Meet Me at the Fire

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Meet Me at the Fire

Good morning, America. Yesterday was rough, and I woke up to what felt like my worst nightmare: President-elect Trump. I cried – a lot. I cried for myself and my family, for my friends, for all of the forward progress that now seemed lost. I cried for you and for the loss of who I thought you were. I avoided any contact with friends, family, and co-workers who I knew had voted for Trump. I tweeted #NotMyPresident, toyed with the idea of moving to Canada, and tried to banish visions of Nazi Germany from my mind.

But today is a new day, and I still love you. After some loving Reiki energy and a good night’s sleep, I remembered an important truth I’d forgotten in the storm of yesterday’s shock and grief. America, you are more than the person in the White House. You are more than Congress or an electoral college. You are more, so much more. Your skin is a beautiful rainbow of shades and colors….dark and light and everything in between. Your voice is the song of diversity, and your history has been shaped by the sons and daughters of every nation. I remembered that this country was founded by men who took action when they were unhappy with the status quo. These men didn’t always agree, but they came together and worked through their differences because they shared a vision of a way of life, of a country that would be better than what they’d left behind. Did you hear me? They took action.

I woke this morning with the remembrance that this is MY country. It’s YOUR country. America belongs to each one of us, and as her citizens, it’s OUR responsibility to make sure that all of our voices are heard. It’s our responsibility to take care of each other, to take care of Mother Earth, and to ensure that the path we walk together leads to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us. It’s our responsibility to get off our asses, stand up, and become active participants in creating a country that works for everyone. I woke up this morning thinking about the message behind the election of Trump as president. Trump is our wake-up call, the cry of all those who feel steamrolled by our government. We’re unhappy. We feel unheard, unloved, unimportant. We feel that our needs, our hopes, and our fears have been ignored by our government. We feel unsafe. The way of life we’ve always known is crumbling, and the change is uncomfortable and scary. We want the freedom to love who we love, to be paid fairly for our work, to know that our families are safe, protected, fed, and have equal opportunity to follow their dreams. We feel unbalanced and discarded. We feel threatened. We feel that our lives don’t matter. We feel we cannot be authentic to ourselves. We fear. We grieve. We worry about the future and feel anxious about the present. We feel that no one understands. We feel disconnected from one another. We feel alone.

I hear you, America. I feel all of those things, too. You know what? We all feel those things. Every single one of us. Trump is president now, and half of us are thrilled. Half of us are terrified. So what do we do? Can we heal from this sense of separateness that exists so deeply among us? How do we get past the grief, the anger, the blame and shame and get back to US? We have to allow ourselves to remember. The past 15 years have shaken our notions of who we are. They’ve revealed the unhealed wounds in our hearts and caused us to lash out at each other because we didn’t want to see those wounds. It’s painful to admit we’re not the good guys all the time. It’s painful to acknowledge our own darkness, and so we ran from it. We pushed it away, wrapped it in the clothes and faces of cultures and religions we didn’t understand and made it our enemy. But we were running from our own shadow, and there was no place to hide. So now here we are, standing in the darkness together. And you know what? It’s okay. It’s scary as hell, but it’s okay. The founders of our country had to face their own darkness. They had to be with their uncertainty and trust the light of their shared vision to guide them out of the darkness. America, the flame of that vision…unity …still burns between us. Together, every day, we can stand up for each other. We can smile at a stranger, extend our hand to help another. We can pray for each other and give thanks for each breath, for each sunrise, for each new opportunity to fight together. We can stop waiting for our government to guide us and instead, become the leaders of our own path.

It won’t be easy. In fact, it’s going to be fucking hard and painful. Our wounds go deep and a few smiles or acts of kindness won’t be enough to heal those wounds. Every single day, each one of us needs to make the choice to show up and fight for US. Not with hate, ignorance, fear, or violence – but with kindness, compassion, and love. We’ll have to turn off the reality television, stop listening to the hysterical rantings of the media, and tune into our children, our neighbors, our communities. We’ll have to give a shit about other people – people who may look different from us or who may have views or lifestyles that are different from ours. We’ll have to get actively involved with each other and hold ourselves accountable every day for making sure our thoughts, words, and actions reflect the change we want to see in the world. Every fucking day. And when you get weak, I’ll be there to give you my strength. And when I get weak, I hope you’ll be there to share your strength with me. It’s going to be hard and painful, America, but I know we can do it together.

Not all of us will be on board with healing. Many of us don’t want to face our darkness. It scares us, and we don’t know what to do with that fear. So we lash out. That’s okay. Healing takes time, and the rest of us will be right here, holding space for that fear with love and compassion. We’ll stick together because we’re Americans, and that’s what we do for each other. Here’s the thing to remember, America: straight, white, Christian men aren’t the enemy. Muslims aren’t the enemy. Women aren’t the enemy. Latinos aren’t the enemy. Members of the LGBT/Q+ community aren’t the enemy. Fear is the enemy. Only love is real, America. Only love.

Right now, we’re standing in the darkness together. But a flame still burns in the darkness between us. America, will you meet me at the fire?

