Sunday, December 30, 2007

Are Your New Year's Resolutions Really Right For You?

The New Year is almost upon us and I keep thinking one of us might write an article about New Year's resolutions to put in the next email newsletter our clients receive. But nothing is coming to me. And in fact, the resolutions we both have in terms of our practice and our lives in general are kind of hard to specify.

Oh, there are a few... building on what we've already achieved, feeling more connected to a community, getting to see our friends and family more, continued health and prosperity, improved bottom line, ability to travel (without needing to do it all the time)... but in our hearts these seem more like ideas of what we'd like to see manifest in the coming year than resolutions. Resolutions being those goals you intend to make yourself do rather than receive.

Except for personal resolutions to eat more vegetables and spend less on eating out, to clean up the mess I make (I always have that one), and the various little things I always seem to settle on, resolutions this year seem few and far between.

Perhaps that's because some significant resolutions we've had in the past haven't worked out. While things we didn't think we wanted and didn't do anything to achieve came to us anyway and worked out far better than we expected.

Resolutions always revolve around how we're going to achieve the results we want, what we think we must browbeat ourselves into doing to get there. Manifestation is about asking for what you want and allowing. Often that means we do something—get a job, exercise more, plan dinners with more vegetables in them in advance, get the grocery shopping and advance prep done before you forget, and set a timer to actually make dinner happen before it's 8 o'clock, you're hungry and you remember that some cheap fast food treat is right around the corner. That's the resolutions part.

Or so we think. Sometimes what we think we ought to do isn't really right for us. And something we never expected leads to a better outcome. For example, in our practice we always assumed that we needed to meet with clients in person and build our client base locally. How else were we going to get the repeat business and referrals we think we need? We've worked on that over and over all year. Meanwhile, more than half the hits to our website come from people outside Santa Cruz from all over the world. Finally, we gave in to that emotionally -- what would happen if we did allow some of our work to come from out of town? And we found out.

Without changing a thing we started to get referrals and client calls from out of town. We started to do more phone sessions and they were fun, they were effective, and people have come again. Hmm. I, for one, never expected it.

Which leads me to the point of the article. It's one thing to make a wish (more sessions, for example) but to stick too tightly to how that should come about isn't necessarily good for anyone concerned. When we stuck to our old game plan we put a lot of effort into making things happen and tended to feel really bad when things didn't go the way we planned. I tend to feel bad about myself or about us-- why didn't we do xyz?, what could we do better next time? what did we do wrong? I haven't tended to think (in advance or after the fact) is this plan of action really right for us at the present time? Maybe that's what's been "wrong" all along.

I recently said "no" to a plan I had been thinking I would do for several months now in regards to Mama Love Perfume. Why? Well, I didn't know why at first but my first clue was that I just couldn't make myself do it. I was feeling awful about that (the first pitfall of inappropriate resolution-making) and finally asked Paul for help. He put his psychic cap on and said "if you go ahead with it, it could put you out of business!" Whoa! I didn't expect to hear that! Why?

"Well" he continued. "If you only do what you say you want to achieve are you going to be happy?" [I was planning to spend $1000 and loads of effort to get ready for a trade show in order to get a bunch of new stores -- my goal was to at least break even on show costs in order to have an "easier" time getting future and repeat sales.] My first thought was yes, I would be happy to break even, but then I stopped to do the math. No! I'd be devastated—that would be 5 stores or less. I could do that without spending money on a trade show. I added 5 stores last year without spending any money at all.

"What if the opposite happened?" he said. "What if you were inundated with more orders than you can imagine? Are you ready to deal with the consequences of that?" I wish I could have said yes. But unless I had enough money in hand to pay to have my perfumes custom formulated and have the orders filled for me, the answer is that I really don't know... I definitely couldn't do it right now, I couldn't do it by myself, and unless I guessed really well I don't know if I have enough profit built into my current pricing structure to pay for the help I'd need and pay myself as well. If I was very far off I'd be out of business immediately.

I see. The resolution I had been working with was inappropriate for me. At least right now. I still have more preliminary work to do before I can even consider the possibility. I changed my mind, decided to spend part of the money I had put aside on things that will help our businesses grow in the most healthy ways possible, and celebrated. Wahoo! I don't have to feel bad about not succeeding at brow beating myself into doing all the work that would have needed to be done for that anymore. Whew.

Is there a resolution you've been unsuccessful in making yourself do? Maybe there's another way to have what you need. Maybe you have it already if you only knew.

Friday, December 28, 2007

True Prosperity

http://www.cafepress.com/paulnsheryl/3360249

Paul's mom inadvertently gave us a special gift this Christmas. It started with a gift card to a store that no longer exists in our area. Couldn't have foreseen that—if she had asked us we would have said, sure, there's a J.C. Penny at the mall. But there wasn't so we made a special trip about 40 minutes away to Salinas.

Then things got interesting. We never shop at a mall. We almost never go shopping at all. I usually think it's because we have no money for that but the reality is something else altogether.

As we started to turn into the mall parking lot we almost got hit by a woman in a large SUV. The look on her face was something to behold—she looked bored! Blasé. Blank. We honked, she stopped inches away from Paul's door, and even when we gestured and yelled in her direction her expression didn't change! Paul was shaken and I had violent thoughts about what I would have done if she had hurt Paul and still looked the same way but we got over it and continued on our way. Into the gargantua mall (if you listen to KPIG radio you'll recognize the joke) and absolute overwhelm. Stuff! The place was stuffed to the gills with stuff, so much stuff that in retrospect it was hard to tell that the Christmas shopping season was almost over.

Paul did a funny impression of us at the mall when we got home. Two overwhelmed little mice with big eyes kind of shrinking into ourselves as we wandered around in a kind of lost sort of way. We took a tour of the store to get the lay of the land and then beat a retreat to the food court to think things over.

What did we want? What did we need?

The answer? Nothing. Especially in light of the near miss at the entrance, it was really clear. As long as we were healthy and had each other we had everything we wanted already. All our needs have been met and our biggest desires have nothing to do with what a gift card of any sort could bring.

We returned home with new boots for Paul and underwear and socks for me (including silly ones with penguins on the sides). But the "gift" wasn't in our shopping bags. It was in knowing that our wealth isn't in the things we can buy or money in the bank. It's in the love we share and time we have together.

Here's a short video that expresses stuff we do care about—the importance of tuning in to what matters every day and using it to transform your world.
http://www.just-a-minute.org/movie.html

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

http://www.cafepress.com/paulnsheryl/4372734

I live in a place where roses bloom alongside the Christmas ornaments. I took this picture a few doors down from my house this week in Santa Cruz. White roses, it turns out, are symbolic of the purity of true love, spirituality and reverence. They are also an emblem of the Virgin Mary. And they bloom (here at least) at Christmas. How cool is that?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oops, Here I Go Again


It's a Libra thing—say one thing and then say the opposite.

So AS SOON as I posted my last blog about buying handmade I thought, no, no, no, what about Cafepress? Paul and I literally spend hours uploading photos and artwork we've created to a website that makes printed on demand products for us to sell. It's not mass-produced but it's not exactly handmade either.

So what do I think about that? Am I contradicting myself by promoting both "Buy Handmade" and Cafepress here?

Nah. Cafepress is just a print shop. I don't handwrite and draw the packaging for the perfumes I make each and every time -- I use a print shop because I couldn't possibly keep up with it! So is the product completely handmade? Is anything?

Well, yes. I knew someone who made handmade knit shawls. She spun the wool and hand dyed the yarn herself and raised the Angora rabbits from whom the "wool" was plucked. That was a start to finish handmade operation and her products sold for far less than the value of the time and energy that went into it.

Luckily, she didn't have to pay her rent that way.

Most artists in the modern world do some kind of hybrid thing. We buy materials (such as wool) from people who can do animal husbandry on a wide enough scale to leverage the costs enough to make a good living. It could be a family farm but unless you live in the country it rarely is. Then we use the mass-produced or small-scale produced materials to handmake the products we design. Personally, I'd rather have the feeling of community and community nurturing that comes from buying materials from local family farms the way people often do in Vermont but that's not available for the things I do where I live.

