The Softer Side of Strong

There is a softer side of strong that is unbreakable. Madeline Johnson

When I was young and silly I thought that being strong was about being mighty, powerful, outspoken and relentless. Ungovernable.

woman

I thought being strong was about being in control. Standing firm and determined, demanding, forceful and willful.

Ridiculous.

 

sensitive

I have uncovered a softer side of strong that is unbreakable.

This style of strong is still, calm, clear and confidant.

Solid.

Collected and rooted deep in love. Yet freely open in spirit. A soaring type of strong.

Both solid and fluid.

2

 

Recommended reading

Keeping Your Thoughts Strong As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

Keeping Your Faith Strong  Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox

Disciplined & Strong Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

Featured Artist

Nancy Friedland, Gallery on Instagram

Life is So Easy

How do we make the hard things easier to do? By Madeline Johnson

Every adult I know has their own philosophy about life. My brother tries to keep it so simple. His mantra is clear – life is so easy.  I applaud him for boiling it down to four simple words.  How clever. It definitely keeps thinks manageable.

My brother loves to talk about how others screw up their lives by not thinking this way. By not realizing that life is so easy.

He thinks we complicate our lives. We complicate our lives by doing things we don’t want to do. We screw up our lives by not having a goal or a plan.

We mess up our lives by spending more than we have and by giving into our own laziness and lack of discipline. We know the right thing to do, but we don’t follow through.

2.png

Yes, life can be easy, but I challenge that thought. Is life easy when you are on a spiritual path and holding yourself to different set of standards? To a higher moral code?  How is it easier when you have to do the things you have avoided for so long. . . like forgiving.

How do we make the hard things easier to do?

When you know better and you don’t walk the walk, it’s so difficult to kid yourself.

Today I promise to keep my spirits so high that I am able to walk my walk.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was so brilliant.

il_794xN.581867377_gp4f

3.png

Featured Artist

Sarah Renzi Sanders on Instagram

 

Loving, Forgiving & Living

To forgive, to love and to hold sacred everything in our lives – this is the living prayer that keeps us connected. By Madeline Johnson

Every experience we have in life is a blessing. The love, the hate, the betrayal, the gain and the loss.  All of life is an opportunity to grow. Yes, even the most painful experiences of deep suffering – – are all opportunities for us to evolve.  For if we are not humanly evolving, we are spiritually dying.

rupi

When we process all of our experiences with love, forgiveness and blessings in our heart, we are in constant healing mode. When we are healing we become stronger and more spiritually connected and elevated in mind and being.

tumblr_p1ok2pL2lG1speho6o1_400

One of God’s most astonishing gifts is His ability to use time to heal and redeem; to make something beautiful later of what appears ugly now.

As Mary C. Neal explains in her book 7 Lessons from Heaven

It is that moment. . . .

When you come to understand that each event in your life, spread through time and space, initiated a cascading effect of other events from which something of beauty and worth, always emerged.  

So often we forget that it is not our time, but God’s time. When we give up control, let go of the need to heal right now and begin to bless our pain, we are at peace. To forgive, to love and to hold sacred everything in our lives – this is the living prayer that keeps us connected and the path of the Bodhisattva, a spiritual warrior.

2.png

To pray with forgiveness and gratitude all day long, as a full-bodied, breathing and feeling spiritual being. To embody our prayer. To pray by involving all of the senses. To stay in this state of being throughout our lives. This is healing. This is living.

mary-c-neal-quote-lbm3w6i

In the words of Gregg Braden. . . Each moment is a prayer. Life is a prayer.  We’re always sending a message to the mirror of creation, signaling healing or disease, peace or war, honoring or dishonoring our relationships with those we love. “Life” is the Mind of God sending back to us what we feel—what we’ve prayed.

1.png

Read more How Do You Pray? by Gregg Braden

Watch Everything is Spiritual by Rob Bell.

Author of The Diving Matrix bridging time, space, miracles and belief and The Spontaneous Healing of Belief.

7 Lessons from Heaven Mary C. Neal

Featured Artwork

Kim Simonsson of Fiskars, Finland

With life-size ceramic “Moss People” sculptures depicting innocent yet beguiling child figures, Kim Simonsson leads the viewer into an imaginative, fairytale-like world inspired by the forests of Finland. His gestures are indeed sublime. Simonsson is a superb sculptor who uses clay with great sensitivity for his subjects.

“The name Moss People refers to children’s innate camouflage,” explains Simonsson. “The moss green figures blend perfectly into their natural surroundings, just as a soft carpet of moss covers the ground, rocks and tree trunks and acts as a sort of protection. In the Moss People world, lost and disconnected children, evoking different characters, gather in a Shaman Party, choose leaders and end up creating false idols.”

 

 

To Regain the Sureness of Your Soulfooting

I regain the steadiness of my soulfooting
When I feel this rapture of being alive.

