Solstice Lessons on Life and Death

Walking along the beach, I'm drawn into the bramble of a small grove.
Explorer's eyes wide-open. Shells and sea creatures washed ashore catching my attention. A scanning gaze joltingly stops at a large dead bird. A pelican's body, twisted and strewn out. Recently deceased as is evident from the perfections of life still intact.

I'm drawn in by its beauty. The elegant lines of its head, its feathers, fur, colors, shape. And yet... I'm scared to approach it. I circle the perimeter, maintaining a wide distance.

Why? Why must I stand so far away? Why am I afraid to approach this dead bird?

I stand with reverence. A moment of prayer. May you pass peacefully along on your journey.

The beauty beckons me forward. I've never been able to be so close to an animal such as this one. To gaze at its lines and shapes, to drink in the size of its life and presence. And yet I'm resistant. With fear. Why this fear?

I realize that I am afraid that it might not be totally dead yet. If I get close, I may see it move, last grasps at life. Its shape hints at an unexpected death. I project suffering. I recoil from fear of that suffering. If I get close, I might personally feel it. It will make me suffer too. And perhaps even the irrational fear that death will jump up and take me too.

I don't want to see it suffering because I don't want to suffer.
I don't want to die.
I don't want to feel that pain.
So I stay away. I stand back. I create distance.
Somewhere inside me I have been programed that I am doing this for my own protection.

I disagree. Not right now. This moment of beauty and death is calling to me.

I breathe with the realization that in this moment I am afraid to get close and genuinely feel what-is if there is a chance that I will feel suffering.

I must walk in. Walk closer. Push beyond this internally polarized force, repelling and invoking.

I flash to bigger picture, parallel patterns. In order to invite growth, change and transformation I believe that we have to start by accepting what-is, and then discovering what we can love about what-is. Often situations that are in need of transformation and change have a coating of suffering that surrounds the core. To face what-is means to be with that pain and suffering, to feel through that contraction and seemingly awfulness... for only in that acceptance is there room to travel beyond into the opening and fruits of possibility.

And so on this solstice day I dance with the balance of beauty and death, suffering and possibility, my own personal fears and universal patterns. May the light grow increasingly more abundant and may I discover new acceptance in the caverns of the darkness.

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posted by ashley


The Inner Landscape of Beauty

"Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you, and I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary."
~ John O'Donohue

"In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam ċara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and ċara is the word for friend. … In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam ċara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam ċara you could share your innermost self, your mind, and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. … In everyone's life there is great need for an anam ċara, a soul friend, in this love you are understood as you are without mask or pretension. Where you are understood, you are at home." ~ From John O'Donohue's book Anam Cara

~ John O'Donohue on Speaking of Faith
~ Commentary from Things That Go Bump in my Head
~ Photo by harold.lloyd

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posted by ashley


A Radiant Feeling Pounces

The Poem in my Pocket:
Walking in the Forest

Walking in the forest
a radiant feeling pounces
on my misty
heart, clearing
my bad thoughts.
Good memories leap,
alert, brought to my mind
by a cool breeze.
Then they sleep.
Magic flows through me
like a child running on cool summer grass.
by Tevon Dubois in A Child on The Island: The Ageless Wisdom of a Ten-Year-Old

p.s. I will return to actually writing posts here some day. It feels like it will be soon, but we shall see!

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posted by ashley


Brains, Beauty, Love, Learning and Celebration

For the next three days I'll be attending the Learning and the Brain Conference which is focusing on social brain research. It is very exciting to be learning more about the science and neurology that underscores much of the theoretical philosophies and intuitive knowings that are the foundations for much of my work and inspiration. I hope to learn more about mirror neurons, theory of mind, emotional regulation, memory and wisdom, and promoting social and emotional intelligence.

The last couple of days I've been hanging out with the remarkable Amy Lenzo. Amy has created an enticing world over at the Beauty Dialogues. I greatly appreciate Amy's willingness to recognize the beauty and potential not only in the physical world around her, but also in the human world. She has been a pivotal supporter in encouraging many creative hearts to find their voice of expression and share it with the world. I am very grateful to have benefited so much from her recognition of and encouragement towards Easily Amazed finding ways to grow into all it can be! Thanks, girl!

