Jan 012015

I took an online class the other night with Briana Saussy about prayer and blessings. She spoke about the nature of prayer and it’s expression in the many different faiths and religions of the world. As she was speaking and explaining prayer I was remembering my own experiences and how my current expression of the practice is completely different from what I was taught as a child.

I was raised Roman Catholic. I remember being taught basic prayers as a child and having a hard time with them. I had a hard time remembering the exact wording and in religious education class, in Catholic school, that mattered as did the proper placement of commas and capitalization. I don’t know if the teachers thought it mattered or if they were mixing a grammar lesson into our religion class. What I do know is that it sent the message that there is one right way to pray and it is complicated. There was also a threat in there that doing it wrong would put you in disfavor with God.

That didn’t make any sense to me.

I exasperated more than one teacher/priest/sister with questions about prayer and God. Very few of them took the time to give me a thoughtful answer. Most of the time I was shushed or given a pat, dismissive answer that didn’t satisfy me.

“If God is the father, who is the mother?”

“If I’m a child of God why can’t I just talk to Him?”

“If God is so powerful that he created everything why is he so angry with his creation? Couldn’t He just do it over again?”


By the time I got to high school I was adept at tuning out of religion class. I knew I wasn’t going to learn anything new because the previous years had all been a rehash of each other. I also had given up any hope that my questions would be properly answered. I paid enough attention to be able to parrot back the information on a test. The rest of the time I doodled, counted ceiling tiles or watched the critters outside the classroom window.

I distinctly remember one day watching the squirrels play on the school grounds and Sister So-and-so was having us recite a particularly obsequious prayer. The tone of that prayer always annoyed me; still does. I remember thinking that it must irritate God to hear this drivel. If someone were to talk to me, ask me for something, even just to thank me and they did it in this toadying manner I would be disgusted by them. I have always wanted people to stand up in themselves, face me square on and have a respectful conversation. At the time I remember thinking I was only a fourteen year old girl, if it irritated me to be spoken to that way what must it be like to be God. What must it be like to be the creator of heaven and earth, and have people speak to you this way all the time. It felt manipulative and insincere. It felt wrong and insulting. Then and there I stopped doing it.

I played along for the rest of my school career; the grades mattered. In my private moments I had conversations with God instead of reciting rote prayers. When I was sitting in church I played along there too but I was actually meditating and observing. The ritual and space are meaningful and when I studied the practice of ritual and sacred space I learned a new appreciation for the Catholic Mass, but the experience of going to mass as a child and teen was always hollow. As I got older it became harder and harder to pretend there was anything there that connected me to the Divine. It actually interfered with my experience of God and by the time I graduated high school I understood why that was:

They had made God too small.

The God I was introduced to as a child served a purpose for the child and the Church. As I grew and matured the explanations of God did not grow and mature with me so I left them behind and sought my own answers. The God I’ve experienced since is so much bigger than I can explain and the prayers of childhood are even more woefully inadequate. During Bri’s class the other night she included my favorite quote from Kierkegaard:

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”


I have found that the most profound and sincere prayer is one of gratitude. We go through life taking things for granted that are, in fact, quite miraculous. The gratitude doesn’t even need to be directed to a deity for it to transform you. It’s the mindset and practice of gratitude that does the work.

The way I recommend starting when I am asked by friends and clients is a simple walking meditation. There is no heavy preparation needed. There is no limit on the time spent doing this. It is actually a simple, straight forward activity that becomes meditative in the doing of it.

Woman walking on the sandbeach

It’s walking.

It’s walking with a purpose.

With each foot strike you alternately say “Thank” and “you”; left foot “Thank”, right foot “you” or vice versa. Do this from your car to your morning train; while walking to get the mail; while looking for groceries; while taking your dog out for a stroll.  Do it deliberately as part of your daily exercise. Do it for a week and see what changes it makes for you.

May 2015 be a healthy and happy year for you.

Jan 062012

How are you making out without the evening news? Better? Worse? Having news-withdrawal jitters?

I didn’t watch the news at all this week and I still know who won the Iowa Caucus. I don’t actually care who won, because I have election fatigue already. I think the process we use takes way too long and there is only so much I can take of politicians. It’s about thirty seconds worth and they don’t even have to be speaking to wear me out. My point? I actively avoid all the campaigning and the news of all the campaigning and I still know who won in Iowa. Thus, proving that avoiding the evening news won’t cause you to be ignorant and uninformed. Ta Da!

