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When Trees Speak

trees sky clouds sun

When trees speak, their message is not so much heard as felt.

I felt them speaking to me, their voices percolating inward, cresting my consciousness as I approached the top of the ridge.

The day was gray and moist. Tiny droplets settled on my face, on my hair, collecting, commingling, until finally they gathered enough collective momentum to run in tiny streams over my lips, my cheeks, my brow.

The message of the trees emerged.

“You are trying too hard,” they said.

It was not a whisper.

“You don’t have to try to solve the problems of the world. Just be who you are and you will make a difference. All you have to do is be.”

Be yourself? Is that what they were telling me?

Who knew trees spoke in cliches?

But who am I to argue?

Take a moment to listen to the trees today.  What are they saying to you? What difference will you let it make in your life?

 

 “We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.” – Paul Tillich

Wild Woman Interview: Candia Lea Cole

Candia Lea Cole

Candia Lea Cole

Few people are more aware of the connection between our personal mental, spiritual and physical health and the health of the planet than Candia Lea Cole. Candia is an amazingly creative woman. She is a nutritional alchemist, whole foods cookbook author, holistic health educator, eco-visionary, poet, social artist, and 21st century change-agent. In 2010, she founded Eco-Learning Legacies, LLC, an eco-education company online that offers e-learning tools, an eco-lifestyle curriculum, and online learning events that inspire awareness about eco-intelligent living.

The well-being of people and the planet has never been at greater risk,” explains Candia. “Now is the time to awaken your eco-intelligence and enter into a loving, caring relationship with your self and the earth that will help you to protect, nurture, and sustain life! As the founding mother of Eco-Learning Legacies, I love to support others in the process of awakening to their wholeness through the discovery in their lives of their innate eco-intelligence. The journey to wholeness is not always an easy one, but it never fails to be instructive! The instructions given to us by our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls, serve in my thinking, as the rich and fertile compost for our growth and development and ultimately, our potential to become empowered leaders!”

Recently I caught up with Candia and  asked her to share her creative process and how she is using it to help change the world for the better. I was particularly inspired by Candia’s indomitable spirit and the way she has been able to transform truly challenging events into opportunity not only for herself, but for others as well. I hope you find her interview inspiring, too! 

-Anne

How did you get started doing the type of creative work you do? 

Are you willing to nurture a worldview that is holistic and that respects the needs of all living things?Growing up, I experienced health challenges that resulted from my exposure to environmental toxins, first, inside my mother’s womb, and later, outside of it.  Because doctors weren’t trained to treat environmental illness, I had to search for my own answers.

My mom provided me with educational resources and gave me exposure to a new breed of doctors who empowered me to pave a new path to wellness. I gained a deep understanding about (and appreciation for) the inextricable link between my health ills and the planet’s health ills.

After reconciling with the fact that the health of ALL people and living things were at risk, I chose to use my health discoveries to make a difference. I retraced the steps I’d taken to get well and unearthed the six ingredients of eco-intelligent living. These now form the basis of my ‘recipe’ for whole living and learning. The recipe feeds our need to be socially responsible (by answering to our ecological health crisis), ecologically responsible (by creating awareness about why and how to function as a sustainable whole), economically responsible (by creating new lifestyle production systems that place stewardship before profit alone), commerce responsible (by encouraging green innovation), and technologically responsible (by answering a need for online education that addresses our real life needs).   

Tell me about the theme running through your work, and what it means to you and/or others.

Candia Lea Cole eco-mentorThe theme running through my work is: “It’s time to (re)awaken our eco-intelligence.” Eco-Intelligence, I believe, is a form of intelligence that we (and all living things) are born with, that guides us to live in balance and harmony with our personal ecology (our bodies, minds, emotions and spirits), as well as our planetary ecology.

What does (re)awakening our eco-intelligence to me and others? It means reclaiming the intelligence that fosters our ability to survive and thrive on the planet. The major health ills affecting men, women, and children alike today, such as birth defects, infertility, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and autism are a reflection of the ills affecting the earth, including species extinction, natural resources depletion, and climate change. And, we are the pivotal generation who must begin to make long term sustainable choices, to bring ourselves and our earth back into balance.

How do you see your work making a difference?Candia quote - The seeds of our actions matter

The young leaders of our future desperately seek Earth saving solutions, but they may not know what steps to take next in their lives, in order to enact them. What will fuel their sense of hope? Who will empower them to live well on Earth?

My curriculum training offers to be an educational legacy that supports the reawakening of our global culture’s eco-intelligence. This legacy, given by parents and educators to young people, will support them in taking immediate action in their lives, to STOP making unconscious choices that harm our ecological health and well-being, and START making conscious choices that serve to heal it.

