August the First was also the full moon. I sat out on the step and looked up at her, that particular white light of the moon shining on my legs in the warm night air. It was a rare experience to be sitting so still at that hour because the last 6 weeks have been very, very busy and un-still. Even late at night.

My last blog entry (good heavens, as long ago as June 20!) focused on the refurbishing aspects of my life and work – theatre and horses. Well, the refurbishment was so all consuming that for 5 weeks I was completely engrossed to the exclusion of almost everything else! My little grey horse took a back room as the play with all its challenge, delight and anxiety as well as ultimate success, required literally all of me.

I then had to take conscious steps to unwind, come down off the mountaintop of energy and focus of the play, that creative and administrative endeavor. It has been hard to allow the time for just sitting. It has also meant that the rest of my life, with the financial, human and logistical needs, now stands before vividly me, the abandoned orphan of the last 6 weeks saying, ‘What about me?’

So, when I actually stopped, under the light of the moon, I remembered all the times I have sat with her before. The long period in my life when I never missed saying goodnight to her, when I always knew when the full moon was due, when I wrote my book, was regular with the blog. When I was very alone.

However, I was also in a kind of holding pattern. That was time for creating space, building the foundation, preparing to fly. Then suddenly, I did fly off and crashed in some sense of the metaphor, but rose again right into the power and joy of creative endeavor with others, having been so solitary.

No wonder I am a little dizzy! I am a pendulum that has been swinging from one extreme to the other, accidentally tossed by tornadoes or selectively riding biggest waves I can find. In between swings I am deposited, sometimes not so gently, on a rocky beach.

So, as I perch on my pebbles today? I note that I have been sitting more, jogging regularly again, riding more often and paying attention the messengers from nature I meet along the way.

There was the Falcon who dived out of a tree, about 10 feet to my left as I rode along the trail, and then back up into the next door tree, where it sat quietly amidst the tangled limbs of the juniper. Stopping my horse I knew, ‘see the big picture and when you act do so at the right time with full commitment. Otherwise sit and wait.’

One day, when walking, the Heron standing patiently and alone at the edge if the marsh reminded me to be steady, independent and balanced. Deer have been with me since I came back to Sedona. Riding or walking they appear glimpsed in the trees along the water edge, sometimes in small groups, most recently singly. Strong and springy in step they are gentle, delicate creatures.

The Bobcat just 4 days ago zigged across a little back road barely 10 feet in front of Mariah and I, and then zagged back even closer, before vanishing, just out of sight at the moment of truth, in the edge of the bushes. There was a high scream and silence. Until the birds launched into a rather hysterical, full-throated discussion on what had happened right underneath them.

She was beautiful that cat – fast and focused, graceful and shiny-coated. My horse just stood and watched. I was mesmerized and suddenly very grateful for some reason. Perhaps she had just re-affirmed my capacity to switch on and off the creative torrent, to keep the secrets and be alone when I need to.

The Rattlesnake who lay stretched out near the path I was walking, didn’t move at all. His presence quietly urged me to toward careful awareness, healing and to embrace the transitions. Always with me is the Raven. They come to where I am, wander about, talking and arguing, laughing and mocking, daring me to be bold and see humor in life.

Traveling with all these visitors, though, the most consistent animal in my life is Horse. Ever since I was born and always since, I have been in close relationship with horses. So much so I perhaps take that energy for granted. So, to my horse totem, today in material form as Mariah, I thank her for encouraging and feeding my sense of freedom and power.
I have been out of balance (gloriously so) and am now landing back into center again. This means allowing the wild, boisterous sweeps of energy and ‘doingness’ to subside into a rhythm that will be once again provide a place of peace and calm.

In the Personal Magic book I note that we need to cultivate time for just being, in order to connect to that power greater than ourselves.

‘Investigate and experience a range of opportunities to open up your heart, blend the intellect with intuition, create ritual and rhythm in your life. Ultimately, how that is for you, how that magic works for you, is yours. There is the power, arising within your Being, expressed in the world.’

Paying attention to the nonhuman living creatures we meet in our daily lives is one way to make that connection. So, who have you met the last week? month? year? And what did they have to show you?

