Turn Off to Tune In

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Daily Prompt: When was the last time a movie, a book, or a television show left you cold despite all your friends (and/or all the critics) raving about it? What was it that made you go against the critical consensus?

About 10 years ago I began to shift away from mindless television and fictionalized or glamorized violence of any kind. I stopped watching the ‘news’ first. It makes me sound prudish and elitist, I know, but I’m okay with that.

You’re probably expecting me to tell you now that I’m one of those people who doesn’t own a TV. I still do. And I still watch it, but not often.

At some point I woke up. At some point I realized that everything I was allowing in through my senses affected not only my attitude but my physical being. Maybe it was an amazing book I read, a seminar, a comment overheard. I can’t say when it happened or even why, except that I woke up. And once I knew what I was doing to myself, I made different choices.

When I let go of the need for water cooler banter and chose to turn my attention to talking about expansive ideas and working on how I could become a better person in this world, a better steward of the earth and at the very least do no harm, everything shifted.

I went outside.

I looked up.

I found enchantment in the clouds – we have great clouds in Florida. The praying mantis eating a dragonfly or a spider catching a fly provided drama and a little violence. Birds are actually quite comical. And strangers are always in the midst of some love story. Overhearing snippets of conversation became  fodder for my imagination; creating lives and turmoil and surprises for these characters I was free to develop.

As I wandered with my camera, magic appeared in front of me. Every time. Hawks would pose patiently on low branches so I could snap their portrait before they flew off to capture their morning meal. Butterflies and bees slowed down as they worked flowers, it seemed just for me. Deer made sustained eye contact before returning to their foraging or bounding into the forest.

I’m sure this was always the case. The only thing that has changed is the observer. Me.

While I appreciate the opinions of others and on occasion I will take the advice of a friend and watch a show, read a book or go to the movies, I am more likely found squatting next to a tree to get a closer look at a baby frog.

This is the direction in which my preferences run. That’s just me. But then, it’s all a matter of taste.

[Photo: Taken at the Merrit Island Refuge in Merrit Island, Florida. He’s about the size of my thumb nail. Maybe. Photo credit: Me, Allison L Andersen]

Magic Wand Optional

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The Daily Prompt: A literary-minded witch gives you a choice: with a flick of the wand, you can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions. Which do you choose?

Does anyone write to become obscure? Certainly not in the I-want-to-be-published kind of way. Obscurity is earned by spending tormented hours hunched over journals made of parchment, struggling to get the thoughts to coalesce on paper. Obscurity is found work, not intentional.

Yet secretly all who journal or write for themselves, have the fantasy of their heart’s pourings being found and made into an art film, I suspect. Or maybe that’s my notion alone.

My mission with my writing and photography is to ‘Share the Magic.’ It’s not that my point of view is so fresh or that my word combinations are unique. It’s not that my photos are technically brilliant. It’s just that I write and that I take pictures and then I share.

At present two books are hovering in fieri; one on finding the magic in the every day and the other my quirky recounting of two trips to India. I am so enjoying the process that it becomes unthinkable at times to finish either one.

I am inspired to drop everything and go look for dragonflies or how the ripples on the lake catch the sun as I tweak and retweak the magic book. Diving back into India is like crawling into crisp cool sheets and leaning back onto a nest of comfy pillows; I am immediately transported to the dreamlike existence of the mother land.

These distractions do not necessarily speak to the eloquence with which I write, but more to the ideas I am choosing to foster and bring forth. I am in love with these projects.

It seems that neither category offered by our literary witch would suit my endeavors. Although paperback does not automatically denote fiction. Perhaps a popular paperback author could fit. After all it’s my intention to share the magic and why not to millions? If millions of people could stop for a moment and consider the beauty and enchantment that surrounds them every day, might they make different choices? I hope one day soon I’ll find out.

Read other’s responses to the prompt here.

Future Self

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It was sometime during the afternoon yesterday that I met my future self. Not the perfect, slim, wrinkle-free, jet-setting, rich one of my over-fertile imagination. I met the settled, comfortable in her own skin, deep smile lined, glowing with a secret, one. I much prefer her. She’s the type of person I’d like to have coffee with. She was in a word: Enchanting.

She told me a million magical things in the nanosecond she was before me. It was all familiar. I already knew it all, I had simply forgotten.

I had forgotten that the weight of the world does not depend on the tiny little decisions I make every day. That my path was strong, that I knew the way and it was okay to deviate and explore because all roads led back to that path. That I am beautiful beyond measure, not because my eyes are blue, not because I have expensive shoes but because in spite of those things there’s a radiance that, if I let it out, cannot be articulated or seen, only felt.

