The Magic of Cherry Blossoms

While I was visiting my 92 year old mom last week, the cherry tree along her front walk started to bloom – a happy sign of spring bursting forth, right on schedule. My mom walks slowly with a cane, usually looking down to make sure she doesn’t trip on anything. One day we were leaving the house and she stopped and stood under the tree then looked up to see the puffy pinkish white offerings set off by the clear blue sky.

“Thank you tree!” she said. “You’re so beautiful and you make me so happy.”

Two years ago, my mom broke a vertebrae in her back and had to spend the better part of spring in bed. We didn’t know if she would ever recuperate, and there were many moments when we questioned whether she would even survive (on many occasions she told us she was ready to go so we set up hospice). Hopped up on pain killers, she stared out her bedroom window at that cherry tree for hours and hours, watching the buds open into delicate flowers grouped like families on the limbs.

We had many conversations during those two months, and she often commented on how appreciative she was of that blossoming tree. This didn’t seem too unusual to me since my mom has always been a nature lover. But her praise of this tree was different – it’s beauty transfixed her. She never seemed upset by her accident or annoyed that she was bedridden (again, probably the oxy), but I think deep down that tree kept her in this world, grounded and blooming.

Amazingly, she has healed nearly 100% physically, but the trauma (and maybe the painkillers) turned her forgetfulness into full-on dementia. A layer – the one that caused her to worry, made her feel like she had to constantly be productive and direct the whole show – dissolved. Now she’s content to watch the birds and squirrels on her back patio instead of feeling the drive to clean, volunteer or strive. Life is easy and pleasant for her now; she lives in the moment because that’s all she has.

I wonder what her life would’ve been like if that layer had dissolved while her memory was still intact. Don’t get me wrong, she was always good-natured and positive, but like all of us she’d get swept up in the doing instead of the being. Deep down I think this happy-go-lucky mom was always there, hoping to pop out but waiting patiently till all the chores were done.

When I visit my mom these days, I like to watch her watch the world. Her delight is a reminder to me to bask in what’s truly important while I still can. Also, now I know where I get my proclivity for talking to nature and thanking it for its beauty; my marveling at simple pleasures makes more sense. I guess the cherry doesn’t fall far from the tree.

butterfly on cherry blossom PIC_YES

It’s not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.
– Robert Louis Stevenson

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.

need your shine

Sacred Sensual Home: Everyday Soul Scents

I stepped into a warmly lit bakery and caught a whiff of what I imagined was a lemony vanilla cloud made of love. That happy scent swirled around me and I inhaled deeply, eyes closed, luxuriating in the yummy, uplifting aroma. I felt joyful and comforted; my day got infinitely better from there.

meyer-lemon

It’s these little everyday sensory moments – a chorus of chirping crickets lulling you to sleep, the flicker of candlelight – that boost your mood and keep you in sync with your highest self. This is the sweet spot where you find flow and can easily access your inner guidance.

With the holidays upon us (yay!) I thought it would be fun to focus on scent (think: pumpkin, pine, cinnamon and sage). Yes, scent triggers memories and has therapeutic benefits, but there’s a simpler reason to inhale: sniffing something nice makes you feel good – body, mind, heart and soul.

Your home can be a scent sanctuary. Although essential oils are a reliable go-to, it’s nice to just grab what’s on hand – a jar of ginger, the grapefruit shampoo – as an easy way to tap into your soul-self throughout the day.

So how do you use those everyday items to get the same benefits as sitting on a meditation cushion?

1-senses

The key is being in the moment: after zesting the orange make sure to take a good whiff, savor the scent and revel in the pleasurable sensation. (Many times I’ve let out loud groans when sniffing coffee beans at the market). For extra credit, actively appreciate the miracle of your five senses and how this physical world is set up to make them swoon.

So easy, right? And you’ll feel like you’ve been perched in lotus position – peaceful, inspired and at one with your true self.

When I got home from the bakery I looked around to see what I could use as easy-to-reach scents for staying (or getting back into) in a high vibe state. I found some very basic stuff you might already have on hand too, and then I just started playing around. Here’s what I came up with…

Meyer Lemon

I had a bag of these in the fridge – they’re goldeny yellow and sweeter than regular lemons (but the old standard would work fine too). First I put them in a bowl on the counter so I could enjoy their cheery color and subtle, uplifting scent. Then while making dinner I cut one and started squirting it on, well, everything. That continued for the next several days, the tangy acid brightening fish, garlicky kale, white bean soup and a yogurt/ginger/vanilla concoction. With each squeeze I inhaled deeply and let the fresh, energizing scent have it’s way with me.

