The Crone and the Cauldron

30 10 2009


Halloween, or Hallowed Evening, or Samhain, is one of my favorite times of year.

It’s a powerful, spiritual time when we celebrate the feminine, commune and remember the dead, and celebrate the veil of consciousness which separates the two worlds, being at its thinnest on this night.

It marks the end of the third and final harvest. It’s a time of deepening darkness in the natural world (before we had daylight savings), where there is a natural pull inward with the coming winter.

Traditionally, it’s the time of the Crone Goddess. The crone is the old woman of great power whose life wisdom comes from both her great age and the many things she has lived through. She is the eternal grandmother of rebirth. She is reborn as the beautiful young Goddess on Bealtaine, May 1st.

The crone’s cauldron is a deep part of the Halloween myth that represents the cosmic womb. It’s a place where all things are conceived, grow, and are born.

We tend to place a heavy focus on life and youth in this culture. We don’t like to think about death, and are mostly afraid and unfamiliar with it. There is even a strong movement occurring in self-development circles where people don’t dare even utter what is seen as negative. Sometimes I think this is just another way to keep death away.

In many ways, in my opinion, there is a sadness to our post-modern refusal to understand and integrate the natural seasons of our lives and emotions. We have lost something of understanding the natural cycles of life and death, being young, being old. We are in such a constant fight with getting older. We see it as a bad thing instead of a natural cycle of eternity.

I have heard in the last week or so many people having dreams of loved ones who have passed on from this life. I am not surprised. It’s that time of year. It’s a gift to be visited by someone you lost.

I have experienced this the most when I am just about to wake up. Pay attention to those few moments. It’s a very rich and keen time. Especially if you are getting up before first light. There are hundreds of messages hanging in the air for you that are ripe for the picking. But they will only be whispered. So listen closely.

The cauldron is the symbol for what we will be brewing this long winter. On May 1st, whatever it is, will be cooked. For me, the cauldron contains my ideas and wishes. I am actively putting things in there and stirring, stirring, stirring. Things need to cook, and simmer. It is a reminder that ideas and emotions, need time to simmer until done. It’s difficult to tolerate emotions that don’t move along quickly that are painful, and ideas that don’t come to fruition when we want or need them too.

The crone’s cauldron is the place of transmutation. Things go in raw, are cooked through the heat of fire, and come out tender and more complex than when they went in.

For me, I am pausing this Hallowed Eve to embrace my one precious life that is moving quickly with age. It’s okay to become the Crone Goddess. I am brewing up wisdom, compassion, understanding, and a wicked outrageous sense of humor about it all in my cauldron. We’ll see what bubbles up this spring.

We are eternal beings. There is nothing to fear.


Loneliness and Routine

23 10 2009

3702988177_d2efcc3eee_mi have been stepping up my game for the last few months. there are things in my life that i want to do and things i want to unveil within myself, and they just won’t wait anymore.

maybe it’s because i am turning 45 on tuesday and i feel a natural urgency being smack in middle age.

i have made a heap of mistakes in my life. i have treated people so poorly that when i look back, i wince in pain. i have had a challenging childhood that i have come to feel has been a tremendous gift because of what i have learned about human nature and how i’ve been able to transmute experience into understanding and compassion over the years through therapy and buddhism and art.

i am not a finished piece of work by any stretch of the imagination, nor do i want to be. i aspire to keep growing until my last breath. i want to always have greater understanding.

the main way i have stepped up my game is that i have incorporated a strong routine into my creative life. i have come to realize that the muse appears when we show up with deep regularity.

creativity feeds on routine.

this thought occurred to me a few months ago when i was talking with a new friend on the subway ride home from our wednesday night buddhism class. she had started running several months prior. she had never run before and she has now worked herself up to a point where she is able to enter her first 5K race this weekend.

i asked her a lot of questions about process. does it hurt? do you want to stop? how did you come up with the idea? why do you like it? when do you run? for how long? blah blah blah. you get the idea.