(Many thanks to this wonderful website for insight into understanding the  animal messengers. Lins Domain )

I am delighted to introduce you to a new friend in the Blogging world, Leigh Gaitskill, who writes at www.bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com. Her down-to-earth h0nesty and humor combined with her wise insights make her regular posts a must-read. As we head into the new year the following blog, reposted from November 18, 2011, seems particularly relevant.

In my explorations of what it means to be truly empowered, resulting in the book about what I call Personal Magic, the importance of facing the truth of who you are in your various levels of Self is paramount. I particularly like Leigh’s reminder that we can sometimes be so focused on the means by which we cope, that we actually cover up the deeper truth that is the most difficult piece of what we are trying to manage!

Thank you for sharing this post here Leigh and for all your  offerings. This post in particular has given me something to truly contemplate as I prepare for 2012.

LIVING FROM ESSENCE
first posted November 18,2011. To view the beautiful art work, please go to the original post

During the Fisher Hoffman work my teacher, the late Ellen Margron, gave us an image that has been one of my teaching touchstones ever since, the diamond heart.* I tried to make a drawing but I’m hopeless with the drawing programs so I can only describe: there’s a diamond in the center, around that is a circle full of roiling darkness, around that is another circle. The diamond is the spiritual essence or Buddha nature or God Self (you pick). The circle around it is all the negativity we pick up in early childhood and along the way that tells us we are not God, we are not perfect, we are loud, dirty, dumb, whatever. The circle around that one is the personality layer we put on the outside so that no one will see the roiling mass of yuck underneath.

All spiritual and/or personal growth requires penetrating the outer mask and finding a way to go through the dark circle in order to reach the Diamond Heart or essence. Ultimately, of course, the basic point of all spiritual pursuit is to be able to live from that place of essence or from Buddha nature. The aspect of the journey that people most often want to sidestep is facing the dark circle where issues and negativity and unpleasantness dwell.

It is also possible to create a third circle around the outside of the other two. This happens when you meditate or do spiritual practice or stress management with a determination to avoid looking at the dark circle. You wind up creating this extra layer around your being that just traps the dark circle farther beneath the surface and actually takes you farther from the diamond in the center. I’ve met many people over the years who meditated or did some other practice regularly for decades but refused to allow their issues to arise into consciousness. To me they always feel as if they have a tough layer of laminate encasing them. I can feel the unresolved issues beneath.

I saw it in myself when Ellen introduced the concept. I’d been living with a roommate who mistreated me, my cats and my belongings. I taught stress management at the time and I found myself incessantly using those techniques. I succeeded in keeping myself calm in the midst of the madness but I really just created an outward facade of calm while pushing justifiable anger below the surface.

I spent the first five or six years of my journey by and large resistant to prolonged and serious inner work but the Fisher Hoffman process (as facilitated by Ellen – quite different from the process at the Hoffman Institute) not only opened me to deep and intensive work but convinced me that it has to be done in one way or another in order to progress. I don’t say everyone has to do Fisher Hoffman; I know many who have succeeded with Almaas’ work, I know people who have done very well with the more advanced levels of vipassana that start deconstructing thought and belief patterns and there are many more. Doesn’t matter what you pick, just decide to face the shadow.

ABOUT THE ART: My friend, Ann Wasserman (http://www.annquilts.com/ ), created the above quilt many years ago and with a personal story that I leave her to tell. I’ve always felt it portrayed the diamond heart idea even though it isn’t an exact replica of the chart.

(to see the art go to the original post.)

* I understand that this or a similar chart is also used in H. Almaas’ Diamond Heart work. I could never make it through more than a page or two of his writing so I can’t vouch for it. Almaas and Ellen were both students of Claudio Naranjo so it’s possible that the idea is something they both adopted from his work or that she picked it up from Almaas there.

http://www.ahalmaas.com/
http://hoffmaninstitute.org/

Related articles
Everyday Essence
(joyofspa.com)
A. H. Almaas on Emptiness and The Void

(mettarefuge.wordpress.com)
Why are we here anyway?
(bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com)

