Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Resistance Is Futile

There's something about me that is dysfunctional. (Wife says, "Oh...?")

It's very much a bad habit, and it's in my way. I've been receiving guidance about it now since we opened Firefly Willows, but I guess old habits die hard.

I have grown up and lived my life as an over-achiever and as a hard worker. I have reveled in my ability to carry heavy loads, be strong, and grind my way forward.
In theory, I have held this capacity in reserve, used on an "as needed" basis.

The facts seems quite different. Upon close inspection of my behavior, I notice that if it isn't hard, I don't think it's worth doing. If it isn't a struggle, I don't feel like I've accomplished anything. If it doesn't include resistance - something for me to push against - it's not a good use of my time, talent, and resources.

That's kinda dumb.

Because I end up making everything harder than it needs to be.

When I find myself in a place of ease, I look for a way to push up against its boundaries, to find the edge. To find the resistance.

This behavior is in sharp contrast to the "effortlessness" I have been guided to embrace.

Seeking resistance, I'm informed, is pointless. It's no longer useful exercise - it's just wasted energy and lost momentum. It just slows me down. Perhaps it was useful once, but no longer.
I go for a walk in the woods and I see squirrels and deer. They blend effortless into their daily routine like melody in a song. I look at the undisturbed natural systems in the world and they always balance. Yes, there is death. Yes, there is loss. Yes, there is pain, in all those balanced systems. So? I know I don't live as freely as the chipmunk or the crow. My sense of security and of my place in the world is much more tenuous than theirs. I observe death, pain, loss here in this human construct we call "culture", in much greater measure than I see out there.

Effortlessness is not laziness. It's a willingness to let go of a white-knuckled grip on the wheel and take the time to enjoy the ride. It's about stopping the march and starting the dance.

In a deep shamanic trance a few years ago, my spiritual guidance fairly shouted in my ears, "STOP TRYING TO FORCE IT, AND LET IT HAPPEN!!"

Here I am, still trying to stop trying.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rites of Passage

I keep hearing this message in my head.
"Rites of Passage". "Rites of Passage".

Over and over and over. So without knowing what I'm about to write, I begin.

I wonder: What Rites of Passage have I experienced in my life?

Certainly, marriage. Sex. Being a father. Watching my children become adults. Experiencing death. Coming face-to-face with my limits. Failure.

Each of these are rites of passage in their way. Unique. Some joyful, some tragic.

What do they have in common?

Each has had a role in illuminating Truth. Each has played a role in dissipating illusion.

"Drop your illusions...!" is another message I am hearing. Trying to heed that message is difficult, by the very fact that illusions are illusory - they don't reveal themselves as illusions voluntarily. How does one discern illusion from real?

Through rites of passage? Is that a part of what they are for? I usually think of them as marking some kind of "initiation" into something - a way of perceiving, a gateway to new experiences, an arrival at a place one cannot retreat from - no going back. Perhaps it is in that part of their nature that rites of passage dissolve illusion?

What else about "Rites of Passage"? Do they humble the ego? Do they open the heart? Perhaps they do many things. Perhaps each one works on a different part of the self, bringing it into clearer resonance with the Self.

Perhaps we don't have a very complete set of these to assist us in our "breakthroughs" of growth and perception.

My thoughts take me now to the power of grief and loss. I am meeting people who have experienced great loss, and who are still processing grief.

I have learned that the Celts believe that two of the three internal "cauldrons" of life are turned upside-down at birth, and cannot hold anything until they are righted. The cauldron of yearning (in the heart), and the cauldron of knowing (in the head), are both empty until either great sorrow or great joy turns them upright. And then they can be filled.

Somehow, I think a Rite of Passage may be key to this turning as well. If we are not prepared -- perhaps to "see" through illusion -- then these great sorrows and great joys may remain simply that - sorrow or joy - without having the effect of righting the cauldron. A missed opportunity?

Rites of Passage. Rites of Passage. Rites of Passage.

What are my Rites of Passage?

Why must I write of Passage?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Waaaay East of Eden

(This week's entry is excerpted from my upcoming book "Be: A Radical Understanding of Self and Universe", currently a work in progress.)

A long time ago...

When I am about to begin my shamanic work, I call in the compassionate spirits of the directions. When I look and call to the East, I refer to it as the “land of the dawn, source of new beginnings”. In a way, it is the direction of the emergence of the New.

Normally, we look from East to West. We follow the arc of the sun across the sky as it tilts to the South (for those of us in Northern Hemisphere) and makes its way to the western horizon. But what happens if, instead, we direct our consciousness to go East and stay East? Keep going?

It feels to me like going back in time. I go back into what was new last month, last year, last century...

If we go East long enough, we find ourselves in the Garden of Eden, that mythological, paradisaical place of our first sentient “awakening” - the beginning of our awareness of “self” and, with it, the great separation of ourselves from one-another and from God. Books can be written about this moment, this place.

But what happens if we keep going East from there? What is East of Eden?

Human consciousness begins to become vague. It “de-separates”. It looks (viewed with time going in reverse) like human consciousness is dissolving back into God. Before we were human, and had our human brains and human thoughts and human words, we...weren't. God did not have this kind of “vehicle” through which to experience the Creation. God did not have this kind of voice for creative expression. There was nobody to cut and polish the emerald. No one to quarry the marble or carve La Pieta. No one to create the beautiful Roman font or carve it on the frieze of the Roman Forum.

So God expressed him/herself through the cycles of life and culture and relationships among all the animals and plants.

Further East, though. Further. Waaay East.

Walking back through the Hebrew creation myth, out of the darkness, God created Light. And thought it was good.

But wait. One more step back. From the Gospel of John: “In the beginning, there was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.”

Before there was Light, there was the Word. Before there was Light, there was “information”. Where was that “information”?

I humbly submit: it was in the Void. The Void was not (is not) empty in the way we think of a void being “empty space”. The Void was/is full of...information. Some kind of meta-information, proto-information out of which everything can be constructed. An information “field”.

What happened next was the combination of Information, plus Intention (God said, “Let there be Light...”).

We call that moment, in science, the Big Bang. I don't think that's accurate. I think it's more likely the “Big Bloom”. Our universe is unfolding. Infinitely unfolding. Scientists call it the “expanding universe”. But we have this notion that the “in between” space, that space between the galaxies, between the stars, between the planets, even the space between the protons and electrons inside our bodies, is “empty space”.
It's not. It's the Void. That very self-same Void out of which, when God thought, “Hey, let's have some light!”, light spontaneously appeared.

Confounding physicists earnest desire for that space to be empty, recent scientific probing has discovered evidence of...something...lurking in that empty space. Physicists have a placeholder term for what seems to be hiding there - they call it "Dark Matter" or "Dark Energy", which they cannot detect but have a sneaking suspicion is what makes up more than 95% of the mass of the Universe.

We're not living in a universe that is the buckshot fired from a shotgun shell, spreading and slowing and becoming more random. We're living in a Universe that is like a flower, with the potential for infinite bloom-lets to bloom within its bloom. Our Universe is one big fractal blossom, with every space within it full of infinite potential for the spontaneous emergence of “more”, perhaps even as much “more” as another whole Universe, or an infinite number of other Universes.

