Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mojo Monday ~ Releasing the Past

"Removing an arrow/error like believing your past 
was the BEST and your future is less bright, 
is easier said than done, if you know what I mean. 
We get a LOT out of holding onto the the things that harm us, don’t we? 
I know as long as my past is better than my future, 
I cannot call in the future that is mine from a pure heart, 
or as Dr. E puts it: 'clean, calm, clear heart'." 

~ Shiloh Sophia McCloud 
Sharing from her experiences at 
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes' 
SoulFire Vision Quest in June 2012

The past can be an anchor holding you back.
When I read the words above that Shiloh Sophia McCloud wrote they literally leapt off the page at me. Fairly recently I had found myself in a bit of a funk and during this time frame I also happened to flip through some old photographs.  Some were of my days of living and traveling in Europe.  Others were of me in my college days and with various friends sharing fun experiences.  I found myself wistful of my youth, my courage, my appearance (one that required I work out damn hard to achieve), my freedom and some of my relationships.  The words Shiloh wrote spoke to me deeply though.  At the age of 43 was I really ready to declare the best years of my life were over?  Was I really thinking that nothing fabulous would/could happen that might make those experiences of my twenties and thirties seem small in comparison?  When had I grown so disillusioned, jaded and skeptical?  Was I going to throw in the towel and live my life talking about the good ol' days and the "remember whens"?  Heck, I had to admit that I was falling into that pattern.  

Recently I also made some observations about we humans.  I saw first hand how easy it is for we humans to hold onto the past in a death grip of remembrances, and not in a good way.  It is fairly common for people to keep track of the hurts and the ways we have been wronged.  I make no judgments of this tendency, because most of us have been there at some point or other, and according to psychological research it is now believed that it is in our human nature that bad events wear off more slowly than good ones.  Here is a quote from an article called Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall by Alina Tugend, "As with many other quirks of the human psyche, there may be an evolutionary basis for this. Those who are 'more attuned to bad things would have been more likely to survive threats and, consequently, would have increased the probability of passing along their genes,' the article states. 'Survival requires urgent attention to possible bad outcomes but less urgent with regard to good ones.'"

I have personally experienced my own propensity to remember the bad, as well as witnessed that of others. I have found it sad to observe once close and treasured friendships crumble because of one or two negative interactions, in spite of years of wonderful times spent together.  I have also witnessed someone complaining and talking about their resentment for events that took place 30+ years ago.  Yet reminding someone that those events are far in the past, cannot be changed and really don't have to affect them in their current life, isn't often productive.  You can't make someone else see through your eyes how they are allowing their old resentments to steal their happiness in their present life.  Again I don't judge anyone that is stuck in such a place.  There is a time when it might be necessary to delve into the past in order to really get the muck out and heal it.   When Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant teamed up earlier this year Iyanla stated that in order to heal our pain three things to need to happen, we have to feel our pain, we have to deal with it (really deal with it) and then we can heal it.  Feel, Deal, Heal.  She also bluntly told a former addict that while he was no longer using drugs and drinking alcohol that he was now addicted to his story and that he needed to move on because he was the only one standing in the way of his happiness. 

I am also here to share that Cosmic Cowgirls has a secret weapon when it comes to transforming one's pain and past into glitter and gold.  The remedy is art and writing one's Legendary Story.  All of our lives offer us up the most wonderful material for a kick-in-the pants, rollicking, roll-in-the-hay read.  That bar fight you had back in 1995, don't you dare leave it out, and your stories from when you raced wild with a roller derby team called The Angry Beavers will be sure to have your readers staying up all night.  If you danced in a cage or on tables in a bar tell us all about it.  Perhaps you lived in Europe and had several foreign lovers. we are getting to some good stuff.  Yet, there are the tougher stories, perhaps the boyfriend or husband who cheated and left you for Paris Hilton.  There might even be tragedy, the fiance who died in a car accident or the abusive childhood you survived.   All of these provide you with a champions story and the back story to who you are today.  If you have any doubts about that one pop on over to Effy Wild's blog called The Glitterhood and begin reading her powerful and moving mini-memoir. 

As we are beginning our Legendary journals over at the Red Key Vision Quest consider what stories you have to tell.

Is there something that you first need to feel, deal and heal?

