Personally, I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with Valentine’s Day … here’s where it started:
When I was in the 4th grade, I had a huge crush on this new dark haired boy in my class named Daniel.
I’d like to tell you that it was because he was kind, or brilliant, or the best speller in the class. But honestly, it was just because he was new, and I thought he was cute. And maybe because he was shy, and that seemed sweet.
I kept my feelings hidden to anyone but myself and my best friend Sherry –who liked him too– for months. We both spent many a daydream sitting by him in class, hanging out with him at recess, and other acts of 4th grade love.
Finally, on Valentine’s Day, we decided to reveal our secret crushes.
I scrutinized my entire box of Valentine’s cards to find the perfect phrase — one that said “I really like you a LOT” but that could also pass for just an average valentine’s card in case I needed to save face.
Probably something like one of these:
Next, I spent days agonizing over whether or not to sign my name or to be anonymous.
In a big burst of courage, Sherry decided she was going to sign her name to her card, so I was encouraged to risk it too. And then just to be certain he knew it was a special card for a special person, I also added a handful of cut out hearts inside the envelope.
Man. I still remember the breathless anticipation of waiting for acknowledgement… in vain … inspecting each of the valentines I received … breathlessly anticipating one with his signature. … Nothing!
And then the masterfully orchestrated denial that fell into place …. First, I convinced myself he hadn’t given valentines to anyone.
And then, once I knew I’d been dissed after Sherry reluctantly showed me her card (with such grace and genuine sadness for me, and no gloating at all) she suggested that his card to me must have fallen out and been accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Because that’s the kind of friend she was.
My second major Valentine’s Day memory is from years later, when I was a junior in high school. I was the publicity manager of our student council, and that year we decided to sell carnations as a fund raiser.
By lunch time, it felt like everyone in the school had received a carnation –except me!
I was pretty forlorn and feeling sorry for myself, and my best friend Sherry had transferred to another school, so there was no one there to convince me my carnation had been dropped and accidentally thrown away by the janitor.
Just when I was ready to throw myself off the second floor balcony, the delivery person handed me a pink carnation –for friendship– from one of my guy friends.
I will never forget that small kindness.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Let’s pause for a moment to consider …
It’s wonderful to have amazing friends who will either help you concoct the perfect face saving excuse when you didn’t get that valentine from the boy you liked, or that interview … or that second date, or whatever.
Or one who will supply you with exactly the encouragement you need at exactly the right time … whether that comes in the form of a pink carnation or a beautifully selected card, or simply kind words on a rough day.
I wish those kinds of friendships for you. Always.
Wouldn’t it also be amazing if you could always be that kind of friend … to YOURSELF?
Here’s a little quiz for you:
Do you often call yourself names (like dummy or stupid or ugly or fat)?
How often do you treat yourself with sarcasm?
Do you criticize yourself frequently?
Do you always say kind things to yourself when you look in the mirror?
Do you isolate yourself when you’re feeling most down?
When you’re having a bad day, do you obsess or fixate on everything that’s going wrong?
How do you treat yourself when you’re going through pain?
When you’re feeling inadequate about something, do you compare yourself to everyone else who seems to be better at it than you are?
How do you treat the parts of yourself that you don’t like?
When something painful happens, do you find yourself thinking about it over and over?
Based on your answers above, if YOU were your own best friend, would you even hang out with yourself?
For most women, the answer is no. And if someone was treating OUR best friend the way we treat ourselves, we’d tell them to end that friendship immediately. Right?
Even if not all of your answers to the questions were terrible, I bet there is still room for improvement, am I right?
So what can you do to practice being a better friend to yourself?
I read a book this week (written about five years ago) that said that we have a NINE SECOND attention span before we succumb to distraction. I bet it’s down to five now.
(Ha ha. Are you still here?
Then, I read an article that pointed out that WE (you and me, all of us) have the power to create change, especially in our culture in our interactions with each other, with friends and family members, with power and authority, online and professionally, in our businesses and our platforms. We can interrupt the cultural norms we don’t consent to, and we can create new ones. This wasn’t new to me, as it’s been an evolving part of my manifesto for years, but I liked the way the article was worded.)
Have you ever thought of yourself as a culture shaper?
When I was first learning the HeartMath tools (ask me more) I took a year long program called Heart Mastery, which taught me how to apply the basic tools to all the aspects of my life in order to live a more Heart Centered life. In one of those classes, we talked about the power –and the value of– our ATTENTION.
