An Invitation

You can create a life you love… right here, right now.

You’re going to work with the raw material of your life… exactly as it is.

Start with a willingness to practice creating moments of
Peace, Joy, Empowerment, And love… in each day.

What would that look like?
What is peace? Joy? Empowerment? Love?
How does one live those qualities?

Peace is a deep inner quiet we each have within us, that can be accessed anywhere, any
time, by briefly pausing, breathing deeply and allowing one’s self to be still.

Joy is the exuberant feeling that comes from being aware and awake to the small miracles
and wonder of life in each moment.

Empowerment is recognizing one’s ability to take action, and taking action.

Love is making a choice in this moment to support one’s divine potential or that of
another with kindness and compassion. Love is not an adjective, it is a verb.

You can create a life you love by bringing these qualities to the circumstances of your life
as they are now. All you need is a sincere “yes” to yourself… and a daybook…

A daybook can be on your phone, I-pad, computer. It can be a big beautiful journal or a
little notepad that can be carried easily in a pocket or purse. It can be a graphic journal
where you draw instead of write.

Each day just take a moment to record:

When today did I create a moment of peace?
When today did I create a moment of joy?
When today did I create a moment of empowerment?
When today did I create a moment of love?

As you begin doing this right here, right now… your life will change and you will begin
creating a life you love.

Creativity in Bloom

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“I have come to realize . . .that the great divide is not between those who are artists and those who are not, but between those who understand they are creative and those who have become convinced that they are not. The great divide is between those who understand that their very nature is that of an artist and those who remain unaware or in denial of their artisan soul.”
–Ervin Raphael McManus, The Artisan Soul, Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art

4 a.m., Sunday morning: I have just gleefully lifted the calendar page from February to March. I have pushed the refresh button on my life!

February was month of survival. My website crashed and was under reconstruction for three weeks (thank you web wonder Colin Bondi!) We had car trouble with both of our vehicles. And both my husband and I struggled through miserable cases of the flu accompanied by colds!
1521580_10203499936364220_328891649_nBut yesterday we walked hand in hand down 5th Avenue in Portland, OR, our next-door-neighbor city. The sky was blue. Radiant sunlight bounced off the myriad windows of tall office buildings. The trees were shyly showing their tiny pink buds with the first blooms of spring.

I am ready for a spring-cleaning of my soul! I am ready to thrive versus just survive! And what that has come to mean over the past 24 hours is embracing my true creative nature. One of the most important aspects of creating a life we love is embracing our creative nature, for we are all creative. As we do, we begin living not from our lists, but from our souls.

This requires a re-commitment to caring for our souls.

“When soul is neglected, it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning.” writes Thomas Moore in one of my top ten favorite books, Care of the Soul, A guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life.

His book teaches us that it is only by “caring for the soul we can find relief from our distress and discover deep satisfaction and pleasure.”
10915222_10155254016885413_1954659329647914859_nSoul-care calls for creativity and creativity always calls us back to a sense of aliveness and a deep connection with the essence of who we truly are—creative beings. A move from surviving to thriving happens when we connect to that creative aspect of our natures.

Recently a dear friend of mine survived a stunning series of losses. Within just two years she suffered the deaths of several people close to her. Her sister/best friend, a vibrant, lively woman, died unexpectedly in the prime of her life! Over the next year, three other relatives also passed away.

She found herself in a cynical slump, not only devastated by the losses, but profoundly disappointed with the unfairness of life. She moved into emotional survival mode—which includes a failure to thrive. Over time and with some help she reconnected with what made life worth living for her. It called for a spring-cleaning of the soul. ‘Spring’ is the key word since it indicates a renewal of life, a rebirth. She grieved, she sorted out what it all meant to her and she made some important decisions about how to live on.

As she engaged in this soul cleanse she emerged reconnected to what brings her meaning and happiness in life. Her recovery came with courageous acts of creativity.
OlivierAntiquesShe is now starting an online business selling vintage items she has discovered in “treasure hunts” at garage sales, second hand stores, and even from relative’s who are ready to clean out. This connection to items from the past, which is a passionate hobby of hers, in turn connects her to her own soul. She is turning it into a way to thrive in her everyday life.

Spring’s arrival can be a time for us to bloom. We can clean out the cobwebs of creative laziness from our souls. We can embark on a quest to care for our souls by reconnecting to a passion for life.

Most quests start with an unanswered question. Ask yourself now: What speaks to my soul? What makes me feel alive? What would I try if I didn’t let fear get in the way?

Gardening_Spring_FlowerMy soul spring-cleaning is calling for more space to make my creativity an everyday experience. The areas in my life where I am creatively stuck (for example, allowing myself to draw more) are largely because of fear! It helps to remember that fear is just another way of talking about ‘false evidence appearing real.’ The false story I tell myself is that because my drawing isn’t good enough I shouldn’t draw or can’t draw. Can you see the irony of that? How can my drawing get better if I don’t draw? I simply have to allow myself to start where I am. That is one long cobweb to swab with the broom!

A delicious new book I am devouring (and writing in the margins of with multiple colors of ink) is The Artisan Soul, Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art, by Ervin Raphael McManus. He declares, “Let us never relinquish our rights as creative and creators,” he writes, “a soul that is free and alive is a soul that creates.”

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The Transforming Power of Reading

T F Simon Vilma Reading a Book 1912

“In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about my world and myself.” –Anna Quindlen, author, columnist

I am sitting on a moss green velour couch in the furniture section of a Good Will thrift store, a stack of books next to me. During a recent bout with the nasty flu that’s going around, I read myself dry—reading the last word of the last unread novel I had on my bookshelf.

