Posts Tagged ‘transitions’

Women Holding the Long Lens

Monday, January 11th, 2016


I’m visiting family and marveling at how long my grandchildren’s arms and legs have grown, how my daughter has become an inventive and creative cook, and how my ex husband has turned into a gentle friend. As this year just begins to unfold, I’m aware of the longer arc, and of the graceful way life changes the way the path looked …way back then.

I’m reminded of the story of how an apparent tragedy occurs, only to become s portal for a fortuitous event, that then morphs into the doorway for another downturn. Age at least provides a lens for the long story, and presents an option not to get too caught up in the drama and apparent truths of each chapter of this wild and beautiful journey.

On this annual solo road trip, I visit family, see old friends, and will end up with seven close women friends who have been a group for over 35 years. We’ve watched each other meet obstacles, embrace blessings, and survive dramas great and small. Perhaps to balance out the complexity of our own sagas, we always pepper our reunion with as many movies as possible, separated by walks on the beach, home cooked food and less wine than we used to drink.

In our seventies, we know we face losses in the upcoming episodes of our reunion series. One of us has already lost a partner to a sudden, deadly heart attack. Another is recovering from a knee replacement and can’t make it this year. What will it be like when our numbers thin? How will we all get to our destination if we’re disabled? Who will die first, and how will we deal with that?

These kinds of questions are a reality of aging, and yet so far there is a saving grace. We have each other. Friendships forged at a progressive Episcopal church we all attended back in the day, our shared values run deep. We taught each others’ children in Sunday school, and so we care who they’ve married and how their children are doing. We also care whether each woman is finding joy, discovering new meaning, and whether she can take a good joke.

We all have common political views, and so we complain about the state of the world. But these are women who are change-makers. We haven’t given up. Back in the 70’s we named ourselves the Women’s Quilting and Terrorist Society, which we thought was funny then. Now we just use the initials, but the desire to shake things up is still very much alive.

Everything has changed for the one whose husband turned out to be gay and still is her best friend. For the one who lives close to the bone, after using all her savings taking care of her father. For the one whose bitter divorce was healed by a surprise passionate romance and marriage, ending in her partner’s sudden death.

And nothing has changed. The big arc of our lives is trained by faith in the unseen. The dramas in each chapter have been tamed by good humor. And the shards of old stories are held in a sacred pot by women who will treasure them, laughing and crying together until we can’t do it in person any more

This year I salute these women and all women and men who come together in groups, urging you to put these meetings first, even when it’s hard to put the important ahead of the seemingly urgent. Every time you meet, you put money in the pot. And the older you get, the wealthier you feel, finding that life is made, after all, not of victories or defeats, but of the stream of love embedded in the entire adventure.


This post is also available on Huffington Post at my author archive, Your comments there or here are appreciated.

5 Lessons From Living With Limits

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

89591-PH-SS-043I’m getting a graduate course in living with limits while recovering from my foot surgery. Since I can’t put any weight on my foot for six weeks and am getting around on a scooter and crutches, the lessons are varied and deep.

I’ll bet many of you know the drill. If you’ve broken a limb, had a knee replacement or been otherwise disabled, then you know the lessons appear to be mostly physical. I’ve learned to sleep propped up, with my foot elevated. I’ve had to learn to maneuver my scooter, and carry things in a tote bag I put on the handlebars, carry liquids in screwtop containers and bathe in a plastic chair in the shower with a showerhead on a hose.  My “nest” in the living room contains everything I need to keep occupied and pretty happy.

Of course there are other learnings I’ve generalized from these limitations, lessons I hope to take into my “regular life” as a lucky, normally able-bodied person:

1. We are adaptable beings! I’ve watched myself invent creative ways to get around restrictions. Like figuring out how to make chicken soup without burning or cutting myself, or falling. I want to remember how adaptable I am and approach what I used to call “problems” as a chance to be creative.

