Notes from Oaxaca

It is hard not to be caught up in the world of the mundane and have worries, regrets, and fears intrude into our thoughts.   We start to think it is normal to be distracted by negativity, to be consumed with practical matters, and to be concerned that there is not enough time, money, or space for joy. Whatever we were feeling when we arrived in Oaxaca, the whole trip was a gradual stripping down, letting go, oIMG_0956pening up, and connecting to fabulous energetic support to live in joy.


We started with a gratitude ceremony led by the sweetest of men, Laurencio. His wisdom and charisma, his song and prayers lifted our hearts as he connected us with the elements, the universe, and Madre Tierra in deep thanks and humble request for support and protection. He shared his life story with us, his journey as a curandero and gifted healer, who learned to channel wisdom and capacity to help others because of his deep commitment to serve.


IMG_0984Our journey took us to ruins of Monte Alban where we enjoyed a tour by an impassioned and knowledgeable guide who made the land of the ancient ones come alive and we could feel the inspiration of their wisdom.

Oaxaca City treated us to her gifts of art and vibrancy, excellent food, and beautiful architecture. There was so much to see and so little time, I envied those who had come down early to explore the city on their own.


We visited the bustling market of Tlacolula where people from all around the state bring their produce to sell- meats, cheese, handicrafts, fruits and vegetables- colors, smells, sounds, and crowds-so alive and vibrant!



Only our second day and we had seen so much. We visited the Tule Tree, 2000 years old, and then made our way to the home of a well known curandera, who treated us tIMG_1107o a beautiful lunch of Oaxacan mole, and hosted a sharing circle about traditional medicine, a lecture and demonstration of midwifery, and demonstrations limpias, or ritual cleansings. This was very moving, and we were all touched as the healer prayed, chanted, and used water, herbs, mescal, an egg, and other devices to speak to the spirit of the patient and encourage an awakening and a change. Discomfort arises to be released and we joined our voices in a moan, groan, chant, and song that followed the moving emotions in the room to reach a sense of peace and joy.


The next day we left early for the mountains, the Sierra Norte, up, up, up to 8000 feet. Laurenzo and a local woman, Sonya, led us on a botanical walk, sharing the medicinal properties of so many herbs and plants that grew wild around the village. Nature has a vast pharmacy and there is so much that we have forgotten and no longer use. IMG_1176We went down to the river where a family runs a trout farm and served us a fresh lunch then back up to the hillside to check into our cozy cabins with fireplaces, but no power as the electricity was out. Singing around the fire and enjoying the view… stupendous.IMG_1200 IMG_1208 IMG_1213 (1)    In the morning, fresh and chilly, half the group prepared to hike 8 miles through the forest to the next town, and the other half enjoyed a slow pace and a van trip with the luggage, winding through the mountains, drinking in the thin air, and the gorgeous scenery. We had a late delicious lunch when the hikers arrived and we continued with individual healing sessions or limpias with Laurenzo, spirits lighter and lighter, hearts opening, prayers answered. IMG_1240Laurenzo led us in a Temezcal or ritual steam bath that evening- very like a sweat lodge but offered in an adobe structure, the womb of the Madre Tierra. Offerings to the directions, gratitude to the sprits and ancestors, songs to soften the heart, herbs, steam, heat, and darkness to help us let go, release, and open.


We were becoming noodles- soft and flexible. With sharing circles, our group had created a sense of a group heart, a compassionate thread that held us together, where we could know safety and trust, where we could stand as witness to each other’s human path, and tap into the sacred place deep within each heart where the spirit resides, where we are all one and connected to all things. To feel that connected and safe was a gift. IMG_1245 (1)Laurenzo’s prayers and encouragement were all about finding joy- letting go of worry and negativity, basking in the magic and mystery of life. We could support each other in opening to more joy and in letting go of the little things that stand in the way- all those familiar niggles- they subsided and were calmed by the compassion of our group heart and the rising sense that something very powerful and beyond our understanding was at work here. We had only to relax and enjoy.


