The Yellow Brick Road

wizardpaths1

To find your true soul’s path and life purpose, ask yourself each morning: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

If the answer is yes, carry on.

If the answer is no, do something different.

Building Castles

“If you have built castles in the sky, Let not your dreams go to waste; Just build the foundations under them.” Henry David Thoreau 

I sometimes get really tired of being a grown up.  I have always had a vivid imagination but as a grown up I have learned to logic and doubt my way out of almost all of my wildest fantasies.  And I really miss those fantasies, dammit.

So I have decided to stop being such a kill joy to my own imagination.  To that end I have given myself a project this year.  I love to journal and normally I write about things I am grateful for, or about esoteric spiritual ideals and guidance.  But for now I have decided that I am going to free myself from any and all limitations.  I will begin each day by writing about the day I could be living if there were no limitations.

If I had all of the money, time, freedom and permission to live the life of my wildest dreams, where would I be today, and what would I do?  No limits is the only rule.  I write a page or two first thing in the morning.  I don’t have to share it with anyone, unless I really want to.  And you know what?  It is so much fun!  Yesterday I got a book contract and a movie deal!  The day before that I went swimming with the dolphins in Maalaea Bay, Maui.  Tomorrow I am planning a moonlight hike up the ruins at Machu Picchu, and I am pretty sure I will see a few UFOs circling in the sky above.

This little exercise is turning out to be the very best 15 minutes of my day.

Dr. Wayne Dyer talks about the power of imagination to create the life you want in his book Wishes Fulfilled.  He says “keep in mind this basic axiom – if all that now exists was once imagined, then what you want to exist for you in the future must now be imagined.”  So this is my intention:  I will untether my dreams and let them be as wild and fantastic as they can be.  I will allow myself the freedom to imagine a life for myself beyond the ordinary.  I will allow my imagination, in all of its beauty, to guide me to a most extraordinary life.

As a (reluctant) grown up I do understand that not every dream will come true.  But as a dreamer, I plan to at least give the universe a plethora of imaginings to choose from.  I may be creating a whole new reality for myself or I may simply be building castles in the sky.  Either way you look at it, castles in the sky are sure to improve the view, don’t you think?

And a final thought from another favorite Dr. of mine:

“Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”  Dr. Seuss

Let It Begin With Me

CHRISTMAS-NIGHT

The Christmas season is upon us. May your days be filled with joy and wonder and may you always realize that the important things in life aren’t things. May you remember it is more important to spend time than money and may you carry the light of Christmas within you throughout the year. Blessings friends and Merry Christmas

Awakening

flowerincrack

When you go through a hard period,
When everything seems to oppose you,
When you feel you cannot even bear one more minute,
NEVER GIVE UP!
Because it is the time and place that the course will divert!  

Rumi

Everybody has a story, that sequence of life events that they use to design how they present themselves to the world.  My story began November 15, 2008.  It goes something like this….

Brenda is Broken Open

The universe whispers lessons and sometimes you hear and that is awesome, But sometimes you don’t hear. Sometimes you get so busy with life and with the mundane, mediocrity of physical existence that you forget to take the moments to sit in silence and to really listen.  So then the whispers get louder.  And if you still don’t hear them, they turn into shouts so loud that you have no choice but to hear.

My shouts stopped me in my tracks.  My shouts had me cowering with arms over my head wondering what horrible thing would come next. It all began with Janice.

My sweet soul friend and I had worked together for several years, creating costumes for the local high school plays.  So many hours we spent together, planning, shopping, sewing, gluing, organizing and laughing.  Janice laughed a lot.  She had an infectious joy and even in the most stressful of times, she would share the humor of the situation and before we knew it we would all be laughing with her.  A tiny dynamo with energy to spare and happiness in abundance, she spent her life and her last breath in laughter.

It was her night to sit in the audience and watch.  I laughed and teased her that she would cry during “Be Our Guest”, like I had the previous evening.  Seeing all of our kids up there giving it their all, the music swelling, the dancing spoons and forks and candelabras, the cute little salt and pepper shakers, the raucous napkins dancing the can-can, she would be moved as I had been.  And of course she would laugh at herself for crying, as I had.  And sure enough, intermission came and Janice showed up in the green room, laughing about crying, bustling around looking for some velcro to fix the Beast’s boot, talking a mile a minute.  Stooping over and searching through a bag of fabric, her voice ringing with laughter, she gushed about the first half of the show, her pride in the kids and in our accomplishment apparent.  She stood up suddenly, turning to me, and her laughter faded.  She looked into my eyes.  A question.

