It is the winter solstice, the peak of darkness and at the same time, the beginning of the light. I hope this is a metaphor for the state of the world right now and for the arc of the pandemic. It is bad. Sickness is everywhere. Death too. I can’t help but look at it as if we are simply cells in the Earth body and She is cleansing, shedding herself of the disease for her own survival. Perhaps randomly, perhaps selectively. No one really knows.
The sun is rising and the traffic down our narrow winding country road is increasing. I am blessed to have the fortune to remain here in my warm and cozy surroundings, to be able to be home during the darkest day of the year in dark times. As the light begins to surface in the horizon, it dawns on me that this may be a time to surrender, to break down deceptive stories, and look at the shadows. A time to head into and through the fire with courage and conviction and dive into the watery depths with trust. For this is where the real magic happens, where the alchemy of change and creation is catalyzed.
As Christmas approaches, I am feeling the dichotomy of infinite hope and overwhelming grief that defines this annual ritual. It brings forth our individual and collective experience and asks us to have a look. It is as joyous as it is painful, as promising as it is desperate. It stirs our emotions and demands our attention, and though there are times when I would rather turn away, there is no escaping it. There are reminders in every direction. It seems to be a necessary rite of passage, at least in my culture.
In recent years, the burden of carrying forth this tradition has at times seemed unnecessary and burdensome. (My children have grown and not yet had children of their own.) However, I have come to realize that from a different angle, it is actually an opportunity, a chance to consider and feel the lives we have lived up to this point, the decisions we have made, the blessings bestowed upon us, the hardships endured, the mistakes, the victories, the light and the shadows. It is a time to let go of our grievances and past grief and to decide who we want to be moving forward. It is a time to count our blessings and give thanks for all that illuminates us. It is a time to contemplate who we really are, apart from the story we tell ourselves. It is a time to feel deeply and forge ahead bravely.
As I look up from my computer to the view outside, I notice the sun has replaced the darkness. The traffic is in full swing and life is marching on. I realize that I am on the right path, that my efforts to be my best self for a better world will pay off. I feel a sense of assurance as my heart lightens, and I realize I am simply witnessing a natural cycle, a dark point that will again return to light.
The times are changing, which is nothing new, but somehow this time it seems more extreme and quicker than I ever remember. Perhaps the world is spinning faster or maybe the developments seem greater because we have been in a Covid hibernation for over a year and are just beginning to come back out into the world. And even though we have isolated ourselves, life continues to march forward.
One place I have noticed an enormous degree of change is in the area of human sexuality. More people are identifying with a variety of growing orientations and the list of LGBTQ+ identities continues to expand. The options seem limitless and I wonder when the analog labeling will become digital, when we’ll all have the freedom to be whatever our unique and natural sexuality calls for.
I believe we each have varying degrees of masculine and feminine. We are not one or the other. We are a fluid and individual combination of the two, much like the Yin/Yang philosophy.
Yin and Yang energies are polar opposites like hot/cold, sun/moon, happy/sad, morning/night, masculine/feminine. Yet they never exist alone. There is always at least a small portion of the opposite within the whole. The day becomes the night. The night becomes the day. It is a constant ebb and flow and its transitions cannot be harnessed into a finite category or letter of the alphabet.
I have been reading a fantastic book by Glennon Doyle called, Untamed. In it, she talks about the fears that have caused society to attempt containing the uncontainable. Fears, like discomfort and lack of control, which have put “faith into a cage called religion and wild sexuality into defined sexual identities.” Doyle compares these powerful and natural forces to the sea and our attempt to control them like putting the sea water in a glass. “Faith is water. Religion is a glass. Sexuality is water. Sexual identity is a glass.” Doyle believes we are all part of the magnificent sea, and I agree. 100%. Isn’t it time to return to the source, where we can each be part of the whole in varying beautiful degrees?
I identify as a straight woman and love my boyfriend completely. He fulfills me and makes me whole. Yet, I still enjoy mountain biking with a group of guys, drinking whiskey, competing aggressively, playing electric lead guitar, taking risks and assuming leadership roles. I have had many male friends over the years and have had fun being “one of the guys.” I am also caring, nurturing, love to cook and be led, enjoy a supportive role, and like to wear dresses and makeup.
I would hate to give up on any of these pleasures in order to fit into an acceptable category or glass. I would much rather be the sea. Free and whole and untamed.