The clarion call issued by world scientists over two decades ago, to develop a new attitude and ethic for living well on the earth, has been drowned out by our over-stimulated lives, and our secret fear that we might not be able to make a difference. But, I believe in my heart that we can make a difference. Not all of us will see the changes we seek in our lifetime, but we need to initiate them anyway. We need to realize that the seeds of our actions matter in the world.   

What inspires you?

Children and young people inspire me, and, so does nature. Children inspire me because they are open, tender, and truth-seeking. They also tend to live from the spaces within their beings that their hearts and imaginations occupy. And, we, as adults, I feel, need to live from these spaces more often, especially if we’re going to feel inspired about making a difference in the world. We can’t heal ourselves and the earth with the same mindset that got us into trouble.

Our minds, when used without the guidance of our hearts, can be a very dangerous thing, and there’s evidence of this all around us, when we look at the health ills affecting mankind and the earth. These ills didn’t just happen. They developed over time as the result of our decision to gratify our ego wants, rather than gratify the deeper desire of our souls, to be in a healthy relationship with life. Life is so precious and nature offers to be a lifelong friend from whom we can derive so much wisdom for living well.

Maple leaf collageWhat has nature taught you?

Everything that I’ve learned in my own life about physical well-being and spiritual wholeness has come to me, through my conscious connection to nature.  Mother Nature symbolizes so many beautiful things to me: She is a source of medicine… she is a community of life from which I derive a true sense of belonging…she is a source of inspiration from which I draw my own sense of beauty and power.

I have learned that, by taking time each day to observe nature, and to appreciate its power and beauty at work, I can embody those qualities. Embodying nature’s qualities is a way for me to connect with something much larger than my personal self alone. And, that’s empowering!         

What obstacles have you struggled with in your creative life?

One of the obstacles I have struggled most with, especially the past several years, is my ability to move beyond the creative aspect of my work and into the world with my work.

In my work, I often function as a channel for divine inspiration and guidance. As a channel, I need to be very open in mind, heart, and soul, and, I need to be able to listen to guidance that I receive at any hour of the day and night. In the fifteen years that it has taken me to develop all of my educational products, I have not always been able to have a solid foot in the physical world. My work has asked me to spend time accessing non-ordinary realms of reality and going into deep meditative states of consciousness in order to find the words and meanings that my work is intended to share with humanity, and even create the new world strategies for marketing it. 

How have you overcome these struggles?

Candia at workI am still in a process of overcoming my struggles. Eight years ago, in the course of creating my work, I became utterly exhausted. It was if I was a mother who had given birth to octuplets (in reality, 8 books) and I had endured a process of hard labor (prior to the birth), that had lasted for many years. In my fragile state, I made a mistake. I pushed myself to go on a business trip to meet an education expert in California. During the trip, I did not feel so well, but, it was when I got home that my whole world turned upside down. In the 4 years following my trip, I was nearly 100 percent disabled by a rare medical condition that is thought by some, to be Mal de De Barquement Syndrome. This is a condition that affects balance and equilibrium. For me, it manifested as the sensation of riding in a turbulent jetliner, and walking on slanted floors. To this day, I still struggle with these bizarre symptoms, though to a lesser degree than before, thankfully.

What do you think your struggle taught you?Self healing image

What I have been realizing about my condition all along is that, even though it feels to me that I am riding out my own dark night of the soul on earth, I feel that I am also participating (as a woman who is deeply connected to the earth’s healing) in a necessary shift that is taking place on earth, of massive proportions.

Shifting, it should be said, is not always comfortable. There are days when I don’t want to be part of the shift anymore. Shifting requires me (as a leader) to know the reasons why we need to replace old, destructive paradigms with new, sustainable ones. But it also means being ready, able and willing to lead the masses in a new direction for living, which is no small assignment! Yet, just when I feel ready to give up, I get another spiritual insight…I find another helpful remedy, and I experience yet another level of healing. Healing is an amazing process, I’ve discovered, and, it is what I came to earth to do in this lifetime. Not only for my own benefit, but for the benefit of many.   

 

What have you been working on lately?

Bring back the Earth Eco-Mentor Activist TrainingI’ve been working to create a variety of educational tools for individuals and families that offer to support them in awakening their innate eco-intelligence, the intelligence that guides them to live in balance and harmony with the earth. The educational tools that I’ve created, including whole foods cookbooks, games, and holistic health curriculums, strive to make people aware of the connection between our personal health needs and our planetary health needs. My company’s signature product is an eco-lifestyle curriculum I’ve created, known as ‘The Bring Back the Earth! Eco-Learning Legacy & Eco-Mentor Leadership Training.’  The curriculum (designed for online use by individuals, as well as parents and teen), is all about bringing back nature’s lost feminine wisdom for living well in today’s world. This is the wisdom that invites us to cooperate with nature and nurture a sustainable  relationship with it, rather than dominate and conquer it.    

