About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Month: June, 2014

How to give good advice


This weekend, I was asked for advice about what might seem to be a common dilemma. There is a glib, easy, fairly well-accepted answer to this dilemma. But I have my doubts about whether this answer is correct in all cases. Contrarian that I am, the advice I gave was unconventional.

Giving advice is easy–but good advice? That may be a bit more difficult. A few thoughts about how to do it well …

  1. When people ask for advice, I like to respond … but not necessarily with the reinforcement they’re sometimes after. Sometimes offering love and support is all you feel sure of, and I think that’s enough. The friend who asked me for advice asked me to tell her what she already knew, as well as what she didn’t know. I thought that was a great way to ask for advice, because it acknowledges that …
  2. No one person knows everything. It’s very rare to understand the other person’s situation so well that you can recommend unequivocally doing x, y, and z. My response was to mention a couple of perspectives on the issue that might be a bit different than what she was thinking … to turn the question around and examine it from a couple different angles. But ultimately my advice was to go deep within for her answers.
  3. Far from replying with a stock answer, I even supplied a couple of new questions! If you’re like me, you don’t have all the answers to other people’s problems … but if you stick around for awhile and pay attention, you can pick up on a few good questions. One such question is, which way feels like fear, and which way feels like saying Yes to life?
  4. I believe the Divine and an unlimited perspective is within each of us, and that nothing could be more worthwhile than accessing our own deep wisdom, and asking it the most pressing questions we have. I find it helpful to remember that the person asking for advice already has the answers. Perhaps not consciously, very true. But they have access to the facts and emotional truth of the situation (which they may be filtering for a variety of reasons), and usually you the advisor do not. They also have access to their own inmost desires, moral compass, and gut instinct, as well as the ability to attract what they want and need. In other words, every possible tool and resource they need to solve the problem at hand.
  5. So I believe the role of the advisor is to provide support to the decision-making process. Your role might be to relieve the pressure of conventional wisdom, prevailing mores, or the opinions of others … to create some space in which the advisee can begin to take a fresh look at the issue in their own light. You may need to help clear away whatever is obscuring the person’s own truth.
  6. Should you give advice about a situation you’ve never experienced? Recently I was taken to task for doing just that. To me the key is to remember, and this is true whether you yourself have been in the exact situation or not, is that in the vast majority of situations, only the advisee can know what is truly right for them. In this weekend’s case, I hadn’t experienced the exact set of circumstances. But I have been in similar situations, and understood her agonizing and disgust and desire for decisive action very well. I’ve been there, I get that.
  7. I think it’s not imperative to wait to be asked for advice. If you have something you think might be helpful to share, I think it’s fine to offer it. “You know, something that has sometimes been of help to me …”
  8. And of course, you must be completely prepared to have your perfectly good advice ignored or discarded. Give it freely, no strings attached. Perhaps the time may not be right; perhaps the person isn’t really ready to deal with the issue. Perhaps the advice isn’t close enough to where the person is to allow him to grasp it. Whatever the reason, it’s critical to remember that you can only give advice–you can’t implement it. Implementation is entirely down to the advisee.
  9. But, love sent into the world is never wasted.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Understanding + Two paths.


How to release unhelpful cell memories

hand energy

Tonight my neck and right shoulder are feeling remarkably relaxed–and I want to tell you why!

There is a medical “reason” for the trouble I often have in this area of my body. At the same time, I’ve been aware for many years that I “store stress” in my neck and shoulder area. I now have a new understanding of what that means.

Yesterday I participated in a guided meditation with a group where we were instructed to scan our bodies head to toe, and stop where we felt pain, tightness, or tension.

I wasn’t in any pain, but neither was I surprised to find some tightness in my neck and shoulder area.

We were then asked to name the emotion present in this area. Immediately “resentment” popped into my head. How very interesting! I’d never thought of it quite that way before, but there it was. The truth.

We were then asked to release it if we wanted to–or we could put it off till tomorrow, or some later date. (What was that about? Heck yeah I want to let it go right now!!)

Next I felt a physical sensation of something–resentment I think it would be fair to say–leaving my shoulder at about 8-10 different points. It wasn’t painful, but it was clear and distinct.

What I was thinking was along these lines: Wow. Didn’t know I could do this for myself!

The way my shoulder feels right now is different, looser, than I remember it feeling in the past. Different, and good. I also noticed when I was getting ready this morning that the knot that’s sometimes visible isn’t there today.

This meditation experience reminded me of a time about 15 years ago when this same area was so troubled that I had limited mobility of my head and neck, and therefore difficulty driving. I got myself to work one morning, and eventually made my way upstairs to see a coworker who was also a massage therapist–and, as it turned out, psychic. As she worked on my shoulder, she started talking to me about my father, whom I hadn’t spoken to in years. My shoulder was telling her the truth.

I also remembered that my neck and shoulder had felt quite stiff before I went to see my energy medicine practitioner a couple of weeks ago. She cleared my chakras, and did several other things, none of which directly concerned my neck and shoulder as far as I know–but afterwards I was surprised how much better they felt.