Even items made by hand involve a give and take interaction with mass marketed manufactured means of production, good or bad, for better or worse. Oh, you could try to completely handmake an item made exclusively from materials you grew yourself, organically, using nothing but handmade tools forged in a blacksmith shop from metal mined and smelted locally or made from trees you cut down and shaped yourself, while dressed entirely in clothing made from the hemp plants growing in your backyard... but I don't think the average person has enough time in their day to work out all the ins and outs of that.

Nor should they have to.

Balance is the key here. I DO prefer handmade over mass-produced. I love buying things that someone put their heart into and I love knowing that what I buy directly benefits the people who created it. And I like being able to enlist the services of a printshop on the internet to get our artwork in a wide variety of forms out to people like you.

We get a kick out of the fact that Paul's adorable picture of a juvenile Snowy Owl is being enjoyed on coffee mugs and tee-shirts by individuals in 6 different states so far but we like even better that because our items are never printed until someone wants one, we don't wind up making anything that sits on a shelf and doesn't sell. Believe me, I've done that and it's no fun at all.

We've been thinking a lot about marketing things on the internet versus sticking close to home and finding our way that way. We'd like to be nurturing community face-to-face, hug to hug, and it feels REALLY good when we do. But more than half our spiritual counseling and healing clients lately came to us via the internet and live far away. Almost all of our artwork is purchased by people who have never met us (except for Paul's mom who is our biggest fan). And half my Mama Love perfume is sold outside of the town where we live. Like it or not our community is global now and I imagine it always will be.

I have a lot more to say about that -- our adventures on the internet have been quite an education -- but I also think figuring out how to feel connected to people you can actually feel and see is an even more important thing to do. Buying from people you know and care about goes along way with that. But it's a "both and" rather than an "either or" kind of thing. Nurturing connections at home AND across the globe. Choosing handmade AND forming connections internally with the unknown workers, designers, entrepreneurs and, yes, even some of the Big Business people who help you have all the products and services you depend on to make your day go right. Remembering that we are all connected even if we can't see or talk to one another (or don't choose to).

More on this to come, I'm sure.

Buying HandMade


Click this image and you'll get to a unique website that's all about encouraging people to buy things this holiday (and as often as possible throughout the year) from people they know and people they don't know yet who make wonderful things by hand. Mama Love perfume is a such a business. All my perfumes are handmade by me and the artwork and design of the packaging is done by me as well. I have a sense of pride in that (although I have to admit to someday wanting to be able to hire an assistant) because here is yet another thing I can point to and say "I did that."

I guess I'm like a construction worker in that respect. I'm sure there's a great deal of pride that comes from pointing to a house or a highway you just made and thinking you had a hand in it. Having a physically tangible result from the work that you do that can be shared with others can be quite a kick.

But it doesn't just have to be a product. I remember feeling the same way when I walked down the street that fabulous New Year's Eve in Santa Cruz with thousands of happy smiling people at the city's very first First Night celebration which I helped create. I was so giddy--I helped throw a party and look how many people came!

Paul and I get that same thrill when we help a client and know we did a kick-ass job. But, for some reason, it's even better when we get an email of thanks or a testimonial because then we can look at those notes later when the thrill has worn off and remember. Tangible effects from what we offer the world....I think there's nothing we'd rather do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Trying to Go with the Flow In a Mars Retrograde


http://www.cafepress.com/paulnsheryl/4288930

Go with the flow! What does that mean in the Mars retrograde period we're in right now? Well, I'm no astrologer but if your life is anything like mine it feels like it's hard to get much progress flowing at all. Mars is the planet of action and when it's in retrograde it feels like we can't go forward. Our plans break down, our technology might do the same, and it feels like we're held back in all kinds of ways.

The good part of a Mars retrograde, from what I understand, is it forces us to look at what we've been trying to do and re-evaluate. What's gone well in the past year? What could go better? If there's anything wrong with the track we've been creating, it will become clear now (if it hasn't already in recent weeks). This is the time to work on long-range plans, consolidate plans for the future, make incremental change, work out the kinks in plans we've already made.

The flow we're in isn't quite an eddy. We're not going in circles. It's more like a minor logjam. Held back, gathering resource, building strength, perhaps finding another way than the one we expected at this place and time. That's hard if you thought you were going the best way possible. But it isn't hard if you're willing to let your guidance and inner knowing show you the way from now on.

The river doesn't know its destination. We know water tends to follow the least obstructed route towards the ocean but it can wind up in any sufficient sized contained area— a lake or a dam more often than not. It doesn't matter to the river where it flows. But when it comes to the course of our own lives it feels like it matters a lot.

We think we know what's best for us. It isn't always that way. We sometimes want something that can't be done in the way we want it. That's important. And sometimes what we need isn't something we are able to imagine at all.

Monday, December 10, 2007

We Got Elfed

Some people think we're pretty elfish already but we decided to take it to the max. Click here: http://www.elfyourself.com/?id=1274031564

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Love Potions, Anyone?

I wish someone would give me one right now. Did you know that if you use the term "love potion" in connection with perfume that there's a crazy #@%$^& (my opinion) online who will threaten to sue you?

Apparently, somebody gave the owner of a perfume company in Southern California the idea that marketing a perfume called "Love Potion #9" by getting that name and the term "love potion" trademarked was a great thing to do. Then, since no one in their right mind would ever expect that a phrase that has been in public usage for thousands of years could even be trademarked, she spends her time googling the words "love potion" and harassing people who use it in connection to perfume by threatening to take legal action.

"Google," by the way, I'm sure must be a registered trademark but I think they'd be pleased as punch that I'm using the term "googling" in the above paragraph so I'm not worrying about that.

Still, I understand that someone who misuses the legal system (in my opinion) to trademark a phrase people use a lot as a name for a product is required by law to "assiduously protect" that trademark or lose it. So that is what this perfume company has tried to do.

I don't have a perfume named "love potion" or "Love Potion #9" on my list. I do, however, have a love potion perfume (yes, I'm going to call it that-- the term "love potion" in this instance is considered an adjective) that I once named "Heart-Centered Sexuality" and is now called "Opening the Heart." The name of my perfume company is Mama Love. In the ad copy for this perfume I describe it as Mama Love's very own "Love Potion #9". Notice the quotation marks. I don't use them because I knew about the trademark. I use them because I once made my living partially as an editor and it is a grammatical convention to put the names of popular songs in quotes.

However, the average person might overlook that and certainly wouldn't expect it to be a requirement. So, it turns out that one of my favorite and most long-standing customers decided to feature my perfume on their website and left the quotation marks out. Bam! They get sent an email threatening to take legal action if they don't take my product off their site (or rename it) within 7 days. Now, of course this is a mistake as my product is not named "Love Potion #9" or anything like it. Apparently, the person writing this email used a search program and sent their threatening email without just cause.

And that makes me think I could take legal action against them for interfering with my business. But how does someone without the resources of a Jessica Simpson (the most famous person this #@$%^ in my opinion went after) handle such a thing? Should I register a complaint with the state district attorney? What do you think?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Flower Photography





Paul has been very patient teaching me to use my camera. I used to be a strictly "point and shoot" kind of girl. But he's introducing me to the wonders of F-stops and ISO and, while I sometimes can't remember what is what just yet, it's helping me get some exciting results. At least, I'm excited.

We went to the UCSC Arboretum several times in the last week and got some exciting shots. I put mine up on Cafepress right away. Check them out!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Business of Marketing the Spiritual

Wow, looking back at my latest posts I have to stop and think: Is putting out my conflicts and growth as a healer really a good thing? It's not what most people do. Interestingly, the people I appreciate the most break the "image is the only thing" rule. Ellen Degeneres comes to mind. She doesn't dress to the nines or hide behind a mask. She breaks the mystique apart, talks to her audience like they're all potential friends, shows her soft spots and raw edges, even makes fun of it. I've never seen her show -- only clips on the evening news and Youtube. I just know I like what I've seen. It makes me feel that coming out of the closet as a real human being isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it might be healing for all concerned. When I see her I think "Thank you! I'm so glad you're you! We all need permission to be exactly who we are, too."

