Cultivating Peace

It’s late and I’m sitting in a cozy spot by the fire. The tree is lit by a strand of little red lights that sparkle as they reflect off keepsake ornaments. I’m sipping tea that smells of fresh peppermint and sweet chamomile. The tea and soft blanket around my shoulders warm my body and mind and I look at the gifts, prettily wrapped with heart-felt intentions, under the tree. I remember that the holidays are about love and a special kind of light that glows soft and steady.

I withdraw to the peace of this moment when I need a break from the hustle of the holiday Cultivating Peaceseason. I visit this peace every day by closing my eyes and breathing into the gaps between the chaos. I escape to that peace by the fire before getting out of my car to go into the next store. I can rest in it before opening my laptop to shop online or email the family about holiday plans. It’s so important during this special time of year, to create pockets of time to remember what the holidays are about. There will be chaos, there will be obligations, we will encounter the greed, guilt and consumerism that come with the holiday season. But we can withdraw from all of that. We can look within and return to that cozy place by the fire. We can breathe into silence and keep the stillness with us throughout these crazy days.

Once you create a place for peace within and learn to return to it, create your scene for others. Sit close by the fire and let the silence comfort you and your loved ones. Share a cup of peppermint tea and a blanket. Enjoy a soft, heart-felt conversation. This is the warm holiday spirit we’re all trying so hard to create and provide for our families and friends as we move frantically about the season. Remember that spirit resides in peace; peace within, peace with the members of our families, peace with the universe, peace in silence and stillness. Cultivate holiday spirit and peace this season and bask in the warm, soft glow of love and light.

As published in the December 2013 issue of Curious the Tourist Guide

Invoking Lakshmi

Lakshmi is the goddess of abundance and good fortune.  She is the embodiment of balance, beauty, grace and wealth. We call to Lakshmi with gratitude when we get a raise at work, discover our purpose or witness a spectacular sunset. We must not forget to ask her blessing when we pray for financial freedom or creative inspiration. Lakshmi’s presence and energy in our lives, whether we are aware of them or not, bring us to appreciate the beauty of our relationships, our surroundings and our experiences. She eases us out of one beautiful moment and leaves us with an innate knowing that another moment will come to capture beauty in a different way, so that we are ever in love with and inspired by life.

Lakshmi is feminine, powerful and the essence of all things that are beautiful. When we consciously invoke her, she is the means to all things we crave in life.  She is the polar opposite of filth, lack and fear. She is a radiant beam of light, love and fulfillment.

What can we do in our everyday lives to embody that radiant energy of the goddess? We can start by making our homes clean, clutter-free environments where we cook healthful meals that nurture our bodies and those of our families.  We can take responsibility for our finances by paying our bills on time. We can stop spending money and energy on material things that will do nothing to improve our quality of life in the long run. Sit and listen to beautiful music that warms the soul instead of zoning out in front of the television, think fondly and without bitterness of past loves. Send light and love to them and to friends and family you miss or who may be ill or depressed. The universe responds to these gestures. When you pay attention and begin to shift your perspective from negative habits and reactions toward positive ones, your soul and spirit will feel light and pure and your body energized, healthy and strong.

Let the goddess into your life and embody her brilliance and beauty. Make your life a place she wants to visit, stay and live. Bring in fresh flowers, light candles, burn incense. Build her a beautiful shrine and pay homage to her presence in every aspect of your life. Have gratitude for the blessings she bestows on you, whether her gift is the money you use to buy groceries, the sweet smell of a garden, or a view of sunlight glimmering on the ocean. And remember that, if you surround yourself with vulgarity, Lakshmi will not stay. She wants to live where there is warmth, respect and appreciation, just like the rest of us.

LakshmiSoften your angry, worried face. Put away doubt and insecurity. Take a deep breath and feel into the beautiful softness of your heart. You have a choice in everything you do; in every action you take. You make a choice to insult or inspire. You choose to compliment or condescend. You can choose to clean your dish or let it sit dirty in the sink. You decide whether to have a cigarette or take a deep breath. The decisions we make slowly become habit. These habits turn into negative or positive cycles and the momentum builds so the pattern, no matter how healthy or unhealthy, becomes a lifestyle. It is harder to change an entire lifestyle than it is to make consistent, positive choices and to have gratitude for the results in each moment.