Doyle says it beautifully in this except, “I wonder if instead of adding more glasses, we should stop trying to contain people within them. Perhaps, eventually, we’ll rid ourselves of the glass system altogether. Faith, sexuality, and gender are fluid. No glasses—all sea.” She asks us to consider letting go of the need to find common ground and instead to accept people for who they are.
I hope this happens. I really do because when it does, we will all be part of one glorious system, unafraid of ourselves and refusing to be afraid of others.
Since the pandemic hit nearly a year ago, I have been keeping a low profile. I have stayed home most of the time, starting an online coaching business, visiting with family and friends over zoom, learning to paint through Youtube tutorials, expanding my cooking skills, exercising to online classes and watching countless Netflix productions. True, there have been some new insights, habits and skills gained, but at this point, I am eager for life to return to normal.
So, when my daughter who lives in NYC asked if I could come for a brief visit to drop off a guitar and celebrate her 27th birthday, I jumped at the chance. She said that NYC restaurants were open for indoor seating at 25% capacity and many had adapted by building outdoor heated structures that were separated with temporary walls. She said to wear a mask at all times, follow the same protocol I had at home and I’d be fine. As I began to think about the details, however, I got a little nervous. What would the City be like in the wake of Covid 19? Would it really be safe to walk down the street in such confined quarters? Where would we stay? Should we plan to eat outside in the middle of February? Had I made a bad decision?
When my boyfriend and I first arrived, we were struck by how little traffic there was. We had both driven through these city streets on a number of occasions over the years, and this was a stark contrast. In place of cars, there were hundreds of electric bikes, most making deliveries of groceries, meals and numerous other goods. Some were even pulling trailers. There seemed to be more bikes than cars and it felt a little unsettling as the traffic rules for this growing culture were vague and chaotic. It was a bit of a free-for-all and we found ourselves looking over our shoulders and around corners constantly in order to avoid these speeding delivery vessels.
My daughter lives between Murray Hill and Gramercy near the Lower East Side and we were able to find a hotel within a 30 minute walk to her apartment and a 15 minute walk to where we would be having dinner. We had stayed at this hotel before so we felt comfortable booking a room there and the cost was nearly half what we had spent in the past. We settled in, regrouped and then made our way to dinner. My daughter chose a chic Indonesion/French restaurant in Nolita and we decided to try the indoor seating because well, it was cold and we wanted to get the full culinary experience.
As we walked, we began to notice a number of empty storefronts and many makeshift structures jutting out into the street so that clientele could sit outside to enjoy their meal. Many were charming, garnished with clever decor and seating pods separated by plywood walls and plastic entrances, a testament to the innovative and resilient spirit of the New York culture. Modular heaters accompanied each space and although eating while dressed in winter garb, the diners seemed cozy and relaxed.
We enjoyed a first class dinner in a nearly empty restaurant with all the amenities and accoutrements one would expect of a fine NYC establishment. It almost felt normal until we got the bill via an app on my cell phone and did all the paying and tipping without making any further human contact.
It was a decent walk back to my daughter’s apartment, but the weather had cleared, we had eaten well, and the visit felt too short, so we offered to accompany her home. We were only a few minutes into the walk when things began to feel different. I had visited my daughter before and walked through these very neighborhoods, but now I noticed an increased number of vacant storefronts. There seemed to be a lot more graffiti and there was trash everywhere. (It may have been trash day or a result of the winter storms that had passed through, but I never noticed it like this before). There were few people walking the streets and as we continued, it got quieter and more desolate. Where there normally would have been hundreds bustling to and fro, there were only a few. True, it was Monday, but it was only 9 p.m. when we dropped off my daughter and headed back to the hotel, and the city was asleep.
As my boyfriend and I turned a corner, we paused for a moment to take it all in. I felt a weight in my chest and a realization of the extent to which Covid 19 had administered a devastating blow to this proud metropolis. I felt fear, grief, sadness and uncertainty. It seemed very clear in that moment that life would never return to normal because that’s not how it all works. We cannot erase an experience or even go on as if it hasn’t happened. We can never put it all behind us, because even though the phase of destruction eventually ends, it becomes a part of who we are going forward. And in that, I felt hope.
As I stood there looking at the boarded up storefronts and the moon under a brightening winter sky, I began to think about Pete Seeger’s song which was made an international hit by the Byrds in 1965 when it rose to #1 on the Billboard charts. The lyrics of the song, Turn, Turn, Turn, were taken directly from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. They rang true then and they ring true now.
