do you look and see?

I can see it in your eyes, my Grandma Millie said. Let’s find something else to do. How did she know that I, at the tender age of eight, was bored with playing dominoes? I wasn’t interested in building necessarily and setting up a chain reaction with the thin, black blocks was entertaining for only so long. Clearly, my grandma was not only looking, she was also seeing. Directed by ego, looking is taking in and processing surface information through what can be seen (form). Seeing is relying on a higher vantage to interpret the information taken in and to understand the spaces between words and pauses accompanying actions (formless).

It has been said that your eyes are mirrors of your soul, your inmost thoughts and feelings. Your eyes reveal what is true for you. Researchers say that your eyes are the only part of your brain that is directly exposed to the world. Pupils can dilate or constrict, yet you cannot control that process. It is a natural reaction that is dependent on strong feelings or reactions to something that is said or seen. The limbal ring, the dark circle around the colored iris, likewise is affected by strong feelings or reactions. You may also position your eyes in a certain way as you speak. Gazing upward may mean you are thinking or creating mental images. When you glance sideways as you are talking, you may feel uncertain about what you’re saying.

And while your eyes are unconsciously showing your inmost thoughts and feelings, you are also learning about the feelings and thoughts of others. From a noticeably young age, as early as seven months, babies tune into social expressions, conveyed mainly through the eyes and mouths of their parents and those around them.

Through socialization, you learn to read emotions from another’s eyes and surrounding muscles. Examples include eyes that narrow, meaning questioning or doubt about something said or done and eyes that widen, indicating surprise or disbelief. Many other emotions are also revealed. Additional research verifies that when a person is near another like-minded person, tandem dilation or constriction of pupils occurs. This eye language is a way to gather information—a filter—when you’re looking. Keep in mind that the language of the eyes also applies to animals and nature.

Now, more than ever before, being together while wearing masks and remaining physically separate poses many challenges. It is essential and valuable to look at people’s eyes as windows to the soul, whether they peer over masks or are part of a Zoom interaction. What can you learn about their thinking, emotions, and preferences? However, there is more to it. Do you just look, or do you also see?

I have had many opportunities recently to look at eyes and collect information. These first examples are from my extended family. I looked as glee registered in the eyes of my youngest granddaughter (2) as she ran from her papa who was trying to corral her for a diaper change. Or, notice the ease, yet determination, in my middle granddaughter’s eyes as she (nearly 8) sang “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music.  Or, watched the enthusiasm and pride emerge from my oldest granddaughter’s eyes as she (11) offered an interpretive reading of an early chapter of her original manuscript, Dueling Diaries. I gathered the information and mentally tucked away the emotions in my heart.

Going deeper—seeing—to interpret what was behind those emotions in running, singing, and speaking, I saw so much more in their eyes. I witnessed the spirit of freedom, the challenge and poise of getting to know your own voice and sharing it, and the gratification of creativity resulting in form. Do you just look or do you also see?

Outside of the family, I recall looking at the unmasked, yet safe-distanced eyes of the candidates of the first 2020 presidential debate.  I looked and gathered information from Joe’s eyes: honesty through direct gaze, indicating  America has “gotten more divided, sicker, poorer, and more violent” under the current administration; substance rather than force, yet backed by experience and a plan to expand Obamacare; and compassion, focusing on Americans’ guaranteed right to vote in-person or by mail-in ballots.

Donald’s presence offered mixed messages: As he looked sideways, rarely at the audience, his voice was forceful, out-of-control and condescending. His words were sweeping generalizations: “weeks away from having a vaccine,” “schools are teaching students to hate America,” and “I left the Paris Accord because it was a ‘disaster.’” His eyes narrowed as he leaned on the podium and began his flippant ridicule of Hunter Biden being kicked out of the military due to cocaine use, and the later military reference to Joe’s deceased son as a “loser.” I also saw false innocence and contempt in his eyes as he spoke fear-inciting words, refusing to denounce White Supremacists’ actions even when given an opportunity to do so. He also insisted that voters watch for fraud at polling places.

Again, seeing by going deeper, I understood the emotions underlying Joe’s honesty, substance, and compassion. I sensed truth, direction, and capability. In the case of Donald, the underlying concepts that emerged because of his lack of leadership details, accusatory positioning, and consistent bullying allowed me to see only fear, mockery, and lies.

It would have been interesting to be in closer range to observe any changes in the candidates’ pupil size and the size of their limbal rings as they spoke. Clearly, they were not like-minded, but they may have had tandem pupil reactions to the frustrations with each other and the process.

From a higher vantage:  Look, yet also see. Deeper understanding helps you to build more stable relationships at all levels. Faces, whether masked or not, are dependable sources of eye language. Look at someone, further seeing that individual. What resonance, insights, or connections do you experience? Interpretation is furthered by intuitive tools. May you sense that there is always something beyond physical appearance that leads to greater awareness of the whole.

