Nobody said being a healer was easy

I’ve been following the coverage of the latest wildfires in California with a heavy heart. If you pay attention to the news, it seems like the whole world is on fire, literally and figuratively. To be alive at this time, especially for those of us who have been called to be healers, is no easy feat. There is just too much to do.

Yet, when I’m doing my work in the world – teaching yoga, training yoga teachers or Shamanic Reiki practitioners, running two yoga studios, or offering one-on-one healing – I feel my connection to that greater purpose. During those times, the discouraging news drops away and I feel “in the flow.”

But being in the flow doesn’t mean the work is easy.

It is okay for healers to be tired. Just don't quit.Every day the healing and transformative work I am drawn to do asks me to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at the top of my game. And that’s just not possible. Like everyone else I get injured, I lose focus, I grieve, and I doubt. I can’t count how many times I was ready to quit during the past year. When I was tired and overwhelmed, I thought of pulling the plug on the whole thing.

What if it’s okay to be tired?

I was listening to an interview with Jo Fairly, co-founder of the organic chocolate company Green & Black, on Carrie Green’s She Means Business podcast (which is a great resource for female entrepreneurs), and Jo was asked how she did it all. Her answer was, “When you’re tired, rest, don’t quit.” Hearing that, in her lovely British accent, made me realize it was okay to acknowledge that getting tired didn’t mean I had failed, or that I couldn’t do the work. It meant I needed to rest and renew my energy.

Accepting that sometimes I am going to be tired is a big shift for perfectionist Debbie. For the past few weeks, I have given myself permission to feel worn out, and to plan rest time into my day, even if it’s simply going to bed a bit earlier or treating myself to a yoga class that someone else is teaching. Then, when my energy returns, I start moving forward again.

I can’t quit, because there is healing work I need to do in this world.

If you are walking the path of healers and change-makers, I would love it if you give yourself permission to rest. Just don’t quit, because the world needs you to do your work. Can I witness and support your necessary desire to rest? Let me know with a reply.

Breathing with Trees

Breathing with trees in the AdirondacksI ventured out, alone, in my snowshoes, on a quiet trail through the woods. We had had the first substantial snowfall of winter a few days before, and I came to a part of the trail that had not been broken since the storm. I’m not experienced on snowshoes and it was only my second time out this season, but it was quiet and beautiful so I decided to push on.

Once my body started complaining, I stopped and turned back. It had begun to snow again, which was lovely to look at but made the trail more challenging. I caught myself getting short of breath as my heart rate came up and I took a break.

There was a time when I would have been frightened out in the woods, all alone, with no cell signal, my heart pounding in my chest, but now I have a relationship with the trees. Through my shamanic work I have become aware of the life energy that flows through the trees. I have seen them “lit up” with that energy. It is the same energy that flows through you and me.

Rather than panicking out in the woods, I sat in the snow with my back to a tree. I tuned into that energy. And I began to breathe with the tree. Plants and animals are the two halves of the beautiful life-sustaining oxygen cycle. Trees breathe out oxygen, we breathe it in. We breath out carbon dioxide, the trees breathe it in.

Sitting against the tree, I became conscious of breathing in what the tree was releasing. It was as if I could draw the breath right out of the tree into my back. Then I breathed out and felt the tree draw in my out-breath. Back and forth, the tree and I breathed together, until my heart rate slowed and I felt safe and held. I walked calmly out of the woods.

This simple but powerful practice draws my awareness to the interconnected web of life. While the woods are a wonderful place to experience it, I find the same sense of connection and peace when I breathe with the trees in my backyard or even my houseplants. I leave a small offering in gratitude for the breath when I can, and I always speak my thanks. I know I am heard.

In the Season of Hope

A couple of days ago, Americans acknowledged the festival of Imbolc (or Candlemas) by practicing the art of weather divination. In other words, some folks woke up a groundhog and, because the groundhog saw his shadow, declared there will be six more weeks of winter bleakness.

For the most part, I don’t mind winter and enjoy the snow, but sometimes it does seem to drag on and on. I suspect the Celts thought so, too, since they chose to celebrate the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s kind of an “over the hump” thing – the Wednesday of winter.

The temperatures this season have bounced between “too warm for winter” and “too cold for my liking,” and rain has alternated with snow leaving a thick layer of ice on places like my front steps. The political and social climate in the United States has been equally inconsistent and icy.

