Is it a question you have ever considered? Or, perhaps it is your customary way of interacting with the world around you. For most of us who are no longer living inside the bodies of children, I think, living with wonder takes a bit of effort. Or, more aptly put, a fair amount of surrender. It is a mindful act of welcoming the magic of life back into our awareness.
In February, as part of a 4-day a yoga and book club series of events based upon the lessons from my middle grade metaphysical fantasy book, The Labyrinth, I will be guiding a “walk with wonder” at a local hiking spot. This idea has been playing around inside of my mind for some time now. And, as many of you who read my blog on a regular basis will know, it is not a concept that is foreign to who I am. I am an adventurer my nature, and love nothing better than getting outside and exploring the magic it has to offer up.
I can’t say that every moment I spend in nature is an opening to wonder, but when I allow that conscious, mindful surrendering to occur, I am never disappointed. Sometimes the results are familiar, sometimes they are a surprise. You never quite know what you are going to encounter with your senses when they are tuned to the world around you.
And so, as I thought about what it means to “walk with wonder,” I found myself scrolling through some of the photos I have taken during my walks over the last few years. Finding, you might say, the proof in the pictures. You don’t need a camera to capture the wonder around you, you merely need a willing heart. Sometimes, in fact, the camera is a distraction. To fully walk in wonder, it is probably better left at home, or in your pocket if it’s attached to your phone.
Nonetheless, here are a few things you might find when you walk with wonder:
If you could dream anything into being what would it be? We all harbor secret longings and aspirations. There’s that needling, persistent urge inside of each of us that won’t let us go. Or maybe you have followed that needling and somehow brought your dream into reality. Whatever the story might be, I’d love to hear about it. Share it in the comments, send me it as a guest post, whatever pulls your heart toward joy…I’d love to hear about it. Let’s share those secret, or not so secret, longings that sometimes keep us up at night with all their wonderful “what ifs.”
My secret longings have changed over the years, but there have been some constants. There has always been a pull inside of me to help bring more beauty into the world to erase some of the darkness… These days there’s a nagging dream that follows me while I walk in the woods. It seeps into my dreams and shows me the full beauty of its wonderment. I don’t know if it will ever be realized, but maybe, just maybe someday I will see it transform into the daylight. When I envision it, it makes my heart sing. Isn’t that what all dreams without the nightmare are meant to do?
I’m sharing my dream with you in the hopes that you will share yours too. That perhaps it will spark a light that grows a little stronger as we find the courage to find a home for each of our secret longings.
Here is the “dream” that fills me with the Wild Wonder of What-If:
Imagine a place, if you will, where people can go to find their own wild wonder. Where we are moved to step outside the confines of structure and conformity to find that home inside the heart where we realize we are a part of everything that surrounds us. It is a place where nature runs wild and free and where we are reminded of home. That we are not separated from, but a part of the whole, and the natural world that surrounds us.
In my dream there are “centers” where people can explore wild wonder and what it means to them. They are places where the inner child opens to joy and finds home inside the self and all that surrounds it. Perhaps that center offers classes and workshops, or maybe it is simply a gateway to nature. The only rules are kindness and compassion. Both for the self, and for our surroundings.
It is perhaps a movement, more than a place. A reconnection to our roots. The knowing that we are not just of the Earth and all that exists, but a part of it.
Because I’m writing a middle grade book series that very much centers around this concept, my dream includes the heroes of my books and their passions. At the centers I envision:
Sula’s Library of Wonderful Reads
Aponi’s Field of Pollinator Delights
Shesha’s Meditation & Mindfulness Maze
Lupe’s Local Eats Organic Cafe
Dell’s Fantastic Fairy Gardens & Pools
Ari’s Adventure Walks in the Woods
And so much more…
It’s fun to dream about what we want to create, but creating can be a challenge. I am trying to bring my vision forth in steps. Writing the book series is one of them. My husband and I talk about where we might live someday when our kids are out of college, and I can envision the first center perhaps beginning at that place. After all, my ideas for the centers arose out of a walk I took with him on the 4th of July. Somehow we landed at a place that perfectly suited this vision. It had, already, all the foundations of the elements I saw in the vision. The property, though, was not for sale. That’s okay, we’re not ready to move.
