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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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SolsticeFullMoonLast night was the most beautiful full moon on the summer solstice. I’ve heard conflicting reports as to how long it has been since the two have coincided, some say it was in 1967 and others say it is 70 years ago. Either way, it was a powerful and rare event. It proved to be strong enough to take my Grandmother home. She was 3 days short of her 101st birthday. At the very time of her passing, we were having an enormous lightning storm. In countless cultures and myths lightning was ascribed as heralding the Divine. To me it is a representation of the power when heaven and earth unite. While Nain and I are much alike in that we spill on our clothes, say phrases incorrectly, love singing and are always writing. We are also opposite, in that she was an extrovert doer, I am an introvert thinker. With her now having more influence in the spirit world, may I take on her follow through in matters of writing.

To honor my dear Nain, may she rest in peace, I am including an essay I wrote in 2005, 11 years past…..

In June, our family celebrated my Grandmother’s 90th birthday. Nain (the name we grandchildren have always called her, meaning Grandmother in Welsh) was a very influential figure in my life. At the age of 39 she had three teenage daughters and a daily radio talk show for which she was responsible for gathering the guests, organizing the questions and hosting. At this very busy time in her life she found out that she was pregnant with my uncle Dave. This was the fifties and she had the lifestyle of a woman in the 21st century.

Nain is responsible for me discovering writing as a method of expressing my inner world. For that one thing alone, I can not thank her enough. Most of what I write sits in journals for only me to explore. But without having that outlet, which is often my method of prayer and meditation, I would likely be constricted in life, with no way out.

As a child, I felt misunderstood by Nain. Mainly because when we were together, my introverted personality was continually asked questions, and requested to speak up and look her in the eye when answering. She had me walk with books on my head in order to stand up straight and walk with purpose.

As I look at my Grandmother now, beautiful at age 90, I marvel at how all situations can be seen from various perspectives. In younger years, it seemed as though she didn’t know the true me, simply because she asked me to do what didn’t come naturally. Yet, as an adult I can see that she knew exactly what my personality needed in order to find strength among the world. By asking me to step outside my comfort zone, she gave me the courage to be more than what I thought myself to be.

By teaching me to look people in the eyes, Nain was purposely improving my ability to show respect for others. However, in many cases our teachers have no cognizance of their lessons for us. This does not make the teachings any less profound. Quite the contrary.

Have there been times in your life when you felt misunderstood at the moment it happened, only to find out later that the person or circumstance knew what you needed better than you did? If so, be grateful. If not, look again.

photo-4This photo was taken around the time I wrote the above. Please do love your family even when they drive you crazy. They won’t be around forever and either will you.

Many blessings to you all.

A Carolina CrowAfter years of having Ravens in the neighborhood, a pair built a nest just behind our house. Ravens are larger than crows and have a distinctive croak to their caw. In his book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says, “With Raven, human and animal spirits intermingle and become as one. This is reflected in its deep, rich shiny black. In blackness, everything mingles until drawn forth, out into the light…. Raven has the knowledge of how to become other animals and how to speak their languages.” For this, I’ve loved any sighting or croak of a Raven over the years and have been thrilled to see and hear them almost constantly currently. I usually know when someone they don’t like is around, a hawk for instance. Or if one is off to get food, we all hear about it—mostly from the babies still in the nest.

After a couple months of observation, I wanted to step up my interaction with the birds. Wondering if other people had become friends with their neighborhood Ravens, I googled “befriending Ravens.” It was a surprise to find the consensus was that doing so was a very bad idea. Upon further reading, it’s the use of food that people are opposed to. There was not even mention of another scenario for befriending a wild bird. Generally, giving food to wild animals is frowned upon because once they discover humans are the source of it, they have been known to terrorize other humans in hopes of receiving more food. This in turn, can result in death for the animal when the unsuspecting person believes they are being attacked.

