Navigating the Sacred and Mundane

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rebecca Shapiro

It is my great honor to announce the wonderful blog of my dear friend, Rebecca Shapiro. She is an amazing artist, entrepreneur, and visionary woman. I've known her for almost twenty years and our paths continue to cross at the deepest junctures. She is the Portland leader for Ladies Who Launch, a resource and social network for women entrepreneurs.

She also started Gallery Verno, the first sustainable, on-line, green gallery in the world. Check out her article on greening your business.

While she is a savvy business woman and inspiration for others in so many ways, I want to introduce you to the artist - because creating art is her soul's work, her true love and joy.

Head over to rebeccashapiroart.com and wander around. You'll find links for her abstract and encaustic art, illustrations, doll creations, and view her wonderful photography throughout.

Welcome to the circle, Rebecca!

Love you,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Stepping Lightly on the Path

In case you didn't know, having another child is not in the realm of possibility any longer. I've raged and grieved, acted indifferently, and tried out a number of other responses. What to do, time to let go. I've spent a good three years putting my energy behind it and the answer is no.

It's a baffling thing when you think you are reading the signs correctly, that you are showing up for what you think is your destiny, and the doors remain closed. Passwords, chants, pleas, and prayers aside now, I'm turning around and looking to see what else is in front of me. Squinting, I don't really want to see the sun, don't really care about the way my curiosity begins to translate the landscape.

Heavy with the implications of decisions I need to make for myself and my daughter, I look for the best immediate path to take. One foot in front of the other, that's about what I can do. I don't have to look far, not more than an inch. There it is, the path that has remained open to me all my life. I don't know what to call it really. It's about sitting with people. It's about reframing personal stories until rightful meaning and honor are restored. It's about embracing the unknown with wholeheartedness and looking into the face of the present. It's about mindfulness. And about curiosity. It's all about love and permission and healing. It's about showing up. It's about vision.

I've made my way on this path for many years and have been so fortunate to have the support of great teachers and mentors. I've been blessed with amazing 'clients', people who have earnestly looked at their lives, all the way down and back into their ancestries, with fierce humility and courage. I've learned so much from those people who entrusted their process to our relationship, to my guardianship for however long it took to find that opening of light, to that place where we both nod in silence, work well done, this leg of the journey complete.

All these years, I have not been a fan of psychotherapy, the scientific method, or the models of self that I feel have done and do harm us if we do not understand their limitations. Any model is useful if we accept it as one tool among many. To assume that our western psychotherapeutic ideas are the authoritative answers, that they are always accurate and helpful - worries me. So I've avoided that path, personally and professionally.

I never accepted the labels put upon me as a child and teenager by therapists, and thank god I had the wherewithal to look further. I didn't just look, I ran as fast as I could and didn't stop running for years. And I did gather tremendous understanding along the way. I learned that other cultures sometimes have better, more accurate models. Looking to ancient yoga maps, to the philosophies that have existed for thousands of years, expanded my own vision of my life ten fold. A hundred fold. The perennial wisdom traditions gave my life story dimension, layers and layers of meaning and connections to other maps and models.

Even our own scientific models, in their change and evolution, provided more insight, more dignity, more visionary probability, to my file of useful maps. Mechanistic, reductionistic ideas of self gave way to systems theory and quantum theory and chaos theory. Imagine how our notions of self expand when the science behind our developmental theory expands.

Sometimes, though, it just takes too much time for models to change. Our textbooks don't keep up with the view from the frontier. Practitioners, therapists, doctors in rooms with patients and clients are still using outdated maps - they haven't been given the new information. So this behavior and that movement look pretty black and white, according to their picture, according to the current data.

But I want to know what the shamans in Peru are saying. I want to know what the plants have been telling them for eons. Because when I'm a kid laying in the dark of my room after an incomprehensible act of rage, what the plants have to say may speak more to my experience than a bunch of dead white scientists who decided something at a conference in 1946. As someone suffering and also exulting, I need to know what the texts say from yogis who have received their knowledge from great scholarship and spiritual stewardship. What can they tell me about that doorway at the bottom of the well? Or how about when you're walking down the street in a small Midwest town and suddenly the quality of light moves through your cells and you weep and no one has ever told you that could happen? Who do you want to see, someone who wonders whether you're delusional or someone who can place your experience within a global context of transformative change?

That being said, like every other basic step I skipped over to survive, I am turning around to take care of some things I missed. While I love the knowledge and experience I have gained, I have also given up the opportunity to belong to a larger community of professionals. Rebellion and change from the outside of the circle is fine, but in the end not so useful. Too easy to reject and polarize the 'other', and too easy to feel excluded, on the fringe, different. And I need to revise my own assumptions and judgments about the Western Tradition.

