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Friday, March 27, 2015

More Than the Magic

Several years ago I found myself watching a PBS special presentation of Andre Rieu - Live in Dublin.  

For those of you who haven’t heard of Andre Rieu – he is a violinist/conductor/showman of world renown who usually gives concerts only in Europe but on that day I realized he would be appearing in the states that spring in Detroit.  I was elated to learn this because I had seen several of his concerts on PBS and, in fact, owned several DVD’s of  the concerts and nearly all of his CD’s.

Andre Rieu's music and the enchanting way he presents it speak to my soul.  The camera work  on an Italian production I’ve seen, for example, was amazing - simultaneously capturing the soulful artist center stage, the sweep of an enraptured European audience amid the beauty of an Italian piazza in the moonlit night and a close-up of a grandfatherly gentleman listening to Andre with emotion-filled eyes and a tear sliding down his face.  The thought of being a part of all this was compelling.  Just as I made a mental note to call about tickets the next day, I heard the TV commentator remark that the concert had been sold out, but that a local university was holding a block of tickets for its contributors.

I noticed the number of available tickets was rapidly decreasing each time the concert was interrupted by the broadcasters to make a sales pitch for contributions.  Suddenly, someone was saying there were only ten tickets left and I realized that if I didn’t act now, I would lose this glorious opportunity.  I picked up the phone and suddenly found myself making the $250 contribution to the university, ensuring my attendance at the fabulous concert.

My impulsive decision amazed me.  I had often wondered if  I could be so moved that I would spend the kind of money concert tickets usually cost.  And, here I was, making a $250 contribution to get me to that moment.  God bless the magic that moves us out of our every day lives!

The Andre Rieu concert in Detroit I so anxiously awaited that spring was held at the stately Fox Theater.  When I arrived that evening,I fond it teeming with people streaming into the lobby.  As I found my seat I was mesmerized by the ornate and delicate beauty of the theater’s ceiling.  I was thrilled to be sitting up so high.  Meanwhile, I had been muttering periodically to myself about not having remembered to bring binoculars, but I put that concern aside when Andre and the Johann Strauss Orchestra took the stage, individually marching up the center steps with great ceremony to the strains of “Entry of the Gladiators”. 

Dressed in ebony tuxes and elegant, iridescent gowns, the members of his orchestra looked ready to play for the Queen.  The audience members at the Fox Theater that night numbered five thousand and you could feel the anticipation and excitement in the full house as the maestro raised his violin.  Behind him sat his talented orchestra, heavily favoring violins and cellos, but the evening would prove they were very capably balanced by the brass and drum sections.

As usual,  the maestro immediately struck a warm and convivial note with the members of his audience, including them in his commentary and especially in his musical pranks which were sprinkled throughout the evening.  He and his orchestra and performers were treated to several standing ovations.  Three female soloists (two from Brazil and one from Holland) were flawless in their presentations.  I could not believe the fabulous acoustics in a theatre of this size. As they performed, the obvious delight of the maestro, the orchestra and soloists hung rapturously in the air.  At one point, Maestro Andre passionately proclaimed the Strauss family responsible for the best waltzes ever written, as he proudly introduced “The Blue Danube”.

Sitting next to me during the performance was another university supporter who had an injured back from a car accident.  I lent her my lumbar cushion which I had brought with me but didn’t need at this point and she generously lent me the use of the binoculars circulating within her party.

The magic continued until the last waltz played was hailed with a burst of colorful balloons from what seemed like the miles high ceiling.  I do not know what was more touching…the music or the joy of the people performing and listening to it.  I was so thankful for the intuitive leap which had prompted me to make the contribution and secure the accompanying concert ticket.

After the performance I hurried outside, hoping to get one of the first cabs I expected would be lining up in front of the theater.  As I looked around, I saw no cabs but instead what looked like a blockade of buses.  (The performance was being presented exclusively for patrons of PBS and it seemed many members of the audience had traveled to Detroit in their respective group transportation.)  Furthermore, there was apparently some sort of minor fracas going on between a policeman who refused to let the cabs double park because of the danger to patrons who might be running out in between buses and the doorman in red tails and black top hat who was trying to find cabs for the patrons.  

A few moments later the handsomely attired doorman confided to us affectionately that the policeman was causing him a great deal of trouble but he promised to help and smilingly continued to search for one of the cabs which he promised were even now circling the block.  Eventually, the two uniforms struck a compromise and the policeman promised to keep all of the buses away from the theaer entrance at the next performance.