Whether you’re witnessing beauty in another person, in an experience or in your surroundings, know that true beauty has the potential to wake up the heart and is strong enough to feel like an emotion.  When we express gratitude for these moments, Lakshmi and the universe conspire to send us more.

As published in the October 2013 issue of Soulwoman eMagazine. Visit the website and find my contribution to this month’s issue, Traveling a Path Paved by Purpose on page 53!

Salmon Fishing on the Columbia River

The noise of barking sea lions echoed off the sides of the giant steel boats in the harbor. Our guide had just dunked his aluminum boat into the water and pulled his shiny Ford pickup and trailer dripping with river water up onto the boat ramp. I noticed his personalized license plate was abbreviated to read, Night Moves. He was a small but strong man with thinning blond hair tied back into a gnarled ponytail. He wore rubber waders, a navy and red rain parka and a weather worn grimace. The four of us on the dock were quiet as he went about his business of loading and preparing the boat for our day of salmon fishing on the Columbia River out of the gray port town of Astoria, Oregon. IMG_1650

I followed him to the boat alone, the others were finding the last refuge of a bathroom. I’d never done anything like this before and it already wasn’t what I’d expected. Billie, our boat captain and fishing guide struck up a conversation with the guide in the boat tied next to ours while I sat and listened and observed and waited for my friends to walk down the dock. The fishermen were using terms like spinner, Chinook, Coho, hatchery and wild. They seemed to be speaking a different language entirely and I was fascinated but trying to appear cool. I nodded and mmm-hmm’d every once in a while even though I had no idea what they were talking about. Finally my friends came toward the boat and Billie helped each of them on board. He told us where to sit and we listened. That’s the thing about boat captains. You do what they tell you to do and don’t ask questions. Billie was gruffly friendly, capable and confident and puttered us out through the barking sea lions into the wide river as we looked on toward our adventure with smiles and wide eyes.

From my experience of the Pacific Northwest, I can tell you that most days are cool and gray. This one was no exception but at least it wasn’t raining. I was dressed appropriately in several layers, the outer most of which was galoshes, worn jeans, alpaca gloves and a rain jacket. I felt I fit in and flew under the radar and didn’t give anyone the notion I was a recovering Southern California resident.

We flew across the smooth dark water to a spot under a bridge that joins Oregon and Washington. Cars and trucks traveled high overhead and I felt lucky to be looking out onto the water instead of at traffic and the road. Billie was making calls on his cell phone talking to his fisherman buddies trying to find out where the Coho were jumping and the Chinook were biting. He decided this was a good place to start and he began baiting hooks and distributing fishing rods. His authority was a bit daunting and none of us wanted to make a mistake or tangle the lines because it was going to piss Billie off. No one wanted that.IMG_1636

The least experienced among us caught the first fish. Billie jumped in her direction when he saw the rod take and she squealed as he took over her spot at the rod and began drawing the fish into the boat. There was a flurry of excitement as he called out rapid-fire instructions for us to reel in our lines and make room for the match about to take place between him and the Chinook. We clumsily did as he instructed, all stomping around the boat as it rocked back and forth with the current and Billie called out orders. I handed over the net as he reeled the flopping fish to the surface and someone slid the net in underneath the silvery fish. This first catch of the day was about an hour from the dock. Much to Billie’s dismay, after the catch, we took a while to regroup. “When they’re bitin’ they’re bitin’ and we gotta get those lines back in the water.” He said sternly. We picked up the pace and got back to dropping our bait and manning our anchored poles. We were each sure that if it was that easy, if Patti could do it (and come up smiling), we could do it too. We waited…and waited. Billie’s phone rang to the tune of Night Moves and he picked it up to talk with his fisherman buddy about moving to a new location. We would hear this same conversation over and over again throughout the day.IMG_1645