After breakfast we visited another ancienIMG_1302IMG_1273t site with an energy worker and artist, Oscar, and experienced some indescribable moments. One event was to walk us all out in single file with our eyes down and the to turn us, so that we looked up all together and could see that we were on a very narrow ridge, on the edge of a steep cliff, staring out at the vastness of the mountain ranges that was the Zapotec emIMG_1313pire. Incredible. Oscar then took us to the flat platform that was the ancient temple and again we felt deep gratitude for the elements, the universe, the Madre Tierra, and for the ancient ones with their wisdom and knowledge, whose lives were aligned with the seasons, the stars, and nature.









Another long drive brought us down, down, down out of the mountains, through the city, then up, up, up into the Sierra Sur, the other mountain range which we had to cross to get to the Pacific. We stayed two blessed nights up at 8000 feet at a permaculture and yoga retreat center that was a living example of love. Gardens thrived, hammocks beckoned, swings spoke to our inner childIMG_1389IMG_1460IMG_1453IMG_1433, fireplaces warmed us, the meals thrilled us beyond belief, our circles stirred us, and hikes beckoned. Damn we had fun! Thomas’s story of acquiring the property, creating his center, and moving there from Denmark was inspirational. He had a catering business before and his artistry showed in the meals he offered.


Another leave-taking- half the trip now over, we drove down, down, down, the mountains in tight, dizzying curves, finally arriving at a botanical reserve and incredible garden of Armando, a friend of Thomas’s, who was another visionary. He developed his gardens with an eye for beauty and also practicality with huge orchards of exotic fruits and a winding path through hundreds of varieties of haliconias and orchids, unbelievable lushness and beauty. The hammocks by the river were the perfect touch.

IMG_1587 IMG_1564 IMG_1612The lunch he served was another exquisite feast, but the best was yet to come- a dip in the river and the chance to swim behind the waterfall, where the falling water could beat against shoulders like a strong massage and the sounds of singing and chanting reverberated in the small cave. We played like happy children, refreshed and renewed.


Onward we went as the heat of the day disappeared into the coolness of evening but the road was endless, especially after we turned off the pavement onto the dirt road that went forever up into the jungle. The reward for our perseverance was great; we arrived at Elizabeth’s.


Our three nights at Elizabeth’s were like a dream. The days were full but slow- hiking, playing in the river, birding, taking a cooking class in the old plantation home kitchen, a circle of sharing on the long open air porch, giggles in the night as we tucked into what had been the bedrooms of the family, enjoying the old IMG_1724family photographs and the history and stories of this coffee plantation in the jungle, playing cards and origami… Cacao, coffee, bananas, coconut and much more grew all around and birds of all kinds flew by in flashes of color. We took naps in the hammocks and slowed down to the rhythm of Mexican life

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Elizabeth gave us a demonstration of her healing methods, a kind of soul reading. IMG_1670We all had private sessions with her and she read our energy and shared wise counsel about what we needed at this juncture. In the evening we went to her home and her ceremonial space and she led us in a full moon ritual on a large terrace freshly carved from the side of the hill. We danced and sang, and chanted that we were free, we used mud, and water, flower petals, and candles. We lay on the earth, we sang to the rising moon, we held hands, we tapped into deep old places that longed to express themselves. We howled and whooped, we splashed and giggled, we shouted, and stomped. We rose the moon up and loved her. We gave our everything to the moment. We received so much. We filled up and emptied out and felt fantastic.IMG_1765


IMG_1729 IMG_1774 IMG_1784 Home to dream and to rise up early for another ceremony in the river before breakfast. The cold water was a shock and it made us realize that anything is possible, we are empowered, we can endure, we can enjoy, nothing can get in our way. We splashed, and blew a gourd, and clicked rocks, and who knows what, but we were washed clean and serene, until nothing was left but joy.