Yet, here we are at the middle of winter, and there is reason to hope. Can you feel into that?

We may be gathering in protest rather than in celebration, but we are gathering. We are leaving our homes, risking icy steps and, for some, arrest, to declare that we still have hope. After all, if we didn’t believe good things are still possible, why would we bother?

This is the spirit of Imbolc. It is a time to shake off the winter doldrums and cultural apathy and joyfully declare, “I know that spring is coming. We can get through this dark time.”

During our last Goddess Circle, the women who gathered took part in a simple ritual for Imbolc – burning the greens to show our faith that the green of spring would return. We had some boughs from my Yule tree on the altar, and took turns pinching off some of the green needles and dropping them on a lit tealight in a cast iron cauldron. As her pinch of greens burned, the woman spoke of something she hoped for the future. There was lots of hope in our circle that night.

You can do this ritual on your own or in your circle. If you don’t have a cauldron, anything fire proof will do. A terra cotta pot works well. You could also throw your greens into a bonfire or fire pit if you’d prefer to be outside. You can be creative with the ritual. It’s the intention that is important.

In this season of hope, what are you hoping for?

Sacred Spirals and Breathwork

“…no circle is ever closed. We walk ever in spirals.”
~ R. Scott Bakker

Experiencethe spiralsin yourbreathDo you feel like you’ve been here before? We see time as linear and circles in the patterns of nature. And so spring comes around again. Or does it?

During the past two moon cycles I’ve been quiet. Introspective. I’ve become aware of many patterns repeating in my being-ness. I’m seeing challenges that I’ve dealt with before, unresolved issues, and even childhood activities resurfacing. It’s frustrating. Why do I have to deal with this stuff again?

Then, a few weeks ago, I began seeing spirals everywhere and I became aware that I am not walking a straight line, or in a circle, but dancing through the labyrinth of existence. Spring has come around again, but it is not the same spring, and I am not the same person. I’m meeting familiar challenges with more experience and insight. And I am exploring new-again activities not as a child but with a child-like mind.

When I recognized and appreciated the sacredness of the spiral path I am walking, I opened to wonder and beauty and an order within the chaos of living. I see that each time a pattern reoccurs I am being offered an opportunity to apply new awareness, new tools and new skills to move through it with more grace.

You may, too, find yourself in a familiar place as you walk your own spiral path. What comes up for you again and again? And how do you respond? Notice if frustration, defeatism or despair arise. Then see if you can breathe into the sacredness and acknowledge who you are today. What more can you bring to the challenge? Maybe you are ready to release the pattern, but maybe you will spiral around again to face it as the you with even more experience.

There are a number of ways to connect with the spiral shape through breath work. I find spiral breathing both calming and centering. The simplest way to experience the spiral breath is to breath in up the back body, and breath out down the front body. Try it now. See, sense or feel the breath traveling up your spine as you inhale. Feel it flow down through your chest and belly as you exhale. As the breath deepens, you might sense it spiraling out until the breath is circling into the space behind and in front of you.

You can also spiral the breath in the coronal, or frontal, plane. which helps to bring awareness and balance to the breath and the mind while you explore the spirals. Take a breath in through your right nostril and draw the breath up your right side and into the top of your chest. Then exhale through the same right nostril and send the breath down the left side. Repeat a few times with the right nostril, then switch to the left. Inhale up the left side and exhale down the right. Practice through the left nostril a few times. Then try breathing through both nostrils while spiraling the breath. You will have two opposing spirals circling at the same time. Practice the two nostrils together a few times until you can feel both.

Dancing in the Moonlight

MoonlightOnce every three years or so there is a month with two full moons. The second is known as a blue moon. If you’re reading this on July 31st and you go outside right now, you’ll be standing under one.

Astrologers seem less excited about the second-of-the month aspect of today’s full moon than about the moon being in Aquarius. Breakthroughs in the midst of struggles are predicted. You’d do well to pay attention today.

But perhaps you were not even aware that the moon has just gone full. Why is the lunar cycle even important?

I grew up on the south shore of Long Island, on a skinny street between two canals. It was a poorly crafted street which went downhill as you traveled inland from the bay to its lowest point where the two canals dead-ended. When the moon was full, high tide was very high – so high that the ocean spilled over the bulkheads and flooded the street at that low point. If you needed something from the store, you were just going to have to wait a few hours.

