Wednesday, December 31, 2008

SharedBliss: End of Year Review

Pre-Sixty Degree Day

Listening to: Something perfect for year end contemplation.

Bliss: Not owning a car. And entering an even deeper understanding of why I appreciate that fact. More about this tomorrow.

Starting next Wednesday, I'll return to the normal SharedBliss interview series with an interview with the wonderfully outspoken yogini, Linda Karl.

For today, the last day of this year in which so much has happened to me, I thought it would be appropriate to look back at what I've done via this blog.

I started blogging on April 15th of this year with a post about Joseph Campbell. He was the inspiration for the name of the blog, and it is his idea of bliss as a path and not as an emotional state that still influences my thinking and writing.

Since that day, I have not missed posting a single day of this year: this is post 283 in a row. Phew!

One thing that blogging has taught me is that I have a capacity for commitment heretofore unknown to myself. This makes me...happy.

Another thing it has taught me (and it seems obvious): when you are doing what you love, what is right, it doesn't matter if you're not making money. I thought I knew this before, but I truly know it now.

A few of my favorite posts from the 282 that precede this one:

Be the Change: I think this post was the first one where I got linked to by other bloggers, and since I'd only been blogging for a week, that felt pretty fantastic.

A few days later, one of the bloggers whom I read before becoming a blogger myself, one who really influenced my approach, linked to this. As a new blogger, this felt like I had hit some sort of jackpot of generosity.

Looking back, I love this post because it was actually telling me a lot more than I could have ever been telling anyone else.

The petticoat that is PissedChick started to slip past the edge of my skirt in this post.

Being my first interview ever, this will always be a favorite; I felt so thankful for this amazing and prolific artist's willingness to participate.

A favorite writer of mine committed suicide; this post came about because of that.

I think this is the first post where I actually wrote as PissedChick.

And the last one for today: this post was the first one that got seriously "Stumbled," and what an utter thrill to watch my statistics that day. Dazzling.

Looking through my lists of posts to pick these few was a real eye opener: 283 is a lot! The little girl in me is feeling very big and a little puffed up. Cool.

There are readers who have been with me since the beginning, or very close to the beginning, and I am so thankful for their support and encouragement.

There are readers who have become friends, and what a blessing this has been. Perhaps someday I will meet some on them in person.

There are more readers, of course, who still simply lurk. I respect that. I was a lurker once myself. Now as a writer, though, I say "Come out and play!"

See you next year. Same bat time; same bat channel. (A little bit of the geek to honor the very beginnings of this blog.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

OuterBliss: Dissolving the Old

It seemed to be time for a little Zoe!

Listening to: Some amazing new Japanese.

Bliss: A good night's sleep. Waking feeling...awake. A bookstore gift card that I will use today -- good weather for a bus ride and short walk. Yum. Books.

Yesterday I wrote about not setting New Year's Resolutions, the kind where you try to force yourself to do and be things that aren't necessarily of the deeper, more important work that needs to be done. I thought it would be interesting to forgo the typical lists of more things we think we "should" be fitting into our days and weeks.

Instead, I thought it would be more beneficial to get rid of things, to make room for new and exciting adventures to spontaneously and naturally spring up in our lives.

It's like the whole idea behind decluttering -- making room for the new by getting rid of the old.

I've had to think about this for myself, and I've finally concluded that it is time -- past time! -- to get rid of, dissolve some of the ways that I perceive myself.

Dissolve is a good metaphor here because work like this can take time, and it also takes an agent. You can't, for example, just sit out a lump of rock and expect it to go away. You have to put it in a container of something corrosive.

First, we have to identify those rocks and then decide what corrosive is necessary.

So, here are my rocks:

1. Codependent behavior. I've been having a wonderful email conversation with this woman, who has gently and rightfully pointed out to me that much of my behaviors are of the codependent sort. I try to fix people. I see this as my duty (even if subconsciously). Underlying this behavior is the belief that I only get my value through others.

2. Coming out of this first idea is the second big one that stops me from doing what I really am called to do: the belief that my creative life comes last. "Helping people" becomes such a big part of my day, takes up so much of my energy, that I then have to "recover." This is a great tool of self-sabotage, leaving me no brain power for writing any one of the five thousand books I have in my head -- or even just finishing the editing of the one I have completed.

3. But here's the biggest rock in my pile: Fear. From a very young age, I had plenty of reason to feel fearful. But there is nothing in my life to fear now, and I am only denying my own power by living in this state.

Considering my rocks, here are some of the corrosive agents I am going to stockpile:

1. Prayer. I have never been a person who easily asks for help. I have somehow learned that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I believe that I should be able to do everything, take care of everything on my own. And yet, I would never tell another person these things. So for 2009, I am going to walk my talk on this.

2. Yoga. Of course. But I need to develop a real commitment to yoga, not an occasional one. I believe that yoga is simply prayer in a physical, active form, so it ties in with number one.

