The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

And awry our plans have gone the past six months!  Sometimes on account of amazing wonderfulness, joy, and delight, as in the birth of our first grandchild, who turned six months old this past week. At other times, on account of things quite challenging and demanding of us, as in the declining health and repeated hospitalizations of an elderly parent who relies on us for care. Then add in all those daily things that happen while we are busy planning our life, and well… good intentions begin to seem like another way I have let myself down.

I don’t like breaking commitments to anyone, including myself, so I am disappointed that I have not been posting, as I had made a commitment to myself in that regard.  And at the same time, I know that I made the right decision to let it drop for a while, given that life gave me other priorities for a time. This is so much of what life is made of: difficult discernment, dealing with dissapointment, times when we face choices and decisions that put our values in conflict with one another.

So now, I do what has been quite hard for me to learn….begin again. And again.  And again. Always, begin again.  It is so hard to have to keep going back to the beginning when I had hoped to be so much further along the journey. And yet…at this rate, before too much longer I should become a master at this beginning again thing!

Being Curious: Crosstraining for Heart and Mind, Body and Soul

An ongoing series of posts around Ways of Being that contribute to our becoming whole and healed in heart and mind, body and soul, that support wholehearted engagement with life: relationships, family, work, and world.

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Curiosity is a quality of mind and heart that prepares human-beings to more easefully transform themselves into their highest possible selves, one of many tools of transcendence.  Our curiosity is what leads us in the direction of what we seek to know and understand to a greater and deeper degree, far beyond recognition and affiliation. It is a state of mind and a Way of Being in the world.

Where and when in your life do you actively live the quality of curiosity? How are you curious? What piques your curiosity? What inspires a sense of awe in you? In what circumstance do you find that wonder is a constant companion? How do you welcome, work, and play with this wonder-ful companion?

One way to think about curiosity is as the opposite of certainty. We live and work in a culture in which certainty is expected and subconsciously rewarded, while uncertainty, the foundation of curiosity, is deemed as a weakness or a flaw, a discomforting state of being that few of us have developed the stamina for enduring.  As a result, many of us are over-attached to, or over-identified with, certainty: we have definite opinions, which we present to ourselves and others as factual, along with particular preferences and aversions that drive our behaviors beyond our own awareness. We have entire areas of our life in which we have closed our minds and hearts.

The first step in strengthening the quality of curiosity is to begin to notice where it shows up, or is missing. To just pay attention and notice when I want to know more, when I have an interest that wants to be followed; to notice how I respond to uncertainty; to notice where I feel comfortable with asking questions and being open to learning.

 One way this plays out in my life is with birds. We have created our small back yard/garden to be a sanctuary for wildlife, especially birds. I am driven to learn the names of all the birds that visit, what their food preferences are, what are their nesting habits? I am constantly noticing something new in their behavior, especially this time of year as they teach the babies to leave the nest, to fly, and only then teach them to find food and feed themselves…such the opposite of what I expected. I am pulled along by a thread of curiosity to notice, study, research, observe some more, and on and on with the birds. I have been intently following this web of wonder for more than ten years and it never gets old for me.

 Conversely, I can notice when I am completely convinced or certain about something, and then see if I can allow myself, without judgment or criticism, to wonder how and why that is so. How come I am so convinced by or attached to this way, issue, habit, opinion, or belief? How did I come to be so sure? What would happen if I allowed myself to become a little bit curious about it? Can I let in just a bit of uncertainty and wonder?

Tomatoes: peel or unpeeled? Seems silly, but even though my husband and I have been married for more than 37 years, we still argue about this. In his home, you just sliced the tomato. In my home, the tomatoes were always peeled. We each stubbornly stuck to our childhood experience with tomatoes as being “correct.” One day I decided to ask my dad about peeling the tomatoes. He said, “I have no idea. My mother always peeled them. When I married your mom, she didn’t, but I let her know that that I wanted them peeled because that was just what I was used to.”  Family tradition without meaning means is a sign to me to engage the issue with more curiosity. I have experimented and discovered that different types of tomatoes have different types of skins.  Now, it depends on the tomatoes. The heirlooms we grow in our garden really do not need peeling, the skin is so thin (and fragile). The ones I buy from a local farmers market have a great flavor, but a very thick skin (which allows them to travel and keep better) that is hard to even bite through on a sandwich, so I peel them.

