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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Energy and the Bonsai


Nature is such a dazzling and divine teacher!
I was reminded of this important fact last Thursday
when I sat quietly waiting in a reception room, mindfully noticing the various elements of the area, including the furniture, pillows, artwork, lights and music.  After a while, my eyes wandered over to a recorder which sat nearby on a table which was also adorned with two bonsai trees sitting side-by-side.

My attention settled on the beauty of the bonsai foliage.
  At first, the two trees seemed to gently diffuse into the general ambiance of the room but as I stood and moved closer to them, I realized something enchanting about their stature.

The trunks of both trees emerged vertically from the bottom of the two planters, but a few inches up, the trunks began to veer unmistakably toward each other.

Were the trees whispering their dreams? 
Dancing together in their hearts?  
Were they having a solemn conversation?

My soul whispered this message to me:  Whatever had been transpiring between the two bonsai trees was obviously a powerful energy surge, enough to redirect their life force and clearly portray the intimacy between them.

The poetry of the moment felt palpable.

I wondered....

In the midst of our bustling days, do we often miss the beautiful reminders from nature of the Joy and Power of soul connection?
Have we really understood nature's fascinating inspirations possibly meant to engage and stir the human heart?   


                                                                                               Marie Helena

image from pinterest.com
Two abstract trees form heart

Friday, February 26, 2016

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.

                                                                                              Marie Helena

originally published October 9, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2016



"Lucy, you got some splaining to do!"

Ricky Ricardo
I Love Lucy 

 "Splaining"...one of the favorite expressions uttered in a heavy Cuban accent by the beloved TV character of years gone by, the Latino singer and musician Ricky Ricardo of  I Love Lucy fame.  And, indeed, the adventurous Lucy, his wife, found it necessary on many an occasion to do that "splaining"... to help her husband Ricky understand the motivation for her usually unpredictable and zany behavior.

And, though we find ourselves laughing at the adventures and humor of this engaging TV couple, there is a universal truth to the request that Ricky is making to his wife.  We often do need to explain ourselves for the purpose of helping others understand what it is we have done, what we feel or what it is we need from them.

This explaining can feel like a chore at times.…something we need to deal with… and, hopefully, something we can get over with as quickly as possible.  And, in our haste" (like the befuddled Lucy), we tend to blurt things out in the way that our heated emotions dictate, sometimes leaving out important information, forgetting that what makes sense to us from our vantage point may not be the same perspective held by another.

Like a painter who is trying to slap a coat of paint on the wall as fast as he can,
we relate with heightened emotion the final conclusion we have drawn in these circumstances, the proverbial last straw, the very thing that has happened that had prompted us to take action.

But, this last straw is only PART of the story.… and it is usually not enough for another to understand what has transpired.

This is where the true ART of "splaining" comes into the picture and it is much more complex than one might imagine.

We must first and foremost remember that our words of explanation are being interpreted through the observations, experiences, value system and beliefs of another.  And we must also consider the issue of the present condition of our relationship with this person. 

Most definitely, this scenario calls for a deep breath or two to center ourselves before we engage in conversation Next, it might be helpful to imagine what our words and actions look like to another(The previous witnessing of our own actions even as they unfold can be very helpful in this moment.)  We might also want to recall what emotional reactions we have come to expect from them in this kind of circumstance. 

Then, backing up a bit, we can retrace the steps of our experience, relating as we go in detail the feelings being evoked in us, especially the way the emotions have built upon each other.  Having thus patiently painted the picture of how the circumstances or encounter have affected us, we have now laid the groundwork for someone to view what has transpired through OUR emotional response.

Without the careful attention given to explaining what our emotional experience has been, the listener will undoubtedly interpret it instead through his own set of values and his own emotional process.

And, yes, what I am proposing will take some energy and considerationBut there will be a huge payoff in understanding and compassion coming our way from a listener who feels very connected to us and to our experience.

Ultimately, receiving this compassion tends to help us settle into a place where we can gain our own perspective on what has just transpired.  

And that's pretty sophisticated "splaining"...
sure to up the ante on our relationship ratings and help us view what's starring this season in the drama of our life!

                                                                                           Marie Helena


image from www.pinterest.com

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cutting Edge: The Calling

A few weeks ago my podiatrist shared a fascinating anecdote with me during a routine office visit.  We love to have our chats together and. on this particular day, I found myself immensely inspired by something he told me. 

