204 Advent Calendars

An entire season of tiny treats amounts to the equivalent of one chocolate bar, so it IS really about the count down.

Advent calendars are all the rage.  Socks, toys, chocolate, even alcohol can be hiding behind those little doors.   We have traditionally used the Trader Joe’s chocolate calendar, because it is all a game, and the chocolate isn’t wax (like some others).  An entire season of tiny treats amounts to the equivalent of one chocolate bar, so it IS really about the count down.  

We have traditionally used the Trader Joe's chocolate calendar
We have traditionally used the Trader Joe’s chocolate calendar

This year, Jan found a truly creative variety.  Constructed by Plum Deluxe, there is a loose leaf tea for each day through the 24th.  Each flavor brews a pot of tea.  I have been keeping up, the daily seep.  Remaining up to date is always the challenge with advent calendars.  Yesterday, I slipped behind.  

Plum Deluxe Tea Lover’s Advent Calendar

Although our family has always played the count down game, it has been fun to watch the new additions learn.  Mark has no interest in counting down to Christmas.  He is culturally Jewish, so the calendar makes no sense whatsoever.  He would rather count forward to latkes.  Any of us would rather move toward latkes than consumerism, if we understood our own thinking process, but that is a totally different topic.  Latkes are delicious.

The calendar that flew to Mark for his first experience was opened from the end (not through the cardboard doors), and consumed all in one sitting, or maybe two.  Shante didn’t recognize the need for a teaching moment.  Or she tried, to no avail.

crispy panko potato latkes

Others have done similar things, not understanding the concept, ripping the doors from their hinges, giving up along the way, or fully leaving the whole situation sealed.

We are moving from darkness to light.  I did not use a segue.  It is boldly true.  

And the advent calendar is a semi lame, Christian (or now, consumerist) attempt at replacing the celebration of the Solstice.  This year, it some how links to our political position.  Science.  No science.  

The Solstice is the day that starts to bring back the light, in our hemisphere anyway.  It happens.  I don’t feel like debating science or defending any religion, one over the other.  The day the light comes is the day we are celebrating, the day we count to, the day we feel like we can move forward.

Jesus represents that.  The Solstice scientifically is that.  There is Diwali and Hanukah, the Lantern Festival and Santa Lucia Day.  So many more.  They all celebrate the light.  It is inside of us, bursting to come out.  It is love, enlightenment, the awareness of our unity.  It is definitely worth celebrating.  

But the countdown?  We could drop that.  Today.  This moment right here is the right time to stop counting, take in the whole calendar.  Be One.  Celebrate the light that you are.

195 A Fish Story

When you ask, you are heard. Answers can be subtle, hilarious, angering, quiet, and any other Eternal variety.

Sometimes I swear I have told a story before.  Our stories are redundant.  We tell the same stories over and over and over.  I am not certain as to why.  I think in some ways, we live in a construct of our stories.  They define us.  They build our walls and our sense of self.  We can change and shift the stories, alter the very core of who we are.  Some do it.  Others stay caught for decades, or lifetimes, in a story that refuses to die.  

On the lighter side, some stories resurface for significance, for a theme or a message.  They are like dreams that repeat.  They are to be pondered and learned from, and then released back into the wild.

So maybe this is a story of catch and release.  I am catching this story, and releasing it.  I think the fish didn’t fare as well.

I might have been twelve, something like that.  We were near the river’s edge.  A man sat at the end of the dock, line in the water.  And I wandered the shore, doing some serious soul searching for someone so young.  Did God really exist?  If so, did God care about my personal journey?  What was the point and meaning of life?  Everything was spiraling as a head storm.  I moved to an egoic state of prove it, “If you are God, prove that you are here.  Have that fisherman catch a big fish, right now.”  

So I watched, and I waited, and nothing happened. I mustered the courage once more.  ” A fish on that line, right now.”  Shock and awe, the fisherman immediately got a hit.  He then reeled up a very large fish, for a dock catch anyway.  Proof.  And it frightened me.  I had tested God, and that is wrong.

Catholic guilt.  Testing God isn’t wrong, but it can backfire.  The fish in the story did not flip backward and slap me in the face, at least not literally.  

