Start Close in by David Whyte

start close in ~david whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Symbol in Ceremony

My favorite thing in this world might just be a good symbol. Defined by Webster, a symbol is "a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object representing something abstract." 

The abstract is inherently hard to grasp, and so we humans have developed a complex language of symbols and metaphors to help us make sense of the biggest parts of our lives. I often tell the people I work with to look for the symbols, because having a symbol follow you through your experience can really enrich the meaning making. A couple that I recently had the honor of working with embodied this philosophy perfectly. 
 

Let me first say, I adore these two and working with them was an absolute pleasure. I know Sarah and Rafael through the local storytelling show Testify and so I have known for some time Sarah has found a lot of joy in and a deep connection to birds. As she and Rafael grew in love, he also grew to share her deep respect for birds of all types. Which is one of the reasons that they chose to hold their intimate wedding ceremony at a local bird sanctuary. Chaetura Canyon is located just a 25-minute drive from downtown Austin, and while the facility is only open for special events and Travis Audubon programs, I recommend that you attend one of their programs if you love natural beauty.

 

Once Sarah and Rafael made the decision to include birds in their ceremony by holding it at a bird sanctuary, my work was set. How could we build a unique ceremony that incorporated their love of birds without beating the subject over the head? The beauty of a good symbol is that it has many interpretations; many points of potential connection. By subscribing specific meaning to a symbol, you can very quickly remove all its power.

When using a symbol in your ceremony, the goal should be to offer it to the event as openly and loosely as possible so that the symbol can expand and grow right along side you.  

The task for me as their counselor/artisian/celebrant was to find out what the bird means to them and where they find personal connection to the symbol, and then to build slowly and carefully from there. We started by collecting images, songs, and words that spoke to how they felt for one another.
 

Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

Photo credit Lowell Bartholomee

As I listened to them, I began to get some clarity. Rafael seemed to me to be a deeply visual person -- he connected with the natural beauty of the bird, with its softness and its motion. Sarah is a writer (check out her funny and insightful blog), so she seemed to really meet the bird in its story, in its character. 

After sorting through all the media we had shared, we all landed on a short story that featured a bird and that felt right. Sarah wrote up a beautiful retelling of it and we included it as a reading in the ceremony. That was the only direct mention of birds in the whole ceremony and it (along with the beautiful setting) was just enough to honor the symbol out without pushing it in everyone's face. 
 

Much like a bird, the symbol sat quietly and peacefully in the milieu of the event. The result was a wedding ceremony beautifully tailored to fit a creative and insightful couple. It was a joy to be a part of, and I wish these two "lovebirds" tons of goodness as they build their life together.

New Directions

I have decided to persue my LMFT license and to open a private therapy practice. This will be a long and expensive process, but I think it will ultimatly bring me more of the work I love.

It is a big transition for me and I am still in the planning stage. But it makes me wonder, what draws us to these transitions. I think we move towards a new phase of life when the old stuff is just not working for us any more.

I am reminded of that quote "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.".- Anis Nin (who is also just the best writer ever)

Is it always pain that pushes us out to newness? If so, what funny creatures we are...stubborn and yet so hopeful.

I will keep the website updated with test results, suppervission decissions, and new office details. In the meantime, let me know...what motivates you to grow? to take risks? to blossom?

Somethings Happening Here

Is it just me, or have you been having an intense summer as well? 

So much sorrow and anger has been afoot in the world.

I wonder what exactly is happening, and then I remember that in transitions there are three phases. I'll remind you of them.

The first is Preparation; in which our false beliefs and old ways begin to crumble. The second is what I call a "Culminating Event"; the moment that time stops and it becomes clear that everything has changed. The third is the Acclimation phase; when life re-assembles around us and we piece our concept of self back together forming something the same and yet new. 

These phases may take various lengths of time or energy but they are none the less present in any transition. Even in natural science we can see these phases. A caterpillar first eats a great deal, then builds a cocoon, then emerges from the chrysalis as butterfly. Trees conserve their nutrients as their leaves turn yellow, then they slumber naked through the cold, and finally awake with new green. 

As I spin through this tumultuous summer of my own life, in our country, and abroad; I am prompted to consider that perhaps these are the birth pangs, the yellow dead leaves, of a global transition.

If so, and if we are on the cusp of some big shift (and I hope we are) then my work tells me that this is the time to be finding firm ground and consciously building the future. What kind of world is passing away? And what new one do we long for? 

Although life seems in chaos, it can be a time of great revision and perhaps even hope. 

Are you also feeling this pain of Preparation? Will you stand with me in these Culminating Events? Are you ready to Acclimate by taking clear, brave steps towards a bright tomorrow?

I am not sure what those steps look like to you but, if you know where the best parts of you want to go next...please...go there.

