1 Forward One of my favorite books I read in my twenties was “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I have read it several times over the years. What moves me, what touches me every time is her ability to hear the deep wisdom with which the shells speak to her, and the way in which she applies this wisdom to her life. Most of us do not not find it typical to speak with shells, much less converse with others about the wonders of talking shells. If so, I imagine others might find us a bit strange. But I did find it wondrous indeed. I found it to be an extraordinary journey into the depths of our connection to Nature, and the dissolution of our separateness with Her. I believe hearing the voices of shells is a very personal experience as is hearing the voice of God. Perhaps the shells, like God, have the same message for all of us, but we all choose to hear something different. Perhaps the shells have a unique and different message for each of us, yet we all hear the same thing. No matter. What is the same and what is different are just two sides of the same coin…which makes them One. What matters is that we listen. If we can hear the voices of shells, or stones, or the songs of whales, or the cry of the loons, or messages in the wind, in a flower or falling from the stars, then we are listening. We are listening to all the voices of Creation, and in doing so, we become one with all Creation. We move through life feeling and honoring the connection with everyone and everything. We are not lost and alone in an empty material world. The voices of Creation save us from drowning in a sea of delusion. Their voices lift us out and beyond the all too frequent drain and stress of daily life to a place of wonder and simplicity. Their songs inspire us to something more, much more. 2 Sadly, it is all too easy to live our lives without ever hearing the sweet sounds of Creation. Today these voices are drowning with us in a modern world full of noise pollution. For most of us, daily life is an ongoing bombardment of work phones, cell phones, computers, televisions, stereos, radios, beepers, cars, trucks, buses, freeways, subways, traffic, airplanes, trains and more. The voices of Creation have become a faint whisper in the distance. It will require a conscious choice on our part to draw closer and listen. The gifts await us from the sea and the land, from the mountains and the rivers, from the moon and the stars. Their voices are longing to be heard, and they are vital to our survival. These gifts are precious, and best of all, as it should be, they are free. The fate of our planet, and all life that dwells upon it, is being seriously challenged. The issues at hand are enormous: massive starvation and poverty, diseases and threatening epidemics, over- population, corrupt leadership in government, business and churches, terroism and wars, global warming and unpredictable weather patterns, increasing earth disasters, the extinction of animals and precious fauna, pollution and the depletion of survival resources, violence in our streets and homes. The list is staggering, and the perfect recipe for discouragement and depression. We are no longer on the threshold of spiritual crisis…we are completely submerged in it. Some of us will drown in it, some of us will rise above and seek to make a difference, some of us will ignore it completely and some of us will wait for someone else to fix it. No matter what choice we make, there is only one way out. The way out is in…into the heart of the 3 spiritual crisis, into the eye of the storm, into the dark, mysterious, invisible realms of our inner beings where ultimately the light is found. All humans share a spiritual spark. If we are, both individually and collectively, going to find solutions to the problems confronting us, we must grasp the understanding that we are all one family, all descendants of the same spiritual birthplace. Spirituality is the birthright of every human being. The essence of Spirit has gifted every one of us with a Divine purpose for our time here on earth. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all have a destiny to fulfill. All humanity, regardless of race, color or creed, is on the same evolutionary path towards higher consciousness. The path is different for all of us, but the purpose and the goal are the same: to awaken each of us to the life and laws of Spirit through our earthly lessons. We are all born of Spirit. Therefore, whether we believe in Spirit or not, whether we have consciously chosen a spiritual path or not, we are all destined for a spiritual awakening. Some of us will have the good fortune of being born into strong spiritual families, communities or cultures in which our spiritual birthright or gifts are accepted and nurtured. Most of us are raised and educated by the laws of man which serve to cloud our memories of spiritual origin. Spiritual awakening can come in many ways. The disillusionment of man’s world is often a catalyst for some to consciously choose a more meaningful life and path of Spirit. For many, an awakening comes unexpectedly via an illness, an accident or a painful loss while others experience a life-changing trip or workshop, a book or a healer or even a dream. Others may have a slow, gradual awakening while accumulating spiritual knowledge and experiences over a lifetime. Some will not 4 have an awakening while in body, but rather upon the return to their spiritual origins via the transformation of death. We are not as much fellow humans sharing a spiritual experience as we are spiritual beings sharing a human experience. In the last twenty- five years, spirituality has gained tremendous momentum, and expanded into a vast array of spiritual and healing modalities. The world of Spirit is no longer limited to the church or religion. Many evolved teachers have stepped forward to offer and share their spiritual gifts and knowledge in such areas as past-life regression, channeling, psychic and intuitive readings, sound healing, vision quests, shamanism, angelic healing, energy healing, light therapy, astrology, near death experiences, meditation, Qi Gong, chakra dance, satsang and more. There is the phenomenal opportunity to share extraordinary spiritual experiences with others in virtually every corner of the world. Despite this, spirituality has not gone mainstream…yet. There is actually a lot of what I call “new age fluff” out there, or spiritual delusion. Spiritual experiences that remain ungrounded usually translate into strong spiritual personas. The journey of awakening to Spirit is not about ego. It is a humble process that gently nudges our focus inward, to a place of deep stillness where we can rest the mind and access our hearts, the bridge between heaven and earth. All the spiritual truth we seek is already inside us. It is like a seed within us waiting to be watered so it can grow and bloom. Our search for spirituality can serve to awaken us, and give us more awareness and knowledge of the infinite realms and ways of Spirit. But if we continue to seek spiritual truth outside ourselves, we will only be reminded of that which we seek and have not yet attained. Our search can become a struggle. If we can believe in and 5 embrace our birthright as spiritual beings, then we have only to trust and have faith in the spiritual truth that abides within us, and accept the laws of Spirit as our guide. The way of Spirit is oneness, the way of man is separation. Therefore, the problems created by man cannot really be solved by man…if man is devoid of Spirit. The laws of Spirit are universal, and transcend any limitation imposed by man. If the human race can awaken to and embrace the laws of Spirit into their hearts and minds as a sacred way of life, then we can access the spiritual truths within us that will assist us in living heaven on earth. The Mayans believe, as I do, in a Divine plan for human destiny. Perhaps their extraordinary calender predicting the fulfillment of man’s evolution in the year 2012 will come to pass. Perhaps not. Perhaps we need not be limited by nor focus on the prophecies of other cultures and religions, but simply embrace the common goal that many humans hold in their hearts to create a better world. We are living in extraordinary times, a time of unquestionnable awakening to Spirit. No matter what spiritual path you follow, or not, we must all find some detachment from the distractions, illusions and chaos of man’s world. We must create sacred space and time to journey inward, and find the sweet stillness in the eye of the storm where we can rest and listen…listen to the voices of Creation, and the ways of Spirit that are waiting to speak to us and guide us. Awareness of spiritual truth is not enough. It is easy to talk the talk. Our challenge and our goal is to walk our talk, to be given our own sweet voice of Creation out of the stillness with which to live our lives, with which to speak our truth. Our truth is Sacred. It is our spiritual wisdom native to the deep knowings of our hearts and souls. Our truth is Wild. It is our Earth wisdom native to the deep sensings of our natural human instincts. 6 Our truth cannot run wild without the illumination and resonance of the Sacred to guide our evolution. Spirit and man are not separate. We are Spirit expressed in human form. Our spiritual truth and life is meant to infuse our human experience. If our daily lives are guided by the laws of Spirit, we will inevitably fulfill our Divine purpose and destiny. The laws of man and the laws of Spirit must create a Sacred Partnership if we are to hold all life Sacred, and find a way to preserve it. 7 Introduction I recently returned from a month by the sea in Todos Santos on the Baja peninsula in Mexico. My first day there, my wonderful friend, Feeny, gave me a belated birthday gift…a necklace made from many little shells we called “Chinese Hats.” To me it was so beautiful. I thought of the person who had made it, perhaps their long walks on the beach to collect so many of these small shells for her/his vision, then placing each one so perfectly sized next to the other to create such a unique string of beauty. The fact that each one of these shells had washed ashore from a life in the ocean made it especially rich. Each shell was an ocean jewel, and together they became a masterpiece of subtle colors, shapes, texture and movement. My necklace was an ocean song. I found myself searching for these delicate small shells on my long beach walks. I renamed them “Mexican Hats” since I was after all in Mexico. I didn’t know why I got so excited every time I found one. Maybe because each one, though the same type of shell, was so completely different in their markings and colors. I especially loved finding them when they had just washed ashore, glistening like gold in the sun and sand waiting for me. I found very few along the ocean’s edge, but later discovered many of them back by the dunes where they had been carried by the tides. I didn’t really know why I was collecting them. I thought maybe I would make such a necklace for someone. I carried a plastic bag in which to place all my new found gems. One evening I emptied the bag and took inventory of my stock. 8 I had collected about fifty-three Mexican Hats. I thought that was a lot, until I counted all the shells in my necklace to see if I was getting close. My necklace was composed of three hundred and three shells. I couldn’t believe there were so many! Well, making a necklace would require serious collecting. I didn’t feel that was my goal, and yet I still felt compelled to search for them. Strangely, I could feel these shells calling to me, talking to me. I didn’t obsess about collecting them. Instead, it seemed the shells would call to me, and I would go down to the beach to find them. In time, I began to notice each time I found one, a very particular thought entered my mind, or I had a strong feeling about something. I would stay with that thought or feeling until I found the next shell, then a new thought or feeling would come. It was not the same as my mind just wandering. These were crystal clear thoughts and feelings riding the wave of each shell. It was as though each shell had an energy, a story it was imparting to me when I found it.. Each shell, each energy, each story was different. I could perhaps understand the story by listening to my own thoughts or feelings. Each shell was a gift, each shell had a voice, each shell had a story. Each shell is me, and I am each shell. We are different, but we are the same. We are One. I will take these talking shells, these parts of me, these gifts home, and listen to what they have to say. My shells have been sitting in a bag on the table for nine days now. I am waiting for them to talk and tell me what to do with them. I hear the ocean, and the stories of my shells echoing in the distance. 9 It is a warm, sixty-something degree day. It is a welcome relief from my return to the cold after basking in the warm Mexican sun. I still hear the sound of breaking waves, and feel the playful energy of the whales. I am missing the water. I hear my shells. They are missing the water, too. I will give them the gift of water today. I find a large shallow black bowl. I pour all my fragile shells from the bag onto a cloth napkin. I begin to sort them by size, and place them in the bowl. Some of the shells have broken, and they go sadly into the broken pile. I begin with the biggest shell, placing it in the center. I arrange them with the largest shells in the middle, and fan out from the center by size. What shape am I creating here? What do these shells want to become? What are they saying? I sense they do not want to be separate. I push them together, and see concentric circles forming. Then I begin connecting the circles. Yes, this is it. The shells are taking on their own energy, moving clockwise like the subtle but powerful energy of a chakra, a wheel. When I am done, there are one hundred sixty-four shells from which a beautiful mandala has emerged. A mandala…a chakra…a circle…a wheel of shells. I realize now this is the form in which my shells will talk to me. I cover the shells with salt water, and place the bowl in the sun. My shells sparkle , and come alive with color. They are ready to speak. I will wait for their call. I will sit quietly, and study my shell mandala. I will align my chakras with the energy of the shells. I will listen…… 10 My curiousity for detail has won. I google “Chinese Hats”. I find that “Chinese Hats” are all white with a rounded top and pointed tip that often falls over to one side. Hmmm….I will have to keep looking for my Mexican Hats that are no longer Chinese. I finally find my shells after searching several sites, and viewing hundreds of pictures. My shell is called “a striped false limpet”. It is part of the Family Siphonariidae, specifically referred to as Siphonaria Pectinate, named circa 1758. There are also other members of this Family in my collection…the “jagged false limpet” and the “giant false limpet”. I discover this limpet family makes its home on rocks and other hard surfaces in the ocean, and especially in tidal basins. Their minute eggs are laid and protected in long multiple gelatinous strands that cover the exterior shell and the adjacent rocks. I am sad to think of my shells being carried away from their ocean home on a wave of destiny that deposits them on a distant shore, and ends their life. Yet all is not lost. Though their life force is gone, the beautiful protective outer shell remains. It is not so unlike us humans. A wave of destiny comes when it will for each of us, carrying us across the great divide. Our life force departs for an unknown shore, and we, too, leave behind our beautiful outer shell. In time, all of the shells as all we humans will fade and return to the earth. But the voices of the life forces that once inhabited those shells, and those bodies, can still be heard. 11 Chapter One Big Today, the center of my shell mandala is calling. My biggest shell, a “giant false limpet”, wants to be heard first. It was the very last shell I found on the beach. These”giant false limpets” are different in shape, texture and color from the “striped false limpets”. Their shapes are more irregular compared to the latter that have a well-defined oval shape. These giants also have rough ridges that fan out from the apex of the shell like rays of the sun. Their colors are predominantly soft earthy shades of burnt umbers and siennas mixed with shades of white, whereas the striped limpets have an incredible range of striped colors. I hold it up to the light where it displays a lovely, translucent quality. On the under side, it is as smooth and shiny as marble. There is a small ,white, teardrop-shaped protusion that was once inhabited by a life force. I like this shell. It feels good to hold. It has substance, it feels strong, it is big. Big…in fact, it is called giant compared to all the other members of the limpet family. What is our fascination with something that is the “biggest”? Why does it stand out among the rest? There are so many things that have recieved recognition for being the biggest…the biggest mountain, the biggest river, the biggest country, the biggest city, the biggest ship, the biggest diamond, the biggest bird…the list is endless. It seems that every catagory has classified a “biggest”. What if there were no “biggest”? What if all the mountains and buildings and diamonds and cities 12 were the same size? How would that be different? Would all the mountains lose a special quality now that they were all the same? Does the “biggest” give everything else meaning, or does everything else give the “biggest” it’s meaning? What would all the climbers aspire to without Mt.Everest? Is the “biggest” important? The concept of the “biggest” must have evolved from man’s direct experience with the magnificent bigness of the sky, the stars, the vastness of land and sea. The absolute grandeur of the natural world in which we live is a constant inspiration to be more and create more. I do not think any of us can escape the feeling of awe when gazing out over an endless ocean, or up at the infinite star-studded night sky or perched at the edge of the Grand Canyon. We are affected. We are on some level, whether we are aware of it or not, connected to something so much bigger than ourselves or what we can even begin to imagine. This connection is the fuel for creating the “biggest.” Perhaps in our efforts to create the “biggest” of something, we will discover a truth about this connection. The experience of something so grand, so vast, so big is a mystery, and we are all driven to understand it. Yet perhaps the mystery is not so mysterious. Perhaps the mystery we experience in the grandeur of Nature is but a mirror of the grandeur within ourselves. Perhaps we miss the connection because in the presence of such natural grandeur, we feel so small. Who are we to understand our own individual capacity for greatness and bigness, when we are but a speck in the grass beneath a night sky bursting with a zillion stars that seem to have no end. We are, in fact, physically small in comparison, but we are not limited to that smallness. Our ability to percieve the boundless infinite qualities of the natural world indicates the posession of these same qualities 13 somewhere inside us. Why would we choose not to see our own Divine reflection in the ocean waters or in the starry night? Perhaps we are overwhelmed; perhaps we are afraid. As spoken by Marianne Williamson in her book A Return to Love, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.” Our true mirror is found in the natural world. Our connection to Nature is vital. The power of Nature is not to be underestimated any more than the power of man. Each can destroy the other, and each can inspire the other to greatness. If we are to aspire to our own greatness, then we must humbly accept that our greatness is found in the reflection of Nature. Nature is our teacher and our guide. If we stop and listen, we will hear the lessons; we will find our way. I do not think Nature is opposed to our aspirations for greatness. I like to think that the biggest mountains have been man’s inspiration to build the biggest buildings. Even some of the oldest civilizations have demonstrated this in their timeless creations of the great pyramids of Egypt and the great Mayan temples. The big creations of man stand out because they are the reflections of our connection to the bigness of all Creation. Big is important because it is a sign of inspiration from something bigger than ourselves. Sometimes it takes big to help us realize our goal is too small, that we are capable of so much more. Sometimes it is our commitment to all the little things that helps us realize what is big. I think we have to credit Nature for having the idea of “biggest” first, and be grateful for the inspiration she gives us. Big is not always better in man’s world. A big city alters the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside, a big house costs more to 14 maintain, a big war kills a lot more people. More responsibility comes with big. We can get lost in big. Big in Nature is not always better either. Nature inflicts upon us, sometimes when we least expect it, its own big fury and rage with hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Today we attribute the unstable and bizarre weather patterns to global warming and climate change. We are being forced to consider that our ever-increasing industrialized lifestyle is a major contribution. Yet, despite all the hard facts in support of this, history suggests that unstable weather patterns have existed for centuries. Nature’s wrath has extinguished numerous civilizations that lacked our current level of technology and industrialization. Perhaps the planet’s big storms and shakings are just a natural part of the earth’s evolution. Or perhaps this is Nature’s way of getting our attention. The Earth is a living, breathing organism like us. We are both evolving. Perhaps our own evolution is intricately connected to our planet’s evolution. If so, our survival depends upon a deep honoring of Nature’s ways, and taking responsibility for the ways in which man creates imbalance. I think previous civilizations honored the Earth more successfully because they lived more closely to Her without all our modern day distractions. We can learn from their astounding achievements in the areas of life which we have all but forgotten, and no longer recognize as important. Their connections to the Earth were big. And yet, perhaps they, too, in their aspirations for greatness failed to understand fully the connection between their own evolution and that of the planet that sustained them. We learn from history the often shocking and disturbing behaviors of past civilizations, including our own, despite their great achievements: human sacrifice by many MesoAmerican cultures on a massive scale; religious deception, 15 control and idolatry; unending tribal wars; the greed and power fueling the invasions of other countries; the domination of the more fortunate over the less fortunate; the selling of slaves and the burning of witches and Jews. Sadly, the list is big. Sadly, the list continues today. If the destiny of the human species, both past and present, is in fact intricately and divinely woven to the evolving destiny of this beautiful planet, then perhaps the Earth is waiting for all of us to become big. Big in the sense that we finally find what it takes within ourselves to overcome the smallness of greed, domination, judgement, persecution, deception, war, suffering, hate and poverty. Maybe we need to take the focus off the big achievements outside ourselves, and focus more on the inside. If we can slow down and find some silence, that still place within the eye of the hurricane, we might hear Nature’s voice. Can we dare to dream of ourselves as truly Big, inspired by Nature toward the Divine qualities of giving, humility, compassion, truth, peace, abundance and love? Maybe the Mother Earth has been waiting a long time for Her children to grow up, and be worthy to call Her home. Perhaps then Her impatience and fits of wrath will cease, and our hearts will align in harmony….destiny and evolution fulfilled. Some prophesy we will have a big intervention from above. The Mayans calculated in their advanced calender that time and life as we know it will end December 21, 2012, and we will have the golden opportunity to recreate a new life. It is their belief that the evolution of mankind on this planet has been divinely guided all along, and our evolution according to the Divine plan will be complete on the 2012 winter solstice when our planet aligns with the center of the Galaxy. 