Archive for August, 2016

Creativity and Belonging

In a conversation about a child’s education, I briefly stated how important it is to encourage creative expression rather than competition. It was not a well-thought-out statement at the time, but it brought a flood of thoughts afterwards. It became clear that to me creativity is not only the arts, but also the way we think and how we live. Creativity allows us to be more adept at problem solving, building business, articulating emotions and even sports. While competition tends to foster comparison and separation, true expression focuses on personal experience and authentically sharing that with the world. I do not believe competition is inherently bad, but in my opinion it is best approached as a journey of self. It seems that if we emphasized expression to the young, they would more likely approach competition this way in the long run. It might be worth noting that my competitive drive is strong. So much, I shy away from competition as it brings out facets of myself I’d rather not nurture. Meanwhile, making music or dancing brings out great amounts of love for life. My soul is satisfied so long as I lose myself (read ego) to the music. Meanwhile, when there is the potential of winning or losing getting ‘lost’ seems too large a task for me. That said, others such as tennis player Roger Federer, seem brilliant at using sport as their canvas.


Throughout my life there have been times when my heart hurts so much it is overwhelming. The pain has hit at times of great loss; a breakup, the death of a dog, not getting the part I wanted in a play, or whatever…. Other times the sadness was brought on by no outward circumstance at all. This morning I was flooded with this latter kind of deep feeling. I have done enough self-development to know that ignoring these spells—and I use that word purposely—is futile. For 1. There is nothing wrong with feeling deeply regardless of our society’s distaste for it. 2. Outrunning an internal experience rarely works for the long run. 3. Intellectualizing emotions actually pushes them deeper and they can come out inappropriately. 4. Discomfort of this kind is usually the first sign of a major wake-up, and in this day and age we need to wake up regardless if it’s painful.


So, I walked into the woods along with my dog and my sadness. Deep in, I sat down among the hemlocks in the arms of my beloved sun. At first I just sat and allowed the sensation of silence to wash over and through me. Then, not knowing what else to do, I spoke out loud saying “Greetings Mother Earth and Sibling Trees. I have come to you in sorrow, its source I cannot discern. I come to you now to ask for help in healing this wound regardless of its origin. If instead of needing healing it has a message, please then help me to hear.”


Now I hope not to lose anyone with this, but I received the following response; “Katrina, thank you for honoring us with your truth and asking for our help. We are always hoping to be heard and used for our wisdom not only our bodies. What you are feeling is an excess of emotions. You are labeling it as sadness because it has overwhelmed you, but it is not exclusively that. In addition, not all of what you are feeling is yours, some of it is ancestral and some universal. Avoid the temptation to run for cover, and allow these emotions to take place just as you would a thunderstorm. You don’t try to stop a storm, instead you watch it move through knowing it will end, the sun will shine and all that remains will thrive because of the rain. Do not banish any specific emotions forever, for just as more storms will come, so too will feelings. However, by expressing, healing and releasing them as they come through, they will not stagnate and interrupt your life flow unknowingly. Allow what will happen to happen as it will. That is the way of nature; and you, our dear, are nature. Sometimes the strongest tree falls, yet the forest remains. Any death will be shocking at first but frankly what grows lives, what doesn’t dies. It’s very simple, yet humans tend towards preferences and judgments, while clinging to never-ending goals that they believe will satisfy their true longing for peace and love. Emotions are a blessing of the human experience, yet they are not necessarily connected to truth and will often muddle your perception. Be mindful of that as you move with your flow. Don’t get fooled in to believing that you will feel only joy and bliss when on your path. Being vulnerable to pain is an indication you are open, free and natural—which is true strength. We thank you for being courageous, authentic and honest. Continue your balanced dance with paradox, knowing that you are the only person in charge of your story. You have been given the gift of life, use it wisely.”


With that there was silence again. Deep within there was a true sense of belonging to this world. After sitting in the quiet for a spell, I remembered again the thoughts about personal expression and saw that at its core there has to be this sense of belonging in order for us to feel safe to show ourselves. Hence, I emphasis the importance of being with nature or whatever helps you feel your strongest connection to the world. From there, it is possible to fearlessly express yourself creatively in whatever way most fulfilling—writing, caring for animals, making films, teaching or whatever. As Howard Thurman put it “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” There is no need to prove that we belong by creating outer success or receiving the approval of others, although both may come naturally. The simple fact that we have life coursing through our hearts has already proven our inclusion and value. Everything we choose to do with our life is simply a way of honoring the gift. Perhaps in the end, that is all that is meant by creative expression—articulating the life that animates what would otherwise be just a pile of bones. So I end with a question in the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  No matter your answer, may it be sourced by the song that is yours alone.