What you feed your mind is as important as what you feed your body. (I keep threatening to embroider that on a pillow.) It is true and it is necessary to understand it as true to step out of the stress and into joy. There has been a lot published and touted about brain chemistry and the effects of chemical imbalances in the brain. For everything that is known there is much that is not. The theory goes that chemicals in your brain affect your mood. That is the underlying belief behind prescriptions for depression and ADD. What is also known but not reported much is that your mood and your thoughts have an effect on your brain chemistry. There are also many who believe that your diet has a significant effect as well. If alcohol can alter your mood and brain chemistry why not any other food? I think a part of the attraction to high fat comfort foods is the chemical alteration that occurs.

But, I’m getting off my point. What you feed your mind is important. You’ve stopped inputting the craziness that is the evening news. That’s great. I made a playlist on youtube.com called Bring in the Joy. The videos included are ones I find particularly effective at getting me out of the present moment and into the space of connectedness and joy. There are only seven videos at the moment. I invite you to send me the links to videos that lift you out of yourself and for that few minutes it’s just you and the music. I want to add them to this playlist.


Jan 022012

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” ~ Mark Twain

One of the best things you can do for your peace of mind is to turn off the the television news programs. How is this a step toward Joy? Manufactured fear gets in the way of the flow of joy. The anxiety produced by watching ‘the news’ undermines your ability to experience joy. So, turn them off. All of them. Every blasted one. Don’t watch them.

They are not news; they are TV programs called news. Their purpose is to generate ratings which brings in revenue. The networks are for-profit businesses and that is what for-profit businesses do: generate revenue. Nothing wrong with making a profit. That isn’t my point. The primary concern of the news directors and programmers is ratings not how well they inform the public. They may be held accountable for factual accuracy but they garner higher ratings by airing sensational stories, hyping the drama, the fear and dragging it out with endless chatter. They tease you about what’s coming next and when you stick around to find out what it is you get more of the same fluff you heard earlier just repackaged and fed to you by a different, pretty, talking head. Television news programs are junk food for your mind. Turn it off for one week and see if you don’t feel better.

I’m not suggesting that you ignore current events. I’m telling you that you will have greater peace of mind and be more well informed if you seek out the information you want for yourself. If all you’ve done up until now is watch news on TV you aren’t up on current events anyway. Don’t believe me? Did you know there was a revolution in Iceland? If you live in the US then you probably don’t know that. Do you know why there was no straw poll in Texas when there usually is? You may not care what goes on in Iceland or Texas but it should be your decision to ignore those stories. Instead of informing you about citizens of Iceland peacefully overthrowing their government you were fed scary stuff, like anxiety producing nonsense based on one study about the possibility that your cell phone might kill you. Or perhaps it was an open-ended story about whether or not the basically harmless stuff that has always been in your drinking water is now suddenly dangerous… or not. Heaven forbid there is an impending storm. The catastrophic possibilities will dominate the programming.

Instead of letting some random news programmer decide what you feed your mind go out there and get it yourself. There are plenty of reliable sources of information on the internet. Where do you think the news programs get their stories? You’ve heard them cite Reuters and  The Associated Press. Check them out for yourself. There are other sources, too, from all over the world. You will be in control of the information you allow into your mind. That’s the most important part of this. You will get the story before it has been edited for drama and you can ignore the fearmongering nonsense that passes for news most nights. If political happenings are important to you I’m sure your favorite pundits have blogs or post columns several times a week. You can read them at your leisure and shut them down when it becomes too much.

That brings me to the second part of this: check the news for only about ten minutes at a time. You can do this more than once a day but don’t spend more than an hour a day on this. Even that is too much for me but if you’re a news junkie that may be cutting way down for you. Pour a cup of tea and read your top three news stories then leave it be and get on with your day. You don’t even have to do this every day to be up on current events. I’m not kidding. Most of what happens in the world has no direct bearing on your life. It may be important to know about but it changes nothing in how you live your daily life. Why give it space in your head and spend precious minutes of your day reading up on this? Check the world news once or twice a week. Check the national news two or three times a week. Spend ten minutes a day on local news. Check the weather and perhaps the sports scores if that’s your thing. Voila! You’re done. You’re informed without being manipulated or unneccesarily frightened. You have control over the input. You decide what you feed your mind. It makes a tremendous difference. It has for me.

