The Spring Ceremony


We piled out of the cars, eager for the adventure of the Springs. Lu, our Hindu guide, helped us dress in appropriate temple clothing (sarong, lace top and sash). IMG_2546

We slowly walked through the gate, feeling like princesses, and the world fell away.

We knew this experience would be life changing, but no one could have prepared us for how deeply the energy would impact us.

As we walked down the ancient stone steps, the outside world disappeared. There was a hush, a stillness that pervaded everything. The only word that can describe the air inside the Temple is…reverence.

Vibrant colors serenaded our walk down into the depth and heart of this ancient space. Trees as tall as small buildings created a canopy of leaves, filtering the light and altering our perception of ourselves.

Lu lead us in a ceremony to prepare to enter the springs. The sound of water rushing down the hillside nearly drowned out her soft voice. A few moments spent in worship and then we walked down a few more steps to the springs.

Turning the corner, I saw the area for the first time. This was truly a holy place. It seemed almost alive with energy. Moss covered all exposed surfaces and mist rose from the surface of the water. The sound of rushing water was so loud that we couldn’t communicate unless we yelled in each other’s ear.

The water barreled down from above and was channeled into four different fountains. We soon learned that each fountain had a purpose in the ceremony.

IMG_4666Entering the pool required a step down on mossy rocks into chilly water that took your breath away. There was no time to hesitate, because someone else was waiting behind you. Together, we shared the experience of ice cold water, while maintaining our prayerful attitude.

We ceremonially offered small flowers and then, one by one, we stood under each waterfall. The first waterfall was to release the mind, the second was to release the body. The third was to cleanse the soul and the last was to surrender to the Divine.

When it was my turn, I was excited but nervous. As I stood in front of the first fountain, I prayed to be open to whatever happened.

IMG_4676I stepped into the liquid curtain and tried to find the sweet spot where I could breathe and still be submerged in the water. My time in the mind fountain was short, because I never could find that sweet spot. I backed away and took a deep breath, hoping to master the technique.

On the second fountain, I discovered that if I leaned forward and tilted my neck down, the water would flow over the back of my head and down the sides, creating a pocket of air. My body relaxed and I was able to let go of my thoughts (so appropriate because this was the body fountain).

The third fountain is where I lost it. I realized, on a visceral level, that I was held, safe and loved. I started crying, then discovered that I could make as much noise as I wanted and no one would hear me. The sound of the water was so loud that it drowned my sobbing. I stayed much longer, allowing the water to wash over my head and back, cleansing more layers than just the physical.

Lu was patiently waiting at the last fountain. I was still holding my flower and she nodded at it, saying something I couldn’t hear. I finally heard her say, “Let it go.” I shouted to her that I already had, but she laughed and pointed to my flower. “Let it go,” she said again. I finally understood and gently placed the flower on the surface and watched it float away.

Something shifted inside of me under the last fountain, and I felt myself merging into oneness with the Divine. My small self was washed away by the strength of the water, and in its place rose a peaceful certainty about myself.

Emerging from the last cleansing, I felt like a different person. Walking back up the ancient steps, absorbing the holy energy of this place, I knew that I had shed layers of limiting beliefs.

The impact of this cleansing in my life is difficult to describe or measure. When I forget that I am loved and here for a reason, all I have to do is study these photographs again.

IMG_2552

I share my story in the hope that it will inspire you to shed limiting beliefs. There are many ways to do this. Meditation, yoga and tai chi are just a few examples. Find what works for you and surrender to it’s wisdom.

The ancient ceremony I experienced is one way to meet your Self. Another is to begin a daily meditation practice. The 21 Day Heart Dancing Challenge is designed to gently lead you home, using short, guided meditations and journal prompts.

However you find the way, just know that you are loved beyond measure, that you are meant to be here, and that you have a gift to share with the world.

It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!

How To Lose a Ring and Find Yourself


LoseARingLast night, I had a vivid dream about losing a ring. This ring rested on the 4th finger of my right hand. It had guarded that space for as long as I could remember. And now it was gone.

In my dream, I had no idea where I left it. My mind kept trying to solve this mystery, but it came up empty. I knew that the ring was important to me, but I was stuck.

