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Tools to nurture your creative spirit.

A Quiet Moment at Pond’s Edge

This morning I pulled into the cranberry bog to run my dogs. It was a sticky eighty degrees and the air that hung over the pond was heavy and palpable with humidity. As the sun glinted through my windshield I noticed a gaggle of geese and their goslings. For the past month I’ve been watching them every morning. On the first days of spring that begrudgingly emerged from winter I noticed them pairing off, sailing deliberately around the pond in couplets. A few weeks later their goslings appeared as tiny fuzzy spots on the water that paddled between the bulk of their protective parents. I watched over several days as one adult pair had three, then two, then only one baby left and I wondered what had happened to the small babies in the twenty-four hours since my last hike. 

    A few days ago I noticed how big the goslings had grown, they were still awkward with big round bellies but they were about half the size of their parents. Their puffs of down were replaced with tawny feathers that shone sleek and glossy in the spring sunrise. From their nesting spot in the tall grass they ran in front of my car and towards the safety of the pond. Zoë, my half-pint Dobe, began yipping excitedly in the backseat. The goslings had tiny wings that stick up from their backs when they run, they look like a waddling version of a football with antennae. I burst into laughter at their awkward gate as Zoë kept up her excited yips. 

    But today was something different. They sat easily near the tall cattails at pond’s edge, and as we pulled in they lazily turned their heads towards the car then went back to grooming and eating. Like most wildlife at the bog, they had grown accustomed to our presence. Plus, they probably figured out that my Dobermans have a propensity to sink rather than swim, so they felt safe at waters edge. I’m grateful and proud that they feel comfy around me and my pack.

   I’m hoping that the wildlife at Three Dog Farm will feel the same way. Hubby and I are closing on our new house today-a Victorian home with a barn that is set on eight acres on the South Shore in Massachusetts. When our rowdy pack shows up, I wonder what the deer and squirrels and hummingbirds will think. I hope that over the years as The Man of the Place and I cultivate and nurture our garden and woods that all the wildlife, animal and human, that visit will come to know Three Dog Farm as a place where they can sit at water’s edge and relax, safe and comfortable and loved.

Zoë the Half-Pint Dobe sprinting by the pond this spring.

Zoë the Half-Pint Dobe sprinting by the pond this spring.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try this technique to keep going!

We’ve all got things we want to or need to do that remain undone because it just seems to overwhelming to begin or to continue. My favorite quote by Edwin Land (the inventor of the amazing Polaroid camera and film) sums up the importance of our epic dreams.

“Don’t undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”

Whether its a work project, a big cross-country move or starting your own business, sometimes we stop before we start out of fear and overwhelm.

The only way to get enormous projects done is to follow two steps.

Start. 

Keep going.

 

Along the way I have to give myself incentive to keep going. Things get easier when they are broken down into small chunks. A ticking clock works wonders; most of us can convince ourselves to do something for a set period of time. 

Pick your magic number-the amount of time it takes you to get your butt in the seat. Set a timer. Go

For me the magic number for meditation is five minutes. I set the timer and go. Most days after five minutes I set it for more…some days not. And either way it’s all good.

At my writing desk with my collection of tiny boxes marking twenty minute increments...this is how to get a book written!

At my writing desk with my collection of tiny boxes marking twenty minute increments...this is how to get a book written!

My magic number for writing is twenty. I can commit to sitting and writing for twenty minutes. That’s how I got the draft of my book finished. Twenty minutes at a time. That-and checking it off in little boxes to keep me motivated!

So. Start. Keep going.

The power of a pause

For moments when you need a reminder that stopping doesn't mean stopping your progress...think of your pause as the moment of rest after the archer pulls his arrow back. Just before release, there is a pause where the power of directed energy gathers. It is in these pauses that we can gather ourselves and move forward with directed grace. Onward. xox

A brief haiku

Being sick has made

Writing very difficult

But not this haiku

 

Steal this for relief from sinus pressure

Relentless sinus pain from allergies, a cold or sinus infection? Check this out!

