Thursday, May 28


As an undergraduate student of anthropology I could not grasp the concept of the potlatch ceremony. Potlatch, or "give away," is a grand ceremony which generates much praise and prestige for the party giver. This concept is still shared by many indigenous cultures in which family leaders host a feast that takes them most of the previous year to create. This feast is then shared with the rest of the community.

I'm reminded of Gatsby, a man who threw lavish parties and expected nothing in return, a concept very much like a potlatch. However, he was seen as weak, as nouveau-riche. He was taken advantage of by insouciant yet arrogant old-money guests until he lost his life in a case of mistaken identity. Ah, such is life in a culture that prizes accumulation of wealth over its redistribution and reciprocation.

I remember the pictures in my anthropology textbook of piles and piles of bear skins, of drums, endless baskets of food, goods, clothing, and the ethnographic stories of countless dances and shows. Sometimes these ceremonies were highly competitive contests where the recipient destroyed the gifts being exchanged. I could not wrap my head around the idea that redistributing the wealth would make a person appear more wealthy and prestigious in their community. How much faith does a person have to have in the abundance of all things to give away so freely?

In our culture, "give away," is associated with fear, with lack. One hundred and eighty degrees from potlatch is attach -- where wealth & status are based on what we accumulate. We have learned from our ancestors before us to give away the things we least desire, things no longer useful and call it "charity." We give away our trash and our scraps, yet we expect abundance in return. I have never realized how incongruent that way of thinking is until this moment.

For the last week I have connected more to my garden, to the vibrancy of life in the spring. Life moves very fast in the garden. It is a great place to connect to the flow of life. When a plant such as a zucchini fruits, you must pluck it and eat it. If not, it will rot on the vine, or rot in your refrigerator. The garden never stops growing. It grows, bears fruit, dies, comes back, bears fruit again in an endless cycle.

Last year I had a beautiful crop of lettuces. It was my first crop, very abundant. I prospered, overflowed with lettuce. I did not pick it. Every day for a week I stared at it wondering, "Do it pluck the leaves, or pull the whole plant? I don't know." So I left it, (probably went to the grocery store and bought lettuce). When I came back it had flowered, which I found out makes the leaves bitter. Still not plucking or pulling, I came back even later to a bed of lettuce covered with bugs. They had waited for me long enough.

In previous centuries, indigenous tribes lived within the vibrant cycle of life which we are now removed from in the abundance and prosperity of our wealth of goods, shops and access. I've always thought of faith as something very ethereal. However, when I consider the garden, faith becomes very nurturing because I know the plants are coming back, I know the sun will shine tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then the next day.

Monday, May 25

Awakening with Confidence

It's a beautiful New Mexico morning. Morning Star Venus woke me up this morning, no really, she shined so bright in my window this morning that I had to open my eyes to see what light burst into the room. I awoke to a midnight blue sky fading into early morning. When I walked outside the birds, wow, loud and strong, so many different voices. I kept walking. Soaking up their vibrancy for life at such a young hour of the day.

The momma raven is so busy this weekend. She flies into the tree and out of the tree and skims by the window on her way. She is teaching me tenacity and the truth and focus of being a mother. Of doing your job with fire and strength. Of exchanging love and focus with the work at hand. Her work with her chicks this spring is almost done. If you look high up in the pinon tree you can see them, three, maybe four, flapping their wings, gathering the confidence to take flight.

Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. The word itself connotes flying high, strength, truth, not looking back in a way that will take you into a downward spiral. Julie Andrews just popped into my head -- the song she sings in "The Sound of Music," as she carries her guitar down a tree lined lane walking with her head up high, swinging her guitar -- convincing herself at every step that she is worth it that she can handle the job at hand that she has been called to do. This image helps me to see that confidence is not something that can be planned out in the brain. You cannot convince yourself that you are confident. It's got to come through in choices and actions, and as my friend Scott just pointed out, being consistent with them. There's a moment in the movie when J.A. gets to wrought iron gate and sees the mansion and the music stops. For a moment she gasps out of fear, out of the task at hand, whatever it is, it takes her out of the moment. As soon as she starts singing again, "I have confidence..." she slowly pulls herself back enough into the present to remember that to experience the confidence she must move through the gate.