I could see the ring – It was large, gaudy and flashy. The stone was a crystal ball that glowed whenever my thoughts turned to judgment, shame or doubt. It was glowing at this moment, in my dream, because of my thoughts.

“What was I thinking to take it off?”

“I don’t misplace things – especially this ring!”

“I am such an idiot for losing it.”

It was almost as if I was watching myself go through this drama. As the judgmental thoughts went across the screen of my mind, the ring started vibrating, as if it were going to explode!

My dreamer self remained calm, cool and collected. She was not involved in the emotional vortex and did not sit in judgment. My dreamer self was awake and aware, smiling slightly at the scene in front of her.

And then I woke up. I immediately felt for my wedding ring on my left hand, and feeling it’s substance, realized that it was just a dream.

What did it Mean?

As I sat in meditation several minutes later, I listened to a guided meditation from Sarah Blondin called, “Loving and Listening to Yourself. The journey she invokes in this meditation gave me the answer to my dream.

In looking outside for ways to fill our inner needs, we never find the source. No one can do that for you; no one can complete you. You are living between your two selves – the self who knows and the self who believes in lack. Once you start loving yourself, you return home.  Sarah shares a phrase that you repeat to yourself during the meditation.  (You will have to listen to discover the phrase that brings you back to self.)

The ring I lost in my dream was my lacking self. It is energized by the ego, who always wants me to look outside for the answer.  My lacking self believes in this way of living, and her mission is to become satisfied from the outside. The glowing energy of the ring seemed like a celebration of an accomplishment, but it was really a sign to turn away and go within.

Losing the ring means that I can show up in the world, loving all of myself.

What does my life look like when I love all of me? How do I show up differently – in person, online or even with myself?

I am eager to explore and grow in this new way of being. Whenever I fall back into the dream of lack, I repeat Sarah’s phrase. It has become my new talisman!

Why not join me in a 21 Day Challenge? In just 15 minutes a day, you will meditate, journal and set an intention for the day. After following this practice for 21 days, you will be a different person! You may even loosen that ring that sits on your finger. 🙂

It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!

The Light Changed Today


The earth spins silently around the sun, revolving from day to night then day in the eternal celestial dance. The sun shines on all parts of the earth equally, without reservation or discernment. It also shines on all humans equally, no matter their color, culture or creed.

There is a special place created by man in 1260 that filters the sunlight through pictures and stories. This building is actually the fourth one to stand on this site, all dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. For more than 1,700 years, pilgrims have traveled to the Cathedral in Chartres, France to show their devotion to Mary and be blessed by her.

Pushing open the heavy wooden door and walking into the gloom of the interior, my eyes take a moment to adjust. Even thought I cannot discern details of the interior, I sense a vast space rising above me, seemingly to infinity.

Slowly, my eyes adjust to the gloom and I feel small, insignificant, in the face of so much space. What can hold me together so I don’t spin apart?

The stained glass windows. They hold the key to emptiness. They give meaning to my life, don’t they?

Sunlight from a zillion miles away filters through the glass, coloring the floor in colors of red, umber, green and gold. These pieces of color are assembled to tell the story of creation, destruction and the coming of the one who will save us from ourselves. The story of Christianity is told in these panes of glass, 1,100 of them.

It isn’t the minute details that fascinate me, but the sense of reverence that permeates the air. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have traveled to this spot to adore Mary, the mother of Jesus. They have walked these stones in their bare feet or with sandals that are worn through, taking one more step to reach their dream.

To see the Shroud of Mary that is encased in the far left corner of this magnificent Cathedral.

As I stand in front of the chapel, looking at the shroud, I can’t help but think of how many people have done the same thing. How many others have felt the energy of this simple piece of cloth that Mary wore while she was giving birth to Jesus?

The sunlight is filtered by the stain glass above the shroud. It filters the light through the stories told on its surface. It struck me that I was being educated by the people who created this art.

I continued to the opposite side of the Cathedral, passing several other alcoves and places of worship. Until I saw it on the floor, as if it were waiting for me.

A single beam of light, shining through a piece of clear glass. There were no stories filtering the light, just a clear opening for it to shine in all of its brilliance.

I stood in the pool of divine light and felt loved by God. In the place of a million stories (told in the stained glass and in the hearts of all who had ever set foot in this building), God found me. And he loved me, without my having to do anything but allow his love to flow into my heart.

