Speaking of the Dead

soaring vultures

I was sitting in the back of the room with the other yoga nidra facilitators listening with half an ear to the teacher in the front. I can’t even tell you who it was. I don’t remember. In my distracted state, I cut my eyes toward the giant picture windows to my right – I do this often – and between the lush, old stately trees I could see the lake sparkling. A small hole between branches provided the perfect view of a cerulean blue sky and in that tiny hole a vulture soared.

Another one.

They are everywhere in Florida. They are everywhere, period. But they are in my awareness more than almost any other creature.

During this 10 day training I have entertained hoards. At one point, I was peacefully rocking myself back and forth on a swing, enjoying the breeze coming off the lake, lost in the lapping of the water against the shore; I leaned forward for some reason and when I looked up dozens of vultures were making their way across the sky above me. They were low enough for me to see the holes in their beaks and hear their wings flap as they gained purchase against the wind.

They kept coming. I was awestruck. I have never seen so many aloft at once.

I stood, as much as a salute to their humility and grace as to close the gap between us by another foot or two. I longed – long – for one to swoop down and sit beside me. They are clearly my animal totem and I simply adore them.

No matter when I looked up, during this ten-day training, they were there.

As I sat in the back of the room watching my friend soar effortlessly, I thought, “What are they trying to tell me?”

“Clean up your dead.” It was as if that single vulture had stopped, looked me in the eye with hands on hips and said, “Clean up your dead.”

The meaning simultaneously accompanied the words, yet I tried to analyze it, figure it out. It was an opportunity, in that moment, to simply say, “ok” and let it all go. But I needed to know more. I needed to figure out what my dead was. Which relationships, beliefs, habits was I supposed to let go of? How should I clean them out, how will I know if I have?

This gift that was handed to me became a light that revealed a pattern that doesn’t always serve me. Planting a thought in my brain then attaching a million other thoughts to it. Trying to figure things out.

Sometimes I just have to say ok. And so I did. Sort of.

I am using this command, ‘clean up your dead’ each time I find myself hooking into a thought pattern that isn’t serving me. I won’t catch them all and it will be a process of recognition and repetition until finally it’s not. But I’m committed.

And if I hold on a little too long to the dead weight, I have plenty of airborne friends around to remind me.

21 Day Challenge – Day 15 – True Love

A heart shape candle surrounded by red rose petals covered in wa

It happened by accident. Really. We were introduced to each other by a mutual friend.

We had nothing in common it seemed, but we really loved spending time together. There was just that connection, you know?

I promised myself it would only be that one time.

But when I got home I couldn’t stop thinking about that time. I would smile surreptitiously lest someone become curious about my newfound zest for life. It was hard to resist telling everyone, but I’m married. Happily.

Then the next day, well, it happened again. We just fit. Maybe it’s the way I’m held. I don’t know how else to explain it. I feel strong and powerful when we’re together. Like I can do anything I put my mind to. My imagination reels at the possibilities.

But today I am alone. And a little sad. It’s all I can do to resist going back. I’ll go tomorrow. We’ll be together again. It’s just too much, too hard. My energy is sluggish, I’m starting to doubt myself. Yes, I must go back.

Not even my husband can stop me.

His birth name is Concept 2 Rowing Machine, but I call him Rowan. He is both challenging and fun. We love to play together. We lose all track of time (fortunately there’s an attachment for that). And each time I go back I fall in love a little more.

With Rowan of course, but also with myself.


21 Day Challenge – Day 8 – Sweet Stuff

Pouring sugar over a strawberry on a spoon

Sugar and I are madly in love and can’t be apart for more than a few hours. He’s with me during my morning coffee. He’s there for me if I’m feeling a little low. When I reach for an iced tea he’s there. We love to spend long, lazy summer afternoons together with a bowl of fresh strawberries or peaches. And at night, oh night time is the sweetest. We’ll sit for hours snuggled on the sofa and watch a movie or read a good book.

Sometimes he likes to hide from me, but I can always tell he’s been there by the flutter in my chest followed by sleepy bliss.