Interestingly, that is one of the interpretations of the “meaning” of quantum theory. One interpretation of its weird properties implies that with every decision of “quantum significance”, additional universes are brought into being, even though, because of our limited consciousness, we can only perceive the one we're in. Again, I am not making this up. Quantum physicists are.

So. What is waaaay East of Eden? Infinite potential. And that same Infinite potential exists in the space between the sub-atomic particles in just ONE of your body's atoms.
As surely as there is a universe “out there”, there is a universe “in here” - inside of you – that is no less real, no less powerful, no less magnificent and wondrous. The full potential of the Void is there, within you. You just haven't said, “Let there be Light” yet (...and the neighbors thank you).

Interestingly, the Void within you is not actually separate from the Void “out there”. It's all the same fabric. It permeates everything and is within and around everything, in full measure.
When I think about this notion, I get light-headed. I experience a bit of vertigo, and my consciousness seems to be less tethered to my body. My body also undergoes a transformation – it becomes more permeable. More like a sponge, with the mystical Void passing through it. With every breath or motion, I become aware of the gargantuan spaces between the sub-atomic particles of me. I realize that I am, by volume, vastly empty of “things” and vastly full of “Void”. To be a bit more precise, the human body is no less than 99.99999999999% Void. And, depending on one's interpretation of the nature of a proton (is it made of quarks?), then we're actually 100% void. Everything we are, feel and perceive is a “field effect”.

No BBs or billiard balls at all. None. Just “points of energy expressing themselves together” in a field.

Kind of like a symphony of instruments creating a wall of sound you can feel.

As perplexing as this language sounds, and as mystical as it sounds, this is the nature of the reality you live in, as understood and described by modern physics. And as understood and described by mystics and wizards and shamans and holypersons of every stripe and color and from every culture and age.

Interesting. Very interesting.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I was thinking about that simple phrase. I saw something I had not seen before.

I have always thought of "giving thanks" as a way of expressing appreciation for something. I have always thought of it primarily as, in a way, an obligation in return for a gift. The other side of the quid pro quo.

I owed it.

Not in a mean-spirited, coerced way or anything, but it was always, on its face, an act of "re-balancing".

This year, I saw it as something else. A gift in its own right.

I've started to see the gift in things a bit more this year. When I wrote about the gifts in my imperfections, for example. In my Spirited Conversations dialog with Sonya Bibilos, I reflected on the natural state of the child being a kind of gift to the mother. And more directly, Littal, one of the women that leads our New Moms support group, referred to "giving birth" during a conversation about her pregnancy, and it struck me: Giving birth is a gift. Not just an obligation or a release or an inevitability. Not "Having a baby (come out)", but "Giving birth (as a gift)".

Which brings me back to Thanks Giving.

Giving thanks is giving a gift. To see it as fulfilling an obligation is to miss an entire dimension of its power.

Think about it. How have you experienced giving thanks? Have you expressed it as a gift? How have you experienced receiving gratitude? Has it moved you?

Gratitude is a sacred, precious, and powerful gift. Give it often.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Egg Magic

by Gina Carosella

Recently, I was reminded of a particular joy from my youth: stone eggs. When I was younger, any stone that had the classic egg shape -- be it a river rock smoothed by nothing more than time and chance, or a carefully selected piece of hematite or agate cut and polished -- was obviously the home of some fantastical creature.

Large eggs contained, beyond a doubt, dinosaurs. Tiny eggs hid faeries. Brightly colored (or particularly shiny) eggs held the most fantastic creatures of all -- dragons.

There was no limit on what could be concealed by that smooth exterior, no doubt as to the perfection of the baby inside, just waiting to hatch into my new best friend.

I could not help but exclaim over the miraculous potential of these simple ovoid rocks.
And while they never physically hatched, they certainly didn't disappoint. Each new egg would delight and fascinate for weeks, some hatching a new imaginary companion every day, some serving only as a reminder of the faithful pet that now trailed after me just out of sight. Old shoe-boxes became beds where the mineral treasure and their ethereal contents could rest; handfuls of pebbles and the occasional leaf became nourishing meals for hungry infants.

So when I stumbled onto stone eggs while searching listings for polished minerals to offer here at Firefly Willows, I thought, "why not?" and ordered some.

I was absolutely delighted to find, when they arrived, that they still have that magic.

From the earthy, mysterious Tiger Iron to the graceful smoke-and-cream Picasso Jasper, each egg sang with potential. Surely the clear-quartz eggs, with their fractures and cracks and bubbles, would hatch delicate sylphs and dancing pegasi? With their rich colors and sharp striations, how could anything but a tiny, tiger-striped dragonet come from the Tiger Iron? Unless, of course, it was an actual tiny tiger?

One of the Picasso Jasper eggs seemed to call out more strongly than the rest, and at first, I couldn't imagine why; after all, it was mostly white on one side, mostly grey on the other, hardly the most exciting patterning. But with its pale belly and dark back, it seemed cheerful, almost playful -- which made perfect sense, once I realized that of course it would hold a dolphin or two! Or maybe, just maybe, a smooth and smoky cat with a Cheshire grin. Or a grey wolf pup, ready to sniff out adventure.

What will you find, hiding in these eggs? What new friend waits to tempt your inner child out of hiding?

I hope you'll take the chance to find out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo at Firefly Willows

Last Friday, a crew of crazies(...err...that is... "aspiring authors"...) showed up at Firefly Willows for a NaNoWriMo "write in" - a few hours of honest-to-goodness, focused, productive writing time.


It was MAYHEM in there! I was out at the desk, developing a flyer (when I really would have rather been writing my book...!), as, with the passing of time, I realized just how boisterous it was in the studio workspace.

I peeked my head in and asked, "Everybody doing OK?"

((Sudden silence accompanied by sheepish grins...))

One young woman was there with her art supplies, ostensibly to provide inspiration and support for her friend who was writing.

I asked the artist to draw "the event". So here it is. NaNoWriMo at Firefly Willows, compliments of Kiva. (Why does she have three hands? Dunno. You'll have to come in this Friday to find out!)

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Write-ins are at Firefly Willows on Fridays in November, 6:30-8:30 PM

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Microsoft vs. Jesus

A Most Challenging Teaching

My wife and daughter had made a valiant effort to upgrade our Quickbooks software. Together, they poured over bulletin boards, tips, online support bulletins, and other esoterica. They sat through hours of downloading a big glob of software to replace/repair another big glob of software (the .NET framework, for you geekazoids), in hopes that the problem would go away. According to Intuit, that was one potential source of the problem.

No luck, however. And, to make matters worse, there were other software updates that would not install - in particular, a security update for Microsoft Office.

Though I have sworn off being the "help desk/IT guy" for others (including my mother-in-law, so you know I'm serious), I could not bring myself to ignore this problem and/or just take the shop computer to some other tech guy without looking at it myself.

I have worked on myself very, very hard, and for a long time. I have done deep introspection and exhumed long-buried skeletons. I have "peaced out", according to my own sons.

And yet.

I have to question the depth of my transformation when, within 30 minutes of sitting in front of this problem, I began to feel rage.

Rage at the appallingly bad software and system constructs of Microsoft Windows.

Rage at the ridiculously inadequate self-help tools and absurd trouble-shooting tips offered by Microsoft itself.