By listening to, and taking action from, our core selves we will slowly begin to shape all this murder and rage into creativity and connection.

The Soup Mama

*This story was written for a children's class on Self-Kindness. I would love to find an illustrator and editor to help self-publish it as a children's book. 

Once there was a family with lots and lots of children. The family was not wealthy

but they had plenty of love and all the children were happy because they

felt much loved.

There was a Mama who took care of all the children. Every night she gathered

together all the ingredients she could find to make soup, because a little soup

can feed a big group. She would cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes, brown

the onions, and add the water.

At supper time all the kids would sit around a big table and pass the soup pot.

They would each take a spoonful for their bowl and pass to the next kid. Every

night the pot would go around the table, and every night when it got back to

Mama it was empty. She would sit quietly and watch as her beloved children

laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

Then, with full bellies, one of the kids would volunteer to do the dishes while the

others tidied the house for bedtime.

 

The next night Mama would once again gather ingredients for soup, because a

little soup can feed a big group. She would cut up the potatoes, dice the

tomatoes, brown the onions, and add the water. The kids would pass the pot and

by the time it got to Mama it was empty, so Mama would sit and soak up the joy of

her children as they laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

It went on like this day after day for many years.

 

Then one day the littlest child grew old enough to notice the world.

“Mama” the Baby said, “you never eat any soup at dinner, don’t you get hungry?”.

The Mama laughed “of course I get hungry, Baby, and all the joy and love at our

table feeds my soul.”

“But Mama”, Baby asked “doesn’t your body get hungry?” (Baby had been

learning at school that all living things need nourishment to survive.)

Mama smiled. “Baby,” she said “I think it is time that you help me in the kitchen.

Will you help me make the soup tomorrow?”

Baby nodded yes. All the older brothers and sisters had helped at some

point, but this was the Baby’s first invitation to help.

 

The next night Mama called Baby to the kitchen as she started to gather the ingredients.

Baby watched as she cut up the potatoes and saw that as she cut them she ate

pieces of each one to make sure they were fully cooked. She handed Baby

some pieces to sample. The potatoes melted in Baby’s mouth.

Then Mama started to dice the tomatoes. Baby noticed as she lifted a few

handfuls to her mouth to savor the sweetness of the red fruit. She gave Baby

bites of tomato too, they tasted so good.

As Mama started to brown the onions, Baby watched her lean over the pot and

smell their spicy sweet aroma. She carefully lifted Baby over the pot to smell. It

was so good.

When she added the water she poured herself and her Baby a big cool glass to

enjoy while the pot bubbled. They drank the water together and Baby felt revived.

Then Baby laughed as Mama dipped her big cooking spoon in to the pot and

pulled out taste after taste for them to share. Baby could taste the soup

ingredients melding together as they took the spoonfuls in to their mouths.

When the time came to share the soup, Mama and Baby were already full- just

from cooking.

 

That night Baby sat at the table with all the brothers and the sisters. Baby watched as

they laughed and talked and enjoyed the flavors of the soup.

 

“Mama” said Baby “Thank you for inviting me to cook with you tonight, I have

never felt so full”

 

And Mama just smiled and kissed Baby’s head, then she sat back and quietly

watched as her beloved children laughed, talked and enjoyed the flavors of the

soup.

 

Reflection:

What did Mama do to keep herself from getting hungry?

What do you think would have happened to the children if Mama had really not

been eating all those years?

Have you ever had the experience of having to make your own meal or do

something good for yourself?

I wonder how taking good care of ourselves can help others.

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

Rituals for Pregnancy Loss

There are experiences in life that change us.  A rite of passage takes a life changing experience out of the body, out of the secret, so that it can be seen clearly and moved through.

We Need a Little Christmas

It is cold at Christmas. The nights are so long; so much time to dream.

It is this time of year when my mind drifts back to my childhood, to memories of people who used to be my world but who have slowly faded out of existence. 

For so many the holidays are filled with grief, worry, or loneliness. Each card or add on TV reminds that another year has gone by without perfection, without peace. When you look at Christmas with the ghost of Christmas past at your side; it is not easy, nor is it fun. 

But then, what compels us to haul out the holly and make it happen year after year? Maybe we can learn something from this Holiday if we move towards it rather than away. What does Christmas have to offer me? 

Christmas might be haunted, but it is not just haunted by the past; it is also carries the seed of hope for the New Year. Deep within the stories, legends, and traditions this holiday presents a glimmer of the light I crave in the depth of winter. 

Christmas reminds us that in the depth of night we are still powerful, we can channel our better nature and find light in the darkness. 

So even though the sun isn't shining today, even though I am cold, even though my dad is dead. I still plug in the lights each night, as he would have.