I wouldn’t dream of breaking up with him. Not completely.  I’ve done it before, we’ve taken a break or cooled it a little but never have we parted for long. Life loses all flavor without my little cupcake.

I know it’s not right. It’s one of those toxic relationships people just don’t want to talk about. So I think it’s time to limit our interaction with each other. He doesn’t have to linger as long in the mornings or come by at all during the day. Maybe he can stop by for a little dessert in the evenings. Little. Once in a while.

Besides, spending time away from my honey will make what time we do spend together all the sweeter.

He’s okay with it too. I tend to deplete him.

I would let him go altogether, I would, but he just comes back. And he comes on strong, whispering sweet nothings in my ear, bringing me chocolate and wine.

No, this is best, albeit bittersweet. Limited visitation. We’ll see how it goes from there.

Ah, but parting is such sweet sorrow.

Wrong Address

JC flowers assorted ip

Daily Prompt: Secret Admirers. You return home to discover a huge flower bouquet waiting for you, no card attached. Who is it from — and why did they send it to you?

They’ve been delivered to the wrong home. Sadly, that is my first thought. As I search in vain to find the card or some shred of evidence by which to begin solving the mystery I allow my mind to wander. Maybe they are from him. But he never sends flowers. Aside from the freshly cut wild flowers he keeps stocked on the kitchen counter, I can count on one hand how many times he has purchased flowers. And never has he had them sent.

Nothing significant has happened. I’ve won no awards, received no promotions, survived nothing insurmountable. Life has been blissfully average.

I decide to let go of the need to know and just enjoy them. They’re beautiful and happy. Crisp white roses with sprigs of lavender and baby’s breath.

As I pick them up off my front doormat, I notice a torn piece of paper taped to the bottom of the vase. “..07 Sea Breeze Circle.”

I was right. They’re not meant for me, they belong to my neighbor. I don’t know her. I have only seen her a handful of times through the windshield of her car as she backs out of her driveway. I’m not even sure of her hair color. Is it her birthday? Did she get a promotion? Is there a new paramour? Was there an old one?

I stand before her door with the offering of these beautiful flowers. Hoping the occasion is pleasant and maybe we can at least learn each other’s names and have a chuckle over the misplaced vase. There is no answer.

I could keep them. No one would know.

Instead I remove the torn address from the bottom and place them gingerly on her front doormat. I try the doorbell one last time, wait an appropriate amount of time, then leave.

Maybe she’ll know who they are from. Or maybe they will be a mystery for her, as they were for me. A mystery in which I now play a part.


Magic Wand Optional

Dragonfly head on IMG_7330

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.

Feeling Groovy

18 Udaipur IMG_4636

I have not yet fallen into the groove of my life. You know, that comfortable, yet active, relaxed state. Leaning back into life, open and ready but not anxious. Available for the next moment by being present in this one.

I feel it must exist. I have friends who seem to be there, but then that’s my perception. I think I’ve even been there, dipped my toe in on occasion, only I just recognize it as somewhere I’ve been, I don’t catch it in the moment. Perhaps that’s by design. If I notice I’m in it, will that take me out of it? Yearning to recreate it, missing the present once again?

My imagined groove goes a little something like this:

I wake up smiling and refreshed at 5 am. I brew myself a cup of organic free-trade coffee, add a dash of organic cinnamon, raw sugar and organic half and half. I take mug, that I purchased from an extremely talented struggling potter, full of this morning brew, on the deck of my modest ocean front home, or the balcony of my 12th floor upper west side apartment in New York City. Of course I could be traveling, probably I am, so maybe it’s a chai on the rooftop of a 5 story walk up somewhere fabulous in India or a steaming cup of tea in a coffee shop in London. Whatever the case, I am armed with gentle caffeine and settled into a chair, facing east, with my journal and pen, ready to watch the sun rise and let go of thoughts that may be bouncing around creating havoc.

Then I go work out, because I love to, usually dance or some other high energy sweat-making movement. Come home, shower eat a breakfast of organic goat’s milk yogurt with organic granola and a banana from my own tree (why not?).