Do you feel addicted to any of your stories that are causing you pain and keeping you from moving forward in your journey?  (feel free to share or think about privately)

Which stories or experiences of yours first come to mind when you think of the word Legendary?

With love and encouragement to shine, shine, shine!

** Mojo Monday was born in May 2010 and has been featured on Cosmic Cowgirls Rodeo of the Soul since that time.  Mojo Monday offers up inspiration, interesting ideas, questions and more to get our week off and running.  We like to gather around the campfire and share  our stories and our experiences with one another.

In 2011 Steph Cowling who currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, joined the Mojo Monday team and inspired us all for a year with her incredibly thoughtful writing and her beautiful photography.  Fortunately you can still find her writing in her column Soul In the City in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine.

This year the inspirational Trish O'Mally is co-facilitating Mojo Mondays with me.  Her writing carries magic within it and if you attend a Cosmic Cowgirl Conference you may get to experience her gastronomical brilliance as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mojo Monday ~ The Red Key

The tribe I call my own, Cosmic Cowgirls, is offering an invitation.

This is your invitation to open the door of the heart with the flaming red key of possibility! 

How would you feel if you could take charge,
ad of letting life happen to you? 

If there was a place to express your TRUE voice now instead of later. 

to change how all of this is landing in your heart, your life, your spirit?

Maybe you are saying…I’ve heard that before
Painting by Shiloh Sophia McCloud
I want to live my true authentic self. Whoever that is… Life is too precious to live an unexpressed life. But I don’t really KNOW what my path is or where it leads, OR how to get there. I’ve tried change before and it didn’t stick. How is this going to be different?

Many women say that this work that we offer is just what they have been waiting for all of their life. A true connection. Belonging. A place to express the songs and images within them. You are a choice that you get to make. What it is you want to say, be, cause, create, manifest? How you want to experience your life and how it occurs for you? And you are right, it is not easy to do it alone and that is WHY we are doing it together, as a tribe of women who are TOGETHER committing to a life path of sacred work that reflects who we are instead of living a life that is not consistent with us. Why would anyone keep living a life that does not reflect who they are? Because many of us don’t know where to turn.

Now there is a place to turn, and something to turn it with – a magical red key that lives inside the heart – a key that belongs to you and your very own muse.

Are you, like so many of us, feeling:
• life is passing you by and your life didn’t turn out the way you wished?
• are living like you are dying instead of living like you are living?
• you would like to be creative, feel that you are, but tell yourself you don’t have time?
• there is no creative spiritual community you can truly call home?
• that the voice of the critic is your own voice, and you believe her when she says: you’re too old, you don’t have time, you’re not smart enough, not creative enough?
What if we told you all of those were lies?

Come learn more about this journey that begins June 21, 2012 at:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mojo Monday ~ Fierce Women

Fierce Women
Some years ago at a work training about self defense for women, the instructor asked the group what they would do if they were attacked.  A couple of the women in the room, shook their heads and audibly said things like "I don't think so" and "He'd get a face full of my fists," but more comments were about screaming for help.  The instructor listened to these comments and then said "Now what if you had your children with you and this person was going to attack you and your children?"  My, oh my, the room erupted in a cacophony of women stating very firmly what they would do to protect their children. When they quieted down, the instructor then asked "Why would you scream for help and not take any actions to defend yourself if it was just you, and yet fight to the death to defend your children?"  

Now of course it is hard to really know how we will react in such an extreme, adrenaline rush of a situation where we actually believe our life is being threatened, but it was a fascinating question.  Why would some women turn into a big mean mama bear to protect their children, yet not do the same to protect themselves?

Personally, I am a peace loving person.  I don't support war.  I cannot watch flagrantly gorey and violent movies.  Just watching pretend situations where people are cruel, hurtful or inflicting pain on other people disturbs me.  I also don't think that revenge or retribution is productive, but rather only leads to more human misery.  When I read stories of people who rise above and forgive others I am deeply moved.  (You can find some amazing stories of forgiveness on the web site called The Forgiveness ProjectHowever, if you give me a scenario where someone is intending to inflict violence upon a loved one, I know without a doubt, that I would turn into a fierce fighting warrior.  I have had a few experiences in my life where I acted to protect others, without even considering the consequences.  My instinctual nature was that strong.  