16 Hmmm….I like this idea. I embrace their beliefs. I personally would welcome help from on high. We need it. I am not sure we can make the necessary changes in time. Either way, our fate and the fate of our planet is Big. My birthname is Anne, though I have been called Annie since I was a teenager. But when I was a child, we had a black woman who worked for my family who was also named Anne. To prevent confusion between us, we called her Big Anne. It was a name that stuck with her the rest of her days. She had a big influence on me as a child. She had a big smile and a big heart. She was always there when we returned home from school every day. She would stop whatever housework she was doing, and want to know all about our day. She took such delight in our stories that was characterized by a very funny and unique gurgling laugh. Maybe her identity was altered with the addition of Big to her name, maybe not. Either way, she had a big presence and a big love for me and my siblings. I remember her fondly, and her big smile is always with me. I use to make big plans for my life. Now, though there is still so much I want to do, it just doesn’t feel as big. I seem more content with the little, simple things, and taking big in stride. Sometimes big shows up when you least expect it. In May 2006, Jeffrey and I did a river trip down the Colorado river, specifically Cataract Canyon. I had a lot of experience running rivers in a canoe as a teenager, but this trip was a small raft. Jeffrey, an experienced kayaker, was part of the kayak rescue crew when the rest of us flipped over. It was a seven day trip, and the really big water came the fifth day. And I mean BIG! We stood on the river bank scouting the first of three big drops called Satan’s Seat…what does 17 that tell you? No doubt about it, I was in for a big ride. I rode in the raft with a competent whitewater river guide, Phil, and another woman, Willa. We would be the rescue raft behind another small raft, and two catarafts(rafts with pontoons). We hung back waiting, and watched both catarafts flip. This was not good, and now we were on a mission. Phil started yelling for Willa and me to paddle, as we had to catch the big cataraft before it went down the other drops. We glided right through the first big drop where the other boats had flipped, and I was so relieved…until I saw the second big drop. We would have to take the straight line through the big waves in order to catch the cataraft. I had never seen waves this big on a river, maybe twelve feet high, and lots of them. I got down in the hole, only to be flipped over the front of the raft coming down the backside of the first wave. I don’t know how I managed to hold on, and ride the entire drop upside down with my head in the water, my arms and legs locked in hyperextension to keep me in the raft. I was finally rescued by Willa, when she could spare a free arm to pull me back in by the seat of my pants. I was completely disoriented, with an injured knee, as we rescued the big cataraft, recrouped and assessed damage on the riverbank. I had now been fully initiated by the big waters of Cataract Canyon. Fortunately, the toughest rapids were behind us now so I could kick back, rest my knee and talk tales of big water. Would I do it again? Hell, yes. There is something about being scared of big, and getting to the other side, that really brings you to life. Big adventure, big change, big careers, big faith, big love..big can make us grow. I can only think of one big thing that doesn’t make us grow, and that’s the ego. The ego is a big lonely island unto itself. It is not interested in the here and now. It is only interested in 18 perpetuating past dramas. That’s its specialty. It likes to talk all the time and tell us what to think and what to do. It’s mantra is”I am right, and you are wrong.” It is bossy and rude, and ignorant to all the mysteries of the soul and way of Spirit. We can tell when it has the upper hand by the lack of sensitivity and joy in its voice. Our ego is nothing more than our identification with thought forms. Our ego grows and expands when its only food source for our identity comes from the entertainment of our steady stream of thoughts. I find it a great relief that who I really am is not all these voices in my head. We as a culture are possessed by our minds, and the result of total mind identification is a false self, the ego and living a lie. Man’s laws are written by the ego. We will never attain peace on Earth nor create a better world living by these laws. Our work is to go inside, quiet the mind and connect to our Sacred souls. The mind is the home for the ego, and I consider it to be more attuned to male energy. The mind, however, is also home to intuition and creative vision, which is more attuned to female energy. The mind, the ego, the male needs balance with the female aspects of intuition, creation and vision. Otherwise, it runs its own delusional show. Only when we quiet the mind can we make room for this worthy partner to show up, and invite the mind to join Her in the mysteries of the Sacred soul. When the ego(mind, male) and the soul (intuition, female) unite, the door to Spirit opens. Only then can we create a world based on the laws of Spirit that will support our evolution as spiritual beings in form. This is our new Earth. It’s going to take a BIG awakening…and a BIG sleep for the ego. My biggest shell is like the eye of the hurricane with all the other shells swirling around it. It has shared its wisdom from this still place, 19 an anchor in my mandala. I really like my big shell, just as I like big beds and big trees and big bowls of pasta and painting big paintings. Big is OK. What will my other shells have to say? I will wait for the call of the next shell. I will listen… 20 Chapter Two Dancing This is my dancing shell. No other shell has its edges turned up like the beautiful flips of a swirling skirt. This seventh shell is in motion. It wants to dance its way through life, round and round the circle. It is also a “giant false limpet” just a smaller version with its wings out. It is very pointed at the top. It looks like it has skipped all the way to shore along the ocean floor. Skipping and dancing…. Dancing is a really wonderful thing. We get to feel kind of awkward, unsure, until the body just takes over and says ”Let me move.” And while it moves, we let go…go anywhere we want. I think we need to keep reminding one another to keep the body moving, make it a global mantra. It will keep us mindful of celebrating life, and keep us young, and we all like that. Dancing can be very healing. We can trust the body to take us on a journey to passionate expression, to the well of deep feelings where we will bloom when it is time. Then we find sweet, safe freedom in which to express our emotions. If we are feeling beauty, we can ballet like a swan…if we are feeling sad, we can sway in the breeze…if we are feeling angry, we can go wild and tribal…if we are feeling sexy, we can let those hips go. It has been said that we should dance like no one is watching. I think we do our best dancing when we get completely lost in it. The body has amazing awareness if we give it a chance. We have to turn the mind off, and trust the body will remember what the mind has taught it. It is our feelings that get to shine when we dance. Our emotions are the fuel for the fire of the dance. Suddenly, there we are, embodying our feelings, grounding our emotions in this human form. It’s an ecstatic gift. 21 The elements of nature have lots of movement that resembles dancing: trees ballet in the breeze and leaves fly on the wind, rain tap dances on rooftops and streams gently flow and swirl, clouds do an endless waltz across the sky and the flames of fire leap and jump. There are lots of animals that dance before mating or fighting. Everything that is alive is in constant motion of some kind. Earth is a big dancer. She never stops dancing around the sun. I started ballet when I was very young, maybe seven or eight years old. It was my mother’s idea. I loved my pink ballet slippers, but ballet didn’t do it for me. I wanted to be out riding my pony or playing softball instead. When I was a young teenager, my mother signed me up for ballroom dancing lessons. I liked it this time, mostly because my boyfriend was also in the class…and I loved dancing with him. We were blessed to have dance teachers that embodied Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers. Mr. and Mrs. Moon taught us to foxtrot and waltz and polka. My favorite part was actually watching them dance together. She always wore these beautiful chiffon dresses that swirled and floated with her every move. They glided across the floor with such beauty and ease, two souls intricately in motion as one. I wanted to dance like them. Later in my thirties, I got into jazz dance. I lived in the suburbs of Washington, DC then, and would drive twice a week downtown to Dupont Circle to a small jazz dance school. After about eight months, my class was moved to a different time which didn’t fit my schedule. In its place was a very advanced class designed mostly for stage and Broadway dancers. The teacher was offering a few openings in the class to other students, but only if you could keep up. He would take 22 two students at a time, and put you to the test in class. Those few spots were not easily filled. Most students never even made it to the end of the class before they either quit or got the boot. I managed to survive. At the end of the class, my teacher said that I could stay on because I had kept on dancing even though I’d forgotten all the steps. Completely lost was more like it. All I had was my enthusiasm as back up. I was challenged to the max and loved it. Sadly, within two years the school closed after losing too many teachers to AIDS. In my forties, I discovered African dance, and also began African drumming. There is something absolutely hypnotic about twenty or more drums sounding out simultaneously. Sometimes I would arrive to dance class exhausted, but a spark fired the second I heard those drums. African dance was so different. I found the steps less complex than jazz, but African dance required more complex moves using the whole body…and in a whole new way. The rhythms had such a unique life of their own. My feet could get the steps, but the rest of me struggled to be in sync. It took a long time to master just one dance. It seemed like there had to be a magic button to push for the body to find just the right rhythm. When I finally witnessed an African woman dancing, well…I needed a lot of magic buttons. When I was fifty, I travelled to Mali, West Africa to study African dance and drumming. It was nothing short of a wild adventure. We danced about five hours a day in the mango groves of a park which we walked a mile to and from twice a day. Every day we attracted a large audience of African women and children who gathered around us in a big circle. I think the beautiful black women got a good chuckle 23 watching us white women try to move like them. Their faces were plastered with big smiles. We worked hard to give them all a good performance. At the end of class, all the women and children came out to dance with us. The African women were lovely, all dressed in exotic colored fabrics and head wraps. And yes, they could really move. Dance is such a big part of their culture, a way of life for them really. Dancing feeds their souls and keeps their spirits free. It is a powerful means of survival. We were invited to a very special dance in the small village where my drum teacher had spent much of his childhood. Late into the night I was dancing in a circle of African women who all had babies wrapped to their backs. The dance was a rather simple step forward and back, but with a very distinct rhythm. It was then I realized how these children grow up with such an amazing sense of rhythm. They were being infused with the rhythms of life while sleeping on their dancing mother’s back. It was seeping into their little bones, down into the heart and soul of their being. Upon waking, dancing for them would be as natural as breathing. I wanted to be one of those babies, and have such a sweet infusion. It is a beautiful sight to see a whole village happily lost in the joy of dance. It is a real celebration, especially for the people of Mali who endure so much poverty, lack and disease. They have so little in the way of modern comfort, but so much soul from their music and their dance. I had never seen so much joy in the midst of so much hardship. We have a wonderful dance here in Santa Fe called Embody Dance, founded by my good friend, Tracy. She is an ex-showgirl who danced many years in Las Vegas, so you can imagine the fire she brings to the dance. I still call it Body Choir which was its former name. It is a two 24 hour free dance based on the rhythms of Gabrielle Roth, taking you from stillness to chaos and back again. There are no correct dance steps or moves, no right or wrong way to dance. You just let go and ride the waves of the music. It is the ultimate expression of freedom. Dance is universal. Every culture proudly has their dance. Here in New Mexico there are numerous pueblos where various Native American tribes maintain the traditions of Sacred dances. The deer dance is my favorite. It is so magnificent, and captures the essence of honoring and expressing our connection to Nature through the dance. Sometimes I like to think that all the world’s problems could be solved if we all just got together and danced. Because in the big picture, we are all part of the cosmic dance. Like my shell dancing its way to distant shores along the ocean floor, we are all dancing to our destinations. Dancing connects us all in our joy, no matter how far apart we are. 25 Chapter Three Fragile My ninth shell is very fragile. Nine…the number of completion. It is the most worn of all the giant limpet shells into this fragile state. It is totally translucent with only bits of a pale burnt sienna color. Its worn state is actually polished and smooth like fine porcelain, as if it has reached a state of perfection at the same time. Worn…perfection…what a strange paradox, to reach such a fine fragile state after so many years of wear and tear, to be perfectly worn. Is this what I will be like when I am old, after my long journey travelling the many corners of the earth’s surface? Will my worn out body manage to radiate some essence of perfection? This is fragile. I hold this delicate shell between my fingers. Unlike many of the other shells that have a certain strength to their shape, I could break this one into pieces so easily. Yet there is a strength in this shell’s fragility. It’s journey is near completion. It has a wisdom, a perfection that transcends its worn out shell. It is saying that although it is slowly disappearing, there is something that lives on….even now. Everything, despite its appearance, is fragile. Fragile scares us. It is without question the most vulnerable of feelings, yet it offers a quiet, unexplainable strength. There are pieces of blown glass, so fragile and delicate to look upon, that can hold astounding amounts of weight. The monarch butterfly and the hummingbird, two most delicate of creatures, migrate thousands of miles without rest often through adverse conditions. Yet, they can be crushed so easily in an instant. And those things that appear so strong and solid, like big 26 buildings and bridges and trees, can also be crushed in an instant by the shaking of the Earth or storm winds and water. Fragile can be deceptive. Love and our hearts are especially fragile. I believe all our hearts are divinely programmed for the highest love. Years and years, maybe even lifetimes, of not finding nor attaining this love can wear us out. But the gift in this lack is that we develop a certain fragility and sensitivity that heightens our awareness of the love and truth for which we long. We become transparent in the depth of our longing. Our transparency is fragile. But this is better than allowing our hearts to harden, better than using our outer shell as armor to keep love out. Love is the only mysterious protection we need when we attain the highest love possible for ourselves and others. The energy of love is the highest, most powerful energy available to us. When our hearts are fully engaged in loving, there is no room for fear. True love radiates a glowing circle of protection round our hearts from which we can give love freely. We are reminded of our fragility when the love we give is not received or given back to us. Too much of this, and fear creeps in. Then our fragile state needs to retreat, and find healing with a heart refill. A heart full of love is a Divine gift. The love is always there. We just have to let it in. We might not always get the love we want, but we can find comfort in knowing that there is plenty of love to go around. We are all on different paths towards our fulfillment of love and wholeness. And those who withhold love from us are teaching us how to love ourselves more deeply and freely. If we can just keep our hearts full, love will keep flowing like the pregnant waters of springtime. It won’t matter to us so much anymore if we aren’t always loved back because we are full, and not in need. We can 27 find compassion for those empty hearts, and celebrate them when they are full. Jumping into love is like jumping into the ocean. The salt water energizes us, and heals us. All our senses come alive. We find laughter and joy in the waves of love pouring over us. At the same time, we are aware of the ocean’s power to harm us….like love. We feel fragile. Swimming in love, like the ocean, comes with the risk of getting hurt. But if we never take those risks, our hearts will never be filled with the joy of being alive. Our lives, and loves, are fragile. The wear and tear of living and loving might make us more fragile, but it is the sign of a life and a love well lived. There is strength and dignity in becoming perfectly worn. Our embodiment of fragile radiates the courage to live. We do not always consider something really big as being fragile. But our big beautiful planet and sky and cosmos are every bit as fragile as our hearts. We witness today how much climate change is tipping the delicate scales of balance on this planet, for both people and animals. In locales where seasons are being altered by a mere few degrees, animals are becoming extinct because of the impact to the food supply. The changing schedule delays the emergence of a worm needed to feed a certain species of baby birds, and so the babies die. The pollution in a river kills all the tiny fish that are the food supply for spawning salmon, that now must move elsewhere, depriving a town once dependent on the salmon for food and business. Worse yet, the tiny fish don’t die but become toxic food for the fish that eat them, and then those toxins end up in us when we eat those fish. The melting of our glaciers result in a severe lack of water supply to villages that can now no longer grow their food supply. 28 How can such a big planet be so fragile? Perhaps the Earth is for us again a much needed mirror for our own fraglity. The Earth is suffering wear and tear just as we do. If we don’t care for ourselves, how then can we extend care to the planet, our Mother? Mothers care for their children until they are able to care for themselves. In the eyes of Mother Nature, we humans are taking a long time to grow up. Let’s hope it’s not too late. Our bodies, like our planet, are exceedingly fragile. Despite the fact that humans are living longer, disease is more prevalent. Hmmm…. something is pointing to an imbalance in our modern lifestyle. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is just one thing, which makes maintaining our fragile balance a rather daunting task. Optimal health requires the balance on all our levels: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. Happiness, a positive outlook, is key. To be happy, we need to feel connected; to feel connected, we need to feel loved; to feel loved, we need to feel God. Perhaps our search for optimal health and balance is really our search for God, for meaning, for our spiritual truth. Sometimes we find God through attaining balance; sometimes we find God through our dis-ease. Either way, I like to think we need to start at the bottom, and work our way up through each fragile layer to the top. So first, we focus on the physical: we committ to a healthy diet and some form of exercise that lights our fire; we get enough sleep and we manage our stress; second, we take responsibility for the emotional mess in our own closets, and weed out what no longer fits or looks good on us ; we replace the old with the new joyfully without dumping the old onto someone else; we wash and clean the old, and give it away with love, like a gift; third, we learn to quiet our thoughts and give the ego regular vacations so we can 29 dispel illusion and achieve true peace of mind; and lastly, somehow through the simplicity of our grounded efforts in daily life, our spiritual self and path emerges, like a beautiful flower in the garden. I think there is a method to the madness. It requires a deep respect and understanding that each step, each thought, each moment is fragile. We are all under pressure these days to accommodate the ever increasing fast pace by which we all live. If we miss the connection to Nature, to Spirit, to God, to our own hearts, to grounding the truth that we know, we will jeopardize the fragile balance of our own lives and that of our beautiful planet. The Earth is perhaps as much as four billion years old. There is evidence everywhere of the Earth being worn to perfection. I think of the Grand Canyon, it’s magnificence beyond words. The Earth attempts to manage a vital balance between worn and perfection, and often produces such exquisite beauty. The Earth cannot prevent her aging anymore than we can. But she makes the effort, as we must, to preserve her fragility. The beautiful ancient canyons and valleys on this planet, along with my worn and fragile shell, remind us that all life is moving towards perfection. It takes time. 30 Chapter Four Green My eleventh shell is the largest of all the striped false limpets in my mandala. It is very substantial and like many of the striped limpets, it has a hole at the top. The colors of the stripes are most unique. The stipes fan out from the top in shades of light and dark olive mixed with shades of gray and brown towards the edges. There is one small deep purple spot at the edge. The underside has been washed totally white and smooth save for one little dark spot. When I hold it in the sunlight, there are little specks that shimmer. This is my only green shell…and it sparkles. Green is really “in” these days. It’s the new trend, the new fad. Everyone is talking green this and that: building green, growing green, manufacturing green, designing green, living green. Green is a wonderful new consciousness to help us preserve and be more mindful of our precious resources, and allow us to live more harmoniously with the Earth. It’s about time. We live on a magnificently green planet. I like to think the Creator gave us so much green since it is such a healing color. It is the color of the heart chakra. So in essence, our hearts can be constantly renewed and strengthened by all the beautiful green that surrounds us. We have a direct heart connection with this green Earth. I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia where green is lush and abundant. I have lived in the high desert now for ten years, and every spring my heart aches to be back in my native 31 land for there is just nothing like an Appalachian spring. I had the good fortune two years ago to experience my first spring there in nine years. I was driving one day late April to deliver some paintings to a gallery, and I had to pull off the highway so I could take it all in. I sat for some time gazing out in all directions upon the lush verdant fields and mountains. Then I began counting all the different shades of green that I was seeing. I stopped at twenty-two, and was sure there were still more. It was amazing. There was also a life force, an incredible surge of vibrant energy coming out of all the trees and bushes and grasses. Everything was so alive. The redbuds on the mountain were in full bloom bursting next to the white dogwoods. There was a multitude of “prana”(east Indian) or “chi”(Chinese), or as the Mayans would call it, “itz”, meaning magical stuff. All the beauty and energy took my breath away. We don’t have such a spring here in the high desert of New Mexico. The Juniper and Pinon trees look the same all year round. To boot, the Juniper produces a very aggressive allergic pollen that can make springtime here quite miserable. But the cottonwoods, aspen and other trees start to green, and it’s a welcome sight in the desert. If you dig deep, you can find bits of an Appalachian spring here. The lilac bushes are as big as trees. A whole lot of green looks good, smells good and feels good. Even drinking and eating green is good for us. So maybe now we are finally grasping that living green is good for us, too, and affords us all the opportunity in our daily lives to care for the planet in every way possible. The gathering at Woodstock back in the sixties reminded us of our need to return to the garden. A simple message then perhaps, 32 but a very profound and needed one today. We are still waiting for big business and corporations to support living closer to the Earth. We can’t get very far in living and building green if all the people with the money and the power to call the shots don’t believe in it. If it’s going to be a way of life, then it has to be made affordable. I know a lot of people, including myself, who are wanting to build green, but it is much more expensive. There aren’t a whole lot of green builders out there yet so it takes a lot of time and research to find ways to build an energy efficient home affordably. Green is our future, but it is hard to believe we have failed for so long to sensibly harness the energies of the sun, wind, water and earth in our way of life. In light of the serious repercussions from global warming, what are we waiting for? Waiting for big business and government to get beyond their greed and start to care…..waiting for the Earth to shake some sense into us…waiting for the average consumer to stretch beyond their comfort zone and embrace change. We all need to stop waiting, and get going. The Earth is waiting also, waiting for us all to wake up. It is time we embrace and understand that She is a living, breathing organism with whom we all have deep connection. She is our Mother, and commands our respect. Our respect will not go unrewarded. She can and will respond to our shift in energy. The question is, can we make the shift to align with Her brillant Divine consciousness? The opportunity for deep transformation is at hand for all of us. Every one of us can make a difference. We are all in this together now. We all have to do our part, no matter how big or small, in caring for this Earth home that we all share. She will keep reminding us until we do. 33 Many of us on the planet are too comfortable in what my father often described as our ”conspicuous consumption”. It is even the goal of many developping countries. Our lives are filled with every modern convenience and every conceivable gadget, all of which require the Earth’s energy consumption and depletion. Living green will not be an easy change. Our consumption cannot remain mindless. Our success will require constant awareness and effort. We can begin in our own homes: replacing old appliances with the newer energy efficient ones now on the market; recycling our bottles, cans, paper and plastic; composting and burning much of our trash; collecting rain water and using gray water in the garden; installing solar panels or a windmill. Fortunately, the list is growing with the current trend and interest in green living. Today there are numerous green magazines, television shows and workshops. The web is full of sites with green information, support and contacts. We can all choose green. It just requires our choice and committment. Our efforts will not be futile. We can be a positive, hopeful example to our children, friends and communities in caring for our planet. Our lives will be more simple and meaningful. We can still maintain a level of modern day living comfort while sustaining and honoring the planet that sustains us. I went to Ireland a few years ago. It truly is incredibly green. I mean, you are swimming in green. Maybe that’s why there is such magic there in all those green hearted hills. Maybe that’s why the Irish feel lucky, cause their hearts soak up all that green. I love getting lost in green. I’ve always wanted to have a home greenhouse full of plants with a big comfy chair where I can soak up a bit of paradise…and have a shower hiding in the tall plants. Lately, I 34 have the urge to move to a Mexican tropical village where I can live indoor/outdoor, and be in Nature more. One has to balance a need for green, really lush green, and water, while living up here in the high dry desert. I want to have greenhouses, and gardens and grow all my own food. There’s nothing like the lifeforce of food you grow, pick and eat right away. You can really feel it, the food glows. We are all losing our green essence eating food that is well beyond a few days old. The green garden is about here and now. Green is life. It’s food for the body and soul. It’s funny how most kids don’t like to eat greens, but us grown ups can’t seem to get enough of them. I love salades. My friends would say I make some really mean salades. Someday I’d like to do a salade cookbook. We cannot depend on our leaders or government to show us the way. Green will be the grass roots efforts of those who have the courage to change. The power of change is in the dreams and visions of every individual. When we share our dreams and visions, we build a community of people who care to make a difference. We can be the green generation that pioneers a new green way of living. I will rest easy knowing my children are living in harmony with this green Earth…knowing they can hear my sparkling green shell singing of the fertile ocean life that feeds us. 35 Chapter Five Woman Shell number twelve has the biggest splash of bold color on it around the opening on the top in sensuous shades of magenta like a woman’s lips. This shell feels so feminine, soft and worn in places, like most women. The stripes of this limpet have worn down to a smooth white beyond the mouth, and then soft shades of browns and peach fan out to the edge. The shape is beautifully round, gem like, and solid with a soft rosey glow. I am fifty-three years old, and sometimes I have spells when I am plum worn out and have to rest. I welcome the rest where everything slows down, and I can get still inside. I like to be surrounded by Nature often as She helps me slow down….and listen. I have the good fortune right now to be living with a man I love in his all glass and steel house high up on a mountain. There is no driveway to it, but rather a three hundred fifty plus rock path that winds up the mountain like a stairway. I get a built in workout everyday. There is a vernicular tram which he constructed and used to build his house, and now serves to haul up groceries and all other necessities, including tired bodies on occasion. Up at the house, there is a mesh steel deck that curves out from the flagstone patio above a fish pond with a waterfall. The sound of the running water over the rocks is like having your own private stream to sit by. It soothes my soul. The views from up here are mind expanding. I can see at least 180 degrees south, and off to the east and west. There are mountains everywhere, and lots of hills shaped like women. We are up here in this hide out with the birds, living in an eagle’s nest. We are also accompanied by coyotes, 36 bobcats, foxes and big rabbits. And the sunsets….there are no words. I am buried in the bosom of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the blood of Christ. I can be quiet up here, rest my mind and let the Spirits talk. I especially like to listen for the voice of the Sacred Wild Feminine. She is the Divine energy that emanates from all life, from the heart of the Earth. She is the Earth. She also has a higher heavenly expression that I often see as the most gorgeous, translucent shade of coral pink that shimmers and positively glows. The wisdom of the Sacred Wild Feminine is in softness and strength simultaneously. She is compassionate for all life, every living creature. She moves with the seasons and cycles that go round and round. Time has no beginning nor end. It is circle dance for Her. She is radiant, full of beauty and joy, yet deep and complex. She gives and