Refreshed, fed and ready to go, I am at my desk at 9 AM ready and waiting for inspiration to flow through me, which it always does. Sometimes I write, sometimes I edit photos or create photo cards, other times I make jewelry.

I stop for lunch. Something delicious, nutritious and organic, no doubt.

Ok, so this is my groove. The rest of the day just naturally unfolds into a glorious evening of meaningful conversations with great friends back on that deck or balcony. We talk about consciousness and ways to make the world a better place. We share what we’re working on creatively and our processes. We plan to go to gallery openings and take trips together. Maybe we’re drinking naturally decaffeinated organic tea grown since the 6th century, that someone has just brought back from their recent trip to China. Or perhaps a new Malbec from a friend in Argentina. Jazz plays in the background. It’s a band we know personally. Or maybe one of us is sitting quietly plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar, creating on the spot.

The flaw in this scenario? When do I get to eat too much of the wrong thing? Where do I fit in Orange is the New Black? Where’s the struggle that make success sweet?

Truthfully I would be totally okay with this groove. I don’t need to create struggle anymore.  I know enough people who do and they don’t age well. They don’t see that they have a choice. Struggling is a choice. Suffering is truly optional – a state of mind. It’s in their perception. A wise teacher, Yogi Amrit Desai once said something like, “Wanting things to be different than they are is our only problem.”  Acceptance of anything is the key. You cannot change something you refuse to accept, it doesn’t exist.

And so, I accept that I need to move, write, be creative and tromp through wildlife to snap photos. I also accept that I’m in my groove more often than not. I have sipped excellent coffee from ocean front decks, high rise balconies in New York, Chai on rooftops in India and tea in coffee shops in London. I write. I move. I create. I have done all of these things.

It is in those moments that I feel disconnected and outside that I need only remember that this too is part of my groove. It is the recognition of the present moment that is indeed the groove.

[Photo: The magnificent city of Udaipur, India.]

21 Day Body Love Challenge – The Whole Enchilada

Free Happy Woman Enjoying Nature. Beauty Girl Outdoor. Freedom c

“Know then that the body is merely a garment. Go seek the wearer, not the cloak.” – Rumi

It’s time to put it all together. The whole body. It’s all connected. Loving your feet and eyes but not the rest of you is like taking only your feet and eyes on vacation, leaving the rest behind, to what? Fend for itself? Rot? No, it’s a package and not absolutely loving every internal and external inch is no longer acceptable. You can still improve on areas, eat healthy, exercise, but without attaching to the outcome.

Without attaching to the outcome. A healthy lifestyle has more to do with how you FEEL than how you look. How you look is a by-product of the lifestyle.

I was at a farmers’ market recently. I waited at a local honey booth for the person manning it to return. She was a woman about my age – somewhere north of 30, okay 40, whatever – she had no make-up on, her hair was a wild mass of various shades of gray and her skin was glowing. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes sparkled. She exuded health. In that moment I thought, I want that. None of the packaging, but what was radiating out from the inside. Life force.

Your body is your vehicle for this journey and it was assigned specifically to you. It is yours to use and maintain. How well you do that will most likely determine the length of its service.

I like to think about new parents and how they are so careful and loving with the new life now entrusted to them. How they attend to her every need, caress her skin, feed her only the best food, use just the safest, most gentle products.  They wouldn’t dream of every harming her or uttering a harsh word in her direction.

Then I like to think about the Buddhist monks who help people die. There are homes staffed by renunciates whose sole (soul?) purpose is to care for those transitioning, who have no one else to care for them. They bathe and feed these patients, listen to them compassionately, rub their backs and tuck them in at night.

What of the intervening years? Scolding, belittling, berating, abusive. To ourselves. We treat ourselves and our bodies worse than we would ever treat another. Maybe it’s because we know they’re scolding, belittling, berating and abusing themselves. So we each act as the other’s support.