– from the poem River Ride by Patti Auguste Hallowell

aaw-0415

“Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

1719x

Beautiful things I love about me.

My childlike enthusiasm and my a joie de vivre.

tumblr_m16nz3OmfZ1qbo39mo1_1280

My inner Glow with God.

I love my spirit that shines through with contagious and infectious optimism.

I honor my divine intelligence and love and oh how now you can see my soul so clearly.

My soul spark shines and breathes fresh air now.

girl-unspotted-quote-3

Free to be me with every beautiful new human encounter entered with the intention of honesty and love.

The best type of truth is told with thoughtfulness, a touch of tolerance and tenderness.

Silly, stupid human.  We think the truth has to be raw, harsh, angry and loud.  Something to fear, because you can’t handle the truth. No. No. No.

girl_laptop_1x.png

You can handle the truth.

Truth can be whispered, softly, gently, and directly to the soul of another.

Let the world change you, so you can change the world.

-Motorcycle Diaries 2004

 

 

Featured Art

 

 

How to Be More Like You

How to be authentic and original. Thoughts from Madeline Johnson, writer about human development.

E. E. Cummings wrote, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.

yourself

People just put facades out there. They even admit that one facade is a little more real than the other. You go to work and get lost in your professional facade, but then you say. “I’m going home to be with my family and friends where I can just be myself.” So your work facade drops into the background, and your relaxed social facade comes forward. But what about you, the one who is holding the facade together? Nobody gets near that one. That’s just too scary. That one is too far back there to deal with. 

from The Untethered Soul The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer.

facade

Oh, the armor we put on every morning becomes heavier to bear, year-after-year.  Tara Brach calls it our “spacesuit strategy“, we slip it on every day as we head out into the world to attract attention, admiration, and appreciation. No wonder why we are so mentally exhausted, always trying to be something we are not for temporary shots of counterfeit recognition.

Emotional Masks

These emotional masks, the masks we hide behind because of fear. For example, if we are insecure, we might hide behind the mask of name-dropping. If we are unsure of our power, we can hide behind mask of being a bully. If we don’t think the world loves us, we can hide behind mask of anger. We mask the debt we’ve incurred to pay for lifestyles we can’t afford; we pretend things are fine at work, when our jobs are on the line; we pretend things are okay in our marriages when there is distance. 

mask2

sting ray

It starts with just noticing when you are not being you. When you are saying things and doing things just to get attention or acknowledgment. Just think about how nice you are to people when they behave in accordance with your expectations.

Artwork by Dimitra Milan

 

Why Keeping an Open Mind and Heart is The Healthiest Thing You Can Do

Having had my fair share of stressful and painful experiences, I am intrigued by studies that explain how negative emotions manifest as physical pain in our bodies. I am specifically interested in the role of stress and the condition of our heart because even though our heart governs most of our decision making, we truly take for granted one of the most magnificent masterpieces of creation.

Negative Emotions

 

A New Type of Heart Attack in this article from Harvard’s Heart Health Newsletter.

Most heart attacks are due to coronary arteries being blocked by blood clots that form when plaques of cholesterol rupture. The lack of blood flow through the blocked arteries results in heart muscle dying — hence the name “heart attack.”

But over the past few years, physicians have come to recognize and better understand another form of heart attack. This unusual type of heart attack does not involve rupturing plaques or blocked blood vessels. It is called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or stress cardiomyopathy. Japanese doctors, who were the first to describe this condition, named it “takotsubo” because during this disorder, the heart takes on a distinctive shape that resembles a Japanese pot used to trap an octopus. The disorder was commonly believed to be caused by sudden emotional stress, such as the death of a child, and to be far less harmful than a typical heart attack. For that reason, some had also labeled this condition “broken-heart syndrome.”

sail

Purifying Your Heart

In the yogic tradition, so-called heart blockages are caused by unfinished and unprocessed emotions. They call this energy, Samskara, which in Sanskrit means “impression”. You know, the things that make either a good impression or bad on us that we can’t seem to get “over” – those things that cause our mind to ruminate on horrible or remarkable experiences that have happened to us. The heart and mind playing an important role in making us feel inspired and loving or apathetic and victimized.

Lao

Our heart is an instrument made of extremely subtle energy that few of us come to really appreciate. The heart’s energy flow (referred to as Shakti, Spirit or Chi) plays a very important part of our lives and experiences.

The heart controls our energy by closing and opening. For example, you can experience great feelings of love for someone until they say something negative towards you. Vascilating between open-hearted and closed. For deeper reading on The Secrets of The Spiritual Heart, a chapter of the book I have now read five times, I recommend The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.

read

 

So science is also demonstrating that volatile emotions like anger and hostility are bad for heart health. But studies have shown that some of the quieter emotions can be just as toxic and damaging.