2. Time is relative. When you can’t do much and have stripped life of driving, errands, household chores, hours pass much more slowly. I want to remember this, since in my old life I kept convincing myself that rushing and pushing would somehow create more time. The opposite is actually true.

3. Slowed way down, I notice more. The land around me is even more precious than before, so I keep binoculars in my nest. Really looking and noticing wildlife is my way of traveling outside my “confinement.” I want to continue to heighten my powers of observation and seeing.

4. Dependent on others, I am full of gratitude. My husband bringing me the mail and a drink from Starbucks feels like a major event. Dear friends who call or visit are heroines. I see how much I normally take for granted, and want to remain grateful and receptive.

5. My limitations show me what is really important, and I see that all I care about is what has heart and meaning. I could watch junk TV or eat junk food, but I do almost none of this. I want to walk that path of heart and meaning and just let everything else fall away.

All these lessons are so clear and easy to take in now. The challenge will be to live them when once again, I am on the move. Why is it that we seem to need hardship to really learn? And then back in ease, we forget so easily.

A lot of that return to old habits is just that: habitual behavior. To break a habit and replace it with new behavior takes repetition, rewiring of the brain. Will this recovery period be long enough?

What are the habits that hardship has inspired you to break? What have the lessons been that have come to you when you’ve been limited?

Recalling those lessons now, how can you form a new habit, new actions that will form the life you desire? So many of the patterns we blame on the outer world are really our coopting, our trance behavior where we give up our will. We give up what we say matters, just because it’s easy and familiar.

If you could pick one habit that you think falls into this category, what would that be? And if you could pick one practice to change that habit, what could you begin doing?

For example, if you want, as I do, to choose activities that have heart and meaning, then you could begin the habit of asking yourself every time you’re choosing to watch TV or take a walk or get a snack or pick up the phone…Will this choice bring me heart and meaning?

That way, even though every life has some limits, you might just find you’re freer than you thought!

A New Window on the World

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

My Window on the World

I’m writing you from my bed. I’ve been here a good deal since my surgery six days ago. I do get around on my scooter walker, and also have a wheel chair we used today for my first post-op visit to the doctor. Things are going well on the whole–and this land out the window is an important spot for the healing I still have ahead.

The Sutherland Valley where I live is a beautiful, unspoiled place on the edge of the wild, and has been my healing sanctuary ever since we moved here 14 years ago. Then, I was in the middle of chemo treatment for my first round of breast cancer. These mountains and this land have been a comfort and source of beauty and inspiration for what seems like too many physical challenges.

And yet, I keep recovering, keep learning, keep being inspired, keep finding that life still holds magic and mystery and unanswered questions and unexplored territory that compels me to answer a call.

The view out the window beckons me to enter the majesty of life, even when I am trapped in pain or limitations. Look at all there is! The endless, ever-changing play of light, the land moving from parched to green and back. The line of shadow that seems to be an impassible boundary but is not. Shadow and light. Beauty.

Beauty is my medicine, and I am graced with it all around me. Even in this season that I’ve always proclaimed to hate I find wonders.

So I will write to you from here, musing about the view outside this window, showing you some of its moods, and sharing some of mine. I’m not sure what to expect on this next journey of healing, but I’m on it. Committed. On the way. What will be revealed–in the landscape, in my own nature? How will my foot and the rest of my being respond to this surgery? How will I begin to walk when the time comes?

It is way too soon to know. This is a time for quiet. For being, not doing. For resting, not working. And yet writing is part of my solace and my reaching outside these four walls for contact, for dialogue.

Questions for you to ponder:

  • What do you do and how do you respond when you are sequestered and limited?
  • What is your part in the journey of healing? How do you work with your body? Your emotions?
  • How does the land around you participate in your process? Do you feel energy from the mountains, or water sources or land features nearby?
  • How do you make larger meaning out of an illness or surgical procedure, even if chosen? How do you turn it into an opportunity?