© 2020 in the thick of things

a new path is unfolding

So many losses! Deaths. Vanished livelihoods and businesses burned to the ground.  Misunderstood and thwarted equal human rights for every individual. Food and product shortages. Upended finances. Waning health insurance. Evictions, fear of rioting, or living out of cars on a Walmart parking lot. Uprooted rules due to COVID-19. Weather calamities. Presidential election rhetoric. Truth, support, and dignity? Amidst all this chaos and upheaval, this impermanence, this uncertainty, how do you live from the perspective of your higher Self?

By definition, higher Self is that unseen, inner voice that has been with you and loved you throughout eternity. It is valid, but not necessarily understood. For some, acknowledging the existence of a higher Self may take a lifetime, if it happens at all. For others, believing in the power of this energy is too risky and might upset the status quo, so only minor attempts are made. Then there are others who have accepted their higher Self, learning that this decision is not for the faint of heart. Trusting the unseen is not always comfortable and involves choosing to face all aspects of your life, especially the undesirable. However, should you choose this courageous quest, know that the more you engage with your higher Self, the more stable and content you feel. Acknowledging, believing in, and accepting your higher Self increases personal inner strength, happiness, and resilience. A stronger, happier, and more resilient society and universe follow. As the saying goes, What do you have to lose? Think of the gains! Right now, you are at a vital crossroads.

Start by getting comfortable, slowing down your breathing, relaxing your entire body, and setting an intention to welcome your higher Self. Rise above the layer upon layer of racing thoughts that continuously try to consume you. Ah, your heart rate begins to drop. Although you believe that you need to control your life to avoid worry of not surviving, fear that there will not be enough, or loss of entitlement, that is not the case. Control is simply an illusion. Remember the times when you thought you had everything planned to the smallest detail—only to encounter a circumstance that altered everything? Your decision to sense an energy greater than you are—to be more than you can be on your own—bolsters confidence and lessens resistance. Trusting the unseen becomes plausible. Senses that you relied on for decision-making can take a break.

Your higher Self knows what to do when you allow it to lead you. However, this is not the norm; people are used to being led by ego. At  first, opening to the unseen may seem counter-intuitive, feel strange, or strike you as insane. Of course, others may label you as daft, but no matter. That’s only a word. How can you compare that to the opportunity to invite an energy that is all-powerful, proven, resides everywhere, and is always available to work on your behalf? Has any other invitation satisfied so many dilemmas? With your higher Self, live the moments. Do not insist on immediate answers or fulfillment of specific expectations. This change in thinking will take trust and commitment. Seek or create harmony where you are. The “how” of a new path is unfolding.

A sampling of questions, based on current observations, that may lead to engaging your higher Self…

Question:  Given the last six months have heightened your focus on death as part of life, has your thinking changed?

Comment: Yes, there is no denying that death is challenging to face and carries with it a void that changes your life. Death has always been with you, but how have you responded to it along the way? Death is more prominent now because of Covid-19, and unfilled time magnifies death’s impact on your mortality. Yet, this opportunity to ponder your own death could be beneficial. Working through options gives you peace of mind and makes decisions easier for your surviving loved ones. You may not have all the answers, but keep patiently exploring the moment at-hand without resistance—fear, hate, doubt, denial, or complacency.

Question: Since you had no control over the pandemic or rioting and looting, how can you move on with life despite altered or destroyed livelihood?

Comment: There are no easy answers. People pull together. Out of times of monumental change, new community and business models emerge. Ponder the possibilities for greater potential at all levels, in all things, leading to a reframed and interconnected, thriving, global society. 

Question: How can I live (hear, see, do, say) a “just like me” platform with no retribution?

Comment: As a human, being, you are deserving of functional living rights, dignity, and love. It is up to each of you to look inward, persevere, and do the right thing by others. And you know what those things are.

International Bill of Rights

  • The right to equality and freedom from discrimination.
  • The right to life, liberty, and personal security.
  • Freedom from torture and degrading treatment.
  • The right to equality before the law.
  • The right to a fair trial.
  • The right to privacy.
  • Freedom of belief and religion.
  • Freedom of opinion.

~https://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/human_rights_basics

From a higher vantage: Acknowledge your higher Self. Listen, speak, think, and act with all things from your true nature of positivity. Initiate harmony, inclusion, and good will beyond familiarity. Hold yourself accountable. Be love in all circumstances. Love. Allow yourself to be loved.

©2020 in the thick of things llc

facing the “vir”us

It challenges my core being:

All that is meaningful to me,

            All that I love,

            All that I am.

It strips me to basics and less, while insisting on more.

            Reminding me of my vulnerability.