Most of us live too cut off from natural phenomenon like moon tides to feel the consequences of the lunar cycle. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The same gravitational pull that affects the tides draws gently of the water in your body. It changes you, in albeit subtle ways. When we start to pay attention – really pay attention – we become aware of those subtle changes.

Yoga is an excellent tool for building subtle awareness of your body. The practice of Chandra Namaskar, the moon salutation, taps into the cyclical nature of the moon while opening the hips, the seat of the second Chakra. The sacral energy center is the home of water energy. Water is changed by the moon. Do you see where this is going? The circling sequence of Chandra Namaskar itself represents the cycle of lunar transformation, the flow and ebb and flow and ebb that is the constant rhythm of life.

Are you tuned into the lunar cycle? Is it time to start exploring the moon’s ever-changing energy again? I’d love to hear from you. Share your comments below!

How to Make your Dream Come True

The stories are everywhere, always uplifting, always inspiring:

Every day, people just like you go out into the world and make their dreams come true.

They did it. Why not you? You’re no different than any of these individuals.

Why Couldn’t Your Dream Come True?

2015-05 butterfly+pulling+rockTrue, it sounds hard. In fact, it probably is hard, with a number of obstacles to overcome. That may be excuse enough to put your dream on permanent hold. But how would you feel if you made your dream a reality? How badly do you want that feeling?

“Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.”
– Orison Swett Marden, writer

Could a Plan Help?

The easiest way to turn a dream into reality is one step at a time:

  • Choose one small thing to get done. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • Identify what scares you most about taking that step. Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen if I face this fear? Write down the worst-case scenario, and also write how you would confront it.
  • Choose a small reward for yourself once you’ve accomplished that activity.
  • Then just do it – and check that task off your list.
  • Now treat yourself to the reward, rejoice, and celebrate!
  • Repeat the above steps as many times as necessary and watch yourself get happier and healthier as you move in the direction of your dream. And enjoy the journey.

Need more inspiration? Check out Daily Good – a news blog full of uplifting stories. It’s my favorite source for good news.

What’s your dream? What one small thing can you do today to bring that dream closer to reality? What scares you? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Inspiration to Run with the Wolves

One of my Goddess Spirit Circle sisters is reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, and shared a reading from it when we met last month. I remember reading the book many years ago (Amazon.com remembers I bought a copy in 1998!) and being wowed by the powerful feminine archetypes. Ready to be inspired again, I just ordered another copy. And when I was putting together graphics for my social media posts this week, I added some quotes from Dr. Estés. Stand up and howl, sisters!

CPE Stretch

CPE Wherever

CPE Woods

CPE Defiant

Do you have a favorite quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estés? Share it with me in the comments!

Affirmations for a New Year

I couldn’t let the clock strike midnight and usher in a new year without leaving you with some affirmations to inspire you in 2015. Happy New Year!

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What are your intentions for 2015?

I love being on the cusp of the new year. It feels like the slate has been wiped clean and anything is possible. I always give thought to what I would like to accomplish in the coming year. Sometimes it’s one or two simple things, but most years I dream big. I often dream too big, without thought to how many hours are actually available for all of the things I want to tackle. I’ve learned to be more reasonable with my time and try to keep my intentions achievable.

This year I categorized my intentions by the element they most related to – earth, air, fire, water or spirit. It was a good check to make sure my plans will keep me balanced. It’s great to want to have a hugely successful career, but if it doesn’t leave time for creativity or exercise or spiritual pursuits it might not be worth it. When you look ahead, are you thinking about balance?

Below is a summary of my intentions for 2015. They all are much more specific, of course. Each has a deadline and is achievable and measurable. For example, “I will complete my work, pass the final test and graduate from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition on February 22, 2015, after which I will be a fully certified holistic health coach.” With intentions like that, I can easily track my progress and remember what I need to schedule time for.

Intentions 2015

What are your intentions for 2015? I’d love it if you would share some in the comments below, or link to your own post about your plans for the new year.

Gratitude Affirmations for Thanksgiving or any day

Repeating affirmations changes your thoughts. If you are cultivating an attitude of gratitude today, here are some affirmations to try.

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