doesn’t offer any guidance on business per se, I thought it could be supportive in helping women chart a course that was authentically theirs.

I started out the way many people do, at least those who can afford an education, doing all the things that fit my family expectations, namely, be a good student that goes to university, get an undergraduate degree and more, and become employed as some kind of professional, academic or civil servant. That was the atmosphere I was raised in, and people who did not go to university were the exception, not the rule.

I had first been enrolled in a journalism program because I loved writing, but having been Scan0005 - Version 2easily intimidated as a naive 17-year-old freshman by a crusty journalist professor, I chickened out, and just pursued a B.A. in Political Science instead. When I later ended up a salesclerk a wicker store,  I realized some advanced education might be a good idea. Without a great deal of foresight (or maybe any) I ended up in law school. I was young and had married too soon at that point, and my husband was in law school two years ahead of me and encouraged me to follow. I had an older brother already a lawyer in the federal civil service, another who was a PhD and a professor, and a dad who was an M.D., so it all fit the professional family profile.

However not having researched the practice and not really having a clue where I’d end up, I found myself miserable in a few years after my bar admission. Partly I felt I was unable to really help anybody with the law. Outside of property and commercial law (which bored me stiff) it was all about making the best of bad situations, never truly restoring people to where they were before their problems started. I could assist with legal remedies, but most people needed much more than that in their lives, especially in the area of family law, which was my focus. I wanted to help them on a deeper level, and bailed out of the practice, thinking perhaps some law-related career might be an option in the future, but I really had no idea what I wanted.

I also bailed out in my personal life then too, as I found I was trying to be someone I was not both personally as well as professionally. This was very difficult and hurtful for my spouse of course, and pretty scary for me too, as I knew I would face a lot of embarrassment for such a drastic life change and apparent throwing-away of my education and of a gentle man who loved me. My whole life at the time felt kind of constricted, by the law career and the public expectation of who you were supposed to be in that, as well as by a religious life that was not really mine…I had converted to Catholicism in order to marry my husband, and it didn’t fit either. On top of that I was dealing with the emotional pain of infertility, going through invasive tests and then fertility treatments, all the while totally conflicted as to how a busy young lawyer was going to be the kind of mother I had seen modeled. I kind of cracked under the pressure (all of my own making) and ran away.

I have changed course several times since then. For many years after this I ended up living a very comfortable life being supported by my second partner’s inherited income, and having the time and freedom to explore my creativity as well as to travel. While I ultimately left that too, in hindsight I have realized this phase was a gift to me, it was a stepping stone to recovering a more relaxed and sociable me, and allowing my creativity to blossom in the form of photography.

That relationship however, ultimately led me to an unsatisfying place in my life. Following my much older spouse’s lead, it was as if I had retired before I had even gotten established in any one direction. Although I did become quite a competent photographer and photographic artist, and exhibited and sold my work as fine art, on a personal level I struggled with some issues in our relationship and with who I believed I had to be in order to maintain the relationship.

As a result I unconsciously began overindulging in both alcohol and television, a great combo for numbing one’s feelings and avoiding the truth of one’s life. I had low motivation and low self-esteem, which I now attribute to the alcohol and perhaps to a minor depression.

Underneath it all was an unhappiness from trying to live in alignment with values that were not really my own. I was a pleaser, and I suppressed my own nature. I was also missing a deeper emotional connection, though on the outside, and even to both of us, it looked like everything was “fine”. It is easier to believe it is all good when the material trappings are in place, you actually function pretty amicably together on some levels, while keeping the deeper feelings numbed on a daily basis.

_MG_6245I finally had to “get disturbed” enough, as Tony Robbins says, before I could make real changes, and I did. Strangely it wasn’t enough that on a tropical holiday I had smacked my head on the bottom of a swimming pool hard enough that I feared I’d have a concussion and black out, after imbibing too many pool-bar Margaritas at the end of a trip. Not even when I subsequently lost my sense of smell (and taste) for about eight months immediately following this incident, which I attributed to said head-smack, did I quite get the need for drastic change.

