Friday, 21 August 2015

for those who suffer silently. . .

to stand like a tree and bend gently in the wind without breaking

to flow like the sea, accepting waves of discomfort but welcoming relief with open heart

to shine like the sun, finding the light within-- even in the midst of the most brutal storm

to be grounded in sound earth feeling the energy of those that have walked before and who walk with you now

to feel fire within you when the chill of life overtakes and energy wanes

to listen deeply to yourself and hear your needs when no others are there to hear to your voice 

to hold yourself so very gently and rock away everything within you that feels less than whole

to be one with all that is light and love and know deep within yourself that you are worthy

and to feel the love that you have given so freely to others knowing without question you are love and that love is the essence of life

and may it be so

Thursday, 20 August 2015

If I Could Talk to the Animals: healing & learning through animal connection

Animal connection to facilitate establishing trust requires a deep centring; getting the words in our head out of the way.  

It is an area I have tried to intuitively practice with my horses, but have now started on a learning path that I'm feeling so pleased to have found.

The bare bones of that practice is actually a foundation that I was inherently practicing-- with a relative degree of success. 

Now I'm hoping with the skills I am learning, I can get this down to more of an accurate understanding of their needs and connection with the horses that will enhance the therapeutic experience I can give my clients.

For fifteen years I've held a 2nd degree Reiki attunement, with another first degree attunement from an additional teacher, that I've never put on a practice shingle or a resume or my linked in profile; it is something I have incorporated into my everyday life. I've used it with family and myself, but most regularly on my horses.  

So when I discovered this gentle teacher and his methodology, I was pleased to see that Reiki had something to do with his fundamental connection with animals as well. 

You know that "coming home" feeling you get when you've been wanting some answers and you sit with the right person and the just-right information flows as if it is making a direct connection to your heart and soul?  

That's what the message of his work does for me.

Lately I've been working on my communication with my horses more intently and my husband has observed a couple of times when the horses have been in one of the large paddocks, spread out, and I'm trying to get them to a specific gate to go to another area.  

Calming myself, I basically will them to go where I want them to go.  And to my surprise-- as much as his-- they have taken off in a gallop exactly where I want them, led by my horse, Yorkie. 

It was a difficult task to keep my mouth from falling open as my husband asked me, "how did you do that?"  

Granted, it hasn't always been so simple to gather the herd, in fact it has been hard work at times, and I'm sure it will not always work with such ease.  

But when it does . . . it is magical.

Last night they followed my intuitive direction again, and my 11 year old son observed.  I heard him running into the house saying to his dad, "Mom is doing magic with the horses."

I've always known I wanted to incorporate the horses in my work with people if the opportunity presented itself. 

Not in a riding way. I'm not a riding expert. I ride for connection and pleasure. "Real" riders have a hay-day with my riding methodology I'm sure.

My horses are about relationship.  

The teacher has stated that at one point he had to stop riding his horses because he didn't feel like it was respectful of them anymore-- and I totally get that.

And each of our horses gives us a different kind of relationship and communication style and love. 

At the very least, I've known that Ringo, the miniature horse we have had since he was around six months old, would provide an opportunity for connection and love. 

Miniature horses are just that: horses.  

They still hold all of the characteristics of their bigger relatives which is why Ringo is such a little miracle. 

Ringo is brave and bold, yet sweet and kind. 

The first time he got on a float (horse trailer) he walked right on without missing a beat, which isn't average horse behaviour. 

Ringo comes right up for big love and is a huge communicator. I don't think I've ever seen him startle. And it's a pleasure to watch him work on his relationship with the bigger horses. 

There is so much learning and joy and healing available just in our little wee Ringo.

Yesterday I went out and had three different (what I call) "centring sessions" with the horses, but I did it a bit differently than I ever had, trying to completely clear my mind and becoming totally heart centred.

Each time my Yorkie came over to me.  

And each time we just stood together.  

And each time, he took this mouth and placed in on top of my head and rubbed me repeatedly. 