            Revealing my dependence on the external.

            Reframing my thoughts about community.

It is at once primitive, yet sophisticated.

            Carrying with it ruthless lessons,

            Defying medical knowledge,

            Creating opportunities (when taken) for being and sensing differently.

Virus, you depend on me to thrive. And I am designed to thrive also!

I consider its layered impact, the sound of it. I feel expulsion on my breath. Virus. 

Based on the Sanskrit word “vir,” the meaning is to overpower.

“Vir”us: overpower us.

NO!

            I use common sense and follow health mandates, overpowering statistics.

            I turn toward uncertainty and release panic, overpowering trends.

            I embody love, I love, and I am loved, overpowering fear.

Each day I set an intention to flourish as I…

            Align with an energy greater than I am.

Know that I am safe, no matter what life brings to the moment.

Love myself as I am, including the parts I don’t like, transcending illusions.

Soften without insistence of “my way.”

Notice when and where I tighten, so I know relaxation.

Observe my ingrained habits with patience and kindness.

Realize that the virus is not discerning: it wants what it wants.

I always have choices that help me feel comfortable and connect in community.

Do I live realizing that life consists of both pleasure and pain? Then my heart is big enough to comfort others.

Do I own and work with my unresolved issues? Then I can help others with resolution.

Do I accept that life is unpredictable, and that resistance makes things worse? Then I am ready to encourage others to flow.

I face the “vir”us, a transformation of life.

From a higher vantage: Five months have challenged me to ponder what really matters in life, to weigh if my values and beliefs on all levels are true or out-of-date, to cherish all connections, and to seek shared aspirations in social and community issues. And that’s a good thing. 

© 2020 in the thick of things

appearance or fact?

Higher Self, the inner voice of wisdom in each person, notices that Ego, the inner voice of habit and self-preservation, is aligning with fear based on appearances.

Ego: I just can’t stop thinking about Covid-19. If body contracts the virus, it will be the end of me. I want to live forever!

Higher Self: Everyone has an expiration date.

Ego: It seems like everyone my age who gets the virus, dies!

Higher Self: Sounds like you are identifying with fear based on illusion.

Ego: Well, it seems true to me.

Higher Self: Remember the big teddy bear you played with when you were younger? Some days you played with him only a short time and then plopped him on a chair in your room.

Ego: Yes, those daytime play hours were happy.

Higher Self: Then came bedtime and lights out. Suddenly, your teddy bear became a big, scary monster. You lay there with wide eyes and a vulnerable, pounding heart. You could taste F E A R.

Ego: Ohhhhh, I couldn’t get that monster out of my head. I was certain that something dreadful was going to happen.

Higher Self: Well my friend, that was an example of fear based on illusion or appearance. Moonlight shining through your window played tricks on your mind, creating shadows that deceived you. The monster was not true. It was an illusion you believed was true.

Ego: I was sure that monster in the chair was real and would devour me. But how did you know? Were you there?

Higher Self: Of course, I was there. Remember, I am a voice within body, just like you. Getting back to what you reasoned was a monster…thoughts, feelings, or actions also can be misleading. For example, maybe you thought a negative look was intended for you. Or, you felt a family member was not telling you the truth. Or, you believed that someone was trying to take something of yours, like heirloom jewelry or a favorite memento. You must decide if what you think, feel, or see involves fear based on illusion (appearances) or fear based on truth (fact). They are quite different.

Ego: I think I know the difference between appearances and fact. I’m not stupid!

Higher Self: All I’m saying is that when you are emotionally upset and experiencing an uncertain environment, day after day, it is easy for fears to creep into your mind—illogical fears, ones based on appearances. For example, maybe you read something on FaceBook that mentioned new symptoms of the virus. Suddenly, you felt all those symptoms! Certainly, something dreadful was going to happen. Are your feelings based on appearance or fact?

Ego: I hate to admit that you’re probably right. I guess my fear is based on faulty reasoning, the illusion that what happens to others will happen to me.  So, how do I begin to override fears based on appearance?

Higher Self: Approach your fears, rather than run away from them. When coping with something that you’re worried about based on illusion, recall this simple sentence: Face everything and recover. Face the reality that the virus is part of your environment, that you are not immune to it, and that, currently, there is no vaccine for it. Yet also remember that the virus does not kill everyone who contracts it. These are facts. Although many have died, and it may appear that you are next, this is an illusion. Continuing to follow safe protocol minimizes risk, a way to recover or keep your health and sanity, one moment at a time. Think of fear as an acronym: F.E.A.R. and what each letter represents: Face everything and recover. This is the place to start.

Ego: Well, what comes next?

