Yesterday afternoon, Justin and I went to Christmas Eve Mass with my mom, my sister, and her family.
As is my practice since I was a kid, I zoned out during Father’s sermon. I have a special gift for this. Apparently, I’m so good at it that the priest generally thinks I’m paying rapt attention. (I know this because one of my favorite priests from my teen years told my parents he enjoyed giving his sermons when I was there because he could tell I paid avid attention. Ha ha. Not.) It’s my time during Mass when I allow my imagination to float away on its own. Who knows how many realms I’ve traveled during those sermons over the years.
Yesterday, I looked up at the mural of angels surrounding Mary, and began imagining myself into that scene, which reminded me of one of the spiritual practices I learned from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. (See, I told you you’d be hearing more about this!) This practice is officially called Ignatian Contemplation. (You can learn more about Ignatian Spirituality here. Or under Resources in Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.) Vanessa and Casper (hosts of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text) tend to adapt the official practices a bit, which I love. In this practice, they invite you to enter the text through the eyes of any character you choose.
I decided to imagine myself into the gospel reading — the one you all probably know, from Luke, that begins “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken …” And then takes you through most of the characters and scenes you associate with the birth of Christ, from the angels in the sky to the shepherds in the fields, and into the stable with the animals, Mary, Jesus and Joseph.
I decided to imagine myself into the story, first as a shepherd, then as Mary. Before I could imagine any other characters, the congregation chuckled at Father’s second joke, which I missed entirely. (I was disappointed, actually, because the first one was pretty good.) So I popped back into the real world.
But, the practice made me feel more present to and added back a new level of sacredness to the story of Christmas that surprised me.
I thought as it was appropriate for Christmas, I would invite you to do the same, and give you a taste for yourself of one of the reasons I get so much out of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.
Sacred Imagination Practice
Step One: Choose any character you like. You can even choose other well-known characters not mentioned specifically in the text, such as the Wise Men or the Little Drummer Boy … or even imagine that you time-traveled and found yourself there as an invisible spectator.
Step Two: Once you have selected the character you wish to imagine yourself into, close your eyes and listen to the text. (I’ve recorded it here for your convenience.) Imagine yourself into the scene using all of your senses and emotions. What do you smell, taste, touch, see, hear, feel?
Step Three: Listen to it once more with the same practice. You can either switch up your character, or go a little deeper into the first character’s perspective.
Step Four: (Optional) In a true gospel contemplation, you would finish by speaking person to person to Christ, saying what comes from your heart.
I’d love to know how this went for you. What character did you choose? Did this make the scripture come to life for you in a way it hadn’t before? Did it change the way you relate to this well-known story?
Hope your final days of 2019 are wonderful.
PS) Looking for a beautiful way to set intentions and create a plan for 2020?
And you -what of your rushed and / useful life? Imagine setting it all down -papers, plans, appointments, everything, / leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields / to be lovely. Be back when I’m through / with blooming.”
Poet, Lynn Ungar, from “Camas Lilies”
February was an unseasonably cold and snowy month for those of us on the Olympic Peninsula. The snow started falling Sunday the 3rd of February, and we can still see patches of unmelted snow in the field behind the house.
The dogs and I enjoyed trompsing in it, but I’m grateful that my lifestyle allows me to limit my time on the roads .
Now that the Equinox and the frogs in our pond have loudly proclaimed it to be spring, I invite you to imagine setting down everything in your life, and writing the note described above. Do you even know what you would do if you could “go to the fields to be lovely”? And be back when you’re “done blooming?”
If you’re like most people, you’re too caught up in your “rushed and useful” life to imagine that it might be different. Until, that is, you’re forced to … through a threshold not of your choosing.
A colleague and I used to walk the waterfront trails in Seattle, to help us think more creatively as we brainstormed a workshop on living a vital life.
One day we got onto the topic of societal expectations: how so many of us simply set out into the world following the blueprint society created for us –go to school, get a job, get married, have children, buy a house, acquire things, raise children, retire –without thinking about whether those choices are suitable for our unique spirit.
In following this pre-subscribed routine, many of us end up with health problems, or become increasingly restless or burned out. If we’re not working in a job that utilizes our best skills, and the lifestyle best suited to us, we muddle along feeling frustrated. Over time this disconnection from our “best-ish” self –the one connected to our highest potential– can contribute to anxiety, depression and lowered self-esteem.
