About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Collage art

Don’t apologize for who you are

Queen

Be yourself no matter what they say. –Gordon Sumner, aka Sting

There’s no one alive who is Youer than You. –Theodore Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss

Our first assignment at the SoulCollage retreat I attended earlier this month was to make a card using only two images. I’d brought a small stash with me in my carry-on, and I asked myself which image was strong enough to carry a card all by itself.

This one, which I’d chosen at my very first SoulCollage workshop and saved ever since, came immediately to mind. The background image I’d found only the night before. I think they’re perfect together, and I love the strong, unapologetic energy of this card.

Toward the end of the retreat, we were assigned to write down a question, draw three cards blind (face down), and ask the cards’ advice about the question.

My question was about how to make nice in a situation where I’d been thrown together with someone who probably wouldn’t have chosen to spend any time with me, and vice versa. This card was the first I drew, and her advice was simple:

Don’t apologize for who you are.

What good advice this is.

Just because someone may be judging, disapproving, reacting, doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. Sometimes that’s just what people do.

Each of our personalities is, in my view, integral to the sacred missions we’ve each come here to carry out. To learn and grow, to love, to face and overcome challenges, to resolve karmic debts, to move closer to the realization that we are all one.

So be yourself, your best self, no matter what they say.

This post is illustrated with my new SoulCollage® card Queen of the Night.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

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A bit of natural magic

Retreat 2

I’ve just returned from several days at a SoulCollage retreat, and I’m feeling relaxed and mellow. There’s no telling what kind of outrageous thing you could say to me right now, and still get a very mild response.

We each had our own cabins, and mine was a little extra hike away on an adjacent property. The first night I walked back at dusk, about 9 pm, and was surrounded by flashing fireflies–a bit of natural magic, and something I never see at home.

There were lots of beautiful wildflowers, fresh air, a bit of rain, grasshoppers that rose up on black wings as I walked down the path to the road, invisible as rolled leaves when they settled again.

It’s good to get away.

This post is illustrated by one of the SoulCollage® cards I made this past week, Retreat.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Faith as substance

Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1, KJV

I’ve been thinking this weekend about faith, and this passage in particular, one I’ve heard all my life. In doing so I’m finding new meaning in it that I never saw before.

This verse seems to me to be saying that faith is actually what the things we hope for are made of. That we in fact manifest what we hope for by having faith in it. And that how we know it’s coming is by looking at our faith. If the faith is there, it will produce results. This will happen.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage® card I made today, Faith.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

Six reasons to meditate

Meditation

Every so often, I’ll be listening to a recitation of problems and I’ll say, “You know, I think meditation could really help with that.” And then I’ll get a list of reasons why the person I’m talking to can’t possibly meditate. (These are all real reasons.)

  • Their dog has dementia and wants to go outside every five minutes. (A five-minute meditation practice is perfectly valid.)
  • The apartment’s too noisy–someone’s car alarm is always going off. (It’s completely possible to meditate no matter the background noise–leaf blowers, fireworks, a thunderstorm. I do try to choose a quieter time if I can. No doubt every apartment complex, dorm, or other communal living space has its quieter times.)
  • Physical issues make sitting in the ‘proper’ position too painful. (My view is that the proper position is the one that allows you to meditate comfortably for the amount of time that yields the benefit you’re looking for. Insight meditation also recommends being comfortable. I once attended a day-long meditation retreat, and found that the grouchy monk running the retreat and I had different views on this. As I made myself comfortable, he shot me looks, and finally explained how wrong it was to do so–that if a fly, for example, lands on your nose while you’re meditating, you should simply allow it to sit there for as long as it likes. I was very comfortable with never returning to that meditation center. I believe a real spiritual leader won’t judge you, and neither should you judge yourself, if you decide that being comfortable while you meditate is right for you.)
  • They’ve tried it, but clearly have no talent for meditation, as they just can’t stop thinking no matter how hard they try. (There are a lucky few who have a natural talent for meditation–the rest of us get to get good at it the hard way, which starts off in exactly this way. As someone to whom a few things have come easily, I think it’s a salutary experience to keep working at something worthwhile despite no immediate signs of genius. I have read–and I believe this–that meditating with your mind running 100 miles an hour is still practice.)

