Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Relationships

This Christmas evening I sit with two books in front of me.  Both have some elements I felt called upon to share.  Both have to do with relationships.

The first is a book I received as a gift from a friend in the mail only a few days ago.  It is called The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.  Mark Nepo is the author and the book is designed so that the entries are dated and start with January 1st and ends with December 31st.  When I first received the book I read the current date and then went back to my birthday to see what message I would find there too.  

Synchronicity stepped in on the night of December 23rd.  I was taking a bath in an attempt to ease the horrible cramps and back pain I was experiencing.  Pain and not feeling one's best can sometimes trigger other emotions and thoughts that are not the most positive or helpful.  In that frame of mind I was having some trust issues be re-stimulated.  On my way to the bath I had grabbed my new book.  Once in the hot water I flipped to the entry on December 23rd. 

Here is what I read:

A Surety of Roots

You didn’t come into this house
So I might tear off a piece of your life.
Perhaps when you leave,
You’ll take something of mine:
Chestnuts, roses, or a surety of roots. 
-    Pablo Neruda

“Perhaps the most stubborn thing that keeps us from knowing love is distrust.  Certainly, we have more than enough reason in our world to be cautious, alert, and guarded against being hurt or taken advantage of.  But the fact remains that in spite of all the new and terrible stories that we pass on at parties, there is no other doorway into kindness and all its gifts but through the gentle risk to open ourselves, however slightly, and try.  The question we must ask, that I ask myself every day, is which is more debilitating: to be cut off from love or to be scarred by the pain of being hurt?

What made Neruda, such a great poet is the largeness of his heart, and through his large kindness, he suggests that giving heals and that until we step into that space between each other and try, nothing can happen.  But once we do, giving and receiving become the same, and we all grow stronger for going there together.”

  • Center yourself, and bring to mind three small gifts you are will to give away.  They may be tangible or symbolic or gestures of kindness.
  • Wrap each gently in your breathing.
  • Bring these gifts with you into your day.
  • Before you come home, give them away.

I was a bit stunned that my thoughts about not trusting had been greeted by this very strong message that distrust keeps us from knowing love.  My heart and my head rolled this passage over and over again.  I knew there was great truth in this message and I thanked the Universe and Great Spirit for sending it to me. 

The second book that had also leapt out at me at the last minute is one called Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Gregg Krech.   This is how the book begins in the Preface:

“In 1991 a movie was released called Defending Your Life and starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep.  The story line centered around several characters who died and were transported to a temporary location where a decision was made about their future.  The purpose of this place—which was a rather comfortable, almost resort-like city—was to give people who passed through a chance to watch film highlights of their lives.  They had a chance to defend their conduct and the choices they made while alive, and subsequently a final decision was made about their future.  They might be sent back to earth to ‘try again’ or, if their lives were generally laudable, they would ‘move on’ to some higher form of existence.

What I found most interesting about the film was the idea of stepping back and observing your life.  In 1989 I had the opportunity to do just that for the first time, at a center located amidst the rice paddies in rural Japan.  It was a Naikan center.  The work Naikan means literally looking inside.  In the fourteen days I stayed at the center I spent about fifteen hours per day watching the films of my life run across the screen of my mind’s eye.  Prior to this experience I had been to dozen of retreats and spiritual conference.  I had spent at least one week each year on a solo trip in the wilderness to simply be quiet in nature.  I had meditated in forests and at Zen monasteries for days and weeks at a time.  Yet I had never really stepped back from my life to simply see how I had been living.

The process used at the Naikan center was very structures.  I reflected on the relationships with nearly all the key people that had played an influential role in my life.  In each case I looked at three aspects of that relationship:  What had I received from that person.  What had I given to that person.  The troubles or difficulties I had caused that person.  I sat on Japanese-style cushions and faced a blank wall in order to limit outside distractions.  Except for the time it took to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom, I did little else for two weeks.  In some ways I resembled the characters in the movie I have referred to, except that I had the opportunity to do this –fortunately—while I was still alive.

During my time at the Naikan center I had doubts.  Why spend time reviewing my past, when there was so much to do now?  Why spend time considering the troubles I was causing others when I was already striving so hard to be a good person…Notwithstanding my persistent questions and doubts, I persevered each day with the review of my personal history, as far back as I could remember.  As the days passed, I began to understand what was attractive and uncomfortable about Naikan.  Naikan involved self-examination; that is, we examine our own life, not the actions of others.  How often is our attention wasted on judging, criticizing, and correcting others while we neglect that examination and lessons of our own life?  While we can never know the actual experience of another, we know our own experience intimately.  While we can do little or nothing to control how others treat us, we can do much to control how we treat others.  And while we are often powerless to impose our choices on others, we make choices about how we shall live, moment to moment, day to day.  Examining one’s own life is profoundly sensible, though not necessarily comfortable.”