When you ask, you are heard.  Answers can be subtle, hilarious, angering, quiet, and any other Eternal variety.  Sorting out the ego answers and getting to the depth of the real ones is the trick.  But don’t be afraid to seek answers from your higher self or the Divinity of all.  It is just waiting to have a minute to speak where you can hear it clearly. 

192 Moving into Action, Emerged, and with Grace

Although I glimpse what the next step might be, or where the long term goal appears to lead, the hardest part might be receiving that call, and not worrying about HOW I will get there, how we will get there. Letting go. Staying here.

Day 11 with Amber, Woman Unleashed, we met up with Action.  In the meditation we looked at all of the senses.  With the ways that action meets touch, in where we walk, how we touch the planet, my writing and artwork, spending time in nature with the plants and yard. The temperature of the skin.

We focused on listening, on the way we hear externally, and the way we hear internally, in how Spirit expresses itself.  We pondered tasting the moment, smelling the moment, this one right here.  And for everything we see, we can notice the nuances, the shifts in color, the differences in perception between another and ourselves.

Tuning in to the heart, the central, emotional heart, we can feel the interconnection of the One, our call to give, and our depth of receiving.  I can really spend time on the reciprocal, connected, balance of giving and receiving.  The relaxation into the latter proves to be one of my biggest challenges.  I obviously am constantly “receiving.”  

We all are receiving, Divinely.  I always find it funny to hear people speak of being atheist.  No offense to the logic there.  But it is a form of defiance to believe that there is independence, a life that begins and ends without an outside Source. With my own logic, I know that science does not have an answer to the most ultimate of questions.  

Cover of A Stroke of Insight a book about a neuroscientist who stroked out, and observed the full course of returning to pre infantile space, and refinding her way back to high earthly intellect
(A Stroke of Insight) is a book about a neuroscientist who stroked out, and observed the full course of returning to pre infantile space, and refinding her way back to high earthly intellect

What begins and ends the breath, the heart beat, the thoughts and observations of the mind?  Jill Bolte Taylor popped to my mind.  She has amazing Ted Talks on YouTube, and has written several books as a neuroscientist who stroked out, and observed the full course of returning to pre infantile space, and refinding her way back to high earthly intellect (A Stroke of Insight).  Action.  She really reached for action, even in awareness that she could be perfectly “peaced out” in that other realm.  

I don’t live that ultimate awareness and also walk in the body.  Meditation/prayer can help me bridge the gap.  Reiki definitely does the trick.  Sometimes deep expression in art or wilderness or writing gets me into a period of time in the emerged and grace filled action.  And I am noticing the reciprocal part, the giving and the receiving, that receiving is so important to an evolved life.

Coming to the moment that is the here and now, experiencing with everything that I have, every sense that I have, is my call to action.  Action gets the mind on forward motion, and although I glimpse what the next step might be, or where the long term goal appears to lead, the hardest part might be receiving that call, and not worrying about HOW I will get there, how we will get there.  Letting go.  Staying here.  Be here now.  (Ram Dass, we got ya!)

190 Searching for Clarity

Where am I headed? How long will I be on the planet? All planning has been halted in a way, because I don’t have the same illusion as most human minds. I do know that death is present and possible.

Are we all searching for clarity, or do I just think that we are because of my personal quest?  Freemont, Washington, is home to a program called Landmark Education.  That makes sense.  Freemont is progressive, a hub of what Western Washington is known for.  Freedom, Pride Parades, kitschy art and bar scenes.

In Landmark’s program, participants take a really clear look at

What they know,
What they don’t know,

And that there is a vast area of existence that is 
What they don’t know that they don’t know.

Ya… deep.

So with the Woman Unleashed program, Amber has us looking at clarity in a way that reminds me of my experiences with Landmark, but takes the concept up a notch into the field of Divinity.  The categories become

What I know,

What I pretend not to know,

And what appears fuzzy and non-concrete:

What I don’t know YET.

I can really see that my overall goals in this program, grace and emergence, have been with me all along.  Having them as my intentions was brilliant!  And even though they were always there, as the glittering red heals were on Dorothy’s feet, I was not tuned in.  Every day of the ten, brought me closer to clicking my heals.  “There is no place like home.”  Home in the light.

“There is no place like home.” 