gives and gives, and only asks that we open our hearts to receive. She is our mirror of great transformation as we watch Her die, and come back to life, again and again. She is the Divine vessel from which life is given, yet, we forget Her. I listen for the rhythms of this earthly mother, this wise woman. I aspire to be like Her, and move to Her music. She is the life force, and sometimes the life line when my life doesn’t feel it is working, when I am not glowing. Like many women, I have had my share of loss, heartbreak, injuries, abuse and abandonnment. We all have our stories. I don’t want to think about my stories too much, maybe because I have gotten lost too many times in my identification with them. I revisit my stories from time to time when I hear their lessons calling. I try to let them go with gratitude. I want to stay open to all the 37 possibilities for the woman I want to become. Holding on to my stories slows me down, like being stuck in the mud, when all I want to feel glowing inside me is that beautiful coral pink light. Sometimes it is not easy to move from the dark gooey mud of my past into the ease of the light. But this light, this energy of the Sacred Wild Feminine seems to transcend my stories so I can just be…be still. In my stillness, I try to ground those qualities that matter: softness, strength, compassion, beauty, caring, wisdom, peace and love. I long to be a beautiful rose in the eye of this storm. This is my rosey glow. It is a place of rest and wholeness where I can feel nurtured and guided by the Earth’s Divine wisdom, woman to woman. I think the wisdom of the Divine and Nature are the keys to real peace for a woman. It is the true marriage, the marriage of heaven and earth, the Sacred and the Wild, within us. They meet in the heart. It can take a long time to find the peace of this union within us….lifetimes. Many of us women find ourselves forsaking this Divine marriage within our own hearts for another kind of marriage. We give our hearts away instead to the man we love, hoping he will be our path to peace. Some of us choose wisely, some of us do not. But the gift of heartbreak is the return to our own hearts. We take our power back. We realize we have to BE the LOVE we long for. Yet still, no one man can be everything to us. We are much too complex for that, as often mirrored in the complexity of our daily lives. Many women have a lot of hats to wear just in their family role alone as wife, lover, friend, mother, caretaker, teacher, cook, housekeeper, decorator, shopper, carpooler, gardener, party giver, book keeper, money manager and more. Even more women add to these roles their own part or fulltime profession, their pursuit of a 38 passionate interest or volunteer work, or the extra added burden of being a single parent. It is all too easy for the modern woman to find herself overwhelmed, and burned out with her glass half empty. Somewhere in all this a woman must find the time to nurture and cultivate her own inner Divine marriage because she is Divine. The knowledge and fulfillment of her own divinity enables her to carry out these myriad and miraculous roles with amazing grace. A woman IS different from a man. She has a special Divine connection to the Creator, to the life force, to Spirit, because she carries life in her womb, and is gifted with the grace and wisdom to nurture this life. The rhythms of her body and soul are intricately woven to the flow of Nature’s cycles. She is intimately connected to the birth, life, death dance. She understands these cycles are a given, an innate and eternal rhythm embedded in the evolution of both Nature and the human soul. To rest in these rhythms, to surrender to their natural flow, defines a woman’s journey in knowing herself, her Sacred Wild soul. She is One with the Earth’s wisdom. She can hear and feel the call, and often the cry, of the Sacred Wild Feminine. These are the gifts that set a woman apart from a man. If a man understands this, he will be blessed. In turn, he will be a blessing to both woman and the Earth. A woman can be the portal to a man’s heart, and the discovery of his own inner Divine marriage. Through honoring the gifts of a woman, a man can come to know the way of the Sacred Wild Feminine.In the same way, a woman who honors the gifts and strengths of a man can come to know the Sacred Wild Masculine. It is designed to be the most Sacred and beautiful of dances. A woman who is truly seen and 39 respected by a man will bloom. In the softness, strength and beauty of her flowering lies a man’s true wisdom. Sadly, there continues to be a long suffering persecution of women in the world, and even more sadly, mostly by men. Throughout history and many cultures, women have been denied freedom of their voice, expression and power. They have endured the horrific degradations of rape, physical abuse, slavery and death. I have deep gratitude for the courageous women who fought for their rights, and paved the way for the rest of us to have a better life. But we have not yet arrived fully. The majority of women in most cultures today continue to suffer. Even here in America, where women constitute the majority of the work force, there still exists both very obvious and subtle efforts to keep us in our place. There is something seriously wrong in a society that prevents by law a woman’s right to choose. It is the denial of a woman’s true power, the denial of her Divine gifts with which to exercise that power. I believe that the concept of and respect for the Sacred Feminine must reemerge into the minds and hearts of us all if we are to grasp the real message delivered to us two thousand years ago….the message of Sacred Union and Partnership. It is disturbing and even shocking to acknowledge that the power of the patriarchal church has effectively contributed to the loss of this message. Most religions, and specifically Christianity in this case, have been organized by men, dominated by men, dictated by men and controlled by men. Women were to remain silent, and accept their inferiority and their place beneath men. We were not taught by the Christian church that perhaps Jesus was a family man, married to the lovely Magdalene who was always by his side, yet for undisclosed and perhaps 40 protective reasons, their marriage could not be made public. We are taught instead that Jesus was a Holy man, excempt of the normal earthly experiences, endowed with the powers of almighty God, and Magdalene was delivered to us as a whore. It all began here, the exaltation of man, the degradation of woman and the possibility of Sacred Partnership denied. The power of Jesus cannot be negated, but the true meaning of his message posed a grave threat to the people of power at that time, a people who were not ready to embrace the power of their own divinity as spiritual beings. They chose to foster man’s laws over spirit’s laws, and in doing so, the true teachings of Jesus were masked in religion and lost. I do not believe Jesus came to elevate man over woman. I believe he came to elevate woman to be man’s equal, and create the understanding and power in Sacred Partnership. We have only to honestly acknowledge the devastating consequences of a patriarchy empty of women’s voices and devoid of the Sacred Wild Feminine. The impact of this imbalance to the lives of both men and women, our children, our culture and our planet are evident. Our journey to restore balance has yet to be fully embraced. As we are all divinely assisted to wake from our sleep over these next few years, I believe we will welcome this new vision imbedded in the power of equality. Meanwhile, I know many women who are mustering the courage to make the lonely journey to the underworld to face the consequences of the patriarch’s influence in their own lives….myself included. Despite the increasing acceptance, presence and success of women in our culture, their wounds cannot be overlooked. Hundreds of years of enduring a place of inferiority, devaluation, domination, restrictions, limitations, abuse and silence leaves scars. For many of 41 us women, we have had to rely on the power of our masculine in order to fit the patriarchy, not realizing consciously the deep betrayal to our silenced Sacred Wild Feminine. We may be taking our place in the world, but something has been sacrificed. Maybe it takes our lives not working, our marriages failing, our getting sick, our anger erupting, our souls full of emptiness before we journey beyond our anger into our pain where we can hear the long silenced voice of our inner wisdom. It is a strange crossroad….a place of celebration to have found our own voice, our Divine Feminine, our hope to recreate our life as the woman we have longed to be…and a place of complete shattering of the safe life we have lived and known, a full surrender. Ultimately, our journey is about retrieving all that we have lost. My journey has been full of a lot of anger at men. I cultivated early on a tough, savvy, impenetrable outer shell capable of matching any guy. My Dad was a tough man. My survival instincts told me to meet toughness with toughness, yet inside I could sense there was another way. It has taken a long time for me to be willing to risk vulnerability, to hear and trust my own inner voice, to understand the other way was the path of my Sacred Wild Feminine. I have shed a lot of tears over my own betrayal. My angry, tough male wanted to blame the men in my life and all the patriarchy, but all that did was keep me farther from the wisdom of my feminine when my work was to reclaim Her. I am still doing this work, gathering all the lost parts of Her. It was a great relief when I realized I didn’t have to make it a war…man versus woman or woman versus man….and I could finally embrace the path of Sacred Union that I knew to be true. In order for us to achieve Sacred Union with another in relationship, a beloved, we have to find it in ourselves first. It means 42 cultivating a healthy inner female and male that are working to support us on our path instead of working against us. For myself, my inner female was silenced, suppressed, squashed early on, and in unconsciously allowing that, I betrayed Her. Without Her to balance my inner male, He ran the show. He stole the car, driving wild in all directions, often wreaking havoc and leaving a path of destruction for me to have to mop up later….just like the patriarch has done in the outer world without the assistance of the Sacred Wild Feminine. Over time, my wounds and my imbalance grew deeper. Eventually, my inner male running wild turned against me without my inner female to soften him. I began to feel the anger seeping up from the abysss. While my life on the outside looked charmed and in control, the voices of my angry inner male, and ego, were doing their damage….”You aren’t pretty, you are a failure, you will never be a success, you can’t have love, you can’t have the life you want.” My life became a deep emotional struggle to silence these voices. They felt like poison, and I was dying a slow death. In fact, this angry inner male did need to die so that I could turn my attention to my long suffering silenced Sacred inner female that had been waiting my whole life to speak Her truth. I found Her in my heart, not in my mind, nor out there somewhere in my spiritual search. Her voice is not angry despite how long I betrayed Her. Her voice is a soft sweet whisper that tells me I am beautiful, talented, successful, lovable and able to create the life I want. She tells me to have compassion for my angry inner male that is dying, and trust He will rise from the ashes with a willingness in His heart to meet me. I am still learning as I travel down this lovely path of the Sacred Wild Feminine. It is uncharted territory, a road less travelled, yet I 43 know the way is slowly bringing me home to myself, to a place of rest and renewed hope, to wholeness. The healing of our own inner male and female brings the sweet success of our own inner marriage, a Sacred Union. What we find on the inside, we can manifest on the outside. As above, so below; as within, so without. The path of Sacred Union in the world is about supporting one another in finding our true selves. It’s about growth, with or without each other. I had an evoutionary astrologer tell me once that I’d had many lifetimes as a successful, masterful man, in the way of a medicine man and shaman and doctor. He said I had achieved enough growth through my lessons as a man that I could choose not to reincarnate on the Earth again. I chose instead to come back and master what remaining lessons I had as a woman. Hmmm…maybe that’s why my male side has always been so strong and more familiar, and my female so quiet and uncertain. But I love being a woman. I love to saturate myself in womanly things: a beautiful, sensuous dress, sexy shoes and hair, yummy fragrances and lotions, colored lips and special jewelry. I really like a man who knows these things matter, and makes the space for me to indulge in them. There’s nothing like dressing up, and having your man take you out for a night on the town to boost your womanly spirits…especially out here in cowgirl country. It’s so important for a woman to feel beautiful, and for her beauty to be appreciated and respected. I find when I feel beautiful on the outside, it works like a magnet pulling my inner beauty out to meet it. And ditto the other way around. Sometimes it’s my inner beauty that creates my outer beauty. I really love dressing up, and I really love digging in the dirt. I love to plant things, and watch them grow. It gives me comfort and faith in my 44 own growth, which at times is much harder than I’d like it to be. Plants seem to grow so effortlessly, yet without the right amount of light, water and care, their growth is limited…kind of like us humans. I would be a plant at risk without my women friends. I have a great circle of women in my life. We are a mandala of flowers, gifting one another with the necessary nourishment to grow and bloom. Our growth can be complex as are our bodies, our cycles, our hormones, our emotions, our passions, expectations and dreams. We share our knowings as women about these complex crossroads for which we often have no directions. We are sunshine for one another, breaking through the clouds and fog to help each other see more clearly. We shine our light during the dark psychic passages of inner death and loss. We dance together in the underworld like wild women, praying for the wisdom to live gracefully through life’s mysterious cycles. We celebrate the beautiful blossoms we know are inevitable. Many women have men in their lives who have yet to discover and connect with their own inner female. These men have no idea what they are missing! They are depriving themselves of ALL women’s rich and wise beauty that would grace their lives with ease and wholeness. Our hearts go out to the men who choose to judge and fear a woman’s ways. We are waiting for you to see us in the mirror. We women here in the land of enchantment are indeed the “way too much sisters”(named by Feeny, the most way too much woman I know), and proud of it. Our hat goes off to any man who has the courage to hang out and play with us. I can promise you this….he will never be the same. The Sacred Wild Feminine is called by many different names in other cultures. I only know two off hand, one from a friend and one from 45 experience. My friend is a man who spent much time in Tibet, and called me” Dakini” when I danced. He said it was an honor to be called Dakini in Tibet. It means “ the woman dancer who can see”. My boys and I spent Christmas of 2003 in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. We arranged to go deep sea fishing on a small boat called The Princess Isis ,run by a sweet old Mexican man named Miguel. We left the dock at six in the morning, and headed out to sea. It was absolutely magical. The sun was just coming up in the distance between two islands, casting its morning glow across the crystalline calm waters. I sata on the front of the boat, and I felt myself being transported to another realm…yet, at the same time, I was more present and alive in that moment, connecting to the sea as if I was the sea. Then the dolphins came…and the sea turtles…and the big fish began to jump. My son James brought in the first of nine Sailfish we would catch within two hours. I will never forget the look on his face when that exquisite fish leaped out of the water, and he realized what he had hooked on the end of his fishing line. My sons each wanted to keep one as a trophy, and we returned the other seven to the sea. While we were bringing in all these fish, Miguel called around to the other boats to find that not a single other boat was catching anything. He started pacing the boat, oozing excitement, speaking Spanish at mach speed. Our Spanish was not too fluent, but I understood when he pointed to me, and called me “La Mujer Grande de mar”, the great woman of the sea. He kept saying it over and over, looking at my sons shaking his head up and down, then put his hand on my shoulder. There was a look in his eyes of recognition that touched my Sacred wild soul down to the bone. For I knew he could see, and understand, my Sacred Wild Feminine. I had been riding on the mystical sea of life, fully engaged 46 and connected to my Sacred wild woman, who intuitively knew how to call the wild life of the sea from my own wild self. I can hear men now who read this, and cast it off to luck. But if you only knew what Miguel knew. His boat wasn’t called The Princess Isis for nothing. We are sadly one of those cultures that doesn’t have a name to honor the Sacred Wild Feminine. To top off our magical fishing adventure, the dockmaster proclaimed the biggest Sailfish caught all year by my son Joshua. There are many women in positions of great power today as queens, senators, presidents, advisors and more. Truly we have come a long way, baby! More and more the contributions of women are being recognized. Yet, the wild, wildlife, wilderness, wild woman continue to be expendable resources. We need to honor all the beautiful, vital, fundamental natural rhythms, cycles and instincts found in the wild, and in the hearts of the wild feminine nature. We have yet to see a world where women are free to walk on their wild side, stepping in perfect harmony with their natural ,instinctual ryhthms. It is a culture’s loss when they seek to control or outlaw the Sacred Wild Feminine. For she ignites the mystery of Creation and beauty, and all the music of the soul. She is the pearl of great price. The true Divine gifts that women have to offer will fully flourish when ALL women of this planet can claim these gifts for themselves. The voice of the Sacred Wild woman is waiting to be heard and fill our hearts. The world will so benefit from Her return. My beautiful shell whispers the way with the soft rosey glow of her lips…you can hear Her, if you listen. She is calling you to follow your soul to the water, to be full and flow like the river to the sea, and send your creativity, your passions and possibilities, your wildness across the ocean to spill over the land. 47 Chapter Six Connection The nineteenth shell in my mandala ia very worn, its surface is rough to the touch. What color it once had has faded to a soft brown, and there are no distinguishable stripes. But it is unique. There are two pink striped barnacle remains with openings at the top. They look like little volcanoes. My rough and tough shell has been home to another small species of ocean life. The barnacles have attached themselves so completely as to become a permanent fixture. On the underside of the shell beneath the barnacles is a hard crust white substance, like a glue that penetrated the shells surface to hold them in place. They have made a secure home here. My rough shell and the little volcanic barnacles are now one, forever connected. Connection….we are connected to everything…to all the Earth’s creatures, to one another, to the stars, to all that we can see, and not see. We all make our entance into this world connected to the cord, the lifeline, of our Mother’s giving. It is her gift to us. Like the Earth, all things that grow have their lifelines deeply rooted in the ground, connected to the Mother. All creatures that roam the earth, swim in the waters and fly through the air depend on a survival connection. There is no escaping it. All life is woven in an exquisite tapestry. Maybe sometimes our minds talk and tell us we have control over these connections, but we don’t. There is a deep mystery to connection over which control is just an illusion. The mystery is so much bigger than us. In honor of that, we must be filled with reverance, awe and surrender. There is a place of rest and comfort knowing we are all connected. 48 We humans have a lot of connections: to ourselves, our families, our friends and lovers, our jobs and co-workers, our pets, our homes and favorite places, other countries and cultures, our faith. Our connections are endless. All of our connections have something to give us, and us to them. Sometimes we don’t see the gift, but it is always there. Sometimes it appears when we least expect it, and comes in miraculous ways. I love the story of “Skeleton Woman” from Clarissa Pinkola Estes book “Women Who Run with the Wolves”. A fisherman father disapproves of his daughter and casts her into the sea, where all her flesh is eaten and rots to the bone, leaving her a skeleton woman. One day a fisherman catches her on his fishing line thinking he has caught the big one. Instead, he pulls skeleton woman into his boat. His fear at the sight of her quickly returns her to the sea, and he hurries home. But she is all tangled in his fishing line, and follows close behind him. Once inside his hut, he senses perhaps he is safe, only to find her there on the floor when he lights his lamp. She is a pile of tangled lines and shivering bones that calls his compassion, and he begins to untangle her. The man then lights a fire, and falls asleep. A tear begins to fall down his cheek while he sleeps. Seeing the man’s tear reflect in the firelight, skeleton woman draws close to him and begins to drink of his tear. His tear becomes a river, and she drinks and drinks to quench her long thirst. She then removes the man’s heart, and beats on it like a drum, until she has drummed back all her flesh. She returns his heart, sings off his clothes and skin to skin, rests the night away wrapped together with the fisherman. They remain together, and are always well fed and cared for by the creatures of the sea she had known. 49 Skeleton woman is such a beautiful story about the mystical powers of connection, and the life and death cycles of relationship. The fisherman’s compassion for skeleton woman ignites his own sleeping compassion for himself, and brings forth the burning tear for his own longing and loss. She drinks the healing water of compassion. Out of their combined and connected compassion, he gives her his heart, and she shows him the heart’s path to Creation. Each is transforming the other, each helps the other untangle their wounds. Maybe some of us women were cast out by our fathers. We find ourselves searching for that healing compassion in a man. We are blessed if we find it, and cursed if we don’t. Our search is justified, and sometimes desparate. I think if we can find that healing compassion in ourselves first, right down to the bone, we will find the courage to leave our prisons and pursue freedom. Our own compassion will be found in anothers compassion. The man is special who can respond. He understands connection. I first read this book and compassionate story in 1993 while enduring a relationship that wasn’t working. I tried to make it work, but it didn’t. I spent too much time and energy being hurt and angry, justifying my victim status and finding everything possible wrong with him. This story, this book, helped me understand my need to journey to the underworld to reclaim the lost parts of myself, and connect with my Sacred Wild woman. I followed the voice of my Wild woman out to the Sacred land of enchantment, into Sacred circles of women dancing and drumming, into Sacred teachings and travels to Sacred sites. I began to live the mystery of my Sacred Wild self. The Sacred and the Wild are one. Together they gave me new life. 50 I have spent the last twelve years cultivating this connection to my Sacred Wild Feminine. I attempt to honor, listen to and follow the natural rhythms of my womanly life that live and die, and live and die. I don’t fight what doesn’t want to happen anymore. I want my life to flow just as it needs to, and have that be OK. I don’t want to sneak, shrink, suppress, silence, stifle, settle or stress and call that life cause it’s not. My life is about creation, intuition and love. My work is to be conscious of who I am and know my purpose. I am the Wild Feminine who holds all life Sacred…without Her I am lost. We all come into this life with karmic connections. We all have karmic lessons to learn as part of our growth and evolution. It has become quite apparent that my karmic lessons this lifetime are in relationships. I have been a true Queen of heartbreak, and I say that in the past tense because I am free now to be the Queen of love. I have paid my long suffering karmic debts. My journeys to the underworld have gifted me with the vision, healing and the hope of wholeness. Now, I get to choose. I choose a Sacred connection in love, a connection that does not always come easily. If two people are to achieve a Sacred connection, all of their individual wounds, projections, illusions and baggage have to be weeded out, untangled, first. Very few of us come together in relationship having completed our weeding. If we enter the relationship with a conscious understanding that the dynamics inherent in relationship will afford us the opportunity for completion, then the relationship stands a good chance of becoming a beautiful garden in which we both grow. But the truth is that most of us enter a relationship unconscious of the weeding for which we alone are responsible, and it’s hard to take responsibility for the unconscious 51 parts of ourselves until they become conscious. If we stop tending to the weeds on our side of the garden, the weeds take over our life and our growth is no longer a thing of beauty. Then we find ourselves asking or expecting our partner to stop tending his weeds to help us or tend to the whole garden himself. Sooner or later, the garden becomes too much work. Nothing but weeds are growing, and all the things of beauty have died. The weeds we each have to tend are different for all of us. For myself, I always brought to relationship my unconscious desire for my man to help me weed my side of the garden. It became an expectation because I didn’t want all the pressure of tending to my side alone. I also unconsciously moved to his side of the garden to tend his weeds if it looked like he needed help. I never consciously asked for his help nor offered my help, which would have been a much different dynamic. I was never at peace in my side of the garden because my Sacred Feminine had no voice, and my angry male wouldn’t shut up. I had my moments of contentment in tending my side and creating beauty, but it was always disrupted by my runaway male creating the pressure to keep the whole garden perfect…and everything I had to do, do, do do, do. I have learned now that my ability to access my Sacred Feminine is vital to my contentment in the garden of relationship. Without this connection, I crumble, and lose the true essence of myself in trying to maintain the perfect garden for both myself and my partner, and everyone else. I am not able to sustain my own autonomy and empowerment without the freedom I find in the natural 52 rhythms of my Sacred female, and cease to be a prisoner of my patriarchal male. My Sacred wild female isn’t anything like my runaway wild male. His wildness is out of control, angry, reckless, while my Sacred female is wild in the wisdom of her natural instincts. She cannot be tamed nor molded to fit into an unconscious patriarchal culture that dictates what is appropriate and acceptable for her. It is the wild runaway male that needs her wisdom to find the balance, for he, too, craves his own natural rhythms by which to live. I will trust, both inside and outside, for the meeting between my wild woman and my wild man. Perhaps they will fall in love. Perhaps he will give her his heart, and she will show him the way to Sacred connection, creation and union. They will walk on the wild side, following the natural cycles of many beginnings and many endings that love endures…together. There is nothing like our connections to our friends…and family. I emphasize friends here only because sometimes our emotional and karmic connections to family can be somewhat intense. We tend to choose the people in our biological families to be some of our greatest teachers, and our strongest mirrors in which to see ourselves. It doesn’t make our families any less important than our friends, just easier sometimes for us to be seen and understood. We need to embrace our biological families for the gifts and the lessons they bring us. Sometimes it’s our friends who show up, and help us with this understanding. Most often, we play out our family dramas in our love relationships. This can be healing, or very painful and negative. The sooner we connect to the deep knowings of our Sacred wild souls at the core, and embrace some good juicy guidance from Spirit, the better chance we have for creating healthy relationships. 