Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, courage, Joy, Women's Work

Life in the driver’s seat on the road to happiness.

Last week as I was rifling through an old handbag, I came across a tiny yellow plastic giraffe.  I smiled, as this giraffe immediately transported me back to a conversation I had with my friend, Roland, several years ago, when I was still commuting to my corporate job in downtown Toronto.

Roland and I had agreed to meet after work and when we ordered drinks, they both came with a small, plastic giraffe on the edge of the glass.  My giraffe was pink and it was cracked, almost broken in half, barely hanging on, much like myself at that time.  His was yellow and whole, and seeing that mine was broken he gave me his, stating “I think this one is meant for you.”

When I look back on this period in my life, I can see that I was deeply unhappy.

For whatever reason, I felt trapped in a job that was not satisfying, and I was commuting three hours everyday to get to and from that unsatisfying job.  The work and the commute were taking their toll on me and on my family.  I had so little time to spend with my young daughters. I had no time or energy left for my husband, who was facing his own challenges that I wasn’t even aware of.  Our marriage was in trouble.  I was in despair.

This wasn’t the life I had wanted.

I kept asking myself “how did I get here?” and “how do I get out of here?” I didn’t know how or where to begin to move towards something better, or even what “better” might look like. It was as if I had closed my eyes, or put blinders on, and had no vision for my life other than getting through the next commute, work week or month until my next vacation.

Although Roland knew only a fraction of what was going on in my life, he must have seen my misery, for he shared with me, with a kind of divine clarity, two very important things.

The Importance of Accepting What Is

First, in what initially seemed like a random conversation, he told me what his daily morning ritual was.  That when he wakes up every morning, he sits still and looks around and acknowledges everything he can see in his room or apartment.

He told me “I acknowledge everything I have and everything I get to do in my work and personal life.  And I acknowledge everything I am feeling, from gratitude to frustration, all of it.  Because I am responsible for all of it – good and bad.  These things are in my life because of decisions I have made.  I am grateful for all that I have and I accept responsibility for my life, everyday.  And if there is something happening in my life that I don’t like, then I begin by accepting that it’s there, that it’s in my life just as it is.  And only then, when I have accepted it completely, can I begin to change it.”

I was immediately captivated by what he was telling me.  I am sure I sat open mouthed as he went on, feeling like a stone had been thrown into the deep well of my psyche, an inner knowing inside me rippling out to greet the truth of his words. Roland had just handed me a gift, not just a plastic giraffe but a truth I had not thought to seek in a rooftop Milestones in Toronto.

Knowing You’re in the Driver’s Seat

And there was more.  Next, he looked into my eyes and said: You are in the driver’s seat of your life, Shona. Or if you prefer a different analogy, you are writing your own story.  If you can accept that the situation you are in is of your own making (based on conscious and unconscious decisions with both intended and clearly unintended outcomes) then you can accept that only YOU can find a way out of it…by making different choices.   Only you can determine what road you’re going to travel down from here. You are driving this bus.  You can write a new story.  One where you are happy.

And so, clutching my untouched drink with it’s broken pink giraffe, I had an epiphany.  And nothing was the same for me after that moment.
I opened my eyes.
I  began to wake up and see that only by accepting the predicament I was in, and my role in creating it, could I claw my way out of it.

As it turned out, there was a lot of work ahead of me, clarifying what mattered, and what I was willing to give up in order to have what mattered.  And even though some decisions were very, very hard, I reveled in the fact that they were my decisions to make.

I put my hands on the wheel, threw the bus into drive, and took an exit for a road I hadn’t traveled down before.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
Mae West

I slowly made choices that were better for me and my family.  Although I took a massive pay cut, I found a job closer to home. In fact, I was able to walk my girls down our street and put them on the school bus and then continue walking to work!  For the first few months, I felt like I was on vacation, so much time had opened up in my life.