“To Everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
New York City will rebuild just as we will all find ways to heal and redesign ourselves. We are creatures of adaptation and soon we will flourish again, as the cycle of life continues. Turn, turn, turn.
In recent months, I have been studying the cycles of the moon and experimenting with organizing my life’s goals and tasks around her varying phases. I set my intentions during the new moon, work towards their realization as she grows larger, release my efforts to the Universe when she is at her fullest, and regroup and heal as she shrinks in size. So far, I have found the approach to be a beautiful combination of practical and magical, which is exactly what I’m after.
This month’s full moon occurred last week and through my studies, I was instructed to focus on forgiveness and letting go of all that was no longer working in my life.
Over the years, I have been told that in order to live my healthiest life, I would need to identify and let go of things, of outdated people, patterns, attitudes, possessions, thoughts, situations and basically any negative energy that was not serving me. I also knew that forgiving was a key to healing and that sometimes I needed to forgive myself. I accepted these truths but never quite knew how to carry them out. Easier said than done, I thought. However, as I started practicing the rituals surrounding the different moon phases, I have begun to understand (and to feel) how it all works.
First of all, anything we spend time and attention on will grow. The very fact that we are committing energy to clarifying and manifesting our desires will result in more successes. Second, when we contemplate and write out our intentions/goals (which we do at the new moon), we gain clarity and give our thoughts power. Our ideas turn into words which turn into actions which eventually lead to the desired result. Envisioning and feeling the outcome magnifies the energy and makes the realization that much more likely, and when we add a ritual, like burning the paper holding the words, we create a stronger intention and a grounding in our commitment to carry it out.
As we move from the new moon to the full moon (during the waxing stage), we determine action steps and consciously move towards our goals. The simple act of pushing forward, of making adjustments and going at it again, will inevitably bring us closer to our desired path.
By surrendering our efforts to the full moon at the peak of the cycle, we allow the Universe to decide the best outcome for all involved. We make a promise to trust the result and this allows us to move into a more objective position and see the reality of our situation more clearly.
Realizing and accepting what is and then releasing the parts that are no longer working is a key to manifesting our intentions. It allows us to empty our psyche and energy field of feelings, perceptions, habits, people, and situations that are not moving us towards our goal. In turn, we are offered new space to fill with positive energies that will propel us forward. It is also important to make time (during the waning cycle, after the full moon and before the new moon) to reflect and heal so that we will be ready for a new cycle of manifestation.
Finally, I love the cyclical nature of following the moon as it allows for the ebb and flow of events, efforts, rest, reflection, adding and releasing. If we continuously put out and move forward in a linear fashion, we are likely to burn out, lose perspective, dampen creativity, and damage our physical and mental well-being. On top of that, we will likely never reach the desired end point.
As we leave the full moon phase this week and enter the disseminating moon phase, I am thinking about what to let go, what to keep, and who to forgive. I am beginning to rest and regroup, leaving space to reflect and edit my plan. I am making an effort to accept the reality of what is, then to revise, rewrite, and move towards the goal again or to come up with an entirely new pursuit if that is what is warranted.
The more I organize my life around the moon phases, the more naturally it seems to flow. It is a pragmatic approach with extraordinary potential. I like to think of it as practical magic, the very best kind.
In a recurring vision, I am in the middle of a storm. The wind is whipping. Debris is flying. The constant and determined rain assaults my face and impairs my vision. I look around and do not see any sensible place to take cover, and so, I run. I push forward hoping to fight through. I am in a complete panic, until suddenly, I stop. Something tells me to stand still. It tugs at my arm and whispers to let go of the fight and allow the storm to continue on her path, forging ahead without me. It takes a minute, but as soon as I stop resisting, the weather passes quickly. The wind travels beyond the place where I am standing and the sun begins to push through the clouds. The calm and warm envelop me and I feel a huge sense of relief.
This is a vision I have from time to time when life’s cyclones enter my life and my fight or flight response kicks in. Whenever I am flailing about trying to conquer or outrun a chaotic or dangerous situation, I remember this concept and consider a more passive approach. Sometimes it is important to fight or to run, but not always.
The Covid crisis has brought this point to the forefront, particularly as of late. When the pandemic storm originally hit last spring, people responded by taking cover, by exercising humility in the face of nature’s power, by being patient, by using the time to heal and reflect, and by relinquishing control. Now, some months later, many have lost tolerance and are moving outward and onward, sometimes denying or ignoring the realities of the storm that is still raging. I’m not sure this is the best approach.