               

How are you getting the word out about your work?

I have been playing with Social media for the past several months and that has been a fun learning experience. I have a lot more to learn about that. More recently, I have been busy creating a webinar that will serve to introduce my curriculum and learning legacy to parents and teens. I’m really excited about the possibility of openly sharing my curriculum with the world, because for quite some time, it has been sitting as a gift under wraps. This is okay with me, because my work (I agree with some people), has been slightly ahead of its time. All good things take time to develop, and, in retrospect, it’s wise to give ourselves permission to step back and absorb what we have created, and imagine different ways of sharing it, with as many different people as possible.          

What’s next for you?

Eco Mentor TrainingI will be inviting a limited number of mothers and teenage daughters (ages 16-18 and up) with an interest in holistic, eco-intelligent living to join me in participating in my curriculum. I have beta-tested my curriculum training with college students (who have given me some great feedback and positive reviews), and, now, I’d like to see how teens respond to it. I think this could be a stellar opportunity for any culturally creative Mom who subscribes to an organic lifestyle, and who has the heartfelt desire to pass on a living legacy to her daughter that inspires awareness about how a healthy relationship with nature can help her heal and get in touch with her inner nature.

My curriculum focuses a lot on the joy of making sustainable lifestyle choices. But more importantly, it focuses on the personal and planetary relationships that we need to nurture in order to feel healthy, whole, and inspired. Relationships, I know, in my heart, are the key to our health and happiness.          

What advice would you give to someone who is wishing to live a more authentic life?

Living an authentic life is the most important thing we can do. Because of my own needs to find wellness when I was a teenager dealing with environmental illness, I opted out of attending college and I embarked upon a path of self-healing. This path led me to explore my authentic real-life needs, and meet them through an awareness of my needs as a whole person. I studied hard, met many wonderful teachers, and abandoned the social conditioning which had originally led to my un-health and unhappiness. In the end, I used my life lessons to create something of value for myself and humanity.

Everyone, I recognize, must choose for themselves the educational pathways that they believe will best serve their authentic personal needs. But, what we all need to remember is that, as a culture, we have an authentic collective need to care for and protect our health and the earth’s. If we don’t honor this need now, what will the future bring? I think most of us are beginning to realize, that, life will go on, only if we help it go on!

Candia Lea ColeCandia Lea Cole teaches individuals and families how to see ecological disease for what is: an opportunity to heal our disconnection from ourselves, each other, and the earth, and awaken our potential for personal and planetary transformation. In a practical vein, her work highlights the value and necessity of making eco-intelligent food, health, and lifestyle choices, which serve to integrate our personal health needs with our earth’s health needs and foster the “the ecology of personal and planetary well-being.
 
For more information on eco-intelligence or to find out more about Candia’s eco-learning curricula, visit Eco-Mentor.com.

Film review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief promotional imageThere are dark films that leave you feeling bleak and cold inside. And there are films, infused in darkness, that carry a message of love and hope. The Book Thief is such a one.

Set in Nazi Germany, the movie tells the story of Liesl (), the young, illiterate daughter of a Communist who is taken from her mother and sent to live with an older couple in Stuttgart. Liesl’s foster mother Rosa () is a hard, sarcastic and unforgiving woman, but she finds solace in a growing bond with her kindly, accordion-playing foster father, Hans (), who encourages her to learn to read.

Life changes drastically for the little family when they take in Max (), a Jewish refugee and the son of a former war buddy of Hans, to whom he owed his life. Max teaches Liesl the power of words, and encourages her to find her own voice by asking her to describe for him the outside world that he can no longer see.

image from movie The Book ThiefThe themes of love and death, fear and courage intertwine throughout the movie. The story is, in fact, narrated by Death himself, who makes it clear in a nonchalant way that all human stories end in his arms. Death and fear are, of course, prevalent in that particular time and place, and the film does a fantastic job of chronicling the attitudes and reactions of everyday citizens as their society becomes increasingly repressive and finally degenerates into the all-out horror of World War II.

However, in my mind the most profound message in the movie is the power of the creative act – especially music making and the telling of stories -  to uphold and nourish the spirit. Hans’ accordion becomes a symbol for this, its music first offering the despondent Liesl a cheerful welcome to her new home, and later providing solace and hope in the darkness and terror of the bomb shelters near the end of the war.

image from The Book ThiefThe triumph of the creative voice shines out most strongly in Liesl herself. When Max falls deathly ill, she begins to read him a story. Even though he appears unresponsive, she perseveres. When she comes to the end of the sole book of fiction she owns (H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, stolen from a book burnings’ pyre) she steals more to read to him, one novel after another for weeks, until finally he revives and tells her it was the stories that saved him. Later, in the bomb shelter, when Hans is no longer available, Liesl’s own storytelling enchants the frightened populace and keeps fear and despair at bay.