In Love & Peace,

Terri

Holding Space for Grief: Divine Dog Wisdom

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Holding Space for Grief:  Divine Dog Wisdom

Last month my family said good-bye to Sadie, our pit bull/lab furry daughter who’d been part of our family for eight years. Her passing was made even more devastating by the fact that in the past six months, we’ve also lost my grandmother and my husband’s dad. Loss feels like a dark ocean, and at times, I feel we’re hardly able to take a breath before the next wave of grief crashes over us. After the initial storm of pain that accompanies each loss, shock settles in, and then loneliness. The void left by each death feels bottomless, a black hole whose edges can never be pulled together, whose depths can never be filled.

Driving home from work last week, I was overwhelmed by the hard reality of Sadie’s death. The chapter of my life that included her presence and companionship has ended. My mind spins through all of the little moments that will never be repeated now that she’s gone: morning walks, snuggling on Saturday mornings, her smiling eyes and calm presence beside me as I practice yoga on the front porch. Even as the tears flow, I find myself wanting to pull away from grief, to deny its darkness and fill that emptiness with distractions – the radio, household chores, the stack of books I want to read. But there is a softer voice that whispers, “Let it be,” that encourages me to sit with my grief, to hold it with love, acceptance, and infinite tenderness. I inhale and allow myself to hold space for my grief. In the moment I stop fighting the pain and allow its flame to burn in my heart, I allow my heart to be broken open by the loss of someone who profoundly touched my life. And I cry for Sadie, for her unconditional love, joyful soul, and playful spirit. I cry for my grandmother and for my father-in-law, for the conversations that will never be, for their strength of spirit, and for the love they brought to so many lives.

In that moment, I feel vulnerable and raw, stripped of the masks and defenses we humans wear to protect ourselves from experiencing heartbreak. And yet, my tears seem to purge the worst of the pain, cleansing my soul and creating a sacred space to hold my feelings of loss.

Holding Versus Wallowing

Holding space for grief is not the same as wallowing in it. When we wallow in our feelings (whatever they may be), we become mired by the stories our ego has woven from those feelings. We’ve all met someone who seems to thrive on loss and negative emotions. Rather than giving love and space to their grief, they cling to the pain and shape it into a “victim” identity. Wallowing in grief strengthens this sense of identity, and so drama seems to fill their life. When we hold space for grief and welcome it with a loving heart, we allow grief to transform what is not authentic. We crack open the protective armor around our hearts and allow the tender vulnerability of our human being-ness to shine through. For many people, the idea of expressing vulnerability is a terrifying thought, but it is that shimmering vulnerability that enables us to connect deeply with others.

Divine Dog Wisdom

Sadi yoga girl

I believe that dogs embody Divine love and pureness of spirit, and that their wisdom holds many beautiful gifts for us if we just pay attention. Sadie loved us unconditionally, even when I forgot to buy dog treats or yelled at her for eating the cats’ food. In paying attention to her dog wisdom, I felt the joy of lying on the warm earth and gazing up into the wide open sky. I learned that long walks heal the soul, and that sometimes, the very best we can do for someone is to be a loving witness to their pain. Dogs live joyfully in the present moment, and in embracing the now, they don’t wallow in feelings of anger, fear, or grief.

I still grieve for the loss of our beautiful furry daughter, and her absence leaves an empty space in my heart that no one will ever fill. But I’m learning that it’s okay. No one has to fill that space. No one has to take Sadie’s place. One day, we will adopt another dog – and I’ll love her with my whole heart. Life moves forward, and from Sadie I’ve learned that every moment is an opportunity to live joyfully and completely – to greet each person as a friend, and to love without conditions or restrictions. Each moment is an opportunity to fall in love with life.

If you share your life with furry companions, I encourage you to allow your life to be touched and changed by their wisdom. If you’re thinking about welcoming a furry companion into your life, I encourage you to visit your local shelter. Petfinder.com is a great way to connect with dogs available for adoption in your area!

Grief

Grief is not a stone weighted
to crush the heart,
or a crown of thorns woven
to bleed the soul.
In the salt rain of tears, grief offers
a cleansing ocean,
the wild river we swim
to remember that life begins
and ends each day.
Beyond the summer thunderstorms,
sunlight pours rainbows into the mourning.
Grief is not a stone,
or an iron chain forged
to imprison the faithful.
The caterpillar winds its shroud
with threads of sorrow for life
released, for the light that fades
from the blue.
Dawn will break over the glass river,
and on the milkweed stem a butterfly stretches
wet wings in the returning light.
Grief is the salt rain tears
drying like dew on summer’s green,
even as trembling wings unfurl
and the butterfly rises
like a prayer to the sky.

Terri Hadley Ward, 2016

Remember, Life’s teachers don’t always appear to us in human form. Sometimes, they enter our lives as furry children with paws and wagging tails.