Over the next few days I will be paying attention to how beauty and allurement fit into this world of social and emotional brain research. Brian Swimme suggests that love begins as allurement and attraction. We know that attraction and allurement between a baby and its parent propel the relationship between them and this relationship fundamentally shapes the development of the child. As Mary Gordon so aptly states, "Love grows brains."

And we can never have too much love in our world. On Sunday, my friend Tracy Davis, took me to the incredibly inspiring and healing Glide Memorial Church, a place that is actively promoting the forces of love, celebration, inclusion and equality in a spiritually and culturally uplifting way. This was a beautiful expression of social, emotional and spiritual wisdom deep at play. I'll leave you with a poem that is Glide's Core Values:

The Ground We Stand On
Radically Inclusive
We welcome everyone. We value our differences.
We respect everyone.

Truth Telling
We each tell our story. We each speak our truth.
We listen.

Loving and Hopeful
We are all in recovery. We are a healing community.
We love unconditionally.

For the People
We break through barriers. We serve each other.
We change the world.

We sing. We dance. We laugh together.
We celebrate life!

looking up at mom by dolanh

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posted by ashley


Overcome with blessings

My granddaughter Abby recently turned two. I stopped by to visit her tonight. She took me by the hand, leading me to sit on the living room floor next to her mom. She then began skipping and galloping in circles around her mother and I, singing and shouting whatever came into her mind. (free association- toddler style) Her arms were sometimes flailing, sometimes doing a chicken dance. Her face was excuberant. Her body aligned with the union of her heart and soul. She is innocence and celestial beauty, joy and love.

Each of us possesses this authentic beauty , although it is sometimes concealed. For example, defenses help to protect us from pain, but they may also diminish the joy of living fully and completely. Socialization teaches us etiquette, but if we are not vigilant, we are in danger of slipping into a persona.

Today I resolve to pull away one more layer of my earthly defense, and celebrate life a little fuller; boldly letting go of earthly pretenses, immersing my soul in God's creation of humanness. I will open my arms to all dimensions of being.

To Abby: Thank you for modeling lessons on living. Love, Nana


first of all, patti, i must again say how i love the poetic flow of your words... free-association toddler style had me busting rhymes and rhythms as i read the rest of your post!

"Her body aligned with the union of her heart and soul."

I wonder how you (we) know this when we see it. What are some of the clues that tune us into the fact that someone's body is aligned with the union of their heart and soul? (anyone can answer this!)

"defenses help to protect us from pain, but they may also diminish the joy of living fully and completely. "

isn't it interesting also how those very same defenses were probably completely necessary in order to protect us from external sources of pain at some previous point in our lives. how we become ingrained in the habit of depending on those defenses even when the threats no longer exist, or when we are now strong enough to to face such threats on our own (living fully and completely) and not dependent on those old habits.

and OH MY, patti. your intentions set in this post are amazing. please keep us updated on what unfurls from the peeling away of one more of those layers, from your courageous action of letting go, and the enticing drive to immerse your soul in God's creation of humanness. let us know about the textures and flavors of the new dimensions of being that pop out and become just that much more visible to you.

thank you abby and nana, for showing us how to be a teacher and a student.

with love,

Gravatarsweetest is the innocence of a child, to abe to freely express at all times what they are feeling. no fear or shame of thoughts of others, oh how i wish to be sooo free. from your post dear patti i too choose to remove a guilt layer , hmm! guilt just popped into my head, yes remove the guilt is what i tend to acheive. it reminds me of the day i was walking in the mall with jared and zoe. "come on mom skip with us" i hesitated, looking around to see who was watching, feeling ashamed, then accepting how i felt, off i went skipping along, having a wonderfull time with my kids. "skip backwards" they told me, so i turned around and skipped backwards, the kids and i were laughing and having soo much fun, enjoying life! everyone around faded away, treasured moments that will NEVER fade!
thank you abby and nana for reinforcing my desire to be free!
love maria.

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posted by Patti

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