So what do I know?  I know that I can express my gratitude outwardly, every day, in different ways.  I know that I am hanging out here to pour out love, and to receive it too. I know that artistic expression and time in nature are super important to my emergence, and to my acceptance of grace.  And I know that flowing with the Eternal looks like meditation, retreats, walks, quiet, maybe a “vacation” here and there.

Looking at what I pretend not to know is a more vulnerable thing to share.  I wonder why.  Spiritual priorities can be pretty foggy for me.  Loving others in the way I am called to love them is also a place that I writhe and twist.  Ideas pop in and out at a rapid rate, and time doesn’t seem available for everything, so the lack of clarity can lead to no action at all.  And lastly for today, there is a commitment to self, to my own healing steps.  They get convoluted and foggy, just because there is so much to balance. 

In the category of what I do not know is my path.  Where am I headed?  How long will I be on the planet?  All planning has been halted in a way, because I don’t have the same illusion as most human minds.  I do know that death is present and possible.  I do NOT know my own longevity.  So if I live, where will I live, what will I do for the world, for financial stability?  I don’t know!  

And perhaps the biggest lack of knowing for me may belong in the “pretend not to know” category, but it is so foggy that it lurks in the area of not knowing.  I don’t know how to sift my own path, dreams and Divine goals away from the tugging and pulling of others dreams for me.  

Way back, there was the meditation with the staircase.  All of the hands and people reaching for me at the bottom.  My sadness as I looked back.  And my elation to climb.  Where do the stairs lead?  Ultimately, we all go to the next level.  

In life or in death, we are always on the staircase.  There is no reason not to be elated on each stair that I climb. I am taking the next steps… with clarity. 

189 Flow: What to Leave Behind, Flowing with the River

I am stepping into the river without my humanity, all of that stuff left behind. I can feel the emergence, the grace, the flow.

Already merging into the water on day nine, Amber‘s retreat took us to the theme of flow.  Amber quoted the Prayer of Saint Francis. When we are in the flow, we are acting as the Divine. The picture of the river bank, of the sparkling water, of stepping into the perfection of the Eternal, also has us leaving the heavy rocks that we picked up, setting them along at the bank.  The stone would most certainly hamper following the currents, dragging us under.

boulder cascade creek environment
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com “Leaving the heavy rocks that we picked up, setting them along at the bank.” 

I have a lot of rocks. I am not saying that in judgment.  I think every human is carrying a pickup truck full, not truly by intention.  Some of them are inherent to our situation.  I have some medical rocks, some pain rocks, a wound rock, a million appointment rocks, some supplement and medication stones…  

I have boulders of ego, of who I think I am and need to be in the world.  The responsibility, the organization (as much as I love that one), the things to be done, paperwork, sorting, finishing the death plan to make room for a life plan.  

Because I stack those at the river’s edge does not mean that they are not present and strangely necessary.  It means that I leave the MUSTS and the NEED TOs, and the PRIORITIZATIONS of these as a Divine afterthought.  First, flow in the river of God, relaxed and transparent. 

I have some pebbles too, a lot of them though, so they should probably be emptied from my pockets and bags before I am fully immersed in the baptism of flow.  The pebbles are the things that are more mutual, more attachment to earth beauty, the plants and animals and people.  Even though a person could be in the flow with the human forms of mutuality weighing on her, it would make the course more tiresome.  The buoyancy and speed of my travel could be altered.  It’s best to leave them behind, for the connection, for the meditation, for the time of grace and emergence.

Kwami’s words were a day ahead. Amber echoed it.  “Rather than make things happen, flow.”  

I am stepping into the river without my humanity, all of that stuff left behind.  I can feel the emergence, the grace, the flow.  It surrounds me in warmth and love.  And then the journey begins.  Clear.  Floating.  One.  Merged with the world.  With the universe.  Being carried and supported in the Divine river.  Flow.

Prayer of St Francis Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace sang by Susan Boyle – Lyrics- Sub ITA

188 Day, Another Topic: Receptivity

I told God that I was willing to receive a list of the hard stuff. Hope, healing, guidance, knowing, touch, quiet, joy. Listening.

Amber is inside my head.  Three days in a row, the themes have knocked me on my…  Anyway, when I face Receptivity, I face one of my greatest challenges.

