Savoring Sweet Talk

I had the pleasure of meeting my sister’s two year old granddaughter a couple months ago. The blondest blonde firecracker, Nora reminded me how delicious it feels to see the world with innocent curiosity.

After dinner, we walked to “rock park” – a sort of moon landing natural area perfect for sunset watching. Nora climbed up the boulders and scooted down the other side. Skies turned from apricot to lavender to ink. Upon finding a frog, Nora said: It’s time for him to go home and watch Moana.

After walking back, the nightly bath ritual seamlessly led to bedtime. My sister read two stories; Nora was rapt. Then her dad said it was time for Sweet Talk. We each  took a turn telling Nora three things we enjoyed experiencing with her that day.

I told Nora I loved watching her dance in the living room, playing with her on the rocks, and her showing me her aqua-licious bedroom, all sparkles and Disney-esque colors. While each of us spoke (dad, mom, grandma and me, the new friend), Nora was quiet and seemed bashful for the first time that day, but she was all smiles. And then… ahh, peaceful, dreamy sleep.

I loved that this ritual was about shared experiences, not necessarily what someone achieved or how they behaved. It was appreciation for how we communed, and for what we each gave and received during our interactions.

It’s beautiful, and very powerful, to offer thanks one day each year. On the other 364, we can Sweet Talk to others and ourselves as a way to keep the positive momentum of appreciation going strong.

By focusing on your experiences via taste, touch, sound, sight & smell, you’ll become even more aware of how your senses are helping you align with your inner self. Savor the sweetness of true connection.

We Pray with All of Our Senses

I was driving through the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania — an unplanned five-hour trek home due to my friend’s canceled flight — feeling annoyed and disappointed. Suddenly, my busted-plan weekend shape-shifted into a sweet gift.

The beauty of the terrain lifted my spirits: clear morning sunbeams lit up the ice-covered craggy mountain walls, like white icing on molasses cookies. A few glittery flakes were falling gently through glazed tree branches — white, dark, white, dark — creating a pleasing rhythm. As I drove, I clicked through the many soft rock and Christian radio stations till I heard this snippet:

We pray with all of our senses.

Cut to…

At home the next day — a 75-degree sunny Sunday with nothing to do but take a hike in the woods. Afterwards, I was sitting in my backyard garden feeling that satisfying kind of tired from moving my body around out in nature.

Suddenly two people appeared. They were dressed in heavy layers of black clothing, him in a suit and tie with an overcoat, and her in a dress with black stockings and a hat.

I’m sorry, it’s a confusing neighborhood,” he said. I thought they were going to ask me for directions so I smiled and perked up. (For some reason I love giving people directions.) He continued: “Can I offer you this… it’s about a talk on Tuesday night.”

I looked at the glossy pamphlet with a picture Jesus on it but didn’t extend my hand to receive it. The rest of what the man said was a blur because I was transfixed by his face: smooth skin was pulled taut over pronounced cheekbones, like a wax figure at Madame Tussauds.

“I’m good with everything,” I said, still smiling. The man thanked me for listening and they went on their way.

I didn’t mind that they had walked up my driveway and into my backyard to try to share what’s clearly so important to them. It doesn’t matter to me what people believe as long as they’re kind and respectful, as these folks were.

But here’s what I really wanted to say to them:

ambrosia 1000

Lovely people, come sit with me for a while. Take off your heavy wool coat and enjoy the warmth of spring. Do you smell the honeysuckle? Let me serve you some ambrosia I made this morning. Taste the sweet, tangy, creamy, crunchy… Savor.

Kick off your shoes and rip off those black stockings… walk around… feel the crisp green grass beneath your feet. Connect to the power of the earth itself. Raise your hands up and stretch your body. 

Turn your face to the sun and bathe in the rejuvenating light. Do you hear the birds songs? Sit with your eyes closed and focus only on that — they all sing a different tune but together they make sweet music. They’re singing for themselves… for each other… for you.

This, my lovely friends, this is the most powerful prayer you could ever offer. Appreciating this excruciatingly beautiful life you’ve been given by reveling in it with all of your senses — that’s what your soul wants for you. 

0413171545a~2You don’t need to study or repent or work to prove your worth to God, Christ or me. We know you are divine. We know how elegantly your five senses line up with the pleasures of this world — that’s not a tease or a reward, it’s a huge hint. 

Now go… go walk through this beautiful neighborhood if you enjoy doing that. I certainly do. But be sure to look up at the squirrel’s nest perched in the highest branch. Peer down at the tiny, brave crocus that has arisen yet again. 

And if you ever drive through the Laurel Highlands, take note of how the white icing glistens against the dark, ragged rocks… Say a prayer with all of your senses.

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Amy's Ambrosia recipe

Live inspired!

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.)

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p style=”text-align: center;”>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.

The Maine Event: Coastal Beauty & Soul

A recent trip to coastal Maine reset my beauty barometer and invigorated my soul. It was waves crashing onto craggy rocks and forests glowing with yellow and orange foliage. It was an owl nearly grazing my head as it swooped by. It was crying over the lavender sunset light and marveling at divine timing, my lost gold ring found, and the freshness of local seafood. It was perfection, in it’s own craggy way.

