On Generosity: Sacred Key to Abundance and Joy

On Generosity: Sacred Key to Abundance and Joy

At the start of 2020, I chose generosity as my word of the year, not knowing consciously what we were in for globally that year. Or rather, the word chose me. I started this essay back then, exploring how generosity can enlarge me as an artist and human being, and I return to it now to share with you.

I invite you to journey with me as we explore this sacred quality together.

What is my growing edge around generosity?

A part of me cringes as I fear being taken advantage of if I’m too generous. That part still takes advantage of herself at times, over-giving, not feeling deserving, not believing in myself, not feeling I am ever “enough.”

As I meditate on generosity, an image pops in my head: The beggar archetype, the one pictured on the five of coins in the tarot, huddling in the cold outside a church. I recognize this archetype in me. The beggar that feels starved, needy, impoverished, shut out. She thinks she must beg for everything, that there is never enough, and she cannot afford anything for herself.

That archetype is rooted in my ancestral past. My parents and ancestors on both sides lived through intense privations and persecution. I inherited a lot of fear about survival both in my DNA and in my upbringing. And I have struggled to provide for myself financially much of my life.

How can generosity help me shift my relationship to money and provision? How am I stingy with myself and others, cutting off the flow?

Part of my growing edge is a more generous and trusting approach to myself and others, but with wisdom and healthy boundaries. Sometimes true generosity is saying no.

What does generosity feel like?

As I tune into this quality, it seems like a feeling of such inner abundance, such sense of plenty, that I overflow. Not giving in order to be liked or accepted. Not giving out of a sense that I am never enough and must always give more, do more, try harder, in order to be loved or okay or simply safe from attack. But instead, giving out of a true sense of having-ness, plenty, a desire to share the bounty of my life.

And knowing there is always more. The universe is a generous, bountiful place.

What does generosity in language look like?

To me it looks like that marriage of truth and beauty that John Keats wrote about. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Generosity in art looks like creating truth and beauty and spending time and care to hone it, so that it can be of value to others.

How could/does generosity inform my poetry or help me to cross that invisible barrier that often keeps me from being satisfied with my poems? That same barrier also appears to keep me from receiving greater outer acceptance of my art. The outer so often mirrors the inner world.

As a poet, I seek to find the voice that is truly mine and no other’s. That voice sometimes feels in danger of being lost in the froth of so many other voices telling me how and what I should write.

If I were more generous toward myself, wouldn’t I be more trusting in my voice and subject matter, in what I need to say in the ways most true to me?

How do I balance that generosity towards myself with generosity towards others, which asks me to make a thing of deep value to others, a thing with an open door through which others can enter, yet without betraying my own aesthetic?

What does it mean to be generous with myself?

Not self-indulgent, but caring for and giving to myself deeply. Surely that is where generosity must begin. To generously accept myself as I am, and to give the best of what I have to give, and let that be enough.

I know how to drive myself, unrelenting. But how to be truly generous?

This exploration is one beginning. These words allowed to flow and find their way. The seeking or permitting of a voice entirely mine. The way my mind and hand and heart moves when allowed out, like a dog into a park, romping.

And then to share with others from that same spirit. Here, this is what I have.

A memory of fear and generosity

When I was preparing for my senior concert in college, the culmination of four years of intense work as a composer and improvising violinist, I suddenly developed terrible pains in my arm. The concert was a few weeks away and I was practicing and preparing like mad, terrified, trying to become better at my instrument in the few weeks that remained.

And then suddenly, these shooting pains in my arm. I went to see a skilled masseur, but still the pains were there. I went to see a specialist in violin posture, and she said my posture was impeccable.

Finally, I realized I was not going to get any better as a musician in the remaining time before my performance. I was going to have to accept myself as I was and present that to the audience openly.

The pain left and never returned. The concert was a grand success, one of the high points of my life. The place was packed, the audience enthusiastic. But, most of all, I felt on top of the world, in the sheer delight of music. I gave my all generously and didn’t worry what they would think. I left that to them to decide, generously.

Generosity in art, love, and work

When I get stuck in creative doldrums, I have to return to the love of art, the love of making, and then just give my best and let it go. I have to share from a spirit not of wanting to be loved but of wanting to share the best of what I have to give or what delights, intrigues, preoccupies me now. Not needy but full.

This was the turning point for me in love. When I stopped seeking to be loved and started loving my life so deeply, feeling so full, that I had so much to share with another. And longed to create a life together out of that fullness.

Poetry, music, and art have been so generous with me. I create to give back to the things in this world that I love and cherish, the things I long to uphold, the values, the beauty, the ways of being. This is a cause that summons deep devotion in me.

Is that what generosity looks like? Giving my all for what I most love and cherish?

In that case, I’ve been generous my whole life.

Let me spread the gospel of generosity through my own embodiment of plenty. Let me know that I am enough and I have enough. Earth is a great teacher of this, so relentlessly generous. Always sharing her gifts with no thought of reward.

May I do the same, doing my work for the love of it, sharing it out of love for others and our world. When I remember this, the work becomes lighter, a joy. And I know that I have found my way, the path of generosity.

For more on choosing a word of the year or dream seeds for the year, check out: https://brilliantplayground.com/dream-seeds/

Make Your Art in Ten Minutes a Day

Make Your Art in Ten Minutes a Day

In January, I decided to take on the challenge of writing every day for ten minutes for a month.

My creative schedule for years has been four days a week for two or more hours at a time. I keep this schedule religiously, and it works well for me. So, why did I take on the ten-minute-a-day challenge in January?