I’m writing this just days before the Super Bowl, so it’s very relevant. Guess how much it costs to run a 30-second ad? I wish I could make you guess a couple times before I just tell you, but: $5.6 million for a 30-second slot!! Crazy, isn’t it? That’s how much your attention is worth.
Think of that the next time you’re deciding what to do with it.
It’s true that we place more value on the things we pay for … and WE certainly don’t value our own attention that much, do we? That’s why it’s so easy to get distracted from the Things We Really Want To Do.
So this year, I quit a few things:
I quit binging shows on Netflix … and prioritized my “to-do” list instead.
I quit my negative self – talk. (Or at least cut it waaaaay back … ) My new mantra is “everything is figuroutable” –thanks Marie*.)
I quit isolating myself … and prioritized my friendships and connections instead.
I quit ignoring my inner wisdom and depreciating my woo* … and had some major break throughs just this week.
It’s your turn:
What things are you ready to quit this year? What will you do with your time and attention instead? Let me know!
In the late ’90’s, I called myself the Bridesmaid on Wheels. I kid you not, between the years of 1998 and 2000 ALL my friends got married. And I was invited to be a bridesmaid in SO MANY weddings!! Which was wonderful.
But in the year 2000, when my second roommate in two years moved out, I decided that I was going to buy a house. By myself. For myself.
The spiritual tools I used to help me manifest my dream house came from Sonia Choquette, my first self-selected spiritual teacher. I followed her guidelines through the book Your Heart’s Desire: Instructions for Creating the Life You Really Want.
The three main tools? Desire, Imagination, and Action.
My desire was very clear. I wanted a log cabin, on acreage, with mountain views, on water, in my price range. (Which was around $120,000 at that time.) I applied the tools of imagination and action and found and fell in love with a super cute, but very run down log cabin on the Raging River (near the town of Preston, WA) that was at the end of a dead end road about a mile from a friend. It backed up against DNR land and was PERFECT. Except that the banks wouldn’t give me a loan for it because it had to be a non-conventional loan and I didn’t qualify. Oh man. I was so disappointed. But I didn’t give up.
More action, more looking at houses. So many well meaning people told me I should give up on my dream –for now– and buy a house in Kent, because the prices were lower. But then … (did you know miracles are simply a shift in perspective?) I got a bigger than usual raise, at the same time that ANOTHER super cute, less run down cabin on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River towards the end of a dead end road with views of the mountains dropped its price significantly. I knew it was perfect before I even saw the inside –cathedral ceilings, amazing views– and on Memorial Day weekend 2000, I moved in.
Desire, Imagination, [Persistance], Action. And a great deal of love and appreciation for Sonia.
I’ve since followed that formula to manifest more amazing miracles in my life.
But a couple years ago, when I was struggling to make sense of some things, I decided to schedule a one on one appointment with Sonia. I felt stuck in my business and my relationship and wanted some insight to help me shake loose. Thirty minutes later my hope was rekindled and I had an action plan to move forward.
How about you? What are your desires? Do you feel like your imagination is rusty? Are you looking for more support? I have room for two new one on one clients this month.
Single sessions are $125 through February 1st, or you can purchase a package of four sessions for $475.
I have some big and scary news to share. (Scary in part because I get too hung up on what other people might think of me WAY too often, but also because it’s going to force me to stretch outside my comfort zone in a big big way.)
Are you ready for this? Drum roll please.
I am now an ordained minister!! 😲 (Astonished face emoji, in case that didn’t come through as that on your screen.)
This is not a decision I stepped into lightly.
For those of you who do not yet know me well, I consider myself to be a spiritual seeker. If I had to pinpoint when this began for me, I’d say that it was the Easter after I turned 12. My mom gave me a book called Mister God This is Anna, by Fynn. I don’t think her intention was to turn me into a spiritual seeker, as she is what I call “very Catholic,” and has spent many hours of prayer over the years in an attempt to coax me back inside the umbrella of Catholicism.
But I fell in love with Anna and her musings at the age of 12, and quite honestly, I can say that her philosophy shaped mine at least as much if not more than any other books on philosophy and religion that I’ve ever read. (And I’ve read a LOT!) (For a synopsis of the book, see the insert below.)
