Thursday, July 31, 2008

RandomBliss: No More Verizon!

Today's Bliss Formula: Though I am writing this at the library on a (cough, cough) inferior computer (I don't think you can imagine how much of an understatement that is), I am still happy to have cancelled our Verizon DSL earlier today. Even though it means we have to wait two weeks to get cable internet installed. Even though it means I will have to take a laptop (that I have to now order) outside our house to another location just to do my daily writing. Verizon is almost completely out of our lives. Horrible, horrible, horrible service. Did I mention that their service is horrible?

So, yes, today, there is no photo. There is no music. But again, there is no Verizon.

Tomorrow things should look much more normal because I'll work on an Apple again. Oh, my beloved Apple!

And all of this trouble just demonstrates to me how much I need a lap top. If only as a back-up. Our current Apple is the gorgeous flat screen iMac, which I love, but I don't think I can throw it on the bike and head to free wireless places with it.

Onto other things...

My class on Tuesday evening at the Whole Foods Co-op went wonderfully. There were 18 people and I feel like they got more than they bargained for. The guy in charge of the night said he felt like it was the best thing they'd done in a long time.

And I feel like I made some converts to the whole idea of car-fee living, but further, I feel like I really got through to them about conscious living and simple living and slower living.

And they are part of the reason I finally stopped fighting the technology today. Normally, I would just go on and on with that sort of thing, getting an ulcer. Well, "normally" meaning how I would have acted even just a year ago.

But I must really be hearing myself. That company was making me unhappy, and instead of fighting them, I just let go and looked for a path with less resistance.

I think this is a lesson for all our life choices. There's no need for "difficult," not really. If something is too difficult, too resistant, maybe there's a reason.

The trick, though, is to stand back and clearly discern where the unnecessary difficulty resides. I mean, I tried for a while to decide that the "universe" was trying to tell me not to blog, to give up on my writing.

When really, seriously, the universe was just pointing out that Verizon sucks!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SharedBliss: Interview with Connie from Dirty Footprints

Connie, creator of lovely, hip grocery bags.

Listening to: A real hip and booty shaker for Connie.

Today's Bliss Formula: I start training for my new library job...in my very own office. How I love having my own space to decorate!


Connie is someone who often comments on this blog. She always has something amazing to share, something insightful, and she is one of those people I feel I know without even meeting her in person, someone with whom I think I share much in common.

When she talked about her hip, cloth grocery bags and why she makes them, I knew she belonged in one of these interviews. And the more I get to know her, the more I know my instincts about her were right.

She is a caring and mindful and working-hard kind of person. She knows that the quality of her life is all about her own choices.

She is truly a blisschick (and her own delightful blog can be found here.)

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

Creativity. This Primary Bliss has lived with me since I was a child. I could escape my reality by simply drawing or painting a better one. Through the years, Creativity has never released her grip on me but rather our dance together has expanded and evolved. I lose all track of time and space when I am creating; it doesn't matter if it is with a paintbrush, crayons, lump of clay, piece of fabric, or with words written by hand in my journal.

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

I love and am completely grateful for the beautiful life I live now and have lived in the past. I have an abundance of blessings in my life. Every choice I have made in the past, either wise or foolish, has led me in the right direction and brought me a more intimate and clearer understanding of my Primary Bliss. The only sacrifice I can think of is sleep. I have spent many evenings lost in painting or writing only to be granted a couple hours of sleep before having to get ready to go to work.

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

I teach. My official job title is "Art Teacher,” but I feel that Art and its elements are only a tiny fraction of what I teach. I focus on cultivating and nurturing Creativity in the individual. I work in a Kindergarten through eighth grade school, where the sad reality is that now, more than ever, children desperately need someone to cultivate and nurture their Creativity. Young people's life-lines to their own Creativity are being numbed by technology, lost in society's fast paced race to nowhere, and devalued in public schools because there is not a paper test attached to the outcome. I strive to provide my students with an environment where they can begin their journey of self awareness and experience the internal rewards of manifesting their own creativity.Along with teaching I use my Creativity, my Primary Bliss, to help Heal Mother Earth. I strongly believe that by simply being more mindful in the most trivial tasks of our existence we can create an enormous impact on our beloved planet. A year ago, I learned how those free plastic bags we receive as parting gifts for shopping were quickly polluting our Earth. I had no idea that they were not biodegradable. Instead, those flimsy little pieces of plastic are photo-degradable--meaning they break down into smaller and smaller toxic pieces, thus contaminating our soil and water. Eventually, we turn around and use that same soil and water to raise and grow the food we put back into our plastic bags and take home. Doesn't make sense to keep mindlessly perpetuating the unhealthy cycle. This bit of knowledge is what fueled me to create my own reusable grocery bags out of cloth. I am on a mission to spread the news about the harm associated with using plastic bags, and to share my own funky, reusable grocery bags with others.

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

First and foremost is Yoga. Yoga has been my best friend, my caretaker, my greatest support, and my biggest challenger in my life. Yoga has taught me incredible things about myself, including my own Creativity. I am truly blessed to practice Yoga and through this practice to meet other wonderful souls traveling on the same path.

Along with Yoga, I find great bliss by simply being in nature. I love hiking, mountain climbing, and camping. I live in Arizona and visit the beautiful Sedona at least once a month. Nature has a wonderful way of realigning the soul, heart, and mind back in the same direction, if needed.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

I practice Yoga daily. This is a constant spiritual practice in my life. My Yoga asanas are always a prayer in action. I also consider the moments I spend creating as meditation. Before I begin in my studio, I have a ritual of lighting a candle or splashing some essential oils in a burner, then I begin.

What music is your bliss?

I adore music, especially the kind that makes me want to move my hips and shake my booty!! I am lucky to live with my partner Hansel who was born and raised in Costa Rica and brings so much Latin music into our home...perfect for hip swaying and booty shaking!

When I'm in my studio I love to listen to Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Beth Orton, Thieverary Corporation, Norah Jones, and Katie Melua.

At night, when I'm in the kitchen cooking, another bliss of mine, I tend to listen to Krishna Das and other sacred chant. This always brings my day to a reflective end. I nourish my body as well as my soul through these two beautiful acts of offering.