3. Retreat. This is important for a couple of reasons. Much of my fear centers around trying new things. Going away to a retreat by myself would challenge a lot of stifling ideas I have about myself. I already have a couple of places on a list. My partner will hold me to this.

4. Shining the light of consciousness on my codependent behaviors. Just being aware of this has already helped (thanks, Lisa!). For 2009, I will, as that wise woman said in one email, let others experience their own suffering. Who am I to try to manipulate their experience of their path?

Over the next couple of days, I'll be thinking about this even more, trying to fine tune my approach, my "chemistry."

How about you? What sort of experiment are you willing to try?

Monday, December 29, 2008

InnerBliss: New Year's Dissolutions

On a walk in the park.

Listening to: This singer songwriter was trained in the Suzuki method so his instrumentation is awesome; he has an easy voice; and he whistles like a freaking bird (appropriately so)!

Bliss: We've been getting some sun and blue sky. Not a ton but it's better than none. I have felt that my stores of vitamin D were getting a bit...depleted. And I'm still enjoying the Christmas tree lights, how about you?

Every year at this time, I start thinking about the idea of New Year's Resolutions. (Drum roll.) And every year, I decide -- "decide" meaning "decide by not choosing" -- every year, I decide to not make a list.

Then I feel a little guilty. Who knows why, but I do -- as if making a list of goals were some biological imperative that I was purposefully ignoring.

I find most people's ideas of New Year's Resolutions to be along the lines of their Lenten promises -- a bit juvenile. You know the sort I'm talking about. Those people who have not moved past the "give up chocolate" for Lent and "exercise more" for New Year's.

At the library, at the beginning of the year, the health and nutrition books fly off the shelves as do the language CD's, so I know from direct experience that a large part of the population sees the resolution thing as a way to push themselves toward that ever desirable and ever elusive perfection.

And by February most of those books and CD's are back on the shelves, so I know most people have, of course, given up, been defeated.

I think this happens, because like with most things, we often are taking an easy route. We do not dig deeply; we go for the surface stuff.

This year, I have opted for the word of the year. It took me some time to think of this word and now I will contemplate its meaning in my life for at least the next twelve months. I will use it as a mantra; I will use it in my journaling; I will ask myself if what I am doing matches the idea behind the word; I will surround myself with images to reinforce those ideas.

Essentially, the word will become a part of me.

Beyond that, though, I have been contemplating the idea (as usual) of simplification and how to challenge myself to refine my life even further through a New Year's Dissolution.

I want to dissolve the excess. Dissolve whatever gets in they way of my true callings.

So that I don't influence other's thinking on this too much, I'm going to wait until tomorrow's post to write any details of my New Year's Dissolutions.

Until then, how about you? What would you like to get ride of, let go of, dissolve?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

MysticBliss: Peace Be with Us

A leaf encased.


Peace comes from being able to contribute
the best that we have, and all that we are,
toward creating a world that supports everyone.
But it is also securing the space for others
to contribute the best that they have
and all that they are.

-- Hafsat Abiola


The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of people when they
realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe
and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center
of the universe dwells the Great Spirit,
and that this center is really everywhere,
it is within each of us.

-- Black Elk (1863-1950)


It is possible to live in peace.

-- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)


We look forward to the time when
the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power.
Then will our world know the blessings of peace.

-- William Gladstone (1809-1898)


If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

-- Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

BardBliss: Pilgrimage by Margaret Gibson

The bare trees in the park already
contain their spring possibilities.

When I was small, my parents would try to be the first in the spring to notice the buds on the trees.

Now, I know, of course, that buds are set almost immediately after trees lose their leaves but that the time of sleep and cold is necessary to the germination. What we see as barrenness in the winter could not be more untrue. It is like a newly pregnant woman; we cannot tell by looking at her, but the baby is already growing.


Pilgrimage
by Margaret Gibson

Why do I take the back way,
along the sheep trod,
through salt wind and last
light, resisting
the tower and the standing cross
thrust darkly against
the azure evening sky
as it deepen and deepens
into illumined ink,
the well into which the monks
dipped their quills --
finding my way
by wandering the rim of far hills,
trusting the wind in my face
and the brief path
body makes into wind,
moving ahead, or away from,
or toward, and never
arriving, unable to rest,
as if rest would deliver me from
must inquiry
and the mission of solitude.
There the abbey is -- a beckoning
quiet, a light
I keep circling and circling,
grasped by what I cannot grasp,
drawn inside
only by staying out,
rapt and roaming, at the margins
listening to the sea's dark breath,
how it ruptures
and heals, eddies
and is, the road behind me
dissolving in the dark.

Friday, December 26, 2008

BlissQuest: Searching for Your Unique Light

Do you know the color of your own light?

Listening to: I'd never seen this video (and it's funny!), though the song comes from one of my favorite CD's.

Bliss: And now the 12 days of Christmas start and I am going to spend some time with this idea. A blog friend pointed me in this direction.


