life practices: summer solstice

My intention is to blog once a season about Life Practices in order to share what I am practicing in my life, and to suggest opportunities to join me, as well as ideas to use in your own practice.

Summer Solstice was June 21st!
I had hoped to facilitate a Summer Solstice celebration this year at my Unitarian Church (Unity in St. Paul), but instead we needed to make a trip to visit Dave’s aging mom in Massachusetts. Carol Leborveau, a friend, lead a very simple ritual to welcome the first signs of the light at 4:30 am in the morning (!) in my absence. Only a few brave souls attended, but it was rich and meaningful.

The Summer Solstice reminds us to notice and celebrate the full return of the light. The daylight hours have been growing since Winter Solstice, each day becoming slightly longer until the Spring Equinox in March, when the day and night were equal in length. This full-on light invites us out of the house, into the warmth, into its embrace. The seeds that slowly prepared themselves in the mysterious darkness within the earth and within our souls are ready to bear gifts in the fullness of the light. We are invited into a season of fertility, abundance, vitality, and blossoming.

What is calling you into blossom? As the poet Mary Oliver invites in her poem The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” You may want to write in a journal or create a ritual to explore this invitation. How can you embody the gifts that have been growing in you? Does anything need to be released in order to allow these gifts to manifest? A short ritual could include:
• In the brightness of the day
• Write each “blossoming” or release on a small piece of paper
• Light a candle and say a blessing or intention
• Read one “blossoming” or release at a time, and then burn it in the flame, allowing it to be transformed into whatever form it will take in your life.

Remember that as this day came to an end, the days are now very slowly becoming shorter, until at Autumn Equinox, the day and night will be balanced, and by Winter Solstice, we’ll be back to the longest night. Savor and revel in the bounty of this Summer season and the gift of “your one, wild, and precious life.” Next year, I hope to celebrate the Summer Solstice continuing the ritual Carol started at Unity Church Unitarian.

If you’re interested in creating a meaningful ceremony to mark some passage in your life, read more about my work as an Interfaith Minister below.

Reverending! I feel so happy to be an Interfaith Minister! I just married a couple on Saturday, July 2nd at Irvine Park in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a perfectly beautiful day in an old part of St. Paul. I get so much joy out of marrying people! The process of helping them to find the right words to express their love and their vision for their relationship is so inspiring and meaningful! And then to consecrate the relationship they are aspiring to with family and friends…You can tell I’m enjoying myself in this photo—the music for the recessional accidentally started playing at the beginning of the ceremony! 

I’m also going to be the Worship Leader at Unity Unitarian Church on Sunday, July 10th. I’ve lead worship a few times now and really enjoy it! The title of my sermon is With One Smile, inspired by a poem by e.e. cummings and the journey I’ve been exploring lately of allowing more gratefulness and joy into my life. I wrote about and collaged about this the theme in a previous blog post. You can read e.e. cumming’s poem in the poetry section below and one of Mary Oliver’s poems, also a pivotal part of this service, in the delight blog post mentioned above.

Here’s a brief description of the service theme: Sometimes opening to suffering is what awakens us to joy—the heart is cracked open to the depth and breadth of life. Another way to awaken to joy is to cultivate the soil in which it grows and is nourished—and we can begin at any time with one smile! Katy Taylor and Worship Associate Jeanne Barker-Nunn take delight in playfully exploring the art of savoring and welcoming all of life.

I’ll also be talking about a new practice in my life—Laughter Yoga. I’m getting trained to be a Laughter Yoga Leader, so you’ll hear more about that soon. But in the meantime, check out local Laughter Clubs near you, and if you’re in Minnesota, this is my teacher, Jody Ross’s site.

Be in touch if you’d like me to facilitate any Interfaith Ministry services, rituals, celebrations, worship services, and more!

Music. I have been enjoying sharing music at my Unitarian Church here in St. Paul—a few weeks ago, I sang a few of Hildegard von Bingen’s luxurious and mysterious chants as part of a service exploring the virtue of Wisdom.