Why Ten Minutes a Day?

Last year, I worked intensively on a non-fiction book about how to live a passionate, fulfilling creative life. The process of writing and revising that book has been both thrilling and consuming. (Join my inner sanctum on Patreon to hear more about creating and finding a publisher for that book, and to read sneak previews of it.)

Even though I devoted a little time each week to writing or revising poems and typed up 47 drafts of new poems last year, I didn’t generate many poems that I was excited about. Though other areas of my creative life were flourishing, I felt disconnected from my poetic muse.

So, at the start of this year, I wanted to rekindle that connection. Ten minutes a day for a month felt like the perfect start.

Ten minutes a day is something I frequently suggest to my students who are struggling to make time for their art, feeling stuck, or having resistance to creating.

Start small but regular. Consistency is more important than long stints at infrequent intervals. The muse likes us to show up often and show our commitment. Then, she starts showing up more often too.

Ten minutes is small enough that there really isn’t a good reason why you can’t fit it into your day, no matter what kind of day you have. It’s short enough that resistance is less (though not gone). But it’s long enough to make a little something.

Outwitting Your Resistance

Here’s the thing: Resistance is wily. It would love to persuade you that you need large chunks of time to create. It would love to tell you that you are too busy for ten minutes a day or it doesn’t work for your art form.

But if you are not making time for your art or you’re uninspired, there’s nothing better than starting with ten minutes a day every single day for at least a month.

Make a ten-minute sketch, spend ten minutes playing your instrument, or ten minutes dancing, or ten minutes just playing with clay. You might not be able to throw a pot in that time but you can roll clay around in your fingers and make a little sculpture or a pinch pot.

You’ll be forming a bond of connection to your creativity and lighting up your life in the process.

Throw away the excuses about how you can’t make your magnum opus in ten minutes and just start. You’ll be surprised by all you can get done, and some days you’ll have more time and spend longer.

Keep Track and Reward Yourself

I printed out a blank calendar for the month, put it on my wall, and gave myself a gold star sticker every day that I wrote.

Having the calendar with the stars visible in front of me was motivating and clarifying. I didn’t want to break the pattern of the daily stars. When I did miss a day, I noticed the impact on my motivation.

I found I loved the regularity of the process, the presence of poetic writing in my day every day, though some days I only remembered in the evening and had to grab ten minutes to do it.

In my first week, I missed two days as I was learning to make this a daily habit, especially on weekends, when I don’t normally write. I missed three more near the end of the month when I didn’t make time early enough in the day and ran out of steam.

Letting your art be the last priority on your to-do list does not work well. The muse does not appreciate it.

There was never a good reason that I missed a day. I didn’t make it enough of a priority or didn’t push through the resistance. It’s that simple.

Create a Space of Permission

The other thing I did to entice my poetic muse was I committed to not judging what I made. This kind of permission is vital to rekindling creativity.

I stopped worrying about my voice, style, and subject matter—things that had persistently concerned me in 2022. I stopped worrying about what was getting published these days or whether I’d said it all before.

My agreement was to show up and write for ten minutes a day and spend five minutes beforehand kindling connection through meditation and/or reading inspiring poems by others.

Starting out, I had one good poem drop in and then many days when nothing interesting was happening. But I kept going. Most of the time the writing didn’t feel like it was hitting a groove, and I wondered when it would. But I reminded myself to trust the process and suspend judgment. It took almost the whole month before things started really sparking.

Getting in the Mood

I needed prompts. Something to write about or some spur to my imagination. I don’t have a project or compelling subject night now. So, I needed inspiration. This takes some trial and error to find what’s inspiring me now.

I also found that my muse needs more than five minutes of preamble time to get into the creative state. I could do just five or ten minutes of breathing meditation and reading poems when I was short on time, but the results in my writing were often less satisfying.

If I spent at least fifteen or twenty minutes priming the pump, my muse tended to wake up more.

Nonetheless, I didn’t use this as an excuse to skip a day. If ten minutes or fifteen minutes is what I had, that’s what I would use.

I discovered that I can sit down and write a poem (or something that will become a poem through revising) in a short amount of time.

I was surprised to discover that it feels better and creates a very different energy when I write every day.

It’s Your Turn

I encourage you to try it for a month and see what it brings to your life.

Keep it light, keep it simple, and don’t judge the work. Just ten minutes with a little warmup time beforehand to connect with your body, heart, and spirit. Step outside for five minutes or do a little meditation or listen to some music or stretch your body.

Give yourself the gift of a little creative time every day.

Just Say No to Distractions to Create a Life You Love

Just Say No to Distractions to Create a Life You Love

I have been on a roll lately, getting things done that are important to me. Taking on my big dreams and big projects, the ones that have been languishing, being avoided, or moving so slowly.

To move forward in a concerted way toward what matters most to me, toward co-creating what I long for in my life, one thing has been paramount: saying no to distractions.

This requires, first and foremost, making choices, choosing what matters most now, creating an order of priorities. And then, focusing on just a few things, focusing on completions.

I’ve been gaining greater clarity as I go.

And that means letting other wonderful, valid, even loved things go for now. Saying no to distractions. Being vigilant about staying on track.

As scary or difficult as some of my dreams can feel, as challenging or triggering as some of the steps I need to take are, the feeling of momentum, relief, and release is wonderful. Freeing, enlivening.

Are You Distractable?

I don’t think of myself as a person who is easily distracted. Once I am engaged in a task, I don’t like to be interrupted. I can hold a laser-like focus, especially when creating art or working on a project.

But we live in a culture of constant distraction. And we are all affected by it, unless you live without technology. Our attention-based economy means that things are grabbing for our attention nearly all the time in the most pernicious ways.

Our cell phones, computers, and tablets are specifically designed to distract us and pull us in a thousand directions. Social media, advertising, and the news all do this too.

The effect of these on our ability to focus and stay focused on any activity, conversation, train of thought, or feeling is devastating. Especially if you wish to live a life of heart, a fulfilling, inspired, soulful, artful life.

In other words, it’s not just you who is struggling with this.

How to Say No to Distractions

The antidote, or at least a key antidote, is saying no to distractions.

Long ago I turned off all notifications on my devices—all beeps, boops, boings, buzzes, and banners—except for phone calls and text messages. And I don’t keep my phone in the room where I create or work.

I’m a big fan of the Do Not Disturb setting on the phone, but nothing beats putting the phone where you cannot see it or reach it. I have to walk into another room to answer the phone or texts. Usually, if I’m working, I ignore it.

I do my best to say no to heading off on unrelated tangents while in the middle of a project. To not suddenly switch gears, get thrown by an open tab on the computer, an email, or a thought zinging through my mind. (I don’t always succeed at this.)

I’m certainly not able to stop myself from opening six tabs on my computer during the day. But most days, I close them all down in the evening, whether or not I looked at them. I may jot down notes of things I truly want to follow up on. This is better than leaving the tabs open. It gives me more choice about when to follow up and fewer distractions facing me at the start of a new day.

Don’t Keep Piling More on Your Plate

Once I choose my top priorities for the month or week or day, I watch out for piling more things on my plate. We cannot plan everything in our lives and I wouldn’t want to. I allow for flexibility and new inspiration. But the key is to choose consciously.

When I chose to take a demanding and time-consuming course in support of my Breakthrough Dream in 2021, I found myself considering an unrelated class on essay writing and another that would feed my spiritual growth at the same time.

Until I realized, while standing in the shower (an excellent place to think because it’s so free of distractions): I need to keep my time and energy focused on the one class for the next two months. Adding more would only make my life stressful, cause me to get less from the class I signed up for, and keep me from making the progress I desire on my biggest dreams.

Your Turn: Will You Say No to Distractions?

I invite you to ask yourself:

What are your top 3 priorities for the next 3 months? What matters most? What would feel the best to complete? What would bring you the most joy or satisfaction?

And then, what distractions can you say no to in order to make more time (and inner space and inspiration) for what you love and desire?

Write these down and make a clear commitment. What distractions will you eliminate? What supports will you put in place to help you do this?

Pay attention to when you get distracted during the day and gently pause, refocus, and come back to where you really wish to put your energy.

Healthy (and Unhealthy) Distractions

Saying no to distractions that keep you from doing what you love and long to do, or what most needs doing, isn’t the same as taking breaks to rest, replenish, and revitalize. These are vital.

The difference for me between a healthy break and a distraction looks like taking a five-minute dance break or nature break during my work day vs. checking my phone. Or spending time reading or napping vs. scrolling through the news or social media.

You’ll know the difference for yourself because unhealthy distractions leave you feeling depleted, overwhelmed, unfocused, or unmotivated. They keep you from what matters most to you.

Healthy breaks revitalize you, give you fresh energy and focus, and bring in doses of inspiration.

It’s good to get up from our projects periodically to stretch, have a glass of water, look around, step outside. It’s good to take in new inspiration and experiences.

But here’s where it gets tricky: Some distractions, even though they may be lovely or have positive aspects, if they don’t feed your dreams and priorities right now, are still distractions.

Let them go. There may be time for them to become a priority later. For now, make space. Invite focus, peace, and flow by saying no to distractions.

Choosing priorities, limiting the number of them (no more than three is good rule), and saying no to distractions brings more ease, fulfillment, and empowerment.

What will you say no to so you can say YES more often to what you love?

2022 My Year in Review

2022 My Year in Review

What a year 2022 was, hard and strange, and way too fast.

And yet, many beautiful blessings happened too. Significant movement toward long-held dreams.

The only reason I can make progress toward my dreams in such a crazy world is because, every year, I engage in a beautiful process of vision-mapping my year.

Big Dreams Launched, Big Milestones Reached

I launched my Brilliant Playmates creative community in 2022. Hooray! I’ve wanted to create an online community for artists to come together and share their art and their process, get deep support, accountability, and feedback, and experience the power of cross-pollination for years. Finally, I did it.

The results have been beautiful, rewarding, and fun. What a remarkable group of artists has come together with synchronistic threads of mutual interest, particularly in the realms of social justice and collective healing.

I completed an edited draft of my book on how to live a passionate, thriving creative life. And wrote a 50-page book proposal to seek a publisher for the book. A huge milestone for me. I will start sending it out soon and look forward to letting you know about a book deal in the works! (If you want to follow that process more closely and learn the things I learn along the way, join me on Patreon.)

The monthly sacred fire circles I hold for my local community were amazing, rich, and deep. I feel very blessed by the ongoing gifts of fire and by the folks who join me around the fire.

I was able to return to my beloved dance form, Contact Improvisation, in 2022. As always, this proved to be profoundly good for my body and heart and so fun! But my dance-music troupe, Shadow Cabinet, did not meet except to perform once outside. I miss those amazing artists and our work and play together and hope to rekindle that in 2023.

My classes and coaching were consistently wondrous and full of amazing people. I feel so blessed by the folks who are drawn to my work. Thank you!

Challenges, Losses, and Learning

In 2022 I think we collectively hoped we were out of the woods with the madness of the pandemic. And then, we were disappointed to experience lingering effects in social isolation, loss of connections and activities from pre-pandemic days. In weird and disturbing illnesses of many kinds cropping up and cropping up again. In a lack of reliable information. And in ongoing stress around it all.

My husband and I focused quite a bit of energy and resources on getting better prepared for more upheaval in the coming times, living more sustainably, and fostering community. Resilience.org is a good resource for that.

I experienced some profound losses and shifts in 2022. My beloved spiritual mentor, Eliot Cowan, died. And I left my spiritual community. Both of these had been mainstays of my life for 22 years. I felt unmoored and in deep grief. I’m also beginning to harvest blessings of those changes as I step more fully into my gifts as a firekeeper and continue connections with others from that spiritual family.

My dear friend Curt also died. I miss his humor and insight, his caring and his unconventional, questing spirit.

We found out we had to move last Spring because our landlords were selling the house. That was horrible, exhausting, and threw a monkey wrench into some plans for the year. But we recovered and enjoyed an abundant harvest from our garden now that we have more sun.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

2022 was a year in which I focused on creating a stronger foundation for Brilliant Playground to thrive. This required a lot of nitty-gritty work that was not in my wheelhouse. And some painful reckoning with what was not working.

But I’m also getting a new logo and website that I’m so excited to share with you soon. The best part is making things run more smoothly, being able to serve all of you even better, and being ready to reach more people with my sacred work.

Reading, Writing, and More

I also shared 60 delicious posts with my patrons on Patreon. These include my works-in-progress, finished creations, stories about my process, creative life, and what I learned along the way. Also, my regular What’s Inspiring Me posts.

If you’re not a patron, and you’re curious, come check it out. Your support helps keep a roof over my head and you get a ridiculous ton of benefits for a few dollars a month.

Because of working so hard on my book on creativity, writing poems, getting published, and giving readings took a back seat. Nonetheless, I was surprised to discover that I typed up 44 new poem drafts and still managed to get 5 things published last year, including my very first book reviews.

2022 was a good year for reading. I read 49 books plus parts of 6 more and read aloud from 8 more with my sweetie. I’ll work on a post about my favorite books of 2022.

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned. That’s the nature of life. But, when you have clearly-defined, soul-centered dreams and goals, plus a good map to reach them, you experience more fulfillment, joy, and grace. And you can weather the storms better because you have a way to stay aligned with your heart path.

If you’d like support with that, check out our upcoming Vision-Mapping Your Inspired Year retreat or my one-on-one coaching.

To your beautiful new year,


“The crucial question is whether or not a path has heart, because if it does, you are on the right track. If it doesn’t, it is of no use. One path makes you happy and strong, while the other weakens you.”

Arnold Mindell
Planting Dream Seeds for the New Year

Planting Dream Seeds for the New Year

Last night my women’s group did a ritual for the new year, one in which we uncovered our dream seeds.

We each released an old pattern that we are ready to let go, something that has been hindering us.

We danced and shrieked, yelped and shook to let it go. And we were helped by our sisters, supporting us, moving and sounding with us, touching us.

Afterward, we sat in twos and shared what we are longing for in the year ahead. Out of those longings, we distilled a few key words as touchstones. I call these dream seeds.

I had already chosen my dream seeds last week as I engaged in a week-long process with my husband, one we do every year. We revisit the year, harvesting the gifts and lessons of the outgoing year. We celebrate, mourn, honor, and let go anything we need to let go.

Then, after resting a little in the gap, we begin to dream and vision the year ahead. We listen for what the year is already dreaming through us and how we can align ourselves with that.

Choosing a Word for the Year as a Guiding Light

One of the steps we take is we each choose a word or theme for the year.

Or rather, we let it choose us, waiting patiently for it to drop in any time leading up to or following the new year. A word that feels resonant and right, needed, full of meaning personally now, vital.

This year my word is Grace.

As in Divine Grace. The inspiration, magic, miracles, blessings, deep presence, and wonder that comes from the divine. Merriam-Webster defines this as “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.”

But I mean it also in the sense of acting with grace, for me to embody grace, to create grace in my art and life. The American Heritage dictionary says of this meaning: “Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.”

Naming Additional Dream Seeds as Touchstones

My other dream seeds are safety, abundance, divine inspiration, and trust.

I am calling in these qualities and experiences in the coming year. And committing to doing my part to cultivate them.

That last part is important.

While the magic of ritual, dreaming, and intending is potent, we also need to follow them up with commitment and action, if we really care about the dreams we wish to create.

Too often I see people setting intentions and dreaming big dreams but never doing anything to bring those dreams to life. Then, they feel disappointed when another year passes and they are no closer to their dreams.

Planting Your Dream Seeds

A first step to going deeper and actually planting the dream seeds occurred to me last night, during the ritual with my soul sisters.

I asked myself the question: “What might my life be like if this quality were fully embodied, fully present in my life?” I began to explore the feeling of that in my body, getting the taste of it deeply within.

This is so helpful and essential. To not just approach our dreams and heart’s desires with our minds. But to bring our bodies on board, and also our spirits and hearts.

Today in my journal, I asked the question again, taking just one dream seed at a time and answering as fully as possible. Really imagining and living into what my life would feel like, look like, be like, how I would show up differently, what would be present if this quality, this dream seed were fully activated.

It’s a delicious exploration and one that stretches me out of my comfort zone to imagine new possibilities and push up against old boundaries I long to outgrow. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, I have seriously wrestled with feeling safe in this life, and that in turn has limited my thriving. I have been engaging in nervous system healing and looking at the patterns and behaviors around this, so that I can transform it.

As I explored these questions in my journal, I found myself often writing what would not be present any longer, what I wanted to be rid of—“I wouldn’t be so anxious.” “I wouldn’t feel so conflicted about money.”

I let myself write that but then I challenged myself to name these states in the positive. What would be present? How would I live? What would be different? What would that really look like? “I feel relaxed and open.” “I feel clear and aligned in my stewardship of money and resources.”

Your Turn: Discover and Explore Your Dream Seeds

I invite you to take a similar inner journey.

What are you longing for in the year ahead? What 3-5 dream seeds can you distill out of that? Is there one that feels the most alive, your word of the year?

Now, take one dream seed, one word at a time, and write in detail about how your life would be different if this dream seed were to bear fruit.

Write about it in the present tense, as if it is already happening. Not “I would trust my judgment,” but “I trust my judgment.”

And finally, is there one action or practice you can take on to help you cultivate each dream seed this year?

Perhaps you wish to make a list of actions that support your dream seeds and post your list where you will see it throughout the year. Are there healthy habits, practices, or other steps that would support you having more of this dream seed in your life?

Choose one or two actions to take this week.

To the flowering of your heart’s deep dreams,


P.S. For more on the process of dreaming your new year, read here. Or join me for a delicious two-day retreat to harvest the outgoing year and dream the new. I will guide you through processes both magical and practical and help you make a vision-map to guide you through the year ahead.

Six Things to Inspire Your Heart and Feed Your Soul

Six Things to Inspire Your Heart and Feed Your Soul

For my beloved patrons on Patreon, I regularly share posts about What’s Inspiring Me Now. These are wide-ranging and are meant to offer patrons new sources of juicy inspiration they might want to tap into.

Today, I thought I’d share this on my own blog for all to enjoy.

Making a living as an artist and facilitator of cultural change isn’t easy. If you’d like to help support the sacred work I do in the world—including these posts, writing poems, teaching and helping others find their gifts and realize their dreams, and firekeeping, among other vital, life-sustaining pursuits, please consider joining me on Patreon.

You can receive all kinds of inspiration and all the amazing things I only share over there for as little as $3 a month, and I will be eternally grateful to you. If you join me by the end of the year, I’ll even send you a beautiful broadside of a poem of mine.

On to what’s inspiring me now…

What’s Inspiring Me Now

Poetry Unbound

This podcast is a dream! 10-15 minute segments in which Padraig O’Tuama reads one beautiful poem in his gorgeous Irish accent and then illuminates aspects of it so beautifully and then reads it once more. The very best kind of little break and nourishment for your soul in your day. His selections are excellent. The details he pulls out are beautiful and meaningful. And the whole thing is a delicious treat.

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash

Sustainable Living and Resilience

For about a year and a half I’ve been delving deep into the big topic of how do we become more resilient for the coming (and current) crises in the environment, economy, and energy production (peak oil etc)—and how do we live more sustainably on Earth, creating resilient, sustainable communities and lifestyles.

It’s been a deep and challenging exploration, confronting head on just how unsustainable our way of life in the United States is and how much needs to change. And facing my fears and the reality of the collapse of our current way of life.

Then, finding real steps I can take to become more resilient and sustainable. For instance, Don and I continue to expand the number of foods we make from scratch, limiting our buying of things that come in plastic especially but also in glass or cans that must be recycled. We’re also keeping our heat lower this winter and wearing more layers and investing in a local farm through their CSA program.

One of the books that has been a guide in this is Making Home by Sharon Astyk. Excellent, extensive resources can be found on resilience.org.

This is a big, ongoing undertaking, and it includes not just physical resilience steps, but emotional, social, spiritual, and cultural.

Tatterdemalion by Sylvia Linsteadt and Rima Staines

We found this utterly extraordinary novel in our favorite bookstore, Point Reyes Books. The novel imagines in magical, mythic, and poetic ideas, language, and paintings how the coming collapse of civilization as we know it will go down and what comes in the several hundred years after that. So beautiful and wondrous, though also some very hard times. Also, the book is published by a press, entirely supported by crowdfunding, that is committed to publishing books that might not find their way in our profit-driven publishing world.

Adventurous music

We’ve been delving into our CD collection and on the weekends, when we have more space for adventurous listening, enjoying such things as Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings, Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, and Tuvan throat singing. This feels deeply nourishing to my musical soul, which loves complexity, dissonance, innovation, and unusual sounds.

The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop by Felicia Rose Chavez

This book is an amazing, deep guide to teaching and facilitating writing workshops in a way that not only welcomes and supports writers of all colors but enlarges our world. It’s been surprisingly validating of my own current teaching methods while also offering me places to grow even more as a teacher. So good. I wish every writing teacher and student would read it.

Drum class

Oh my goodness, this is so fun. Don and I are taking a conga drumming class with a local treasure, Robert Scarlett, who has been drumming and teaching for decades. Every Tuesday night we drive down the dark, windy country road and gather with a handful of others to play. We are complete beginners, but after only three classes, we are already making music together on the drums. Learning something new is good for the soul.

On the Truth of Thanksgiving and the Practice of Gratitude

On the Truth of Thanksgiving and the Practice of Gratitude

Tomorrow in the United States is Thanksgiving Day, a holiday that brings mixed feelings.

For most of my life, Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday. I was born on Thanksgiving Day, so that’s part of it. But I loved this holiday because it was about gathering with loved ones and sharing food and being grateful. No other hoopla.

How beautiful.

But then I got older and Thanksgiving got more complicated.

Sometimes I wasn’t having such a great time with my loved ones. Then, I started sharing Thanksgiving with less-than-loved ones, people I didn’t feel at home with, people who would fight and say awful things on Thanksgiving. This wasn’t my idea of a holiday.

Some years I was scrambling to get myself invited to someone’s house for Thanksgiving, so I wouldn’t be alone.

And the crazed collective tension of the holidays seems to ramp up more intensely and earlier each year.

Then I started to learn how the Thanksgiving holiday actually came about. If you don’t know, this beautiful 10-minute video is a great place to start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vHVxr7txqU&t=633s

This year I’m sharing the day with friends and acquaintances at a big outdoor gathering, people who are choosing to come together out of friendship, not obligation. I’m really looking forward to it.

And I’m also aware that there is so much history in this country that needs to be aired and healed collectively if we are ever to move forward into a more loving, sustainable, just way of life for all of creation. I feel the grief of the genocide of the native peoples of this land and how our violent past continues to harm us all.

A few quick words about gratitude

A few weeks ago I got hit hard with seasonal depression (and also situational depression). I’ve moved out of it now, but while I was still in it, I returned actively to the practice of gratitude as an antidote.

Gratitude can be hard to feel sometimes, especially if you’re depressed. But it can also really help. One thing to know about it: If you can’t feel it, don’t force it.

In returning to gratitude, I’ve been both writing in my journal in the mornings and stopping at least once a day, often at the end of the day when I’m lying in bed, to appreciate and give thanks for one or more things.

The key is to find something you truly feel grateful for—not the usual list of things you are “supposed to” feel grateful for—and then to dive into why you feel grateful for it. Don’t just make a list. Write (or think) a few sentences about why you appreciate it. What in particular do you love or enjoy about this?

Here’s an example: I just started taking a new drumming class last night. What fun! It feels so good to sit in a circle with others, to play music again, to be learning something new. And the teacher is wonderful.

Doing this for a couple of weeks has made a noteworthy difference in uplifting my spirits and outlook. I am finding more and more things to appreciate naturally as I move through my day, pausing to enjoy things more, and feeling better in general. I hope this helps you too.

And however you choose to spend Thanksgiving Day, may it be a beautiful, peaceful, and blessed day.

How to Find Inner Peace and Freedom

How to Find Inner Peace and Freedom

A Simple Somatic Practice to Uncover Your Innate Wisdom

One of the things I love about the work I do is I get to hold space for others and listen deeply to them. And in that space, I witness, again and again, the miracle of people finding their inner peace and freedom.

I get to see the innate wisdom we all carry in our hearts and bodies. People uncover beautiful answers to their questions and dilemmas.

I watch pain, difficult patterns, and stuck places, sometimes held for decades, dissolve. And I see the blossoming that follows in their lives, relationships, work, creativity.

It’s so simple, yet so astonishing every time. It takes my breath away.

The Surprising Path to Peace and Freedom

It might surprise you to hear that the key to your inner peace and freedom is in your suffering.

I love this. Because it means our suffering has gifts in it. Rich gifts of growth, healing, transformation, and yes, layers of deeper peace and freedom.

It means that the path through my suffering leads to a beautiful place if I know how to walk that path in a fertile way. And that the Universe is not out to get me, but rather is on my side, leading me to greater inner peace and freedom, if I am willing to accept the invitation.

Your suffering also tends to lead you to your calling, the unique brilliance and gifts you have to share, the way you find your most profound fulfillment and joy.

This doesn’t mean you should go out and court suffering. In any human life, we get plenty of it. And I don’t mean that you should wallow in suffering. That would be your key to inner hell.

Whatever suffering is arising in us is an invitation to let go of a place within where we are not yet free or not aligned with the truth of who we are and the truth of what is.

Saying this does not mean that others are given carte blanche to oppress, harm, or behave terribly toward us or anyone. It doesn’t make harmful behaviors acceptable in any way or excuse them. Nor does it mean you should beat yourself up for feeling suffering. It’s normal and a part of human life.

However, we can heal our suffering, rather than live with the pain and limitation of it.

Discovering the Miracle Cure

I want to share with you a simple, but powerfully effective tool I use with myself and my students to deal with inner pain. I call it The Miracle Cure because the results and the speed with which it works seem miraculous.

The Miracle Cure leads to our innate inner peace and freedom by welcoming and bringing loving awareness to our suffering, which is what our suffering wants. It wants to be seen, heard, felt all the way through, and then, released. Suffering is clamoring for attention, but loving, wise attention.

The greatest discovery of my life has been that everything dissolves in the presence of loving awareness, except the truth. And all we need is loving awareness for any suffering or lies we are carrying within to dissolve. Amazing, right? Test it out for yourself.

The Miracle Cure works by engaging the extraordinary wisdom of the body and letting go of your story about your suffering. The story about why you are suffering is what keeps you stuck. As long as you replay the story in your head, you will be stuck with the feelings and the unhelpful patterns. This is the first key to know about getting free inside.

I first learned a version of The Miracle Cure from a coach called Christian Mickelsen on a free webinar he led. I deepened my understanding of it through my study and practice of The Sedona Method. And I made it my own by practicing it over and over and blending my experience and study of somatic healing with it.

So, when I lead the process with a student, it may take different forms, as I let myself be led by my intuition, by what is arising and needed in the moment, and by the many modalities I have learned.