I spend a lot of time with my dog, Z. More than a couple hours apart is uncommon and too long. I do leave her most days to be with my horse, Tom. Some days Z comes to the barn too. The three of us don’t have lengthy conversations, we don’t have like minds, we don’t even walk on the same number of legs or perceive the world in the same way. Yet, that we are absolute friends is indisputable. I share all of my food with Z and carry tasty horse nuggets for Tom. Yet, delusional or not, the treats do not feel like the basis of our friendship. If Z and I go to a friend’s house, she will climb up on the sofa to sit next to me, no questions asked. If I leave Tom alone, he will call and fuss until I return. Neither has anything to do with food. So, when I thought of and desired to befriend the Ravens, food never crossed my mind. First of all, I wouldn’t know how to associate myself with it and I don’t have any interest in figuring that out. What, then, was I imagining befriending the birds to be like? I wasn’t expecting the Ravens to come give me a hug or sit down for a cup of tea and a long talk. Rather, I was simply interested in being acknowledged by them and to allow our spirits to intermingle as Ted Andrews suggests Ravens are capable of. More than likely they already knew of my presence. Animals, especially wild ones, are superior to humans in that regard. They have to be, so they know where to find dinner and are aware of where danger is. I often take my computer to the porch and work outside. So, every time one of the birds flew overhead, I waved and said “Hi, Raven.” Or I’d state a saying I created “IAYEIW” which is an acronym for “I appreciate your existence in the world” and pronounced “I-You.” Most of the time, I saw some kind of flight change like a slight pull down of the wings, or an acrobatic shift. Rarely, but sometimes, there would be no ‘nod’ at all. I can’t tell the birds apart, so maybe one bird ‘waves’ and not the others. I don’t know and don’t really care. I’m just happy to see them and when it happens to feel seen in return.

For all our hubris, humans underestimate interspecies relationships. We seem to believe that the only reason a different species would befriend us is for what we provide them—food for instance. Sadly, that is sometimes the case amongst our own species as well. Is it possible to simply enjoy another’s company without asking anything of them? Wanting them to be something for us or behave in a certain way? I’d like to believe my relationship to my animal companions is like that. However, I also truly enjoy what they provide me, which is a sense of unconditional love, appreciation and acceptance—actually coming from the “love” hormone, oxytocin that releases every time we are together. Would I be able to continue with my adoration if it seemed they didn’t return my affections? I hope to never know from experience the answer to that.

It seems likely that interspecies relationships (which are not always friendships) are the first step towards recognizing and knowing deeply that all life is connected. Not for our similarities but because we are alive on this humble planet together breathing the same oxygen. Literally, just as I finished typing that sentence, a butterfly landed on my heart center. I sat still happily taking in her medicine. We shared something—exactly what I won’t diminish by labeling or guessing. I simply know I am better for that moment, hopefully the butterfly is too.

In love of animals, Katrina

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If you know me at all, you also know that I love animals. All of them. Wild, domesticated, four legged, feathered, slimy. You name it, I love them. One of the many reasons for my adoration is that they have not intellectualized themselves away from their natural existence. Even my dog who would have no idea where to sleep if not on her own love seat, still maintains the very things that make her canine—sniffing the ground to see what happened during the night, chasing potential prey and guarding her territory. Meanwhile, our first human ancestors lived in tribes and ‘uncivilized’ communities. Yet, today in mainstream America we have little understanding or sense of such a natural lifestyle.

There have only been short periods of time in my life that I haven’t had a dog companion. For the last 10 years, I have also shared my life with a horse named Tom. The contentment and comfort of Tom and my current dog, Z, is one of the forethoughts of my day. So, it is hard for me to understand the following numbers I found online about unwanted pets (read whole article here); The number of stray cats and dogs living in the U.S.: 70 million. The number of animal shelters in the U.S.: 4,000 – 6,000. The number of cats and dogs entering U.S. shelters each year: 6 – 8 million. The number of cats and dogs euthanized by U.S. shelters each year: 3 – 4 million (nearly 10,000 animals killed every day). According to the American Veterinary Association and the Unwanted Horse Coalition, there are at least 170,000 “unwanted” horses in the United States.