So there are the excuses. If you haven’t yet committed to a meditation practice, here are a few reasons to meditate based on my own experience, that I hope will speak to you.

  1. Meditation is great for releasing what’s bothering you. When I’m feeling upset, I often try to make time to meditate ahead of schedule (typically after breakfast and before my shower in the morning, and before bed at night). Inevitably anything I’m upset or excited about will cross my mind as I meditate. When it does, I visualize packing several symbols of whatever it is into a helium balloon, and cutting the string.
  2. Meditation is also great practice for releasing judgment of yourself and the need to be perfect. It soon becomes apparent that thoughts enter your mind, that’s what they do, and it’s OK. Perfection, whatever that might be, isn’t possible, but awareness and recognition of what’s happening is. You simply recognize the thoughts, release them, and move on–nothing else is necessary. This works in real life, too–you notice something has gone off the rails a bit, take corrective action, and just keep moving.
  3. Once you’ve meditated for awhile, not only does ‘monkey mind’ rarely happen during meditation, but my experience has been that it fades considerably all the rest of the time too. I used to actually try to drum up thoughts in quiet moments, asking myself, ‘OK, what’s next?’ I don’t do that anymore, and there are nice quiet spaces in my mind pretty much all the time. Peace, in other words. Calm. Serenity.
  4. I find that meditating before bed generally puts me in the perfect frame of mind for sleep. Good sleep is pretty much impossible to overvalue.
  5. When I meditate, I’ve found that I’m much more patient and tolerant. It’s not unusual now for people to thank me for my patience. I’m not sure that happened even once in all the years I didn’t meditate.
  6. Studies have shown that violent crime decreases in the surrounding area when people meditate regularly. I love that a practice intended to benefit me and my own life, in combination with the practice of others I both know and don’t know, raises the vibration of our neighborhoods and cities such that harmful violence is prevented, and lives that could have been painfully disrupted or even ended, never are. Together, we can bring that about.

If you meditate, what benefits have you experienced?

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Meditation.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

The beauty of compassion

Kuan Yin

This is the SoulCollage card I made last Sunday afternoon, in the midst of being strongly irritated by (in my estimation) a friend’s immature behavior.

This is Kuan Yin, goddess and bodhisattva of compassion, kindness, mercy, and protection. She has beautiful energy–as, I suppose, bodhisattvas do.

Usually when I decide to make a SoulCollage card, I have an idea of what the theme is going to be, but on this day I didn’t have anything preconceived. I sat down to look at images I’d saved, and before I knew it, I’d pulled out three of Kuan Yin. At first I wasn’t sure they were all her, because they weren’t all labeled, but I noticed all of them held the same upside-down vase (which a little research revealed is a water jar).

I understood that the trait of compassion was being emphasized to me, and took the message to heart.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Kuan Yin.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

Through a positive lens

Fawn

Thought I’d share part of a recent SoulCollage card reading … my question was, Please tell me what I need to know most right now.

I am one who is gentle and loving. I see the world clearly, but I choose to view it through a positive lens.

What I have to say about your question is: Be more like me. That is all.

This is my SoulCollage card Opening the gate + 5th chakra totem Fawn.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

A great day for justice

Yes take 3

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered. –Justice Anthony Kennedy, on behalf of the Supreme Court of the United States

Just wanted to post something brief and celebratory on this historic day! I’m really thrilled that the Supreme Court did the right thing today, announcing their 5-4 decision in favor of marriage equality. I was also happy to learn yesterday that my company filed an amicus brief in this case. Sixty percent of the country agrees with the Court–and I’m certain we are on the right side of history. There’s undoubtedly more work to be done on civil rights in this country, but this is a huge step in the right direction–probably the most important US civil rights milestone in my memory. (Loving v. Virginia, another key marriage equality case, was decided the year I was born.)