As I engage in the rituals and sing the songs I slowly open my heart to Christmas

It might be painful to reminisce, but it is also wonderful to invite those Christmas ghosts to my table and to let them show me how I have grown this year. We talk not just about what has been, but also what is; what will be.

Yes, life is full at this time of year, not just with gifts and cookies and carols. Life is full with sorrow, with joy, with wonder, and above all with love. All these feelings are not my enemies, nor are they my goals, they are my life. Thank you Christmas, for the reminder that I am alive and that life is rich.

For I've grown a little leaner, grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder, grown a little older
And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now 

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When Someone Pays for Your Coffee

Today was a good day. I had a wonderful time at work; engaged in meaningful conversations, felt competent and creative. All of that was set up by the simple act of someone paying for my Starbucks order in the drive thru line. 

Maybe this has happened to you, if not you have most likely heard about it. It is a simple phenomenon someone decides to pay for the order behind them and to give the gift of free coffee. Generaly the person behind them then pays for the next person in line, and so on. Although I have never set it in motion. This is probably the third time in my life it has happened to me. (That might be a revealing fact about how often I find my self in the Starbucks drive thru). 

Because it makes me happy, I keep it going when it happens to me and I pay for the person behind me. This morning, I ask the barista who takes my credit card how often this happens. "About once a week" she says. How long does the chain go on? She smiles at me. "As long as it needs to".

What wisdom from out of that drive thru window!

I feel invigorated as I drive away. Not because anything has changed, because it hasn't. I still payed for coffee this morning. But I feel a part of something bigger than myself. The power of the drive through gift chain is in it's beginning and in it's end.

The person who starts the chain has a feeling...a need...to do something for someone. They are a gift giver and we all know how fabulous it feels to be a gift giver. It is anonymous, clean, and easy they feel great and drive away. Then that gift gets thoughtfully passed through each vehicle; leaving a little bit of love in each car. Until it reaches the final person in the chain. This person is the gift recipient. Who knows why they drive away with the gift. Maybe they had a rough morning, maybe they are stressed, maybe there are no other cars behind them. It does not matter. They are the recipient of that initial impulse to reach out and share. Hopefully it has landed well with them. Hopefully they have also allowed love in to their car and maybe they will take that love out to the people in their life. 

Sure, it is a small thing. It barely matters and yet what makes it so beautiful is that it could matter so much. It has the potential to remind us that inside these boxes of steel we navigate around in, inside these bodies and voices and personalities; there is a beating heart. Each of us has the power to make life's little details sweeter; to smile, to be present, to witness each other's humanity. 

May be next time I will be the one to start it. When I do so I will remind myself that the love dropped in the bucket will go on just as long as it needs to. 

3 Reasons to Stop & Look at the Moon

ONE: This Sunday (September 27th) is the Harvest Moon, the full moon that occurs closest to the Fall equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. The term "Harvest Moon" conjures up a moon radiating a warm Autumn glow.  In China it brings the Moon Festival, a time when families gather together to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, a symbol of Harmony and Unity. In North American cultures the Harvest Moon is a time of reaping when farmers can work late into the night gathering crops by the light of the moon.

The Harvest Moon by Sammuel Palmer

The Harvest Moon by Sammuel Palmer

 TWO: It will also be a supermoon, meaning the moon will be huge. This happens when a full moon coincides with the point at which the moon is closest to the Earth during it's elliptical orbit. Legends link supermoons to earthquakes and tsunamis. Although there is very little science supporting a link between supermoons and natural disasters, they symbolize the power of nature in our lives.

THREE: There will be a lunar eclipse visible over the sky of the Western world. If you have never taken the time out to watch an eclipse, I advise you do so. This will be the night to see it. The moon will be big, the sky should be clear. As you watch I invite you to think back on ancient humans watching in wonder as the moon slowly disappeared and reappeared. All sorts of magic was concocted to explain the mystery and we still live with the remnants of that magical thinking. We experience it in some sort of deep place in our souls a place of curiosity and wonder.

We have more in common with those ancient myth tellers than we like to admit. Maybe as you watch the moon this Sunday, something magical will happen to you; maybe you will be reminded of the seasonal renewal occurring in your own life. Perhaps just taking the time to stop and watch the moon could become it's own sort of ceremony. A ceremony to honor the passageway you find yourself in right now. 

enjoy.


Duende

Duende

Perhaps El Duende found you in a tavern enjoying food crafted by a master in which you could taste the love of the chef. Or maybe you met El Duende at an art museum or a book store. I imagine the spirit could find you anywhere and anytime, but each of us has inevitably been touched by it. 

