Aging & Death

The rains finally came today.  A solid 20 minutes of genuine downpour…a “get naked and dance in the rain” downpour.

I am so grateful to the Elementals.  They settled their differences today and found balance.  And so, too, may I find balance.

I’m 68.  I have been moving consciously through layers of armor and patterns of conditioned-response to stress for decades.  But at this moment, what seems significant, is the last decade.

I reverse my timeline and look backwards from July 12, 2018.  

I officially opened the Mountain Valley Retreat in 2014.

Sidebar:  “This is 2018, my fifth year in my new business.  I’m sorting out the bugs and it’s working.  My working edge is clarity about what I want.  I am a Renaissance Woman.  Staying focused on one project at a time isn’t as fun  (read challenging) as juggling several projects at once  Some interests are more lefty, artsy-fartsy and some more righty, rational-mathematical.  I seem to go for the balance.”

  In 2010 my marriage of thirty-seven years ended in divorce.


Sidebar:  “We hooked up for the first time in 1968.  I was an 18-year-old freshman at DU and Jim was a 20-year-old junior on a 4-year NCAA basketball scholarship majoring in Economics.  When Jim graduated he moved to Chicago to play at being a banker in the big leagues… riding on the lapping tongues of the jock-sniffing Execs at the First National Bank of Chicago in the loop.  His entry-level position was as a Jr. Trust Officer.  Jim did the leg-work for his boss, Manny, from Kenilworth, Sr. Trust Officer. I transferred to NIU and majored in Education and Psychology.  We got married in 1973.”

In 2007 I left Jim and the farm we had lived on since 1975, 32 years.  I maintained my business, Be Well Now, in Godfrey/Alton.  I moved into a tiny log cabin 10 miles from my farm isolated in an oak forest on a little lake owned by a young couple going through a divorce.  My landlady, Kristy, was getting the house with 100 acres and rented the cabin to me and my cat, Lemur,  for two years.

The story of the preceding fifty-seven years is a blog (read book) for another day.

So, this somehow brings me to my topic, Death & Aging…or Aging & Death.

What, you are asking, is the connection between Aging & Death and the past decade of my life?  I’m aging and so is everyone around me and we all die.  The longer I live, the more Aging and Death become a “thing” for me.  As friends and family die, I’m left wondering the great unanswerable question, “What’s it all about?”

Within my ‘wonderings’ I came upon a thought.  As I age, time appears to be collapsing in on itself.  The clock may say it is six hours later than what feels like a moment ago.  It appears that my mind is staying more and more present.  Without thoughts about the past or the future time is losing its relativity.  Without anything to relate to,  there are no relatives for time?   Without relativity, there is no time!  Only now.

What does this have to do with Aging and Death?  Everything!

Aging depends upon the passage of time.  No time…no aging.

Death is the absence of time…it is timeless.  Therefore, if I am in a timeless space, I am already dead, by definition.  If I am dead, what separates me from life? Just the appearance of this body.

Savasana,  The little death, the chance to die before you die.  This is what my yoga is all for.  For 50 years I’ve known of yoga, practiced yoga, studied yoga, taught yoga…and now?  Perhaps, I am yoga.

Aging and Death?  Nothing but concepts of the mind.  Paper Tigers.  Bring it on!

Agelessness and Life Eternal.  Word!









Free Writing with Bill

Big Sur and fog on a typical day in June. Phot...