If you don’t know about Hildegard, a 12th century feminist, prophet, mystic, healer, teacher, and abbess, google her! The group that I think performs her music most authentically is Sequentia—see the “Hildegard von Bingen Project.” You can listen to some samples on Amazon if you like. I was blessed to have the chance to study with this group at a Summer music workshop years ago, and have enjoyed continuing to sing Hildegard’s music.

I’ll be opening the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour on September 11th at 8:00 am with 15 minutes of Hildegard’s music this year. The organizer wanted to mark September 11th in a peaceful, prayerful manner, and Hildegard’s music is being billed as “Hymns of Hope.” Hope to see you there! Dave and I may be riding after I get done singing—it would be a great way to celebrate our anniversary!

I have recorded a few of Hildegard’s chants on a number of my albums, with Welcome Brigid being the most recent album available on my site.

Have you tried listening to different music lately? It’s easy to get stuck in one genre that we really like, but listening to a wide range actually stimulates us and helps us to get out of stuck personality patterns. If you don’t normally listen to medieval chant or if you’re used to plainsong, try Hildegard’s music; if you listen already, try something completely different. Notice how it affects you—not in terms of “good” or “bad, but the sensations, the feelings, the thoughts that arise. How can you nourish yourself with music?

The Enneagram is my favorite tool for understanding how my personality operates. It’s an amazing psycho-spiritual tool for really seeing through who we think we are to who we really are, to our Essential Self or True Nature. Check out more about the Enneagram on our site.

Dave and I recently started calling our business “Winged Heart” (see collage below). We really love the idea that the Enneagram along with other practices that we are involved in is about opening the heart to greater freedom and joy. The heart is the “pulsating core of our aliveness,” “the center of our being,” as Br. David Steindl-Rast writes in his book Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer. Dave’s and my work, both personal and public, is about freeing the heart to be touched, to open, to feel all things—to be wholeheartedly alive!

We are taking a break from teaching this Summer, but we’re looking forward to teaching again in the Fall—see our upcoming schedule which includes a workshop to help us in our psycho-spiritual growth (5 week series, Oct-Nov), a presentation with a new take on the origin of the Core Emotions of the Centers (mid-Nov—date TBA), and a Couple’s Retreat (early Dec).

We’re always both available for consultations with the Enneagram, both individual or couples. We’re also certified to offer the Prepare & Enrich Inventories, which we have customized to include the Enneagram and Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for premarital or marriage enrichment.
Collage. I wrote last season that I was too busy to make time for collage—and it’s still true! I am working on gathering images right now for a piece to explore an old wound from when I was teenager. I usually find that exploring an issue visually engages my process in a deeper way. New insights open when I’m not just analyzing the issue with my mind, but exploring what images attract me, how they want to be placed together, and what the final gestalt is. I’m looking forward to continuing this collage process.

In addition to engaging in collage as a psycho-spiritual practice, I offer workshops, consultations, and collage artwork. You can see more collages on my site and this blog.

What kind of nonlinear right-brain practices do you engage in? Do you make time for them in your life? How do you feel when you do?

Poetry. As you know, one my favorite practices is that of welcoming poetry into my life, whether I learn it by heart, or just read it. If you love poetry, too, you can sign up for my sporadic Poetry/Prayer List. And here’s the e.e. cumming’s poem that’s an integral part of my life and my July 10th Service.

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile

Summer Blessings on your life practice/practice of life, Katy

taking refuge

This concept came to me first from our couple’s therapist—in our first year of living together, Bob suggested we learn to take refuge in each other. We yearned to be able to do this, but it was so hard when we were pushing each other’s buttons all the time…

(Taking refuge is also a central concept in Buddhism—one takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, a commitment to dedicate one’s practice to the Buddhist path of awakening.)

I felt drawn to begin this collage when I saw the image of the woman so clearly taking refuge in the physical presence of her man. This is a practice we taught in a recent Enneagram Couple’s Retreat. I loved watching the participants taking refuge in each other physically. I have recently recommitted to practicing this with Dave—giving and receiving mindful, physical attention as a form of taking and offering refuge.

