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

the applause-o-meter: deserving, loving, fantastic, powerful, amazing

How much do you like yourself?

No, I’m not talking about narcissism: an inflated sense of self-importance where a person has an excessive need for approval, believes others’ feelings are of no import, is unable to handle criticism, and flaunts personal power and privilege. Rather, I’m talking about how you reveal your over-all well-being and optimism through your energy: feelings, thoughts, words, and actions.

Liking or loving yourself during the holidays can be an incredible morale booster, attitude adjuster, and life “just as it is” acceptor.  In general, you need to be your best advocate or cheerleader first, applauding all you are. If you don’t like yourself very much or have times when all you can do is criticize, most likely, you won’t be a glittering advocate. Your heart has grown tight. Think Scrooge! Soften your heart and see the true YOU of love!

Underneath the illusions or stories that your ego wants you to believe, you already are, in this moment, deserving, loving, fantastic, powerful, and amazing. Shifting your thoughts in this way will help you align with a greater energy so that you are clear about the most important qualities of life: love, optimism, and gratitude. You don’t have to bake forty varieties of elaborate cookies and bars (excess), to have the most powerful snowblower (competition), or to be the star community volunteer (glory, so others are aware of your presence) to like or love yourself.

You may not have realized that you have developed certain habits: automatically blaming yourself, jumping into conversations without listening to those around you, or immediately redirecting conversations through self-referencing. If you are having a hard time facing awareness of challenge areas, ask a trusted friend to describe you. Are you someone who is the first to show lovingkindness or a curmudgeon, always raining on someone’s parade? Hearing from someone you trust will help you begin to open to your shadow side. New heart awareness leads to change.

Everything that happens is meant to happen. If you don’t like what is happening or how you think or feel about what is happening, you have the power to invite a different perspective. Louise Hay, founder of Hay House Publishing Inc. and author of eleven plus metaphysical books, talked about this concept in her collaboration with New York Times best-selling author Cheryl Richardson, in You Can Create an Exceptional Life (2011). The degree of liking or loving yourself is key to how you experience life and to the quality of energy that others receive from you. It is up to you.

I decided to try a technique developed by Hay called “mirror work.” The main idea is whenever you pass or see a mirror or any object that reflects your image, gaze into it. The mirror may be permanent or portable. In fact, a portable mirror may be better because you can repeat positive statements at any time, in any location, and when you feel you need the practice most.

Next, say aloud “I love you” with feeling. Say it several times or decide to add other positive statements about yourself.  “Hi, Gorgeous—you big hunk! Wink, wink.” Don’t be shy! If you set an intention that your words reflect your truth, all the better; however, you may feel like you are only reciting or offering lip service. That’s fine, too. The main thing is to create a habit of praising yourself (aka your higher Self, one in the same) in front of the mirror. Over and over and over again. Engage in this practice for thirty days.

In the beginning, I felt awkward and a bit self-absorbed yet was determined to give this exercise an honest try. I’m not sure that I believed it would make any difference.  Ego kept badgering me: What will people think when you walk by a restaurant window and they see you talking to yourself—and you don’t have earbuds? Or, better yet, walk by a window that reflects outdoor seating, and they HEAR you???

Often I was project-focused and forgot to acknowledge my image, especially when I frequented the bathroom. I dutifully returned to the mirror and made my exclamations (I wasn’t about to sabotage the experiment by not upholding my part!). By the end of the first day, I felt lighter and less prone to restating my thoughts. By the end of the week, I felt more energetic and I smiled more. Paul thought I was more loving and calmer.

I haven’t finished week two yet, but am looking forward to seeing what happens with a greater softening of my heart. How freeing is the feeling of an expansive heart. Who knew? Join me! The process is so simple and costs nothing. Stay tuned.

From a higher vantage: Try a little “mirror work” and see how it changes your life. A bonus is that this work not only raises your personal vibration of love, it augments the overall vibration of the planet. It is the gift that keeps on giving year ‘round.