She reminded me that all people are made of energy so we are each the same. At times we take the energy of another; at times we give our energy to those in need and when we meet someone we resonate with on the same frequency we are shown our own magnificence and we are duty bound to recognize it. To deny one’s gifts depletes one’s energy. Embrace that which makes you shine.

Above all she reminded me to stop struggling. Allow the pendulum to rest. Bask in just being. Allow the world to enchant me. If I wait patiently a dragonfly will land on my dress, the wind will blow.

And finally she shared her deepest, fiercest, unconditional love for me, for where I am, for who I am and for who I would become. She reminded me that she is me. That without love for myself, unconditional love, it is impossible to love another unconditionally. It can be no other way.

To recall her, what she looked like, would be a struggle, but her light was undeniable. My light. She was probably somewhere in her mid to late seventies. I was. But it was not her age or any identifiable features she wanted to share with me. Her message clear.

All I have to do to get there, is be here.

21 Day Challenge – Day 12 – Gratitude

birdy IMG_1892As I selected my cart at Whole Foods today I did not expect to find a passenger. I was making my way up and down the aisles when I noticed a little movement on the outside of the top basket. A lizard. He was moving a little slower in the cooler temperatures of the store but was able to make his way to the handlebar where he looked at me perplexed and asked to be taken outside. I obliged. As I exited with unpaid merchandise I walked about six feet toward a grassy area. Before I got there he jumped off. Warmed by the 90 degree November sunshine he was once again feeling frisky. I watched to be sure he made it to safety lest some unsuspecting human find him beneath their shoe. He made to the grass, he’ll have to take it from there.

It is in these moments that I find complete gratitude. The dragonfly landing on my dress. A squirrel frozen not 3 feet in front of me because we surprised each other. Deer wandering in my suburban neighborhood. A bird peeking down at me from the porch roof. The wind.

It is the first of November, the official month of gratitude.

I am grateful for all the people in my life. The fun ones, the encouraging ones, the humorous ones, the spiritual ones, the loving ones, the kind ones. And the mean ones, the rude ones, the whiny ones and the sarcastic ones.  The button pushers and naysayers. Oh I think I am most grateful for those last two.

The button pushers allow me to learn more about myself. Because it’s not them, it’s me. It’s my button. If I were to pay very close attention I could probably find the thread that connected the various pushers to the specific button. Once I identify the button I can work to eliminate it.  Another person cannot make me feel or act a certain way without my permission. If a person drives me crazy, I am the one behind the wheel. They are my teacher. And I have much to learn. And for that I am grateful.

The naysayers show me the holes in my theories, they show me their vulnerabilities which are merely mirrors of my own. If they believe I can’t do something it is most likely because they don’t believe they could. They need me to succeed so they can see the possibilities for themselves. I owe them my successes. And my gratitude.

Each person we encounter that we have any kind of reaction to, good or bad, is a mirror. The perceived negative reaction lets us know exactly what we need to work on. The perceived positive reaction shows us our magnificence in another. We cannot see in others that which we do not possess. If I walk by 100 people and don’t react to them, they have nothing to share with  me. But that one person that cuts me off in traffic when I am in a hurry has the lesson.

Once I was aware of this, life became considerably more interesting. It became impossible for me to blame others for anything, instead I had to own my reactions and what I believed to be my shortcomings . A confrontation or a reaction was now the gift. Or rather the gift was somewhere in it. If I missed it, it would be back.

Gratitude is a portal. Once stepped through the magic in the mundane is revealed. Colors become more vibrant.  The sound of people laughing overcomes the noise of those complaining. The one beautiful flower among the weeds comes into focus.

So on this first official day of Gratitude Season I say Thank You. To everyone. For everything.

[Photo: My bird friend that was perched on the roof line of my patio.]

21 Day Challenge – Day 5 – Return of the Dragonflies

pink grass IMG_1600I am being stalked by dragonflies today. I’m not worried. It’s not the first time. At the post office there was one above my car. He looked me in the eye then sped away. I went to the vet to pick up flea medication, when I came out – yep. Maybe it was the same one. At the gas station they beckoned to me from the nearby landscaping. I followed; they flitted and played but would not pose for me. That’s not what this is about.

At the grocery store – all clear. Until I came back out. Another one above my car. As I pulled into my garage I wondered if one would follow me in. Nope. He just hovered over the driveway where he incorrectly suspected I’d be parking.

