Revealing the Real You

Let your light shine. Be a source of strength and courage. Share your wisdom.

Wilferd Peterson


Once upon a time there was a beautiful, perfectly round pearl. Its creamy color had such depth that when the light hit it, all the colors of the rainbow shined.

The Pearl Maker marveled at this perfect pearl, and buried the pearl deep within a hard clam shell to protect it. The Pearl Maker threw it into the ocean where it floated to the bottom and waited.

The pearl hid there, covered with sand and slime. For many years, it hid safely encased by the hard clam shell. Then one day, it became restless. A feeling nudged deep in its core.

“I want to get out and see the ocean,” said the Pearl to the clam shell. “I don’t want to hide inside you anymore.”

The clam shell was horrified. “You won’t survive. It’s dangerous out there. You’ll be swallowed by a shark.”

The pearl didn’t care. It wanted to get out, to get free. It wanted to be who it was, to show the world its rainbow colors. But it was trapped and it needed help.

It cried out to a nearby dolphin. “Sir, can you help me get out of this shell?”

Without hesitation, the dolphin scooped up the clam shell, dove through the ocean to his friend the otter, and said, “There is a beautifully perfect pearl inside that wants to be free. Can you help?”

The otter cracked the clam shell. The pearl shone brightly. The Pearl Maker smiled from the shore.

At the center of every human being, there is a perfect pearl wanting to realize its beautifully authentic self, and to share that self with the world. Are you sharing yours?

Affirmation: Only I can shine the unique light that is me.


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Core Beliefs can Kill or Heal

parisThis week’s events in France illustrate how core beliefs can kill. They can cause great devastation both to the believer and to those whose beliefs clash with the believer. The cost is high. Individuals symbolize solidarity in beliefs by changing Facebook profile pics, by claiming ownership to the devastation, by grieving great loss as community…or by celebrating. Why? What exactly, is at the core of such seemingly opposite visceral reactions?

It is estimated that 90% of the population walks through life on autopilot, adopting beliefs from family, culture, religion, social media, and community without ever even taking a day out of their busy lives to really examine their own core beliefs and where they came from. This needs to change. Here’s why. When we do examine these beliefs, we often heal, and in doing so, we heal others. When we don’t, we don’t.

Yet how do we look into our own stuff if, by nature, it lives in our subconscious suppressed by time and layering? Sometimes, this is a task we need help meeting because of our own blindspots. Current pop media highlights this. Have you seen the new show, “Blindspot?” In the series debut, the protagonist, found in the middle of world media central, Times Square, is found naked in a duffel bag. She emerges, her body newly inked in tattoos, as if born into a new consciousness. Her body is covered with a visual treasure map to her past life that she needs others to help her uncover. She only gets memory in small hits as she pieces together where she came from with her recovery team. Her skills (for example, she’s clearly a skilled an accomplished assassin) are all automatic, but her beliefs are confused and live in the shadows.

We all have blindspots. They may manifest in symptoms like anxiety, depression, immature communication, stress, strained relationships, eating disorders, repeating patterns and so on. Pulling apart the layers of these beliefs is each person’s responsibility. It is the way in which we will be able to live our lives fully and come together in peaceful humanity as One.

When I was at UCLA, I took a fabulous class in urban architecture. We toured the city not only looking at old historic buildings, and early structure, but also the influence of gangs and graffiti on urban architecture. Even taking photos of the work almost got us shot a few times. What is operating so strongly in an individual that makes that person want to kill another person for studying their art? A belief system so entrenched (and most likely unexamined) that starts with core beliefs of self-protection, safety, and loyalty to tribe above all else. But don’t we all have that? Don’t we all want to protect our families, our tribe–to live in a world of safety?

Yes, you say, but we don’t all kill to do it. That’s true, but what if one’s belief is that this is the only way to ensure safety? What if that’s all that person has known and it has formed that belief?

Here’s a thought. What would the world look like if every person on the planet adopted the belief that we are all connected and when one harms another, that person harms himself? What if the core belief was that love is the most important thing, and that all the other shit is just shit? Take a minute, with John Lennon and I, and imagine what that would look like?

Polyana? Here’s the thing. It’s not in our power to step into the world of LA gang members (or international terrorist groups for that matter) and understand each of their core beliefs and whether we think they’re legit. However, what is in our power is to take time out of our individual lives to really pull apart our own core beliefs that have been programmed into our operating systems, and to ask ourselves if those still work for us. Do we need to upgrade? Just because we had a belief when we were 3, doesn’t mean we need to have the same belief at 53. Our actions, our addictions, our secrets, our morning routine, the way we communicate, the way we dress, the way we run our lives–these all emanate from our beliefs.

Over the past 10 weeks, in my spiritual practitioner studies, I have had to examine core beliefs under a magnifying lens. Each week was a new topic: God, Love, Thoughts, Feelings, Personal Qualities, Work, Play, Parents, Children, Money, Aging, Death, Sex, Partners, Friends, Health, Appearance and Life Status. There were many surprises that I uncovered as I looked more closely. It was not always easy. Sometimes I cried. (A few times in class.) But here’s the healing part of this: once I identified a belief that I didn’t want to claim as my own anymore, I made the decision to change it. I could tear up the old contract and write a new one.

I could feel the healing take place in myself and in my circle of fellow students as we moved through this process. I could feel the struggles of the group trying to find its place in the layered muck. Just after ten weeks though, I felt a shift. I adopted a new belief: because we’re all connected, being willing to deeply examine core beliefs can heal not only individuals, but also families, communities, and the world.