These are questions I’ll be pondering in coming weeks. Let me know your thoughts!


Which Road Will You Take?

Saturday, January 10th, 2015


As I weep over the multi-layered tragedy in France, I am also aware of pain in other areas, both personal and institutional, all around us. The pain raises that age-old question once again, a question that is more dramatic than ever in this age where we are exposed to global events in the media in a very tangible way. What is our role when we see suffering, and how do we handle our feelings about it?

When I move away from the huge issues surrounding terrorism, religious intolerance and violent fundamentalism and concentrate on my own life, certain themes become clear. Some examples…

Clients always come to me with a story, and I come to myself with my own stories. All of us want these stories solved, and we usually approach them by trying to figure them out. When we get engaged on that level, we usually get caught in a loop, going round and round. I tell my clients and myself, “The answer does not lie within the story.”

My shamanic training taught me to be an ally for clients by looking at their story “through a different lens.” Instead of engaging with the drama, my job is to hold space for a larger possibility.

The story has brought the client to a crossroads, where there is a decision to be made. Do I take the same road I’ve always taken when issues like this come up, or do I take a road I’ve never taken?

I ask them to choose the road not taken, which is to engage not from the “smaller” self that becomes victim to every drama, but from the larger self which knows better. This self can look at things from a larger consciousness, from the soul level. From that level, there is a big, long journey visible.

And so the larger self can say about the current tragedy, “Of course you have these emotions about it.” And then that soul-self can add, “And what could be good about all this?

On a personal level, what could be good about a tragedy is that someone might respond to it by deciding to go down the road of truly seizing their life and going after their heart’s desire. Now there’s an exciting opportunity!

On an institutional level, when things fall apart, the good thing could be that the leadership sees old patterns that are not sustainable and embraces a larger vision that really serves their dream and also serves the planet. Hooray!

And on a global level, the good thing about a terrible tragedy is that it brings things to light that have not been recognized by the general populace, and they have the chance when they see what’s wrong, to stand for a new and brighter road to a different future.

The crossroads in all three situations present the choice between submitting to something that may feel like fate, or seizing our soul’s true destiny. I would like to hold the vision of that destiny, and to take a stand for that.

I do that through spiritual practice that reminds me of who I truly am and of my unity with unseen spiritual support. And I hold energetic space for change to flow through me and through others, who will make their own choices.

This is a tough discipline for sure. But that is what we are being asked to do, and why we may be on the planet at this time. So join me in responding to it all with–along with our natural grief and compassion–a larger and more powerful force that holds it all.






Friday, May 3rd, 2013


In my 30’s I began to photograph in earnest. Now that was back in the ‘70’s, so picture me stepping out in a safari-like photographer’s vest and smoking brown More cigarettes. (The More bohemian and rebellious, the better.)

I set out to explore the other side of the tracks. Mind you, I was raised in San Marino, CA, bastion at that time of white privilege, the John Birch Society (sorry if some of these references are too representative of another generation) and suspicion of “others not like us.”

I feel shame as I write this, but it’s my history.

I had lived in NYC and taught public school there for three years, so I was well “over” San Marino. But now in my adult, parental state (and back in the state of CA) I had only moved four miles away, into South Pasadena. Lawns still looked green, houses gentrified, and attitudes were changing slowly. I was in the mood for a rebellion.

I went north, into the “ghetto” of Pasadena at that time, an area full of lovely old Victorians neglected because of poverty and segregation. My camera was my passport. And architecture was my proof that I was documenting unappreciated treasures. I gained entrance into a new neighborhood and a new form of education.

What was valuable about “the old architecture” in society and in my own being that had been neglected? And what needed tearing down and renovating? What was family about? What if all the races lived together and formed one? I photographed these questions.