The rest of the collage reflects other ways that I take refuge. In the beauty, strength, solidity, and awesomeness of nature, in which nothing is asked of me except an invitation to be present. In the presence of dogs—in their curiosity, their playfulness, their love of and commitment to the now that they are in—right now and right now and right now. In the innocence and openness of children. In good, wholesome food that nourishes and sustains me. In the intimate and mysterious and ever-deepening connection I feel with my embodied Self, which reminds me that all are good and “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

I am One who knows how to take refuge in rest, in savoring, in remembering “to admire, admire, admire the things of this world” (from Mary Oliver’s Heavy). I am One who loves beauty and connection and openness. I am One who takes refuge in her own life.

In what do you take refuge?

Delight in the New Year!

Delight, light, play, fun, happiness, laughter, wonder, presence, love, joy, freedom, excitement, stimulation, engagement, fullness, compassion…lightening up, taking it all in, embracing it, balancing it, smiling.

The defining image for 2011 is the one that came to me when I was trying to find a way to defend against an Inner Critic attack for having forgotten my purse on the way to an appointment for which I would need my checkbook. (Dave was with me and he had a check, so all would be well, but my Inner Critic didn’t want to drop it.) I was lying on the table before my myofascial session and nothing was working particularly well, but then I had the image of “jumping” my 1&1/2 year old nephew Zander up into the air and how he could jump and jump and jump and never get tired! And I “jumped” my Inner Critic up over my head in a playful way, smiling, telling her to “lighten up” to not be so serious. And the engagement was totally broken—I was filled with delight and warmth and compassion. I even smile thinking of it now. Since then I’ve been holding this image and it’s really working!

Then during the session, I had described how my left-side pattern had kicked in with something inbetween my shoulder blades going out. Patricia talked about that as the back of the Heart Center. Being with Zander over New Year’s was very heart-opening. I wasn’t working, just being present as much as I could be, with him and the family. And being with Zander was about play, delight, the joy in every moment of life. What a beautiful lesson and break from my oft-times very serious life! So, it’s not surprising to me that on the day before I was to fly home that my Heart Center might decide it had been open enough and it was time to feel more “normal,” more shut down, less impressionable…

Self-compassion is what Patricia found when she checked in energetically. Fits so well with the Katy who thinks she has to be so serious and who was afraid upon her return home that she wouldn’t know how to co-parent well, wouldn’t get what she needed, and so shuts her heart down. Self-compassion—it’s OK not to know how to parent, it’s OK to feel bad because I don’t always know what I need or don’t like the way my haircut looks…it’s OK to feel the hurt, the vulnerability, the sadness. Can my heart stay open to this and not have to close up to defend against it?

Spending so much of the trip on “Zander-time,” our lives were arranged around the living of his life. We got up with him, let him choose what to play and do as much as possible, and joined in. I was very engaged with him, following his energy and his lead, allowing my energy to be big, loud, playful, engaged, full, happy… At times, experiencing this energy, my type patterns wanted to interpret it as being “overwhelmed.” I caught myself in this story and went back to the sensations and feelings and stayed with playing Zander’s life with him. It felt like I was pushing the edges of my self-image—the serious, busy, held-in Katy gets overwhelmed with too much playful fun, too much activity, too much excitement—but what about delighted Katy? She seemed to really enjoy it!

This reminds me of some reading I’ve been doing lately about somatics. In his book Somatics, Thomas Hanna talks about the Red Light and Green Light reflexes. He describes the Red Light reflex as the impulse we have to pull away or withdraw from negative stress. The Green Light reflex, however, is about wanting to move toward something as a response to positive stress. Zander embodies this Green Light reflex a lot, as he invites us all in to join him in his exploration of the delightful, exciting, fun world. The problem comes when we adults use the Green Light reflex to move the body forward into action only in order to get things done, to be responsible in our “adult” world and and forget about moving toward things that delight us! A further problem is that this reflex gets engrained in the body as ongoing back and neck tension that we take for granted and don’t know how to let go of. In Zander, the Green Light comes on, leading him toward delight and joy, then turns off, allowing rest and relaxation; in many of us adults, it’s always on, pushing us not toward delight and joy, but work and responsibility…

At my first church service after returning home, we had the Tolling of the Bells service, in which we remember those that have passed away in the last year—Maureen McKessey, my uncle Harley, and my sweet Teddybear, who I still miss tremendously. And Mary Oliver’s poem Heavy was read and really struck home:

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friends Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled roses
in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply.