Juana Galan, fighter in the Peninsular War in Spain 
There is something fierce about a painting of a woman holding a club.  The story about the woman featured in this painting is also quite dramatic.  Juana Galan is her name and here is a version of Juana's story as reported by Wikipedia: "At twenty years old, she was considered the best informed woman of the village, because she worked in a strategic location, the first tavern in the village.  On June 6, 1808, in the battle in Valdepeñas against Napoleon's troops, there was a lack of sufficient men to defend the village, so she encouraged women to go out and fight. The other women poured hot water through the windows and boiling hot oil on the road, while Galán was armed with a baton. She took to the street to fight against the French cavalry. Through this battle, the French army abandoned the province of La Mancha and was delayed at the Battle of Bailén, which ended in victory for the Spaniards."

My friend Susan Apolonio shared this painting and a brief introduction to Juana's story.  Susan had gone on a little road trip with me and my sister Wendy and during our adventure she also met one of my sister Cosmic Cowgirls, Ti Klingler.  Ti regaled us with the amazing experiences she had been having in courses she is taking with Mama Gena and her School of Womanly Arts.  When Susan sent me this image she shared that there was something in the eyes that reminded her of Ti and that I could pass it along to her.  After forwarding it to Ti, who I might add, works as a church secretary, yet is also adorned with body art and has the sassy Cosmic Cowgirl handle "Sugar Bitch," responded that she actually keeps a baseball bat behind her desk and calls it the security system.  

This story and the image led me to reflect on our identities and how we are more than what meets the eye.  It is both an exciting prospect and yet can also be disconcerting.  In the "disconcerting and disturbing" column you might find the example of the neighbor being interviewed by a camera crew because the house next door was discovered to have harbored a serial killer or a gangster.  The neighbor shakes his or her head in disbelief and stammers, "But he was such a quiet and pleasant man."  In the "exciting and interesting to discover" column you perhaps learn that a mother that you befriended on your children's kindergarten trip is also a novelist and that you share many fun interests in common.  

People who know me are shocked to hear my story of how at the age of ten years old I watched as a man walked up to my father at an outdoor wedding and proceeded to punch him in the face with a fistful of quarters.  A brawl broke out and in the midst of seeing my father covered in blood and fighting to defend himself, I then spotted an older brother of mine about to be attacked and have his broken leg kicked by someone.  I  blacked out and went on the attack myself and punched the adult male who was about to injure my brother.  I punched him so hard in the face with my hand that was encased in a very hard cast, (I happened to have a broken hand), that I not only knocked him down, but also broke his nose.  Who knows what might have happened to me if other adults hadn't some to my defense when the guy got up back up holding his nose, but threatening to harm me.  Later on I had no recollection of my actions and only knew what happened from stories of my fierce defensive reaction.    

Later in my teen years my dad confronted two teenagers trying to break into my sister's car at about 4 am.  The two young men were mouthy but took off.  They returned though in about 10 minutes with a larger group from an all-night party.  My dad, not one to take lip from some teens, went back outside to talk to them.  What he didn't realize at the time was that some of them were hiding bats and pipes behind their backs.  I looked out the window, took inventory of the situation, and yelled for my mom and sister to call 911 and grabbed our well-trained doberman pinscher and headed out the door to back my father up.  Our fierce dog immediately had an impact.  Most of the teens backed up and made comments about the dog who was snarling and barking at them.  I could also tell they were having second thoughts about their actions when I started commenting that I recognized some of them from my high school.  I really don't know what would have happened if my dad had remained outside by himself.  He could have been beaten, or worse.  Fortunately, some of the teens were probably already nervous about the situation, and between the threat of the dog and being told the police were on the way they all departed.  About a month later though we learned that the ring leader of the group in front of our house had been arrested for murder. 