If we can be patient, have trust, let go of expectations and be open to new insights, if we can allow the squall to blow by in its own way and time, we may be less damaged in the end. Once the skies have cleared, we may be offered new insights and opportunities. We may find that we are exactly where we are meant to be and by digging a little deeper, we can glean everything we desire from our current position. We may see that the answers will come to us rather than always having to search for them.
This weekend, a storm blew through town with heavy snow and high winds. Eventually, the weaker tree limbs gave way and the power went out. At first we were upset. We weren’t prepared and certainly not in the mood to deal with this disruption to our plans. We struggled for a while, frantically removing snow and grappling with the generator. I lit candles in the house and tried to figure out what we could eat that wouldn’t require water or heat. We were both cursing under our breaths until at one point we looked at each other, at the beautifully lit house, the roaring fire, and realized we were actually in a great place. We abandoned all efforts to battle the situation and surrendered to the moment. We ended up sitting by the fire, sipping a whiskey and engaging in stimulating conversation. We lost all track of time and before we knew it, the storm had subsided. The power was restored and our night resumed, with a more charged energy than it would have otherwise.
I believe there is a time for everything. There is a time to fight and a time to run, and there is also a time to stand still.
I awoke on Sunday morning with a lot of angst. The Thanksgiving holiday had gone well. We kept it safe and cozy and got to see most of the family via Zoom and a few others distanced around a firepit sharing some laughs and appetizers. The remainder of the weekend was low key and filled with fireside reading, TV football, casual conversation, feasts of leftovers, and long walks in the woods. By the time Saturday rolled around, I was feeling extremely blessed, well rested and optimistic about the future. So, when this unsettled stirring arrived, it caught me off guard. True, we had officially entered the holiday season which always brings forth a spectrum of emotions, but I could not put my finger on the exact cause of my distress. I felt on the verge of exploding and was not even sure why.
Then it dawned on me. The following day, Monday, November 30, was the Full Moon and I was feeling Her energy pushing my emotions to a climax, asking me to look at what might be causing sadness and anxiety in my life and to consider letting go of any negative patterns that were holding me back.
According to Yasmin Boland in her book, Moonology, “The full moon is the high point of the lunar cycle. It’s a very powerful time for inner work – for looking within, healing, shifting blocks and shedding the past: things we all need to do on a regular basis.” It is a good time to release feelings of guilt, fear, disappointment and jealousy.
It is also an important time to forgive (others and yourself) and then to release the relationships that are no longer working. An inability to let go of resentment and anger will only harm ourselves in the long run. Buddha is said to have given this wise advice: “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
The Full Moon energy also encourages gratitude. Once we empty our plate of what we no longer need, we are left with a void and an opportunity to fill our lives with more positive energy. By giving thanks, we bring focus to the things that are working, attract more of the same and continue to build on them.
There are many ways to reflect within, identify and let go of outdated patterns, forgive, and express gratitude. One of my favorite approaches is journaling. I usually write the question or topic at the top of the page, in this case, “Why am I feeling this angst?” and then begin to freewrite whatever comes to mind. The answers always emerge within a few pages. When the moon is full, I make a list of negative patterns that are no longer working and any people with whom I need to make peace. After that, I write down action steps, list all that I am thankful for and create a few positive affirmations. Finally, I construct a sentence or two of forgiveness and then I release my intentions into the Universe by burning the paper in my fireplace.
I love this ritual, particularly the final step of burning, as it feels like I am sealing the practice and conjuring a new cycle, one that will bring me that much closer to my true self. And on top of that, it releases the pressure that has built up throughout the month and restores me to a more peaceful state.
I believe that thoughts create reality. Whatever you think, believe, and focus on will attract more of the same and will eventually come to be. I am also convinced that almost any aspiration can be realized if you give it the right direction, action and attention. It just takes practice, patience, and persistence.
Recently I came upon a unique method of manifesting and it caught my interest for a number of reasons. It nurtures an awareness of subliminal energies that affect our emotions and direction. It utilizes a cyclical and ongoing series of steps that repeated over time have a high likelihood of success, and it brings us in tune with the rhythms of our planet, making life flow more easily and effectively.
The process I am referring to, which is outlined in Yasmin Boland’s book, Moonology, uses moon phases to help us organize and carry out our dreams and goals.