Finally, a cab was found and I climbed into a back seat that was VERY tightly wedged behind a barrier separating me from the cab driver.  As the cab pulled away, I tried to engage the driver in some casual conversation about the traffic and endless construction and he told me in a voice heavy with contempt that Detroit was the worst place in the world in which to live.  He then announced that no one there was human.  When I asked him why he felt this way, he could only repeat his comment two or three more times and shake his head.  Feeling his pain, and because I make it a practice to be especially considerate to anyone whose pain is transforming his life force into cynicism, negativity or depression, I gave him a $7 tip for the five minute cab ride, but he seemed not to notice…or to care.

I was struck by the significance of the glorious festivities ending in this way and felt there was most definitely a lesson here.  That evening I had encountered so many faces of humanity:  the artistic genius of Andre Rieu, the joy and talent of his orchestra and performers, the elation of the audience in hearing the concert, the generosity of the woman in the next seat who lent her binoculars for my enjoyment, the jolly red-tail coated doorman, the policeman who eventually came to a compromise with the doorman regarding the “lost” cabs and, finally, the cab driver whose aura (had I been able to see it ) must have reflected the darkness of the night and of his psyche.  In the midst of the artistry, joy and exuberance of those attending and performing at the concert, here was this lonely, lost cab driver who seemed as if he had no drop of hope in the world to sustain him.

I pondered the amazing parade I had witnessed that evening and considered what part we had all played in this drama.

We are all responsible for the gifts and pain of the world.  Just that past week I had heard Carl Franklin, an international speaker with over thirty-five years of spiritual/metaphysical research, teaching, lecturing, and counseling, remark that reality as we experience it is shaped by mass human consciousness via the quantum field.  There is no speed limit here, he said.  The speed of thought is instantaneous.

In reflecting on this I asked myself what kind of thoughts and emotions have we all been projecting into the cosmos?  What caring and concern?  When have we ignored the suffering of humanity?  When have we answered its call?  We (every one of us) helped bring the joy of the glorious and amazing music to its manifestation at the concert and, equally, we helped shape the tragic sadness of the cab driver I encountered in the night.

We have all contributed to the collective energy which produced in the same evening the higher vibrations of exquisite artistry and, simultaneously, the lower cadences of hopelessness and despair.  The concert, I feel, represents the awesome joy that is possible and the cab driver the pain that must not be left unattended.

I received more than the gift of music the evening I attended the concert of Andre Rieu, more than just the magic.  I was also given a reminder of our common brotherhood and the responsibility of adding joy and love and, most especially, compassion to life.  As always, my intuition has been my great teacher and friend…and, in this moment, a conscience for humanity.

                                                                                           Marie Helena

orchestra image from galleryhip.com

cab image from chachadiaries.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Rites of Spring

I am feeling a beautiful surge of creative energy today and am wondering what has prompted this lovely animation of my spirit.  And, as I marvel at this wonderful gift. I realize it is the arrival of MY spring The melting and release of that which has been frosted and icebound in my subconscious but, paradoxically, still pulsing through my emotions as if addicted to a sad refrain.

The body speaks its truth and, if we but listen with curiosity and wondering, we will hear its messages.  The messages of many years ago perhaps or even the echoes of unhealed hurts from lives long past.

 These messages of unease or frustration or pain make themselves known repeatedly in our bodies until they are recognized by us and we name them with the clarity of mindfulness and embrace them with the generosity of self compassion.

They are like lost children, trying to find their way,  Their pleas need to be heard, recognized, understood and honored.

When we realize where our reactions come from and the pain that has birthed them, we can choose to respond instead to what is happening from THIS moment in time, from the place we are now, from the person we are consciously choosing to be.

And THAT is when we find ease and beautiful, life sustaining energy as we honor and release the unmet needs that have been driving our default reactions.

The act of loving ourselves empowers us to honestly own our patterns of behavior
and understand the reasons for their existence.  And the blessing of this mindful process is quite beautiful.

 Just that single step of awareness I took this morning in a moment of unrest and unease has softened and diffused my reaction, clearing the way for the consciousness of THIS moment and the choice of response I truly aspire to make, bringing spring not only to the welcoming trees and waiting birds but also deep into my eager heart.

                                                                                               Marie Helena


image from vector-eps.com

Friday, March 20, 2015

Irish Taxi Drivers

“Hello, luv…good morning to you…and are you here on holiday?” This is the beautiful way I was greeted nearly every time I stepped into a taxi in Galway, Ireland.