As you experiment with noticing your own relationship to curiosity and certainty, attend to how your respond in your body, mind, heart and soul? What happens when you allow myself to wonder about your convictions? What are the sensations in your body? What stories do you begin to tell and retell in your mind? How does your heart connect, open or close to this? In what ways do you sense your soul responding when you open yourself to wonder and curiosity?

Cultivating Cross-Fitness of the Heart and Soul

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Being human means we are continuously faced with transitions of one sort or another: predictable and unexpected, joyful and painful, easeful and challenging. A big life question is how can we learn to navigate through change, living lives of resilience and transformation, even transcendence, rather than of so much frustration, reactivity and stuckness?

Navigational support for this journey is everywhere. Religion and spiritual teachers from every faith and culture have clear and helpful teachings to ease our journey, open our awareness and our hearts, develop resilience of spirit, and to guide us in our abilities to grow stronger and kinder towards ourselves and others. Most fascinating, is how at their core, they are all leading us to very same/similar practices and insights.

I have a number of colleagues and acquaintances that tend to their physical fitness through a program called Cross Fit. The premise of the program, as I understand it, is that it is broad, general, and inclusive, easily adapted to age, experience, present fitness level, training goals, etc.  It is the opposite of many other exercise programs which focus on one doctrinal method or specialization. Hmmmm……what an interesting approach to fitness of the body, so similar to what the sages across time have recommended for the fitness of heart and soul.

Over the next months we will look at ways to cultivate Cross-Fitness of the heart and soul in order to prepare ourselves to move through transitions with more ease and grace, to ripen ourselves for transformation and transcendence.

We will begin with the practice of curiosity. How curious are you? What is the relationship between curiosity and certainty?

What is Wisdom Scout?

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Well, I named my business Wisdom Scout, not because I think I am wise, but because I truly enjoy exploring for wisdom.

I revel in the entire process of

  • inquiry,
  • discovery,
  •  investigation and experimentation,
  •  and, finally, synthesis of wise ways of living, leading, and honoring life’ passages.

I have lived my life as a curious seeker of what is helpful, healing, and harmonizing to humans and our relationships with one another. Through the broad exploration of many of the wisdom traditions of the world, and the deeper focused study of a few disciples, disciplines, cultures, and faiths, I have learned much about what it means to be a more compassionate, caring, conscious, loving person, then worked to integrate this wisdom into who and how I am. While I am fallible and imperfect on a daily, if not hourly, basis, my search has allowed me to accept my humanness and given me the courage to live into a higher calling of my particular gifts and talents.

I am a scout in the two ways we commonly think of scouting:

1)     as in going ahead to seek out important information and/or recruit talent,  as well as,

2)     earning merit (but without the colorful badges) by working to become diversely accomplished and well-prepared to meet whatever situations or conditions are encountered with a level of confidence and grace.

I now serve others, sharing wisdom resources and practices for the wholeness and health of the body, the spirit, the mind and the soul, as well as for communities and organizations.  I imagine myself as a combination of Lewis and Clark and Sacagawea, exploring the territory of life transition and transformation while serving as an interpreter and guide to others who are interested in the journey.

As a teacher-coach (interpreter-guide) at heart, I am called to share what I have learned with others. I help each client discern what he/she most desires to bring forth into his/her life, including short-term goals or life-long aspirations for health, well-being, and flourishing relationships. I then assist them in connecting to their own inner wisdom through a process of teaching, coaching, and consulting in:

  • life and work transitions
  • leadership and communication,
  • mindfulness and awareness practices,
  • therapeutic yoga and breath-work,
  • ceremonies, especially weddings, and healing rituals across the life-cycle.

