Into the Forest…

The shift is subtle, but it is here.  Twilight calls us home a little earlier each evening and darkness welcomes us as we start our days.  The energy is shifting and we feel it in the soul.  The journey inward beckons and we answer the call as the lingering heat of summer is still warm on our skin.

This is the time of year that I belong to me.  Don’t misunderstand, I love summer.  The hot days filled with sunshine, late afternoons with children at the pool, Saturdays at the seashore….these days are carefree and fun.  I celebrate the summer, each memory to be remembered fondly as I age.

But I yearn for the descent, the time when the dark of the forest lures me in.

This is a time for reflection while preparing for the darker days ahead. It’s a time to tend to the body and the spirit. It’s a time to be still.

A calm settles around me and I begin to re-find myself. I surround myself with the essence of my own being, comfortable in my own company. Connection with myself during this time is like connecting with a long, lost friend. Where has she been and what has she been doing? How has this past trip around the sun changed her?

I’ve witnessed myself grow this past year, no longer afraid to own who I am. I find myself standing up and speaking out on issues that sat silent on my lips for too long.  How many others have sat in passive silence with me, disconnected from the struggles of other women as we work our jobs, tend to our families and take on all that life throws our way?  I feel like a warrior in the micro but the macro cloaks me in privilege.  These are the subjects of my contemplation and inner journeying this season.  Who am I becoming? What does that person look like in the world?

I will embrace my inner rituals as I continue to find my soul along this journey.  Meditating daily, adding to the journal of my heart, listening to my ancestors through the whispers of the trees and asking spirit for guidance will assist me along my path.

 I must hurry because this may not be the best time in history to be still.

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Walking the labyrinth



Photo courtesy of Tammy Lee Holcomb Ray

While many may think of labyrinths as “new age”, they actually predate Christianity and may be as old as gods and goddesses themselves.  The labyrinth has been used by seekers of truth, enlightenment and communion with spirit for thousands of years.  But what exactly are these ancient paths and how do we use them?

Let’s start with what a labyrinth is not, it is not a maze.  The design may be a spiral or may be made with twisting, winding paths,  but there is always one clear way in to center and one clear way out.  There are no decisions to be made, you just follow the path and eventually you come to center.   A maze is meant to be challenging and entertaining, while a labyrinth is meant for introspection or sacred journeying.  I’ve often heard the difference described like this, “mazes are for getting lost, labyrinths are for finding yourself”.

According to legend, the first labyrinth was created by King Minos of Crete.  The labyrinth was built to be inescapable and used to trap the Minotaur, the half bull, half man creature.  No physical evidence was ever found to substantiate this claim, but it is clear that this labyrinth was not intended for religious ceremony.  It may have symbolized a hell of sorts or inescapable prison of the mind.  This may be why there are a few people who believe labyrinths are dangerous and should be avoided.  However, as time passed, labyrinths became popular in Christianity.  One of the most famous labyrinths in the world is located in Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France.  Part of the floor inlay, it dates back to the early 1200s.   A clear description of the use of these labyrinths in the church was difficult to find during my brief research, but it is plausible to believe they may have been used to symbolize a pilgrimage.  Recent years have brought a resurgence in the interest and use of this sacred path in both Christianity and other spiritual paths.

So what’s the purpose?  That depends on you and your beliefs, but most would describe the experience as having a spiritual purpose, with or without a specific religious aspect.  Each time I’ve walked a labyrinth was with a slightly different purpose or intention.  There are times that I set a specific intention prior to the walk and times I go in with a completely blank slate.  Sometimes I use the journey in as a way of releasing worries, in the center I sit with peace, and on the journey out give thanks.  When walking a labyrinth for remembrance, I would use the journey in for remembering the person.  I would sit in spirit with the person being remembered while in center, and again, would use the outward journey as a time for thanks.   Others may use the entire journey for meditation or prayer.  There is no right or wrong way to use a labyrinth, but respect should be given to others that you may meet on the journey.  Labyrinths are typically walked in silence and you may come upon individuals in front of you, behind you or who are walking opposite you.  Just as in the mundane parts of life, some people will be faster, some slower, so be accommodating to your fellow woman or man.  If you’ve never walked a labyrinth, I highly recommend it.  It consistently provides me with some of my deepest moments with spirit.

Trying to find a labyrinth?  Check your local public park spaces and church yards, you might be surprised and find one.  Another resource for those in the United States and Canada is

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On this hallowed evening…

After the candy is sorted and all the little ghosts and goblins are tucked into bed, I invite you to pull up a chair and sit by my fire.  Pour some tea and wrap yourself up in your favorite blanket.  The wheel of the year is turning and I can feel it in my bones (quite literally), the nights have called for flannel nightgowns and the days are crisp.  The sun rises later and evening shadows are magical.

The light is different this time of year, sunsets speak directly to the soul.

It is time to honor our past. We call upon our ancestors, what do they need to share with us?  What do we need to learn from them?

Long before our secular version of Halloween in the United States, the Celts were celebrating Samhain (SOW-in) for thousands of years.  Samhain was a celebration of both the end of harvest season and a time of liminality.  It was, and still is, believed that the threshold of the doorway between our earthly world and the spiritual world was very thin during this time of the year, making communication with our ancestors and other spirits much easier.   The celtic people often left food and drink outside their homes as an offering to passing spirits.  Places were set at the dinner table for relatives visiting from another realm.  This became known as a “dumb supper” (as it was held in silence), and is still practiced by many pagans (and others) around the world today.  Christians celebrate both All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2, to remember both the saints in heaven and other christian souls (who may or may not be in heaven).  Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos) originated in Mexico and is a time to remember loved ones who have passed beyond this world and to help those spirits on their journey.  Visits to grave sites or altars to honor the deceased are very common.

My own ritual on this hallowed evening is setting a place for pictures of my ancestors and lighting a candle.  The light is not only to remember them but also as a welcome to them.  I welcome them to continue to share their wisdom with me.  I ask them to provide guidance over my path in the year to come and to help me “see” what is hidden in this world.  I thank them.

These are the aspects of Halloween that call to my own spirit.  What calls to you? In this ever moving, fast paced, technology driven world, we can easily lose touch with the parts of ourselves that are in connection with spirit.  As Christians have taken on the mantra of “keep Christ in Christmas”, mine is “keep the hallow in Halloween”.

Whatever your beliefs, take this time to slow down, and listen to spirit.  She is speaking, are you listening?



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Things that make you go om (or not)….

img_2218If the thought of sitting silently in a cross-legged position for 30 minutes or more a day makes you cringe, I have good news.  You don’t have to!  Eventually, you may want to but meditation doesn’t need to be challenging.  I promise.  You may have heard by now that meditation is good for you, but you may not even really know what it is.  Let’s start there.

If praying is talking, meditation is listening.

For the sake of a little background information, the spiritual practice of meditation dates back several thousand years and is practiced by most, if not all, major religions in the world.  We often think of meditation associated with eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, but it is also practiced in Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  Yes, even Christianity.   For example, while meditation in Buddhism is associated with the path to enlightenment, in Christianity it may be reflecting on a bible verse to find its meaning to you as an individual.  So there you have a very abbreviated background on meditation and spirituality.  Now to the very real, easy-peasy practices that I promised!  

One form of meditation that is increasingly popular today (and super easy to begin practicing) is mindfulness.  No one can argue that it is so easy to get caught up in the head spin of today’s complex and fast moving world, so we need to actually practice not only slowing down but taking purposeful pauses throughout our day.  So what does mindfulness mean?

Mindfulness means being present and aware in the simplest to the most complex situations.