The book, Mister God this is Anna, describes the adventures of Anna, a mischievous yet wise four-year-old whom Fynn finds as a runaway. Sixteen-year-old Fynn takes Anna home to his mother who takes her in, though Fynn becomes Anna’s main caretaker and closest friend. Fynn recounts his time spent with Anna, and gives a very personal account of her outpourings on life, mathematics, science and her mentor, Mister God. At five years Anna knew absolutely the purpose of being, knew the meaning of love and was a personal friend and helper of Mister God. At six Anna was a theologian, mathematician, philosopher, poet and gardener. If you asked her a question you would always get an answer – in due course. On some occasions the answer would be delayed for weeks or months; but eventually, in her own good time, the answer would come: direct, simple and much to the point. *
*Quote from Wikipedia
I was going to add that unfortunately the book is out of print, because I tried finding it to give it to a friend years ago. But … I just did research and found out that it was re-released in the year 2000, –guess it was over 20 years ago that I last looked– so it’s possible to order a copy. AND there are sequels! Which I just ordered.
What I loved most … no, I can’t really say that because I loved everything. Let me try again … one belief that Anna and I share is that Mister God doesn’t care about religion. Mister God cares about relationship. And that’s what drew me to the Universal Life Church, specifically. It welcomes people of all cultures, creeds, and belief systems.
This Fall wasn’t the first time I considered ministry as a career. My spirituality has continued to deepen and spread into my work for the past several years. In fact, I considered applying for a ministry position at a local unity church when they were hiring a few years ago, but didn’t feel “qualified” because my beliefs don’t generally align with a traditional church.
However, this summer I read an article in Spirituality & Health magazine, called Is it Your Time to Add to the Wild Church Network? The author starts the article by saying, “I am one of those people, who, for most of 50 years, had said, “I don’t go to church; my church is the woods, the mountains, the rivers.” [Um. Yes. Me too!]
But then one day, he was out walking on his wild property and was called to create a church for people like him … “people who encounter God in the woods yet also long for human community with its ancient ritual and wisdom.”
I read further.
What Makes a Church a Wild Church?
Nature as Co-Congregant
What Makes a Wild Church a Church?
Meets in community.
Has a grounding Liturgy. But not the kind that recruits members into a dogma, but rather to invite people into a deeper relationship with an untamed God, the land, and creatures that share their home, and into a deeper relationship with their own wild, untamed soul.
Hmmm. I said. I wonder if we have one of those here? But I checked, and we don’t. Inviting people into a deeper relationship with an untamed God, the land, the creatures, and their own wild untamed soul is what I do anyway on my pilgrimages, my forest bathing expeditions, and in my 1:1 coaching.
And even though I am terrified at the thought of being labeled “a minister,” I am beyond excited at the thought of bringing people outside to “church” with nature.
I decided to start small, with one church session / month beginning in February. Service locations may vary, but I want to start at the Mouth of the Elwha, which is a newly wild river.
Sign up to get notifications and updates. And stay tuned for more from me on what it means to me to be the minister of a Wild Church.
I’ve been watching everyone do the ten year share … and finally got inspired to dig up my own version. This photo, taken in October of 2009 with (the first set) of my youngest brother’s twins, was the first I came across.
I was fit. Very fit. But recently unemployed and so stressed about my next steps I became a little manic. It was a couple years before I learned HeartMath (or Heart Magic as I’m calling my version now) and just a few weeks before I went to Shambhala meditation “camp” and learned to quiet my constantly running mind.
In contrast, here’s me this past November. I may not have changed that much on the outside, but in my inner life SO MUCH has changed.
How about you? When you look back at the last decade, do you see growth and wisdom? Do you see where you took that wrong turn? Or maybe you see where life threw you a curve ball that you haven’t QUITE recovered from … yet.
Either way, NOW is the best time to shine.
Start your year with eleven minutes of kindness: Click here for a Loving Kindness Meditation
Click here to join the Roaring Twenties, 20 Days of Kindness Challenge (and watch for your first email.)
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?
Perfect timing for me. I’m sooo ready to welcome in the light and relinquish the dark.
I was going to try to host one of my mini-retreats for you today, but as has been this year’s “normal,” that intention did not get off the ground in the way I’d hoped.
Speaking of this year’s “normal,” up until a month ago, if anyone asked me about my year this year, my answer was “it has been a hard year.” I would have said that my overall feelings this year were sad and depressed, and that my lesson was failure.
I started the process last month by answering the question, “what were the highlights of the past year?” In my head, before putting pen to page, I started with all the negatives … Josh’s death, nothing from my business got off the ground, I even found myself being cynical during the valedictorian speech at my oldest two nephews HS graduation(!!) which would ordinarily –any other year– fill me with hope in the future. My overall “corde desired feeling” words from The Desire Map process last year were supposed to be “vibrant, rooted, and blooming” and I did NOT feel the year went that way.