I watched this movie with my two teenaged kids, and we were all spellbound and deeply moved. If you watch it, I guarantee you will cry. Be sure to keep a thick pile of handkerchiefs on hand. But despite its dark setting and pervasive tragedy, The Book Thief is a triumphant affirmation of the power of love and the human spirit. I highly recommend it.

Have you seen this film? Add your review below!

Inner Healing Secrets from the Compost Bin

compost binThe most fertile soil is made of things that were once unpleasant yuck.

Do you compost? Then I’m sure you know what I mean.

Composting is a real art, at which I am no master. I tend to just throw stuff in a pile and let it rot. :-)

That works, but it can smell pretty noxious. Looks gross, too, should you dare to open the lid.

HOWEVER, it eventually cooks up into a wonderful, dark, rich, sweet-smelling mass that helps things grow like gangbusters. Sweet veggies, luscious blooms. Yum!radishes

It happens, eventually, by itself. But turning the pile now and then helps the process along – and keeps those unappealing odors to a minimum.

So it is with our experiences.

All that has come to us is the stuff in which we grow our current lives, and plant the seeds for our future.

We all experience lovely, pleasant things in our lives.

Sometimes, we experience unpleasant, frightful, heartbreaking, or even horrific things.

When this happens, those rotten experiences have to work their way through our psyches. Sometimes this occurs naturally. One day we suddenly realize that what was once painful has become simply a part of our past that expands our empathy and wisdom, and feeds our creative hearts.

But sometimes, what has happened to us sits heavy in our hearts. Negative events can lodge themselves there and putrefy, polluting our lives so that our entire awareness, all that we think and do is tainted with their stench.

compost fork

When this happens, it’s time to turn the pile.

In a compost pile, there are two types of bacteria and little microscopic critters that break things down: those that use oxygen (aerobic) and those that don’t (anaerobic). Both make things rot. But the process is very different.

Anaerobic rotting takes a long, long time, and smells pretty horrendous.

Add oxygen, and the process switches to aerobic rotting. This breaks down the yucky stuff WAY faster, and is far more pleasant to experience.

To get a compost pile that is decomposing anaerobically to switch to aerobic rotting is simple. You just have to turn the pile. (I said simple, not easy! Turning compost is hard work, but if you love to garden, or just don’t like having a smelly pile of anaerobically rotting organic garbage in your backyard, it’s well worth the effort.)

You will work through your experiences, regardless. But just letting them fester may mean that it takes many lifetimes, and you probably won’t have much fun in the process.

HOWEVER – there is a way to work through even the most dreadful of ordeals that will help you process them much more quickly, so you can begin enjoying your life again.

How? Turn your negatives into positives.

This is what you have already done, without realizing it, with those events you’ve processed naturally and now can accept as simply a part of your past. You can do it with the experiences that are still causing you pain, as well. But you may have to help that inner healing process along a bit. This is what I mean by turning the pile.

There are as many ways to do this as there are stars in the sky. I would like to offer you one that came to me spontaneously one day while I was watching a meditation video called The 7 Samadhis.* Try this little visualization on a painful experience to bring a little fresh air in to your healing process. It may also be helpful if you feel you are being held back by your past, but can’t put your finger on any particular event.

Blossoming Flowers Visualization  

peony

Find a quiet place where you can be alone for a little while. If you like, put on some soft music or nature sounds, such as ocean waves.

Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. When your breathing becomes deep and regular, bring your attention to a point just in front of the base of your Adam’s apple.

Now, imagine all that has come to you rising up from the center of the earth, through this point. Along with everything will come the energy of all you have ever experienced.

Some of that energy will be very positive. Allow this to infuse up into your being. You may feel a tingling sensation, or a feeling of golden warmth.

Some of that energy may not be so pleasant. You may experience feelings of grief, or fear, or anger. Acknowledge these feelings, and collect them together into a mass. What color is it? What shape? Does it have a smell? If you could hold it in your hand, what would it feel like?

Let that mass settle near the base of your throat, but keep breathing deeply. Let the air flow past it and through it.

When you are ready, begin mentally moving that mass upwards in conjunction with your breath. With each outward breath, let it move upwards just a little bit.

If it slips back down a bit, don’t worry. Just use your next breath to work it upwards again.

