It feels like my life is a series of practice sessions. I practice painting. I practice playing the piano and singing. I practice meditation and yoga. I practice right relationship with nature. I practice inner, inter and extra-human communication. I practice bodywork. I practice gardening and nutritious food preparation. I practice movement and dance. I practice self-care. I practice self-love. Right now I am practicing writing…
What is all this practice about? Will I practice until I die or will I at some point master something? What is mastery? How does one recognize the moment the practice ends and mastery begins? Does it matter if I ever become a master of anything?
As I hear my questions the feeling that wells up inside is one of relief as I accept the idea of practice as a life-long way of being. I am a “Renaissance Woman.” I don’t just practice these things for a living. I do them for a life—a life that I love.
A woman I met recently when she attended a yoga class I was teaching stayed after class and we visited for a couple of hours sharing ourselves with one another. As we walked around my little retreat center looking at the tipis I had painted she said to me, “Chery, you are eclectic!”
I thought about that for a moment and said, ” Thank you. That is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.”
I am a Renaissance Woman. I am coming to accept and appreciate that I’ve always been a seeker. Seeking is my thing, and it’s served me quite well.
One of my favorite Steve Jobs’ quotes is this: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Fran, Gary and Laura have left…bittersweet ending to a wonderful visit. Stubby is going to stay with us while they are off on the adventures of their individual and connected lives. Finding their own way into the unknown future.
It is the exciting and courageous path of the uncertain future that lies ahead for all of us. I believe in the sacred path and I notice that the Way changes. I am now mostly in the slow rooted, Earth Way and but I have had times when my path was in the mysterious flight and deep connection of the Air Way, other times in the sometimes flowing, sometimes crashing and sometimes stillness of the Water Way and yet other times when I was in the fast ignition path of the Fire Way.
No matter the Way. It is all the Tao. To remain centered in the Way is to be in harmony with life. Then the world becomes a paradise. I feel at peace. I then realize that my name and form is provisional. I know that when the institutions lose their function it is time for them to end. I know when to go and when to stop and thereby I avoid danger.
All things end in the Way as all rivers flow to the sea.
Knowing others is knowledge. Knowing myself is wisdom.
Mastering others is strength. Mastering myself is true power.
Because I realize I have enough, I am truly rich.
As I stay in my center, embracing all that is with my whole heart, I will endure forever.
Lessons from the Tao Te Ching by Chery Owens
I wrote a letter this morning and I share some of it here because it speaks to all of my new and old heart connections…
I have often felt awe at the connections I have with you and others in my life that are beyond my ordinary understanding. I can only imagine that we are interrelated throughout many lives as I recall a book I once read called Return of the Revolutionaries. Dr. Epstein explains about “Soul Groups.”
Soul Groups are individuals who make a pact on a soul level to move through lifetimes together; changing roles, changing gender, race, ethnicity and interrelationships. A friend in one lifetime may have been a wife, child, parent, or someone else in a previous lifetime. The group has a common thread running through all their lives and relationships. I think he called it the Soul Group Mission. It is a large-scale mission, shifting the global thought field. The group Dr. Epstein tracked in his book was revolutionaries in the American Revolution and continue to walk the cutting edge of revolutionary thought regardless of their occupations in this life. (Oprah Winfrey is an incarnation of one of the souls he tracked.)
When I read the book, it rang true for me. I have noticed that in the past 20 years, and especially in the past 6 years, the friends that I have deep heart-felt connections with, practice healing methods that are outside the mainstream view of medicine. They include art therapists, organic farmers, teachers, writers, actors, sound healers, energy workers, yogis, bodyworkers, psychologists, movement therapists, physicists, shamans, and non-traditional nurses and doctors.
I think that our “soul group” chose the mission of changing the worldview regarding healing.
I have no doubt that you and I are partners in this soul group and that we are affecting the global field with our beliefs and actions regarding the way healing happens.
Interestingly, it is a return to indigenous ways supported by modern science. Quantum physics has now proven what the ancient mystics intuitively knew: every thought-form put into the field affects the field.
All fields entrain themselves toward the strongest, most organized field. Our thoughts draw to our awareness from the unlimited Universal field of all-potential the experience we are having.