I won’t lie and tell you that adjusting to a reduced income was easy because often it was very challenging, partly because I didn’t really know how to prepare for it. What always brought me back from the brink of taking my hands off the wheel was remembering that now I had what mattered: time and energy for my children, time to talk with my husband, time to clean my own home and really appreciate it (now that the cleaning lady was gone) and time to think and dream and find myself again.  Time to have a vision for my life that was more than just surviving it.

I showed up for my drink with Roland all those years ago feeling buffeted by life’s circumstances, that life was happening to me and that I was at the mercy of forces beyond my control. But the reverse is true.  We are only trapped if we say we are.

Every day we can choose to create a different life.

We have the power, we really do.  I am not naïve, I know that dark times come to us all, and that hard, unwanted circumstances arrive on our door, sometimes without warning.  What you do in those moments though, what you choose to do in all the moments, is what matters. And while the reality of knowing you are in the driver’s seat is sometimes terrifying it is ultimately liberating.

I have carefully placed the yellow plastic giraffe on a shelf above the desk in my home office.  Giraffes, with their long necks, are creatures of remarkable vision who can see far, who can see all the paths across the savannahs. That giraffe marked the beginning of my awakening, when a wise friend planted in my heart a hope and in my mind a seed of possibility. He knew that the whole, yellow giraffe was for me, as a symbol of what my life could be if I had the courage to put myself in the driver’s seat and follow my vision of a better life.

xo Shona

“You are one decision away from a totally different life.”
— Mark Batterson

 

how to claim your destiny
Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Mindfulness and Meditation

How to Claim Your Destiny by Aligning These 2 Energies.

When I was younger, I was an avid reader of horoscopes and numerology.  I would go hunting for daily, weekly and yearly astrological predictions, even going to astrologers for more precise readings based on my specific time and place of birth.  I wanted to understand myself better and get a glimpse of my future.

All of this was (and still is) fascinating information to me. I bring this up now because I have come to realize that after these astrological sessions, although I felt excited and enlightened and even armed for the future with the information I needed, something was missing — and the missing piece was me.

It was written in the stars, wasn’t it?

I can remember at least twice receiving the prediction that I was going to have a great year, a year of “harvest” in which all my past efforts would bear fruit and I would be showered in abundance and recognition.  Or I would reach my career pinnacle and be presented with new opportunities and promotions. Undoubtedly, I told myself, fame and glory would be mine, I just had to watch it unfold as the years went by.

As you may have guessed, this never turned out quite the way I was anticipating.  And now, with the benefit of hindsight and a lot of self-reflection, I can tell you why.  I was sometimes literally sitting on the couch waiting for opportunity to knock.

I figured I just had to sit back and let the abundance/promotions/accolades roll in because it was written in the stars.

It was my destiny.

So what happened to all that potent possibility?

I didn’t go out to meet it.

I didn’t step out into the work that is required for the universe to move through you and manifest as reality.  I forgot (or I suspect I just never really understood) the important role that I played in “my destiny” – because although it may be written in the stars, your destiny can only be yours if you claim it.

You have to show up and meet your destiny along the way.

We must meet the universe half way with our attention to detail, our effort, our courage, our focus, our willingness to do what needs to be done in the present moment, with trust that the future will unfold accordingly.

I let my lust for outcomes distract me from what needed to be done to achieve those outcomes. I wasn’t honoring what I was seeking, I wasn’t honoring myself or the dream in my heart.

I explored another side of this theme in There is No Way to Push the River, about the fine balance between going with the flow and the dangers of stifling the flow by feeling that we need to be in control or force things to happen.

And as quiet meditation and self reflection helps me peel away the layers of this habit I can see that my experiences with astrological predictions are asking me to meet and address another layer of my story.

In this case the story of the balance between a totally hands-off “what’s mine is coming to me” approach versus “it’s right to have a plan, to write some goals, to work towards them, to have a dream you can create with your own hands and then to trust that the dream that has been placed in your heart is one that you CAN achieve”.

So the essence of this fine balance, between source and the physical, between what is dreamed and what is manifested, came pounding into my life by way of the buffalo.  For this is the gift that buffalo brings.

We can learn from the essence of the buffalo. 