“‘It’s not the weight you carry / but how you carry it— / books, bricks, grief— /
all in the way / you embrace it, balance it, carry it / when you cannot, and would not, / put it down.‘ / So I went practicing.”

I’m practicing. I’ve lived so much of my life with the adult version of the Green Light reflex on, carrying and trying to balance my books, bricks, and grief (although I haven’t acknowledged the grief much, mostly covered it up with a lot of improving, being serious, and doing…) There will always be books, bricks, and grief. How will I embrace them, balance them, carry them? Can I carry them in the way I carried Zander? With love, with delight, with wonder? Can I hold them compassionately, with presence? Can I jump them into the air and lighten up when they threaten to become too heavy for me? Can I take breaks from carrying them and allow myself to rest, to put them down?

The collage at the top of this post is a visual exploration of these questions. In the midst of the books, bricks and grief—(working, teaching, mentoring, learning to co-parent in midlife, doing my spiritual practices, learning to be present, learning to be a good life partner…constantly improving my life and my world and never feeling like I have enough time)—can I still embrace the joy, the breath, the beauty, the fiery life that sparkles, the fulfillment and freedom of awakening, the gratitude for and cherishing of all of it, the joy and delight?! YES!

How do you embrace, balance, and carry your books, bricks, and grief? How do you practice delight, laughter, and joy? I’d love to hear some ideas! There’s a start in the post I did on play last year, and I’d like to gather together even more ideas here so that when I forget and get caught in my serious and overwhelmed self-image, I can welcome the lighter jumping-in-the-air energy in, too!

life practices: heading into winter

I intend to blog once a season as we head into each season to share what I am practicing in my life, and to suggest opportunities to join me, as well as ideas to use in your own practice.

Winter Solstice Celebration on December 21st!
I facilitate, participate, and sing in this ritual at Unity Unitarian Church every year—if you’re in the area and would like to join us, please do!

Come join this contemplative, family-friendly, participatory, Celtic-inspired ritual to mark the turning of the year as the darkness gives way to the growing light. This year we will also honor the full Wolf Moon and the total lunar eclipse. More information here.

If you’re interested in creating a meaningful ceremony to mark some passage in your life, read more here about my work as an Interfaith Minister.

In your own life, how are you taking in this Advent season of waiting, of going inward? Here is the Call to Worship I gave at our recent Mary service—I offer it as an invitation:

I feel winter calling me inside, welcoming me into its cozy, warm darkness. I just brought in the last of the dark leafy greens from the garden. I’m firing up my crockpot and holding warm cups of tea between my hands. There is a natural inward turning of my attention—towards nourishment, towards warmth—and a slower rhythm is beckoning me.

I usually know myself through my doing. Who will I be if I allow myself to slow down, to listen inwardly, to take in the nourishment of my Being? Who will emerge in the quiet, in the stillness? Who or What is waiting to be born in me?

Music. I have been enjoying sharing music at my Unitarian Church here in St. Paul—a few weeks ago, I was able to sing my Hail Mary during the service on Mary that Rob and I put together, which was a real blessing. Most of my music is about worship, connecting with our own souls, so sharing it as part of a worship service feels very aligned and “right” to me.

Hail Mary is one of the two songs from my album Welcome Brigid that was included on a new compilation CD called Songs of Mary that is produced by Sounds True. The album is stunning—you can find it on my websiteWelcome Brigid, the album that my songs come from, is available on my site here.

Are you bringing music into your life now as we move toward the holidays? What music nourishes you? Singing holiday music can help us move into this season with more joy, or perhaps listening to calming, grounding music that invites you to slow down in what can be a very busy time…How are you nourishing yourself with music?

The Enneagram. As you may know, the Enneagram is my favorite tool for understanding how my personality operates. It’s an amazing psycho-spiritual tool for really seeing through who we think we are to who we really are, to our Essential Self or True Nature. You can check out more about the Enneagram on my site if you like.

My husband Dave Hall and I will be offering an Enneagram Workshop for couples, called Cultivating Deeper Contact with the Enneagram at The Journey Inn, a beautiful B&B in Wisconsin March 18-20. We only have room for 5 couples. You can find details here.