I understand not everybody is ready for or willing to take this step. It’s hard to be authentic and vulnerable. We’re all busy and it takes time. But I can’t help wonder had the recent attackers on Paris been willing to do this, if the outcome may have been different. It just feels like there’s another way to exist in the world, for the sake of all humanity.


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Amador-able: Go Get You Some

vineyard2In the Sierra Nevada foothills lies the county of Amador. Its rolling hills are dotted with oaks and vineyards. In the Autumn, shades of yellow, orange, and red smear together across the Shenandoah Valley like oils on a palette. Tiny, historic towns with storefronts reminiscent of gold diggin’ days offer a step back in time to a slower, simpler time to those who want to take it.

Sutter Creek is one of those Jewel of the Mother Lode type of towns. While there’s plenty of mining tours, nature, and history to explore in this region, what we’ve come to treasure are the intimate b&bs, the burgeoning wineries, the fabulous food, and the all around laid back pace with friends and family in this early-to-rise and down-with-the-sun little space.amador

It’s that town where everybody knows each other’s names. At a winery tasting, you refer to the delicious truffle potato chip you ate (known as crack chips by the locals) available down at the Amador Vintage Market in Plymouth, and the pourer launches into a story about Beth (the owner) and her backstory. This goes on all weekend. The place is one big family with cousins living in outlying towns.

That’s what I noticed most during this past weekend: the theme of family and connection. We traveled with some friends. I read somewhere that friends are the family you choose. I’d have to place these friends under that umbrella. Secondly, we stayed at the Sutter Creek Inn, a delightful bed and breakfast owned and run by The Way Family and said to be the first b&b west of the Mississippi. Finally, we made an attempt to visit smaller, family-owned wineries, one of which had three family members present that we got to meet in the tasting room.

Let’s start with The Sutter Creek Inn ( This was our first stay here and the Way Family was hospitable from the start. I had admired their gardens in the past and really wanted to feel the space in a way that you can only do by staying on a property.  I’m so happy we did. This Inn has 17 rooms–on the large size for a b&b–but you’d never know it. The space feels intimate and nurturing. A group can stay close together, but still have their very private spaces in a rich, lush environment. patio2

The Inn is located on the Main Street of Sutter Creek (walking distance from shops, bakeries, eateries, and darling boutique shops. (Favorite shop: cheese shop which belongs to The Miller Family and they have now moved their tasting room in so you can taste wine and cheese simultaneously. Brilliant! They remembered us because we’re on their website from last year! We had no idea. Check us out. The lush foliage surrounding the Inn creates a secret garden feel with just the right amount of canopy and light filtering into the sitting spaces. Care has been taken to stick side-by-side hammocks under a deep green canopy of mature trees and bushes. Our patio was nicely bordered to give privacy, while allowing for an open feel for morning coffee for our party of five.

patioThe cozy, farmhouse feel of this eclectic space can be found in such unique details as the hanging beds. (Don’t worry. If you put down a few too many Pinots during the day, you can stabilize your bed.) We loved them, though. We snuggled under the five layers of cozy blankets and my husband sang “Rock a Bye Baby” as we gently swayed to sleep. It did feel like a tree top. We also had a wood burning fireplace with the added benefit of housekeeping setting up the fire for us each day, quite a thoughtful touch. We were in The Toolshed which also offered an inside gathering spot for our fr-amily so we could hang out, drink wine, and chat at the day’s end. Coffee on this patio in the morning worked to gear up for the 9:00 breakfast bell.

We became Pavlovian by Day 2, jumping when the bell rang and securing our communal table next to this fire. With dishes like Spanish omelets, zucchini and walnut pancakes, firegrape juice pressed from fresh grapes, sausage, cornbread, ham, eggs, and the option for extra strong coffee through herbal tea, our breakfast was a great launch to the day.

On the second day after breakfast I caught wind of ghost hunters in the library that had been down from San Francisco with their equipment poking around town.  Though we heard they’d visited before and were usually disappointed, I decided to check out the vibe for myself.

Turns out the matriarch of the house, Jane Way, who passed five years ago was a bit of an intuitive spiritualist. As a spiritual practitioner in training, this added something for me. You could feel that energy behind decisions that were made in placement and protocol and this gave some attachment that made the Inn even more interesting. When we went into the livingroom, I took this shot looking out the window. I wanted to capture the beauty of the fall color in the trees. I may have also picked up Jane at the piano. What do you think? Can you see it? The Inn is a special place, packed with history, beauty and charm. (It’s also for sale at $2,300,000 according to the local real estate office if you want to buy it!)


Now to the wineries…

The first winery we visited was Amador Cellars  ( Amador Cellars was the 15th winery to open its doors (November, 2004). There are now around 50 wineries in Amador County. Larry and Linda Long, home winemakers from Truckee, moved to Amador 15 years ago to undertake this venture with their family. Michael, their son and winemaker, hails from Fresno State’s winemaking program. He’s an easygoing, delightful young man and greeted us upon arrival. He was the only winery person I’d called in advance for this trip and I was hoping he could teach two of our friends (beginning tasters) Winemaking 101, as well as highlight his favorite wine children. My husband and I love these boutique family operations for our inventory because they’re often up to something clever. michael

The unique part about the Long Family and Amador Cellars is they don’t skip any steps. They grow much of their own fruit and all processes take place on the property. That is becoming less common as wineries choose to farm out one of the steps to other wineries or businesses along the way. When they don’t skip steps, it shows up in the wine and in the atmosphere of the space. That was the case here.

