What is Sacred Sensual Living?

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Enthusiasm = the God within. When you practice the art of living an inspired life, you become aligned with your highest self.

Does your day-to-day life reflect your beautiful spirit? Are you prioritizing what feels most meaningful? If your life feels flat, mundane or like a whirlwind, it’s a sign that you’re out of touch with what moves your soul and makes you smile from deep within.

The world is brimming with pleasure and inspiration – art, music, nature, conversations, stories, adventures into new terrain, delicious food, love poems and fascinating cultures. Beauty speaks to us on many levels. Let it be a portal to your divine flow.

You deserve to feel good, really good. And when you feel good, everyone around you feels better. So go ahead and indulge your senses, revel in some beauty and seek out the magic ingredients that spice up your life – then enjoy the feeling of inspired alignment with your most authentic self.

This website is my images+words version of what inspires me and how I experience life through a lens of joy, beauty and love. It’s designed to inspire and comfort you – to help you find the sweet spot where soul-peace meets enthusiasm.

Enjoy!

Embracing Earthy Energy

Iris budI opened the front door this morning and the sweet, warm smell of freshly mown grass rolled into the house. I peered out over the exploding fuchsia Rhododendron blooms and saw the first irises unfolding their silky layers and splaying into fragile plumes. Bird songs filled the air, like a soundtrack for the cinematic colors and lush textures of spring.Iris4

When the Sun in in Taurus, we’re more in tune with our physical bodies and the pleasure we derive from our sensory experiences. We gravitate toward what nourishes us, both physically and on a soul level. Just-picked strawberries and tender asparagus (or maybe for you it’s bar-b-que’d ribs on the grill) soothe our souls. After the wrapped-up winter, our skin welcomes a brush of soft air and it’s mild enough to linger with another under the stars.

Iris3aIt’s the perfect season to ask: What moves your soul? Maybe it’s cooking an al fresco dinner for friends or going to see live music at your favorite local spot. Indulge. Let yourself feel it, hear it and taste it. Relish. Let the physical world nurture your deepest and most authentic you. Luxuriate. irisPleasure leads to well-being. And well-being is the sister of intuition – you’ll get in tune with the signs and symbols that grace your life and show you the easier, more natural way.

So go ahead and linger in the morning bakery, sip the cold glass of chardonnay in the garden while admiring your irises and give someone you love a back rub. It’s all sweet music to your soul.Iris w&p

Spring Palette: Between 2 Worlds

Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add color to my sunset sky.
- Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

Colors evoke emotions and can symbolize the themes that underpin our lives at any given time. We are surrounded by color, from the chartreuse glow of back-lit leaves to the copper-flecked hazel eyes starring back at us. Do you notice the millions of hues around you?

We assign colors meanings, but they can change over time or when new influences float into view and alter our perspective. The palettes of our daily lives evolve and flow, just like the deep teal ocean at tide high recedes into a soft emerald as the golden sun sinks low.

What colors are moving your heart and soul these days? Consider what’s catching your eye and see if you can discover what emotions are stirred as you gaze at the shades. Like a mood ring from the 70s, color can help you identify where you are so you can decide where you want to be. Would another color mood feel better to you? Seek it out and see how it affects your sense of well-being.

In both circumstance and emotion, I am currently between 2 beautiful yet very different worlds. Here’s what that looks and feels like:

SSL Spring PaletteWhat does your Spring Palette look and feel like?

Beautiful Things & Golden Moments: Caregiving Edition

Thirty minutes after I arrived to visit my 90-year-old mother, she had a car mishap and fractured her L1 vertebrae. Forty-eight hours later we emerged from the hospital and I commenced upon an unplanned 4-week long, 24/7 care-giving venture. Although it was often stressful and exhausting, our time together was sacred and there were many sensory experiences that provided glimmers of light and laughs along the way. You can find inspiration almost anywhere if you want to and if you keep an open mind about where it might come from. On the roller-coaster of extreme pain, spring arriving, setbacks, flowers sent, harsh meds and loving visits, here’s where we found ours…

3.6.15 IMG_20150316_192247_208 IMG_20150317_143717_455 12 inches the day before I drove from Philly to North Carolina

 

 

 

 

sublime sky from her front porch the day we arrived home from the hospital

 

 

 

idyllic scenery on my walks – fresh air in my lungs and sunshine on my face fortified me like never before

 

teddyon some afternoons I lazed about on the twin bed in her room, keeping her company – in these moments we shared stories, including her heart-breaking one about the loss of her  childhood teddy bear