Collage. I have been so busy lately that I haven’t made time for as much collage time as I would like. I really find that the practice of collage nourishes me in a special way. It invites me into creative, non-linear time and knowing, into surprising beauty, moments of delight, deep insight and understanding.

Collaging is also a way that I can engage with an inquiry about something that is challenging me in my life, emotionally, spiritually. Writing helps, but collage gives me another way in that is  less logical, less structured. Recently I have been processing my feelings around another person in my life being diagnosed with cancer, this time a brain tumor. I don’t like to think about death—who does? But this year has been full of folks getting ill and death, including my sweet Teddy Bear lhasa apso, so I’ve been needing to keep myself engaged with this topic.

I share with you my collage and blog post about this most recent friend—there are actually a few about death, the unknown, and the preciousness of life on my blog, but this is the most recent one.

You may not know, but my collages were featured in The Vision Board by Joyce Schwarz, and in the 2nd printing, softcover version one of mine is actually featured on the cover! (You can see it peeking out on the right side.)

Movement. In my busyness, I’m not moving enough these days. I sit at my computer all day, then finish my day-job, and sit down again for working on my work. I’m trying to at least get out for a walk, to run errands on foot, and I do run 2-3 times/week, but it’s not enough!

I wrote about Authentic Movement last time—I’m still doing that and really enjoying opening to new wisdom in my body. You can read about that here if you wish.

Another lovely way to move is the circle dances of Dances of Universal Peace. They are offered every 3rd Sunday at the Friends Meeting House on Grand Ave. in St. Paul. For more information, check out the Meetup listing.

How are you listening to your body’s wisdom? Are you paying attention to tightness, to need for rest or exercise or right amounts of food and drink? Are you allowing your body’s natural movement to inform you, to nourish you? For those of you, like me, who live in northern climes, notice how you tense up in the cold. Can you breathe and relax instead?

Poetry. Another of my favorite practices is that of welcoming poetry into my life. I’m on a few poetry lists that send me poetry into my inbox every day, which I LOVE (Writer’s Almanac and Poetry Chaikhana), and I always have a book of poetry nearby. I also enjoy walking with a poem and reciting it, learning its rhythms and music, eventually learning it by heart.

Here’s a poem for the season by Sister Peronne Marie Thibert, set to music by my friend Elizabeth. If you’d like to get these more regularly, you can sign up for my Poetry List  (when you get to the Contact page, scroll down).

The gate is open
dare we enter
the snow looks heavy, deep,
the woods, dark, deeper still
the Star, we’re told,
is somewhere beyond
on the other side of fear,
of hopelessness
The gate is open
dare we enter
dare believe…

Winter Blessings on your life practice/practice of life, Katy

p.s. If you’re looking for encouragement and inspiration as you move into the New Year, check out my friend Pam’s personal growth email program: Thriving Winter: A Call to Aliveness.

deep power

I thank you, deep power
that works me ever more lightly
in ways I cannot make out.
The day’s labor grows simple now,
and like a holy face
held in my dark hands.

What deep power caused this to happen? A friend and fellow Diamond Approach student has a brain tumor. So suddenly this appeared. I saw him, practiced with him, lived with him on retreat, and a few weeks later he had a seizure. Now we don’t know how long he will live…

In Authentic Movement a few weeks ago, my body moved in such a way as to remind me of my friend. My deep sorrow at the loss of his life. And as I moved, I said metta for him:

May you be held in compassion
May your pain and sorrow be eased
May you be free

My body moved, blessing his brain, one open hand at my head extended to the world, the other hand holding my head in compassion and gentleness, breathing metta in and out.

I had the sense that I wanted to acknowledge his aliveness, his creativity, his brightness in the midst of this life-destroying tumor. How to hold both the reality of what is happening and the truth of his indestructible, beautiful being?

After moving in ritual prayer, in blessing, in metta, in walking meditation, I drew the central part of this collage. It looks like a spinal cord going up to his brain. It is full of not only dark, destructive tumor, but also life-giving color, possibility, and dark unknown.