Michael’s sister, Ashley, poured the wine and Linda, his mother, poured for other visitors. The barrells live in the tasting room giving it more of that boutique feel. Michael crawls up these barrels to tend to the wine throughout its life.amadorcellarsuse

We loved the wines, the education, and Michael and Ashley’s warmth. The family flavor shows up in all aspects of Amador Cellars. If you’re confused about what that means,tasting order these standout wines: 2012 Family Reserve Zin, 2012 Barbera. Thank you, Long family, for your hospitality.

Another winery we hit was Deaver because they were having a “Ports on Parades” event that looked interesting. We’d been to Deaver before and remembered the lake and lovely grounds. We signed up for this food/wine fun unsure of what one pairs with ports besides chocolate. They had six stations with various ports and a savory/sweet option at each. That was a first. Turns out port goes really well with cheddar wasabi mashed potatoes and meatballs! If ports are your thing, this is a place to check out, specifically this annual event. Bring cheese from the Miller’s cheese store in Sutter Creek, pop open some wine, and enjoy the moment in front of the lake while you recharge.deaver1

Wineries start to blend together when you hit more than three (which we did). One standout, that couldn’t blend in if it tried–and it won’t–is Andis Winery in Plymouth (

The name is a combo of owner/spouses Andy Friedlander and Janis Akuna. Having opened the day after Thanksgiving, 2010, this ultra modern facility sits up high on a hill overlooking the Shenandoah Valley.  The open, lanai feeling may trickle down from both owners who have been in Hawaii for half a century before moving to Amador County. That aloha, which we knew nothing about before we walked up the hill to attend “The Redneck Barbecue” (I mean, who doesn’t want to do that, right?), was felt nearly 5 minutes after we arrived. Winemaker Mark McKenna walked up and started chatting us up anonymously around the fire.

When he came over to say hi I actually thought he was my cousin’s son, Trevor, because he looked just like him. (Today, not as much, but remember–we did just come from Ports on Parade and a few other stops.) matt I asked what his name was and he told me Trevor. That’s Mark.

A Cal Geography funny guy turned winemaker, Mark McKenna showed aloha we’ll never forget. We talked story about the beginning hours of the winery. We met Lorenzo, a fifth generation winemaker descendant, who moved to Amador in the last 18 months from Italy. He pulled out the thief to share some amazing Barbera from the barrels. lorenzo We met Andy who was donning a pony tail hat he later took off while comparing pony tails with another guest who had a real one. And we tasted some amazing wines, ate some succulent ribs and other barbecue, and danced to a band called the Knuckleheads, all in our brightly colored and individually expressed bandanas.

redneck1andis5I went into this winery not expecting to take notes (my mistake), but there were a few standout wines I couldn’t forget. Mark is doing some very creative things and his passion shows in his quick walk and bright eyes when he talks about his wines. One of these creative endeavors is the 2013 Semillon, a white which won Best of Class (SF Chronicle.) The other was the 2012 Mourvedre which took the bronze at the NY World Wine & Spirits Competition.  In the world of wines, these things count. In my world, I rarely drink white unless it’s Cakebread or Hanzell, and I hardly ever like anything with the M grapes besides Merlot. I loved both of these. Chew on that bone. (And I should mention that this was the only winery that all of us joined the wine club. Even our brand newbies.)

Further on Andis, Mark is using very interesting containers in their very large facility (with AWESOME bathrooms–understand I have Janis to thank for that). Check this out, guys.


That egg pod to the left is something to do with the clay and process…it was late and remember–no notebook?

And then there’s this other clay pot.  See? You don’t even need to know exactly what’s happening here and you can tell it’s awesome.crushpot'

By the way, sign me up for the next Redneck Barbecue, because that was a hoot!andis2

Thank you, Mark and Andy, for a heck of a good time. You sure know how to throw a party.andymatt

Finally, no trip to Amador is ever complete without experiencing Taste. ( We experienced them both at the restaurant and at a pairing with Bella Grace as one of our wine club benefits with that winery. ( Taste makes things like this. The scallop dish is pretty much all I can think about–still.scallops Oh–and the mushroom cigars. And the way they magically pair the wines and food with Bella Grace enhancing both so much.bellapairingtaste2

As I review the weekend in mind, I’m back to family. The food, the wine, the entertainment, the views, the education, the music, the Autumn color–all of it made our visit outstanding. But the feeling of family, of community and story… connecting with old friends and making new ones. That’s what really made this Amador weekend magical.


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Care of the Soul Can Be A Messy Job

In ordinary life creativity means making something for the soul out of every experience. Sometimes we can shape experience into meaningfulness playfully and inventively. At other times, simply holding experience in memory and in reflection allows it to incubate and reveal some of its imagination.                  pages2                                                                                                                   Thomas Moore

This morning I decided to do my reading in the hot tub following my exercise on the cross trainer. I needed to finish about 30 pages of Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul for my current spiritual practitioner training class, and what better place to do it. I was on the chapter about creativity which called for a creative way to take in more Moore.

The sun was shining brightly, hitting me smack in the eyes, so I turned my back to it and opened up my book. I read some, closed my eyes to think about the words, and felt a tickle on my hand. I looked down and there was a bee crawling up my thumb. I freaked out, thrust my hands under water (not wanting to kill the bee, but okay with drowning it just a little) and pulled Moore down with it. There went creativity, drowned by my desire to avoid potential sting of pain.