We reeled in our lines and flew to the next spot. David, the most experienced among us, brought up a beautiful wild salmon that, unfortunately had to be thrown back. It seems the rules and regulations governing what fish can be kept and which must be thrown back are constantly changing and cause severe contempt among local fisherman. Billie grumbled through the peace and quiet of the afternoon. After a lengthy attempt and no more catches, Billie picked up the night moves cell phone and found us another spot back toward the bridge. Apparently word had gotten out about this particular spot though and there were boats everywhere. “There’s no nets out.” Billie said. “Not a good sign.” He watched the other boats as we trained our eyes on the tips of our rods dipping just into the water and the waves rolled up underneath us banging against the metal boat. Just as we were about to give up on this spot, David’s wife Cissie had a bite and we all jumped into action again. The fish pulled her gracefully around the boat and she reeled it to the surface; but it was another wild and we had to toss him back. We were one for three and eventually Night Moves called with another tip and we headed for the next spot. For the rest of the day, we had several bites and several false alarms. We sat and watched our rods and bullshitted the day away. We learned that Billie had been fishing these waters for 45 years. Billie learned I was single and tried to set me up with a logger friend of his. We found out Billie’s other buddy was in the state pen in Texas for robbing banks. This was his third incarceration; he kept getting out and robbing more banks. I never did get Billie’s buddy’s phone number for a date.

We finally gave in around noon and headed back to harbor. We were a little defeated, but felt lucky to have caught at least one fish for dinner. We trolled our boat into the dock, the voices of the barking sea lions blasting off the steel boats as they lazed their beastly bodies on the docks.IMG_1651

We left invigorated by our day on the river and, later that night, we feasted on fresh Chinook salmon.  We bonded and regaled the stories of our adventure over wine and Patti’s fish.

Choosing Simplicity

When you create the opportunity to turn your life upside down and shake everything out, what you’re left with isn’t emptiness. What you’re left with are the parts of you that can’t be separated from who you are on a soul level. What’s left are your truth and authenticity.

Two years ago I considered myself to be content. I was living in my half million dollar Los Angeles condo, driving my fancy convertible, working a glamorous job and earning a six figure salary. I was so preoccupied with collecting labels, money, men, material possessions, status and power that I never stopped to consider what it was I was passionate about or ask myself if my lifestyle would continue to make me happy into the future as I got to be 40, 50, 60, 70 years old. I just lived in a state of ego driven contentment with the status quo. Fortunately, two years and some life-altering lessons, teachers, mentors and adventures later, all of that has changed.

My transformation began with an overwhelming urge to start purging my belongings. I started making weekly trips to goodwill with years and years worth of things I’d accumulated. I began distancing myself from the myriad of superficial attachments to lackluster relationships, designer purses, sunglasses, beautiful clothes and painful high heeled shoes.  Thanks to some very special people, over time, I traded these attachments for ones to travel, genuine relationships and new kinds of conversations. I became acquainted with my latent dreams and passions; things I’d never paid much attention to before. I began to realize I’d never felt a sense of true fulfillment and I started to see the glimmer of importance in that and seek it out for the first time. I started turning down fancy dinners and professional obligations for camping and kayaking on beautiful lakes. I cancelled plans to spend more time at home in quiet reflection and contemplation. I was in the process of simplifying as a means to…what end?  I didn’t know at the time. I didn’t know, but before that point, I’d never even asked myself that kind of question…to what end?  Isn’t that funny?  Isn’t that interesting that I never once thought, well, where is this all going? Where do I max out? With that question, I finally came to the conclusion that I needed a big change.

It took me two years of downsizing and simplifying to uproot and get to the beginning of my new life. I have finally landed in a place where I get to live for my passions and work every day toward fulfilling my dreams. It has been the most challenging and emotional thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding. I have created freedom, new life and new opportunities for myself and my existence has become so simple. I live in a small town in Oregon, three blocks from the beach and my rent is dirt cheap. My bike is my only means of transportation and it is liberating! I wait tables at an oceanfront restaurant where I look at the water all day and come home to write. I am LOVING my life in a way I never even thought was possible until fate intervened two years ago. These days I am light and free, creative and spontaneous.

SimplicityFinding simplicity takes cutting through layers of accumulation and nonsense. It begins with clearing away the literal and figurative clutter that surrounds you. Maybe it’s so hard because, in order to enjoy a simple life, you have to really be happy with who you are as a person and make peace with all the hard stuff. But I’m here telling you it’s worth it; that there is a lot to be said for ease. In fact, I’ve learned that flexibility and freedom are where I find real power. In flexibility and freedom, in simplicity and ease, we can catch glimpses of ourselves in a natural state. It’s like looking in the mirror first thing in the morning when your face is bare, without the makeup and worries of the day. It’s the same looking at our lives in those moments of time where there are no commitments, distractions or bookends.