Rage that ANY company, much less one that is so wealthy and stocked with so many highly intelligent people could tolerate such an abysmally, shockingly atrocious user experience.

Rage at the time wasted not just by me, but, no doubt, by thousands upon thousands of others just like me (or worse, because they might have even less of an opportunity to actually FIX the problem, and would resort to formatting their hard disks, reinstalling and in some cases repurchasing software, and getting their computing resources back into functioning trim).

That's a lot of rage.

Now, let me be clear. This missive is not really about how disgustingly awful I feel Microsoft products are, although it feels good to write this all down.

In fact, it's about how thin my veneer of inner peace seems to be in certain places. And the fact that it feels good to rage at this giant, faceless monster of a company.

Why does it, still, after all this self-work? Why is my calm so thin in spots?

I occasionally have dreams and daydreams about situations in which I am weak and largely helpless in the face of some bullying force. Sometimes its just some thugs threatening me or my family. Sometimes it's a post-apocalyptic gang of vandals intruding on my carefully tended vegetable garden or commune. The scenarios vary.

What seems invariant is my response. Aggression. Anger. Fury. I cast evil spells on them. I hit, hurt, and kill them. The idea of letting them live only passes through, to be replaced by, "Well, they'll just be all the more angry because you have humiliated them, and they'll be back with even more malice, so you might as well end it right here, right now."

Where does that come from?

Jesus said, "Love your enemies". Even as they were nailing him to the cross, he was offering love and forgiveness to them. He was willing to die at the hands of the unworthy and ignorant. He was willing to have his beautiful, magical, valuable life destroyed by thugs.

To do so requires a perspective that in the face of violence, no violence offered in return (turn the other cheek) is a better option than fighting back (an eye for an eye). That dying and/or enslavement is better than killing (or hurting or maiming) to preserve one's ability to live free.

That takes a lot of guts. And a lot of love.

I'm not there yet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of Ritual

Theatre for God and Creation

I had a powerful experience this weekend. I participated with a group of Wiccans in a ritual celebration of Samhain. (Samhain being the Celtic word for what we now call Halloween). Wow. At first, it felt like "open air theater". And then it became much more profound. I was reminded that Theater evolved out of Ritual, and suddenly, profoundly, I understood why.

The event itself was challenging for me. We've been conditioned to see the world through a particular lens, and while we talk about openness and tolerance of strange ideas, (or even ideas we proclaim as not so strange), to actually place oneself into the world-view of another, and actively participate, is another thing entirely. Especially when that world-view requires that you let down your guard and be intimate with the the world in a new way.

In other words, it's one thing to root for your friend's baseball team because you're visiting from another city. It's another to participate in a Samhain ritual with a coven of witches.

And I admit that I was a little anxious. How much of this whole shebang was I really up for? How much of myself would I be able to give to it? And it was expected to last six hours. (Six hours?! Hello? When was the last time you went to church for six hours straight?)

But all this is prelude. I went. I participated meaningfully, and as the time passed, I entered the ritual more fully and willingly. The ritual had many parts, including honoring the elements, the cycles of the year, and the ancestors.

But the centerpiece for me was the ritual re-enactment of the Sacred Hunt, where the hunter becomes one with the prey, and through the process understands what it means to sacrifice oneself, what it means to die and return to the arms of the Goddess Mother, and what it means to be reborn on the other side of Death.

I have been facing, experiencing, and interacting with Death quite a bit lately, as a kind of "personal adviser" to my healing and spiritual work. This very sophisticated (dare I say "elegant"?) force in the Universe has been incredibly instructive and stunningly illuminating.

So this ritual was relevant for me on many levels. It was a challenge to be fully present, it was an opportunity to explore new ground, and it was another window into the teachings I've been receiving.

But what was MOST powerful was the "meta-experience". I experienced, for the first time, the real power of ritual. I've heard the words about why we do ritual, the role it's supposed to serve in connecting us to the past and all that. But those words never really had any weight or consequence for me. I think it's because I never really had a handle on the utility of connecting with the past.

Now, I do.

When I re-enacted a story that has been played out countless times over the past 25,000 years - The Hunt - and attempted to understand what was sacred about it, to see it in sacred terms, with sacred truths to be mined, something deeply and powerfully magical happened.

I felt the nature of reality, the fabric, very deeply that night. It was like a flowing drapery or cloak, a shifting, velvety fabric draped across the universe, with the folds and creases as our experiences.

Through the ritual, I found that crease, that fold, that vein in the fabric of creation that has been worn and polished over 25,000 years. I felt the continuity and connection with all of history and all of creation in that experience. The Hunt is such a powerful current, because it was/is so essential; it was like touching a fundamental harmonic of the song of creation. And for me, my perception about the nature of the world and the nature of reality was transformed.

I learned sacred truths. I participated in a community, creating something special. And I could go on and on and on about what I learned. But it was because I touched reality in a new way that I learned. I was able to harvest so much. It wasn't the ritual that taught me. It was the way ritual brought me into contact with deep reality that taught me.

That was Magic.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bobby, Fisher.


I had a very different idea for what I would write this week. But fishing is a funny activity, and I'm surprised by what I've encountered. I'm here with my childhood friend Dave, with whom I've experienced so much of the formative things one remembers. I'll write about him another time. But it's because of him that I am here, and I am immensely grateful.

Standing at the beach, line in the water, surf hitting the shore, now lively, now gently, becomes an opportunity.

The first day, I practiced my QiGong postures while standing almost motionless. Stretching imperceptibly, knees bent, trying to make the Qi flow.

The second day, I began to be tired of the effort. I focused on clearing my mind. I tried to be mindful and stop the internal chatter. By the end of the day, I was exhausted of that, too.

On the third day, I tried to "rest" from the effort of trying to improve myself. Trying to rest my mind. Trying to get the dumb repetitive classic rock song that I'd heard most recently on the radio out of my head.

Always trying.

And, while I was doing all this trying, I was thinking about my late cousin Bobby. He loved to fish. He went on fishing trips to Costa Rica, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and who knows where else.

Bobby died of leukemia last year. A vigorous, vital, irrepressible man who brought everything he had to everything he did. He was in his early sixties. His brother Joel related to me that as he lay dying, mostly unconscious, he would rise to the surface occasionally and say, "Joe -the fish! They're everywhere. It's beautiful…!"

I also received news that a dear member of my shamanic circle is dying of ovarian cancer. She is not asking for healing work from her shamanic family - just prayers for a gentle and joyful passing. A gentle and joyful passing.

As I'm cutting up the bait - small mullet fish - I wonder at their guts. Such an amazing collection of intricate, elegant complexity inside this little tube, surrounded by muscle and bone. Their shiny eyes still bright, their gills and such so foreign. And yet they serve me in a deep and profound way. I am increasingly aware of my own "guts" - my internal organs, so neatly and compactly tucked away inside myself. My heart. My stomach. My liver. My lungs, to which I offer an apology for the silly indulgence of smoking a cigarette or two each day while I'm here. I feel them, I sense them all the more clearly and…poignantly…as I stand at the edge of the surf with a bit of fish on the end of my line.

And as I sense them, I breathe into them. And I think of my cousin, and his joy of fishing. And I think of the fish, somewhere out there.