No, it actually took another event a few months later, where I found myself reeling up the stairs to bed early one night after drinking too many glasses of wine, while helping my partner make pickles on an ordinary week night, and then continuing the wine through dinner and after. Suddenly I felt totally out of control, the room spinning around me. I “lost it”, got terribly upset with myself, knew I was in trouble, and that something must be desperately wrong with my life for me to get into this condition on an ordinary week night (let alone any night really).

The next morning was the start of 8 months of total sobriety, no AA, no support, just a decision… a decision that was challenged within the first couple days by my partner who brought home a case of special wines from the liquor store “for when I was finished my break”. My “break” that time did not end until I had actually left the relationship, admittedly started my current relationship (which has become a truly spiritual partnership for the past 10 years), and had several months of incredible mental clarity and growth.

At the time I stopped watching most tv and cut out sugar from my diet, which helped a great deal as they both seemed to be triggers for me, tv being a situational trigger, and sugar priming my blood sugar for cravings.

It was a profound learning experience to discover how a couple could be apparently together, sharing activities, work, and friends, and yet at the same time be so emotionally disconnected, from each other and from ourselves and our values.

Recent research shows lack of connection to be one of the cornerstones of developing addictions. When you deny and numb your feelings so that you no longer even recognize how disconnected you are, especially when material needs are more than comfortably met, you can stumble along in a situation or relationship being more or less oblivious to your own misery for a long time. Until the inevitable wake-up call, that is. People adapt to the status quo and get comfortable, even when it’s not healthy, as long as their own needs get met at some level. My ex later apologized about the enabling behaviour, admitting, “I didn’t want the party to stop.” Seems we were both out of touch.

From a human needs perspective, people often create a sense of connection through the use of addictive substances. The self-comforting feeling of enjoying that drink can be a way of connecting with oneself. And the inhibition-reducing aspect can for some create a false sense of connection with others who are _MG_5305doing the same thing. Well, perhaps not false, but often at a shallower level than a more conscious relationship might be.  The need for certainty, for something you can count on, is also satisfied easily by addiction. Even the need for variety, for the ability to change your state from one feeling to another, can be satisfied through addictive substances. It is no wonder it can be so difficult to stop. Developing awareness of what needs are being met is an important first step, before finding other ways to fulfill them. This is part of the training in Strategic Intervention I later received.

During these times of dissatisfaction, if you are awake to it at all, is when you might start “searching”, for meaning, for understanding of the self, for the bigger picture of existence, and so on. I had begun a lot of reading in spirituality and self-help off and on since my first break-up 14 years earlier, but the reading doesn’t help much if you are not being very self-aware by tuning out your feelings. At this point, however, I was driven to learn more and was conscious this time.

Over the next few months I reached a point of clarity as all the diverse sources I was reading began to magically coalesce and give me a greater vision of my life. I was studying everything from how to develop my intuition to reading some books by western Buddhists, learning about many concepts in mind-body healing, about the chakra system from Hindu tradition, even a great book on how to be a writer called “Writing Down The Bones” by Lynn Goldberg, who writes from a  Zen Buddhist perspective.

During the same period I also discovered inspirational speaker, former psychologist (and sadly now-deceased) Wayne Dyer. I first saw him on a PBS special on tv and then found one of his earlier books, “You’ll See It When you Believe It.”  I also saw the interesting film “What the Bleep” around the same time. All these sources were telling me the same things at the same time from different angles and in different voices. They pointed to a sense that there was something greater that connected us all, and did so in a language I could relate to, that seemed different from religions I had experienced.

Butterfly & Liatris webI started noticing so many synchronistic events in my life, like how I ran into the only friend I personally knew to be an alcoholic in AA, (whom I had not seen in a couple of years) the very same morning I had made my decision to stop drinking. I knew it was a sign I was on the right track and that support was available if I needed it.

And then I would read something in a book only to turn on the radio later and hear something similar, or even the same author, being interviewed on a show. And I also started to really notice the beauty in the world around me more profoundly than ever before.

Ultimately I had what I could only call a spiritual epiphany, a realization that my life actually had meaning and that I had some kind of purpose being here on earth. I had felt quite adrift in the previous ten years since my parents had died, feeling like there was no God or unifying force, that there was only some dark nothingness that offered no comfort or meaning.