In a section called Intimate Attention author Gregg Krech has this to share:

Relationship as a Vehicle for Training

Henry David Thoreau knew how to live alone.  Really alone.  A few of us may set up solitary housekeeping in a parcel of unexplored wilderness, but the vast majority will choose, and be chosen by, intimate partners.  Such choices may be temporary, or…well, actually, temporary is your only option.  These relationships are the graduate school of self-development.  They provide us with the sharpest tools, the heaviest weights, and the thickest texts.  They push us to our edge, stretch us beyond our limits.  They may wing us on a pendulum from ecstasy and joy to the farthest reaches of pain and grief.”

Please Remind Me
By Gregg Krech

Please remind me of why I am here
when I am somewhere else.

When anger stirs
over unwashed dishes,
unkept promises,
and unpaid bills,

Please soften my heart
and remind me
of why I am here.

When frustration is triggered
by the same argument
for the hundredth time,

please tame my words,
deepen my breath,
and remind me of why I am here.

When my attention is drawn
like a magnet
to myself—
my needs,
my wants,
my comfort,
my pain—

please blink my mind
and allow my eyes to see
into the heart of another,
that I may attend to their needs

and bear their pain
and be dissolved
into the reason I am here.

I know that reason
Yet, so often,
I find myself somewhere else
and forget.
So please remind me.

Lastly I want to return to The Book of Awakening and share the passage from September 20th called Unconditional Love.

“Unconditional love is not so much about how we received and endure each other, as it is about the deep vow to never, under any condition, stop bringing the flawed truth of who we are to each other.

Much is said about the unconditional love today, and I fear that it has been misconstrued as an extreme form of ‘turning the other cheek,’ which to anyone who has been abused is not good advice.  However, this exaggerated passivity is quite different from the unimpeded flow of love that carries who we are.

In truth, unconditional love does not require a passive acceptance of whatever happens in the name of love.  Rather, in the real spaces of our daily relationship, it means maintaining a commitment that no condition will keep us from bringing all of who we are to each other honestly.

For example, on any given day, I might be preoccupied with my own needs, and might overlook or bruise what you need and hurt you.  But then you tell me and show me your hurt, and I feel bad, and you accept that sometimes I go blind to those around me.  But we look deeply on each other, and you accept my flaws, but not my behavior, and I am grateful for the chance to work on myself.  Somehow, it all brings us closer.

Unconditional love is not the hole in us that received the dirt, but the sun within that never stops shining.
    • Center your self and consider a relationship in which you have recently endured some pain in the name of love.
    • As you inhale deeply, consider the conditions that keep your pain unexpressed.
    • As you exhale deeply, consider ‘being unconditional’ as a bringing forth from within, rather that the enduring of what comes from without.
    • Enter your day and consider ‘bringing forth who you are’ in the name of love.

    Unknown Author

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    A beautiful song and video to inspire you mid-week.  

    You are bountiful, blissful and beautiful. You are.

    Music - Bountiful, Blissful, Beautiful by Bachan Kaur


    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine ~ Doc Martens and Motherhood

    Come visit my We Are All Meant to Shine!column in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine
    and be inspired by the writing of
    Corby Caffrey-Dobosh and her article called

    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ Lissa Rankin on The Shocking Truth About Your Health

    "Promoting health without encouraging others to seek wholeness is an exercise in futility.  Not until we realize that our bodies are mirrors of our interpersonal, spiritual, professional, sexual, creative, financial, environmental, mental, and emotional health will we truly heal."
    - Lissa Rankin

    I received an email from writer and artist Sark in which she excitedly shared the following:

    So often what comes out of scientific studies can be confusing, conflicting, or downright scary.  Well, today I heard something FABULOUS - straight from science!

    My dear friend, Dr. Lissa Rankin of - a brilliant, creative and succulent Medical Doctor - has found scientific evidence to prove that creative health is every bit as important to your body as good nutrition, daily exercise, and regular check-ups.

    It supports what I've taught for YEARS - expressing yourSELF creatively isn't just some fun luxury pastime. It's vital to living a healthy and joyful life!

    Sark then went on to encourage other to watch Lissa Rankin present at a TED talk.  I had heard of Lissa Rankin and I think I had even visited her web site, but watching her talk on health was really powerful.  I also happened to love that she encourages people to live "authentic lives full of mojo."  Gotta love that mojo!

    Here is an introduction to Lissa Rankin as seen on the TED Talk web site ~ "Lissa Rankin, MD is an OB/GYN physician, author, keynote speaker, consultant to health care visionaries, professional artist, and founder of the women's health and wellness community Discouraged by the broken, patriarchal health care system, she left her medical practice in 2007 only to realize that you can quit your job, but you can't quit your calling. This epiphany launched her on a journey of discovery that led her to become a leader in the field of mind/body medicine, which she blogs about at and is writing about in her third book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013).