No teeth, no roughness, extremely gentle loving caresses. 

He was giving back some what I give him--and call me crazy-- I could feel the love. (consider: he doesn't have anything but hooves to work with-- using his mouth to rub me was his way of caressing me as I do him-- and I'm tearing up just writing this)

This week one of my clients was leaving and all the horses were gathered up by the fence as if to say good-bye as I walked down to open the gate for her. She stopped, turned her car off and got out.

I pointed to the corner of the upper paddock and told my client of an experience the horses had that is testimony to how deeply they feel and how deeply they think:

Wire is apparent on Shania's right side. And note little Ringo helping
One day, my son and I were pulling out of the driveway to get him to his school bus and we noticed that all of the horses were standing in a corner of the paddock at our entry gate.  He and I were in awe-- oh look, how sweet that they are there as a family.  When I returned about twenty minutes later, they were still there. Initially I again thought, how sweet (and took this photo).  But then I thought, hmm, I better go check.  I found that Shania, who was in the very corner, had somehow gotten the top wire-- the electrical wire, that wasn't on-- off and wrapped over her head and neck. This was a thin wire that could have decapitated her had she become spooked. And Shania is a Paso Fino, a breed known for their "brio," their spirit. Seeing her previous reactions when she's felt trapped or the time the feed bucket caught to her halter, I know full well her reaction would have been to completely freak-- running to get away. But my Yorkie knows her too and was calmly standing right behind her to block her in so she wouldn't hurt herself. I'm absolutely positive that his intention was to save her.  Ends up when I spoke with my husband, they had been in that corner long before when he'd left for work. No telling how long Yorkie had held Shania there. He saved her life. 

I looked back at my client and there were tears streaming down her face.

I said, "Aw, the horses have touched you and we haven't really even interacted with them yet."

Her response, "They are just such majestic beings."

And they are.  

And it is a privilege to be in their presence. 

And the least I can do is calm myself, honour their presence and really listen to them. 

And I reckon we might as well try that with each other as well, aye?

                           James French

Monday, 10 August 2015

good morning dark, good morning light

Here I am at day 1 of 40 after the Habit Hacking workshop with Kara-Leah Grant that I attended on Saturday.  

It's not the writing every day for 40 days that I am actually practicing as my habit-- it is getting out of bed by 6:30 every morning to have time for myself to practice some self-care. 

Of course while pondering what habit I would choose for my project, during our workshop, I first went to  . . . I want to start being able to get my yoga and exercise and writing and meditation in every day (ahem, reach for the sky), but when I peeled those layers back in the workshop, the main thing was that I get into the routine of getting up in time to accomplish some self-care before the rest of my day takes off with me.  

Any self-care.  

I actually want to be up at 5:30 am, but to be gentle on myself I have stated by 6:30 am as my "official" goal.  Then 6:30 am can actually feel like sleeping in on the mornings that it is really difficult to get out of bed (wink, wink).

I had my alarm set for 5:45 am this morning, morning #1, and I was awake of my own accord at 5:27 am. 

And here I am.  

Last night I had draped my robe over the heated towel rack, because being chilly is a reason that I might keep myself in bed longer-- even if I am awake.  It is winter in New Zealand.  I'm in the the Northland which is the "winterless North" but the chill can still settle in very deeply in the mornings.

As I start this habit, I've actually put no concrete expectation out for the exercise portion.  It is there if I find I have the time and want to do it-- and yes-- I would love that to be an outcome of this daily practice, but for now?  I'm pampering myself on these early adventures. 

Right now I am sitting under the toasty heat pump, a warm cup of java by my side with a three-wick candle glowing just beyond the top of my computer screen and low mood lighting whispering, "hey, you are special enough to use electricity even before the sun is up and we have to actually pay for it vs being solar generated" (long story, that's my inner extremely frugal child speaking-- but suffice it to say, and Kiwis will get it, paying for my electricity is a pamper) as I'm wrapped up in my warm robe with a thick pair of wool socks on.  