53 My women friends are the rocks in my life. I have really great male friends, too, but it’s not quite the same. The connection with my women friends weaves both a beautiful ease and depth in sharing the fullness and essence of who we are as Sacred Wild women. We are multi-dimensional mirrors in which we get to see all the possibilities of who we can be. We celebrate our Spirit wisdom and our Earth wisdom. The union of Spirit and Earth wisdom gives birth to our sensual joy and spiritual bliss wherein we laugh deeply and cry deeply. It’s the healing laughter we share that I love most. Those belly laughs from the abyss bring on our deepest love and freedom for life. Some say God is laughing all the time. I love the connection I have with my children. I was a very young mother at twenty-one, and not at all sure what to do with this marvelous new creation I now had as a full-time job. My baby and I were so connected that if I had a bad day, so did he. This made me very nervous. One day in early spring, I took my baby, Joshua, out to a field by the house. I sat him down, and made a circle around him made from stones and wildflowers and daffodils. Then I walked around the circle, thanking God, Great Spirit, for this child and in my prayers I gave him back to the source from which he came, because I didn’t know what I was doing as a new mother. I needed grace, and lots of it. I needed a connection to something much bigger than myself to parent this child successfully. I adore my two sons. They melt my heart, and bring me boundless joy, even now at ages twenty-eight and thirty. If I could describe my connection to them, it would be them as my teachers. I watched them grow in constant amazement at their wisdom. I still do. I am not sure, but I think maybe they taught me more than I taught them. 54 I had a wild run away Pinto pony once named Mocha. Our connection was one of patience. He gave a charming, calm performance when I test rode him so he came home with me. But the first day on him out of the barn, he took off like a rocket. I would hold on with all my might until he finally bucked me off. This went on for a long time. Then one day after being bucked off just too may times, I decided to stay on the ground. After some time passed, Mocha appeared. He came close, stood over me and put his nose down to me. I scratched his nose, and climbed back on him. And for whatever reason, he never bucked me off again. We finally made a connection. It is true what they say about a dog being a man’s best friend. I overheard an elderly gentleman the other day telling someone he was tired of travelling, and just wanted to stay at home so he could get a dog. I had to smile, thinking of the great dogs I had known as companions, and teachers like my children. Without words, just the mystery of connection, they taught me patience with the gift of unconditional love filled with lots of laughter. But the hardest lesson they gave me was the pain of loss. Some of the most challenging lessons coming from the connections that we lose. When I was twenty, I had an amazing yellow lab/shepherd mix that I had rescued from the pound. I named her Tara. She was covered with mange, and it took months of rubbing this nasty liquid into her skin to get rid of it. She had an uncanny zest and enthusiam for her life as a dog. She smiled at me often as if to say thank you. I loved our connection. I was driving home from college at Thanksgiving with Tara and my boyfriend’s dog, Herbie, in the back. I decided to take a quick detour to visit some friends who just had a new baby. I was driving down a winding, hilly dirt road, and was hit head on at the crest of a 55 hill by a pickup truck. In an instant I figured my life was over when a blinding white light engulfed me. I let go of the steering wheel to cover my eyes. Everything went into slow motion, and I heard all the sounds of the crash, but they seemed so far away. When I came to, I was on the floor of the passenger side in a ball covered with glass. I didn’t have a scratch. The car was on its side in the ditch without a single window in place. I could hear Tara gasping for air, and a man nearby crying and praying. I climbed out a back window as the steering wheel had collapsed and punctured the drivers seat like an arrow. When I climbed out, the man who had hit me fell over in disbelief. Tara was badly wounded. Herbie had escaped any serious injuries as he was tucked behind her while they rode with their heads out the window. I had to shake the man to his feet, and sent him down the road to my friend’s house to call the police and a veternarian. I sat in the road rocking Tara and waited. The policeman arrived with no veternarian. He looked at Tara, then at me with his hands on my shoulders and told me clearly my dog was too badly injured to try and save her, and it would be best to end her suffering. He held my hand, and walked me down the road a ways, then he went back to Tara and shot her. I fell to my knees and wept painfully until the policeman came to collect me. The man and I sat in the backseat of the police car while the policeman questionned us as to what had happened. The man admitted quickly it was his fault. He was late for an interview for a second job, and was driving too fast. The policeman asked me if I wanted to press charges. I turned to look at this man. His face said it all, his eyes full of remorse and regret. I could feel compassion rising, and responded no to his question. The man took my hand, and told me through his tears how he had four kids with one on the way. He 56 couldn’t make ends meet, and was forced to seek a second job. He thanked me, then stared at me for some time before he said he had witnessed a miracle, and would never forget it. My car was totalled, and Tara was gone. But I was alive and unhurt, and forever changed. I felt Tara had taken my place that day….given her life that I might live. If I had worn my seatbelt, I wouldn’t be here writing these words. It took me a long time to wear my seatbelt again, and I still tend to take it off on dirt roads. The white light was a mystery. But what is clear in that mystery is that some powerful force much bigger than myself and my life showed up to protect me. I never questionned the forces of the Unseen again. I had made a connection to the invisble realm, and I knew it was as real as anything I could see. I suppose that accident was my Initiation, a cosmic experience, to embrace a new path because my faith and experiences in the Unseen, unexplainable realms grew stronger and stronger from that day on. I had been launched onto the unknown path of Spirit, forever connected through Tara, and to Tara, by the Great Mystery. There are so many incredible stories about the connection between animals and humans. For some people, their connection with animals is more profound than their connection to fellow humans. Animals seem to communicate with a sixth sense, and there is more and more evidence that most animals have their own language. They radiate a connection to the Earth’s wisdom, and even the higher realms of Spirit. Because our communication with them is not dependent on words, we are given the opportunity to work with the Unseen energies which give us a deeper connection to all life. If we listen closely, we can hear what they are saying. 57 I read the other day about these new experiments being done that are attempting to prove the Unseen realms and our connection to them. A mans’ DNA was extracted from his body, and taken many miles away from him. Then they subjected the man to various influences that would trigger emotional responses, and attempt to measure similar responses in his DNA. I don’t recall exactly how they were able to measure his DNA response, but incredibly, for every emotion the man experienced, his DNA miles away recorded the same response. Wow…that blew my mind. I started thinking about my kids, the DNA we might share, and wondered about the mystery of our connections along this invisible thread. We are all connected, no matter our age, gender, race or religion, in the circle of life. Each of us is a connection to one another that can make a difference. It is not necessary to aspire to greatness. If as the late Joseph Campbell suggests, we simply follow our bliss, we will naturally fulfill our destiny. Sometimes our connections are severed through loss. If we can find the gift in the loss, if we can continue to follow our bliss and sustain our passion for life, our gratitude will keep us connected. The world cannot afford for a single one of us to feel separate and alone, for we all have a gift to give, no matter how big or small. Our connections go round and round in a spiral dance like the shells in my mandala. Our lives cross paths with one another along the intricate spiral path of the hologram that knows no time. We are all mirrors in our own gardens, giving one another the reflection of who we really are. Our connections with one another provide us with love, companionship, lessons and growth. Our connections to the animals 58 give us wisdom, wonder, and joy. And we are both, humans and animals, dependent on our connection to the Earth for survival. The quality of this connection is crucial. Our modern world poses a serious threat to sustaining this connection. We cannot afford abuse to our planet on a grand scale anymore than we can afford abuse on the personal level of our lives. Abuse is denial, and denial errodes connection. We cannot be a connection that makes a difference if we are not grounded in our connection to daily life. The times we live in require that we all show up in every and any way we can. We are all in this together now. The days to come, no matter how blessed or turbulent, will remind us of our deep connection to Spirit, and afford us an opportunity to embrace living by its laws. Spirit’s laws uphold oneness, connection, cooperation, harmony, acceptance, patience, presence, compassion, abundance, equality and honesty. Man’s laws too often dictate separation, disconnection, domination, judgement, greed, lack, discrimination and injustice. If we are in truth spiritual beings having a human experience, then we will fair far better living by the laws of Spirit. Man has been enforcing his laws for a long time on this planet. I am not so sure it is working so well, kind of like having a bad president in office for too long. It is time for a change. It is time for Spirit, for the Sacred, that dwells within everyone of us, to have a voice. The Spirit of the Earth and all her wisdom, the Spirit of the Heavens and all the Unseen mysterie are speaking. Their voices carry the sweet aromatic fragrance of our Sacred and Wild souls on the wind. We can trust the depth of our senses and feelings to guide us to the calm, still waters to witness the truth of our reflection and connection to all that is. Here lies the beauty of our harmonic 59 resonance. Then, like the little barnacles on my rough shell, we just might have a secure home here on planet Earth. 60 Chapter Seven Color My bowl of shells has been sitting in the sun. All the water has evaporated. I cover them with water, and bring them back to life. Suddenly, it is a symphony of singing shells. Every one of my shells has a voice now. Together, they are a beautiful chorus singing a song of color. Their singing voices take me around the mandala. I hear each song radiating out with the uniqueness of their subtle shades. Though all my shells are from the same family, I am amazed at the diversity of colors they each display. Only a few hint at similarity. The palette includes shades of burnt and raw umber, burnt and raw sienna, light and deep magenta, hints of orange, green and purple, gray and black along with many shades of white. I am a painter so I tend to see colors as shades of paint. The colors my shells exude can also be described as chocolate, redwood, bark, curry, peach, moss, eggplant, wine, soft rose, steel, dove, wheat, snow and ivory. Color is crucial to our existence. Color brings life to everything. It makes all our senses pop and tingle. It feeds our imagination and expression with freedom. A beautiful and extraordinary combination of colors burn into the soul. You can really feels colors, especially when you wear them. I have a real love affair with color. Color lights my fire, it really turns me on. One of my first memories in this lifetime was a brillant colored butterfly mobile that hung over my crib. That was the beginning of my color infusion and addiction. Later on, around first grade, I would pick out the dress or clothes I wanted to wear every day by the color. I still do. There are days when I feel soft and cozy, and reach for 61 pink…days when I feel stressed and reach for blue to calm me down…days when when I feel weak and need a shade of orange to give me guts…days when I feel sad and need green for healing. I have a lot of clothes, meaning more than I need, because I am a sucker for color. There are just so many desireable colors needed for all my moods! And so many beautiful combinations of colors to create. Wearing color makes me feel good. I want to surround myself with colors, create whole worlds with color. I think there is a whole world of color inside us. We are rainbows really. In India there is a Sanskrit word, “chakra”, meaning “wheel of light”. Our chakras are what really drive us. We are moving circles of light, of color, of energy, up and down the spine around our central nervous system. There are seven basic chakras, and each one radiates a color. There is so much to be said about chakras, but a quick and easy description follows: 1) the Root chakra, at the base of the spine, with all the shades of red, is concerned with our connection to the Earth, our daily groundedness, our survival needs and passion for life 2) the Sacral chakra, our sexual organs, with all the shades of orange, is home to our sexuality and creativity, which together define a big part of our spirituality 3) the Solar Plexus chakra, the center of our gut, with all the shades of yellow, is about riding the wave of our emotions, maintaining our own empowerment and feeling all our feelings 4) the Heart chakra, the bridge between heaven and earth, with all the shades of green, and some pink, is all about the matters of the heart, loving and being loved, harmony and balance 62 5) the Throat chakra, our neck and voice, with all the shades of blue, especially indigo, is the expression of our truth through sound 6) the Third-eye chakra, the mind between our eyes, with all the shades of violet and purple, is all those never ending thoughts, and the power of creative vision and intuition 7) the Crown chakra, above our heads, defined by shades of white, gold and magenta, is our connection to the Divine, to Spirit, to the Sacred Unseen realms Some say there are more than these seven basic chakras in the body. I believe there are more chakras above the Crown chakra where the higher laws of Spirit reside. Our lives are a journey up the spine. We are blessed if we find our connection to the Divine while still in body. A whole other world opens up to us with a desire to live by Spirit’s laws over Man’s laws. Our chakras are the energies that connect us to both the Earth and the Cosmos, to matter and to spirit. This rainbow of colored light is our life force. Our happiness and health depends upon the quality of light emanating from our chakras. The colors of our chakras will remain luminous as long as the energies continue to move along our spine. Our health declines, our colors fade, when the energies become blocked. Color visualization, or saturating ourselves with a particular color, is a powerful tool for healing. The impact of color upon us cannot be underestimated. The more we connect with the colors of our chakras, the closer we come to understanding our own well being. I like to think of drinking color in, making me juicy and delicious, nourishing the colors of my soul so my light can shine. 63 We are rivers of light, the continous flow of light and energy moving throughout our bodies sustaining us like the precious waters of the Earth. If the essence of our energy is light, and color is light, then we are truly rainbows…the alchemists of sun and rain, fire and water. Perhaps the wonder and magic we all feel at the sight of a rainbow in the sky is the reflective gift of our own inner rainbows, reminding us in that fleeting moment of the beautiful colors we all carry inside. I am a fine art painter. I have been painting and obsessing with color all my life. I was not a child that exhibited some exceptional artistic promise. I found painting by accident, and fueled by a somwhat desparate search for a new major in college. I would also say, in retrospect, fate would have it that painting found me. My father encouraged me to pursue a career concerning the environment. After several years of soul searching via other colleges and time off travelling/working, I attended the University of Virginia with a major in Environmental Science. But I failed, twice, to pass calculus which was a requirement for this major. I really did try, having received significant amounts of tutoring from a medical student. I finally had to humbly accept that my brain did not work this way. In my desparation and need for consolation after my final flunk, I dropped in on a friend’s watercolor class. I picked up a brush, started doodling, all the while chatting with her about my dilema. My moment of destiny arrived when the art teacher peered over my shoulder, picked up my painted doodles and exclaimed to the class that this was what he was looking for. And so it was, 64 the day I picked up a brush, and never put it down. I graduated in 1978 from the University of Virginia with a BA in Fine Art. I was completely compelled by color. Everywhere I went, everywhere I looked, color was calling. I couldn’t paint fast enough. My obsession with the juxtaposition of color was insatiable: violet tulips in a yellow vase on a jade green tablecloth against the backdrop of a soft gray rainy day, or the black cows in a yellow ochre field against the deep purple mountains beneath a periwinkle sky. Color got me out of bed every morning. I couldn’t wait to see the way the colors came together in their luminous dance. Despite having a newborn in May of 1977, I had produced over seventy paintings on paper by the end of 1978. It helped that he was a very good baby! I was seeing the world through new eyes, what the great painter Robert Henri would call the “art spirit”. Everything was one big painting. My addiction grew to wearing more and more colors, mixing them like a painting. Soon I was filling my house with colorful rugs and fabrics and painted furniture. Finally, all the white walls had to go. Eventually, this passion became a decorative and faux painting business in the late eighties that I started with my girlfriend, Paige. And later, in the nineties, after deciding I had spent enough time on a ladder inhaling paint fumes, I continued sharing my passion in teaching decorative and faux painting workshops. I absolutely love bringing a home to life with color. I remodelled a house I lived in once that became an epiphany of color in all its glory. The entrance and livingroom glowed sunset 65 yellow into a periwinkle kitchen that led into a coral diningroom down a soft lime hallway to an ethereal blue bedroom. I painted a trompe l’oeil garden path on the door to the garage, and fish swimming under the sea in a wall niche. My sons, Joshua and James, helped me sponge paint their rooms. Then I painted a big ocean wave with surfers in Joshua’s room, and James had a jungle of animals in his room. Three years later when it came time to sell this house, all the realtors strongly suggested I repaint all the walls in neutral colors if I really wanted to sell it. I got an offer on the house before it was even listed by a couple who loved all the colors, and didn’t want to change them. Luck maybe, but I think color really does talk to us, and makes us feel good. It takes us crazy artists who can see and hear color to paint a house this way so that others less daring can appreciate it. Five years later, I would get lucky again, and sell another house I’d painted with aqua colorwashed walls in the guest bedroom, an apricot diningroom with a deep blue purple ceiling and a faux tortoise shell banister along the stairs. This couple even wanted to buy a lot of my painted furniture and paintings to go with it. People say I have a gift when it comes to color….and houses. I haven’t owned my own home in a long time, and all the white walls are wearing me down. I have been living a gypsy life, but blessed with some adventurous and life-changing travels. I fill the house where I live with the beauty of color from around the world: tablecloths from Peru, blankets from Bolivia, plates and vases from Mexico, leather pillows and fabrics from Africa. I 66 want to build a home with my beloved on a magical ranch we own. I want to create a beautiful sanctuary where color shines, and radiates its gifts of beauty and joy and healing to all who come. I want my paintings to go out into the world, into the hearts and homes of others, and share my gift of color. Imagine a world with no color. If our eyes are truly the windows to our souls, then I think our souls would not be so rich and full without color. We would have the expanse of our other senses…sound, taste, touch and smell…but a big piece would be missing. I love black and white photography as it captures and defines a stark, almost raw, quality to the image, yet the whole story is not being told. I remember an art teacher told me once that my drawings looked like I hated drawing. I guess I was in a hurry to dive into my affair with color. Nature is our mirror for the healing power of color. The lush multitudes of green in spring remind us of our rich, full hearts with so much to give. The vibrant, pulsating red violets of the redbud blooming arouses our longing for love and passion. Our brillant yellow sun reminds us every day how good it is to feel alive. Nature reflects her own talent as a painter when I gaze upon an electric high desert sunset, or upon the shimmering shades of chartreuse and magenta in my favorite orchid. She is a infinite sea of inspiration and creation. Our ability and desire to create draws us closer to the Creator of all life. In that, we can find the gift of passion to let our colors shine…like my beautiful shells glistening in the sunlight beneath the water. We humans are all shades of color, each with our own special voice and song. Together, we sing the body electric. 67 Chapter Eight Beauty All my shells are beautiful. I hear one shell calling to me. It says it is the most beautiful. Hmmm…how will I choose just one? I will journey around my mandala, and see which one proclaims such beauty. I stop at shell number one hundred and four. I have tried not to let my passion for bright color overide the call of the more subtle shades. I have paused at several pink shells, but it is not so much the color of this shell as it is the light. Unlike almost two-thirds of all the shells, this one does not have a hole in the top. The center is very white and glossy. It is surrounded by two circles in shades of soft gold, the inner circle being darker. The outermost circle hints at muted shades of purple over which lay very well defined and delicate stripes of burnt sienna, a rich red brown. Its’ shape is oval, almost tear drop, with a smooth, refined texture. This shell beckons to be held up to the light. Many of the striped limpets are very opaque and dense in the light, but not this one. It glows like a star. The center radiates its mysterious white light to fully illuminate the whole shell right out to the edges. It is a shell full of light. So beauty has called. It says it’s our light that makes us beautiful. I know that no matter how much effort I put into my outer beauty, it’s my inner beauty that makes me glow. It can be difficult to focus on our beauty within when our modern culture is so obsessed with outer beauty. It is all too easy to believe our beauty is limited to our bodies, our hair and makeup, our clothes, cars, homes, jobs or circle of friends. If we fall for this, we are a beautiful shell with no light. 68 I am a great advocate of a beautiful lifestyle. I believe it is the birthright of all people to experience beauty and be surrounded by it as much as possible. I had the good fortune of growing up on a beautiful farm with a beautiful mother surrounded by beautiful things. As such, my father would comment on more than one occasion regarding my expensive taste. There are some who would say I possess a certain air of entitlement for the finer things in life. I am not sure the correct word is entitlement as it is expectation. It seemed only natural for me to expect the lifestyle to which I had grown accustomed. Along the often bumpy road of life, I learned that having and not having were just two sides of the same coin. If we grow up having everything, it is easy to place too much value on material possessions. Some of the most unhappy people I know have everything. We might foolishly believe that everyone else in the world has such an abundant lifestyle. We would find it very hard to do without were fate to change its course. If we grow up with very little or nothing, we tend to appreciate more what we do have, and the things which we strive to obtain. We don’t take things for granted. But we can also become obsessed with our striving, and once obtained, our possessions can lose their meaning . Beauty can be our balance. If our true beauty lies within, then we have an opportunity as well as a responsibility to infuse the world around us with our light. It does not matter whether we are the haves or the have nots in the material world. We all have the light. It is our light that gives beauty and meaning to everything. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am always amazed at something I find beautiful that someone else does not. We do not all agree on the beauty of a house, a dress or a painting. Yet 69 few of us would argue the beauty of the Grand Canyon, the snow covered Alps or an Appalachian spring. Perhaps it is because Nature does not question the beauty of its light. Nature lets its colors shine with such magnificence and certainty. We humans tend to doubt our light within, and in doing so, we fail to understand the true essence of our beauty. Our beauty, our light inside, is a Divine gift every bit as magnificent as what Nature mirrors to us. The more full of light we are, the more beautiful we are, the more beauty we see in the world around us. Though we may never all agree on the beauty that appeals to us in man’s world, we must agree on the beautiful light that shines within everyone of us if we are to become one world. Peace among us depends on it. The women of Mali in West Africa are absolutely beautiful. They are beacons of light and electric color amidst a landscape of lack, poverty and disease. It’s not just the amazing colors and designs of the fabrics they wear, or even the regal manner in which they wear them. They ooze a pride and strength of purpose that towers over the rest of us. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. And when their eyes met mine, I felt exposed right down to the bone. Their eyes did not stop to assess my exterior appearance. Those big brown- eyed windows of their souls were searching for a common light with which to connect. These women depend on the inner connection of beauty and light for survival in desparate and dark surroundings. I do not know if they realized what a gift they carried. Though I often sensed their longing for an easier life, they rarely failed a smile or betrayed a ray of light. My admiration for them was huge. In Mali, it is the women who work the fields, not the men. The men are usually found in the shade conversing over cigarettes. The 70 landscape is filled with the women’s brightly colored dress with babies on their backs, and big baskets of grain on their heads. Their labor is a dance and a song. It is survival music, a fusion of heart and celebration to keep them going. Not long after my return from Mali, I was walking the streets of LA emersed in culture shock. As I passed other women, I found myself looking past their beautiful clothes, elegant shoes and latest hair styles, searching for that light within. It seemed most of the lights were turned off. I missed my Mali women, and thought what a strange paradox to see emptiness and disconnect in the eyes of women surrounded with such abundance, beauty and ease. And I realized the depth of the gift I had been given, despite sleeping in the dirt some nights, days without a shower( much less a hot one), and questionable living conditions and food. I had a responsibility to turn my lights on, no matter what. I would do myself nor the people I cared about nor the world any good by keeping them off. I would honor the women of Mali by flooding man’s world with my light. I would sing and dance as I labored, and celebrate the fusion of man and Spirit across the globe. I would tend to my inner spark, and pray for an eternal flame. I have always aspired as a painter to create paintings of such beauty that they take your breath away. I have a ways to go yet. But maybe my ability to do that will depend on just how much beauty I can find inside myself first. An art therapist friend told me once that painting was such good therapy because light and color were derived from the original energies of Creation. Maybe I am looking in all the wrong places for my understanding of how to create real beauty. Maybe I just have to go back to the beginning. 71 I think we all need as much beauty around us as we can possibly stand. Would there be a thing as too much beauty? Beauty inspires us to feel beautiful, and to create more beauty. Like color, beauty sets our hearts on fire, and carries our souls over the great divide. Beauty is nourishing food for the soul. There are so many things of exquisite beauty out there to feast upon, in the smallest details of daily living and in the grand picture of the world all around us. Yet it seems all too often the cry of beauty goes unheard as we miss the sweet twinkle in our child’s eyes or the pink moon rising over the blue mountains. Perhaps because we hold beauty as a thing to gaze upon instead of intimately knowing beauty as an ecstatic feeling inside us that transcends the need for the things we see. True beauty does not depend on what we see out there or in the mirror. It is a feeling that swells inside us like a wave, and washes over us far beyond any image. It is a life force for which we are the reflection. We are all beautiful people. Some of us become more physically beautiful than others. Maybe it’s a simple fact of good genes…maybe it’s a matter of our souls longing to know beauty in every way. Physical beauty is a gift, but it often comes with its own challenges. One can miss entirely the gift of outer beauty if it is not balanced by inner beauty…and one can never know inner beauty if outer beauty is all there is. I walked the runway at an early age, being a child model at fashion shows for big department stores like Saks Fifth Ave and Lord & Taylor. I probably would have gone on to have a modelling career, but I never grew past five foot four inches. I often wonder what my life would have been like with all that focus on my outer beauty. Maybe fate was working to keep me small on the outside so I could grow bigger on the inside. 72 My mother is an extremely beautiful woman, movie star beautiful. As I grew up, people would always say how I looked just like her. But I didn’t always feel beautiful. I would often be somewhat shocked when men, or women, would tell me how beautiful I was. When I was seventeen, I was travelling home for Christmas from school in Switzerland, and had a few hour layover in Paris. I was sitting in a restaurant when a tall handsome man asked if he could join me. He was quite the charmer, and kept going on about how beautiful I was. He was a Count from Portugal, very wealthy, and asked me to come live with him there where he would provide everything I needed and I would be his mistress in return. Wow, what an offer…I actually thought about it! Then I thought about how I might never be seen or heard from again…so I declined. I never had such an unexpected, and yes, a bit tempting, offer like this one again, but I did have a lot of attention from a lot of men in my life. Now, this is not an ego thing… while this is a nice thing, and many women would find it desirable, I often felt uncomfortable, hassled and my space invaded without invitation. My own beauty scared me at times because it often attracted attention that I did not want. I would have preferred the safety and comfort zone of respect, which didn’t always come with this territory. I have known outer beauty well…in the beauty with which I was gifted, in the beauty I strive to create around me and in the beauty of the natural world. Now, at fifty-three, as my outer beauty begins to wane, it is my inner beauty that calls. It is the voice I want to hear, the flame I want to feel burning inside.It is my heart talking, my heart on fire that seeks to illuminate my world from the inside out. 73 I had a very powerful dream some time ago. I am walking in a very dark place, like a long dark alley. I hear the cries of women ahead, then I see them. They are weeping, wailing with long mournful faces and desparate eyes. Some of them are maimed, missing a breast or their hair, and some are rocking lifeless babies. There is no color, no light. There are long black threads coming out from their hearts, all tangled and lose around them. I can barely stand it, my heart is breaking. I keep walking. Some light appears, and I begin to see some color in their faces and bodies. I notice they are connecting the ends of the long , tangled black threads back to their hearts. There is hope in their eyes now. I feel an energy rising that radiates a sense of purpose, a choice, a strength, a mission. I begin to hear laughter and singing. The light is growing brighter, the colors exploding. I am walking to the end. I begin to cry at the sight of all these beautiful women joyfully connecting the long black threads back to their hearts, and helping one another connect them. Their hearts are like beautiful roses, glowing and fragrant. There is no more darkness, sadness, desparation or loss. Their bodies and their hair are shining with color and life. Their eyes are full of peace and understanding. They gather in a circle, holding hands. I see the now pink glowing threads weaving from heart to heart around the circle. They turn to me, and beckon me to join their circle. I feel myself soften and melt in the power of this dancing wheel, the strength of this connection, the peace of this wholeness. There is a silent knowing that pulses among us that says the heart is the home of our beauty…the heart is all that matters. Not long after I had this dream, I made a journey to the underworld in real time, not dream time. I was one of those women, drowning in my 74 sadness, desparation and loss. I had to take a long painful look at all the ways in which my life was not working…and why. I had to sit in the dark, and untangle all those black threads. I had to face each lost part of myself that I had unplugged from my heart, or allowed someone or something to pull it from me. My pile of tangled black threads were all the ways in which I had betrayed myself, my heart, my own inner female. Two choices became clear in the darkness. I could choose to stay in my anger, be the victim of my own or anothers betrayal, wait to be rescued or die….or I could choose to take full responsibility for my own betrayal instead of blaming another, find the much needed forgiveness and compassion for myself, and others, that would help me heal my heart and empower me on the path to love. I chose the latter, the way of the heart, and not without buckets of support from the wonderful, beautiful women in my circle. Women are beautiful...love is beautiful…life is beautiful…and my shell is beautiful. If we are to create a better world and survive as a species on this beautiful planet, then we must seek to cherish and honor all things of beauty, especially the inner beauty because it reflects eternity. There is a quote I keep in my kitchen where I can read it often. I cut it out from somewhere a long time ago, and apologize for not knowing who wrote it: “She said she usually cried at least once each day not because she was sad, but because the world was so beautiful and life was so short.” My most beautiful shell, was your life in the sea short? Did you have reason to cry in those deep waters? Did you feel beauty? I think so… 75 Chapter Nine Rich My shells need water again up here in the high dry desert. I watch their colors spring to life in the moisture. Just beyond my most beautiful shell is the most intensely colored shell of all, number one hundred six in the mandala. The center of it glows deep shades of rose and reds like fire. Stripes of deep browns, almost purples, surround the center radiating out to the uneven edges. This shell is defined by its deep rich color. Rich…something we all long to be. Like beauty, there is being rich in the outer world, and being rich in our inner world. We all understand what it means to be rich in our culture. We have lots of money in the bank so we can afford a big beautiful house, send our kids to the best schools, buy expensive cars and take exotic trips. But this definition of rich belongs solely to man’s world. I am not sure we can define ourselves as truly rich on the outside if we have not cultivated a spiritual richness on the inside. Our sense of being rich on the inside transcends all our external riches. In the end, we can only take the richness of our Spirit with us. There are some who believe the path of spirituality requires the denunciation of the material world. It certainly can make it easier to cultivate our inner life without all the distractions that consume us in the material world. Our homes can become a prison instead of our sanctuary, and our lives an endless state of slavery to fulfilling our obligations and tending to all our stuff. Too much of that drains us, and we lose our way. We might find ourselves living a lie. 76 I believe we are here to embrace the material world in all its glory and in all its madness. If our true nature is spiritual, and we are here to embody the human experience, then it is our job to infuse all of that experience with our spiritual attributes. A wonderful teacher of mine once told me that the path of true spirituality is the zen of simple groundedness. We do not need to shun the material world and the demands of our daily lives to find the simplicity in being grounded. We need only to prevent our souls from being swept away in the flood of materialism. If we soak our daily lives with the water of Spirit, like gentle rain, we will not dry out and become victims of flooding. We will create instead a beautiful stream with a nourishing flow in which we can grow and ground ourselves. Being grounded is being connected to the Earth, to Nature and all the creations of the physical, material world. We are here to fully participate in, fully embody and fully enjoy all of it…as spiritual beings. Our job as spiritual beings is to make time for those things that nourish us, empower us and bring us joy. Our job as human beings is not to live our lives devoid and disconnected from Spirit. If we ground ourselves in the simple things…working in the garden, walking in the mountains, napping in the sun… we will have a sweet place to come back to when material madness threatens to consume us. We can learn to master being still in the eye of the storm while the chaos rages all around us. We can rest our mind here, find some peace. It seems money and worry go together.I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t worry about money in some way or another. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether you are rich or poor. It just comes with the territory. Maybe because money has too much power. 77 Maybe if we didn’t give it so much power, we could all stop worrying about it. We have built a world in which having money matters. It comes with a whole lot of pressure. Most of our dreams in life require big funding. We can sacrifice our dreams because of lack, or become a slave to our dreams because of abundance. It’s hard to find the money balance. My maternal grand-mother lived a financially privileged life. I could never understand why she worried so much about money. I inherited some money from her, and all the worries that came with it. She was very good at holding on to her money. Unfortunately, I did not inherit that talent. I happen to have an exceptional talent for spending money. To be really honest, I have way more interest in spending money than I do in making it. Making money has always been a challenge for me. But then I chose to be an artist. And struggle seems to go with artist like worry goes with money. They say if you do what you love, the money will follow. Hmmm…I love to paint, but the money must be getting bad directions and keeps getting lost. My Dad had a powerful work ethic. I am not sure I inherited this either, but I was very influenced by it. I am a very hard worker when I need to be. Oddly, I always seem to be working, and the money is still wandering out there lost. The most money I have ever made was in remodelling a house which I sold for a nice profit three years later. It was a labor of love, full of my artistic visions, and one of the few times the money did follow. I must love painting because in thirty years I have done about six hundred paintings, mostly on paper. I keep wondering where that lost money is, and worry I will end up being one of those painters that has to die before my work gets discovered. But I keep on painting. 78 Most people in our culture don’t consider a career in art to be a real job. But I have had some real jobs in my life: an ad layout designer for a newspaper, a swimming instructor and lifeguard, a bread baker and label designer, a yearling( one year old horse) trainer, a realtor, a USPTA tennis instructor, owner of a decorative and faux painting business and three art galleries. My favorite job though was being a Mom. There’s no paycheck for raising kids, but the reward is far greater than money. Maybe I got used to working for free all those years. My two sons are kind, compassionate young men. No amount of money can buy that. For many women, raising healthy, happy kids that become healthy, happy adults is our greatest achievement. It is a hard act to follow. Too bad we can’t add successful parenting to our work resumes as something of value. Twenty years of parenting requires more hard work around the clock, more patience, wisdom and knowledge than most jobs. I grew up on a big black Angus cattle farm in Virginia. My Dad was a lawyer with a home office. Most of his time out of the office was spent working on the farm. He made all of us kids work on the farm, too. He would pay us to work, and always inspected the jobs he gave us to do, which we often had to redo after his inspection. He especially liked to recruit all our friends to work when they came to visit. He had an endless mission of rock clearing from the fields so he always had an eye out for extra manpower to fill more than one wagon load. I had to warn my friends about my recruiting Dad, especially in summer during hay season. Back then, before the round hay balers, we had to collect all the hay bales from the fields in a big wagon, and send them up to the barn loft for storage. We used to draw straws as to who would luck out stacking bales in the barn loft where it was over 79 100 degrees. It was hard enough hauling eighty pound hay bales in 80 degrees. I always felt bad if one of my friends lucked out, when they thought they were coming for a nice cool visit by the pool. A lot of my friends didn’t come to visit as often, or waited to come visit in the safety of the evenings when my recruiting Dad was off duty. I am grateful to my Dad for passing on his strong work ethic. I complained about it back then , but came to see it as a gift as I grew older. I can chop and haul wood, repair fences, climb ladders, run a chainsaw and weed whacker, create gardens, plant trees and drive a tractor. I learned so much about the land, how things grow and the names of all kinds of trees and birds. I am not afraid of hard physical work, especially if it has a sweet reward like new flower beds or a newly painted room. A passion for creating beauty is a labor of love. Our labor infuses all our creations with an essence of our Spirit along with our sweat. When I work with love in my heart for what I am creating, I am happy to be working. Without the love, my work can feel empty. Our labors of love, whether followed by money or not, are what fulfills dreams and legacies. I don’t know if my Dad particularly loved being an attorney, but I know he loved the part wherein it allowed him to help protect the rural environment. Along with being a strong advocate and advisor to the local environmental council, my Dad helped many big surrounding farm owners to place protective easements on their land. His conscious management of our farm was an inspiring example to others: he fenced off all the streams from the cattle to protect the quality of the water and prevent erosion; he created sanctuaries for wildlife habitat; he minimized the use of toxic chemicals that eventually would find their way into the coastal waters. His efforts resulted in 80 numerous awards for our farm from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as well as from the state. Though my Dad is gone now, our farm continues to glow with the living breath of his Spirit, and his deep love for the land. Through him I came to understand the essence of hard work fueled by love, vision and passion. Though I have not necessarily been able to translate my own labors of love into monetary riches, I carry inside the mystery of my love for life, and my desire to express this love through my efforts. In this, I am very rich. My parents had a wonderful woman, Marguerite, who worked for them when we were small. She stayed with my family for many years. She made us breakfast every morning, and stayed with us kids when my parents were away. She was a devout Baptist, and would read to me from the Bible when I was sick, prompting my first questions about God and the Unseen world. Her humility in service was so aptly defined in the way she called me ”Miss Anne” or my brother “Master Tony” even though we were just kids. She cared for us like we were her own. One day I went with her to her house, a simple old farmhouse down the road. While sitting in her livingroom, she turned to me and said, ” I don’t have much in the world, but I have a wonderful husband and daughter I love, a wonderful family I work for that I love and I love God. I am the richest woman in the world.” She would often remind me that the secret to my being rich inside was my gratitude for all things. She never faltered in her faith, even in hard times. She was a true ”Mistress of Gratitude”…and rich beyond measure. 81 The more wealth we have, whether it be in worldly riches or spiritual riches, the more responsibility we have to share. There are lots and lots of very poor people on this planet. Their numbers stretch far beyond the number of wealthy people. Some of the wealthy people share, some of them don’t. Some of the poor people even share, some of them don’t, and can’t. The world needs people with money to show up and care. We are blessed to have the likes of Oprah Winfrey who does so much for women and orphaned children; for Paul Newman who does so much for sick and terminally ill children and their families; for Robert Redford, Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Al Gore who do so much for our environment; for Ammachi who shares her spiritual wisdom and love as the embodiment of the Divine Feminine, and does so much for her people in India and around the world. Money is a gift from the infinite abundance in the Universe. I do not know if it is right that some people have so much money, and so many people have so little. Maybe we are all supposed to have the same amount. What would that world look like? Maybe we all have different amounts because of karma or lessons we need to learn, because of opportunities given, taken or missed. I only know that man’s laws that involve money together with greed, domination and lack do not work. When we are given an abundance of money, we are given as spiritual beings the honor to create more abundance for others in need. Our planet, Mother Earth, will not sleep well at night knowing so many of her children are in need. We must all choose, whether we are rich or not in the world, to believe in the boundless abundance of the Creator and this Universe, and let go of lack. There is plenty to go around! If we cherish this belief, we can become co-creators with Spirit, and all work together to create a new vision where we are all 82 rich inside, and able to mainfest an equality of richness on the outside. It doesn’t have to all look the same. Some who have money will always aspire to more, some might even aspire to less and some will always be grateful for whatever they have. It is about the right for ALL people on this planet to have an opportunity for shelter, for clothing, for food, for health, for work, for joy. There isn’t much joy in starving to death. I do not think Mother Earth is waiting for us all to win the lottery. I think she is waiting for us all to strike gold on the inside with the depth of our gratitude for wherever we are and for whatever we have, and work together in whatever way we can to heal the imbalance that man has created in his misuse of money. We all want money, we all need money. But we need to see it as a beautiful energy that weaves its way around the world giving life to everyone instead of just to some. There is so much suffering in the lives of the poor, yet many have found an inner wealth. You can see it in their eyes. I do not think they all aspire to great outer wealth. I think most are grateful to have their basic needs met. They deserve that…we all do…a chance to create a better life. There is also suffering in the lives of the rich, just a different kind of suffering. Being rich will never buy you happiness. It’s best to become rich inside first so one is able to fully embody with gratitude becoming rich in the world. Rich…poor…just two sides of the same coin. The poor can teach the rich, the rich can teach the poor. We are all here to learn. Truthfully, money gets me all wound up. I have had a lot of money issues, and I have had to work hard to make my peace. I am not so sure all of us are here to generate and manifest money despite our need for it. Some of us are called to a more inner life. I personally 83 have found myself on a spiritual path in this lifetime, and it has not been without some level of resistance at times. I have had to accept that my life doesn’t quite work like those who remain faithful to man’s laws. I choose for my life to be Spirit guided. If I am blessed in this lifetime to be richly rewarded monetarily for the fruits of my labors, I hope I will choose to do the right thing. I hope I will richly receive the blessing, and not cave in to unworthiness or selfishness. I hope I will use it to create more beauty around me. I hope I will sit calmly with my fortune, and allow it it to give me greater vision. I hope I will satisfy my own dreams and longings, and then strive to help realize the dreams of others. I hope I will share the Earth’s abundance in the same way I share my spiritual abundance. For we are truly rich when we can help create a little more heaven on earth. Today is Easter Sunday. I am looking at my beautiful colored shell that glows with a richness beyond my other shells. I am thinking of the man who also glowed and shined among the crowd…whose ascension two thousand and eight years ago serves to remind us of the rich Divine souls that burn inside us all. 84 Chapter Ten Ethnic Four shells call to me today. Shell number seventy-four is a perfect Chinese hat shape. It is mostly off-white with radiating stripes of light brown and dark gray from a shiny white pointed center. Shell number eighty is my darkest shell. The center is like amber surrounded by a deep brown extending out to the edges, and overlayed with very fine distinct ivory stripes. Shell number ninety-two is one of only two jagged limpets in the mandala. It is a soft umber brown with thick raised ivory colored stripes that extend unevenly to create a jagged edge. It is full of texture, yet worn almost flat. Shell number one hundred fifteen is an almost perfect oval shape, smooth to the touch, with a pale gold center accented by a splash of deep brown. The remainder of the shell is ivory with most unusual dark gray stripes. Whereas most of the stripes on all these limpets are very defined and delicate, these maintain a loose, uneven hand-painted quality. I pull these four shells out of the mandala to study them. They all share the same shades of color: white, ivory, dark gray, shades of brown with bits of black and pale gold. Each of these shells have a unique pattern and design, along with the colors, compared to all the other shells. Though they are members of the same family, these shells stand out adding much interest and diversity. Like the human family, we are not all the same though we are all connected. It is the wonder of diversity among us that makes the human race so marvelous. These are my ethnic shells. We all make the world go round. What a boring ride it would be if we were all the same. It is the miracle of so many rich, diverse cultures that sparks our passion and excitement for expansion. When we are 85 able to embrace cultures beyond our own, we move beyond our own smallness to a more grand picture. We move closer to understanding the mystery and beauty of Creation. To find the light of human and Divine connection deep in an African village, or high in the Andes mountains of Peru, is to find the very heart of the Creator’s vision. Our differences are not meant to divide us. We cannot expect to blend our cultural ways nor seek to convert others to our own. We can find the buried treasure in our differences if we seek only the common gold thread of Divine connection among us. Our differences are united through the spiritual laws of respect and humility, and divided by man’s laws of judgement and domination. Ethnic diversity is the spice of life. I have had the good fortune to travel a great deal. It’s my number one addiction. I attended a high school in Lugano, Switzerland after escaping an all girls boarding school in Virginia. I only went to the meeting about this American school in Switzerland to avoid taking a surprise history test for which I was unprepared. I was delighted to find something that really perked my interest, and spent the next six months convincing my parents to send me there. It was a glorious change from boarding school…and there were boys! The school catered to American kids whose families were living and working abroad. I made friends from all over the world: Spain, England, France, Austria, Yugoslavia, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Asia, Africa, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. We travelled a lot together as well as on school trips. I was in heaven! I had some really wild adventures. One in particular was to Morocco with one of my roommates, Jill, over spring break, after lying to my parents that I was going elsewhere with a friend. I got in a whole lot of trouble for that, but the adventure was worth it. We were both long 86 blonde hair hippie chicks. We landed in Casa Blanca at one in the morning with no arranged accomodations. We had a taxi drop us off at a small hotel he assured us would have rooms, but they didn’t. So there we were wandering the streets of Casa Blanca at two am looking for a place to stay. When we picked up some very shadey characters on our tail, we decided it was time to take whatever we could find. It was a real dive, rats and all. The next morning we took a bus(I guess you could call it a bus) south to the coast…and what a ride it was. The roof of the bus was piled high with bags, sacks of grain and a lot of chickens and goats. The eyes of all the Muslim women pierced us from behind their black concealing robes while the hands of the men seated behind us kept stroking our long blonde hair. The bus was packed to capacity as we settled in for a long five hour ride. Our attempts to nap ceased abruptly with a large woman boarding the bus with a baby in each arm. After pacing the bus from front to back, and not a single man offering her his