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

Reading itself is definitely a bliss. Most of the books I read are on Yoga, Spirituality, Creativity, or travelogues. Every single morning, even when I travel, I read an excerpt from the book "Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga" by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison, and every evening before going to bed, I read an excerpt from "How to Be Happy All the Time" by Paramhansa Yogananda. These two books offer great inspiration and sincere moments for refection.

In my studio, on my night-stand, and on the living room coffee table there is always a book of poetry by the Sufi poet Hafiz. One is always guaranteed a smile when you read any of his poems!
What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?

Do what brings you great joy and you are on the right path.

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

I love quotes. I have them posted all over our home and in my classroom at school, but the one I reflect on each and every day, the one that I have taped to my bathroom mirror is by Deepak Chopra and it says this:

"The life you know is a thin layer of events covering a deeper reality. In the deeper reality, you are part of every event that is happening now, has ever happened, or ever will happen. In the deeper reality, you know absolutely who you are and what your purpose is. There is no confusion or conflict with any other person on earth. Your purpose in life is to help creation to expand and grow. When you look at yourself, you see only love."

I love how Connie talks about Creativity with a capital "C," treating it like the living and breathing entity it really is. I am going to think about this more over the next days and months and see how it changes my own approach to my own creativity -- oops, I mean, "Creativity."

And I respect how Connie takes full responsibility for her beautiful life. Sometimes in our quest to be better, stronger, smarter, "more enlightened," we forget to look around and give ourselves credit.

Thanks, Connie!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

EcoBliss: Car Freedom 101

An orchid from the botanical gardens that looks
just like a bee in the center.


Listening to: A blast from the past.

Today's Bliss Formula: Everything worked out with my new library job, so now I will work Mondays and Fridays only until 3. Lovely schedule for all the writing projects I have stacked up, staring at me, practically growling and showing their teeth from lack of attention.

Tonight I get to teach a class about car freedom at our local organic grocery store. I've never taught this type of material before -- usually I teach creative writing -- but I'm sure it will be fun. I just get so darn nervous beforehand!

So, the class is about making the transition from being completely car dependent to not being car dependent.

I am curious to ask them all why they are there. Is it purely motivated by high gas prices or was that just the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back?

Oh, by the way, yesterday we celebrated our 7th Anniversary of Car Freedom! And this year, I think we will manage to rent a car for the weekend fewer than 6 times, which will be a record for us.

After we all talk about why we are there, I want to go over the three main areas in which cars create ill health.

1. The Planet. This one is obvious. But I am not sure that people think too far beyond the impact of drilling for oil. Or creating a new "fuel." There is so much more to it than this. There is the construction of the car, for one. The toxic chemicals and the waste produced by the construction of one car are phenomenal and look at all the new cars that are made every year.

Then there is the pollution. And think of the heat an automobile produces and gives off. If you drive a hybrid, great, but it still produces heat. And, it still had to be built.

Cars need roads. This is a major area of destruction. All the animal and wildlife displacement is impossible to calculate.

Roads and cars and gasoline are all subsidized by the government, which takes away money from public transportation, education, health.

And of course, drilling for oil, the need for exorbitant amounts of resources creates war.

2. And all of that brings us to: Our Communities. To say that our communities are unfriendly to humans is an understatement. There are places where you can't even find a sidewalk.

The noise.

The crowdedness.

And again, the subsidies that take money from healthier, community building endeavors.

Not least of all, cars create barriers between us. People who don't walk in their neighborhoods, don't notice their neighborhoods. Then they don't feel connected to their neighborhoods and pretty soon, people are moving every few years looking for community. When community is just buzzing by outside their car windows.

3. Which brings us to the third area of ill-health: The Individual.

Why are we obese?

Why are we overly anxious?

Why are we angry and rushed and overbooked and overworked?

So many of these issues are tied into the car.

How many people have to have two incomes, really, to support their car habits?

After we go over all of this, we'll break into groups and write lists of things that we can't manage to do without cars.

The job of the larger group, then, is to debunk these lists.

This is exactly how my Frog and I did this. We listed everything and then challenged ourselves to figure it out.

Then we got on the road (ha!) to being healthier and happier and more involved in our own lives.

Here's the reading list I'll be handing out that is full of statistics for those of you who need that sort of thing:

Divorce Your Car, by Katie Alvord. THE must read. This book looks at every angle of the car issue and supplies all the statistics you could ever want. The amazing part is that the book is over ten years old and the stats were scary then -- so imagine now! Just a quick review of this book reminds me why we do what we do.

The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region, by Wayne Grady. I find that the more you know about your unique geography, the deeper your reasons for doing more to care for the environment.

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, by Jerry Dennis. A man born and raised in Michigan, an environmentalist, and a writer, Jerry Dennis helps to crew a tall ship from Lake Michigan to New York Harbor and on the way explores the geography and history of each Great Lake.

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life, by Chris Balish. A more recent look at car freedom.

Every Woman's Guide to Cycling
, by Selene Yeager. A good guide to getting started on a bicycle if it has been a while!

Pedal Power: The Quiet Rise of the Bicycle in American Public Life
, by J. Harry Wray.

Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100
, by Roy M. Wallack.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

InnerBliss: The Habit of Anxiety

The first of many photos from my recent
day trip to Buffalo.

Listening to: I like the bass line in this song and the overall nerd-factor of this band.

Today's Bliss Formula: I am at the library and will be speaking to someone today about changing my per diem job. I'll stay a per diem, which I prefer, but I'll get a really regular schedule. YAY! for routines -- much better for my creative endeavors.

This weekend, I had a bit of an anxiety freakout. Over technology of all things. Internet problems -- and I'm sure I needn't say more!

Even though the problem was fairly serious -- I count on being online for a lot of work I do -- my freakout still seemed disproportionate. I mean, it made me cry, and I am not the crying sort.

So I knew there was more to it than the problem at hand. I knew it had to be coming from elsewhere.

I figured it out. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I lost a very dear cat this past January after a long illness, and that that illness was preceded by the loss of another dear cat, who had also been ill.

All in all, I would say that we had been living with this stress -- caring for a sick loved one on a day to day basis, never knowing what each hour would bring -- for over two years.

Our bodies got used to living with all that adrenaline in our muscles, and as evidenced from my weekend, it became a habit that I now will have to work to get rid of.