Terri & Sadie_web

In love & light,

Terri

Where Blue Footprints Lead

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Where Blue Footprints Lead

To this day, one of my favorite moments of creativity happened when I was about four years old. Back then, I loved to finger paint. The squish of paint on my fingers as I swirled my fingertips across the glossy finger painting paper still makes me smile. One afternoon, while my mom was talking to my dad on the phone, I decided to take the toys out of my vinyl toy box (white with circus animals printed on it), and pour a container of blue finger paint into the toy box. The bottom of the toy box gleamed like fresh canvas; the glob of royal blue paint an ocean just waiting for me to give it life. I don’t remember what sparked the idea to take off my socks and climb into the toy box. I can’t recall the feel of paint against my toes, or remember the look on my mom’s face when she found me walking barefoot in my toy box, watching blue footprints magically appear in the paint. And while the toy box and I were both scrubbed clean, that moment of daring, joyful creativity lingers in my memory like the blue footprints that remained for years after in the bottom of that toy box.

circa 1960s toy box -- just like the one I painted

circa 1960s toy box — just like the one I painted

When I was five, I colored on the walls of my playroom. We were living in a brick apartment in Newcastle, Delaware at the time. My parents didn’t get their security deposit back when we moved. Throughout my childhood, high school, and college years, I sketched and doodled – but by the time I reached adulthood, my inner critic had assumed control of my creativity and I’d resigned myself to the idea that I couldn’t draw and I couldn’t paint. Writing was my “thing,” and all my dreams of being an artist were relegated to the back closet of my mind, filed away under the heading of “wishful thinking.”

Daring to Dare

A few years ago, my husband built me an easel for Christmas. My other gifts included canvases, paintbrushes, and a set of acrylic paints. The yearning to paint was a hunger in my soul, but fear of failure kept the canvases perfect and blank in their cellophane wrapping for a few months. As a recovering perfectionist and slave to fear, I can tell you – perfectionism is boring. Fear is boring. Perfectionism and fear are the key ingredients for living a safe, small life. I realized that somewhere between blue footprints and my adult self, I’d lost touch with daring, joyful creativity and had settled for coloring safely within the boundaries of my comfort zone. I began to venture outside the safety of what was familiar, giving myself permission to get lost in the process of putting paint on canvas or pencil to paper, and to blissfully ignore the snarky voice of my inner critic.

And then one day it happened – I was sketching a rough self-portrait and found myself, hours later, staring at a woman with fire-red hair, fierce blue eyes, and unmistakable warrior markings across her face. I hadn’t intended to create this warrior goddess, but something in my soul seemed to smile with approval. She wasn’t perfect, but she hadn’t asked to be perfect. She’d simply asked for the opportunity to be given life…for me to dare to venture beyond my comfort zone.

Warrior Woman

Warrior Woman

Creativity is our birthright, the essence of our human nature. Each one of us holds within the spark of creative fire, a flame waiting to be tended and nourished that it may help light the world. Through our choices, through what we choose to give our attention to, we either feed the creative fire within us or allow our lives to become fragmented with distractions. Fortunately, if we do listen to our souls, if we reach out to the universe with love and ask for help, we find that the universe responds. We discover opportunities to connect with people who inspire us, or to take a class or attend an event that intrigues our curiosity or ignites our creativity. We just need to dare to be daring.

Dancing with Creativity

Last week I received an email newsletter from Alena Hennessy, a fabulous artist whose books, Cultivating Your Creative Life and Intuitive Painting Workshop, are filled with juicy lessons and projects for enriching your life and nourishing your creativity. She was offering a hefty discount on her popular online painting courses. My inner critic said no way, but I clicked on the link anyway. I scrolled through two of the courses, but stopped when I read the title of the third course, “A Year of Healing (abundant wild living).” As I read the course description, my soul whispered, “Yes, yes, yes!” and I realized…I’m ready to go bold with my creativity and with my life. I registered for the course, and now I’m considering options for turning part of our basement or one of our spare rooms into my art studio.

Cultivating creativity is about saying yes to yourself. Not in a selfish, self-indulgent narcissist way, but in a gentle, nourishing way that involves listening deeply to your soul and responding with love to your soul’s needs. After several years of saying I’d like to learn Reiki, I finally registered for Reiki 1 training this weekend with Brenda Berry of Sacred Celebration, LLC, a dear friend who also served as the officiant at my wedding. Over the past 10 years, she’s followed her soul’s purpose for helping others nourish their physical, spiritual, and emotional health, adding Reiki Master, nutrition coach, wedding celebrant, singer, poet, and shaman to the many ways she shares her creativity with those around her.

Each of us, no matter our circumstances, yearns to create. My best friend recently picked up a paintbrush, and has now completed several lovely paintings that celebrate her soul’s unique song. She’s also building a fledgling catering business, blending her passion for nurturing others with her creativity in the kitchen. My husband and brother are both skilled woodworking artists, and my sister fills her life with a variety of creative endeavors that include knitting and writing. My mother, a lay minister in the Methodist Church, finds joy in bringing creativity to the way she presents her sermons, often dressing up in costume to act out particular stories that relate to her message. She also paints beautiful oil landscapes and performs with her local Red Hat Society group. Known as the “Divas,” these vibrant women bring their songs and dance routines to organizations and venues throughout their community. My life is filled individuals who have made creativity their career as artists, poets, healers, yoga instructors, but it’s also filled with individuals  who bring passion and creativity to health professions, caring for the elderly and disabled, to  teaching, to raising children, to living in harmony with the earth. Creativity dwells within all of us.

heart cloud

Life wants to dance with us. Creativity wants to flow, radiant and limitless, through us and into the world. This moment, follow your curiosity and say yes to your soul. Dare to let it lead you to an abundant, wild life.