I realized at this time that I needed to tap into my true self, to find out who I really was, and learn to trust my own inner knowing to guide me rather than just follow others, regardless of how much older or more “worldly” I perceived them to be.  And I started to learn that there was so much more to us as beings than our eyes could see. I began to relate to the idea of our being “spiritual beings having a human experience”. I had awakened from my slumber.

This all came to a head for me one weekend when I went alone to my cottage on a lake, where I experienced an incredible sense of gratitude for perhaps the first time in my life. I felt deeply peaceful, amidst spectacular sunsets, even an unexpected rainbow. It was very profound and was my biggest pivotal moment, now over 10 years ago.171_7198

This set me on a course which eventually led me to study intuitive development, shamanic journeying (another significant turning point where I learned that I had direct access within to very clear and deep wisdom), and then on to study the Reiki method of spiritual healing, as well as to Soul Coaching®.

The shamanic journeying had been a mind-blower for me, as I had experienced a great deal of left-brained resistance to the idea that while someone drummed I would meet and talk to a power animal that would have  some wisdom for me. After several attempts to journey, I finally met this animal who wouldn’t stop talking, and who repeatedly offered me deep insights which helped me through some difficult transitional months in my life. I was forever changed.

This in turn opened me to the idea of studying Soul Coaching® after I was given a copy of the book of the same name. This body of work created by author, speaker, and healer Denise Linn, offered another method of accessing one’s inner wisdom through a different form of journeying using dialogue and questioning (hence the “coaching”). I knew immediately I wanted to learn to help facilitate that for others because I knew how amazing the shamanic journeys had become for me in finding my own insight. They were just different ways of tapping into that same well.

Subsequently, still being well-conditioned to be a student and have “credentials”, I went on to add a few more modalities to my repertoire, including the study of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Strategic Intervention coaching, as well as some courses in leadership. I also added a brand of feng shui training created by Denise Linn, called Interior Alignment™, as well as space clearing and blessing to the mix. The idea of creating sacred space and working with the energy and sacredness of a place as well as people, had become important in my life._MG_6229

These all inform my professional practice as a coach now, bringing in all of the learning that shifted my perspective those years ago, and I share that with others through coaching, journeying, and experiential workshops, as well as through this blog.

I finally found a place in my life where I recognized my own inner knowing was to be trusted, that I could deviate from what had seemed a “traditional” path and find a satisfying life of my own creation. I also found I could be someone who helped people in an even deeper way than I had imagined when I became a lawyer more than 25 years ago.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been such a slow learner and that these tools had come to me earlier in my life. For one thing I would have found this career sooner and been more established by now. On the other hand, I know I had to experience what I experienced in order to inform me and build my wisdom and empathy. My stumbles and apparent wrong turns along the way have only served to increase my awareness of and sensitivity to what some other folks have to deal with. We may not share exactly the same path but no doubt there are some similar ruts we’ve fallen into.

Oh and, “What about the alcohol?” you may ask, “your abstinence only lasted 8 months?” Yes, I admit I gradually reintroduced it into my life, mainly because I do really enjoy wine, more so with friends at dinner, but sometimes while cooking, writing, or cartooning in the evening. It is one of life’s small pleasures. And occasionally I am even a sales rep for a local vineyard. If one is able to consume it in moderation and with real appreciation for what it is and not as an unconscious habit, I think it’s a good thing.

I can recognize now whether I am reaching for a glass of wine simply out of habit (It’s “wine o’clock” as some people say), or worse, out of a desire to tune-out (in which case I abstain), rather than as simply something to enjoy. My past has made me cautiously aware. And my age and perhaps menopause has also reduced my tolerance for alcohol, making it easy to self-limit. There is a huge cultural problem today around dangerous levels of alcohol consumption, among younger women in particular, so I am conscientious too about being moderate.

I now enjoy a life with deep, authentic, and empathetic personal connection, to my husband, my close friends, wonderful clients, our animals, and our land. And while I continue to peel back the layers of who I am and learn to be okay with how deeply I actually feel things…my often tender emotions seem to live right at the surface without any numbing… I also get to experience a level of profound love and real joy on occasion that had been elusive for so long.w407

I’ll always remember that one day when I first hugged Edward, my now husband and true soul mate, and a loud laugh come out of somewhere deep in my belly. I actually startled myself, almost looking around to see who it was that had let out that sound, it was so unfamiliar. My shift in consciousness had unlocked something that had been shut down for too long.