All which make up my sweet spot of service.

And the best part is…..every teaching or coaching or ceremony experience is another opportunity to scout for more wisdom as I continually discover new things about myself and how to help others through the wisdom of each person or group with whom I have the privilege of working.

The Holidays: When Tradition and Expectation Overshadow My Heart’s Deep Longing

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My husband has a large and loving family. And it has been the tradition for a long time that we host Thanksgiving dinner. What was once a clan of 12 – 18 has grown to include most years more than 30 dear, wonderful relatives from ages 86 years young to a couple of weeks old. This family has been richly blessed as our children have grown up, married, and now many have children of their own. With ever larger numbers of little ones, and with most family groups needing to “eat and run” so that they can attend at least another Thanksgiving with their spouse’s family, it has become a rigidly timed day of high expectation and longstanding tradition which, more often than not, leave’s my heart longing for what really matters. I long for time to reconnect with one another in a way more meaningful that just catching up on the latest work crisis or the fabulous, amazing things that the grandchildren can now do: time to pause together, honor, and celebrate our struggles and celebrations; time to express our gratitude; time to just be with one another.

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So this year, I decided to follow the longings of my heart and create a ritual that would create a bit of space and time for that to happen. We sent a message out a couple of days beforehand inviting everyone to participate in a Family Thanksgiving Gratitude Mandala, giving a heads up that it was going to be a combination of arts and crafts and nature and gratitude experience. We wanted everyone to have time to think about their blessings and mercies before they arrived, given the general chaos of the day. We also knew that it is next to impossible to get the entire group to be still, quite, and listen except during the blessing before the meal.

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On Thanksgiving Eve, Glenn and I shopped for the flowers, gathered the supplies, cut the natural materials. On Thanksgiving Morn, we made a beautiful foundation, symbolizing aspects of the Christian faith: three center sunflowers for the Holy Trinity, surrounded by red roses for God’s love for us and our love for God and one another, bay branches for the cross, all surrounded by rosemary, for remembrance of their parents, brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are no longer with us, as well as the relatives who were not able to attend this year.

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After lunch, the children were invited out onto the porch to make their prayer object to include in the mandala from an array of materials: sticks, stones, and magnolia pods for the base; feathers, acorns, wheat, berries, leaves, cotton bowls, etc.  and a basket of colorful ribbons and yarns for embellishment. They were invited to consider their blessings and mercies as they worked, sealing their gratitude into their prayer object as they created it. Then they placed each prayer object carefully within the Family Thanksgiving Gratitude Mandala.

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I offered myself as an example of choosing materials that held particular meaning: I chose green leaves, because I was thankful for the many learning and growth opportunities that I have had over the past year. And I chose to tie together a bundle of sticks, because I am grateful for the support and help of others as I have faced various challenges. It was OK just to choose what you were drawn to as what it might represent for you is often revealed in time as we ponder on it.

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The children were completely engaged, some making four or five prayer objects. Most of the adults participated. The humming flow of creative, thoughtful, concentration filled the air. I felt held in the love and attentive pure presence that each family member contributed to the whole.

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It was a lovely way to just be together, sharing our blessings, particularly for those family members who are less comfortable with the more public prayers. And the kids were definitely the most creative and adventurous in their creations. Imaginations going full tilt!

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We are sending the pictures of our Family Thanksgiving Gratitude Mandala out to our entire clan so that we can be reconnected to our gratitude for one another all year long. It reminds us all that, if we are not mindful, tradition and expectation can be both a blessing and a barrier during the holidays. Meaningful, concrete rituals allow us to artfully and wholeheartedly express our hearts deepest longings and be present to one another, to experience what matters most.

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Healing through Ritual, Art, and Nature

Ritual, art, and nature are each a powerful and joyful way to heal the body and the soul. When you marry the three, magic happens!