It's as if I've received myself into loving mother-arms for getting out of bed early.

Rewarded with what I love to do, but haven't made much time for-- free writing. All is feeling really well right at this moment.

As I find myself writing "out of bed" I want to remind myself, this goal isn't in response to the fact that I have been a righteous lazy goose. 

Since the move into our new bedroom which is totally open to the outdoors, I generally do awaken with the sunrise.  It is the act of getting out of bed as soon as I awaken that I want to add to the process. 

Most mornings I do a meditative welcoming of the day and intention setting and then look at emails and FaceBook to see if my U.S. family, who have been up half the day already, have any news for me (or cute photos to look at). 

As I really unfolded my reasoning about my reluctance to hop out of bed first thing in the morning while in the workshop process, I realised that as a child, being in my bed and controlling the time I could get out of it (when I was able to) was a great source of autonomy for me-- an act that probably helped me develop a sense of self. On my bed I would read and write stories and letters-- some of the primary forms of escape for me-- that is the time and place I read Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird ad nauseam in my pre-teen years. 

So I believe there was an inherent underlying belief that having some sacred time "in my bed" as often as possible was a supplement act of self-care.

And that is beautiful.  And I honour that I have continued to subconsciously take care of myself in that way.  But now I want to develop a new way that feels more in line with where I am now and what I want my self-care to look like.

I think it is important to acknowledge that when "self-care" starts leaving you with feelings of guilt, it isn't really the optimal way to be caring for yourself, you have your cue to further explore if the act is actually meeting your self-care needs. (ahem, that extra glass of wine and other indulgences could fall into that column)

So here I go . . . this is feeling really good.  My husband just woke up-- it is 6:20 am now and said, "Hmmm, what are you doing up?"  "Writing."  "Oh, nice."

One pattern I am mindfully breaking here is announcing that I am doing this to get up and exercise as he sees a need for him to be doing that as well and soon, a less than mature competition or prodding can start to ensue-- cue sarcastic tone here-- "well I didn't see you on the elliptical this morning" returned with same tone, "yeah, well I'll get on after you . . ."  


That well-intentioned, supposedly light-hearted teasing game has never felt good to me. And, I realised it could trigger me to self sabotage in an effort of, "I'm doing this or NOT doing this for me, not you."

Proactive vs reactive is something I have always tried to preach to clients and myself. And by keeping that an overarching guiding principal when choosing my habit to begin, it led me to carefully pull back the layers to make more room for this practice to be surrounded by warmth and self-compassion.

And just now?  

Here comes the sun, barely showing the first hint of its waking self. 

Thank you friend.

              *     *     *     *     *   *

Highly recommend:
Kara-Leah Grant's Habit Hacking Workshop. Check out her work. She's an excellent presenter, full of knowledge and heart. This blog post is to honour her & the work she is putting into the Universe to facilitate meaningful change in people's lives. You can find her here at Yoga Lunchbox.  

Mind you this isn't (necessarily) about yoga, Kara has packaged the "secrets" of mental and emotional shifts and wellbeing into her workshop.  And stay tuned for when it comes out as a book!

Addendum: This didn't start out to be a blog post-- just free writing, but here I am at 7:00 am and posting this.  I think I'm going to like this new habit.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

why we could all use a little structure in our lives

Twenty-seven years ago as a semi-hippie-wanna-be-earth-mama, I gave birth to my first born.

As many of my generation and elephant journal readers will relate to, I eschewed the concept of structure.

There was no way I was putting my baby on the common and strict every four hour feeding schedule: I would nurse her on demand. Our walks outside wouldn’t be the same time every day: we’d explore nature at varying times, when the mood struck.

And so forth.

Structure felt like another word for “the man,” “establishment,” “authority”— a host of entities many of us attempt to turn our backs on so we can walk on some perceived higher ground.