There is no death. Life cannot die…Death is an end—the end of everything known. It is a fearful thing because we cling to the known. But life is. It is always here, even if for us it is the unknown…We must die to the known and enter the unknown.
Jeanne de Salzmann

The deep power of Being, moving in him ever more lightly, ever more difficult to recognize, but always there. Life is. In some ways, my friend’s days are simpler now—he must harness all his energy to meet this challenge, to feel/do what he must while he is here on this earth in this physical form. Life cannot die. Each day is holy, is lived, is loved, is held in the hands of life, of Being itself.

(Poem: Rainer Maria Rilke, I, 62; Quote: from The Reality of Being, by Jeanne de Salzmann)

authentic movement

I’m taking an Authentic Movement class and really loving it. In the first class, we only moved for about 15 minutes. At first, I wasn’t sure. I felt shy, afraid that I would feel nothing, no impulse to move. Afraid that my movement would be boring if I didn’t decide to DO something interesting. But deciding, as I’ve done it in the past, while it can create movement and doing, doesn’t always feel authentic to me…

Authentic. What does this mean? It’s the Virtue of the type Three, Authenticity. True to who I am, to my own inner, core expression. In order to be true to this, I have to allow it to come through. I have to take time to sense it in some way.

Even though I have been engaging in sensing practice and can feel myself interiorly these days, I was afraid that these sensations would not lead to movement. Our teacher Barbara said that was fine. That my job was to be authentic to what my body wanted to express. That could look like lying down and not moving. That could be a small, “boring” movement, or anything at all. No rules, no shoulds, no ways I am supposed to move or not move! YIKES! I’m darn good at doing what I SHOULD do. What do I do with no shoulds?

I decided to take this class to explore more with my body, but I didn’t realize until I took it that it was perfect for this unknown exploration that has been up for the last few months around death and mystery and lack of control…what happens if I’m not in control of my life, of my movement?

So, I chose a corner and found that I needed to sit down. Standing felt too exposed and too active. I sat and sensed. I felt my bubbly, life-force energy and jiggled my body every once in awhile to meet the bubbly pulsations. But I felt very, very still and interior. I lay down, I shifted, rolled a bit…Barbara later said that during this time I looked like a rock, a still mountain, something organic and contained and full. I felt this, too, and I wondered if I would feel more impulse to move. Where would it come from? Would it be related to the bubbly sensations or the groundedness?

I started to notice an impulse to move differently—to reach out an arm strongly. To flow my arms. At one point, I saw a movement of my right arm and took that as an impulse to move it like that. It felt good to move that way. When my ring tapped on the floor during a movement, I liked the sound and felt like making it in rhythm a few times. My movement ended up expanding through my chest and arms, opening up a bit, with more dynamism coming out of the stillness. But I still stayed pretty close to the floor.

Who was moving? I don’t know, but I know I wasn’t “doing” it for show—to be a good dancer, a good mover, balanced, coordinated, whatever. I was sincerely trying to follow my own body’s wisdom about what she wanted to do. That included a lot of still sensing. I was encouraged to notice some impulses that I didn’t know where came from and to follow them.

In the classes I’ve been to since this first one, each time I feel more able to trust myself and the movement that flows through me. It’s a different kind of sensing than I’m used to and it’s very exciting to follow and trust whatever arises—fast, slow, still, flowing, staccato, anything…it is an opening to the unknown within me.

This from our last class as I spent a good amount of time in contact with the wall:

not i
substance flowing melting molding shape-shifting
face wall body arm hand wall
one substance
solid moving receiving meeting holding reciprocating
not i

mystery–life and death

i’ve heard about the cycles of life and death so much that it doesn’t usually mean much to me.yes, things die and things get born and of course they’re related, but  what does this really mean? what does it mean to me?

now it’s spring and new life is coming in. i’m loving all the different greens. i’m thrilled to see plants that i planted coming up again, flowers, life bursting forth from the brown  earth. my sister’s new baby is one year old this week, a niece-in-law is two, new physical movement is coming to life in me, my relationship with dave continues to grow and deepen, and friendships grow richer…

and this spring i’m really aware of the death that’s here too. in the last month, 4 people in my acquaintance-circle dying, 3 more diagnosed with scary diseases, the death of my dear old doggy, my boss’s dog, my singing partner amy’s dog, and my brother gone missing again into his drug habit…the list seems to be never-ending. and it is, isn’t it? there will always be death…and life…

somehow the two are inexplicably tied together. contemplating this brings up a real sense of the unknown, the mystery, and with that a sense of no control. no control of whether these friends live or die, of whether i live or die…touching into the mystery in both the death and the new life. the mystery means letting go of familiar ways of knowing, of understanding, of being–of not knowing what else is here. accepting that i don’t know how life will be or even is.