I feel like it is part of my mission now to help others tap into that place inside them and reconnect with their essence, their soul, so that they too can realize the fullness and beauty of who they are and live a more joyful life in alignment with that truth. I hope you stumble less and awake sooner.

~If you would like to get in touch with your own inner knowing to get more awareness and clarity about your life, and become more congruent with what you really value in order to find more peace, I offer coaching, both one-on-one and in small groups such as the Soul Coaching® 6 week program, and the soon-to be launched Embodying Presence one-day workshop,  and the Medicine Wheel Weekend Intensive, through our business, Co-Creative Healing Arts.

Rocks Revisited.

...we get knocked down or stumble, and when we get up and dust ourselves off and get back in the game we are never quite the same as before, but are still beautiful and interesting and unique.

Read more

Frost Heaves, Alignment, and the Rebirth of Spring.

I walked the woods trail with the dogs the other day, and I stumbled a few times as my feet sunk down into soft spots created by the frost pushing out of the ground…hard to see in some places where leaves carpet the earth. Almost all signs of snow are gone where I live, making me hopeful that an early spring is around the corner. It is a lovely change from last year where winter really started in February and just piled up snow week after week in a deep freeze until sometime in late April._MG_9458

Of course spring brings with it frost heaves on the roads too, and Nova Scotia’s epidemic of potholes soon follows. I think there are a few leftovers in that department from last year. I need to watch out so I don’t wreck the wheel alignment on the car.

Same with the frost heaves in the woods, with my weak cervical spine I need to take care not to lurch or fall and throw my neck out of alignment, which gives me headaches and sometimes nausea.

I have become more and more aware of late that my inner alignment needs attention too. Through various experiences in the past year or so it has become apparent to me that I have not always been in alignment with my true nature, on a couple of levels, and as a Soul Coach, alignment is the name of the game. Soul Coaching® is all about aligning your inner and outer life, basically living in a way where you feel you are being authentic, standing in your truth, being honest with yourself about who you really are, and then letting that be seen in the face you show to the world.

I found I had some work to do there. There were levels where I was indeed quite aware of who I really am, but in my coaching career I realized that my fear of what others might think about the more soulful and metaphysical aspects of my beliefs was keeping me hiding somewhat in the shadows. Hiding is not much good for business. It is better to be seen for who you are than not seen at all!

I had an inkling of that about a year ago when I had received some great feedback from a client and friend for whom I had done some coaching, using both archetypal role-playing processes and divination cards to help her address a challenging situation. In the year that followed the work she had a great transition into a new job and a happier way of being. She also embraced Reiki training with my husband around the same time, and I know that also greatly influenced how she works in the world each day with more balance and peace.

As a result of her feedback I recognized then that I had been in hiding with those techniques, trying not to be dismissed as flakey. It was brought to mind also when I noticed many coaching colleagues apologizing for saying things that might sound “woo-woo” to others. I wrote a blog in response to that here.

Scan 40

Since then there have been a couple of other events that have prompted a re-examination of whether I am indeed living in alignment with what I believe. The first was shortly after that, when I was chatting with a former client at a party. She leaned over and confessed to me that when she had first come to see me the previous year, she was actually somewhat intimidated by me, because I appeared so “professional.” But that when I started posting my Mary Doodle cartoon drawings on Facebook, she realized I was actually kind of a real, normal, and I think, “accessible” person. I was really taken aback that someone would have found me intimidating. Sometimes we are not aware of what we project. But I was also perplexed that appearing really “professional” might not necessarily a good thing, that it could, I understood then, create barriers.

As I got busier last fall creating a book of Mary Doodle cartoons (on the suggestion of many of my fans), I was distracted for a time from what I needed to do to address this issue. Until, that is, I took course in November about getting in touch with the “soul” of my business. There was a whole week in the course on the topic of “congruence”, and examining if your outer life and your business were congruent, ie., aligned, with who you are and what you believe inside.