LEIGH GAITSKILL BIO
Leigh Gaitskill studied yoga for five years with Bill Hunt http://www.oakparkyoga.com/oakpark_yoga_instructors.html   and in 1988 earned a teaching certificate from the Temple of Kriya Yoga http://www.yogakriya.org/ Chicago.  During those years she was introduced to meditation and metaphysics by a transpersonal psychologist. In 1990 she went through the Nine Gates Mystery School (www.ninegates.org) program, then went on to study Huna, completed the Fisher Hoffman process, explored Buddhist practices and sat vipassana, and worked with Hopi elder Jeremie Jackson for two years.  She has taught classes on right speech, prosperity, and yoga.  She also has second degree Reiki and Amanohuna attunements.  She’s created movement classes that combine Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method with yoga that are available for CE massage hours see her website (www.artofspiritandyoga.com).  Read about her journey on:  Bluegrass Notes (www.bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com)


I have been thinking about women and kindness lately. It has been a VERY busy two weeks (yes that long since I posted) with many insights, thoughts, events and struggles. However, it is the question of kindness and women that seems to be sticking as I finally sit down to write today

As I wrote in a post a few weeks ago, I am in a reading of the play SEVEN. It opens this Saturday. Being with these women on a regular basis has maybe sharpened my attention for how women with a common intention interact. Hearing over and over the stories of the 7 women whose stories we tell has seeped deeply into a well of admiration and respect for women.

Today I heard Rachel Lloyd on the Diane Rehm show, talking about her book Girls Like Us. She is the founder and executive director of GEMS, an organization that helps girls and young women escape the USA sex trade and recover enough to live healthy lives as adult women.

I was as appalled by what is done to young girls as I was humbled, inspired and profoundly grateful for the services and support offered to those same girls. The difference, I couldn’t help but notice, was that those who harmed these female children were mostly men, and those who brought care and love were mostly women.

I also came across this quote by Aldous Huxley:
‘It’s a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘Try to be a little kinder.’ (1894-1963)

Finally, there is the new book by David Brooks, The Social Animal. I have not had time to read it yet but heard him on NPR. I did read his most recent little piece in the NYT on Kindness.

Mmmm…. kindness. What is Kindness?
Synonyms: humane, benevolence, grace, mercy.

I think real kindness requires a couple of things:
• Clear vision; seeing individuals and behavior for what is.
• Courage to accept what is and to speak out.
• Compassion to relate to a person and behavior through an understanding of their unique context.

Kindness comes when we can do all that AND stay in our personal center. In fact only by finding and holding your center can you behave toward another in relation to their behavior without your own agenda or fears coloring that interaction.

So, the remarkable women that I meet each time to do SEVEN are each KIND in their hearts. They exhibit qualities of compassion, courage and clear vision. They have a firm center and sense of self. They bring a determination to transform that kindness into action.

The woman who founded GEMS came through her own story of abuse to realize her given soul and heart – to stand in her kindness in the world.

A line started to tickle through the memory. So I stopped and brought it to the forefront.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.

I attended a Church of England all girls boarding school in Australia, and the school chapter was 1. Corinthians.13. We all learned it and recited it en mass at any event or function. That was years ago but it is indelibly recorded in my brain and I realize now perhaps in my heart. Certainly as I have explored my connection to spirituality and how to be in the world this resonates far more than it ever did when I was a daffy teenager!

Remember that ‘Charity’ is Love. From WikipediaLove, in this sense of an unlimited loving-kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit,

It is worth reading the entirety of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13 to begin to really feel what this charity/love/KINDNESS is. The opening passage is particularly applicable in today’s world I think:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

The women I have been meeting, both literally and figuratively, exhibit the spirit of kindness in their work and personal lives.

Maybe these times of upheaval are an opportunity. Whether or not you subscribe to any of the various 2012 prophecies you must agree some kind of change is underway. Maybe it is a shift to a way of being predicated on kindness and cooperation. Brook’s The Social Animal explored just that theory as rooted in biological imperative. Is it in living cooperatively that we have the best chance of survival? And that means also with our planet as well as all living creatures and forms.

Returning to my roots in Australia there is the Australian Kindness Movement.
Here I read:
When we carry out an act of kindness it is a message from one heart to another, an act of love, an unspoken “I care” statement.

Gender has nothing to do with it really. I have simply been exposed to a wide range of powerful, compassionate, kind women of late. There are many men who are kind and embrace that aspect of their being as they engage in their work and life.

The Australian Kindness Movement site goes in to say:
The world population comprises about 6 billion people. If each of those 6 billion people were to think that they could have a positive influence on enhancing world kindness, there is nothing that could prevent this from happening. Great power is generated when the citizens of the world band together in a common cause. This phenomena has been recently referred to as “the other world power.”