I barely know where to begin. But I do. That's a story that I tell myself when I am feeling overwhelmed like I was this weekend -- that I don't know how to fix it, how to feel better. What a load!

Here are some things I know I have to do. And I have to do them every single day or close to it. I've written about this before -- that to feel better, to feel good is a choice in life, and it's a choice that is made from one hour, from one minute to the next.

1. Yoga. I've been telling myself that in the summer daily yoga is not only not necessary but not possible. There are so many things to do besides being inside doing yoga: gardening, sitting and watching birds, riding my bike. But there's no excuse. Yoga maintains both my physical and emotional balance. Period.

2. Music. In the summer, I often have all our windows open and so don't turn on music. I enjoy the silence and the birds and the wind. But music is so important to my sense of serenity. And with that...

3. Singing. Chanting. The vibrations this produces in your body is happy-inducing.

4. Journaling. With all the blogging and other writing, I'm not journaling. This one is big! To just pour stuff out, to dig deeper, to sit with my thoughts or the forming of thoughts for longer than fifteen minutes. To write something not for public consumption. Not only is this good for my mind, but it does end up helping to feed my other creativity.

5. Sitting. Not watching birds, but watching breath. Lighting a candle, setting an intention, and being very still. Summer can be all about speed and we need to be slower every day -- all year long.

So that's what I'll try to integrate into my days from now on. It's about paying attention. And after the last two years we've had, it's more important than ever.

If you have any other suggestions, I would certainly appreciate them.

MysticBliss: Which Door Will You Choose?

Sit, have some pink lemonade.

Listening to: I think I was obligated to choose this -- another of my favorite male voices.

Today's Bliss Formula: A properly lazy Sunday with Frog. Weather permitting, a bike ride to the water seems to be called for. And some reading and bird watching. Perhaps, if we feel very ambitious, we will pull a few weeds -- but no more, just a few.

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before.

--Joseph Campbell

I'll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door; if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.

--Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.

--Emily Dickinson

I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door - or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.


--Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday, July 26, 2008

BardBliss: Talisman

We waited many years for this
trumpet vine to finally flower.


Listening to: One of my favorite male voices on the planet.

Today's Bliss Formula: Some trips today to garden stores. Time to fill in some holes in the garden. Time to plant some new trees. Time to prepare for a new pond next spring!

Talisman

There are moments when I allow myself
to indulge in a fantasy where I run away.
It’s always the same.

I would head somewhere warm
like the south of France or Spain,
anywhere I can wear sandals and
short pants almost all year.
I have a bike with a basket,
a small cottage, and gardens
that feed and flower twelve months.

The strangeness of the place,
the distance from where I
now am, the sun, the blueness,
the salt in the air; finally, all of this,
would be enough to rot
this umbilical cord of fear
that trips me up, that keeps
me tied down.

It would rot and I could
easily slice it
with an old kitchen knife.
I would plant its remains
under the tomatoes
and bandage my belly button,
rubbing it with lotion
while it scabbed over,
until, on its own, it fell off.

Then I would place
that scab, that final piece
of you, in a jar on my writing
table, so as not to forget,
a talisman, a source for poems,
stories that must be told,
but no longer a source of pain,
no longer allowing
your blood to boil
in mine.

--christine c. reed

Friday, July 25, 2008

BlissQuest: Trying New Religions

I plant begonias in honor of a very special great aunt.

Listening to: An obvious choice.

Today's Bliss Formula: On my way to Buffalo for the day to take lots and lots of pictures and hopefully eat some yummy food. I think I found some awesome places to photograph. Exciting.

I don't know about you, but I think I've tried just about every religion out there.

This obsession with finding some form of perfection (which is impossible, I know) started when I was quite young. I was raised basically with nothing and so went searching for something.

But I don't know...I think I would have been like this no matter what my house had been like. I know plenty of people who were raised with one thing and still turned into seekers. Perhaps we are all destined to walk the path of seeker if we are at all inquisitive and curious.

At this point in my life, I tell people I am a "ReluctantCatholic Yogi who believes in Magic."

The catholic thing is something I knew I wanted to be a part of since I was about eleven. It just is what it is. I'm not very welcome in that church since I'm a lesbian, but I know there is more to it in terms of mysticism and important ritual so I try to overlook the fact that I am, technically, "uninvited." I don't go to Mass very often but I have personal practices that I am devoted to.

The yogi thing is obvious and I am thankful that I found yoga about 14 years ago. I am even more thankful that I found Kundalini Yoga about 7 years ago.

Magic...I don't mean the casting of spells. I just believe that we are infinitely powerful beings capable of creating our worlds. So maybe I do mean casting spells -- just not the dancing naked under the moon kind.

A large part of my searching has taken place in libraries, but I've also been a visitor to all sorts of churches, and at one point, I took a year long class at a local reform temple. I've also had sessions with spiritualists -- that was a huge leap for me!

For BlissQuest today, I thought it would be fun to dare you again.

I dare you to try something new. Take a friend if that makes you feel more comfortable.

But go somewhere you've never been before. Go to a Temple service or find a Mosque. There are all sorts of pagan circles, find one. A simple phone call can confirm that they welcome guests.

The important thing is to take our searching out of books and into the real world. We'll never know what works for us if we don't experience it first hand.

Or maybe you have recently tried something new -- I would love to hear about it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

RandomBliss: A Speaking Engagement

This is just a brief note for readers out there who are more local.

I'll be speaking this coming Tuesday, July 29th at 6:30 PM at the Whole Foods Cooperative here in Erie.

My topic will be: Divorce Your Car: Creating Your Escape Plan from the Auto Culture.

More than speaking, I'll be facilitating activities designed to help you live outside the box.

It would be wonderful to see some of you there!

There is no fee but the Co-op would love it if you would call and make a reservation (though that is not completely necessary). Their phone number is (814) 456-0282.

RandomBliss: Powerful Poetic Practices

A bouquet for a book release party.

Listening to: Something Persian.

Today's Bliss Formula: A storm last night and now things are freshened. And though my internet has been intermittent, at least I'm online. Tomorrow a fun day out of town with a friend to some places (tease, tease) where I will take many, many photos.