When either of these scenarios play out, instead of looking inside to our own inner intelligence for solutions, we tend to look outside for prescriptions or escape. We choose things like prescription drugs, substance abuse, or excessive entertainment which keep us stuck in the scenario of escaping, and watching / consuming other people’s lives rather than figuring out how to better live our own.
There is nothing wrong with any of these choices as a temporary fix. But practices become habits when we do them over and over. Habits can be beneficial: the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day, for example, leads to good oral hygiene and prevents tartar build up, cavities, and bad breath.
Plenty of your habits may have served a purpose at one time in your life, but if you continue to follow these habits without listening to your inner voice –your spirit, or Wild and Wise Heart– eventually you lose the ability to connect with this part of you that is deeply connected to your own well-being.
So, what can you do instead?
Step One: Quiet Your Mind
You can google benefits of meditation and find hundreds of articles on how a meditation practice will benefit you, and plenty more that will teach you how. But I know that those of you who do not already have a meditation practice are skeptical. The good news is that if sitting quietly cross-legged on the floor repeating simple mantras to yourself doesn’t sound natural to you, there are other ways to quiet your mind.
A few are active choices –yoga, xi gong, trail running, hiking, fly fishing, knitting, collage, coloring, gardening– to list just a few. Quieting your mind, or mindfulness, is simply the ability to pay attention, on purpose, nonjudgmentally, to the present moment.
Honestly, this can be done anywhere and anytime, especially doing the things you already love to do. You simply need to be taught how, and then make it a practice, until it becomes a habit.
In my opinion, the easiest, most powerful way to quiet your mind is to leave it.
To do this, simply drop your awareness down to your heart. You can place your hand over your heart to add a physical component to this practice, but it isn’t necessary. When you drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe, just slightly more deeply than usual, imagine that your breath is flowing in and out of this heart area. This practice essentially creates a “time-out” for your mind, which enables you to let thoughts go.
Then ground yourself to the earth, by imagining that your awareness is dropping down into your hips, then down your legs to your feet, and connecting you to the earth with invisible roots, intertwining you with loved ones, like trees.*
Then bring your awareness back to your heart, and continue to breathe, imagining your breath is flowing in and out through your heart area for 30 seconds, more if you have the time.
I call this tool my inner sanctuary tool … everything else begins to drop away, and it’s just me and my heart, and the Earth. This tool helps to clear all the static, stories, and amplified emotions your mind creates on a regular basis and begins to reconnect you to what I call your Wild and Wise Heart.
As with all habits, this becomes easier over time. I tell my clients to practice this tool 20 – 25 x per day … but in the beginning, for only five – ten seconds at a time. Essentially, what you are doing is creating a new very simple habit, which will then serve you when you need it the most. You can use this tool in-the-moment and on-the-fly. Or you can combine it with any of the active mindfulness activities I suggested above.
Step Two: Reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart
There are numerous ways to reconnect with your Wild & Wise Heart. Kicking off the Inner Sanctuary practice will help you jump start this relationship.
However, once you start to feel this reconnection, you will want to kick it up a notch. For this, you’ll need to set aside some time for yourself. Trust me, even though this might be hard at first, it will be well worth it.
Get out a journal or a piece of paper and begin by writing down five things you love to do.
Next, write down three to five things that get in your way of doing these things on a regular basis.
Now, do a time inventory. Think back over the past five days. Did you fall into any of your old “time quick-sand” habits, where you got lost in an activity that didn’t bring you as much value as the time you spent on it? (If so, don’t beat yourself up for this. Just bring awareness to it, write it down, and then drop your awareness into your heart, and breathe until you can feel yourself in your inner sanctuary again.)
Next, do a mindset inventory. Did you fall into any mindset obstacles? (These are things like: I need to set aside hours to do this, I need more money to do this, I can’t do this because ….) Again, the goal here is simply to bring awareness to these thought habits, and then go back to your inner sanctuary.
Release your attachment to all the obstacles. To do this, simply ask these questions, “I wonder where I could find 10 – 15 minutes in my day to do one of these things I love?” And “I wonder if there is some approach that belies these beliefs that I might be able to try today?” Write down your answers. (Try this: write your questions with your dominant hand, then switch to the other hand and write the answers. This is a trick to further interrupt your neuro-typical habits.)