Hand fluttered to her chest.

“Janice.  Are you alright?”

Eyes simply closed.  I caught her as she fell and laid her gently on the ground.  Her breath shuddered.  She was still.

Pandemonium.

“Call 9-1-1”

“Get these kids out of here”

“Is a doctor in the house?”

“Where’s Larry?  Go find Larry.”

“Does anyone know CPR?”

A few shuddering breaths, her body shutting down.  I knelt beside her, held her hand and watched the final reflexes of her dying body.    The world shifted beneath my feet.

And then things got really weird.

As Janice left this world she took me on the first part of the journey.  I was crouched on the ground, holding her hand, shouting to Kristen to call 911 and watching Dave and Evan hustle the kids out of the room, then my focus narrowed to the place where my hand was holding her hand and I had the singular thought,  ‘She is gone’.  That is when I left my body and was at the ceiling, staring down at myself holding Janice’s hand. I could see it so clearly and at that moment I experienced an instant of “no fear”. It wasn’t a feeling of peace or of bliss or anything like that so much as it was a feeling devoid of fear, something I had never experienced before. It made me weightless.   But the really crazy thing that happened as I floated there with Janice, is that I could see that I had wings.

Yeah.   Wings.  WTF?

Seeing the wings totally freaked me out and I was instantly back in my body. It made me think that I was the one who had died and my tiny human brain latched onto the FEAR that had up until that point kept me shackled to this reality.  Fear was my brutal grounding comfort.

The next few weeks I thought perhaps I was going a bit crazy. I was in the clutches of grief, but also I was suffering from some pretty intense PTSD symptoms, not getting much sleep, panicking and crying and trying desperately to hide my struggles from everyone. Finally I told my American Husband what I had experienced. I sobbed as the story came out and I am pretty sure he thought I had gone off the deep end.   But being the amazing, understanding guy he is, he told me very simply that he believed me.   He had no explanation for what happened and neither did I … but he accepted that it must have been real.

He believed me.

Does anyone wonder why I love that man?  In the months and years to come I would have many more opportunities to rely on his quiet, sure strength and to be grateful for the solid foundation he affords me.

You see, the Universe wasn’t done with me yet.  Oh no, there were many more surprises in store.  Just about done with the PTSD you say?  Well then, kerBLAM! your other soul friend, Rod, has terminal cancer.  And while you watch by helplessly as his life is slowly tortured away, POW! let’s just take your job of 16 and a half years away.  Not enough stress yet?  Okay, then, SLAMMO! here’s a lawsuit to chew on.  That ought to keep you busy for 2 or 3 years.  And in the meantime, OOF! time to say good bye to Rod.  Now how about a nice ONE/TWO PUNCH! first beloved Sadie and then devoted Wyatt, best dogs in the world, both gone within 3 months of each other.

Did I mention the part about cowering with my arms over my head wondering what in the name of all things holy would be next?

What followed was 2 years of such severe post traumatic stress that I would often have panic attacks that would leave me thinking I would rather just die than to face the daily rigors of FEAR of what would befall me next.  When Janice died, so suddenly in my arms it woke me up to the fact that our time is truly limited. Of course I knew on a logical level that we all die one day and that each of us has our own unique expiry date, but to see it happen, like somebody turned out the light, one moment laughing and full of joy and the next… just gone… well that was the wake up.

This awakening has taken me to some dark places, and eventually to some incredibly light places.  Along the way I have experienced a whole lot of strange and wonderful things.  It began with the wings, but moved on to some even more bizarre happenings.  The roads have led me here, on this path of self discovery, where I have come to the realization that the lessons I learn in this life are even more valuable when I can add to them the lessons I have learned in other lifetimes.  Keeping a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing is the essential key that fits the locks and opens the doors to so many incredible experiences.  Anything is possible.  And yes, miracles happen.

As for the wings, I’ve done a lot of research, asked a lot of questions, read a lot of books and come to the conclusion that there are about as many theories as there are people.  Some resonated and some did not, but the one that brings me the most comfort is simply that an Angel stepped in and took over in those few moments I was unable to cope.  And as I traveled through the wreckage of my life those next few years I often imagined that if I ever needed her again, that Angel would be there for me in an instant.

Our stories happen to us and it is very easy to become identified solely with them.  For the rest of this life I could walk around and be that victim of circumstances and loss and only that.  Instead I choose to take the wreckage of that time  and climb on top of the rubble and use it as a ladder to something more.  In hindsight I  see that all of the chaos and calamity was really a gift from the divine.  It gave me a glimpse of eternity and opened my awareness to a realm I never knew existed.  I was plain old sepia toned Dorothy opening that farmhouse door to the land of Oz and discovering that the whole world is in vivid, glorious technicolor.

