Questioning Beauty

Questioning Beauty

Guest post by Melissa Kirby of Wildfire Wellness

Tonight at the health food store where I work, I had a random conversation with a stranger about chocolate (imagine me, imagine that). Her eyes were beautiful, her cheek bones piercing.  She couldn’t have been more than 80lbs.  She physically ran to the store, which meant she was limited with what she could purchase because she had to be able to carry it back home.  Through our conversation, it was evident that she was struggling with a number of things in life, yet she hung on my every inch of chocolate wisdom. She complemented me on my hair and then she said, sighing, “You are so pretty – you make me feel so ugly. Thank you for helping me.  Thank you for listening to me.” Speechless and somewhat shocked by her words, all I could do was give her a hug as we parted ways in gentle tears. I found myself thinking back to looking in the mirror that morning;  I had joked to myself that my…

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Subtle Acts of Healing

Subtle Acts of Healing

Buddhist teacher Cynthia Jurs spoke in my Space Between Stories class last weekend.  She spoke of acting from the subtle and how important it can be to stop and breathe in the midst of the chaos that seems to punctuate our world more than we want it to.  She spoke of focusing on the space that is between where we are and where we want to go.  She said it’s that space that allows new things to come into being and that it is important not to rush out of the unknown into a new story.  It’s important to rest in the space that’s in between.  From that space we can see and start to recognize our gifts, and we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, our families and the earth itself.  She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect the “powers that be” in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world.

Cynthia shared the story of how her life’s work came into being, and without telling the whole story, (You can read more about her work and its origins at Earth Treasure Vase: A Global Healing Project)  her vocation essentially took shape from living out of her deepest prayerful question: How can we bring healing and protection to the earth?  Of course, there have been no easy answers, and it took her awhile to embrace the mission put forth to her.  But by living in accordance with her deepest prayer, she has helped invite waves of healing and hope into the midsts of people all over the world. Continue reading “Subtle Acts of Healing”

Wood Stove

Wood Stove

We put in our wood stove about a year ago, now.   One late September morning, a lanky man and his assistant rambled up to the house bearing silver stove pipes and ladders and left two hours later as we gazed at our newly installed wood stove. We got it from a guy across the river that didn’t need to have it around and was willing to let it go for a reasonable price that included dropping it off in our garage. After living for all of my adult years without wood heat, having a stove in the middle of the living room feels a bit like returning to home soil after a long journey away. I grew up in a house that was heated exclusively by a wood stove, and I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the company of slowly burning logs until I invited them back into my daily life.

And with it has come the task of operating the wood stove – something that Dad always did when I was growing up, and his administrations of which I look back on now wishing I’d paid closer attention. There’s a bit of an art to efficiently using a wood stove, and I admire the commitment my parents had to the labor and routine that is required to make such a lifestyle work.

Such a lifestyle requires chopping and splitting wood, curing the wood properly, storing it in a dry place, making sure there’s enough kindling to get a fire going, hauling the wood from the storage place into the house every day, clearing the ashes… and this is all before you even build a fire. Building the fire requires opening the damper, getting a good small fire burning, and then feeding it larger logs until the temperature and coal bed is hot enough to close the damper again to ensure an efficient use of the fuel. You can adjust the air flow too, for good measure.

As winter progresses and the air takes on more of a chill, I am thankful for the means to heat part of our home with the wood that grows abundantly in the forested land around our house. Heating with wood is, for us, part of building a life that is centered on simplicity – one of the facets that I believe to be important in living in a sustainable and life-giving way. As we move toward heating more with wood and solar power, we use less fossil fuel and take our support from the corporations that feed on our dependence to those things. We aren’t independent of them yet. But every time we make a choice that takes energy from supporting corporations that are based on profit and greed for a few, we put more energy into building a system that is based on truth and abundance for all.

This is not to say that living in a simple way is easy. In some ways, it isn’t even simple. At first glance, it seems simpler to flip on the furnace when the temperature dips, rather than going outside to split wood. It is easier to sit down with a cup of coffee and the morning news, instead of using those first moments of the day to start a fire in the stove. The culture we live in today is built on the promotion of buying convenience. Choosing to do something by hand, or the ‘hard’ way doesn’t make sense through the lens of the American Dream.

So why do it?

Because when we choose to live simply – when we see that we have enough, and usually more than enough – we live more fully and are part of the system that allows others to do the same. When we choose inconvenience over doing things the easy or quick way, we offer our work to the benefit of those who don’t have the luxury of such a choice. When we choose to accept enough, we return home. We remember what it feels like to love without boundaries and to be content with enough.

This post also appeared on enough.

Clean Blue Air

Clean Blue Air

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

—Mary Oliver

Dream Work   (Atlantic Monthy Press, 1986)

The world offers itself to your imagination. Your place in it is not set in stone – nor is it something to dread or resign yourself to. There are challenges, yes. Despair is real and familiar to all. But the winter still comes each year, as does the spring, summer and fall. Every dew wet apple blossom, every garden plot filled with creeping flowers and weeds, each crimson leaf, each sparkle in a newly white morning – each nuance of creation offers up a sense of place and rhythm. Know that you have a place in that rhythm. Your own – and you are enough.

To Anyone Who Has Been Searching

To Anyone Who Has Been Searching

There are many people that I have known, and many that I know still, who are searching for something – that thing that is going to make them happy, that idea that will tip the scales in the direction of abundance, that person who make them feel like they matter. I have been this person, too, though over the past several years I’ve been able to come to a place inside myself that allows me to see more clearly that I once did. Most of the time, anyway. What follows is a letter written to anyone and all of us – it’s for you, for me, for your friend, for your neighbor, for your child, for your spouse, for your dentist, for your cashier, for your bank teller – it’s for those of us who have found ourselves seeking and wondering if this is all there is.