i have been spending a lot of time at my desk lately working on my memoir. i have been faithfully getting up and getting to the desk by 6.30 a.m.

i am at the desk for long stretches other times also. sunny weekend days, evenings, saturday nights…..

it’s not easy. to write or to get up or stay at the desk. it’s lonely. there is an inherent loneliness to writing that is unavoidable.

what’s interesting about this loneliness is that it is not full of a story-line that makes it painful.

the routine of coming here in the semi-darkness, lighting my candle and beginning to write is a ritual that will take me to my goal of a 300 page book if i am faithful to the routine.

it is taking me away from some things in my life. i am a little less available. my time is taken up by the bigger picture which i have pushed aside for many many years. i have never been a marathon runner. i am by nature a sprinter. i am changing that. it’s not easy to change for lots of reasons.

but i want to do this thing of writing a book which is not a sprint at all. it’s a marathon.

the important creative things we do alone. we need space and silence so that things can arise from deep within. routine is the vehicle that the muse gets into and together you go for a ride of being a channel for the work to come shining through.

and this isn’t just art. runners, meditators, business people, farmers, all need routine for any muscle to be built over time.

don’t be misled into thinking what you want to do will happen without a deep routine. we aren’t getting any younger. our mortality snaps at our heels and wakes us up out of childish ways and into a more abiding understanding that our lives actually go very quickly.

trade your small tin cup of instant gratification  for the hidden gem of bravery to be lonely while you dedicate yourself to the thing inside you that can fully emerge in the space of consistent routine.

the payoff is delayed and it is hard and lonely to be consistent over many miles, but what can emerge from us is work that cannot be found in short irregular bursts.

the muse can settle into the home we have created for her. there’s nothing to generate because there is no duality. the muse is an inherent part of us that we call forth and that will appear in the space of routine when we are alone.

have the bravery to start a routine towards something you love or want to do, but that you keep starting and stopping for a million reasons.

i’ve found my loneliness is actually good company on the long trek inward.


14 10 2009

2954500059_3790f9a463_tit’s that time of year again. my favorite one. autumn. or as it’s colloquially known; fall.

it’s when crops are gathered and leaves fall. it’s also a time of dying. with halloween (samhain) and day of the dead (dia de los muertos) coming at the end of this month, it is a powerful time when the veil between the two worlds is very thin.

a time when we can get lots of support and energy from the earth and from our loved ones who have passed on to the next leg of their journey.

it’s a time of renewal and letting go.

in many traditions–shinto, pagan, buddhist, tantric, to name a few–one’s spiritual life is lived in accordance with nature and the seasonal cycles occurring. in this way, you would apply and explore the themes in nature to your own life.

autumn becomes a time of falling.

falling into our deeper selves, our deeper purpose, a deeper discipline, a deeper contemplation……you get the gist.

for me, i am letting myself fall deeper into the calling of my heart. i, like i’m sure many of you, know the thing(s) that you want to do, feel led to do, or feel you have to offer out to the world, and either overtly or insidiously back away from. and btw, “doing” can also mean “being”.

i am letting go of those discursive and silly thoughts that seem some days a continuous flow of diminishment. i am taking my cue from the trees, who gently let each leaf float on down to the ground. and from the earth, who gives up her last bounty of food willingly.

in this season upon me now, i am renewing my committment to stand like the trees, bravely and with a vulnerable nakedness without their leaves. self-expression is like that–we put ourselves out there, and it’s very vulnerable. the trees don’t reach down and stick the leaves back on to cover up. they stick with it through the tough winter. their starkness becomes a gorgeous beauty in and of itself.

every single meditation teacher and therapist i have had over all these years, have all said the same thing; vulnerability is power.

it’s scary to fall. i am afraid of heights. i am afraid of letting go of everything i am holding onto. i am comfortable in this cocoon that i know. my mantra of i can’t and what if and i have no right, are comforting.

but comforting in the same way as keeping a band-aid on that you know needs to be changed and cleaned but you just can’t bear the pain to take it off. so you leave it on and new skin growth cannot occur and soon you have a bigger problem.

but that’s the journey for me. to let what’s not working for me anymore fall away. to follow the divinity of nature and shed all the dead leaves around my mind-heart. those silly untrue messages i picked up, believed, and am hauling around like dead leaves in a hefty garbage bag. time for a bonfire in the back yard.

embrace the fall with me. we can enjoy the ride down together. we are in good company.