I had the privilege and the pleasure, along with Heidi Darr-Hope, of Healing Icons, to lead a healing ritual of co-creating this gorgeous Healing Mandala with the participants of the Cancer as a Turning Point: From Surviving to Thriving conference, held in Spartanburg, SC, this past weekend.

Heidi and I gathered the mandala materials…

Then created the Healing Mandala beginnings by first creating a circle, a symbol of balance and wholeness..

Then adding a centering focus…

We put out baskets of river rocks (collected from the beautiful South Tow River), a rainbow assortment of silk threads and wildly textured weaving and knitting remnants, sprigs of healing eucalyptus, and flower petals ….

And then invited people to create a healing talisman by first choosing a rock, then, holding it in the palm of their hand, to bless it with a healing intention for themselves, another, or everyone.

And then to wrap their stone and and nature elements with colorful threads to seal and bind their prayerful, healing intentions.

The artful stones were then carefully placed within the Healing Mandala,  marinating in and contributing to the collective healing energy of the ritual.

Each stone talisman was its own object of beauty…

Each person could come reclaim their healing talisman, or swap with new friends, as they were leaving the conference.

Heidi and I gathered all the flowers and leaves to be returned to nature with thanks and gratitude for their gifts of  healing energy and beauty to close the ritual.

Heidi and I are delighted to have shared in such a soulful, spirited, kind, and caring community of healers, cancer survivors, family members, friends, and volunteers. Thank You!

Celebrating Myself!

One of my talents in life, one of the things that I love to do more than anything, is bring meaning, joy, and ritual to milestone life events: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, memorials, baby welcomings, etc.  I love to create heartfelt, unique celebrations, experiences, and momentoes for family members and friends, colleagues or strangers, which honor and capture the essence of who they are and the occasion they are celebrating. It is, to paraphrase Meister Eckhart , the place where my greatest gift intersects with a deep need in this world.

It is innately human to utilize the sharing of  food, decorations, words, images, symbols, symbolic rituals and traditions to mark any and all sorts of rites of passage. However, for American humans in the 21st century, the natural human response to important life events through ceremony and celebration is not always so natural. Materialism and peer group expectation often guide the design and creation of events that would better serve us all if they were guided instead by the hearts, souls, and values of the family or couple, sharing who they are, rather than who they are trying to be.  And, after doing some work as an event planner and a wedding director, I came to the conclusion that too many couples and families were missing out on what really mattered. I wanted to help them put as much of themselves, their STORIES, their unique spirits and values (and their money) into a ceremony that was rich, meaningful, memorable, and filled with love and joy.

AND SO……….. I made the decision last summer to deepen and expand my knowledge, understanding, and skills around symbolic ritual, ceremony, celebration, and rites of passage. I wanted to become a ceremony expert, to be of service to others, from all faiths and cultures, for “all the children of the world,” a dream I have had since I sang that song every day as a little girl. I want to coach and guide each couple or family as together we imagine, plan, and create the sorts of celebrations and events that capture the essence of who they are, what they value and hold dear, and that invites their guests to feel included and offer support for whatever transition they may be undergoing: a marriage, a retirement, a new business opening, an anniversary event, a vow renewal, a milestone birthday, welcoming a new baby into the family………the possibilities are endless. I want to write and tell their story as part of the ceremony. And if needed, even officiate the ceremony.

AND SO…….I applied for and was accepted into the Celebrant Foundation and Institute’s Programs for Celebrancy Studies, with a certification in weddings.  After months of life changing coursework, hours and hours each week of reading and writing, of learning about the rituals and customs from cultures and religions across the globe and across time, of creating practice ceremonies and reviewing ceremonies, I graduated on Sunday morning, April 28. The amazing and joyful ceremony was held in the Hyatt on the Hudson River, with the NYC skyline outside the glass ballroom, with the Statue of Liberty just outside the window wall behind the stage; breathtaking and lifemaking beyond imagination.

I am now a certified Life Cycle Celebrant, helping you and yours live the art of life through personalized ceremonies. I welcome your question, inquiries, and well wishes.