Light gives of itself freely,
filling all available space. It does not
seek anything in return; it asks not
whether you are friend or foe.
It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.
-Michael Strassfeld


We are each gifted in a unique and
important way. It is our privilege
and our adventure to discover
our own special light.
-Mary Dunbar


People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun
is out, but when the darkness sets in
their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within.
-Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross


Turn your face to the sun and
the shadows fall behind you.
-Maori Proverb


A sensible man will remember
that the eyes may be confused in two ways-
by a change from light to darkness
or from darkness to light; and
he will recognize that the same thing
happens to the soul.
-Plato


Someday perhaps the inner light
will shine forth from us,
and then we'll need no other light.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Love is not consolation. It is light.
-Friedrich Nietzsche


Into my heart's night
Along a narrow way
I groped; and lo! the light,
An infinite land of day.
~Rubaiyat of Rumi


Faith is the bird that feels the light
and sings when the dawn is still dark.
-Rabindranath Tagore


Truly, it is in darkness that one finds
the light, so when we are in sorrow,
then this light is nearest of all to us.
-Meister Eckhart


There is a light that shines beyond
all things on earth, beyond the highest,
the very highest heavens.
This is the light that shines in your heart.
-Chandogya Upanishad

Thursday, December 25, 2008

RandomBliss: Finding Your Wings (Perhaps under the tree...)

A very old angel, who once lost her head.

Listening to: Something in Welsh.

Bliss: Stockings waiting to be unwrapped. Music in the background. All the candles lit and the tree. Purring animals (and one who hops). Love, gentle love.

To be truthful, I have always found a fondness for angels to be, well, trite...or kitschy. It's just one of those things that I thought I had to think. (I know that might not make sense...)

But a few weeks ago, I felt myself suddenly attracted to these ethereal and winged creatures. I felt slight embarrassed. What to do?

But then my partner helped me to pick my word for 2009: Fly.

Now it all comes together for me: When I am attracted to images of angels, it is because I am feeling my own wings strengthen.

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us
and we see nothing but sand;

the angels come to visit us, and we only
know them when they are gone.

-George Elliot


It is not because angels are holier
than men or devils that makes them angels,

but because they do not expect holiness
from one another, but from God alone.

-William Blake


The soul at its highest is found like God,
but an angel gives a closer idea of Him.

That is all an angel is: an idea of God.
-Meister Eckhart


Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.
-John Milton, Paradise Lost


An angel can illuminate the thought and mind of man
by strengthening the power of vision.
-St Thomas Aquinas


Make yourself familiar with the angels
and behold them frequently in spirit;
for without being seen,
they are present with you.
-St. Francis De Sales


We shall find peace. We shall hear angels,
we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
-Chekov


To love for the sake of being loved is human,
but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.
-Alphonse de Lamartine


Let us be silent that we may
hear the whisper of God.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SharedBliss: The Birth of Light

A favorite Marian nook in Buffalo.

Listening to: Lots of Guadalupe art (which I love) in this, but some of the other paintings are incredible, especially toward the end. (This is one of my favorite paintings in this category of art -- at the Art Institute in Chicago -- make sure to enlarge the image.)

Bliss: Tonight, a celebration with friends. The Orphan Party, as we call it. Then Marcy and I are off to midnight mass at the Cathedral.

Right now, the celebration of Christmas is just one of so many celebrations of light. May we all feel the light reenter our spirits and may we act as beacons to those who are feeling trapped in darkness.

That's what we're here for, right? To be the change by living our bliss.

And then that girl the angels came to visit,
she woke also to fruit, frightened by beauty,
given love, shy, in her
so much blossom, the forest
no one had explored, with paths leading everywhere.

They left her alone to walk and to drift
and the spring carried her along.
Her simple and unselfcentered Mary-life
became marvelous and castlelike.
Her life resembled trumpets on the feast days
that reverberated far inside every house;
and she, once so girlish and fragmented,
was so plunged now inside her womb,
and so full inside from that one thing
and so full -- enough for a thousand others --
that every creature seemed to through light on her
and she was like a slope with vines, heavily bearing.

--Rainer Maria Rilke

What "marvelous and castlelike" life are you birthing?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

OuterBliss: Car Freedom in Winter

A miscellaneous weed made beautiful by the ice.

Listening to: This has to be the most mulleted Christmas video of all time. (And if you can name all these people, I have a pretty good idea about your age!)

Bliss: This year, we have tried to feel more connected to Christmas by focusing more on Advent, and it has been an excellent experience, one we will continue for the years to come.

When you tell people that you've not (intentionally) had a car for seven and a half years and this conversation is taking place while the white stuff is falling and perhaps there is already a foot on the ground, they look at you, they look outside, and they look at you.

People assume that winter is the difficult season for those of use who are car free.

This could not be further from the truth. It is in winter that my steadfastness about not owning a car is never tested.

Yesterday morning, to get to work, I opted for my snow pants. It was negative five with the wind chill, and I knew this could mean frozen thighs if I wore anything but wind proof. Jeans get downright crispy in weather like this.