    She teaches both patients and health care professionals how to make the body ripe for miracles by healing the mind and being healthy in all aspects of life, not just by promoting healthy behaviors like good nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep, but by encouraging health and authenticity in relationships, work, creative expression, spirituality, sexuality, finances, and living environment. She is leading a revolution to feminize how health care is received and delivered by encouraging collaboration, fostering self-healing, reconnecting health care and spirituality, empowering patients to tap into the mind's power to heal the body, and encouraging women not to settle for being merely well, but to strive for living vital, joyful, authentic lives full of "mojo."

    When not spreading the word, she chills out, paints, does yoga, and hikes in Marin County, CA with her husband and daughter."

    Learn more about Lissa Rankin on her web site called Owning Pink and without a doubt watch her Ted talk below regarding The Shocking Truth About Your Health.

    "I believe that true healing lies in changing your beliefs and tapping into your inner healer.  I also believes that you can’t hand your power over to a doctor, therapist, coach, or other practitioner in order to live a truly vital life. As a patient, you are an equal partner in the seat of honor at the healing round table, where your voice must be heard."  -Lissa Rankin, MD

    Once you watch the video share your thoughts. 

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ This is the Year of...

    In October of 2008 I attended my first Cosmic Cowgirl event.  It was the Bountiful Conference and really I had no idea what attending that one conference would lead to and how it would alter my future.   Now it wasn’t like everything fell into perfect place and I immediately began to follow my true purpose.  There were some bumps along the way, in fact on my 40th birthday in April of 2009 some news made me feel that my world was crashing down around me and there were some very tough days from that point forward.  Yet, even through that year, which was one of my own dark nights of the soul, Cosmic Cowgirls was one of the things that sustained me.  It was a combination of both the amazing women I had met, but also just knowing that something like Cosmic Cowgirls could even exist.  I was sustained by knowing that there were women from around the country and even overseas, who were connecting and creating a circling tribe full of artistic, creative, passionate, loving, inspiring, kick-up-their-boots hootin’ and hollerin’ kick-ass wild women.

    I have learned so much from the classes I have taken with Cosmic Cowgirls.  One of the biggies is about the power of intention.  In 2010 as things in my life were healing and as I delved back into participating more with Cosmic Cowgirls I attended the member conference and then I took the class called A Year of Great Promise.  Meeting in person with some sister Cosmic Cowgirls was good for the soul and during our time together we contemplated what we wanted to declare for that year.  What I ended up declaring for myself was that 2010 was the Year of Passionately Embracing My Soul’s Creative Calling.  We also shared something we were going to release and my personal declaration was “I release perfection and embrace myself with Grace and Love.”  We created collages and special containers to hold our dreams and goals for ourselves for the year.   The course called A Year of Great Promise was really powerful and by the time the course ended I had about a 15 page document that detailed my vision for myself and the life I want to lead. 

    The art collage I created in 2010.

    Somehow in the beginning of 2011 I did not make a statement for the year and now I see that I was pressing forward with continuing as I did in 2010 to embrace my creative calling.  I joined the Cosmic Cowgirls 6 month long Leading A Legendary Life course in 2011, which was a big dream for me.  Again the work completed led me to feel more confident in my artistic abilities and to gain more clarity on the personal legend I am creating. 

    A week ago when I pulled out the letter I had written to myself back in 2010 I knew immediately what my 2012 declaration would be and without hesitation I said to myself 2012 is the year of completion and new beginnings.  I love the clarity that I have this year, but don't be disheartened if that is not the case for you.  It can actually be fun and interesting to still be in the place of figuring it out and exploring what you are wishing for to happen next. 

    As I write this Mojo Monday post I am realizing that I have not yet considered if there is something I wish to release and embrace this year.  The first thing that comes to mind is the fretting I have done over friendship these past few years.  I experienced some shifts in friendships that put me through a great deal of distress for a few years.  I think it has taken this much time to get to this place and makes it possible for me to say that I release those former connections with great love and I embrace knowing deep in my soul that though I am imperfect and may make mistakes I am a loving and good hearted friend who cares and loves deeply and never intentionally hurts others.

    My letter I wrote to myself in 2010.
    Before I bid 2011 goodbye I will write myself a letter and I will create a new piece of art that will represent my intentions for the new year.  

    Consider what your heart and soul wishes for you in the new year.

    Join me in making your own declaration and then make the time to go through your own creative process of expressing that declaration. 

    Maybe you want to create a collage or paint the vision you hold for yourself. 

    Another possibility is to write a poem or take some photographs that capture your intentions.

    Also is there something you wish to release and in turn embrace? 