In love & light,

Terri

 

Living In-Between

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Living In-Between

For the past few months, I’ve felt stuck in the in-between. Ever been there? It’s that uncomfortable space where you wander, listless and uncertain about who you are, why you’re here, and where you’re going in life. That odd, ill-fitting, burn-it-all-down in-between place called midlife. Having just celebrated my 49th birthday, I feel firmly rooted in the trench between youth and old age, in the hazy, prickly, “what-the-fuck-is-going-on” in-between. And oh, how I’ve struggled to get out! I’ve written entire notebooks full of poems and journal entries, read books on creativity and spirituality, meditated, prayed, and even begged the universe to guide me in my journey (or at least to point me in the right direction). Yet I still feel like a caterpillar stuck in a cocoon, caught somewhere between the self I’ve outgrown and the woman who’s still simmering somewhere in that spun shelter, waiting for her wings to form. And that’s the problem, really. Living in-between demands acceptance and patience, a willingness to sit down in the clearing of your life and wait for your soul song to find you. Unfortunately, like Inigo Montoya in the movie “The Princess Bride,” I hate waiting.

Mid-life is an uncomfortable time for women. The familiar roles of mother and caregiver may be shifting as children go off to college or work and move out of the house. Careers that sustained us through our 20s and 30s can suddenly feel empty and unsatisfying. Relationships may change or become strained as we wake up and find ourselves in the cocoon of transition – the in-between space. For me, living in-between is best compared to standing on ground that’s shifting and crumbling beneath your feet. You can either struggle to find stable ground or trust that when the earth gives way, your wings will unfurl and you’ll fly. I still have my moments of struggle, moments where I flail and flounder for stable ground even as I recognize the earth beneath my feet is actually quicksand. Some days I look in the mirror and see a stranger’s face returning my gaze, and sometimes, all the doors I knock on just refuse to open. On those days, I pour myself a glass of red wine, sit on my front porch, cry a little, and promise to try again in the morning. I listen to the birds singing the day to sleep and sometimes, I experience the grace of that in-between time…the pause between day and night.

The Gift of the In-Between

A moment of grace. A pause, a breath, a heartbeat that reminds me life is vibrant, flowing, and full of strange and magic energy. Perhaps this is the gift of the in-between: a moment of stillness where alchemy can begin. In between the dying of an old life and the birth of a new life, the in-between offers a space of refuge, a cocoon where the soul can turn inward to the work of transformation.

Last summer, my husband and I spent a long weekend at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. One of my favorite activities (besides counting egrets and pelicans) was walking along the water’s edge, where the earth and sea became one. For me, that edge is a place of power and magic, a place where elements combine and transform one another. Walking with one foot on the earth and one in the sea, I could feel the energy of possibility rising through me. I try to remember and recapture that feeling of possibility as I linger in the in-between, especially when I’m overwhelmed by the vague restlessness that stirs both excitement and irritability within my soul. It’s taken time for me to learn the gift of the in-between space, and it’s taken even longer for me to open my hands to accept that gift.

 

Dawn_Reflection

The true beauty of living in-between is that I find myself shedding identity. I don’t know who I am, and that uncertainty gives me a blank canvas on which to paint a new self-portrait. Sometimes, the prospect is thrilling – an adventure that stirs my soul. Yet there are moments when fear makes me want to crawl back into the cocoon, when I want to cling to the beliefs, thoughts, and experiences that have brought me this far. There are days when I wonder if I’ve made the right career choices, if I’m living to my full potential, if I’m following the path the Universe intended me to follow. When my mind begins its jabbering chorus of self-doubt, I call on my meditation and yoga practices to bring me back to center. Focused on the steady rhythm of my breath, I connect – sometimes just for a second – with the stillness at the center of my being. Surrendering to that stillness brings me back to truth and to the realization that there is no in-between. There is only this beautiful present moment, and wherever I am is exactly where I belong.

So here’s my offering to you: Allow. When you feel stuck in a rut, uncertain of your path, or irritated with your life in general, allow those feelings to bring you to the present moment. What do you need right here, right now to be at peace with yourself and your life? Ask the question, and then allow your soul to answer. Perhaps you need more time to create, or healthier food choices, or to dance in your kitchen more often. Whatever the answer, begin there. Allow your soul to express itself, and then listen and respond with love. There is no in-between, there is only your beautiful now. Namaste!

In love & light,

Terri

 

 

 

“Songs of the Wild She” Chapbook Released

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“Songs of the Wild She” Chapbook Released

Today is an exciting day for me. My first poetry chapbook and labor of love, Songs of the Wild She, was released today and is available for order on Amazon and CreateSpace. Celebrating the sacred feminine and my love for nature, Songs of the Wild She is a collection of 21 poems that explore the mystery of the wild, beautiful goddess within all women. I hope these poems touch your soul and encourage you to seek the goddess in your own life. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions!

