Tag Archives: life

How to “Not-go” to that Dark Place

“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”

That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.

Stay

I was intrigued by his negative verb:  ‘not-turn.’

What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’  is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?

I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.

Mindfulness

So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.

Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!

I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.

I am Not My Thoughts

Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’

Now I have a place to ‘not-go.’

for more on mindfulness I recommend the books and videos of Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle

*featured image from the installation Lyon Art, the Abode of Chaos

 

 

Guest Blogger at Cheryl Holloway’s Author blog

I’m honored to be featured today at Cheryl Holloway‘s blog here:

How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

Please go read, and give Cheryl some love. It’s the second year I’ve been invited to do thisand I’m honored.

Cheryl interviews indy authors of all types and genres, and I’ve discovered interesting writers and books. So she is a big help to authors who want to share their work. And she is a very reliable blogger – I know I will have something interesting to read at least once a week.

Cheryl writes romance, and heart-touching short stories. She’s written biography and young-adult fiction. Essentially, she understands people very well. And, she makes a great writing buddy! This is her first NaNoWriMo, so share some encouragement and share the blog too.

girl-writingBut there’s something I’m avoiding: 

Something that came up while I did this interview: I have yet to complete the rewrite of one of my NaNo novels. I’ve edited and rewritten about one half of last year’s. But the previous two stories (3 years of writing) languish unimproved. Were they terrible?  I don’t think so. I know the stories were interesting. But I have some blocks there – am I reluctant to see just how bad the rough drafts really were??

So, before NEXT YEAR’s NaNo, I will have at least one solid draft of a complete novel. There, my commitment to you!

But wait! Here’s more good news:

I have been submitting Short Stories to contests and journals, in search of prizes and publication. So far, no results. I only started in August, and the first one is a tiny one. I’ll hear about the second one much sooner – in 2 weeks! And I have a third story almost ready to go.

So I am floating my balloon out into the literary landscape.

But for today, it’s NaNo time! And I have  words to go before I sleep.

The Last of the Granny Witches

I come from a long line of weather witches and empaths. My foremothers are czech farmers. Deep within, we know the ancient ways.

Appalachian Ink ~ Home of Anna Wess (and Granny)

We are a peculiar breed. Our roots grow deeper than the cedars, and yet we don’t know precisely where or who it is that we grew from. We are a mystery as old as these hills themselves, and it doesn’t take much figuring to know that we are enigmas of intentional design and destiny.

gw1

God knows our names.

We are not Northerners — damn Yankees, the men folks’ Confederate influence called them — and this we know without a doubt. I myself was always preened into believing I was a Southern child, born out of notions of gallantry and romance, but the fact is, I ain’t a low country belle and I’ve never picked a shred of cotton or been to a debutante ball.

We are not peaches.

And these mountain women before us were not delicate flowers or distressed coquettes. In these old heirloom hills, the women are…

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Tidewater Retreat

On October 17-19 I was on retreat with my AWWG sisters in Mathews, VA. I had never visited this part of Virginia before and was smitten with the peace and big sky. This is a bit of my scribblings.

In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

Pattern: clouds march offshore, moving south along the coast. Clear inland. This is counterintuitive to our inland weather, usually West to East.

Broad soft curling rivers of salt marsh sweep and weave, flush and suck, swell and drain up and down the seaboard like lungs. The silt that creeps into corners, the poisons that filter down from our civilized behavior fan out and settle. 

But then: the sea fills to bursting, inhales a great wet breath up into the rivers. Back toward their source, breathing saline into small channels, seething between reeds tangled with plastic trash, dragging the scum with her when she falls back away toward the moon.

Like the trees, there’s an exchange. At first it’s not so obvious, but here is the swish and pulse of our body’s lymphatic health, breathing salt soup life, in and out of our pores.

She seems boundless, indefatigable, infinitely absorbent. We clever ones already test her limits, tinkering with the chemistry set of the globe. It looks like the calcium cities built over eons by coral will be bleached dead before we ever learn their language. And yet they gave us Florida.