I left for the bus stop at five minutes to seven and so I was walking through brand new snow, not a shovel or snow plow had touched a single span of sidewalk. At the bus stop, I cleared a small walking path for myself -- I like to pace -- and this act warmed me. I did not have long to wait, but my cheeks were tingling by the time I stepped into the warm bus.

And then I sat. I day dreamed a bit. I looked out the window at the lights on the trees.

But I did not stress. I was not swearing at other drivers pulling out in front of me. I was not pumping the break to inch my way down hills.

I arrived at work invigorated by the cold air but not depleted by the dangerous driving.

So, no, winter is not the hardest season at all to not have a car: that honor would fall to summer, when you just want to pack up and go -- spontaneously -- to the beach or to a small nearby town to walk and soak in the sun.

Winter is utter joy without a car.

Without a car, I have started to explore winter more deeply than ever I would have thought myself capable.

A few years back, we even bought snow shoes, and I love them. (Make sure to get poles; poles are important for comfort and ease.)

Standing on the back porch and tightening the straps over my boots and heading through our back yard and down the alley and into the small park a block away returns me to that innocent awe about winter that we lose sometime in our teens.

You know: the excitement that school might be canceled. The impatience to get outside and burrow into those many foot deep embankments and pretend you are an Eskimo. Staying outside for so long that you come in wet. Wet! But if the sun is out, staying warm regardless. Warm enough that you dare to take your gloves off. You release snow balls from the flesh of your hands, leaving behind a red patch in the palm.

When was the last time you saw snow or cold as anything but a nuisance?

Monday, December 22, 2008

InnerBliss: The Sacred, Silent Secret at the Center

Frozen Echinacea seed head.

Listening to: Piano from one of my favorite funny shows; yes, he really does play.

Bliss: I am thankful for all of the comments and suggestions and advice. There is so much wisdom! I am feeling a quiet and peace settle upon me, and I think that is a most excellent sign!

(For posts on the other directions: East, South, West, North)

I come to the Center.
Let me never forget
that all things find their source
in spirit and to
spirit shall
all return.
I come to thee
seeking balance.

I come to the silver light
of moon,
the golden light
of
sun. May I, this day and this night,
find my
path and walk it with
grace, serenity, hope.

--from A Priestess's Litany for a New Day by Grey Cat

The center.

A perfect ending to our exploration of the four directions, which only exist in relation to the center.

The center: the place of beginnings and endings, a place of mystery, a place where everything unknown is known, from which the invisible manifests to become visible.

From the center of her being, Mary will birth the Christ. From the center of ours, emanates our true nature, our Light, our love, our Soul.

After describing to you my feelings as of late and asking for your help, it is no wonder that most of you told me, basically, to get back to my center. You told me to get quiet, to meditate, to pray -- all those things that we do to stay balanced, to remain standing, to stand precariously on two feet, planted firmly (not always) on the ground.

As a dancer, I know how important the center is. To balance on one foot, you must find that center. To turn rapidly and not become dizzy, you find that center. To leap, to kick, to move with grace, you find the center.

Go outside and stand. Native Americans would remind you that above you is Father Sky, below you is Mother Earth, and in the center of you, in the center of all of it, is the Creator.

According to contemporary pagan thought, to work with the center, here are a few correspondences (this list is not as long, because the center is the ineffable stuff of the great mysteries): the center is about the energy of change, transformation, immanence, everywhere and nowhere, within and without; it is beyond time and all of time; it is the turning wheel of all seasons and no seasons; the colors are clear, white, black; the tool is the cauldron; the plant is mistletoe; the goddesses are Isis, Shekinah, the unnamed one; and the God is the unspeakable JHVH.

I have spoken before about reading Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle. An incredible book in which the main character, at one point, speaks to a priest, who talks about the cross. He says that the cross upon which Christ hung is all about the four directions, first of all, and that Christ himself is the center, which connects heaven and earth.

If Christ is "the Way," then we are the center. We are the spirit made manifest so that we might have this human experience and from it be transformed.

Some things to contemplate:

Do you spend time each day aligning yourself with your center? Do you delve into your center through explorations of quiet and stillness? Do you have a prayer life that supports and strengthens your sense of being centered?

Do you find yourself frequently feeling "off balance?" Do you run through your days in a frenzy, coming to the end feeling dizzy? Do you often feel light headed? Do you suffer from frequent anxiety?

Do you know what makes you feel your best? Do you respect those things and make time for them every single day? Are you easily thrown off balance by obligations and the needs of others?

Do you allow yourself to stand still in the mysteries of life or are you too quick to desire answers for answers' sake? Are you able to contain contradictory ideas and not feel uncomfortable?

When making big decisions about your life, do you feel yourself working from your center or are you simply reacting out of old habits, old patterns, others' ideas of who you are?