My last tale of fierceness occurred when the abusive ex-boyfriend of a roommate came to our house.  He had actually come into the house and was upstairs.  He became verbally abusive to another roommate and I thought he was going to hit her.  Without thinking I threw my arm in front of the roommate to protect her and closed the gap between the abusive boyfriend and myself, so that I was in his face and poking my finger into his chest.  I was livid and I backed him down the staircase, my finger continuing to hit him in the chest as I told him in a loud and threatening voice to get the fuck out of my house.  I think he was in shock at having a woman be so aggressive with him that he started blabbering about it being his ex-girlfriends house too and that he was there to see her.   I told him that she only rented a room, and that I and my parents owned the house and that he needed to get the fuck off my property right then and there.  As he backed out the front door and down the porch steps and tossed out a few more expletives and yelled that was  never, never return to my house again.  Later on after the adrenaline had worn off, and we had reported the incident to the police, I shivered and considered what could have happened.   In the heat of the moment though my fierce warrior self had risen to the occasion.  

There is both darkness and light in all of us humans.  We can be complex creatures and our emotions sometimes get the best of us.  I know from experience that when push comes to shove I too have the ability to be a bad ass.  I prefer the peaceful path and using reason and understanding to deal with situations.  I certainly hope that I am never again put in the position where I have to physically defend myself or a loved one.  Yet I must admit that I stand a little taller knowing I didn't play the victim role and that when necessary I stood my ground and called upon my inner fierceness.

There are other times, much less dangerous, where I have also felt fierce.  I definitely felt fierce when I went skydiving.  There have been times when playing sports that I have felt tough and strong.  Sometimes I equate my resilience through difficult personal challenges with an inner fierceness too.  

I find stories of fierce women to be inspiring.  In college one of the papers I loved researching and writing was about Native American women warriors.  When I heard stories about Cosmic Cowgirl and artist Sue Hoya Sellars and how she rode a motorcycle through the streets of San Franciso decades ago I was incredibly impressed by her fierceness.  How about women like Amelia Earhart who dared to do things no other woman had ever done before?  

Consider ways to get in touch with your own inner fierceness.  What might you dare to do that scares you a little, or a lot?

What are some ways your fierceness has expressed itself?

Have you ever had to stand your ground in a difficult situation or confrontation?  How did you handle it?

Come on, tell the truth, are you a bad ass?

What is the most fierce thing you could think of doing right now?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mojo Monday ~ Spirit Essence Portrait

Spirit Essence Portrait painted by Melissa Harris for Michelle Fairchild
Melissa Harris is an artist I have long admired.  I have followed her work for over 12 years now.  She is one of the artists that makes me go "Wow!"   

Melissa features two web sites of her work.  One is focused on what she describes as Melissa Harris Fine Art and the other is called Creatrix, A Division of Melissa Harris Art Enterprises.

She has the most amazing series with such titles as Empowered Women, Women and Magic, Women and Love, Women and Nature, Women and Meditation, Women and Dreams, Women and Cats, Cycles of the Moon and Mermaids.  

She has created two inspirational decks of cards. One is called Goddess On the Go and the other is Anything is Possible.

Melissa's creations while focused on her amazing paintings also often offer up her gifted insight and healing thoughts.  The messages in her gift cards are often poetic and powerful.  

Her art, which is sometimes available as prints, candles, jewelry, tshirts and more make very thoughtful and beautiful gifts.

For many years I have longed to have her do a Spirit Essence Portrait for me.  This year when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday it came to me to finally get this for myself.  I even offered to split the cost with him.  Melissa asks for a photo of the person and then asks the person to include some questions she/he would like answered.  Here is how Melissa describes the portraits on her web site:

Have you ever wondered what aspects of your being would reveal themselves to a psychic or "intuitive" and what these qualities would look like in a painting?
I combine my background as a clairvoyant with my artistic abilities to create your own spirit essence portrait. I will tune into you and do a 7" x 10" watercolor painting of your unique essence as it appears to me in a semi-trance state. I then combine the elements of what I find into your painting in a way that will be helpful for you in your path of development. For example, this might include reminders of issues you are working on, aspects of yourself that you may want to honor, patterns of behavior that you are working on changing, etc. I never know. These are just some examples. The session takes 75 - 90 minutes and you receive the double benefit of learning what I "see" as well as owning a Melissa Harris original painting.  

When I received my personal painting that is featured above I was so very moved by it.  Melissa included a cd on which she recorded her message to me.  It was incredibly thoughtful and intuitive.  At one point I found myself tearing up even as I was so touched.  

Here are several more of my favorite Melissa Harris creations:

Anything Is Possible

In Your Power

Queen of Hearts