Then act. Follow through –for a minimum of ten minutes– on one of the suggestions you gave yourself.
I’d love to hear how this challenge goes for you. After you try it, please drop me a note in the comments below.
For those who didn’t hear before, 2017 was an unusual year. My dad passed away very unexpectedly on January 6th, 2017. My partner’s dad died –also a bit unexpectedly, although he had been sick– a few weeks prior to that, and my favorite cousin’s mom (my aunt) passed away a few weeks before that. After my dad’s funeral service, as a bit of a break from our ordinary lives, and to help my cousin remodel her mom’s home to use as a rental, Justin and I spent the better part of three months in California in early 2017. A few months after we returned, we held the service for his dad, and just a few weeks after that his grandmother passed away.
In late summer, just as we were settling back in to our routine, we found out –a bit dramatically, but that’s a story for another time– that we had to move out of the home we’d been living in for five years. We weighed our options, and decided to move into what had been his grandmother’s home, this log cabin (see photo below) originally built in 1893.
Bottom line, 2017 was very transitional and hard to predict … very much like a walk-about pilgrimage. (A walk-about pilgrimage is a journey we go on simply by virtue of the –often sudden– unpredictability of our lives.)
At the beginning of 2018, my internal GPS (what I call my Wise Self) kept telling me to slow down, breathe deep, take a nap, relax, listen, connect to my self, my place, my new home … and allow myself the luxury to take a break from the need to chase down clients, or plan workshops & retreats. My underlying counter-voice kept saying, “you already took a year off! If you don’t get out there and DO stuff (market) you won’t get clients. And if you don’t get clients you won’t get paid!”
I chose to listen to my Wise Self. Although sometimes –I’ll admit– I wasn’t sure it was her, and I did host a workshop and attend a couple of local marketing events.
Finally, towards the end of April, when I pulled a card from my Oracle deck that once again said, “Take a Nap” when I asked about marketing my business, I decided to call my year a sabbatical.
A sabbatical is most common in academic vocations, but the concept of sabbatical originated in farming. It means to allow the land to remain fallow, to let it go wild for a year.
My Wild Year so far …
In the process of “going wild”, I’ve been rooting into my self and my place and without even knowing it at the time, working on the practices of belonging, and awakening to the ancient Earth consciousness inside me.
The first task of moving in was to clear a space for us. We had to be completely out of our old place by Thanksgiving, and before we could move in here there were a few things that had to be done. We painted the press board ceilings white, gave away or sold the furnishings we weren’t going to use, built some beautiful rustic book cases, and sorted through, cleared, or stored decades of Grandma Beverly’s personal belongings. My partner kept saying, “get rid of everything” and my sister-in-law kept saying, “don’t get rid of anything without talking to me first.” Somehow we managed to make room for ourselves and keep the peace.
Come spring, my # 1 priority has been to cultivate my garden spaces. Justin’s grandma loved to garden, so the base of the garden was already in place. But it was overgrown with grass and weeds because her health (at 93) kept her from doing as much as she used to do. I mulched it heavily last winter with cardboard and leaves from our Norwegian Maple, but that wasn’t enough to kill all the grass.
I hate to weed, so I decided that I would tap into my strengths rather than my weaknesses this year. Rather than feeling the pressure to reclaim the entire garden, I decided that I would work on it a section at a time. My overall plan for the garden is to make it a wildlife sanctuary and Kristin-variety cottage garden … lots of indigenous wild flowers mixed in with roses, my favorite vegetables, herbs and Grandma Beverly’s perennials, plus a few of my own favorites.
One of my strengths is a love of learning, so to tap into that love, I decided to learn which plants have a symbiotic relationship with one another (like tomatoes, basil, carrots, & garlic for example.) I decided to learn the names of the bugs I discover in the soil and understand which ones are beneficial and which aren’t. And I decided to learn how to garden completely organically, with my own compost, beneficial nematodes, and by attracting wild life “critters” that help keep the bad bugs away.[Did you know that snakes, lizards and beetles eat slugs?!]
In the midst of all that yard work, June, and my Greece retreat snuck up on me. I signed up for the Greece Goddess Pilgrimage retreat in November, right in the middle of our move. The description said, “come journey with us to the Greek Island of Tinos, for an empowering and creative nine-day sacred Yoga and Art retreat.” I said, “I’m in.”