The metaphor was not lost on me. I thought back to the time in my teens, when I turned the swamp cooler on, and about a gazillion bees flew out stinging me all over and embedding into the strands of the lovely brown/yellow/black 70s carpet of my childhood home. They camouflaged in and hid there for the next week, popping out to sting people sporadically. I was home alone, which I was much of my teen years, and left to figure out how to solve this problem. That feeling of being alone, having to suck up the pain (physical/emotional/spiritual) and figure out a solution, lies at the core of many themes that, if given free reign, still sneak in to run my life.

Part of that, though, was learning not to wallow in a victim state. The gifts which those types of situations gave me (and there were many of those situations through the years) were independence, warrior strength, resourcefulness, and confidence. I believe in my core there is no situation I can’t handle through the Spirit that dwells through me. All the scenarios thrown my way are lesson plans laid out in the consultation with God before I ever arrived.

Not to say that predestination is exactly a thing, because I think that’s too easy. It’s more like there’s some Soul development that needs to occur, here are some ways for that to happen, and the whole GPS destination is wrapped in my own free will. I can choose to argue and fight along the way, and even to take my own path because I feel like it. Or, I can choose to align with my most targeted Soul course. In my 50s, for the most part, that’s where I choose to navigate now.

I took Moore out of the hot tub and he was drenched in chlorine water. I laughed out loud at the symbolism, the vast thoughts this seemingly small incident brought up, and my soggy book which I wasn’t sure how I was going to read before my next class on Wednesday. I put the book out in the sun to dry with the pages propped open by a ceramic angel and a barbecue tool.

I told my husband the story and he decided to try and fix this fandango by sitting the book on the dryer rack in the dryer. (You know, a slow dry–faster than fruit, slower than clothes.) After an hour, though, the book didn’t seem to be drying too well so I put it back out in the sun on a bench, flipped open to the section on creativity.

Later in the day, my teenager was out back with Kai, our 6 month old labrador retriever. My son was on the phone. From inside, I heard him say, “No-no, no, no — hold on,” then come to the door and say, “Moommmmmm, Kai is eating your book.” I went to see and sure enough, Kai was out getting some Soul for himself. Yep, the dog had literally ate my homework.

pages1One of my son’s friends, investigating the damage said, “Oh wow. He ate a whole chapter.”

More, actually. (Ha. See how I did that?)  I thought about how the best laid plans aren’t actually. It’s not like I could have planned this particular lesson any better than it went down.

In the end, another copy of Moore is on its way. One thing’s for sure. I don’t ever think I’ll forget this book or how important it is to care for the Soul.

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Therapy Dog

servicedogWhen we brought Kai home, I knew I wanted him to be a therapy dog. His name means “restoration and recovery” in Japanese, which I didn’t know when we named him that. He’s actually named after Kailua-Kona, an area on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is our restoration and recovery place. Cool, right? Restoration in several languages, our boy.

I didn’t know much about therapy dogs other than they go where people need comfort of some kind and comfort them. I just knew his spirit fit with that service.

The breeder we bought Kai from wanted him to be a show dog. This was not his personality at all. Besides, the whole show dog scene wreaked of beauty pageants in the mid-West, or child actors in Southern California. That’s not a life I want for those I love. I told the breeder I was really not feeling the show dog thing. I explained again we wanted him to be a therapy dog. Our goals were different for this boy. It came to a head one weekend when he stayed with her so we could attend our son’s swim championships and she overfed him despite my (and the vet’s) instructions. I felt like I was interacting with a meddling mother-in-law. When I explicitly told her not to do that, and she did it anyway, she crossed a boundary in our relationship. That was the end of that.

Luckily and synchronistically, the trainer we had been working with that I really liked turned out to be a therapy dog trainer. I was so excited to learn that. We had training sessions with Kai so that we could make sure we were taking the right steps to socialize him and prepare him for his therapy dog test at 1 year. The trainer gave us lots of literature and a hierarchy of exposures that we needed to make sure we fit into early socialization windows. He needed to go on elevators, escalators, meet all different kinds of people (lots of them) and be exposed to many different loud sirens. I had to do that online since we rarely have those in the country where we live. We worked our way up the hierarchy of exposure.

We started taking him to swim meets where our youngest son swims. It was a great opportunity for him to meet many different people, hear loud noises, see swimming (and not jump in the pool!) and practice his service. I noticed how the kids would approach him between races and how he would help them. Restoration and recovery. kaisidneyHe definitely started to build his fan club. Sydney, here, even talked her parents into training a therapy dog of her own.

His new friends would ask, “How do you make a dog a therapy dog?”

People would ask, “Are you going to send him away?”

Many people don’t understand the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog. A service dog is a dog you train to help a person with a specific disability and send away to go live with that person. That’s not what we’re doing. Kai is part of our family. A therapy dog is different. The US Therapy of Dog Registry defines a therapy dog this way:

A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism. Therapy dogs are usually not assistance or service dogs, but can be one or both with some organizations.

In order to learn more about how to tailor my daily training routine with Kai, I asked the trainer what I should be working on with Kai. She asked if I wanted to attend the pre-evaluation session and before I knew it, I was volunteering yesterday at the evaluation. I met the dogs, both small and large, that were there to be evaluated or to be “extras” in the evaluation. The extras help the prospective therapy dogs with distractions. Here are a few of those canines:

dogtherapy3Meet Atticus. He’s an experienced Therapy Dog used as an extra in this evaluation. He’s a very sweet Rhodesian Ridgeback with a fabulously healing disposition. Note his handsome Therapy Dog ascot.