seat, she heaved a baby at me, the other baby to Jill, then squished us both as she made room for herself on our seat. The babies were so dirty with very unpleasant smells and noses running like a stream. Periodically, she would grab one of them from us, but they always came back. The temperature on the bus was climbing, few of the windows were open, the air was thick and we were sweating. It was an endurance test. At every stop, we prayed for the woman and her babies to be at their destination. Instead, she would stand, glare at us, then disappear for ten minutes leaving us with her babies. Some of the passengers would deboard and proceed to urinate or deficate in the streets. On several occasions, people who were sick or maimed would 87 board and pace the bus with an outstretched hand, begging for some help. They rarely got any assistance, and sometimes passengers would start yelling at them to leave. I couldn’t bare to look at one elderly man who had a terrible big gash across his chest that was oozing all kinds of dreadful stuff. Meanwhile, there is chaos with bags and goats flying everywhere while some passengers deboard at their destination, and new passengers climb on. Jill and I just sat there with our Muslim babies in shock. Finally, the woman deboarded with her babies. After she was gone, I thought how odd it was that we never exchanged a single word. I spoke some French, and tried once to speak to her, but she looked the other way. Communication was only with our eyes. Soon after, Jill and I arrived at our small coastal village that would be our refuge for five days. We managed to find a sweet clean place to stay run by a French woman. Once out and about, we were surprised to find quite a few Americans and Europeans here. Our first priority was to purchase some nice long robes so we could blend. We soon found out the experience of buying goods was a real ritual, and didn’t happen quickly. Once we had picked out the items we wanted, the shop owner took them and placed them in a pile on a rug surrounded by big pillows, and motioned us to sit. He then served us a strong tea with mint and sweetened with a lot of sugar. Sometimes the tea was accompanied by a pipe of strong tobacco or hashish. As we drank our tea, he would fumble through our items and mumble numbers until he came up with a price, whereupon we would challenge his offer. This negotiation went on for some time until we at last agreed on a price confirmed by the shop owners big smile. I was thrilled with my purchases. I had a beautiful, glowing soft pink hooded 88 robe in a light weight cotton with apricot colored embroidery. I also bought a deep red leather bag embroidered with all kinds of gemstones. Now we were ready to mingle and blend in local style. We headed to Marrakech five days later on the dreaded bus. While waiting in line for our bus tickets, I stood behind a little man with long scarey fingernails that were dug into the arm of a little boy. The boy looked up and back at me with tearful, frightened eyes. I knew I shouldn’t make it any of my business, but I did. I tapped the man on the shoulder, and told him in French that he was hurting the boy’s arm. His eyes filled with hatred, he cursed at me and looked away. I tapped him on the shoulder again, and before I could get any words out, he had his hands around my throat and pushed me against the wall with his long nails digging into the skin of my neck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the little boy run and disappear. Jill was sitting on a nearby bench, and finally heard me yell. Suddenly, two Marines appeared on either side of this angry little man, and escorted him away. My neck was badly scratched and bleeding, Jill was yelling at me and I was glad the little boy had escaped. The Marines returned and promptly lectured me on the safety of minding my own business in a foreign country. One of them did suggest, however, in light of how quickly the boy disappeared, that I might have spared him from being kidnapped, and sold on the Black Market. Morocco, they explained, was well known for this, and children were no exception. Neither were blonde American teenage girls, they reminded us. The Marines rode the bus with us to Marrakech, and we soaked up lots of good Marine savvy and stories along the way. We stayed at a nice hotel in Marrakech where my roommate from the Virginia boarding school and her family were visiting for spring 89 vacation. I strolled out poolside in my pink hooded robe to find her. Her parents gazed at me in disbelief after finding out I was travelling with just my friend( we were seventeen) in what they continually referred to as a dangerous country. The visit was tense, and didn’t go over too well. Her parents had a whole new picture of me now, and I don’t think it was one of approval. Later that evening, Jill and I hit the hotel disco where she captivated a tall, dark handsome man. After it was obvious they were going to dance all night, I retired to bed. We had a rental car reserved in the morning for our drive north to the city of Rabat. We had had our fill of the dreaded bus, and wanted the freedom to see sights along the way. I wanted to get an early start, but had to wait for Jill who was moving slowly. I waited for her in the car while trying to familiarize myself with something that didn’t even remotely resemble an American car. It had a clutch, but I couldn’t figure which gears were what. Jill climbs in, and announces she has agreed to give this man from last night a ride with us to Rabat. I am not comfortable with this idea after the incident in the bus station. She finally agrees, and we screech out of the parking lot just as he walks out. We look back and see him yelling and screaming. He does not look pleased. We leave him in the rear view mirror. I am still trying to figure out the gears. The stick shift is a long rod in the dashboard with no numbers so half the time I am not sure what gear I am in. I have to guess by the sound of the engine. Forget about even trying to find reverse. Worse still, when we stop for gas, we cannot find the gas tank. We wait for the gas attendant to know, but he just keeps shaking his head. I speak to him in French, but he doesn’t seem to understand. He watches us search the car 90 from top to bottom with no luck. Finally, a gentleman stops for gas who happens to know where it is. He opens the back of the car, and flips a little switch that pops open the lid to the gas tank to the right of the back bumper. Next came the headlights, which I could not find while we were driving so I had to pull over. It was a good hour fumbling around in the dark until we found a small round knob tucked under the dashboard. Wow….what a car! We unloaded our puzzle car in Rabat, and stayed our last two days at a great hotel with an awesome pool. While we were checking out in a very crowded lobby, I heard someone yelling. I looked up to see the man we had ditched in Marrakech way across the lobby, and pushing through the crowd towards us. He didn’t look happy. We threw our money down, and headed for the door. A laundry truck was parked out front with a man closing the back door. We asked him if he could give us a ride to the airport, he smiled, opened the back door, we jumped in and made the perfect getaway. We laughed all the way to the airport, where our good humor was dampened with a cancelled flight until the next morning. We were too low on cash to do more taxis or a hotel. We made our beds in the most uncomfortable plastic, hard chairs in the airport, but rested the night satisfied with the survival of our wild travels. I now had an insatiable craving to travel and experience other cultures. I was not the same when I returned. My mind, my vision, my curiosity, my passion, my sense of self had all expanded ten fold. I felt bigger, more full, more alive.I wanted to see the world, to taste and experience all the different flavors of cultures, their traditions and environments. Despite some of the unpleasant and potentially dangerous encounters on this trip, I was hooked. 91 We learn so much about ourselves when we dare to journey into the unfamiliar territory of foreign lands. We are forced to dig deeper to accommodate language barriers, customs, traditions, food, potential dangers and diseases, even climate. We are compelled to grow and expand. I know people who prefer to play it safe when they travel. They either travel with a tour, or move from one five star hotel to the next. Nothing wrong with this, it’s nice to have such travel options, especially for the elderly who are embracing their latter years with long awaited opportunities for travel…and I admire them. But so much is missed when we don’t have the opportunity to interact with the local folk. The ignition of the magical ethnic fire never sparks. Overcoming and transcending our comfort zone, and taking some adventurous risk, can be life changing. My ethnic friends have been such a tremendous gift in my life. They are a constant reminder for me not to lose my way in the deception of the western material world and the ego. There are many ethnic cultures today who are threatened with extinction, and pressured to conform to the fast pace of the modern industrialized world. The closeness with which these tribes live with the land and Nature, and thus Spirit, is full of wisdom that stands to be lost, wisdom we might someday wish we had helped preserve. My sister, Lizzy, and I both have big world maps in our homes with colored pins of all the places we have been. She worked for the airlines for twenty-five years, and truthfully, I don’t know anyone else who has travelled as extensively. Her map is a sea of color. She is always travelling. I can’t keep up with her, but I travel whenever I can. I like to look at my map, think about where I’d like to go next, and be reminded of where I have been. 92 I had the great fortune of travelling to Lebanon in the summer of 1972 to visit my boyfriend, and experience Beirut in all its splendor before it fell to ruin not long after. Even when I arrived, the airport was heavily guarded with soldiers and guns. It was truly a great cosmopolitan city. I loved walking the streets, watching all the well- dressed beautiful people go by, and stopping at a street corner to eat a “shwarma”, thinly sliced lamb with a delicious cucumber mint sauce wrapped in warm pita bread…yum! I especially loved the early evenings when a big orange sun would hang over the Mediterrean Sea while haunting prayers would echo out over the city from the temples. My travels over the next twenty-five years would take me back to Europe several times, and to many tropical locations. Travelling during this time had a whole new dimension now that I had become a painter. My travels became the fuel that drove my inspiration. I was never without a camera or sketch pad. Many many paintings came from the islands of Hawaii, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the West Indies and Margarita, Venezuela…and a glorious trip saturated with wine and pasta through Tuscany and Umbria. In 1996 I relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico…another painters paradise that would become home. From here I began winter travels south to Mexico, where I have a deep love for the people, their warmth and family orientation, their colorful culture, their language and without question, their food. In the last seven years I have had some extraordinary trips: a long sojourn into the mysteries of Peru and Bolivia with six others including my son, Joshua, and guided by a Shaman; a business venture to Hong Kong and deep into the back country villages to visit furniture factories; an ancestral journey with my sister and my two sons back to 93 our roots in Ireland for a family reunion; a healing retreat of my mind, body and soul in the beautiful lush Tao Gardens of Thailand; and an adventure in African dance and drumming accompanied by a musical tour deep into the Sahara desert, and a mystical venture into the Dogon territitory of Mali, West Africa. Like my Moroccan journey, there is so much I could say about each of these experiences in the way my life was changed and my soul expanded. What I take with me most from all these jouneys is my connections with the people. And it was the people of Mali that captured my heart. And so we return to Africa… My girlfriend, Melanie, and I had decided one day, while hiking in the mountains of New Mexico, to do something drastic to celebrate our fiftieth birthdays that fell about a month apart in the fall of 2004. It took us until almost December before we targeted Mali, where she had always wanted to visit the Dogon, and I had a passion for African drumming and dance. We also discovered the fifth annual Festival in the Desert would take place in January 2005 in the Sahara. I agreed to accompany her if I could find some study in African drumming and dance part of the time. Incredibly, two days later I found a teacher who would be in Bamako during the time we had planned to go. His group would also be making a trip to the Dogon. So Melanie agreed to immerse herself in the drumming and dance, we would leave the group and attend the festival, and then return for the trip to the Dogon. It was perfect. We rendezvoused in Paris, and flew to Bamako. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication regarding our arrival date so we found no one to meet us at the airport. The airport was an experience in itself. Fortunately, I could use my rusty French to get us a taxi and a 94 hotel for the night until we figured out how to find our connection. We had a lot of help from our taxi driver, Buktu, who spoke a bit of English, and agreed to come by our hotel the next morning to help us. This was a good thing because when we checked the phone book to find our drum teacher, whose last name was Doumbia, there were several thousand Doumbias. Buktu had the brillant idea to take us to an arts and crafts center in the city where people made drums. There we miraculously found a cousin of our drum teacher, Abdoul, who escorted us to his house where we would be staying. The conditions at the house were downright scarey. Not everyone had arrived yet, so we took advantage of that situation, huffed and puffed our way into a room with one of the few beds. Melanie and Abdoul went head to head over the miscommunication, and the questionable living conditions. A good man named Sekou mediated the confrontation, and peace was made. We would agree to step beyond our western world comfort zones, and accept what was, in exchange for the bathrooms being maintained at an acceptable level of cleanliness for us ladies. This was worth fighting for! There were about ten of us in all, mostly from the states, and Katarina was from Prague. Every morning we walked a mile along the dirt streets to the mango groves where we all drummed and then us women danced. We returned to the house for lunch, a brief rest, and then back to the mango groves. We always had a great audience of beautiful African women and children who loved jumping into our dance circle at the end of class. Sometimes I would sense the African women laughing quietly at us white women trying so hard to pick up the dance rhythms that were so natural for them. I think they found us very entertaining. 95 Abdoul helped Melanie and I find a guide who would drive us all the way to Timbuktu where we would stay the night before heading forty miles into the Sahara for the festival. After hearing all about it, Katarina decided the festival could not be missed so she joined us. Our guide, Menlas, was an absolute gem, and took great care of us during our day and a half drive to Timbuktu. He made sure we were well fed and well informed as he shared all his knowledge about every village and area through which we passed. Our stop in Mopti along the Niger river proved fruitful with our purchases of bightly colored turbans that would soon protect us from the blowing sands of the Sahara. The evening of our first day of travel was joyously ended with the first warm shower we’d had since arriving in Mali. We crossed the Niger river by ferry the following day, and later arrived at the end of the world in Timbuktu. This sand filled city boasts amazing architecture, and is home to the Tuareg tribes of the Sahara. Here we rendezvoused at a hotel with the group with whom we would travel to the festival in the morning. It didn’t take us long to meet a young Tuareg man, Nadu, who became our friend and guide. He took us to a fine little restaurant that evening, and agreed to reconnect with us at the festival. Meanwhile, our guide from Bamako, Menlas, would visit family in Timbuktu, and wait for our return three days later. We packed into our assigned four wheel drive vehicles early the next morning, and literally raced forty miles into the Sahara. It was wild. There were broken down, crashed and smoking SUVs everywhere, and a lot of near misses as the drivers abandonned all rules of the road. We arrived several hours later to find ourselves in a sea of rolling sand dunes, and surrounded by hundreds of Tuaregs on their 96 camels. It seemed there were more camels than people. We made our way across the dunes to our leather pitched tent that we would share with two women from Norway. We spent the next three days trekking back and forth over the huge dunes to the stage where all the music happened, that included many of Africa’s most well known musicians as well as musicians from around the world. It was an unbelievable setting. Other treks took us to the bar for a beer, to the food tent to eat, to shopping venues and areas where the Tuaregs often played mucic, danced and displayed their tribal traditions. Our turbans from Mopti were a permanent headdress in the constant blowing sand. We managed to connect with the few fellow Americans there, and made lots of new European, and Tuareg, friends. Nadu was constantly checking in on us, bringing by friends with jewelry to sell and sharing an afternoon ritual of tea which he would make for us at our tent. The highlight of our stay, besides our camel ride, was our new friendship with an extraordinary American woman, Elizabeth, and her even more extraordinary daughter, Sahara. We had met them at the ferry crossing near Gao. They were well seasoned travellers in Africa. Elizabeth is an amazing photographer of ethnic tribal people. She uses a special mirror that creates an elongated distortion infusing her photographed subjects with a highly mystical quality. She was there to photograph the Tuareg women. We were fortunate to witness her at work one afternoon, and later enjoyed a delicious sand free lunch in her tent. We still stay in touch with her. We returned to Timbuktu with sand in our hair , ears and toes and everything we owned, and welcomed our usual cold showers. Menlas seemed excited to see us as though he had missed us. We made our 97 way back to Bamako with new African tunes, new friends, new jewelry and new memories humming in our souls. Two days later, we were off again with our group to a small village outside Segou where Abdoul had spent much of his childhood. We arrived late in the evening after dark, and quickly sorted our sleeping bags for a night under the stars. Abdoul announced the next day he had a surprise for us in the evening. We spent the day wandering his village, playing with all the children, walking the fields, watching the women grind millet and having beautiful bracelets made by the local blind jeweler. We also attended a well debated village meeting where the elders discussed an ongoing issue of whether or not to provide education for the village children. Interestingly, none of the local women attended the meeting. They were all working. When evening came, we gathered in the center of the village, surprised to find so many neighboring villagers who had walked to the village to perform a special dance for us. Abdoul explained how every village had a leader, and a fool, whose job it was to enlighten the leader by making fun of him and mirroring to him the ways in which he was considered to be off-track with his leadership. So the neighboring village fools had come to offer us the dance of the fool, where we all got to dance and make fools of ourselves. Everyone drummed and danced and laughed into the wee hours until we were all drunk with the fool’s joyful humor and freedom. It was magical. From here we headed to Dogon territory. A lot has been said and written about the people of the Dogon. Unlike most of the people in Mali, the Dogon are not Muslim. They are a mystical people, having been visited they say by beings from the planet Sirius, and instructed not to convert to the Muslim faith. They were given their own 98 doctrine to live by, and guided to live at the base of a huge escarpment in southeastern Mali. The area had once been inhabited by pygmies that had long since fled south to the Congo. The Dogon had planted fields and fields of millet, and the villages were full of upside down cone shaped granaries. Long ropes hung from the many caves in the escarpment that was now a burial ground for the Dogon. You could only travel with a guide into the villages because there were so many sacred objects and places off limits to visitors. So sacred were these beliefs that death had come to some who had trespassed. About six of us hiked into the Dogon territory with our guide named Moussa. We stayed at a little place in one of the villages where the roof would be our bed under the Dogon stars. Melanie and I quickly sought out a little shop full of Dogon collectibles. We made a pile of the items we wanted, and waited for the shop owner to return while we had dinner. When he did not return, I explained to Moussa we needed to find the shop owner to pay him. He agreed to take us and find him. While we had Moussa alone, I also explained to him that Melanie had brought some of her recently departed partner’s ashes with her, and wanted to leave them in the Dogon. It was a big part of her choosing to come here. I asked him if there was a sacred place where she could do this. He smiled, and then with a rather serious look, asked us to follow him. We wound about through the narrow dirt streets until we came to a large tall plain sculpture surrounded by a circle. He asked us to wait there. It was some time before he came out from behind a door, and said he had consulted with one of the elders. He said she was free to spread his ashes here in this circle, but before she did, I would need to explain to her everything he was about to tell me. Moussa only spoke French so all of this is 99 transpiring in my rustic French, and it is slow going transmitting to Melanie what I hope I am understanding. Moussa is very patient, and continually asks me if I understand. He tells me that the information being given to her is for her only, and she is not to share it with anyone. She spreads Leonardo’s ashes amidst the mystical energies of the Dogon. We sit in silence for some time. At sunrise, a black rooster will be sacrificed for his soul’s journey. It is late, and we still need to find the shop owner. The village is all dark, and we are the only people in the streets. We find the shop owner at home. We have the items we want to buy with us. The shop owner and his friend bring little stools and cold beers into the street where we all sit. They even build a small fire. He places the items on the ground, and begins to tell us the story behind each one. I am just amazed at the things I am hearing. I also notice that there is something very mysterious in the eyes of these people…a clarity, a sparkle, a deep knowing. Their energy is very calm and grounded, yet there is something very etheric about them. I translate all the stories for Melanie. We are reeling. There is so much magic in these items we are wanting. After all the stories, we make our offer. It takes several offers before we agree. We leave satisfied, clutching our items as though they are gold. Moussa guides us back to our rooftop. The whole village is dark and asleep. We hike out the next morning. Once we are on top of the escarpment, I begin asking permission from the powers that be in the Dogon to have a small stone from the earth here to carry home. I am walking, and looking at the ground when Moussa stops us, and explains we are in a very sacred spot. He points to a circle nearby and explains that someone in the village seeking an answer will spread a 100 certain number of raw beans in the circle. At night a fox will come and arrange the beans, and in the morning an elder will come and read the answer in the arrangement of the beans made by the fox. I looked down and saw a small round orange red stone. It sits now on a table in my sunroom amongst other stones, but it is without question my most powerful stone. I use it with great caution when I do energy healing work. Our adventures in Mali continued right down to the very last minute before we left with music and celebration and dancing, even amazing readings for us by Sekou taught to him by his grand-father. I hated to leave, but I have to say a green salade, a nice glass of wine, a good bed and and a hot shower were calling. I had gone five days once on this month long trip with no shower, had only one hot shower and slept in the dirt numerous times. But I was really full from a place that seemingly has so little. I was full with the eyes and smiles and warmth of all my new African friends, full of their music, their dancing, their joy amidst such suffering, lack and disease. I was full of the beautiful African women, their pride and their strength, and had a big pile of colorful fabrics to remind me. I hope to someday soon bring my dear friend Sekou here to America. I hope that I can give to him here in my land of plenty as much as he gave me there in his land of empty. My home is filled with ethnic artfacts from around the world. They serve to remind me not only of all the wonderful places I have been, but remind me of all the diverse human experiences and connections that have touched my heart and soul so deeply. For the first time in American history, we are witnessing the possibility of having an ethnic president. We are no longer a big world 101 separated by our ethnic, cultural differences. We are blending and melting into a small world where everyone matters. Our planet, our Mother Earth, will one day reveal the true essence and power of the Sacred Wild Feminine, and guide the human destiny, when all those suffering and in need are cared for and fed. Like the shells in my mandala, we are all one family…each shell, each person unique and different with a gift to give. We are all travelling around this mandala, around this circle of life, around the globe, bringing our own special spice to flavor the world. 102 Chapter Eleven Old There were days before I turned fifty when I felt tired. Something shifted after fifty. Now I have days when I feel old. Hmmm…maybe it is the sheer thought of having made it this far, a half a century, maybe it’s all cultural conditioning. Maybe I am just plum worn out from the pace of this crazy go get em and do everything culture. Maybe my Vedic astrologer is right about my three major planetary transits of great challenge in a row since the age of fourteen. I have bags under my eyes as of late from insomnia, and my hair seems to stay in a constant state of desparation. I rather like the idea of more rest and relaxation, of doing more nothing. Turning off my mind, getting still inside, taking time to just watch life go by rejuvenates me. This would drive some people I know crazy. They just keep going and going and going… I hear an old shell calling. I cannot say for sure if it is my oldest shell in the mandala, but it sure looks old. Maybe because it is the purest white in color of all the shells. All the stripes and colors once there have faded save for a bit of pale gray around the center. The underside, however, is beautiful, smooth and oh so shiny with soft shades of gray and white with hints of gold. Like my old shell, we, too, become old with time. Our stripes, our body texture and definition begin to fade along with our colors. We wash ashore like my shells, where we dry up without the nourishing life force of the ocean waters. Someday our shell will be empty, and our own life force will move on in search of a new ocean. 