the world is your oyster.jpg

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Soul Vs. Ego

Every person’s life tells a story, and every person has his or her story about life. One of my stories has been the choice between soul and ego. After years of believing that you picked one or the other, I’ve concluded they are both integral parts of human life. Just as the brain, lungs and heart have separate functions in a body, so too do the soul and ego. As such, these two facets have distinct priorities and which one we give our allegiance to creates a different life focus. For example, egos search for goals, definitives, comfort, winning, accomplishments, and end results. While souls seek authenticity, creativity, expression, depth, experiences, growth, journeys, and expansion. Because of their potential contrasts, sometimes our souls and egos divide, causing a splintering that is similar to a business meeting where all in attendance have separate agendas. Human life is full of paradox, as exemplified in breathing, the very thing that keeps us alive. For we cannot breathe in without breathing out and vice versa. There is nothing better about in or out, they are equal in their opposites. Embracing this, and its implications, may be a giant step to wholeness.

I recently had a portrait photo session with a talented photographer who had taken one of my “Calling Council” workshops (6 weeks of modern shamanic journeys). I note the latter, because she wanted the portrait to show that side of me—the teacher, my ancient self, and dare I say my soul. I brought with me a selection of feathers and skulls that touch and open my heart. As of now, I have seen only two of the photos, both amazing—one especially unique (see below). In this one image I can visibly see the presence and strength that I had otherwise only felt. At the same time, it also shows me that a photo is simply an image of a moment in time. Our lives are a string of ongoing moments—some powerful, some weak and many more in between. While a photo says more than a thousand words, it is still only a morsel of the person or situation. We all have endless depths below what can be seen on the surface. It is our responsibility to swim in those depths and learn what makes up ‘us’ regardless of whether it touches the outside world or is understood by anyone else. It is wise to remember that all others have the same expanse below what we see or understand about them, as well.

I took an online class on branding to boost my writing, public speaking and workshops. This would not normally be my cup of tea, yet I respect the teacher and decided to go for it based on that. Creating a brand had previously felt artificial. However, this class, in addition to the photo session, made me realize we are always projecting an image. To do so mindfully is actually more authentic than simply letting chance create it. While it is also true that the image is just a fraction of who I am as a whole, I’d like it to be a representation of the place where my inner and outer worlds intersect. Being clear about our presentation to the world does not equal control over how others see us, nor is that of any significance to our soul. Egos want to be seen in a specific way—happy, successful, beautiful. While souls want to experience the happiness, success and beauty. Being true to our inner world, sincerely, compassionately, creatively, is doing our part. The rest is out of our hands. In the end, we only have our own heart to answer to.

A place both my soul and personality simultaneously ignite is listening to music—especially live. Sometimes it’s popular musicians with big names, more often it’s people who just love music. They don’t necessarily make a living from it or gather fans, but to these people not making music is a kind of death. I was recently at a show with a variety of performers each with a different sound. The one similarity among them was that they exposed their souls with their music. It’s been said, “Perhaps the best mark of personal heroism is not astounding courage or accomplishments, but authentic self-expression…” While, these locals weaved soul in to each note and lyric, some big musicians miss depth in their performances simply because performing regularly alleviates the vulnerability that often exposes souls.

What is your story; meaning what are your beliefs, assumptions, expectations, desires, memories, wants, relationships, friends, childhood experiences, and how does it all fit together? What we tell ourselves and repeat aloud to others becomes our reality, becomes the glasses through which we see the world, defines our decisions, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Can you examine the stories you tell the world and yourself, discerning where there is truth and conversely falsity? Can you open to what your life is and the endless possibilities of what it could be? Like many valuable exercises, this will be ongoing. In part because we miss things the first, or even 100th, time around. And also because we change constantly. I’d like to mention one caveat that I am quite familiar with, which is the desire to bypass the parts we don’t like within the picture. There is a cultural ideal of seeing only the positive or looking at things from a spiritual paradigm. While that can be admirable, this method often overlooks angles that are dictating fundamental life experiences including our emotional needs. In a world of pain, this positive or spiritual bypass is a constant temptation. Yet, it can be a detour on the path to genuine happiness and wholeness. In our efforts to leapfrog to something better, we can avoid a crucial part. The writer Parker Palmer puts it “I deny my inner darkness, giving it more power over me, or I project it onto other people, creating ‘enemies’ where none exist.” While there is no need to dwell on these facets, recognizing their existence opens us to releasing them. Palmer also says “Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” As I see it in this moment, happiness and wholeness are not about being all smiles and laughter. Instead, they are a deep-rooted sense of well-being that sustains through feelings of sadness, hurt, anger, joy, and circumstances that overwhelm.

I’ve asked a lot of questions and here are a few more; what lights up both your soul and your ego? What unifies your emotions and your intellect? What nourishes your body and spirit? The answers may be the foundation of your story, your chance for joy and a life of wholeness and fulfillment.



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