‘Other world power’’ – indeed all indications are that the current one is not working so well. If the male energy of outcome focused competitiveness has underpinned  so much of the formulations and expressions of power for so long then perhaps in is time for a change. It is time for substantial sustained female energy, the power of kindness to lead us forward, in the spirit of cooperation and community.

Ultimately all acts of kindness begin with kindness to self, with open heart and understanding, honesty and compassion. In my work and explorations of personal responsibility and empowerment as articulated by my concept of Personal Magic I have come to know this.

When you reach into your deeper self and meet your full potential, you are at your most empowered. Kindness is a foundational way of being. Kindness is both a function of and basis for strength, truth and wisdom. As the bumper sticker says ‘practice random acts of kindness.’ I add ‘to the extent that it is never random but a constant.’

Kindness can be a way of being in the world, both in your heart and action. Like the sun that rises everyday, the breeze that carries earth particles, the air we breathe, the hum of the solar system, kindness feeds the individual and connects us to something far larger than the self.

Practice constant acts of kindness both in your heart and in your actions. Begin by  being kind to yourself.

The last 2 weeks have been incredibly full with a plethora of nonstop options for creative, organizational and personal evolution. Along with the great delights, highs and successes on that ride are the startling moments of coming face to face with my habitual behavioral patterns that crept in under stress and the fears that led me into the process in the first place.

The play has opened, after weeks of extraordinarily hard work by many, not least the actors whose physical presence on the stage each performance is the manifest expression of all the work over weeks. As the director my work is done except as needed for pickup rehearsals and to problem solve if necessary. So, with the work done there is time for reflection on the process – my process in particular.

The first awareness is that I am not as young as I once was! Thus I have the advantage of knowing what to do at any step of the process, almost without thinking. I am also able to listen to suggestions, accept advice and offers of support or specialty expertise when needed for the good of the show, without my ego being on the line.

The disadvantage of this current age is that I don’t bounce back from intense, sustained round-the-clock work as I used to! Since safely opening on Saturday I have been exhausted, surprisingly enough. At first I thought it was just physical but have come to realize that is also a tiredness from a deeper level of my being.

OK, so those of you who have been reading this blog and/or whom know me, have heard me say this over and over again, in a variety of forms for a last couple of years. I am ready and willing to step into my own work, bringing what I know into the world in a different form from past expressions.

In July last year I took a big step toward that, mounting a one-woman show, co-producing at two different theatre companies. The universe has steadfastly refused me the ease of slipping back into old modes. Any teaching, directing or creating in the ways I have done so successfully in the past have resolutely evaded my grasp.

Hindsight 20/20. A test came my way and I failed it. The opportunity to direct presented itself and I grabbed it from the old place of rescuing, neediness, ego-anxiety and disbelief in the present path. I said yes to something that I love to do but I didn’t sit at all with the question I know I will ask next time. Is this the right way to bring my work into the world now?

The tiredness I am feeling arises from the deep level of my soul. She is sighing and whispering to me. ‘Oh dear, yes you do love this kind of work, and it nurtures and invigorates, but How you do it must change. Trust your own skills and ability to find the people to support the work you want to do. Allow the universe to guide you. Listen!’

I have indeed been reminded that I can do this. I can direct a show under difficult demanding circumstances. I can paint and dress a set, costume and run tech rehearsals, coach and facilitate actors to their best work. I don’t need to keep proving that! What I do need is to walk into the unknown.

I had a little taste of that unknown, beginning with the one-woman show in July. Today an offer came with the possibility for a reading of the play that I wrote ten years ago and just recently decided to put back out in the world. At the end of the month I am meeting with some people who are interested in funding a remount of the one-woman show.

And The Personal Magic Book still sits, so close to finished, shelved as I went through the process of doing something that I can already do, at the expense of bringing to life that of which I am less certain. Publishing a book which unequivocally states my position in the world and what I have to offer is certainly something worthy of the kind of care and energy I gave to the play.

So why the rush to fill time with familiar old activity?

Because I don’t trust. I don’t believe. And I think that blindness maybe caused by fear. There is a wise old adage: We are often more afraid of success than of failure. What if the next door opens into a world that will mean a new career? Greater opportunity to work with others with that attendant responsibility? Can I do that?