Movement, flow, water, that's what it takes to build confidence. I mention water because it is the world of emotion. If emotions are stuck and are holding us back, you know the really yummy ones? I do. Fear. Lack of confidence.Blah.Blah.Blah. The list goes on and on, confidence will be placed in the bin of procrastination. At this point exchange becomes very important. Replace the negative thoughts with love, humor, laughter, joy, the list goes on. The more I practice exchange in this way the more beautiful, expansive words come up. The more I realize that my thoughts are my choices and I strengthen with every exchange, through love, that part of my mind that has to figure everything out. Exchange. Exchange. Exchange.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking that the raven is lucky because she doesn't have to deal with a mind ruled by logic that wants to use the blocks to convince herself she's not good enough. Then I remember that as a member of the food chain Ms. Raven has many more problems than I. There's a conundrum here I just realized that has to do with the raven as a member of said food chain that has to live day to day watching her back -- dare I say, in survival mode. Yet as I watch her do her job with consistency -- bringing her chicks food, watching out for them from treetop perches -- I connect to her power and --when I breathe into it -- can feel how spirit flows through her. She is connected to nature, to the universe in a way that is the very nature of thriving. The chicks have the same innate survival skills ready in the wake and with practice, consistency, they will fly into the oneness with the rhythm of life.

Saturday, May 23

Trusting the Evidence

New Mexico is vibrant today with thundercloud skies and bursting new life in the plants and animals. Thirty-three of us have gathered for a holiday weekend retreat, some old friends, some new. We are here to meditate on, what it means to thrive, on connecting to the land, and to the brilliance of spring renewal-- of raven baby chicks ready to fly the nest any day now, of new baby lettuces from the garden. There's always a little bit of a "Big Chill," quality at these retreats -- people gathering from New York, LA, Chicago, Texas and places in between. Some I haven't seen in a while, others whose names I am just learning bear timeless faces I feel I've known forever.

What has come up very strong for me since I've been here is to understand -- and FEEL all over my body and know in my heart that the universe will provide for me. Here is the deal: I have so many blessings in my life, yet I still struggle with the same old tired mindset that exists in survival mode. As we began our discussion yesterday I compared myself now to myself in the past, "I'm doing better, therefore, I am thriving? My garden improves every year. I feel more balanced between the ranch, the healing business, mothering, writing.

The challenge with the thriving or surviving question goes back to exchange, faith, and worth. In survival mode the mindset is about getting: I need more money, I need to get this or that done, I need to treat my body better, I need to do more writing. Whatever the need is, it is dominant.

So how do I trust in the abundance in my life? How do I trust in the faith of the concept of give-away -- that the more I give, the more I get? That it will continue when I'm not focused so much on what I need and instead focus on what I love to do? Well, that is why I am here this weekend, surrounded by people I love, that have chosen to be here this weekend to explore these same lessons of thriving over surviving and other lessons about the land and what it teaches us.

Wednesday, May 20

The Evidence of Things Not Seen

David Elliott, in a recent series of blogs on his blog, eloquently pieced together the unseen world of worth and exchange with a poignant metaphor. He says (and I paraphrase), "My job is to be awake. My employer is the Universe/Spirit/God who makes direct deposits of grace through spiritual energy. The currency Spirit uses is grace. The benefits in my job are compensation and health." He also says, "The ATM is your heart; open your heart and ask it for guidance."

I began to look more closely at my relationship with exchange a couple of weeks ago when I first heard David say, "The Universe is your employer. How are you going to show up?" Those words nearly shot me out of my seat. It was all the evidence I needed to honestly look at my relationship with exchange. I had no idea at that moment that the Yellow Brick Road would connect my relationship with exchange directly to my relationship with faith.

I have been the estranged mother who checks in with my daughter, Faith, as little as possible -- knowing that she is fine without me. Knowing she is doing better than I, that she gets what she wants and she does it with such freedom that I wonder if we still have anything at all in common.

When I catch myself from that downward spiral of fear and despair I remember what Faith and I do share in common -- our similarities lie in the realm of spirit. "The evidence of things not seen" has always eluded me. I want visuals! I want garden fairies glittering in the twilight. I want a cryogenic Walt Disney to art direct my life.

Maybe I don't need him after all. I realize that there IS a place where I can see and FEEL the evidence of things not seen. It's in my self-worth. When I measure my worth against others it feels sticky and slow - like taffy. By trusting and strengthening my intuition and staying awake on the job, the spiral changes directions. It moves up and out -- expanding into the ever growing network of healing. The lenses of my eyes are cleaned by Faith, my loving daughter who forever sees my truth and my true worth.