The light changed for me in that moment. Accepting the gift, I now step forward. To join the celestial dance of love.

The Heart Dance.

When you know you are loved for who you are, not who you think you should be. When you know that you are enough, because you are loved for who you are. When you are seen and loved, just as you are, in this moment.

Why don’t you step into the pool of light unfiltered by stories, and join the dance?

When are You a Grown Up?


pexels-photo-556666Milestone birthdays have a way of encouraging reflective thoughts about life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

I have one of these birthdays coming up — the one that marks the beginning of a new decade and the end of the previous one.

“Milestone” sounds like you have a chain around your neck and you have just been thrown off the boat. I prefer to be more playful — such as “this is my year of celebrating __ years of traveling around the sun.”

Now that I am entering a new phase of life, I wonder if I am finally a “grown up.” When I was a kid, I thought all grown ups had the answers to everything. They sure seemed to…

“It’s just the way it is.”

“We’ve always done it that way.”

“No need to fix something that isn’t broken.”

Of course, now that I am older and wiser, these pat sayings are amusing. But to my 8 year old mind, these words were the law, not to be questioned.

In my moments of introspection, I always wondered what it would be like to be on that side of the table. To have all of the answers and speak so confidently.

Now, I know the truth.

When I was a child, I thought like a child. Now, as an adult, hopefully I think like an adult. But am I a grown up?

That question keeps hammering in the back of my mind. Have I reached the age where grown up status is automatically conferred? Or do I have to earn it?

What I do know is that the more times I travel around the sun, the less tolerance I have for other people’s answers. I am on a quest to seek my own answers that resonate, encourage and cultivate my greatest good.

No one has the answer for everyone; they only have the answer that works for them.

How do you find your answers? For me, meditation and mindfulness have paved the way back to myself.

Dipping into that space between thoughts is the only way I have found to love myself. Being aware of my thoughts and my words is the natural offspring of loving myself.

Why not join the 21 Day Heart Dancing Challenge? It will help you establish a daily practice of meditation, journaling and intentional creativity. Who know where that might take you?

The Illusion of Life: Balinese Style


“We are energetic beings with consciousness.”

The first time I heard that sentence was at a women’s retreat in Bali. Eleven women on a spiritual journey to find their own truth. Eleven women who traveled great distances to share a brief space of time to learn, connect and evolve.

Our group was diverse in age (the youngest was 34; the oldest, including me, were in their late 50s). Each one of us carried the deep desire to shed old beliefs, dissolve our limiting stories and become more authentic.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my shedding began when I sat in the car on the way to the hotel from the airport. Chaotic traffic, hundreds of scooters and cars vying for the same spot on the pavement, all at the speed of life.

My fear of crashing was triggered immediately. My body tightened, my breath became shallow and I became my fear.

Until I looked at our driver, Nengah, and noticed how calm he was in the middle of chaos. His hands were gently resting on the steering wheel, his shoulders were relaxed and his focus was complete. He never reacted as a scooter zoomed past us, between our car and oncoming traffic. He never became angry or upset at anything that was happening on the other side of the windshield.

He was present, mindful and aware.

It was my first lesson on the illusion of Bali. I brought my Western awareness to this place and judged it based on my perception. But I failed to see that I was looking at the illusion, not the underlying reality.

“We are energetic beings with consciousness.”

The Balinese know this as a fact and they live from this place. They may describe it differently, but their presence in the present becomes obvious as you spend more time with them.

During the retreat, I also learned that we are conscious creators of our reality. Our reality begins and ends with our internal eyesight. What we see in our mind’s eye is what we will see when light is refracted off our eyeballs.

As creators, we change our reality when we change our internal vision. Meditation, visualization and gratitude are ways to stay centered. As you emerge into the world from these practices, your energy goes before you, almost like a magic carpet. You invite the same energy into your reality that you radiate.

Life becomes a beautiful dance.

It’s so simple but many of us have forgotten our own power to create our reality. We see the physical and interpret its meaning, based on our perception in that moment. The illusion becomes our reality, because we are on the inside of it.

We have forgotten that we are energetic beings with consciousness.

