Contentment… really!

A tiny orange and black moth, not even as big as the end of my thumb, flaps her wings near the window as I write. I saw her twin while I was walking the frogyrinth, earlier.

The words to an old hymn echo deep inside me. I’ve got peace/love/joy like a river… in my soul. 

I’ve hummed along all weekend.

A new friend rests nearby while, outside, the ballet of Qigong active exercise goes on.

This is, in fact, my favorite movement. The one focused on contentment.

It’s mesmerizing.

And, I suspect, very counter-cultural.

There’s no money to be made in contentment.

Please hear me say that I’m not throwing stones. I grew up with a dad who fed his family with his skills in sales and marketing.

We didn’t so much watch TV when I was a kid, as we watched commercials.

And commercials are literally everywhere we look these days. All the time.

Which is worth a bit of noticing. And some wondering to go along with it.

How long has it been since many of us have felt content… even for a few moments?

And, the really big question:  How in the world do we help our kids and grandkids get a glimpse of what contentment feels like?

They’re not easy questions, I know.

I suspect, though, that the answer begins in becoming aware of our almost overwhelming tendency toward comparison.

Bigger. Stronger. Smarter. Faster. Prettier. Younger. Richer.

Well, you fill in the blanks…

And, maybe — just maybe — the answer has to do with valuing ourselves and each other as individuals instead of focusing on how we compare to everyone else.

Which is also a really good way to avoid more bullies and kids inclined to be victims of bullying!

It doesn’t have to be about being perfect.

(Or never shopping again!)

Just making a couple of shifts in the ways we talk about ourselves and each other.

And maybe creating a bit of peace/love/joy while we’re at it.

At least, that’s what the frog said!

 

Perspective!

I am in the universe.

The universe is in my body.

The universe and I are one.

Thus begins a favorite Spring Forest Qigong meditation.

My Rabbit Hole journey, which is drawing to a close, changed things, as Rabbit Holes generally do.

A magnificent space. Stunning gardens. Music flowing with peace. Gentle gongs keeping fascinating people on a journey together. (Or mostly!) Delicious food, elegant in its simplicity.

And as close at it seems 10 people might come to a virtual absence of inner critics!

Just people gently making space for each other to take care of themselves. No shame. No blame. No pressure.

It feels rather like a miracle!

Healing of a powerful sort, thanks to old friends and new from Learning Strategies.

I knew when I signed up for this particular Rabbit Hole excursion that it would be a stretch for me, activity-wise.

And it was.

I also know that stretching is how we get stronger. More whole.

There have been times in the past when I wasn’t sure I could stretch any farther without breaking. Until I tried.

And then, just in the last few weeks, the painting, above, was born inside me.

Two perspectives, different on the surface, encountering each other on the path called Color of Woman.

This weekend, image and language came together. An unexpected combination of Intentional Creativity and intentional movement. Plus a bit of geography!

I am in the universe.

The universe is in my body.

The universe and I are one.

Words I’ve known for several years.

Now I know what it looks like. I am changed. And my world feels a whole lot bigger!

Come back here Wednesday to meet the frogs. And the wonder of contentment!

The dogs will be home from Camp, too!

 

It’s rabbit hole time again!

One of my favorite dogs, growing up, was a golden retriever named Alice. She’s been on my mind the last few days.

I suspect it’s because I’m headed for the rabbit hole again. (Yes, we’re free associating, here!)

Alice was my friend through a variety of tween/teen moves and changes and how-the-hell-will-I-ever-fit-in experiences.

Tomorrow, it’s time for another of those.

I’m headed to a deep dive Qigong retreat.

Now, for those of you who are about to ask what Qigong is, I’m going to start with the fact that it’s kind of hard to explain.

An eastern energy/movement practice, as I’ve learned it from Spring Forest Qigong founder, Chunyi Lyn, I think of Qigong as being a blessedly needle-free experience, somewhere between acupuncture and yoga in its mysterious healing effects on practitioners, but with less emphasis on actually being on the floor which I consider to be a very good thing!

(Apologies, Chunyi!)

Or, in a somewhat more theological sense, it’s a mystery… at least to me.

Let’s just say that, back when I was in nursing school, nothing in my well-worn copy of Gray’s Anatomy explained the impact of opening the flow of energy in the body.

But, I’m okay with mystery. And so I’m getting on a plane, headed for the land of my birth. The land of Garrison Keillor and the “hardy Vikings” of my family’s oral tradition.

We’re going to meditate and bounce and pat with cupped hands and, generally speaking, open up what’s blocked, energetically.