I think I got into the spiritual counseling business through my lifelong interest in what makes people tick, how do human relationships work, how do I learn to do that, too. You see, I was one of the ostracized kids. One of the geeks on the social sidelines on the outside looking in. And like all geeks I didn't like what I saw people do. By some strange quirk of fate I was actually invited to a party thrown by someone I perceived as part of the "in" crowd. Yuck! Ragging on the other kids, acting sexy, getting drunk, and getting sick. I remember thinking "Is that all it is that they do with each other? That's what I thought I've been missing out on?!" No thank you!

As I grew older I started to see the ways social conformity put people in chains. Too afraid to do what their hearts want, too enmeshed in the image they were so practiced at being they didn't even hear the murmurings of their hearts anymore. Most of them are more financially well off than me and Paul even imagine being. (There's grief in that.) But when someone in that situation comes into our office we treat them the same as anyone else, try to help them see where their problems are coming from, shine a light on their true hearts' desires, lift them up and encourage them on their way. The majority who want a "quick fix" -- the magical equivalent of the little colored pills we see advertised on TV -- exclaim repeatedly what a wonderful experience their session was and we never see or hear from them twice. But some people come again and again, bloom and grow and change at a pace those other ones wouldn't dream of. Those are the ones we seem to be attracting more of as our practice, and attitude towards it, changes.

When Paul and I got started we thought we needed to do magic wand, one time visit, types of healing. Turns out that's not realistic for everyone we meet. And even if it happens, what does it serve?

It does serve their need for wonder and for believing in something beyond the physical. And there are plenty of wonderful spiritual healers, as well as charlatans and stage magicians, who have mastered the art of helping people believe. They sell mystique, revelation, and awe. Reiki Masters used to fall in that category, too. $10,000 was the standard rate to be "ordained"-- the belief being that Americans, at least, couldn't be convinced to believe in anything unless they paid through the nose for it. Now every massage therapist learns basic level Reiki and there are Reiki Masters in this community and many others giving their services away for free and belittling those who deem themselves worthy of being paid. Spend too much time around people like that and anyone would be afraid to try to make a little money selling a $15 Reiki Bear, too! Damn it! Ordinary teddy bears at full retail cost the same!

Or more if it has a brand name mystique attached to it. My instinct tells me I would sell more Reiki Bears at $25 than $15. (It costs me the same.)

Last night on the evening news they reported that a very ugly and nothing to write home about Andy Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor had been resold by the person who invested in it for $23 million -- far less than people expected. Meanwhile in our local community people slave away doing social work and all kinds of wonderful things in the nonprofit sector for less than a true living wage and artists and photographers offering their work to these agencies are told that they can't get paid at all unless they're famous already. Trust me, Paul and I know. I've been a social worker at a nonprofit and we both have been artists offering our work for sale.

It's backwards!

So I'm working out some of my conflicts and growing up experiences here with the idea that maybe it can help a few other people going through the same thing. And because shining a light on what we do to each other in this world is important. Someone has to say something. "This is ridiculous" is good enough, at least as a start. Whether it serves my heart, well, I don't know. Sharing it does. Selling the counseling and healing work Paul and I do would serve it better. Whether one desire serves the other . . . we'll have to wait and find out.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ghost Whisperer

Why did I include a mini rant on the issue of whether it's "okay" to be paid as a healer in my last blog? I woke up feeling embarrassed by that and thought I'd take it down. But, no, it's going to stay because I think it's worth addressing. I wrote that blog because I was still upset about what I saw on "Ghost Whisperer" on Friday night TV.

"Ghost Whisperer" is a show in which the main protagonist Melinda "sees" dead people and assists them with resolving some left-over issue so they can finally cross over. She's an idiot, knows nothing about how to handle her ability, and allows herself to be constantly harassed, terrified, and put into grave danger (pun intended) by ghosts who wreak havoc with her life and make her and her family members basket cases. She gets to play the damsel in distress wearing sexy lingerie (or, creepier yet, little girl clothes) and has to be rescued almost every week. I hate it! A whole generation of people who believe in this stuff being given an image of out-of-control psychic abilities being glorified (by show's end) and being given the idea that this is the way someone who actually has these abilities would have to be. The show "Medium" does the same thing. Neither one of these shows does a good job of letting people know that these choices can be made another way (more on that in a minute).

Anyway, I often wind up watching "Ghost Whisperer" because I'm a fan of the vampire show with the really cool vampire private detective that comes on afterwards and because I'm confused by James Van Praagh's (a person who used to get paid as a real ghost whisperer) decision to lend his name to it. Paul and I keep wondering why he's allowed this show to be turned into a horror series when it has so much potential for doing some good. We do this stuff, after all. And I have helped ghosts cross over. Just like the show depicts (at the end), it can be a moving and profound event. (Back to that in a minute.)

But I was on the topic of last Friday night's show when Melinda and family go to see a well-known psychic passing through town giving a demonstration of his abilities. His name was Casey Edgar. Edgar Cayce, by the way, was the name of a well-known unconscious channel who became famous for giving accurate medical advice when he was asleep although he had no medical background in his history and couldn't answer the same questions when he was awake. In the TV show Casey Edgar comes across as very intelligent and quite capable of reading beyond the obvious. He's depicted as knowing things the average person wouldn't know but he made a mistake on an item significant to the story line (whether a missing person was dead or alive) and that's where Melinda jumps in and accuses him of being a fraud. And what really cemented that belief in her mind was that he dared to actually get paid for his work!

Of course, it turns out Casey wasn't accepting money for this particular role and, while he does wind up having a blind spot Melinda helps him with, he helps her with something every experienced psychic figures out eventually: Psychic information comes in as metaphor an awful lot of the time. And, even when it doesn't, there can be metaphoric levels of meaning embedded in the most mundane information received. The metaphor is what makes the job challenging and where even the most successful psychics can get stumped. That's why mistakes do get made. Our blind spots can and often do get in the way of reading those clues successfully.

So, good points were made on the show Friday night and I appreciated Van Praagh for coming out with some of these things. I only wish Casey would come back on the show and teach Melinda to use intention to shut her ability off when she doesn't want to wake up in the middle of the night screaming. It's not like an "on-off" switch but you can use intention to choose when you listen and when you don't. And you certainly don't need to be bedeviled by spirits wanting help. I have had that experience -- I guess I grew up afraid of seeing and hearing ghosts myself -- but I refused it. I chose another approach.

What I Want Melinda to Show People How to Do

I had to learn to do this. Nobody taught me -- I taught myself. But I was unwilling to let disembodied spirits muck up my life. One thing I've gotten in this life I'm living is this: what you're afraid of (whether it's ghosts, your boss, or the so-called "wolves" at your door) can and will bite you on the ass IF you give it the power to do so. The more you focus on what you fear, the bigger your fears become. And the more you attract the Melinda "Ghost Whisperer" type of experiences to you: more and more of the worst kind of crap!

But you CAN close the door on this trap. If you're attracting the same problems over and over again, take a look at your own life. What messages are you telling yourself and then manifesting in your outer life over and over again? "My life is out of control?" "I'm powerless over my feelings and emotions?" I'm so afraid of thus and so?" What you focus on gets bigger! You have to focus on what you want instead. AND believe you can have it and know you deserve it.

Sometimes it's really as simple as that. Maybe it always is. But sometimes those fears and societal conditionings have an insidious way of getting into a person's head. It's like the ghosts on "Medium" and "Ghost Whisperer." So I don't want to make light of the intensity it takes to kick the ghost habit when you're in the thick of such a thing. You really have to mean business and know you can get what you need.

I keep wondering if I should talk about where I learned that. All old patterns and beliefs that haunt our lives are like ghosts stuck between worlds. They have no place here but they don't think they can move on.

When I was a lot younger I was raped by a man I was dating and believed I could trust. And I knew I couldn't tell anyone in my hometown because the news was full of reports of another young woman who was raped on a pool table in full sight in a local bar and everyone in my family and many of my female friends, too, said she deserved it for going into a bar alone in the first place! Jody Foster played the role of this young woman in a very intense movie made of this incident several years later.

But I also knew that most women who are raped are led to believe they'll never get over it and I said "NO! He might have gotten three minutes of my life but he wasn't going to get the rest of it!" That's a little something you should know about me. I can be pretty meek and demure and sweet like any Libra personality you might know but when it comes to protecting myself or someone I care about that Libran archetype (the symbol of justice) carries a sword and she can kick ass and take no prisoners if she has to!