Visualize this new mother in her white eyelet nightgown, awake and nursing her young baby multiple times during the chilly winter night. The final time she sits in the old fashioned wooden rocker, snuggling her gorgeous baby to her breast, a lovely soft angora throw around her chilled shoulders, bare feet feeling the cold hardwood floors beneath her and trying not to let the rocker creak so her her partner might sleep uninterrupted.

Yes, that was the semi-painless and ever so lovely scene I had imagined in my mind’s eye but roll that scene on a bit further and include the edits on the cutting room floor—every time I put the baby down she cries and having read up on attachment parenting there is no way leaving that innocent being to “cry it out” could be humane.

No one told me about the physical cringe I would feel at the sound of my baby crying—as if, very deep inside, it was physically piercing my heart.

I rocked. And I rocked. And I rocked . . .

Continue reading on elephant journal by clicking: HERE

Friday, 10 April 2015

Sleep: the final frontier to mind-body health

Trouble sleeping?

If so, you are not alone. Difficulty with sleep, often due to an overactive mind, is extremely common. Adults who go too long without sleep compromise their immune system and emotional wellbeing. Sleep deprivation contributes to postpartum depression, psychosis and mania.
Thus restful sleep is a vital ingredient in optimal mind and body health, and it needs to be on everyone’s self-care list.
Below, I offer a few sleeping tips that have helped me, my family and my clients.
Continue reading at elephant journal by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

inner bliss: a resource for women and children

Kia ora--

As the universe's energies align with the weekend's equinox, which will be accompanied by a solar eclipse, it is a great time to announce this energetic shift in my life which is committed to helping others get in touch with their inner bliss.

After four years of living in New Zealand, and the personal transformation that has come through being immersed in this multi-faceted culture--professionally and personally--I feel confident that now is the time to bring this practice to life.

With a very limited number of appointments available, I hope to provide a service for women and children who may find themselves falling between the cracks of services currently available and feel inner bliss may be right for them.

If so moved, feel free to check out to learn more about inner bliss and feel free to share.  Personal referrals are the best!


Friday, 27 February 2015

death knocks

Janma and first BBE: Rachel Otwell
We have been a very lucky family.

Death has not visited often, but it came this week.

With age, I thought I had better processed the whole circle-of-life conundrum and neatly wrapped it in the rationalisation that, yes, death will come to us all; death is inevitable and to be honoured as another life stage, traversed with openness and dignity. 

And in fact, in instances of suffering, death may be welcomed.

And I still believe that.

But today I am reminded of how there really is no death where love lives.

When we love someone strong and hard and true, their lives are imprinted within our hearts; they become a very real part of our energetic being.

This week the world lost an amazing woman, Jan Otwell of Evanston, Illinois.

Jan's personal and professional accolades are many, but what will live on is how she touched the hearts of all that knew her.

For a good long while, Jan was my mother-in-law; she never once put our mutual love and respect on pause as it morphed into a new label which later included "adopting" my later-in-life child.

"He's our adopted grandchild," she proclaimed, remembering his birthday and Christmas with gifts (always a thoughtfully chosen book) and treasuring seeing him at family gatherings and visits.

That ten year old son's sentiments upon hearing of her death summed up the success of her adoption-- after heartfelt sobs he proclaimed, "I love her.  I don't care what anybody says, she was my grandma too."

I'm left being flooded with memories that highlight just how significant Jan was in my life-- meeting her thirty years ago, I felt so old at age twenty three. A young woman--in love with her son--who had never before stepped foot in Chicago, let alone been exposed to the life and happenings that accompanied Jan and her husband Ralph's impressive tenure.

The flashes I have now include my faltering steps at prestigious dinner functions, looking to Jan so I could follow her graceful lead, but mostly the memories are of the relaxed and hell-of-a-lot-of-fun Jan.

I see her kicked back on a sailboat on Lake Michigan, tan legs propped up, laughing her gorgeous giggle. 