Jan 012012

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast

1 ~ The snowstorm right after Christmas 2010 cancelled my daughter’s flight back to Georgia so I got to spend a few more days with her than I thought I would have.

2 ~ With all the snow we had at the beginning of 2011 I am grateful for our twelve year old snowthrower. It really earned its keep this year.

3 ~ I found the perfect fabric for my kitchen curtains on sale. Then I took it to Home Depot because they have this nifty computer that matches the colors you bring in with the perfect paint. I painted my kitchen and made the curtains in January, 2011 and it still thrills me every time I walk in there.

4 ~ Baby number three graduated from high school. That’s three down and two to go.

5 ~ My tarot business has grown to be more than a self-supporting hobby and I have some wonderful clients.

6 ~ I was able to go to Readers Studio a day early and spend part of that day in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with one of my favorite artists. She invited me and Karen and it was a lot of fun!

7 ~ I spent the rest of that day with four amazing women (Karen doesn’t have a blog). We had a bunch of laughs, some dinner and Debbie gave us a highly entertaining tour of the area near Columbus Circle.

8 ~ I met another of my favorite artists and her fascinating husband when they stopped by Readers Studio for the afternoon. We hung out in the hotel bar for a few hours getting acquainted. Such fun, real people.

9 ~ I bought a morning glory to plant near my mailbox with the idea that it would climb the post and be lovely. There was so much rain alternating with hot sun that that one scrawny plant turned into this:

How cool is that? There is a mailbox and a planter under there somewhere.

10 ~ I worked the Great American Weekend with two good friends and even though half of the fair got rained out we had a wonderful time. It was actually quite nice to sit in our booth in the pouring rain and just talk.

11 ~ Hurricane Irene actually saved me money. We have a big weeping willow in our yard. There was a large limb that died this spring and was going to cost us several hundred dollars to remove. Before we had the money together Irene came through and knocked it off the rest of the tree.

12 ~ My husband successfully removed a few squirrels who had made a home in the roof of our enclosed porch before they caused too much damage.

13 ~ The stuff that the contractor used to repair the exterior of the enclosed porch is squirrel proof.

14 ~ The Gaian Tarot came out in a mass-produced version.

15 ~ My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary and we still really dig each other. To paraphrase him, breaking us up now would be like trying to separate conjoined twins. Sweet sentiment in an odd, quirky kind of way. Sort of sums us up nicely.

16 ~ I’m grateful for Netflix. I know they raised their prices but they are still less expensive than going to the movies which is something I cannot do in my pajamas. I can, however, hang out with my husband, in our pajamas and watch all of the new Battlestar Galactica streaming from Netflix.

17 ~ Baby number four got into the technical school she’s been talking about since she was twelve and it is everything she hoped it would be.

18 ~ Baby number one came home for a week during the summer and it was nice to have all my girls together for a few days.

19 ~ We had the first ever psychic fair held in our town and it went pretty well. We’ll be doing that again.

20 ~ This was the first time in twenty-two years that I didn’t have to go trick-or-treating with my kids. Not only that but the older girls took care of answering the door for the neighbors’ kids and I was able to sort of take the evening off.

21 ~ I’m grateful to and for my youngest brother. He got my son a job and let my boy live with him rent-free for a few months so he could save up to rent a place of his own.

22 ~ I’m grateful for modern medicine. My sister-in-law was hospitalized for weeks with a resistant staph infection that nearly killed her a few months ago and now she is almost 100% recovered.

23 ~ I won the Steampunk Tarot. I still can’t believe it. Barbara Moore had two copies printed up at a local print shop. She kept one, raffled off the other and I won it.

24 ~ My husband and I have gotten into a meditation routine. We used to go to an Om meditation once a month. It wasn’t held over the summer and scheduling conflicts have kept us away too many times. For months now we have been Oming on our own every Sunday. I feel it when we miss a day.

25 ~ 2011 was not the most stressful year of my life. It wasn’t even close but it was troublesome. It showed me how much better I can handle things now than I did in the past. I’m very grateful for the experiences that tested me, pissed me off, scared me and that I’m still here and doing fine.

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