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Posted by: maria | August 14, 2018

The Metal Element and the Transformation of Grief

I recently listened to Martin Prechtel, Mayan shaman, talk about grief and praise, how they are interconnected. There are so many approaches to grief, so many ways to experience it and recover from it, so many stages of grief, so many individual expressions.

Grief and loss have been huge in my life, sometimes so present and impactful, almost debilitating, sometimes a gentle reminder to appreciate deeply all the fleeting blessings of life- to love those people who are here with us, to appreciate each day before it is gone.

In Chinese medicine, the transformation of grief is the function of the Metal Element, corresponding to the autumn season.

As Thea Elijah said in her email letter, ” That which is transient is now gone forever; the vitality which endures is now held deep inside. The teaching of autumn is that all things pass, but that what is truly precious lives on inside of us. Grief is the recognition that something of beauty and importance is gone from the outer world, but inherent within Grief is the capacity to identify clearly what we most value, even in its material absence. Righteousness is the capacity to prefer what Heaven values; to align ourselves with its vaster beauty and be fully graced by it; even when this involves personal loss”.

The Metal Element helps us move from a place of grief to a place of nostalgia and appreciation. While feeling the pain of loss, we can focus on the gift, the learning, the experience, what we have gained. And we can know that the most important things endure. Standing on higher ground, we can see the larger picture.

There is a teaching that all thoughts that are not productive are a symptom of a pathology. If we are stuck, if we need to go deep into a feeling and linger there, perhaps we need help to enliven our transformative capabilities.

Enlightenment is said to include the ability to let all emotions move through swiftly and lightly. Most of us never achieve that, but we can move towards that, by releasing feelings as they come up, acknowledging them but not hanging onto them.

That is not to say that there is not a process to grieving and that things have to be worked through and chewed upon for as long as necessary to extract what is of value and fully digest the experience. Some people take a long time to fully feel something and need to be with their grief for quite a while. The time spent feeling and grieving is productive in this sense as it is moving them towards resolution.

A pitfall can be the pull of the drama, the feeling of aliveness that comes with the big emotion and the sense of connecting with others and getting needed attention by sharing pain. Tears attract the focus of the room. They also release pent up feelings and support flow and the transformative process. When we find ways to get support and attention, we don’t have to stay stuck in something dramatic just to be noticed.

Taking in appreciation and creating connection is something we have to practice when we are feeling centered, as well as when we are in need of extra attention.

Grief and loss are a part of our everyday experience- nothing is permanent, we will lose all things. Coming to terms with grief, transforming it into appreciation, means realizing that we only grieve those things that we love.

By feeling grief, we experience love. It is the other side of the same coin. A life without grief is a life without connection, attachment, or caring. A life stuck in grief and a sense of loss is one where the experience is not complete. Grief without the emergence of love and appreciation means that we have not let the Metal Element be softened by our Heart, by loving compassion. We haven’t extracted the gift from the experience, which is our real work here.

Every emotion has a lesson in it, as we journey towards completion on this physical plane. The beautiful lesson of the Metal Element is to extract something precious and of great value- love- from our experience of loss and grief.

Posted by: Spring | August 11, 2018

Yoga Dreams

Transformational Journeys yoga session on Washington State Parks website

When I was 24ish, I was in so much physical pain from car-snowboarding-skiiing-soccer-ice skating-crazy teenager accidents that I thought I’d be in pain my entire life.

I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to not get days-long migraines, feel a knife blade digging into my neck, have a dagger poking under my shoulder blade.

Then yoga and deep breathing/mental focus techniques found me, and I found freedom.

As I was watching a yoga video one day, in which the instructor was wearing purple and leading me through yoga moves while sitting on a rock overlooking the ocean, I had a very loud, clear and surprising thought: “I want that to be me!”

Fast forward many years, and I found myself wearing purple, leading a group of women in a yoga class in the sunshine on the beach on Blake Island. I nearly cried when I realized how close to my vision that moment was.

This realization also solidified my belief in having clear visions and holding onto them in our hearts and minds, no matter how far-fetched they might seem.