It was a wrenchingly cold day today-the air clawed and bit through my down coat, it slinked through door frames and and down the chimney. My dogs curled into their beds and refused to go outside. I finally peeled them out of their cozy nest and walked them a bit through the single-degree arctic blast. The relentless pain of a searing sinus headache pushed me from the inside while the cold seared me from the outside. A small head cold that began last week had bloomed into a nasty cold, which by the weekend seemed to abate. But, it was biding its time and waited to push it’s way out a few days later, sinuses so swollen I could feel my cheekbones vibrate when I talked. I slathered myself with essential oils, inhaled eucalyptus-scented steam, downed gallons of chicken soup with lashings of oregano and lemon. I did gentle yoga, which mercifully released my headache. Although my headache was gone, the internal sinus pressure continued to expand and my mood fouled. Sour minded and wincing against the sunlight, I somehow made the commute to teach yoga and back home again, biting and snapping at my husband as soon as I dropped my defenses at our cottage door.

Enter serendipity, a kind friend on Facebook posted a video of self-massage to drain pressure from the sinuses via the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels through which lymph fluid drains. One of the roles of lymph is as part of our immune system, in which lymph helps distribute infection-fighting white blood cells through our body. Lymph gets pumped  when we move our skeletal and smooth muscles; which explains why yoga helped me feel better. I moved my body in a slow and gentle manner, which helped the lymph to drain from my head. But is wasn’t enough, so I tried the techniques in the video my friend posted.

At first, I felt nothing. Until five minutes later, then ten, then fifteen, when I noticed the pressure down by fifty percent. Another internet search and I found this amazing video by Heather Wibbles, Licensed Massage Therapist from Kentucky. God Bless Heather and her clear instruction. Within one minute of following her technique, fluid began to drain from my sinuses, pouring down the back of my throat. It’s twenty minutes later and I’m still draining, the pressure is abating with each passing moment. 

But don’t believe me-try it for yourself. Moms and dads, try this on your kiddos when they’ve got a cold. Before bed tonight I’ll combine this technique with some jojoba oil and a pain killing blend of essential oil (Panaway from Young Living). Western medicine protocols are remarkably inadequate when it comes to sinus infections; there is growing evidence that the use of antibiotics in sinus infection is not only inadequate, it possibly contributes to the trend of antibiotic resistance

I believe that it is in our power to constantly move our bodies towards health, try some gentle self massage to help your lymph system drain effectively. As for me, I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep! And thank you, Heather!

http://www.massagebyheather.com - Learn to drain your own head! Use these lymphatic drainage massage techniques from Louisville massage therapist Heather Wibbels, LMT on yourself to reduce congestion and sinus pressure in the head. This is great for allergy sufferers and people with head colds.

p.s. Check out this YouTube video for a quick visual explanation of the drainage of the lymphatic system, this is the video that got me started! Great stuff by Dr. Mark Lynch, all gratitude!

A brief lesson in how to wisely spend your time.

I spent thirty minutes on my laptop. I ordered a few pair of winter pants and a sweater that was on sale. I drooled over a writer’s retreat, fantasized about the lake view I’d have from my desk. I twiddled on Facebook then surfed through a list of online yoga classes. I got hungry for a snack and closed the laptop. 

After my snack…

I spent 10 minutes outside taking my dogs for their pre-bed piddles. The moon shone bright off our fourteen inches of snow, the darkness of the weekend blizzard replaced by moon-glow. As we crunched down the lane my dog pressed his nose to the earth and I raised my gaze to the sky. A scrim of clouds passed the clawing branches of an old oak, beyond which the faint light of stars battled with the moonlight for my attention. My breath vapor rose to great the clouds. The snow crunched underfoot. My dog snuffled. I stopped. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe.

When I went inside I had no doubt about which minutes were better spent; once again strengthening my resolve to pay more attention to how I spend my time.

How Stopping Helps Us Go Forward

Are there ways that we can build moments into the rhythm of our days that help us stop? Small moments to stop and ponder the beauty and majesty of being alive?

In stopping and noticing, perhaps we can find a kinder and more joyful way forward.

Every morning I run my dogs, they romp around the woods of Massachusetts while I trod along the sandy path. As we roam under the pine trees and next to the bogs, my mind vacillates between noticing the weather, ruminating on this problem and that problem, notices a bird and tries to figure out what it is, then back to my anxious monkey mind. Occasionally, something stops me in my tracks.

Deer prints from this morning's run, Zoë romping in the background.

Deer prints from this morning's run, Zoë romping in the background.

Like this picture I took this morning of deer prints frozen in the sand. Whenever I notice tracks, my mind stops whirring and I feel a sense of surprise and delight; Oh Look! Deer were here! I stoop down and check how frozen they are; did they come before the rain last night? Or are these two days old? I notice the depth, size and distance apart and try to imagine the size of the deer. Were here toes splayed out, indicating running? Or are her toes together, indicating a casual stroll out of the woods and down to the water for a cool sip before that crazy lady and her smelly dogs come barreling through the woods. 