Life as Craft

I have recently been spending about eighty percent of my life caring for a seven month old. He is wonderful, squirmy and full of laughter. However, it does not leave me much time for myself and I have been longing for craft, art, and ritual in my day. 

Recently, I have dedicated to focusing on my creative spirit one day a week (Thursdays) during nap time. It gives me about a two hour window, but there is no telling when the baby will wake up and I will have to stop my process. As a result, I have about a dozen half finished craft projects all around the house. The knitting is out on the rocking chair, the painting is "drying" in the TV room, and the laptop is open to my blog. 

These projects for my soul call to me as I change diapers, wipe down countertops and sing nursery songs. I am lustful for them. They remind me of my old life, the one where I could engage in a creative process on a whim. It was such a privileged existence and it feels so distant now that I have the new joys and privileges of parenthood. 

Basically, this isn't working. I can not engage in my creative projects with abandon the way I used to. I don't think I am alone in this experience, either. So many of us just don't have time to sit down and do art. Our lives are too full to dedicate the time and energy to the creative process. 

So, I wonder how I can bring the creative process to me rather than going to it. I must make mindfulness and creativity a part of every moment. When I make my coffee in the morning, I must make it with the same focus and passion I would give to a painting. The mundane must become extraordinary and I must live my life as a craft project; by experimentation, playfulness, love, and curiosity. 

I must see the beauty in everyday life and work to amplify it!

Not only will I benefit from this shift, my little boy will witness a mom who truly strives to live life fully. Because life is not mundane, diapers and all. It is a magical and mysterious craft, an art project of the grandest proportion. 

Death as Transition

Some of life's transitions are more filled with sorrow than others. Recently, I lost my father after a three year battle with cancer. He died at his home peacefully with my mom and me by his side. I watched him exhale his last breath, just as he watched me inhale my first breath. It was circular, and meaningful, and as beautiful as a death could possibly be.

Still, I am sad to find myself in this passageway between life with my father and life without him. 

IMG_5121.JPG

Death is a transition both for those dying and for those left behind.

I happen to believe there is life after life. I have no idea what it feels like or about any of the specifics, but I have learned that the amount of mater in the universe is fixed. It does not disappear, it breaks down and transmutes into a new form. So while whatever life he has found on the other side of this transition is beyond my comprehension, my belief that nothing truly ends has been of great comfort to me. 

Something else has been a comfort to me; my passion and interest in the art of transition. In my previous post on the birth of my son I broke down the three stages of transition as I conceptualize them; Preparation, Culminating Event, and Acclimation.

Sometimes the intellectualization of a life process helps us gain footing in an emotional sea. I would therefor like to take a second to breakdown my father's death into this same model. I can not know what it was like for him, and so I am not exploring his experience of the transition, but my own.

Preparation

Those of you who have experience with a terminal diagnosis know that it is very rare for doctors to give you any sort of solid prognosis. We live in a world very focused on keeping the terminally ill alive for as long as possible and no one wants to admit to a person that the time has come to say goodbye. In our case, multiple treatments were available and we started out fairly optimistic that one of them might cure his cancer entirely. However as time went on, it became clear that the treatments were making his quality of life much much worse. My dad, forever an entrepreneur, did not see it this way and kept on trying to heal. 

It was painful to watch his process. But in retrospect, it was a gift my father gave me...I was continually called to hope. It prepared me to practice hope even now, in the midst of despair. My dad never gave up. Even in those final hours on hospice care, he never said "goodbye". A large part of me wished he would, but now I realize it was simply not in his nature. He was not a quitter. 

However, in those years of fighting I was also quietly preparing for his death. I worked with death and dying as part of my graduate studies and I volunteered with hospice. I was getting ready to face the inevitable loss by moving towards and pushing myself to look deeply at my own beliefs. I also have to admit that I pulled away. I unknit my father from my daily life as a way of preparing for life without him. Although this is natural and I felt him simultaneously pull away from me, it is not something I am proud of. 

There was one other very important way in which I prepared. I had a baby. I wanted desperately for my father to feel his own importance and the continuation of his love. I would have wanted a baby anyway, but the desire for him to see his grandchild was deep and strong. His grandson, named after his family, was in his arms during his last lucid moments and that will forever be something I cherish. 

During the preparation phase of the transition my thoughts were on the future. I wondered "how long do we have?" and tried to make myself ready for what ever life might be like without my dad. It was about waiting and making the way for loss. Although it was a painful time, I am so grateful to have had it. So many people do not have long preparations when they experience loss.  

Culminating Event

The day he died I was present, in body and mind. I used techniques I had learned in my hospice work to make him more comfortable, I showed up in time to visit with him before he slipped into a comma, and I pushed back my fear so I could be with him in those not so pretty last moments. The whole time thinking "this is it", "wow...it is happening". 