The experiences and seemingly serendipitous events that come together to bring these visions to reality can’t be planned, but they do need to be recognized and opportunities taken, even when saying YES is scary as hell and saying no seems so much easier.

But saying no seems to me to only be easier on the surface, as the damage done to our belief in ourselves is eroded each time. I do believe it’s important to learn to say no, but only to those things and people that don’t hold true to our authentic selves.

Anyway, this whole train of thought was brought about by a link to a photo a couple Journey For Purpose kayak trip participants sent to me – it’s me leading a yoga class on Blake Island, tucked into the shade on a hot day, the water and our campsite all around us.

While I’m not excited about my a** being towards the camera, the memory of this moment puts me in awe of this incredible journey called life. I’m not wearing purple in this one, but I often am!

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey – it’s been a wild one and I can hardly wait to see what adventures are to come! 

 

Posted by: maria | June 20, 2018

Souvenirs

My mind is full of memories, my house is chock with souvenirs. The tiny picture of the church in Palestine, hangs next to the painted metal mirror from Oaxaca. The tile from Ecuador, poignant with grief, subdues the bold colors of the batik print from Tahiti. Nearby is a vivid painting of the crowds in Haiti, purchased for a dollar one hot day on the streets of Port Au Prince so many decades ago.

 

Many moments are captured in the colors of the room, many stories of people and places and a life filled with travel and exploration. I have brought back a bit of each place, like a stone from the beach, just to add that one more tone to the orchestra of my memory, rounding out the fullness of what I have seen and done and appreciated.

 

This last trip I told myself- no more- I will bring nothing back- there is no space for anything but pictures in my head. I have room in my heart for more memories, but I can’t fit one more single thing on my walls.

 

So now my souvenirs are the smiles of children, etched in my mind. I have the friendship of people who I met and bonded with. I keep the songs I learned and the poems that touched me to remember the feel of a place or a time.

 

Trying to capture life in something tangible and lasting is like putting an animal in a cage. Life is the experience, feeling the rain come unexpectedly and hiding under the banyon tree laughing with a friend. How can you keep a souvenir of that long talk about love and family that made the climb up the mountain seem like nothing and the view from the top like everything?

 

Our souvenirs can clutter our lives, if we cling too much to the past. We can be clogged with the detritus of what has gone if we can’t let go of things that no longer have meaning or value.

 

We keep things sometimes, just because we have forgotten how to let go and move on. There is always more wonder and more life to be lived, and we need to make room for what is to come by releasing that which has gone before.

 

Memories should remind us to make more memories, to instill joy into each exquisite moment so that we want to remember this time. This is what matters most, being here to see this precious unfolding. All of the heirlooms and souvenirs only matter if they remind us to live deeply, opening into the present, and bringing forth our next beautiful memory.

 

This letting go and letting in is a part of the Metal Element, in 5 Element theory. We are going to explore this deeply in a retreat in September. We will discover ways to turn grief into nostalgia and to let go of what no longer serves us, including those voices in our head that want to hold us back. The Metal Element is about evaluating and finding worth. It teaches us how to make compost of our life, creating the rich soil for the seeds of our dreams, so that we can grow forward.

 

Come and learn the ways we can blast the past to make way for our dreams. Sept 28-30. At Sacred Groves on Bainbridge Island. Be in community with other women as we release, celebrate and renew.

Maria Cook

June 20, 2018

Posted by: maria | May 15, 2018

A Pilgrimage- Finding Your Inner Yellow Arrow

I recently returned from Europe. I had been invited to join a friend to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, starting in Porto, Portugal. The Camino is a pilgrimage and there are many routes that end in Santiago, the most popular goes across Northern Spain. These are ancient routes traveled by pilgrims for hundreds of years for many different reasons, and they are gaining in popularity again. We set out on the Portuguese Camino.

The routes are serviced by hostels or albeurges, which are very low cost and by small private hotels as well. The routes are maintained by the local municipalities and also by larger organizations, which tend the Way or the Camino, as it is called. The Way is marked by painted yellow arrows everywhere along the route where there might be a question about which way to turn.