I am hungry for a new story. Sitting in my self-made reading room I am pursuing the pages of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, “a mystery in the midst of French Impressionism,” the back cover tells me. A stack of books awaits my scrutiny as I choose my next stock of reading material.
6654ef87213282d6db59b5f16f13e351In the same way one cannot go without food for long, I cannot be without a stack of unread books, their words pregnant with new possibility. Since I was a child books have been my teachers, my friends, my comfort, my joy . . . sometimes even my survival.

It is why when I came down with the dreaded flu last week, the main blessing I could identify is that I had a brand new hardback to crack, The Light We Could Not See by Anthony Doerr. My flu received back burner status as I lost myself in the moving story of the book’s intertwining characters; how their destinies are shaped and affected by their passage, though brief, through each other’s lives in France and Germany during World War II.

It deeply affected me. During flu-induced sleepless nights, I found myself contemplating some of the ways my life has been affected by people who have passed through my story offering me important lessons, an unexpected joy, or a sorrow to be borne.
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I love stories. It’s why I skipped school in 8th grade to stay in my bed all day long reading Gone with the Wind while pretending to be sick. It’s why I became a reporter and later a therapist. I never tire of hearing people’s stories. And I fear the void I am certain will be impossible to fill with any other book after I have turned the last page on my current read.

Books are not just ways to pass time; they are pathways of discovery into other lives and worlds, which always shine a light on my own path.

With my mother’s death at 8-years-old, I found myself inhabiting a new life where I was alone a lot and un-mothered. I turned to books as one way to learn how to live life. Books in a way became my mothers.

I whiled away the hours reading Bird Girl, Sacagawea by Flora Warren Seymour, and Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, the story of a Swiss girl who is raised by her grandfather after her parents die.

At age 13, with my father remarried, I started Junior High School. School was a crucial escape to me with its books, teachers, and the possibility of friends. I had no idea how to fit in, yet understood that fitting in meant survival. I found a dusty copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie in my father’s den and read it. I made a fool of myself at cheerleader tryouts, but did make a couple of friends–one who is still in my life.
646da0b8ec4e93ae71bbce4f8bbd78c6When I was 22, just out of college, and working as a newspaper reporter, I moved into my first apartment. I didn’t know how to cook. So I bought a Good Housekeeping Cookbook, followed its instructions, and cooked my first casserole. The cookbook is still in my kitchen, food-stained pages mostly intact, cover long gone.

And all along the way, novels transported me to distant shores, which held new perspectives and possibilities far away from my own trouble. I remember hiding books within a textbook during class, so attached was I to story. With the narrow lens of my own difficult story in life, Margaret Mitchell showed me the universal theme of trials and triumphs in all humankind. Jane Eyre gave me hope.

“Reading makes immigrants of us all,” wrote author Hazel Rochman, “it takes us away from home, but most important, it finds homes for us everywhere.”

1011749_635797749820604_1547342350_n-300x269The Goldfinch, by Donna Tart is one of my favorite books. It’s the only book that upon finishing the last of its 771 pages, I immediately turned back to the first page and started reading it again. Its main character, Theo, is a young lad who survives a bombing in a New York art museum, and then bravely makes his way through life motherless. He was so brave, so real, so vulnerable, and in the end so courageous and humble. This book that inhabits the art world is a book about life. It documents the unfolding of Theo, a dear and complicated character from childhood to adulthood, while engaging the reader in a thrilling suspense that is not resolved until the end of the hefty book (771 pages of pure bliss!).

It was so real I felt like I knew Theo, that we had a friendship. But to me it is also a book about writing and reading. Tartt writes in its pages, “Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of our despair . . . we can speak to each other across time. And I feel I have something very serious and urgent to say to you, my non-existent reader, and I feel I should say it as urgently as if I were standing in the room with you. That life—whatever else it is, is short. . that maybe even if we’re not always so glad to be here, it’s our task is to immerse ourselves anyway: wade straight through it . . . while keeping eyes and hearts open.”

Words like this help me carry on; words like this keep me reading!

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Perspective

Dear Readers,

During the last two weeks I have been in crisis with this web site. I don’t know what has been showing up on your screens, but on my screen I lost my website title with its big beautiful script. And over the week we’ve had different versions of the site showing up due to my failure to realize I needed to update different operating systems. Fine-tuning is now going on ‘under the hood’ as our new web-master is working his magic–sometimes with a puff of smoke and something other than a rabbit under his hat!

I’ve had a few hysterical moments! I’m not technologically savvy at all and have felt overwhelmed and immobilized at times by this situation. But of course this was life nudging me to notice what I had been choosing to ignore. The invitation was to be more conscious and aware of the importance of site maintenance. Doesn’t that remind you of life and the importance of being conscious and aware of self-maintenance!

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Focusing Our Attention

“And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.”
–Raymond Carver, “Late Fragment”

 The quality of our lives is profoundly influenced by the inner-narratives that take residence in our minds, by where we choose to place our focus.

Creating a life we love requires conscious direction of our thoughts and attention. Whatever we pay attention to expands. If we focus on the negative our lives will respond in kind, our mood will take its cue. The same is true if we focus on what is working.

consciousness-2-e1413039957747The inner story we write and believe creates our experience.

There is science behind this. Our brains are made up of billions of cells called neurons. They communicate with each other by sending microscopic signals from cell to cell. Over time our brains can become hardwired to be addicted, suicidal, or just generally miserable.

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