I am reminded of Ravi Singh, who says, on one of my yoga DVD's:

May your feet have roots and your skull a skylight;
may heaven and earth conspire within you.


And I'll add: Breathe from your belly and feel the cord of spirit and light that connects you to all the universe. It's always there.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

MysticBliss: Merton for Advent, 4

An ice-encased seed head.


The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.

--Thomas Merton

I have started to read the newest Deepak Chopra book, The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore, and he immediately speaks to the idea in this Merton quote.

Chopra asserts that the Christianity that most practice now is a Christianity that decided long ago that Christ was too much and so they set out to settle for too little.

Christ was too compassionate; what human could live that way?

Christ was too loving; what human could live that way?

Christ was too tolerant; what human could live that way?

But Chopra's larger point is that not only are we capable but we must.

We must expect more of ourselves; we must strive to be Christ like; we must expect more of our churches.

Amen.

The Christ I await this Advent season is a Christ of pure love, pure acceptance, pure tolerance. He is the Christ of the New Testament, not the angry God of the old.

He is Light, light that is so pure and bright that it allows for no shadow.

As the sun begins to strengthen on this Solstice, may we all feel our own internal sun strengthen.

May it shine light on whatever smallness we are accepting from ourselves, whether as individuals or as communities.

This light was born into the world not to empower our prejudices, not to sanction our self-righteousness, but to burn away those things.

I leave you with what I think of as one of the most beautiful few minutes ever on television. What makes this scene even more powerful is that the actor is not acting; Martin Sheen is this person.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

BardBliss: From Rilke's Book of Hours

That front yard juniper...again.

Bliss: As I walked down the slope of our backyard yesterday to get photos, my shoes kicked free the layer of ice and it sounded like tiny marbles rolling ahead of me.

Note: Thank you for all the help yesterday. I'll be responding in the comments section.

From Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy.

When I opened this book, I opened right to this:

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

The women who translated this collection of Rilke's work spent twelve years with these poems. Twelve years!

This small piece speaks to me right at this moment in my life:

I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

Isn't that the heart of the matter?

Friday, December 19, 2008

BlissQuest: Assistance Needed in the Bliss Area...

Holiday writing group yummies.

Listening to: A great big band arrangement of this. (Bring on the brass! says Blisschick!)

Bliss: The snow globe I am sitting inside. When you don't own a car and don't have to drive in this, it turns into something completely enjoyable!

Today I am asking for your help.

You see, it seems I have misplaced my bliss. I'm optimistic, of course, because I get the feeling that this is like that joke where someone is looking for their glasses and they are perched on the person's head.

But still...they don't realize that their glasses are right there, do they?

Last year, at this time, we were taking care of Jobie the cat and just feeling very lucky that it seemed he would be making it to Christmas, which he did. Then we were feeling lucky that he would make it to the year 2008, and he did. Then he crashed. He rebounded. And late in January, he passed from his fur to his sparkle suit.

I've told you this many times. But it feels pretty fresh right now as we approach the one year mark.

If I didn't have that new crazy, joyful, bouncing kitten, my funk would definitely be deeper.

But there is more going on than missing my cat.

The other day, on this advent site, the post asked a simple question: What star are you following?

It hit me right between the eyes, that question did. I didn't have an answer! What?

So now I am walking around feeling a bit lost....

I know that part of this is the need for some serious rejuvenation and that is where asking for help comes in.

Do any of you have favorite ways to "refill your wells?" I am not talking about a little bit of rest, here. No, I need something more than that, and I am not sure what. So on top of feeling a bit in the funk, I also am frustrated.

I think about going on a retreat but hate to leave my family and hate to travel, especially in this weather.

I think about going back to school and am very interested in some online graduate programs, but I fear this is just a cover for something else. That going back to school is just a way to feel busy and "on purpose."

Okay, you get the idea...HELP!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

RandomBliss: Defeating Seasonal Afffective Disorder from the Inside Out

A little rabbit, a little tree...
who cold be sad?
(And if you look very closely, there
is a kitten peaking over Zoe's left shoulder.)

Listening to: A happiness injection from Denmark.

Bliss: The sun is trying very hard to defeat the clouds. I appreciate his effort!

For too long in my life, and for many reasons, I have thought the weather was somehow about me. Not having a car helped tremendously to break me free from this illusion, as did a love for the moon which led to the keeping of a weather journal.

And for too many years of my life, I thought I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). As soon as the days got shorter, I expected to feel badly. You usually get what you are expecting.

All winter long, I would pine for the summer days; I romanticized them, telling myself stories about how as long as the sun was out, I was this happy, joyful, free, and creative person. Then in the winter, I could barely move. I never went outside unless it was to get into a car. I huddled all day, wrapped in blankets and depression.

But all of this was just story: in the summer, I could have some serious bouts of depression -- how had the sun saved me from it? It hadn't.

In the winter, though, the weather seemed to mimic my internal landscape.

This is key. I felt gray and dark on the inside, and so when it looked gray and dark on the outside, it was too much. Or so I thought.