Once again, like many others, I am feeling deeply bothered by the state of the world in which we all live. Today I am thinking of the words of Louis Armstrong and his beautiful lyrical antidote to a troubled world. A world that, more than fifty years later, feels, well, no less-troubled.
Where have we gone wrong? How do we make right?
We still cling to our violence like an infant clings to his “blankie.” We are hesitant to let go. The lust for power and greed continually supersedes our common good. We are a broken beautiful world trying to exists in the extremes of violence (mankind) and beauty (nature).
I use the world “mankind,” because let us be clear that it is the driving force of masculinity, whether it exists in a so-called male of female body, that lends itself towards violent acts. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it often is in our world. The driving force is also the creative force, bringing forth life instead of death, in all its myriad forms.
It is working with the “light” that drives the life force that threads through all of us in its purest form. It is what Christ strived for, and Buddha. It is a quest for a balance and harmony. For the common good of all life.
And here we are stuck in the throes of our extremes. Many of us are struggling to incite change: signing petitions, calling senators, picketing our capital buildings, voting…while knowing it is simply not enough.
I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. I don’t know what it is going to take for us to put aside our accumulated lust for power and find our common ground. I wish I did.
One thing that nags me continuously though, is those we keep silent. Those who pull the card of spirituality without actually doing the real work. The term spiritual bypassing was coined by a psychotherapist named John Welwood to define individuals who use spirituality and its practices as a way of bypassing the real work of healing and changing their lives. Now it is a term used to also include the lives of others.
We see it all the time. It has become a chronic problem. An excuse for either doing nothing, or worse, doing the wrong thing. I am stretching the limits of this term to define all of those who claim to be following the path of the “light,” but refusing to do the real work to support the balance and harmony of life, whether it be within or outside of them.
We see it everywhere, in all of its masked forms. Self-ascribed christians refusing to give up their weapons of death used to murder children. We see it in self-ascribed light-workers refusing to acknowledge their individual and our shared darkness in their need to hold onto the ideal of the “light” they think shines more brightly within them. Their need to feel special superseding the good they proclaim to spread in the world. Instead of digging into fact-based, real-world problems to work towards bringing light to our collective darkness, they add to the darkness by spreading falls theories created by bots and deranged individuals intent of perpetrating the chaos in the world. The irony is almost too much to bear, but bear it they do, with a perverse sense of delight. Otherwise they would not be “special.”
This chronic need to be special and have control over others negates the real work of the light and being a spiritual being, whether you are professed follower of Christ, Buddha, Allah…a pantheon of gods or one God.
A world filled with beings who are striving to be separate. To feel special. To be better. Beings that feast on individual greed and need…with always tip towards chaos.
Our beautiful world of “skies of blue,” and “fields of green,” is raging. Fires burn in lands turned arid by mankind’s greed. Fires burn from the bullets of guns, destroying life, over and over again, because of mankind’s lust for power and control. And the fires of denial burn in the hearts of those who bypass the real work of life and cling to their sense of otherness.
We cannot live in a wonderful world without doing the real work of nurturing life itself.
My journey into the world of podcasting continues with episode 88of Steve Silverman’s “World Gone Good” podcast. I had a wonderful time chatting with Steve about healing, writing, reiki, yoga, and following your joy. Some of the highlights include our Jodie Foster stories, how we healed our stomach aliments through mindfulness, and how we channel our inner truth through writing.
It was a genuine honor and pleasure being on “World Gone Good.” If you have thirty minutes to listen to episode 88, you can find it here. Better yet, start following Steve’s awesome podcast!
“Warriors of Light: The Labyrinth, was a great story to read with my daughter. From a young age, she was aware of the suffering of humans and our disconnection from Mother Earth. Recently, it has been more palpable as we had to leave our beloved homestead because our water was contaminated by application of forever chemical (PFAS) filled sludge on our neighbor’s farm. When I asked her if I should have shielded her better from what is going on in our broken relationship with Earth, she told me that she was grateful that I talked about these things with her and what we do to be transformation because she could plainly see that the relationship with Earth is out of harmony. Initiation is a personal path that leads to the universal story, and seeing that there are guides and paths to healing, it is not an easy or straightforward journey. It takes grace, forgiveness, acceptance, courage, honesty, bravery… There is power, too, in that we are not the only ones on the paths of the labyrinth, but others are making their way and our stories interconnect.“
When I showed these words to a friend of mine, she told me she wished there we more dads in the world like this one. I replied, “If there were, the world would be a vastly different place.”