Then, there’s Choco Loco. He’s getting ready to become a therapy dog. He’s a lapper, which means he gets to sit in people’s laps.dogtherapy1




And Foxy Loxy. Also a lapper. Pretty sure they’re related. It’s in the eyes.dogtherapy2




As the day went on, more dogs wandered in and out. They practiced all their skills (there’s a long list of tasks and behaviors they need to demonstrate.) I learned things I didn’t know, like in hospitals humans can transfer certain diseases like MRSA to dogs so you have to be careful where you go. You need to have people sanitize their hands first before they pet your dog.

I also learned that these animals are used in classrooms to help children to read. As a reading specialist, I will be taking Kai with me to do this in classrooms–and first, teaching the importance of hand sanitization Day 1. He loves kids so this will be a really great fit. I love that this is even a thing. I think back to when I taught 2nd grade. My kids would have loved it.

After Therapy Dog Day, I had a new list of 14 points in my notes on my phone to practice. Kai has six months to go before his big day. Luckily, the test falls in April right around his birthday. Then, look out kiddos. Kai’s coming to help you with phonics while restoring you simultaneously…right after he restores himself. Rest up, little buddy.kaitherapy4


Posted in animals, healthy living, nature, pet health, pets, therapy dogs | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Wearing Masks

masksWhen I was a young single white mother of a biracial child living in Los Angeles, I felt like I needed to introduce my child to other biracial children like him. He would say, “Mommy, I want my hair to be yellow and straight like yours, and my skin to be your peach color.” His hair was dark brown and curly. His skin was a gorgeous light milk chocolate. It didn’t matter, though, because a child imitates its parents, and it was painful to him that he couldn’t.

I needed to teach him this by exposing him to others that looked like him so he could have other children who understood. I found a group in LA called MASC. It stood for Multiracial Americans of Southern California. MASC is still going strong today. With that group, we’d do different activities, and the kids would get to know others that didn’t fit in one box. I also took him to black churches in Inglewood, skating rinks in Compton, anywhere I could find that I thought would help him see his beauty as he was.

Then one day, I realized all my attention was focused on the external masks, the bodies that cover these Souls we were. It hit me that this was not really the point. We stopped going to meetings.

My son is grown up now and was telling me yesterday he is attending a wedding with 300 people who are all dressing up in costume. Now the bride and groom wouldn’t be the only ones dressed in costume. As it is the month of the masks, it made sense, and I thought how fun that sounded. A clever idea by the ever-creative 20 somethings as they bust out of traditional memes and into new frontiers. I also thought about how this generation is less into masks (in an ironic twist) and more into locating their authentic core.

I thought about how we all wear masks–even when we don’t. For example, I wear the mask of the roles I take: mother, wife, daughter, student, teacher, writer, poet, health coach, friend, etc. And this is true for each of us. It’s like we’re all at one big wedding where everyone is in costume.

But these masks are not who we are. I am–and you are–what lies behind those masks.

Each of us is a spiritual being–a Soul–beyond those masks that stroke our egos. We talk in the language of masks at the cocktail parties we attend (what do you do, what have you done) and list out our successes that make us puff out our chests and feel accomplished. But our true mission, our reason for being here, is to get to know the Truth behind the masks. Our purpose is to sit with our intuitive selves in the Quiet when we aren’t deflecting and get to that core of it all…the Being behind the masks.

And the reason that is so so so SO crucial right now in this time of transformation (post 12-21-12)  is because each Soul has unique work that only it can do. If it wastes time trying to pick out It’s costume and figure out who It’s going to be for the party, that is time taken away from finding out who It really is. The Soul needs to play and have fun, to frolic in the ocean waves and the forest. To build a snowman and taste a rainbow. To gently lift off its masks, set them on the shelf for the time being, and begin to understand the Truth about who It is.

In that way, through that waking up, we will transform our world.

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The Faces of Karma (by request)

forest6When you stand in the forest, and you look around at all the trees, they look like they are individual trees. In reality, they share the same root system and that’s what keeps them so strong.

We’re like that, too. We’re all these individual bodies running around doing this and that, but we are all connected. For left brain proof, if we need that kind of thing, we can look to Einstein’s paper on (and other scientists ideas about) quantum entanglement. For right brain proof (likely not as necessary), we look to collective trends in writing, art, and invention that are not market driven, but that are discovered very close together prior to any notable trend. Take the Elisha Gray/Alexander Graham Bell Controversy, for example. Was this a case of theft or a case of pulling from the collective goo in order to make that telephone we can’t seem to live without?

This connectivity is characterized by different laws. One of those laws is cause and effect. The butterfly flits about in the Amazon and we feel it here.  In Hinduism and Buddhism, the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous lives, determine how they will return in the next. This is Karma. But in Western culture, as we adopt terms and ideas from our Hindu and Buddhist family, we use the term karma synonymously with getting back what you put out. Sort of a negative or positive payback system.

I remember having a conversation with one of my youngest  son’s friends about karma several years back. He was talking about “getting back at someone” and I said something like, “That’s bad karma.”

“I don’t believe in that,” he said, fairly sure I was out to lunch.

“Really?” I asked. “Why not?”

“Well, because my mom did something nice for someone and they didn’t do something nice back…so that’s why.”

(It should be noted here that my kids friends know they are in for philosophical conversations when they set foot in my periphery.)

You can see how he may come to this belief. But karma doesn’t work on a timeline. It’s not like you buy coffee for the person in back of you at Starbucks and then suddenly your coffee right then is free. Nor should you buy that coffee because you expect to get something in return. It dirties the karma.

Last week in my film class, the assignment was to practice level two of giving in Tzedakah, the Jewish system of charitable giving. Here is that description:

Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other.