In Love & Light,

Terri

 

Order through Amazon

Order through CreateSpace

Finding Your Hidden Room

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Finding Your Hidden Room

The other night I dreamt about returning to a hidden room in a house. I’ve had this dream before, although the house and the dream aren’t always the same. What remains the same is the hidden room. It’s on the left side of the house, on the second or third floor, up a wide flight of stairs that no one knows about except me. The room is spacious and bright, and even though empty of furniture and decorations, I know it’s mine. Usually in my dream, I’m walking through a house that’s not yet mine, but that I’m planning to buy. Even in my dream, rediscovering the room fills me with joy and delight and a sense of déjà vu.

I woke from this dream feeling happy and content, yet also experiencing the tingling energy of anticipation. Out of curiosity, I consulted several online dream dictionaries. After all, a recurring dream about returning to the same hidden room has to mean something, right? I found that dreaming about finding hidden rooms often indicates discovering hidden potential, abilities, or knowledge about oneself. It can also indicate growth or a new path. Pretty exciting stuff, especially since I’ve declared to the Universe my intent to publish a book of poetry, become a certified yoga teacher, and step fully into my feminine power – perhaps as a yoga teacher, as the leader of a workshop for women, or as the editor of an online literary journal for women. At this point in my life, my arms are open to whatever opportunities the Universe brings my way. For me, the hidden room dream represents the wise, beautiful, and wild goddess waking up in my soul. It represents letting go of beliefs that limit my thinking and embracing life’s abundance and possibilities. Most of all, it represents my willingness to change the way I view myself.

Finding Your Hidden Room

We all have hidden rooms within ourselves, abilities we take for granted, strengths we don’t recognize because we view ourselves through the narrow lenses of limited beliefs. Those rooms may hold artists, healers, storytellers, medicine women — yet too often, we women deny ourselves the very nourishment our souls need to bring light to our hidden rooms. My best friend is a brilliant woman who recently gave herself permission to nourish her life. Saying “yes” to herself has revealed the hidden rooms of her soul, and in those rooms she’s discovered that she’s a talented artist and writer.

As it happens, “nourish” is my word for 2016. For me, nourish means starting every day with yoga and meditation practice. It means time for writing and painting. It also means being fully present in my life, paying attention, and asking the question, “How can I nourish others?” For my best friend, nourish may mean cooking a fabulous, healthy meal for her family or spending an evening working on a new painting. For both of us, it could mean reading a favorite novel or a conversation together over lunch.

Open2Life

You may find your hidden room when you dance, or when you run, or when you write a new song. You may find it when you go whitewater rafting, when you explore a cave, or when you sit on the front porch with a cup of tea and listen to the birds. You find your hidden room when you say “yes” to yourself, when you release your ideas and expectations of who you should be and embrace the beautiful uncertainty of who you can become. Right now is the perfect moment to say yes to yourself, to go on your own wild adventure to find your own hidden room. Drop those fears, release those old beliefs that keep you stuck. You know the ones – “not good enough,” “not strong enough,” “not creative enough.” The truth is, we’re all good enough. We’re all strong enough, creative enough, beautiful enough. It’s time to find the hidden room within your soul. All you have to do is nourish yourself. The Universe will take care of the rest.

In Love & Light,

Terri

Call of the Soul Tribe

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Call of the Soul Tribe

Last week, a friend who is an entrepreneur and stay-at-home mom, posted on Facebook that she missed the laughter, the magic, the healing that occurs when women gather together. As I read her post, I felt the echo of my own longings. And I wasn’t the only one. Reading through the other replies, I saw the same yearning – a need for female friendships, for the magic that only happens when women come together. Gaia, Mother Earth, Wild Woman, Sacred Feminine, Wild She…whatever name you use, the essence of the goddess lives within all women. She is in our intuition, our nurturing, our passion, our creativity, our healing, and in our deep wisdom and knowing. When women gather as a soul tribe, the power of the sacred feminine strengthens the energy and soul of each woman, creating space for healing, love, and transformation.

Soul tribe. Just saying those words quickens my heart and fires my blood with a wild joy. For me, soul tribe conjures images of a group of women gathered in a circle around a sacred fire, dancing and singing to the beautiful moon. It awakens memories of heartfelt conversations, laughter spilling into the air, a shared connection forged beyond time and the constraints of individual life circumstances. Soul tribe is sisterhood, a remembrance and celebration of woman as creative, vibrant, fierce, and untamed. It’s absolutely necessary for a woman’s physical, spiritual, and creative health…and it’s missing from my life.

As the lone female in a house full of men and as one of a handful of women working at a company run by men (in a male-dominated industry), I’ve been guilty of neglecting my soul’s need for the nourishment of a soul tribe. Like many women, I tend to fill my free time with activities related to caring for a family and home. However, the soul doesn’t allow its needs to be ignored forever. I’ve learned that you can either pay attention to your own needs for self-care, or your body and soul will force you to pay attention. Sometimes, an ignored soul expresses itself through feelings of irritability or resentment. Sometimes, if you continue to ignore your needs for nourishment, you may find yourself suddenly sick in bed for a week. One way or another, the body and soul will get your attention!