Anyway, whenever the picture of that guy came into my head, I'd kick his ass. I would, literally, imagine him sitting on my bed and kick him or whack him with a stick as hard as I could and then turn my attention to something I wanted to do instead. It didn't completely work. I just succeeded in pushing the incident away. But that was a GREAT beginning! It seemed like it worked at the time and that's what mattered to me then. But I came to find out later, when I was counseling someone else who had almost been raped and was acting like it was the end of the world, that my own distress was just hiding in the shadows waiting.

By then I was steeped in the belief that I could heal just about anything, though, so I used the take no prisoners approach AGAIN. I said I can and I will be healed of this and I used my intention and the strength of my belief that I deserved to have this part of my life back to go after the ghost of this creep in my consciousness and rid myself of it for good. It took persistence. It took work. I finally told people what happened, resolving that piece, and then realized that there were unconscious choices I had been making all the time to avoid feeling this pain. I never let myself be alone in a room with a man, for instance, even at the doctor's office, if I could help it and was very cautious about men I let into my life in any way.

But I wasn't going to let this ghost run the show anymore. I systematically chose to counteract the patterns this incident (and others like it) had manifested in my life. I wasn't willing to continue avoiding half the human race. That was unacceptable to me and I think it was the intensity of this commitment that allowed the change I wanted to happen.

I was a leader in the Re-evaluation Counseling (co-counseling) community back then, a group that teaches people basic counseling skills so they can trade counseling assistance with each other. I was a teacher in the community and, like all co-counseling teachers had very few men in my classes. I decided I wanted to change that. I decided to learn whatever I could about men's conditioning and learn to counsel with men. I chose several of the men already in the community as counseling partners and worked through a lot my feelings with them. Then I decided I wanted 50% of the people who took my classes to be men, put out the word and it happened.

Years later, when I was teaching a class for the teachers in the local community, it turned out that none of the female instructors could make it that day and only the men showed up. There I was alone in a room filled with men and I felt perfectly safe, loved and appreciated. I had made it through and I knew it and it was a touching moment for us all.

Later, when my psychic abilities opened up for me I went through a Melinda the Ghost Whisperer period. As a conscious channel I can hear guidance from the other side and, because I had another healer in my life who had been trained to believe that "attached entities" were an integral part of what she was trained to heal and I was frightened of that, those entities started to attach themselves to me and I didn't know why. It would freak me out and I'd get mad. I'd figure out how to be rid of one and another would come in the very next day. I learned to dispatch spirits to the other side but I wasn't loving and kind about it all the time (sometimes I was touched by them) and I got read the riot act by my guides for that. But I was furious that I was being "called on" to do this in the first place especially when I didn't want the calling.

I learned a lot of things but in the end I didn't want it. It was ruining my life and, like the rapist who came before, that was unacceptable to me! At first I worked hard to pull my attention away from worrying about spirits all the time. Then it stopped happening except in session and now it rarely happens at all anymore although, now that Paul's at my side to help, I'm less afraid. I still don't love and want to do it though unless it's something very specific to what a client needs to heal their lives now. But that's a choice I know I can make and that's the whole point of what I wanted to say.

If I wanted to make helping spirits cross over to the other side my mission in life that would be a beautiful thing but, and here's the important part, I get to set limits and boundaries on when and how often that happens. Otherwise, like Melinda is going to be if she doesn't get help with this, you're just another damsel in distress. And that's not a good thing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Donate a Reiki Bear to the Santa Cruz Homeless Family Shelter



Several years ago I met a woman who was collecting used stuffed animals, repairing them, filling them with Reiki, and then distributing them to orphanages, homeless shelters and children's hospitals wherever she found them. The project touched me. I enjoyed the image of little children clutching a stuffed animal and receiving much more than superficial comforting. And I had been told by my Reiki teacher that Reiki-infused washcloths and drinking water had been used in hospital settings to impart healing to ailing loved ones. She also gave examples of experiments done with Reiki-infused water used to water plants. Apparently, plants fed with Reiki water did significantly better than those watered with plain tap.

Because of this I chose to infuse my flower essence healing perfumes with Reiki but as I started to market them I started to doubt what I had been told. Could Reiki really be imparted in this way to anyone else? Could an object like, say, a stuffed teddy bear, actually carry a Reiki charge at all? My question was answered when the Reiki stuffed animal collector attended a group I was in and gave us each a gift of one of the toys in her collection. I was confused about her intentions and, not knowing it had already been done, decided to put Reiki into the animal I received and donate it back to her cause. I couldn't do it— the feedback I got was that the toy was already filled. That caught me off guard— oh! They really can hold a charge! Then I brought it home and received another surprise. My cat Peeps who never had shown an interest in stuffed animals or any other toy -- and never has since-- adopted this gift for her own. She held it between her paws, slept with her head in its lap, and snuggled up to it every chance she got. It made an impression on me and I felt resolved to continue with Reiki projects of my own.

I've been particularly enamored of the Reiki Teddy Bear idea but, until a few weeks ago I never acted on it. Now I have to reluctantly admit that I wasn't motivated purely by altruistic intent. Yes, I wanted to find a gentle easy way to impart healing but I didn't, at first, intend to give the Bears away. Money's been overly tight and I wanted to improve the bottom line so I took a chance and invested in a shipment of wholesale teddy bears. Paul and I both imagined that they would be combined with a bottle of my flower essence perfume to make a nice packaged gift.

And they still will be available like that. But when I was shopping for just the perfect red satin ribbon to dress these bears up a woman at Hart's Fabric asked if I planned to give the bears away to charity and my immediate inner response was "I wish I was!" My second thought was "But I need to at least get the money back I spent on them!" and I felt bad about that. This, to me, had felt like an expensive decision. I was shocked when the bears arrived. The cartons were huge! And then I came a little undone—oh, God, what did I do? I spent all this money and I don't even know where I'm going to put them! And then I meet this woman who assumed I was going to give them away!

When what you love most is healing and you want to make your living doing what you care about most, it's really hard to counter societal expectations that a true healer, a truly spiritual and altruistic person, wouldn't expect to be paid. In fact, when Paul and I were just beginning and did a month of sessions strictly by donation, one of those early clients enthusiastically praised us for being "real healers." Real healers, if we understood her correctly, have all their needs met by God. And maybe we ARE getting our needs met through the grace of God as it flows through all the people who love and are helping us out. But even "real" healers need to eat, pay off debts, and know they can help their loved ones out financially themselves as time goes on.

And yet I really would like to give these bears to people who need them, too. So a choice was made. I will give three away and if I have people who want to assist with this project by paying me for them I will infuse the bears they purchase from me with Reiki, tie satin bows around their necks, add gift tags with their names on them, and deliver them to the charity I have chosen along with my own in time for Christmas. The Santa Cruz Family Homeless Shelter has "brand new toys" on their wish list so that's where they will go. If people want to buy a Reiki Bear and deliver it to a charity of their own they're welcome to do that as well.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Seven Deadly Sins

Growing up in a town just south of South Boston ("Southie"), I was one of maybe 3-4 Jewish kids in a graduating class of more than 750. The vast majority of everyone else were Irish and Italian Catholic and this was such a prevalent part of the prevailing culture that the name of the "parish" I lived in (St.Clare's) was more important than the name of the county (I don't remember).

I do remember kids talking about questions they were grappling with as a result of their Sunday school classes and, being Jewish, I was endlessly fascinated with these discussions because the worries they had were so decidedly absent in my own religious upbringing. Not that we didn't care about justice and what was right and what was wrong, but the idea that one could be born a "sinner" (original sin) and could be condemned to Hell for who knows what offense later was a shocking thing to hear. But it wasn't just concerning and confusing for their Jewish classmate, my Catholic friends were worried and rightfully (under the circumstances) obsessed with these concepts as well.

The seven deadly sins—lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride—were a list my Catholic friends were required to memorize and recite and I was present at one gathering where my friends worried incessantly about this list and what each sin meant. I imagined their Sunday school class had some sort of test coming up but more than likely they needed to recite the list for the nuns and feared incurring the "wrath" of the dreaded ruler from coming down on their hands.

