Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Too Much?

Is it “too much” if you love it all?

I have many interests and passions. And I pursue them all. And I often find myself overwhelmed by the many pots I have my fingers in. I am married and a mother of a young child; I teach belly dance classes with a brand new studio space opening next week; I lead a belly dance troupe that rehearses regularly and performs monthly; I am a student of shamanic studies in a distance learning program called Anima; I am also an applicant to become an apprentice of this same place; I love to sew; I keep a journal; I draw and paint; I bake my own bread; I love to garden and raise my own food; I take workshops to become a better belly dancer and teacher; I love to travel (though haven’t done much of that recently); I cook to relax; I savor and cherish my alone time; I am a tree hugging-dirt worshipper who must spend time outside each day; and I have a “real” job that is for a good cause that is not quite full time, more than part-time, to help pay for it all (though it is of course more “in my way” of doing all of the above if I were to tell the truth – and I try to make it a point of telling the truth).

Whew. Oh, and I try to sleep every once in a while too.

So what’s a girl to do?

I could make clever and highly unrealistic new years’ resolutions about doing less, but aside from the job for a good cause (mainly because it requires working on some else’s schedule rather than my own), I wouldn’t eliminate anything that I do.

What I do instead, is try to slow down. I don’t try to do it all each day. I am not always successful at this mind you. For example today, on my lunch hour, I drove to 6 different places to accomplish twice as many things that were on my list and still didn’t get them all done ~ okay, perfect example of how not to slow down! But even in my madness to do it all, I realize that most of what I choose to accomplish in a day is set up and determined by me. I take care of myself first. And there are not many role models for this. Especially for women. But it makes the world of difference in my attitude, in how I feel about each of the moments that make up my life. I am the creator of my life. I can determine how busy I will be. There is freedom and power in choosing how to spend each moment of my life, savoring each moment because it is filled doing something I love.

But wait you say, what about family obligations? Paying bills? Cleaning the bathroom? Who does all of those tedious tasks that weren’t mentioned above? I still have those in my life. But even those things, I have learned to make more interesting and enjoyable. One, by choosing when and where and how to do them. For example, spending time with my family for the holidays ~ family time can be onerous of course ~ so I suggested we go away somewhere fun instead of doing the same old thing, and we ended up at the coast and in lieu of gifts spent our money on a beach house and good food, with many walks and a fabulous show of winter storms over the ocean to enjoy instead. Another example, when I pay bills I do it the old fashioned way (no automatic computer payments for me), I sit down with my checkbook, a beautiful pen, outside on my deck, with incense lit, a glass of wine, and music playing. It’s a ritual rather than a duty.

And, yes, I still get overwhelmed. But what I have found that really works best, is staying present. Being fully engaged in each act, each chore, each errand that I’m doing at that moment. Rather than thinking about the next four things on my list (and trust me, I am a list queen!), if I can focus instead on the one right in front of me, I am able to enjoy it, do it right, and savor it, and know that I don’t have to worry about what comes next, it will get its own turn at being the center of my attention. And, the greatest reward of all, in staying present, is that I am often shown some small detail, given a precious insight, or led on a new path of discovery that would have been a blur, if noticed at all, had I been looking ahead to the next thing. Today, in my mad lunch rush, I was waiting at a red light, and found myself thinking about my next stop (the post office if you must know, wondering if they would have anything besides flag stamps), when I reeled myself back in, looked out the passenger window, and saw a hawk land on a branch in a tree right at eye level! What a beautiful gift! So though staying present takes conscious effort, it is so worth it!

Finally, did I mention that I don’t have a TV? (Here comes the preachy part!) I choose to be fully engaged in MY life, not some actor’s, or worse these days, someone else’s life on a reality show. No! Take your TV to your nearest recycling center. Don’t even donate it, just get rid of it! Get outside, find some art supplies, turn on some good music, cook a good meal, heck, buy a drum! Do something that you have always been afraid to do! Go for it!!! Time to create our lives, fill them with the passion and creativity. Get busy, but please, be busy doing what you love!! (End of preachy part.)

I haven’t really solved the dilemma of having too many things that fill my time, but at least I am content in knowing that I love my life, each and every crazy, busy, blessed moment of it!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice and the Gift of Eagle

The longest night of the year, and I cannot sleep. Rather than tossing and turning in bed hoping for slumber, I am instead fully awake, fully experiencing this night.

Winter Solstice, the turning of the wheel of the year, the returning of the light. When the days once again lengthen and the sun returns. Darkness gives way to light. Endings. And beginnings. Death. And rebirth.

The shortened days and longer nights this time of year lend themselves quite easily, if we allow, for sorting through our shadows, the darkness that is part of us all ~ each in our own unique and individual ways. It can be ugly, it can be painful, it can be downright depressing to own up to that which may hurt others or harm ourselves. But at the same time, by looking squarely at our darkness, we can see that which needs transformed, left behind, or embraced to better serve who we are meant to be. Our darkness can be our greatest gift.