Not too long ago, an author and poetry mentor, who has taught at Bennington College and Kripalu Yoga Center (big stuff, that), approached me about previewing his book and then offering it to my readers with some awesome gifts -- along with DailyOm and Deepak Chopra and all these other big wigs.

I thought, “What?! Little me!?” But he was serious.

And I got a package in the mail that said “Reviewer: Blog” from Simon & Schuster, and I have to say, that was a giggle-inducing moment right there!

The internet is an amazing thing...

Anyway, the book rocks (and I’m so not getting anything to say that!), and it completely parallels everything we talk about here at Blisschick -- especially the idea that you change your life into your dream-life by making changes in your heart and your spirit.

The book is Poetry as Spiritual Practice: Reading, Writing, and Using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions, by poetry mentor and renowned teacher, Robert McDowell.

As a creative writing teacher myself, I am a big proponent of using poetry in your life to make these kinds of changes -- whether it be by reading poetry or writing it yourself.


As I’ve written here before, haiku helped me through depression.

Haiku is not the only form I personally use, as you know if you’ve read Saturday’s posts, “BardBliss.”

If you’re looking for exercises to awaken your creativity or to challenge your poetry practice, this book is totally packed with them.

I also, from the beginning of Blisschick, have been frequently quoting Rumi. Here’s a guy who, 800 years ago, had an awakening, which he then went on to share with millions through creating and sharing his heart-changing poetry -- which has, in turn, awakened so many of us to this day.

Robert’s book embodies Rumi’s realizations and offers you opportunities (and awesome bonus gifts from more than 80 bestselling authors and guides) you’ve never had before!

To receive this offer, go to http://www.poetryasspiritualpractice.com/promotion now!

Here are some of the reviews of the book from people a little more famous than me (HA!):

“In the way that Rumi allowed us to touch the heart of our soul, Robert McDowell shows you how to easily create poetry that can propel your spiritual journey beyond normal reality into cherished mystic realms.”

--Denise Linn, author of Sacred Space and The Secret Language of Signs

“Reading this lovely guide awakens in you a deeper appreciation for poetry and messages of the Spirit. It communicates a poet's soul—and helps you articulate that deep place of truth for yourself.”

--Caroline Myss, author of Entering the Castle and Anatomy of the Spirit

“Poetry exposes me to a different way of experiencing the world. When I read Poetry as Spiritual Practice I instantly translated the poems into pictures. I can see fields of grain or rain in Autumn. It is fascinating to see all the patterns and rhymes that can be woven into language. I always enjoy learning about the different ways that other people think of and experience the world.”

--Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures

TAKE ACTION NOW! TREAT YOURSELF!

Go to http://www.poetryasspiritualpractice.com/promotion
To order the book and also receive a cornucopia of bonus gifts worth thousands of dollars from more than 80 bestselling authors, artists, teachers, mentors, coaches, and spirit guides!

“At the same time that Robert McDowell is teaching us to approach the reading and writing of poems as acts of prayer in his brilliantly insightful book, Poetry as Spiritual Practice, he is quietly doing another astonishing thing: creating community. McDowell’s exercises at the end of each chapter liberate poetry from a solitary contemplative practice to a collective celebration of the sacred. I will share this book with everyone I love.”

—Mirabai Starr, author of new translations of Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross and The Interior Castle and The Book of My Life by Teresa of Avila


Go on...Get your poetry on...I dare you!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

SharedBliss: Interview with Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau at his World
Domination Headquarters in Seattle.


Listening to: A song Chris said he was listening to while running in Warsaw -- for exercise, that is.

Today's Bliss Formula: My only work hours at the library this week. So I'll be biking here again, which is an excellent start to any day. I'll take my lunch out by the water and read more of this, a wonderful collection of stories that, so far, centers around the author's usual theme of displacement.

Chris Guillebeau is just 30 years old and has visited 88 of 198 countries (and plans on finishing with the rest in the next five years), lived for four years on a floating hospital (with his wife*), helping to provide medical services to some of the poorest spots on this planet (for the full story, go here), has completed his Master's degree in International Studies, and is now preparing to take over the world! (Insert evil laugh here.)

Which you believe he is capable of accomplishing after spending a bit of time getting to know him. And not only do you believe he is capable but somehow that idea doesn't seem so bad -- sure he's an intelligent guy (an attribute I'm kinda partial to in my world leaders, cough cough), but more importantly, he's compassionate.

Besides, he doesn't want to take over the world all by his lonesome. No, he would like you (and me) to join him.

Chris believes -- like we do here at Blisschick -- that we are all on this planet to do so much more than what the conformists of the world (his term) want us to believe. We are here not only to find our unique purpose and live it but then to live it in a way that shares it with others.

Thus the name of his blog -- the Art of Nonconformity -- and the driving thesis of his free, downloadable manual, A Brief Guide to World Domination.

(*You can see what Chris' wife Jolie is up to right here.)

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

I don’t usually think in terms of bliss per se. For some people, these may be synonyms, but for me, I think in terms of purpose and life meaning.

My purpose and life meaning is to live a life of adventure, focused on achieving my own significant, personal goals while simultaneously improving the lives of others. Specifically, the individual goal I am most focused on right now is visiting every country in the world. My current focus on helping others is through writing, teaching, and working with groups. In its ideal form, my writing is a practice that fuses both of these focal points together.

I’ve learned that I do my best work when I change major life activities every two to three years. For this season, I am focusing on building up the site readership and preparing to write a book that further expands my ideas.

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

That is an excellent question and goes straight to the heart of lifestyle design. If you want to create the life of your dreams, a life that has a huge impact on others, or both, you have to be able to make hard choices and eliminate some other things that would otherwise hold you back.

I’ve never had a real job, which in many ways is part of my identity, but in other ways, it means that I don’t have a stable income. I have also gone without health insurance for several years (although I do have that now) and given up the chance to go to a graduate program so I could focus on writing.

In return, of course, I’ve received much, much more joy than I ever would have in following a more traditional path, and I have no regrets.

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

I can’t say I’m there yet, but what I’m searching for is a total convergence of life, work, community, and general interests. What I mean is that I tend to reject the current fad of Life / Work balance. While it is certainly better than a life focused entirely on work we don’t enjoy, in the end, I don’t think it goes far enough.