I now understand why artists love Maine: breathtaking beauty, sublime light, unlimited inspiration. I took over 300 photos and I’m eager to use many of them in new collages. Here are a couple glimpses of the raw photos:

sunset with rainbow smallFrom atop Cadillac mountain in Acadia National Park. I think my point-and-shoot was feeling the divine spirit as well – no idea how that rainbow happened!

beach view 1Sand Beach taken from the climb up Great Head trail in Acadia.

Bubble PondBubble Pond. (Acadia)

sunset leavesCadillac Mountain sunset. Even the professional photographers were saying how spectacular the colors were that night.

balance rocks

Balanced rocks near a balanced rock, in Bar Harbor.

seed pods I got a little lost near Yarmouth and ended up on a beautiful island. I had a conversation with a local who had been digging in the bay for clams, and then I saw these angelic seed pods.

flower wavesBeauty and the sea at Cape Elizabeth lighthouse. According to a marker at the site, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would walk here from Portland, and it’s where he likely derived inspiration for his poem, The Lighthouse.

Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Inspiration: It’s Closer Than You Think

If you’re looking for inspiration, sometimes there’s a whole world of it right nearby. You might be in the habit of walking or driving around without really noticing your surroundings, but if so, you may be missing out on some idea-generating treasures right in your midst.

When I need a change of scenery to get my creative juices going, I usually just take a walk through my neighborhood – Chestnut Hill (a section of Philadelphia). I’m very lucky to live in a place where residents and business owners take great care in making their properties look enticing and attractive. Even so, sometimes I breeze by the beauty a little too fast and miss the special details (hello, Mr. Cricket!). I took all these photos within a block of my house (except for Woodmere), and just that little jaunt has given me some new ideas and fresh photos to use in my next round of collages.

Chestnut Hill 1The little lending library (top left) is a new addition – you can take any book and bring it or another back whenever you like (I took Awaken Your Senses, of course, and a steamy-looking novel by Paul Theroux). Everyone’s flowers are crazy lush this year – eye candy everywhere! I often pop over to Paris for a La Vie en Rose cocktail on Friday evenings – there’s even a jazz club downstairs, bien sur.

Chestnut Hill 2The green revolution has come our way, thankfully, and there are some great eco-friendly shopping options up and down the Avenue. My world changed when Green Soul opened – fresh pressed juices, smoothies and yummy salads, all with fresh ingredients… heaven. 054

The outdoor exhibit (top right) is put together by a group called Fresh Artists that works with public schools and businesses to mount shows of students’ work. (Love how the frames are actually part of the print – brilliant!). The Woodmere Art Museum (top left) has a permanent collection and special exhibits of regional artists, and they often have outdoor installations on display as well (and a hay bale maze come Halloween).

I love my neighborhood! It continually encourages me to really look around and discover the beauty and magic right outside my door. Although I love to travel and explore new towns and sites, there’s something to be said for the smaller, more intimate discoveries close to home.

How about you? Where do you go to find inspiration? Your backyard? Down the block? A couple towns over? I’d love to hear where you go for a quick and inspirational pick-me-up!

Beauties and Mysteries

Beauties & mysteries of lifeI took this photo at Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas. After a couple of days of bright lights and crowds, this vast and quiet landscape brought peace to my soul. I can always count on nature to soothe and inspire me.

How about you? Do you have special places that you go to nourish your soul? Do you seek natural areas or does the energy of the city refresh you? Where do you find the beauties and mysteries of life?

Soul Liberation: The Trail Not Taken

Sometimes we feel like we’re at a crossroads.

AT sign in HF
We check in with our head and our heart.

We quiet our mind and try to hear the small, still voice that guides us in a way our brain may not understand.

Often that yields an elegant and true feeling answer.

But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we need to detach from the either/or, the this/that, the right/wrong.

Maybe there is no wrong.

Maybe we should be looking for a third option.

frozen canal in HFA new avenue.

One that may appear treacherous at first glance. Impassible. Risky.

But gorgeous in its simplicity. Easy on the soul.

It’s foreign and familiar at the same time.

It’s a leap. But if you land with grace, it might turn into a smooth skate.

Or there might be an opening.

ducks in canal in HF close

To meet new friends. To find a new community.

Feel warmth amidst the crunchy ice.

To bathe in a small pool that promises nourishment and freedom.

To feel home again, in harmony with ourselves.

Embrace the Mystery

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir

The Ramble 1

 

 

 

“[The Ramble was intended to be an] intricate disposition of lights
and shadows [to] create a degree of obscurity not absolutely impenetrable, but sufficient to affect the imagination with a sense of mystery.”
– Frederick Law Olmstead, co-designer of New York’s Central Park

 

 

 

 

The earth has music for those who listen. – George Santayana

The Ramble 2

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be.
– John Lennon

Are you ready to receive the messages whispering from the
beauty that’s around you?
Are you listening to the music of your life?
Be where you are: receive, listen, embrace the mystery.