Bring it upwards, up through your throat and towards the top of your head. As it moves upwards, notice that it is changing form. Your mass is transforming – into a seed.

What shape is your seed? Is it long and pointed, like a marigold seed? Or smooth and round like a buckeye? Slowly, in harmony with your breath, imagine that seed moving upwards towards and through the top of your head.

And as it comes through the top, imagine that seed sprouting, and then bursting into fragrant bloom. You may even find yourself with a whole field of flowers, on top of your head!

Take a few moments to enjoy the blossom(s), then take a few more deep breaths and open your eyes.

Next time you think of an experience that is still painful to you, take a few deep breaths and remember your flowers. Know that everything is connected, and that – just as Nature turns that unappealing mass in your backyard bin into fertile, life-nourishing compost – you have the power to take that negative thing you experienced and turn it into something new and wonderful!

What are some good ways you have found to turn your negative experiences into positives?

yellow iris

 

*The 7 Samadhis meditation video is currently in beta. I’ll let you know when it’s available.

compost fork photo credit: Bookshelf Boyfriend via photopin cc

Do you believe in magic?

Spider web with dew drops

I do.

But tell me…

Why do so many say it doesn’t exist

When in truth MAGIC reveals itself continuously for all to see?

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: Images by John ‘K’ via photopin cc

The Value of Gifting

woman with baby Why do so many of us women feel so devalued?

Why are we afraid to ask – not just for what we want, but for what we need? 

Why do we consistently undervalue our own worth?

Might it be because so much of what we do, we do for free?

So, we’re not paid for it. Does that mean what we do has no value?

It’s easy to feel that way. I know, I’ve been there.

But really – NO value?

Think about it – all the crumbs swept off the table. All the dishes washed and dried. All the snotty noses and poopy tushes wiped. (I remember saying once when the kids were little, ‘Sometimes it seems like all I do all day is wipe.’) How much would you have to pay someone to do this?

It’s not just housework, either. What about all the time we spend making sure our friends and family feel comfortable and supported? The phone calls. Hugs. Random acts of beauty.

All this, as a gift. Out of love.

(And realize that men also perform these acts, and many more, out of love. If you are a man, know that I am speaking to that – dare I say - feminine part of you that gives unceasingly. And that includes those of you – men and women – who volunteer to risk death itself for the purpose of serving your land and country.*)

Where would the world be without these acts of love? 

What would it cost to hire someone to sit up all night with your feverish child (and would she even get better if you did)? Could you find someone to call up your grandmother and let her know she’s not forgotten? Would bees starve for lack of flower gardens? 

(What about babies? Most of us never think to charge for making them.);-)

So much of what’s VALUABLE about being alive is simply given, or springs into being, out of love. 

So why is it so UNDERvalued? 

Why are all those little acts of love not counted as the important parts of the economy that they are? Why are they not taken seriously? Why is the status of people who spend the majority of their time doing these things so much lower (in general) than that of people who spend most of their time “MAKING A LIVING” doing “SERIOUS WORK”?

Why are creative acts that are tied to making money so much more valued  (even if they’re ugly) than those that simply add beauty to our lives?

What is this MAKING A LIVING attitude doing to us?

I’ll tell you what. It’s shrinking our souls.

It’s killing that wonderful wild part of us that gives so freely. That sees what needs to be done to make the world better for everyone, and simply does it, without asking why or what will come in return.

And really, when you think of it, what a HUGE part of the economy it is!

Because when you really, truly, start thinking deeply about it, you will realize that EVERYTHING on the planet…no, everything in the universe… 

WAS GIFTED TO US.

..for FREE. 

It’s true.

I learned it in science class. “The sun is the ultimate energy source driving the Earth.”

Without the sun, I was told, we would not have wind or waves. We would not have soil or birds or bees or flowers or any living things. 

We would not have oil. 

Who pays for sunlight?

Nobody (although I am sure there are a few who would like to change that.) It falls freely on us from above.

Where did the earth come from? Did anybody have to pay for it? (I mean way in the beginning.)

I don’t think so.

It bears repeating: If you go back far enough, the universe is a free gift. 

The sun is just a starting point. Go way, way back, all the way back to the Big Bang. All you can see, (scientists tell us), with the most powerful telescope in the world, and much, much more, sprang into being from…who knows? Something? Nothingness? Anyway, smaller than the head of a pin…through the process of continually gifting itself into ever greater and ever more wonderful existence.

Now, I’m not saying this to be an idealistic hippie.

I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t be making a living, or that charging for goods and services is evil.

I’m saying it to point out that just because you do all those little things for free…

…the birthday cards and helping with homework and your garden and THE THINGS YOU DO TO EXPRESS YOURSELF

…does not mean they’re not VALUABLE

They ARE economically valuable, even if you accept society’s warped view of the economy. (If they weren’t, psychologists would be on food stamps.)