And I had an evening ceremony for protection, as a leader, to give and receive without taking on, to hold a circle and have space for whatever and keep my own joy. I lay in the center and there were flames all around me and I was safe and moved and just a huge WOW.

Our time at Elizabeth’s was like nothing else, like no time at all, and like forever. We learned a lot and were left with a lot to think about. And we closed our circle and said goodbye and went off to the coast to drink in the sun and the ocean.








Our time at the beach was a blast of fun in nature- sand and warm surf, a boat ride in the lagoon with crocodiles, storks, cormorants, roseate spoonbill, turtles, iguanas and so much more. And then a trip out on the open ocean, whales and turtles, sea birds and dolphins. So much abundance of life! And food and hammocks and mescal and beer. We visited the turtle museum and the natural cosmetic factory. We hiked to Punta Cometa and watched the sun sink into the sea. We rose to the sunrise and played hard everyday.


It was hard to leave, because then it was off to the airport and back to the northwest with its rainy chill. But the memories will see us through. We went through a lot and gained a lot and we can see there is more to do…. life is like that. There is always more, always so much. So much joy available.   So much love available. The universe is there to support us. We are connected. Open up and take it in.

A Transformational Journey

We all want to be healthy, to feel happy, to be fulfilled and surrounded by love, to have a sense of abundance, to have a peaceful mind free from negative emotions.  What is getting in the way and are all these things connected?

This became the topic of a recent trip as we explored together what we could do for ourselves to change our lives or the ways we looked at them, to experience more joy.

This exploration brought us to some simple realizations and commitments to ourselves, and brought out the smiles on our faces.

One thing we realized was that we could make simple shifts in our priorities, just reframe things so that we put ourselves first a little more. We could commit to using a bit more of our time for self care in a way that would not seem overwhelming or impossible. Things like adding in a few yoga postures in the morning (why not?), doing a little less housework and a little more walking in the woods, not being so anxious to answer every email and return every call but to spend some time reading a novel, and mostly to accept the things we like to do and want to do and not listen to that voice in our head which wants to “should” on us, which wants us to have more, be more, and do more. Instead we want to prioritize those things that speak to our deeper longing for a rich full life.

It also became clear that the cultivation of gratitude for the good things was one of the most important shifts we could make. Life is a miracle, yeah it’s not perfect: lots of hardship, much suffering, and lots of loss- but there is so much good.

Think a bit and you can recognize the good and potential for good in your own life. It is much greater than your financial woes, it can help you through your fatigue and overwhelm, it is there despite your loneliness, it is there in your close relationships, and it is there in the potential of each day. The good is there when we take a moment to be in the moment and notice the flower, the colors, and the opportunity. Each of us found a capacity and a willingness to be more appreciative and grateful, and we could feel the joy rising up and shining out our smiles.

I love this quote by Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Forgiveness is another big piece. Letting go of the past and forgiving self and others is crucial work and a life long practice. It doesn’t mean that we need to allow inappropriate behavior or endure negative relationships. It means that we can stay in the present and feel peace inside ourselves when we engage our compassion and our good boundaries.

And what about health? We do know that many illnesses are stress related. And we are aware that health has an emotional component. There is definitely a correlation between happiness and good health. That is not to say that illness can’t strike at any time even to those who take good care of themselves and have a very positive attitude. But for most of us, self-care is a challenge, and putting ourselves first in small ways is a key factor in maintaining our physical health as well as our enthusiasm for life. When we decide to reprioritize, we make time for those things that serve us well. Consider acupuncture as wellness routine for you, and make that call.

An open heart keeps love flowing and all those good feelings. Notice where you are closed down and take a chance to be friendly and warm, connect to someone through your heart to their heart, and feel how good it is to smile.