The Way winds through paths and alleys, bordered by fields and stone walls, it goes through villages and through the old centers of towns, and occasionally you follow a road. It is a beautiful route, an incredible experience, and you meet many other pilgrims along the way. As you travel along, you are guided by the yellow arrows, pointing your way to your destination, Santiago.

After 5 days of walking I developed plantar fasciitis and on the sixth day it became evident that I couldn’t walk much further. Change of plans. I had to look inside for my own inner yellow arrow and I ended up visiting friends in Italy and having an amazing time. I am forever grateful that I had the flexibility to embrace a new plan and to give myself over to finding joy despite disappointment.

If we cling to an idea or a plan that isn’t working, if we are not flexible in our thinking, if we can’t shift, change, and grow- we risk a shrinking world where we can’t take on things that challenge us. We lose our capacity for life and sometimes miss out on marvelous but unplanned experiences. And if we can’t find our own inner arrow, we might not heed the choice that will bring us to where we need to be, despite what we had planned.

How to find your inner arrow?

  • Practice listening to your heart and be aware of small signs and signals. Little miracles and synchronicities abound when you are open to them, and can often validate choices.
  • Notice fear and resistance, or your own tendency to be obsessive rather than flexible. Use these feelings as a cue that something can be gained by moving forward despite resistance, by facing fear. Lean in.
  • Give yourself space to dream and imagine. Think about how you would like to feel, and in the emptiness of the imagination, let possibilities emerge.
  • Remember that moving out of your comfort zone, out of the ordinary, can often be a catalyst for great insight and growth. Embrace change. Stay open to the invitation that is there.
  • Clear out the clutter of old beliefs that no longer serve. Question your assumptions- what is the underlying belief that is at the core of your feeling. Are you making a plan to keep yourself safe, or are you limiting yourself because of some unrealistic fear.
  • Sometimes we just “aren’t in the mood” for something different- could you decide to expand your capacity, to change your mood by being open to new possibilities.
  • We can use our energy to make commitments to ourselves- make useful ones. Commit to appreciating opportunities as they arise, even if they feel uncomfortable at first.
  • There is a lot to be gained by dealing with discomfort- we can gain skill and awareness. Stay in the moment, noticing the things around you. Taking joy in the beauty of the world can help ease concern about change.
  • Connect with others from your heart. Many people are ready to be kind and helpful and seek only appreciation. If we can relax enough to be present, we can have wonderful meaningful connections with strangers and we can find a lot of support for our path.
  • Who knows why things happen the way they do or how they will turn out. Be open to the gift of everything. You just never know how something will turn out, so withhold your judgment and go with the flow, doing the best you can. Keep a larger perspective.
  • There are many ways to get where you are going, and many places to go. Enjoy the journey. It is all we really have.
Posted by: Spring | May 14, 2018

Spring Cleaning with Marie Kondo

I recently flew to New York from Seattle to I join a seminar with Marie Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Along with people from 16 other countries, I’m now a KonMari Home Organizing Consultant in training!
I’m completely sold on the KonMari Method TM and have been using it with my clients, with truly life altering results.
People often think there is a wide chasm between Journey For Purpose and my Spring Cleaning Home Organization business. However, with both I help others work towards letting go of what doesn’t serve them in order to make room for what fills them up and brings us joy. This is the basic premise of all of my work and it’s one of my major passions in life.
If you haven’t read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I highly recommend it. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook Page! She’s sold 6.5 million copies worldwide and Netflix is making a movie made about her – this is now a worldwide phenomenon and her mission “To organize the world – to develop a society where more people have tidied their homes and lead lives that spark joy every day” is becoming a reality.

I’ve found the The KonMari Method (TM)to be life altering. When I used it in my own home, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders, and my head, heart and life became more clear and focused. I now use this method whenever possible with my clients and I’m seeing incredible results.

There is a very specific order to this method: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, then sentimental items. The basic premise is to hold each item to see if it sparks joy or if you absolutely need it (such as computer charging cords). You take each category and put ALL items (yes ALL) of them together, then hold each one. The things you decide to keep are stored vertically according to where it’s easy to put them away.