Higher Self: Think about past situations in your life that you have overcome. This sets your thinking on a positive track. How did the circumstances of the events unfold? Even though you may have thought you were alone in these circumstances, an invisible energy guided you. Trust your connection to an ever-present energy greater than you. Have confidence in scientific research that confirms your body’s amazing capacity to heal. Care for yourself with gentleness and unconditional love.

Ego: I understand that looking at my past can be helpful, but what if old stories haunt me?

Higher Self: Ask whether the old stories, beliefs and values are meaningful to you today. If not, let go of them. Beginning with yourself, heal the emotional hurts of relationships with forgiveness and patience. Honor your truth by turning to understanding, rather than criticism, when faced with conflicting opinions.

Ego: Your suggestions seem challenging, especially when uncertainty is all around me. It is tricky to separate appearances from fact. I don’t usually pay much attention to you, but somehow, after listening to you, I feel soothed. When one is calm, another feels it. I’ll give you that.

From a higher vantage: You can find fear in all circumstances. Knowing if your fear is based on illusion (appearance) or truth (fact) is key. Avoid relying only on your ego for answers. Open to the wisdom of your Higher Self to experience greater calm.

© 2020 in the thick of things

overriding the undercurrent

You cannot ignore the shocking events of the last weeks in the Twin Cities. Responding to police brutality in the death of George Floyd, protestors looted, started fires, and challenged as the National Guard was deployed. Already faced with exasperating circumstances created by COVID-19, everyone has felt an added layer of fear and frustration with the unknown. Desire for stability on both fronts is intense. The undercurrent is surging.

Some of us feel helpless. Some of us look to state and national government for leadership. Some of us have taken matters into our own hands. All have been touched by shattered hopes and dreams resulting from the virus or explosive emotions. Now is the time for deepest understanding, for bringing light to the undercurrent.

All want to be understood. Each says: I am the center of the universe; yet, more importantly, all need to understand:  I am not the center of the universe. This sensitivity begins with questioning your motivations and values, examining and eliminating your judgment of others’ motivations and values, and finally connecting inclusively on all levels. Where do you start? With yourself—through individual reflection and self-care. The result is you become a balanced and thriving member of the community and use your influence for the greater good.

Anxiety and uneasiness are a constant undercurrent within your psyche, resulting in stress, nervousness, and irritability. This is understandable, considering the uncertainty around you. It seems the same questions and situations are always in the back of your mind. Will I get the virus?  If I do, will I die from it? When will I see my family? When can I be with my friends? When can I move around without rules? Will I have enough money? Is the sky falling? How will this end? Globally, all are concerned with these questions.

No one, not even the experts, can provide answers with certainty because everything in the universe is temporary. Meanwhile, you must do the best you can to live with your questions and circumstances.

Three strategies could help you invite more ease and stability into your life. First, begin to change your perception. Consider a single moment, rather than the sweeping past or the unknown future. An example is when a lighted candle is placed in front of you. You begin to watch it, moment after moment. After a while, it appears as if the flame offers thoughts. However, these thoughts mirror the meaning you attach to the moment. Will you create anxiety or stability? The flame, itself, is neutral. You can change your perception by changing how you approach each moment.

Say you have a cough. Your choice in that moment is to jump to an immediate conclusion that you have the virus and panic, inviting more worry and fear. OR, to step back and notice calmly, Hummmm, right now I have a cough, inviting ease and soothing awareness. Staying in the moment allows for greater clarity.

When you control your approach to moments, stability follows. You develop a habit of remaining neutral to circumstances as they come to you, allowing space for an informed opinion. This wider perspective—a choice—balances your feelings and tempers urgency.

Another strategy that has the potential to bring ease and stability to your life is to use your imagination. For example, imagine a scene that is very restful, like telling stories with family while watching a crackling, smoky campfire. Or, perhaps sitting with friends in front of a fireplace of muted flames and quiet embers while you share thoughtful conversation. You feel warmth, a sense of safety, and bonding. This is a type of self-care. These comfortablememories can bring a smile to your face and relaxation to the cells throughout your body. These positive images can get you through challenging times. They help to override the undercurrent.

A third strategy that could help you invite greater ease and stability to your life is to recall a common practice and give it expanded meaning. You are familiar with lightning-generated woodland or prairie fires. If you have seen the aftermath, your humanness may cause you to doubt any benefits. Yet the ground has been imprisoned by layers of plant material and stressed by competition with other plants and animals for nutrients. Higher wisdom knows these naturally occurring blazes eliminate invasive plant growth, restore nutrients to the soil, and encourage positive plant and animal diversity—in a sense, a type of self-care for balancing the land. An unspoken trust in the circle of life is part of the universal eco-system. This is the larger meaning!