9 10 2009

i’m not sure how to write this blog without sounding like an egotistical maniac.

i have been teaching yoga for about 10 years now, and have been blessed enough to come in contact with thousands of people who are on the path of transformation. during this time, i was have also worked as a life coach and through that have come into contact with hundreds and hundreds of people through workshops and client calls.

i have loved the work and the people i have met and have given everything i knew to give to support people on their journey. i never really focused on promoting myself like my colleagues around me were doing, i just wasn’t drawn to that sort of thing and felt deeply satisfied by the work as it was.

i wasn’t living high on the hog, i was and am moderately getting by. teaching yoga is not the most lucrative business you could choose to be in, and life-coaching to the clientele i targeted, women who felt stuck in their lives, don’t have the deepest pockets in the world. i gave everything that i could and knew how too.

i mention the economics, because often when we don’t see ourselves in a “rich” position, we tighten and pull back on giving.

i have always been someone to whom giving has come naturally. i think i have inherited it from my mother who has been very generous in her life.

for me, it’s just the thing to do. yes it’s harder to give to people i don’t particularly like, but i try to extend myself equally without being impartial as best as i can. and sometimes i just can’t do it, and that’s okay too.

this week, an old coaching client from many years ago was re-introduced to me through twitter! (btw, twitter is one of the craziest, most fun rides i have ever been on).

my bff happened to mention her name as a possible twitter follow for me and i jumped when she said her name. i knew right away it was her. one of my all-time favorite clients, she had gone on to be a coach herself and it wasn’t so much we lost touch as i released her into her wild blue yonder, her training wheels of me, no longer needed.

we tweeted and then finally had a phone call–an over 2 hours phone call!

this old coaching client just “happens” to be a tech coach.  i have been looking for an affordable tech coach to take my blog and all i feel i want to offer out via the web to the next level. talking with her yesterday, she has decided to gift me with several sessions of tech support and idea building, because she feels such appreciation for what she gained from coaching with me.

i am trying as best as i can to make this blog NOT about i’m a good coach blah blah blah look at me ickyness.

this blog is about the law of generosity. i’m using myself to show you something very important about a principle that i am very moved by.

whatever we give, truly does come back to us. receiving back is not the motivation to give, but when we are generous with our money, our time, our energy, our knowledge, our presence, our cooking!! we not only lift others up, but we elevate ourselves also.

the word escrow comes to mind. it’s like you never know when things of merit you have stored up will ripen and be showered upon you. it’s such joy when the timing of the boomerang effect comes back to you just when you need it.

when in doubt, err on the side of give.

just give. give it away free. do something around the house extra, make lunch for your loved one to bring to work as a suprise, make time for people, listen! without interrupting! help someone out with your expertise, and do it just because  the principle of generosity is truly what changes things in this world for the better.

see how long you can go without any accolades ( my mother made our school lunches for over 20 years i think and how can one really feel appreciated? many mothers are the epitome of generosity.) can you go years of giving out of an abundance within yourself?

in buddhism, when we are on retreat we practice a style of eating called oryoki. it is a very beautiful and sophisticated, but at the same time very simple style of eating.

before we eat, we recite sutras called “the recollection of the noble three jewels.” there is a line in the liturgy that says, “through generosity one is free from enemies, generosity is the transcendent friend, generosity is said to be essential, generosity is the ornament of the world. generosity is the virtue that produces peace.”

be generous. give as much as you can and don’t worry about it coming back. i like to think about a giant pot of escrow that each of us has and by the magic of life, when we need it, it is sometimes there for us. you just never know what you will need ahead.

the cool thing about generosity? it’s connection driven. it occurs from sentient being to sentient being. even if it’s over the internet as in my case right now, it’s a person reaching toward another with a helping hand.

what more simple but profoundly moving act can we do but to give to each other?

