Wildflowers, Perspective and Cancer

It’s hard to write about spring without sounding trite. Yet, no matter how many cheesy love poem metaphors I’ve seen, no matter how many spring seasons I’ve lived, nature still manages to take my breath away every year.

There is a subtle magic that flows through this showy time of pollination and birth that stirs the blood with renewed life.

A few days ago, I returned from a week-long healing class in North Carolina. I had left California in a rainstorm that almost washed away the culverts on our Cobb Mountain property. Except for a few brave blooming things, the local plants stayed a silent green.

When I got home, though, just a week later, a different landscape greeted me. The rosemary and lilac bushes around our house had filled up with blooms. The buck brush (despite its unflattering name) had lit up the dull, brushy hillside with gorgeous splashes of white. Snowdrops and shooting stars and baby blue eyes graced the earth at my feet.

Things can change so quickly, even with almost imperceptible daily motion. The week away offered me perspective to see just how drastic those changes can be.

As several of you know, I am in my fifth year of study with wildernessFusion, the school that teaches Niasziih (the way of healing I practice). For six months now, my class has focused on working with cancer. At class, I have the awesome opportunity to work on a team with other Niasziih practitioners. After working with the same clients in healing sessions for a couple of days, we go through an intense journey of examining ourselves, the healing sessions, and our different perspectives on the cancer—all to better understand how we can more fully help clients to achieve the results they desire.

We humans all have things about ourselves we are unaware of, and a great part of the work my teachers, classmates and I do is to dig into those places that have been in shadow for us. The only way I know to do this (to become aware of that “mole on the back of my neck”) is to ask someone I trust to point out those places to me. It’s painful at times. The things we hide most from ourselves are often tucked away for a very good reason—we’d rather not look at them. However, they hold the keys to opening up our universe.

New perspective offers the possibility for everything to change—even the very physical reality of cancer.

I am grateful for my clients and colleagues who serve as mirrors for me, and for the honor to serve as a mirror in return. Only when we see something can we consciously change. I’m also grateful for the plants around us that live their cycles, rooted in the soil and then bursting into unabashed spring splendor, reminding us that steady, subtle presence can yield dramatic results.

Weather and Wanting

A few weeks ago, my husband Andy and I treated ourselves to a weekend getaway at one of our favorite spots in the Sierras, near Carson Pass.

On our last day, we strapped snowshoes to our backs, clipped cross-country skis to our toes, and headed out for an adventure. Even at almost 9,000 feet above sea level, we were warm in the sun with only one thin layer. Powdery snow left over from a recent storm made for smooth skiing.

We headed north, climbed over a saddle in the mountains, and dropped down into Meiss Meadow. For most of the day, it was just the two of us surrounded by jagged mountains laced with snow-frosted trees. Never having gone this way before, we followed someone else’s tracks and reached the place where they ended some four miles in, partway through the largest flat expanse we’d met that day. Then, we felt really alone in the wild. Trackless glittering snow reached out far to the base of the mountains all around us. We broke new trail and spoke seldom, not wanting to disturb the reverent hush of this world we’d entered. On our way back, the sun sank, covering the meadow and mountain slopes in shadow. Cornices at the ridge crests lit up and glowed, those waves of blown snow frozen in time by frigid winds. Nature’s ice sculptures.

It was the sort of day that proves that the magic I imagine actually does exist in the outside world. And we got to revel in it.

On a previous visit to Carson Pass, Andy and I had tried to make a similar trek in a raging storm. Optimistic, we strapped on snowshoes anyway. But we didn’t make it a mile from our car before we turned back, miserable with the wind blowing sideways, blasting our faces with snow, freezing our toes and fingertips. I could barely see Andy in front of me through the flurry. Unsheltered on the edge of a mountain was no place to be in that weather.

These experiences remind me of something simple yet so easy to lose sight of: when we want to create something in our lives, we have to work with the weather. We often feel so much pressure to change things now. We want our partner or friends to respond to us in a certain way. Or we want the right partner to enter our lives. We want to be rid of a disease. We want our bodies to look a certain way. We want to reach a milestone with our work. Now.

All these desires may be quite worthy.  But now may not be their time. Rather than pushing away whatever reality we currently live in, can we ask to see the gifts where we are now? What is this job or disease or relationship teaching me now? What do I truly want? What step can I take today to move towards that?

Everything we live with is a sort of landscape, including our own beings. And every landscape has weather patterns. What is today’s weather offering you?

Andy and I wanted to explore around Carson Pass for a long time. The storm blocked us from reaching the vistas we dreamed of, but we kept visiting that place. We kept feeling our desire and moving toward it. Eventually, time and space opened up for us to experience a day of comfortable, pure, sunshiny magic. And, I must say, walking in the storm helped us to know those mountains in a way we would not otherwise, to appreciate the fierceness that accompanies their striking, clear beauty.

This month, may you have grace for yourself and the landscapes around you as you dance with the weather towards what you desire.

Creation and Mystery

The changing of the year is a natural time for us to evaluate where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going next. It marks the possibility of something new in our lives.