Like the land, your body is also an eco-system. Weathering the pandemic, you are bound by unusual restrictions and stressed by the uncertainty of what will happen regarding jobs, money, food, relationships, or education. Anxiety and uneasiness gnaw at you. External circumstances constantly bombard. During a time of personal reflection, higher wisdom nudges you toward self-care, calm, and balance. The undercurrent responds to light.

Self-care is slowing down and turning inward to acknowledge how all parts of your body are feeling. With love and kindness, you breathe into those areas that cry out for your attention. Fewer sharp edges surround your body, mind, and consciousness. All aspects of your being begin to connect. Deep inside, you find a greater degree of acceptance and understanding. Working with that, you feel alignment with an energy greater than you are. Only external circumstances have caused you to feel disconnected. Self-care helps you to reclaim stability. With a balanced body, mind, and consciousness, you feel stable. This mindset enriches your community. Any undercurrent dissipates.

From a higher vantage: This is a heavy time of uncertainty, anxiety, and stress for everyone. Life is decidedly uncomfortable. What can you learn from these times? Offer kindness to yourself and others. Look beyond anxiety, as uncertainty will recede. A more expansive plan is in place, regardless of appearances. Recognize the stability and ease deep within you and call upon it now.

© 2020 in the thick of things

positive outcomes are approaching

Non-discriminating. Futile resistance. Complex. COVID-19. Separation and isolation have flattened the curve for the spread of the virus, yet our humanness is left confused, caught and confined. The virus has forced us into situations we could not have imagined. However, we may gradually understand the upshot of slowing down, pondering topics we have been avoiding, or appreciating the smallest things in life—all lessons in flow.

Many of us spend  much of our time resisting. Complaining. Pointing fingers. Denying. We want things to go our way, all the time. We want guarantees: No surprises. No directives. No changes. We want to be in control. However, this is not how life comes to us, and, when we are honest, we realize that life has never been this way. The pandemic underscores that life is continuously in flux. 

When we trade control for flexibility in mind and heart, we trust beyond what we can see. Allowing our hearts to be truly softened and open leads to feeling more balanced. A higher vantage shows life to be a swinging  pendulum. With patience, we stay out of fear and remain steady. We wait. In due time, the pendulum returns. Realizing that our circumstances will not remain in adversity, we hold to the confidence that positive outcomes are approaching—for all of us. Before we know it, we emerge from the chaos, intact, yet wiser.

It is undeniable that we may feel isolated, lonely, or separated from life as we once knew it, but these are external circumstances, ones that are visible.  An invisible force, Source, is in and around us. Source—also known by other names such as God, the Universe, our Life Force, or Love—is with us.

Let us trust the invisible—something that is difficult for us to do. To help with this, we look back on the milestones of our lives, circumstances that tested our existence, resilience, or relationships. More often than not, we discover that a presence we could not explain, yet one we definitely felt, was with us. Often hindsight is the perspective needed to truly recognize the influence of divine guidance. We came to this world to learn. Open hearts and minds encourage a sense of “knowing.” Recalling that Source was with us at earlier turning points in our lives, it naturally follows that Source is here with us now and will continue to be part of our journey.

Fears can hijack the best of intentions, causing us to waffle. We hold steady and trust that there is a greater purpose at hand, regardless of how things appear. During quiet moments, we allow the depths of our hearts to “speak” to us. We can handle more than we think we can. Inner strength gathers, and miraculously, we are able to bear chaos, dis-ease or other difficult circumstances.   

This is a time of calming, healing, and loving ourselves, of sending these vibrations to family members or friends, and of wishing the same to those within our community and beyond. This is hope in action.

From a higher vantage: Our relationship with Source gives us stability. Add to that, collaboration within a loving community. This is how we get through chaotic times.

© 2020 in the thick of things

root to rise

Put all the chaos in a huge drawer. Stop mourning here, yet wishing you were there. Use the present moment as a time to explore root to rise. In the yoga community, this phrase refers to becoming firmly planted in the foundation of a yoga pose so that the full posture can unfold in the most stable and solid way possible.

I first heard root to rise some years ago as a beginning yoga student in a workshop conducted by Matthew Sanford. A renowned yoga instructor, author, and inspirational speaker today, Matt was paralyzed in a car accident when he was thirteen. He broke his spinal cord, back, neck and both wrists. Although his father and sister were killed, his life miraculously was spared as a quadriplegic. He turned to yoga because he needed a way to unite the mystery of mind, body, and spirit. “It was accepting and staying open to whatever it [my body] produced – little or small, subtle or loud.” http://www.matthewsanford.com/sites/default/files/Biographical%20Interview%20with%20Matthew%20Sanford.pdf?phpMyAdmin=4qrRaMSfaJdSKnrro9UtvUEcrT1

Isn’t that where we are today during the pandemic? Staying open and accepting (to the degree we can) whatever developments are beyond our control. Allowing our bodies, minds, and spirits to adjust in ways of their own. Overriding our own fears by offering practical support to others.