I discovered that while my home and surroundings and personal relationship were congruent, that I had indeed created a safe and sacred space for healing for myself and others, the “me” I was projecting through my marketing and even how I tended to dress for work, didn’t send the same message.


In fact at the in-person segment of that business course I took, I really struggled with what to wear to look like a “professional coach”. I had bought a couple new items for the trip but everything felt awkward, too dark, to stiff, too serious, except for one fuzzy brown sweater I just love. One woman I met was in fact surprised when we talked about our work as soul coaches and what we love, and our beliefs. When I mentioned how much time I spend outdoors in the woods and garden with the dogs, she said, “Really? I would’ve thought you were a city girl!” Hmmm. In trying to look the part for the conference I had betrayed my real self. Not that I ever had much fashion awareness anyway.

And in my marketing, outside of this blog, I had taken on some of the verbiage of other teachers and coaches about how my coaching would work with people, and I was kind of trying to sound like them.“Powerful” is a word used a lot in one of my coaching communities, but doesn’t sound like me.  I would say my work is still effective and deep, but it is delivered with gentleness and intuition. I gradually started to retrieve the soul of my business by allowing it to reveal more of who I really am.

My own coach had been right. When he saw my first doodle last year and challenged me to draw and post 30 more, and then later 90 more, it was because he saw in the doodles the real me…the sensitive, vulnerable, unsure, and funny me that he knew from our many conversations. The me that I guess I was trying to hide from my clients in an effort to look “professional”, which I had thought would inspire confidence in my abilities.

What can I say? I was raised in a very professional and male-dominated family, which included a surgeon father, and older brothers who have become, respectively, a justice-department lawyer, a corporate insurance executive, and a PhD university professor/administrator. And I even became a lawyer myself, and practiced law, albeit for a short time. I guess I learned there how to dress and comport myself so as to be “taken seriously” in a very male-dominated world, where a young woman lawyer (as I had been) was often mistaken for the secretary.

I, the youngest and only girl in my family, got the odd-ball genes I guess, tending toward creative pursuits like writing, photography (for many years commercially and as a fine artist), and now doodling. And I have also been the philosopher of the family, searching for meaning and a sense of purpose. I definitely have the heart of a soul coach, doing deep inner work on myself and others that embraces the mystery of the unknown, a sense of wonder, of some kind of Universal Consciousness, Infinite Mind, God, Spirit…that unknowable “something greater than ourselves”. But having come from such a left-brained world, that search only came after some personal life crises, as it often does for people, when I needed to find a sense of meaning for my life and greater insight into who I was.

It was the growing awareness of that Spirit, that mystery, that took me to Soul Coaching® as taught by Denise Linn, in the first place, following some very profound and eye-opening experiences in shamanic journeying. I think it’s time to start telling some of my own stories that awakened me on that path. My recent doodle book, “Mary Doodle ~ Stumbling Toward Enlightenment” alludes to some of that questioning in a light and humorous way.

M Doodle Cover

I have certainly stumbled like Mary Doodle. She has become a kind of alter-ego to let some of that part of my life be seen. Perhaps it is time to let more of the real me be seen, since I feel lately I have been kind of “stuck in the birth canal” of yet another phase of my own growth and coming out of my shell. I guess that is appropriate as spring approaches. From what I read and hear I may not be the only one in my circles who is feeling that internal squeeze. So, if you’re interested, my next blogs will tell a few of my stories where Spirit really spoke to me to help light my way. Now my task is to lose the fear of acting on that wisdom.

Playing With Rocks ~ Lessons in Balance, Presence, and Coaching.

Rock stack 1 LomoIt’s been a while since I have blogged. I have been busy building things….my coaching practice, my now 80-day-old doodling practice (for that you’ll have to check out my Facebook page…the doodles of “Mary Doodle, Rural Life Coach” are publicly viewable there), and I’ve also been building rock piles. But only small ones so far.

It started with a post on Facebook shared by my own coach, the inimitable Richard Morgan, (were I to have to explain what he does in a coaching session I could not…it is magical and mysterious.) He shared a post of a video of a guy who was building small structures out of stones in rivers and streams, fascinating balancing stones making beautiful arches and delicate piles. I only watched it once.