©2019 in the thick of things

a flash of awe

Long ago and far away. Freedom from allegiance to Britain. Freedom of common defense. Freedom of friendship among states to include assistance to each other in times of disagreement based on unlawful authority, religion, or trade. These freedoms—taken from specific Articles of Confederation—are part of the Declaration of Independence, officially signed on August 2, 1776. This is our nation’s 243rd birthday celebration.

Amid fireworks that symbolize these outward freedoms, guaranteed in writing, let us acknowledge that, individually, we can take the initiative to pursue an inner freedom from personal distress and pain. Yes, it is possible to experience less stress, pain, and heartache.

Ancient wisdom suggests we create this downward spiral for ourselves. How? By expecting more: more experiences, more options, more knowledge or more “stuff.” The choice of “more” often derails us from dealing with the truth of our challenges. We believe we are effectively becoming more aware yet, we are simply chasing illusions.

When we meet with what we do not expect or want, (terminal health prognosis; a lesser job, no job, or forced retirement; unrequited love; or the struggles of raising a differently abled child), we dig in and oppose. Then, going beyond the initial resistance, we end up fighting what comes to us, “what is.”

It is this internal battle that increases our distress and deepens our unhappiness. Resistance may show up as doubt, insistence of preferences, negative thoughts, a constricted or tight heart, or the belief that we know all the answers.

Spiritual teachings share: “There are four unavoidable physical sufferings: birth, old age, sickness, and death. There are also three forms of mental suffering: separation from the people we love; contact with the people we dislike, and frustration of desires.”

There will always be life challenges—that is the nature of impermanence and humanness. They will never go away. We never will completely solve all problems—not that we should stop trying—yet a more expansive viewpoint could be helpful. Turning to acceptance, the absence of negativity, we begin to be aware of the things we need to release. We will be fine without them—quite possibly, we will live even better. Coming to terms with this revelation is not always easy.

Seeking the little things that bring beauty, pleasure, and connection with a cause greater than ourselves, encourages us to breathe and be in harmony with life. Observing nature, feeling exhilarated from an invigorating walk or run, reconnecting with friends, hearing the story behind a stunning piece of artwork, writing, recreating a family heirloom recipe, or experiencing heartfelt music transcend the mundane.

We experience awe in the moment, no longer overthinking a situation. We accept just this moment, even though it may seem like a limitation. Up close and personal. Within all the freedoms we currently enjoy, we seek some freedom from our situation. Some form of beauty, some small thing that resonates with our heart. We focus and are grateful, stretching out this feeling of beauty and gratitude until we begin to feel calmer and more aligned within. A greater energy moves in, around, and through us.

This is not about “the situation”; rather, it is about each moment that comes to us, as it is, in the thick of things. How do we handle those moments? We practice glimpsing one, small instant and finding awe in it. Gratitude will naturally follow. Then, it’s choosing to find beauty in each moment, over and over, until answers are made known to us.

From a higher vantage: The more we accept the moment, the more stable we are emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. We feel freedom from much of life’s drama and welcome less personal suffering. We are safe and deeply loved.

© 2019 in the thick of things



A family gathering: Rushing to get there. Rushing to be together. Rushing to take time. Destination: Calgary, Alberta, to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Paul’s Mom. Over fifty family members and friends would honor the family matriarch and share stories. The busyness of the last three days was equaled, and eventually transformed, by the rushing waters of Fish Creek Provincial Park. I entered the peacefulness of nature. Red-leaved bushes and swooping, white-tipped tailed and winged Magpies echoed the freedom of the wild, the unknown. The refreshing sounds and sights beckoned my attention—a type of Pandora’s Box that was forever changing, unlike the hidden and forbidden contents of the myth.

Curiosity growing, I became the red leaves, the gracefulness of black and white birds with negative reputations. Movement morphed into questions. Would I find the area where, three years previously, Black-Capped Chickadees fed on seed from my human hand? Would the early mountain snowstorm quietly, yet assuredly, define every inch of surroundings? Is there an advantage to contemplating death while out in the very nature of life? Other than at death itself, do the questions ever stop? Does the inner work ever end? My best guess is that I’ll always be a work-in-progress (WIP).