A_Periodic_Chart_of_Human_Emotions.jpg.aae4822bee5eadc47cdce45e11c35083

“Study after study has shown that people who feel lonely, depressed, and isolated are many times more likely to get sick and die prematurely – not only of heart disease but from virtually all causes – than those who have a sense of connection, love and community,” Dean Ornish, MD, tells WebMD.

smoking

Author Michael Singer explains that we have spent a lifetime of storing up unresolved conflicts which can lead to a heart that is shut down and closed for business. But all is not lost. We have a choice.

We can simply allow the experiences of life, whatever we label as good and/or bad — from falling madly in love to experiencing the death of a loved one —  yes, just simply allow those experiences to move right through us.

Will they be joyful and painful experiences? Yes. But the clinging and resisting and wrestling you do with these emotions will no longer distract you from living fully in the moment with an open mind and heart.

The eyes are useless when the mind is blind.

Art by Turkish artist and graphic designer Aykut Aydogdu, based in Istanbul.

The indomitable will of our soul burns on even during the downward spiral of our destiny.

 

True Love

Acts of Love are valid only if they are performed without conditions or expectations.

155540_10151083568751688_433859633_n

It starts with honoring and remembering the sacredness that lives within all of us.

No matter how screwed up we treat each other.
Asphyxia
Art by Mario Sanchez Nevado Aegis

Zero Calorie Foods, If/Then Snacking, Saying Grace and 3 Fab NYC Kitchen Supply Stores

 

Fish 1

Have you ever noticed how extremely grateful dogs seem to be when you throw them a bone or dish up their chow?

Like they are eating for the very first time.

Saying Grace

Taking a moment of gratitude before each meal is a mindful and thoughtful approach to eating and enjoying time together. I’ve noticed a few times that this can make guests at the table a little uncomfortable. Perhaps they don’t want to say grace to a God they don’t know. Or perhaps they don’t know what to say, or maybe how to lead the prayer.

Saying grace or taking a moment to pause before dining together, can be as simple as bowing heads or holding hands and saying thank you to each other and the host. Each culture has a unique way to pray. One of my favorite mealtime prayers. . .

Let us be together; let us eat together.

Let us be vital together, let us be radiating truth, radiating the light of life.

Never shall we denounce anyone, never entertain negativity.
      The Upanishads

Snack Struggles

Okay, so here is my new If/Then algorithm for snacking. If I want a bag of salty Kettle chips, then I snack on cucumber slices with sea salt. I don’t think I will ever give up my search for nutrient dense snacks pack as much gratification as a bag of potato chips. I found this Zero Calorie Food chart today on Rodale’s site, (publishers of Prevention Magazine). Click here for the full article. With the exception of the celery, these foods are lower in calories than most. For example, a cup of apricot is about 79 calories.

Zero calorie

If you are visiting New York this upcoming holiday season and you are looking for unique gifts or something special for yourself, I have three timeless and classic Manhattan favorites that are all so very close to each other  and located in the Flatiron district right below Madison Park, home of the original Shake Shack, which by the way is open until Christmas. I’m curious, what are some of your favorite places to shop in your town/city village for kitchen tools and table settings?

Whisk at 933 Broadway

whisk-capture-10-for-web

Fish Eddy’s 889 Broadway

Fish4

ABC Carpet 888 Broadway

ABC5

ABC

3 Questions for a Modern Day Shaman

unicorn meWhile I appreciate and follow the rational wisdom of stoics like Seneca and Aurelius, I have also been fascinated with the role of the Shaman, the healer, the medicine woman (and man) in tribes throughout the world. While throughout history these people have taken on the responsibility for the well-being and emotional balance of their villages, I ask myself, what is the role of a healer in today’s society and do we not all have the potential to heal each other?

A Shaman at The Soho House

My first encounter with a modern day Shaman was in the private screening room of The Soho House in Manhattan. Ridiculously ironic I know, but true just the same. Barnaby Ruhe leads an east and west cost circle collective to Shamandome at Burning Man every year.

From Woo Woo, to Wow, Wow

Just recently, I have been fortunate enough to have benefited greatly from a life energy and power animal healing session with Jennifer , a Life Energy Coach with a Masters in Natural Health based in San Francisco. I met her right here in the world of Word Press. It’s interesting to note that Jennifer is also a brilliant business strategist by day. She brings a great balance to the land of woo woo, which is exactly why I think her work bridges the magic of mysticism into modern day living so well.

As a coach, Jennifer helps people identify and integrate changes into their life through a variety of shamanic practices and techniques and the guidance of helpful spirits.

If you are interested in learning about the details of my experience with Jennifer, please comment below and I will be happy to go into further detail.

For this blog today, I asked Jennifer to answer a few questions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MJ: Jennifer, please share some of the really amazing moments you had with the Mayan Shaman in the Yucatan that found you on your trip to Mexico. This, the beginning of your own shamanic journey.