It is Thursday afternoon at Esalen. Bill Herr has a free-writing circle he has been facilitating since the early 1990’s. I have been coming to sit on his circle for several years whenever I have the opportunity. Those who show up, usually five to ten of us, sit in a circle on the floor with our pillows and back-jacks and taking a prompt from Bill (or not), write for a designated time, maybe 5-15 minutes and then share what we have written, if we choose.
Today there are six of us, Bill, Peter, Teri, Edward, Emily and me. Our first write is ten minutes and the prompt offered is “no prompt.”
I am free writing for ten minutes. The sound of my fingers tapping the keys is a sound I love. It means that I am not stuck…something is coming forth…and in my world of writing it doesn’t matter what it is…only that I write…stream of consciousness flowing.
I had a great massage this morning and it has left me feeling extra soft and open. I can feel my breath full and deep, all the way down into my belly. I am relaxed and happy to be here, not only at Esalen but sitting on this red pillow in Watts with Bill and Peter, Teri, Edward and Emily.
A writing circle feels like a way to connect. I feel connected to the pillow, the space around me, the bigger space of Esalen, and these other souls that chose to come into this room to sit and write with others…others they may or may not know in any other context. There is a willingness to connect in this action.
Bill handed me the Erotic Tarot deck and asked me to choose a prompt for our next write. I randomly chose the card marked Four of Pyramids. A lovely young woman is in a swing. Upon closer examination I realize the swing is actually film, the kind we put in our movie cameras before digital. She is naked (is this what makes the deck “erotic?”) except for a pair of boots…serious boots, not the sexy-long-black-high-heeled ones, more like hiking boots or the kind engineers wear, and the laces are open. She is holding an umbrella in one hand, maybe more of a parasol. It doesn’t appear to be raining. The background color is a sunny yellow with stars in the sky which makes me think of dusk.
If I were this woman, I would be feeling quite safe and free, swinging in my nakedness, and prepared should the need arise that I come down from my swing and take off on foot through rough terrain…in the rain…although without clothes, getting wet doesn’t feel like an issue…I will leave the parasol behind.
Freedom and safety…the naked swinger is a metaphor for freedom and the boots symbolize safety. Safety and freedom…these two go hand in hand.

Bill pulls out the Buddha deck and Edward draws the card “Skeptical Doubts” from the suit of Hindrances
Skeptical doubt is a double negative…does that make is a positive? If my doubt is skeptical, I have uncertainty about my doubt. I am hesitating in my distrust. I do not really doubt, and that leaves room for trust.
Thank Buddha for that! Trust feels so much better than skepticism. Skepticism creates a tension in my body, is feels a lot like fear. Trust, on the other hand, feels good. When I choose trust, my body relaxes. I feel supported and expansive. I believe that I am in a field of possibility and anything I put my attention towards will easily manifest. Trust is the choice of magicians and skydivers.
When I was young, trust was my Tao. I trusted without realizing it was a choice. In the natural world, the world of me and the plants and animals, I felt safe enough to follow my urges without question of safety. It was the humans that took away my trust and replaced it with doubt.
Last prompt of the day…Gain.
What is gained by holding on to my fear? What is lost by honoring my Self? What if I choose to trust that I am enough without putting on the garb of society? What if I shed my cloak of domestication and let out my wild? What is gained? Would anything be lost?
Domestication is the word I use to describe the taming of natural impulses so that they fit into the culture’s box of “normal behavior.” It seems that religion is responsible for many of the beliefs that create the box of “normal.” Much of what is “normal” in American society (I can’t speak for other cultures) has a sexually repressive slant to it and is misogynistic. Patriarchy has called the shots on “normal” for as long as history reads. There appears to be a huge imbalance that is being passed off as “normal” and I don’t care to participate any longer. I am on a mission to get out of the box of normal and step into the wild.

The sharing from the group was great…wish I could share all that I heard…come to Esalen, Watts Room from 2-4 on Thursday afternoons…Bill will be here.