In fact, most of the time I felt like a big fat failure … with an inability to fix ANY of it.
But … when I put all that negativity aside for the purpose of introspection, and answered the question with the emphasis on word # 2, “what WERE the highlights of 2019?” a whole new side to the year sprouted forth. I realized that, in fact, although I may not have felt vibrant or blooming, I rooted in a LOT. As part of my grieving process, I gave myself permission to feel sad and depressed. I gave myself permission to binge on fantasy Netflix and unabashedly enjoyed getting caught up on ALL the Marvel Comics series. (Not surprisingly, Jessica Jones with her cynical but save the world outlook was my overall fave.)
With that as inspiration, I gave myself permission to be angry and even cynical. I gave myself permission to be unsuccessful in my work and –even more heretical –to not even bother to try after some more sad news in May rocked my world again.
Because it was one of the few things that made me feel good, I also prioritized my extended family. I drove one niece to and from club volleyball practices every other week for several months (2 hours each way) and picked up another niece after school a few times. Justin and I worked on renovating my brother’s rental home all summer. I assuaged my disappointment that my backpacking pilgrimage didn’t sell well by backpacking the High Divide with some nieces and two other brothers. I went to my cousin’s daughter’s wedding.
The Desire Map process helped me discover that even though the year was hard, I grew through it. In fact, I rooted in. Strong and deep roots, of course, are important for a plant to be vibrant and blooming.
And when (this Fall) I started to feel like taking action in my life again, I knocked off a whole list of things I had been “tolerating” … from painting the exterior of our house to cleaning some of the rooms that still had junk from past house occupants, even getting my teeth cleaned and scheduling that physical I was procrastinating on.
And truthfully, I feel the difference. I feel more honest and true to my whole self. I feel more deeply connected to –and even tender toward– my shadow side. And as a result, I’m beginning to feel that old revolutionary spirit gather strength and courage in my root chakra.
And instead of blindly following instructions, doing it exactly the way it was explained, I found myself taking The Desire Map process deeper and eliminating pieces that didn’t work for me. In other words, making it my own.
Which means I’ve got my mojo back. ❤
And so, today, on Winter Solstice, the day filled with the powerful energy of regeneration, renewal, and self-reflection. The day we celebrate the Moon Goddess, I invite you to join me in introspection, not just of the past year, but of the past decade.
You can do this via purchasing one of Danielle LaPorte’s books or planners and going for the deep dive her way. Listening to Marie Forleo’s Decade in Review exercises.
Or, click here to participate in my winter solstice retreat from bygone days for FREE. You’ll be taken on a guided meditation, participate in a creative writing exercise, and welcome back the light. Use code wintersolstice2019 at checkout.
* [If you’ve never heard of The Desire Map, or Danielle LaPorte, she is a bestselling Canadian author, inspirational speaker, entrepreneur, and blogger. Her book, The Desire Map, was published in 2014. To be honest, when it first came out I was just annoyed that she beat me to it. By then I’d been working with clients on flip flopping their lives to align with their desired feelings for just over two years, and had seen some amazing results. It took me a few years before I finally decided to see what all the hype was about.
As I worked through the process for the second time, I decided I love The Desire Map process so much I decided to become an affiliate. This means that if you click through using my link and decide to purchase any of her products, I get a commission. No extra cost to you, bonus for me. Bonus for both of us, actually, because you get a great planning process too. And if you organize in fits and starts, like me, there are several undated versions to choose from as well.
I still wish I’d written the book first, but oh well. Commissions are nice too, and we share a passion for beautiful things and living from our heart.]
What I’m loving right now (that you will probably hear more about in 2020:)
Effy Wild Book of Days course. Can’t WAIT for the official start. I’m especially excited about the companion sweet trash journal. And maybe (if it doesn’t feel overwhelming) Moonshine.
And of course, although I have to seek these out because I don’t catch them elsewhere, the best Holiday Ads. Which one is your favorite?
Reply to let me know which ad was your favorite of if you already ARE a Harry Potter and the Sacred Text fan, or if you had a year you thought was sh*t only to discover the magick was underground the whole time.
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.
My phone rang at 10:38 pm, Tuesday, January 8th. Ordinarily, I’m in bed by then, but my partner and I were enjoying our hot tub. It was a crisp, cold, starry night. I glanced at the phone. It was my sister-in-law Denise. I picked up.