An adventurous spirit frees the mind to imagine what if, to take flight towards amazing possibilities, to stay in the moment noticing what is there for us, rather than depending on a routine to see us through. Take a trip, sign up for a class, call on a new friend- these are all things that cultivate your adventurousness and can help you find your joy. Let me know what good things you are noticing…

And join me for an adventure. Coming up: Oaxaca- the Magic and the Medicine, Jan 15-25 2016, Women’s Transformational Kayak Journey- Sept 18-20

Health means Straight and Relaxed

In a Qi Gong class today, the teacher told us that the word for ‘health’ in Asia comes from the words for straight and relaxed. What a nice image. I can see it throughout nature- healthy plants growing straight and tall on a firm foundation; relaxed, moving and growing without effort, waving branches flexibly in the breeze. It is such a good model for living.

Too often, we can find ourselves, rushed, cramped, collapsed, or tight. Life makes so many demands, it can be a challenge to stay straight and relaxed. We want to push and effort through our days. Stress!  And that eventually shows up as physical pain and illness.

My favorite remedy is to find balance through mindful activity. I love doing things that move qi and that take concentration so that I don’t focus on my to do list and the million things on my mind, but just relax into the moment, thinking about what is at hand, whatever is calling me to be straight, to be a direct channel between heaven and earth.

I make sure to prioritize time for myself, and time for doing things that are important to me. It doesn’t have to take long, but a few minutes of yoga can help me straighten out after a long sit at the computer. Singing helps me relax when I have been thinking and planning a lot. Getting out on the water for a paddle makes me feel expansive and helps me counter all the contracting forces of life in the Land of Mundania.

We simply can’t find true health, and our best self, if we just concentrate on productivity. We need to incorporate those things that help us relax so that we can find a way to grow straight. Straight means a clear channel between heaven and earth. We want to be firmly grounded with a strong foundation so that the important pieces of our life receive the attention they need. And relaxed doesn’t mean collapsed or distracted. We want to relax and let the wonders of life move us, be spontaneous enough to take advantage of opportunities, present enough to fully appreciate the miracles around us, open enough to let gratitude stir us, and flexible enough that we can change with the winds of life and grow towards our dreams.

Health is bringing the life of spirit, heaven, into our daily lives, and putting a firm earthly foundation, so that we are rooted, grow straight, and stay flexible and relaxed, into our life as spiritual beings.

Acupuncture is a wonderful modality for a healthy life. If you want to be straighter and more relaxed, consider some treatments to help remove any blocks to the flow of qi, and to strengthening that connection to your inner resources, to the you that is a bridge between heaven and earth. Call today- 206 842-7706

Consider joining me on one of my upcoming trips. You can read about the Oaxaca trip here and the upcoming women’s kayak trip here.

The Power of Story

Talking to friends, counselors, and the wise ones in our life is a great way to have a chance to listen to ourselves and to our story. We can share our deepest feelings, knowing that we will not be judged, or dismissed, or have to listen to inappropriate advice that only makes us realize that we haven’t been heard.

And we can listen to ourselves. If we are open to inquiry, we can gain a lot of valuable information. What are we talking about and what does it mean for us? Why is this alive for us? Are we complaining or just musing about our feelings, and is there some wisdom to be gained from the things that bother us? Is there a different way to think about things, one that feels better?

So often, we need a venue for our concerns, and having our feelings acknowledged can give us the time and space to explore for ourselves, and to come up with answers about what we need to do and what changes would serve our growth. Sometimes reflective listening helps us clarify, and a kind of open-ended questioning can open up new avenues of inquiry. Listening effectively is an art, and can be really helpful.

In my practice, I always make time to listen to people.  So often, it guides my treatment as I intuit what the underlying and deeper issues are, the patterns of thought that are associated with physical ailments. Also, it is part of the healing. It is actually rare in our busy culture, where we are taught to be productive at all costs, to have the time and space to explore our concerns in a spacious way.