I breathe in and out. I feel the wind blowing against my chest, facing the surf. And I remember that I am not "me", not this physical body. I remember that I am permeable, the space between my subatomic particles gargantuan compared to the tiny dots that are protons and electrons. I remember that the Qi can flow through me, and does so with every puff of the wind.

I remember that my inner universe, too, can flow through me, with every puff of my breath. And the two universes, the inner and the outer, flow and mix together like currents that meet at The Point here in Buxton, North Carolina, on the Outer Banks.

The two commingle and mix and for just a moment, I am not here, in this body. I am somewhere ineffable, indefinable, some way of being that is behind and around and in communion with my body and the sand and the Ocean and the wind and the water.

And as I breathe, as I am in communion with the Creation, Mother Earth, and all that she is, I smile a gentle smile and say "Hello" to the fish that has taken my line.

Bobby and I have a lot in common. Effort being the most prominent, I think.

I think, perhaps, he still has other things to teach me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Desperate for a Drink

I’m Not Dehydrated, Am I?

I know, I know...you think you drink enough water. You’re not thirsty, right? A few years ago, I thought the same. Even though two Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners told me to drink more water. Even though my opthalmologist despaired over my dry eyes. Even though I had allergies, frequent headaches, dark circles under my eyes and kept gaining weight that I just could not lose. I was certain I didn’t need to drink more water.

Then, based on some research I’d done and for entirely different health reasons, I made a decision to stop taking over-the-counter allergy medication and drinking carbonated beverages. That pushed me to start drinking much more water than usual and I found out what it’s like to really be hydrated. The headaches and allergies disappeared and the opthalmologist didn’t nag me about dry eyes for the first time ever. I dropped 15 pounds without even trying. I began to have more energy and sleep better. Wow, this hydration thing was pretty cool!

As a result of my own experience, I became more aware of dehydration as a health concern. When I became a holistic practitioner, I was introduced to a book by the late Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, M.D. (Dr. B for brevity’s sake), entitled Your Body’s Many Cries For Water. Dr B’s books explain his theory that the body has a drought management system and when it doesn’t have enough water it begins shutting down normal operations, beginning with the lungs and digestive system (high asthma rates and increasing obesity levels) and on a longer-term basis other systems including the brain (increasing dementia and Alzheimer’s rates). His book documented some remarkable results in helping asthma sufferers with appropriate water and sodium intake.

I believe Dr B was on to something about dehydration becoming chronic in our population. Most of us find it easy to stop for a coffee or soda, and never bother to drink just simple water. There isn’t a lot of research or advertising when it comes to just plain water and so we don’t have an awareness about it. Many of us don’t understand that caffeinated beverages act to dehydrate us further or how much of our body is water: muscles 75%; blood 82%; lungs 90%; brain 76%; bones 25%. Trying to run your body without adding water routinely is like trying to run your car without oil in the engine.

As I work with my clients, I find it’s a simple task to identify those who drink enough water. Their skin feels healthy and more elastic when touched. They seldom have complaints about allergies, headaches, constipation, joint pain and other common ailments. They seem to need detox therapy less than clients who don’t drink much water.

What scares me, however, is that over 70% of my clients fall into the don’t-drink-water-consistently category. When asked how much water they drink, they’ll sheepishly admit they don’t drink enough or tell me they think they do, but then talk about an intake of just one or two cups a day. Those clients who educate themselves more about drinking water and commit to it are often astonished by the benefits and surprised that I can tell almost immediately.

Most of us don’t know how much water we should drink. Dr B provided a simple guideline in his book. Divide your weight (in pounds) in half, then drink that many ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 170 pounds, you need to drink at least 85 ounces. There are 8 ounces in a cup, so that works out to a little more than 10 cups per day. If you drink something with caffeine in it, drink an extra cup of water to offset it.

Dr B reiterated that we are misinterpreting many cues from our body as illnesses rather than requests for water. For example, two glasses of water will usually alleviate a headache. Try a glass of water rather than a snack the next time you think you’re hungry. You just might be surprised and delighted by what regular water intake can do for you! (We should have copies of Dr. B’s book in stock soon and we highly recommend it!)

©2009 Susan Mix
(This article was written by Firefly Willow's own Susan Mix, a Certified Reflexologist. If you haven't stopped in to experience her work, you're missing something special.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Conversations with Craig

Craig is a homeless man that hangs out in my home town. Folks call him Smiley, I guess because his demeanor is pleasant. He has challenges. I'm not sure what they are, but he's been around for as long as I've been here, some 16 years. He rides his bicycle around town, picking through the waste bins for returnable bottles and cans.

I had occasion to speak with Craig this morning. Although his thinking is hard to follow, his vocabulary is quite something. Being a word buff myself, I was intrigued. I listened to what seemed like random ramblings, searching for...not the "sense"...but the reason the words were coming out the way they did.

It seemed like Craig was embracing the flavor, texture, and contours of the words, connecting them together to create thought-forms that "felt right". The thought-forms would often blend from one to another, and I had a tough time following them all. Each one had some consonant or resonant appeal, not just in the sounds of the words, but in the sketch of their meanings. Often, he moved too fast for me, from one wisp of a thought to another, but I found that they were not just random babblings.

I spent about 20 minutes with him. In that 20 minutes, I reflected back to him my understandings of his thoughts, helped him finish some of his sentences, and witnessed someone playing with words the way I do sometimes. I enjoyed it, even if I didn't follow all of it. It was possible to follow, though, I perceived.

A couple of mysteriously profound utterances that I'm pondering even now:

"One is a metaphor for zero".

How does that work? Well, I hadn't really thought of it before, but suddenly I resonated with the following: For me, zero feels like the undivided whole, embracing both the material universe and the void, that place of emptiness and fullness, nothingness and unrestrained potential. The container of everything that is and that isn't yet.

One, on the other hand, is also an undivided whole, but a more tangible one. A kind of whole that we can experience in daily life.

"All that exists" is the unity of all that is, the unity of creation. 1. I can see it as metaphor for the true wholeness, which includes the container and that which is yet to be. 0.

Perhaps also 0 is also metaphor for 1.

Craig also said something like, "Embracing the plural is to abandon the singular..."

I followed this one quite well. Duality is an illusion, but it's a convenient and seductive one. Most of us think of our embracing the plural to be a matter of practical utility. But once you cross that threshold, it's tough to go back. And the abandonment of the singular is a tragedy we are living through every day.

I'm not sure what I think of Craig. He's probably a troubled fellow. He looks to be in reasonable health, peering through the grime and the tattered clothing. He'd be hard-pressed to hold a job, even if he wanted one

Is he crazy? Maybe. Probably, in at least one sense of the word

Is he interesting? Surely.

Our conversation today was filled with interesting currents and metaphysical abstractions. I plan to talk with him again. Beyond the cosmology, philosophy, and metaphysics, I'll be interested to see what humanity I discover there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dog: Remote Harmonic Sensing/Amplification Device

... or "Connoisseur of a Good Vibe"?

What is a dog?

I had a revelation about these characters when I was out in the back yard with a friend of mine Saturday evening. Lately, I've been contemplating quantum reality, field effects, and the nature of Qi. Contemplating the notion that we're all fields, radiating and absorbing energy.