In contrast, the earth has lost half of its wildlife over the last 40 years as stated in this The Guardian article. That’s a stunning statistic. One that I barely can comprehend and to do so makes me angry, sad and confused.

While I am confused by the disregard of animals, the discrepancy between the overpopulation of domesticated animals and the decline of wild populations is interesting to me. From an archetypal perspective, I see the same pattern taking place within the human species; our domestication is in surplus while our wild—the ancient part that knows its self to be simply one facet of the natural world—is on the decline. It is my assertion that this fact is the cause of many modern problems, addictions, depression and a variety of illnesses included. It is time to reclaim our nature and integrate it with civilization. This will be the new modern.

Confusion is not the enemy.Apathy is.

For 14 years I’ve been happily publishing the Upstate New York’s independent wellness publication. While I adore facilitating the Journal’s coming together, and plan on continuing to do so, I also feel the push to create something more individualized to my personal medicine. Even though I’ve already been teaching workshops of my own creation and writing for 12 years, stating that desire out loud brings me the angst of questions like “Who am I to want more than what’s already so good? What might I say that hasn’t already been said better by others? Everyone has access to the same ideas, why would they care what I have to say?” Life is filled with contradictions. It is true that what I have to say has already been said better by others, it is also true that what I have to share is unique and valuable. With the blessing of free will, it is my choice which truism to follow. Carlos Castaneda said; “All paths are the same: they lead nowhere…. Does this path have a heart?” In that vain, the only question worth asking is “does it have heart?” Then follow only that which does.

With all that said, what I am feeling “called” to do is still in question. My passions are many…. horses, dogs, all wild animals, the woods, photography, music, writing, healing and anything genuinely related to soul and spirit. I do not doubt all this fits together, perhaps particular to me, but how? Rather than follow one to the exclusion of others, I often allow my inability to see the whole scenario to prevent me from moving solidly forward. Additionally, I already enjoy what I’m doing, why force myself to act before having clarity? The following came to me as I pondered that question…. “Seeking clarity first can be a diversion from what’s important.” The thing I’m diverting from may be my greatest contribution to life. The responsibility of getting that “right” feels overwhelming, hence the deviation. Alternatively, and perhaps more painfully, it could mean nothing to anyone. Who’s to know until it’s created? The path with heart will not necessarily bring us success or adoration, yet to our soul it is of the greatest importance we follow it. Regardless, we are always given the choice to do it or not.

I mention all this because there may be many who relate. While I feel confused, others see me as someone who knows what she’s up to. Again, both are true. Often, finding yourself baffled is a sure sign you are on the right track to your place in the world. Soul-filled questions are what bring out the genuine from the unexamined. Confusion is not an enemy, apathy is. Choose what you want to believe and go forth in confusion, so long as it has heart.

 

We do not need to fix ourselves; so much as we need to know ourselves.

As a lifelong participant of the personal improvement era and healing community, I have recently become tired of searching for problems to solve within myself. Instead, it feels important to know who I am under all those supposed problems. This morning I contemplated how to do that. How do we as a species experience who we are underneath all the mind labels? I started a list with solitude as number one. Then I realized the subsequent points were actually all sub actions of solitude. So, I reworked it. This is not a process or a linear method. Rather this is a commitment to experiencing self as itself. From there you can make any changes you desire with this essence at your core. Is self nature or nurture? I say it’s both. We need to know our nature in order to nurture expansion, growth, improvement and change.

Here are my five suggestions to get to know your self.

  1. Spend time alone EVERY DAY. This is the greatest commitment to you. It can be for as little as 15 minutes, so long as it is intentionally alone with the focus on you. This means that it does not count if you have children and they happen to be outside of the house, leaving you alone while you cook their meals. Again, this time is spent intentionally.

