My Inner Mystic

reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3

Category Archives: joy

PEACE & JOY

PEACE

Peace enjoys long, leisurely walks.  She feels the pulse of the wind, the texture of the air.  She listens to the chatter of a hummingbird and mimics the sound with her own tongue, imagining she is energetically synchronizing with the little bird.  In the still air, she hears a train’s horn miles away.  She stops and takes in a winter rose, frozen and suspended in time.  With curiosity, she notices droplets of water clinging to the bare branches of a tree.  She stands completely rapt, drinking in the shapes and sizes of the multitudinous drops.  Just as she begins to wonder how long each drop will cling to its branch, one releases and lets go, falling to the ground in a silent splash.  She feels both sorrow and joy.  She pauses and remembers her good friend, Joy.  Because of Joy, she feels peace.

JOY

Joy laughs until she cries.  Joy loves surprises, but only happy surprises.  Joy dances with sunflowers.  Joy throws her feet up in the air into a cartwheel.  Joy recently discovered that at age 37, she can still do a somer sault.  She laughed out loud and said to herself several times, “UNBELIEVABLE,” awash in ecstasy.  The other day Joy woke up to fresh snow on the ground.  With a huge smile on her face, she clapped her hands in glee.  Joy loves snow.  She loves to make snow men.  She loves to throw snow balls.  (shh! don’t tell anyone, but she loves a snow ball ambush!) Though always a teensy bit scared, she loves to sled down big hills.  Joy is pretty excited that she is going snow shoeing for Christmas Eve day – she can’t wait to experience the magic of a winter wonderland.  Joy has discovered that the big kids, the adults, are just little kids in grown up bodies.  She knows this because she is still a kid inside. 🙂

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Inspired by “The Book of Qualities” by J. Ruth Gendler.

Peace & Joy would like to wish you a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 

May you feel peace and joy this holiday season.

Denny Creek snow shoe

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Visioning the Future

I am sitting in my office having my Monday morning cup of coffee and two apple-carrot-bran muffins that I made over the weekend.  The sun is filtering through colorful fall leaves and shining through the window.  I glance at my calendar – October 14, 2017.   Today is the official publication date for my collection of personal essays.  Hooray!  I am filled with gratitude and joy as I reflect back on the last few very rich and nourishing years of my life.

I finished my master’s degree in counseling at the end of 2016.  At the start of this year, I started a therapy practice with my friend and colleague, Jo.  I met Jo through NVC (non-violent communication) and we went through the master’s program together.  We co-facilitate a grief group.  We also co-facilitate a community group for those who long to deepen connection with others.  We model this group after the NVC learning community led by our revered mentor and teacher, Karl.  I also meet one on one with clients who are going through life transitions, who are healing from emotional trauma and childhood wounds, and families who are working through discord.  I am so grateful to have a partner in this work and the support of many dear friends.

I received my yoga teacher certification at the end of 2014.  I was invited by my friend and peer, Erin, to teach classes at Awakened Heart Yoga.  I have taught weekly yoga classes for nearly three years now.  My favorite class to teach is a youth yoga class.  I also teach free youth yoga classes at community centers around Seattle.  I LOVE teaching youth – I am so passionate about inspiring youth to discover their power and access their well of strength.

As I gaze out the window on the sun filled landscape, my mind travels to the sunny island paradise of Maui where, along with dear friends and fellow yoga teachers, I have co-hosted three New Year’s yoga retreats.  Maui is such a magical place.  Each New Year we dance under rainbows, we swim in the sacred waters of the re-birthing pools, we moonbathe on the beach, we practice yoga in an open air pavilion, we meditate under a wise looking banyan tree.  I send yet another thank you note via cosmic messenger to my beautiful friend Jessica for co-hosting with me that first year.  We were so blessed by the outpouring of support from our community of friends and many of our dearest friends retreated with us.

I remain grateful for the cosmic unfolding that led me to my first retreat in Maui where, for the 2014 New Year I reconnected with the beautiful Shayna, a dear soul I met in Costa Rica during my 2012 New Year’s retreat.  For seven years now a New Year’s yoga retreat has been a yearly tradition that grew out of my new life.  You see, I had been in a long term committed relationship for nearly 10 years that ended in a giant “ka-boom” in 2009.  I was devastated, hurt to my very core.  Creating new traditions was an important part of my healing.