 

 

 

mom portrait

she did laps with her walker around the living room, stopping sometimes here and there to look at photos or mementos – we passed by this portrait of her many times – it was done when she was a very young woman by American artist John Folinsbee who she studied with in New Hope, PA

 

 

redbud

 

redbud blooms were a reliable source of smiles and excitement, even on the hardest days

 

 

 

rocks

found dusty in a dish of marbles under a green ceramic frog – I brought them home and washed them off – now they glow

 

cherry blossom 1

 

the cherry blossom tree we watched from her bedroom window changed a bit each day – from dormant to buds to a couple of blooms to bursting flowers to a darker pink to petals blowing off on a windy day, like snowflakes, to the tiniest green leaves appearing just before I left

santa claus

in her nightgown drawer I found I letter I had written to santa when I was 7, a pressed-flower card I’d sent her and a felt heart, embroidered with “I love you” and containing a bar of soap to make the lingerie drawer smell good – I’d made it in girl scouts (I have 2 others at home that I made – gold and purple – can’t bear to throw them out)

reflection

 

taking pictures relaxes and inspires me, even if it’s just for fun – my eye seems to always be looking for a good shot, no matter what I’m doing

 

IMG_20150403_182543_783the day before I left, Good Friday, I stepped outside and this baby grabbed my attention as clearly as if it had called my name – I left it as a positive omen for her healing, but I will definitely press it someday, and put it in my lingerie drawer

 

 

Everywhere Cathedrals

cathedral collage 2A humble leaf swimming in a puddle elicits as much awe from me as a soaring cathedral. Both are quiet and humble. Neither want to burden me; rather, they want to lift my spirits by giving me the gifts of awe and joy. I feel reverence to when looking up, and when looking down. Their beauty is overwhelming in its simplicity. I can even look through to the core, the heart. In both I see the Divine light of warmth and love. In both I feel comforted and lifted up. I appreciate their presence in my life.

In my own cathedral, I’m protected and exalted – the serene safety of nature allows me to feel a full rapture that is sunny and pure. My feet follow in footprints made by seekers and lovers of what is holy and beautiful. My heart follows this natural path, the one that always leads to wonder, the one that intersects with the forces of art and nature.

The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes. – Frank Lloyd Wright

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those
transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.

– John Milton

Photo at left: St. Henry’s Ecumenical Art Chapel in Turku, Finland. Photo by Jussi Tiainen. Originally published in Architectural Digest.

 

Finding Inspiration: Nature, Music and Magic Mushrooms

You never know what’s going to catch your eye or move you in some way. I like to snap things here and there to record striking colors, interesting patterns and whatever I find beautiful in its own way. And sometimes I just can’t let the face of a cherub on my shiitake get away without documentation. Here’s what turned up in the past week…

Ice-melting creek, an impromptu colored-pencil drawing I did while listening to an odd music mix, a journal/sketchbook that I dolled up with handmade paper and an old pendant, the aforementioned cherub (I didn’t eat him), a rose from a magenta and orange bouquet that has been making me smile everyday for a week now, ice crystals creeping up my window pane, and the first page of a new chapter.

Inspiration Collage

And here’s what I conjured up today…

icy rose in frame art backgroundBeauty awakens the soul to act.
– Dante Alighieri

 

Swooping By: The Messages I Needed to Hear

Last winter around this time I walked through my neighborhood one cloudy day after several significant snowstorms had erased where lawn meets sidewalk meets road. It was silent and frigid; I was the only one outside. I’d been working intensely on a writing project so I’d gone days without talking to anyone. My cat, who was with me for 22 years, had passed away recently and I was in a state of melancholy where my heart felt so full of love yet so bereft at the same time. I felt very alone in that blank, frosty landscape.

As I turned onto a long, straight road, I saw something in the air flying unwaveringly down the corridor straight toward me. I stopped walking and just stared at it – it stared back, tiny black eyes set into its white-feathered head. As it sailed over, only about two feet above my head, I saw it’s creamy underside zig-zagged with light brown stripes spanning its breast and stretching out through its wide wings. I turned and watched it perch on an icy telephone wire, its reddish tail the only color in sight. We both stood there for a few minutes staring at each other, suspended in a whitewashed world.

