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 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.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010


It's the Los Altos Art & Wine Festival this weekend. Yesterday was busy with various massage, reiki, and other healing offers.

Today, however, Preet is the star ambassador.

Together, Debbie, Gina, and Preet seem to be drawing the crowds and holding court, so I'm pretty much hiding in the back room, trying not to scare anybody away.

The ladies sure seem to have a knack for welcoming folks.

I'll just leave them to it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Only Prayer I'll Ever Need

This was not the blog post I anticipated. I have another one just about ready to go. But this morning, as I awakened, something got downloaded into my head.

A voice (thought?) said, ""The only prayer I'll ever need is this:

Joy, may my
Hands and heart
Align with thee
So that
You may
Flow through me."

That's it. I wanted to re-arrange, add, embellish. But no. That's it. Apparently, that's the only prayer I'll ever need. (Who knew?)

So now it's go me thinking. I'm curious. Do you have one? How did you find yours?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What is a Feather?

On Empathy - Part I

I was lying in bed this morning (Grammarians: I was reclining while telling the truth...) contemplating the Empathy workshop I'm going to offer at the end of July, and thinking about the power of empathy, and how empathy is a form of communication.

I've had some pretty startling experiences with empathy lately, which I will share in subsequent posts and during the workshop.

But this morning, unbidden, the feathers that we have for sale at Firefly Willows popped into my head.

Generally, they're for use in smudging sage or incense. This morning, I got a very different message about them.
"The Feather is how the bird offers its desire to the air."

and then,
"The Feather is how the air offers its gift to the bird."

Then I thought about the gift of flight. The gift of the air is transformed into the gift of the bird.

I never thought about it that way before.

Friday, July 2, 2010

You Are Here...

For a Reason

Something very strange just happened to me.

(I suppose that shouldn't surprise me by now.)

I spent Friday doing some deep work, right here at Firefly Willows. First thing in the morning, I did a QiGong class with Meg. Very simple and very powerful, QiGong is an Eastern discipline that focuses on the (very very) basics of our relationship to our deepest physical (quantum?) selves. I think of QiGong as the "way" to "be", with every double, triple, and quadruple entendre you can stuff in there. Meg's style and communications ability is really powerful and expertly tuned to this work.

Then I had a yoga class at noon with Zlata. We focused on clearing. I have some really old and gunky stuff that's stubbornly stuck. Zlata helped me find it and start to move it. She's powerfully observant, and offers the best yoga sessions I've ever had. It was an enlightening session.

I thought I would keep working on this self of mine throughout the day. Certain things within me are standing in the way of really embracing this new path I'm on. Mostly they have to do with the notion of "HARD WORK" and "DISCIPLINE". While I've got those down in spades, they haven't really been working for me lately. I've been pushing myself to the limit, for 12 or 14 hours at a stretch, and by the end, I've made about six inches of progress on something that should have been easy. So somebody's got the Trickster dialed up to maximum...

Anyway, I took Friday afternoon to do some deep body-mind meditation and clear out what I could, whatever was loosened through the QiGong and Yoga. And when I was done, after about three hours, I arose and realized, "Well, actually, I don't really know what to do next. If I go back to GRINDING the hard work thing, this whole exercise will probably be wasted, the lesson lost on me."

So, handy as they were, I reached for my trusty Runes. These were the ones I made in Costa Rica. Very soft and lovely beach stones. I noted the cast on a sheet of paper, and then headed back out into the light, to check on Gina and help with the front desk.

I had asked, "What should I do next, for the highest good?"

Now, I should say that lately the Runes have been harsh task-masters. All kinds of tough love, coming from Nauthiz, Algiz, Berkana reversed, etc. Stuff that says, "Dude, you are making choices that will lead to challenging terrain."

Needless to say, that kind of message just stoked my "buckle down and tough it out" gene. But I had a notion that doing so was actually the wrong direction. Intuition said so. Sonya spotted it in less than five minutes the other day, when she did a brief reading on me ("For you, working harder means doing less.")

Smart lady. Stubborn guy. Master Sergeant Discipline was unwilling to let go.

Anyway, back to the story. It's late on Friday night in downtown Los Altos - not a lot of foot traffic. But I decide to stay anyway. I had a funny feeling.

I took our little A-frame sign and put the message you see below on it:

And then I grabbed a tarot card from the Angel deck and the Faerie Deck, and stuck one on each edge.

Kinda cute.

I figured the right person would read the board and come right in. It would be another minor miracle - the Universe and I having a fun time dancing this whole thing out.

So out went the sign.

Then I came back inside and read my Rune Cast.

Very different from the ones I had been receiving.

And here's what they mean, in sum:

Inguz: Joyful deliverance, new life, new path. Completion of new beginnings.

Perth: A hidden matter or process, powerful forces of change that are not easily seen or understood. Requires that you let go of everything. No exceptions.

Jera: Harvest, after a season. Time is working on your side, but the transformation, and the harvest, can't be rushed.

Othila, reversed: This is not a time to be bound by old conditioning. Because you may be called upon to take a radical departure from old ways, total honesty is required. Otherwise, through negligence or refusal to see clearly you may cause pain to others and damage to yourself.

The Blank Rune: The Unknowable. The Divine. The Full/Empty Void. A leap of faith. Total trust.

So much stated so simply and clearly.

You Are Here. For a Reason.

Indeed, I guess I am.

(*Note: We're honored that Meg, Zlata, and Sonya are sharing their gifts here at Firefly Willows. Call us here - we'll connect you to these excellent practitioners.)