Our world has been turned upside down, only this time, everyone, everywhere is affected. Many of us feel paralyzed or increasingly tightened parameters. We fear for ourselves, our loved ones, our jobs, our retirement savings, and the future. We don’t like being told what to do. Everything seems surreal. Discouragement. Despair. Defeat. How to co-exist with the global mystery that changes daily, yet is still so far from comprehension? Root to rise.

As in strengthening the foundation of a yoga pose so that the final posture is unwavering, we turn inward to develop stability, confidence, and trust in a greater energy so that we can weather chaos. The stronger the foundation, the greater the stability.

We intend that our hearts will continue to soften as we face life as it comes to us. As we remain steady, I am reminded of my grandmother’s favorite saying during challenging times: This, too, shall pass. We have time to slow down, get quiet, breathe, and rest in our sacred inner space, that deeply rooted core of  dependable comfort. This is our foundation, our offering for a stronger diverse and loving world.

It is up to us to explore the possibilities of what if during what is, in order to discover what might be—a new direction of being and relating. It is these possibilities that we bring to the collective and, ultimately, will enable us to rise together.

The pandemic is a wake-up call to look beyond ourselves to all members of our community. How can rooting during our sheltering in time help us to see differently our dependence on and need for each other? A common bond of talents, gifts, and expertise emerges as we shift to an inclusive perspective. United in hope and committed to a new way of interacting, we move forward, shoulder to shoulder. It is about community.

Why not rise above the chaos, relax fears, stop blaming others, and thank those in medical leadership for their courage, quick thinking, and selflessness? As we root to rise, we understand the wisdom in the value of the present moment and in the increasing openness of hearts and minds. We are not distracted.

From a higher vantage:

© 2020 in the thick of things

fragrances, smoke, bubbles, and sunflowers?

Ahhhhh! Glorious longer days, increasing warmth, and the promise of blossoming trees, flowers, and gardens. Our outward focus celebrates the interdependence of life, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that trust is the light by which the universe unfolds.

Four times a year, we have an opportunity to honor the gifts of nature as she flows into a new season. For many of us, the Vernal or Spring Equinox is the highlight of March. The Minnesota shuffle, five layers of clothing, and snowshoes and skis are traded for sunny dispositions, rain, and park bench daydreams.

Let our intention be to honor existence, rather than dominance; equality with all living things; and a better understanding of ourselves so we can interact with others through that increased awareness.

The Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere is a time when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of night and day is nearly equal. This balance also symbolizes new light, growth, new paths, and reflects hope in new beginnings. We look outward and soften our hearts. This year, the official first day of spring is March 19.

One of my daughters has a March 20 birthday. Jokingly, I once mentioned that Daffodil Iris might be an appropriate name for her—much to her shock and embarrassment–NOT!!! However, the story never fails to surface—and people smile.

Four energy forces within the physical universe sustain life: Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. They help us connect with nature and with an energy force greater than we are, as well as influence our personalities. When these elements are balanced, they offer physical and psychological well-being.

A short meditation guides us in honoring the four directions: north, east, south, and west. Giving thanks for Mother Earth’s gifts, we bless her as we explore how she connects us in oneness.

Let us begin. Ancient wisdom pairs the air element with the direction of the East. Air is represented by the colors of yellow or gray. This element appeals to our senses of smell and hearing.

Choose a meditation posture…Rest your left hand on your heart and your right hand on your abdomen. Now focus your attention on your breath and relax with my words:

Imagine the distinctive fragrances of Minnesota spring flowers and blooming trees: Hyacinths, Lily of the Valley, and Magnolia trees. Hear robins singing, and the delightful sounds of wind chimes.  P A U S E…

Now remember the aroma of air that is newly cleansed by a gentle rain. P A U S E…

Finally, recall the earthy scent of warm, hibernating soil that reappears after months under ice and snow. Fuse with each of these gifts. P A U S E… Feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Say thank you!

The air element symbolizes communication, intelligence, perception, imagination, creativity, and harmony. Drawn by the element of air, you open to it, praising nature and the universe. You feel these smells and sounds. Give thanks!

P A U S E.

Fire represents the direction of the South, and its color is red or orange. This element appeals to our senses of sight, sound, and smell.

Settle into meditation and place your attention on your breath. P A U S E… Now, relax with my words.

Welcome unique flames of a controlled prairie burn for new growth. Crackling, popping and smoke are harbingers of transformation and purification. A more open heart, a result of the season of darkness, serves you. Like fire welling up in you, your passion ignites new visions, courage to discard the old, and strength to understand the meaning of it all. Meld into each of these gifts. P A U S E… In tandem with nature’s gifts, you feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Say thank you!