Time stopped entirely and my mind was focused in the present moment, no where else

Acclimation

Here I am now...still getting used to the idea that he is gone. Kubler Ross's stages of grief abound and could probably applied to the acclimation period of any of life's transitions. (but that is another blog post).

As I move through my grief, I am caught off guard by tears now and then, but I am more surprised by my lack of tears. Life as a new mom is filled with distractions and even now I am cradling a sleeping baby as I write. 

Still, my theory of the stages of transition apply. My mind is in the past, I am overwhelmed with this new life, and my thoughts are "how do I do this...I am doing this". 

 

My life and my mother's life have transformed. My father has transformed, but in all of these stages I have felt his love. Even now that he is gone, the love he shared with me is not. That is a great gift, a great legacy of our relationship and throughout all the transitions in my life it will remain a constant. Love is the beating drum that drives us on through dark passageways to new life. 

 

A Life Transition in Three Parts

One of the biggest and most influential of all the life transitions is upon me. I have recently become a parent. My son was born earlier this month and being a new mother has filled my days and my nights. I am being radically transformed and learning first hand about the way transitions play out in our lives. 

I'd like to break down the process of life transitions in to three parts. I call them parts for the purpose of clarity, but it might be more appropriate to describe them as waves. That is how they feel. They wash over the circumstances of day to day life and move out the old while moving in the essential. We transform slowly as each subtle change shapes our life. Let me use my own experience as a way of explaining what I mean. 

The first part; Preparation. 

This is the wave of pregnancy in my case. For those getting married this first wave is the engagement and wedding planning. For those moving homes it is the search for a new place or the packing up. For those making a career change it is the daydream of something new. No matter what we might be going through, this first wave is the part of the life transition where we prepare.

During this time (be it short or long) our focus is on the future, on what will or might be. For me it was filled with personal reflection about what it means to "be a mom", buying baby supplies, and nesting. It reached it's peak in the last few weeks of pregnancy where it felt like my body and mind were about to burst with all the "what ifs" and excited energy.  

In this initial planning phase our lives start to subtly shift towards the new role we are about to play. The main words this wave fills us with are "be ready, it is coming" and of course..."wait". This is the perfect part of the life transition in which to seek guidance or coaching. The more conscious preparation we do now the better and easier our transition will be. 

The second part; Culminating Event

This is the moment we have been waiting for. It is the wedding day, the moving day, the resignation letter, the labor. It is the part of the transition where there is some sort of public or personal acknowledgment of the transition. We mark this moment as the moment things changed (when of course they have been changing all along). This is the time for ritual and ceremony.  

In this second part, time might seem funny. It may slow way down or speed up, but that is because our bodies and minds are working very hard to remember the events of the culminating event. Our focus is on the present moment. It is the point at which this whole thing feels like a "really big deal". As this culminating event washes rapidly through our lives it sweeps up all our energy. We are allowed to say "wow, this is really happening" and ..."here it is, my life is changing".

The Third Part; Acclimation

In this final phase of life transition things begin to settle. I am currently in this, as a postpartum mom and I wonder if it will take a full nine months on the other side of labor for my life to once again make sense. It really feels as though I am living a completely new life. I have fallen down the rabbit hole and here I am on the other side trying to acclimate to my new role as a mother. My focus is on the past and the integration of my expectations with the current reality. I am telling myself "you are doing this" and "this is what you wanted". 

Our emotions and thoughts may vary in these three waves of transition, but each of them has lessons to teach and gifts to offer. As we move through the passgeways of life, from one stage to another, gratitude is always waiting to be found on the other side. I could write so much more about each of these three parts and the way they play out in our various life transitions. But for now, I have a baby to feed and a new world to learn. 

 

 

An Invitation to Gratitude

Life is so full at Thanksgiving. There are visits to make, people to see, turkeys to battle, and for some people shopping to be done. It isn't all easy and it isn't all fun. Today is my father's birthday. He is very sick right now and I am very pregnant and so we won't be able to see each other. 

Thinking back, he is the start of my Thanksgiving memories. He is the cook in our little family and so every year on this day the kitchen was his. My dad is an experimenter, a tinkerer, and so his meals were never repetitions but rather little works of art that he proudly shared with the people he loved. 

Not being with him today is painful. Not because it is our first our only Thanksgiving apart, but rather because I fear it might be his last as I have every year since 2012 when he received a bleak diagnosis. Couple that with the small little life growing inside me longing to meet its grandfather and well, the pressure is on.

Yes, life is full and it isn't always easy to find gratitude when day to day existence drags us into worry, doubt, and the fog of holiday traffic. So what can we do? What can I do, to draw out Thanksgiving?