I have just returned from a trip abroad to visit my daughter Rachel on sabbatical there and I truly must say that the taxi drivers in Ireland so warmed my heart. I was able to sit up front with them in what we would call the driver’s seat here in the U.S. as the steering wheels there are placed on the right side of the car and so I got the wonderful opportunity to ask a few questions and learn so much about their lives.

I heard about pride in their families, about their wives and children (names, ages and personalities), about how the college aged kids were driving them to the “poor house” and how they had learned to step out of the fray and, thankfully, let their brilliant wives negotiate with their teen aged daughters. I heard about last night’s christening celebration that threatened to turn into a brawl until the taxi driver stepped in and told the offending party to get his priorities straightened out. I heard many comments about the recession and how it had dampened somewhat the spirits of the Irish. (I can hardly imagine what they were like before!) And, when I mentioned that I was visiting my daughter but leaving soon, I heard the comment, “Not to worry for we’ll be keeping an eye on her.”

The sense of living life in the Present Moment and embracing it with such passion are so strong in Ireland it is truly amazing. If I had known what I could find there in the open hearts of the Irish, I would have gotten myself to the Emerald Isle long before this.

Whenever I left the taxi, I always commented to the driver my wish that he have a beautiful day. And I always received a beautiful smile and blessing in return.

Irish eyes sparkle with fun and mischief…and delight in what the day will bring. What a lovely inspiration!

I am now determined to find the “Irish” in everyone I encounter and am set on uncovering this beautiful gift embedded in every human heart!

                                                                                             Marie Helena

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ichabod's Night Life

It was a windy night in Galway, Ireland. I was visiting my daughter Rachel who is on sabbatical there and I was sleeping in her guest bedroom. Rachel’s apartment house is located on a peninsula on Galway Bay. It sits literally in the middle of the harbor and, if you look outside of her window, you can see sailboats of all sizes lined up and moored to the docks.

On this particular evening I was awakened by the sound of someone apparently working on a boat in the middle of the night. There was a persistent clanging, actually two different clangings…and it felt like one was agitating the other. My daughter had told me earlier that she slept with earplugs because of the harbor noises, but I didn’t feel a little background sound would make a difference to me. I was wrong.

That night I tossed restlessly for hours, growing a strong frustration that vibrated every time I heard another sound. I could hardly believe that someone had decided to work on his boat at this hour. The logic was beyond me. I went to the window of the bedroom and parted the curtains. The boats were sitting in the water, magically illuminated by the mooring lights. The scene was breathtakingly beautiful…and there was no one to be seen working in the area. Confused, I looked further and discovered that the wind was willfully whipping the branches of a very tall tree against the night sky.

So, I thought…it’s the wind I have to deal with and decided I would try to use my consciousness to slow it down. (I had read on a couple of occasions that it is possible to move a cloud so I thought I would try changing the wind speed.) I was finally able to slow it down enough so that I could get some sleep but decided I needed a better plan as I am not yet practiced in the art of cloud/wind transport.

We checked the anticipated wind speed for the next night and, sure enough, a very windy evening was in the offing. I decided to see what resources I could call up because I did not want to go the ear plugs route.

Remembering a very important lesson I had learned from a book called Courageous Dreaming by Alberto Villoldo I decided that I had to change my story about the clanging. The first night it had represented a series of constant intrusions into my night of peaceful sleep. Now I decided to call up my imagination and create a new story. In this scenario the clanging actually was coming from a phantom sailor called Ichabod. I was asleep on the lower deck of a boat with several sailors. Every night the phantom Ichabod made an appearance on the top deck and proceeded to adjust the masts and moorings, clanging away as he worked. Everyone on the boat knew Ichabod and held a great affection for him. Ichabod’s appearance each evening signaled that all was right with the world…and with the clanging reminder of his presence, everyone slept soundly. Including me.

The next morning I ecstatically celebrated the beautiful way I had been able to “dream” myself into a peaceful place.

Telling myself a new story has become for me a new way to deal with the challenges that present themselves in my life. And it’s not always easy. And sometimes I forget to do it. But, oh, when I can remember this lesson and make it happen, I am overjoyed with the knowledge that I can change the way I perceive my reality. I was over the moon about Ichabod. Rachel, too. She has even adopted him as a guest in her harbor home.