Just Write

sunrise in mountains“You folks have watches, but you no have time.” (These words were spoken by Aromai, a Micronesian palu to Elizabeth Lindsey, National Geographic writer.)
I don’t own a watch…and yet I struggle to carve out enough time to attend to all the ideas that arrive in my mind each day asking for attention.
I am glad to see that I am here writing again. Not writing for three days disturbed me. I had a variety of thoughts about the fact that I was not showing up to write as I have for the past six months. I let myself down. I felt feelings akin to betrayal. My reply to those feelings was that I was boring myself. I no longer found my writing exciting or interesting. I felt like I had “jumped the shark.”
I reminded myself to go back and read what I wrote on page one:
What will come from my mind each morning?
Thought Vapors? Mind Medicine? Brain Matter? Ice Crystals? Bull Shit? Wise Words?
The good news is…it does not matter.
The only thing that matters is the practice of writing.”
I again vow to myself to write each day, regardless of content. It is a discipline, or as Pressman describes in his book by the same name, the war of art. If I do not show up in this seat each day and put my fingers on the keys, nothing will ever be written. An artist cannot wait for inspiration. A writer must put her ass in the seat and trust that her heart and mind will follow.
If I bore myself, so be it. If I am uninspired by my writing I will read other’s words for inspiration. I will write for the sake of writing. I will write because I made a promise to myself and I strive to be impeccable with my word. This is an opportunity not to be missed…a chance to prove myself worthy of trust. When I show up at the keyboard each morning, I am showing up for myself. This is not about the words, the readers or the quality of my writing. This is about having integrity with myself. In truth, showing up each day and writing is an act of self-love.
I forgive myself for my lapse and accept the challenge anew. Here I am on page 189, July 9, 2013. I am in month seven, over halfway to my goal of 365 days. My document word counter reads 78,545 and this is my 200th blog post…it is all good. For better or worse, I am back.

No Waiting for Inspiration

Waiting for inspiration, I may never write again
I must write for the discipline of writing
Challenged to find words that excite and inspire
If I stop it won’t be the lack of words that defeats me

So I am here
Wrestling with each line
Embarrassed by my ineptitude
Words on the page preserving my commitment

I know why it is so importanthands on keyboard
Discipline a metaphor for strength
Practice creates mastery
I demonstrate obedience to the Muse

The effort is not satisfying
I am not smiling
I see no humor in this
I persist because defeat pains me more

I have been skipping days
Today would be two in a row
The downhill slide from there could be the end
Her silence as persistent as my effort

Commitments and Priorities

IMG_4061 IMG_4058

I have been nagging at myself because I have missed a few mornings of writing. There is a part of me that worries I will stop writing all together. Her name is Nag. I am saying to her now that my priorities shifted while Brekk, Tonya, and my granddaughters were here. It was more important for me to spend time with them then to write.
I am Grandma CiCi. I am the one who fixes great food, goes to the beach, the zoo and sailplane riding. I am the grandma who takes the girls hiking and rolls on the floor with them in “laugh therapy.”
They are gone now and I miss them. I am here now…at the keyboard fulfilling my commitment to write. So please, Dear Nag, understand about commitments and priorities and how they are ever-shifting and changing. Nothing is set in stone at CiCi’s house.

Living in the Flow of Life (I dedicate this poem to my granddaughters, Lauren and Amber)

Each moment a new beginning
Every breath a birthing
Into the moment that is rising

I listen for the sounds of nature
I look with softened gaze
Drinking in the room with my eyes

I feel into my life as a living, breathing entity
To be loved and nurtured,
Honored and respected

I give myself free rein to walk slowly, run quickly or dance.
In this moment, I laugh with delight
I say HA!


Now and Then

Big Sur and fog on a typical day in June. Phot...

Big Sur

I am here this morning. I had another skip day yesterday…let me see…what was my excuse? Oh, yes, yoga class at 8:00. My determination to get up at 6:00 so I can write before the day takes on a life of its own has slid down the slippery slope of resistance. I awoke this morning and put my feet on the floor before 6:30. I am here dressed and on tack by seven. Wahoo. Perhaps the true resistance is a feeling that my words have run out. The meter says 70,492 at the bottom of this blog page. If I was an auto, wouldn’t I be due for some sort of revival tune up?

What sort of revival would put inspiration into my heart so I could put words on the page that feel significant to me? Oh, yes. They need not have any significance. I can write anything. It does not matter who reads it or what they think. The practice is simply to write EVERY DAY no matter what! The practice is to allow words to go freely from my fingers to the page without an agenda, editing, judgment or expectation.  The practice is “transparency.”