The answer of course is Yes. The block is the anxious ego, crying nervously, ‘How big can I get?’ My Soul smiles and responds, ‘As big as the universe. It is yours to step into. It is your gift, path, responsibility and indeed your only option. Anything else will wear you out’.

Today I saw a quote from the Gnostic Gospels: ‘If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.’ Hmmmm. On top of today’s awareness as I emerge from this fog of exhaustion and as the universe offers me opportunities more in alignment with the unfamiliar but actual path before me, it positively shouts to me!

Remarkably, somehow my new personal relationship seems to have survived the burning force of all the raw time, energy, focus and, most of all, the misaligned balance in my spirit. The comfort and power of stepping back into the challenging, joyous world of collaborative, creative people and bringing a story to the stage, was not enough to ultimately balance the mis-step. Moving backwards with such velocity and force from, as it were, the pivotal point of moving forward, I threw myself out of alignment, a sort of spiritual whiplash!

The man who witnessed this, for the first time in his life seeing me in full creative theatre flight, was also acutely sensitive to the off-note harmony. While balancing his own response to this way of living with another, he managed to be both supportive of the work at hand, while preparing for the time after. This week he has generously not just provided me time and space to rest, as I sort through this experience, but practically ordered me to rest!

I loved the theatrical process, the storytelling, the courage and honesty of the actors, the magic of the tech people, and all those who worked to bring a text to life in the best possible way within the context of each production’s capacity. I felt the power and the joy of working so closely with individuals, giving it away to the lights and the audience, knowing here is work well done, and knowing that it did not belong to me.

I also felt a little adrift, as if the shore to which I have been rowing for so long was receding rather than coming closer.

It is little wonder I am tired. The tension of being pulled both forward and back, the familiar and very real joy in the work combined with an uneasy feeling of being in the wrong place, not to mention driving almost 100 miles a day for weeks, certainly gets the attention of even the most stubbornly resistant!

So looking ahead to the new manifestation of that power and joy, I will embrace the fear of unknown, accept the responsibility of the gift I have to empower others and I will say yes to the universe that wishes to assist that. I will also say yes and thank you to the individuals who come my way with offers of rest, support, wisdom and love.

Easing through the opening doorways, I will pay attention the alignment of Spirit with my worldly expression in the world. The time it had taken to acknowledge and recover from the whiplash of the last ill-advised leap has also enabled me an open view of where I am headed. So, thank you to the opportunity seized, the care lavished upon me and the gifts glimmering on my horizon. My back is straight and my vision clear, body, mind and soul realigned!

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show today and her interview with Peggy Orenstein  about her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter.

It was very thought provoking and relevant not just to daughters and mothers but to all of us. If marketing and social/cultural norms are defining at younger and younger ages just how our lives and way of being in the world is valued, then what can we do to resist that?

The book by Orenstein and this discussion was also connected, it seemed to me, with the recent interview on Fresh Air with Stephanie Coontz about her book A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s. In this book she explores the phenomena of Friedan’s book and the women of the 50s many of whom had no real sense of self. They too were at the mercy of an imposed set of values and rules for living in society.

The connection is the dis-empowerment of individuals and entire sections of society that pervades and overwhelms the autonomous, responsible individual. Scarily, it is happening at younger and younger ages, and thus is even more difficult to recognize and resist.

Personal Magic (the promised upcoming book!) offers a context and activities to facilitate Personal Empowerment. When you are truly empowered, then no-one can impose anything on you. Real empowerment is about choice and not necessarily about material possessions and power over others. It is an inner strength that comes from and is nurtured by discipline, responsibility and a willingness/capacity to know your true Self.

I would like to write directly to the two radio discussions but owing to the insanely full schedule of rehearsal with the play I am directing about to open, writing time is limited!

So, I am posting the following, excerpted from Personal Magic – Engaging the Arts and Spirit for Empowerment in Times of Change

(excerpt)

Why be empowered at all if it doesn’t give you all the material tangibles that you want? And is a whole lot of work and responsibility? Because, if nothing else, when you are empowered – that is, fully in awareness of self and knowing from within your Soul – you are quite simply Free. You are free from being at the mercy of others. No-one can make you anything. No-one can make you sad, angry, happy or guilty. You are free to respond as you truly are not as your ego or history demands. People can and will still do things that affect you emotionally but what you Do with that in the form of feeling and behavior is up to you. That is real power, and it is real freedom.