Starting at the beginning, we might notice that gratitude is the goal today. It is now and always should be. When gratitude comes, it is followed by joy, peace, compassion, enlightenment, and basically all the good stuff. Thankfulness is what we all really want on our plates this afternoon because nothing is more filling than settling into how provided for we are...how deeply loved. 

Thanksgiving invites us to the table of abundance. It invites us to pull up a chair and delve in to the richness of living. That invitation is not an invitation to ignore our sorrows, but rather to look deeper in to them. To find the gift of the grief. 

So as I look deeper at the fullness of my own life today I see a pretty lucky woman, about to be a mother. I see myself at the center of loving family in an act of creation and extenuation of that family. I see my dad living on through the lessons I teach my son and I see the beautiful patterns of love in my life. I see connection, and I am grateful for it. 

That gratitude is a resting place as I move through today, missing my father and longing for my child. The good is there...always just one deep breath away and followed by the gifts of a very full life.

So join me, friend, at this table. Sink in to Thanksgiving, push yourself towards the chaos and take a breath. Life, full and abundant with all it's mystery, awaits you on the other side of this meal. 


My Number One Enemy...You

Dear Client,

As someone who leads adults in the healing arts I have one enemy that I constantly battle. Guess what?... it is you.

Well, not exactly you, rather the lies you have been told your whole life. Lies like; "you can't dance", "leave the art to artists", "you're tone deaf", and "only babies scribble". These lies that you have collected over the years might seem insignificant but they have built up into great big walls of "I can't" and "I'm not creative". 

Recently I led a group of adults in a workshop that culminated in painting. The process went well and everyone was open and receptive until we were faced with those blank canvases. Then the comments started. Everyone began making excuses, to no one in particular, about how untalented they were. It was as though they couldn't stop the flood of self doubt and criticism that was pouring into their mind from spilling out in to the room. By the end, everyone had done their work and was pleased to finally be able to praise the other participants.  It seemed hard for most members to say something positive about their own work, but they clearly wanted the other group members feel good about what they had done. 

This happens almost every time I ask a client to embark on a creative task, and it amazes me. Why do people get in their own way? It never happens with kids (well not before middle school), but at some point "grown ups" stop allowing them selves to play. Have you done this? Have you told your self that you aren't creative? 

Well frankly, it is total BS. Not only are you creative, your creativity is a fundamental part of how you function in this world. You probably don't even notice how brilliant you are; how you arrange furniture, put together outfits to convey specific messages, solve complicated problems in your work place, or compose rhetorical sonnets in emails. You are creative every single day...I promise. 

So why is it, that when we get in to a workshop or coaching session that you freeze up and feel the need to spew out lines like; "mine looks terrible", "I give up", "I messed up"? 

It is those walls isn't it? You have been lied to. Some one (probably a teacher) at some point told you that art is measurable, something you can either do or you can't. Someone told you that "talent" was real. 

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Do want to know what "talent" is? It is bravery. It is taking the risk and making a choice and moving forward. I can't determine if your art is "good", you are the only one who can asses the value of your own work and when you do so PLEASE don't compare yourself to "great artists" compare yourself to YOURSELF. Did you take a risk? Were you honest and authentic? Did you investigate something? Did you open yourself to a creative process? Did you learn anything? Did you feel anything? If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions then you created a thing of beauty.

A member of that same group came to me later in the week. She brought me her canvas that she had continued to work on. The image was of a bird, perched on a branch ready to fly and that is what she had titled it, "#1, Thinking of Flying". She told me that participating in the workshop had opened something for her. This was painting #1 and she now envisioned a whole series; this bird in a life cycle and eventually taking wing. She did it. She over came her wall and now she can start to fly. 

Creativity is a practice...you are neither good nor bad at it, you just do it or you don't. So please go easier on your self. Let your inner art critic take a break. Stop getting in the way of your own work. Stop being the enemy of your own unfoldment. Just this once, join me and let's see what is possible. 

with love,

Genevieve

Fall Traditions

How will you mark the changing seasons?

FOOD and DRINK

I know that for me, warm apple cider on the first or second cool day of the year is a big tradition. There are so many seasonal foods that I crave all year long. In the Spring and Winter I long for Watermelon, but these days I find myself excited about squash, turkey, and pie. This natural craving for seasonal foods is rooted deep in our biology from a time when you really couldn't get strawberries in January. I invite you to celebrate the changes in your life by eating seasonally. You might be shocked by the memories that accumulate around the meals in your life when you bring just a touch of continuousness to your palate.

