Authenticity, Awakening, Women's Work

How optimism is the antidote to positive thinking.

I remember as a child watching the 1962 movie The Miracle Worker, based on the true story of how Anne Sullivan was able to break through the young Helen Keller’s walls of silence and teach her to communicate.  While Anne Sullivan’s tenacity and love are clearly moving, this film actually sparked in me a life-long admiration for and fascination with Helen Keller.

Born in 1880 in Alabama, Helen Keller was rendered deaf and blind as an infant from what was likely scarlet fever. Thanks to Anne, Helen learned to communicate through sign language and eventually to read, to write and to speak.  We can only imagine how incredibly dark, confusing and lonely a place young Helen’s world was, until Anne Sullivan arrived on March 5th, 1887 – a day which Helen describes as “my soul’s birthday.” (theattic.space)

Helen Keller went on to become the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She gave talks and lectures all over the world, was the published author of a dozen books and an intellectual hero (certainly she’s my hero!) and one of the most celebrated women of the 20th century.

Who better to write about optimism than Helen Keller?

Long before our era of “positive thinking” and decades before any scientific evidence would appear on the health benefits of optimism, the remarkable Helen with love and grace was writing about optimism as a life philosophy.  “Her essay, simply entitled Optimism was originally published in 1903 and written – a moment of pause here – after Keller learned to write on a grooved board over a sheet of paper, using the grooves and the end of her index pencil to guide her writing.” (Maria Popova)

So I talk to my children about Helen Keller, the little girl imprisoned in silence and darkness whose actions and outlook show us all the way to the light.  And I focus on these two things:

1) How optimism will serve you better in life than positive thinking. Although not yet teenagers, my daughters have heard that it’s important to “think positive” and of course they struggle with this in the face of life’s day to day challenges – and don’t we all?  The plain fact is, that it’s simply impossible, and I would argue unhealthy, to be positive all the time.  In fact, in asking ourselves to be positive all the time, we often stuff down or gloss over the pain and reality of whatever we may be feeling – sadness, guilt, anger, frustration – they all have a place in our lives and are the emotions that help us to develop the skills to navigate the world as it is.

So often we leap into “raising our vibration,” into “fixing” a low feeling that we miss the opportunity that it presents.

Or, to put it more eloquently, in his poem The Guest House, Rumi explains:

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in…
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.
Welcome difficulty.
Learn the alchemy
True Human Beings know:
The moment you accept
What trouble you’ve been given,
The door opens.

We have “pathologized the wisdom of the darker, lunar shades of the spectrum” says Matt Licata, we have labelled some of our emotions “bad” and “negative” to our peril.  And in our efforts to be always “up” and sunny and happy-happy we have forgotten the gift of hope – which can only be found in the darkness.  What do you need with hope if everything is always, already great?  To be optimistic is to have confident hope that things will get better, that it wont’ stay hard and dark, that things will change and shift and the sun will rise again.

Optimism: it’s what gets you through the hard, dark times which come to us all.

Few had to work harder or live through darker times than Helen Keller…and perhaps that’s why her light is so bright.

2. My children also know, that for me personally, Helen Keller is my talisman against crippling self-pity. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself, I allow myself to be inspired by her story.  Quite simply, it gives me hope. If she could accomplish what she did in the face of so many challenges, then how can I possibly think the odds are stacked against me?  I can see, I can hear, I can talk, I have been well educated and I am well fed and comfortable.  All that’s missing is a disciplined mind and a different perspective.

There’s nothing stopping us from living purposeful, intentional, happy lives except ourselves, our limiting beliefs, and our negative self-talk.

Helen Keller knew this and proved this better than anyone I know. And before I am accused of using Helen Keller as a way to “think positive” I can assure you that like you, I have bright days and dark days, days when I am not so proud of myself, days when I weep in sheer frustration and days when frankly I have no idea what I’m doing.  I have been speaking with a gifted Jungian therapist for 15 years because I know I have to explore what makes me uncomfortable, I know that what Susan David asserts in her Ted Talk is true: “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”

I choose hope, for in the dark messy weeds of my issues lies the golden light of opportunity and redemption. 

Most days, I am more than willing to work hard at this because like Helen, I am not interested in a falsely positive life, I am interested in a real and meaningful one.