    I hope you’ll share your new year declaration and your plans for releasing and embracing.   

    If you need time to think it through, explore it this week and come back and share what arises for you.

    One other great lesson I have learned is that there is great power in speaking aloud one’s intentions.  One can gain strength from sharing such things within a community or a circle.  

    I offer that this is a great place to be witnessed and heard.

    With Love and In Support of Your Intentions,
    Michelle (aka Red and Ida Shine!)

    Some other things to explore as you ponder your dreams and goals:

    Oprah’s January issue that is just about to hit the stands has a great article by Martha Beck called You Can See Clearly Now.  She takes readers through a clarifying process of really determining what one wants.  She breaks it down into the four P’s: Pushback, Possibilities, Preferences and Pinpointing. In the simplest terms Pushback involves figuring out what you don’t want. Martha describes it as the “bitch and moan” portion that allows you to figure out that you no longer what to do such and such or no longer want to be with so and so.  The next step of Possibilities involves beginning to use your imagination to see past what is no longer working for you.  She describes Preferences as being the place where you start to notice which possibilities leave you feeling intrigued, curious, and a bit lighter.  When you get to the Pinpoint part this is when you are finally reaching clarity on exactly what you want.  You are envisioning it and can then set your intentions on achieving it.

    There is a great book called Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  I was given this book a several years ago by the fost-adoption agency I have worked for for nearly 8 years now.  When you buy the book new there is a sealed envelope in the back that when opened provides you with a key to enter into an on-line personality test.  I was really blown away by the accuracy of the results.  The exam identifies your strengths and can be a tool for some people to use in seeking their path in life.

    Lastly for fun you can always check your numerology and see what personal year you happen to be leaving and which one you are about to gain entry to in 2012.  Supposedly we go through 9 year life cycles.  2011 was a 9 year for me which means I am at the end of a cycle.  Entering into a 1 year in 2012 means I am embarking on a new cycle.  A common description of a 9 year is that this is your year to finish up all unfinished business, to clean house and make room for new things.  In short the 1 year is described as follows: You are starting a new nine year Epicycle. Everything you do now will affect your future. Do not hold back the inner force of creation. Be direct, daring, bold. You will have more confidence and determination this year, particularly in comparison with last year, which was a time of letting go. This year represents a time of birth. It's a time to take charge and to apply yourself to your dream.

    Two sites that offer free numerology readings can be found here:

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Mojo Monday ~ The Good Places of Friendship

    A friend of mine gave me a copy of this very powerful article about friendship by Belinda Recio.  It appeared in the November-December issue of a publication called Spirituality Health.

    I love the deepness of the following passage:
    "In such friendships, the friends understand and accept the imperfections of the relationship, themselves, and each other.  They accept the risk of betrayal because they understand that the seed of forgiveness is contained within the betrayal."

    Here is a copy of the entire article. 
    (Note if the text appears too small you should be able to click on the image to see a larger version)

    Recently I had a friend contact me to talk through a situation she was experiencing with another friend.    This friend has done the same for me in the past when I was working through and processing some difficult terrain in a couple of friendships.

    I am not a friendship guru and I have made my own mistakes for certain, especially when I was going through some tough times and in a depressed state of mind.  

    I didn't want to give "advice" so all I shared was something along the lines of this:

    1) we can own our part of things 

    2) we can sincerely apologize if we know we have hurt or offended a friend

    3) we can make efforts to express our desire to continue to be friends

    4) we can do things that make us feel good about our friend and the friendship - such as sending cards, emails, little gifts.

    There are also things that we have to realize we can't control though.

    1) we cannot control how they take things (we all have our own perspective that will color how we respond to situations)  

    2) we cannot control if they accept our apology 

    3) we cannot control if they will accept us back into their heart 

    4) we cannot control if they treat us differently  

    5) we cannot control if they do not wish to remain friends 

    My friend wondered - what if this friend won't take her apology to heart?  I said that is the hardest part about relationships, not having any control over how someone takes something or if they don't want to remain in a relationship with us.  I shared that if her friend had been in another mind set and was perhaps in a better place in her life that the comment made would not have fazed her one bit.  I added that her reaction is more about her friend than what she said.  I also knew that what she said was done with concern and love, not with an intent to hurt or criticize.  There is a big difference between the two I believe. 

    What do we do if a wall is built and a heart is closed to us?  We can either hang in there hoping things will change.  What if it doesn't?  Is there ever a time to walk away?  I don't know the answer to that.  Sometimes the answer may be yes.  I recently saw this quote "Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it's better to leave them broken than try to hurt yourself putting it back together."  ~Author Unknown.  Perhaps as it proposes there are times when it best for one's own happiness and mental health to walk away and just let it be. 

    What are your thoughts regarding traversing difficult times in a friendship?  

    Do you have any words of wisdom to share?