At my first New Year’s retreat in 2011 (also in Costa Rica), I discovered a new family, my yoga family.  At this retreat and so many others, I have made a network of friends and some of my most cherished friendships.  I also discovered how meaningful it is to start the year with intention, to plant seeds for qualities I wish to cultivate in my life, to plant seeds for things I long for and desire to grow in my life.  Each year I come away with momentum that moves me forward along my path.  Each year I see flowers blossom and fruit bearing trees sprout up from the seeds I plant in my heart.

I remember New Year’s Day, 2014.  I planted a seed under the new moon for the family I longed for in my life.  At 37, I had a strong desire and calling to be a mom, to create life with someone I loved, and to share the joy of raising a little being together.  At the time I didn’t know what would happen, I didn’t know when someone who wore sturdy shoes, who gazed at the new moon, and who had an open heart would skip into my life.  But he did.  He showed up in my life and he gave me the powerful gift of his presence.  Remembering the moment he skipped into my life brings a smile to my face and my heart fills with warmth as I hold him in my awareness.  I feel love permeate my being.  We had small ceremony in the woods.  My sweet friend Katy wrote and read a poem.   I remember so very clearly these words:  “such bravery to hold out your hand to another person, one Life Line traced by another.”

I feel a kick that brings me out of my reverie and back to the present moment.  I put my hand on my belly and feel the movement inside.   I am pregnant.  In just a few short months, I will give birth to a little bundle of joy, a bundle that I have a feeling is going to crack my heart wide open and out will pour love. I wonder if this baby will be a New Year’s baby.  What a lovely thought.  I will have to wait and see how the stars in the sky line up.  However the stars line up, I already know I am incredibly blessed.

Joy & Commitment

A gal in my NVC (non-violent communication) learning community recently turned me on to “The Book of Qualities” by J. Ruth Gendler.  I ordered myself a copy and yesterday I came home to a thin and lite weight package on my door step.

Last night I experienced wonder and intrigue and a good laugh (I work for “Urgency”) as I became acquainted with the many characters in this book.  I felt most akin to “Joy” and tonight, as I drank in “Commitment,” a deep and resonant “whoa” traveled through my vocal cords and out my mouth.

Let me share with you my discovery so you can experience the impact for yourself.

JOY

Joy drinks pure water.  She has sat with the dying and attended many births.  She denies nothing.  She is in love with life, all of it, the sun and the rain and the rainbow.  She rides horses at Half Moon Bay under the October moon.  She climbs mountains.  She sings in the hills.  She jumps from the hot spring to the cold stream without hesitation.

Although Joy is spontaneous, she is immensely patient.  She does not need to rush.  She knows that there are obstacles on every path and that every moment is the perfect moment.  She is not concerned with success or failure or how to make things permanent.

At times Joy is elusive — she seems to disappear even as we approach her.  I see her standing on a ridge covered with oak trees, and suddenly the distance between us feels enormous.  I am overwhelmed and wonder if the effort to reach her is worth it.  Yet, she waits for us.  Her desire to walk with us is as great as our longing to accompany her.

COMMITMENT

Commitment has kind eyes.  He wears sturdy shoes.  Everything is very vivid when he is around.  It is wonderful to sit and have lunch in his gardens around harvest time.  You can taste in the vegetables that the soil has been cared for.

Because commitment is so serious, he loves clowns and balloons and fools and limericks.  He has four daughters, grown now, but when they were little they always took him to the circus.

There is something special about the way Commitment gazes at the new moon.  I wish I knew how to explain it.  He is such a simple man, and yet he is mysterious.  He is more generous than most people.  His heart is open.  He is not afraid of life.  He is married to Joy.

Connecting with Joy

Washington apples

Washington apples

Biting into a crisp and juicy Fuji apple, I had a small revelation about my relationship to joy.

I was enjoying my apple.  I was telling myself how much I love apples.  (Of course I love apples.  I live in Washington, the apple state, after all.)  Recently I discovered Jazz apples and Lady Alice apples…so delicious and so fun to try new varieties!  As the sweetness and crunch of this Fuji apple filled my mouth, I became intrigued by its “imperfection.”  The color of the skin was not uniform – one side of the apple was a light yellow/dull green and the other side a dull, streaky red with yellow splotches.

As I munched joyfully on my apple, something I said to someone in an open moment came to mind.  I remember saying, “because of everything I’ve been through, it’s hard for me to feel happiness and joy.”  My remembrance of uttering this statement has gnawed at me for months.  I’m not a gloomy, dark, negative person.  In fact new people I meet often experience me as bright and cheery.  Despite my projection of brightness, there are times I feel an inner gloom, when sadness takes hold of me.  As I reflect back on this moment, I offer myself compassion and recognize that I expressed this self-observation during a darker season, literally darker outside and darker inside (the transition from fall to winter was hard for me and I struggled to hold on to my inner light).