Essentially, you’re doing a complete inventory of your belongings and reckoning with your decisions up to this point in your life. By the end, you’ve honed your intuition so much that other decisions and things that don’t spark joy in your life become easier and more clear.

Whether you’re looking for a more organized home, more focus, a happier life, or a change you can’t quite put your finger on, doing this process from start to finish may help. If you have questions or would like help with your “tidying festival,” as Marie Kondo calls it, please contact me any time or find me on our Facebook Page!
~Spring
KonMari Home Organizing Consultants-in-Training
Posted by: maria | March 13, 2018

Home From Oaxaca

I am home and am surrounded by the colorful reminders of my recent journey to Oaxaca. So many memories pass through my morning mind, wafting along with the scent of coffee, like little golden glitters of joy. Flashes of stunning landscapes, amazing architecture, brilliant craftsmanship, and incredible food fill me with delight. Mostly though, I think about how I felt. I had two weeks of deep aliveness and gratitude.

So many things happened, so much was uncovered and rediscovered. It was a journey of profound exploration.

We learned about life in a new place as we sat in homes and listened to stories, stories of rigors and triumphs, of loss and challenge, of perseverance and success.

We learned about ancient ways and wisdom, how they make brilliant dies from the tiny bug that lives on the cactus, how they fire their kilns to make their renowned black pottery, and how they grind the baked maguey cones and let the grinds ferment so eventually they could distill the pure mescal of the region. We walked with healers on the mountain paths as they pointed out the herbs and their many uses and all the various names in the various languages of the region. We experienced their ancient healing techniques, the “limpia,” or ritual cleansing, and we felt our own healing, a cracking open, a willingness to be more present to what was truly alive in us.

We saw how rituals infuse their daily life, and how the physical/emotional/ and spiritual planes are all combined so that life is whole and each aspect of being human is honored. We enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of their lives, close to nature, filled with work and family, valuing hospitality and a generosity of spirit, recognizing the power of the unknown.

And we learned about our selves- what we value, what we yearn for, what sustains us, what we dream of. And we created a pack. Without knowing it, we bonded as our hearts opened. We learned about each other and we grew closer, so close. We cared, we shared, we supported, we celebrated. We howled at the moon, we played in the mud, we swam under the waterfall. And something changed.

We experienced what is possible. And now we know. We can be open-hearted and authentic. We can play like children. We can do more than we thought possible. We can love and accept. We can find support and nurturing. We can enjoy deeply and share joy. We can journey on this human path with others and find beauty and inspiration as we face our own obstacles and losses.

We can celebrate the path in a way that honors all that we are, this being human, this living with the moon that rises over the ridge and the water that spills out from the mountain spring and bubbles joyously on a path to the sea, this standing here on the solid earth that supports us, standing here with the other beings that share our life in this glorious moment.

Standing in our imperfection. Standing here in safety with our pack, experiencing both the vastness and the intimacy. Standing here or standing wherever, inside us now are memories of deep aliveness and gratitude.

Please join us if you can, there are more memories waiting to be lived…..

Posted by: maria | March 11, 2018

Healing Magic in Oaxaca

I am writing from Oaxaca. We just spent the afternoon with traditional healers, who shared about their life and their gift, coming to terms with their calling to be healers. Over and over we hear about these people who were ill and sick constantly until they realized that they had a gift and that they needed to heed their calling.   Once they decided to do the work they were meant to do, they became well. Sometimes this happened in childhood, sometimes later, but always there was a natural ability that needed to be expressed. They had to study and learn, but they also had knowledge within themselves that they had to tap into, to open up to. Miracles happen for them and their patients when they tune in deeply to this inner knowing.

I felt I had found my calling early on when I led sailing, snorkeling, and diving trips to the uninhabited islands of the Bahamas and the offshore coral atolls of Belize.   Leading adventure cruises felt like my mission in life- it made me so happy to share what I loved so much with others and it gave me a chance to be doing the things that I most loved doing.

I left that life because it is a challenge to be a charter boat captain and a challenge to be a single parent, and doing both at the same time was too hard. I wanted to live on land and give my kid a chance to go to school and be with other kids.