According to Boland, each phase of the moon offers a unique energy which corresponds to different aspects of the manifestation process. For example, the New Moon is best for becoming clear on our goals, setting our visions, writing out our plan, and then releasing it into the universe. The Full Moon, in contrast, is the best time to forgive, focus on gratitude, and let go of things that are no longer working. And on the way to each, there are other areas we should address such as confidence, commitment, and acceptance.
This month’s new moon occurred on November 15, this past Sunday, and I spent some time writing out my goals and dreams, as Boland had suggested. I identified action steps and created a list of fears. I made several revisions and additions before I finally settled on a workable plan. Then, I lit a candle, set the list on fire and released it into the Universe (this is not a necessary step but it does add to the fun and magic of the process).
I like the idea of following the moon phases to achieve my goals because it allows for all aspects of the manifestation process, not just the doing or the reflecting. Too often, we focus on the action steps and the need to keep moving forward at all costs. This is an important step. However, it is only part of the process. When we get too caught up in the doing, we miss the letting go, the tweaking, the reflecting, the recouping, and the mustering of courage necessary to take the risks needed for success. In contrast, when we get caught up in the reflecting and planning, we hold onto the need for a perfect blueprint instead of moving forward with our best effort. I am also attracted to the cyclical nature of the moon’s path as it takes us through the natural and dynamic process of expanding and contracting, much like the ocean’s tides, and it always offers us another chance. If you miss the mark one month, the opportunity will come around again soon enough.
I have just begun working with the lunar cycles and the results are still unknown. Whether or not the moon has any real or mystical influence, I cannot say. I am confident, however, in Boland’s system because it offers a comprehensive, creative, consistent, continuous, and practical approach for moving towards my dreams, and ultimately, I believe it will help me to achieve anything I can imagine. And that is surely magic.
Even before the election results were in and Kamala Harris addressed the nation on Saturday night, I could feel the tide changing. Like a rubber band stretched to the extreme, I could sense the swelling Yang energy pushing towards its breaking point. The outcome was simple physics. The band would either snap, ripping apart our nation, or move back in the opposite direction.
Like many of Americans, I was relieved at the election outcome and excited to hear Biden and Harris’ dream for the future. I knew it would be uplifting and hopeful. What I didn’t expect was the magnitude of Kamala’s message, particularly the impact of electing a woman of color to the office of Vice President.
Harris talked about “generations of women, black women, Asian, white, Latina, and Native American women who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight.” She emphasized the “black women who are too often overlooked and so often proven that they are the backbone of democracy.” These statements produced a swell of emotion because they hit a vein of truth, struggle, and desperate need.
I grew up in a single parent home with my mother and sister. My father died early and my mother was left with two small children to raise in a world that undervalued powerful women. This brought forth many challenges but also a unique perspective. I am grateful for my unwavering belief that women possess the same abilities, intellect, and power as men (thanks, mom). I have never felt otherwise, and I have never doubted that one day (I hoped it would be sooner) we would elect a woman as President or Vice-President. A woman of color makes it that much sweeter.
The feminine Yin energy that Harris was touting in her speech has been suppressed for far too long.
According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation, “The theory of Yin-Yang tells us that at a macro level-the largest scale imaginable-all things are always balancing and rebalancing into a state of perfect harmony. Yin and Yang are the two energies that embody Universal law, which ensures that all things remain in harmony.”
For as far back as I can see, we have been focused on the male dominant Yang energies of expanding, activating, doing, constructing, producing, seeking, and consuming. These qualities have helped us to grow and evolve. They have been essential to the building of our country. However, the results of carrying this energy to the extreme and for too long have been detrimental. We are experiencing an injured environment, perpetual inequality, and the pursuit of money and power at all costs.
I believe Universal laws are always at play. The Coronavirus, for example, has forced us into Yin activities such as slowing down, reflecting, resting, listening, contracting, and healing. These qualities seem to be needed in order to produce a healthier world. This week, the election has reflected the need for a more compassionate agenda that focuses on all people and our environment.
It should not be a battle of opposites. Polar energies will always exist together as part of the whole. The degrees of each will fluctuate and continuously seek balance. Just as our sexuality takes on varying levels of feminine and masculine, our tides ebb and flow, and our time moves between night to day, the democratic system will continue to shift between conservative and liberal and now, I am hoping more Yin will begin to resurface.
As Kamala ended her speech, I could feel the band of energy release and the direction begin to change. It has been a long road, a spectacular moment in history that speaks to the endless possibilities of real and love-based change in the coming years. It also reinforces an understanding that no matter what we do as humans, the Universe will make corrections as needed in order to restore the balance.