Renewing Culture – Keep, Chuck or Recycle?

Last week in our parenting course, one set of questions we reflected on as we consider where we come from and what we pass on to our children was:

“What do we include and bring along from our past?

What do we choose to release and discard?

And what do we transform?

In short: keep, chuck or recycle?

My lovely neighbor, Sally, sent me this photo from our community’s recent day of the dead celebration. As I sit with the many lights on the grave sites, the lineages that have come before us lie there, still. Their efforts ripple on, we carry them on within us.

Then I look at the photos of course participants’ children: wide-eyed, open, core-goodness yet unhindered. Their future in formation.

What do we as a culture pass on to our children? What chain reactions in our lineages are ready to die off, be done with, healed and laid to rest?

What can we do, within ourselves and between one another, to truly lay our dead to rest, by consciously facing and choosing what we inherit, rather than continuing an unquestioned hand-me-down version of humanity through generations?

May the light our ancestors shone, continue to guide us.

May any trauma they felt and died stuck with, be healed through us.

May we forge a new future, together.

On this Day of the Dead

In my weekly phone chat with my 98-year old grandma this morning, we spoke about this and that, and with it being the Day of the Dead here in Canada (in Switzerland where she lives, they celebrate All Saints Day tomorrow), we also spoke of death, of dying, of our shared love for graveyards and for visiting friends and loved ones who have passed the threshold.

I told her about the possibility of keeping a loved one’s body at home for three days after they die – to wash, to embalm, to love and release, recently inspired by a Facebook friend’s incredibly moving account of such an experience. She liked that idea. She is one of those people least afraid of dying in my circle. She has always had a friendly relationship with the end of our physical life and stands firmly in the felt-sense that there is a Beyond in which we continue.

We reminisce shared visits to her husband’s grave in Zurich – my nono. I talk about how her great granddaughter, 5-year old A., used to love wandering through the cemeteries in Switzerland to visit the graves, to ask questions, to lay flowers on the beds of fellow humans we had just met there and then.

She says she would like to sit and visit more with others who have died, to say farewell, as they leave regularly in the home she lives in.

I speak to her of the Day of the Dead celebration here in the valley – how we gather at the community-owned cemetery, candles burning on all the mounds and graves and altars, and a huge fire lit with flames reaching up to the moon.  And how we gather in procession, singing ‘dona nobis pacem’ and ‘may the circle be unbroken’. She likes that too, is so open and present to the ways of staying close to the dead, to death.

And so we share across the ocean our moments and reflections on death, on being with death, on dying.

I hang up with gratitude for her alive embodied self as well as for her willing-to-release spirited self. A charming, resilient, joking, tender, wise soul she is.

In this photo she and I are walking in the yard of my childhood, looking for slugs and upon finding them, chucking them into the stream. It sits on my desk. I talk to her about this too, and she laughs, remembering how the slugs still found their way back to the lettuces.

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Life. Death. Life. Death. The mystery of their interwoveness continues to mystify me. And: such chats with my grandma fill me with comfort and confidence.

To all you who have passed on from this embodied existence – all you friends, loved ones and inspiring ones i knew of but never met – you make what lies beyond a friendlier place, as you track on ahead. Blessings upon your onward journeys. I salute you today especially.

Fire and moon stretching toward one another. The veil thin, the light strong.

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One of many lights during the procession at the Day of the Dead celebration this year at the Dumont Creek Cemetery.
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Change ~ from the Outside In

FROM THE OUTSIDE IN ~

So much of my focus – in both my personal life and work with clients – is to explore, practice and ignite CHANGE from the inside out.

But! There is also the other way, which is to go at change from the OUTSIDE IN.

I first came to really appreciate this approach to change, healing and development during the writing of my Masters thesis on Dance Therapy in 1994. Studying the pioneers of this therapy form, a thread ran through that spoke of changing the body to change the mind. Moving the body to discover new states and perspectives. Working with the body to grow new wings – to play with contrast, to expand beyond familiar habits and ruts, to discover other ways of being and living.

To remind myself of this option, I keep this little figurine on my desk. My daughter gave it to me for Christmas a couple years ago. It makes me smile every time i look at it.

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Today, a day that feels a little grey to me… a friend speaks of the “lovely spring rain” in an email, whereas I’m seeing the dreary non-color of snow-melt-not-yet-spring reflecting my interior… I look upon this wee statue and remember. I stretch out my arms, even though really I feel like crawling under a blanket. I smile as I stand in the shower. I lift the muscles in my body, inviting in an interior lift. a change of state.

