The Month of September

fall

Once, many years ago, while going through a particularly difficult time I got this idea in my head I would die on September 16 (0f that particular year). I was reminded of this today, September 16, on my walk. Suddenly, I smelled something foul. I looked to my right and there was a dead racoon in the grass. Several steps later, once I arrived in the woods near my house, a dead squirrel on the path. The bodies were still fresh. Was this a sign?

I thought: death is all around us. I remembered all the death that has surrounded my family and myself since December. On December 11, just as my kids and I were about to watch A Christmas Story, my dad called. He was not himself. He said, Mary Lou died. Mary Lou was my step-mother. Then, in January my husband’s last grandmother passed away. It snowed in April when Price died alone in his elevator. June took Uncle Mel and then, his wife, my beloved Aunt on September 6.

September 6 is now shared with September 24, my father’s birthday, when my best friend from Kindergarten died in a car accident when she was only 27 years old. Along with September 11 and September 29. On September 29th, 2011 I was driving my white Toyota Matrix on a Los Angeles freeway. My mother and 11-year old daughter were in the backseat, my 19-year old daughter in the front seat with me. We were listening to Enya and playing the alphabet game. Suddenly, a large truck with glaring headlights was in my rear view mirror. Before I could finish my sentence about what I saw, that large truck hit my car. The car flew and flipped through the air several times until it finally landed on its side. I remember wondering, am I going to die?

car

The Toyota Matrix

I have told and written this story many times, and this year, five years later, I notice the story no longer holds the emotions and trauma it once had.  Now, what seems to be unfolding are the lessons and awakenings from that day that changed everything. Death is all around us.

But, what does this mean exactly? And, is it death or just change? Here’s what is becoming clear for me— life. I think I have been so afraid of death and that impending shoe drop (in my case a tow truck that comes out of nowhere) that life has been cumbersome. I noticed this heaviness after I returned from my aunt’s funeral. Prior to her funeral, I sat with her for four days while she went through the process of death, of change. I had never been this close to the death of another human being or for so long.

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Me and Aunt Flo

Before I entered her home, I was afraid of what I might see. But, all my fear went away when she opened her eyes and smiled at me (and my dad and daughter). All I felt was love. I knew I loved her, but those four days I felt my love for her. I was able to tell her she mattered. This experience is invaluable to me now.  But there is a physical, mental and emotional price, at least for me, when going through something like this. That price felt heavy. It felt exhausted. It felt sad.

After the car accident, I carried heavy, exhausted and sad for nearly 5 years.

I feel lighter now. Life is becoming more clear, but not because I have figured anything out. But because I’m not taking it all so seriously and maybe because the desire to live life finally outweighs the fear of living life. I am moving, once again, toward curiosity, beauty, wonder and listening. Listening, as I did on my walk today, that I needed to get grounded. This looked like me stopping in the middle of the forest doing tree pose and volcano breath. This means committing to creating a life that will match my desire to stay in harmony with my higher self and nature, and not the day-to-day grind of this current culture.

I also intend to move more toward what my aunt taught me—love. And, believe me, I am a newbie to love. It’s always been inside of me, but it’s the emotion or state of being that I resist the most. At the least, it makes me feel awkward. At the most, it frightens me as if I might be swallowed by it. But, while my aunt was in  hospice I had a new experience with love. As I stroked her hair, held her hand and kissed her forehead as I said goodbye and I love you, love comforted me.

Love is a comfort, not a burden I need to protect myself from. So yes, death, the unexpected, change surrounds us—not to stop us or scare us or burden us, although it can, but to notice it, wonder about it, learn from it and let it guide us to more clarity of life, comfort of love and truth of being.

The Soul Reporter

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Going Against My Grain

What is my grain, currently? Currently, I am afraid. I hold back. I let myself off the hook, and rather easily. I can work hardGrain as a mother, as a daughter, as a wife, as someone who takes care of her home, as someone who works with myself toward greater growth and transformation. I have even shown I can work hard at being a middle-aged student. But—I don’t work hard at my desires—my desires to become a published writer, to be a business owner with any one of my good ideas. I also don’t work hard at making my overweight body healthier even though I have high blood pressure and thyroid issues. I guess we all have our weak spots. Here are mine.

 

Grain3

The issue is I could get by with only working in the places I am strong, until now. Now, I face a body that has to get healthier or it will only continue its decline. Now, I face another fork in the road—follow my desires that are still very much alive inside of me or not. Both choices, right now, terrify me. All week I have faced myself in these weak places and mostly, I’ve been resentful. I resent the inertia I have created. It’s a tangled mess of weakness, fear, anxiety and doubt. It’s a place that has been accumulating for 20+years. It’s a place I have been avoiding for at least that long, and have always known is there.