“Where’s Justin?” she asked, and I could tell by her voice that something was the matter. I put her on speaker and walked outside with the phone, holding it near the hot tub. “What’s up Denise?” Justin said. Words spilled out of her … Josh, and the bar, and the Coast Guard …
She tried again. “Josh called me to come down to watch the boat come in tonight. The captain was being stupid, and he said he was scared. He put on his life jacket. The Coast Guard was there to escort them over the bar, and I watched them make it through, but now there’s all these lights and the helicopter!” She was frantic, and despite my own concern, my training kicked in.
“Denise, it’s going to be fine.” I walked back in the house, away from Justin, who was saying words to the effect that Josh could already be dead. It scared me to hear him say that, but he habitually jumps to the worst possible conclusion, in order to prepare for contingencies, and I didn’t think that’s what Denise needed to hear right then. Instead I said, “He’s wearing his life jacket. It’s Josh. He’s going to be okay. Think how big and strong he is.” I continued my attempts to be comforting, adding, “he’s going to come home to you tonight and have such a story to tell you and he’s going to be so pissed at that captain!!” We both laughed a little, knowing how Josh is, and how he would be angry, and how he would tell her that story. And then be done with it (although never take a job with that captain again.) He had forgiven tattooed on his knuckles, and he did his best to live like everyone else was worthy of forgiveness, too.
I wanted to believe my own words as much as Denise did. And I always hold onto hope until I can’t anymore. But Justin knew first hand how dangerous the Newport Bar can be in a storm, and he was more realistic. He toweled off, put on his clothes and came inside.
The Yaquina Bay Bar in Newport, Oregon is the area where the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean meet with the shallower waters near the mouth of the Yaquina river.
According to the Oregon State Marine Board safety publication, “most accidents and deaths that occur on coastal bars are from capsizing. Improper loading and/or overloading are major causes of capsizing. Improper/overloaded boats have less stability and less freeboard, which can allow seas to break into the vessel, causing the boat to become even less stable. Boats are more likely to capsize when crossing the bar from the ocean because the seas are on the stern and the boater may have less control over the vessel. Boaters must make sure the bar is safe prior to crossing.”
I stayed on the phone with Denise that night off and on for over an hour as she drove back and forth across the bridge, desperately trying to find out more information. I was worried for her safety too, all alone with that news, and driving … but the last time she called me she found some friends and was going to go try to talk to the cops to see if she could get more information from them.
Meanwhile, we were continually checking the Newport breaking news. And I prayed, & talked to Josh in my head urging him to hold on, & even called upon Poseidon & his wife Amphritite (one of the goddesses from last summer’s Greece retreat) to help him get to shore.
We learned at one point that a person had been found and taken to the hospital. “See, that’s got to be Josh,” I said to Justin. “And he’s going to be okay! The coast guard was right there!” But it wasn’t Josh. And the person wasn’t okay.
After a while, we saw that another person had been found, and again we had hope.
Justin called the Coast Guard twice, telling them he was Josh Porter’s next of kin, but they couldn’t –or wouldn’t—give out any information because they were in the middle of the rescue.
Then finally, around midnight, we got word that Josh’s body had been found. That he didn’t make it. Writing these sentences still makes me cry.
According to the Coast Guard report, the boat hit the tip of the North Jetty and a 20’ wave capsized it. Two of the crew were washed overboard, and the captain was still on the boat, even though it was upside down. Josh’s body was found on Nye Beach, which is about 3 miles north of the north jetty.
My heart still breaks.
Josh was an experienced, hard-working and sought-after fisherman, who fished various fisheries (salmon, crab, tuna, halibut, squid) from the Bering Sea to Southern California. He started fishing with his mom and dad when he was quite young. In later life, he was often hired to be captain, but if a captain’s position wasn’t available, he was always willing to work as crew. He was only filling in on the Mary B II for one trip before his next official crew job began. Josh’s boat, the Fearless II, was harbored in Crescent City. It wasn’t licensed for crab.
Vincent Van Gogh said, “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
It’s impossible to explain the life of a commercial fisherman to one who has never been out there. It is hard work. Dangerous. And yet the fishermen and women I’ve known also have an amazing eye for beauty, have an adventurous spirit, and an unconventional lifestyle that modern hipsters can only dream about. And many are as erudite as a college professor.