The Balinese live this way. They wake in the morning and give thanks. They create offerings and place them in the doorways, at the base of the shrines, and at the foot of waterfalls. Anywhere they see God’s signature on the world, they celebrate with gratitude.

My intention is to see beyond the illusion of the physical, to the energetic life force that supports and connects everything. To first clean up my own energy before interacting with others. And to consciously allow the essence of life to flow through me as loving energy.

It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!

The Wisdom Path


The Heart Sutra is a treasured text revered by Confucius, Buddhists and Taoist. It forms the basis for the Wisdom Path that lies above the Po Lin Monastery.

During a trip to China in 1980, Professor Jso Tsing fell in love with the simplicity of the Heart Sutra. He was inspired to write it in calligraphy and dedicated it to the people of Hong Kong in the same year. His work is now transcribed in large scale wooden beams that form the Wisdom Path.

Each log is positioned to reflect the topography. When seen from above, the overall design is a sideways figure 8, the Infiniti sign.

The plaque which describes the Heart Sutra is at the beginning of the path.

It is a ten minute walk to the start of the Wisdom Path. I followed a group of students who were going to the hostel located further up the hillside. Their youthful energy was contagious and I felt young and free.

Walking the path, a sense of peacefulness and serenity washed over me. After my experiences at the Monastery, I felt removed from my self. I cannot claim to understand the Heart Sutra; I just know that I felt the space between my small self and the connection to something much greater expand.

Another Path

If there is another trail that beckons, I can’t resist its calling. At the base of the Wisdom Path was the trail to the top of the peak. Guarded by a rooster, it was a trail I had to explore.

The path quickly became step, rough and long. The humidity of the day seemed to fall on me like a blanket. No one was going my way; the cautionary voice inside my head started singing out what could happen if…

I took a deep breath and kept going. And was rewarded by this view of the Wisdom Path.

You can almost make out the infinity sign, can’t you?

The path beckoned upward. I must have been an explorer in another life. It’s the only explanation that explains this desire to see around the next bend.

And then I discovered why I took this way. I was integrating my experience at the Monastery and on the Wisdom Path. Forced to pay attention to this moment, careful where I placed each foot, I was meditating in a waking state. No thoughts or judgments; no plans for the future or regrets about the past.

Just breathing (and sweating) in the here and now.

I paused on a flat part of the trail and took a sip of water. My emotions were calm and my thoughts silent. And then I turned and saw the confirmation of my experience.

It’s just another step in the Heart Dance!

Moment by Moment


christian-holzinger-433986“Welcome to another moment in life.”

The rustic sign hung a bit crooked on the cracked wall, having seen many years of wind, rain, and sun as it faced the ocean. The outdoor restaurant in Key West was also weather-worn, much like its regular customers.

I sat by myself at a table facing that same body of water, not as sculpted by the elements as I was beaten down by myself.

I was taking a holiday to get away from the muddle I had made of my life. Only to discover that it still lived inside my head, playing over and over again in full technicolor.

A young man with a messy man bun walked up to me, casually holding a pen and a pad to take my order. At first, I didn’t see him, because the view of the beach, palm trees, and the ocean had entranced my attention. It was only after he said, “Ready to order?” that I turned toward him.

“Oh hi!” I said, brightly. My life had fallen apart, and I was still trying to look put together. “I’ll take the shrimp tacos and iced tea.”

He nodded and started to walk away. That’s when I noticed the other signs that hung over the bar, the doors and any spare space on the walls.

“Be who you are. Everyone else is taken.”

“Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.”

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult; we just need to remember to do it.”

I stood up abruptly, motioning the waiter to come back over to my table. “What is the name of this place again?”

He looked at me a bit warily and pointed to the large sign over the bar. “Now and Zen,” it said in large, simple script.

I nodded and sat back down, remembering why I had come to this island at the southernmost tip of the United States. It was to rediscover who I was before I became who the world told me to be. And coming to the Now and Zen restaurant was the starting point back to myself.

“Is Henry here?” I called to the retreating back of my server. He glanced over his shoulder and pointed to the kitchen.

Suddenly, a face appeared in the small opening between the kitchen and the restaurant. A muffled yell and then…Henry burst forth like a comet, tail blazing with light.