The long lived family story portrays me as a new toddler.  “I can do it myself.”  It was worse than that, I could do it myself, and there was no stopping me from directing everyone else in the right way to play out their lives as well.  The story goes, “It was easier to go along with it, forever.”

When I completed the Flag Page (Mark Gungor), and read the online results of the personal analysis, I shifted.  The precocious, bossy, overpowering toddler that lives with my everyday actions does not want control.  I score very low in that area of the Flag Page.  The toddler wants perfection, and has the gift of seeing it clearly and knowing how to get there.

It is Divine.  None of you who live with the negatives of that expression will think it is very Divine, but it is a full expression of the Eternal, working its way toward Perfection.  Ease, peace, simplicity, flow, world compassion and kindness, and so much more.  They all hide behind the Perfectionism, when done “right”.

Somewhere in all of that, there has to be Receptivity. So much to receive, so little time.

Care, oh how I have been forced to receive care. I have a medical team that could cover a soccer field.  Surgery.  Wound visits.  Chemotherapy.  Palliative visits.  Acupuncture.  Naturopathic Oncology.  Always people caring for me, working to help.  Mentally, it would be better to receive graciously, rather than feel forced.  I have come a long way.

Support.  I have been so blessed with receiving support from my world.  It comes from the most human of places.  Dad’s house.  The financial cooperation with costs from the kids and Kwami.  Community.  All of the people who reach out and engage, who treat me as alive.  Family love, and everything they do.  All of the driving and behind the scenes emotional and physical support Kwami is. Amisha and Reiki.  This is a list that includes all of you, and a vast ocean of receiving.  All of your love and checking in and listening.

There were challenging words on my “receive list”.  I told God that I was willing to receive a list of the hard stuff.  Hope, healing, guidance, knowing, touch, quiet, joy. Listening.  Help.  Emergence and grace, of course.

This is hard.  This shouldn’t be hard.  One deep breath at a time.  I am receptive to seeing, feeling and knowing that I can receive and am receptive.

187 Another Wall? Activation

I was supposed to read the part of the scroll that talked about this time line, the one I am currently activating. Still blank, damn Panda.

Are you doing this retreat with me, looking at your own goals and emergence?  The theme of day seven was Activation. Another wall to climb.

The meditation took us deep into a sacred space.  Inside a crystal cave, we faced a spiritual mentor, angel, or guide.  She handed me a scroll.  (I am not proud to say that I immediately had a Kung Fu Panda flashback, laughed, and saw the Divinity of the scroll with no words.)  I was supposed to read the part of the scroll that talked about this time line, the one I am currently activating.  Still blank, damn Panda.

“I immediately had a Kung Fu Panda flashback, laughed, and saw the Divinity of the scroll with no words.”

Honestly, my scroll is usually blank.  It’s a good thing.  It rings of Alignment, Surrender, Listening, Grace and Emergence.  The space, the blank page, echoes God.

Back to humanity, the words I found were to show an overarching imprint of who I am.  I found three.  They were obvious and egoic.  But they were three that most people would choose to define me and my purpose. 

And then I spent some time reflecting, and readjusted the words.  I saw the characteristics of the Eternal, what those three words are in eyes of the Creator.  I redefined the way I perceive the “overarching imprint of who I am”.  Same me, with a lot more Skadoosh!  

(I’m happy to share the words… but it’s a conversation.  Email me your words, and I will talk to you personally about mine.)

186 Alignment? Aligning with Emergence and Grace

Alignment is just being me in the best way I know how. Sometimes that does not look very spiritual.

This retreat theme puzzles me, even after several days of working with it.  The art work on the journal page has a cascade of ivy, with a stem of the word “alignment” repeated down the center.

It might be that my definition of “alignment with spirit” is an area of weakness.  It’s probably more of an area of weakness in my ego and mind than in the unfolding of God’s truth, but isn’t that the game?  We become human and forget the depth of our connection to the Eternal, something that is so hard to comprehend with the mind. The truth is that we are the very cells of that God, playing out its game on a daily basis. This is exceptionally easy for me to say and type, and exceptionally difficult to hold in the mind.

Amber led us through the meditation and added her assignment.  When I look at the goal of alignment, I ponder what my sacred role is in the lives of the people around me.  No real action is required to be in alignment.  Alignment is just being me in the best way I know how.  Sometimes that does not look very spiritual.  Post pondering of those moments might be giving me higher awareness of the difference of being “in alignment” or needing to head to Les Schwab to get my tires straightened out.