Since it all happened I see things and hear things and know things that defy logic or explanation.  The greatest part of it all is that I no longer have any fear of death because I know it is an illusion.  Only our bodies die, and we cast them off like an old, tight shoe and soar to realms and dimensions we only get hints of now.  We really are spiritual beings having a human experience.  But boy that human part of our experience can sometimes really kick our ass, can’t it?

photo

If you really want to see how high my freak flag can fly, take a look here:   Page 8 (Great book by the way, I highly recommend it.)

For more information on that whole shared death experience, please read Glimpses of Eternity by Dr. Raymond Moody.  Turns out this type of experience is not uncommon.  (A huge shout-out to my friend Joanne for pointing me toward this book and helping me to understand that I am not <completely> crazy.)

The Shepherd

Image by:  Rafael Ramos Fenoy
Image by: Rafael Ramos Fenoy

“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.  Help someone’s soul heal.  Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”  Rumi

My much older brother (we’ll call him Clooney) owns a cabin in Montana on Duck Lake where we all just spent the weekend.  The quarters are large enough to comfortably hold the 8 family members and friends that had gathered, but small enough that there is little or no room for finding much alone time.    Clooney, being the intelligent guy that he is, has devised a method to give fair warning to the unsuspecting that a storm may be brewing.

If a person wakes up in the morning feeling less than sociable and maybe just a little bit grumpy, there is a specially designated signal to warn others.  It is a bright red coffee mug that can be seen from great distances and is meant to warn off unsuspecting cabin mates of a percolating foul mood.  If somebody is sipping from the mug, it is advisable to give them a wide berth until they find their happy place.

Brilliant use of form and function, Clooney.  Bravo.

Funny thing though, a person’s bad mood typically doesn’t need a red mug warning attached for others to recognize it.   Have you ever noticed that one person in a bad mood can join an otherwise pleasant group and pretty soon almost everybody is feeling owly and cross?  Maybe there is that one guy in the office who always has something to complain about.  Or that friend who shows up at a party and pretty soon everyone has found a reason to make an early exit.  You know who I am talking about… that Debbie Downer whose foul moods act as the anchor that pulls everyone under.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we all know that person whose presence will almost always raise the moods and attitudes in whatever group they join.  Could be a boring day at the office where everyone feels blah, then Susie Sunshine shows up and pretty soon everyone is energized, laughing, have a great time and wondering why they felt so down earlier.  Wherever she goes, her happiness radiates and warms up whatever space she is in.  We all love Susie and want her at every party we throw, because we know she will just make it better.

This phenomena has actually been put to scientific research and the findings are quite fascinating.  In a study back in 2010 at Harvard University, Alison Hill and her team of researchers concluded that happiness and sadness are indeed contagious and tend to spread in a model very similar to that of infectious diseases.  And it is much easier to spread the Sad germs than it is the Happy ones.  In their study Hill and her team found that groups subjected to sadness were infected about 50% of the time, but those subjected to happiness were only infected 11% of the time.  So in the grand scheme of things, Debbie Downer can take down Susie Sunshine almost any day of the week.

Somebody give Debbie the red mug.  This chick needs a warning label.

Armed with this information I intend to make a concerted effort to spread sunshine wherever I go.  Even on the days I would rather drink from the red mug, I will suck it up and produce a smile, a cheerful hello and keep my bad mood to myself.  And by faking it until I make it, maybe I will infect myself with those jumpy little happy germs along the way.

As the Buddha said, “Happiness never decreases by being shared”.   I say spread that shit around.  Maybe we can start a whole Happiness Pandemic.

Living Happily Ever After in 8 Easy Steps

“Either give me more wine, or leave me alone.”  Rumi

Any of you who have been following along on my journey for the past few months have probably figured out that I like to set myself to tasks.  I have found that if I don’t give myself tangible goals and set intentions to follow through, days and days will pass without any writing, creating or purposeful living.  Yes, yes: I really AM the Queen of Procrastination.  Look here I am with my crown:

wine

And so I find myself with the task today to talk about Rumi’s quote, “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.”  No really.  It’s a Rumi quote.  Imagine my surprise when I was collecting quotes to use during this month of Ruminations I have assigned to myself, and here was this awesome, fabulous, incongruous quote.  It seemed so unspiritual in nature,(ironic, I know,  because of the direct reference to a spirit) but when I contemplated the quote further, I wondered, could this hide a great life lesson?