I have danced in and out, unaware then deeply involved, distracted then fully engaged in celebrating and honoring the celestial holidays such as Solstice. Yet it has been a day (or night) to give pause simply because countless other cultures throughout time have noted its worthiness. In past years I have created rituals, lit candles, and given thanks, but I don’t think I ever truly connected from my heart with what this time of year represents. This year feels different.

This year I actually feel a darkness lifting, I feel my inner light glowing, I feel the beginning of the stirrings of actually feeling free! No, I’m not quite there yet, but I feel the warmth of a glowing ember!

My gift this year, the darkness that I am embracing, has been my own sense of power. Or lack there of. By power, I mean not power over, but the power that comes from within. Empowerment. Being power-full. For much of my life I have given my power to others. I have given away my very center. I have expected others to fulfill needs that in no way was ever theirs to tend to. I have lived through others hoping that through proximity, I would become like them. I would become frustrated because I needed others more than they needed me. I did not see that my own center was shifted outside, away from myself onto others. This year, especially this season, has been a time to face this imbalance squarely and see what I have been doing. It is time to reclaim all that I want to be. All that I am meant to be. I am done looking to others hoping that their light will illuminate me. It is time to light the inner flame that is in the center of ME.

While I was facing this shadow side of myself, during these very short days with much darkness, I was also given a gift. Recently I have been focusing more on being present. On being aware. And I was delighted to see that this exercise has its rewards! Not once, but four separate time in 24 hours I was greeted by Eagle. Alas, not the flesh and alive winged one itself, but in images, stories, artwork, and lessons. The first time Eagle showed up I didn’t take much notice, but by the fourth time I was on high alert.

The Eagle is a symbol for many, many cultures. Representing strength, freedom, and yes, power. But I have learned more about this fascinating bird, it has also been a symbol throughout time for spirit, creation, healing, and illumination.

And so Eagle appeared, during the darkest time of the year, to remind me of my own spirit, of my own creative abilities, that by reclaiming my power I am healing myself, and that ~ with the return of the light of this Solstice ~ illumination awaits!

Blessings to all this Winter Solstice! And many thanks to Eagle.

This Eagle, and many others, can be found at

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I thought I had a love hate relationship with snow. It’s so beautiful. The silence and quietness that envelopes you completely. Building snowmen and making snow angels. Snow-shoeing and sled rides. But it’s also shoveling our driveway, and if deep enough, the entire gravel road we live on just to get to a plowed, paved road. And then there’s the icy roads, with not enough snow and ice each year to remember from the year before how to actually drive in the darn stuff. And the fact that most of the people in the county live over 1000 feet lower down the mountain than us, and are being rained on, and not understanding why we’re stuck, while the snow at our house is building up inch by dreadful inch.

We have been ready to leave the snow for over a year. Our house is on the market. (Need I mention what kind of market we’re in?) We want to live lower, out of the forest, have warmer winters, a longer growing season, have a vegetable garden and an orchard for fruit trees. We are done shoveling, done digging, done risking our lives on curvy icy mountain roads.

Yet something this year revealed itself to me. It’s not the snow that I am fighting against. It’s the schedules. It’s the appointments. It’s society’s insistence that we go on with a 9-5 routine, 5 days a week, every week of the year. There is no allowance for snow. For weather, for goodness sake! You must still go to school, be to work on time work, attend your meetings. It’s the rigidity of the work-driven county I live in that I’m pushing up against. It’s the clock. It’s the calendar. It’s the regimented life that so many insist we follow.

And I want it to stop! I do not want to fight my way down the mountain, I want to take a walk in the snow and enjoy the stillness. I want to curl up with a book and a cup of tea in front of the wood stove and not worry about going anywhere. I want to flow with nature’s rhythms ~ the shortened days, hunkering down, the season for going within. I want to appreciate the here and now. I want to savor the present.

I am ready for a change in priorities. Working hard, making money (or scraping by), focusing on the elusive future ~ weekends, vacations, retirement ~ we have missed so much with this narrow vision of what life can be. Adhering to schedules, timelines, calendars, all that have nothing to do with the season of the year or the length of a day. The snow is here to remind us to slow down, to go within. It is not a time of sowing or harvesting. It is the time of year to pause, to reflect, to dream, and to simply be. The time of year that reminds me to quiet my very busy mind, the chatter, the constantly doing, the lists. Having a road covered in snow gently forces me to take care of immediate needs, the present ~ enough wood for the stove? enough food? And to reflect on all that the previous year has brought, and what I’d like the next year to bring. But without having to act on any of it!

I’m ready for our society to shift its focus from constantly doing more, being busy, working so hard to have the many gadgets and appliances and the stuff that merely distracts us from the present. Instead I want us all to shift to connecting, to creating, and to simply being.

So it turns out I don’t hate snow at all. I actually love this time of year and I love the snow.