So I've been primed for some unusual perceptions.

My friend and I were chatting about this esoterica in the cool of the early night. My wife let the dogs out, and they spotted us there in the dark, and rushed out in a tizzy, sounding the alarm.
Until, of course, they got to us, and then there was the sniffing and circling and the soft tones to calm them down and smooth them out.

And I thought, "What the heck is really going on here?"

I had a sudden vision of the resonant field that was myself, and the one that was my friend; of the general resonant field of the back yard, and the fields of each of the three dogs. Each of us had a different field, of course, because we're all unique.

What I found fascinating was what the dogs were doing. They were immersing themselves in the fields, sensing for harmonious interaction or dissonance. Where there was harmony, they amplified it, and enjoyed it immensely. Where there was dissonance or conflict, they sensed it and really didn't like it.

Their first experience was of transitioning from the house field to the back yard field at night. "Feels great," they said, and immersed themselves in it...only to sense two unexpected fields within the field.

Because it was unexpected, it was dissonant. "ALARM! ALARM!", and then the next level of investigation.

When they reached us, they were testing for harmony. When we spoke to them in calming tones, we were attempting to demonstrate the compatibility of our fields with one another, with the back yard, and with theirs. Showing them how all those fields could fit harmoniously together, so to speak.

So I got the sense that dogs were really like mobile sensing devices. They can go out into the world and register what's going on. If you have a good relationship with your dogs, they'll report back to you. If you have a great relationship with your dogs, they'll report back, quite specifically, on whether or not what they're sensing is harmonious with the things and people you care about. Of course, you ALSO have to have a well-developed field sensor, in order to understand what they're saying...

This line of thought also gave me new insight into how powerful a dog can be for a hunter. Very sharp remote sensing device, sending telemetry information back to the command center. In this case, there is significant value in the structure of the communication back to command. An average snout with a very sophisticated communication system is, I posit, much more valuable than a great snout with poor communication skills.

I think the communication skills that dogs develop are integrated with their vibe sensing and amplification skills. I suspect that may be how they communicate with us. They shape the carrier wave of our mutual communications to create a "vibe" that we can understand. They're not saying, "There's a rabbit over there!" Instead, I think they're saying, "I'm sensing a field of fear that is capable of moving very fast, emanating from that direction." Of course, it's informed by all their senses, including their spectacular olfactory system. But I think they're cognitive process is naturally inclined to the vibe, not the object.

Now, it's interesting to contemplate how our original relationship with dogs developed. Think of the evolving vibe, from the earliest interactions of curiosity (wolves considering humans and the smell of roasting meet around a fire) to the relationship of hunting pals to the modern relationship of family companion. Dogs have evolved along with us to become full participants in our family "field". They have quite a role, when you think of it this way. And thinking of it this way, one gets the sense of why some breeds are better for certain kinds of families, and other breeds are better for others. It depends on your family vibe, and whether you really want their help to amplify family harmony, or whether you want them to focus more on the remote sensing of incompatible fields that might threaten it. (Or, if you want a more utilitarian sensor to help you identify remote fields that you might want to eat...)

The big realization for me, I guess, is that dogs really like harmony. I'm starting to think of them as the ultimate connoisseurs of a good vibe. They can sense one, they enjoy one, and they totally are willing to contribute and amplify one.

They may be the best in the world at sensing and amplifying (and enjoying) a good vibe.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Dance and The Music

Listen...It's a Love Song!

They dance together under a starlit sky.

He is entranced by her. Radiant, resplendent in amazing gold, he moves, but barely, so mesmerized is he by her beauty and grace as he gently leads her around in their dance. Humming an energetic song, gregarious, effusive, and powerful, his voice fill the space around them, touches others, nearly creates the party itself. But his focus is on her, for she is the most alive, the most beautiful, the most vivacious at this party.

She is dressed in majestic blues and emerald greens, with touches of divine white, obscuring and revealing rich flesh tones, here pale, there rich ochre, and through light and shadow, everything in between. Long ago in her youth, she dressed more startlingly - more flesh, more black, more fiery red and arresting orange. Now, we have to look closely to see that fiery sparkle, still there but sparingly, even demurely applied. She seems coquettish and coy, pulling away from him even as she is attracted to him. He compels her so, it's as if she knows she must restrain herself, to let the cosmic winds dance between them, lest she collapse herself into their union and disappear. So even as she loves him and is attracted to him, she tugs resolutely away. He loves her all the more for it.

Slowly they dance, he gently guiding her around. Look! She's tilted her countenance just so. As they dance, what she shows to him about herself changes with the passing rhythms. His song so tantalizes, so tickles her, she too begins to sing. She sings a song that draws its energy from his, and adds to it her own inventions. Her lilting, complex melody to his enchanting bass, the two of them creating magic. And she so loves the feeling of his song against her body that she twirls herself around and around, capturing the feeling of his song on every part of her, again and again. She fairly giggles with delight, her laughter creating life all around her.

And we reflect the magic of their dance - from him, the source of the song - the deep abiding source, the warmth of the sun. From the tilt of her countenance and the swirl of their dance we hear the song of the seasons. From her delighted twirling, our rhythm of night and day.

Through the gentle filter of her song, we experience his song. Through all of us in attendance, through one another, each affected by the turning of the seasons, the daily experience of light and dark, the flush of spring, the strength of summer, the harvest and release of autumn, and the sleep of winter, we hear her song. We sing her song. We are her song.

Sing well, my brothers and sisters. In harmony with the rocks, the waves, the trees, the birds, the flowers, and our own lively creations, sing along.

All the world's our stage, and life is it's grand performance. Sing well.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Could That Be How It Works?

An Unconventional Favor Leads to a Strange Take on Reality

OK, this one starts out a bit cynical (if you're in a generous mood, maybe sardonic or wry).

It was late, I hadn't had dinner. I was hungry, and a bit tired. I raided the 'fridge, hoping something would be in there that would satisfy. I saw the salsa, and thought of the cold, fresh, wet, and spicy feeling mixed with the crunchy-salty of corn chips. Did we have corn chips? A quick scan of the cupboard...YES! I was in!

Until I unfurled the bag of corn chips. Those of you who have teenage boys at home know this experience well. Rather than finish the bag of chips, or the carton of milk, or the bottle of fruit juice or the box of cereal, it is delicately put back in place with one mote of food above the minimum necessary to fall into the "throw this away" category.

I looked into the bag, shiny, sparkly metallic reflections all around, surrounding a pitiful pile of crumbs and scraps.

And I said to the contents of the bag, "Huh. I'm doing YOU a favor."

What an odd thought. As the full consequence of my statement flowered in my mind, I realized what I was really saying. "The sooner you get eaten, the sooner you turn into...ahem...compost,... the sooner you can become something approaching good and useful."

Because if I left them in the bag, they'd sit there for who-knows-how-many months, and then probably get thrown away INSIDE the bag, and sit there encased in the bag in a landfill for another who-knows-how-long, before getting a shot at becoming compost and then doing something USEFUL with those molecules....

Boy, it was a harsh sentiment.

But then I thought (as I am wont to do), "Geez. I wonder if that IS the best thing I can do. And what would the world look like if one of the most important things you could do for something else was to help it rid itself of its current form, turn it back into compost, and get it started again on a new mission?