I drew this conclusion from my meditation experience yesterday: You can release resentment from your mind and heart, but you also have to explicitly release it (or whatever other negative emotion may be plaguing you) from wherever you may have stockpiled it in your body at any point during your life. (Actually, my understanding is that we can bring cell memories in with us as well … so it’s possible we might need to release something that isn’t from this lifetime, but from a previous one.)

If you’d like to try this at home … well, please do!

After writing the steps below, I thought I’d test them myself to be sure they worked, and so I scanned myself again. This time I worked specifically on my neck. “Stubbornness” is what I got. (Hard to believe, right? But it sure does give all those biblical references to “stiff-necked people” a whole new meaning!) Again I felt an energetic release, different this time, and physical relief.

  1. Sit comfortably upright in a chair with your feet on the floor.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Spend several minutes in the awareness of inhabiting your body. Feel yourself inhabiting all of your body–head, arms, hands, torso, legs, feet, and so on.
  4. Taking your time, scan your body head to toe for pain, tension, or tightness. If you find multiple areas fitting this description, you can work on the first one you find, or you can rank them in order of importance.
  5. Return to the area you’ve decided to work on, and acquaint yourself with how it feels.
  6. Name the emotion that’s behind the pain, tension, or tightness you identified.
  7. When you’re ready, release this emotion from your body. If you like, you can visualize a destination for the energy you’re releasing. Sometimes I use a Dumpster in clearing visualizations. While I was working on my neck, I opened an imaginary crevasse, let everything I was releasing flow into it, and then closed it when I was finished.
  8. When the process is complete (no more negative energy to release), feel yourself inhabiting your whole body again, including the area you cleared. Notice how everything feels–perhaps more spacious or relaxed.
  9. When you’re ready, open your eyes.

As I mentioned, there is a physical “reason” for the pain in my neck and shoulder (scoliosis, a C-curvature in my lower back, and resulting disc issues in my neck). But what I’ve found is, in some cases anyway, that it’s possible to have a chronic condition or a chronic disease and be quite symptom-free, if you’re reasonably in balance. I think it also helps to refuse to allow yourself to be defined by any diagnosis. After all, this body I inhabit now, which I appreciate and am grateful for, can never adequately define who I am–so how could any mere medical diagnosis of it? We are far more than our bodies, and certainly far more than any dysfunction they may exhibit at any given time.

If you try this meditation, I’d love to know how it works for you–I hope you enjoy it in good health!

How to get unstuck


By chance are you feeling stuck today? Perhaps you know what you need to do, but you’re unsure of the next step. Or perhaps you know the next step, but can’t seem to take it. Maybe you just have an aimless feeling, like your sense of purpose has gone AWOL. Maybe you feel like you’ve been in a rut forever, and don’t know how to get out. Perhaps you find yourself in a liminal stage between an ending and a new beginning, and things aren’t flowing as you’d like. Whatever your level of stuckness, here are some ideas to get you moving in the right direction …

  1. Write down some intentions about what you want your life to look like. Get out your journal–or, if you don’t have one, take a quick trip to the bookstore and treat yourself to a lovely new one in a favorite color. Then open your journal to a blank page, and let your intuition guide you as you write a title. It could be “My intentions for …” or “What I want my life to look like.” Your title could relate to how you feel stuck, or it could relate to something seemingly different. Thoughts about your list may come to you over a few days. Fine-tune it until it really expresses what you want (you may want to copy it out again once you’re done), and then read through it every so often. I like to read through mine before I meditate.
  2. Check your energy flow, and correct it if necessary.
  3. If you’re feeling stuck, you might not be grounded.
  4. Fix something that’s bugging you. WD-40 the creaky door. Pull the weeds you’ve been eyeing. Is a tree seedling or some noxious weed (devil vine is the bane of my existence) sprouting from a seam in your driveway or sidewalk? Boil the teakettle and put a stop to that. (Sometimes it takes more than once, but boiling water always wins.) Kick something ugly to the curb. Say no to something you’ve been asked to do that doesn’t feel right for you. (Don’t you feel better already?)
  5. Clear some clutter. This is a fantastic way to power through a barrier. You’ll get the biggest bang from clearing old and/or negative clutter (i.e., clutter with negative associations for you). Bonus points for clearing clutter directly related to an area where you feel stuck. You may want to identify an area where you can make a significant impact in a reasonable amount of time–an area where you’ve already made a decision about what needs to happen, or where you can make that decision right now.
  6. Try something new today–and if you don’t try new things regularly, begin to make it a habit. (This one step can easily change your whole outlook on life.) Have lunch or dinner at a new restaurant that’s getting good reviews. Try a food or cuisine you’ve never tried before, or a new recipe. Call a friend and have an impromptu picnic, or take a walk, in a park or public garden that’s new to you. Stop in a store that’s caught your eye. Go see that museum exhibit that looks so interesting. Take a weekend road trip to someplace you’ve never been. Take a workshop and learn how to do something you’ve never done before. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, take that first step today. Always wanted to play the piano? Find a teacher and book a lesson. If you’re deciding whether or not to do something, and the no feels like unjustified fear–say yes.
  7. Look around your home for things that belong to someone you used to be. Are there textbooks from the student you used to be? (You’ll never need to know more about the accounting methods of 20 years ago.) Shelves of novels when you’ve stopped reading fiction? Magazines about hobbies you don’t do anymore? A whole wardrobe? Love letters (or hate letters)? What baggage could you release today in order to create space for the you you’re becoming?
  8. Look around your office at work. What’s out of date? What project is every bit as extinct as the dinosaur, but you still have all the paperwork? (Maybe you can let go of all the files for Project Dinosaur, if there’s no company policy that mandates keeping them.) Do you see any paper that’s actually yellowed? This may be a clue.
  9. Add something to your life that will guarantee change, like a new friend, or a new pet.
  10. Slough off your old skin quite literally. Go shopping for a body scrub that smells wonderful, and use it. (Fresh has some lovely products.) Get a pedicure, facial, or massage. Get a haircut. Get your teeth cleaned (it’s good feng shui!).
  11. What do you have that’s expired, past its use-by date? Check the cupboards and medicine cabinet. Find a prescription take-back program (your city or pharmacy may have one), and take advantage of it.
  12. If you’re still not sure what your next step is, ask yourself the question, and go to sleep. See if you don’t wake up with new insight.