In my work with groups, I facilitate intentional story telling. It is a powerful practice. I like to give people the space to tell their life story and to create a group of compassionate, open hearted listeners , who can bear witness. Telling your life story can be an exercise in reframing your past, and healing old wounds as you can choose what to focus on, and notice how you worked through challenges, and overcame obstacles. When life gives us challenges, we can be tempted to be victims of our circumstances and sometimes, we tell stories that validate our victimhood and “get us off the hook”. If we can tell our life story from a place of responsibility, we can see where we are still stuck, but also how far we have come in creating our life as a journey that serves our growth.IMG_3104

Sometimes our story has us traveling through the fog. Sometimes we are blessed with sunshine. It is in recognizing that we have the skills to keep on, no matter what, that we can be grateful for all the circumstances that have brought us to where we are.

In both the upcoming Women’s Transformational Kayak Journeys and the Magic and Medicine of Oaxaca trip, I intend to use story telling as a way of deepening into the group experience and of growing in self-acceptance.

Nutrition and Chinese Medicine

Here is an informative article published by Golden Flower Herbs, with nutritional guidelines, based on Chinese Medicine, to aid in health and wellbeing.  These may need to be modified and are best used in collaboration with an acupuncturist who can accurately diagnose and suggest dietary advice based on the presenting pattern or diagnosis.  Call me for an appointment, and we can discuss lifestyle changes which can make a big difference in how you feel, based on your personal situation, and where you tend to be out of balance.  206 842-7706


Time to clear the weeds…..

The rate of growth is astounding. Green life is everywhere and plants gain inches if you look away. Every crack has something pushing up as life looks for every possible way to express itself. This can be overwhelming. Weeds can take over, and an aggressive plant can dominate a corner and crowd out shyer beauties. Gardens, yards, and lives need management and attention. Lots of decisions have to made, as so many things are clamoring for attention. Prioritizing and planning, visioning your end goal and breaking things down into small steps- it is a whole job in itself!

The Wood Element, the element of spring, correlates to the liver, which works so hard for our body, to purify our blood and remove toxins. The Liver in Chinese medicine has the role of planning, creating a vision and, paired with the Gall Bladder, implementing the vision with decisions. The liver loves detoxification and our lives also like it when we let go of things that don’t serve and allow the truly important things more time and space. Just pulling out the weeds from around a rose bush lets such beautiful buds emerge. The same holds true on all levels of our lives.

Overwhelm, anxiety, clutter, indecision, an inability to let go of the past, and resentments- these are all weeds crowding out our joy. Most of us have a goal of feeling our best and experiencing a joyful awareness of the present moment with all its possibilities. These negative emotions have to be released for that joy to be experienced. Too often we cope, ignore, or distract rather than really let our feelings release through the process of transformation. When we are functioning well with enough quiet space, we can use intention and awareness to let our feelings pass without getting stuck or thrown off center. Sometimes we need help. We need an energetic boost to shift into a larger perspective where we can find the encouragement to change old patterns, mental and physical. Acupuncture helps.

Inflammation and pain can be a signal that it is time to change, time to purify and detoxify. Our bodies need care and attention, especially as we age. We can really suffer when we overdo or neglect to invest in self-care. Doing too much without good awareness of posture and appropriate rest and stretching can be a recipe for physical pain. Diet can play a big role in how our bodies respond to stress. And our underlying energetics are crucial in how our body responds to our diet- whether it successfully eliminates toxins and absorbs nutrients or whether we get bogged down by systems that are not functioning optimally.   There are so many delicate balances at play. We are miraculous beings and there is much that is not well understood. But we do know that health and wellbeing is a multileveled affair. And we know that our environment, lifestyle, and attitudes all play a role in how we feel.

It takes energy to take care of ourselves. I have been feeling so tired and run down lately, I had to line up some help so that I could implement the things that I knew would help. I saw a nutritional counselor and started some new supplements and herbal remedies. I lined up some acupuncture and committed to healthy priorities. I had some good talks with friends, recognized some ways I could look at things differently and some small changes I could make in my routines so as to take care of myself better. Weeds had taken over and I could feel it in the fatigue I was experiencing in my body, and notice it in my yard, my home, and my business. Small steps were the key to a big turn around.