If you subscribe to a HEALTHY view of the economy, in which wealth is defined as that which contributes to WELL-BEING, they may well be the most valuable things you do all day.

And of course, they are intrinsically valuable. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t feel drawn to doing them.

So go on. Keep on earning a living. It’s important to put food on the table.

woman drumming But don’t devalue the work you do from your heart.

Don’t do what I did day after day, week after week, month after month, for YEARS.

Don’t put off  your soul work “until you have time.”

Don’t figure you shouldn’t spend time doing what calls you because “it has no real value.”

No. It DOES have value. YOU have value. If you don’t believe me, look around at the sun, and the clouds, and the grass. 

And then MAKE some time for yourself to do what you came to this beautiful planet to do.

If it ever makes you money, more power to you.

If not, so what? That doesn’t take away its value. Not one whit.

 

 

* I think it is very important to acknowledge that the sacrifices made by many – if not most- soldiers are actually acts of love, regardless of what one may think about the political realities and horrifying consequences of war.

P.S. By the way, I didn’t have time to write this post. Do you find it at all valuable? Then it was worth it to me to write it. Please share and spread the wealth.

 

How a Simple Kindergarten Tip Could Change Your Life

girl scout I wrote this post years ago for my freelance writing site. But the basic concept is so universal, I figured it was worth adapting. Hope you enjoy! 

The doorbell rang.

On the porch were two little waifs, not much more than three feet tall.

“Do you want to give us some money?” the smaller of them peeped.

Uh, no.

“What for?” I asked.

“For our class,” said the other one, a pink-cheeked boy in a red checked scarf.

Isn’t that why I pay property taxes?

“So your class is raising money for something?” I ventured.

“Uh huh.” “Yeah.”

I looked around for the parents. Nowhere to be seen.

“Um…what is your class going to use the money for?”

They looked at each other. Clearly they had no idea.

Back in the kitchen, something sizzled on the stove. I didn’t have time for this.

“You can write a check,” suggested the smaller one. Little wisps of blonde hair floated angelically above her impossibly large, round eyes.

“To Franklin school,” added her brother helpfully.

Sigh. They had me.

“Wait here, ” I said.

I found my purse, made out a check for $10, and handed it to the boy.

“Thank you!” they chimed in unison, then tripped off to hit up the next door neighbors.

What just went on there??? I’d never seen these kids before in my life. Heck, they didn’t even have a good idea why they were there. Yet they got me to fork over a chunk of hard-earned dough.

It didn’t hurt that they were adorable.

But I’ve turned away kids selling candy bars and such many a time. What did these kids do to get me to make out a check and hand it to them?

Simple.

THEY ASKED FOR IT!

It’s so incredibly basic, a couple of snot-nosed elementary school kids did it without even thinking.

But it’s amazing how many times we adult women forget to ask for what we need or want.

It’s so easy to forget – after all, we’ve been trained to be polite, and asking just seems so… well… unsophisticated. Maybe even crass.

Then there’s that nagging feeling that maybe we don’t deserve it.

Hmm. Let’s think about this.

We all know there are times we want what we don’t really need. And there are some things we might want that really won’t make us happy when we get them. (Like, probably, that $1,200 Louis Vuitton bag.)

But then there are those things we do need. Like the time and space to nurture ourselves, or to follow our heart’s paths. Like a little appreciation once in a while (flowers will do nicely, thank you!) Like having some beauty in our lives.

Money counts, too. Oh yes, it does.

I mention this because a lot of us have a hard time with asking for money in return for our work. This may be because we look around us and see such wanton, destructive greed in the world. Or because we’ve grown up hearing that “money is the root of all evil.”

But if you think about it, money is just abstracted energy. And every endeavor needs energy to make it happen – including your soul work.

Yes, you may be able to follow your life’s purpose without it. But probably, you’ll have an easier time with some cash in hand.

So, bottom line:

Always, always, always ask for what you need. You DO deserve it. How else are you going to give your all to the world? (And chances are, when your needs are met, you’ll give twice as much in return and the whole world will be a better place! Right?)

And one more thing: don’t be shy. Did you notice what the little kids did for me above? They told me exactly what to do.  “Write a check out to Franklin School.” Give people directions and they’re WAY more likely to follow them.

Whether you’re writing a sales letter for your business or asking your significant other for a backrub, tell them exactly what to do. Don’t leave anything to chance. “Call 123-4567 for your free estimate today.” Or, “Here’s the massage oil – can you please get that knot on the right hand side right next to the spine just below my neck?” Or, “I’m really going to need some quality time in the studio this evening. Could you please take the kids out to a movie or something tonight?”