 

  1. During that time do whatever allows you to feel the most intimate with your inner world. Writing, meditating, walking, sitting by a tree, and dancing to name a few of my ideas. Whatever works for you. There is no cookie cutter right or wrong. It can change on a daily basis as well. I would recommend staying with around 5 different choices, however. If changed too often, we lose the sense of self we are seeking and get caught up in the newness of the activity. This may be useful in the future, but not so much when beginning to know our own vibration.

 

  1. During this time alone, drop any sense of improving upon yourself or your skills. If writing, just write. Do not work on creating a final draft during this time. If walking, don’t compare your distance to another person’s or a different day. Just be in the moment intimately with your self as is.

 

  1. Engage your senses during this time. We spend a lot of time THINKING and analyzing. Take time off from these responses and explore other areas such as sensing the energy that animates your body. As in point #3, do not pay attention in order to find problems (that is the mind). Simply feel your body as it expresses, notice if it has tension or pain and allow for that. Listen with your cells. Or perhaps pay attention to the atmosphere that you are sitting in. Or allow the emotions that are sitting inside to rise up, experience their presence without judgment or desiring to fix them. Don’t analyze anything away. Notice it. Experience it.

 

  1. Last but not least, continue to come back to this energy you get to know as you. When out and about in the world and around others in everyday life experiences, flash back to your time alone and bring up that same feeling. The one you know as your personal frequency. As human beings we are integrations of a variety of facets; soul, spirit, body, ego, thoughts, etc…. That energy you are “dating” during your alone time is a collaboration of all these facets. They can work together, or go off in many different directions leaving us fragmented. Your self is an individuated recipe of these facets. It is not fixed and I’d recommend allowing for the ingredients to swirl around with some getting more attention and flavor at different times. However, it is itself

 

Through knowing your true self, you will begin to recognize that the labels you may use to describe yourself, are just descriptions for roles you play during a lifetime. Language and words are by nature limiting, defining. Your essence is immeasurable. Go forth and express YOU.

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Forest Friends

Tears filled my eyes as the trees I have visited most every day for 18 years were being torn down with heavy machinery. These trees have witnessed my heartbreak, heard me sing, soothed my fears and given me a sense of belonging that the human world has not. They are my friends. These ‘friends’ will be made into products I regularly use, so who am I to be against their death? Mother Nature also gives the death sentence; it is the cycle of life. Additionally, I do not doubt that the remaining trees will benefit from the openness and sunshine. So, what exactly does make me so sad? With contemplation, I feel it to be the lack of reverence for their life and the community they live amongst. The ground is now covered in debris and the deep frozen tire tracks of the machinery. Trees have been proven to communicate with each other, as well as promote the growth of others, including different species. Here is a short video on How Trees Communicate. In my words, not having words or tears does not equal an absence of community or compassion.

 

The first week of cutting, the birds were silent. Later, not so much, as they flickered around not knowing where to go. Same with the deer wandering down the side of the road, wondering where to take refuge. I haven’t heard a peep or seen the sight of the porcupines that often move slowly among the tops of trees—what are they doing? And the Barred Owls I’ve run into regularly, how are they faring? This forest is personal for me as I know it intimately. Yet, my tears are not just for these specific trees, but equally for the condition of our culture and current lack of appreciation for the earth that sustains us. We live in an artificial and disposable society that believes itself to be real and important. Money, for instance, is a human construct, yet it has become equivalent to our life-force. In the above situation, the falsity is that we need to “manage” the forest for it to thrive. That is only potentially true today, because of the damage humans have done over the last hundred years interfering and altering the natural growth cycle of a community of trees. No matter what, life will go on. For the forest, for the animals that call it home, for the men doing their job and for me. The real question is; will we have reverence for that life as it continues?