Osho says: “Look for the mysterious in life. Wherever you look – in the white clouds, in the stars in the night, in the flowers, in a flowing river – wherever you look, look for the mystery. And whenever you find that a mystery is there, meditate on it. Meditation means: dissolve yourself before that mystery, annihilate yourself before that mystery, disperse yourself before that mystery. Be no more, and let the mystery be so total that you are absorbed in it. And suddenly a new door opens, a new perception is achieved.”

the mystery of new life springing from the earth, from humans, from poetry, music, art–i am open to this mystery. this has also been very true for me in my body exploration–i’ve had to let go of what i thought i knew about myself to enter into a deeper knowing, a more intimate listening and sensing. and it has been amazing and wonderful. it’s easier when  the mysterious is full of obvious beauty and wonder… how to be open to the mysteriousness of death, of loss, of grief, of fear? my mind immediately wants to make sense of it in some way, which is why i suppose i’m writing this…

right now, what i know is the preciousness of life. right now as i sit in my sweet cocoon of a room, with the rain and verdant green outside my window, as i email a friend, as i walk in my gardens feeling the earth under my barefeet, as i sing to a dying woman, as i speak with a dear one, as i hold my fiance’s hand…this life we live is such a gift. i’m sure there’s more for me to take in during this time of birth and death, but now, this is what I am most aware of—my gratitude for this moment of this life i am in.

as my unitarian pastors would say at the end of a sermon, “may it be so, blessed be, and amen.”

Teddy Bear: In Memoriam

This collage is a celebration of the life that Teddy and I spent together, as well as an honoring of his passing and acknowledgement of the many blessings and lessons that continue to unfold from sharing my life with him.

The pictures show what a member of the family he was—he is seen with both of the boys, with my parents, with Dave, with me, and on his own. It felt right to put images joined with words of me holding Teddy next to pictures of me and Dave—they are my two loves and I am lucky to have shared my life thus far with both of them. There are also scraps of bandanas pasted in—he would come home wearing them after being groomed—he’s wearing the same blue one in the pic with his dog tag.

The pastel drawing in the middle of the collage is something I drew about 3 weeks before his passing when he was bleeding from a wound he had scratched open and I just wanted to take care of him, but there wasn’t much I could do. It depicts me, with my coursing life force energy and body of compassion encircling him with love, care, concern, attention, compassion. In the end, I couldn’t save him—he was old and his death came inevitably, but this drawing attempts to show how much I wanted to give him the care and love that I could, to save him from suffering.

His passing has opened up new spaces for me—open, unknown space—time that in the past I spent taking care of him. The unknown, fertile darkness.

  • Questions. What is becoming ready to be born from this loss? Life force—what life force expression will now be freer to express, to experience?
  • New Type Seven Energy. Possibility, newness, options, freedom, choice, freedom to explore, to express, to experience. A lightness, a joy ready to arise.
  • Freedom from responsibility to Teddy. I loved him—I wanted to care for him and I felt constrained, restricted. Compassion, growth, newness, unknowness.
  • More Time. Now more attention can be turned inward to my experience, to the newness, the unknown that wants to arise in me—allowing that.
  • Owning more of myself. His warm, alive, soft, sweet body and spirit are gone. His earthly form, his physical shape of love. His embodiment of my inner child—happy, free, alive in the moment, awake, joyful, fresh.

It’s my turn now—to live my life, to embody and be this life force energy. Teddy isn’t here to live it for me. My turn to step up to the plate, to experience joy, freedom, to be alive!