And what does that say about the municipal waste system? Would conservative "small government advocates" just see it as another stupid government boondoggle trying to help...whatever...make the most of itself? Like funding for education, but at the other end of the spectrum?

From there it got weirder. What if the difference in perspective between Conservatives and Progressives is really as opposite, as literally antipodal, as this new thought was to my normal way of thinking? Up is down for somebody who walks on the underside of the stairs in those MC Escher drawings... No WONDER we can't communicate with one another, with world-views as inverted as that.

Don't get me wrong - there was no political aspersions being cast. I was just in stunned wonder at how OPPOSITE, and yet quite possibly LEGITIMATE, that flash of perspective could be. And suddenly, the whole world became unusually malleable, and the surety of my opinions and perceptions weakened and began to jiggle like jello. Which direction does intention flow?

And more. What did this flash imply about the way the world (nee, the Universe) really works? Which perspective could be counted on to reveal the Divine Intention, the Mind of God? Which actor on this stage should I play, and what is his motivation? Whose colors should I cheer for, and who should I champion with my own life force?

Where's the effing SCRIPT??!

("LINE...!", he shouted, even though it was a public performance in front of a packed house...)

What an odd way of seeing the world, if only for a moment.

And yet, helping someone shed the remnants of himself, even if it means going through a "compost" stage, to then feed something else that arises from his remains is a very very interesting role to consider, both for the compost-er and the compost-ee.

Who does that? What archetype? Is that Death? Mother Earth? God? One's Highest Self? And is it still really you if you've become compost and then recirculated via the roots of a plant or the gut of an animal? Or, if not physically experienced, then emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, or socially?

Does the resplendent and magical Phoenix know that the ashes from which it arises were once scraps of corn-chips in the bottom of a bag, lovingly and considerately turned to compost by the gut of a fool?

These questions seem too much for me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just Passing Through

Me, My Sons, and the Redwoods

On Sunday, my two sons and I went for a hike in Big Basin State Park. We hiked the waterfall trail (11 miles). It was great to feel our bodies move along, and to be in such a beautiful place.

Our conversation turned to the magnificent trees. How old they are. How much they have seen. Alive when Charlemagne united Europe. When Mohammad lived. Through the Dark Ages and the Renaissance.

We saw a "family" of redwoods, all quite large. The families sprout up around where a single tree has lived (and died). We wondered in awe about the ancestor of this family. "Imagine how old that guy must have been...!"

It was humbling but also wondrous. We, with our short lives, and our even shorter hike, were just passing through. We wondered if they would remember us, a thousand years from now. "Remember those three male humans who talked to us?"

Is it so preposterous?

I approached a very young, slender sapling. I said, "Hello there. Remember me." I touched it gently. My sons made fun of me...insinuating that that poor young tree was now stuck with a memory that it would never get out of its "head", something like "It's a Small World After All" playing over and over for a thousand years. (They're such NICE boys...).

Yep, we were just passing through.

And in another way, too. As we got a little further along in our hike, and our muscles got a bit sore and we got a bit tired, I encouraged my sons to let the forest pass through
them. By recognizing how much empty space really exists inside our bodies, between the nuclei of adjacent atoms. We're really quite...permeable...like really loose sponges in a certain way.

I talked about recognizing that permeability, and letting the "Qi" of the forest pass through our bodies, revitalizing us with its healthy, vibrant, natural earth-energy. It's really well-balanced Qi. I think the older the forest, the more refreshing and rejuvenating the Qi. It felt to me like a deep cleanse and a healing elixir all in one.

As we neared the end of our hike, I shared with my boys something that I've learned about living things, and these Redwood trees in particular. Every species is "the best" at something. (Wolves, for example, are the best at experiencing the beauty of the moon, I think. They love her so much that they sing to her with wild abandon.)

What about these California Redwoods, these Sequoia Sempervirens?

Well, they live practically forever, and grow so tall...they have a great view. They are the best, I believe, in bearing witness. They bear sacred witness to life, to death. To love and tragedy. To change.

Even, I think, to those of us who are just passing through.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sidewalk Massage

Just Because It Feels Good

I was sweeping the sidewalk this morning in front of the shop. It was a simple activity, and nothing to muse on -- at first. I swept dirt and leaves away, making the front of the shop look tidy. Then I used the broom to quite thoroughly scrub out some of the seams. The dirt had accumulated over however many months/years. There are quite a few seams in front of the store, and they all were black with dirt. The scrubbing worked - the seams were returning to a fresher, whiter color.

I did it for awhile. After about 20 minutes, my left-brain said, "Why are you still doing this? No one is going to notice. It's a waste of time."

At the same time, my right-brain was enjoying the experience - simple rhythm, simple motion, simple results. So I kept at it.

I was looking very carefully at the sidewalk as I was sweeping it, cleaning it. And looking more closely at it, something shifted. My emerging sense of empathy kicked in. I started to appreciate it. Not as a piece of art or anything like that, but more like...a friend. This sidewalk has been supporting folks as they walk past my address for years and years and years. Most people probably don't even notice it.

And I though, "Gee, it seems like it deserves a little more respect than that." Indeed, I had stopped sweeping it for anything related to my benefit, and had started caring for it as a colleague, a friend. Somebody who was always there, willing to do the job without complaint.

I realized that I was actually treating it with kindness, giving it the equivalent of a massage and exfoliation treatment. I did it not because it would look better to my prospective customers, but because I wanted to make it feel better, look better. It was a gift of some love and attention.

Did it need a massage? Probably not. But I think it appreciated getting one.

The unattached giving was an interesting thing to experience. So easy to give to a sidewalk.

It just struck me as I write this...I passed a homeless man this morning as I walked from the coffee shop to Firefly Willows, and offered him a hello. But I didn't spend an hour grooming him. How deep does my capacity for unattached giving really go? Do I have the same capacity for him as I have for the sidewalk? If not, why not?

Boy, I have a lot to learn.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fat (thump, thump, thump). That's Where It's At. (thump, thump)

What Are You Storing?

Well, I was doing some journey work the other day on a completely different topic and had occasion to gaze upon myself - essentially here, as you see in the picture at right.

Now, I don't have a lot of body fat. I know this because other people tell me so, and because whenever I go swimming I get cold really really fast. (Unless it's both hot
and humid, like in the Caribbean.)

And yet, as I've gotten a little bit older, I've been accumulating fat at the "love handles" location, and in the "paunch", and other areas typical of guys as they age. I've been about five to seven pounds over my ideal weight for a hand-full of months this time.

I've been in this situation before. Not that it's a crisis or anything, but I notice it primarily because my pants get too tight around the waist.

I always wonder, "What the heck? Why is this happening now?" It's a curious question, really - why one gains weight at a particular time.

Because I really don't have a LOT of extra weight, and I seem to be able to dispose of it after a time, I have thought about the whats and whys of it all, without panic, self-recrimination, or judgment. Really just an honest curiosity.

I've noticed that, for me, over the last seven years or so, the gain correlates to my use of alcohol. But it's not always the same. Sometimes, it's like every glass of wine accumulates. Other times, it's only like the extra glasses of wine. And yet other times, I gain nothing, even if I drink a lot. It's been curious and mysterious. Why would it change? Why this time and not that other time? And why just so much?