It was a time of great opening for me. My Victorian grandmother had passed on, and so had her way of life and viewing the world, graceful as it was. My parents appeared confused: pleased to offer me two lamb chops for dinner at the mahogany dining room table, and willing to work hard for my excellent education…yet mired in the ‘50’s view of life. I was just now trying to emerge from it.

The photograph you see is just one of the many photographs I took during that period. I had a show at a hip Pasadena gallery, showcasing several years of 35mm architectural photography. I considered it a tribute to a history that was passing, evolving.

I chose to show you this photograph because I took it in a beautiful old Pasadena classic house that I admired. On the chaise, upholstered in the perfect fabric for that period, lay a book that had been seminal for me: Gail Sheehy’s Passages. After all, I was in one.

Out the window lay some other land, one that was natural and still impressionistic and undefined for me—but one that was beckoning me. So I colored it with Marshall’s Oils, to represent new life. The path ahead.

What is your ‘old world’ now that you wish to honor as it passes and evolves? What would you photograph to represent it? And how does the new one look? What will be your passageway into that new way of seeing, that new life?

Use your intuition to expand your brain power

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Sand Spirit Insight Card #3

I look at this Sand Spirit and see a woman with a brilliant head, with energy emanating from it, and a left breast, arm and side that are much more prominent than the right. She tells me she is “leading with her left side.” This would mean she is right-brained and intuitive.

I ask her what message she has for me about myself and my life. (I am thinking, “I’m already right-brained enough!  Sometimes I’m not practical enough–so what is it you are advising?”

She responds, “Well, in some sense you’re right brained–when you are deep in the creative process. But when you’re figuring something out, you go right ‘into your head’ and get strategic and logical. That’s fine up to a point, but right now in this changing world, the old strategies aren’t working so well. So you need to pay more attention to what your body feels about various issues, and trust your intuition.”

This kind of shuts me up, since I keep getting this same guidance about these times. It seems to be about expanding our brain power by using more of it. We think our logic “makes sense,” but logic fails to explain much of what is happening in the world. In times of crisis, we use our gut and respond intuitively. That’s what’s called for now, my Sand Spirit says.

What do you think? How could your intuition expand your options and clarify what is going on and show you better options for yourself. And what do you see in this card? I love reading your comments!

Sand Spirit #1 speaks about procrastination

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I haven’t blogged in a long time. Not sure what the block has been about it, but these things happen. So in order to take action, I drew a Sand Spirit Card. Let’s see what it has to say about procrastination and blocks:

What I see in this photograph is a holy-looking figure wearing a robe and holding its hands in prayer. (Is that what you see?) Below it is a smaller figure. I’ll talk to the larger one.  Who are you? I ask it.

I am a representation of your higher self, talking to your ‘lower’ or more materially-oriented self.”

And what do you have to say to my smaller or lower self about procrastination? I ask.

“First, it’s normal. We all are changing all the time, and sometimes during periods of transition we cannot stick to our old routines. So, just forgive yourself and move on when this happens.

Second, when you realize that you’re motivated to begin, or at least dissatisfied with your waiting, just dive in. Beginning is at least half the battle.

Thirdly, have faith that all the prayers you offer about being able to be more of your real self, about contributing to the world and about manifesting more wisdom…all these prayers are heard, and their answers have perhaps been percolating during your hiatus. So consider the possibility that even your procrastination has served a purpose.”

Wow. OK, I answer. I feel relieved, and grateful for this wisdom. Thank you, Sand Spirit.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about these three comments about procrastination and blocks? Are they true for you? If so, how will you apply them?

And what do you see in this Sand Spirit image? I look forward to a dialogue with you!

Getting ready for fall

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Sand Spirit Insight card #1

It doesn’t feel at all like fall yet in Tucson, but they tell us that the fall equinox is Wednesday, September 22. This marks the beginning of fall in the northern hemisphere. So I drew a Sand Spirit card, asking the question in the title: how do I best get ready for fall?