It seems the doc was having a meal alone one evening in a restaurant when he was invited by an acquaintance to join him and four other friends at another table.  Now the interesting thing about this is that the five gentlemen who were sitting together were all very conservative in their beliefs and my podiatrist leans way in the other direction.  

The subjects discussed by the group during the lengthy conversation which took place  that evening were religion and politics...a red flag zone if ever I'd heard one
.  But the doc told me that just as the conversation opened, he announced that he does not argue religion or politics.  He just discusses them in order to understand others' points of view.  

I was intrigued as I heard his no arguing stipulation and wondered how the conversation had evolved after he made that statement.  With the most delighted demeanor,  the doc informed me that the conversation that ensued (with him on one side and the five gentlemen on the other) had been enlightening and stimulating and gentlemanly in tone.  And, as the doc departed the gathering one and a half hours later, he was informed by group members that he had presented thoughts and ideas they had never considered before.  

Wow...I thought.  And WOW again!

What a profound result had occurred that day from the very sincere declaration of the doc:  "I don't argue religion or politics." 

I wondered...
What if no one "argued" religion or politics...or anything else for that matter?  What if we talked to each other to learn about what others believe and why and how their beliefs have affected their lives? What if we listened to what others said without feeling threatened or intimidated?  What if we had nothing to prove and, possibly, something to learn from hearing other points of view?

The world would surely be a very different place than the way it is right now.  It would more closely resemble a gathering of curious scholars and philosophers than often being the hotbed it is of arguments and disputes that sometimes culminate in unrest, injury and violence.

Why do we have a need to compel or persuade others to "see things our way"? 
Why is it so threatening to us that others reject our beliefs?  Why do we need to see OUR ideas prevail? And why are some of us sometimes willing to inflict mental, emotional or physical injury on those who do not share our views?  

Have we not come to this earthly dimension to learn, to experience, to discover for ourselves what there is to know?  And are we not gifted with the company and comradeship of other earth travelers who are also here to discover FOR THEMSELVES what there is to know?  Why argue with each other when everyone has been given this same calling?  Why not stay open to learning what has been noticed, accepted, embraced and assimilated by others and try to understand what they have learned that has felt so important and appealing to them?

"I do not argue.  I discuss so I can understand."  

Can you imagine the wealth of sharing and mutual support that would take place if every man clearly embraced his highest calling "to understand"...perhaps one of the most powerful and needed changes that could ever occur on our planet!

                                                                                                   Marie Helena

image from pinterest.com

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Grace of Mikhail Baryshnikov


A few days ago I watched a rerun of The Turning Point, a 1977 film about the world of ballet in New York City.  The film's story focuses on the rivalries and regrets of two generations of ballet dancers...and it features an icy confrontation between two of the female stars, Anne Bancroft and Shirley Maclaine.

I sat, entranced by the stark intensity of this moment which included a physical confrontation between the two stars, and, as engaged as I was by the depth of the unfolding, I was ultimately stirred by something in the film even more compelling than the unexpected elegance of the women's duel...a scene that both startled and uplifted my soul...the magnificent performance of the incomparable Russian ballet dancer, MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV.   

There is something so ethereal about watching a ballet.....the beauty and symmetry of the dancers moving in perfect harmony with the music, the dancers' engagement with the unfolding of the ballet's story, their interpretation of the emotions it evokes.  The heart cannot help but be swept into the rhapsody of this moment. 

Every ballet I have ever seen has elicited this response in me, but, on this day, I was unprepared for the breathtaking denouement I felt with Baryshnikov's performance.

Where ballet dancers naturally leap through the air, Baryshnikov soared to a height which seemed unimaginable to attain.  Where the dancers delicately reach for the unseen treasure they seem to be pursuing, Baryshnikov's passionate longing was completely palpable.  Where ballet dancers are poised to perfectly present a graceful stance, Baryshnikov was GRACE itself.

I was so entranced with the enthralling beauty and strength of Baryshnikov's performance, I asked myself...is it only in the ballet that such exquisite grace can be found?

Moments later, an answer to this question occurred to me.  The grace of Mikhail Baryshnikov can be found in every moment we encounter.   This grace may very well be the touchstone of how we choose to live our lives.

It can be found...

in the loving way we honor ourselves and speak our truth in the best way we know how; 

in the way we honor others' truth;

in the decision we make to listen to each other, truly trying to understand the emotions being expressed;

 in the stirrings of our heart for something exquisite we have encountered; 

 in the compassion we give to ourselves and others as we wend our way through our challenges, often amid distress and difficulties;

in our appreciation for beauty and joy...the first rose of spring, the gorgeous symmetry of a snowflake, the fun of watching a toad hop through a puddle;

in the longing we feel to understand our place in the universe.