103 I would like to know who wrote this script of birth, life and death. Why can’t it be birth and life, and we can just skip the whole death part? I’d like to see this script rewritten. I actually think it’s possible. If this outward script is a reflection of our inward lessons, we’d best hurry up and learn what we came here to learn so we can get on with something new and different…and better. I guess you could say I have some resistance to the impermanent nature of things. I embrace change OK, but I struggle with the letting go part. The only saving grace to the often painful and difficult transitions of aging, death and loss is our cultivation of light, beauty and peace on the inside. The inside of my old shell is actually very elegant. The soft grays sparkle with silver, and the whites are irridescent like pearls. I imagine myself like the inside of this shell when I am really old, my hair white as snow. I am wearing a long silver evening dress with beautiful long pointed black satin shoes, and pearls dripping from my neck and wrists. My white hair is up in a diamond clasp with sprigs of white babies breath. I don’t feel especially sexy, but I do feel very sensual. I am keenly aware of my inner beauty needing to outshine my fading outer beauty. I am trusting down deep somewhere that there is a wonderful plan and outcome to this whole questionable aging process. Well, I obviously have much to learn yet from those who are aging gracefully. I have some women friends in their sixties, and I must say, they are an inspiration. They have thrown all their worldly struggles, ambitions and expectations to the wind. They are women on the wind who go where they want, say what they want, do what they want and they don’t give a damn what anybody thinks. Yahoo!!! In our western society, there isn’t much room for the aging. Some are fortunate to have family who will care for them at home, some are 104 fortunate to maintain good health so they can still care for themselves as they age. But most of the aging are filed away in nursing or retirement homes. We make no place of honor for the aging, and so, we are a modern culture empty of the elder’s voice and wisdom. It’s a crying shame. I was fortunate to know both my paternal and maternal grand- parents. I have read that we are more like our grand-parents than our parents so knowing them and soaking up their wisdom is a good thing. My maternal grandfather died when I was a child so I didn’t get to know him as well. We called him Grumpy, but he was actually very sweet. I remember visits to his house always included sitting on a stool at his bar where he made us Shirley Temples, and we ate a lot of pretzels and talked. He loved flowers and gardening so we always ended up in the garden. He had an old globe that he would spin while we held a finger lightly on it, and wherever it stopped, he said that is where we would live. I always ended up in the ocean. He was an ocean man, a Captain in the Navy, and one of the first pioneers in developping ship to aircraft radio. My maternal grandmother, Grammoo, lived to be ninety-eight. She was remarkable. She stood straight as a pin, her pink glowing cheeks adorned by crystalline blue eyes and wavy hair, and a smile that boasted all her teeth. She summered in Pennsylvania, wintered in North Carolina, and visited us in Virginia in between. She was always giving me books on the power of positive thinking. She was actually quite negative about most things, and worried about everything. She was always saying, “Oh dear…” as if impending doom was imminent. But I guess in her private moments she worked on the positive side of life. She came from a very financially priveleged family so I could never 105 understand what all the worry was about. She fussed a lot over her material belongings, but she knew everything that went on. She didn’t miss anything. Once we went to lunch when she was well into her nineties, and she asked me for a bite of my pizza. “Hmmm…” she muttered, “that’s very good. You know, I have never had pizza.” I couldn’t believe it, and promptly brought her a plate full. She ate it all. Grammoo, despite her worries, found delight in the simple things. My paternal grandmother, Mopsy, was a southern belle from Georgia. She was always beautifully dressed with gloves and a smashing handbag. She had a very refined way of doing everything and anything. There were only certain, proper ways to do things, and she made it a point to teach us. She would actaully test us the next time we’d see her to see if we had retained anything she had taught us from our previous visit. She had a great laugh, but it hid a lot of pain behind her eyes. My grandfather had developped a tumor on his spine, and the operation left him paralyzed in a wheelchair. She made the best of it, but I could tell life after that had been hard for her. But she was always looking for fun things to do with us. Once when we were visiting, she sent my mother off to have some time to herself. Meanwhile, she took us girls to the beauty salon, and had all our long hair chopped off into cute sassy styles she thought more appropriate. I thought my mother was going to kill her. I think Mopsy was terribly lonely after her husband died. She eventually had a stroke that didn’t kill her, but left her in bad shape. But I had the blessing of being able to go spend time with her in the hospital before she died. I would bring her cookies, paint her nails and read to her. On warm autumn days I would wheel her out into the sunshine. It seemed the sun became an elixir she would drink, 106 magically transporting her back to summer afternoons on the porch in Georgia. We would have whole conversations that took place somewhere else. I learned so much about her during that time, her joys and her pains. My heart really went out to her. My paternal grandfather, Popsy, was sixty when I was born, and I only remember him in a wheelchair. He was often in his therapeutic hospital bed when we came to visit watching TV. He never seemed to mind that we all piled onto the bed with him. He smoked a pipe, which we loved to fill for him, and he was a master of blowing perfect smoke rings that floated around the room, and often in our faces. We didn’t mind. He had a twinkle in his eye, a wry sense of humor and a strong Irish will. The doctors didn’t think he would live very long after his operation to remove the tumor on his spine, but he lived to be eighty. He was a very accomplished and decorated man, a three star Major General in the Army, and served alongside General (President) Eisenhower. They became great pals, as did their sons. My father and John Eisenhower were best men at each others weddings, and life long best friends. As a result, I grew up knowing the Eisenhower family intimately. John and Barbara Eisenhower had four children, three girls and a boy, the same as my parents. We girls were all about the same ages. The Eisenhower family would often come to our farm in Virginia for visits, and we always had good fun. I remember once in winter, David brought hockey sticks and pucks for us to play ice hockey on one of our frozen ponds. He and my father had a good battle going when they both dropped through the ice. Fortunately, it was in the corner of the pond where it was shallow so they only dropped just above their knees. We all had a good chuckle seeing them knee deep in the cold muck. 107 On other occasions, we would rendezvous at Eike and Mamie’s home in Gettysburg. This was very special. Eike had a very unique social manner in which he chose to visit with each of us kids individually. Our arrival would be graciously greeted by Mamie, and we would all gather in the livingroom to visit, and await our turn. The angst of our waiting was always eased by Mamie’s yummy lemonade and chocolate chip cookies. This was all fine save we kids were anxious to get out and play! My visits with Eike were characterized by brief sits in his lap, and answering a zillion questions. I loved sitting in his lap. He was like Santa Claus with a twinkle in his eye, rosey cheeks and a brillant, warm smile. He made me feel good. He wanted to know all about me: how I was doing in school, what I liked best, what books I was reading, what grades I was getting,, what sports I liked, how I was doing at home, who were my friends and what were my dreams. I never really understood why he asked me all these questions. I just answered them. Sometimes he wasn’t satisfied with my answer, and would keep asking until he was. On one visit, when I was too big to sit in his lap anymore, I walked in to see piles of paintings all around that he was working on. I recall being surprised that this famous man who had been a President and had fought big wars loved to paint. He was painting scenes of his farm, and they reminded me a bit of the work by Grandma Moses. We talked about art and painting the whole time. Hmmm…years later when fate would have it that I became a painter, I often thought back to that visit, and wondered what seed had been planted. 108 I guess the most exciting thing about knowing the President for a kid was visiting him at the White House. I was quite small when we spent Christmas Eve there along with his grand- children while he was President. But that didn’t stop us from sprinting up and down the halls at high speed in our socks, and sliding on the smooth floors. We were all finally rounded up, and returned to the playroom after being found jumping up and down on Lincoln’s bed. I remember my mother talking about this visit, and what my sister, Lizzy, had said after first meeting Eike. She kept asking when we were going to meet the President after she had met him. My mother explained to her that she had already met him, to which she replied, “But that’s not George Washington!” Having the opportunity to know President Eisenhower was an extraordinary gift, as was knowing all my grandparents. Perhaps it was all of these connections with the elderly that would later in my life help foster a deep friendship with an old black woman named Anna Josephine Timbers, known as Josie. I met Josie when I was nineteen years old. She was living alone in an old farmhouse on a farm in Virginia where she had lived and worked most of her life. The farm had been bought by the family of one of my boyfriend’s friends from the city. My boyfriend, John, and the son of the new owner, Bill, were spending the summer remodelling the main house with other friends. I was living on our farm about forty minutes away, and spent much of my free time visiting there when I wasn’t working. John was a photographer, and in the course of photographing Josie, had become her friend. I soon followed. It wasn’t hard to love Josie. She had a deep kindness mixed with a sweet sorrow that pulled me in like a bee to the flower. Despite going 109 blind in one eye, she would cook these amazing meals for us: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn pudding, stewed tomatoes, apple pie. We’d sit on the porch with full bellies, and rock in our chairs to the rhythms of her stories. She called me Anna, and time spent on the porch jawing(talking) as she called it was the highpoint of her day. Her grand-mother was part Cherokee Indian, her mother had been a slave. Josie had raised six children on that farm, had lost her husband, Henry, twentysome years ago, and had already outlived one of her children. She had one daughter who lived nearby with her family. We spent a lot of time that summer on the porch jawing with Josie. The years went by, John and I eventually returned to Virginia, got married and had two sons. Visiting Josie became a regular, and oh how she loved the babies. I couldn’t hold on to one of them more than a m inute after walking in the door before she snatched them away into her arms saying, “ Come and get some sugar.” Sometimes she seemed so sad, sometimes she would talk about it, sometimes she would brood in her silence. I started doing more of the cooking, and we did what we could to help her out. One spring we planted her a big garden, and she really loved that. Then one day news came that the farm had sold again, only this time Josie would have to go. John and I wanted her to live with us, but she refused. I think she knew her time was getting near, and she wanted to stay close to the land she loved. She moved to her daughter’s nearby, but when we came to visit, it wasn’t such a good move. She was living in a rundown shack out back with no bathroom. She had an outhouse, but getting to it was a challenge now that she was almost blind and moving slowly. I always told her I would cook when we came to visit, 110 but sometimes she’d go ahead and cook. I knew soon as we walked in she’d been cooking from the good smells, but also from the burn marks on her hands or arms from not being able to see the hot burners. We talked to her daughter, Sis, about improving her living conditions, but we didn’t get very far. One day we came in and Josie was very upset. She asked John to check under her mattress where she kept her cash, but none was there. She sat in the chair and cried, telling us her own family was stealing money from her. It was awful. She just had no place inside to find peace with that. The time finally came when Josie’s blindness forced her family to move her to a retirement home. I knew she wouldn’t last long there so I made every effort to visit her as much as I could. One day in late August I came alone to see her. I stood in the doorway watching her gaze out the window, rocking in her porch chair. I stood there a long time with an uneasy sense that this might be the last time I’d see her. Finally, she called my name. She knew I was there. She sent me down the hall to borrow another rocking chair so we could rock and jaw together. We rocked and jawed for almost four hours. In that time, Josie shared the real pain of her life with me: how hard she had worked, how much Henry drank, how her blindness she knew was caused by him hitting her in the face, how much she loved the son she had lost, how she couldn’t understand her own family stealing from her. I knew she was trying to make some peace, but I couldn’t hold back the tears. I had a hard time leaving her that day. Shortly after, her family gathered for a big reunion that Josie attended. I guess she used it to say goodbye to everyone. She died a few days later. I think she was almost ninety-five years old. 111 I am crying as I write this. No other human being found their way into my heart like Josie. This old black woman was my dearest, best friend. I learned about being old, mostly I learned about love. I have friends who say attitude is everything when it comes to aging. After all, there’s no place left to run, no place to hide. It seems everything you feel on the inside somehow now manages to show up on the outside. If I am depressed, stressed or worried, there it is in the mirror. So more than ever, there is a need for constant monitoring and refinement of what’s happening on the inside. I don’t stress much over some strict exercise regime to try and combat the signs of aging. I exercise when I have time, and I make it fun. I ski, dance, play tennis, swim, hike, do yoga or walk whenever the fun calls. I’d like to be a beautiful pearl as I age, but I can do without the grinding sand. Everything is growing old all the time…people, trees, animals, the planets, even all our material stuff. Everything that is matter is growing, changing, morphing into something. We can really count on everything changing, nothing staying the same. It’s a mysterious energy, the unseen force behind the curtain, but every bit as real as the seen. It’s kind of like we are all riding the change train except none of us really know where we are going, or even where to get off. We’re just going for the ride. There is a certain lightness and freedom in not knowing where we are going. It’s exciting really to trust in the unknown, to open to a boundless, eternal energy and have faith in guidance from on high. I think this energy has a destination of somewhere better and higher than we can imagine. The more we keep opening to this energy, the bigger it grows. Transportation becomes transformation. Sometimes once we know where we are going, the 112 magic disappears. We become attached to our knowing…and the truth is that none of us really know. I will pray for a lot of grace as I grow old, and for the voices of my ancestors and the elders to guide my way. In the end, I will knock on Death’s door only to realize that Life is on the other side. For Death and Life are just two sides of the same coin. We separate them, one is matter, one is spirit, but I think they go together like peas and carrots. They are both great transformations that deserve celebration. Life in body on this planet can be difficult, but maybe once we leave, we will just want to come back. Maybe a bit of time on the other side will help us regain our perspective, so we can come back and do it better the next time. Some people believe this one life we have now is all there is. We don’t get another chance. The problem with that belief is that it is linear, when the energy of time is circular. Everything goes round and round. History shows us that, as do the seasons with their natural cyclic rhythms. I think we have all had lots of chances, and there are more to come. Each lifetime we are given is a return to the Earth school, and the only thing we really have to do is learn while we are here. It’s not easy when we come back with a fair amount of unfinished business, and have to spend a good deal of time mopping up our mess from past lives. But if we could somehow understand that clearing our karma gives our souls the freedom to choose a new and better path, we might learn to embrace our lessons with less resistance. Then we can move through life with greater ease, and actually celebrate all the opportunities we are given to lighten our load and grow. Some of us are given harder lessons than others. But that does not in any way makes us less than others. We must guard against self- 113 judgement and comparing our lessons. One thing is certain…we are all challenged with our lessons in life. We can either choose to drown in our dramas, or find the gift in them. It is bittersweet at best, but the gift is there. To find it requires surrender, a willingness to let go of our limited beliefs in the laws of man and embrace instead the truly magical boundless laws of Spirit. It’s a good trade. They say wisdom comes with age…thank goodness. It seems there is a lot we can celebrate in growing older. Like the women on the wind, we really don’t concern ourselves as much with what others think. It’s not in a manner of disrespect, but a place of freedom to express with more confidence and less fear. I use to worry whether people liked me or what they thought. I use to feel everything in my life had to be moving along according to some schedule and picture I had in my mind. I had to have the perfect home, the perfect kids, the perfect relationship. What a relief to have moved beyond that pressure! There are still things I want, but I am more relaxed about them unfolding in Divine time instead of in my time. I used to push hard to make things happen. Now I rest, and wait for the invitation. I am more interested in manifesting what I want from a place of joy instead of stress. I am more interested in spending more time with my children, my good friends, my beloved, my dog…more time in Nature, travelling and doing the things I love, which fortunately for me includes work. I am more interested in soaking life up than being burned up. I am more interested in the depth of my feelings than my piles of accomplishments. I don’t care so much anymore about the stains on my clothes, the holes in my socks, the crumbs on the counter or the lipstick on my teeth. I rather like the idea of cultivating my wild woman more as I age. I find myself quietly yet vigorously creating a new image 114 for myself with which to live out the second half of my century. I see a tasteful, but a tad shocking new hairdo; a more sleek, silky, sophisticated wardrobe and a bright pink ’57 pickup truck for my life on the ranch. I had a great old 1954 Ford Country Squire “Woodie” wagon when my kids were small. It had a red and white striped headliner, a big red leather front seat that went all the way across and a big ivory steering wheel. The horn was so loud it would jolt people straight up out of their seats. I would pick my kids up in it from school, and all the kids wanted to ride home with me. I met a lot of people through that car, and had more adventures than I can mention now. Once when I was having sushi dinner with a friend, the owner of the restaurant came around asking who owned the old wagon parked out front. He said all the Japenese chefs really wanted to see it, and asked me if I wouldn’t mind showing it to them.. They all climbed in, took turns playing behind the steering wheel, looking under the hood and really lit up when I turned on the old radio. It was too funny. We ended up with a free dinner as a result of the vintage car show and tell. It was a happy old car. It made people smile. All of us go through an astrological transit known as Chiron return sometime around the age of fifty. Chiron is the planet of the wounded healer. The transit gives us the opportunity to reflect on the pain we have experienced in this lifetime, and transmute it to become the healer. At our Chiron crossroad, we either choose to hold onto our pain or release it. If we stay stuck in our past wounding, it will continue to influence our lives in a negative way. If we can become aware of, embrace and heal our past pain, we are gifted with a new freedom with which to move forward, free to give back all that 115 we have been given. Fifty is a significant turning point for us all because by then, most of us have a good accumulation of wounds. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. We all have a story. We have to let the story go, stop identifying with it and create a new story…the one of the wounded healer. We are all walking wounded, and we are all healers. Healers can help others because they have been wounded, but not until they heal their own wounds. Maybe one day healing will be instantaneous, but for the time being, it’s a gradual, lifelong process. We are all at different stages. We don’t have to achieve a hundred percent healing to help others. We just have to get to the other side of our own pain, to the joy, so we have something to give. The path of the wounded healer is full of humility. We can’t save the world. We can follow our heart to help orphaned children, endangered animals, threatened environments or just show up and be fully present for those we love. My father died seven years ago. He had a brillant mind, and we all had to watch him lose it to Alzheimers. It was especially difficult for me as I was living two thousand miles away, and could not be there enough. I made several trips back to Virginia from New Mexico to be with him, until I made the last one. He was in a nursing home, and I would go every day to see him. He was no longer able to communicate with words, so I had to try and find other ways. But the day came when I had to leave, and knowing it would probably be the last time I would see him alive, I did not know how to leave. I finally sat beside him, and laid my head on his chest. I told him everything I needed to say, and still I could not leave. He put his hand on my head, then out of his mouth, clear as a bell, he said, “ It will be OK, Annie. It will be OK.” I cried and cried, but I had what I needed. Once again in my life, 116 I couldn’t ignore the invisible forces at work that had helped him put a sentence together when it was beyond him any other time. Something beautiful had stirred in his soul beyond the limits of his sick and aging body. He was the vessel for the infusion of Spirit that revealed Itself through him. He was Spirit in body, returning home. I am down off the mountain this afternoon. I am sitting in the warm sun of early spring, sipping a glass of Spanish red wine beneath big old Cottonwood trees. It’s mighty fine. I wonder if I will grow old and be magnificent like these majestic trees. I wonder if who I am now is enough. Must I wait to grow old before I am truly wise, or become known as a great painter. Must I wait for someone to liken me to these old trees and say, “ Look at that magnificent old woman!” No…today, here, now, this moment is really all I have. In the power of this now I sing the body electric. I will celebrate this passing youth, this growing older. I will give myself permission to feel and live it all right to the end…when my spark flies on, and leaves my body. I will be an empty but beautiful old shell on the beach. 117 Chapter Twelve Children I hear these little singing voices going round my mandala…the little voices of children…my children shells. There are a lot of these little shells, maybe fifty that are all about the same size. Most of my little shells have holes in the top, like mouthes with which to sing or portals to another world. Their colors range from many shades of white to pink and rose and gray and soft siennas. My children shells are happy. They are dancing to freedom on the spiraling waters of this circular force, shooting out off the end of the mandala into the Cosmos. Yet, they are here, grounding the mandala.They are the anchors for the truth that has gone before them, the truth that is and the truth to come. These children shells are our future. I heard a story once about a couple who had a seven year old daughter and a new baby. One evening they heard their seven year old talking to their new baby over the intercom. She was telling her new baby sister to please hurry up and learn to talk because she was forgetting about God and needed to remember. Children are light beings. They come into this world glowing, infused with Spirit. They are little magical beings, messengers from home. Unfortunately, we adults are all too quick to impose the laws of man upon our children. By the time most children are seven, the veil connecting them to Spirit has thickened, their souls conditioned. While it is true most infants and toddlers are totally dependent on their parents for their basic survival needs, I do not think most parents are able to provide the necessary spiritual food. How can an adult parent, who denies their own connection to Spirit, nourish this 118 in their children? I suppose they leave this job to the church, or the child later in life embarks on their own spiritual quest. It is a great loss for both parent and child. The parent misses the opportunity to reconnect with themselves as a spiritual being, allowing their child to be their guide back to the wonder and mystery in life and developping the sensitivity to their child’s Divine purpose. The child misses the opportunity to develop and strengthen their spiritual path, to be truly seen and recognized, and grow up with the confidence in knowing who they really are. Instead, we impose our parenting laws upon our children. We enforce rules for everything they can do or not do, we pile up the expectations(often in our own image), we decide what is best , what they will wear and who they will be…all without asking. Our decisions are made by parental egos, disguised in the best interest of the child, when in fact, the child’s desires, true needs and destiny are being scarificed. And so begins the mastery of our own self-betrayal, and a long road to unravelling the mess as an adult. And we wonder why our children resist or argue with us, don’t seem happy and can’t wait to leave home. Now, I am not admitting that I had my parenting act all together at the ripe age of twenty-one when I had my first child. I didn’t. I was terrified. But my fear guided me to surrender my children back to the Source from which they came, and to ask that Source, Spirit, God, call it what you will, to give me the help and grace I needed to raise them. I traded places. I let them become the parent teacher and I became the child student. I still dared to discipline, and had rules to protect their safety. But I really made an effort to understand who they were, and to guide them accordingly. I didn’t enforce parental 119 law. I enforced listening and asking. Out of that grew what I called “grunt” sessions. We took one night a week after dinner, and everyone had a turn to voice what was bugging them, who was bugging them and how they’d like to see it changed. I was usually the main target, and put up with a lot of grunting. But I also really learned about my kids, and how to be there for them in a better way. Parenting isn’t just about knowing who your kids are. It’s about knowing who you are, and setting protective boundaries for yourself, and your kids. I suffered from terrible PMS in my late twenties. Don’t even get me started on how hard it was to find any real help. Suffice it to say, I became my own doctor. Anyway, my symptoms were more emotional and mental than physical. I went up and down and all around. One minute I was laughing, the next minute sobbing. One minute I was calm, the next minute on the warpath. This was not good. In order to spare my kids from this craziness, I sat them down and explained that once a month we would be getting a visit from Alice. And Alice was crazy. Alice would cry for no reason, and yell for no reason and complain for no