 

Grain2On the bright side, yesterday, on a walk in one of my sacred spaces I could actually feel myself aligning with my desires. I know it’s time to walk through the tangled mess, fight and claw and probably love my way through until I stop for a moment and realize: I’m through. And, I’m through with doubting my abilities. I’m through with questioning the desires of my soul. I’m through worrying if my actions make a difference or not or where they may or may not take me. I’m through with anxiety clouding my intuition and instincts that move my desires forward. But, I’m not through yet. I’m still here, doubting, questioning, worrying—and still, moving forward anyway.

 

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

The Shire in the Woods

theloft

My kids call me a hobbit. So it’s appropriate I’m spending a few of my days during spring break at a retreat center called, Shire in the Woods. It was once called The Dwelling in the Woods and from 2006 or so to 2010, I visited the “hobbit hole” called The Loft, once or twice a year. It is a small, cozy cabin complete with kitchen, wood stove, screened in porch, 1/2 bath, and a small spiral staircase up to the loft/bedroom—all surrounded by woods and trails. It’s intention: to get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

staircase

In those years between 2006-2010, I would enter The Loft and sigh a relief of suddenly being alone with myself. It was a relief to be away from the needs and wants of my family. It was a relief to feel and know myself again. This time there was no relief. Although it was nice to see The Loft again after several years, I was somewhat dreading being with myself. It hasn’t happened since the last time I was here in 2010—and a lot has happened since then.

One thing is I no longer need to get away from my family like I once thought I did. I have worked through enough of my “stuff” and I love being with them—no longer feeling resentment that I can’t be myself with them. And so alone on a Thursday night, fire burning in the wood stove, a cup of hot tea next to me, I find myself texting them just to see what they are doing, almost wishing I was with them watching Parenthood on the couch. But, I’m here and although I feel a little foreign to myself after all these years, I’m hanging with me anyway.

So far I made myself lunch and dinner, using only the toaster oven provided. I took a two hour nap. I have written a a couple of articles, including this one. And, I went snowshoeing. Yes, I went snowshoeing in April on my spring break. I am in northern Minnesota and it still looks like February in these parts.

lunch

After lunch, I stood in The Loft over-thinking the possibility of snowshoeing—Is it cold? Will the snow hit my face? Will I get lost? Stranded? What if there are bears or wolves? Then, I just moved. Put on the snow pants I have never worn, that unfortunately were a bit too tight in the gut, wrapped a scarf around my neck three times, put on my pink hat, my green jacket, which quite frankly I am sick of wearing and ready to store away, and then my boots. I grabbed the orange vest provided by the staff so I wouldn’t get shot by hunters (even tho it is no longer hunting season) and a ring full of bells for that wolf or bear (as if that might scare them off). I went outside The Loft, struggled to put on my snowshoes with my tight snowpants and hit the trail.

snowshoeing

The snow was hitting my face and I wasn’t cold, but sweating. Not only were there no bears, wolves or hunters there wasn’t even a bird or a squirrel. I was the only one in these woods, which didn’t stop me from looking around for someone watching me when I kept falling in the snow.

You see, it was a bit deceiving out there. It seemed I was walking on solid ground, but then I would notice large, deep crevices in the snow. I soon discovered these were snowshoe prints from previous snowshoers sinking into the snow. I had joined their club and made my own prints in the snow. One of which I took a picture of, where not only did I sink into 2-3 feet of snow but fell hands and face first. That’s when I looked to see if anyone saw me because if they did I would be so embarrassed because obvioulsy I am perfect and I should never fail and fall.

falling

I even got so paranoid about someone seeing me I had the stupidest thought—what if there are cameras out here and someone is getting a real good laugh. Because not only did I continue to fall and my snowshoes kept getting stuck and coming off, I was shouting the F bomb all through the woods. At one point I sat down in the hole in which I sank and almost cried. I was becoming exhausted by this journey and it wasn’t even a long one—or that serious. It reminded me of the journey of the past few years, those years between 2010 and now. A journey I keep being exhausted by—but there was a song playing in my head that stopped those tears from falling down my snow covered cheeks. Shake it Out by Florence + The Machine. 

Shake it out Nikki. 

I got up, fell several more times but in place of exhaustion was determination to just get up, shake it out and keep going.

Tonight, 6-12 inches of new snow is going to fall and cover all traces of my falling and getting up. Such is life…

Goodnight Day One.

fire

 

Good Morning Day Two.