Freedom, according to my little desk dictionaries can be defined as ‘personal or civil liberty’, ‘able to do something at will’, ‘ease in action’, and ‘boldness of conception’. (These last two are precisely what we are able to do when in the creative state!) The other freedoms are only extensions of these basic precepts.

In short, it is being able to choose. It doesn’t mean changing what is except in how you perceive, understand and then relate to it. It may mean being better able to change it, once you are free from the entanglements of emotional turmoil. It does mean you are less likely to expend energy by trying to make ‘things’ change when it is not possible, and you will certainly be ready when a new opportunity presents itself.

I think of Empowerment as being your own hero (or heroine) rather than a victim. Sit with that a moment, how would this change your life? Look back the image you created for Personal Magic #4. What if you were able to appreciate your self as the hero in your story, free from being one of the people on the periphery, or the means by which the hero does his/her thing, or worst of all the slave. Real heroes, not just those of whom we tell battlefield tales, live their lives with courage, honor and in the service of their community.

Much has been written about heroes, heroism and heroic deeds. Most relevant to your journey are the stories of those individuals who, in the face of great odds, and often the derision of others, quietly go about their work and their calling. Certainly no hero is ever a victim, regardless of the circumstances.

In theatre, as actors, our task is to find the journey our character is on, by looking at the given circumstances (the what, where, who and how) and then asking, What is it I (the character) want? What is the goal, the objective of this journey? By placing the character firmly at the center of the story, the actor is able to inhabit fully the emotional, psychological and behavioral world. The best actors, and the ones with the most courage, also access the spiritual or Soul aspect of their character.

There is an old adage, ‘There are no small roles, only small actors.’ Likewise, there are no small people, only the small self. By embracing your Personal Magic and bringing that to the world, you can be the hero at the centre of your story. You will know your given circumstances, name your goal, and fully inhabit the emotional, psychological and behavioral aspects of your story. Most wonderfully in real life, you can do so without being a puppet at the mercy of some other writer. Rather you the writer and the director and the lead actor.

Bringing these two ideas together, the empowered person is both the hero and the story teller, is both at the center and also outside the story able to see it all. The hero doesn’t escape the story nor is he/she devoured by it. The real hero/heroine is truly Free and Empowered.

………….

To return to the discussions that inspired this blog, as adults we need to uncover, access and manifest our Personal Empowerment. We also have a mandate to facilitate that power for and in our children. This doesn’t mean we all run amok in the world grabbing what we can for ourselves. In fact, it is the dis-empowered who have to do that.

The truly empowered are fully in their own center, free of all pressure to prove anything. You are free to give and to reject without harming others in the expression of your Personal Magic. You are the hero/ine in your personal story.

I was stung by a bee last Friday. Walking barefoot in my bathroom, suddenly there was a cutting pain on the inside of my left foot, just above the arch. I wondered why there was a piece of jagged glass on the bathmat. Looking down at the site, there was a small bee, struggling and anchored to my foot. I flipped him off and hoisted my foot up to the bathroom sink. The stinger was sticking out and I managed to pull that out very cleanly.

Last time a bee strung me was about 25 years ago, in Australia. On the tip of my finger as I climbed out of a swimming pool. It didn’t feel too bad, it was barely in there. Within half an hour I was unable to bend my fingers, my face was swollen and I was clearing my throat constantly.

We drove quickly to the nearby doctor’s surgery where my mother was working that day. One glimpse at her now very swollen oldest daughter and she had me into the doctor who plunged a needle into my arm, then another and I began to go down. (Like a balloon with a slow leak, not flying about the room squealing.) I slept for twelve hours as soon as I was back home.

Needless to say I have been very respectful of bees every since. I used to carry various pills and kits, then kept them in my house, and eventually just lost sight of them all together. Although I was no longer downright terrified of bees I was always hyper-aware of their presence, endeavoring to stay clear of them and encouraging them to stay clear of me.

So when in Arizona, 2 weeks after I had moved to the new abode, I found myself after 25 years once again on the sharp end of a bee, there was a moment of very focused thought.

Just the night before I had been telling my new life partner about this rather severe allergy. This conversation was prompted by the fact that this year’s very mild AZ winter seems to have allowed the bees much more roaming and wandering time that one might expect. Thus when I have the door open schlepping boxes in and out, basking in the beauty of this gorgeous weather, letting in the glorious soft sun and breeze, so I also let in the bees.