I like to touch the ground where her feet have been, connect myself to something larger than my incessant whirring thoughts. Looking up from the prints I notice the sun, feel the cold air crackling against my cheek, feel my body nestled inside the wide open space. 

Stopping, we return to ourselves. Stopping, we notice. Stopping helps us move forward with grace.

Crazy for Coconut (Oil)!

The other day I mentioned to a friend that I use coconut oil on my face as a moisturizer. She looked at me in what I took to be a mix of surprise and slight admiration, “Oooh, that’s a good idea.” 

I can hardly take credit for this idea, it’s quite ubiquitous these days and I learned the trick from a myriad of healthy bloggers and natural lifestyle books. But the concept took a while to sink into my, well, skin!

We are inundated with products to buy that promise to smooth our wrinkles, zap our zits, or even out our skin tone. I shudder when I think about the hundreds of dollars I’ve wasted on these products over the years. It took me awhile to grasp the concept that our skin is an organ, and that it absorbs whatever we choose to slather on it.  That’s why nicotine and birth control patches work. Someone much wiser than me told me, “I don’t put anything on my skin that I wouldn’t put in my mouth.” Since then, I’ve been reading labels of beauty creams obsessively, often donning my reading glasses to make out the fine print to find unpronounceable synthetic chemicals.

I switched to coconut oil awhile ago, and my skin is doing great. Organic, cold pressed is the way to go. It’s perfect for the dry cold days of winter. It’s a solid in cooler weather, so I just scoop a small palmful out after my shower, rub my hands together, and slather away. It can sit a bit heavy on the face, so after I dress I blot off the excess.

For a lighter oil, jojoba is my preference. Organic, of course, no need to add pesticides to your beauty routine. Jojoba stays liquid, and is much lighter on the face. I’ll squeeze a bit of oil into my palm, add a few drops of lavender essential oil (lavender has anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties) and one drop of frankincense essential oil (helps reduce age spots and sunspots). I love it, feels like a natural form of nourishment that sustains me.

I have noticed that I gets lots of compliments on my skin, which I attribute to genes (thanks, mom!), sun protection via lots of hats, and my use of both coconut and essential oils.

If you want more information, check out Kris Carr-she’s done tons of research and is my go-to resource, here’s a link to her site.

 

Accepting help with grace

I’ve noticed that when I’m carrying lots of bundles, usually my overstuffed tote-bag full of music scores balanced against a huge yoga bag on the other shoulder, I get offers of assistance. When I was younger, my knee-jerk response was to say “No, thanks. I got it.” Maybe this was some kind of post-feminist buzz I carried along with my stuff, like saying no man, I can do it on my own.

But now I’m older, if not wiser, and I’ve started to realize that I was missing out on a big opportunity to connect. If I let a person help me I usually get a nice smile, or here in New England a reserved head nod, which I happen to love. I also get a moment to walk with them or share a brief to chat. They are giving me valued help, and I’m also valuing their offer in return. I think the other person might feel pretty good as they help me schlep my gear, I know I feel satisfaction when I’m of service to others. So why not allow both of us to experience connection and to feel joy by being of service to one another ?

 

I’ve come to recognize that when someone offers to help me, it’s a type of present. The other person is gifting me time and effort, and I like to receive the gift with grace. So now when someone asks me You need a hand? I smile, connect and say Yes, thank you, that would be awesome.

 

We Three Swans

This morning I took my dogs for a walk at a local cranberry bog. I was just putting Ranger and Zoë into the car when I heard a distinctive wrr-wrr-wrr sound overhead. I looked up, just in time to see three magnificent Mute swans fly overhead. Did you know that the wings of mute swans make a beautiful sound when they fly? The distinctive sound can carry as far as a mile! I notice that I usually hear, then see, them flying overhead around this time of year in Massachusetts. It must have to do with the cold weather; during the rest of the year I notice them in ponds; tending to their nest, feeding and floating serenely. 

What a welcome sight, these three beams of whistling light on a dreary December morning. We are heading towards the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. Perhaps they are ushering in a return of the light. Certainly, they are a magnificent and timely reminder to stop, look up, and listen to the call of our great spirit guide, Mother Nature.