I haven't thought about this list in years but in two recent sessions guidance came through that shifted the way I think and suddenly the discussions I remember on the Deadly Sins came flooding back. The guidance was that the problem at hand would disappear if one could sit in the belief that who we are is infinitely connected to ALL. That WE are collectively IT--God, the "Universe", the Big Gee, whatever you want to call IT. Self-realization, connection with the Divine, no longer seeing ourselves as separate.

How would one act, what would one believe from this perspective? In the guidance it was NOT required that one reach this state of being BEFORE healing could occur. The suggestion made was to act "as if," to imagine what it might be like. Would you feel ashamed of yourself or less than other people? Would you have any reason to be envious of others, greedy, afraid or vengeful? Conversely, would you need to prove your worth or flaunt it in any way? The "Sins" have been interpreted as varying degrees of separation from Divinity. If you really are Divinity—if our true nature is Divine—the sins have no reason to exist.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Releasing Worry and Fear



Well, I did the talk at Way of Life and it went really well. People were interested and I felt competent and relaxed (once I got started, at least). It was fun to finally consolidate a few of the ideas I've been thinking about for my book and see if I could help it make sense for others. I've been spinning my wheels with anxiety and indecision for awhile now.

I actually felt pretty anxious the whole day before this talk. My perfume helped but couldn't really address my core issue which was knowing in my gut, from experience, that I was going to be good enough to put this information across. It wasn't that I didn't believe in myself enough. It's just that the subject matter -- using flower essences for personal and spiritual growth -- flies in the face of convention so much and I place a great value on being practical and grounded. You don't see me or Paul walking around ga-ga with that dreamy "I'm on spiritual bliss" look in our eyes. When I talk about what we do I want to be treated with respect so, for me, one of the keys to this presentation was to cross the barriers between hard science and spirituality without misrepresenting either.

The problem is the hard science isn't there yet. It's hinted at—there's a lot we have learned about how emotions affect our brain chemistry (and vice versa) and how that might affect our health from the field of psychoneuroimmunology. And Edward Bach was an immunologist. But, while there are mountains of empirical evidence documenting their effectiveness, nobody has been able to prove how flower essences work, at least not yet. Of course, we don't know how some pharmaceuticals work either. I caught an announcement of that for one drug being marketed on TV just recently. Still, in the midst of preparing for my talk I found an online article that called flower essences "quackery" for just the same thing so that got me a little jangled. All I could do was present what seems like a plausible explanation, make some strong arguments for it with some nice graphics of flowers and examples, and hope for the best. Once I got past that part of my talk I felt the tension drain away and I had fun the rest of the evening.

Sometimes releasing worry and fear comes from having the courage of your convictions and living to tell the tale.

By the way, my mom recently insisted I put out a perfume for Halloween. It turns out I already have one, coincidentally dressed in pumpkin orange for the occasion. I call it "Releasing Worry and Fear", too, and it's the most popular perfume I make.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Standing Tall


I'm in the newspaper again! This time I forgot it was a possibility so it was quite a surprise. It's in the Health and Fitness section of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and I think it's really good so be sure to take a peek.

The occasion for this article is that I'm doing a free talk at Way of Life in Capitola this Wednesday, Oct 3 about Using Flower Essences for Personal and Spiritual Growth. I'm pretty excited about it. It's the first time I've given any kind of talk about this work I'm so interested in.

Sunflowers will be part of the discussion. I plan to include a piece about finding mirror reflections of various emotional and spiritual states in the world around us. Sunflower will be one of my examples. "Standing tall" pretty much sums up what this plant is for. . . and that's all I'm going to say about it today.

Oh yeah, I want to give credit to Paul. He's the photographer of the beautiful sunflower photo I used for this blog.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Prayer for Gloria

Yesterday's Santa Cruz Sentinel had an article guaranteed to break a mother's heart. A child's family in Seattle gave up their medical battle with the widespread neuroblastoma (cancer) that was overtaking their daughter and turned to prayer instead. The family asked for people to pray for their daughter Gloria and the Seattle Times gave the story 5 months of serious coverage. Reporters close to the family say they are forever changed by the family's determination to heal their daughter through the power of prayer and by the heart-wrenching struggles they faced in making this decision. Four years of medical interventions had been of no avail. It seemed fruitless and painful to put their child through more torture. Yet, despite the efforts and outpourings of love and faith by literally thousands of people, on Friday last week Gloria died.

What can a person say about something like this? The child's mother apparently had heard a voice she believed to be the voice of God tell her before Gloria's cancer was diagnosed "When I heal her, I will change the lives of many." The family says that their faith allows them to believe that healing has occurred even in death because to be with Jesus in Heaven is a healing in itself. But, as a person brought up Jewish, this is a thought pattern that's hard to fathom. My gut reaction was that her death could lead just as many to doubt their faith as the story within the hospital walls led so many to embrace it.

Jerry Brewer, one of the Seattle reporters who covered the story and who has been writing regularly in his blog about this, hasn't analyzed his feelings yet except to say that the miracle everyone was hoping to have happen occurred for him in the five weeks preceeding the girl's death. Something about how everyone touched by this family was transformed by the power of their faith really got to him and he firmly believed that the prediction the mother received that when God healed her it would change the lives of many must have been meant to be much more than about whether her daughter's body survived the "healing."

I asked Paul for his opinion about this. He seems to always have a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of things than I tend to. He believed that the fact that Gloria frequently prayed for other people in the hospital and in her room, even offering up her suffering as a sacrifice for some other child in pain, touched people most of all. "It's not just about whether you win or lose." He said. "We all die." It's more about how we choose to live while we're here. What we do and why.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Play and Lightheartedness


One of Paul's photos above is the star of a new and immediately popular Craigslist ad titled "Hoo Are You, Hoo-hoo, Hoo-hoo?" The idea in my mind is that most often people go out of balance because they lose track of what's most important to their hearts and a spiritual counseling and healing session with us can help them get back to and honor their true selves. But, in reality, I chose this image because it's so cute and incongruous to find in the oh so serious world of spiritual counseling and healing, it makes me laugh.

We're starting to get a reputation, I think, for being the jokesters of the New Age healing community. People have started to give us feedback that they love Fred, the fictional Grandmaster of the Teakettle Paul invented a while back. Our latest print ad even hints that a session with us could be fun ("you might cry . . but we've got tissues").

And why not? At least this way people might start to remember our names.

It also helps keep our spirits up. It's a lot more fun to keep putting the advertising out there when it's done this way.

Which brings me back to the original reason I decided to write today -- Zinnia, the flower essence for light-heartedness and fun. Last week in my dance class I wished I had a product that included Zinnia in it. This week I remembered that I do. It's called Doing New Things with Confidence.

I never think of this formula in this way, probably because I was oh so serious when I made it. The significance of what I was guided to put in it must have gone past me. I always fixate on the fact that it has Larkspur in it which I was taught to believe was about "leadership." I've been thinking it was guided to be in there so the person would take on an attitude of being the "leader" of their own lives. It isn't. It's about infectious enthusiasm for what you do. The kind of enthusiasm and joy that makes people want to follow your lead.

But that's where I got lost. It doesn't make any difference if someone is following your lead when you're trying to develop self-confidence and enjoy your life. What matters is having so much fun trying something different that you don't mind making mistakes and falling off the horse a few times in the process. You get such a kick out of trying that you can't wait to try again. That fun and joie de vivre, that sense of play and adventure, is what makes the journey worthwhile.

Helen Keller has a quote attributed to her: "Life is a daring adventure or it's nothing." Things can go wrong on an adventure but the story of how you lived to tell the tale always winds up being part of the fun. On an adventure you always have the intention of enjoying the ride. You might go down a road you've never been down just to see where it goes. You might try a weird new drink with strange tapioca balls in it just to find out what it would be like. You don't fret over the fact that you've never done these things before and you "might not do it right". Huh? It's an adventure!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fame!


Omigod! My face, in full color, distorted as shot through a super wide angle lens, was wrapped around our Sunday paper this morning. Along with several other really wonderful color photos and a great article about me and my Mama Love perfume business. The article, minus the amazing spread of photos, is available online at the Santa Cruz Sentinel's website.