Although it had been at least five years since I’d written a poem, this year I suddenly began to write poetry about the sacred feminine. I found myself reading and re-reading Mary Oliver’s collection of poems, A Thousand Mornings, Sue Monk Kidd’s book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, and Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s books, The Invitation, The Dance, and The Call. I stumbled across When Women Waken, an online and print literary journal that supports and celebrates women writers, and found a home for several of my poems and one of my essays. It took me awhile, but I finally recognized the poems as my soul’s way of calling me back to myself so that I could express and nurture what had been neglected.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to listen deeply to my body and to my soul. I wake up early so I can practice yoga and meditate, and I pay attention when the urge strikes to paint, write, take a walk, or just color. One Sunday afternoon I sat at the kitchen table, surrounded by magazines, scissors, and a glue stick, and created a vision board for the coming year. Last week, I signed up for a free, online women’s retreat, “Woman Unleashed,” which focuses on awakening women’s power, passion, and purpose. It’s going on until January 31, so there’s still time to sign up! On Saturday, I attended an essential oils workshop at Pebble in a Pond in Winchester, VA, with three other women and made bath salts and sugar scrubs for the holidays.

Vision Board

Small steps, but each one honors the wild woman who is the mother of all women. Each act of soul-care reminds me who I am beyond my roles as wife, mother, employee, and homemaker. Whether online or in person, reconnecting with a soul tribe of women inspires, encourages, and challenges each woman to awaken to her authentic self and to reclaim her place within the universal soul tribe of women. It can be as simple as lunch with a friend or as detailed as a weekend retreat or monthly women’s circle. Finding your way to your own soul tribe begins with listening to your needs and following the guideposts your inner wild woman sets along the path to lead you home to your authentic self.

How do you take care of your soul? How do you connect with your soul tribe? Let me know!

With light and love,

Terri

Just Show Up

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Just Show Up

Fear of the Dark

As a writer, one of my favorite excuses for not writing is, “I don’t know where this____ (story, poem, novel, essay, etc.) is going.” Other versions of the same lame excuse include, “I’m waiting for inspiration,” “I don’t know what to write,” and “I need to do laundry.” These are the excuses I give myself when I know I should be writing, but my ego can’t handle not having all of the answer and not being in control. Whenever I start to wander away from the light of what’s comfortable and familiar, my ego freaks out because it’s afraid of the dark. There I am, ready to write, and suddenly, ego shows up and looks over my shoulder. The ensuing conversation goes a little something like this:

Ego: “What are you doing?”

Me:  “Working on a ___(story, poem, essay).”

Ego:  “Wait, you didn’t tell me anything about this project!”

Me:  “I know, but it’s okay. I got this.”

Ego:  “But I don’t know anything about this (story, poem, essay). I don’t know where it’s going or how it’s going to end. When did you decide to write this? Why didn’t you talk to me about it? You don’t know what happens next. You’re walking into the dark! Stop! This is way too scary. You should really just stop writing now. Stop! Stop!”

Too often, I listen to ego’s panicked voice and my thoughts freeze up. I mean, my ego is right. I don’t know where the story is going. I don’t know what happens next and I don’t know how it’s going to end. I’m getting ready to take a very long walk in the dark and I don’t even have a flashlight. I turn off my computer. “Whew!” Ego says. “That was close. You’re really lucky I was here to save you. Who knows what was in that darkness? Let’s go watch a movie.”

Yes. Who knows? Perhaps monsters…perhaps creative treasure. Perhaps creative treasure disguised as monsters.

Fear of the dark has killed more of my creative projects than I’d like to admit. Four years ago, I went to a lovely writing retreat in southern Viriginia called The Porches, run by an equally lovely woman, Trudy Hale. (Side note:  If you have a chance, go!) In my application for my four-day residency, I’d sent Trudy a synopsis and writing sample of the novel I planned to work on while there. During my stay, I found that my interest in the novel had plummeted to basement level. Instead, I began a new story. I wrote fourteen pages of that new story, came home, and never looked at it again…until the other day. Four years ago, I’d played with that story in the shallow end of the pool, but I’d jumped out of the pool as soon as the story began to drift toward deeper water. As soon as my ego realized I was going for a walk in the dark without a flashlight.

My creative life might well have continued like this forever, my desk drawers filling with unfinished stories, novels, and essays because I was too afraid to follow them into the darkness without a map or a match or a flashlight. I might well have spent the remainder of my life splashing around in the kiddie pool, wondering why there wasn’t enough water for a good swim. But sometimes the Universe gets tired of waiting around for us to gather our courage, and so it sends clues, guides, and maybe even a few synchronicities to help us take that first step into the dark.

Walking without a Flashlight

For me, one of those magical synchronicities happened on September 29 – the day I received and started reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing new book about creativity, “Big Magic.” (Side note: If you haven’t read it yet, go buy it right now.) Yes, I read “Eat, Pray, Love,” and yes, I thought it was a wonderful book. I would love to spend an entire evening with Liz Gilbert, eating pasta, drinking wine, and talking about creativity. You see, Liz Gilbert has this beautiful, wacky idea that our creativity loves us. That the Universe loves us. She has this idea (and this is what I love most) that ideas want to work with us to become manifested. That is delicious thinking to me because it changes the whole creative process from struggle to play. It means I don’t need to carry a flashlight or take a map when I write a story. I don’t need to know where I’m going because…guess what? The story knows. The story holds the map, but it needs me – my attention and my commitment to showing up and writing every day – to build the road. We’re a team, venturing into the unknown and trusting that there is treasure to be found in the darkness.