You can learn the simplest form right now and it will serve you beautifully. It’s a potent tool for helping yourself and others.

How to Practice the Miracle Cure

Think of an issue that has been troubling you in some way. Connect with that issue until you feel it. This usually doesn’t take long.

Now, look inside your body. Where do you feel those feelings most strongly in your body?

Focus on that part of the body and bring your attention to the very epicenter where the sensation is strongest.

Let go of all your thoughts about the issue and focus solely on the sensations. What do they feel like? Describe them.

Keep your awareness on the epicenter of the sensation. Breathe into it. Give it space. Let it know that you feel it, see it, hear it. Send it love and compassion.

Be patient. This pain is wanting to be acknowledged. Images and thoughts may arise. You can note these, but return to the sensations and keep breathing into them and bringing loving awareness to them.

Allow the sensations to be as they are and to shift and change as they do. They may get stronger, move to another part of the body, soften or dissolve, or change in some other way. Attend to them patiently without judgment and with compassion. Keep your focus on wherever the sensation is strongest and keep breathing into that point and sending it love.

Almost always, if you do this patiently without trying to make anything happen, the sensations will soften or dissolve. Usually, they will dissolve partially at first. Keep going, stay with what remains until it has completely dissolved, if possible.

Then, notice what remains. The space, peace, openness that remains. Welcome this with your awareness. Allow yourself to rest as that inner freedom, peace, or spaciousness which is your true nature. It may feel empty, quiet, calm, or neutral.

That’s it. You have done the Miracle Cure. You have released suffering.

After Finding Peace and Freedom

Notice there can sometimes be a tendency to go looking for the suffering and recreate it now that it’s gone, to feel uneasy without your familiar pain. Let yourself instead rest in the peace and freedom that you are.

If the Miracle Cure isn’t working for you in the moment, just let it go. Don’t stress. Don’t force it. Often, when we are dealing with a very painful issue, we need someone else to hold space for us and guide the process because it is hard to generate enough courage to bring awareness to our suffering without our defenses and distractions arising. And it can be hard for us to generate enough love and compassion for ourselves. Sometimes we need to talk about our suffering first, for it to be heard and for us to sort out things about it. Sometimes we need to take some action around it before it is ready to be released. Remember, suffering is a messenger and an invitation.

Or we may just need to return to the practice at another time. Or try another tool or practice.

Even if you just let go of a little bit of the suffering in one session, celebrate that. Often, if you begin the unraveling process within, it will continue on its own as you go about your day. And if there’s more to attend to, you can do so again another day.

To your inner peace and freedom,


How to Regain Your Balance in Challenging Times

How to Regain Your Balance in Challenging Times

I’ve been thinking about balance and imbalance. We just passed the equinox when the day and night are of almost equal length all over the planet. And we entered the sign of Libra, symbolized by the scales.

At the same time, the world is so topsy-turvy right now, so out of balance in many ways. War. The environment. Wealth distribution. What we value in the dominant cultures. To name just a few. There is much change, stress, loss, and uncertainty. It’s not easy on the body, mind, or heart.

So, I’m thinking about how to create and maintain balance in my life. And how to regain it when I get thrown for a loop. And how to help you do the same.

We all need practices that we are familiar enough with that we remember to use them when the going gets tough. It can make all the difference in the world to your health and well-being, your outlook, and your resilience.

Below I share three key tools that will help you have more balance, ease, and flow in your life. No matter what is happening. But first. . .

What’s Threatened My Balance This Year

I’ve had huge losses piled one on top of the other this year. I made the wrenching decision to leave my spiritual community of the past 22 years, a community through which I have had many of the most important and transformative experiences of my life.

Very shortly after that, my spiritual mentor and dear friend died, leaving me bereft of a deep source of guidance and healing I have relied on for 22 years as well.

And at the same time, we learned we had to leave the house we’d been renting for the past five years, a place we poured our heart and soul into, especially into the gardens. And we had to find a new place in a terrible rental market.

We were blessed to find a lovely home, but it’s been a big jump in rent, which is not easy amidst the insane inflation of everything.

And then my friend Curt died.

Suffice it to say, I’ve had my share of challenges this year. And I imagine you’ve had yours.

How I Maintain and Regain Balance

Most of the time, I’ve done astonishingly well. Sometimes, I feel just awful, completely down in the dumps, triggered, or stressed beyond belief.

So, how do I maintain my balance in tough times? And how do I regain it when I get knocked off? I’ll share three powerful practices with you.

As you read these, please remember that balance is not a static, idealized state of perfection. It is a dynamic movement, swaying between poles, dipping first one way and then another. We make myriad little adjustments in order to stand upright. The goal is not to never lose our balance. We learn instead to cultivate a fluid, ever-shifting dance and to regain our balance when we lose it.

1. Breathing

The number one tool to rely on for creating and regaining balance is breathing. Deep slow breaths.

This can be as simple as taking three big deep cleansing breaths and letting them out with a big ahhh or sigh. Breathing in light and space and ease on the in-breath. And then letting go completely on the out-breath. Try it now.

When you take a deep breath, the vagus nerve stimulates your body’s relaxation response. Blood pressure lowers and so does your heart rate and your brain calms.

Here are a couple of breathing techniques that can be helpful.

Gradually increase the length of your breath until you are breathing in for a count of six or seven, and out for the same amount.

Or try the “box breath,” also called “rhythmic breathing,” which is breathing in for four counts, holding the breath in for four, breathing out for four counts, and holding the breath out for four. Repeat either of these for several minutes.