I have struggled with my health, and with my choices- trying to find a way to live that could be a true expression of myself and the gifts I am meant to share. Now, working with the healing capacity of acupuncture, and leading transformational journeys on the side, I feel again like I am where I am supposed to be.

But doubts and questions arise though, and maintaining health always takes awareness and effort. Being human and alive in these times means that there will be challenges. It is very hard to integrate the huge suffering in the world with our own privilege and possibilities. And there is so much to do, it is not easy to put yourself first and to make sure you get the nurturing you need. Whenever I can, I get treatments of various kinds.

I was privileged to get a “limpia” or ritual cleansing yesterday, and a dark weight lifted. I had been doing too much, taking care of others, and pushing through my limits. The limpia was like a call to let go of old patterns, to move energy that felt stuck and heavy, to open up space for hope, change and healing. Dona Celia used basil, candles, flowers, mescal, and water and her deep intuitive knowledge, and urged me to wail and moan. My fellow travelers were my witnesses and it was a stirring moment for all. We can acknowledge the places where we are stuck, where we are not in alignment with who we are meant to be, where we are trying to hard and out of touch with the flow, and we can fill them with light. Opening to all that is there, brings a chance for change and growth.

For me, being on a transformational journey with other seekers is a huge support for my healing path. Every time I step out of my routine and give myself a break, I truly prosper on a deep level.

How about you? Are you following your soul’s purpose? Are you able to give yourself the nurturing you need? Are you ready for a chance to explore these questions? Do you want to join with your tribe for support on your path?

Join us for a Transformational Journey, you will learn so much about yourself, gain skills for zesty living, and find community. Sign up now!

Posted by: maria | February 11, 2018

Women’s Kayak Trip: Nine of Us Together

There were nine of us together on the beach. Where to put our tent? We chose a spot under the tree and later learned the tree belonged to a pair of eagles, who sat above us, lost in the green lace of the branches. They graced us with their call, and took our breath away when they soared up into the sky, white heads directed, carried by the high currents, out over the water, to survey, to glide, to dive, to hunt. So magestic, so stunning. And so we had our totem and our inspiration. Could we send our hearts free and soaring, wild, but directed, hunting for gladness and diving into life?

There were nine of us together on the island. We had kayaked there in a flock, a school, a pod. A wad, Sigi suggested, was what you would call a group of women. Wild and daring women. A hot wad we were, a tight wad, a brilliant wad, and we worked it, and we overcame, and we deepened and we shared and it was glorious.

Nine of us together. The trip had been planned for so long and represented so much effort and thought. So much organizing and pulling the details from work-tired brains. It was like a child for Spring Courtright and me, we had conceived it and brought it into being, and wondered why we were crazy enough to do it, and were so grateful for our craziness. We brought nine of us together and we all prospered and our spirits soared.

There were many challenges, first making the commitment. Once that was done, so many things shifted. There are unseen forces working on our behalf, once we commit, once we take a step, not asking how it will happen but knowing it will. There were so many concerns, the weather report was not good, the wind was going to be high, it was supposed to rain, how could we remember everything, how could we buy everything and sort it and pack it and lug it and lay it out and look at the bulk of it and how could we possibly fit it into the boats. But there were nine of us together, and somehow, somehow, we got the boats loaded and everything crammed into the kayaks, now so heavy, and somehow, somehow, we got the kayaks carried to the water’s edge, and somehow, somehow, we got all nine of us, geared up, and ready to launch.

And nine of us together, we made our slow way across the passage. And the wind was not too strong, and it didn’t rain, and the ferries went by and we crossed over to the other side and made our slow way to the island, paddle stroke by paddle stroke, through the long smooth places and through the rough chop where the currents converged, and the boats bucked and danced and felt alive beneath us, testing and teasing. The waves cast salt spray up into our faces as we sat deep, riding the water. The sky was luminous- patches of blue and glimpses of sun, but dark grey masses that reached from the sky to the water off to the south, the north, the west, but we were dry, we were happy. And finally, the last stretch, where the island looms and it seems to take forever, but then we landed, nine of us together.