Well, my journey work offered something as profound as it was obvious.

A voice said, "Fat is where you store stuff."

"Uh...yeah. Thanks, Captain Obvious." Of course, fat is where you store stuff. That's what fat
is - storage, right? Everybody knows that.

And then I laughed a little at myself. It's WHAT the fat is storing that makes it interesting. So the self-analysis began. What
am I storing when I'm building or carrying fat?

I back-tracked. The alcohol seems to add the weight. And I drink more when I'm stressed.

Thinking carefully about it, I realized that I drink more to do one of two quite different things:
  • To dull the feeling of being stressed, or
  • To release the stress
Hypothesis: When I try to dull the feeling of stress, I'm putting on weight. When I manage to release the stress, I don't. My intuition says that's more accurate than not. I can tell when I'm not dealing with the stress, and just trying to cover it up. I can also tell when I'm choosing to flush it out - let it run its course and have its say and dispose of it.

Inside, they don't feel the same at all.

I have the image of a sedimentary system, where one layers in the stuff to be stored, then trowels on a layer of fat to hold it in place and keep it away from the consciousness. Or of an infusion system, where the psychic "stuff" is (warning: chemistry term) adsorbed into the fat, like a gas into activated charcoal. When the charcoal can't suck up any more, it's time to add more charcoal.

"I'll deal with that some other time" becomes "I'll just put that in storage".

Of course, by not processing it directly, we deal with it indirectly, in the form of carrying the extra weight (and what's stored in it) around with us, both physically and psychically. And that has a cost, too. So we end up dealing with the consequences of not dealing with it.

It's like paying interest on a debt. One still has the principal to deal with "some day", and meanwhile we're paying interest. I suppose it's a choice, and different people will make different decisions about how to use their "life capital". And it makes sense that over the span of one's lifetime, you'll typically gain weight as you get older, because there are some things from each year that never get pulled out of storage. So the number of storage closets has to keep increasing. Sometimes by a lot, sometimes by a little.

But more interesting to me is, as I look all around me, I begin to wonder. What is each person storing? And why?

Does what I'm saying resonate with you? What are you storing, do you think?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Serving Others Through My Imperfections

Giving and Receiving Gifts

I was doing some journeywork this past weekend, and noticed something interesting on my hearth. One of the three candles seemed to have a flaw in it. It was new, freshly lit. For some reason it was burning unevenly. It seemed to have a weak spot, and suddenly there was a river of wax pouring out and down the side.

Now, those who buy candles know that beeswax candles aren't cheap, and one wants to get the most out of them. Wasted wax is wasted money. So I got a little annoyed and tried to plug the leak, pinch the wax, etc., etc.

No luck. And then I noticed something else. The wax was running down the side of the candle and feeding an older, very loyal, long-used candle. You can see this in the picture. The candle in the foreground used to be as tall as the candle on the left, many many months ago.

See the aqua pool of liquid wax in the white candle?

I looked more closely at the scene. The imperfection of the aqua candle was creating a beautiful sculptured form of wax, while at the same time feeding, nourishing, and helping it's elder neighbor.

I was reminded of the rune Kano (Opening), which counsels,

"Recognize that while on the one hand you are limited and dependent, on the other you exist at the perfect center where the harmonious and beneficent forces of the universe merge and radiate."

Every time I read that sentence, I think of how my imperfectness - my inability to do everything myself, perfectly, on demand - creates room for others around me to demonstrate, exercise, and share their gifts. In a weird and humbling way, my imperfections can be a gift to others, creating opportunity for fulfillment and growth.

As I'm writing this, I notice something else about Kano that I have never fully contemplated, but seems astonishingly appropriate. It's other monikers are Torch and Fire (and here I am contemplating candles). It also counsels,

"This is the Rune of Opening and renewed clarity, of dispelling the darkness that has been shrouding some part of your life. You are free now both to receive gifts and to know the joy of non-attached giving."

What is "waste"? What is an "imperfection"? I don't know anymore.

What is a gift? This, I'm beginning to discover.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Mikle a Muckle Shows Up

I've been working very hard to get all the pieces pulled together here at Firefly Willows. Inguz, the rune of fertility, has been showing up, counseling the "completion of new beginnings", so I've been trying to get things done. But in the process, I've been allowing the "work" to interfere with the joy, and with my personal intentions for my role at Firefly Willows. In short, I've been getting way too serious and way too intense.

I've fallen back into some habits of the grind from my previous career. Even when it seems like it's the last thing one wants to do, old habits die very hard, and then come back to life even after they're dead.

So it is that I was looking for some guidance in what to do, and engaged in some journeywork over the weekend. My questions were along the lines of "What should I focus on? Where should I put my energy?"

I decided to use the The Faeries' Oracle deck, created by Brian Froud and Jessica Macbeth. Brian's pictures are beautiful and fascinating. Jessica's descriptions are insightful, playful, and funny. Just the way Faeries would want it, I think. And the deck has always been kind and supportive for me, even when delivering challenging guidance.

This time, twice in a row, the Faeries' Oracle deck produced Mikle a Muckle. Here's his picture:

Mikle, apparently, is the playful little guy. He's there to remind us to play. According to Jessica, "He is fond of goofing off and considers play to be an art form and himself a fine artist. He understands renewing the spirit and re-creating the body and emotions. He knows that all of us have a child within who needs to play and be cherished."

The reading for Mikle starts with "Lighten up! What is needed here is the benefit of a childlike, trusting heart and childlike wisdom, seeing directly into the true nature of things. Don't complicate matters..." and it ends with "...take some time to play with Mikle before you turn into a grumpy glumph or a worn-out wurg."

It sure sounded like advice tailor-made for me. But...easy to say, tough to do. At least for me, when I still feel like there's a million things that have to be finished (and, for that matter, started) before Firefly Willows is really capable of being what we envision it to be. So, for a performance-obsessed person like me, how does one DO that? I didn't know. Don't know. Childhood play was a long time ago.

Well, I guess they really do want me to get this message and take it to heart, because on Monday, Mikle showed up in person at Firefly Willows. She didn't look quite like the little fellow in the picture, but I quickly began to see the similarities. Her spirit is as light as a child's, she likes to play and simply be. And she had rosy cheeks. She's been party to some miraculous healing work in the past - simply by being and allowing.

Her personality is full of child-like play and joy. She spontaneously stopped by the shop on a trip from A to B. No reason, really, other than a little voice said, "Go to Los Altos." And, I guess...why not?

I'm grateful to the fae folk who have seen fit to have Mikle stop by at Firefly Willows, and their willingness to help me learn to play again. She didn't leave a card. I hope she stops by again soon.

But let's not leave it all to the two of us. If you can show me how to play, or can share a story about how you nurtured and released your inner child, please come by. I need all the help I can get!

Friday, July 23, 2010

After Enlightenment, the Laundry...

Yesterday, at the end of the day, I walked outside the store and just looked at the windows. I noticed that there was grime on the frames. I wondered to myself, "What do we do about that? Is there somebody that is supposed to clean the store front? Is that a land-lord thing?"