So, I turned in my application for the local, state school, graduate counseling program. AND because I applied so late, I have been advised to take the GRE without studying. Yep, you heard it. How insane is that, right? I'm the one who failed every standardized test I have had the misfortune of meeting. Never thought I'd have to go through that again. Tomorrow I will practice a complete letting go. Don't know most the right answers on that test, but I do know what the plants are sayin in Peru. So, fine by me. I'll just jump through the hoop, and remind myself that failure is the underside of a blooming flower.

Tomorrow I take the four plus hour exam (so if you do know math, etc., please do whisper in my ear at 10am, ok?). I should be studying fractions and algebraic formulas, the format for a critical essay, or the 3,500 word list of words, but, alas, I'm listening to the sitar and drinking my latte, thinking of you all and about the path.

I don't really want to take any step, but life comes to get us when we wait at the wrong door, and shows us, gently, here you go, your life is in this direction.....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

River's Grace

Three years ago I set out to write a memoir. As with most plans, the content I had intended transformed into something else, guided by the presence of my newborn daughter, River. Most days, sitting down to write, she slept next to me at the cafe. Closing eyes, waiting for the muse, I was always surprised, always led through humility, and always greeted with the opening of eyes - hers to the world, mine to the story making its way onto the page.

I have over 300 pages, letters to River, about life, lessons, the daily grind, and the sacred seed in every moment. After a few attempts to edit and find the right beginning, I put it away. Life always seems to take over. I am not an easy woman, and River is not an easy girl; our relationship is not easy.

Most nights I still don't sleep more than a few hours. Most days I don't know how to be right with her. It's hard to justify a book, filled with love and a deeply held conviction for the spiritual path of motherhood, when these days we're well into the woods of forgetting our true connection. She's only three and a half and I know, already, the forgetting is here.

But still, some things have a life of their own. In the past few weeks I've had one offer for publication, and another strong showing of interest. Without pursuing its outcome, River's Grace is finding its way out of the box and into the light of day again.

For the next few months I am rededicating myself to giving it a chance, to listening as deeply as I did for that original year of writing. I ask for your blessing and prayer that the exhaustion stand back, that the daily frustrations of my life stand down, that a space be cleared for the inside voice to be honored and given a body.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


You have to stay up all night and be kicked repeatedly by a toddler.....then just play this over and over and along with a strong latte, the world begins to round out again, and you remember it's the full moon.


Waking up is hard to do. Thanks, Ben, for your willingness to be the medicine and the music and the reminder. Thank you for being the reed, the root of the root of the feeling. And for calling to that place in us that can be that beautiful medicine.


The thing about sleep deprivation is that you repeat things mindlessly. But then, some things are worth repeating...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Solitude

After a busy two-weeks of adventuring around Portland with visiting friends and family, River and I have a silent afternoon. Me at my kitchen desk.....

And River out in the living room. I think to myself, wow, she's really playing so well alone. So focused.
Until she appears before me with shiny, shiny lips. Shiny cheeks, too. "Whatchya doin Riv?" She shows off her lipstick, proud and beautiful. I discover the trail of shininess leads to the other room, to the faux suede couch, where a tube of chapstick is smeared across the pillows.....

As I declare how oil will not come out of fabric, she has a declaration of her own. With great feeling she explains how important it was for her to put lipstick on all her animals. That's what happened, she doesn't know anything about the couch.

Summer, my friends, is almost over....

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Saturday in Portland

My stepdaughter, Claire, is visiting for a week so we've been having fun. Today we went on the famous Portland Bridge tour, led by my best friend's mom (and all around fabulous woman!), Sharon Wood Wortman.

If you don't already know how amazing the Portland bridges are, get a glimpse of the Broadway Bridge.This is a photo of the Morrison Bridge. I took some great pics but they're stuck in my cell phone. While Steve and Claire went down below the bridge to view the huge gear shifts, Riv and I sat in the booth on top. We had front row seats for the raising of the bridge.

Here's the Steel Bridge - the bottom deck is lifting to let a sail boat through.

Here's our wonderful, old train station.

And then, well, there's nothing like a stupid Red Bull event to draw thousands and thousands of people. We waded through the throngs to watch grown men in getup drive vehicles straight into the river to crash. When we had enough of that, we headed to the famous VooDoo donuts to wait in a thirty minute line for a half dozen. Much more mature!

River was pretty excited to wait with her big sister...

And mama's not cool anymore when the hip girl's around.

You have to appreciate a donut shop with the motto: magic is in the hole. Yep, it's printed on the undies above the counter, too! The girl with the orange hair made sure we walked away with the most popular donuts.

We had to lay them out at home to figure it out. Turns out they're not really for eating, especially if you haven't eaten a regular donut for twenty years, but it was part of our fun Saturday so that's good enough for us.