One morning after his death, I sat on my little couch and cried and prayed this metta prayer:

May you be held in compassion
May your pain and sorrow be eased
May you be free

I told Teddy that we’d done our best to help him, and that now I would turn this metta toward myself, that he didn’t need to hang around and help me learn compassion and ease. I wanted him to be free…I promised I would reach out for support to Dave and friends, that I would miss him, but I’d be OK. I told him he’s welcome to stay around, but he doesn’t need to in order to help me. I want him to be free.

It’s time to take care of myself the way I took care of Teddy—with love, with compassion, with understanding, with kindness and gentleness and softness, without judgment. Time to turn the loving Two gaze of concern to myself. Teddy—the guardian of my Being—I need to be my own guardian of Being now and to take his lead to remember how. Tolle says: “Love is a deep empathy with the other’s Beingness.” We recognize our Being in the Being of another. We love the Creator through the creature. This was certainly true with Teddy Bear. Time to nurture and take care of my physical body, my needs, to own the body awareness and practices that I am doing as part of who I am… Now I have time.

Ways that I will take on the guardianship of my own Being that I learned from Teddy Bear—I will:

  • Allow my needs to guide me
  • Rest
  • Stroke, touch, massage myself
  • Stretch
  • Play
  • BE
  • Do body inquiry

As Rumi so beautifully penned, I feel grateful for Teddy Bear’s presence in my life, that “Together, we talk and laugh, incredulous, That we are so lucky as to be alive, At the same time, you and I.” And I miss his physical presence terribly, as Merwin says: “Your absence has gone through me, Like thread through a needle, Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

Practice Loving Kindness

Practice Loving Kindness

After completing my “practice-makes-perfect” motto collage, I realized I wanted to look for a turn-around. Even with the inner meaning of perfect = whole = complete, I felt that actually changing the words of what I am practicing is important. So, I started playing with changing the motto:

  • Practice makes perfect
  • Practice uncovers wholeness
  • Practices uncover wholeness
  • Practices welcome wholeness
  • Practices invite wholeness
  • Devotion to unfolding
  • Devotional practice
  • Practice devotion
  • Devotional life
  • Devotional living
  • Mindful living
  • Living mindfully
  • Mindful devotion
  • Practice Loving Kindness

As I landed on “Practice Loving Kindness,” I realized how related this is to the themes in my life these days. I am struggling with owning younger, more vulnerable parts of myself that I have split off in order to be “capable, competent Katy”—

  • the side of me that was impressionable, open, sweet, connected, innocent
  • the side that was full of energy, gusto, aliveness, joy, bounce, and verv.

This has affected very much how I tend to live in the world, not making enough time for rest, for play, for ease, for gentleness, for wildness…And how I am with the boys, especially the younger one, Evan. Because of my own disowned parts, I don’t have as much compassion for the parts of him that are like the young, wild, energetic me.

So, this collage turned out to be a tribute, an honoring of these young and vulnerable parts of myself—parts of me that are still here, but haven’t gotten as much air time. It includes photos of me on both sides, and moves from younger me to more adult me as you move toward the center. This collage reminds me that it is the practice of loving and being kind to these parts of myself that allows them to be in balance, joining in friendship, allowing me to be more embodied, more whole, more “perfect.”

The whole collage is in the shape of a heart with wings. I love this image—which for me symbolizes that the practice of loving and being kind is freeing—it opens the way for the heart to fly, for the body to be a prayer, for the mind to be open, not caged in self-images…

As Janne Eller-Isaacs, my Unitarian-Universalist minister said in a sermon: we want to be open to the invitation that life extends to each and every one of us to become more fully and responsibly human. I can’t be fully human without embracing both of these sides of myself. As I embrace, allow, and honor these parts of myself, I will be more loving and kinder not only with myself, but with others, which has to have a loving effect on the whole world!

my body home

i’m playing around these days with pastels. i signed up for the creative every day challenge, which isn’t so hard, if you consider all the ways we are creative during a day, but i wanted to push my envelope and try new ways. pastels are new. they’re fun, but i am still learning how to use them and what they’re good for…

i created this one while recovering at the journey inn on the theme of home and how a bit part of what i am learning in my life is how to allow my body to be my home. to do this has meant allowing compassion, loving kindness for myself. not judging my body, but listening to her, valuing and appreciating her.

how is your body your home? what do you do to create home in your body? how do you define home?