The element of fire draws you to it, opens you, and fosters energy and creativity. Give thanks!

P A U S E…

Water represents the direction of the West, and its color is blue. This element appeals to our senses of sight, sound and touch and helps us to release emotions that are no longer useful, as we gather confidence and ease.

With your eyes open, settle into meditation and place your attention on your breath. P A U S E… Now, relax with my words. 

Imagine walking along and discovering bubbles under ice on a barely warm, sunny day. Feel yourself drawn to the bubbles, opening to them. What feelings and emotions come to you? Perhaps you are doubtful or carrying irritation or maybe you are simply remembering childhood adventures.

Sensing the flow of the bubbles, your body reaches out. You, too, want to be effortless as water. You want to flow in unconditional love, reaching places and people as you are led by the present moment. You trust an unseen energy. Like the bubbles during the spring thaw, regardless of your fear of rocky or slippery circumstances, you are guided by flow. You let go of control and resistance. Give thanks!

Now you move toward the light, softening and blending as you go. Individual energies combine in strength and harmony, expanding resiliency. Feel the Oneness. No need for striving or overthinking. Without trying, your energy influences others. Meld into each of these gifts.

P A U S E… In tandem with nature’s gifts, you feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Drawn by the element of Water, you open to it, praising nature and the universe. Give thanks!

Earth represents the direction of the North. In the spring, its color is green. This element appeals to your sense of sight, touch, and taste. Earth represents fertility, stability, and nourishment—and treats every plant as nobility.

P A U S E… Settle into meditation and place your attention on your breath. Now, relax with my words.

Remember a time when you first cared for a plant.  Maybe it was a sunflower seed that you nurtured in elementary school. You gave it special attention with nutrient-rich soil, not too much water, and plenty of sunlight. You were so proud to discover some green poking through the soil one day. And what a mystery that it happened all by itself—as if by magic! As you worked with plants during your growing up years, maybe you remember the miracles of magnificent leaf texture or bounteous fruit. Perhaps you encouraged growth with song or words of kindness, feeling a kinship with plants. Give thanks!

Yet, it might have taken years for you to realize the hidden benefits that Mother Earth freely supplied: prosperity, dependability, and wisdom. Like the plants, parented by Earth, you have everything you need inside to unfold. Your wisdom and talents, like harvested sunflower seeds, are your gifts to the universe. All are miracles.

Drawn by the element of Earth, you open to it, praising nature and the universe. Fuse with each of these gifts. P A U S E… In tandem with nature’s gifts, you feel the invitation, the richness, the Oneness. Give thanks!

In honoring gifts, may you remember

  • the interdependence of life,
  • the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and
  • trust is the light by which the universe unfolds.

From a higher vantage: As you protect, use wisely, understand, and teach the value of air, fire, water, and earth, may you feel the web of interconnectedness.  

See Nature’s beauty,

Feel her inner nudges,

Taste her mysteries,

Smell treasures in her moments,

And hear her nurturing.

Above all, witness and give thanks.

© 2020 in the thick of things

jump, leap, penetrate, and arrive with hope

February may be short, but it’s full of special celebrations: Black History Month, Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day (I call it Relationship Day), National Random Acts of Kindness Day, Leap Year, and Presidents’ Day to name a few. Who knows how any of these days may unfold or affect you, but they are perfect chances for each of us to shower some other energy with gratitude, hope, and unconditional love. It begins with us as individuals and may be initiated out-loud or silently.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Dr. Maya Angelou 

Traditionally, when February arrives, we remember Valentine’s Day. I want to broaden that to read Relationship Day with Heart. So, beyond our loved ones, what kindnesses and heart wishes do we send to someone who stands off to the side of an interstate ramp with a homeless sign, hoping for a warm meal? To a group of teenagers, both white and black, who may call us names, laugh, and use rude gestures when we pass their meeting area? To a biracial couple at a restaurant with two children, one of whom is throwing a tantrum? To someone forthcoming about LGBTQ sexuality and whose partner is need of medical care? To a neighbor’s pet who gets into garbage or hisses with raised fur and piercing eyes? Although it is impossible for us to know their exact experiences, our expanded hearts see them as worthy of love and understanding.

Some hearts are wide open, bursting with acceptance. Other hearts are constricted with full-blown aversion. We justify our reactions by thinking that homelessness is an issue where a single person cannot make a difference (denial). We pay attention to the media and side with some press coverage that states today’s youth may be dangerous and carry weapons, so our physical safety could be jeopardized (fear). We don’t necessarily stare at the biracial couple, but we whisper about their incompetence as parents (judging). Some medical professionals do their jobs (making little eye contact or feeling a stomach knot), but they have a tight heart when approaching a person whose sexuality clearly may be different from their own (prejudice). Finally, regarding animals, we don’t know how any animal will react to our presence; however, we may send kindness and loving thoughts silently as we cross the street (anxiety). Yet if family members, friends, or pets are familiar to us, we most likely would not be averse, but try to understand and support the situation.