Does it work? A little. And sometimes a lot. To shake it loose, those blues. To not take them so seriously. To shift state like clouds moving across the sky. To remember: I HAVE emotions, they inform me, they move through me, they are part of my humanness and often carry important (and sometimes skewed) messages. But I AM NOT my emotions.

In addition to all my own focus and my coaching and counselling with others on noticing, being present to and learning from the emotions that move through us, there is also this, and it is such an important “also”: To not take our emotional states so seriously all the time.

Can we do both?

Be present to them. Witness. Empathize with ourselves and others. Let those feelings move.

AND remember: I am not my emotions. I have freedom to change – both from the inside out, and from the outside in. Because I am a unity – there is no clear line between where my inside and outside start and end – CHANGE is most effective when I do both, listening to the moment… is this a time to give in to the pull from beneath that blanket? Or is this moment to say to myself “Just drop it, love, stretch out those arms, remember to expand and shake it loose?
Is this a moment to feel-think myself into acting, or is this a moment to act myself into thinking-feeling?

To discern what is truly called for in any moment takes practice. Lots of it.

Today I choose some of the “outstretched arms” and some of the “simply be present with the feelings”. As the day progresses, the state shifts, the light changes, the weather pattern moves on, and space opens up for new Life, new moments.

And you? Perhaps today as you parent, as you relate, as you live this human adventure, stretch your arms out, take some deep breaths, and shake whatever may be bogging you down, so that a new moment, a new choice, a new possibility emerges.

With love, m

Hope buried, but there, stirring.

A week ago I walked through a beautiful snow labyrinth made by my friend and neighbour. It was the day of Imbolc, the mid-point between the start of winter and the beginning of spring. Like a tipping point, where we note that we are halfway through winter and from now on, every day brings us closer to sun and warmth, here in the north. I have been told that on this day, deep in the ground, the seeds begin to turn toward the light, the stirring begins.

Well, as I walked toward the centre of the labyrinth, snow was pouring down, not a speck of spring visible or tangible. Just a whole lot of flurries and cold sparkle. My mind carried along myriad thoughts, like stray cats, a bit of this and a bit of that as I wound my way along the snowy path. Once I arrived at the centre, I stood still, closed my eyes and settled into Stillness. I listened with my inner ears to see if I could sense any subtle stirring under the ground. Anything at all. With snow swirling all around me, I stayed for a while, listening. I followed down from my feet, down into the earth.

And there it was, almost imperceptible, buried way down, under layers of earth and thick, cold snow, a faint stirring. Subtle. My imagination possibly. Or not. It didn’t matter. What did matter was the experience of reaching down far, all the way to new growth, to hope. It is an active gesture, not a “wait until it falls in my lap” one. It takes focus, concentration, openness and willingness. It feels real.

Ever since, throughout the week, as reports of global affairs continue to dismay and disrupt, I remind myself to follow my feet down through the layers of earth, where seeds turn to light no matter how much snow is piling high (this week we just happened to have epic record-breaking February amounts of over 60cm. Seriously, everything is covered in snow these days, not a seed in sight!)

Listen with me, yes? No matter what is going on. We will not put our heads in the sand. We will keep our minds alert, we will pay attention to what is going on. And: we won’t forget to touch in with the hope, with the knowing that light is stronger, and that we cannot abandon that. Thawing toward warmth, we are part of keeping hope alive. We will listen for the seeds.

Or as Jack Gilbert said (thank you Liz Gilbert for calling my attention to this marvellous poet), we will be stubbornly glad:

“We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world.”


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New Year’s blessings & reflections

January 4, 2017

Dearest ones,

A new year has begun. Everywhere I look and listen, people are speaking of new beginnings, new year’s intentions and resolutions. I enjoy the energy and momentum I sense in this, the hope and courage too, and yet, when I touch in with my true me… I realize I’m actually not quite ready for new beginnings in an outward sense.  

Around me, nature is very quiet at this time of the year, encouraging me to reflect, to incubate and listen. 

How are you feeling? 

I invite you to tune in to that. Not to what others are saying or expecting, but just that. You. To stop. To listen. To allow yourself to be, before diving into the next becoming.

Whether you’re ready to plunge into a new year with vigour, or rest a while longer in the ‘in-between’, or simply carry on, I’d like to share a couple reflections to accompany you. 

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 Winter in the northern hemisphere has just begun. The season invites me to stop. 

To settle into Stillness. To curl up and rest. To hibernate, at least a little. 

To get so quiet that I can listen for and hear if anything I am not expecting may arise. Out of the Stillness. 

And so I choose to see all of January as the ‘in-between’, the prolonged stretch of a stopping-while-listening-for-new-beginnings, offering more time for reflection, contemplation, rest, and trusting that the energy will rise of its own accord, without forcing or willing it, when the Stillness has had enough space and time.