If you live in the US and want to show your support for marriage equality and the LGBT community who will be bearing the brunt of any backlash from the unenlightened minority, keychain tags and stickers are available from the Human Rights Campaign. Those who wished for the preservation of the unjust status quo need to understand that this decision reflects the will of the majority.

There’s so much more we need to do … but let’s savor this moment!

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Yes!

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

The flip side of change

Wheel

Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. –Arnold Bennett

When I came across this quote today, it really spoke to my experience this week. I’m excited about my new job, the work I’ll be doing, and the people I’ll be doing it with. I’m less excited about my longer commute, especially in the evening traffic. But it’s great to be working close to friends I can now have lunch with.

And so it goes. No positive change is undiluted by drawbacks, and no seemingly negative change is undiluted by positive features accompanying it. Three things I can count on: Change is constant. Life is never perfect, but always a mixture of the things we love to label “good” and “bad.” It’s often hard to know which is which.

This post is illustrated by the SoulCollage® card I made tonight, one I’ve been intending to make for quite sometime. This card is meant to evoke the Tarot card Wheel of Fortune.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Personal power

Leo cropped

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. –Wayne Dyer

I came across this quote earlier in the week, just hours before I’d really, really need it.

You just never know when someone’s going to act the fool, and you’re going to need to respond like the sane, mature individual you are to the most outrageous thing you’ve ever heard. There was definitely a Full Moon this week, no doubt about that.

I was able to respond with calm strength from the core of who I really am, and I’m pretty certain the other person didn’t get much satisfaction from my response, which wasn’t quite what he was looking for. It wasn’t an easy experience, but it was satisfactory. I really believe that it’s at times like this that the work of staying grounded and maintaining a regular spiritual practice really pays off, by making us more of who we really are. And that is something I’m truly thankful for.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage® card I made today. I went to the bookstore yesterday to look at magazines, and when I saw this lion, I knew the magazine was coming home with me. I’ve never made a card for my sun sign–until now. I’ve called this one Personal power + Leo.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

How to celebrate

Yes take 3

 When I accomplish something really big, something I have worked long and hard for, I buy myself what I call a “push present.” I recently completed writing my tenth book and bought myself a beautiful new ring that I wear nearly everyday…. The ring is a physical, constant reminder and proof of my abundance and prosperity that comes from the part of me that is connected to the Divine. And, every time I look at this ring it makes me smile and remember that I have accomplished something that I am really proud of…. I also “tithe” the same amount I spend to someone or something that provides me with spiritual sustenance. This creates even more fulfillment with me. –Arielle Ford

While I was considering how to celebrate my new job, I came across a blog post from Arielle Ford that resonated with me, where she explained how she celebrated the completion of her last book.

I was definitely on board with the jewelry idea! When I worked for a startup that recognized the Employee of the Month with a cash award, I spent my award money on earrings–the one piece of jewelry I never leave the house without. I bought another pair to celebrate a hard-won raise a few years ago, and a third pair to celebrate this new job. I also made a reservation at my favorite French bistro to celebrate with friends.

When I think of spiritual sustenance, I think of books, magazines, processes like SoulCollage, guided meditations. Typically the people behind them are already doing well and really aren’t in any need of help from me. Since this was a business-related goal, I thought Kiva loans would be a perfect way to celebrate. When these loans are paid back, I’ll loan the money again, so it will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.

These are the women I loaned to (top to bottom and left to right):

  • Fanta from Mali, who sells fabrics, including African waxprints
  • Rewad from Palestine, who’s working on her degree in elementary education
  • Tuyet from Vietnam, who’s adding a bathroom to her house
  • Mahzuna from Tajikistan, a single mother with a tailoring business
  • Martina from Peru, who has a food sales business
  • Fatmata from Sierra Leone, who has a grocery store

FantaRewadTuyetMahzuna

Martina

Fatmata

How do you like to celebrate?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Yes!

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

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