And thenRock stack 2 Lomo the next time I was walking my dogs in the woods here, I started hauling rocks onto the edge of the trail from the ditch or underbrush and started making little stone stacks, a couple feet high at most, just vertical, no arches so far. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the video so I couldn’t recall what his looked like just that it looked fun.

So in a week or so of dog walks I had created about 8. I think I have 15 now, although a couple keep falling over.

Rock stack 3 LomoAnd unlike the fellow in the video whose name turns out to be Michael Grab and his web site is all about this rock balancing project of his, I had no awareness of how he was doing it or how I should or could do it. (You can read about his technique on his site.) I was just seeing if I could make a vertical pile and how high, with whatever I found in the vicinity. No pre-planning. No understanding of how that guy did it. Totally random.

And it taught me a few things, and these things that I needed to make these stacks were things that I realized I also need as a good coach. Creating the stone stacks became metaphors for life coaching.
Rock stack 4 Lomo
And if you have the patience to take a slow (very slow) and meditative walk with me (17 minutes in total.…painfully slow for some in this era of sound bites, quite relaxing and peaceful for others), then I invite you to watch this video I made about it which tells you about my discoveries as they apply to coaching. I understand I was a Franciscan monk in a past life. I think in some ways I still am in this life.



In essence:Rock stack 5 Lomo

Get out of your mind. Stop trying to think your way through everything. Allow your intuition to guide you, and see what flows. Things often become easier and more effortless if you just stop over-thinking and get out of your own way. You can’t really plan  or force something like this.

Be totally present and in the moment. You cannot balance the odd shapes and sizes if you are not fully present to what you are doing. Likewise, you cannot hear your client and what’s really being said if your mind is in a dozen places. Likewise, the client must be fully present and “in the room”. If not, do some grounding exercise to get them there with you.

Be playful and leRock stack 6 Lomot go of your expectations about how it should work (the rocks fitting together) or how the coaching session should go. Don’t expect perfection, and take “failures” as an opportunity to rebuild differently.
Playfulness includes being curious. How about this or how about that? What if? Curiosity begets better questions.


Rock stack 7 LomoGet quiet. Allow for periods of silence, even though it may feel uncomfortable, so there is space in the coaching conversation for the client’s own thought process to continue and insight to gradually emerge on it’s own. Stop interrupting the flow because you feel the need to say something. We do not need to fill all the quiet spaces…leave room for what bubbles up.

Rock stack 8 Lomo


Slow down. It’s really part of being present and allowing for silence.

Rock stack 9 & path Lomo

Whether you watch my video or just read this and look at the photos of some of my creations, I hope you will enjoy a meditative few minutes. I am fortunate to have this space in my life to share with you.


PS: If you click on the photos in this blog they will open up to larger windows for better viewing.

Not Worrying About the Woo-Woo*

I’ve been noticing a lot of people, especially in my life coaching communities online, discussing topics and techniques that have worked for them with clients, and more or less apologizing for the information they are offering to the group by qualifying it. They say things like, “Well, I know this may sound a little ‘woo-woo’ to some of you, but…. (x technique)…worked really well with a client I had the other day.”

Intentional Altar

For those who don’t know, please refer to a definition of woo-woo at the bottom of this post. Essentially, it is a derogatory term for things that may be considered metaphysical and/or unscientific.

In the coaching context, these references to woo-woo can range from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), which is an energy modality combined with affirmations, (although that doesn’t fully explain it), to meditative journeys, (like having a client imagine or visualize talking to their Higher Self, or perhaps to a deceased relative, or even their child-self.) Or for some it might be offering Reiki energy healing (known to be very relaxing and calming) in conjunction with a coaching conversation. Or doing Timeline work or other techniques making use of visualization and “rewriting” your personal history.

For some it could be having the person create a ceremony to symbolize some transition, or perhaps for a change of thought or shedding of old beliefs. Or it might refer to offering advice from the realm of Feng Shui, the Chinese art of placement, which looks at the “energy” of a space, the psychological effect of clutter, and the benefit of energy flow, placement, and balance in certain themed areas of the home.