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Years ago, when I was just a few weeks pregnant with our daughter, Adonia, I went to a 10-day Vipassana retreat during which everyone is silent for the entire time. One of my clearest memories was how hesitant I felt to start speaking again at the end of the ten days. The Silence had been both a challenge and a safe place. Speaking struck me as the easiest place to mess up, to bring egoic, reactive patterns back to the interactive space. The quiet invited me to untangle myself from those conditioned patterns. To stop. And start up again with greater awareness and care.

I did end up speaking again 🙂  Messing up, learning and growing all the while. 

This January 1st, and in the ensuing few days, I have had a similar experience. Marking a new year as a new slate, the start of renewed possibility and potential, I have been watching myself more closely throughout the first day, and the second and third, and now the fourth, catching the moments I slide with greater precision, while recognizing that no matter the intention, I will slide, I will mess up. And I will get back up and keep going.

I made it through day one with nary a reaction, impatience or doubt. Day two and beyond, I sprinkled with more unconsciousness. Living includes learning. I can’t stay in the purity of Silence.

So, here’s to taking the plunge into Life, over and over again, renewing our faith that we can grow our consciousness, our capacity for love and kindness every day, while forgiving ourselves and making good when we miss the mark.

It’s that lifelong dynamic between reaching for the stars, for we are noble, while curling into the earth, for we are also humble. Stretching and challenging ourselves AND offering ourselves kindness and compassion as we make our way onward, along this human adventure.

Let us welcome the new year as an opportunity to do both with renewed attention!

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I wish you a most blessed new year. 

I pray we wake up as a humanity to the incredible Beauty, Goodness, and Truth we are at our core. I pray we find our way and that in 2017 we light up the world, kindling the fire in our midst that never dies away.

I wish you well.  

I look forward to our journey together – be this in my capacity as counselor, parenting coach, parenting course facilitator, friend, colleague, sister, fellow traveller.

Thank you for you!

With all my love,    

                           Miriam

Biased toward Productivity

January 30, 2016

Often I don’t even notice it. Just how biased toward productivity I am.

Once in a while I get a glimpse. And in those moments, once-in-a-once-in a while, I even catch it and say to all the possible productive possibilities, “Not that, not this, not that” until I find myself finally stopping. Like this morning. It’s rare. It’s precious. To the point of inspiring me to write about it in case it inspires you to stop, really stop, sometimes too.

I wake up. The house is quiet. It is Saturday morning, no rush of up and go. The house itself seems to be breathing quietly. Even the hum of the fridge seems softer. Here I am awake, sleep is done, early morning reflection and meditation too. What now? Read more

Regret: Facing, Feeling and Healing the Heartache of Lost Possibilities

A friend and colleague, recently turned 40, shared the following sentiment, “I have now reached the age when I experience regret. And it sucks.”

There, he said it. Just like that. I remember the relief I felt, hearing someone speak this out loud. Not whitewashing the experience with something like, “But it’s all good!” or negating the uncomfortable recognition by focusing one-sidedly on all the benefits of choices made and all the good intentions held. Just the raw and honest expression of regret, which, I find, gets spoken rarely these days.

Read more

Receive Generously: Getting to the Core of Our Human Thirst

I was 13 when, due to a number of conducive circumstances — including being immersed in gorgeous choral singing in a candlelit chapel, and my own spiritual fervor — I experienced my first conscious glimpse of God’s unconditional love. Of being bathed in the incredible love and grace that is there to partake in.

The experience stands out for a number of reasons, one being that it remains a blessed memory in my life’s journey. Another — which leads me to the theme of today’s blog — is that it pointed to one of the paradoxical ways I see us dear humans repeatedly tripping over our own two feet.

There I was, gifted with what I recall as a piercing, overflowing, all-encompassing love. Completely amazed and blown open by the fullness and generosity. Me? Little me, loved like that? Read more

Can You Be Grateful for What You Don’t Like?

Lying under a starry night last week while camping and looking up for shooting stars with my 8-year old daughter, our conversation turned to gravity, what it is and how it keeps us from spinning off the face of the earth. We both lay there, letting the significance of gravity sink in, noticing our minds grappling with the immensity of it, and then turning our attention back to the Great Dipper and the Milky Way. The next day, as we shared grace before lunch and spontaneously expressed gratitude for a variety of things, my daughter spoke: “And thank you for gravity, even if I don’t understand it.”

I pondered her “thank you” over the next few days, especially noting gratitude’s freedom from cognitive understanding: We don’t have to fully understand something in order to acknowledge and see it as a gift. We don’t have to make sense of it to say “thank you.” Read more