I’m interested in creating work that I enjoy so much that I don’t think of it as work. And at the same time, I’m planning on having all kinds of fun adventures that are part of my work life as well. It’s a work in progress. :)

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

I lose track of time while listening to good music on my iPod, going on long runs through Seattle, and of course, through my world travels. The travel is not always easy, but in the end, I almost always judge it to be a huge part of what I am supposed to do.


What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

I am a non-denominational Christian, so I usually attend church services about three times a month. I don’t think of church attendance as my only spiritual practice, though. The habit of living with gratitude and focusing on others is far more important, in my opinion.

What music is your bliss?

That’s a great question. I used to listen to a lot of jazz, mostly from the 1960s bebop era. My favorite jazz musicians are Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, and Charles Mingus. Lately, I’ve been listening to more contemporary music, people like Marc Cohn, Paula Cole, and Jason Mraz. Anyone who writes music about purpose (or bliss, to use your term), I’m usually up for listening to.

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

Fiction writers I like include Haruki Murakami, Kazou Ishiguro, and Ann Patchett. I also like Jonathan Franzen and John Irving, but they tend to write works that are a bit depressing at times.

I read a couple of non-fiction books a month, on all kinds of different subjects. I like so many it’s hard to single a few out, but I do think everyone interested in life design should check out the classics Wishcraft, Getting Things Done, Good to Great, and Finding Your Own North Star.

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

I’d like to say something like ‘be patient, it will come.’ But I don’t really believe that’s true, because a lot of people never really discover what they’re good at or even what they love to do. If someone feels like they haven’t found their purpose (passion, bliss, etc.), that’s probably a good thing, because they realize that something’s missing. Once you start longing for something more in your life, that’s when you have to start making some of the choices and sacrifices we discussed earlier. If you are willing to work for it, it will totally come to you, but I don’t believe it will happen on its own.

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

I have a lot of them, but here’s one I’ve been pondering recently:

“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.” That’s from Adlai Stevenson, who certainly understood both progress and unpopularity.

My all-time favorite is probably from Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is this: ‘What are you doing for others?'”

The first major thing that struck me in this interview was Chris' comment about his need to change his focus every few years.

So many of us are afraid that this means something negative about us -- that we are afraid to commit, that we are too all over the place, that we are jacks of all trades and masters of none. And yet, we are not meant to live in boxes, to be cogs in a machine. The advent of the factory, I think, is what developed this idea most strongly most recently. The idea that in order to be a successful human, you have to specialize. (Yuck! That word!)

In fact, I think it's historically been thought of as quite the opposite. The concept of the Renaissance Man comes to mind. And the most successful people before that -- i.e., those who survived -- were people who could do many, many things well -- farm, build, sew, hunt, etc.

So perhaps more people living like Chris (and many of us) is a sign that we are headed back, pre-Henry Ford, to a time when a well-rounded person was thought of most highly. This makes me happy.

And I also like Chris' no-nonsense approach to finding your bliss -- you have to look for it! Like I try to emphasize, this is work in and of itself. You won't get a magical package delivered to your door one day with all the answers and explicit instructions inside. You have to put that package together for yourself, and it can be hard...but as Chris' example proves so well, it is totally worth it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

EcoBliss: Revolution = One + One + One...

One of my bikes at nearby park.

Listening to: Especially for today.

Today's Bliss Formula: OYE. Internet troubles yet again. So just to be working online is a sort of bliss. I think I need to start lighting candles to the Internet Gods or something. Though I'm quite certain I'm not alone in this.

I’ve written about this before. And I’ll write about it again, I’m sure. Because it’s that important and it needs to be said until we all really hear it.

I’m talking about the power of the individual.

I’m talking about real revolution. The kind that happens in your heart and your mind and affects every one of your daily actions and then ripples out to touch all those around you.

Like my banner says, “Be the change. Live your bliss.”

Some people find this idea simplistic but it’s the most complicated and difficult of all ideas because it means taking personal responsibility for all that you hate about this world, all that you find wrong with it.

It means that you are no longer allowed to sit around complaining and pointing and blaming.

You are no longer allowed to dwell on the numbers and how they are stacked against us.

You are no longer allowed to grieve things that have not happened yet.

You are no longer allowed to martyr your life to “good causes,” because you are the only good cause you have any control over.

Your new job is to be happy.

Your new job is to live the life of your dreams.

Your new job is to be a good example for those around you who keep saying “no” to life.

Your new job is to evaluate all your rules and figure out where they come from and decide if you still need them.

Your new job is to weed out the hypocrisy growing in your own garden.

For example, if you hate the wars we perpetrate on others because of resources and you hate this government administration, why are you still buying gas for your car? Why aren’t you walking? Why are you still a two car family?

If you hate how we over-consume, why are you still buying? What hole are you trying to fill?

If you hate the abuse of small children in Chinese sweatshops, what are you doing about the abuse of small children right next door? Do you turn your eyes away when you see someone being cruel to or screaming at a child?

If you hate that our drinking water is being poisoned, why are you still ordering your ChemLawn?

If you hate all the crap your kids are exposed to on TV, why is there still one in your home?

In the song, I link to above, John Lennon sings:

You tell me it's the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead

Again, does that sound simple?

Then you don’t get it.

Ask the Dalai Lama how “simple” it is. After a lifetime of loving kindness meditation, this is a man who still thinks he is a faulted human who has much to learn about compassion.

All the bad stuff “out there” that we all hate? It’s all about us. It’s all our doing.

It’s also all our un-doing, and the more of use who believe this, the closer we get to a turnaround.

One + One + One...and on and on and on...

And it really will be all right.

Monday, July 21, 2008

InnerBliss: A Near Death Experience

A silly Zoe picture for a not-so-silly topic.

Listening to: Dude's wearing rabbit ears during this song. Perfect.

Today's Bliss Formula: Ocean blue bands on my braces (and no pain -- yet). More of the Kitten's cherry pie from yesterday. A breeze that is a relief in this humidity. A coming week filled with exciting posts (I hope you agree) and activities.

For we are only the rind and the leaf.

The great death, that each of us carries inside,
is the fruit.

Everything enfolds it.

--Rilke, Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

Death is our wedding with eternity.