On the surface the meaning seems fairly clear.  Granted I have had moments like that in my life, wanting nothing but to be left alone to slosh around in my own self pity, ‘wining’ as it were.  But upon further study I believe the true meaning behind these words goes much deeper.  Perhaps what Rumi is really trying to say is “if you are here to add to my joy, then stay.  If not… get outta my face.”  He says it a bit more poetically.

My contemplation of joy, and how to bring more happiness to life has led me to write a LIST!  I know.  You are probably as excited as I am.

Living ‘happily ever after’ is not just for Disney Princesses anymore.  With a few guidelines anyone can live a happier, more fulfilling and joyous life.  Here are a few tips that have made all the difference in my life.

1.  Choose your friends wisely.  Friends are a great source of happiness.  They can bring you comfort when you need it, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with, or someone to build you up and make you believe in yourself and in your dreams.  Good friends are priceless and irreplaceable.  Keep them close to your heart.  Cherish them and love them for they count among the greatest gifts your life has to offer.

Then there are those other ‘friends’.  You know the ones I mean.  These ‘friends’ are always sure to knock you down a few pegs, make you feel just a little bit foolish for dreaming too big, or say the things that should really be left unsaid.  The ‘friends’ who gossip to you, and then gossip about you.  The ‘friends’ who start sentences with things like “don’t take this the wrong way, but….” or “I hate to be a bitch, but….”.  These people are not friends.  They are frenemies.  Recognize them quickly, send them love, but then send them.  Away.  Far, far away.

2.  Choose to be happy.  Sounds too simple, I know, but when you come right down to it, happiness really is a choice.  Life is a constant series of changes, some good, some not so good, but always it is our reaction to events that cause us to experience happiness, or not.   By making a conscious effort to see happiness as a choice when things are going well, it will be much easier to find a silver lining when those storm clouds roll in.  Sure, you may not feel happiness when the rain is pouring down, but at least you won’t despair.  Choosing to be happy most of the time helps to create a habit of happiness so that no matter what life throws your way, you will weather the storm.

3.  Get moving.  Walk, bike, swim, dance, jog, hop on a pogo stick, skip rope, whatever.  Just get moving.  It will fire up your endorphins and make the happy chemicals dance in your brain.  And while you are at it, take those endorphins out into nature.  Something about walking through the woods recharges and replenishes in such a way that it is nearly impossible to hold onto stress.

4.  Dance with abandon.   We all seem to worry so much about what others think of us it stands to reason that everybody else is so busy thinking the same things themselves that they don’t have the time to think anything about us.  Free yourself from the perception that other people judge what you do, then crank the music and dance.   Nobody is watching.

5.  Help somebody.  It is the best kind of high.  Reaching out to somebody in need takes us out of ourselves and gives us a sense of empathy, compassion, and joy that makes feeling despondent nearly impossible.  Lend a hand, and gain a heart.

6.  Get busy.  Create something.  Put down the iDevice, shut off the Netflix and make something from nothing.  Creating gets us closer to our true selves and brings our spirits alive.  It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t have to share it with anyone.  Fingerpaint, or decorate a cake, or plant an herb garden or make a rag rug… anything will do.  Be inspired and follow that calling.

7.  Stay young.  Years may cause our bodies to age, but we can choose to keep our spirit young.  In youth we see things with fresh eyes, we fall in love with life and all of its possibilities, we dream big and believe we can grow into it.  By maintaining a youthful spirit we can sell our cleverness and look with awe at all of the wonders of the world.

8.  Laugh (and cry) often.  My American Husband is hilarious.  He makes me laugh every single day and this, to me, is his finest quality and most attractive feature.  Laughter really is the best medicine for whatever ails you.  But did you know that crying is also very good for you?  Feeling and expressing whatever emotions you have is the most authentic form of human existence.  It’s only when we suppress our emotions that they bounce around inside and cause us to get sick.  So watch a funny, or sad movie, find friends who share your sense of humor, and learn to laugh at life’s funny twists and turns.   Don’t take life so seriously.  Nobody makes it out alive anyways.

And so concludes my advice on living happily ever after.  Taking a cue from my own list, I create for you, a poem:

My list is writ,

my song is sung,

my smile is lit,

my wine is brung.

Take that, Rumi.

Set Your Life on Fire

“Set your life on fire.  Seek those who fan your flames.” Rumi

May the passion of your dreams light your way.

May the fire of that passion burn the doubts that try to block you.

May your light shine so brightly that no shadow darkens your path.

May you be the light you seek.

May it find you.