Choices are continuously available, not only in February, but every day of the year. And, as a friend of mine who loves to play with words pointed out, “The letters O-I-C in the middle of ‘Choice’ speak volumes about the openness of a person’s heart. Not understanding this, we are only probing the dark, hoping for answers as a form of lip service. Nothing really changes.

What’s in front of you? Barriers? Ignorance? Separation? Old stories? Conflict, opinions, or silence criticize, demonstrating a tight heart. Why not change how we think, feel and interact toward others by softening our hearts? Softening means accepting; showing compassion; speaking and acting from wisdom, rather than out of fear; and extending unconditional love. It is about others, not us! Yes, we are unique, but we are not separate. We are not superior. We are not special. We are here to connect, to care for each other, and to live heartfully.  

From a higher vantage:  Begin this month to soften your heart to one relationship. Send kindness and heart wishes. Be determined: jump hurdles, leap fences, penetrate walls, and arrive with hope. Know that it is the right thing to do. © 2020 in the thick of things

each moment—more than you can imagine

Dear Reader,
2020! May it be a year and decade that brings love, clarity, new perspectives, and courage in the face of each moment. Yet, here is how the moments usually go…

During the Status Quo
• You are quick to agree completely with stories generated by ego.
• You automatically accept as truth stories read or heard from others.
• On the outside, you appear to be healthy, positive, and happy.
• So confident about life, you push it to the extreme: self-referencing, arrogance, competitiveness

After a Curveball
• You struggle, always justifying.
• You insist on your way, inviting long-term stress.
• You resist and act out (yes, even as adults!).
• So upset with life, you push it to the extreme: compromised immune system, criticism, depression, possible suicidal thoughts.

From Fear Emerges Inner Peace
• You are led into fear by a sneaky ego (personifies a habit) that fears change and desires only self-preservation. It likes power, control, and the status quo.
• Under your ego’s influence, resistance manifests as doubt, anger, comparisons, duality thinking (opposites: good – bad), escalation, and chaos.
• Your awareness to open your heart, leading to inner peace, has not yet reached the tipping point. It is more comfortable staying under the thumb of your fear(s). Defensive, you vow to cling to all that represents you and yours. Shadow thoughts, feelings, images, and actions lead, blinding you to inner peace.


Wait a minute!
Hold everything!
Is this the true you?


Stop! Your higher Self deserves greater reverence. Question the downward spiral. Soften your heart. Take time to look deeply within. Ahhhh, yes, there is another way to interact with each moment.

Without judgment, allow each moment to come to you. With the knowledge that everything is always changing, expand your heart and mind beyond the situation, beyond what ego and others say, beyond what you currently believe to be true. Acknowledge your situation with warmth and spaciousness (not necessarily easy!), knowing that another moment, full of options, is close at hand. Now you have offered an uncommon and approachable invitation to the moment, an opportunity that it will not refuse. With it, comes the knowledge of the universe. This is the true you.

During the Status Quo
• You are discerning about stories generated by ego. Stories that rely on the past and speculate on the future promote illusions. What stories support your circumstances in this moment?
• People offer well-intentioned advice; however, sometimes their ideas do not support your best interests. The most helpful feedback is that which validates your efforts.
• You’re well, happy, and accepting because your inner nature is to work with the will and timing of an energy greater than you are. Even though the universe is in continuous flux, you recognize that your inner nature is strong, light-filled, and capable of flowing with change. You feel at ease.

After a Curveball
• You acknowledge your situation, yet stop justifying and playing the role of “victim.” In small ways, you begin to accept what the moment holds. Resistance shrinks, creating opportunity for balance and increased happiness.
• You remain with that moment, regardless of how difficult or painful it is. This strengthens your heart and opens you to insights from the universe.
• Your immune system remains healthy, accompanied by uplifting thoughts.

From Fear Emerges Inner Peace
• You no longer follow your ego’s suggestions for distractions that take you away from the moment.
• Being honest with yourself, identify the stories underlying your fear(s). Hanging on to or pushing away things at will takes energy and is often painful. Flowing always trumps insisting and resisting.
• Intend to understand the stories behind your fear(s).
• You know what circumstances escalate or calm your fear(s); choose what makes you whole.
• Trust that your heart continues to open as your life unfolds; you experience greater inner peace.

You and I are community and need each other to share, grow, heal and love. As Antoine Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince, suggests, “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” It begins with a single moment and the choices you make in its presence.

From a higher vantage: In love, I look outward with you in the same direction. We are one. Blessings in the new year!

Love, Barbara
© 2020 in the thick of things