Expectation snuck in the door and is looking over my shoulder. She expects me to write something meaningful. She wants to be inspired…entertained. She really wants me to be funny! She is tired of the same old depressed, spiritually oriented bullshit. With the book of Judgment under her arm, she is ready to denounce every sentence.

Note to self: This writing business worked better when you woke up at 6 and sat up and meditated for at least 30 minutes and then sat to write…duly noted.

Without the early rising and the mind in that altered state of meditation, Business Mind walks right in and starts making the “to-do” lists for the day. If you think this writing is pathetic, you should see the “to-do” lists! There used to be one list…of late there are FIVE! In addition there are four clipboards, a vertical file, the in and out box on my desk and two drawers of current hanging folders. Am I bragging or complaining? I do not know…I am trying to keep a handle on the hive of activity I created as the retreat construction kicks into high gear for the next six weeks.

In six weeks, my life will take a dramatic change. I will leave my retreat construction project and go up the coast of California to Big Sur. For five weeks, I will be living and working at Esalen Institute, a most amazing retreat center, with my friends and colleagues. My days will be filled with people and I will be involved in the business of teaching and treating the souls who come to Esalen. Like me, they are searching for some hidden part of themselves. What is the Force that sends us to a place like Esalen? The same Force puts me at this screen to write.

Jennifer Welwood speaks of this Force in Transformative Fire. I cannot say it better…

There is a great fire that longs to burn you—
Don’t let fear imagine a separation.
It is only yourself, burning for the truth,
The truth burning for itself.
Knowing this, give yourself, without reservation:
In ecstasy the fire burns.

She continues:
“Having deeply opened to the annihilating aspect of the path, and having allowed it to act on us, we may find that now and then it acts through us, cutting through ignorance and sentimentality with a voice of ruthless clarity…”


woman at ocean“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish. And yet it also pleases me and seems right that what is of value and wisdom to one man seems nonsense to another.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

As I sit to write my daily pages this morning, I am feeling a strong sense of “why bother.” Why am I compelled to come to my desk each morning and put words on a page? I look back to page one, written on January first, and read that I am writing for the practice and discipline of writing. That is well and good. I add to that, writing is not easier after 152 pages, nor do I feel that my ability to express my thoughts is any less foolish or distorted than when I began. I agree with Hesse as quoted above, what seems right and of value and wisdom to me, is no doubt nonsense to others.
I read that I am dedicating myself to transparency. I define transparency as a willingness to be seen in the raw…a willingness to expose the truth of oneself in all humanness… the brilliant and the mediocre, the sage and the fool, the caring and the cruel, the light and the dark.
So today I sit with this darker side of myself and discover that transparency sounds great on paper, but meeting myself here and having the willingness to move into it and explore it without judgment is a great challenge.
This ironic question arises: How do I differentiate my judgment from my authentic dark nature? Is my dark nature the “Judge?” The judgment towards myself (or am I delving into my true dark nature?) centers around my lack of gratitude for my life. Although I think the thought, “I am grateful,” on a daily basis, I fail to express my gratitude moment to moment. I slip into fear, anger, frustration, and the belief that I am not enough. I lose my passion for living and become despondent. It feels as if my joy gets sucked out leaving me feeling hollow and unable to appreciate the gifts that surround me. I then “frost the cake” with my shame and disgust for myself that I am not appreciating all that I am and all that I have. It is a malicious spiral into melancholy.
Yesterday I spent the morning with my dear, sweet friend who is labeled with a stage-4 cancer diagnosis. She spoke to me of her feelings of confusion about who she is now. She is unable to do the simplest of things that used to define her…walking in nature, gardening, dancing, preparing and enjoying delicious food, caring for her family, her friends and her clients, playing and having fun, moving without pain… who she was, defined by the things she loved to do, is no longer.
Could it be that being faced with her suffering, my lack of moment to moment joyousness for every moment of life I am given, is haunting me now?
What do I know? Nothing.
What do I do about it?  Write to myself.
Perhaps one day an answer will appear on the page.