And I was still wondering what if, and still wondering how we would ever manage, still wondering if I was crazy. We landed on the island and our usual campsite was taken. For the first time ever, we wouldn’t have our place, and everything would be different, even if the wind did stay friendly and the rain clouds did avoid us. But I looked around and I found another spot that could work, and yes, we could put our tent under an eagle’s tree, and there we were, nine of us together in heaven.

That was when I realized that these trips are protected. I had heard it said about other things, but never took it in, never felt the truth of it before. These trips are protected. We are held in grace, this is sacred work. We were taking women to set their spirits free on this wild island after paddling their hearts out. We sat around the fire in the evening and the stories came forth about the angel in the house, the women we were supposed to be, the unhappiness of being stuck, and the joy of claiming ones own self, and putting oneself first. We laughed and cried and shared. We open windows into our souls and invited each other in. There were nine of us together and it became a small group, a tight knit family of sisters of all ages. A small group with a shared wild woman’s heart, with the heartbeat of a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, and all the roles that seek to define us, but with a wild heart that soars above them all. There were many stories and they belonged to all of us, stories of struggles, and obstacles overcome, of fears faced, and dreams realized and others as yet unfulfilled. And we offered up our stories and ourselves to the goddess of wildness and spontaneity.

We stretched our bodies on the beach and held the warrior’s pose, looking forward into the future towards our dreams, our feet planted on the firm foundation of our life, the past behind us, with its learning, its challenges, all that it gave us to make us who we are. We made art with shells and driftwood and we shared readings and poems. We feasted on the most wonderful food and relished serving and being served. We sang our song and added verses: I’m gonna to let life move me, I’m gonna let it stir me deep. I’m gonna let it wake me up from that ancient sleep. I’m gonna laugh all my laughter, I’m gonna cry all my tears, I’m gonna love the rain, just as much as the sun, when it clears. And there was chocolate and there was wine, and there were nine of us together, being our wonderful selves.

We paddled again the second day, around the island, in the bright sunshine and still water, this time, seeing the clearness of the shallows, the life below, watching the ferries in the distance, and feeling our strength. We were experienced now. We took in the beauty of the blue sky against the green trees reaching toward heaven, and the shining water, moving and carrying us. The hot sun kissed our skin and the cool breeze was like the most expensive silk. The air was a delicious feast. There were the rough patches as we crossed over the bar, and it was hard for folks to turn to come into the harbor, and their was the young boy in the canoe who capsized in front of me and started to cry and panic, and all manner of things unfolding, but it was all ok. Glorious wad of women, nine of us together on the water.

And back to our campsite, in the evening hours, our familiar home now, we made more fabulous food and luxuriated in the abundance of all we had brought and all the detailed plans we had made. We had everything we needed. When we had first come together and were talking about what to expect, I shared that we would all help make the meals and clean up, and then I knew that to help set hearts free for these wonderful women, to help free themselves from the angel within that could burden their wildness, I had to encourage them not to help as much as they wanted to, to skip a meal and let someone else do it, to sit in the sun and write in their journal and do nothing, to receive and fill up. Because I knew that these women would show up and give their best every minute, and I knew that they needed to show up for themselves more and give their best to their own wild spirit and this was the point. This was the gift of the journey, to give ourselves the chance to be, to play, to forget our duty, our roles, and to find our soul. And to support each other in this, to share and to witness, nine of us together.

We packed up on the third day, after a glorious sharing of gratitudes, after a brilliant sunshine morning of fabulous egg scramble and a warm campfire in the cool shade, after a sweet soft eyed gazing at eagle’s flight, butterfly’s flit, graceful deer, and the tide taking its long out-breath to reveal the seaweed green beach. We packed up and we were merry, and there was more lifting and stuffing, and lugging, but not nearly so much stuff. And we paddled back and the wind calmed, and we worked our way out of the choppy areas, and watched the ferries pass, and we glided with the current’s help, and passed the seals’ curious faces, and the rocks revealed by the tide. And we came home: happy, wilder, and very grateful, nine of us together, our wonderful wad of women.

Maria Cook

July 6, 2016

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