The more I looked at it, the more displeased I felt. It just didn't look nice. It wasn't in keeping with the way I want Firefly Willows to look and feel. So I walked back inside, grabbed a container of wet wipes, and started wiping what I could reach around the door frame.

It was pretty dirty.

I continued to work my way all around the store front. It took me a little while, but I got most of the stuff off, and I didn't even have to use a ladder. I stretched and reached, and breathed and scrubbed. It was a little opportunity to do "in situ Yoga".

It took me about 30 minutes. I chatted on the phone with someone while i was doing it. No time was "wasted". The effort of my body and the effort of my mind were quite compatible. It was a meditation of sorts, and the result was good. The store front looked clean and inviting.

It was a simple thing, and a friendly lesson in being present.

The mundane is not the enemy of the spiritual path, nor an impediment to a fulfilling life. The mundane can ground us in the moment, in the present, in our bodies and in our place in the Universe.

There is a Zen proverb:
Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

If that's the case, then what's the purpose of enlightenment? Perhaps it's to enable us to share in the power of the axe and the selflessness of the wood, and feel the caress of the water and honor the faithfulness of the jar.


(Note: On my reading list is Jack Kornfields book, "After the Ecstasy, The Laundry".)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Sacred Life Lesson I Learned from Beer Pong

Peak Performance, Empathy, and Power

I know, it's a weird thing to admit. But it's true. I learned an astonishing lesson about the power of empathy while playing beer pong.

No ordinary beer pong game, this. It started innocently (!?) enough. But I was playing with my "Warrior-Friend" (let's call him Ivan), so it very quickly became much more.

You may have a Warrior-Friend, too. You know. The guy you hang out with who always challenges you (often without explicitly challenging you) to be your best? Even when playing silly games (like beer pong...or golf)? Whether it's serious or just for fun, it's always...serious. A little competition that is good for the soul. It keeps me on my toes, as long as my ego doesn't take over.

Anyways, Ivan and I were being silly, playing a game of beer pong. But, of course, he was a Fraternity guy in college, and I'd only ever played once before in my life, so I was at a serious disadvantage.

OK, I was getting killed.

I've come to expect that from Ivan. Then, suddenly, something shifted. I started to catch up. I started to feel like I was on a comeback. And I made the mistake of mentioning it.

"Oh. Hmm. Why did you say that?" Ivan replied, looking wan. "I wasn't really paying attention. I was just goofing around. Now, I feel bad. For you. And for me. Because now, I have to put you away. It won't be fun anymore. Drago is back."

Suddenly, he took on the look of Dolph Lundgren in Universal Soldier.
(Note: I didn't know until just now doing an Internet search that Drago was the character Lundgren played in Rocky IV. How weird is THAT?)

He explained how he would now have to be all business, and with mechanical, methodical precision, he would have to crush me.

And indeed, he proceeded to crush me. I could not match the precision, regardless of how intensely I concentrated. He was unbeatable.

So, in a moment of desperation, I asked, "OK, how does one beat Drago?"

"With the heart. That's the only way to beat Drago."

A glimmer of hope! "That's something I'm pretty good at," I thought.

So I contemplated what that might mean. I experimented with what to do. I started trying to feel like I was winning. I tried to "put my heart into it". I tried a bunch of things.

It took a while until I stumbled on something. I tried to feel the ball. I tried to imagine what the ball would feel like when I struck it. And how it would feel if I struck it "just right", so that it went into the cup.

And that's when the game changed.

Suddenly, quite noticeably, I was holding my own. The death spiral stopped. My shots were harder for Ivan to handle, so his accuracy declined. My shots were also much closer to the cup. But, it was too little, too late. I lost.

Like Sean Connery in "Never Say Never Again", despite the likelihood of pain and failure, I asked for one last rematch.

This time, I started the game with a new toolset. The more I used it, the better I got. The more I used it, the more I could not only "be the ball", but could "feel the ball". Even more than that,
I could feel what the ball was feeling.

I could EMPATHIZE with the ball.

That was a strange moment. I'd been coached for years (and coached others myself) to "Be the Ball". This was the first time I really understood it, and why it mattered.

I won. And not just by a little.

Now, there are several morals to this story.

The first is: "Never waste an opportunity to learn."
The second is: "Some of the greatest discoveries in life come while playing."
The third is: "Don't play beer-pong with a frat guy unless you are willing to suffer the consequences."

But the final lesson, and the really powerful, sacred lesson, is this:
"Empathy is not just for sissies."

When we connect deeply with the world around us, when we connect with our hearts as well as our minds, we reach a level of communion that opens up deep, unrealized potentials within ourselves. The truth is that we transcend duality, and start to incorporate more of the world into our "scope of identity", our "realm" so to speak. It's love and compassion that lets us do this, and empowers us to levels of achievement that are extraordinary.

Since this experience happened in May, I've had other experiences that have convinced me of the deep, resonating power of Empathy, and I'm excited to share them. If you're up for it, plan to join me for an evening of "Peak Performance, Empathy, and Power", a workshop on Thursday, July 29th at Firefly Willows. Expect the unexpected. It'll be fun and interesting.

Love to all!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thanksgiving In July...

...and celebrating a newborn.

Ruminating a bit more on my first post, I realized something.

I'm really grateful.

I could list a million things I'm grateful for. I'm going to list just a few, though, that feel particularly important to mention.

  • I'm grateful for all the good will and good wishes folks have offered as we've launched Firefly Willows.

  • I'm grateful for all the incredible help we received in putting Firefly Willows together.

  • I'm grateful for my amazing wife and magnificent daughter, who have been just the most stellar team-mates I could ever have imagined.

  • (I'm grateful that they've put up with me and still love me...)

  • I'm grateful for all the very talented healers and beautiful souls who have expressed an interest in helping us in the future, in practicing their craft with us, in sharing their gifts through Firefly Willows.

  • I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to participate in creating this gentle, beautiful place.

  • I'm grateful that I live in a community where it is valued.

And I'm grateful for the newborn baby itself.

So I'm declaring the month of July (and maybe August, too) "Gratitude Month" at Firefly Willows. We have a little hearth set up in our beautiful "Sky Studio" dedicated to expressing Gratitude.

Here, you're invited to come and say thanks for those things in your life that YOU are grateful for. It can be little piece of paper with your note of gratitude, popped into the gratitude jar. Or a heart-felt prayer sung to the sky. Or anything in between.

And while you're here, you're invited to open yourself to Abundance. Recognize the abundance you have already, and open your inner heart and outer life to gifts you haven't discovered or received yet.

I've learned in my life that Gratitude is the gateway to Abundance. It seems oddly backwards, but it seems to work for me. (Abundance and Gratitude are very intertwined for me in a deep way that I can't express. It's more than being grateful for abundance. It's like...like...like they're the same thing somehow.) So drop an expression of yourself in the Abundance jar, too.

Come - speak to the sky, to the community, to your loved-ones (whether they're "here" or not). Express your love, gratitude, contentment. Sign the guest book. Leave us a note.

I encourage you to pass this offer along to others. In our culture, we don't often receive an invitation to express our gratitude.

Come and share your story and your gifts. You are welcome here.

(*Note: We do hold classes and workshops in the studio, too. You are welcome to come any time, but we ask that you not approach the hearth when a class is in session. Check our website if you want to be sure of times when the studio is free.)