For the last several years as I’ve progressed from the heaviness of devastation and grief from my relationship ka-boom to less heavy to lightness and a growing brightness, I’ve been contemplating and cultivating a connection with joy.  At times I’ve doubted my ability to feel joy, as my statement above illustrates.  Other times I’ve been felt bewildered.  “Joy?  What’s Joy?”  To myself I’ve wondered, “how can I feel joy if I don’t know what joy is?”

I remember asking myself once during my journey out of the sadness and heaviness of grief, “do I even know how to be happy?”  I actually sat down a year ago (probably on a day or a week where I was struggling to connect with a feeling of happiness) and wrote down a list of everything that brings happiness, and yes, joy, into my life.

Here is a snapshot of my list:

  • birds (their songs, playfulness, and curious behaviors)
  • sunshine
  • nature – wildflowers, blue sky, clouds, sunsets, mountains
  • cooking and eating my creations
  • time spent with my friends
  • interacting with the kids on ICO outings and witnessing their discoveries of nature
  • learning and self-discovery

My small revelation, my moment of insight, emerged in the space just after remembering my declaration, “because of everything I’ve been through, it’s hard for me to feel happiness and joy.”  It’s not just that I’ve been through a lot of hard stuff in my life (a tough childhood, the death of a sibling, a tragic and traumatic end to the most important relationship of my life) which has undoubtedly darkened my perception of my experiences and my reality, it’s also, and quite significantly so, that joy was not modeled for me during my childhood.

My dad was an angry, scary man.  He was also a workaholic and so often put an end to our play – instead we were barked at and commanded to do work.  I spent a lot of my childhood, along with my siblings, stacking fire wood, weeding the garden, and helping my dad corral the sheep he raised.  My mom was and still is a very timid person and lives in a chronic state of fear and depression.  She typically represses her feelings and emotions and “suffers in silence.”  My mom is also quite negative and often expresses her belief that something will go wrong, always assuming the worst, not believing in the possibility of the best.

These were my behavioral models:  anger and aggression from one parent; fear, negativity, and timidity from the other.  Sadly, there was not a lot of joy experienced or expressed in my family.  It’s no wonder that I’ve had such a hard time connecting with joy.  Joy, for the most part, has been a big unknown for me – obscure and elusive.  I’ve had to discover joy on my own and for myself.  And then I had to re-discover joy as I emerged from the heaviness of my grief, from heart wrenching pain.

I now celebrate that joy is no longer so elusive and bewildering to me.  My enjoyment of my apple, the pleasure I experienced eating it and taking it all in, splotches and all, illustrates my ability to connect with and feel joy.  More and more I experience joy in everyday life, whether noticing a dog at play, a crow burying its food in my back yard, a perky and cheerful daffodil, or a notable moon rise.   In each of these noticings and much more, I feel joy permeate and fill my being.  Hooray for that!

On my journey I have discovered that curiosity is the pathway to joy.  Curiosity, being inquisitive, being in a state of wonder, helps us to discover (or perhaps uncover) the essence and the fullness of joy in all things, in all experiences.  When we are curious, we are open to receiving the fullness of life.  Additionally when we are curious, we are fully present in each moment, squeezing and savoring every last drop out of JOY in each moment of life.  The pathway of curiosity is the path of mindfulness.

How does JOY live inside me?

When I feel joy my heart feels light and buoyant, the corners of my mouth and eyes turn up into a smile, I feel playful energy stir within me.  When I feel joy, I feel an inner brightness. 
When I feel joy, I AM bright!!!

How does JOY live inside YOU?

High in the Sky

On Saturday, October 13, along with a team of volunteer leaders with Seattle Inner City Outings and one teacher, I led a group of middle school kids to the summit of Mt. Pilchuck, one of Washington’s most popular and doable summit hikes.  Our hike was exhilarating and there was a real sense of adventure.

On a clear day, there are 360 degree views from the top of Mt. Pilchuck:  endless peaks of the Cascades to the north and east, Puget Sound to the west, and Mt. Rainier to the south.  For our hike, we were completely engulfed in clouds and visibility was extremely poor.  As clouds swirled around us, keeping each other in our line of sight was extremely important.  Leaders were very mindful to stay on the trail and were grateful for the bright orange trail markers that assisted in our efforts.  For the final ascent we scrabbled over large boulders and climbed up a precarious ladder (and by precarious I mean a little tricky and challenging, but totally doable).  Our final destination:  an old fire lookout perched on an outcropping of rocks at the summit.