I vividly recall the holidays in the kitchen as we cooked together.  Seeing a standing rib roast for the first time in my life and learning from the master of organisation the timing of the dinner.  

Making beds together while she shared her heart with me.  Her bicycling to our house in Springfield from her work apartment for regular visits.  

And getting to hang out with her and the "political activist Thelma" to her "Louise"--Ethel Gingold--was an amazing privilege.  Human rights warriors both, to be present for their stories was a lesson in history and change-making, as well as how to make mouthwatering chopped chicken livers or plan a great party all tossed about over a nice glass of wine. 

These were well-rounded women with infinite wisdom.

Jan was a great story teller and would delight at sharing her daily adventures with a flair that made it read like a children's page turner-- a genre of which she was particularly fond.  

For many years, Jan regularly drove to the east coast, alone, (and for a period of time in a very smart little Camaro) to visit her elderly high school English teacher with whom she had kept in contact.  

Jan was a giver.

Having three sons she adored, while also nursing a bit of longing for a daughter, Jan was quite open with the fact that she enjoyed having another female in the family and little did she know how much she was a mother to me.  Coming from a rural upbringing, I learned so much about how to walk in that new space from her.  

And then the delight when her first grandchild, a girl, arrived still lights my heart.  She nick-named our less-than-placid little beauty BBE (best baby ever) and in her mind all of her grandchildren have held that perfect love-shaped space in her heart.

With the death of one so dear, I find the circle of life highlighted.  And I give thanks that Jan Otwell's boundless energy has been a part of my life, imparting a loving father and amazing grandparents for my dear children, and being a second mother to me.  

A "city mother" counterpart to my lovely "country mother" who Jan also loved dearly.

At times like these, my words are the tears that clumsily attempt to articulate the many emotions I am trying to process.

One thing is for certain: Jan was a lover of words.

Here are links to words in the Chicago Sun-Times and Springfield State Journal-Register that tell more details of Jan Otwell's beautiful life.

Rest easy Jan and thank you for the love you gave us.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Little Brother

Our dear Luke Henry is in the sky and shared this before he flew. "We'll be driving mom insane . . ." Bring it on . . .  sweet as:

I'm at the airport about to fly to New Zealand and hang out with my family, which is exactly what this song is about. Great timing! Thanks to Benjamin at DZ and his bunch for putting this together. Thanks to the Rabbitfoot boys for killin' it always. See you when I get back friends!!

Oh my! And then I came across this . . . hang on, it's not just an instrumental:

Sunday, 25 January 2015

word of the year

If you read my post "screw you New Year resolutions", I'm staying true to my word and sharing the word I chose for 2015.


Last year's journey with the words "self-care" in the forefront proved to be a deal-changer and beamed me to a more confident space of guiltlessly caring for myself appropriately.

"Self-care" must now be tattooed betwixt lobes in my brain.  I'm sure it would show up on a MRI-- no we didn't find a tumour but you have a giant SELF-CARE emblazoned on your frontal cortex.

And maybe it's how this "choose a word for the year" thing works.  

We can change our life--for good--one word at a time.

Our word becomes part of us.

Part of my journey last year also included exploring the concept of "career" for me.

In 2013 I had an enriching year of teaching counselling at the local college on a temporary placement. While the students were lovely and the work rewarding, as I ventured out into agencies supervising students on placements, I was met by the woeful message of seasoned practitioners lamenting that there really weren't jobs for the future students. The field was going down. How can you really be putting more counsellors out there? And since the program has closed.

As enlightened as New Zealand is in so many ways, it is not holding space for the field of counselling/psychotherapy/family and couples therapy, etc.

To keep my US licensure and certification I stay involved in continuing education. Having attended "coaching" courses before for continuing ed, I decided to attend a coaching certification course and found it to be a very enriching experience, personally and professionally; the biggest gift was walking me through a process of honing in on what it is I really want to do professionally.

That's when my 2015 word began to surface.