These are very mild mannered bees, cruising in through the door, making their way to the window over the sink, then sticking there, trapped by the screen, crawling about until they fall exhausted into the sink and die. I have become quite comfortable with them, shepherding them back to the doorway if possible, catching them in a tissue of they stray to the bedroom, removing their little bodies from the sink when they were finally still.

Outside I amalmost as calm. I don’t flail about. I let other people assist with moving them on, and mostly just visualize the bees NOT being here as opposed to drawing them to me with in a sweating anxiety.

The day one stuck itself to my foot (it was invisible in the plush green bathroom mat) I was shaving my legs. I am sure it was in as much pain and surprise as I was – more so perhaps, as a part of its body had been ripped out.

I made a choice. I decided to finish the leg I was working on, and so put my foot back down and ran the razor up the back of my leg as I had been about to do when assailed by that piercing pain. It didn’t take long. The action was less about shaving my leg and more about reminding myself not to Panic, to be in control of my actions rather than letting fear drive me.

I also used that (short) time to consider my options. And remembered Bi-Carb soda. It was a start. The initial pain had subsided, it didn’t seem to be swelling. No need to call the doctor yet and who to call? (In our conversation we had not actually made it to that detail – just, ‘We should have a plan.’)

Into the kitchen, and out with the bi-carb. (It was deodorizing the meat keeper). A white  paste stuck onto the 2 pronged wound. (Close inspection of where to exactly adhere the bi-carb revealed that it seemed my friend had managed to piece me twice. Although perhaps there were two bees?)

It felt ok. Back to bathroom and the other leg shaved. Still felt pretty good. We were heading out that afternoon to an early evening outdoor event (a bridge pre-opening.) I hoped that I’d be able to walk about in the shoes I had chosen. Well, that I’d be able to walk at all.

My sweetie arrived home. Quick Version Bee Story recounted as we prepared to prepare to leave. (We had a self imposed deadline for departure. The traffic into Scottsdale can be pretty intense on a Friday evening!) He vanished out into the RV, leaving me to start on applying makeup. This doesn’t happen often and thus requires some time to accomplish.

He was back very quickly with the powdered Goldenseal. Another poultice. Perfect. There was no swelling, the two little red marks had faded, and this thick black/yellow goo stuck to its site with tenacity. Cover with the band-aide, on with the rest of the clothes, and of we go.

It was a beautiful evening and I didn’t think about my foot at all. Since then? A few times it has suddenly itched like an old memory that surfaces to annoy and demand attention. That is all.

I don’t know if these bees are pallid compared to the Australian ones or if it was just too far from the blood supply or not enough venom made it into my system. Or, maybe I am no longer allergic to bees.

That is the really interesting thought to me. It may be that my physiology has changed. It may also be the years of both accidental and deliberate personal change and evolution which includes a more conscious connection between body, mind and spirit has paid off in this way.

I had only been aware of bees when they were in my immediate vicinity, or stung me and I had a reaction (culminating in that terrible day when I almost stopped breathing.) I was then frightened and lived with anxiety of what Might Happen. Over time I began to stay in the present. Today I am quietly attentive, and so chose to respond rather than react when the moment of truth arrived.

By calming my mind and slowing my body down, I was able to think, make choices and treat the site. More so, I believe, because I had not been engaged in warfare with the bees over the last few days, but simply included them in the/my universe, there was no built up antagonism with those associated poisons. Spiritually the bees were not something to annihilate, but rather were an aspect of the life and place in which I was choosing to live.

I look back at my journey over the last 25 years, and see last Friday’s beesting as a marker of the change within. How often do we change and not know it? How often do we evolve and deepen our understanding of Self and the Universe in which we live and not have the opportunity to note it?

For me, this bee (or was it two?) gave me the perfect occasion to respond without effort or even conscious choice. That path has become part of how I live in the world now. And this time to reflect, gives the additional gift of noting that journey, recognizing the work and savoring the strength found.

It also serves a sharp (!) reminder to stay on the path, to honor the connection between body, mind and spirit. Perhaps most of all, to remember that there will always be challenges and we have the personal power to choose for ourselves the way in which we will live – in fear or in Power. (see Blog:  Compromise: Habit or Choice? Fearful or Powerful? )

So, when the itch returns or when I next see a bee pass by, I will take a moment to acknowledge all that it means to me. I will give thanks for the bee, the reminder of my evolution and the journey that is my life.