Personally I use a whole PILE of these techniques along with other tools, and artful questioning. Since I originally trained as a “Soul Coach” with Denise Linn before moving on to other life coach training, my introduction to coaching involved mainly guided “soul journeys” and “past life journeys”, both of which are meditative visualizations but where the client ultimately creates the vision from within. I facilitate and coach them through these scenarios with gentle questioning to see what they discover.

Oracle Card Spread

Also from Soul Coaching® I sometimes use oracle cards, also known as divination cards, to look for confirmation of things being discussed, or to see what other insights may be brought to consciousness by the suggestion of the cards. There is an element of the mysterious and metaphysical when dealing with these, and some would dismiss me as a flake.

And indeed, as I went to further coach training that had a more psychology-based focus and joined these coaching communities other than Soul Coaching®, I started to hide what I was doing, especially the use of cards in coaching, and past life journeys, and advising about feng shui concepts, which I am also trained in. I started to be afraid that I’d get called out as being “woo-woo,” and not taken seriously by my life coaching peers.

But ya know what? I don’t care anymore if what I work with is “backed by science” or not. The damn stuff WORKS! Clients have had big breakthroughs in journeying to a possible past life, in talking to their inner child, or to their deceased father in a journey, and being consoled by that “contact”.

People are delighted and surprised when a spread of cards confirms the very topics we have been discussing. With a recent client, a card spread for the whole of last year ended up offering her accurate guideposts for the events that subsequently unfolded. Some cards were predictive in  some months, or otherwise offered her some wisdom or theme to be guided and supported by as she navigated some difficult periods. It was like a lighthouse for her to see how the theme from each card could help her get through those months, and she was extremely grateful. I was not predicting events that would happen, which I do not do, nor claim to do. I was offering (or the cards were offering) possible themes that would emerge that could help her deal with various situations. And they did.

The client’s chair in my coaching office…next to an altar with meditating Buddha, salt lamp, a few “healing” crystals to set intention, some feathers…


Before I got that wonderful feedback recently I had gone so far as to remove my “Oracle Card Coaching” from my web site offerings. I wanted to be taken “seriously” as a coach, not look like some “woo-woo pseudo-psychic”. It seemed risky to delve into the realm of mysticism and spirituality, in spite of my own belief that that is really who we are…spiritual beings having a human experience.

But the more I see my “serious” colleagues sheepishly reveal the supposedly “woo-woo” techniques they are having success with, and the more I am honest about the results I often get using those tools, the more I realize it is time to ditch the term “woo-woo” altogether! It is insulting and demeaning to both us and to the stuff that works, and we don’t need to hide behind prefacing that our work may “sound a little woo-woo” as an apology…thinking we’ll be taken seriously as long as we admit that we know some stuff sounds crazy or unorthodox. That is just a feeble attempt to gain approval from people. It’s like saying, I want to do this stuff, I like it, but I still want all those folks who won’t like it to approve of me and like me anyway!

Enough already! A good coach uses stuff that WORKS for her clients. If it resonates with me, and could be helpful in a given situation, and the client is receptive, I’m going for it, no apologies. My interest is in helping the client get what they want in life. That is my job. I am here to serve you as powerfully as I know how with all resources at my disposal. If experience tells me something will be helpful, it’s my duty to use what I know. I take what works and leave the rest.

Spirit and mystery is not separate from the human experience, it is the essence of the human experience. Without it there is no spark, no wonder, no joy.

So, Oracle Card Coaching is now back on the menu at Co-Creative Healing Arts. And who knows what else!

From The Skeptic’s Dictionary:
Woo-woo (or just plain woo) refers to ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers.

Part of the mystery….

Here’s a dictionary definition of woo-woo:

    adj. concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific; mysterious; new agey. Also n., a person who has mystical or new age beliefs.

When used by skeptics, woo-woo is a derogatory and dismissive term used to refer to beliefs one considers nonsense or to a person who holds such beliefs.

Sometimes woo-woo is used by skeptics as a synonym for pseudoscience, true-believer, or quackery. But mostly the term is used for its emotive content and is an emotive synonym for such terms as nonsense, irrational, nutter, nut, or crazy.

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