JM: I had never heard of shamanism before my trip to Mexico a few years ago.  That all changed on my third day of vacation.  I decided to walk to the city square, but as usual, got lost.  One of the local residents offered to help me find my way.  We walked and talked, and when we got to the square, he told me that he needed to introduce me to someone.  That someone turned out to be a Mayan Shaman.

There was an electric moment when we saw each other, a knowing that we were meant to meet.

The first thing the Shaman said to me was, “You have a very big heart.” He asked me what I did to make the energy of my heart so big, but before I could answer, he took my hand in his and curled his fingers around mine in such a manner that our fingers made a spiral. He explained to me that this was the symbol of the shaman, and went on to tell me about shamanism and how it heals.

He then said that he was going to perform a shamanic healing on me.  He spent over 4 hours working on me – using stones, chanting, drumming and energy work.  I knew he was the “real deal” when he explained that my energy was blocked due to two traumatic events in my life, and then went on to describe those events to me.

At one point, he took two raw chicken eggs.  He had me shake them and then gently ran them over my body, many times.  He told me they would remove negative energy.  When he finished, he had me shake the eggs again.  They were very heavy and sounded as if they were filled with gravel!

As he continued his healing work on me, I suddenly felt a huge opening in me. A wave of emotions swept over me—anger, joy, guilt, sadness—and I saw a vision of a snake slithering down the side of a pyramid. I felt shattered, but also felt an incredible sense of relief and peacefulness.

By the time he was done with the healing, he was covered in sweat.  He told me that he normally would do this work over several sessions, but his spirit guides had told him I was coming and to do the work all in one night.

He began my shamanic training that first night and continued throughout my trip.  On my last night there, he came with a gift for me: an 800+ year-old stone carving of Itzamna, the Mayan god of creation, writing, and divination.  It had been carved from a million-year-old stalactite from a sacred cave and used in shamanic ceremonies since.  Many people had wanted the carving, but it was not for sale.

When I asked him why he gave the carving to me, he said, “Because you are to become a shaman.”

Since then, I have gone back to Mexico several times for more training with him.  We have traveled to many sacred archaeological sites together, where he has taught me how to increase my energy and power, read the energy of others, and how to heal.

MJ: Can you give an example of how your power animal has helped you discover yourself and grow with more happiness, self-love and power?

JM: My power animal works with me daily, for my personal healing and shamanic work.  He shows up in shamanic journeys, dreams and visions.  When I first became aware of shamanism, my power animal began teaching me shamanic techniques that were validated through training with the Mayan Shaman and others.

He will also bring in other power animals when I am dealing with a situation that would benefit from that animal’s strengths and wisdom.  As I’ve been transitioning to doing shamanic work, my power animal has brought in Snake (transformation), Hawk (vision), Bear (strength), Vulture (purification and rebirth) and Crocodile (power and awareness) to share their life lessons with me.  Years ago, my power animal brought Fawn in to help me through a difficult personal time in a beautiful, gentle way.

Mama-bear-and-cubs

MJ: Why do you think more and more people are interested in Shamanistic healing now?

Shamanic healing has been around since the beginning of humankind.  Society moved away from this type of healing with the advent of modern medicine, which typically has focused on the body part and not the whole person.  I think more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that the body is a complete system that includes mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects.  Shamans focus on all these areas when working with clients.  I also think that modern medicine is becoming more open to including holistic approaches to healing.   In California, one hospital combines modern and shamanic practices for healing.   While it is the first hospital in the country to do this, I would expect to see more integration between different healing approaches in the future.

Intrigued? Learn more about power animals, soul retrievals and energy healing on Jennifer’s blog  and website. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @SpiritEvol

Learn more about the meaning of your power animal – Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small

hands copy

Home is Everywhere We Are

While I have lived and have traveled to some pretty amazing places, I have always felt that my true home, my refuge, was in my heart and in this present moment right now.turtle_scientific_illustration2_thumbHome, you have sought it everywhere, but you are already there.

Home, the flowing river of the heart.

Love holding you in close embrace.

Home, it’s not a place but a state of being.

Enjoy more poetry from Danna Faulds
Go In and In: Poems From the Heart of Yoga

Courage, Grit and Grace

It takes courage to come home to the here and the now. To arrive in the place in our heart, our home, to feel the connection to what is real right now. Courage to feel the real emotions we may not want to feel. The anger, the resentment, the fear. I am incredibly inspired by Tara Brach’s Meditation Talks and her first book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha

Today I choose the courage to feel what is real over the temporary comfort of numbing the pain. It takes courage to seek the answer to the question – What am I unwilling to feel?  The process can be painful, but it is also quite liberating.

heart

The root of the word courage “cor” is Latin for “heart”. True courage requires living with heart-felt intent.