Life and death are complimentary partners. Inseparable, they have similar characteristics of accompanying the soul into the unknown, of exploring its purpose, and of extending love throughout the universe. Yet there are moments of drama and resistance that continue to plague my thoughts and emotions. Part of me is still trying to be someone or something. It is then that I feel there is a lot of surrendering to be done. Pushing and striving do not serve me. Rather, continuing to understand my experiences as illusions and non-essential frees more space for what really matters—the automatic knowing of unconditional love. What I know, I live and share.

Fluid connection and integration with the energies within and around me lead the way to an automatic knowing in my heart. This automatic knowing equates to the feeling that overcomes me while listening to a concert of professional musicians intersecting interpretation, rhythm, space and resonance, creating a peak experience. The giving and receiving between us leads to an upward spiraling oneness of unconditional love, unexplained by words.

However, while trying to be someone or something, I am unable to feel this connection of unconditional love. Striving is unnecessary because Source already knows my essence to be unique. Further striving creates separation from Source. To be ordinary is to be whole and complete, as created. Content with oneself. The higher realms pose this reality. I understand this principle, yet I hear Ego screaming, What do you mean, be ordinary?! You grew up encouraged (OK, pushed) to ‘make something of yourself’—be different, work harder, be better! This was also your mantra in life’s middle years. Now, in your later years, you want to give up on that? What a disappointment you are! Those words pierce my heart. They don’t describe my truth as I’ve come to know it today. They are just one of Ego’s ploys–stories I’ve heard repeatedly from parents, teachers, and bosses—a familiar societal rant. Really. I don’t have to try to be someone or something. I am worthy and perfect in Source’s eyes, just as I am.

Continuing on my walk in the park, I could recall few people over my lifetime that I would define as ordinary. One does stand out, only because everyone else at the time was trying to differentiate. Mary, my neighbor of thirty years ago, seemed to be content with life and had no need for striving. She and I got together to talk two or three times a week while our kids played on a swing set or devoured a yummy picnic lunch. I remember Mary most vividly because she did not worry about her two-year-old daughter or four-year-old son. She knew that her husband would always be a successful business person. She accepted the blight on her tomato plants, the Boxelder bugs that swarmed on the south side of her home in the fall, or the winter’s snow and ice. Diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, Mary had received a terminal prognosis of six months. Although extraordinary in her courage, what impressed me most, as I think back to our time together, was her acceptance of the ordinary within the present moment, something that I had no understanding of at the time. Not once did she pity herself. Without even trying, she was the strength of love, compassion, and connection. Oh, to remember these gifts among the living from one who was dying. As we are in life, so we are in death. Mary transitioned with great peace of mind—she knew her truth—and I am grateful for a deeper understanding of those shared moments.

Another question that comes forward from Pandora’s Box is “What do I celebrate in death?” Certainly the beginning of another cycle of rebirth. Preceding this celebration is the role model in death that we become to our family members, friends, and community. That is worth considering. By going inward, in advance of our compromised health or journey of dying, we realize what is important to us, how to make known our voice, and what we want others to remember. It is our exclusive deathright to decide how we want to die and what we want others to know about that time in our life.


Walking along the park trail, I noticed the fluffy seeds of the thistle that are controlled by the timing and conditions of nature. This is a perfect metaphor for our dying and death experience. Our thoughts and feelings, directed by something unseen, yet felt, need to be thoughtfully expressed, not repressed or controlled by others. These expressions work to our advantage while we have the beauty of a sound mind. We, like the seeds, have no control over whether our thoughts and feelings fall on open or closed hearts, on fertile or infertile ground. Why not role model openhearted communication to share our legacy that lives in the moment, yet becomes a gift to generations?

Pandora’s Box is nearly empty with the fullness of self-understanding and gifts from the life-death cycle. Together, we share oneness of destination, framed by unique style.


Inwardly speaking: Have gratitude for questions posed, life and death explored, and insights learned in this lifetime.


© 2015 Barbara L. Krause