--Rumi, Sufi Mystic

The night kissed the fading day
With a whisper.
"I am death, your mother,
From me you will get new birth."

--Rabindranath Tagore, Bengali poet

A fear of death has followed me like a menacing shadow since my youth. Looming over everything I did, making me fearful of life itself.

There are as many reasons for fear of death as there are people on this planet, but there are two that seem to be at the base of these fears.

First, and most obviously, there is the fear of the unknown.

Second, and not as obvious, is the fact that so many people are not fully living, are not really living the life they desire, and so they fear the end because they have not begun.

Once you are fully living, the fear of death is almost obliterated because you can say, yes, if I were to die today, it would be okay -- because I'm loving and laughing and experiencing and using my gifts and sharing myself...if you can say all of that at the end of the day, you are getting somewhere.

Think about it: if you had six months to live, what would you do?

This is a popular question right now with films like The Bucket List out there.

But I think we tend to approach the answer incorrectly, writing lists filled with adventure -- lots of show but no real substance.

The real point of this question is to be able to say, "Well, I would do what I am doing right now."

I have gotten to the point -- after many years of hard work -- where I can say that. And it is truly liberating.

But not completely. Yes, I am living fully but there's still that fear of the unknown.

And yet...

It has taken me even more years to come to terms with and completely understand a memory from when I was seven years old.

I was swimming at an adult public pool with no adult supervision. My mother preferred to stay with my little sister at the kiddie pool. I was small -- you couldn't see me above the edge of this giant, olympic sized pool -- but I was a good swimmer.

Being a good swimmer doesn't matter if someone dives on top of your head.

The next thing in my memory is me ... watching myself from a distance.

Me thinking how pretty my body looked turning like that under the water.

Me thinking how beautiful my body looked surrounded by all those bubbles.

Me feeling so at peace.

Someone pulled me out (obviously) and got me breathing again (obviously) but I was only concerned that no one tell my mother. I loved swimming that much.

I still do.

It took me until I was in college -- carrying that memory around so clearly for those years -- to realize that I had experienced a classic near death.

It took me until recently to fully integrate the knowledge of that into my spiritual and emotional life.

I have nothing to fear.

I have NOTHING to fear.

If fear of death is the greatest fear and I have personal experience that something beautiful is waiting for us, then I have nothing to fear.

Think about what that feels like -- to know there is nothing in this world besides our own minds to fear. To know that loved ones may leave their skin suits but they are not gone.

To know that we are eternal. (And this knowledge is not associated with or dependent on any particular religious doctrine.)

We may change; our consciousness may alter; we may become part of something else; but we are never gone.

I had a difficult life. I think most readers understand that. And I believe with all my heart that I was given this experience so that I might know there was more.

When I was eight -- only a year later -- I had a moment when I realized that the people around me were crazy but that I was not and that I might be sad for a long time but that I would be okay.

I always have wondered where that mature thinking came from. How was I able, at such a young age, to separate myself from the darkness around me?

After figuring out the meaning of my near death, I had that piece of my puzzle too. I knew, from experience, that this life, this moment was not it. That more and bigger and better and mysterious and mystical lay somewhere, waiting for me. That we come from beauty and love and return to it.

And so nothing can really harm us. Not really. Bad things happen, yes, but at our core we are capable of handling anything -- if only we focus on the love and the light. If only we focus on our true identity.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

MysticBliss: The Light of Hagia Sophia

Our friend, the Kitten, had us over for movies and martinis...
oh...and a little bit of food!

Listening to: A lovely scene from one of the films we watched -- wait for the brass.

Today's Bliss Formula: The Kitten sent us home with a completely-made-from-scratch cherry pie (she even had just picked the cherries), and we ate some for breakfast! How decadent! And for the geeks out there, we are watching the first two episodes of Stargate Atlantis, season five tonight! WOOT!

From Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, edited by Kathleen Deignan:

Perhaps Sophia is the unknown, the dark, the nameless Ousia*.
Perhaps she is even the Divine Nature...
And perhaps she is in infinite light unmanifest,
not even waiting to be known as Light. This I do not know.
Out of the silence Light is spoken.
We do not hear it or see it until it is spoken.

(Ousia: Greek for being or substance. Feminine.)

and

In the Nameless Beginning, without Beginning, was the Light.
We have not seen this Beginning. I do not know where she is,
in this Beginning. I do not speak of her as a Beginning,
but as a manifestation.

Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, is always portrayed as feminine, female, and as having existed before or simultaneously with the male God.

Yin and Yang.

Light and Dark.

And thus my continued attraction to, need for a bit of Catholicism in my life: Mary as the most perfect human manifestation of Holy Wisdom, herself female.

Herself the light.

And thus I am light. As are you.

In Buddhism, they refer to this as our Ground Luminosity.

Sit with this idea. Listen for your inner light (as the Quakers would say).

Where is it guiding you?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

BardBliss: Flood

Lotus Bun by Marcy Hall

Listening to: I love the seemingly simple construction of their songs.

Today's Bliss Formula: A neighbor-friend finally got a new job that is more appropriate for his skill and experience levels. What a relief! Another neighbor-friend should be receiving his new Apple laptop today and I get to help set it up! Woot! A chipmunk was actually lounging near me and starring at me, and then a wren hopped over to my feet as I sat outside this morning with first-espresso.

Flood

It is with great anxiety
and humility that I hope
for the right balance
of sun and rain.

Unlike a farmer, my life
does not depend on the whimsy
of mother nature, but
I feel the same pain
when the vegetables do not
produce, the same joy
when we eat from the work
of our own hands.

The weight, the size
of my pain and joy
are what differs.
And so when I am able
to distract drought with my
garden hose, I pity
the farmer who can only
wring his hands in disgust.

But neither of us
can stop the downpours
and the inevitable drownings,
the root rot, the water-filled
fruits of no flavor.
In the rains, we are
in the same boat.

--christine c. reed

Friday, July 18, 2008

BlissQuest: Setting Fire to the Old You

The moon is so hard to capture on film, but she
was too amazing to resist, so please bear with the bit of blur.

Listening to: Something with candles.

Today's Bliss Formula: Frog is home today, painting in the room next to this one as I write. Today's high is predicted to be 92 and so my main goal is to barely move so as not to overheat and thereby over-grouch. I am a cooler weather animal, to be sure.