A life full of GRACE is a life teeming with generosity, curiosity and anticipation...and wonder.  As close as the next breath we take.  Cast yourself in a starring role in the "ballet" of your life with a full and passionate heart and soar with the GRACE of Baryshnikov!

                                                                                                  Marie Helena

scenes from The Turning Point

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Let the Good Times Roll

Super Bowl Sunday, the annual championship game of the National Football League and the American Football League, is today!  This event has become an American national holiday and has frequently been the most watched sporting event  in the world.

That kind of interest and exposure and excitement delivers a huge whomp.

Watching the Super Bowl, is, for many people, the source of great exhilaration and relaxation. Its theme song is something like "Let the Good Times Roll."

And, as always, what appears in our life, especially that which whips us into a frenzy and takes center stage, carries a message for us and.........drum roll here......like the Super Bowl itself, it's a really BIG one.

And it's also simple...but tricky to do.

Shil Bagh says,
"Enlightenment is all about how a tiny shift in your perspective will create a major transformation in your life."

So here's the lesson of Super Bowl...

Just as you watch the game with heightened curiosity and passion and fascination...take those same qualities and point them to an object of even greater interest and power...YOU!

That's right...watch YOURSELF...and not just on Super Bowl Sunday...all day long, every day.

OK, I realize  this might take some doing because it isn't our usual way of operating.

Elaine St. James gives us some good advice about how to do this.  She says,  

"Try to get into the habit of stepping outside yourself and becoming the observer." 

And when you do what St. James suggests,  something very exciting happens.  In a quiet, impressive and powerful way.  Let me explain.  

As we go through life, we find ourselves caught in the thick of things

We are affected...upset sometimes...annoyed by what's transpiring with and around us.  

Another way of putting this is to say 

Later, when we think things over, we may wish we hadn't said or done something and promise ourselves it will be different next time. 

But when that next time comes, we enter the fray and off we go again with our default reaction.  And these kinds of behavioral habits are mega-hard to change as we walk through the difficulties and obstacles of life.

But there is a way...

a simple, quiet, introspective  way to make the changes we so desire.  

It's as simple as WATCHING  OURSELVES...becoming the OBSERVER.

Something very exciting happens in this process.  

As the observer, we become an objective witness and recorder of events  and our involvement in them. 

And, somehow, that objectivity presents us with a picture that doesn't feel upsetting or distressful...just a "noticing" that we have been following a predictable pattern that contributes to our turmoil and suffering and a noticing that that picture could easily be changed by a shift in our perception and behavior. 

There's no drama to be found in doing it this way... just a quiet insight that takes hold...with the promise of a more, calm, centered life.  And that is why the very simple action of observing ourselves is so powerful.

Life is teeming with glorious lessons for us and a beautiful one lies in wait just hours away.

So LOVE the fun of Super Bowl Sunday and watching your favorite teams (the  Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers) duke it out on the field (wild ride that it is)...

and LOVE even more the quiet, perceptive, life-enhancing adventure of watching YOU on the playing field of YOUR life.

                                                                                            Marie Helena

mage from article by Tony Hicks in Contra Costa Times
For Super Bowl 2012, please be quiet --I want to watch the game. 

originally printed February 1, 2013

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Calling

If one is called to be a street sweeper then one must sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music. 

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth shall pause and say, "Here lived a great sweeper who did his job well."  Martin Luther King said that and he was also talking about associate assistant bank managers, postal workers and kings and presidents.  Put your heart in your work.  Be happy.

Oliver O'Toole
Signed, Sealed, Delivered

"Bloom where you are planted."

I am not sure where I first heard this saying but I have often paused to appreciate its profound wisdom.  Is there anything more beautiful than the experience of meeting someone who is at peace with himself and the universe!  Who has embraced the place he now occupies in the world with deep joy and appreciation!  Who holds a grateful heart for all that he experiences...and who brings the best of himself to every adventure he encounters!

This magnificence is not reserved for royalty nor for those of the highest status.  It is the universal privilege of man...the opportunity to stand in our authentic power and bring our full consideration to the task which lies before us, to enter into the beauty of its flow and gift it with our loving creativity.

This is where peace resides...in the consummate embrace of our calling in the Universe.  The little child in us has felt the calling.  Can we now "remember" the invitation in our hearts?

                                                                                           Marie Helena

image from www.gutenberg

originally published October 13, 2014