This is a letter to you – you who are struggling to find the good in life, you who are lost in despair, you who forgot how to practice self- compassion. You know who you are. Maybe you are reading these words through tears, or maybe you are putting on a strong face to get through the days. Maybe you are floating, unsure. Maybe you are newly single. Maybe you are grappling with the unexpected loss of someone dear to you. Maybe you left something behind. Maybe you are surrounded by people who love you but you can’t seem to like yourself enough to let their love in fully. Maybe you are feeling small in the wilds of the world and can’t find a place to call your own. Maybe life has dealt you a hand that even the best poker face can’t deny in its hardship. Maybe you are unsure of your life’s purpose. Maybe you feel like you will never measure up. Maybe you feel stuck in the system. Maybe you are just lonely.

I can’t know what’s happening in that mind of yours, in that heart or in that soul. Only you, or maybe God, however you view God, can understand the depth of what is happening, or not happening, inside you. But what I do know is that you are seeking, even if you don’t know what you seek.

I hope that you find whatever it is – and though I wish the search could be done painlessly, in my bones I know that you will always be where you need to be to find what will serve you, even if struggle punctuates your experience. I hope the rhythms of this human life have a chance to heal what needs to be healed and help you see that you are whole already.

Remember that you can find that place – that one that you are seeking – within yourself anywhere. We can seek from any location, from any point on the globe, from any apartment, from any taxi cab, from any gully and from any mountaintop. That’s the exciting part of all of this – perhaps it’s not something that you can see right now. I know that. But everything that you are seeking is already inside you-even the capacity to love yourself. It just needs to be uncovered and embraced. So many see those things that make you you and love them fully – don’t forget that. In the times that you are feeling alone or struggling, or when your purpose or path is unclear, remember that your home is the love that lives inside you, and you can always return to it. You can go home again. That love that is you is a light that will not go out.

And use your strengths as you seek-your appreciation of good music, your ability to talk to anyone and make them feel welcome, the way you study things before taking action, your knack for remembering where the keys are, your soft-spoken nature, your commitment to a cause, your determination, your modesty, your humility, your enthusiasm, your outspoken-ness, your creativity, your analytical mind, your compassion. I could go on. Use your authentic way of being to live in the world in a way that matters to you. It matters to me, too. And to others.

I have a small stone from a time that I spent on the island of Malta years ago. A wise woman there told me of a type of stone that washes up on the rocky shores sometimes. They are covered in little holes, and they’ve been tossed around and beaten up, made smooth, and cracked open again. They’ve been changed due to their journey, and their journey has left marks. She referred to these stones as “goddess stones” and told me that they always wash up where they are supposed to, more beautiful, more filled with life and lighter than before. Their holes give them room to grow. Their holes give them the space they need to evolve and to remember the wholeness that they have always had.

May you find your own goddess stone, whether your search for it keeps you close to home or takes you into a far off land. Remember that it has been with you always.

So, until we met again.

This post also appeared at enough.



When we are facing doubt and hopelessness…

We remember that hardship, suffering, day to day monotony and feeling trapped are impermanent. Even when we feel like our entire life is made up of nothing but strife and struggle, we can remember that what feels like our entire life is simply our ‘life situation’. Our soul – our true Being – is outside of what we tend to experience on the surface. We are good at forgetting that our Being has more power than the hardships that pepper the current human experience.

When we see and hear others discounting what we know to be truth…..

We remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and their own version of truth, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. Words have power – but in the end, words are just marking posts, a way for the human mind to try to convey what is felt in the in the soul.  Sometimes the language of the soul doesn’t translate when we try to speak it in words, no matter how eloquently or intelligently we communicate.  Being has more power than any speech, document or legality.

When it seems like nothing will ever change in our day to day human, bodily experience….

We remember that living in a body is but one part of our Being. We try to give thanks for the experience, regardless of what has already come to pass and regardless of any worry about what is still to come. We accept that whatever our life situation, it is essential – just as it is – for our soul to get what it needs.

I don’t know what it’s like to go to bed hungry after not eating for the third day in a row. I don’t know what it’s like to spend every minute of every day afraid that my community might be attacked by armed forces because there is a war going on all around me. I don’t know what it’s like to survive a physical assault and live with the raw fear that it might happen again. I don’t know what it’s like to wonder where my child is because someone decided to take her from me.

But though I haven’t experienced the deep suffering that so many other beings have, I can say that I do know what it’s like to wake up and feel nothing but sadness.  I know what it’s like to feel isolated and cut off from everything except the melancholy tale that my mind wants to tell over and over again.  I know what it’s like to feel trapped in a system that doesn’t give out free lunch.   I know what it’s like to have a voice that wants to be heard and not know how to use it in a way that others can understand.

And maybe most importantly, I know that the the souls that experience any hardship – regardless of scale or depth –  are wise, and strong.  Perhaps we experience such situations to help the universe know what it’s like to feel separated from others, to sit in despair and to want for something different.  That job has been done, and done again.  And again.

Yet in the midst of such despair and challenge, the thing that we are never cut off from is our Being: the part of us that is completely attuned to the rhythms of the earth and the pulse of creation.  The soul and breath of something greater than ourselves lives within us and remains steadfast at our core. That breath is a light that will not go out.

So when we wonder how things could ever possibly change, and when we have no idea how change might occur on the surface of our human experience, when we are impatient or facing challenge, and when we can’t see past the suffering the world has been though, we can remember that our Being is taking every experience we have in our physical body on the earth and is using it to help us manifest the reality that is ours, and ours alone, perfect in its own right.

At our core essence, there is no doubt, hopelessness or despair.  There is only light, love and the freedom to be.