Having stranger-in-a-strange-land-itis, I can easily get wrapped up in, "who am I to come in to a new country and offer my services . . ."

Americans aren't always seen in a positive light here due, in part, to the reputation of the US consistently telling smaller countries how they should be running their countries, while seemingly not looking in their own back yard.

As I went through the process of intention setting and exploring what I feel I could give back the word BELIEVE kept resurfacing.

Yes, in capital letters.

But it's not just about concrete career-like thoughts.

BELIEVE, for me, is about trusting my inner voice. 

It intertwines with last year's "self-care" theme: BELIEVE that it serves you AND those you love to take that bit of extra time to self-care.

I had to embrace BELIEVE before I could practice self-care, but I realised there were many other areas of my life where I needed to believe more.

Doubt and second-guessing myself resurface?


Exhale confidence.

My word of the year is my friend. 

My catalyst for growth.

My companion.

What's your word for the year?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Screw you New Year resolutions: Starting Fresh.

Happy 2015.

I reckon the New Year really doesn't start until February in New Zealand. 

With the combination of heralding summer AND the holidays AND school breaks, experiencing our fifth summer here, I can say that it's all a much bigger blur than in the states.  

And it's not because of dancing the materialistic shuffle commandeered by the likes of shopping and gift giving.

Largely responsible for the chaos is the mass exodus of the entire nation to the beaches for the ritual of reconnecting with families and friends. (that's another post)

Today, I want to talk about the New Year and I shared the above information to say that with the buzz of activity and energy during this time, I find it challenging to pause for my typical reflection on the year gone by and mindful planning of the year ahead.

Enter guru Jane Cunningham (who herself is magic-- click on the link to take a glimpse into her world and find her also on Facebook HERE if you want her magic in regular FB doses) who made mention of someone's work to check out for picking "your word" for 2015 and other help in looking at the year.

"Unravelling the year ahead 2015" is a free offering by Susannah Conway (click on name or title to get to that link).  

To say that I am finding this gift an invaluable tool that makes the space for some heart-centred planning and retrospection on life and living is an understatement. I highly recommend checking it out.

Last year I picked a theme for 2014-- it was "self-care." 

I cannot tell you how invaluable it was to have set that intention and how it gave me permission to look after myself without judgment (am i being selfish?  should i really take this time for me?). 

Doubts were vanquished because I mindfully set the GOAL of "self-care"-- not a passing thought or another "should," but a strong intention.

Some of the things my chosen words or intention brought in 2014 included me taking an in-depth online creative journaling class-- The Gifts of Imperfection-- with Brene Brown that was honestly worth 5 years of therapy AND had me playing with art-- a recommendation I had been ignoring for years.  

I made some sacred space for myself by joining the afore mentioned Jane Cunningham every week for a creative journalling women's group which has been moving and magical and a very meaningful addition to my life.

Knowing I was working on self-care, I was able to take centering or rest time when I felt I needed to, instead of pushing through, because I had to if I was going to be true to my intention.

And with an amazingly chaotic year of moving and renovation and sitting on a murder trial and other drama-- taking that time to explore what I needed to focus on and putting it in practice, I believe, saved me (and my health).

With an intention of "self-care" came a huge dose of self-compassion-- and can't we all use a bit more of that?

So I encourage you to take the plunge and use this generous free tool to REALLY come up with what your theme for growth is this year.

And I'd love to hear what you discover and what your word for 2015 is . . . 

I'll share mine in another post.

Oh, and the photo above is my current view for this writing day.  And the 2 teeny people up by the water are a 60 year old couple, who travelled the 32 hour journey from England, that have the room next to us.  Last night he stated, "Life's too short. We've had friends die unexpectedly. The time to explore is now.  You can't keep putting it off . . ."


The time to SELF-explore is now.

And let go of the "what? haven't i blown it already? the new year is less than a month old and i haven't followed my plan . . ."

Yes. I hear you.  Let go of that silly idea.

Every day starts a new year.

And a new you.