I drew card #1, which looks to me like a being who is very still and focused inside. I see the hands in prayer, and I see another being or energy in the lower right hand corner–perhaps another person or issue that is in the outer world. What do you see in this image?

This being tells me this is a good time for me to be focused inward, to remain calm and remember who I truly am. What does your image have to say to you?

Fall is a new beginning for many of us who grew accustomed to school beginning, and thus entering a “new year.” I used to buy day timers that went from September to September. Does a new chapter begin for you in fall?

I’ve recently gotten a little more interested in numerology and how it relates to the Sand Spirits. #1 is all about new beginnings. And September, being the 9th month, is all about completions, prior to October, being a #10, which reduces to a #1. So the message I get is, focus inside and find that still place, that place of reverence and prayer and solid ground–so that you can be calm as you complete things this month and prepare for new beginnings next month.

Finding the still place resonates with me, because I’m finishing the editing of the first of the seven lessons in my book, Flying Lessons. The first lesson is “Know Where You’re Going to Land.” It’s all about finding solid ground inside.

What is your safe landing space in life? Do you look to relationships? To your job? Do you have a still place inside that is there despite outer circumstances? Surely we all need this in times like these.

I wish for you that you see something inspiring in this message and that you use it to get yourself ready for fall, for new beginnings, and for strengthening that place within you that represents solid ground.

How Sand Spirits Reveal Your Personal Myth

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

I love using the Sand Spirit Insight cards to reveal a personal myth that might give you insight into a theme in your own life.

Choose three cards from the pile face down, or just think of three numbers between 1 and 36 and pick those. I chose #33, #16 and #11.

From a completely intuitive place, use the three “illustrations” to stimulate a story that pours out with the least amount of thinking possible. Here’s mine:

One day a mother was thinking hard about how to juggle all the activity and all the dynamics in her family. She had a very colorful, very vibrant family, but sometimes they all were confused and troubled by the changes among them and in the world. They were looking for signs about the Divine path they all might follow.

At times the mother despaired, feeling the grief that surrounded her own helplessness, and wondered if all her experience counted for anything.

Into her dreamtime flew a strange and comical bird, who in his serious form showed her how hunched over she might become if she took all the weight of the world upon her shoulders. Another way, he pointed out, would be to take it all lightly, like a sweet and funny story that was really based on love and on how alike we all are.

See how this story might have helped me? What do you see in the three cards? What story would you tell? Myths, especially when they come from ourselves, give us the gift of the big picture, the universal. This takes us out of the small world that entraps us when we forget that we are all connected and part of one Creation. The spirits from the sea evidently want us to remember that while we are all drops, we are part of the great ocean!

A Message from the Sea

Friday, June 4th, 2010

This is Sand Spirit Insight Card #26.  I “drew” it for today by just picking a number and clicking on it without knowing which image would come up. This one has morphed over time. I used to see a woman in it, offering a gift to the heavens. I still can see her today, but more often now I see a face of a male figure who appears to be a wizard. He tells me he can see the invisible, see below the surface. He is warning us about the necessity for humankind to move away from the personal and the ego into the realm of greater consciousness and responsibility to the earth. He is talking about the tragedy of the oil spill as the most recent example. His left eye (his more feminine or intuitive side, connected to his right brain) is his more active eye. His right eye is focused on the heavens. This is his doing side, and he has surrendered to divine guidance for all his decision-making.

This is serious stuff, but how else can we respond to all that is happening now?  A volcano erupts in Guatemala, followed by floods and the appearance of a giant sinkhole in the capital. Oil threatens our ocean, our sea animals and a whole way of life on the southern coast. Whatever actions we must take, this looks like the time to begin them.

The card I drew coincides with my finishing Craig Hamilton’s course in integral enlightenment and moving beyond the ego. The shift we must make requires a new kind of effort–one that begins with surrender to forces greater than ourselves. We live within the Great Mystery, and it looks like it’s time to respect it again.

How will we each begin?