I wake up feeling happy, serene. I am relaxed with myself. This is a pleasant surprise. I made some cereal, eggs and toast. Cleaned up a bit and got dressed. My big outing—walking to the main lodge to pay my bill. After I paid though, I kept walking. Here she goes again….but this time with no snowshoes. At first I intended to take the longer way back to The Loft, but I had remembered a beaver pond off one of the trails I wanted to see in the winter time. I mean spring time.

destination

 

This (above) is what it looks like in winter time. I realized after the journey there it wasn’t about seeing this. That was just an idea in my mind that pushed me forward, like some conquest I had to conquer. Turns out I did more than my share to conquer this goal. I ended up walking much further down a path than I had to. Walking through the snow is similar to walking in sand—it’s a workout. At least for me who hasn’t moved much this long winter. I could not find the path that lead to the beaver pond, but then saw a map posted helpfully on one of the trees. I missed the turn off completely.

I headed back the way I came and found the path toward the beaver pond. And guess what, it was filled with those sink hole land mines again. At least this time I wasn’t losing my snow shoes, but I was soaking my sweatpants in the snow that went almost to my hips. Remember I am a hobbit so I am practically being swallowed by snow.

I was also getting exhausted—again. And this time there was no song in my head from Florence + The Machine—I cried. Hugged the birch tree beside me and cried. I bet no one has ever cried holding this birch tree before. Is anyone looking? My heart was beating so fast. I was standing at the beaver pond realizing some other force pushed me here because I knew it wasn’t for the view, even when I set forth toward it. It was about regaining my strength. Pushing my heart again against life and for life.

I am not sharing what the past few years of my life entailed, but I will share that I set out on another kind of journey and I expected not only the view, but the journey to be spectacular. It wasn’t. In fact many times it was horrifying. I have been exhausted, standing and sitting similar to what I have done on both of these days where I’ve ventured out on the snow packed trails, hesitating.  Should I go? Or should I stay? Should I go to that beaver pond? Or just head back? Even while on the trail, epseciallly at the birch tree I stood for a very long time—hesitating—not feeling like I could head back. I’ve been doing this with life. Do I dare venture out again and risk being disappointed, exhausted and scared out of my mind? Or could I have a new experience?

footsteps

In all this questioning and over-thinking, I just move. It just happens. Apparently, some inkling of hope there are new possibilities. That the past in in the past.

I stepped inside the same steps that got me to the pond. It made it easier in dealing with those sink holes. I continued on with my steps and my tears, allowing myself to cry out the disappointment and exhaustion of the past few years. It was all in place to gather strength, to transform my view, to shed me of what’s not needed—as are all my steps now.

Goodnight Day Two.

 

sunset

Good Morning Day Three.

Today I leave The Loft. Much of the snow that fell has melted in the sun that says, Spring! I look forward to seeing my family. My husband will have dinner made. We will all watch a movie and have good conversation.

Before I leave, sitting at the familiar round table in The Loft, eating buttery eggs, cottage cheese and raspberries I accept what I’ve made a significant flaw, a “flaw,” which has shown itself on this short retreat. My hesitation about life, my caution and slow way of moving forward—perhaps a stubbornness or fear or laziness. I accept how long it takes me to move. I accept it often takes a lot to get me to move. I get it. I accept it.

I have cleaned The Loft, leavning it fresh for the next guest. I am pressing publish on this post. Time to leave. Goodbye Shire in the Woods. Until we meet again….

The Soul Reporter.

Where I Sit.

Straight ahead from where I sit there is a middle path. To my right, another. And another to my left.

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This morning I questioned who I am, but this isn’t new. I’ve been questioning this for awhile. In the past 10 years I have seen many parts of myself.

I have traveled the left path to play in darkness.

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I have traveled the right path toward light. I try to stay on the middle path for balance.

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But no matter which way I go, who I am sits on the bench watching.

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The Soul Reporter

Stiff Like Winter.

A Short Spiritual Memoir: Gradual Growth & Awakening ~

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I feel stiff like winter.

I long to thaw like spring—and

See what transpired in darkness and struggle.

 

My life has felt harsh and ugly for so long, like those last days of winter when the snow is gray and the sky matches, and you have had enough of those bitter winds biting your bones. I don’t want this anymore. I want kind and beautiful. I find it again on a short walk. The day is as my daughter describes it: she will not sweat and and she will not freeze. It is a day of transition from winter to spring—a glimpse of what is to come.

As I walk I ask for more of myself to be revealed. I stop and look through the bare tree to the sun peeking through the gray. The song of birds remind me I am back. I needed to come back—home to Minnesota where I experience these transitions from winter to spring and later, summer to fall.

I know I have been through something awesome and difficult, and feel like everything will be alright now—at least for awhile. The end of an era, and it makes me cry. The tears thaw my stiffness and shed my heaviness, and prepare me for the warmth which is to come.

Thank God for this transition of tears. Sudden joy and elation might startle me otherwise. It is these days of transition: 32 degrees. Sun shining hazily through the gray, which make life of deeper meaning and connection possible and compatible with our ever-evolving soul.

As I end my walk, a woman approaches me and asks, “How’s the path?”