We had watched Louise Hay’s film, You Can Heal Your Life, where Gay Hendricks tells the story of a man in suicidal state calling him on the phone and telling him he was going to end his life. Gay told him to think of something he could do for someone else. The man said he remembered there was a pile of trash on a neighbor’s doorstep (he didn’t know the neighbor). Gay told him to put down the phone, go clean it up without knocking, and come back to the phone. When the man returned, his whole tone had changed. He no longer felt like taking his life.

I have seen the effects of this over and over, in my life and in my kid’s lives. One of the key steps in recovery from just about anything is service. There’s a reason for that. That’s karma. Whatever you do comes back at you, good or bad.

When my students came back and reported in the results were inspiring. They noticed that by having an assignment to anonymously help someone else, a mindfulness set in that direction. Instead of thoughts about what someone else was not doing for them, they were focused on what they could do for others. This thinking, in one of life’s great paradoxes, is the best form of self care available.

Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes of all time…

“One of the most beautiful compensations in life is that no person can help another without helping themselves.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

PS Sorry, Ems. I know you hate it when people use quotes.

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Movie Me

film1I’m half through teaching my film class at the Center for Spiritual Living in Redding, California. I’m having the best time and I feel the need to tell you why.

I’ve never taught a film class before. I didn’t go to film school (yet!), and until the last few years, my interest in film was confined to the walls of the theater. Still, film and I go way back.

It started when I was 16 and worked at the Gateway Cinema in Anderson (when they actually used film) which is now a Shell station. Back in the day, I worked the night that “ET” came out, when the Halloween series was born, and during the time “Cujo” became a bigger hit than it really deserved to be. On my breaks, we were allowed to go fill up our popcorn and soda containers and go sit and watch a movie for 20 minutes. After hours, the staff would stay around and watch movies together until the wee hours of the morning then go up on the roof and watch the other stars so dense in the Northern California sky. Good times.

In my college years, I dated a guy who hired me and all my family to be movie checkers. (Here’s hoping it’s safe to now release our identities.) We would be given assignments to go to different theaters, buy tickets, order from the concessions, and go to the movies. After, we filled out a report, sent it to the corporate office, and were reimbursed plus paid a fee for our service. It meant movies were free (actually, you made money to go) and kept me regularly attending films. When we broke up, our checking life came to a collective halt.

But living in LA, movies abound, and I didn’t stop going. Also in LA, screenings are a big deal and everybody wants you to come to a free screening. I started enjoying that because you could often see scenes that weren’t in the final cuts. Take “Dances With Wolves.” Remember Kevin Costner’s bare butt? Well, in the screening, there was a lot more of it. (See what you missed?)

My husband and I have gone to movies in the real theater (I’m not even counting the home viewing experience) for 20 years. In fact, our first date was Johnny Rockets and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” in the Santa Monica Promenade. We snuggled and he stroked my forearm for two hours. Lovely. I remember it just like it was yesterday. To this day, our date night is dinner and a movie. We rarely miss a week. When we’re feeling spunky we may even get two movies in over the weekend. That means over our relationship we’ve seen over 1,200 movies out. Between us, and all the movies I’ve gone to with my kids over the years, we’ve definitely earned the “buff” title.

Over the past year, I’ve become very interested in documentaries. This is crosstrainer stuff for me. I’ll explain. I do the crosstrainer for an hour and watch half a documentary one day and half the next. I average three a week because I exercise daily. I started developing a fascination with how much information I could learn in 2 hours. There’s no other way to do that. Reading takes me far longer on the ratio of learning to time. Audiobooks cut off my visual sense. But when I’m watching a documentary, I’m transported to another culture and dropped into a true story of something that happened.

All of it goes back to my love for story in all forms: oral, written, auditory, visual, live and on screen. I love it all, though right now I’m just really in love with film. I’m also in this process of awakening to my own spiritual truths. Don’t read that as religious, because that’s not even close. I think religious systems have a place for some, but they make me feel boxed in and more distant from my Creator. I think of spirituality as those steps that make that connection electric and constant, and that’s what I’m after.

So for this class, I chose spiritual films of all different types: documentaries, docu-dramas, regular dramas and shorts. It was important to me that the friends who would be watching these with me would be touched in the same way I was watching these films. I wanted them to leave, inspired, and ready to experience fuller, happier lives even if they were already happy. I wanted to drop uplifting visuals and words into their subconscious minds that would carry them through their days with a kick in their step. After the films are over, and we have some time to integrate what we’ve seen, I’m reminded so strongly how connected we all are, and how story is such a fabulous way to see that. When we’re all watching the same story it’s like a choreographed ballet under the moonlight while George Winston plays “Autumn” on piano at the Greek Theater. (That may be too specific of a memory for you, but for me, it’s perfect.) We laugh together, cry together, have an “aha” moment together–all in two hours.

I’m not about rushing things or shoving a bunch of stuff in, but we live in a world where that’s part of the gig. The kids need to get to their soccer games, the parents need to get to their jobs, the social stuff needs to find a place in the calendar, blah, blah, blah. We buy ready made veggies just to save an extra two minutes cutting lettuce. How many times do you hear people use the word “busy” to describe their lives (often with a badge of pride) and talk about how things will slow down when they retire. (In my experience of observing retirees, that rarely happens.)

Because of this, film makes great sense. There is really no other way you can learn about a culture of aboriginal people and their relationship with the whales while being transported to Australia and meeting indigenous leaders from all over the world in two hours. (That’s Whaledreamers about the Mirning people, their brothers and sisters the whales/dolphins, and the assault against their land. Phenomenal doumentary.)