You see, I had this all backwards.

If we truly believe, as many of us claim to, that happiness does not reside outside of us or in anything external to us, then what of this belief that sadness and depression can be imposed?

Yes, yes, yes, I know what you are thinking about chemical balances. First, let me say, that I am not talking about diagnosable, responsive to drugs mental illness.

I am talking about the kind of depression that haunts too many in this culture of humans living in ways that they think they "should" rather than in the ways they want to live.

I am talking about the depression for which millions of prescriptions are written and pills are taken and the "patient" still feels like shit.

We have to start wondering why? Why, when we take the pills, do we feel a bit better and then go back to feeling just as bad? Why do we tolerate the side effects for barely any real effect?

Because we don't want to do the hard, internal work. We don't want to express our anger at having parents who abused us. We don't want to face the grief of lost partners or friends. We don't want to feel the sadness over a life not fully lived. We don't want to have to really change.

We just want it all to go away.

So instead of digging deep, scooping out the goo, we look to the outside. We think, well it's so dark out...who could feel good during this? Then we have an excuse and that excuse becomes a badge we can wear, which we point out to people when they ask how we are.

There are things you can do during dark times: you can take vitamins; you can exercise; you can use a sun lamp (which does actually work); and this list of "remedies" can get very long.

But the main thing you can do is walk through the dark inside you until you get back to your own internal sunshine. That's the only permanent solution, as corny as it may sound.

If happiness is to be found inside, then the solution to your sadness resides there also.

Stop wasting your energy cursing the weather.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SharedBliss: Intuitive Counselor Maureen Higgins

The very lovely Maureen*,
introduced to me by Luci!

(*If that link doesn't work, try this. Maureen was in the middle of changing servers.)

Listening to: A Scottish (and a bit Italian) singer I found, thanks to iTunes Genius.

Bliss: As I have explained before, bliss for me is story; when it comes to my own search for the divine, it is also about story, but even more, it is about synthesizing story, seeing all of the stories from all over the world fitting together, supporting one another.

Synchronicity...

I write a piece about my near death experience at a young age. I am from the Great Lakes region. A woman feels a connection and starts to write, as one Great Lakes girl to another. She suggests an NDE group. I write another piece about living green; it turns out this woman makes a product that is totally green.

I interview her. I buy some of her product. In a shipment, she includes a card for an Intuitive Counselor, whom she has found to be amazing. And another interview is instantly lined up.

Synchronicity.

Maureen Higgins, intuitive counselor out of St. Paul, Minnesota, works with guided imagery, energywork, flower essences, and angels and ancestors. She described her work to me in an email recently:

After we talk about the goals of the session, I ask your Higher Self and energyfield to come before me so I can look at what's going on with you. I ask your optimal spiritual team aligned with your highest good and truth to assist (your guides/colleagues on the other side/other realms). I then "change channels" so I can look at your energyfield. I look at your chakra system and aura to see what is showing up.

I have been lucky enough to meet and work with some excellent energy workers, including having this experience, but I think it's time for a "tune up" and I'll be contacting Maureen for a phone session.

When the idea of a phone session came up, I balked. Oh, here comes the fear: I don't like phones; I don't like new things. Wait! I don't need this. I feel great.

Then I hit a brick wall. Just a couple of days ago, after having declared my word for next year to be "fly," I felt like my wings were clipped. I don't know how to fly, my brain is telling me.

It turns out that the back of Maureen's business card (which I had not flipped over) says "Your time to fly has come."

Synchronicity.

Describe the PrimaryBliss of your life. How did you come to know that this was your PrimaryBliss?

Understanding and experiencing myself and my world through a spiritual lens. I knew this was my primarybliss since I was a small child. As a child (and now as an adult) I could see into other realms so I knew that our experiences here were only a small part of what was our reality. Peering into the other realms has made me believe that we are all Divine Beings having an earthly experience. Our human bodies and brains are a filter for our reality that is not usually in alignment with our true nature. Since we do have human bodies and brains, we all do the best we can in understanding our true nature--none of us will fully understand our true magnificence as long as we're on planet earth because of our limited filter/brain. I believe that many of us, at this crucial point in history, are ready to understand our true nature and embody our Divine Self as much as our physical body and brain will allow.

What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

I started my own business called, "Wings of Freedom" in 1998. I see clients interested in letting go of the past and its limited beliefs so they can move forward more aligned with their true nature/Higher Self/Divine Self. I knew that in order to fully serve my clients, I needed to more fully understand human nature from a psychological, spiritual and physical level so obtained my B.A. in psychology and M.A. in human development. I also got certified in guided imagery, Reiki, and Jin Shin Jyutsu (a meridian based energywork). I practiced using clairvoyance (intuitive sight) for many years to make sure I was at least 80% accurate so I could use this ability to help others and do so in my business. This knowledge and these skills gave me a foundation to work with clients. However, I learn something new everyday by working with the amazing people who come into my door.