In reality, each day is a chance for us to choose something new, even if that is doing an old thing in a new way. And yet, even with our most focused efforts, we often encounter surprises in the quest to create our own lives, surprises that can discourage, delight and/or distract us.

True creation of any sort (in business, art, childrearing, gardens, science, relationships) involves both a knowing of the medium you work in anda great deal of mystery. This goes against what many of us learned in school, where we were supposed to know all the answers, where we got marked down or punished for not knowing the answers.

Almost 90 years ago, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote this passage on how to work with mystery:

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” (Letters to a Young Poet)

The embrace of mystery is one of the reasons I love this way of healing I practice, Niasziih. As a practitioner, I am constantly asking questions. I strive to explore more and more of the places in myself I have not yet seen. I work to help my clients discover their hidden beliefs, patterns, and reactions to emotions that, though unseen, influence the direction of their lives. When we shine light on these darkened places within us, we have the ability to more freely choose and create.

And yet, even when we make some great discovery about ourselves, there are always more questions surrounding what makes us who we are, and even surrounding the discovery itself. I find this to be exciting, fascinating, and yes, at times difficult—perhaps it’s the mysteryin a quest that keeps a person really alive and interested for a lifetime.

As we turn over the page to 2016 tonight, this is my wish for you: that you may honor what is present in your life AND honor the mystery of things yet undiscovered in your miraculous being. May we all “live the questions” toward what we desire.

Happy New Year!

Grief and Gratitude

Lately, the events around me have looked somewhat like a bad country song:

My cat died, a dear friend died, half my town burned down. And there are things happening all over the world that merit grief: shootings in Paris, fires in Indonesia, Syrian genocide. The approaching holidays for many of us involve mixed feelings about family dynamics—whether we’re with them or not. We rush around like ants, buying food, searching for the right gifts. Those of us in Lake County wait for tree crews to clear the road so we can pass through on the one lane that will take us to our destinations. This is real.

This morning, my first full day at home in a long time, I lit a fire in my woodstove and sat cross-legged in front of it. I wrapped my hands around a warm cup of tea, and I let myself bask in the heat from the living flames just as my cat used to do for long stretches of hours in the winter, every fiber of her furry being thrumming with the joy of warmth. Outside my window, tiny birds sat on the tippy-top twigs of a giant oak tree, where every day they wait to catch the first rays of sun, breasts and necks and beaks outstretched. Yesterday, I took an old mountain road through a forest that was lit up with golden fall maple leaves, bursts of rich color in a deep dark place. This, also, is real.

Oh, the heartache and beauty of being human. Can we give the joy just as much weight as the heartache? Can we find the gifts in the grief? I read a letter online written by Antoine Leiris to the people who killed his wife in Paris last week. He wrote:

“You stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred. . . . You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost. . . . I don’t have any more time to devote to you. I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17 months old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”

Can we be fully present where we are? Can we jump into all that life is? Can we see and feel the reality of our pain, and can we still choose to infuse our patch of earth with love and grace and freedom? This is not easy. This takes work, looking at who we really are and how we have reacted to events in our lives. It takes extreme gentleness and stark honesty. Sometimes it takes allowing others to hold us, to help us see ourselves more clearly. But each of us truly does have a choice.

This morning, I sat like a cat in front of my fire and let its heat warm my heart. I felt the ache of grief. I let the gratitude course through my being, for all that my friend JT taught me while he was alive, for the widower in Paris who is loving his child with an open, aching heart, for the tiny birds reminding me to look to the rising sun in each new day.

I wish you peace, deep joy, and truth in the midst of all that life brings you this month.

October Reflections and Free Weekend of Healing

I hope this letter finds you well. Gentle rains touched the scorched earth around us in Lake County this past week, and baby green plants are beginning to show up in many burned places.

I’ve been clearing out dead corn stalks in my garden, making way to grow winter greens. As I say goodbye to the tall and rustling corn patches, I am left with some kernels of flour corn my family can eat this winter. The natural world’s cycle continues to reflect our internal experiences: Letting go of old things makes way for new life and ways of being. And even as we let go, we are left with something from the past that feeds us, that continues to inform who we are. I hope that you are finding such gifts, even after the fire, even in this autumn season.

Weekend of Healing in Middletown

For Lake County folks: there will be an awesome free event in Middletown this weekend, A Weekend of Healing. The event will tend to the emotional, mental, and physical health needs of “local residents affected by the fire, as well as anyone involved in the efforts to help heal the community – firefighters, police, city workers, businesspeople, volunteers for other relief groups, etc.”

Come by for yoga classes, holistic healing, massage, counseling, meditation, and live music–and invite your friends who could use some healing, too!

I will be there, offering free healing sessions from 11-3 both days.

Event Details

When: Saturday and Sunday, October 24 and 25, 11am-7pm

Where: Middletown Mansion Event Center – 20650 Hwy 29 Middletown, CA 94561 (the big brick mansion just north of Middletown)

Cost: Free!