Back at home I looked up the symbolic meaning of a falcon, convinced that’s what I’d seen. Transition and change through soul-growth and healing; a spirit messenger that moves through the sky, which is a link between the upper world and the lower world; the grace to fly alone. I found other meanings too, but these brought me comfort and a feeling of connection to my feline friend on the other side. After more research I realized the pictures of falcons and where they live didn’t really match up with the bird I saw. It didn’t matter. I’d received the messages that I needed to hear at the time.

Cut to this past Christmas. I was ambling around Whole Foods marveling at the displays of chocolate covered figs, colorful scarves and other holiday delights – my senses were all lit up. When I walked past a basket of holiday cards it was as if one box zeroed in on me, capturing my attention. Staring at me was a white-headed, red-tailed bird perched on a branch with snow swirling around it. The box was from the Sierra Club and the caption was: “red kite in snowstorm.” Oh, that was the bird, I thought. I bought the cards, happy to have found ones that resonated with me for this year’s outreach to friends and family.

The sun was setting as I drove home. As I slowed down to stop at a red light in front our our local art museum, a huge bird flew right past my windshield – I clearly saw it’s creamy underside zig-zagged with light brown stripes spanning its breast and stretching out through its wide wings. It perched on a tree branch just off the road and stayed there as I stared at it until the light turned. I was dumbstruck – the box of cards was on the passenger seat next to me.

I was leaving the next day to visit my elderly mom – a pleasant thing to do but one that requires that I completely downshift and put all my projects on hold. My mom’s an artist, and I’d started making a new form of art over the past few months, though I wasn’t sure “why” (as in, where it might lead). Looking up symbolism for the red kite I found: grace & gentleness; breathe and relax so you can hear new thoughts and messages; take a broader view; prophesy. I also found that the red kite doesn’t live anywhere in the U.S. It didn’t matter. They were the messages I needed to hear at the time.

As I sat down to write a post today, I didn’t know what to write about. I chose a Pandora station and the second song that played included these lyrics: “A red-tailed hawk circled overhead.” Dave Alvin sang the line again: “A red-tailed hawk circled overhead.” (From the song “Down on the Riverbed.”).

The symbolism for hawks includes: seeing things from a higher perspective; observing while focusing in at the same time; finding your tribe; tapping into your intuition; and taking the lead when the time is right. Hawks are plentiful where I live, including the red-tailed variety, but upon looking at pictures, none of them had a white head. It didn’t matter. They were the messages I needed to hear today as I embark upon a couple of large projects (a mix of art & writing) that will require focus, trusting my intuition, possibly a new tribe and putting myself into a leadership role, when the time is right.

The veils between worlds can be thick or thin depending on how much we want to “hear” – messages are always floating around, maybe right above us. If we want to receive them, we just need to look up and allow them to alight, as we maintain a state of relaxed appreciation. Nature is effortless – we can take a cue from its ease: glide and perch, flow and observe. There’s no need to label or capture it – the mystery and majesty is available to us at all times, swooping by, making contact as needed.

snowy road

Essential Beauty

Beauty is a portal to your divinity, your sacred source. That’s the one thing I know for sure. (Love is the answer – that’s a close second.) Gazing at a Beautiful painting or sunset can calm or uplift you, delight or soothe. Beauty surrounds you, if you are looking through the right lens, and it’s presence elevates your energy. Listening to songbirds or love songs, strolling along a woodland path, licking a melting chocolate cone – your senses appreciate when you indulge in Beauty. The simple Beauties of life. The profound Beauty that hugs your spirit and tickles your soul. Beauty is fun. Beauty is achingly sad. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – subjective, changing, fading… untrappable, fluid, mysterious. You are Beauty. Beauty communicates, sometimes silently, other times bellowing out her proud and colorful power. Like the wind announcing the storm. The gushing creek announcing the arrival of spring. Let Beauty guide you to the flow.

Olive Branch

The Freedom of Becoming a Blank Slate

I was knocked out for three weeks by a bad cold, but it was one of the most transformational experiences I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many, as do we all). It felt like my body and mind were going through a sort of energetic re-alignment, or catch-up phase, to get in sync with my heart and soul. My mind went to a calm, worry-free, relaxed space – how often do we get weeks to just not think? I had no choice… my body and mind were exhausted to the point of full surrender. I became a blank slate. And that felt surprisingly freeing.

Love the moment, and the energy of that moment will spread beyond all boundaries.
-  Corita Kent

RRC white peak in clouds I had been too wiped out to come up with any New Year’s resolutions or write down any well-thought out plans and strategies for 2015. Rather, I just received. Some simple yet undeniably meaningful signs and symbols started showing up. I entertained them, playing with them instead of furtively capturing and filing them away for future use. Little by little over the past week I came back into full consciousness, with whispers of ideas filtering in via dreams and at random moments.