Here the dawn comes: extraordinary color the camera won’t get. Greeny sky, violet pink clouds, slate blue waters, all very Maxfield Parrish: smooth fields of tonal color and flawless gradients. The clouds feel muscular, bubbling, and constrained along the beach like eager horses. Later in the day they will wander toward and lumber over us. In the Tidewater we have our own weather.

Color is Life

I’ve written about my struggles with depression; the past few weeks have been challenging, with the loss of a dear friend, a pet’s death, plus health and money woes. My faith has been tried.

Years ago, when a fellow depression-sufferer asked me, in the throes of her illness, “What keeps you alive when things get bad?”  I knew well the feeling, seeking for a shred of hope. As I gazed across the yard, and saw the shaded sky, the mirror lake, the deep green pines, the word just rose to my lips. “Color. I live for color.”

This week I arose before dawn to paint the sunrise. It was ostensibly in honor of Solstice, but in truth it was intended to wrench me out of my sucking depression.

Painting was good medicine. But the Supreme Court decision on Friday, unleashing a tidal wave of rainbows, is really buoying my spirit in splendid waves of shared joy. Hallelujah, it’s a rainbow! May your life be colorful!

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The Holy land is everywhere.

Astrology Rob Brezhny is a weekly source of inspiration for me, and sometimes he knocks my socks off with a profound connection, a pithy quote, a soulful connection. But today it’s just one simple sentence.

The Holy land is everywhere.

I spent my Memorial Day Weekend basking in my new home, enjoying the neighborhood and the house. This was somewhat a wise decision to keep things low key, and somewhat forced house arrest due to budget constraints. It worked out beautifully. With no dollars to spare my food was humble and home-made, my engagement was with neighbors, friends and pets, and my entertainment came from the cycle of the day.

One splendid evening I took a walk with dog Lily and cat Charlee, and we watched herons wading in the sunset waters of Piscataway Bay.

The Holy land is everywhere.

Neomenia, Eostre & Equinox

Neomenia is a fancy word for New Moon, which we have a splendid example of today. The Super Moon of March 20, 2015 caused a total eclipse of the sun for the North Atlantic and bits of Greenland and Iceland.

Some Pagan folk call Spring Equinox by the name of Ostara, or Eostre, after the ancient Germanic goddess who heralds the spring reawakening. The word is related to East, and Aus, a proto-germanic word for dawn. I’ve often thought is sounds quite a bit like Purim’s Esther and that other rabbit & egg holiday that’s just around the corner!

The Equinox refers to the balance of dark and light, for today, the night is as long as the day, roughly speaking. I see for us the sun rises and sets at around 7:18.

Rumor has it that the heavenly dance of Pluto has big things in store for our little planet. So heed the auspicious signs, plant your seeds, honor your Mother. Let us celebrate the wonder of life.

I wish all the blessings of the change of season to you all, the joy of rabbits leaping, and flowers opening, and delicious boiled eggs of many colors, including chocolate!

 

Artist Profile: Terry St. Cloud & Bone Sigh Arts

terriDid you ever go through a dark night of the soul, and reach deep into yourself and find hope or strength from something a friend shared, or a beautiful memory? Well, that feeling of relief that you get at a moment like that, THAT is a Bone Sigh.

A long time ago (at Artomatic 2003) I wandered into a little room filled with tiny watercolors that exploded with color and were inscribed with expressions of deep feeling. They were unlike anything I had ever seen before.  They were the work of Terry St. Cloud, an amazing woman who generates a great deal of love and light in this world, whom I am honored to know as a neighbor and friend.

These days, Terry runs Bone Sigh Arts, her successful company that provides gifts, greeting cards, books, and hosts an amazing community. Terry manifested this beautiful business from her own love and determination to honor herself and her creativity as she raised her three boys, now grown and in business for themselves.

Terri has written quite a few inspirational books

When you need a beautiful card or gift, want to lift someone’s spirits, read inspiring ideas and stories, or share your own, please head to Bone Sigh Arts to a unique and magical world that is only possible because of this talented and determined woman.