As for Josh, he was larger than life. I looked up that phrase to make sure it was an accurate description. The internet says someone who is larger-than-life has a very strong or lively personality that impresses people very much. For sure, that was Josh in all phases of his life.
I first met Josh in grade school. He was a couple years behind me, but we were in band together. One memory that stands out is a moment after band, when we bumped into one another in the doorway. He was reaching for the Silmarillion, (the book J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that goes into more depth about the land and the people that the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were based upon.) I grew up in an area where most of the guys didn’t read much at all, and definitely not for pleasure, so to find him reading the story behind the story that was one of my favorite series was remarkable. He read and collected volumes upon volumes of books, stored in his gear shed, in his home, and on his boats. One of his dreams upon retiring was to open a used book store.
Josh was also a great musician …. Our high school band went caroling one Christmas. We lived in a very rural location, so rather than walking around city blocks, this meant we piled into pickups and cars and vans and drove to people’s houses. I ended up in the back of a truck with Josh and some others. Josh started playing Stairway to Heaven on the guitar; to me he sounded as good as Led Zeppelin.
Flash forward to present time. Josh loved to play the guitar, which is another instrument you often find on commercial fishing boats.
Josh and Denise lived on the family property with us for a few months last spring between fishing seasons, harvesting trees for a little extra money. Most mornings, Josh came in to use the bathroom and then sat down on the couch, picked up the guitar and played a few tunes before starting his day.
Family outings with the Porters always included music, whether we were outdoors camping, or inside in the living room.
Two Christmases ago, right after Justin’s dad died, Justin and I hosted a joint family gathering on Christmas Eve, and requested that everyone bring their instruments. It was a magical moment to look around and see our two families united through music.
Josh had a great laugh: full throated, head back, eyes closed. He loved silliness and puns and plays on words. One time when we all went down to Newport to spend a few days together as a family, Josh was in the middle of a challenge to make up hundreds of puns about Oreos. One example: What do they call a Tuna that eats Oreos? Albacoreo. I know, right? Imagine hundreds of puns about Oreos, all in one day.
In the Fall of 2016, Josh and I flew together to visit Justin in Alaska. Josh was looking to buy a boat, and Justin found a 49’ wooden sailboat / fishing vessel in Petersburg. My family gifted me with an Alaskan trip to visit Justin for my 50th birthday, and it happened to coincide with Josh’s visit to look the boat over before buying it. While we were in the airport waiting for a taxi to take us down to the harbor and Justin’s boat, Josh saw a little kid wearing a bright yellow Pokémon outfit.
“I want one of those!” he said. We laughed, and someone asked him where he would wear it. “In the captain’s chair,” he said, without missing a beat. It wasn’t a stretch to picture him sitting in that chair wearing the Pokémon outfit.
In the days after his death, I cyber stalked his page, reading all the hundreds of comments from people who knew him. A few examples stood out to me because they seem to capture so many pieces of him at once: generous, kind, open-hearted, unconventional, loving ….
The first was from a woman named Olivia. She said, “I hadn’t spoken to Josh Porter since the week we met, but I want to share my memory of him. I was hitchhiking in March of 2011 and was severely ill with bronchitis, or possibly pneumonia from being outside in the Washington rainy and freezing nights. Someone named Sarah and her dog were with me. It was dark out, no idea what time, near Newport, Oregon in the rain on a small road. Josh drove by and picked us up when no one else would. He brought us to his houseboat on the dock: pink and called The Grumpy Dragon and insisted that we stay the night. He introduced us to his wife, Denise. They stayed on a separate boat on the dock. The two of them showed me so much kindness, insisting we stay for several days to recover and renting us movies. Denise gave me these little gold colored metal butterfly wings that I still have. I’ve stayed Facebook friends with Josh for almost eight years and have always thought well of him, and I was really sad to hear about his loss. Rest in peace <3.”
After the memorial service, another friend, a college professor, wrote this:
“SAYING GOOD-BYE, JOSH PORTER
How did a former drug addict and hardworking fisherman with little [formal] education get 4,369 Facebook friends? Why did over 200 people come to an unpretentious church in a steel-clad warehouse to celebrate his life? Why did the Siletz Tribe send their best singers and drummers to honor this white man?
Because everyone there knew of the lives he had changed forever among fishermen, criminals, drug addicts, and many more. Because he had never been known to boast of any special ability, no less of saving lives. Yet when the program turned to Stories and Memories the first two volunteer speakers were a boy from middle school to say how Josh always made him feel good, and a young man with Down’s syndrome who said how his giant friend always made him feel warm. Then followed many men and women who said, “He saved my life.” They meant it in the most literal sense.