I must confess to being a bit out of practice. My friends at Learning Strategies are more than willing to help, by graciously hosting the retreat.

Clean, healthy food. Time enough for sleep. Gentle encouragement to leave the work at home.

(Well, two out of three is pretty good!)

On my packing list… all natural mosquito repellant. Mineral sunscreen. A hat! An essential oil preparation for muscle and joint relief. My intentional walking shoes. Some socks with the rubbery bottoms for bouncing. And a stunning, bright red shawl for meditation, in case I get chilly.

Also an apron. I’m the designated sous chef!

Am so looking forward to exploring the stunning gardens, a house sheltered in the earth, and — wait for it — the Frogyrinth!

Watch for pics and tales of the frogs.

Healing, as they say, comes in many forms. I’m for what works!

And the fitting in thing… these days I’m more for just showing up!

 

The FOMO plague returns!

Just before Thanksgiving, last year, I shared a bit about a case of what my wise friend, Yasmin Nguyen of The Joyful Living Project, refers to as FOMO. Or, Fear of Missing Out. Rather like the fear of not being enough, with which many of  us struggle, at least occasionally, FOMO is a plague that returns especially in times of stress or impending change.

I seem to have had another attack.

In one sense, I’m not all that surprised. In a rather odd way, my recent FOMO symptoms may have been both the result of “a bit” of stress in our world and the outcome of a lot of newness.

Here’s what I can tell you… I got all wrapped around the axle again about what to eat, which is kind of ironic, all things considered.

I know a lot about food. Especially the local, organic, sustainably raised kind. I’ve written a couple of food memoirs/cookbooks. I’ve gotten quite adept at juggling some fairly diverse eating patterns in our family. And I’m determined to model food sanity for my girls!

Nonetheless, I found myself hunting, not for new strategies or ingredients so much, as for the answer. Which, in many ways, is generally a trap.

I forgot that we’re all different. I forgot that there are actual limits to what can be accomplished with a magic wand.

And, I forgot that just about everybody with an opinion on the subject of food is trying to sell something.

Supplements, often. Magic fat-melting tea, inexplicably full of things like xylitol. Miracles claiming to make everything easy. Miracles that are often far away from being actual food.

So, I read a lot of books. And spent some money. And got oddly less connected to myself.

All the while, I was learning other door opening things. Things having to do more with paint than with food. With physics and deep wisdom. With the created world. And with profound connections between past and present.

And then one day the new things I was learning began to heal my FOMO plague.

I picked up a book I’d read 10 years or so ago. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan who, to the best of my knowledge, is only selling books.

Pollan has written a couple of more recent books. I’ll report back when I’ve read them. But, for tonight, Pollan’s three point plan for turning down the shaming, blaming chorus that lives in so many of us about food. Are you ready?

  • Eat food.
  • Not too much.
  • Mostly plants.

That, I can wrap my head around.

Now, before you run screaming to the place with the golden arches, Pollan is not anti-animal protein. (Which would be difficult, to say the least, at my house.)

His focus in on real food. As close to nature as possible. We’re pretty good at that, except when we’re not.

He also makes a strong argument for variety, which way works for me.

And, at the same time, his work is a good reminder that too many absolutes tend to make us cave in and lust after brightly colored things that are a very long way from food and much closer to science projects.

I feel back on track again.

Centered. Calm.

Back to making choices that have integrity for me. That fit with my values. Many of them all at once.

Things seem clearer again.

There’s an enormous pot of bone broth on my stove and all those veg I bought during my well-invested hour on Wednesday have actually been eaten and enjoyed.

Tomorrow, more hunting and gathering.

Tonight, gratitude for things to be learned, even from outbreaks of FOMO. And dots to make!

ps – Just in case you’re intrigued by the Intentional Creativity stuff… here’s a link to a new course I’m really excited about! www.codexcourse.com

 

 

An hour…well invested!

Not so long ago, I began experimenting with the notion of investing money, rather than spending it.

This shift turned out to be a pretty good example of what my hypnosis/NLP friends would call a one step reframe.

One step as in — boom! — new thought — new language — major new experience.

Then, as such reframes are known to do, it began to shift other things.

Before too long, I was experimenting with investing time as well as money.

Now, just between us, it usually only feels like one step. Generally, there’s a non-conscious lead-up to a reframe like this that works a bit like trick-or-treating.

We wander about our lives, collecting experiences and stories and comments in a non-conscious sort of way. Then, one day, the boom! happens.