I was enveloped in Henry’s arms, the hug so tight that the air burst out of my lungs. I hugged him back, laughing at his exuberance. He rocked me back and forth, saying over and over, “Oh Mia, Mia! I am so glad you’re here!”

The sadness that I carried with me like an extra layer of clothing disappeared in that embrace. I let myself go and absorbed his love, knowing that it would fill me up like nothing else. My healing began in those few moments of complete acceptance.

Finally, we pulled apart.

Henry looked deeply into my eyes, touching my soul. My initial reaction was to break the contact, but I forced myself to stay still as he took his assessment of my emotional and spiritual condition. Much like a doctor takes the pulse and listens to her patient’s heartbeat, Henry was taking my spiritual pulse.

He pulled me into another embrace and whispered in my ear, “I have to keep cooking, but let’s talk later.” He hugged me one more time, kissed my forehead and went back into the kitchen.

Sometime later, Henry sat down at my table, bits of food stain on his shirt and shorts. His weathered face showed his age, but not his eyes. Deep blue with a calm, penetrating gaze, Henry could look deeply into another person’s eyes and touch their soul.

He reached across the table and grabbed my hands, smiling as he squeezed them affectionately. His low, gravely voice hummed a sea-faring tune that was calming and poetic at the same time. He waited for me to begin speaking, silently granting permission and creating the safe space for me to become vulnerable.

I took a deep breath and nodded, looking down at our hands. His, dark brown and worn; mine, lily white from lack of sun.

“I couldn’t help her,” I whispered. The shame and pain of helplessness overcame me, and I began sobbing quietly. Henry moved his chair around to sit next to me, holding me in his arms as I grieved.

When my crying jag was finished, I looked up and understood why I came. My mother’s only brother was the one person who would know why I was punishing myself about her last days.

Henry smiled gently and handed me a napkin. As I cleaned up my face, he spoke softly. “You loved her to the end, Mia. She crossed over knowing that you loved her.”

I nodded miserably, but the shame of old grievances was still there. As I took a breath and looked out to sea, I realized that only I could release this shame that threatened to engulf me.

“I should have been there sooner,” I offered as proof of my guilt.

Henry shook his head. He sat up straighter in his chair and looked at me directly, all comfort and care transformed into a laser focus. He wanted me to hear his next words, and his body language was like a neon sign, pointing to this moment.

“Close your eyes and take a deep breath.”

I did as I was told and waited. After a few deep, calming breaths, Henry continued.

“You are here, right now, searching for answers to a question that has no answer.” His voice was soft but insistent. “Regret keeps you locked in the past. Let it go now.”

I nodded and took another deep breath. I could feel the tension leave my body and I smiled at the relief found in the release. A spark of hope became a flame as I breathed in the salty air, held it and then released it in time with the ocean’s pulse.

We sat that way for several minutes. The ocean was soothing, the breeze cooling and I was loosening. All because I trusted Henry and allowed him to open a space for my healing.

Suddenly, I felt another presence near me. My eyes and mouth flew open at the sight of a seagull perched on the railing, about 2 feet from our table. The bird was staring intently at me, while it fluffed its wings and settled more firmly on the wooden perch.

Henry laughed and nodded. “That’s how you know you released something,” he said with a slight tease in his tone.

I glanced at him but kept my attention focused on the bird. It was still staring at me. It was a bit unnerving.

He added slyly, “When a bird comes to visit at just the right moment, you know it means more than it seems.”

This time, I looked at him directly. “You mean…?”

He nodded. “That’s a sign from your mom that she’s O.K. She’s telling you to stop punishing yourself and accept what happened. It was all in divine order.”

As the words fell from his lips and the meaning entered my consciousness, the seagull stretched its wings, preparing to fly. But just before it lifted off, it did something astonishing. It winked…at me!

“Did you see that?” I exclaimed with wonder in my voice. I could almost hear my mother laughing with me. I stood up and raised my arms wide, receiving the gift she had just given me.

The sun warmed my face and arms as I said, “Thank you!”

Henry grinned and joined me in the celebration. His arm hung around my waist as his other arm raised up. Together, we stood in open gratitude.

He turned and smiled into my shining eyes. His next words were simple, yet profound.

“Welcome to another moment of life!”