 

Suicide and Altitude

BLOG FOR MENTAL HEALTH 2014

I came across this article about neuroscientist Perry Renshaw’s research into what he calls the “Utah Paradox.”

Neuroscientist Perry Renshaw

Despite ranking as America’s happiest state, Utah has disproportionately high rates of suicide and associated mood disorders compared to the rest of the country. In fact, it’s the No. 1 state for antidepressant use.

I was intrigued, since I’ve known for years that a higher, drier clime has the power to make me feel remarkably happier, when I arrive from the sea level humidity where I live.

So I was intrigued, then argumentative, then baffled, then amazed as Brain Mic editor Theresa Fisher dove into the neuro-chemistry and the geo-demography (two of my favorite subjects!!) to identify the experience that I have: I lifelong depressive who feels uplift and well being from altitude.

The working theory is that high altitude hypoxia reduces seratonin but stimulates dopamine. Since I know from a major medication adjustment about 5 years ago that SSRIs alone don’t manage my depression, that helps explain my joy at altitude. Of course more sunlight and spectacular vistas certainly don’t hurt!

Where we live has so much to do with who we are, and how we feel. If you have climate or geography related experiences with your mental health, please tell us about them.

Big Questions, Simple (Not Easy) Answer

My Sunday ritual with the New York Times is edifying, and often gives me insight into weighty and troubling issues of our times. Good thing: if it were only the grim and terrible news, I couldn’t bear to read it. So this Sunday, these two seemingly unrelated articles entwined in a way that helped me see my own strong views more clearly:

1. Is there a ‘Bad’ Religion?

An ongoing debate launched by provocateur Bill Maher, whose guest Sam Harris, a widely published neuroscientist and atheist, challenged Liberals to uphold their principals of free speech and religion and equality for women and gays. He claims that by defending Islam as just another faith in the multi-cultural rainbow, Liberals are tolerating a hateful religion.

“We have to be able to criticize bad ideas,” said Harris “and Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas.”

Reza Aslan defends multicultural tolerance

Reza Aslan wrote a beautiful rebuttal to this view, upholding the notion that extremism comes in many flavors, and many readers chimed in with their points of view.

2. One Woman’s Simple Plea

leymah gbowee
Click for Leymah’s TED talks

Three Short Films About Peace begins with a 15 video interview with 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. (I have yet to enjoy the other two films). Gbowee’s story is so riveting, so personal and so global in its relevance I was stunned. She has walked in the path of Ghandi and Dr. King before her and spoken a woman’s simple truth to power.

 “I wish for a better life. I wish for food for my children. I wish that sexual abuse and exploitation in schools would stop. This is the dream of the African girl.”

Isn’t It Obvious?

It is incomprehensible to me that a leader could ever lose sight of their responsibility to protect people from violence and mayhem. The overwhelming reaction I felt watching Leymah’s story was “Duh!”

Why isn’t it obvious that we need to feed and shelter our people and protect them from violence? Why does the ancient territorial violence override nurturing and creativity?

One simple answer is that women’s voices are not strong enough in public life.

The biggest critique I can level against Muslim culture and religion is the deletion of women’s voices from public life. Not that they are the only ones to blame for this. Orthodox Judaism and large swaths of Christianity limit women’s full participation.

In the ‘civilized’ West, we are still new to the idea of women as fully functioning members of society, being only one hundred years out from jailing and force-feeding Alice Paul for speaking up outside the White House. But we do have women in the public sphere, prime ministers, presidential candidates, and increasingly heads of business.

Half Blind

When all you hear are the views and desires of one half of your citizens, you are missing dimension of humanity necessary to survive. Compare it to monocular vision, or hearing from one ear: the amount of perspective and data missing is exponential.

We need the voices of our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, wives, aunts, daughters and girls to be valued and heard in our culture. And that is my measure for a ‘Good’ religion. Or company, culture, neighborhood, committee, discussion group, governing body and more.

I don’t agree with Sam Harris – it does no good to brand an entire culture as ‘bad,’ but I do know that it’s Leymah who has the answer to creating the world that I want to live in.