When I started taking the first few steps towards my dream of serving as a holistic healer, I knew I wanted to create a circle where women (and men) could gather in a safe space grounded in love to explore their inner life and connection to the present moment through meditation.

Once I took the first few tentative steps in trust, I was haunted by buffaloes.  I dreamt of buffaloes, I heard buffaloes running in my dreams and one morning awoke convinced they were stampeding through the bedroom.

Around that same time I went into a café I had been to several times before, except that now there was a massive painting of a buffalo on the back wall and I was seated in the booth right next to it where I could see it from my seat.

And so I paid attention.

And then I knew Buffalo was not just here for me, he was here for the group, for the circle I wanted to create.  I came to know that the buffalo would guard and guide the work of our circle.

He would not only help me to manifest this circle but he would bring love, strength and direction to everyone there and allow us to take our visions and insights and dreams gleaned in a circle of love out into the world, to take action and manifest a better life for ourselves and a better world for all.  He would show us how to not just survive, but how to thrive.

Ted Andrews writes that the essence of the Bison or Buffalo is “manifesting abundance through right action and right prayer.”

He goes on to acknowledges that the buffalo was (and remains) a symbol of sacred life and abundance to the Lakota people and that he teaches how to pray for and bring forth abundance.

You do not have to struggle to survive if the right action is joined to the right prayer, meaning that by uniting the mundane (the physical aspects and work of everyday life) with the divine (our dreams, our thoughts, our prayers), all that is needed will be made available.

The buffalo’s massive shoulders suggest that it is through our own hard work, in shouldering our responsibilities and making an effort that we will be rewarded.

We must meet the universe half way.

Alignment vs. Hustle allows you to step into your destiny.

When we join right action with right prayers, the path is not difficult and the way/the path opens and flows easily. This also speaks to the important but subtle difference between “hustling” (pushing for sales, advancement, achievement) and “aligning” to your true work/desire/nature.

This work of aligning with the universe should not feel difficult, for the buffalo is very powerful but he forces nothing.  Like water, the buffalo herd finds the easiest path across the plains.

And so buffalo aligns what you are doing with what you are asking for – without the hustle.  He aligns the prayer and the path, the work and the reward, the life in the present with the promise of the future.

All things will happen in the time, manner and means that is best for us if we allow it…and nothing, not even time, is wasted.

One of the most powerful ways to access buffalo medicine is through gratitude. 

In the past, instead of being grateful for all that I had (for my job, my family, my home, my health)  I was busy distracting myself from the real work by looking for predictions of my future, longing for outcomes that could only be mine if I used what I had, if I showed up to the work right in front of me, if I started with gratitude for all that had already been gifted to me.

If you hear the call to align rather than hustle, or if you suspect that you are not meeting the universe half way on the path to your destiny but aren’t sure what to do next, then I can help.

Join me in circle or work with me in private as we uncover your destiny or what you are being called to bring forth into the world, and how the lessons of the buffalo can assist you in manifesting your most fertile dreams and stepping into all your magnificent possibilities.

I’m ready when you are….

Xo Shona

 

Buffalo

is thundering love

slow pulsing energy

of the earth is the heart

the bringer of gifts

the mighty roar of hooves

the pounding, dusty rush of energy

shifts in the heart

the roaming guardian of the circle

the protector of presence

the smoke in the pipe

is power beyond measure

is truth

is proof of the “I am”

rides the plains in power and claims the big skies

sings of blood and bone, victory and longing

strength in the dirt of the work

how nothing is wasted

how we must stand in the ground where we become

where we become

the blood and the bone and the dust of our labour

where we are one

with the drumming heartbeat that calls

the potent power that breathes

that charges

into your slumbering intentions

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Women's Work

How To Be Beautiful…And It’s Not What You Think.

The swan has been haunting me. Coming to me in images, conversations, paintings, cards and books, in synchronicities.

While an actual swan has not flown out of the sky and landed on my lawn, her energy has come forth in other ways no less powerful, to teach me about the true nature of beauty.

How To Be Beautiful

One of the best-known stories about a swan is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, the story of a signet born into a family of ducks, who is cast out because the other animals believe such an “ugly duckling” doesn’t belong with them.