Each week my class attendance has increased, and each week I feel more and more blessed. Today, my friend and student Christy stood up in front of the congregation and said (I’m paraphrasing), “You’re missing out if you don’t get your butts to this class.” That made me smile knowing she feels the same way I do about it. What started in a small rural theater as a high school job has turned into a passion, and I’m just so happy to have a group of students to share it with.

Posted in co-creating, connection, conscious living, creativity, dreams, Inspiration, metaphysical, spiritual, visual arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soul Synchronicities and The Medicine Wheel

medicinewheel4“Synchronicity” was the term popularized by Carl Jung. He even wrote a book on it and alluded to it in many of his works.  It’s what a skeptic may call a coincidence. Jung believed it was anything but happenstance. He believed events, visions, images, dreams tapped into a language, which when noticed, could live a sort of breadcrumb trail to Truth, one’s own individual truth as well as the collective.

I’m big on synchronicities. I’ve even had “synchronicity friends” who I share these with on a very regular basis, though that hasn’t been entirely successful–yet. They usually give up. I will find one, though. I’m sure of it. Because the more you notice and share synchronicities, the more breadcrumbs you get. And I love breadcrumbs. (If you’re reading this and you feel compelled to be my synchronicity friend, that could be a synchronicity!)

One way a synchronicity chain starts for me (if there is a beginning, because it can feel as if it’s more of a continuum than beginning and end) is in a strong Intuition, a Spirit hit (Spir-hit.) This happened to me when we moved into our current house and I had an impulse to have my teenager and his buddy place rocks into the shape of a circle with a cross in the middle right in our own backyard. The metaphor was not lost on me, just the translation. I recognized it as a Medicine Wheel, but did not know why I wanted to do that or what it meant.

“What is it, Jamie?” my son’s friend asked.medicinewheel

“It’s a Medicine Wheel.”

“Oh. What’s it for?”

“I’m not sure yet,” I told him.

That conversation would repeat for the next 7 years every time a service provider, neighbor, or anybody really walked in our backyard. I started feeling a little self-conscious about it. I kept thinking, I’ve really got to look up Medicine Wheels, or program a dream, or do some sort of investigation as to shed a little light on this circle of stones.

Our previous dog would not walk into it. Our current dog has no problem with that. Just something I noticed.

For the past few weeks, Medicine Wheels have started to come on the scene of my life in rapid synchronicity which means it’s calling out for exploration. Example. Last weekend I took my teen and his buddy to a rap concert in Concord, a dream of his for some time now, for his birthday. The next morning, I was working out in the gym of the hotel and did one of those machines where I went on a hike in New Zealand to the Blue Pools. While looking for something to listen to on my Blue Pool’s hike, I stumbled upon a Medicine Wheel podcast.

The podcast said the Wheel represents all parts of a person with the Soul at the center. It’s a healing tool.

Now it just happens that the book I took with me to the concert weekend was Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul. (I mean, wouldn’t you, if you were dropping two kids at a Chris Brown/Omarion/Kid Ink/blah blah blah concert?) And, I’d been thinking about what Soul means a lot lately because I’m in my third year of a spiritual practitioner/healer program and we talk about the Soul often.

Additionally, beyond the individual level, I’ve noticed a huge collective shift in self-development and spiritual circles in this direction. In the general public, we are falling away from the conversation of dogma and the old guard rules to more of a direct relationship about the Life that sustains us, give that whichever title you prefer. Even Pope Francis, the Catholic Dalai Lama,  is on board. Nearly every new book on the spiritual bookshelf or workshop given contains the word Soul. There’s a strong focus on waking up, and a recognition that you need to look into that Soul part to start.

As I finished my Soul-focused Medicine Wheel podcast, I took off my headphones and did some free weights. On the TV was a commercial for the sequel (we need a sequel?) to the movie Ted. A scene flashed where the judge is asking the stuffed bear if he thinks he has a soul and he belts out a soul song. The word confusion is supposed to make us laugh (which always works with me, but then I’m quick to laugh), but the serious underlying point is everything has music in it. It’s just a matter of how that will be played out. It makes us think more deeply about what is “Soul.”

When I got back home, I remembered another synchronicity. A dreamer friend, Amy, had posted in-depth information on Medicine Wheels on the Global Dream Initiative, a global collection of dream images and symbols on Facebook originated by Stephen Aizenstat Pacifica University. I jumped in and read. It’s very in depth, but here’s one thing that jumped out from that research:

(Excerpt from Seven Arrows. HYEMEYOHSTS STORM, 1978.)


‘The Medicine Wheel Is the very way of life of the People. It Is an understanding of the Universe. It Is the way given to the Peace Chiefs, our teachers, and by them to us. The Medicine Wheel Is everything of the People. The Medicine Wheel is the Living Flame of the Lodges and the Great Shield of Truth written in the sign of the water. It is the Heart and Mind. It Is the Song of the Earth. It Is the Star-Fire and the Painted Drum seen only In the eyes of the Children.”

I don’t think I’m done with the Big Reveal of the Medicine Wheel. But this is why I love synchronicities. They are like storytellers that you can trust to keep on narrating. They make your life magical, fun, and entertaining. Feel me?


MedicineWheel (2)


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Dream Catchers


I’m coming out of the closet (or at least I’m in the doorway of the closet) on my dream life. I’m not sure why I’m in that doorway in the first place, except that dreams are a subject few people I’m around really get or care about.  They don’t see any relevance to the night world. When I talk about dreams, they may politely nod, but I watch their eyes glaze over and I’m well aware I’ve become that 3 year old recounting a movie plot line.