How does your PrimaryBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

I try to live and make my decisions using the love, wisdom, and compassion of my Divine Self/Higher Self rather than the fears or uncertainties of my brain (the brain only knows the past and can become easily afraid). I'm unable to do this perfectly which is normal for all of us. I work on aligning myself with my Higher Self each day. My goal is to come from a place of love, wisdom, and compassion in all my interactions. There are times when the Higher Self tells me that a situation in my life is done and/or that it isn't helpful to "help" someone who wants my help since I'm not the right person to do so. I also work on forgiving myself when my humanness comes through!

What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?

Having energizing and interesting conversations with friends or my sons, meditating, reading, writing, and exercising.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Each morning and each evening, I do an energy clearing on myself so that I can let go of anything that is no longer serving me. What served me yesterday may not today. I always ask that, after letting go of anything that's no longer serving me, to fill the voids with my own Divine Essence and any qualities that would be helpful for me today. I also scan my energyfield (using clairvoyance), at least once a day, to gain insights into myself and to understand what is working for me and what is not working for me. Each day I meditate where I totally let go of my brain's input on my life and let my Higher Self and spirit guides work with me.

What music is your bliss?

I don't have any particular music that is my bliss. I like all kinds of music. I appreciate music with lyrics that has a message to it and music without lyrics that subtly touches my soul.

Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

My aunt, Mary Rowan, significantly influenced my bliss since she was ahead of her time and did hypnosis, intuitive development classes, and handwriting analysis back in the 1960's through early 1990's (that is when she died). My cousin and godmother, Myrna Pucci, influenced my bliss since she was also into new thought and alternative ways of thinking. She recently passed this last March 18.

My friend, Clarice Davis, influenced my bliss by being unconditionally loving and wise during my biggest spiritual openings beginning twenty years ago. My friend, Dawn Vogel (owns business Luminous Concepts), influenced my bliss by being unconditionally loving and always bringing up anything needing clarification or understanding.

My friend, Ed Belbruno, has influenced my bliss by his loving, honest communication and his enormous gifts of creativity founded on math and science. His book, "Fly me to the Moon," has been inspirational for me. He's a gifted mathematician, scientist, and artist who came up with a way to land spaceships on the moon using low energy. His theory (Weak Stability Boundary Theory) was initially not accepted but was proved to work and is now widely used in research today. Ed is very open minded and is willing to change yet is also firm in what he knows is right--a good balance. James Fowler's book, "Stages of Faith," is a must read for any spiritual seeker--fortunately it was required reading during my graduate studies. The book, "Time Travel in Einstein's Universe," by J. Richard Gott is a book I'm currently reading that I'm loving. He uses science and math to bridge worlds. It is also easy to read and understand. I was fortunate to recently meet and talk to Gott (he's a colleague of Ed's). He is inspirational incarnate!


What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?

Some people have many things they are interested in so may feel they haven't come up with "it." Many times these various interests go together (e.g. writing, photography, teaching, community building). If this is the case, it helps to write down all the various interests. Place this list in a prominent place and ask your Higher Self to show you how to use them together to create something magnificent. If nothing seems appealing and life seems drab and meaningless, then it is time to do some inner work so that the old can be let go of and the new can emerge.

Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

"Be the change you want to see in the world," by Mahatma Gandhi.

Maureen has some amazing advice here and is a good example of someone who follows her bliss through the Dalai Lama's advice of "constant effort." Her daily spiritual practices alone take a level of commitment that many of us are not willing to follow through on.

She also, I think, has a great "solution" for all of us who feel very scattered in our interests. I love the task of making a list and asking our higher self to show us how to put it all together. Excellent exercise!

And this is certainly not the end of the bliss that is Maureen here on Blisschick; I will write about her again after I have a session with her.

If anyone has already had a session with her, please leave a note about it in the comments -- we would all love to hear about it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

OuterBliss: Ordinary Miracles

Marcy, ready to walk out into the snow.
(Is that a monkey on her back?)

Listening to: An unusual and beautiful version of this. Something about it is more upbeat than usual.

Bliss: The world is turning a wee bit white again. The kitten has NOT crashed the tree and its lights to the floor! Perhaps we will be truly daring and attempt ornaments...

About a week ago, someone in my writing group said, "Miracles are just a change in perspective."

How simple; how right; how succinct.

I just wrote about the idea that believing in the impossible could add a layer of richness to our lives that many of us are missing. We have become so cynical, so "sophisticated," so trapped in the illusion of our own intellects.

If the way to our own divinity is to be like innocent children, perhaps this is a good place to start: a change in perspective.

Perhaps we need to allow ourselves to be amazed, to be teased, to be curious without finding all the answers. Perhaps we need to swim for a while in mystery and mayhem and magic and miracles.

As with most of our creative lives, my partner and I have a symbiotic relationship, always influencing one another's work, and so I don't think you'll be surprised to learn that she is also working with the idea of miracles but in the visual form.