I would say it was the same one, but I recognize their difference readily now, soon I’ll be naming them.

Once inside my house I opened everything up and let the dogs out. I knew there would be no dragonfly on the dragonfly branch in the back yard. It’s too early in the day, too hot in the sun for stillness. But, as I was walking back inside the shadow of a huge butterfly glanced the slats of the fence leading my eye to…please tell me you know what I’m going to say here.

They are clearly my current animal totem. I used to think I could pick the animal that best fit me. I thought that about men too. Turns out I was wrong about both. For a few years snake medicine served me well, it kept me in line. If I strayed off the path a snake would show up to guide me or scare me back on. In my dreams, in my yard, in the clouds and once in my kitchen.

Dragonflies are illusion and I’ve been thinking an awful lot about magic lately. The word magic holds a charge for some people – they immediately go to the dark arts. I am talking about everyday magic created by nature, God, the Universe – whatever higher power you would like to credit.

It’s the way perfectly normal looking grass sprouts pinkish red feathers in the fall. It’s the scent of jasmine coming from the neighbor’s yard on a soft breeze after dark. It’s the hand of a loved one reaching for yours for no reason other than to be close. That’s magic.

It’s being followed by dragonflies. I get so immersed in my relationship with them that I actually speak out loud, asking them questions. “What are you trying to tell me?” “Where? Over there? Is that where you want me to go?” “Show me where you want your picture taken.” “Hold still.” “Thank you.” I’m sure I’ve been caught. With any luck at all I’ll develop an eccentric reputation and a cool name like the crazy dragonfly lady.

According to the Medicine Cards dragonfly is asking me to look at the habits I want to change. A bit ironic considering the 21 day challenge I just issued myself. It could be that I haven’t challenged myself enough, but I don’t think that’s it. I think I know exactly why they’re staring me down like a petulant child waiting for the correct answer – which is always permission to do the thing that makes them grow and you let go.

So this thing, this habit I have to change, might be more a belief and that takes some emotional surgery. A belief is an attachment. It is something so strongly identified with that any other way is hard to imagine. It has already been assimilated; it’s snuggled nicely into the DNA. Illusion.

The smoke and mirrors in my life surround money.

My entire adult life I have been in debt. Sometimes magnificently, other times just annoyingly and repetitively, just out of reach of solvency. I have lots of great reasons why. They have not helped me eradicate this “issue.” It is a weight. I play it off, “I’ll take care of it, but I’m not going to stop living just because I owe money on my credit cards.” There is so much truth in that last statement for me that I really can’t see my way around it.

Sitting still, denying myself experiences and working a job I hate feel like death to my spirit. I have done that. It feels completely unhealthy. Maybe being in debt isn’t a bad thing or a big deal. But if I am giving it this much energy and attention, it is a detrimental thing for me.

The option then, if I am truly genetically pre-disposed to indebtedness – and if my actual physical DNA is any indication, then yes, I am – is to make more money. The concept is so simple. I am of an age now where I can see how the income to debt ratio works. Got more money? Spend it. Stay stuck. No, just make more than you spend. Simple. In theory.

Why then am I still in debt? How is staying at this level of “almost there” serving me? Do I feel I owe the world something? Do I feel I don’t deserve to go where I want when I want? Or is it deeper than that? Am I afraid that I will no longer be tethered to this life? Owing money creates a line of energy between me and that entity. If I’m solvent, I’m cut free. If being in debt has been part of my identity for as long as it has, who am I without it?

Here’s the more interesting question. If I were to pay everything off tomorrow – everything, all of it, credit cards, student loan, car – would anyone else see a difference in who they know me to be? I suspect on the face of it the answer is no. But if this act of financial freedom opens me up, then the answer is decidedly a yes. Or is it? Perhaps I project to the world the free Allison. Perhaps you are holding that space for me to move into it and you don’t even know it.

It comes down to fear. Letting go of the illusion of who I am. You and I do not see me the same way. You and I do not see you the same way. We are more than likely much more forgiving of each other. We accept the other as they are; appreciate the differences and intersections in the relationship. So I can’t use you. You can’t fix it. You can’t hurt it. You have nothing to do with it. Never did.

My fear, and I suspect yours as well, is stepping into my own power. It scares the shit out of me. In my mind it’s this huge, big, scary thing. But I think it’s not as big of deal as I make it out to be. It’s the monster under the bed that’s just forgotten clothes. It’s illusion.