Arts and Crafts

I also get excited about pumpkins. I know it is silly, but I just love a good pumpkin carving where your up to your elbows in innards and joy. Every year I long for the disgustingly rewarding feeling of scraping out the seeds with a spoon. It just doesn't feel like Autumn until there is a jack-o-lantern on my doorstep. The Fall is also a great time for other types of crafting. Those of you who love a good hot glue gun, get it out and start on that wreath of autumn leaves, a new quit, or your Halloween costume. I'll be over here, with my pumpkin guts.

Time in Nature

There is no better time to get out doors and just go exploring. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where foliage shifts, I implore you to just step out side some time and be grateful for what you have. In Texas, we have mosquitos...but the cooler weather will eventually lull them to sleep, at which point I will get outside to walk...or do some much needed gardening.

Seasonal Gatherings

It isn't quite time for that Winter fire, but the Fall is a beautiful time to gather friends for a board game night or a simple meal and movie. Ancestrally we all know to move inwards as the weather cools, towards our close communities and families. Take the excuse to huddle up and laugh with a group of people who make you feel cozy and at home.

Wardrobe Shifts

Even something as seemingly simple as pulling all your sweaters and hats out of summer storage can be done thoughtfully. When I was in high school in Houston I remember so distinctly those precious "sweater days" when everyone could wear their warm clothing. For me it marked a change in the feeling of the world. Life was cooler and so was I. As you pull out your favorite scarf this year, notice how you have changed since the last time you wore it. 

Holidays

Most of you have figured out by now that I love holidays. I love the history of them and I love the way people use them year after year to tap in to the season. All cultures have some sort of harvest of Fall celebration. Take a moment to research the traditions of your own background, or find a way completely your own to celebrate the harvest. For me, as an anglo American, it is Halloween. This simple strange holiday has it's roots in a combination of Catholicism, Celtic rituals, and 1950s nostalgia. I love spooky stories full of mystery and suspense almost as much as I love dressing up. That said, I use the season not just to evaluate my own fears but also to bring those who have gone before me in to my awareness. The memories of my grandparents, deceased friends, and lost opportunities fill my mind in Autumn. 

Because with the Fall comes not just relief from summer heat but also grief that it is over. As we ease in to Winter, let us savor these joyful Fall rituals and mourn the echo of long summer days.  

What new memories will you create in this season of remembrance?



Change is in the Air

Today marks the Fall Equinox in my hemisphere. In other places...Spring is starting. Around the world, things are changing, just as they do every year.

Growing up in South Texas, the changing of the seasons was anticlimactic to say the least. I remember being in school and being taught the seasons. I can specifically remember an illustrated wall poster that  listed all four seasons and I remember being confused. I had never seen snow and orange leaves were something I associated with scorched summer days when the sun bleached the green out of the trees. Still, like most things we learn when we are little, I took it at face value and moved on. 

I did not understand seasons until I moved to New York City after college to pursue a career. For the first twenty one years of my life I knew seasons existed but I never understood what an impact they could have on my physical, mental, and spiritual self.

In retrospect, it makes sense to me that although they did not pertain to me I was taught them as a child. The seasons of the US North East are so deeply engrained in our national culture because they are indeed powerful beyond belief. 

Now that I am back in Texas, I often miss the way the world echoed my metamorphosis. A season's shifting weather offers outward refection of inner changes. As I tap into my deep knowing, I notice the seasons much more than I did as a child. I allow myself to feel them even if nature's display looks a little different than that poster in my 2nd grade classroom. The feelings are the same regardless.

Here, as in most places, Autumn is a relief. The temperature cools, the rain starts back up again and the dead yellows and browns of a Texas summer start to turn back to green. It feels like you can live again too. Like the world is ready and waiting for your potential. 

Can you feel it? Change is in the air and there is so much to do.

5 Reasons to Hire a Celebrant

The truth is, anyone can officiate a wedding. You could pick a favored uncle, a dear friend, or even a court appointed judge to perform the ceremony. If you aren't sure of who to pick or how to pick someone look over my list of reasons to hire a celebrant. There are definite benefits to investing the time and money into a professional service.

Reliability

Your wedding day is not a day you want to spend worrying about details. Hiring me means the ball is in my court. I will have done the prep work and show up ready to be at service. I will not have stage fright, flub my lines, or forget my cues. I have done this many times before and I know what to do and how to do it.

Community Building

When I work a wedding or any other sort of special event I am available to all the people present for counsel, support, or even just casual chit chat. I see myself as a hostess and my job is to draw people into the moment. This is a skill that many family members or friends might lack but it is essential. The ceremony is important because it is witnessed, all present should feel welcome and excited to be a part of it.

A Unique Ceremony

Imagine a ceremony that is entirely true to who you are. One that is built up of pieces of your story, culture, and beliefs. There is no limit to what a ceremony can be. It can be traditional, funky, edgy, ancient, comic, sincere, or silly. Multiple rituals can be combined and woven together. Words and poetry can be entirely your own or borrowed from anywhere and everywhere. This is YOUR ceremony it should be meaningful to YOU.