Wow! That's a manifestation come true. Not that it came completely from thin air—I sent the Sentinel a press release announcing that my perfume had been picked up by three more stores—two locally and one in Texas. Looking back at the press release I found myself thinking "This is lame! I said the 'stupidest' stuff in this press release. They decided to write an article on me based on THAT?" There's that perfectionist streak setting off its chimes again. Sometimes all you need to do is be yourself, warts and all, and today I've gotten the biggest publicity of my life (so far) with a photo I ordinarily would have screamed at. Instead it's the butt of my own jokes because, what the heck, it's selling newspapers and, I'm sure, a bunch of perfume for me to boot.

Paul and I are learning a thing or two about fame. Being the shy retiring type doesn't work well if you want to get a fledgling business or more off the ground. So we've been figuring out ways to become more well-known without being obnoxious about it. Paris Hilton we're not. But we have learned something Paris knew all the time: the more popular you appear to be, the more popular you become.

In February we both got our pictures in one of the weekly papers and they posted THAT article online. Again, it didn't happen by magic—I sent a press release saying we were back in town. We were back in town? There's some news— who the hell were we? Nobody most people had ever heard of. But—and this IS the magical part—we had done a session with someone the editor of the paper knew and she said nice things about it. And then about a month before they planned to run a special edition about alternative healing I decided to send that press release in. I didn't know what they had planned so the timing of the whole thing was the magical part, too, but there that press release was right at the right time and the editor remembered us. So fame of sorts begot more fame and then they put a little feature on their website where you could vote for your favorite articles.

Our article was favorited enough times to be on the second page -- not too surprising given that our article ran in one of the first papers that ran after the Good Times went public with being online. We also linked that article to the front page of our website and used it (with a link) in a number of Craigslist ads. Then Paul got the idea that wouldn't it be great to be on the first page of their "Favorite Articles" feature on the Good Times homepage so we asked all our friends and family to vote for us and made sure to vote for ourselves, too, (of course) and there we were on the front page. Then we sat back to watch what would happen... People started voting for our article a LOT more.

A similar phenomena happened on YouTube recently. I decided to post some of our videos there. The first one up was called Paul's Kundalini Awakening in which he describes in his most sweet and unassuming way how having a full Kundalini awakening at the age of 13 changed (or, rather, didn't change) his life. It's not professionally done. It's not scripted. But someone found it and favorited it right away and gave it 5 stars and now it's been favorited and given 5 stars again and, while it's nowhere near one of YouTube's most watched videos by a long shot, it's been watched literally 3 times as much as the other video I placed the same day that wasn't voted for yet.

Now here's the thing, we're not really out to get famous. It's just a game we're playing to figure out how to get enough notice in order to get the amount of business we need to pay for stuff we need. Popularity is something we both know is illusionary. Paul actually had a fair bit of popularity as a youngster because he played in a band but he hated it, eventually, because he knew people were going ga-ga about the budding rock star image they projected onto him and that had nothing to do with his real worth as a human being. He knew better than that. I had the exact opposite experience growing up. I was an ostracized kid, a geek basically who wasn't on anybody's "favorited" list. But I learned the same thing he did. Sitting on the outside looking in I saw the conformity games all those popular kids played to be accepted by their peer group and I wanted nothing of it. Wearing make-up and tight mini dresses, getting drunk and making fun of other people didn't make me feel good. And why would that make anyone more worthy of respect? If that was the price of fame (popularity) I didn't want any part of it.

But rejecting the spotlight does no good if you own your own business and want it to succeed. Nobody buys anything they haven't heard of first.

So we're experimenting and it's starting to feel like fun.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ducky Baby, Ducky Dreams



As alluded to in my last blog, Paul and I have been taking art as a "day job" seriously lately. And, as I mentioned, I got way TOO serious and have strained my neck. The guidance has been to lighten up. Coincidentally, the guidance from some unconscious place in my psyche has been longing for some childlike joy and play as well. Look at the most recent images I drew (doodled) and uploaded to cafepress. I've been doing doodles exactly like this since I was a kid, dismissing them as not "good enough" to be considered "real" art. Geez! I think differently about it now. Picasso didn't paint much of anything I'd want in my kid's room at night. But I don't need to see something like this in a museum. That's not my dream! Paul and I are similar on this. We like the idea of someone enjoying a piece of our art or photography on a wall but we'd be just as thrilled to see it on a coffee mug or refrigerator magnet. So I guess we're where we need to be -- designing art for commercial applications and loving every minute of it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Zinnia, Dance and Me


Not long ago I developed a pretty painful neck and shoulders from working working working over and over and over on my computer. Not in a pretty frame of mind much of the time either.

Oh, it started out that way. You see, I really love what I do on the computer -- writing , drawing, uploading things to the internet. But while I'm working, working, working I tend to forget that the whole point of doing this kind of a life was to love what I do when I get up in the morning. But that Puritan work ethic was so well drilled into my brain -- you can't feel good about yourself unless you have something to show for your life -- that I start to get obsessed with getting "enough" done.

But who's defining "enough"? When I was a kid I was expected to be at the top of my class. "B"s were not acceptable--I had to have "A"s. And, actually, the way I internalized it, I had to be the best. Good enough is never good enough. It has to be GREAT!

Sigh. Where's the room for having fun?

So my neck and shoulders have been hurting and I've been going to my chiropractor to try to get my head screwed back on straight. In more ways than one, actually. I've also been doing a lot of life review, looking at family patterns, getting clear on how this pattern really took a hold of me.

My guides suggested I could use more "Zinnia" in my experience. Zinnia is a flower essence for people who are overly serious, who have forgotten how to play, and need to reconnect with feelings of joy. So, even though my painful neck and shoulders normally would have stopped me from going, I decide to follow my inner desire to go to my African dance class again. I figured that's one of the most joyful settings I've been in in Santa Cruz and, even if I sat out part of the time, it would still feel better than fretting about how bad I feel in my room.

So I went and, on the way there, I wished I had a perfume with Zinnia in it that I could wear and my guides said " Intend Zinnia instead." Well, okay, I did and at the beginning of class my teacher made a point of encouraging everyone to go for joy. "It doesn't matter if you can't do the moves. Just do whatever feels joyful to you. Relax, have fun!"

Then part way into the warm up part of class someone came in late with a large basket of garden seeds that she was giving away for free. As she passed me one seed packet fell off the top. I danced on trying not to step on it but finally curiosity got the best of me and I reached down to see what it was. Zinnia.

Divine play. Of course.

I use Zinnia in my Comfort and Joy flower essence formula.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why People Get Sick Video

Early Healer Lessons Video

Paul Becomes a Healer Video

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My Earliest Experience with Spirit Guides and Other Psychic Abilities

Paul's Kundalini Awakening Video

I know a longer version of this is on our spiritual counseling and healing website but I just figured out how to add text and put things up on YouTube. This is the first, and so far only, video we have up there.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Faith Healing in the Medical Profession

I just started reading an old classic today, Anatomy of an Illness: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins. In it Cousins refers to the work of William Osler, one of the most respected clinicians in the English-speaking world at the turn of last century. He was well-known for telling his students that he believed that the drugs and standard methods of medical treatment available to physicians at his time were, in his opinion, completely useless. He had quite a reputation as a healer himself and even served as the chairman for the Department of Medicine at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. But it was his firm belief that his success had little to do with the treatments he used and everything to do with his patient's faith in it.

Even today it is a little known established fact that almost every new drug introduced on the market is far more effective in the first few months after it is introduced than it ever is from that point afterwards. Why? Because the newness of the drug leads a doctor to prescribe it with much more enthusiasm. "We used to do such and such a thing for people in your condition, but we have this new drug now and I've heard it does great things! You get to be one of the first people in my practice to use it!"

Doesn't that sound exciting?!!! The belief is that "new" automatically means "improved" and that means that both the doctor and the patient expect it to work better. These assumptions are not necessarily true but it doesn't matter. The patient and the doctor both believe they're going to get better results and, lo and behold, it happens!

Later, though, as the newness of the drug wears off and the doctor's enthusiasm naturally wears down to more normal levels, patient expectations tend to wane as well and reports of the drug's effectiveness tend to decline.