After I read the email from the father of a young reader, my heart filled with hope, and my eyes, tears. We are living in a world of extremes as we individually and collectively struggle to control the chaos that we have co-created. The irony is that, for the most part, we seem to have forgotten that we have, indeed, created the hatred, violence, anger, injustice, and degradation of life that we so desperately are trying to find a way out of. Instead of kindness, compassion, and empathy, we too often point the finger in blame. We rage. We fight. We struggle for control.
And, we and all life on the planet suffer because of our actions (and inactions), including the living planet itself. Our struggles to be right. To hold onto limiting belief systems and ways of living are inhibiting us from living in harmony with life. How telling it is that a 9-yr-old child knows this innately, but somehow the vast majority of us have forgotten this Truth.
What we reap, we sow. Years ago, I made a vow to “find the light behind the story.” We are all bodies of stories, and together we share the stories of our history. We are long over-due to change the narratives. Read the words of the father in quotes once more. Feel them in your bones. What are they saying to you?
For me, they are a reminder of why I write what I do. The only way to change the narrative is to rewrite it. By rewriting it, we Do Not erase. Instead, we dig into our shadowland and find the light, and the light is what we grow. Our very lives depend upon it. If you are in doubt, ask a child who has not yet forgotten.
Last night I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Barney Smith of the Story Comic podcast. It was truly a fun-filled hour that flew by. We talked about the writing life, self-publishing, the emerging field of visionary fiction, and why I wrote the Warriors of Light series to empower today’s youth.
I’d be honored if you checked out the interview, which is also on YouTube. Barney interviews all sorts of creatives, and more of his podcasts can be found at Storycomic.com.
I was hoping to get this post out yesterday, but it ended up being a rather long and exhausting day. I was called in to sub at the middle school and the day stretched out from there without much time for blogging. So here I am now reaching out with a request to help the “Warriors of Light” repair the lines of light in Earth. I am looking for a handful of beta readers who are willing to journey (back) intoThe Labyrinthwith my six young warriors as they continue their quest together in book two of the series.
I you have not The Labyrinth, no worries. It would be nice to get perspectives from both those who have, and those who have not. Here is a brief synopsis of the plot of the first book and the overall quest of the adventure trilogy:
A mysterious labyrinth appears to six teens, luring them into a magical maze of light broken by darkness. Here they discover they are the chosen ones, tasked to bring back the light in Earth. It is a seemingly impossible quest in a place where danger and otherworldly beings lurk in the shadows. The teens, though, have extraordinary gifts. They are shapeshifters, able to transform into their spirit animals and unleash their powers. It is both a gift and a curse, as the teens come to realize how much is at stake…
If you are willing to help me bring book two in the series into the world by becoming a beta reader, I would be very grateful. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or respond in the comments. The manuscript will be sent to you as a PDF file formatted to read like a book. At this stage I am looking for general feedback, but welcome typos if you happen to catch them. Many thanks in advance for those who are willing to help me out.
I’ve come to the conclusion the best magic is that which arises unbeckoned and fills the soul with joy. During a family trip to California over the Thanksgiving holiday week, I had the pleasure of encountering this type of magic more than once.
On the second morning of our stay in Thousand Oaks, my husband, daughter ventured to a nearby system of trails and left my sleep son behind in the hotel. A mere ten minutes drive from where we were staying, we were afforded several paths to choose from for our morning hike. After debating between Paradise Falls (which likely had no water to offer) and Lizard Rock, we chose the trail leading to the head of the dragon. We could just make out its profile on the far horizon and it seemed to beckon us. I didn’t know Sue would be waiting for us there, but I wasn’t surprised when I saw her.
Call me crazy, if you will, but those who are willing to open their minds to wonder will likely nod their heads in knowing. Life is filled with magic, we simply need to recognize it for what it is. We need to respond to its subtle cue and open our minds to wonder to welcome it through the door. When we do, rarely are we met with disappointment.