Wherever he goes, he encounters others who question his appearance and shun him for being different.

After encountering a group of elegant white birds, the ugly duckling longs to one day be as beautiful as they are. At the end of a long cold winter, he sees his reflection in the water and realizes that he never was a duck, but that he is in fact a swan.

As Leta Greene reminds us: “The story about becoming beautiful isn’t about the ugly duckling becoming a swan; it is about the ugly duckling realizing it was a swan all along.”

This is an integral part of the energy of the swan.  In essence, she calls us to acknowledge our own inner beauty that was always, already ours.

But more than that, it is in this realization and re-claiming of our inner-beauty where the swan’s transformative healing power awaits.

The Power of Witnessing Our Real Beauty

To be clear, I am not talking about the beauty that comes from plucking, peeling, painting and pushing our bodies into an external ideal of beauty, but about the white-gold beauty that lies within.

In order to access or remember this inner beauty and light, we have to trust and accept what is. That is, we have to accept the body we have been given AND accept the light that lives inside us as our true selves.

Our culture teaches us, especially teaches women, to view our bodies as imperfect, and many of us have in fact been led to hate our bodies as though a body is all we are.

We become transfixed in front of the mirror by what is “wrong”, and we are so busy trying to improve and change our physical appearance that we have not time or energy left to improve or change the world with the power of our own true light.

In their Medicine Cards, Jamie Sams and David Carson tell the story of Swan’s journey into the dreamtime through a black hole where “I learned to surrender my body to the power of Spirit…because of my faith and my acceptance I have been changed. I have learned to accept a state of grace.”

Only when we witness and acknowledge this innate internal beauty in ourselves can its power transform us and come forth for all the world to see.

And I promise you it’s not just in some of us, it’s in all of us.

Once we know this, once we look beyond the surface and into the deep waters of our soul and see reflected there an image of our own true beauty, only then can we claim the power and the gift that Swan offers.

How We Come to Know Our Inner Beauty

What if, instead of attending to the outer, you attended to the inner you?

Entire industries have been built on the backs of our insecurities, on our belief that we are not beautiful just as we are.

We have spent fortunes on gym memberships, control-top panties, creams and lipsticks and all the while ignored the sweet internal call of the swan – drawing us to look at the beauty within.

Recently I have been experimenting with hearing and answering this call.

I worked in the cosmetics industry for many years, and during that time I wore lots of makeup everyday, I used a lot of creams and toners, I worked out, a lot. I groomed, all the time.

Now I sometimes dream about what I would do if I could get back all the hours I spent in front of a mirror.

There is nothing wrong with a healthy, fit body or taking care of your skin and hair. But for too long we have believed ourselves to be imperfect, that what makes us unique makes us ugly, that in our natural state we are not enough.

When We Let Our Light Shine We Give Others Permission to do the Same

And so with the swan’s help I am slowly remembering who I really am. I am returning to a more “natural” state and it feels like coming home.

I no longer insist on perfectly lined lips or perfect hair or a perfectly flat tummy because I am remembering that true beauty comes from a source inside.

And the more I know this and feel it in my core, the more it shows.

It shows in the light shining out from our eyes, our faces, and our words and even from the rhythm of our walk, from our easy smile, from our very being.

And with this light, you can transform the world, for “as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same” (Marianne Williamson).

Do not be obedient to the world that tells you that a thin body and flawless skin are all that matters, and do not believe the self-help industry that tempts you to believe you are broken beyond repair.

Answer the swan song in your heart that asks you to give up your life as a performer and be your true eternally beautiful self springing from a light that cannot be dimmed.

You may feel that I am romanticizing or over-stating the medicine of the swan, but Ted Andrews reminds us that “many tales involving swans end tragically, hinting at the primal life-changing power of beauty when released freely.”

Such is the case in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and in the term “swan song”.  As you may know, a “swan song” is the metaphorical phrase for a final gesture or performance given just before death or the end of a career. The term is based on the legend that a swan sings as it dies, this beautiful sweet song her final creative gift.