What does this mean? Well, I hate to burst anyone's bubble here, but from where I'm sitting it looks like faith healing and conventional medicine walk hand-in-hand. In fact, faith in medicine is something the conventional medical establishment counts on and the recent onslaught of pharmaceutical advertising on television just proves my point about how important this sector of society actually believes faith in their products to be. Because building faith—making believers out of the healthcare-buying public—is exactly what pharmaceutical advertising is all about.

Why? Why do they have to? Well, guess what alternative healthcare affectionados, they have no choice.

In the Fall 2004 edition of the Harvard Public Health Review, the Harvard School of Public Health reported that the public's faith in the conventional medical establishment, medical insurers and pharmaceutical companies had fallen to an all-time low. Patients' lack of trust was leading them to turn in droves to alternative healthcare and self-medication. It also has led to an increase in conventional healthcare regulation and has contributed, in their opinion, to an increased risk of litigation, i.e. lawsuits, from dissatisfied and disgruntled customers.

So don't expect pharmaceutical television advertising to stop anytime soon. In fact, they've only just begun. And hold on to your hats, alternative healthcare providers. Even though they know faith and good medicine go hand-in-hand, the standard attacks on alternative healthcare practices as "faith-healing"....ha! using the term "faith-healing" as a form of attack!... isn't likely go away at all.

What do I suggest we do? Celebrate. We have obviously been effective. Keep going. Keep helping. Keep telling your patients how much they can do for themselves with and without using standard medical care. I'm not against using pharmaceuticals and standard medical practices when it's the most effective and cost-effective plan of action but a lot of the time it isn't. Especially for the millions of us without adequate health insurance -- and by that statement I include the supposedly "insured." There's a good reason why the American public lost faith in conventional medical care. It's expensive! It's short-sighted. And it's bankrupting us one and all.

I once believed every neighborhood in town should have a community herb garden and that simple methods of self-care should be taught in the public schools. Remember home economics? What's more important? Learning how to bake a cake or sew a dress? Not when it's cheaper and easier to buy one in a store. No! I want kids to learn first aid, how to treat a cold, how to tell when something is serious enough to see a doctor about, and when it would be a simple enough thing to treat yourself. And I want them to learn about the power of belief, the power of positive thinking, and the importance of keeping the faith—faith in themselves and in their ability to heal themselves, if nothing else—as if their lives and the future of our planet depended on it.

Because think about it. Does corporate greed and professional healthcare really make a good combination? I wouldn't want to stake my future on it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Defend Net Neutrality

If you think this issue is just too boring to even want to think about, you're kind of like me except somehow or another the message keeps getting across: we can't let things we care about like control over the quality of the food we eat, our access to alternative healthcare, herbal medicines and the like, and now access to the internet and the wealth of information, goods and services that provides fall into the hands of a few large corporations out to control the world -- or at least a pretty significant part of it. Net neutrality is a pretty big thing. Just last year our lovely Republican government voted against total access to the internet by choosing to allow AT&T and a few cable companies fight it out for our internet access dollars. think that won't affect anything? Think again. My independent internet provider CRUZIO just sent out their monthly email newsletter with this interesting news item:

AT&T Censors Pearl Jam in Webcast
Telecommunications executives assure us there is no danger in leaving all Internet access in the hands of just a couple of companies. Cable, they say, will keep the phone company honest and vice versa. No need for any other Internet providers (like Cruzio or Earthlink, for example).

But then one of those big companies does something revealing, like silencing singer Eddy Veder's words in a concert when he inserted his own lyrics into Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." The words which AT&T cut were "George Bush, leave this world alone."

Of course, it is a private broadcast and AT&T or its subsidiary can beep out anything it likes, just as a newspaper can refuse to print statements it finds offensive. But without other companies willing to broadcast alternative viewpoints, what would the Internet be like? Are two Internet providers really enough choice? Cruzio believes that more competition is necessary to ensure Net Neutrality -- the principle that Internet providers will keep their hands off the content of what they deliver.

See the song and the cuts for yourself on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJPEAeI82-g

I can't say I'm any kind of an expert on this issue but the information is out there and it's well worth getting involved. See the banner link on my sidebar on the right of this page that says "Save the Internet"? Click on it, read all about it and sign the petition on their website. Then, please, tell your friends to do the same.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Walnut - Protecting the Young Seeker's Heart


Paul and I played the "Pick three videos at random and guess the connecting theme" game again this week. We got three "guy" movies — "The Bourne Identity," "True Lies," and "The Road to Perdition"—and enjoyed them all. All pretty violent and action-oriented but very different in terms of tone, pacing, and—in the case of Arnold Schwartzenegger—acting ability. You'd think the "violent guy" thing would have been theme enough but several others came about. Identity and preserving one's life while being in relationship with a significant other were the main ones. Most of these movies revolved around running away from bad guys, killing bad guys, blowing things up, trying to save and protect a loved one, and keeping from being killed oneself–all the stuff one would expect in an action guy flick. But the identity stuff kept coming up, too: "Who am I?", "Who is this person I married?", "Who (what kind of man) is my father?"

Interestingly enough, I got back to working on my Flower Essence book this week and felt drawn to investigate Walnut, a Bach flower essence I rarely use. There's a photo of the Walnut flower on this blog today. The Walnut tree has both male and female flowers. The male flowers are more showy—long pendulous catkins—while the female flower (shown above) looks just like a woman's womb. The walnut's fruit (the nut) grows inside the womb of the female flower which expands and forms a protective outer covering until the nut grows to maturity.

Dr. Bach used only female flowers to make his Walnut Flower Essence. It's used to help people develop the feeling of inner protection they need to nurture the development of a new identity while shedding an old one. It's for those who want to follow their own ideals and create their way in life but feel so vulnerable to other people's influence that they are easily thrown off their paths. It's especially useful during times of great transition.

This was a helpful description for me to read because I've been wondering about a behavior I've been exhibiting for a long time. Paul and I have created a little womb of safety around us to the extent that we rarely get together with most of our friends and family and NEVER see others. I stopped going to my dance and marimba classes and, lately, we both have been wanting to break out of this protective shell we've created and get out more. I'm sure that's in the making but, even though I've been worrying about this pattern, I haven't wanted to do anything about it very often until lately. This week I've been processing a lot of feelings related to family of origin and the society I grew up in and how important it has been for me to learn to protect my dearest dreams and respect my own path. That's been a VERY hard thing because, even though I've fallen off my horse and have tried to live a more conventional life many times, this time I really can't. It's just too important to me to follow this choice of career through, too many things I have left to do.

Dr. Bach railed against societal and parental interference in the books he wrote on Flower Essence Therapy. He felt that interfering in the development of a person's ability to manifest their own unique life purpose through criticism and shaming was one of the most damaging things that happened to young people. Healing that wound and the profound effects it has on the human psyche was, perhaps, the driving force behind his work.... and the work that Paul and I do.

We meet a lot of people who can't imagine why they should bother getting up in the morning. They go to work and perform their tasks with little or no enthusiasm, rush back home and pour themselves a tall one. Friday is the happiest day of their weeks. They all claim they don't know what they want to do. But when we talk to them long enough they always tell us what they like. They just don't believe it's possible. They once wanted to write books or do art or be healers like us. They want to do the things society, or their parents, or their friends or other loved ones tell them is crazy. "Yeah, you can do that." Goes the popular refrain. "But don't quit your day job!" Always said with a snort or a laugh. Sometimes gently if it looks like it means so much.

I once brought a basket of perfume to my dance class and quietly explained to an acquaintance that I intended to make my living, partially, designing perfume and selling it. He laughed, loudly. "Make a living selling perfume?!! How are you going to do that?!"

Oddly enough, it hadn't occurred to me that I couldn't. His comment threw me for a loop, for a minute. Was this a crazy thing? But in situations like that I always think about the woman who started Burt's Bees, on a shoestring budget, with little more than sweat and determination as her guide. Or J.K. (Joanne) Rowling who finished writing her first Harry Potter book as an unemployed single mother living on state benefits who knew that conventional wisdom said that she really must find herself a job. She intended to get a position as a teacher but knew if she did that, between working and taking care of her child, she'd have no time and attention left to write. So she worked like a madwoman, whenever she had a chance, to get her first novel done before financial pressures—or the shame of living on government handouts—forced her to stop. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was the result.