Tuesday, May 12

Outgrowing the Facade

I got big lessons about self-confidence, exchange, worth, and value last week at Healer Training. I'm taking the class again many times this year as I will be teaching it at the ranch next year. Last week was the first time David asked me to speak on my experience with exchange. Each time I have taken the class before I remember feeling very fuzzy and sleepy on the second day, uninterested in whatever David was speaking about. I though it must have been my lunch settling into my belly. I realized this time that the inability to focus had very little to do with the lunch I carried and much more to do with the topic at hand: exchange.
There has been much confusion for me throughout my life about the difference between being generous and being clear on exchange. The confusion here for me is a boundary issue and it is one that I am working on right now very diligently. I can even pinpoint the moment when the boundary gets unclear. Growing up I had a couple of what I thought were witty adages which turned out to be weak survival skills, things like, "fake it 'til you make it," and "it's all in the facade, you've got to create the facade," meaning -- create the image you want of yourself (on the outside) with its firm foundation of fear and a lovely sheen of syrupy fake positiveness. Then pray like hell it sticks. The boundary gets unclear when I can't let go of the identification with the syrupy fake positiveness of my past. "I want to be everything to everybody. I want to be the ultimate people-pleaser in the world. I want to make everyone happy, then I will be happy, right?"
Here's the point: decide what the exchange is and stick to it. What matters is clarity. I can say, "I'm going to give away my services for free because I trust that I will be provided for,"(which would say volumes about my self worth) or I can say "I'm going to charge you one thousand dollars because that's what I'm worth." Clarity happens before the exchange takes place, not after. It is important to honor my decision in what I am comfortable with and not change it in the moment because I've made assumptions that by waiving my worth I am helping another. Without the fortitude of standing by my decision about the exchange at hand, those undesirable emotions of anger,frustration, confusion, loss of self-confidence that happen by trying to make everyone else happy will be there after the exchange takes place.
A lot of my fear and insecurity in exchange relationships has been around wanting to stay positive and in the feelings of abundance. Yes, it started in the past with the "facade." Then when books like The Secret and the Law of Attraction came out it forced me to question what I knew about being positive. To be positive, yet do it in a real way. Once you've lived in the "facade," real feelings of abundance and trust can feel like mockery. Thus I have often felt an imbalance between the joy of giving with a generous heart and the fear of someone taking advantage of me. Hence the question: How do I balance being generous, open, and trusting that the universe will fulfill my needs with grace, without having that lingering feeling of fear in the back of my heart ? The answer is faith.
Faith has never been my forte. There's a Bible verse on faith that reminds me of my mom because it was one of her often repeated proverbs. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." I have ignored the word FAITH until now. I never understood how it could move mountains. I'm a visual learner so, "evidence of things not seen," never worked for me.
When I try to understand this verse I feel like I've been called to the top of a great mountain to answer to an ancient seer who is giving me a riddle wrapped in a conundrum that holds the key to understanding the universe. To rephrase, I'm trapped in a bad Woody Allen movie in the 70's, or worse, Logan's Run. It is a riddle I must answer or the end will soon be eminent.

Wednesday, May 6

Creativity Oasis

Jill Allison Bryan came to the ranch last week for a weekend of creativity. What does a creative coach do? She has mnemonics and supportive perspectives on getting into the creativity groove. Things like, instead of "I have to work on my story," say, "I'm going to play with my characters."
That's just one example that I can think of off the top of my head. It was much more than that. Jill has a very nurturing and gentle spirit that invoked our imaginations to play and dream and write these experiences in songs or poems or express them visually. Jill provided a space where we could tap into that KID-thing-- of having fun and not judging the work, of remembering that we are here to have fun with this painting, gluing, sculpting, writing; our goal is not to enter it into the next Whitney Biennial. We all went into our own corners and created and played in whatever way we chose in the moment with no plans for progress or achievement.

The breathing meditation earlier that morning happened during savasana of our yoga practice. We gathered on the upstairs porch of the yoga studio overlooking the courtyard. The three birds that live in the nearby tree chirpped loudly in what seemed like a neighborhood quarrel over tree space. During the breathing we connected to the birds and the strength of their voices, especially one very loud bird (probably a Blue Jay), which could have been percieved as annoying considering this was the relaxing period of our session. I felt the energy intensify when the group accepted and even took on the power of the birds. When the session ended it left the group energized and more connected to the peaceful and non-judging part of us that enjoys creativity with the eyes of a child. We spent the rest of the day coming together for moments and then drifting off alone - the ebb and flow of a very generous weekend of love, laughter and play.