The more I de-clutter my life, the more beauty and joy I find in the simple things. Instead of wandering the mall buying clothes and makeup and purses, I wander along the beach or along the street admiring the water, gardens and sunshine. I find beauty in the rain and the moon where I just didn’t see it before.  I no longer rest my happiness in things or superficial relationships. I have become someone focused on the value and beauty of the things right in front of me; things I already possess. I’m happy and truly content here and now and in this moment, regardless of the things that surround me or take up space in my orb.

As published in the August 2013 issue of Soulwoman eMagazine www.soulwomansanctuary.com

Finding Freedom and Flow in Bali

There is freedom in the simple act of making time for yourself. It doesn’t matter what you carve out time for exactly, just that you use those moments to listen to your heart and follow its yearnings. 317401_10150425030320086_799755270_n

In 2011 I spent three months in Morocco and returned to my home in Los Angeles feeling like my wings had been cut off. I’d found my sense of wanderlust during those months embedded in such a rich and unique place and was going stir crazy being back in the box of my old life. A severe case of culture shock left me feeling like I needed to flee the country…again. So I bought a ticket, a Lonely Planet, packed my backpack and set off for a month in Bali with a loose itinerary and without an agenda of any kind.

Traveling around Bali, I found a gap for magic in the time without bookends. It’s true, I may have found that sense of freedom anywhere, but in Bali that time was soft, lush, beautiful and barefoot. It was an easy country to navigate and everywhere I went was a soft place to land. I traveled from Ubud, rich in art, craft, culture and music to a meditative place where the river meets the sea on the black beach of Suraberata. I learned to scuba dive on a whim with a handsome Aussie in the crystal waters of a seaweed farming island called Nusa Lembongan. I took in the pristine beaches of Sanur from a hammock on a quiet stretch of sand.

In each place, I found that when I was able to put everything down, stand still and clear my mind, I could allow myself to be carried from place to place and from experience to experience.  Once I began to go with the flow and let the right moments nudge me forward from my resting state, I understood my own capacity for freedom.

I spent a month this way, letting each day, each hour, each minute, carry me to the next. I saw and experienced things I couldn’t possibly have planned for before I left for my trip because my mind was smaller before I began the experience. Travel has this capacity to break open your perspective of the world, but you have to allow it space and time.

Especially in our Western day to day lives, we force ourselves into tight work and life schedules that leave little room for flow or spontaneity. It’s difficult to let the universe have its way with you and naturally guide you to the people and places you are meant to encounter when all of your time is committed or obligated. I learned in Bali, that real freedom is a gift we can only give to ourselves.  We become our own captors in the prisons we create with schedules and attachments and it can be tough to find the key to freedom which is hidden in our own pocket.

Being Present in Divine Moments

There are moments when the world around me falls away; when it’s just me and an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment. There was a moment in Bali swaying in a hammock on the beach, listening to my iPod. There was a moment walking through Brooklyn on a cold evening toward the water. There was a moment on a spring afternoon in Morocco when my work was done for the day and I sat in mediation and recently walking past a rose bush on my way to the grocery store. There is one thing these experiences had it common; and that was their capacity to break open my heart for an instant. They provided a rare surge of divinity, helping me tune into my inner knowing on a deep level.

Back in the Hammock

The power of living in the moment was fully realized for me during those seconds in time. In them, I felt fully present and I saw an undisguised truth. When I experience indicators of my authenticity in this way, I know I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Since I’ve begun the journey to finding myself and my purpose, these moments occur more and more frequently. The clarity and sense of knowing they leave me with are so comforting in my seemingly constant state of transition.

It was an important realization for me that my moments of clarity and peace have not come during the time between bookends or commitments.  They only come to me in freedom. They only come when I allow myself to detach from the web of distractions like work, parties, relationships and other obligations. It’s tough to return to that place of detachment and rare to find yourself there to begin with. Perhaps that is why in our fast paced lives we lose sight of what we’re passionate about and the reason we’re here.

A sudden feeling of unexpected gratitude for what is. That is pleasure; that is delight. The essence of delight, is that it is too quick and subtle to be called happiness, but it is strong enough to be distinguished from neutrality. It would be a fabulous place to spend more time and, maybe, by placing higher importance on living in the moment, it is possible to improve our everyday realities in just such a way. Maybe these moments don’t have to pass so quickly and maybe their longevity would result in a more lasting sense of happiness.