Love Milagro, Gouache on Paper

She has taken to creating milagros or ex votos. She is creating art that is meant to help you focus your intentions, your prayers, your meditations. She is creating "reminder art."

The pieces she is making can be used however you see fit -- there are pendants, but you can wear them or not. Perhaps you would just place them on an altar or carry them in your bag. There are prints and originals on paper and ready to hang, three dimensional wooden pieces.

Fertility Milagro on wood

So this past weekend, I spent my time in front of the computer building her Etsy store, Ordinary Miracles.

Lung Milagro, Shrinky Dink pendant:
Having a hard time breathing? Asthma? Or
just working with this Chakra?


Hamsa Shrinky Dink Pendant:
For overall protection.

Marcy will also take special orders. Do you need a specific milagro in a specific form? Let her know! And, of course, you can still peruse her fine art website.

Monday, December 15, 2008

InnerBliss: Sinking into the North

Bird tracks in the tiny bit of snow we
had (which is now gone).

Listening to: This Indian singer and composer also helped write the soundtrack for Lord of the Rings.

Bliss: Is there anything quite like sitting and reading with the glow of Christmas tree lights and holiday music in the background? (And perhaps a little something -- eggnog, a bit of chocolate, a cookie -- at your side?)

(We have already covered, East, South, and West.)

I come to the North.
I ask the earth and stones
for wisdom, stability,
and endurance. Absorb from
me all stolid heaviness.

I come to thee seeking growth
and the quiet of thy night.

-- from A Priestess's Litany for a New Day by Grey Cat

When I first started doing yoga in the house in which we currently live (the "lilypad"), I didn't know it, but I was facing North. Always.

Then I got this bright idea that I needed a yoga room. So I moved my mat and DVD's and straps upstairs into what is now my writing and yoga room. But years ago, when this happened, I couldn't stay here. I had to move it all back downstairs.

Then I started taking classes at a studio and that was when it hit me...I was doing yoga facing North -- at the studio and at home. When I experimented with facing other directions, I got antsy and had to turn around.

What was going on? Was I just exhibiting more OCD tendencies than usual?

I don't think so.

Now I can do yoga facing any old direction, but I think when I first started getting serious about my practice, it just so happened that I chose the direction that would most likely contribute to my sense of stability, according to pagan, Celtic, and Native American belief systems.

I learned of this when I found the Priestess's Litany copied at the top of this post, and after a few summers doing this litany in the morning, it seems I am more stable on the inside -- my true North is now in my heart, so to speak.

If you feel the need to work with this direction, here are the pertinent correspondences: North is of the earth; it rules the body, growth, nature, material gain, creativity, money, death, and anything that comes out of or goes back to the dirt; North's time is midnight; its season is winter; its colors are black, brown, green, and white; the angel is Gabriel; the sense is touch; the jewels are rock crystal and salt; the plants include comfrey, grains, barely, ivy; the tree is oak; and the goddesses are Ceres, Demeter, Gaea, Mah, Nephthys, Persephone, Prithivi, Rhea, and Rhiannon.

The Lakota see North as ruling over wisdom and thought; the Celts work with the North to increase the energies of earth, home, and security; and modern Pagans look to the North for wisdom and clarity.

Some questions to get you thinking about this direction and its role in your life:

How often do you move, whether it be from apartment to apartment, house to house, or town to town? Think of the U2 song "Running to Stand Still." Does that speak to you in any way? Are you moving for adventure or are you moving away from something? Do you know what it is you are trying to leave behind?

Do you feel stable in your current home or barely tethered? Do you have roots where you live or are you a perpetual nomad? When was the last time you planted a tree or something that would take years to bear fruit?

Do you commit enough to projects, ideas, and relationships so they also might bear fruit or do you take off before anything has the time to mature? Are you in for the long haul or do you expect immediate results?

Are you grounded and comfortable in your own skin? Do you treat your body with the respect it deserves or are you constantly expecting more or better from it? Do you feed it well? Do you exercise in a healthy way?

In your spiritual life, do you stick to any path long enough to see where it might take you, or have you become so very cafeteria style that you move from one tradition to the next with no breath in between?

This past summer, I went, again, to Lilydale and met with a medium there whom I'd met with before. After experiencing two big deaths, this has been something that has been helpful -- and not because she gives me some airy fairy, pretty picture of my life, but because she seems to have some genuine insight into death.

Anyway, this last time I went she told me that whatever I was doing, it was working. What? I asked her to clarify. I have become so accustomed to trying in my life that I was amazed that I might just have gotten to a point of being.

She repeated, "Whatever you're doing spiritually for yourself? Keep doing it." I didn't need any more from her after that because I knew in my heart that she was telling me the truth, showing me something I already knew but had to become aware of.

All this work on stability, endurance...all this prayer...all this accepting myself...I'm here to tell you that it can finally work. So keep trying. Someday, if not today, someday you will get to just be, and it might not last forever but it sure can feel good while it does.