Helen’s ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her life was a superpower. People who heard her speak reported that they felt lighter, even happier after being in her presence.  I can imagine the golden glow of optimism that must have fallen from her like gentle rain on her audience.  How hope, like honey in her veins, kept her going in the quiet, dark but undoubtedly full and happy world that was eventually hers. Against all odds, and indeed because of those odds, Helen Keller was able to bring us the grace and beauty of her optimism.

I often believe that this is what is needed, in a world that seems to be growing ever darker, where we seem to have lost our way, where you could turn to the dark and let it engulf you — can we instead look to the brilliant example of a woman unconquered by darkness, who by the light within her shows the way to the light through optimism.  This is not the endless call to pretend all is well or to give up in the face of pain, but to acknowledge the dark and keep going anyways…with optimism in our hearts, following the light of hope.

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, 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

How a Spider Woke me up to This Powerful, Essential Truth

This past summer I was lucky to able to spend some time on the shores of a small mountain lake in British Columbia.  One hot afternoon, as I paddled my kayak past the dock and out into open water, I discovered that I had a stowaway on board.  It was a spider.

I do not generally find spiders alarming, and so I observed what unfolded next with a sense of bemused curiosity.

I quietly watched her make her way up the paddle, and onto my hand. She then crawled up my arm and onto my shoulder and then along my neck, and that was when I started to find her distracting.  I confess that I did contemplate dropping her into the lake, where she would surely have drowned, but something made me hesitate.  She was so small and fragile after all.  So instead I gently moved her to the front of the kayak.

She stayed there for only a moment and then she headed back towards me. I watched her crawl along the side of the boat, onto the paddle and up my arm back to my shoulder, as if to say “pay attention.” She then moved purposefully down my torso and onto my leg and stopped at my knee.  And there, between my bent knees, she started making a web!

As often happens when I have an unexpected encounter with an insect or animal, I laughed.

And then, as you do, when kayaking with a spider, I closed my eyes and listened.

Floating on that quiet lake with the spider, I had a flash of insight.  In the silence I heard: “I am here at your knees because you are giving birth – to yourself.  And you need to tell the story of your rebirth — to write about it.”  And I remembered that for many people spider is a symbol of creativity, especially in the areas of writing and drawing, and also an ancient symbol of death and rebirth.

It has taken me these past months to fully understand what this encounter with spider was teaching me.

A spider woke me up to a powerful, essential truth

At that time, I had just left my full-time job and was working on building the structure of my new business and my new life – so I truly was birthing a new way of being for myself in the world and struggling to find my voice and vision.  And, just as I had tried to lay the spider aside and had even considered drowning her, so too had I attempted to lay aside and drown out my own desire to write.

I yearned for creative expression and yet I had been casting about looking for an outlet, bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t paint or play the piano when all along the answer was sitting right on my shoulder whispering “hello…writing”.

And it wasn’t just the recent avoiding of writing for my website or blog that I was faced with…it was the fact that I had been putting off writing for YEARS.

It took this most gentle and tenacious of creatures to crack open the door I had closed on the creative fire inside me, to remind me that in the call to be ourselves we must give our creative gifts expression, we must let our story and our voice be heard.

To be ourselves we must make space for creative expression. We must let our story and our voice be heard.

For a long time, I didn’t think my story mattered that much.  I didn’t think anyone would want to hear it or read about it.  Mine was an average life, my struggles too trivial or certainly too private to share. My writing surely only mediocre.

What spider showed me was that we are in fact every moment giving birth to our story. And it matters.

Ted Andrews asserts that “The spider awakens creative sensibilities and reminds us that the world is woven around us and through us… just as we are the keepers and the writers of our own thoughts, so too are we the keepers and writers of our own destiny”.

Inspiration longs to come through us, in all creative forms, to allow us to weave our story into the immense design of things.  It’s a way of marking our place in the world, and each and every story and the expression of that story is important.

If you can, take the advice of a small but mighty spider:  write, draw, dance your way into the creative rhythm of nature, weave the story of your life, step into your untapped creative powers and give birth to your future.

Do you hear the small yet persistent voice of your creative force calling you? Is it time to birth a new chapter of your life full of vibrancy and meaning but you’re not sure how or where to start? Would you like to better understand the messages that nature offers you every day?

Schedule a free call with me –  I am here to help and I look forward to hearing your story!

Shona