Another good option is to slice a few of the glowing beauties and toss them into your bath along with some luxe oils and Epsom salts. Don’t forget to breathe, breathe, breathe as you sink into the warm water.

Essential oil alternative: try mixing lemon and vanilla oils in a glass bottle filled with water (about 20 drops each in 8 ounces of water, I usually just guess) then shake like crazy and spray your whole kitchen – it smells luscious and feels celebratory!

Clove

There was a little jar of whole cloves hiding in the back of my cupboard. I’m not sure why or how long they were there, but they still had a strong aroma – spicy, earthy and autumn-y. Cloves go well with a sweeter citrus like orange, so I pulled the old Girl Scout trick and poked the cloves into a few tangerines. You could use them as pomanders to spruce up a stuffy closet, but I just set them in a bowl on my dining room table. Whenever I walk by a wave of orange spice kisses me right on the cheek – very high vibe.

Essential oil alternative: make a custom autumn mix for your diffuser with clove, cinnamon, orange, clary sage and rose… warm, grounding and spicy-sweet.

eucalyptus-sq

Eucalyptus

I’d bought a drape-y variety to fill out a simple arrangement of purple Alstroemeria. The aroma was very subtle (okay I couldn’t really smell anything), but then I remembered when I visited a friend over the summer he had a bunch of fresh Eucalyptus tied to the shower head. I felt like I was getting an aromatherapy spa treatment as the warm water relaxed my muscles and coaxed the plant’s oils into a cleansing and rejuvenating steam. My sinuses cleared. Even better, the gunk in my energetic vibration evaporated. Sweet release.

Essential oil alternative: eucalyptus oil is earthy, but in a more medicinal way than, say, Myrrh, which is much sweeter. Put a bunch of fresh or dried Eucalyptus in a vase on your bathroom vanity and sprinkle it with the oil. Mellow it out by adding lavender or boost it’s invigorating effect with peppermint.

Lavender

Ah, the reliable go-to relaxer. Even though it’s nearly the end of November, I hadn’t had the heart to cut the plant that had thrived outside in a pot all summer. But the temps were expected to drop quickly so I trimmed off all of the remaining sprigs. Right now they’re in a vase, but I’ll dry them and maybe zhush it with some dried baby rose buds to nudge it in a romantic direction. I just like the way it looks in a pretty dish on my desk – when things start feeling stressful I pick it up and inhale.

lave-boost-for-reals-or-too-much

Essential oil alternative: I admit that I use the oil more than the actual plant. It’s one of those home staples – there’s always an organic lavender-infused shea butter next to my bed – that has infinite uses. It’s good straight up and also mixes well with all sorts of company: ylang ylang for a sexy vibe, pine to rev it up, citrus to be playful and clove to add zip. Create your own collection by mixing your favorite combos into unscented body lotion. Apply often.

Enjoy experimenting and remember… happy nose, happy soul.

Focus on Your Pleasure Points… 3 Steps to Maintaining Good Mood Momentum

sunset-circle-topI love my mornings – they’re peaceful and sacred to me. That is, until the dual leaf blowers start. As I’m pouring my first cup of coffee, on cue the maintenance crew of a nearby grocery store fires up not one but two blowers that are so loud they could be in my living room. This aggressive noise is one of my pain points (especially in summer when there were about two leaves but they kept at it for the requisite 15 minutes).

When I worked for an interior designer I noticed that much of her job was to remove minor but daily irritations. She’d replaced banging trash cans and toe-stubbing ledges and viola… a happier homeowner.

It’s not so easy though when a pain point is coming from a source you have no control over. A car alarm during your precious meditation time or a co-worker who stops by to chat when you’re in a state of creative flow – certainly your familiar with these sharp pokes.

Annoying? Yes. But they also can take you from feeling light and cheery straight into a dark scowl, or worse, the dreaded downward spiral.

Those leaf blowers are SO loud! They’re really annoying me. My peaceful morning is now shattered. I woke up in a great mood and now I’m cranky and it’s only 7:45 am. I should be better at maintaining my cool. No, it’s not my fault. It’s their stupid fault. They’re ruining this neighborhood. I should move. Oh yeah, I can’t afford to move right now. I’m a loser for not being further along and able to afford a lovely home where I have more control over my environment. I’m stuck. This sucks.