In the role of ceremony designer, I see my self as a quilter. I listen carefully to what my clients want and use my experience as a storyteller and theatre director to craft cohesive beautiful reflections of the hearts of my clients.

Meaningful Preparation

When I got married, my partner and I had pre-canna classes provided my the Catholic church. Although I am not Catholic and was not looking forward to them, I still treasure the classes and what they taught us. We had been together for nearly five years, but the pre-canna classes gave us both a chance to clarify our expectations, fears, and desires for married life. I can not over emphasize how important it is to take time before the ceremony to review what exactly you are doing and why you are doing it. It sets your next stage of life off on the right foot.

In the process I conduct, the ceremony planing is the class. As you make choices for your personalized ceremony, you will gain insight into what is important to you. Deciding what you want to say and how you want to say it will tell you so much about the ways you are growing and intend to grow. Also, ceremony planing hours will soon count as part of the Twogether in Texas program and will get you discounted marriage licence fees and privlidges!

Transition Support

My skills as a certified coach with a masters degree in expressive arts therapy are available to you as my client. You are not alone in the process of preparation. It will be a rich meaningful time for you to acknowledge and come towards your full potential. My nonjudgemental client led process is friendly and warm. In coaching sessions we enlist your own creativity and personal resources to manifest change in your life.

If you desire support beyond my expertise I am connected in the Austin counseling community and can provide you with excellent referrals. I care deeply for all my clients and desire their honest unfolding in what ever manner it comes. I do this work primarily because I love to watch people grow and transform as they move through life's passageways.

Caught in the Rain

This week there were isolated Thunderstorms in the Austin area. I love that term "isolated thunderstorms". I picture a cartoon character being followed by a cloud raining directly down on them alone.I chuckle and think of the few instances in my life when I found myself surrounded by a storm with no warning.

The one that comes to mind happened just a few months ago. I was on the highway traveling to work. Up ahead I noticed that cars were applying their breaks. As I took my foot off the accelerator I wondered what had caused them all to stop so suddenly. The road ahead looked clear. All of a sudden, before I could complete my thought, all my windows fogged up and I lost visibility. I had driven into an invisible storm front that caused the outside temperature to drop by about 20 degrees. I quickly applied my breaks and flipped on my windshield wiper. Slowly the world came back into view.

That event left me shaken, but also amazed. As with most things in nature, I marvel at the spiritual truth laying just behind that front. Sometimes we do indeed hit invisible walls, things that we can not see coming but that drastically change our worlds. They cause us to slow down and revaluate what we thought was possible.

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The metaphores avalible in weather do not stop there. Other times, the storms of our life come on slowly. The world grows yellow and smells that particular way that a ripe moment smells. We know something is coming and we take a deep breath of preparation as the rain begins.

Here in Texas it can rain. The rain is hard and fast. It pelts the earth, drumming out it's anthem. When storms like this happen you have to just find a spot and hold still. They stop you in your tracks but, you know that this "isolated thunderstorm" will shortly pass. And sometimes the metaphorical "storms of our life" are like that. They hurl a lot of energy at us and all we can do when caught in these storms is hold still and wait for them to pass.

Infact sometimes waiting for a storm to pass provides peace or a much needed moment of rest. If we find our self in a safe place when these storms pass through we can sit cozy and enjoy them. Alowing the weather to remain outside and the booming cries of chaos to lull us to sleep. It is a lucky day when safety can be found in the midst of a storm.

And of course, rain makes the earth blossom with new life. Hopefully, when the storm is over we can start anew in a world that feels somehow refreshed.

This Moment

We spend so much time planning or reminiscing. Perhaps it is time to take a breath and just be here now?
In Spring I am full of hope, longing, and excitement. I often have to remind myself that hope is not just a propelling force, but it can be a place of rest. I try to rest in my hope, to lay about in it and enjoy what it feels like to want.

As I do so, I start to wonder about the nature of hope. I believe that my potential is unlimited and that I already have all the tools I need to thrive. So, what is there to hope for?

Hope for me, is a personal thing. It is an energy that leads me towards truth, revelation, and wholeness. It is a desire for the next thing for. While I have all I need, hope tells me that I can still long for more and seek better for myself. Hope reminds me I am strong enough to face my desire and propels me forward towards the nearest unstable ground in search of riches. It is a medicine that we can use

I had an experience of hope this month as I joined with some very dear friends to bless their child and welcome him to world. Holding that baby, I was overcome with hope and I realized how great it felt to imagine all his potential in this world.

That is what Springtime is all about; new life and this very moment...brimming with hope.