“generosity is the virtue that produces peace. generosity is the ornament of the world.”

our golden eggs

7 10 2009


i had lunch with a friend yesterday who is working hard to transition out of the office to do her own thing and work from home. things are really coming together for her. she is systematically organizing herself and chipping away at the jumbo to-do list that entails launching a business.

she has been in her field for 20 years doing what she does. she knows what she is doing and what she doesn’t know yet, she is learning along the way. she has created around her a strong support system of people who have all sorts of know-how that she is digesting and interpreting for herself and the direction of her business.

why couldn’t she go out on her own and work from home? she thought to herself 9 months ago. all she needed to do was think of what skills she already had and how she could create a business marrying her already-present skills and her desire to work from home, or even better, she thought, work location independent. she has a shot as well as anyone else in creating what she wants. which is to do what she already knows and loves  and support herself financially.

which got me thinking.

how many skills and how much knowledge are we all sitting on that could be turned into service for others which in turn could be doing what we love, which in turn could be supplemental income?

we don’t have to run out and quit our day jobs right yet, but we could add some income to what we are already doing. and who doesn’t want to add more income to their life especially if we discover some thing inside of us that we know how to do and have forgotten, or don’t think it’s worth anything, or just don’t know how to connect into the market?

my friend, who has known me for 20+ years, reminded me that in addition to teaching yoga, i used to make my living as a life coach. i had sort of forgotten that!

i guess because i have been doing other things for quite a while now and to be honest, i was a little turned off by the general quality of coaching i experienced out there. i invested a lot of money into my coaching training, as well as my yoga teacher training, as well as my three graduate degrees, and yet i sometimes am very blind about seeing my own ability to “put myself together and get out there.” i guess i can be sort of introverted and un-savy about things business. i guess i have bought into the myth of artists aren’t good business people.

i’m thinking it  is time for me to put all of these things together and offer what i can to people. do what i love–talk to people about life and spiritual path, and self-transformation, and creativity–and at the same time, take care of myself financially.

which got me thinking about all of you reading this. what trainings have you taken that you forgot about or put aside or were turned off too at the time, that you can revisit? what are you drawn too time and time again that could be an added source of income for you?

as you know from the blog earlier in the week, i am cultivating more prosperity both in my bank account as well as in my thinking, and from my perspective, the bank account reflects the thinking, so personal resource is on my brain.

what i am excited about is the unlimited potential of each of us, and the already existing skills and knowledge we have that we can either go back to, dust off and re-launch, or put out there in a totally new way like my friend is doing starting her own business form home.

i see that when i align my creativity to what i have already acquired along the way, both in formal education as well as personal development, and link that to business ( no longer a dirty word for me), that there is wealth on a personal as well as a material level.

it’s the hitch your wagon to a star kind of move. but we forget all the wagons we have in the garage!! we overlook them, don’t think they are valuable, can’t see how they could work as a source of service and income.

@helenkim of sent out a tweet earlier this week that said ” at the heart of the insidiousness of under-earning is deprivation because you are not meeting your needs and wants.”

for me, one way to push back the pull of deprivation, is to remember what i do have. that everything i need is truly inside of us, that we are infinitely resourceful. and to connect those things into sources of income that serve others and give me so much joy. i really do believe that we are each sitting on a golden egg and we might have forgotten it’s under there.

rehearsing our lives

5 10 2009

i had one of those nights last night. the ones where you go to bed at 10 and wake up at 2.57 in the morning as if it was noon.

at first it was sort of okay that i was laying there wide awake. i went to pee and opened the window a bit because it felt a little hot in the room and i thought maybe that was what woke me up. i sleep better when there is a slight chill in the room.

i got back in bed and noticed that the room was lighter than usual. the neighbors had left on their backyard light which i swear they bought from the DEA or the military. it’s beyond bright. so even with the shades down, it was like early morning. so then i decided that was what woke me up, not the temperature in the room.