The full moon is traditionally seen as a time to let go, clean out, get rid of, finish up, so it's a perfect time to burn away whatever is standing in the way of your best self and allow the phoenix that is your ArtistWarrior to rise from the ashes.

This full moon is the Blessing Moon. Its correspondences include:

Herbs: honeysuckle, agrimony, lemon balm, hyssop;

Colors: silver, blue-gray;

Flowers: lotus, water lily, jasmine;

Scents: orris, frankincense;

Stones: pearl, moonstone, white agate;

Deities: Athene, Juno, Hel, Cerridwen, Venus.

(All taken from Moon Magick by D.J. Conway.)

This month in Japan, they celebrate O-Bon or Festival of Lanterns. This festival honors the dead. They decorate altars and shrines and light lanterns in the gardens to illuminate the pathways so that the dead can join their families for the festival.

A few years ago, I made a huge change in my life that was at once symbolic and actual, at once about dying and living: I changed my last name.

To do this in Pennsylvania, you file papers, announce it to the world, and end up standing before a judge in Orphan's Court, which I found to be funny, ironic, and sad all at the same time.

On the first anniversary of this momentous and life-affirming and self-affirming act, I decided I needed to create a ritual of my own to mark the occasion. The year anniversary seemed perfect, since they say it takes a year for grief and mourning to move to the levels that allow for any growth.

So I would be marking the year it had taken to get used to this new self while mourning the old.

I decided a fire ceremony was in order. And the anniversary fell on the three day full moon period.

I did this by myself. I think that is rather important.

I spent all day preparing. I went to a local herb store and got a smudge stick to cleanse myself and the area before I burned some papers and notes. I purchased candles for a bath to be taken after. And I got herbs to make a homemade bath scent.

I got my fire roaring in our outdoor chiminea and sat and meditated for a while on what I was doing and why. I used the smudge stick and threw the rest of it into the flames. One by one, I placed the items I was burning into the fire and waited until it was completely gone before moving onto the next.

These are just ideas. It doesn't have to be complicated. Light a candle in a pot and burn a paper if you don't want or need to go to more trouble.

On that paper, you could write or draw:

--what is standing in your way;

--a memory that you are unhealthily attached to;

--the name of someone who was a negative influence in your life;

--an old goal that now is out of sync with who you are discovering yourself to be;

--a list of the traits that you have over-identified with which are not true, like "lazy" or "fat" or "stupid" or "underachiever;"

--hurdles that seem too high, like "no money" or "not enough time" or "too few ideas."

Once you are finished with your ceremony, leave the fire or candle (in a safe way) to burn through the night. Perhaps the next day you could do something with the ashes or the leftover wax.

The most important step is to reaffirm what you have let go of, remember every day that you are allowing for the new you. Watch for falling back into old habits. You could light a candle every night for 40 days (a traditional length of time for many traditions' retreats) and go over in your mind what you have burned away.

Also, imagine the ArtistWarrior rising up out of the old. Imagine what that ArtistWarrior looks like, acts like. Get into the details. Write it all down.

And then do it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

RandomBliss: Biking on the Bay

The path along which I ride to the go the library.
To the left is the water of the bay.

Listening to: Something to calm me after a morning of Internet service hell!

Today's Bliss Formula: That I am finally writing this post. That things seem to be working. Today it will be extra important to be outside after fighting with, getting beaten up by technology.

I am a Great Lakes Girl.

For a long time, when I thought my bliss resided outside of me, I looked for somewhere cooler, hipper to move. I would drag my partner, Frog, all over, visiting places only to come home and realize I couldn't leave.

It took me years to stop the pretense of researching and traveling and finding reasons not to like other places. (I have moved a lot in my life -- but all before I was 22 and I don't want to move anymore. For more on the idea of having roots, go here.)

It took me years to realize that I am a Great Lakes Girl.

Lake Erie is literally and metaphorically and spiritually my true north.

When we are sitting out back, gazing upon our yard, we are looking toward the lake.

Another shot of the bay. To the right is a small tower
(not so small up close) and right there is the library.

I love this lake all times of the year.

The summer is beautiful, obviously, especially since we have a peninsula with sand beaches.

But the winter...the winter is amazing. When the peninsula is so quiet and frozen over and the trees look like glass sculpture. So barren, almost ghostly, but breathtaking.

Just to immerse my feet in the water during the warm weather is enough to make me feel completely connected. For a poem about this, go here.

Just to stand at her edge when she has a frozen skin, stand in the quiet and hear the very slow and sluggish movement of her beneath the blue-green covering. It is like she is breathing, like she is breathing me.

The line of trees is the peninsula, beyond that is the lake.
The tiny dot in the upper right-hand part of this picture is
a Great Blue Heron.

If you've never seen a Great Lake, imagine the ocean. There is no land to be seen on the other side. It is immense.

But different from the ocean. Where I think of the ocean as potentially deadly, I see the lake as a nurturing mother.

And you can feel the peace of her as soon as you are near. I feel her, now, sitting in this orange room atop our brick house.

When I saw pictures of the town I am from in the Black Forest of Germany, it was a town on a large lake.

And I wonder, as Frank MacEowen does in his book The Mist-Filled Path, what does this mean? What does it mean to be a person of the water?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

SharedBliss: Interview with Just Breathe's Nadine Fawell

A bit of a mischievously grinning yoga teacher!
(As I think they should be!)

Listening to: Not the exact country, but this genius of a singer/songwriter hails from the same part of the globe that is Nadine's new home.

Today's Bliss Formula: A ride along the bluff to the library today. I get to work the reference desk! I like that very much. Oh! And I'm going to start writing for another blog periodically -- I'll let you all know when and what and where some time very soon.

Yoga-specific blogs are some of my favorites. They are often written by teachers, who are supremely conscious of the energies that they put out into the world. So, yoga-teacher blogs tend to be uplifting and encouraging and inspirational. Just my thing.

And Just Breathe: The Yogamad Blog is one of my top five favorites, easily.

Written by Nadine Fawell, it's informative but not pedantic. And Nadine is never afraid to be vulnerable as a teacher, to show she makes mistakes too, gets caught up in trifles like the rest of us, and is susceptible to the same foibles as her students. It makes her endearing, to say the least.