In creating this story I followed Villoldo’s advice to create my story (or dream) by flying to the level of eagle which is spiritually based. I framed the sound as a peaceful resonance and that is what it became.

If you have a story in your life that is bringing you suffering, I invite and encourage you to call on your power to paint a picture that will soothe and comfort you, delighting your soul and bringing you the peace of Ichabod.

originally published October 9, 2010


Monday, March 9, 2015

Aikido: Dancing with the Universe


Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平, December 14, 1883 – April 26, 1969) was a famous martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido.

Aikido is the way of love and harmony.  Its philosophy is that It is better to defuse a tense situation and to avoid combat than to enter combat and win.

The amazing, intuitive art of Aikido has many spiritual applications.   

Dancing with an oncoming energy...blending with it...is a most beautiful and powerful path to achieving peace and resolution.  

As Eri Azawa says, "Someone aligned with the will of the Universe/God has no weaknesses."

Whatever enters your life...any difficulty, pain or distress... know that it is a force for your upliftment.  Recognize its beauty...its unfolding grace...and embrace the Gift 

Azawa says:

Relax completely. Relax vibrantly, such that you are filled with energy but yet have no tense muscles.

Have a relaxed yet alert attitude and mind and a relaxed yet alert body.

Relaxation allows energy to flow freely through the body.   If you relax vibrantly, you are automatically refilled with energy.

Move WITH and WITHIN  the energy; do not try to control the energy.
This focus makes a person invincible.

True spirituality is the way of  LOVE.  Let love lead you through your difficulties.  Meet them with joy and confidence and this effort will break you out of difficult holds. 

According to Azawa, the formula is profoundly simple...

Unify mind and body. Mind sets the tone; the body responds.  Energy links all the parts together.  Unify spirituality with all aspects of your life as a cohesive, unified whole:  mind, body, actions, thoughts.  Together they can do amazing things.

We have been given all that we need to navigate what life presents to us.
The path is clear.  

Embrace the darkness when it appears 

and you will find the Light.
Dance with the Universe!

                                                                   Marie Helena

image from forums.penny-arcade.com

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Joy of Gliding

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have your own very special MENTOR?  Someone to inspire and guide you...and help you recover if you stumble and fall. Someone who's got your back.  Someone who truly honors your gifts and talents and wants to help you challenge yourself but does it in the gentlest way.
You may think this kind of arrangement is not the easiest to find and ask yourself "In this busy world who has time for ME?".
  And, because you haven't found the luxury of this ever-on-duty sage adviser, it seems it's ALL ON YOU and so you go through your day trying to address your issues with every ounce of strength and insight you can gather.  And, well, it's exhausting...and, sometimes, it doesn't go so well.  But, frazzled though you may be, you keep giving it the old college try.

Do you know there is a still, small voice trying to get your attention and put your worries to rest?
  A comforting, affirming messenger bringing you solace or inspiration or even energizing you...whatever is the perfect gift in the perfect moment.

Why is it so difficult for us to discern this?  Is it because society has indoctrinated us to the idea that WE have to keep "trying"?  Trying to do a better job, trying to find the answer to our problems,  trying to satisfy ourselves...or others?

Somehow we miss the gentle, divine "voice" that comes into us as softly as a harp or string violin inspiring us, showing us the way to achieve our aspirations.  It may be disguised as an image, a memory, a new thought, an inspiration.  It may be spoken by another or appear in an email or in a show we are watching but it is always the perfect counsel, pointing us in the direction of our dreams.


And that is why we need to SURRENDER our problems...stop trying to figure them out.  Listen, instead, to our wonderful bodies which are telling us to walk away and rest.  We merely need to have a CLEAR AND CONSCIOUS INTENTION regarding what we want help with and then we need to LEAVE THE PLAYING FIELD and do something that brings us joy.


We are designed to discover the wonder and beauty of life.

We are designed to remember the ever present and ever powerful Divine force that is supporting and loving us and just waiting to be accessed and embraced.  The force through which all wisdom flows...the force which always has our back and knows the grandest way to gift us with what we desire.


As Lola Jones,  spiritual teacher and healer, says, "Let the Divine do the Heavy Lifting...just watch for the Divine Opening!"


Like Lola Jones, I believe we are meant to GLIDE through the Magical Playground of our Lives sustained by our awareness of the Divine grace just awaiting our attention, the beautiful manifestation of the mentor we have dreamed of.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Marie Helena

image from HikingArtist.com