Abort! Abort! yells Eddie Cat, my teacher for all things appropriate and inappropriate in social interactions.

As not to torture my dream-disinterested friends and family, I decided I needed to find new LIVE people to further my study of dreams. Over 20 years, I had studied books, taken a class at Santa Monica City College on dreams, and done my own recording of dreams for over a decade, but I sensed there was much I was missing. I needed dreaming humans. About a year ago, I spoke my intention out loud in a class full of metaphysical students: I intend to make myself open to people who are interested in the power of dreaming to find me. I will form a dream circle.

After that discussion, a classmate told me she was interested in meeting and had earned a Master’s in Jungian Psychology from Pacifica University, an amazing higher learning campus for depth psychology degrees just out of Santa Barbara, California. We met, along with another classmate, and started to notice an overlapping of dream themes between us. At one point, we incubated a dream for each other, and shared our results. What each of us dreamed for the other person was exactly what the other person needed to know. I knew I needed to probe further into this phenomenon.

To this end, I spent a long weekend down in Santa Barbara at a Dream tending Conference.  Dream tending is an out-of-the-box method honed by Stephen Aizenstat to manage dream symbols, not so much for analyzing a dream, but for merging night images and day images both collectively and individually. Why? To heal the world’s suffering in ways that are not currently being used.

Aizenstat  approaches dream work more as indigenous people did, giving the images voice and finding out what they want to say. It’s a position of respect, listening, and nurturing– an alliance, if you will. Together, these images can bring clarity to this healing.

Out of this methodology, the Global Dream Initiative was born. This is a Facebook group where people from around the world belong and share dream themes, poems, thoughts, ideas, and so forth. But dreams are very personal and fear definitely holds posters back. I can feel that. I understand, also, that posters are selective about what they share.  Nobody really wants to share all about their dream lovers (though that might make for an interesting feed.)

Rather, you begin to see patterns. For example, I kept having dogs in my dreams night after night. This wasn’t all that surprising because we had a new lab puppy who was taking all my time and energy. Next, I dreamed about snakes for a week, definitely not my favorite creature. I mentioned this to Amy, an amazing dream tender and PhD student in this work at Pacifica, in my dream group, The Hummingbird Dream Clan. Amy said, “Did you know that dogs and snakes were the healers in dream temples back in the day?”

No. No I didn’t.

Furthermore, people from all over the world were having dog/snake dreams as well. The only way we knew that, though, was because we were remembering and bringing back our night offerings to share at the GDI breakfast table.

Well, so what. People are having the same dreams. Who cares?

We should all care because we are all connected. This has shown up in my smaller dream group repeatedly. Most members of that group live in Santa Barbara area so they meet live and I have no idea consciously what happens. That night, I have a dream that is of particular relevance to the members of that circle and to that meeting. (They’ve called my dreams clairvoyant and psychic, though those terms feel awkward to me for some reason…like they’re emanating from ego in a way I don’t want to emanate. I prefer to think of it as acutely tuned-in to the frequency they are tuned into.)  I may get symbols that repeat in many forms, or a particular sequence of words, or an image. The next day I post that on our secret group feed and they tell me how it tied in 600 miles away in miraculous ways. It’s still so exciting every time we see the connections, and while we shouldn’t be surprised at this point in the game, we always kind of are.

This information, then, draws italics to a thought, idea, concept. We toss it around and think of how to “tend” to it, both as individuals and as a collective. It takes patience, curiosity, and a strong knowing that this is important work and not irrelevant.

It is also something I believe every person has the ability to do. Many people say they don’t remember their dreams, but that is often accompanied by an “oh well” sort of attitude. Until a person feels that is important, and follows proven steps to remember, that will continue to be what happens.

Some proven ways to remember are:

  • Tell yourself before you go to bed, “I will remember my dream.”
  • Put a journal and a pen (I use a pen with a light my friend Nathan bought me at the dream conference) right by your bed.
  • When you awake, lay still with eyes closed and play back what just happened. Quickly write down one word, symbol, anything. If you are an artist draw the picture you saw.
  • People who sleep with their phones by their bed speak into the recorder to remember.
  • Offer respect to the night world, believing that it has much to offer the day world.

Then, in the morning, log the information in your dream journal. My dream journal is now 60,000 words, 200 pages—the ideal length of a young adult novel. It takes place over 4 years when I started putting it online instead of on paper. I can look back and see patterns, watch premonition dreams unfold, see precognitive dreams serve as beacons in my waking path, track beginnings and endings of relationships, heed clear warnings, know who needs me to contact them, know what subconscious material needs unraveling, see what is happening communally and globally, understand how I may serve that communal need, and just plain see worlds with so many colors and sensations that don’t exist here.

The other bonus is if you work with your images, even the scary ones, it’s like you graduate to a new level. I used to have dreams of people chasing me, but once I learned how to turn and face those images in the dream state, the scary image would fizzle out and be replaced with a comedic, non-threatening being. One I distinctly remember was this terrifying clown coming at me with a knife. I remembered to turn and ask, “What do you want me to know?” The clown turned silly, folded himself up into a jack-in-the-box and said, “That you must turn and ask that question.” Then he sang a silly song and disappeared. I can’t remember the last scary dream I’ve had and that one was several years back. I’m convinced it’s because I faced my fearful images.

And that’s what dream tenders do. They help you dialogue with your images in the waking hours so that you may learn all those parts of yourself trying to communicate with you.

Fascinating. I can’t wait to see what I learn next.

Posted in co-creating, conscious living, creativity, dreams, friends, healthy living, imagination | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments