writing, practice, contemplation, poetry, journal, clinics, salons, spiritual, possibilities, gratitude

I was Nameless


I was nameless—I walked two steps behind him; my father, my husband.

At seventy-eight, Alice has given up. There is a glimmer of hope, faint and disappearing faster each day. I hold conversations with her. I latch onto to any spark I witness in the hope something will ignite. She doesn’t want to die, but she is S-L-O-W-L-Y. Her brain is held captive inside an inert body.

Thoughts attach to possibility; but she doesn’t know what it is, yet… Her will wanes, shrinks to wilt. I offer suggestions. Each time a wall sprouts; “My life was sheer hell then,” she balks at childhood memories.

Chores before school; watching the bus appear half a mile away. Finishing feeding, rushing indoors to wash; change into cleaner clothes. Eat a spoonful of porridge; make a lunch if she was lucky, dash to catch the bus before it turned in the farmyard and drove away.

School—work—home to work. A field of potatoes to pick up; after the horse and plough left them behind, exposed, sundried. Knock off dirt. Collect. Basket full to unload. Root crops to the root cellar. Schoolhomework by candle flicker.

Up before dawn, work clothes—out to do chores again. Watch for the bus; sprint into change before the bus enters the yard. Sheep, cows, chickens, milking, feeding, cleaning; repeat.

She flinches at memory of ranching with a husband that left her for a younger woman. Her albums are full of him, with her, and their children. Her heart blisters; her story is cast in linage and amnesia and she can’t escape, except by death.

I’m a liability she announces. In this long-term care facility, I watch people at different stages of dying. I’m waiting to die. I want something meaningful, a purpose to live for. Somehow, together we identify some straws to clutch-on to for the future.

Writing Practice: April is National Poetry Month [NaPoMo]. For several years I have challenged myself to write a poem a day during the month of April. This unique experience and practice has garnered both observation and attention to detail that perhaps would have otherwise slipped by.

Here is a suggestion offered by Juliane Okot Bitek a poet and writer.

“Listen. Listen to your body and to what it is saying. Listen to what’s going on, sounding, vibrating, floating about you. Listen to the misheard statements and how they rub up against each other and sometimes beg to be the beginning of something.”

Surprise yourself; write4health, write poetry and PLAY!

Be Brave, Start Small

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“Transformation is opportunity and change disguised and waiting to burst into new form however, it reveals itself to you, and those around you.  Charged with Change—author

Living in Gratitude by Angeles Arrien divides her book by month and provides good fodder for contemplation, consideration and reflection each month. For March (p.65) Arrien quotes from Compassion in Action: Setting Out on a Path of Service by Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush, and identifies this list from that book.

  • Be brave
  • Start small
  • Use what you’ve got
  • Do something your enjoy
  • Don’t over commit

I read this last year, made a poster and posted it on my wall. At the time I felt overwhelmed with all the stuff on my list and was being propelled by tremendous self-imposed timelines. For a year, I have been heeding this call to action particularly when I feel I am moving towards what I call—make work projects; saying yes to something, before I’ve considered implications that often lead to busy-ness.

In other words, I have let-go of preconceived ideas and notions, just because…I wanted to, or I chose to. I have reined in my compulsion to dash off, commit to projects because I liked the idea before considering the long-term effects on my health and capacity to follow-through with the passion I enjoy.

I have been known to follow-through because I have given my word, and in turn this has impacted my heart, mind, body and spiritual health and well being.

Sounds kind of simple, but this last year I really have understood how “no” is a complete sentence—no justification, explanation, excuse necessary. A simple no, says it all. It may be—no not right now, no forever, no I’m uninterested. However, I recognize how unnecessary it is to add anything to the word, no. In its simplicity it holds such wisdom.

I find those five sentences above inspiring also. I often use them as a guide to consider whether to move ahead on a project, or put it aside for the moment. My gratitude extends to the wise among us daily—or however it shows up…

Writing Practice: Find a quote or list that inspires you. Create a poster and post it as a reminder. In-joy.


Us is marvelous…

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Us is marvelous. We are the best. The ones that can be anything we choose. Us is miraculous which doesn’t mean we perform miracles although that might be the case. You decide. Miracles are such that they go beyond human or natural powers. Not really sure what that means e-x-a-c-t-l-y, but I can guess.

Let me have a try. Being attached to this earth, I suppose I can be classed as human. I have a body, mobility which when you really think about it—in and of itself—is miraculous. It just happens. That autonomic nervous system is something else. It just runs without me doing something or anything at all. I can’t believe it sometimes. It is only when something is out of whack I actually even recognize it.

Beyond that it simply hums along—not me e-x-a-c-t-l-y—but my body sings its own tune. I hear it sometimes gurgle and burp, whine and squeal. It makes me laugh at times in the most unexpected places.

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Dig Deep & Digest


Sometimes when everything in our mind and body screams at us to dig deep, we resist, we procrastinate, we go to do something else. Why is this and what do I mean by dig deep?

I suppose it boils down to two things for me: it means going deeper than the surface, of my life, the given circumstance or the emotional entanglement I currently encounter. It also means going into a place I’d rather not go because it will call for an honesty to myself I would rather not explore, identify, or allow to surface into my awareness at the time.

It’s a little like an ingrown toenail. It irritates and intrudes on my general well-being until I address it. I know it will cause some physical pain, however to ignore it, it will only grow deeper, find a spot where it won’t hurt for a time, but will arise again in my awareness until it has been addressed somehow.

It will also demand physical awareness in my body. Where is it, how to wiggle it to dislodge its hold on my flesh, what tools will I need to do the job? It will take time. I likely will not get it the first time, maybe not even the second or third. Each time I worry it, wiggle it, worm it out of its place of comfort into my physical and emotional space before letting it go where it now belongs—in the garbage, released from its hold on me.

It is pleasant? No. Is it necessary? Yes. Do I have the right tools? Sometimes yes; sometimes no. Either way, I troubleshoot the reality, and find the tools or improvise. The tools I have in my kit that guide and assist me in uprooting, digging deep and digesting include six elements: muscle testing as a guide; willingness to find an answer that holds true for the moment; a small action to register this new awareness; celebrate the win; acknowledge its gifts for showing up in my life; let it go in gratitude.

Do I manage to do this each time? Maybe no, maybe yes. I don’t always identify them as such, yet they occur over time one step at a time.

Take the ingrown toe as an example.

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Finding Words

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Recently I read this quote marketing is translating. Along this vein I have found myself saying in the past ten years that life is marketing no matter what we do. Whether we are marketing ourselves as a person in a relationship, as a parent to our children, or simply navigating or negotiating that bill that caught us by surprise. The bottom line is simply, we are addressing a concept to someone or their association and packaging our point of view in such a way as the receiver can handle, digest or manage it. It is about presenting it in such a way that it is received and as a consequence a new behavior, a solution to a dilemma, or a different action that can be taken in unison.

Truth be told, we are in the throes of marketing ourselves each and every day to anyone with whom we come in contact with at any time. So why when we talk about our business does marketing become so indigestible? I am currently on a volunteer board and every time I mention the “m” word I can the eyes of most of the other board members glaze over.

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Choice & Possibility as Partners

blog-choice & possibility“To experience with intention is to anticipate the world.” [Infinite lines P.4—The Tao of Writing—Ralph L. Wahlstrom

Recently I was in a group meditation, and as is customary following the mediation there is discussion related and unrelated to the mediation.

Last week one person who had been absent for three weeks mentioned a debilitating back concern that had entirely interrupted his quality of life, and how there is an assumption that this quality of life will continue as it has always continued regardless of age, and mishap. It is often when we face these disruptions, we begin to consider our mortality.

Recently I also watched a movie—Collateral Beauty—and a character representing Time— said to the protagonist Howard (Will Smith) “You just waste time…I give you a gift and you just waste it…”

Another way of phrasing this is that time incorporates all of the events of our life between A and B—birth and death—and it is also about the choices we make in any given moment.

Often when I mention choice to others, I also hear resistance. “There is no choice, man.” “I don’t have a choice.” “There’s nothing happening in my life that is about choice. It is what it is.”

And yes, I agree. It is often this perception that is also wrapped and disguised as resistance to change,  because change usually involves something different, and perhaps something difficult from us.

I remember when I was flat on my back unable to move, use my left hand or arm, told I may never walk or write again, I also felt sorrowful. One day, experiencing pain that was beyond the 1-10 categorization that allopathic medicine uses, the veil lifted.

I realized I have choice in every single moment of my life. Simply put, choice is also an attitude of approach. I could remain sorrowful, or recognize that a different choice was also mine.

In that moment, yes I was unable to walk or write; I may well experience pain for the rest of my life, but also I knew that through my breath, not only was I alive, I could breathe into the pain; allow that pain to dissipate (or not) on the breathe, visualize a different outcome, and trust that health and wellness would emerge differently than it had been previously.

Was it easy? No. It took and continues to take time. Is my life the same? No, and I also know that how I do my life is all about the choices I make today. I can choose to be sorrowful, or I can choose to look at what presents itself to me differently with gratitude rather than sorrow.

I mentioned to my friend at meditation, that when I was in that experience, the veil that lifted for me was all about choice, and yes—if this is as good as it gets—at least I had my voice. When I recognized that both choice and my voice were still mine, I rested in the hammock of possibility. Perhaps “to experience with intention is to anticipate the world,” is another way of seeing choice and possibility as partners.

Writing Practice: Take out your trusty journal, find a quiet place that resonates for you, and contemplate what “to experience with intention is to anticipate the world,” means to you, and the word choice. Write for 10-20 minutes. Did anything surface that you hadn’t considered before? Did you receive any keys (indicators) that may assist you to move, or alter a perception, experience, belief, opinion or judgement? How may you take a simple action that will help you integrate this change in your life? This may mean creating an image, recording a sound, taking a photograph. Now, make it visible in your life. This will assist you to recognize your choice and possibilities.




Trust Your Gut


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I made a comment to a friend the other day how much I love to take photographs. It is a passion I had before my accident, and after five years of recovery and learning once again how to take photographs with one hand, I picked up a camera once more. However my comment was more along the lines that how I love a purpose to taking photographs. Of course, I have one—many in fact.

As a former journalist, photo-story was part of any composition. During the early years of recovery, getting to hold the camera still with one-hand, and focus was all about practice, again and again. I could (and still could) use a tripod, but hey, there’s something quite magical about taking a photograph with one-hand and not jiggling it to a blur. There’s a part of me that still loves the challenge, the unexpected, the magic. It makes my heart feel at peace, time disappear, and it’s like I’m dancing with what is before me. It is similar to writing and poetry, two more of my passions.

I recently read in an introduction to his book Critical Path. Buckminster Fuller included an article by his friend, e.e. cummings, the poet.

A Poet’s Advice

“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

Poetry and photography, for me, are felt journeys. In the book—Three Brains—How the Heart, Brain, and Gut Influence Mental Health and Identity by Karen Jensen, ND, she says—

“In today’s modern world, we are encouraged to focus mainly on our head brain. But we also need to use our other two brains to process our feelings and listen to our intuition to help keep us in balance.”

I am encouraged by this book because it explores the value and importance of all three brains—gut, head, heart—to work in unison for a healthy mind, healthy body. It honors the gut brain which is that part of us that is instinctual, intuitive, unselfconscious, immediate, practical, and direct.

I know from personal experience that one of the gifts of brain injury is what I now call the felt sense, which is also known as gut response.

This simple unrestrained response of what “pops” into mind, or out of one’s mouth without social boundaries is a good device I have grown to appreciate. It can be disruptive, it can be disturbing and it is certainly unpredictable, and often surprising.

Its gift is instinctual, intuitive, unselfconscious, immediate, practical, and direct, and I have learned to appreciate that uninhibited awareness. The gut became my indicator of how to be in the world. Of course none of this was in my awareness as first however; I did know it as a gut response, learned to trust it and later identify it as a felt sense. I named it at first as incongruence.

Today when my gut responds to an external situation, I know to trust it, listen, and take time to digest what it is being communicated to me.

Weird hey? Not really. By the same indicators I write and photograph now. My gut is a navigator of terrains. It intuitively knows things that my head has to ultimately grasp and articulate through language. My heart is the compass by which I travel the terrain. Together they’re a great team, and I feel blessed for the opportunities that arise because of the team work.

Writing Practice: Trust your Gut Writing—Go outside with your journal and pen. Find a quiet place that works for you. It could be a park, your backyard, a lake, a picnic spot. It could even be a mall where busy-ness is all around you. Start by jotting down things around you that “pop” into mind, a visual clue, a felt sense: words, phrases, observations, emotions. Write them randomly as they arise. No straight lines necessary. When you feel you have completed this, stop, breathe. Even close your eyes. Breathe. Keep breathing in awareness until you feel you are ready to go back to your journal page. Circle those words, impressions and phrases that seem to leap out at you. Breathe with awareness; pay attention to any indicators from your gut. When you are ready—begin to write. This may be an insight about health and wellness for you; it may be a journal entry or a poem. Just write—trust your gut writing and enjoy. No need to read it or edit. Just tuck it away for another day and time.