Let’s talk about two important words here, present and aware.  Being present means just that, being fully present in the moment.  For example, if my child is reading to me, I’m fully engaged in listening to her.  I’m not watching television, I’m not checking my phone, I’m not thinking about where we are going for dinner.  I am listening intently to her reading.  It’s not even thinking about my child and how just last year she couldn’t read at all, or that I need to start saving more for her college.  It is simply just listening to her read (and of course giving encouragement and other positive feedback).  It’s also important to not watch the clock during these moments.  Set a timer if you need to, but keep your focus on the present.  I often find that during moments of being present time seems to slow down.  The second word is aware, aware of what?  Aware of self.  During some of the practice exercises listed below, really focus on being aware of your body. How does it feel?  Are you carrying tension in your face? Is there a pain that has become so chronic that you no longer think about it, but it’s still constantly distracting you on a more subconscious level?  What emotions are you feeling?  Practicing this level of awareness brings us more in tune with ourselves, but it also helps us to engage at a deeper level with others.  As I spend more time becoming aware of self, I am better able to differentiate what is me and what is not me.  For example, do you spend time reading tragic news each day and find yourself taking on the emotions of the person/s in the story?  This is very common among parents, especially when it comes to reading about the suffering or death of someone else’s child.  We often go beyond empathy and can experience the same level of prolonged emotion as if this happened to us, when it didn’t.

Knowing what is me and what I’m experiencing vs. what is you and what you are experiencing is critical to our well being.

Mindfulness allows us to be fully present and engaged with another human being without constantly carrying excess emotional load with us.  This is particularly helpful for caregivers, such as healthcare providers.  Spending a large portion of one’s day caring for others can take a huge emotional toll on our well being.  Not being able to differentiate between self and others will typically lead to one of two things…..burn out or callousness.  Mindfulness helps prevent both.

Here are some really easy mindfulness practices you can begin right now, chose one and just start doing it:

  1. Hand washing – The next time you wash your hands, focus on that task and that task alone.  Feel the temperature of the water, pay attention as you lather up the soap, notice any skin irritation or other sensations that you are feeling in your hands.  Focus solely on this task from start to finish.  If you feel your mind start to wander, just bring the focus back to your hands.  This is a great practice for doctors and nurses!
  2. Breathing – Set a timer of 60 seconds and focus on your regular breathing.  You don’t need to change your breathing, just notice each breath.  When you inhale is it shallow, does it reach your belly?  When you exhale, is it a sigh, is it through your nostrils or mouth?  If you mind begins to wander, just bring it back to the breath.
  3. Walking – Start small, next time you are walking from the living room to the kitchen notice each step.  How does your foot hit the floor, toes first or heels first?  Is the sound of each step loud or soft?  Do you feel pain anywhere when you walk?

When you start practicing these mindfulness techniques regularly, they become easier.  A 60 second exercise in mindfulness during hand washing becomes mindfulness during your daily shower.  Mindfulness of breath for 60 seconds, becomes mindfulness of breath after a traumatic event.  Practicing trains the mind to quiet and focus when you need it to.  It allows you to fully engage with each moment you chose as you journey through life.  It also gives you the framework and confidence to expand your meditation practice or at the very least, hopefully no longer makes you cringe at the word!



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Once in a blue moon…….

…..I felt like a goddess.  Most of the time I was this person cruising through life on the crazy train, with my laptop and work shoes on the passenger seat, oatmeal in my hair, and kids in tow.  Some days I am still very much that person, but the goddess shines through a little more often these days.

“Somewhere between the shit hitting the fan and OMFG, I found a different path.”

It’s a path that has helped to bring the sacred back into my everyday life.  It’s a celebration of  each day and each season, even if those celebratory moments are only a few focused breaths.  It’s getting back to nature and recognizing a little bit of the divine in all beings.  It’s calling in the power of both the feminine and masculine spirits, always balancing, not competing.  It’s taking control of my physical, mental and spiritual health each day.  It’s knowing that I know me best.

Each of our paths is uniquely our own, our own choosing, our own living, our own being but we can walk those paths together.

“Remember it’s the journey that counts, won’t you join me?”


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