I communed with the land, the Aegean Sea, and Greek goddesses, did lots of art and a little bit of yoga, and made connections with like-hearted women from all over the US, Greece, the UK and Australia.
My intention for the trip was to make an even deeper connection with myself and my work … while also connecting more deeply with Mother Earth and her infinite wisdom. While there, I read the book Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, by Toko-Pa Turner, a Canadian writer, teacher and dreamworker, who lives on a small island in the Salish Sea. (My neighbor!!) From her I integrated the knowledge that belonging is a practice … and one that I was already intuitively immersed in!
My take-aways from this pilgrimage journey / art retreat / goddess retreat were:
I am an artist. Or rather, an artist and creative activist. I knew this before, of course, but the process of indulging in art for fourteen days helped me feel it.
I am also a writer. And part of my calling as a creative activist is to write. This is not new knowledge either, but as of now I am officially writing my first book, tentatively called “A Field Guide to Practical Magic: 21 Days to Connect with Your Wise Self” …. or something like that!
I’m being called to call women back to their wild roots, to apprentice themselves to Nature and their own shadow, and to reconnect to and express beauty and their own Wild and Wise Soul.
Going forward, my work will more deeply reflect these three things. (To learn more about my work, you can follow my page on Facebook or visit my website.)
The Dream Hatchery’s Inaugural Backpacking Pilgrimage was deemed two thumbs up by all . Here we are at the top of Marmot Pass, (elevation 6000′) on day three of the adventure. (Stay tuned, more to come.)
In my first blog post, I hinted at my new name & business branding … Since re-branding a business is not something you should do lightly, I thought I’d give you a little more information about why I am …
To start with KIC (pronounced “kick”) itself has been an evolution … I first claimed the name KIC about ten years ago, when I left my corporate job and decided to branch out for myself, uncertain yet what form that would take. K-I-C are my maternal grandmother’s initials, and I wanted a business that would honor her. I delighted in both the brainstorming and choosing of my first logo, wanting it to both represent something meaningful to me and something that might speak to my potential client. I still like both the logo and the name, but I’ve learned over the years that choosing a name that gives prospective customers a hint about what you do is important. At first, I simply added Healing to the name … KIC Coaching & Healing seemed a little more explanatory, and the simplest way to tackle the problem.
I also noticed over the years (because I occasionally get requests that seem to be out of my expertise entirely) that there is another company out there in the world that calls themselves KIC Coaching. It’s a GRE coaching company located in Mumbai. Lately they must be pouring money into their Site Engine Optimization (SEO) because they’ve been encroaching on my google traffic. For a small business … or any business … this is not good news. As much as we hate to rely on Google for our traffic, we do.
The combination of knowing that KIC Coaching does not tell you intuitively that I am a transformational coach, and the recent encroachment on my space helped spur along my need. But I also knew I wanted to branch out and offer more than just coaching … I wanted to offer other transformative experiences such as Pilgrimages, Retreats, and more. I wanted a name that didn’t limit me to coaching.
I’ve been playing with business name ideas for about a year, but nothing seemed quite right. Soon after Prince passed away, I was out on a walk. I didn’t follow Prince’s life or work closely while he was alive (although of course I knew his most widely known songs), but this clip of Prince with the Muppets delighted me. I love to see the creative process at work, and I am wowed by people who can effortlessly turn anything into artistic expression.
I also completely believe in asking people I admire (living or dead) for advice. So I called out to Prince (in my head), telling him I was sorry I didn’t follow his work more when he was still alive, (this was a longer conversation than I’m including here, filled with justifications and pleas for mercy … ha ha!) explaining my post-humus admiration and asking if he’d help me come up with a business name I liked that was relevant to the work I do. In my head he asked me for a bit more information about my work, about my dreams, and about icons that were meaningful.
A few minutes later, The Dream Hatchery popped into my head, and I loved it. I give Prince all the credit. 🙂 Thanks! (I also promised to purchase at least a few of his songs for my iPod. If anyone has recommendations of their favorite Prince songs (ideally that showcase his brilliant creativity) feel free to post in the comments.
Creative Tip: Stuck on a project? Think of five people who you admire, living or dead, and ask them to give you advice. Don’t be surprised when you get a brilliant idea. Be sure to thank them for their help. 🙂