The most intriguing and thrilling aspect of my life is the repeated experiences I have that support this belief. When I meet someone from my Soul Group, we both experience a feeling of remembering and reconnecting on a soul level. The level of comfort and communication is deep and immediate. I am smiling as I think about what the future is holding for us, just waiting for us to think the thought!
Tipis outside the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming
As I sit at my workstation poised for my morning writing session, I review my notes on Ganesha from the first session of Writing Your Practice. I am searching for an inspiration. I read what Susanna spoke about the Ganesh concepts: “You have everything you need, create from your own resources. Move through the thresholds that present themselves. Embrace Change.”
I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Tipis are a part of my heritage. Indian blood flows through the veins of my personal lineage, if not my mothers or fathers of this lifetime. The evidence of this has surfaced repeatedly throughout my life and I embrace this part of who I am.
When I considered how to house the seminarians who would be coming to Mountain Valley Retreat, tipis seemed like the perfect solution. I purchased three 20’ canvas tipis. As the retreat took form, I “saw” where the tipis would sit and I realized that in the east we would erect the “men’s lodge.” In the west would be the “women’s lodge” and in the center of the property, the “children’s lodge.” These directional placements align with the corresponding positions on the Native American medicine wheel.
The artwork of tipis has always fascinated me. Native people used the tipi hide to tell their personal stories. The designs of the tipis were the province of the women in the tribe. Dreams often inspired the paintings as well as personal power animals and significant exploits and experiences. Medicine shields and elemental allies would also find their way to the canvas of the tipi.
As I dreamed about the tipis I was putting on our sacred ground, I felt a responsibility to respect the lineage of this ancient art form. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the canvas I had before me, let alone the task of designing and painting the murals. I decided to begin with the women’s lodge…I had to start somewhere.
I made calls to try and locate a “real” artist to commission or at least assist me as I felt unequal to the task at hand. I also noticed there was a resistance to bringing in outside help. I kept moving forward, doing what I could to prepare. I read books and looked at tipi art. I watched for tipis when I traveled. I looked through paint color pallets and chose colors I was drawn to. I thought about what I wanted to represent on the women’s lodge. I asked for dreams of inspiration and they came.
I got my boyfriend to help me carry one of the tipis into our newly constructed yurt, a 30’ diameter, 706 square foot round structure that is our large meeting space. Laid out on the floor, the tipi has to be folded in HALF to fit inside the yurt. Holy shit! This really IS a huge canvas! For two weeks it lay there as I looked at it and wondered what to do next. I called my friend Star and she came and looked at it with me. I told her what I dreamed it would look like and we spent a day searching the internet for images and making sketches. She made some full scale sketches and I planned to have her help me with some of the actual painting.
As I stood looking at the canvas one evening I thought to myself, “I have ten people coming for Thanksgiving. I need places for them to sleep. I can’t keep looking at this blank canvas…it is time.” I went out early the next morning with tools in hand and penciled in the phases of the moon around the top. With a brilliant blue I filled in the back ground sky. It went much quicker and easier than I had feared. It was beautiful! The ice was broken.
I knew I wanted to represent our land around the base with earth colors and rather than a brush I used a sponge to get a three-dimensional effect of the mountains. It worked and the sponge method was much faster than the one-inch brush I had used on the moons.
I was undecided as to whether to fill in the night sky above the moons but the sponge worked so well I decided to put a North Star above the full moon and fill the rest with a field of stars on blue. I ran out of blue paint just as I finished. I love validation!
The “easy” part done, what remained were the drawings of two red-tailed hawks, a medicine woman, a wolf, a raven and some large pine trees. No more sponge painting…
Last night I sat on the canvas with several drawings around me and began sketching a hawk. When I finished, I realized that I am the artist I was seeking. I can do this. I am doing this. I have walked up to a threshold, met my fears and stepped through to the other side. Today I will paint the red-tailed hawk, messenger from the gods.
It is early morning and I am here. I am committed to writing daily for ten weeks as part of Susanna Harwood Rubin’s writing circle, “Write Your Practice-2013.” This writing circle has the added element of Yoga. Susanna is a yoga teacher and student of Hindu Mythology, a subject of long-standing interest for me.
I feel empowered by choosing to write this morning. I realize how much I missed the discipline I kept sacred for six months from January through June of this year. I stopped the practice in July as I prepared to be away from home for five weeks. I am grateful to have found the inspiration to return to my writing practice. Thank you, Susanna!