The land we traveled that morning, as all land is on this planet, is ancient. This land, unlike many other places that have been radically altered my humankind, still bears the memories of magic. There was little doubt in my mind that it was once, and perhaps still is, considered a sacred place. A place where people intimately connected to Life had called forth in the energies of the land and the sky to feed the dragon lines. The rocks still hold the stories. As rocks tend to do. They are the bones of Earth. The keepers of memories long stored, waiting to be awakened.
The weather was near perfect, the sky that impossible blue that only comes in autumn. Yet, the ground below our feet was scorched and withered for want of rain. Over to our right, as we walked toward the head of the lizard, a coyote paced the hillside, watching us. If we had wanted to venture toward the spiny back of the lizard, today was clearly not the day to do so.
It was a little jarring to have our animal guide lurking so close beside us, especially with the knowing that one coyote often belies a pack inwaiting. But it was approaching mid-day and there were other hikers roaming the trails with canine companions of their own. Even if we were being watched, we were safe enough. And the symbolism of the coyote, with the blackbird that awaited us, could not be more fitting for a place such as this.
Lizard rock is just over a mile from the parking lot of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks, and when we arrived at its head we waited patiently for the hikers who proceeded us to take their photos. My daughter and I both wanted our turn, and as you can see, the view is well worth it. When a solitary blackbird appeared overheard circling above us I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt we had arrived at a special place. I could only imagine what it once must have been like to look upon nothing but wild wilderness and feel the rush of energy commence at the head of the dragon upon which I sat.
Sadly, though, I could not ignore the feeling of neglect in its place. Southern California is suffering greatly from the effects of climate change and the land is so thirsty for water even the visiting body aches for it. I felt myself wishing I had the power of my Warriors of Light character, Dell, wishing I could sing the water back to water Earth.
The walls of the cave continued to fill, and Dell did not drown. She had becoming a part of the body of water. Together they moved against the structure of stone, softening its form and urging its pores open to fill hardened veins with life. Up they rose, higher and higher, as the water lifted the weight of time along its way to open air.
The other day, I found myself chatting with a friend about our writing aspirations. While I was talking about my visions for the Warriors of Lightbook series, the conversation veered into the subject of magic. I mentioned how most books that use magical elements are placed into the category of fantasy because they are beyond the realms of the realistic. They entertain and enthrall us by encouraging our minds to play with the fantastic in the form of the impossible or unreachable. They stir our imaginations in a way that leaves us wishing for something we will never obtain. Fantasy, though, can also remind the imagination that there is more to life than we often allow ourselves to notice…
How frustrating it can be to feel as though a magical life is illusive and always beyond the realm of possibility. When I mentioned that a few readers of The Labyrinth had compared my book to one of the most popular fantasy series written, our conversation began to explore the definition of magic and how much it differs in my series vs. the one it had been compared to. The young “warriors of light” protagonists are not wizards or witches, nor do they use wands or attend a school that teaches spells and potions. Instead, their teacher is the labyrinth, a magical maze they journey through individually and together to bring back the light where it has been broken by darkness. Sure there are somewhat fantastical elements. The six young protagonists learn how to shapeshift into their spirit animals. Some of them see ghosts and all of them converse with beings in other realms, but is there really so fantastic?
Magic Can Be Extraordinary
Those how have traveled the shamanic journey will probably tell you that shapeshifting, or communing with spirit totems is not so fantastical. And, I’d wager most of us have had communications with spirits or beings from other realms, whether we realize it or not.
The hidden realms of life reveal their wonder as we open ourselves to the inherent magic that resides in all life. Like young children who have not yet lost their connection to inherent magic, our inner sight and senses re-expand beyond the ho-hum of the everyday routines. A mere walk in nature can stir the cells into a state of blissful union. Glimpses, or perhaps more, of the extraordinary become common, but no less magical. The more connected we feel, the more interconnected we feel as joy arises from our sense of being a part of an infinite web of light.
The Magical Inner Journey
While adding truly fantastical elements to a book of fiction can be fun, the magic of a hero’s journey arises out of self-discovery. It is an inner journey as well as outer journey. This is magic that is not only sustainable, but grows with awareness. The state of joy becomes accessible, achievable, and sustainable unlike a material treasure that is not easily found and can be lost, or stolen away. The gift of inherent magic can only be robbed by the self as it resides within the self.
