Authenticity, Awakening, courage, Joy, Mindfulness and Meditation, Women's Work

My struggle to be grateful and how it changed my life

Six years ago, as I was preparing to leave my corporate job and struggling to figure out how and when and why it was all going to work out, I was moved to rekindle my life- long love affair with meditation.

In my struggle to have it all, and do it all (you probably know this story: I tried to work full time at a demanding corporate job, commute into the city, enroll the girls in every evening activity going, and have the perfect home and the perfect outfit) I had become so detached from who I really was and what I really wanted that I felt almost numb.

I knew that one of the easiest ways to reconnect with myself was through the peace and presence of meditation and that when beginning a meditation practice, one of the best ways in is through cultivating genuine gratitude.  I knew that living in gratitude would open my heart and guide my thoughts through the challenges that lay ahead.

What I had not anticipated was how difficult it was going to be for me to feel grateful…for anything.

So, faced with a troubled marriage, mounting debt, numbing depression and a career crisis (so let’s say it felt like my life was literally teetering on the edge of destruction) I sat and tried to connect with what I was grateful for. And it was so unexpectedly hard.  For so long I had allowed myself to focus on what was wrong: wrong with the house, with my husband, with my children, with their school, with the town I lived in, with my work, with the car, with my life, with everything.

I had allowed myself to get into the habit of looking for flaws, and so my life was always full of problems and nothing was ever good enough just as it was.

I rarely experienced the joy of just resting in the life I had built and embracing it with all it’s beauty and cracks.   I can only guess how difficult I must have been to live with at this time, for I can certainly see now how miserable I was making myself and probably everyone around me in my carefully honed pursuit of all that was not just so.

As I sat on my meditation cushion, sometimes with tears streaming down my face, wondering how in the world I had gotten so off course, I kept reaching for gratitude, because I was determined that I was not going to live this way any longer.

I started with things that seemed obvious, but which I unquestionably took for granted. I started with simply being grateful that I had a place to call home.  That my children were healthy.  That we had great neighbors and lived in a safe community. That I had clean water to drink…and coffee.  These are things we can so easily take for granted, but for many they are luxuries to aspire to.

And I kept listing and repeating in my meditations: “I am grateful for this…I am grateful for that….”  And it took a long time, literally weeks, to actually feel what I could identify as genuine gratitude.  I had really gone to the dark side.

I could list the things I was grateful for but it wasn’t reaching my heart.

In truth, for a long time my meditations went like this: “I am grateful for my home…but it needs new flooring and the front door needs painted and my husband hasn’t fixed the railing on the porch yet and here’s another thing about him that frustrates me…”  Yes — it was ugly. But still, I was not willing to live in my self-created darkness anymore.  Only I could dig myself out of this hole.

So I would replace my thoughts with: “I am grateful for my home, with it’s big windows to let in the sun, with it’s old turn of the century charm, which was restored and renovated by my husband, who worked hard at it and did a good job, and I am grateful for that too.”

And then finally, after weeks, probably months, of working at it, I started to feel the energy of gratitude in my body.  It was a gentle hum.  It finally reached my heart and opened it to all the beauty in my life.  Gratitude slowly lifted me out of the black hole I was in, it loosened the crushing grip of my negative thoughts.

Finally, it was gratitude that gave me the power, the light, and the inspiration to find my way forward.

To realize I already had so much in my life that was so good, and I wanted to cherish every single bit of it.

I tell this story in the hope that it may inspire you, if you are in a dark place, to reach for gratitude.  And also to remind myself of the strength and courage it takes to change – to change our thoughts, to change long-standing habits that no longer (or perhaps never) served us, to change our lives.  And to assert that no matter how long you’ve traveled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around.

With gratitude,

Xo Shona

Authenticity, Awakening, courage, Joy, Mindfulness and Meditation, Mystery and Magic, Women's Work

Standing up to who you are not

I recently made a trip to Germany, a place I had long yearned to visit.  Shortly after I returned, a client asked me if I’d had a significant spiritual experience there, since I’d had such a strong calling to visit that country.

And so I thought about what my answer to her question might be, and I realized that while there were moments in Germany that were truly amazing and awe-inspiring and fun, what was most profound and provided me with the greatest context for growth were the experiences I had relating to the friend I was travelling with.

Over the years I have noticed that my ability to be true to myself is forged through the pressure from other people to be the opposite of who I really am.

In ways both subtle and blatant, friends and family have tried to mold my behaviour and choices, and even outlined what work or career path I am best suited for, usually out of a sense of love or knowing what will be “best for me.”

They have often encouraged me to abandon my innate gifts and adopt highly rational, sensible, and systematic ways of doing things.  While I certainly can be rational and analytical and systematic, it brings me little joy.

The contemplation and eventual pursuit of some of their options always eventually created a feeling of deep sadness and restlessness in my heart.

I have several close friends who are accountants, including the friend I traveled with through Germany.  To be clear, I have nothing but respect for the work that accountants do, theirs is a skill set I lack but I absolutely appreciate how their talents help the world to run. So it will come as no surprise when I tell you that our styles of travelling were different.

Weeks before we left, she made a spreadsheet with dates, times, hotels, bus and train options, and all the costs.  The arrival of this spreadsheet in my inbox nearly paralyzed me.   Over-planning (and I can sometimes be guilty of thinking that ANY planning is over-planning) is something that can bleed the joy and spontaneity out of life, and certainly out of a trip.

We were (for the most part) able to talk and laugh our way through her spreadsheet, ensuring that she had enough planning done for her to feel confident, and that there was enough unplanned time for me to feel that we could live in the moment while visiting Germany.

