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:

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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!

We Need Your Shine

Right now we’re being called to be our most authentic (and powerful) selves. You know you’re there when you feel inspired, enthusiastic, appreciative, passionate… when you’re acting from a place of love (not hate).

Your power lies in tapping into your true self, so find that sweet spot and stay there. Stay connected, regardless of circumstances. Refuse to dim your light.

So yep, it’s time for action. Whether you’re marching, making art or following your dreams, go in with a full heart and focus on what you DO want, what feels good to you.

All that love in your heart is your compass, your foundation, your beacon.

Shine on.

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Feeling Blue? Soothe Your Senses

Heartache enriches you as much as victory.

Some consolation, right? You feel crappy. Screw the enrichment. It’s time to wallow, dammit.

There’s no shame in that. Wallow big, wallow deep. Make it the best wallow you’ve ever had.

Eventually, something inside of you will yearn to feel good again. That’s your natural state of being – your spirit always hangs out in that high-vibe state – and you’ll seek to rise up to it, over and over.

Here’s the bad news: You can’t go right from feeling devastated to feeling happy.

Here’s the good news: Yes you can.

Just not all in one swoop. The chasm is too wide. You can’t see the other side and your legs are too weak to a big leap anyway.

Here’s the key: think in increments. Look for one small, easy thing you can do that feels good.

Look for what soothes and pleases your senses: Pet your dog or cat. Slide into a favorite sweater. Light some lavender incense. Give up your seat on the train to an elder and notice that it feels good to stretch your legs.

These may seem like excruciatingly small steps, especially when chaos seems to be swirling around, but one self-nourishing act will lead to the next.

The morning after the election, the only thing I could do was sip my warm cup of coffee. It was a simple pleasure I had control over when it seemed like the world had turned upside down. It helped me feel just better enough to go to the myofascial release class I’ve been taking. Doing something good for my body lifted spirits. After that I had enough momentum to make a healthy, satisfying soup for lunch.

Feeling bereft was being replaced by feeling fortified. I was slowly but steadily starting to rise back up to my natural state of wellbeing.

Next time you’re feeling blue, don’t try to power through it. Instead, take a warm bath with rose or vanilla essential oil. Find a water sounds station on Pandora and take a nap swaddled in soft blankets. Go for a walk and stop for a hot chocolate. Savor it.

Don’t worry about whether you’re being self-indulgent. You are. And that’s fine. Taking whatever steps you need to feel better isn’t weak, it’s empowering.

In fact, the more consciously you care for yourself, the quicker you will ascend back to your natural state of feeling centered and whole. You might even feel even better than before.

What’s one simple, nourishing thing you can do to feel a little bit better than you do right now?

Do it. Then do another.

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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

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.

What nourishes your soul?

All weekend I felt emotionally rung out and vaguely sad. On the way home from doing errands, I decided I needed to stop in my tracks and figure out what would nurture and nourish me. I turned the car around and drove along rambling country roads dotted with Pennsylvania farmhouses toward my favorite farm stand. Well, it’s more than a stand – it’s a full-on produce/garden/homemade goodies menagerie of healthy pleasures. Starving, I picked up an asparagus & raisin cakey-loaf (made that morning); also, I chose one outstanding coral peony (picked that morning), and I hand-selected, spear by purple-y spear, a bunch of fresh asparagus (harvested that morning).zucchini

As I drove away, eating the small, sweet bread as my lunch, I came upon a $5-for-a-bouquet honor system stand in front of one of the picturesque farmhouses. I stuffed a bill in the metal box and selected the bunch with the bursting apricot iris, several tight peony buds and some other magenta and violet beauties. My weekend went from hole-in-soul to satiated soul.

What soothes and nourishes your soul? How do you turn your world from mundane to blooming?

094For me, it’s beauty – I’m inspired and enriched by wandering through a garden, reading a gorgeous magazine, making a simple and delicious meal (such as a mound of fresh asparagus topped with feta cheese and two fried eggs – it was heavenly) or driving through the idyllic countryside. Through beauty I find my center, my soul-peace – and it’s from that deep and sacred place that I go out in the world to love, create and celebrate.

In bed that evening, I read an article by Ronda Rice Carman (author of Designers at Home) in the May issue of House Beautiful.  In it she wrote:

“I have long wondered what inspires one person to elevate the mundane tasks of daily living and another to despise the regular routines of life. In an age of increasing mass production and a recurring sea of sameness, I hold in high regard those who ponder the idiosyncrasies of living life in a unique, meaningful and deliberate manner.”

How do you live life in a unique, meaningful and deliberate manner?