 

Wave goodbye to the sunny mood momentum. And with it, there goes your intuitive guidance and sense of flow.

So what can you do instead?

After a number of irritable mornings, I tried a new response. Between sips of warm coffee and bites of sweet fruit, I opened my notebook and wrote pages about all of the pleasurable stuff in my life. Immersed in my own thoughts as they tumbled onto the page, the annoying noise seemed to disappear. I didn’t even notice when they turned off.

And that’s the key. Create a bevy of pleasure point go-to’s and grab onto one immediately when a pain point arises. Sensory experiences are a great way to counteract your irritation and replace it with what you truly deserve – peace and joy.

A car alarm flairs up during your meditation? Light some lavender incense and do a couple yoga poses till it passes. As your over-chatty co-worker appears, click into your collection of cute kitty photos or serene landscape shots and glance at them frequently as they prattle on.

These small moves can prevent the downward slide that can wreck your whole day. You might not be able to eradicate the pain point, but when you focus on your pleasure instead you keep control over your experience of it.

Here’s the 3-step way to stay in control of your good mood momentum:

1. Know your pleasure points. Make a list of easy to reach feel-good experiences. Think about what feels good to look at, listen to, taste, touch, wear and do. Gather supplies and be prepared.

2. Know your pain points. When you’re aware of what pushes your buttons you can have a conscious response instead of succumbing to a sneak attack.

3. Be ready to shift gears as soon as a pain point surfaces. Choose how to react and remember how good your pleasure points feel.

The biggest payoff may be this: What you focus on expands. The more attention you give to your pleasure points, the more satisfied and in control of life you’ll feel.

My pleasure point list is long and highly satisfying. Good thing now that it’s autumn… Bring on those falling leaves.

sunset-circle-bottom

Ray LaMontagne (Inadvertently) Talks About Sacred Sensual Living

1225151546~2I was moved to hear Ray LaMontagne sum up in a beautiful way some of the main ideas I play with through Sacred Sensual Living:

 

“I work really hard to stay grounded, to realize everyday how lucky I am, and we are, just to exist on this planet in this universe, and be aware of it. We’re so lucky and it’s so beautiful. And awesome in the true sense of the word. Really just awesome. Existence is just awesome.

Our culture is so far removed from that and people get so consumed with stuff and things, and things that just aren’t really important. And a total disconnection from nature, which has been here forever and is gonna be here forever. I want to stay connected to that.

That’s where I feel, like, that’s church for me, laying in the grass watching the moon come up and looking at the stars. That’s like talking to God, I mean that’s as close as I’ll ever get to talk to God. And it’s right there at your fingertips everyday.

Anyone can do it. You can just take a minute and lay on the ground. And it’s right there for you. That sense of peace and groundedness is available to you all the time.

I think people get so separated from it, they get anxiety and depression, and what you don’t realize is it’s all right there, it’s all available every second of every day. All you have to do is look at it.”

– Ray LaMontagne, in an interview with David Dye on World Cafe, 4/5/16

Ray’s new album is Ouroboros (produced by Jim James – see Music Spirit Love). Listen to Ray play Ouroboros live and hear the complete interview below. The album is meant to be listened to in its entirety, but I can’t help but point out two beautiful songs: In My Own Way and Wouldn’t It Make a Lovely Photograph – dreamy & sensual. Check them out…

 

Change Your Perception, Change Your Life

0213161258b~2A chunk of ice… A frozen heart… Or maybe nothing at all if you’re distracted by your dinging phone or some negative thoughts.0213161259~3~2

Maybe you notice the craftsmanship. These amazing sculptures were made by ice carver, Peter Slavin.

But do you see the beauty? What about it moves you? Maybe the textures of the ice, the curving lines or the way it glistens in the sun. Do you see the whole or the details? 0213161259~3~3

Taking the time to observe beauty and let it have it’s way with you is a surefire way to feel good. Give it a try next time you’ve got the blues or can’t seem to think straight.

Let beauty distract you.

1455395136404Beauty resets your emotional gauge back to it’s natural state of contentment. From here you’ll soften and start feeling clarity return. Inspired ideas will start to flow again.

Once you regain that contented feeling, you’ll start seeing even more lovely sights… it’s a beautiful cycle. frozen roses 1Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind.  – Amit Ray

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]

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

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