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…

 

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

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.

Love Note #1

It’s easy to love what we perceive as our own good qualities – bakes killer brownies for friends, loves unconditionally, always helps a seemingly lost pooch, lends an ear when needed. But what about our faults, are they lovable too?

gorgeous chaos

It’s no secret that self-love is the key to feeling peace in your soul. Just try it. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you,” to yourself. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. Wink at yourself, flirt a little. Let it feel fun, pure and warm.

Some days doing this exercise is harder than others. You made a bad decision. Your words hurt someone you care about. What the hell is your life about anyway and why haven’t you figured it out by now? In these moments where fear and doubt have gripped you, are you still lovable? Do you still deserve your own love?

These are precisely the times when it’s imperative to love yourself. Berating yourself and withdrawing your compassion toward yourself will create a downward spiral into desperation and confusion. More bad decisions will be made. Guilt heaped on. Flame doused.

Love your mistakes as much as your triumphs because the goof-ups help you to grow. They point directly to where your attention needs to be – not as a reprimand, but as a guiding light. Love the part of you that doesn’t know how to do it better yet, because that part of you needs it the most. Like fertilizer on a droopy plant.

Then take it one step farther and love your pain. Love the hardships and the whole mess of life. Not because you want them to continue, but because you want them to transform. Love nurtures positive change. Acceptance yields a sense of compassion. When we feel safe to admit our mistakes or look honestly at what isn’t working, we can begin to see through a lens of love toward a better way.

Love is a balm and love is a catalyst. Love all of yourself – dark, light, happy, sad – and feel yourself bloom.

bleeding hearts

A Different Beauty

winter brought greys & tans & silvery taupes

hawk at harper's ferry

that’s how nature intended it

no outlet

so we would have the opportunity

grateful

to see a different beauty

sky from train

that otherwise

The Ramble 3

we might not notice

devoted

distracted as we get by the bright-colored things

butterfly

but it’s all beautiful

deer

and spring unfailingly comes around

spring toes

Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

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.

The Re-Set Button: A Trip to CA

People say that what we are seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. – Joseph Campbell

California, 2010

California, 2010

Many times over the summer I had to remind myself that becoming enlightened isn’t about living a perfect life, one that looks shiny and perky from the outside. Rather, it’s about staying centered and peaceful in my soul while rinsing out the endless cat food cans, unloading the dishwasher and going back to the market because I forgot to get the trash bags.

These are my Ant duties, and I fulfill them, sometimes with such focused energy that crossing things off my to-do list is disturbingly satisfying. I believe that if I get it all done, then… well, it’s never all done, is it? I will admit it, my priorities are like vegetable soup right now. Pureed even.

Where is my Butterfly with her free-floating imagination and sense of curiosity? She visits now and then but has been sadly elusive for a couple of months now. In defense of the Ant, however, the seemingly trivial duties have served to build my anthill, my foundation. The one that my Butterfly will use as a launch pad and a resting spot. A beautiful one that will inspire her and provide the security she needs to explore new meadows, new worlds.

That’s been my lesson this summer: I need security in order to have real freedom. (As opposed to my former belief: I need freedom in order to create security – didn’t work out so well.)

California, 2010

California, 2010

The Ant has been successful. I’ve laid the cornerstone and paved
the driveway. The windows sparkle, attracting sunbeams and love-lights into my life and my heart.

But now, I need to push the Re-Set Button in preparation for the Butterfly’s return. I need some awe. Vast swathes of nature, intimate moments with whispering winds. California, here I come.

With the past, I have nothing to do, nor with the future. I live now.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

California, 2010

California, 2010

Kairos: will you drive through it?

opening in sky 3

Kairos: an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment. A moment of indeterminate time when something special happens. A passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved. (paraphrased from Wikipedia)

sky 3

Kairos: A time when the conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action; the opportune and decisive moment (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

opening in sky

Kairos: Will you recognize it? And if you do, will you drive through it?

Say Yes

Every man has his own destiny, and the only imperative is to follow it,
to accept it no matter where it leads him. – Henry Miller

statue 2
Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. – Anais Nin

kids on beach

Say yes – to new friendships, to unfamiliar vistas, to your destiny. Step into the next chapter, look around and see who’s there. Make an entrance onto a new stage set and find the magic.  Grab the mic. Sing loud and from your gut. Bow humbly when they clap. Then say yes again. It’s okay to keep moving forward because your home is in your heart. You can always go there for a little rest and comfort. But the world needs you too, so come out and play.

canal scum

Josh Ritter: Preacher & Poet

Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band at the Trocadero, 5/16: 

Josh 7
I went to a secret service in a wooded grotto and held the steamy hands of strangers as we gathered in a horseshoe shape around some ancient mossy rocks. Josh summoned the forest nymphs who sprinkled gold rain onto our leafy heads. He sang of love and beauty and nature and light.

Josh 6Josh 4

Then he leads us out of the woods and into a sunny meadow where we laughed at the dandelions and waded through the hula waves of tall grasses. Clouds race by like sailing ships, and we danced with the can-can tree tops in frilly skirts… kick, bounce, knee, bounce, kick, bounce… till they showed their petticoats and took a bow. I blew milkweed fluff and wondered how my bare feet could never before have been so connected to the damp earth, while my soul mingled so freely with the sun’s rays. Josh offered a blessing and the dandelions smiled.

Josh 3

(Josh is also a novelist – check out Bright’s Passage. I’ll write about it in a future post.)

Wisdom Via Dementia

I had the honor of driving an elderly woman 1.5 hours to the airport so she could go visit her sister. She talked the entire time, telling me stories (the same ones over and over with slightly different variations) and capping each one with what she had learned. By the time we arrived, she had repeated each of the following lessons numerous times. I realized I was being given some valuable advice from someone who had lived well. I hope she’s having a wonderful time with her sister.

  1. You teach others how to treat you. (Dr. Phil adopted this but she learned it from her parents.)

  2. Treat your body well. (“Don’t get sunburned.”)

  3. Let your children know you have their backs. Be their advocate.

  4. Stick up for what you know is right, and respect others in the process of doing so.

  5. Treat your home with respect and don’t allow others who are in your home to be disrespectful.

  6. If you can’t get along with the other children, go find another group to play with.

  7. You’re never too old to find true love.

  8. Having a garden, even a small one, is one of life’s pleasures.

  9. Nature is revitalizing to the spirit.

  10. Don’t ever be violent, with your children or anyone else. Make them sit in a chair and think about what they’ve done. Then talk about it.

and my favorite…

  1. Trees are their own special thing.

trees

wavy tree