It might not get you what you need 100% of the time, but you may be surprised how often a simple request does the trick. (Especially if you’re willing to help others when they need it, too.)

So, next time you’re feeling frustrated because your needs aren’t being met, just ask for what you need.

And if you need coaching, go down to your local elementary school and hang out with the kids at lunchtime.

By the way… can I have a bite of your cookie?

 

How has asking for what you need changed your life? 

Art by Andrea Shine “I have been drawing and making pictures since I could hold a pencil,” says multimedia artist and illustrator Andrea Shine. “As an artist, I am privileged to be able to dream with my eyes open. My works of art are emotionally dense layered visual hieroglyphics, and my pieces strive to honor the infinite beauty, dignity, mystery and, frequently,  joy to be found in our world.” 

How does one dream with one’s eyes open? Andrea was kind enough to share with us, in her own words, the journey she takes in the creation of one of her beautiful works of art.

Andrea Shine ART_e-invit.eggs for saleOut of chaos…

There’s a lot of noise in my head. This has always been so, and apparently its discordance is my default setting. It is wondrous how said ‘noise’ can metamorphose into pleasing  & orderly landscapes, beach scenes, illustrations and portraits.  How messy inner, and sometimes dark, rumbling can be transfigured into Light & Peace on paper.

Focusing the mind’s eye…

How much self-disclosure feels safe? I wait, listen, turn my mind’s eye inward to ‘see’ a new picture presenting itself. It’s a journey in which I am the follower, not the conductor. Is the guiding spirit within or without? I do not quite know; the edges blur; creation is a circle, no beginning and no end.

A scene catches my attention – - a stretch of rural landscape, or wild beach, or small flowers in the garden – - and I begin photographing, looking for the right light, right angle, right ‘feel’ that fits the message I now yearn to convey.

Tuning in to the message…Andrea Shine summer scene

I print photographs which best visually communicate what I want to say. Brushed on top of that image are touches of watercolor/gouache, sometimes quite a bit, sometimes very little, depending on how much needs to be altered, a first-step fine-tuning of my mind’s impression.

The music has begun. Progress, up to and after this, working intermittently as I do, can take anywhere from a week to several months.

Soul’s expression…

Andrea Shine carousel horseThe final phase makes me happiest: tiny pieces of hand-cut paper painstakingly glued onto the picture, the turning point at which I begin to truly ‘speak’, expressed in hieroglyphic layers, miniature bits of words, images, slivers of dissonant colors. Each time I find a new constellation of dreams, memories, echoes of fascinating childhood years in long-ago European countries, my own children, my life now, a small feather, a minuscule seashell barely visible . . .

My spirit contentedly hums its gentle tune until, when everything has been rightly said, it Sings, and the work-on-paper is done.

Andrea Shine has been a professional artist for more than thirty-five years, and is the illustrator of seventeen children’s books, including the multiple-award-winning The Summer My Father Was Ten,
which also received the prestigious Christopher Award. Her commissioned artwork and portraits hang in collections across the US as well as overseas.

What about you? How is your creative process similar to Andrea’s? How is it different? I’d love to hear your comments – please do post them below. 

 

So what if your soul work sucks?

“Whatever you do may be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

potters wheel oops

Photo thanks to http;//inkwellinspirations.com

- Gandhi

Since my day job is freelance copywriting and graphic design, I subscribe to a number of e-newsletters on marketing. A lot of the info is technical, but every once in a while I read something that’s relevant to soul work.

This morning I got just such an email.

It was a blog post by Corbett Barr, founder of ThinkTraffic, called What Publishing 500 Posts Taught Me About Rocket Science.

Most of the post was about blogging, but there was one section that caught my attention. Because I think it, and a video by Ira Glass that Barr links to in the post, touch on the heart of why so many creative people give up on their passion. Barr says:

(At the beginning,) your work will suck, and you have to fight through it…

He says the only way to get through it is to just keep producing more.

Cinderella

photo credit: sofi01 via photopin cc

What’s holding you back?

Nearly all of us at one time or another struggle with feeling that  our work isn’t living up to our expectations. But I don’t think that’s the end of it. Even when we know we’re good, sometimes we let our self-doubts get in the way of our dreams and goals.

If it’s not “my work sucks,” it’s “no one is watching/listening/paying attention anyway so why bother?” or “will I reveal myself as a crazy woman/pathetic person/fraud by creating this?” or “My work is useless, futile, not important.”

Sound familiar?

And so we go on shoving our soul work into the corner to sit in the ashes. We turn our backs and go back to balancing our checkbooks and farting around on Facebook.