Facing everything at once is a recipe for more overwhelm and discouragement. We are capable of far more than we imagine if we align ourselves with our goals and surrender to the flow, we don’t have to exhaust ourselves with an uphill battle. Our society encourages us to push, push, push constantly, but alignment is more important than effort. Yoga teaches us to find that balance between a strong foundation and ability to hold, and a loose surrender into ease.

There is too much stimulation in our culture and society. It is harder to get to those things that are really important because you have to wade through a morass of input that we don’t really want. At the same time, really quality things are available to us- we just have to sharpen our willingness to make good choices and make sure to make the time to be quiet and to restore, so that we don’t end up reaching for sugar, caffeine, and inflammation producing substances, just because we are tired and distracted.

If you are not feeling your best, decide to improve your wellbeing by working on a lot of levels. First, find a way to encourage yourself. Quiet, meditation, and rest are essential. Do one or two small things to improve your circumstances- clear out a drawer, weed a corner, repot a plant, taking a load of unused goods to Good Will, set up an acupuncture appointment, do some yoga, cross things off your to do list, whether you have done them or not. Small steps speak to a higher power about the direction we are moving.

Create a vision of your wellbeing- what will you do with the extra energy? What is it that you would like to improve and how would it feel when that is in place. Cultivate gratitude as the cornerstone of your life. Let the obstacles to joy dissipate with mindfulness and awareness. If you have chronic pain or soreness, realize that it can take quite awhile for your body to reset and ongoing maintenance is the key. Recognize the pain as an opportunity for self care. Don‘t be one of those people who won’t stop until they are in pain- tune in and get a sense of what your body needs and wants. Make a plan for prevention and maintenance; it is the best form of self-love.

Make acupuncture a part of your wellness program, whether it is weekly, biweekly, monthly or seasonally, as encouraging the underlying energy, or Qi, is one of the most powerful things you can do to stay well.

I wish you joy, good health, and a life lived with appreciation.  Call if I can help- 206 842-7706

Acupuncture and Inner Stillness

Water is the Element of stillness.  I picked up Hugh Prather’s A Book Of Games, from 1981. I opened it and there was a chapter about stillness. It was given to me by my beloved adopted family from Florida, and today I noticed the inscription, it was given to them by their relatives who live here on Bainbridge Island.  Still waters run deep and we are all connected in that depth.

His chapter the Dreamer moved me.  “There is no problem that a quiet mind will not answer, because all problems arise from intense mental activity. Stillness permits a gentle correction of perception to occur.  To see any light at all is to no longer see darkness. Any aspect of happiness, when chosen over mental pressure, will bring with it all happiness. And if one is happy, he is also kind……Say to yourself, ‘Today , I am the dreamer of this dream. Everything is therefore as I wish it to be. How, then, do I wish it? ‘And now bless everyone you see, and everything.  Today, no darkness is outside your reach, because nothing is outside of you today. You live the contents of your mind today, and only that. Today, there are no other minds.  So be still a moment, and forgive each thing within your mind. You wish a dream of love in which to move about, not a dream of angry judgments and of hate. Today, an entirely difference goal is yours: You rule the world. And you will the world into a kingdom of light”.

His book gives me hope, that I can find a place of peace and happiness.  Just like my meditation class and practice give me hope that I can loosen the grip that my wild horse mind and moods have on my spirit.  Just as my exercise practice gives me hope that I can stay flexible and strong by moving. Just as my moments with loved ones give me hope that I am deeply connected.  Just as singing, dancing, kayaking, laughing, walking, writing, and all creative focus, keeps me hopeful that I can feel full of life and can be loving and kind and at peace. As long as I am hopeful, I feel happy, and I feel that things are flowing.  It is interesting how it takes becoming still, to feel like I am in the flow, and it takes flowing and moving, to recognize the stilness. Still waters run deep.

What are you doing today to tap into that deep, still place where your dreams reside?  What are you doing to free the flow?

I am always moved by how acupuncture promotes stillness in the treatment room.  The pathways where Qi is stuck and not moving, open, and the flow allows for a deep stillness of the mind and relaxation of the body.  Physical pain occurs when there is no flow, when there is stagnation, or where there is a deficiency, where we cannot get what we need from our source.

The needles nudge the system to reset, to allow flow, to connect to source, to adopt a new perspective.  It can take a while for a new, healthy pattern to predominate.  Make regular 5 Element Acupuncture treatments a part of your wellness program, to help you access the deeper stillness, where healing occurs.  It is easier to stay well, then to recover.

Acupuncture is not emergency medicine or something to use as a last resort, when you have tried everything else.  Acupuncture is a lifestyle tool, like nutrition and exercise, which helps us maintain health, physical and mental.  You may need a series of visits if you have an acute problem, but we all need regular acupuncture “tune ups” to reconnect to our capacity to heal- body, mind, and spirit.

Call today to book an appointment: 206 842-7706


“Wash the Qi” and tonify the Kidneys- start the day off right!

To recharge and tonify the Kidneys and Qi, inhale, rub your hands together while inhaling. Place your hands over the dantien (it is located three finger-widths under the belly button). For women, put your right hand first, and then the lft hand over the right.  For men, left hand underneath and right hand over. Screenshot 2015-01-24 23.07.35Inhale, rub hands together again, then put your hands over your face, eyes, over your head, neck, shoulders, down your back, and lightly pound the area of your kidneys with an open fist.  Then continue to “wash the qi” down the back of your legs, and up the front of your legs and torso.   Repeat 3 times. This is a great exercise to do first thing in the morning.

Winter and the Water Element

The winter is a time for stillness and the building of potency on a deep level. Seeds sit under the snow and in the ground, holding their potential, waiting for spring before growing into what they are to become. Since we live in a culture that demands constant activity, we don’t cultivate the capacity to take advantage of the power of stillness. Many dreams and longings live inside us in a deep place, and exist there, half formed, a seed that needs some time to just be, before bursting forth into existence and growth. There are many synchronicities that we notice when we are moving slowly enough, meanings that appear when we take the time to reflect, and directions that emerge when we are not forcing things, but are very much allowing and surrendering to our capacity to be and not do. It is not an easy thing as we have busy lives and long to do list.

We come into this life with a heritage- physical, familial, cultural, tribal, and human and we grow out of that heritage into a unique individual. As we grow, we make choices based on what we know. The quality of our life is often determined by how well we can pay attention to our inner voice, that voice that can only be heard when we are still. We need to discern between what is truly meaningful to us, and what we have accepted as us, but is not truly who we are meant to be. There are appropriate compromises to make so that we can be a part of our family and culture and thrive in our society, but sometimes we neglect aspects of ourselves that are really important and adopt behaviors which don’t serve our highest good, in favor of something that isn’t really meaningful. Sometimes we have deep longings that want to be expressed. Stillness helps us to recognize those more subtle aspects of ourselves, which can be drowned out by louder more assertive forces.

There is much that is unknown about life. Some people are more comfortable with this than others. We don’t want to dwell on the fact that we all will pass on, but, on the other hand, we do want to embrace this fundamental mystery, that life is limited, and use that awareness to cultivate gratitude and appreciation. There are other mysteries also- why certain things happen and not others, the future is one big mystery really. Some people seek to control their lives to such an extent that there is very little mystery left, but even so, events occur that are beyond control and being comfortable with the unknown helps. Others develop strong religious beliefs that offer explanations and comfort. Adopting a set of beliefs that have been developed by others is not for everyone, some folks want a more personal relationship with the unknown.