And, if we look back, sometimes we can see hints of how it came to be.

One of those hints, in this case, was a conversation in my PRISM painting class about acting in integrity with our values.

There were, undoubtedly, other hints along the way. Use your imagination.

For today, let me tell you about investing an hour (and $79.00) this morning.

I went to the DeKalb International Farmers Market. Here’s what I came home with:

An hour of intentional walking. Complete with air-conditioning! And a bit of strength training.

Six bags of produce. Mostly leafy green things. Mainly for the 2-footed peeps.

Three bags of prizes for the raw-fed beasties. Including a major score of grass-fed beef hearts at $2.99 a pound!

One small basket of fabulous  organic black mission figs, which are one of those gifts from heaven sort of things that must be celebrated.

A plan for lunch. (Hint…figs!)

Some organic walnuts.

And, a wedge of raw milk Manchego, which is a sheep’s milk cheese imported from Spain, that goes by the name of Don Quixote’s horse. (How cool is that???)

Not to mention, several encounters of the peace-making variety.

Sign language conversations with the guy unloading avocados and the one stacking gorgeous rainbow carrots in a bin.

An actual verbal conversation, which also included a lot of bowing, with the man who weighed all the various poultry parts the dogs love. His name tag said he spoke French, English, Arabic, and another language that started with a “T” that I didn’t even recognize.

And, it was a great day for waving at babies!

Waving at babies is a major part of my plan for peace on Earth.

That, and eating real food.

And helping to employ the immigrant community nested around my neighborhood.

All of which turned out to be an amazing opportunity to act on a whole lot of my values in an hour flat, and come home with the grace of figs.

Should you happen to encounter some figs where you live, slice them in half the long way.

Drizzle with the best balsamic vinegar you have. (Preferably the syrup-y kind!)

Sprinkle with a combination of freshly ground red and black pepper and just a smidge of good sea salt.

They really go well with the Manchego.

And, they’re also delightful roasted, cut side down, in a cast iron skillet. Preferably one you’re cooking lamb chops in!

That’s a fantasy for another day.

For today, an hour. Really well invested!

 

Alchemy in the real world!

If you look at a calendar, or even out the window, you will notice that it’s the middle of August. Time for making a last trip to the beach. Closing up the cabin. Stocking up on school supplies. Getting ready for the Qigong retreat. And, depending on where you live, drooling over garden catalogs for fall and winter planting.

It is, in my world, also time for contemplating new moons and journeys winding to a close/start.

And, today, it’s time for alchemy. With paint brushes, certainly. And, especially, in the kitchen. Today, I am boiling bones.

You see, Spike needs some soup.

IMG_4127Spike is an old guy who’s having a tough time. He looks a lot like Spike Too. Spike Too was rescued this week and taken to his new home where he is now in charge of greeting.

I am in charge of soup.

Or, more specifically, bone broth, which is one of the things in my medicine basket. And one of the things that just insisted on showing up in my Legend painting, back toward the beginning of my Color of Woman journey through the world of Intentional Creativity.

Soup doesn’t “fix” everything. It does, for many, many of us, make life’s journeys easier.

So here, at the special request of my very talented photographer friend, Kristen Alexander, is a contemporary, minimalist version of the alchemical formula for turning bones into comfort and major nutrition for your 4-footed, carnivore friends.

And a quote from one of my wise Red Madonna teachers, Havi Brysk Mandell:

What if we could be passionately and openly curious about what is in our own medicine basket? 

While nobody loves a battered, patina-ed, old stock pot more than I do, I’ve developed quite a fondness for an 8 quart Instant Pot Duo when it comes to this kind of project. Please adjust times and amounts according to your particular equipment and process.

Place 2 – 3 pounds of grass-fed beef “bones” into your pot. A mix of rib and knuckle bones, some beef tendons if you can get them, beef feet if they fit in your pot (or lamb feet if you can find them), leftover bones (not spit upon!) from cooked steak/roast beef, etc. will work. I especially like short ribs and beef tendons for this.

You could also use chicken, lamb, or goat bones, depending on what’s available. Even venison or rabbit. A mix of roasted and raw is great! Feet and necks are healthy, inexpensive options. Choose the cleanest, highest quality bones you can find. Grass/pasture raised, local, sustainably farmed, etc.

Add aromatics as desired. (Not all herbs are appropriate for pets. If in doubt, or trying to address any particular conditions, ask your vet!) I use 2 – 3 fresh bay leaves and about a nickle sized bundle of thyme from my garden. Carrot feathers, parsley stems, celery, etc. can also be used but are not necessary. Most experts suggest not using onions or garlic for pets.