and then my mind kick-started into irritation and speediness.

and then it was downhill from there until 4.30.

a 90 minute ride of fear and panic about nothing that actually was happening at the moment.

i lay there, a victim of my thoughts. my mind ran away and not at all in a good direction. it’s no wonder that the boogie-man is under the bed only at night. middle of the night thoughts are of the most potent fear variety i have experienced.

it went something like this; my irritation at the neighbors light being left on led to wanting to leave brooklyn and live in the hudson valley which led to what else? money of course.

i began adding up my monthly income and then starting going over the fact that my yoga clientele ( i teach private yoga for a living) is about half this fall of what it has been in the past. and my bills are the same. my basic cost of living has not of course gone down by half although i have made all the necessary adjustments to pull back/cut down on non-essentials. at this point, i just simply need to bring in more clients. i am geting by, but just that.

and just getting by is very scary. admitting you are just getting by is very scary. it brings up all kinds of failure feelings. and also panic. money seems to be directly related to survival, although i have had enough wayne dyer and louise hay teachings to know how the law of attraction works. “as you think, so your world is.” and that “money is the currency of energy.”

which panics me more. i must be doing the prosperity coin (pun!) wrong. ugh.

the panic is the biggest one. what if i can’t make it, what if my dog needs an operation? what if the remaining clients i have left all quit? what will i do? what if, what if, what if…..the mind goes into overdrive. and it’s just me out here. there’s no hedge fund partner as a safety net.

i had a meditation instructor who used to say all the time, “we are always rehearsing our lives instead of just living them.” i didn’t understand what he meant for a long time. but i think what he meant was that we are reacting to all the scenarios we create in our minds and living from that place and that’s not real life. that we are caught in the snag of the what-if and am i going to be okay cycle that plays out in our thoughts and fantasies especially when we get sick or the bank account is low or our relationship ends or someone has really hurt us etc etc etc ad infinitum.

case in point; i had worked myself into so much fear last night that i was laying in bed crying. i am blessed because i have a partner who was beside me and i was able to wake her up and get some comfort (although there have been plenty of nights when this has happened and i was completely alone). i said to her, “i’m afraid about work and money.” which was a big step for me. to cry and just say simply that i was afraid and not make it into a big story line or fixate on the dumb neighbors with the searchlight instead of feeling the directness of my own feelings of fear.

releasing the energy of fear through crying can be very helpful in helping us relax. like letting steam out of a gasket. often we are holding up such a false bravery which is actually very weak, that it ends up hurting us more. i have found that to not be afraid of the emotions that arise but to let them pass through the body/mind can be very helpful.

i fell back asleep and then two hours later the alarm went off, and it was light out, and i came to my desk to do what is in front of me today.

rehearsing our lives takes us away from the immediacy of what is truly here and now. we are okay in this moment and then the next moment and each day moves authentically along like that. if we are rehearsing we aren’t actually living our real lives. we are living our fantasies, hopes, and fears. it’s not easy for me to engage the nakedness of my experience without the fear-based story-line. life just is what it is. it’s me who puts a pile of images and commentary on it. i could just be with my feelings and keep my mind disciplined to not veer off into boogie-man land.

in that way, we are actually living our lives genuinely. “stop rehearsing” he would say to me, “this is it. there’s no other thing than this. be here now with what is. not in the future, not in the past, but right here. and usually,” he would say with a wry smile, “right here, right now, we can handle whatever it is.”

a good reminder when in the middle of the night, my thoughts can run away with all the what-ifs.