Choices! So many choices are spread before us everyday. Some are small, others are very large with wide effect. However, the possible mechanisms by which we arrive at the choice at any given time, are the same for big or small. Are you aware of how you arrive at your choices?

Compromise was a kind of dirty word in my world. It was seen as settling for less than you should have, a temporary solution to a problem you will later make sure you ‘win’, or (worst of all) giving up.

I grew up understanding that I was compromised when I put myself in a situation that made me look bad, was morally questionable or left me open for criticism. I saw that people compromise in jobs, marriages, efforts to live well, exercise and to do good work in the world.

I knew that people compromised it because it is easier than the other which was fighting to the end, because they were tired, or believed there was some advantage to having some rather than none. In short, however, compromise was to be avoided at all costs and if possible called something else or camouflaged as something I preferred (as outcome) anyway.

What I know now is that I am compromised when my actions and behaviors do not reflect my true inner Self, or support and enhance my personal power as a responsible, courageous individual. This is a somewhat different understanding of compromise although some of the tangibles out in the world look the same.

So, what if the compromise you make is an informed, unemotional choice and what if you know that is the Choice you select for now, eyes wide open, and that you can make a different choice any time you wish?  Maybe when there is more information, when the winds change, when you are stronger in yourself.

And that is the key. When you have located and befriended your center, when your Awareness of Self and capacity for non-attachment to outcome is well developed or at least conscious, then you make choices out of knowing rather than fear or habit. Lack of awareness leads to behavior that is not based in the reality of who you truly are, and thus you are compromised in your Heart and Soul regardless of what you actually end up doing in the visible world.

These habitual or fearful ‘choices’ weaken your sense of empowerment and responsibility. Really arriving at a Choice, whatever that is,  empowers and strengthens you.

So do you make choices or do they make you? (The choices you make do tend to add to the sum total of who you are.) It is the verb ‘make’ that bothers me in both these senses. It strikes me that anything that is Forced (‘make my day’, ‘make it happen’) is in itself doing violence somehow, somewhere.

Is it not more useful and empowering to think of the ways in which you take the next step as being a Selection by a conscious and aware individual? (Without that piece, maybe indeed the choice makes us. Then it is perhaps an habitual reaction rather than a conscious choice.)

When I hear ‘make a choice’ it sounds so hard. Hard in attitude, hard to do and hard in outcome. How about Select, Arrive at, Respond – Choose the Action rather than Make A Choice. The latter implies forcing something into place, regardless of its rightness or appropriateness. ‘Select’ is more pliable, less invasive, more organic. It suggests options and awareness of those options before you with considered thought, a dose of intuition and Awareness of Self reaching toward a specific course of action.

(Of course if you understand and experience the word ‘Make’ as ‘Create’ then that works  beautifully. However in this world filled with competition and win-lose scenarios, the word ‘make’ can be mis-felt and misunderstood by those around us, or even inside yourself.)

So, when you find yourself at the crossroads of compromise, where is Choice then? How useful to have a means by which you can accomplish Choice with regard to Compromise with purity of intention and inner personal strength? If you can arrive at the next step without feeling as if you are trapped into a tight little corner without real choice except to HAVE or MAKE only one – ‘the compromise’. (Noun – static))

What if we selected compromise as a course of action For Now. How would that feel? When you actually see a series of behaviors, or best steps to take now, as choices, then the fact that one of those maybe ‘to compromise’, (Verb – active), makes it indeed a choice.

And here a visit to the Synonyms dictionary: adjustment, arrangement, settlement, conciliation, arbitration, concession, compound, accommodation.

Fabulous words, all which are powerful when aligned with Awareness of self, personal responsibility and empowerment. The key element in each, being a participant in this decision rather than a prisoner upon whom a situation is imposed, requires that you choose.

Compromise: Habit or Choice? Fearful or Powerful? You can take charge of your life. Call on your intellect and higher self or Spirit in order to make choices every step of the way. You will have the full empowerment of being responsible for your life and outcome, freedom to make new choices as appropriate and, most of all, you will be unafraid as you live and grow in both the small and large things.