To see some really great photos of her time at a yoga school in India, go here.

Recently, Nadine has made a big move in her life -- literally. She moved from South Africa to Melbourne, Australia. Without ever having visited. She points out that her yoga practice is what gave her the equanimity to be able to handle this.

She moved, because "I have lost faith in the future in South Africa: every day the news tells us more horror stories of violence, crime, mayhem and corruption. The politicians I thought were trustworthy turn out to be just as bad as all the rest, and our infrastructure is crumbling. Worst of all, I have lost faith that my vote will actually make any difference to all of this."

For the full entry regarding her choice, go here.

If you spend some time on Nadine's blog, you'll know that this decision was beyond difficult, that she is not someone who typically "loses faith."

Quite the opposite, Nadine is someone (it seems to me) who is constantly looking for that silver lining ... or at least a way to create it.

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

Oh, it's yoga! I knew this was it from the first yoga class I took as an overweight, depressed, purposeless 20-something. It was like coming home.

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

I have been very lucky. My yoga career evolved mostly on its own; I wanted to teach full-time but didn't think I could make a living from it. By word of mouth, I built up a practice that more than covered my financial needs and for that I am grateful. That said, I live fairly modestly, making the choice to live in this way so that I can do work I love. I have just moved from South Africa to Melbourne, Australia and now find myself having to build up a business from scratch. It's going to be an interesting few months!

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

Yoga is what keeps me centered and pain-free, and it is why I can negotiate huge changes like moving to a country I have never visited with a fair degree of equanimity. I say fair, not total! I find that strangers will often come up to me and tell me I have a nice smile. Apparently, I smile randomly at strangers quite a bit. That's gotta be good, right?

My love of yoga is why I teach it, and I love to see the deep and amazing transformations yoga can nurture in people.

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

Mmm. Reading, as long as the book is well written and not too riddled with spelling or punctuation mistakes. Knitting. Walking under trees.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Every day, I practice asana. I have been attending lots of classes lately, but I find that in order for a practice to link me to the divine, it is best to be alone, at the start of the day, in silence. After my physical practice, there is some breathing, some quiet reflection. I am also fond of chanting and ritual, but these are not as fixed in my routine. They come and go as I need them.

What music is your bliss?

The sound of wind in the trees. Failing that, I like Jai Uttal, Ben Leinbach, that sort of thing.

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

TKV Desikachar, Mark Whitwell, Ann Behrend (my teacher in South Africa), Kahlil Gibran

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

Keep looking! You never know when it will click that this is it, but if you don't try new things, you don't give yourself a chance to find out.

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

It's not a yoga quote - it's the Nike catch-phrase: Just do it.

Fears hold so many of us back from what we could be doing, feeling, enjoying. It is my experience that action cures fear.

Nadine in a truly Blisschick approved (where'd she get
that bag!?) outfit in her new home city.

As you can see, Nadine exhibits both flexibility and fearlessness in life and in yoga. If she feels the need for chant, she chants; if she feels the call to move across the globe, she moves. She responds, it seems, day to day as if she were new -- not stuck.

A good role-model, I would say.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

EcoBliss: Rock Magic

A collection of purchased gems and rocks from our lake.

Listening to: This would have been popular when I was around 3, and then by the time I got to high school, they were so schmarmy. But now...I'm a sucker for a good brass section.

Today's Bliss Formula: Such a perfect summer for a heat-hater! Today, I think, a bike ride is in order. And it's time to replant some of the lettuce beds to keep our rabbit in home grown lettuce well into the fall.

When I was little, I was friends with a girl who adored rocks. She had boxes and jars of rocks in her otherwise lacy, girly bedroom. And when I visited, she would pull them out and show me rock after rock, remembering with fondness where she found each one.

I thought, "God! They're just rocks!"

I tolerated this rock-love because she was so fun otherwise.

It turns out that my partner, Frog, was one of those little girls who collected rocks with a passion, everywhere she went picking up a new find. So when I told her of my friend's vast collection, she simply drooled -- though it was meant to be a funny story!

And now I'm a rock girl. Oh my, how did this happen?

It happened the same way my love of trees and the night sky and the birds happened -- I started to notice the details of all the beauty around me. I started wondering exactly what bird and what tree that was. I started looking at sky charts.

And I started noticing that below my feet, glistening under the sun-dappled water, there lay a collection of jewels.

I started noticing that even when I took them home, after they had dried, they still smelled of the lake.

In the winter, when I wasn't getting to the lake, I felt like I had a bit of her in my orange writing room, resting on the top shelf of my half-wall book shelves. When I turned on the small lamp above them, they glittered.

Then I started putting them in a large fish bowl and filling that water just to see that summer shine at all times of the year.

All of this and I finally realized the power of rocks -- these bits of specific earth we can carry around in our pockets, in our bags with our journals. Bits of beach I could lay next to Kuan Yin or in front of a cat's picture.

Grounding. These rocks taught me how grounded in this place I am. When we dig for a plant in the back yard and find a rock with a shell embedded in it, we are reminded that the lake that is now 2 miles north of us used to cover where our house now stands.

Suddenly geology was magical. And this led, finally, to my own use of them as talismen, my discovery that each one contains a bit of specific magic -- just like it comes from a specific place.

Here's a little sampling of rock magic. No need to take it seriously; I see it as play -- play being the most magical activity of all.

Amazonite and pink calcite and hematite are good for centering yourself.

Jasper is a blessing stone.

Carnelian and lapis lazuli and moonstone increase and support creativity.

For energy, carry around quartz or tigereye or tourmaline.

Speaking of grounding, try onyx or peridot.

To get insight into a situation, get some emerald or tanzanite.

Amber and garnet help with manifesting your dreams and goals.

The stones of peace include blue lace agate and chalcedony and jade and zircon.

Apache tear and opal help with sight.

And bloodstone is, of course, the stone of the warrior.

All of these come from a wonderful book by Eileen Holland -- Grimoire of Magickal Correspondences, which I love to play around with, especially if I am creating a new altar space.

Every single thing of this planet has a vibration -- why not surround yourself with helpful vibrations? Think of it as rock music!