The theme for week one is “Finding Your Voice” represented by the Hindu deity and mythological being, Ganesha. Easily recognized by his elephant head, I regard Ganesha, the patron of intellect and wisdom, during this writing session. It is a common Hindu practice to honor Ganesha, the Hindu god of beginnings, at the start of a ritual or ceremony.
Today is the start of such a ritual for me. I invoke Ganesha and welcome his support in this new writing endeavor.
Susanna offered some intriguing prompts for this week’s writing. As I read through them, two stand out. The first is to explore my story through the objects around me. “In what ways is my personal creation myth represented by the objects I choose to have near me? What do those objects have to tell about themselves and about me?”
The second concept that attracts me is, “Always be poised at a threshold and then move through it – embrace change.” I wonder about the thresholds I have crossed in my lifetime and how well I have embraced the changes that ensued.
My monitor sits on top of a wooden box that was a gift from my Japanese sister, Keiko. Kay is an artist who creates beautiful objects from glass, yarn, fabric, wood and metal. She built the box and painted it inside and out in a Scandinavian style of artistic design. She incorporated my name on the lid. I have had the box for over forty years and it has until recently held keepsakes and letters that touched my heart. When I remodeled my laundry room into an office, my monitor needed a platform to raise it and the box was perfect. I like that I look at it every day when before it was hidden in a cabinet. I feel my connection to Kay through it.
As I consider it now and give it a “voice” this is what I hear:
“I am a loving expression of the Divine Feminine. Through me, Kay reveals her compassion. She demonstrates her intention to serve. I am showing you the intricate details of nature finely created by Kay’s pure focus and rapt attention. Feel into my field and experience her joyfulness as she participates in this beautiful creation.”
I feel deeply touched by my experience with this box that I have kept close for so many years. Kay was a heart opening influence in my life for the year she lived with my family. I was twelve years old and she was an eighteen-year-old American Field Service student from Yokohama, Japan. I absolutely adored her. She and I spent endless hours sewing doll clothes, making origami cranes, and playing cards.
I understand now why she spent more time with me than my sister, Sandy, who was eighteen. The more sheltered and innocent upbringing of Japanese youth was not equal to the American teen’s level of sophistication, even in 1962. Kay and I were more alike in our interests and emotional maturity even though we were six years apart…and we shared an interest in artistic endeavors. I loved to draw, paint and sew and she was my more-than willing teacher.
I look at this box she made for me and tears come to my eyes. I miss her. I am so grateful for the gift she was to me at that formative time in my life. She is a gem to be treasured. Ah, now I understand why I have kept this box near me all these years.
Today is the anniversary of the attack on the twin towers in NYC. It seems like a good day for me to resume my lost practice of writing a daily blog. A friend sent me a “Ted Talk” link this morning by a young woman named Kelly McGonigal. It is about stress.
Like Kelly, I have thought of stress as my enemy, the underlying cause of all disease and disorder in the human body. I have thought if only I could practice enough meditation and other stress-releasing techniques I might offset the negative effects of everyday stressors in my body. I am thrilled to learn that stress does not kill! The belief that stress kills, kills.
I learned this morning that when my environment feels stressful to me, my body goes into a “stress response.” This is my body “rising to the occasion” to meet the stressor. Among the many chemical reactions happening, like adrenalin, which raises my heart rate, oxytocin, a neuropeptide, releases from my pituitary gland. Oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone”, fine-tunes the brain creating a craving for physical contact. It increases empathy and compassion. It motivates my body to seek out support. It creates an urge to surround myself with those who care about me.
I am amazed and fascinated to discover that a belief I have held all of my adult life has been proven wrong. I love that! It reinforces my intention to recognize that all of my beliefs are simply opinions, not truths. I recognize that this belief about the negative effects of stress is simply an opinion that is false and I can let it go and respond differently to stressors in the future.
My amazing body has a system for meeting stress in a way that is protective of my heart if I choose to believe it. Listening to my body, I will follow the urge to seek out support in times of stress. I will be watchful of opportunities to be supportive to others who are experiencing stress. It is in moments of heart-felt connection when we feel empathy and compassion, that our bodies go into heart healing. Our cells release natural anti-inflammatory neuropeptides and our heart cells relax and regenerate resulting in a stronger more resilient heart. This new information makes my heart sing. Listen to Kelly’s Ted Talk and reinforce your heart health today!