Add 1/4 c. organic apple cider vinegar “with the mother”, which pulls helpful nutrients from the bones, plus cold water to the fill line of your Instant Pot or about 2 inches from top of a standard stock pot.*

If using an electric pressure cooker, set it for 2 hours at high pressure. Allow the pressure to release naturally. Cool, enough to strain. Please do NOT feed your pet cooked bones! 

*If cooking on the stove top, longer is better. Bring to gentle boil. Skim and discard any foamy stuff that forms on top. Reduce heat to simmer. Tiny bubbles! Cook 12- 16 hours for poultry broth, up to 24 hours for beef, etc.

Chilling is important. Insiders use a chill stick to speed cooling, which is simply a small, stainless water bottle with a screw-on lid, about 2/3 full of water and frozen in advance.  When the side of your pot is comfortable to hold your hand against, place it, covered, in the fridge.  A really good batch will look a lot like jello when  thoroughly chilled.

You may pick out any meaty or cartilage bits to feed your pet, if desired. Most of the nutrients are already in the broth but, especially if they are ill or old, and having trouble eating, they may enjoy the cooked bits. Our three Newfie rescues are raw fed so, while I add bone broth to their diet for joint and immune protection, I don’t feed them cooked meat. Again, if in doubt, ask your vet.

That’s it! Gather. Cook. Strain. Chill. Make your fur-baby happy.

Store broth in fridge for up to 5 days or in freezer for up to 6 months. I freeze in BPA-free plastic and leave an inch of head space for expansion as it freezes. Be sure to label!

And, for versions of bone-boiling alchemy your human family will enjoy, see my Amazon bestseller, Let’s Boil Bones… available in Kindle books and coming soon in paperback.

 

 

 

Minding Mama!

Legend, and a few of my seminary professors, hold that the famous Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth (1886-1968), once said something pretty close to, “We do theology with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.”

A bit of rooting around some dusty corners of the internet reveals that the specific quote is hard to trace, but that Barth shared variations of the thought in several letters and interviews.

I’ve carried those words around in my mental backpack of things I don’t leave home without for decades.

In the last few days, they’ve become even more true for me. (Which suggests that Tillich was right, but that’s a subject for a different day!)

You see, I’ve been hanging out with Bella Mama.

Bella Mama is, in one sense, a painting class. A gracious gift from the amazing Shiloh Sophia McCloud and my friends in Intentional Creativity land.

A madonna, perhaps. Mother Earth. The Divine Feminine. A symbol of different things for each of us and, yet, a powerful reminder of the absolute human need for mama-ing.

And (Let’s be real!) as I’m a bit behind on my Color of Woman journey, she’s been following me around for a few weeks now, dropping hints about how she would like to take form and why she matters so much in this moment.

First, she whispered to me that she is fierce compassion.

Then, she proclaimed that the US border immigration disaster in this moment, also known as “the newspaper”, is a serious hint about her message.

Then, truly, I was wandering through Kudzu one day, combining a bit of intentional walking with an artist date, and I saw her.

There she sat, on a lovely console table of rustic wood, a stunning pottery statue from Mexico, waiting for me to notice.

Then, she started stalking my dreams in an encouraging sort of way while I watched the videos and sang along and painted all the under layers of meaning and energy.

When we moved on to form, she had to hold my hand while my inner critic showed up with her usual temptations toward way more realism than I truly want or am likely to be able to produce.

“You have a cell phone with a fancy camera for realism,” she told me.

“This is about your heart and mine.”

Well, of course, she was right. As was Shiloh, reminding me that anything can be painted over.

And, wow, has this one been painted over!

It’s time for more purple glaze. A bit of drying time.

And a vivid reminder of the moment I quit coloring my hair.

It was just after Kenzie was born and the kids lived in Scotland. I did the math and figured out that about two and a half trips to the land of highlights and lowlights would pay for a trip to rock my baby!

Or, in the case of Bella Mama, the dreaded metalic silver paint I put in her hair late last night was taking over everything and I’ve spent most of the morning, at her insistence, nudging it back to something that blends just a bit better, visually.

No judgement. Who knows what she’ll decide tomorrow?

For today, it’s the little ones whose stories aren’t even showing up in the newspaper these days, the little ones who will be sheltering under her cloak, that she wants you to see. (Though it looks like that will be the next time you meet. Mama knows best!)

 

 

 

Sue Boardman, Certified Intentional Creativity® Color of Woman Teacher