The pathway is smooth. Why do you throw rocks before you? – ancient proverb

stone arrowThen one morning I woke up and a whole vision appeared, as if I had stumbled into an oasis. It was the big picture. And it was really big. It made the creative notions I’d been twisting around over the past year or so –  mulling, collecting, planning, re-configuring – make sense. And I realized it had nothing to do with striving toward or hoping for. It was simply about making some room – mentally, physically and spiritually – for the full-blown vision to float on into my life. Because it is my life.

Too cryptic? Well, we all have those precious visions that we need to keep close and sacred for awhile when they’re fresh and clear. I’m nibbling on one bite of the big-vision pie right now – quite a big and delicious bite really – and I’ll happily share more about it as I move into it further, and as it settles into my refreshed and refurbished flesh & bones.

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads. – Anatole France

pathHave you made room for what wants to enter your life? Are you embarking on a new path? Let it be easy and joyful. Follow the clues. Embrace the mystery.

[The photos are of Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, 2014]

A Few of My Favorite Things

I’ve come across several “I’m taking a break for the holidays” messages on other sites lately and I agree with that idea wholeheartedly! With the Winter Solstice upon us, it’s natural to lean toward rest and reflection as we await the magic that a new year brings. I’ve decided to do the same by enjoying quiet candlelit evenings, time with family and loved ones, long walks in the woods, cooking delicious and nourishing meals and cozy afternoon naps, and then coming back here refreshed and rejuvenated in the New Year. I hope you’ll do what feels good and natural to you over the next 2+ weeks too, and I’ll leave you with one last post for 2014… it’s a long (but fun) one so make a cup of Mayan hot chocolate and settle in. May it inspire your senses and soothe your spirit.

I deeply appreciate the many soul-stirring things I discovered, experienced and saw over the last 12 months or so. Here’s a shortlist of some of my favorites that might inspire you as this year closes and the new one begins. (I’m not formally endorsing these things in any way or receiving any compensation for including them. I just like them and want to share.)

Soundtrack for reading: My Favorite Things (John Coltrane)

  1. I hadn’t traveled much in the years leading up to 2014, so I indulged my pent up wanderlust as I visited Red Rock Canyon (near Las Vegas, NV) and Mount Desert Island in Maine. If you’re looking for unusual and breathtaking natural beauty, these treks are for you.

  2. When I started working at a local art center in 2000, there was an encaustic painting by local artist Tremain Smith hanging on the office wall. I always felt very drawn to the sublime layers of texture and color. A few months ago, I went to one of her gallery openings and finally had the pleasure of meeting her. This was shortly after I had started making my own collages, so it felt like divine timing was in play when she told me about the spiritual nature of her artwork.

  3. I love to hike and try to go several times a week if possible. When it’s really cold or windy, or when I need a different kind of movement, I do Mary Helen Bower’s Ballet Beautiful. I took ballet as a 7-year-old and wish I had stuck with it – it just feels good and it’s a great workout.

  4. Ever been to a burlesque review? Ooo la la! Sexy & suave, witty & talented, clad in velvet, sequins and good dose of panache – and that’s just the audience! I had the pleasure of attending a show and I’d highly recommend it. Inject some fun & fanfare into your life while celebrating the curves, bumps & grinds of true beauty. (You’ll thank me when you’re snowed in for a week in February.)

  5. I created a Melody Gardot station on Pandora – it pulls up the likes of Amos Lee (also Philly-born like Melody) and some lovely Latin guitar instrumentals. It’s perfect for cooking a romantic dinner, writing in your journal, dancing or even just looking out the window on a rainy Saturday afternoon. C’est si bon!

  6. I like a nice glass of red wine – sometimes with manchego & crackers, sometimes alone – and this year I found Santa Julia, an organic Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina, that’s well-priced and yummy – think: un-sweet black cherries + pepper + vanilla. Best to drink it with a very close compadre while wearing brown suede boots (just try it).

  7. Here’s a DIY spin on tea-lights: when they get liquidy, drop in some essential oils for a fragrant and sensual experience. I like these combos: ylang-ylang + lemon; bourbon vanilla; cinnamon + orange + clove; lavender + frankincense + clary sage. Your heart and head will swoon a little.