Adding love and courage

Becoming II

The SoulCollage card I made last weekend is the first I’ve made that I found viscerally disturbing. Monday night, as I was driving home from a visit to my energy medicine practitioner, having had a professional chakra clearing and vortex revival, not to mention many kisses from her dog Lily, I decided that this collage needed to be strengthened.

I can’t really explain why that black skull felt so distasteful to me. I don’t feel afraid of death; I have felt only privileged to sit with loved ones in their last hours here. I helped my dog Honeycomb have a good death, which I think is a truly important contribution to the life of another being. For reasons I don’t understand, though, I am not at all fond of skull imagery, and particularly not the one I chose to use on this card.

My reading of the original card was purely positive, as they virtually always are, so it wasn’t that. In my reading, the Death symbol said (and I believe this):

I am one who cannot harm you. I can only push you into another phase–a better one.

Typically I keep the most recent cards I’ve made out where I can see them, but this one I didn’t want to look at, and put it away in the box where I keep my deck.

So when I had a few spare minutes, I pulled out my scissors, images, and glue stick, and prepared to alter a “finished” card for the first time. (Perhaps I was a little prescient in naming it Becoming!) Here you can see the results. I added totems representing courage (the tiger) and love (the bird). Now the Death symbol looks like his grimace might be in response to the tiger’s paw planted right in his face. I was going for an “O death, where is thy sting” look (I Cor 15:55).

I can’t say this card is my favorite, and I no doubt lessened its artistic impact by adding additional images, but it no longer hurts to look at it.

No doubt love and courage will see me through this liminal stage, as they always have. May they do the same for you.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Becoming II + The liminal stage.

The liminal stage


Life, if you’re doing it right, is full of endings and beginnings–little deaths and births. There’s no point in clinging to what is moribund, to my mind. Which means that moving forward is the only real option. The alternative is being stuck, like Winnie the Pooh.

Yesterday, as part of the Hay House World Summit, I listened to Joan Borysenko’s talk on resilience. She spoke about how, almost continually in our lives, an old self or identity has died, and we find ourselves in a liminal stage–the threshold between the old and the new. The old self is gone, and the new self is not yet born. She said that the resilient not only survive these challenges and transitions, but come out on the other side deeper and richer for the experience. I believe that … I’ve certainly experienced it many times before, and I’m sure this time will be no different.

As of January, and perhaps really as of November, I am definitely in such a phase. Thus the SoulCollage card I made today represents this death and rebirth cycle … and all the uncertainty, discomfort, potential, and beauty of the liminal stage. I know it well.

What about you … do you have an identity or aspect of yourself that is no more? Is there one thing you can do today to move the process of reinvention, of birthing your new self, forward?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Becoming + The liminal stage. Card images are from W, Harper’s Bazaar, O Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and a Van Cleef & Arpels ad.


My intention today


I’ve been giving a bit of thought lately to my intention for this blog, and it is this … Today (and every day) I’d like to reach one person with a message of hope, some piece of useful information, a fresh approach, a new way of thinking about something, or a word of encouragement.

Perhaps today that person is you. In any case, welcome! Please feel free to ask any questions you like about anything you find here. I’m always happy to explore any topic in more depth, or share anything I know.

While pondering my intention, I made this SoulCollage card to represent my throat chakra totem, and what I want to do with my voice in the world. The fawn I’d envisioned was playful, graceful, sensitive. I’ve been looking for quite awhile for an image of a fawn that wasn’t just gangly, awkward, and vulnerable. I finally found this one in an art magazine at the bookstore. I don’t know if this fawn is playful, but her eye looks wise … she looks like she might have something to say that would be worth hearing, which is what I hope to do.

Here’s an excerpt from my reading of the card …

I am one who opens doors for others, so they can walk through. I am one who shines a beautiful, clear light on the pathway. I am one who expresses my true essence, as I came here to do.

May doors swing open for you today, and your path be brightly lit.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Opening the gate + Fawn (throat chakra totem).

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