“It’s fine,” I tell her.

 

The Soul Reporter

 

 

Do You Know Fear?

Today’s Soul Report: Fear

Fear. Perhaps as great a mystery as love. As God.

A man approaches me, and asks me for a ride. Fear. A stray dog in the path I walk. Fear. Too much caffeine. Fear. Out of the blue. Fear. My only remedy: get present.

Notice the white butterfly on the path. In the dead of night when fear grips. Feel the cool sheets under my hand. Get present.

If you can control fear, you either dont know it or are an enlightened master. In my fear the sound of a small lizard in the grass sounds like a mountain lion waiting to prance. A man walking could be a rapist.

Do you know fear?

The water feels like a friend. I walk beside it. As I walk, I open up more fear. As I walk, it releases. As I walk, I open up more spirit. As I walk, it releases.

Whatever is your mystery, Fear, you’re a viable opponent.

***Words, which surfaced and photos I snapped during my walk today.

Nikki

Are you Bored? Is it Time to Walk a New Path?

Today’s Soul Report: Enthusiasm

Everyday, subscribers receive in their inbox, a Daily Soul Glimpse: a nudge from my soul to yours to help inspire self-inquiry and relationship with your soul. Below is what they received today:

Yesterday, I was bored with the book I am writing. So bored, I left the desk, picked up The Hobbit that I had been reading, sat in the sun and read. I hadn’t been able to get into the adventure of Bilbo and his friends. But, yesterday when I sat in the sun I was like a kid- giddy with excitement.

Bilbo and his friends had just outsmarted the dragon, and they were inside his lair, where all the riches were. Soon, the little Hobbit would be going home, a place he dreamed about being during his entire adventure.

Still not wanting to go back to my writing work, I took a walk. I walked the usual path- down the boulevard near our home, then back around. Seemed a bit stale and boring this time, just like my writing and I wanted, if nothing else, for my walk to last longer.

I imagined another way I could go to get home- a way I hadn’t been before, but knew the road well enough that it curved up and would lead back to the boulevard. But, just as the road began to curve up, I looked to the left and saw a gravel path. I knew the river was near.

But, that didn’t entice me as a river here in Los Angeles is is not the Mighty Mississippi of my childhood. Instead it is a man-built, concrete tube where sometimes water flows, and most times it doesn’t. I took this path anyway.

It moved right along with the golf course and the “river,” which of course was dry. But there were trees and quiet- and it was new. At every bend or hill, I’d tell myself I would turn around and go home. But, my curiosity won at every bend and down every hill. Soon, I was hearing traffic noise again, and was under the great overpass of a busy highway. The enormity of its pillars and the concrete above me made me feel small and vulnerable, and honestly so was this path.

I did not know where it led. I was alone, and at one point I saw what I thought was a loose dog, a Doberman no less, and my heart stopped. Thankfully, his owner appeared. “He’s chasing rabbits,” he told me.

Continuing to walk, following my curiosity the path led to many paths. One seemed to go around in a circle, although I did not venture it to see. And another led over a little bridge where water actually ran under it. Further, a bubbling creek adorned with river rock. The kind one could step on to get to the other side. It was getting dark, though and I would be calling my adventure over- until next time when I would go farther. Perhaps over that river rock.

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life when all that we need to be really happy is something to be enthusiastic about. ~ Charles Kingsley

On my return home, I found I was no longer bored. I was enthused. Although I did not meet a dragon like Bilbo, only a doberman with an owner, I felt I had gone on an adventure. I thought about my curiosity, and how it has been my courageous friend in many of my walking endeavors. It is one of the areas in my life where I may be afraid to travel new ground, but still I continue. I am also this way inside my soul. Curious to know what else is in there….But, my writing and work in the world, I tend toward timid.

As I said, I was bored with my work, and left it. I thought about how I found that new path. It began by walking the same old one, and then wanting to walk a little further. To be this way in my work, as I am in my soul and on my walks then, is what I’m after. To keep going and be curious of new ways to see. New ways to express. New. New. New.

Curiosity saves us from boredom. And the more detached we are in that area of our life, the more curious we will be. Curiosity will always bring us somewhere new. Give us new insights. New ways of seeing. And when this happens, we find we are enthused.

Just like that quote above- money and fame, even the riches in a dragon’s lair won’t bring the happiness that a new adventure can. That a life of doing work, which fulfills us can- that a life lived with enthusiasm can. This is what I believe we are all seeking.

Self-Inquiry:

What area in your life feels dull and uninteresting? It might be that it is an area where we need to pay less attention, but it also may be an area where we only need to bring new eyes to. In what areas are you more adventurous and curious? Do you find these areas bring more joy into your life? How might you travel a new path? How might you be more daring? Be curious, and notice when you are enthused and when you are not.

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