Swan asks us to die to who we think we are in order to become our true selves.

We Are So Much More than Our Physical Bodies

Regardless of how we may judge our physical bodies, we posses an inner radiance that attests that we are so much more than we appear to be.

Let Swan remind you of how beautiful you are, of how all else will fall away in the presence of your true, authentic, internal beauty.

She will show you how to be beautiful – how to transform into what you always, already are.

I would love to hear of your own encounters with swans and your own experiences of beauty. And, if you feel called to explore and express you inner radiance, I am here to witness and hold space for your transformation into your own beautiful, authentic self.

xo Shona

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Mindfulness and Meditation, Mystery and Magic

Why your own unique way of being in the world is so important now

When I walk outside, whether it’s in the woods or just down the street, I make a point of noticing what animals show themselves to me.  I thank the many squirrels and sparrows and dogs I meet on the path daily, and although they might seem like mundane, run-of-the-mill creatures, I still acknowledge and am grateful for their presence and their message.

In the frame of mind of listening and watching then, of being receptive to who or what may cross my path, it is always such a delight when I see an animal that is unusual to my regular sightings.

Twice now when I have walked to the top of a ridge covered in trees, I have seen woodpeckers.  Two of them pileated woodpeckers, as big as crows, hammering their beaks like thunder on a hollow branch, making a noise like a tree coming down.  That got my attention!

They flew off then, and I was struck by the distinct way that they fly: they “fly and coast down, fly and coast down…(the woodpecker) flies in a manner and rhythm unique to itself” (Ted Andrews).

The second sighting was yesterday; on the same ridge I was greeted by a smaller woodpecker, not tapping but calling out to me, a piping call.  The woodpecker’s red head is easy to spot but I would have missed this one as she was so high up.

I try to pay attention to what exactly I am thinking about or what issues are consuming me in the moment I see an animal, because that’s part of their message. 

And I consider the unique energy and behaviours of the animal I am with, both in general and in its interaction with me in the moment.  This is how their energy can help us and guide us when we are out in nature, seeking stillness and looking for answers.

So both times when I spotted the woodpeckers (or they spotted me) I was debating about this very thing that I am doing now.  Writing and talking about my connection to nature.  About how it might attract but also repel some people, this kinship I have with animals.  About ways in recent weeks that I had unconsciously tried to dilute it, to push it to the background, to deny it or at least deny it’s expression.

I was avoiding talking or writing about it. I was trying not to announce it. I chose not to be authentic so that I would be more accessible to people.  So that I would be liked.

So that I would fit in and be accepted.

I know this is such a trap.  It creates an energy that has no authenticity.  It creates in me a sense of inner-crying as I deny a gift that on the surface seems to have no obvious place in the civilized world.

But the woodpecker was asking me to go beyond the surface, to tap into the deeper meaning that lies beneath.

Woodpecker knows the power of her own natural rhythms, she made a lot of noise on that ridge, she thundered as she beat out her own rhythm on that hollow tree. She was showing me herself in flight, flying in her own unique way, showing me how to go forth in the world as my own true self with no apologies.

I know that if I do not accept the reality of this gift and own it and celebrate it, then no one else can.

And I know that this gift is supposed to come forth into the modern world because that’s where it is needed.

The internal response to even a small refusal on my part to let this energy flow is immediate: I start to feel sorry for myself, I feel lost and empty.  And that’s when I know I’m on the wrong track.

And I return to my path with deep gratitude for the woodpecker, who literally reminded me to fly my own way – to be authentic – how to tap out the rhythm of the song in my heart, and beat the drum loudly.

If you would like to learn more about how to discern the messages that animals and nature long to share with you when you are outside, or in moments of stillness, or in your everyday life, I can help.

I would love to hear your stories and confirm with you that all of nature conspires to love and guide us, and that every animal carries a medicine and a message for us, if we are willing to listen.  