The unknown, the mystery, the meaning and purpose of life, all of these deep subjects correlate to the Water element and the season of winter. This is the time to sit into what we don’t know or understand, and to become comfortable with that place of unknowing, that place that holds the seed to the future, and the deep connection t our ancestral roots, the place where we have some choice about what seeds we will cultivate and call into fruition. Rather than thinking about things, it calls for imagining and dreaming, to access a deeper place than thought, what would you want if you could have anything, how do you want to feel, what can you celebrate, what can you mourn, what can you let go of, what can you call in, where are you safe. When you attend to these questions from the deep bottom of the ocean where things sit as yet unformed ideas; small, subtle things stir and we move closer to the possibility of being who we are meant to be, the confident, radiant, loving being that we hold deep inside.

The Water Element is our deepest aspect, it is the keeper of mystery and holds our relationship with the unknown. Our longings reside there, our destiny, who we are to become, what we would love to express in the world. It is in the Water element and the winter season that we cultivate the potency to be our best selves.

Come Explore this further in a workshop: The Water Element, Exploring the Depths, Jan 25, 2-4, Dayaalu Center, Bainbridge Island. Register here.

The Metal Element and the Transformation of Grief


I recently listened to Martin Prechtel, Mayan shaman, talk about grief and praise, how they are interconnected. There are so many approaches to grief, so many ways to experience it and recover from it, so many stages of grief, so many individual expressions. Grief and loss have been huge in my life, sometimes so present and impactful, almost debilitating, sometimes a gentle reminder to appreciate deeply all the fleeting blessings of life- to love those people who are here with us, to appreciate each day before it is gone.

In Chinese medicine, the transformation of grief is the function of the Metal Element, corresponding to the autumn season. As my teacher, Thea Elijah said, ” That which is transient is now gone forever; the vitality which endures is now held deep inside. The teaching of autumn is that all things pass, but that what is truly precious lives on inside of us. Grief is the recognition that something of beauty and importance is gone from the outer world, but inherent within Grief is the capacity to identify clearly what we most value, even in its material absence. Righteousness is the capacity to prefer what Heaven values; to align ourselves with its vaster beauty and be fully graced by it; even when this involves personal loss”.

The Metal Element helps us move from a place of grief to a place of nostalgia and appreciation. While feeling the pain of loss, we can focus on the gift, the learning, the experience, what we have gained. And we can know that the most important things endure. Standing on higher ground, we can see the larger picture.

There is a teaching that all thoughts that are not productive are a symptom of a pathology. If we are stuck, if we need to go deep into a feeling and linger there, perhaps we need help to enliven our transformative capabilities. Enlightenment is said to include the ability to let all emotions move through swiftly and lightly. Most of us never achieve that, but we can move towards that, by releasing feelings as they come up, acknowledging them but not hanging onto them. That is not to say that there is not a process to grieving and that things have to be worked through and chewed upon for as long as necessary to extract what is of value and fully digest the experience. Some people take a long time to fully feel something and need to be with their grief for quite a while. The time spent feeling and grieving is productive in this sense, as it is moving them towards resolution.

A pitfall can be the pull of the drama, the feeling of aliveness that comes with the big emotion and the sense of connecting with others and getting needed attention by sharing pain. Tears attract the focus of the room. They also release pent up feelings and support flow and the transformative process. When we find ways to get support and attention, we don’t have to stay stuck in something dramatic just to be noticed. Taking in appreciation and creating connection is something we have to practice when we are feeling centered, as well as when we are in need of extra attention.

Grief and loss are a part of our everyday experience- nothing is permanent, we will lose all things. Coming to terms with grief, transforming it into appreciation, means realizing that we only grieve those things that we love. By feeling grief, we experience love. It is the other side of the same coin. A life without grief is a life without connection, attachment, or caring. A life stuck in grief and a sense of loss is one where the experience is not complete. Grief without the emergence of love and appreciation means that we have not let the Metal Element be softened by our Heart, by loving compassion. We haven’t extracted the gift from the experience, which is our real work here. Every emotion has a lesson in it, as we journey towards completion on this physical plane. The beautiful lesson of the Metal Element is to extract something precious and of great value- love- from our experience of loss and grief.

For more on an upcoming class on the Metal Element