Does this resonate? Wherever you see the word “debt” insert your obstacle. The “thing” could just as easily be weight or relationships or a disability or pick an issue. Pick an excuse. This could just as easily be you. Illusion is about seeing beyond the smoke and mirrors. It is identifying that very specific roadblock on the road to the bigger self and healing it. It’s trusting the process and knowing that maybe what has been a solid truth is actually the block. The illusion.

It is stepping into your personal power, my personal power and wearing it like the cape and tiara I deserve. It is owning the essence of me that I believe is hidden. But that’s an illusion too. You can already see it. I can see yours too.

So let’s make an agreement. Let’s continue to recognize that we only see each other because our bigger selves, our powerful selves, recognize each other. It can be no other way. We are all mirrors for each other. My bigger self salutes yours. You are wise and powerful and so I must be too if I see it in you.

So dear dragonflies, thank you for the messages and persistence. Thank you for the reminder that beliefs can be illusions too. I promise to continue the work if you promise to keep following me.

[Photo: You were expecting a dragonfly maybe? Not today, they won’t sit still, so instead I present to you magic grass, also known as Muhly grass. It is native to Florida and grows quite easily and heartily sprouting these magical pink feathers in the fall.]

21 Day Challenge

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I am issuing a 21 day challenge. To myself. I have always resisted the word challenge, pretending to be non-competitive. But I feel it’s suitable here. What I am challenging are deeply held habit patterns that I want to change or eradicate all together. This is not a challenge to lose weight or achieve a specific goal, this is a challenge to live my most enchanted, magical life.

I have been a planner as far back as I can remember. To be honest, more of a dreamer. My plans sit on the pages of my journals full of hope and promise, lost as I turn the page to dream anew. These plans are not grandiose. On the contrary, they resemble mundane to-do lists instead. But the underlying theme is always, do this to get that. Once I get, do, have, etc. THEN…  It’s a common malady. But I plan to end it now.

It takes 21 days to make a habit – I intend to make several.

You should know that I am using you. I have assigned your presence, real or imaginary, to be the gatekeeper of my conscience. It is you that will keep me on track.

The impetus for this change? I am a charlatan. I am not walking my talk.  I am a yoga teacher that rarely does yoga. A holistic health counselor whose favorite late night snack is pinot noir and Ruffles. A jewelry designer that rarely wears any of her own creations and an interior designer who has lived with peach Formica counter tops for the past 13 years. The only thing I’m doing with any consistency lately is writing and taking pictures. But how long can that last, really, given my history?

So the challenge is this: daily yoga and yoga nidra twice each day. Write for at least 2 hours and take fresh photographs daily . No alcohol and the gym twice a week. For three weeks.

I am publishing this declaration as a way to motivate myself. Even if I suspect one person is reading this and thinking,” I wonder how she’ll do?” or secretly wishing failure upon me (maybe even more motivating),  I’ll rise to the occasion. For some reason I, like many people I suspect, will meet and often exceed other’s expectations, but seldom rise to meet any goals or terms I set for myself. I forgive myself way too often, making excuses that sound like reasons. Mind trickery.

I am not going to weigh or measure myself or drastically change my diet. My baseline diet is very good. I suspect focus these goals will lead to more dedication to overall health and well-being which will organically spill into other areas of my life, like dark chocolate.

It’s not about weight, although it would be a nice side effect, it is about fire. That crackling radiance at everyone’s core. Those who focus only weight or wrinkles or aging or anything superficial for that matter, have not yet met their own light. Those who have, recognize these outward appearances as temporary, they tell a story – excess weight, gray pallor – but they are not the person who dwells beneath the extra pounds. With a little encouragement, if your light is strong enough, it can help reignite another’s flame. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Sharing the light, uplifting? That’s the gift and the responsibility. It’s nothing more than showing up as yourself. Authentic and comfortable in seat of your own soul.  I have felt the heat of my own flame. Now I’m calling it back. For me it is the height of creativity and synchronicity. It is joy for no reason. And it’s where I intend to live.

The physical component is a necessary balance. I know that if I do yoga and yoga nidra on a daily basis, I come from a different place. My mind is clear, I am calm and inspiration crackles all around me. If I add the gym component it accelerates the whole process. It’s about opening the windows and letting the fresh air in. Airing out old belief systems, dismantling self-defeating habit patterns and recognizing the magic in everything.

I promise to post every day. Even if I fail to meet the daily challenge. But I suspect you’ll keep me in line. Perhaps there’s something you could do for 21 days that will enhance your fire.