And, it would be my privilege to help you discover how the natural world may be nudging (or insisting!) that you answer the call to be yourself, and to share yourself and your gifts with the world.

xo Shona

 

Woodpecker

She has her own rhythm
She has her own rhythm
She knows the beating of her heart
She flies in swoops
She has her own rhythm
A drumming cadence
A song in the beat
In the beating heart
In the tap tap call
The insistent crack of
Bark the breaking
Into what was hollow
What lies beneath
The real rhythm
The real me
The real life
The real love
The force of
One who is awakened
By the drum
And she knows
And she stands
To be to be the beat
My own rhythm on the drum
To follow it to the end
She drums out the beat of a
Dark red dancer
Flashing between the trees
A thunder drummer
Daring me
To be
Stand this is me
Stand this is me

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Joy

How to work with joy by giving up this one odious habit

“Comparisons are odious.”  -Popular fourteenth-century saying

Lately, I have been comparing.  Comparing myself to others, in a range of areas including but not limited to: how I look, what I am wearing, how far my leg stretches compared to the woman beside me in yoga class (because THAT’S what yoga’s all about, right there), who has more “likes” on Facebook, who is doing more seminars, who has an “in” with Oprah.

It is a distraction, it is a form of self-sabotage, it is odious.

I am certain of this not just because of how comparisons make me feel (small, miserable, defeated) but because of an experience I had last year with a hawk. Since moving to a small town in Ontario twelve years ago, I have delighted in almost weekly sightings of red-tailed hawks.  Their power and grace in flight enthrall me, and I am filled with joy whenever I see one.

So naturally I was drawn to reading “H is for Hawk” by falconer Helen Macdonald, about her experience of coming to terms with her father’s death through the acquisition of a fierce goshawk named Mabel and her struggles to tame and train her to hunt. The book jacket has it right: “it is a beautiful story about the hard-won trust between hawk and human.”

As I finished reading this book, I actually sighed with sadness and thought to myself: “This book is so beautiful, I will probably never write anything this good, or have that kind of relationship with a hawk.” In short, I was jealous of Helen.

Instead of celebrating the profound relationship that developed between her and Mabel, and being grateful that she shared this story with the world, and that it came into my hands, I was sad because I was comparing.

Comparison is the thief of joy. -Theodore Roosevelt

I felt like less. As if her words could diminish mine. As if her experience could diminish my own experience with and love for the hawk and all of nature.

Very shortly after finishing the book and the work of making myself feel like crap, I went downstairs and was standing at my kitchen sink looking out the window when a red-tailed hawk flew right past the window and landed on a fence post about 20 feet directly in front of me!

YES.

The hawk’s back was to me and as she perched she spread her wings out wide and flared her red tail feathers, before speeding off after her prey.

In that moment I was profoundly humbled.

And so I am not too proud to tell you that I burst into tears and although I was weeping, I certainly wasn’t miserable.

I felt redeemed.

I felt the weight of all those comparisons lifted from me and knew that the hawk, in the face of my self-doubt, had shown up to remind me of my worth and my work. To bring me back to joy.

As often as I can, I return to that moment of communion with the hawk to help me rise up from the shadow land of comparison, to help me focus on my own inner journey and not on what others may or may not be doing or working on or achieving.

It keeps me from letting comparisons bleed the joy out of my life.

It keeps me moving forward even when it’s hard, when my darkest thoughts tell me I will never be as good as or as committed as or as brave as…when comparison makes me want to quit.

Instead of giving up on our work and our dreams, we must learn to give up the habit of comparing ourselves to others.

I can look back now and see that there were times in my life when I gave up a project and even a dream because I felt that there was someone else doing it better, that I shouldn’t even try because my best efforts would fall short, or that my idea wasn’t as good as theirs.

For me the hawk is a light in that storm of defeating mind-chatter and I can trust her to bring me home to myself and to joy in my own work every time, and for that I am filled with love and gratitude.

If you feel trapped in the joyless, odious cycle of living by comparisons, I can help.

I know the terrain well and I can attest that once we learn to abandon our habit of comparing, instead of abandoning our dreams, we can more fully awaken to what calls us with a sense of joy, confidence, and renewed purpose.

Shona