Just Write

keyboard fingersNothing to say
Not a thought in my head
No funny stories
No profound thoughts
No clever ideas
No intriguing prompts
Feeling pretty pathetic
Writing about nothing
But the promise to myself
Was clear and simple
No matter what
Put words on the page
That single act
Putting my ass
Where my spirit
Tells me to be
Calls to my heart and mind
They will follow


women's lodge

I am considering the fact that this is page 138 of my Daily Morning Pages, over one-third of the journey to 365 days of daily free-writing is on the page. When I began, the goal was simply to show up and write something every morning. That remains my goal. However, in the course of my writing something unexpected happened…I accumulated some readers! Each day emails arrive in my inbox with comments about what I have written and I realize that someone is listening. It was never my intention that anyone would actually read what I was writing…I was writing for myself. I was writing as an act of self-discipline. I was writing for clarity around issues that are important to me. I was writing for inspiration for my day. I feel as if I am still writing to myself, and someone else is in the room.

When a post about NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) appeared on my FaceBook page I thought, “Pleasant diversion, this!” With twelve months of a daily free-write, I could devote one to free-writing poetry. And it was a surprising and entertaining excursion.

I haven’t read through the collection of what I have written. I sometimes only read the daily writing once or twice. My partner has been a patient and willing listener to be read aloud the page that has come forth each morning. Occasionally I write something that catches my attention and I read it several times, not as an editor, but as a curious listener attempting to grasp the meaning within the words. Prior to the moment my fingers lie on the keyboard, I don’t know what is going to be written. Sometimes a word, an image, an emotion precede my writing during the meditation I practice just before I sit to write. Other days, like today, I am clueless to what will appear on the page.

This process is quite fascinating to me. I have other experiences that mirror my free-writing. Painting and cooking come to mind. I approach a silk with the same lack of planning, usually only a vague idea of what I will paint, and I freely draw images and choose colors of dye to create fabrics for wearing or framing. I create recipes from the foods I have on hand, throwing together dishes with an intuitive sense of what will work well together.

Aha, “intuitive sense of what will work well together.” I hear that line ringing in my ears.
I am grasping an understanding that when I rest back without a plan and allow my intuition to take over my “driver’s seat,” trusting that whatever happens next is acceptable, something akin to magic happens. Of course! On a larger scale that is how this retreat is being created. Before the calendar, appointments, plans, schedules and lists, was a vision. The “left brain” organization is the masculine energy manifesting the vision that came from the “right brain” creative intuitive feminine energy.

Balance is the key. If I take the time to sit in silence, resting in the “women’s lodge”, my intuitive guidance, my Muse, comes forth with a vision. A single spark of brilliance ignites the masculine to action. The vision is taken by forces of creation and the left brain implements the plan for execution. Supported by Universal Mind, synchronicity comes into play. It feels as if a friendly force precedes me and opens the gates before I reach them, making the manifestation process appear effortless.

For me, it is a slippery slope into the imbalance of too much execution and not enough inspiration. I must be diligent to pause frequently and drop back into the “women’s lodge.” It is here, in the cavern of deep stillness, that the non-essential falls away and the clarity of purpose arises. It is here, that the Muse can be heard, and the vision of her wisdom can be seen.

meditation pose

Manifesting Magic

English: A red and yellow Daylily. Daylilies f...


Put my body in the appropriate place.
Be patient, focus with intention
Magic will manifest!

Stand at the easel
Brush in hand
Art will happen.

Put on my shoes and coat,
Walk out the door and head down the path
I will be exercising.

Gather the ingredients on the counter
Stand before them in my apron
Dinner will be created.

Sit in front of my screen
Set my fingers on the keyboard
Poetry will appear.

Stand in the yard,
Shovel in hand, seeds in my pocket
Garden will grow.

Bring home the lumber
Gather the tools
Greenhouse will stand.

Build a retreat
Send out the word
People will come.

Pressfield’s words ring in my ears
“Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”