So…back to Barr’s point.

Basically, what he’s implying is, the antidote to giving in to our doubts is a good, healthy, “So What?” and do it anyway.

So what if your work has a few flaws?

Each piece you do – each painting you paint, or song you sing, or sales call you make, or post you write – will have aspects that could use improvement. But each one will also have positive qualities. Focus on what you did well, and look forward to the next time.

Even if you hate everything about it, don’t think of it as a failure. Even the most gifted person will come out with crappy stuff once in a while. I have a theory that if you keep working, you’ll let the crappy stuff out so the awesome stuff behind it has room to break free.

So what if no one is listening right now?

So you don’t have an audience. Try this: go watch a good busker. The good ones don’t give a crap if there’s anyone watching. They walk out and set up on the street and just start going at it. They lose themselves in the performance. And before long a person pauses to watch, and then another, and before long there’s a whole crowd grooving on what the person is doing.

Don’t worry about not having an audience yet. Just do two things:

  • Do your soul work with the passion it deserves, and
  • Don’t be shy about letting it show.

The audience will happen.

So what if people think you’re weird?

It’s true, our soul work often requires us to be vulnerable. Which is scary and difficult. But you might be surprised how much empathy and support may come your way once you throw caution to the winds and just do it.

So what if…

OK, then there’s the last one. The big bugger. “My work isn’t important.”

This one is really the mother of all the rest.

Because what’s it’s really saying is, “I’m not important. I couldn’t possibly have anything worth sharing.”

Ho.

Do you realize what that implies?

Think about it. Why are you here? What got you here in the first place?

You are the child, and grandchild, and great-grandchild, and so on, of hundreds of generations of human mothers and fathers going far back into the mists of time, each loving and fighting and sacrificing to ultimately bring you into the world.

You are the result of billions of generations of living things, striving to reproduce and evolve into beings of ever greater consciousness.

You are the result of trillions of cells all cooperating and coming together to enable you to think, to feel, to move, to change the world.

Nightingale watercolor

Illustration ©2006 by Anne Michelsen

You are the end result of what happened when gazillions of molecules and atoms burst into being at the beginning of the universe, and then discovered that they could dance and swirl together to become ever more complex and ever more miraculous creations.

All these things happened to bring you here, right here and now, and able to act.

And lo! You have the impulse to create! To create something positive. Something beautiful. Something healing.

Whether it’s relevant just to you or to the whole world doesn’t matter. That little voice you hear, the one prompting you to pick up that brush, or write down that thought, or start that business – it’s important.

The entire universe conspired to get you here. And something tells me it’s not so you can do your taxes.

All creation is waiting for your soul to sing.  

Why disappoint it? ;-)

Have you struggled with self doubts in your creative journey?

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“Mom, you really need to read this book.”

“Oh?” I looked up at my 14 year old daughter. She was holding a slender hardcover titled The Nibble Theory and the Kernel of Power: a book about leadership, self-empowerment and personal growth.

This was very strange. Clara generally shows little interest in any book that does not feature a mythical creature on the cover.

“Yeah. Papa needs to read it, too. So does Isaac,” she said, referring to her brother who just started his freshman year at Michigan Tech.

“Everyone in the world should read this book!”

That got my attention. I took a look.

On the inside front cover was a note to my husband from his father, who had passed away in 1991, the year before we met: “Daniel, happy holidays! Christmas 1985 Love, Dad.” Clearly, I’d been living with this book at my fingertips for over 20 years. Probably I’d even stuffed it into various boxes during several of our family’s moves over the years. Why didn’t I even recognize it?

I flipped through the slim red volume. 74 pages long. Most of it filled with cartoon-like illustrations. This was going to be an easy read.

I flopped onto the bed and dug in.

“This book is about growth…” it began. “It is about how all of us can grow – to be the very best and most powerful persons we can imagine, as we were meant to be.”

So far, it could be ok…

Or it could be a bunch of trite drivel…

But knowing my daughter, I was willing to give it a shot…

And I’m very pleased to say, she was absolutely right. Everybody in the world should read this book.

Using charming illustrations and deceptively simple language, the late Kaleel Jamison cuts to the heart of what keeps so many of us from realizing our full potential as human beings.

Yes, she gives practical advice on finding your life’s purpose. And fighting for it. And helping others do the same.

This would be an excellent book to read aloud with one’s kids, once they reach those wonderful teenage years.

Or with one’s spouse.

Or anyone you care about.

The Nibble Theory and the Kernel of Power has been in print continuously for nearly 30 years, so you can probably find it in your local library. But I think it’s one of those books that’s worth having around. You can get it on Amazon for as little as $4.24.  It’s one I definitely recommend!

 

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