Magic is an opening to and not a manipulation of energy
True magic arises out of the very essence of life. It does not manipulate the forces of the elements, but opens to the inherent magic that already exists. Herein lies true wonder. The state of joy is accessible through the opening. When we allow ourselves to open to life’s mysteries we find connection, truth, and re-union. Although most of us are not trained in shamanism, or have the ability to shapeshift into our spirit animals like the protagonists in the Warriors of Light series, we do have the ability to connect with and glean wisdom, inspiration, and a sense of union with the animal and plant communities around us. Many of us experience an aspect of this connection with the animal companions that live in our homes, but we can also open ourselves to connecting with the wildlife outside of our homes. Sitting in the presence of a tree and bearing witness to its enduring strength and flexibility, or watching the transformation of an earth-bound caterpillar into a near-weightless butterfly can bring profound insight, peac,e and awe to the observer.
Magic is Living in Wonder
This is magic. It is opening to life and all of its wonders that exists and unfold in each moment all around us. It is the knowing that not everything can, or will be known, in one’s lifetime, because life is filled with such complex and intricately balanced beauty that no mind can truly understand creation.
We left the eye with more questions than answers. Inside my mind’s eye I could still see the figure of white light standing over the pyramid stone. Waiting for our arrival. Waiting for the white pillar of crystal I had promised to seed at its base.
It was a short walk, through the tangle of roots and moss, to get back to the stone that had filled my thoughts for two months. I dropped my backpack nearby, and began digging through the contents for the wrapped selenite and Sophia’s small pyramid of rose quartz. As I searched for the pink stone, a noise rustled the forest into alert and we knew hikers were approaching.
Worry set in a bit as I wondered if we would be interrupted when it really matter most, but I soon discovered that our visitors were, in essence, just what we needed. A heaviness had set in after leaving the guardians and the white boulder. I, personally, felt a bit of an unease as to whether we were really meant to be near the “eye,” or had tried to “look” too closely at what was not meant to be observed. But there had been the wren, and I had to believe there was a purpose to our visit, even it if was not wholly revealed.
The wolf-dog appeared before his human companion. Later, Deb would remark about how even her appearance seemed more than accidental. A tall blond with blue eyes filled with an ethereal light. She and her rescued husky brought a joy that was much needed. That had somehow dissipated after our climb.
Ari and his caretaker had lightened our collective mood, and after their departure we decided to take a few moments to ground ourselves with some food and water. It was clear, through our visitors, that we were not meant to rush.
Trusting the inner guidance I was receiving, I suggested we form our own pyramid to seed our offerings and then join our energy with the energies surrounding us.
It was a natural unfolding, the white pillar slid into darkness, settling well below the base of the mighty stone above it, while Sophia and Deb seeded their stones at the points of their calling. No one else appeared from the trails as we gathered together again to extend our arms into three sides. Each voice, in turn, opening to words of gratitude for our presence being allowed. And, our offerings being received.
Our work soon felt complete, and a quiet fatigue settled in as we began to make our descent down the mountain. Although we shared words, we were also individually wrapped in the processing of our experiences. I, wondering if the lines might shine a little brighter than when I had first arrived on the serpent mountain two months prior. And, perhaps, a little more opened. Lines rejoining as the crystals settled back into the body of the Mother.
“It’s a snake!” Deb announced, as I shrieked and jumped back into the arms of Sophia.
“Oh gosh,” I apologized. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare it away.”
A garter snake, well into adulthood, its brown and tawny body blending with the earth, slithered away from our path and into the underbrush of the forest.
I thought of Shesha, the snake-boy from my book. The fourth character in the six to appear that day. And we all thought of Isis. It seemed a fitting guide for the end of our journey.
The small blue car coasted down the mountain with more ease than it had ascended. As we turned the corner to join the main road, a bear arose from the wooden face of a store placard. There, before me, was my sign from Sula, the bear-girl. All that was left was Dell. The otter girl. I realized the chances of seeing an otter that day were slim, but still I wondered if the hexagram would complete itself.
Less than twenty-four hours it would. Opening the screen of my computer, an otter would appear. It was time to await the next journey. Wherever and whenever that might be.