That story I started four years ago? I found the file on my computer three days ago and decided to start writing again. Sunday afternoon, I sat at my computer and wrote three pages. Yesterday, I wrote two more pages. I made a vow to the story and to myself to finish writing it. I don’t know yet if the story wants to be a short story or a novel. I don’t yet know the names of all the characters, or what they will do once I get to the next page. I definitely don’t know where it is going or how it will end. All I know is that I will joyfully follow that story down into the darkness, wherever it leads, until we both know it is complete and ready to be lifted back into the light.

Sunflower

In the course of reading “Big Magic,” I realized that my writing doesn’t have to be profound, inspired, or my very best work ever. It just has to be written. Like any creative endeavor, sometimes, my writing will be trash. Sometimes, it will be gold. Sometimes, the work you create will be trash. And sometimes it will be gold. Either way, there will always be treasure to be found in the darkness. But only if I show up, and only if you show up.

In light and creativity,

Terri

My Soul-Nurturing, Self-Kindness Challenge

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Spider web

Finding the Magic

Last night, after a half hour of yoga on my front porch, I played with my oil pastels and listened to a podcast by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert. Her new book, Big Magic, will be released on September 22 (yes, I’ve already pre-ordered my copy!), and her 11-episode podcast, “Magic Lessons,” offers inspiration, wisdom, and gentle nudges for overcoming fear and embracing creativity. “All procrastination is fear,” she says.  Overcoming fear has been a major theme in my life recently, so I turned up the volume and paid close attention to her words. When it comes to defining myself as a “real” writer or artist, I tend to get hung up on the semantics. I’ve had poems published, but have yet to publish a book. I paint, draw, and color, but my work has never hung in a gallery. My writing doesn’t pay the bills, so is it fair to call myself a writer, and is it fair that I want to devote significant amounts of time and energy to pursuing creative work that doesn’t help me earn a living or support my family?

Elizabeth Gilbert says yes. It’s totally okay. In fact, it’s not only okay, it’s absolutely necessary to pursue the soul’s passion. As women, it’s essential that we create, because if we don’t, resentment steals into our lives and the light bleeds from our souls. We become shadows of ourselves, unable to fully give our love and attention to those we love. I started thinking about the guilt and fear I feel every time I spend an afternoon painting or writing instead of spending time with my family or doing housework. Could my creative life and the nurturing of my soul actually benefit my family, even when I spend hours alone, with a pen or paintbrush in hand?

I believe that creativity dwells in the still place deep within our souls. I like to think of it as an ancient, sprawling tree where I sit with the Divine Mystery and listen to the song of my soul. I’ve noticed that when I meditate and when I practice yoga, I come to that place of stillness with quiet confidence and joy, like visiting an old friend. My soul song flows through me like a wild river, free from fear, self-doubt, and worries about whether or not I’m good enough. It makes sense that if I practice kindness and love toward myself by nourishing my soul, I’ll nurture my creativity, live a happier life, and ultimately, send those ripples of happiness outward to my family, friends, and community.

The Kindness Challenge

But being kind to myself is hard sometimes. Fear can wear so many disguises, and for me, it shows up most often as feelings of not being good enough. It’s easier to skip yoga to watch television, or to snack on chocolate chip cookies and red wine. When writing hits a painful truth, it’s easier to shrink back in fear and tell myself I have writer’s block. But in order to live the creative, magic, soul-filled life that calls to me, I have to learn to be kind to myself…not just once or twice a week, but ALL the time. So I’ve kicked off my own little 30-day “kindness challenge.” For the next 30 days, I’m going to be kind to myself in all things. More water, less wine. More veggies, less processed food. Daily yoga and meditation practices, plus plenty of time to read, write poetry, paint, go for walks, and have family game and movie nights with my husband and kids.

I’m officially on Day 5 of my 30-day challenge.  Last Saturday, with a few hours to myself, I couldn’t decide between writing, drawing, or reading. I opened my journal, wrote the date at the top of the page, and my mind went blank. At that moment, there was nothing that needed to be said. I grabbed my sketchbook and started to draw, but it was really a half-assed effort, and I felt inside my soul’s lack of enthusiasm. I closed the sketchbook. “Okay,” I said out loud to myself. “What do YOU want to do?” The answer rose up immediately, “Yoga.” And yes, there it was…the inner restlessness I feel when I need time on my mat. For the next hour, I gave myself over to my yoga practice. As it always does, the practice soothed my soul and brought me back to my center. Afterwards, as I was rolling up my mat, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude toward myself, the satisfaction of being truly heard and listened to. “You’re welcome,” I said out loud.