Mt. Pilchuck fire lookout

I was the trip leader for this hike.  I love fall hiking because of all the colors (entire slopes can look like they are on fire from all the blazing orange and red colors of the vine maples, ash, and huckleberry bushes).  I mulled over different colorful hikes which I thought would be fun for the kids to experience, but ultimately I chose this summit hike because I wanted to give the kids the opportunity to climb to the top of their first mountain.  I was close to their age when I climbed my first mountain and I wanted these kids to be filled with the pride and sense of accomplishment that comes from making it to the top of a mountain.

final ascent up the cold ladder

We did make it to the top.  I was on a high.  The kids were on a high.  What a rush.  We made it to the top and not just that, we made it in real mountain weather conditions.  A cold and strong wind blew outside the fire lookout.  Inside the shelter all the windows were fogged up.  The kids could see their breaths.  Steam was rising from the pant legs of one of the leaders.  We ate the most delicious lunches of our lives (and that had nothing to do with the fact that I’d made all those lunches!).

lunch time celebration!

We beamed from ear to ear in our enthusiasm.  We jabbered away about the strong wind, how cold it was coming up the ladder, how scary it was going to be climbing down that ladder.  A few brave souls faced the wind and ventured around the perimeter of the shelter.  The kids weren’t able to see beyond the clouds, but from the perch on the mountain, it appeared to be a straight drop from the look out.  Scary AND exciting!

Seattle ICO leader on safety patrol

What an adventure.  One boy said he signed up for the trip because he wanted to “lead a life of adventure.”  During lunch time in the shelter I asked him how he would rank this adventure on a scale of one to ten and he said enthusiastically:  “TEN!”  I definitely think the weather heightened the sense of adventure.  The wind puffed up our spirits and we soared.  I had fun dishing out the congratulations to the kids for making it to the top and playing up our mountain adventure.  Looking back I see that in the moment my puffed up feeling colored my declarations of our “extreme”’ hike. 🙂

We came down in elevation from our “high in the sky,” but we were still soaring high.  Back at the trailhead there was a lot of excitement and sense of pride.  I reviewed trail stats with the kids and emphasized the difficulty and physical challenge of our hike.  Round trip this hike is just under 6 miles (or a complete 6, depending on the source) with 2400 feet in elevation gain.  This was a real mountain hiking experience – we hiked on uneven terrain, we crossed streams, one of which was swollen from new rain and moving fast, we navigated rocks, we scrambled over boulders and climbed a precarious ladder, all of this in poor visibility.  It was fun to rehash our successes, to review who made it to the top first, second, third.  Even the boy who made it fifth was proud of himself, as he should be.  This was not a race.  This was about determination and achieving a goal.

One of my favorite moments of the day was back at the trailhead.  I was one on one with one of the girls before we rejoined the group and I must have said, “that was great. we did it!” or something to that effect.  She replied with downcast eyes, “I didn’t do very good.”  Wow.  Where were these words coming from?  I was struck that she was so hard on herself.  To this gal I said, “have you ever done this before?”  She quietly said “no.”  I told her, “you not only made it to the top, but you were in the first group that made it; you were in the first group with two other boys; you didn’t fall; and you didn’t cry.”

When I said “you didn’t cry” I saw a change in her face.  I think my words began to sink in.  Maybe during the day when she was wet or cold or navigating the terrain, she felt shaky inside and felt like crying, but she didn’t.  I think she got it.  She did something big.  She was strong and brave and unwavering in her determination.  She made it to the top.  She not only did good, she did a great!

As a volunteer leader with Seattle Inner City Outings, my joy comes from sharing something I love with our urban youth:  nature and the great outdoors.  My joy comes from witnessing their enthusiasm and seeing through their eyes their experience of nature, which is often full of wonder.  This hike was especially joyful for me because I was able to empower these kids.  One of the biggest gifts I received was that moment with this young gal.  The gift was in my being able to give of myself in a way that helped her to claim a special gift for herself: discovering the courage and strength she possessed.  I have feeling that each of the kids on our Mt. Pilchuck hike discovered the gift of their power, a new or perhaps deeper self-confidence.  And…their power will grow for as long as they hold on to the feeling and memory of being “high in the sky.”

High” Lights

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