reason. She wasn’t always nice, she didn’t always make sense. It would be best to make fun of her, or ignore her. My kids thought this was great. They couldn’t wait for Alice to come, and their primary strategy was making fun of her. I couldn’t believe the way they helped me endure the hell I went through every month. Sometimes when I was on overwhelm, I felt the need to talk to my kids about it . I wanted to share what was going on with me so they wouldn’t take any of it on and feel it had anything to do with them. So we’d pile into the ’54 Wooodie wagon, go get icecream and I’d take us for a drive talking all the while. I don’t know how much they understood, but I didn’t expect them to, and somehow it didn’t really 120 matter. But I do think they understood that my problems were not their problems. I wanted them to remain as light and free as possible. I wanted them to keep shining as the beautiful boys they were with icecream running down their chins. It’s important for us as parents to support and cultivate the favorite things our children love to do. Both of my boys were gifted athletes and loved sports, and my youngest, James, took to soccer like a bear to honey. He even slept with his soccer ball as a child. He went on to attain a soccer scholarship for college. My oldest, Joshua, is a wise old soul and a great cook. He will make some woman very happy one day with that talent. Joshua is a mountain man, a real lover of Nature and the outdoors. He lives and works on our farm in Virginia, while James prefers the city life of Miami. I used to watch them as kids through the window playing soccer in the backyard. They would practice for hours all these amazing plays, and then walk out onto the soccer field for a game, and execute those plays to perfection. They were quite an amazing duo, and had a comradeship as brothers that really melted your heart. My two favorite things to do as a kid were riding my pony and shooting guns. I must have been a cowgirl in a past life. My mother didn’t have the keen support for these two activities as much as my father. My father and I rode horses often together. I also spent a lot of time riding by myself all over our big farm. I am sure my love for Nature sprang out of all these long rides as a child. My father taught me how to shoot guns at an early age. How I loved going down to the dump, setting up rows of old cans and bottles and target shooting. By the time I was ten years old, I was a darn good shot. The summer I was ten I went to camp, and excelled in riflery, such that my teachers 121 had to wonder. By the time I was a teenager, I could pretty much out shoot any of my guy friends. Some of my friends now find it strange when I talk about how much I love guns and shooting, but I had good experiences around guns. It’s a shame guns so often fall into the wrong hands, and give guns such a bad rap. I ended up going to that camp in the mountains of North Carolina every summer for five years. It was primarily a canoeing camp, and the canoeing program was run by a master whitewater canoeist named Hugh Caldwell. He was also a professor of Philosophy at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was the kindest, most loving man and the reason I kept going back. He infused me with his love for Nature and running rivers. He prided himself on getting all his girls down some of the toughest rivers in one piece. Every summer a handful of girls would committ to the gruelling four year canoeing program to attain a Captains Hat, and I was one of them. It was no small undertaking. We had to master everything there was to know about a canoe and running rivers, as well as the basics of sailing, kayaking and motorboats. We had to run solo two of the most challenging rivers, the Chattooga in Georgia and the nearby Nantahala. The summer I was fourteen, Govenor Maddux of Georgia was proposing to dam the Chattooga river. Hugh wasn’t going to let this happen. He arranged for the five of us girls, who were hard at work as would-be Captains, to take Govenor Maddux and his team down the Chattooga. It was Hugh’s hope that this experience would prevent the decision to dam the river. Now, I was a scrawny small girl at fourteen. Govenor Maddux’s bodyguard was assigned to my canoe, guns and all. He was a big man, and he didn’t look upon me with much confidence. In fact, all the men 122 looked highly nervous at the idea of being escorted down the river by a bunch of teenage girls….save for the Govenor who would ride in Hugh’s canoe. I was to follow Hugh’s canoe, and knowing this to be to my advantage, I was fully confident in assuring the bodyguard he would not get his guns wet. Despite two of the canoes capsizing, Govenor Maddux and his team had the thrill of a lifetime. The wild and beautiful Chattooga river would be protected forever from the threat of being dammed. It was an accomplishment that would give us five girls at a young age the confidence to create change. Our children do not really belong to us. They are tender souls placed in our care. It is not so much about parenting as it is about teaching and being taught. We tend to believe our children come in ignorant and needing all of our adult expertise, but I really believe they have far more to teach us than we do them. Children have a deep sensitivity and a great knowing. We would do them great service in helping them cultivate these qualities. We can be a source of strength for their spiritual path along this road of human experience. We can spare them the long desparate search for their true selves by choosing to be our true selves, spare them the pain of living a lie. Some children being born now, and during the last twenty years, are considered quite special. They are known as the Indigo children. They are coming in with their spiritual gifts fully in tact, as opposed to losing these gifts in the transition from Spirit to human form. No amount of human conditioning seems to interfere with their purpose, though sensitive guidance seems to increase and enhance their gifts. They can see and read auras, perform healings, demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts, music, science or language, and are gifted with compassionate hearts and love for humankind. They are 123 without question fully wired for the spiritual path, and the life to come on this planet. Children bring us joy. They ground us, give our lives purpose and keep us young. The years spent raising our children are truly the golden years. You may not see this now while in the midst of it, but I promise you will know what I am saying when your babies grow up and leave the nest. My boys are grown with lives of their own now. I have to say, I haven’t quite been the same since they left. There is a bond between a mother and her children that never dies.It’s not the same with the father, sorry. It is the deep physical, emotional and spiritual bonding with a life in the womb that bonds a woman to her child like cement. Many women come completely unglued when all their children leave home. It’s understandable. Their whole lives may have circled around the needs of their children, having sacrificed their own needs for so long. It can come as a real shock, to suddenly have all this space and time for oneself. I think many women need to embrace a time of grief to let their children go before they are able to celebrate a life of their own. This might be more rare today as so many women combine careers with child raising. I had some part-time help with my children. Mostly because I felt it was healthy for me to maintain some space of my own, and it made me a better mother. But I could not in a million years have left my babies in day care all day with someone else. They were far too precious to me, and there was too much to miss. It was hard enough when my husband and I separated, and I agreed to give him joint custody. He probably never knew this, but it damn near killed me. Not every woman is in a financial position to stay at home with her children, nor does her job provide day care. I seriously have to question what is wrong with our society that businesses who 124 employ and value the work of women do not provide in house day care. This is a given in countries like France. Women need to demand it, or find another job. I was lucky to pursue a professional tennis teaching career as a single mom that provided day care so I could always have my children close. Of course, I had them out on the tennis court instead participating in my kids classes, but the option was there, and that made all the difference. In our modern world, a woman should not have to choose between her career and her children. Women today make up almost half of the work force. If companies want women to make happy, healthy contributions to both their jobs and their families, they’d best take better care of their women and give them options to succeed at both. Women have a long history of taking care of the needs of others. It’s high time they got their needs met. I am so proud of my children. I made my mistakes along the way as we all do as parents. After all, there are no real guide books for being a parent. Our best guide is the soft whisper that speaks from our own hearts. My children are the light of my life. They have been my best teachers. I honor my children’s father, who filled the gap from our divorce by giving his heart and soul to his boys. His achievement is rare in the life of men. For myself, if I never achieve anything else in my life, having raised two fine young men with awareness in their souls and compassion in their hearts will surely be my greatest accomplishment. So off I go now, with my cosmic dancing shoes on, following the songs and laughter of all my children shells…round and round the mandala…round and round this circle of life. I will learn to celebrate the children of this world. Because of them, I will laugh until my belly 125 aches, find the wonder and magic in everything, soak up the sun, dance in the rain, melt in healing hugs and go to bed at night tired from too much play. Our children are our future, our guides to living heaven on earth and our mirrors for our lost wild natures. 126 Chapter Thirteen Small I have journeyed around to the end of my mandala on the singing voices of children. Here is my last shell, my smallest shell. It is the only shell in my mandala with two holes in the top, or it is one hole with a bridge in the middle, the bridge between worlds, the bridge between hearts….a rainbow bridge. It is oval in shape with stripes of deep brown rose. It has the feeling of a small child’s shoe, and when I turn it around, the bridge has a U shape like a smiling face. And so it is, my last shell, the final anchor to the great circle of life, is a small smiling shell. My smallest shell feels big somehow. I sense in its little world a lot of big knowing. Perhaps it is smiling because its big truth goes unnoticed in its small disguise, kind of like children. Perhaps it is saying that the answers to all our big questions can be found in the little things. All of matter appears to have large presence. Yet underneath, inside, unseen, the matter is made up of a zillion small cells or atoms. I remember the first time I looked through a microscope in grade school. My mind had an instant expansion upon viewing the teeny tiny itsy bitsy world of the Unseen. Suddenly, there was a whole other world to consider beyond my naked eye, a whole new world behind the scenes. Everything was no longer simply what it appeared to be. We think of the world as being so big, but it is actually small in the cosmic perspective. We humans are but tiny specks decorating planet Earth while we swirl at mach speed in an infinite space of grandeur. It is so easy to forget the magnificence of the Universe while we are 127 engaged in our daily routines. If we could plug into this cosmic greatness and merge it with the smallness of matter, we would no longer live as lonely prisoners bound by our own manmade limitations. We can infuse matter with the mystery of Spirit. It’s already there in everything. Heaven is already here on Earth. We all just need to use our Spirit eyes to see. Science tells us that living matter began with the Big Bang, while quantum theory suggests all living matter is contained in one tiny atom. Nature clearly demonstrates that all life begins as a small seed. How extraordinary that all life originates from a humble and unpretentious beginning, yet manifests into such greatness! Perhaps Nature attempts through this miracle to reveal the great mystery of the force behind life’s small beginnings. Quantum physics also suggests that all matter is primarily composed of empty space. If this is so, what energy, what force brings matter into form, brings life into creation? The church tells us that God created all things, but some of us are prone to questionning who and what God is. God is defined by others also as Spirit, the Great Spirit, the Source, the Creator, the Lifeforce, the Father/Mother, the Divine and on. I like to think that behind all our efforts to define this force is simply our awareness and consciousness that brings meaning to the force. It is obvious from all the many diverse religions and spiritual paths in the world that everyone cannot agree on the same definition. If we were all to extend ourselves beyond mind and matter, we just might arrive together at a place of transcendent consciousness, that we recognize as being the force itself. I believe all life on the planet, including the planet, is evolving. The whole point, the whole plan, the whole show of all life is evolution. It is an evolution towards higher consciousness, 128 and that higher consciousness is God, is the Great Spirit, is the Divine, is all those definitions. More importantly, it is us. We are the higher consciousness that we seek. It is our own consciousness that is the energy, the force that brings life into creation and gives meaning to all matter. It is our own higher consciousness that will carry us over the great divide, and guide us to the fulfillment of our destiny. We are all our own small Universe together in a Grand Universe. We can choose the mystery and the magic, or we can choose the mind. The mind makes us a victim, the mystery makes us one. The process of evolution takes time, full of many small steps. We can start in our daily lives with a return to the sweet small things that life has to offer. For most of us, our lives are big and complicated. There is a lot of focus on the big house, the big career, the big bank account, the big goals and the big dreams. The sweetness of the little things is easily swallowed up, leaving a bitter taste in our mouth. We may all desire to move towards some form of greatness, but it is the quality of our small steps that builds our future. We need to appreciate the now in our longing. I often find myself focused on wanting what I don’t have yet. I have learned that it only takes me farther away from what I desire because I am no longer focused in the moment. I can only create my future by being full in the present with what I have. My gratitude, acceptance and joy of what I have and where I am now are the powerful small steps towards the inevitable evolution and manifestation of my dreams. I think it’s supposed to work like magic. The more we are being who and what we want in the moment, the better chance we have of attracting it. Sometimes I have to fake it til I make it. I don’t feel grateful or happy all the time. Sometimes I feel downright depressed. It’s usually 129 because I am buying into my ego, allowing my mind to run 24/7 or listening to the lies of my conditioned self instead of my true self. At this point, I just have to stop. I have to make time to be still and rest my mind. Nature is a great cure for a restless mind, as is doing really heartful things. There is a mantra I use that always works, though it took some time before I could wrap my mind around it, and then realize I had to unwrap my mind. The mantra is, “ There is nowhere to go, there is nothing to do.” Now I had trouble with this because in my mind I was always going somewhere and always had so much to do. I think I spent a good three days mumbling this mantra over and over, even in my sleep, until I was successfully brainwashed. And somehow this little nothing of a mantra began to change my life. All I had to do when I got stressed or depressed was to start chanting about nowhere and nothing, and everything would shift. I suppose because our stress and depression is really based on an illusion of having to be everywhere and do everything. Once I convinced my mind there was nowhere to go and nothing to do, it began to rest….and rest…and rest. And out of this long siesta came a whole new awareness that wasn’t rooted in my thoughts, but in my feelings. It was a whole new way of being, and living. I could finally feel inner peace instead of obsessing about how to attain it with my mind. We don’t have to become a monk, or disappear to the top of a mountain in India for ten years to find inner peace. We just have to quiet the mind. The mind is home to the ego, and the ego likes to talk all the time. In fact, it will never shut up if you let it. There is some staggering statistic about how many thoughts actually pass through our minds in any given day. It’s brutal, unrelentless. If we attempt to 130 entertain all of those, we will surely fry our brains. Most of us get stuck, and keep repeating certain thoughts like a broken record. This is our conditioned mind maintaining our conditioning. We can’t break away from the mind, and discover all the other lovely qualities of our feelings and our heart if we can’t silence the mind. It’s really like a ruthless and deceptive dictator that orders us to go here and to go there and do this and do that, and we do it. Then we wonder why our lives are full of stress and aren’t working. We are living a lie. The mind has its place and its purpose. We can have a beautiful mind if it is governed by our heart. It really keeps coming down to choice: do we allow all our thoughts, our mind, our ego, to determine our false truth…or do we allow the essence of our Sacred souls with all its deep feeling and innate knowing, to be our resonant guide to our truth? Let your heart do the talking. Someone told me once that the Buddha admitted to having a steady stream of thoughts, but instead of entertaining them, he allows them to float on by like passing clouds. Nice. Our mind is not our Master nor the messenger of truth. When we give the mind power devoid of the heart connection, we unleash a world of deception, injustice and suffering upon ourselves and all mankind…history in the making. The mind that would be King cannot rule without his Queen of Hearts. The heart is the barometer of truth, and it will register which thoughts are worthy of our attention. That’s the beauty of it. The mind gets to rest while the heart takes us on a go everywhere and do everything journey of love. The beat goes on… Every small thing contributes to the whole. In the end, it all comes down to a whole lot of small miracles. The evolution of humankind isn’t going to happen with a big bang. It’s a series of many small steps 131 being taken over a long period of time. Each one of us is part of every small step when we personally evolve into self-empowered and self- created conscious beings. We are all in the garden together, and we have only to tend to our own small patch for the whole garden to flourish and become a thing of true beauty. We are all going to have to bloom for the world to become a better place. Every day, every moment gives us the opportunity to become better gardeners. It’s the smile we squeak out to the irritable sales clerk who is clearly having a bad day…the spare change we give the homeless…the massage to an aching body…the respect to the elderly…our listening ear to a friend…the flowers to our lover…the new dress to ourselves…an orphaned child a home. If we can find joy in the simple, small things, our gardens will surely grow. We cannot plant the small seeds for future gardens, and generations, with the delusion of pain and suffering. If we want to create a new world, a better garden, then every small seed we plant must be planted with love. They say love is all there is. We come in with love…and we go out with love. It’s all we take with us when we go. True love grows with time, yet we all want it to burst forth in all its glory on day one and never change. But love, like so much in life, is intermittent. It comes and goes like summer rains. Therefore, we have to really love love when it rains down on us. We have to soak it up like parched ground because the more full of love we are, the more freedom we have to foster our own higher consciousness. The freedom of one soul can mean the freedom for all souls. And freedom is the greatest gift that love has to offer. This is not a small thing, but it grows out of every 132 small seed we plant while holding the space and vision for what is possible. I love my small shell. In it I find the freedom of all the little things that matter and the little things I love: my little dog, a little touch, a little present, a little stroll, a little snack, a little flower, a little rain, a little nap, a little visit, a little light, a little help, a little hope. It all goes a long way. 133 Epilogue My journey with my shells around the mandala has come to an end. Perhaps one day they will call to me again for yet another loop in the circle of life. Summertime has come, and I have come down off the mountain. I sit in the warm afternoon sun, and reflect on the voices of my shells. They have taught me to listen to the depth of my own inner voice, a voice that has been silent for too long. Perhaps now I can trust it to sing out my truth. What is my truth? What truth can I leave you with that really matters, and says this is who I am, and I am not afraid to speak it? I believe we are living in extraordinary times. We have only to acknowledge the first woman ever and the first ethnic man ever as two of our presidential candidates. I believe we are on the brink of a brand new world. Life as we know it may never quite be the same, but we have to believe it can be better…better for all of us, not just for some. We must all hold a vision in our hearts, for without vision, we will vanish. I do not know if it is possible or even necessary for us all to hold the same vision. Perhaps if that is meant to be, it will evolve in time. What I do know now is that we are all connected, we are all one family. Our health, our path to end pain and suffering on this planet, can only come about when everyone in our family is being fed and nourished. Because when just one suffers, we all suffer. I believe women have suffered more than men. I believe women have long held in their hearts a vision that includes others, and have long suffered the patriarch’s vision that excludes others. I believe many men have suffered in both their inner and outer worlds from excluding 134 women. Neither man nor woman has been able to live their truth. A woman’s voice carries her truth, and is connected to deep wisdom. For women by nature afford themselves time for reflection, the cultivation of an inner life and an understanding of their feelings and natural rhythms. For most men, their life is outside themselves, and they are lost on the inside. It is time for women to speak, and for men to ask and to listen. The movement towards Sacred Union, both inside and outside, requires patience and assistance from both man and woman. It is a leap into the unkown together, the courage to heal all our betrayals and move beyond our cultural conditioning. Our journey is not toward one or the other, the patriarch nor the matriarch. It is a brave new world wherein the opposites are united else we continue along the razors edge. If the whole point is our own evolution, then we must understand that the other side of that coin is our own destruction. We must create new freedoms in our culture that support and cultivate higher consciousness over remaining in our manmade prisons that limit us to material false needs and living culturally conditioned lies. Do what you love, do what feels good, follow your bliss. It is a simple path, and simple is good. The beautiful gift in simple is that it affords us the freedom to be with the things that really matter…all those lovely matters of the heart…how much more deeply and freely can we melt into love….and happiness becomes a worthy goal. We can embrace pain as our teacher, but ultimately, it is the wings of our happiness that will carry us to freedom. It’s our own self-love that matters most…so we can BE love and stop searching for it. God, Spirit, Source, the Divine, they are already inside us. All we have to do is plug in. 135 Happiness breeds creativity. Our creativity brings us closer to the Divine Creation both inside and outside ourselves. It is our higher consciousness transcending all the illusions and limitations of man, and connecting us to the deep, inner creative well of our cosmic self. Our evolution is an invitation to celebrate the cosmic dance. So get your dancing shoes on! And what is this dance really all about? What does all this mean about higher self-consciousness, going within, quieting the mind, embodying Spirit, connecting to our Sacred Wild Feminine and Sacred Wild souls, being our Divine self, trusting source, transcending ego, journeying to the underworld, bridging heaven and earth, Sacred Union, inner marriage, letting go, surrender, waking up, life and death cycles, living a lie, celebration, evolution, healing…it means we get to re-create ourselves. It means we are awakening to our evolution, our destiny, as a species on this planet Earth to honor and embrace our most innate true selves, leave our egos behind and shoot the moon with magic. It means we can infuse the current limitations of our rational, logical and material mind set with the essence of the cosmic energy that holds all the infinite possiblities of our own creative consciousness. We must create a new way of thinking, a new mind, if we are going to create a new way of being in the world. I like the idea of a new me. A new world to accompany and support that would be a real bonus. In the meantime, this business of having to mop up old karma while not creating new karma is very tricky. Letting go of the past, clearing the decks and gifting ourselves with freedom are no small tasks. There’s no polite way of saying it….it kicks your ass. Transformation, creating ourselves anew, is something you have to really want. I mean really want. You have to be good and tired and 136 sick of the old. You will only see clearly and freely through the looking glass when it is shattering…and you are the glass. It’s worth it, this thing called growth….it really is. It comes to you sometimes with the softest touch, and other times like a dagger in your heart. But we learn to ride the wave no matter what it brings. I can tell you this: It washes beautiful shells onto the beach for us to find, and gifts us with a sweet freedom few of us have ever known. Freedom from the past, freedom from our mind/ego, freedom from our pain, freedom from the lies and especially freedom from time. According to the Mayans, the true calendar is based on thirteen moons, not twelve. Therefore, we are not even living our lives with the harmonic resonance of the true natural and universal rhythms. Our understanding of time is artificial and linear, as defined by our expressions of not having enough time, running out of time, killing time, spending time and wasting time. We perceive time as something we can measure, which only serves to restrict and stress the ease of our natural flow. Time is a circle dance, like the shells in my mandala, going round and round. When we begin to dance to our natural rhythms, we will be guided by the Universal Source into a new frequency….and a new free dance will begin. Time is speeding up….we need to slow down…and listen. The big, dancing, fragile, green woman of connection to beauty and color, who is rich in soul, embraces everything ethnic and old, celebrates children and delights in the small things, has spoken Her truth. She is the Sacred Wild soul in all of us. 137 All life is Sacred. We must hold the vision for this Earth to be a planet where we can fulfill our dreams. The attainment of our own individual higher self-consciousness is to live our lives here as the Divine, spiritual, free and immortal souls that we truly are. We can ground ourselves in the simple truths of daily life wherein we create Sacred space for stillness and connecting to our hearts. Our movement into a new way of being and living has our hearts at the core of the circle, at the center of the mandala. It is the resonance with the realm of our feelings and the depth of our compassion that will show us the way home.