From Wikipedia:
In 1995, Rowling completed her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on an old manual typewriter.[29] Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evans, a reader who had been asked to review the book’s first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher. The book was handed to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected it.[30] A year later she was finally given the green light (and a £1500 advance) by editor Barry Cunningham from the small publisher Bloomsbury.[31][30] The decision to take Rowling on was apparently largely due to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of the company’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father, and immediately demanded the next.[32] Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.[33]
Well, we all know what happened instead of that.

Joanne Rowling knew the importance of creating a safe haven for one's heart. She took on the pseudonym of J.K. to nurture her project and give it a chance to be accepted by young boys who might be too ashamed to be caught reading something written by a woman in her culture. She gave little Harry Potter a Hogwarts Academy in which to nurture his own heart, talents, and dreams. And gave the world the vision of children growing into their full potential doing things their Muggle neighbors would never allow.

"You're a wizard, Harry!"

And now you know the importance of this haven of safety we've adopted in order to create. Sorry, if you're one of the people we haven't seen in some time. Sometimes you need a little protective space in which to maturate.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Journeys We Take to Learn to Do Better

Paul and I have a game we like to play. It started with me before we got together. I noticed some time ago that I could pick 3 movies at random, watch them and find connecting themes. Now we play this game together.

This week we rented "The Fifth Monkey" (don't bother), "Seven Years in Tibet", and "Run Lola Run". All enjoyable, more or less. All took place in countries other than the U.S. They all featured a main character (or more than one) who travels from place to place during much of the movie (in one case, more than once). All featured that main character displaying peculiar character flaws and making big mistakes. All grew into new understandings and better choices (sometimes through serendipity) through learning as they went along from the experiences of the journeys they made. All had a chance to redeem themselves by making a better choice at another time or place, and all succeeded at learning certain spiritual lessons as time went on.

We all make big mistakes on the journeys that we take. Or at least it seems that way at the time. But later on we often get to review those lessons again. Sometimes more than once. For some of us again and again. I've heard it said that the most important life lessons repeat as often as it takes. It isn't necessarily reassuring to think like that. But, if this is truly the case, perhaps by recognizing the repeating pattern we can glean information about what's not working and why. Then we can choose to make a different choice. And hopefully that will work better.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Ways We Get What We Need

Woke up this morning, as I have every day for a while now, with a dream fragment about the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in my mind. I never can remember what the dream is about, just that much. Today I asked myself: if this dream was a form of guidance what does it say I need? What did the Loma Prieta earthquake provide for me? What did I learn from it? What do I need now?

Interestingly enough, I did not dwell on how frightening or bad that was. I was married then and my ex-husband's business literally slid down a hill, his partner's wife insisted on leaving town the very next day, and a government contract which had involved almost a year of work was lost and never paid. The foundation of our house cracked and crumbled and we lived in the only liveable room with all our belongings piled up around us for years after that before we got other jobs and earned enough money (in addition to the minimal FEMA relief we qualified for) to rebuild and start again.

But I don't remember that when I wake up in the morning with these dreams. I think of the good things that eventually came of it instead.

So today when I asked "what came of it?" my first response was that I learned the value of hanging in and believing we'll get what we need, step by step over the long haul. As I said before, rebuilding took years! There was no overnight success on this path. And even when it looked bleakest and I had to give up on something I really wanted in order to get a regular job to help pay my way, I received skills and experiences so valuable Paul and I are actually depending on those things today.

Back then I was attempting to create a career as a fine artist/craftsperson. I made quilts out of very precisely cut tiny squares and triangles of decorated paper that I pasted to a backing board, framed and hung on the wall. This came out of my previous employment as a freelance paste-up artist, a career that had just become obsolete.

Back in the horse and buggy days, before Macintosh, graphic arts were done by hand. Imagine that! We ordered type set in large sheets from a typographer, printed photographs in a dark room, ran the sheets of type and photos through a waxing machine to get the backs sticky, and very carefully cut them out after lining everything up precisely with a T-square on a drawing table. The bits and pieces were then placed into exact position on a backing board to create ads, posters, magazine pages, whatever we were working on, and burnished into place with a glass roller. Then those pages were photographically transferred to printing plates of one kind or another and printed. The whole process from original concept to end result took weeks and certain effects we don't think twice about doing now were rarely if ever attempted at all. It required great skill and patience and I loved the meditative quality of it but in just a few short years after the Mac came on the scene that whole profession was gone.

I remember going to the brand new Computer Museum in Boston in 1984. My graphic design buddies and I came up to the "Wave of the Future" exhibit featuring the first tiny Mac and laughed! Yeah, like that was going to be how we did graphic design for now on. Tell us another one, ha, ha.

Less than a year later John and I moved to Santa Cruz and with Silicon Valley just a short distance away the graphic arts revolution wasn't just a pipe dream, it was already here! I couldn't face the idea of spending thousands of dollars for a computer and new software and spending months of my time to learn to do what I did already, so I was put out of work overnight and decided to pursue my deeper dream of doing my own thing as an artist, following wherever that might lead.

Just before the Loma Prieta earthquake hit I had hit a perceived limit on the art, too. I had a single quilt design that was a great success—a small blue and pink silly one with a heart in the center and tiny teddy bears in the corners—but, on my nonexistent budget, I couldn't figure out how to pay someone to reproduce them for me and I was going out of my mind doing it myself. I didn't go into the arts to work on an assembly line—boring!—and I didn't have enough of a profit margin to make it worthwhile. Looking back on it now I can see that had I gotten help to figure that piece out I could have made several of my products into a great success...but I didn't know then what I know now. That had to come as a result of our entire way of life crashing to a halt and waking up to the fact that I had to do something different.

Artisans Gallery, where I sold my work, lay in ruins after the quake, as were all the framed quilts I had been getting ready for a show. Shards of broken glass and twisted frames gouged holes into some of my favorite pieces. I salvaged what I could and kept selling what I had as long as I could but with our finances in shambles it just didn't make sense. So I mourned my losses, gathered up my courage and looked for a job doing disaster relief. The Downtown Association wanted a graphic designer. All the downtown businesses were operating out of tents and they needed someone to help create a paper newsletter and other old-fashioned devices to keep the flood of information merchants needed to carry on flowing. Apple had just donated a couple of brand new Macintosh computers to the cause and the staff they had didn't know how to turn them on or what to do with them once they did.

The interviewer said to me "If you can show us how to do the things we need these machines to do the job is yours." I thought I was doomed but I took a deep breath and asked what they needed to know. "Cut and Paste"! Unbelievably, a friend had only just shown me how to do that a couple of weeks before. It was the only thing I knew how to do. But I got the job—I knew more than they did—and got paid to teach myself everything else I needed to know.

Today I do all the ads Paul and I need, design and maintain our websites and helped him to start doing his own. Lately we've been using our computer skills to create products to sell using our photography and artwork. I even put an old quilt design on the gift shop we're creating through Cafepress and it was the first design we sold! (And the next and most popular design we've sold so far features a really simple idea with a heart in the middle.) So, I've come full circle on this. I now know several ways to do what I didn't know back then and the money from at least that one design is coming in faster than I would have expected.

So back to the original question: what do we need? What did that dream wake me up to tell? Well, it's very easy to get discouraged when the phone isn't ringing off the hook. It's hard to remember that we always get what we need in the time it takes and that sometimes what seems like a terrible delay actually allows this to happen. It gives us time to learn something new, for example. To expand our concept of who we are and what we can do. Time for the market to catch up to our innovations or time to develop new concepts and get them done.

I wouldn't be doing any of the things we're doing now—the spiritual practice, the perfume business, our cards and T-shirts, prints and what-have-you at Cafepress—without all the experiences that have come since that earthquake in 1989. I wouldn't have known how or even imagined it. You know the advice New Age people like to give—visualize what you want in every detail, let the dream go and allow what you dream to manifest for you? Ummm. What about those dreams that are way bigger than you can dream of? What about horrible occurrences that give you exactly the experiences you need to change and grow in ways you wouldn't be able to visualize now?

Sometimes it is as simple as "dream it, be it." But you also need to allow the time it takes to grow.