After the service everyone stacked and cleared the chairs, rolled out tables and sat down for a sumptuous supper. I ate with a woman and her 15-year-old daughter and with a 40ish couple. All three adults told me how important Josh had been in saving them and their families from addiction. The man who had spent half his life in prison for burglary, robbery and car theft to get drug money is now a licensed contractor and just bought a house for his family. The mother of the teenage girl is about to get her diploma in social work.
No newspaper wrote about Josh except three weeks ago when they ran the story that a 20 ft wave had overturned the FV Mary B II as it tried to cross the bar coming home with a load of crab at night and one of the dead was a crewman named Josh Porter. Several newspapers and TV stations ran stories three more lives lost at sea. I saw no news media at today’s service. Perhaps they don’t think they might find stories in an evangelical church in a warehouse. They missed story after story about a quiet hero.
Has America ever been more in need of such heroes?
In the lines below, the “Master” whose hand plays the violin and touches lives is probably God, but today the hand that men and women and children in South Beach Church felt in their lives was Josh Porter’s.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand
—Myra “Brooks” Welch ’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer Thought it scarcely worth his while To waste much time on the old violin, But held it up with a smile: “What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me?” “A dollar, a dollar”; then, “Two!” “Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice; Going for three—” But no, From the room, far back, a gray-haired man Came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, And tightening the loose strings, He played a melody pure and sweet As a caroling angel sings.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer, With a voice that was quiet and low, Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow. “A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, And going, and gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not quite understand What changed its worth.” Swift came the reply: “The touch of a master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune, And battered and scarred with sin, Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, Much like the old violin. A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine; A game—and he travels on. He is “going” once, and “going” twice, He’s “going” and almost “gone.” But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd Never can quite understand The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought By the touch of the Master’s hand.”
And finally, the last post I’ll share was from another guy who met Josh only briefly. He said, “Josh Porter … We met thru the Facebook Page Commercial Salmon Albacore and Crab … We came to know each other … I will never forget the day we met for coffee in Newport down on the Bay Front. A day that changed my life forever …. You inspired me from the day we met not only as a Fisherman but a Winner in the World of Recovery …. You are and always will be a True Miracle … the name of your fishing vessel so much described your outlook on Life “Fearless.” May you Rest in Peace my Friend ….”
And then he quoted this poem:
Not, How Did He Die, But How Did He Live?
Not how did he die, but how did he live? Not what did he gain, but what did he give? These are the units to measure the worth Of a man as a man, regardless of birth. Not, what was his church, nor what was his creed? But had he befriended those really in need? Was he ever ready, with word of good cheer To bring back a smile, to banish a tear? Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say, But how many were sorry when he passed away.
There are other stories I could share: of Josh’s wide open heart, his generosity, his sense of humor, adventurous spirit, wit & intelligence, friendliness, love for his family, as well as the battles he fought with nightmares and depression. I am so incredibly sorry these stories and this life came to an end so soon.
Rest in peace Joshua James Kahlil Porter. You are so missed. ❤
I was raised Catholic. Actually, I usually say I was raised VERY Catholic. In my entire life from birth to 18, I can remember missing Mass twice (including Holy days.)
Once because we were snowed in. Once because the whole family was sick. Both times we celebrated the entire Mass at home, with my mom playing the role of priest.* *Rebellious, since Catholics still don’t allow women to be priests.
Anyway. Even as a youngster, I didn’t love Mass. From time to time there would be an interesting sermon. Occasionally, the Mass would be geared for kids. But the rest was just ritual … all the standing up, sitting down, recitation of prayers in a monotonous tone of voice, only men in the positions of power … it just wasn’t for me. Except. I always loved the season of Advent.
Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. My love of Advent was probably because anticipation is a big part of my essence frequency, possibly because the anticipation of Christmas to every American kid means much more than a simple celebration of the birth of Christ, most likely because this was the one time of year where a woman was a regular and integral part of the Biblical story, but also largely due to the sudden eruption of fun family festivities in my household.
To say that my family was into Advent is an understatement. There were six of us kids, 14 years apart from first to last. We gathered around the dinner table all year round, but during Advent, the Advent wreath became part of our dinner-time tradition. An Advent wreath is a wreath of evergreen foliage in which four candles are set, one more to be lit on each Sunday of Advent. In our family, we rotated through the designated prayer leader, the one who led us in prayer before dinner, and that person also got to light the candle(s) before dinner each night, blow them out at the end of dinner, (or take bribes from siblings for the privilege) and choose and read the Bible story before we left the table.