I spend a lot of time working on alignment.  Lots of classes and retreats and spiritual meetings.  Amisha is still taking my tires off and twisting the suspension every week, in Reiki.  It’s like I just went to Les Schwab yesterday, but then chose to speed down the dirt road full of pot holes, so I need to go again.

Enlightenment, like Jesus/Buddha level enlightenment, is living aligned…or, living knowing you are aligned, even when the mind tries to say that you are not. 

I did my retreat homework.  I cleaned the shelves of my sacred space, the massive layer of dust.  I reorganized it.  I removed the water bottle and the nature’s food book.  I moved things around.  Peace.

I also reached out to the world a bit, did some of my deep, aligning work.  A good assignment brings us back into alignment.  They were good assignments.

179 Emergence and Grace. What Are You Working On?

Stepping into the world of an eleven day retreat, the first adventure was looking into what is calling me.  Scattered.  Completion.  Healing.  Those were not the words that popped out of my pen.  

Isolating down to two or three words sounds simple enough.  But soothing the monkey mind, that is not a simple task.  

Emergence.  Grace.  It boiled down to those two.  When I looked at them with scrutiny, I felt nervous.  Those are words that speak to either realm, the staying on the planet realm, or the moving on to other levels realm.

I don’t want to commit to dying soon.  

I don’t want to commit to NOT dying soon.  I’m trying to stay flexible… emergence, grace.  There is a Divine flexibility built into that focus, into those words.

I am on the last days of the fifth chemotherapy cycle; tomorrow begins cycle six.  It will be the third of the fall set.  On the weekend after the third spring cycle, my colon perforated, and an emergency surgery left me without several organs, and with a new ostomy.

This coming weekend will be an anniversary of sorts, my body repeating the experience of three sets of chemotherapy, and the ramifications.  Prayerfully, just a mental thing, something to live beyond.

Emergence. Grace.

178 On Retreat

I think I have heard from at least three people this week on the topic of retreats.  People are feeling called.  But they want to “go”.  There is something pushing from the outside, asking us all to GO within.  Longing for a location is holding people back.

The water is my chosen retreat location.  When I have the umph to travel, I go to rivers, lakes or oceans.  A shower will do the trick in a pinch.  Sometimes, with the apparatus involved in my daily life, there are days without a shower.  If you are working with a gratitude list, remember to value that you can take a bath or shower.  Some of us cannot.  It is a luxury.  Sponge baths do nothing for my soul (or my hair).

Everyone has somewhere or something that assists in the connection to Spirit. But improvising is much better than neglecting the call.

I can improvise with yard work, because being in nature works for me too.  I can also travel to local water features.  We have a lot of beaches, and even McCollum Park has the beautiful sounds and sights of the creek, just minutes from home.

Beyond finding a location is intention… and follow through.  This may be more difficult than getting beyond the wish to retreat.  It must become a priority.

Although it makes me feel busy, and chemotherapy is already a full time occupation, I signed up for a couple of “events” online that create the container for “retreat”.  One came through Starfeather’s Meetup groups (searchable with her first name on the Meetup site).  It is a weekly group with closed participants, and holds me in a space of eight weeks of intention.

Another is an eleven day event through Amber Kuileimailani, in her Woman Unleashed programming.  It holds me to daily introspection, intention, and soul searching.  This one is called Soul Success Initiations.  I think I paid $22 for it.  Money, or lack there of, does not need to define your retreat either.

Retreat leader Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici
Amber Kuileimailani Bonnici founder Woman Unleashed

The two messages are working well together!  Fused. Merged.  All elements of retreat.

The hardest part of the inner journey is quieting the outer world.  When we cannot escape our roommates, we have to figure out how to create the elements of escape WITH them, or at least while embracing their presence.

A daily walk, or an hour behind a closed door, or just an early morning time of focus can work.  Amber’s program is at 6am Pacific time; no one is up (and it is recorded for people who need alternate timing).  With Starfeather’s group, we also meet on zoom, but I take my computer behind closed doors.

Retreat.  The universe is asking for it.  Your soul is calling.  Find a way.