  8. I had a dream I was making this so I plan to try it, maybe for Christmas brunch: slice the top 1/3 off of a croissant and set the bottom in an oiled baking dish (obviously you can do as many as you want, but since it was developed in my imagination and is untested maybe try just 1 at first?). Pour a scrambled egg mixture with whatever add-ins you like (brie, scallions & chopped spinach maybe?) into the crevasses of the croissant (it can run out a little into the dish. Bake at 350 degrees till the eggs are cooked. (I woke up before it went into the oven so I’m guessing on the temperature.) I suppose you could top it with the top of the croissant, right? Certainly someone in Paris has done this already. I think I’ll try it first and then see if I can find a recipe – more fun that way!

8b. In case you don’t want to risk it, here’s something that’s been tested and approved by a foodie dinner club I had the pleasure of attending. It’s my version of the one you can often find on the Whole Foods buffet: wheat berries (look up how to cook them), dried cranberries, chopped celery & scallion, small cubes of Gouda cheese (and/or nuts would be good too). Mix together. In a separate bowl combine: raspberry chipotle mustard (I get this regionally-made one at my local co-op – crazy good), pomegranate (or similar) vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup (or similar), salt & pepper and a pinch of cayenne. I make up my own dressings so I just eyeball the amounts – if you’re not used to doing that, go easy on the vinegar and add a little bit at a time till it tastes yummy and balanced. Whisk well to emulsify (mine was pretty thick) and stir it into the wheat berry mixture. You can add chopped flat leaf parsley at the end if you like. Overall, it has a nice chewy-crunchy texture with a little sweet/tart/heat action, and it just feels healthy.

9.You know how you can hear something several (or many) times and it doesn’t quite click until one day it does? That happened to me in early 2014 – I finally really listened to and absorbed the teachings of Abraham-Hicks. In the length of one video, all the random ideas that I’ve had while forming Sacred Sensual Living came together into a cohesive and viable “what and why.” Deep down I knew my ideas and theories had merit because it’s how I live and thrive: immersed in the beauty & pleasure of life, connected to my intuition, nourished in my heart, with a joyous and peaceful soul. But discovering that the under-pinning was aligned with the A-H philosophy helped me see how I can make Sacred Sensual Living highly practical and useful (in addition to beautiful, of course). I’ll be writing much more about this and creating a variety of new resources for you in the New Year, so check back (and/or sign up for the mailing list) to learn more about how to mine your life’s sweet spots and create a more meaningful life – it’s easier than you might think!

  1. And last but not least, here’s a present for you. It’s the mantra I’ve had going through my head for months now. (Sometimes Ray LaMontagne’s voice sings it to me with a different last word to his title lyric: “Let it Be Me” Sorry, Ray, it just happens. It’s a beautiful song as is too, of course.) You can download the piece below and use it as desktop wallpaper or do with it whatever you like (sharing on FB, Pinterest, etc. is always appreciated!). (Note: for best resolution, click on the image to open full size then right click and choose set desktop wallpaper.)

let it be easyThanks for hanging out with me as the year comes to a close. Remember: release, relax, rejuvenate. You deserve to enter 2015 feeling gooood. And most importantly, just enjoy.

PS – If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, you’re missing out on some Sacred Sensual goodies! Make 2015 the year when you awaken your senses in a whole new way, connect to your powerful essence and feel how meaningful life can be… by learning how to let it be easy.

Beautiful Things & Golden Moments #3

It’s been too long since I’ve done a BT & GM post, but not because life hasn’t been full of both. It has! Here are some recent ones – hope they inspire you to find the beauty in the world and let it speak to your soul.

  1. Love is Here – it’s “here” because it’s everywhere!

Love is Here
2. Sleeping for 11 hours on my new, incredibly soft flannel sheets!
3. This simple bouquet makes me smile first thing in the morning…

posies
4. Last weekend’s burlesque show – Celeste Giuliano’s 4th Annual Pin-Up Peep Show – featured talented women, dapper men, a good cause (Pin-ups for Pitbulls). Sexy fun!
5. New friends made during Susannah Conway’s December Reflections photo challenge. One photo per day for the month. So many beautiful ones getting posted! And if you’re up for a challenge or feeling creative, it’s not too late to join! Here’s Day 8 – Reflection:

Sunset Reflection smallCadillac Mountain Sunset, Acadia National Park, Maine.

So let me know… What have been some of your favorite Beautiful Things and Golden Moments lately?