Every morning, we began by attending to our Advent calendars. Most Advent calendars are standard two dimensional calendars containing small numbered flaps, one of which is opened on each day of Advent, typically to reveal a picture appropriate to the season. We had to have six advent calendars to rotate through, with a schedule kept by mom so that we wouldn’t fight over whose turn it was to open which one. Four of our Advent calendars were the typical calendar as described above. These were not very exciting especially since they were often recycled from years before, except that they marked down the days until Christmas, and sometimes the pictures inside were of presents or cute kittens and puppies, or angels and the like.
Another was a three dimensional Swedish Christmas tree, made of dowels, and we got to choose an ornament and hang it on the tree. (Moderately exciting, see photo.)
But our favorite, and the one we would fight over for turns if my mom didn’t keep us all so organized, was a homemade embroidered tapestry with a Christmas tree and elves and 24 numbered rings that held tiny written scrolls with various assignments per my mom’s creativity. (See photo below.)
Because this Advent calendar was the one that my mom imbued with her own creativity, each year was a little different. Some years you’d get a scavenger hunt clue to go find a small gift (usually a Bible story book which you would then get to read on your turn to be prayer leader at dinner.) Other years you’d pull a scroll that told you to help your sister with the dishes, or write a nice letter to an elderly friend or relative, or clean the bathroom for a sibling.
My mom still pulls out this advent calendar every year, and her grand kids are now the beneficiaries of her creativity. Fortunately for them, the only ones with large numbers of siblings live in California, and don’t get stuck with those awful “help your sibling” scribes.
The other fun things about the Advent season were that the Christmas records came out of storage, we all went hiking up in the woods to find and cut down the “best Christmas tree ever”, decorated the tree as a family, and the Christmas creche went on display. And then there were the school concerts, Santa pictures, Christmas shopping, and the whole season of anticipation for Christmas day.
I tell you the story of our family Advent traditions to set the stage for why the season of Advent is still important to me today, even though I don’t follow many of the other Catholic customs. For me, the season of Advent (although I do still celebrate reason for the season, even if my beliefs are more aligned with my personal spirituality than traditional Catholic or Christian dogma) is also a time to prepare for the rebirth of a whole New Year. No matter what has happened throughout the 12 months of the year we’re in, I love the ceremony in anticipation of a fresh slate, an opportunity to make my mark on a brand new year.
Furthermore, I believe that ceremony is an important part of spiritual growth, regardless of whether you consider yourself to be traditionally religious or simply secular.
In her latest book, The Book of Ceremony, Sandra Ingerman says that ceremony brings the sacred into ordinary life. In other words, it opens a phone line between you and the power of the Universe, whether you call that God, Goddess, Creator, Great Spirit, Yahweh, Holy Spirit, or The Universe. By bringing ceremony into our life, we reconnect with the sacred as well as to life and nature. Ceremonies can help us unburden ourselves from past hurts, traumas, and self-sabotaging beliefs, moving us into a place where we feel a deeper connection to ourselves, to others, to nature, to life, and to why we are here.
This year I am offering a 25 day Kindness Challenge during the season of Advent. My goal is to offer a secular practice in the spirit of Advent, one that prepares you for new growth in the coming year, and one that is aligned with the kind spirit of the holiday season.
Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I don’t know about you, but I prefer the second option, and kindness helps to create a field that supports miracles.
The holiday season can be stressful for many, and when we’re stressed, we quickly escalate into fight / flight / freeze / faint and by definition get too caught up in our own head as we try to navigate our personal holiday challenges.
When we participate in ceremonies, we transform the negative thoughts and states of consciousness that are burdening us. Ceremony impacts us deeply on a subconscious level, creating positive change. Science shows that performing acts of kindness –to yourself or to others– reduces the effects of stress, improves your mood, boosts your immunity, spreads exponentially to at least three degrees, increases confidence, boosts energy, and is an excellent tool to overcome social anxiety. What better way to bring in the New Year?
Click this link to join my Kindness Challenge, and imagine that each daily message is in the form of a scroll on my mom’s Advent calendar, leading you to focus on and practice kindness: to yourself, to others, to Nature and the Divine.
And I promise I won’t make you clean the bathroom for a sibling,