It has to stop. You’ve probably seen or heard of Dr. Emoto by now. If not, he is the Japanese doctor who conducted experiments on water. He yelled at it, called it names. He spoke lovingly and positively to it. The results were phenomenal. Mean = disorganized, sharp, ugly water. Love = soft, beautiful, clear water that looked like various snowflakes. His energy directly affected the response of the water. We are mostly water.

Be a snowflake. Speak kindly to yourself. Caress your skin with nourishing lotions and oils. Feed your body with food that’s alive and water that you have spoken sweet nothings to. Tell yourself how worthy and beautiful you are. How unique.

A friend of mine likes to say, “Two the same, one is not necessary.” Why would you want to be like anyone else? Better than and less than only exists in math, not in people. You are perfect. Every single cell is a divine gift. Accept it.

“The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free. – Swami Vivekananda


21 Day Body Love Challenge – Heart of the Brain Matter

Grey zen stone in shape of heart, on sand background

If you are reading this you have a heart. And thank you. Even if someone is reading this to you, you have a heart. It is one tangled mess of a muscle that we cannot live without.

But when you think heart, do you think of that dark red pulsing thing with its aorta and valves and ventricles? Or do you think of the simplified Valentine? Perhaps something in between. Or maybe you think more of energy and emotion. There are no wrong answers.

When I think of my own heart I first listen carefully, trying to notice my heart beat. Sometimes it’s making its presence known, at other times it’s quietly doing its job. But then I begin to attach stories and emotion to it. How many times I’ve had it broken, or put it out there. How it likes to love. Or doesn’t.

The heart knows stuff, but it’s the connection to the brain that helps us understand that stuff.

People who have undergone heart transplant surgery often report liking or disliking something they never did before. They have flashes, like someone else’s memories. There are brain cells in the heart. At the very least there is a connection.

Much research has been done in recent years on the heart-brain connection.  The heart sends more information to the brain than the other way around. According to the Institute of HeartMath, the heart sends signals to the brain that can influence perception, emotional experience and higher mental processes.

They are in cahoots. To fall in love with your own heart would be to also fall in love with your brain and ultimately your mind. This is the mind-body connection. When we are able to fully connect to both in harmony, we begin to find synchronicity in life and are treated to serendipitous moments and magic we like to think of as coincidence. We’re aware and present.  In love with life.

When our heart gets broken we disconnect. We don’t want to feel the icky feelings. Not right now. If we don’t think about it, it doesn’t exist. We’ll come back to it later when we’re feeling better, which is a lot like saying you’ll join the gym as soon as you lose some weight. The disconnect only stalls things, it doesn’t fix them.

Staying connected, even through the pain, maybe especially through the pain, allows us to live more fully. If we begin to disconnect during strong emotional times, we’ll also miss the absolute joy that is available to us.

Feel the feelings. Think the thoughts. Let them find their way to each other, then let them work it out. It’s integration and it brings with it a tremendous feeling of grounded joy.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” – Paramahansa Yogananda

21 Day Body Love Challenge – Armed and Fabulous

photo (8)

I really, really want to say I love my arms, but I started shaming them into ¾ length and long sleeve shirts so long ago I don’t even know what they look like.

At some point in the recent past I realized my upper arms were not going back to where I found them in high school. They were not rock hard and sculpted. They were thicker than the business end of a baseball bat, and they had somehow acquired an apron.

So no, I don’t love what my arms LOOK like. From the elbow to the wrist they’re not too shabby. It’s the armpit to the elbow that is most troubling.

I do, however, love the capabilities of my arms. They are masters at holding stuff. Often too much stuff. I cannot leave a single bag of groceries in my trunk for a second trip, they must be stacked and strung on either arm, to the extent that my shoulders have threatened to break up with them over and over again. They pick up more than the rest of me can handle, because sometimes they like to show off. What they lack in beauty, they make up for in attitude.

But they have a softer side too. They have held many wonderful things: babies, puppies, kittens, loved ones, books, camera equipment, a yoga mat and my laptop. They have hugged the hump of a camel, the trunk of an elephant and the neck of a horse. They have do-si-doed, walked arm-in-arm and escorted a friend or two to a safe place to “sleep it off.”