I find there is potential for encounters with pleasure and delight to shift us into a higher state of consciousness.  When we experience the fragrance of the sea, the cackle of a glowing fire or when we wrap our cold hands around a mug of warm tea, we touch this delicate state. In appreciating the small things in life, we practice knowing that all is as it should be; as it is meant to be.

By nature, delight is unexpected. It has the potential to surprise and inspire us. Its spontaneity draws us out of the mundane and helps open our eyes to the wonderful when we’re lost in the probable. It’s a feeling that sneaks from behind to embrace you in a tight hug and makes you feel warm and loved. When I’m out for a walk, lost in reverie, a perfect lavender rose or a hummingbird will catch the corner of my eye and I’ll suddenly remember to pay attention to the beauty of the world again. After all, what is the point of all of this if not to experience and witness the small and pretty things?

Walk a little slower. Stop to smell the roses and feel the sunshine on your face. When you see a pretty view, pull over and pay attention to it. Close your eyes and breathe into this special feeling and notice the sense of peace our connection with nature, beauty and warmth provides. Hang out in these fleeting moments as long as you can.

As published in the July 2013 issue of Soulwoman eMagazine www.soulwomansanctuary.com.

Beach-Wise

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.  To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith.  Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches.  Patience and Faith.  One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”

–          Excerpt from Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

There is a peace I find watching the sea that is unrivaled for me. Ironically, I also fear it. I am afraid of going in not knowing what lies beneath the dark water. But as I sit and watch from the safety of the shore, knowing life and an unfathomable depth reside below the surface, I realize its divinity. I become captivated by the roar of the crashing waves and torrid swells erupting into gentle laps on the packed sand. The sea is so dynamic and restless that it seems to be alive; as if it had a central heartbeat giving pulse to the waves.  Seaside Sunset small

The ocean’s roar replaces the rapid fire thoughts going off in my mind. I find stillness in myself by the sea as I leave the movement to the waves. I breathe deeply the salty sea air, which sets a tingle of clarity and spirit racing through my mind and body. My capacity for faith expands when I think of such a force as the ocean being divinely created. Nature has created this environment, immune to our electronic noise. The absence of technology, civilized buildings, electricity or pollutants makes the presence of spirit and divinity close by and obvious here.

When I’m standing on the beach, breathing in the water’s healing air, I’m not thinking of being anywhere else. I’m living in the moment; watching, breathing and feeling its impact on my body. I am receiving her subtle lessons and wisdom. She is teaching me peace in these special moments and gifting me serenity in the absence of thought, reaction and movement. I find the rolling waves of the sea to be a perfect metaphor for existence. They are dynamic and bold and contain within them unlimited potential for life, learning and beauty.

As if her dynamic beauty was not enough, she proves her magic and reveals her internal beauty by leaving behind treasures with the waves; gifts of stones and shells. When I wander the beach collecting seashells, I am not thinking to myself, “I want to find a perfect shell in iridescent lavender with gold flecks.”  I let the sea surprise me and show me something I never thought to seek. In much the same way, people, experiences and opportunities flow into our lives every day and leave behind learning in the sands of our minds. By letting life gift us opportunities and ideas this way, by allowing the universe to give and pull its treasures in waves, we acquire the ability to let go; to relinquish control and act as a vessel for God and the universe to work their magic through us. With these gifts, we grow in our own capacity to act as teachers; waves of wisdom and learning for others.  20130524_132010

Wisdom is like inspiration in a way. One may find it where others would not and interpret it in a way no one else is capable under their own set of life circumstances. Inspiration and wisdom help us to overcome the fear of discovering our essence in the dark depths of our minds, bodies and souls. Through meditation, walks in nature or sitting and watching the ocean, we make room for creativity, solace, and discovery. In closing our eyes and turning focus within, with patience and faith, the potential for learning and knowledge is infinite.

The sea prepares us with stillness and peace, which are necessary for acquiring wisdom and becoming acquainted with our own power, health and purpose. Listen when the sea roars for silence of the mind. Slow down, appreciate her magnificence, and bask in those moments of beauty and peace.

As published in the June 2013 issue of Soulwoman emagazine.  www.soulwomansanctuary.com