"it works if you work it" -slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous

2 10 2009

i have been getting up early to get to my desk by 630/645 a.m. on monday, wednesday, and friday to write for 4-ish hours before i have to leave for school (i’m getting an MFA at sarah lawrence). tuesdays and thursdays i am out of the house early for work.

i have never been a morning person. i seem to do my best sleeping in the hours right before i have to get up. so the task of getting up feels herculean and especially so when i don’t “have” to get up quite that early.

i think i mentioned i am writing a memoir and am (finally!) working with a terrific editor. i have wanted to write the story of my journey for many many years, and now at almost 45 years old, events have conspired bringing me to this point of intense action. it’s no longer an idea or a wish or something i do on the side in secret. it’s actually happening. my goal is to write about 300 pages in 18-24 months, starting two weeks ago.

last night i was having dinner with a friend whom i had not seen in awhile and who, for the last two years, has been dealing with a partner who is working with his brand new sobriety which has not been an easy thing at all for him to attain or hold onto too. he is literally in a fight for his life.

among the hundred really moving and inspiring things she told me about him, was that he goes to an A.A. meeting every morning at 6 a.m.

she said the alarm goes off at 5.15 and he struggles out of bed gets dressed and then walks ten blocks to the meeting getting a coffee on the way. she said it’s getting colder and darker now with winter coming and she doesn’t know how he does it. except that this is what he must do in order to stay alive. the stakes are very high.

when i think of the people who are walking the path of recovery from addiction, i honestly don’t know how they do it. have you ever tried to quit sugar? or floss twice a day without EVER missing? or tried to change an aspect of your personality that feels hardwired into your dna?

i asked her how many people are at that meeting, thinking maybe there would be six or seven people ( i was thinking about early morning yoga classes that i have taught and taken and there is maybe five people), and she said there was about 30 people. i was shocked.

i pictured all these people on the upper west side of manhattan with their alarms going off while it’s still dark, getting dressed, leaving their apartments, and showing up at this A.A. meeting for an hour. it must not be easy or pleasant to get up so early and go admit every day that you are powerless over a disease first thing in the morning, yet this is precisely what saves millions of people from addiction each day. they get up and go to meetings. it is a moment by moment discipline. a moment by moment choice towards life, towards not having your life run by those voices in our heads that tell us we are never going to get there, that our dreams will never happen, that life is just a long hard road that we have to hoe.

i’m sure there are mornings this guy is soooo tired all he wants to do is stay in bed and go to a meeting later.

i was thinking about my own journey to write this book in light of this guy trying to stay sober. i find it somewhat similar. as dramatic as it sounds, i feel like if i don’t write this memoir, i will die. it’s just something that i have to do. i have avoided it for years, tried to do other things, and it persists.

to do anything, one needs a steady discipline applied toward the thing one is attempting to do.

the thing about discipline is that at first, it is very very painful. and we are not creatures who like pain. if it hurts, we usually stop and say, “i can’t”. we are resistant and have millions of excuses because we are afraid to change our habitual ways of being, even when those ways of being are not really working for us.

i have felt an actual physical impossibility to wake up early and get out of bed at times, and the mind chatter of justification of why you don’t really need to do the thing you are trying to do is stunning in its convinceabilty. i have avoided sitting down to write with an astonishing regularity.

what if we approached the things we want to do with the underlying discipline and urgency of the people working with sobriety? what if we framed our dreams and goals for ourselves with the focus and motivation of our life depending on it? because as much as we talk ourselves out of them, we all have dreams for our life of what we want to do or who we want to be, that feels like we will never get there, and for me, i know it’s a bunch of crap that i listen to and often believe.

for me, the key is committment. committing to myself and then sticking with that committment no matter what.

in A.A. they say, “even if your ass falls off, don’t drink.” i’d like to apply that type of thinking to getting to my desk and doing the thing that i want to do, but am afraid to do, or think i can’t do, the thing i know i must do, and that i let myself be talked out of time and time again.

i think i have underestimated the level of committment it takes to do something bigger in my life. what i have learned from people in A.A., is that if you do what is asked of you which is to “work the program” then you have a shot at sobriety. “it works if you work it” as they say.

i am reaching deep inside myself to build a stronger muscle of discipline and focus towards these three early mornings of being here at the desk and doing what my editor is asking of me. and i am thinking about my friends partner and all the people out there who must do the hard thing in front of them.

when my alarm goes off at 6, i will be rising with all the other people who are working the program–they at their meetings, and me at my desk.