This was one of the first hurdles conquered, as I am often guilty of staying silent and slowly allowing myself to get frustrated in situations like this.  We were able to see right away how we were different, and as it turns out, we traveled really well together, and we were eventually able to appreciate what the other brought to the table.

And so part of my insight was in seeing first hand and appreciating the times when planning really did make our trip better.  My friend was an expert at using her phone to find excellent restaurants (every time!) and to navigate the rail system.  We hit all the places we wanted to see, and I know we may have got no further than the airport in Frankfurt if it hadn’t been for her.

At the same time, when things didn’t go to plan, I was able to problem solve on the fly, without my phone, using a sense of direction to help us find our hotel, connecting with people who “I just had a feeling” wanted to help us when our train was cancelled.

But at times I struggled yet again with where I fit into a world that values and applauds the plan, the rational, the system, the map, the strategy, the schedule, the app, the efficiency.

Often in my life I have felt that what I bring to the table is lost, or not valued:  the improvisation, the spontaneity, the sitting quietly in trust knowing that the answer will reveal itself.  The joy of the big, wide, open unplanned path and feeling your way along it.  Knowing the journey through Germany and through life is going to take on a life of it’s own, if we let it.

That there has to be room for uncertainty in order for there to be room for joy. 

I have to appreciate who I am first, before anyone else can.

And then, right there in Germany, I realized, re-learned, remembered again, in the face of a force asking me to be something I’m not — that these are qualities that I have to appreciate and value in myself first.

And that the appreciation has to go both ways.  I can and do adopt some of the strategies that planners use in order to reach my goals and achieve my dreams, but I am learning to adopt these qualities as needed to support me in the pursuit of the work I love.  Like the subtle dance between my travelling companion and I to achieve a wonderful journey together, I know that the balance and appreciation for both the heart and the mind, for the intuitive insight and the spreadsheet, is key.

And my friend, who knows herself well, told me this: she could plan it all out and still hesitate, still not jump into action, out of fear of missing a detail or that something could go wrong.  I was the one who helped her jump, she said, who helped her trust in the moment and know that things would work out if we just took the first step.

And that little insight lit me up.

How I learn to define and remain true to myself has been through relationships with others who urge me to be the opposite.

This has certainly been an ongoing pattern in my life. And while I could feel frustrated and angry with the people I thought were trying to thwart my true expression, they were actually gifts.

They helped me to hone and define exactly what is important and exactly who I am by identifying who I am not, and for them I am eternally grateful.

XO Shona

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, 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, Awakening, Mindfulness and Meditation

There is No Way to Push the River

“There is no way to push the river…” Ralph Blum

This is the story of how I tried too hard to push the river. And how the river brought me back to peace.

Recently I have been insisting, waiting, really impatiently waiting, pushing myself and others to meet self-imposed deadlines that seem important.

I am guilty of trying to show the universe my calendar: “here’s my plan and my timelines, are you listening?” I have been praying with expectations, asking “when will I get?” instead of “what am I called to give?”

And so I have upset and hurt people, I have missed opportunities, I have insisted when I could have assisted.

On a larger scale I have blocked the flow of natural insight and opportunity that the universe always provides.

My default when I am upset is to get outside. I love to be out in nature, and I especially love to walk by the river that flows near my home and listen. Next to the river, I was able to quiet my desperate, grasping mind and gain insight into my dilemma.

I realized that because the work in front of me feels so important, I thought that I had better be in control, in charge of it, to guide and ensure the outcome. My need for control was so strong that an image sprang to my mind of me trying to hold back and redirect the river with my bare hands, my feet planted in the muddy riverbed, straining and pushing.

This made me laugh and as I sat watching the river flow by me I understood the great lesson of the river: I don’t need to try to control how this unfolds and carry it all to conclusion. I don’t need to strain and force and insist.

I cannot push the river, but I can instead “give it up to God” and let the river carry me.

I had forgotten how a river always takes the easiest, most obvious path to the sea.  Water knows that there is time and water does its slow and methodical work, cutting crevices and canyons out of mountains, turning boulders into beaches. Such is the slow power of water.

All in good time, water says. 

If you let go you will find that you have this power too. You have influence, you create ripples and you cannot know whom they will touch or when.

“…control is impossible. We stand in the world as in a great ocean. Who could manage or possess such power? The only way to keep from drowning is to ride the currents. The ocean will support us as long as we swim with the flow.” -Joan Bunning

One of the pitfalls of wanting to trust in the river and go with the flow is getting stuck in a place of inertia.  There are areas of the river that can flow in a dangerous circular motion, places where we feel apathetic and stuck and we can’t see the new horizons waiting for us further downstream.  We must meet the universe half way.

Trusting the river, the flow of life, doesn’t mean you don’t have dreams and goals and aspirations.  It doesn’t mean you sit back and wait. You do the work that is in front of you; you work with love on what needs to be done, with no expectation of the how or when or where the ripples of your thoughts and deeds will wash up on a new shore. This takes profound trust.

If you listen, you will hear the river inviting you in to play. To give up the stifling, heart-closing work of control and jump into a place of trust and freedom and joy.

We too are made of water; in fact, over 60% of our bodies are water.  The river can help you know that you are part of nature and its innate flow, to understand that everything will happen in its own perfect time and that the “work” of fulfilling your purpose will not be difficult.

You do not need to push the river.

If you let it, it will flow through you like a song in your veins and guide you to receive the promise of cool, fresh, undiluted love.

If you’re struggling to let go and jump into a new way of life, a new purpose, I’m here to help.

Together we can explore the joy of swimming in the river.

Shona