I met my best friend for lunch on Sunday, and we talked about some issues in her life that are causing her incredible amounts of stress. When I mentioned taking care of herself, she surprised me by saying, “I don’t even know what that means.” It struck me then, as women, we’re programmed early in life to take care of everyone – friends, husband, kids, job, community – often at the expense of our needs. While we may not purposefully set out to neglect ourselves, this ignoring of our soul’s needs translates to unkindness…sometimes even cruelty.

Listen to Your Gut…and Your Soul

At the most basic level, I offered to my friend that taking care of herself means getting out of her head and paying attention to her body, or as my dad would say, listening to her gut. When I rolled out my yoga mat on Saturday afternoon, I could practically feel my soul’s sigh of contentment. For my friend, who is an amazing cook and talented writer, her self-kindness may involve trying a new recipe or scheduling a few hours of writing time and demanding that her family leave her alone.

Each moment, we are presented with opportunities to practice self-kindness. Listening to yourself is a great place to start. As women, we have plenty of experience with being unkind to ourselves. From dieting to judgmental self-talk to burying our dreams and our talents in cardboard boxes at the back of our closets, we find ways every day to neglect our soul needs. I think it’s time we practice self-kindness. I think it’s time we pull out those boxes from the back of the closet, take out those dreams, and hold them up to the sunlight so they can sparkle and shimmer their magic into our lives. I think it’s time we look in the mirror and smile with satisfaction and gratitude. I think it’s time we listen deeply and give loving attention to our souls. I invite you to join me over the next 30 days – take your own kindness challenge. Give your soul a chance to sing its own sweet, wild song to you!

In light and creativity,

Terri

Living with Open Hands

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The Expectations Trap

In 2006 I returned to full-time, outside employment after being a stay-at-home mom with my three sons for five years. In preparation for my first day, I sent my new boss an enthusiastic email, asking if there was any research I could do to make sure I hit the ground running on my first day of work. He sent me a list of documents to read, and commented that I seemed to be someone who didn’t like to wait for things to happen. I took his comment as a compliment, seeing myself as a woman who made things happen and got things done. Looking back, I think he was describing someone who didn’t know how to wait. He was right. I set rigidly defined expectations of how my life should unfold, and struggled every day to bend the universe to my will to make that life happen. It was an approach that didn’t work too well for me.

My best friend tried her hand at painting for the first time the other day. She texted me to tell me she’d finished the background. Yesterday I asked her how the painting was coming along and she admitted she hadn’t returned to it since completing the background. “My problem is that I can’t even get a picture in my head of what I want,” she said. “Then when I do get a picture, I can’t get anything even close to it to come out on the canvas.” Reading her words, I thought about my own attempts at painting, and the frustration I felt when the strokes of my paintbrush failed to reflect the vision in my head. I thought, too, about my early experiences with meditation, and how I failed again and again to experience meditation according to the expectations I brought to my cushion.

Let Go and Let it Be     

When I responded to my friend’s email, I told her how I’d given up painting again and again because I couldn’t translate my expectations into reality. And then one day, I just decided to let go of my expectations and listen to the voice in my soul that whispered, “Paint.” I struggled against my inner critic, who insisted that I wasn’t doing it right and was a horrible failure as a painter. As my expectations rose, I let them go and kept painting. When I finished, the painting was nothing like my expectations, but when I looked at it, I caught a glimpse of my wild soul, and it was like seeing an old friend for the very first time.

Warrior Woman

Warrior Woman

I’ve attended several daylong meditation retreats with Insight meditation teacher Shell Fisher, and the most important thing I’ve learned from her is to let go and let it be. Just because I have an amazing, blissful meditation sit and feel completely connected with myself and the universe doesn’t mean every meditation experience will follow the same way. Sometimes, calming my thoughts feels like herding cats. Sometimes, my emotions tear through me like a tornado, and it takes every ounce of willpower to stay on my cushion. “Accept it all,” Shell says. Meditation isn’t about achieving Zen-like calm; it’s about letting go of expectations and accepting whatever arises. My daily meditation practice allows me to consciously let go of my expectations and let my life be what it is in this moment.

Meditation

Life with Open Hands

One of my favorite writers, Sue Monk Kidd, writes in her book, “When the Heart Waits,” about the process of spiritual waiting and living with hands open. When we live with our hands open, we release our expectations and allow our lives to unfold in surprising ways. For me, learning to live with open hands means trusting my own creativity enough to send my poems and art out into the world. During a daylong meditation retreat last year, Shell shared this poem by Martha Postelwaite:

 

Clearing

Do not try to save

the whole world

or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create

a clearing

in the dense forest

of your life

and wait there

patiently,

until the song

that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know

how to give yourself

to this world

so worth of rescue.

 

Whenever I feel the dense forest of my own expectations begin to close in around me, I think about this poem and imagine the clearing I create when I let go of my expectations. I imagine sitting in my clearing, hands cupped to receive the life waiting to be received. As I begin to explore through Gypsy Soul Creative, I believe that creativity is a process of letting go of our expectations, waiting and listening for the music of the soul, and living with open hands to receive the life and inspiration that flows so abundantly through us all. I hope you’ll create your own clearing, and that you’ll wait there patiently, with hands cupped open, ready to receive the soul song and the life that is waiting for you!

In light and creativity,

Terri