You can also do “circle breath,” where you breathe in and out in long, slow, deep, and steady breaths with no breaks, hitches, or catches. I like to visualize the in-breath coming up the back of my spine and over the top of my head, and then on the out-breath, flowing down the front of my body.

2. Earthing and Being in Nature

By now most of you have probably heard about the positive effects of what the Japanese call “forest bathing.” Any kind of time spent outdoors in nature (it doesn’t have to be a forest) can help restore our sense of balance, peace, well-being, and wonder. It lowers our stress levels, can ease depression and promotes health. (A few studies are listed here: https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/wellnessevidence/forest-bathing/)

I start my day by being outside in my garden for 20- 30 minutes. I also do some gentle movements with my bare feet on the earth. This is called Earthing, and it also works on concrete, bricks, or stone, but not asphalt.

Earthing releases the excess buildup of free radicals in the body, reducing inflammation in the body and increasing your energy levels. It is also said to improve blood flow and sleep and even slow down the aging process. You can read more benefits of earthing here: https://www.gethealthyandgrounded.com/blogs/articles/20-benefits-to-earthing

During my work day, I will take 5-minute breaks to walk outside and reset myself.

3. Spiritual Practice and Connection

Whatever your beliefs or traditions are, cultivating spiritual connection and regular spiritual practices are unbelievably helpful in challenging times. My daily prayer and meditation practice is the anchor of my day. I also sit by the fire outside on or near the new moon and full moon, the solstices and equinoxes, and have other practices to foster connection.

Find the practices that resonate with you and work for you. Whether chanting or prayer or meditation or some other form of regular practice. The key is to make it a habit. That’s when you reap the biggest benefits.

I hope these three core tools help you find more balance through these topsy-turvy times. I’d love to hear from you about what else helps you create and maintain balance in your life.

To your fluid balance,


P.S. The monthly Creativity Igniter I shared with my patrons just this week was around Balance. If you’d like to read that and all the other great things I share with my patrons, please join me here. It helps me keep doing the work I do in the world.

Making the Most of Your Life

Making the Most of Your Life

My friend Curt died a couple of weeks ago. I learned about it on Facebook and was stunned.

Curt was a heart-centered, caring soul and helped me in many ways over the years. He was a person I could trust to be honest, authentic, and to listen deeply. He could also be quite funny.

A few weeks before that an important person in our local music community died quite unexpectedly, a real shock. He wasn’t old. Then, my friend Amy’s mother died, also suddenly.

All of this death and loss is having me consider mortality and how I want to live, how I want to spend whatever time I have left, which may be very little or perhaps many years. There’s no way to know.

What if I only have a few years left? What if I have ten? Or just one? What do I most wish to do with that time? How can I live my best life now?

Death is so clarifying.

“Dying requires that we take the step without proof. We walk through the door. We cannot turn around and go back, so we walk through. The end. No guarantees, no certainty, no assurance. We walk, taking each step not from fear but from love, because a great mystery is blessing each footfall. Our hearts understand that mystery and feel the joy. It is the mystery returning to itself.”

Rodney Smith, Lessons from the Dying as quoted in Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations

What rises up for me is the desire to do even more of what I love, to make even more time for creativity in my life, to make it even more of a priority. I want to study it more deeply, be in creative community with peers and mentors, sharing with others and dialoguing about art and making.

And I want to enjoy my daily life, the small moments, each act of doing, each interaction with another. And continue to heal or release what hurts or haunts me, so I can be most joyful, alive, expressed.

All this uncertainty and upheaval in the world brings losses, endings, and letting go of various kinds. We can contract in fear or we can open in love to the mystery and wonder.

I’m choosing to make the most of my life now, to shape the most beautiful, rich, meaningful life that I can.

I choose to spend my resources of time, money, energy as much as possible on the things that are closest to my heart, bring me the most joy, and help me live well.

And that’s scary because my fear says I should spend all my time, energy, resources on preparing for a changing world—I’m doing that too—and on making more money. But I might not be around to enjoy that money. Whereas, if I make more time for making art now, I know I’ll be loving my life.

What are those things for you that bring you joy, fulfillment, love, peace?

I invite you to explore this in your heart, your thoughts, and in your journal. Answer, as best you can, from your heart, not your head.

If you only have three years left to live, how do you wish to spend them? What rises as a priority? What would make for the best life?

  • And then, how can you honor those priorities through your choices now?
  • What actions can you take this week, this month, this year?
  • What might you need to let go of or stop doing to make more time, space, and resources for what you most love?
  • What might you need to invest in?
  • What supports do you need to put in place to make more space and time for what matters most?

So much is changing in the world in radical ways. We don’t know what the world will look like tomorrow or next year. This makes it hard to plan. Even crazy-making.

For this reason, I feel there is no better time to focus on what your heart feels most drawn towards, what fills you with delight, or meaning, or love, or joy, even if you are full of doubt and fear about taking those next steps. Whenever something is on our heart path, there tends to be doubt and fear.

There are no assurances, no guarantees, but the path of heart is the best path I know. And it’s the one you are called to for a reason. If you long to dance, then dance. If you long to make music, make music. If you long to paint, please paint. And if you long to study marine biology, do that.

Perhaps you want to play music and study marine biology. Trust that. There may be a beautiful interweaving of the two that wants to come uniquely through you.

The dreams of your heart and soul were given to you for a reason. We need you to follow your dreams.

And if you are longing for support with finding and following your heart’s dreams and desires, check out my Creative Life Coaching & Mentoring.

To your heart-centered life with love,



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