They have allowed me to console and congratulate. They have surrendered blood when needed and endured the weight of my body in handstand or plank.

They’re a great place for sparkly, dangly and shiny bracelets and once upon a time they adored interesting watches. Today, they are mostly bare, teaching yoga has removed the desire to adorn them all the time, but on occasion a meaningful mala may find its way there. In India they were blessed twice and wrapped with string by a Hindu priest.

At the end of my left arm, at the wrist, I have permanently inscribed my Sanskrit name – Damini. It means lightning and when I’m feeling less than powerful it’s a reminder that I am a force of nature.

Other than that, there’s very little visible history located on my arms. A polio vaccine scar the size of nickel I received as a young child and less than a handful of tiny thin white lines here and there indicating some run in with something sharp. Overall they are mostly plain and useful.

On an energetic level, the arms are connected to the heart chakra, so any issues in the arms may be related to the inability to receive or give unconditional love. To others, as well as the self. Especially the self. Yourself.

So give yourself a big hug. Wrap those suckers around your beautiful body and squeeze. And when you’re done with that find someone else or something else to hug. It’s good for the soul. It’s good for humanity.

“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” – Victor Hugo





21 Day Body Love Challenge – Breast Friends

Ancient Statue Of A Nude Venus In The Middle Of Perspective Pill

Funny things, breasts. They are the ultimate feminine body part; sensual, utilitarian and sexual. Like most other parts they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they point this way and that and are often just a tad off identical.

I’m pretty sure whole wars have been fought because one world leader looked at the other world leader’s daughter’s boobs. It can’t be helped. No one can turn away from a great rack.

My opinion of my own breasts has been that of indifference. They’re here, they’re typical and I’m glad I’ve got a matched set, although when I was younger and they were a might bit perkier, they did tend to go east west. Properly contained, they point the way forward.

I always thought I was average, probably a B cup. But all the B cup bras were a little too small. It just never occurred to me that I may actually be a C. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just figured that’s how bras fit, uncomfortable and a little snug. I graduated to a C cup sometime after college, but that was ill-fitting as well. It wasn’t until much later, when I had a proper measurement taken – which I highly recommend – that I learned I was a D, bordering on DD. What?! Those were stripper boobs! People paid good money for boobs that size.

I wasn’t sure what to do with this new information, so I just bought a bigger bra and a hot pretzel. Nothing much changed.

Breasts are connected to the heart chakra. This has always given me pause, making me wonder if that whole epidemic of breast cancer starting 30+ years ago is somehow a kind of collective grief in women. Were enough of us saddened that we had to go to work instead of staying home to raise a family and keep house? Were we at odds, in a tough spot, unsure what we should do? Were we disregarding the supremely feminine aspects of ourselves so we could make it in a man’s world?

GMOs, pesticides, environmental toxins, genetic blips as well as heightened awareness, self-exams and advanced technologies have all contributed to elevating the number of cases. But wouldn’t an energetic or emotional cause be equally as viable? Isn’t it worth considering? Just food for thought.

In recent years our society has been divided over breasts. Or maybe it always has. It’s okay to show them in movies and in many TV shows, to sexualize them; but it’s considered poor taste and even forbidden in some places, to breast feed in public. We can bare them to get Mardi Gras beads, but we can’t blame the guy next to us if he grabs one. It’s as if they have a life outside of us, away from our core. Separate. As if they should somehow be legislated.

My breasts have been with me a long time, developing pretty early for my age and moving swiftly from undershirts to training bras to something with a little more shape – once they were properly trained, of course – and now I typically wear some sort of undershirt with a shelf bra. Curious. They are not as perky as they once were, but neither am I, so we match. Gravity has taken custody, along with other body parts, so my body is melting in unison. The same iridescent lightning bolts that adorn by belly reside on my breasts as well.

They’ve been through a lot. They’ve fed, nurtured, attracted, and aroused. They’ve been smashed, squished, full of milk, poked, considered, caressed, bound and freed.

And through it all I have loved them. They are my breast friends.

“Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality.” – Iris Marion Young