 

The natural world is real life. Culture, on the other hand, is an agreed upon structure in which groups live. Humans have many different cultures, each wild species has their own culture, and plants have theirs. Meanwhile, we all share the same oxygen that gives us life. I believe in restoring a world that is genuine, true and reverent for what is wild and alive.  I am obsessed with the possiblity that humans will merge modern society with that ancient life. I am devoted to mindfulness and questions that bring us to what is real. Mostly, I am committed to inspiring humans to feel the connection that exists between the earth and all that live upon her; those with two legs, four legs, wings and roots. We have been given the divine gift of life. Let us choose wisely how we use that gift.

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Tears for Trees

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Tears roll down my cheeks daily as the trees I have visited most every day for 18 years are being torn down with heavy machinery. These trees are like a home to me, they have witnessed my tears, soothed my fears and given me a deep sense of belonging that the human world has not. So, this forest is personal for me. Yet, the tears that roll down my cheeks are not just for them but equally for the condition of our culture. We live in an artificial society that believes itself to be real. Money, for instance, is a human construct, yet it has become equivalent to our life-force.

I use the very wood products these tree friends will be made in to. So, who am I to be angry about or against their death? Mother Nature also gives the death sentence to trees; it is the cycle of life. Addi, I do not doubt that the remaining trees will benefit from the openness and sunshine. So, what exactly does make me so sad? It seems to be the lack of reverence for their life. While I started this essay in my mind in the woods, right now I’m in a car dealer. Outside there’s a parking lot full of cars and a woman walking through it. Down the center is a row of trees. An average human would see the cars as the dominant feature. Which, as a parking lot, they are. Yet, they do not contribute to the life that surrounds them. While, the trees, which give the appearance of an afterthought, circulate oxygen that we all need to live. They give us breath and life, while the cars simply bring us from place to place.

Not only are the trees important to our survival, they communicate amongst each other and help each other out from the roots according to this web article trees-communicate. So, how then is going in and altering their community much different than a mass shooting? Many, if not all, of those who kill others are motivated by their belief that the end result will be better for the world, for the human life that will remain. Exactly the thoughts of the forestry people that are cutting the trees— “it’s better for the trees that will remain.”

The first week of cutting, the birds were silent. Today, not so much, as they flickered around not knowing where to go. Same with the deer I saw wandering down the side of the road, wondering where to take refuge. I haven’t heard a peep or seen the sight of the porcupines that move slowly among the tops of trees—what are they doing? No matter what, life will go on. For them, for the forest, for the men doing their job and for me. The real question is; will we have reverence for that life as it continues? Will we make it a loving place and be mindful of the nonhumans we live amongst? Will we recognize that we owe our very breath to the trees as they produce oxygen that allows us live? The tree’s life does not depend on us, we depend on the gifts of the trees. Thank the good lord that they are willing to share. How are we paying them back?

 

 

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As many of you know, I have a horse named Tom. While searching for a horse, I met some that on paper were perfect. But none touched my heart in the way I was seeking. That is, until I introduced myself to an ex-racehorse named Tom’s Thunder. When I walked into his paddock, he came to me and hung his head directly in front of my heart. As a solid bay (brown), he did not look like the horse I expected to fall for. Yet, meeting him was like being reunited with a lost friend. We have been together for close to ten years now. In that time, we have worked cows, done ring work, practiced a variety of training techniques, survived two life-threatening illnesses, and traveled many trails with me on his back as well as by his side. Tom is a willing partner, though sometimes he lacks focus and or motivation. Is that him or me? Who knows? Like many close relationships, the lines between us are blurred, making most interactions like the chicken or the egg. This makes him a great mentor for me, as he is like a mirror. Luckily, I like what I see. That isn’t to say we don’t bicker or disagree; we do. Even so, when with Tom I know a sense of belonging that is rare these days.

It is estimated that horses were domesticated around 3,000 or 4,000 BC. Even after so much time, they have retained a good portion of their natural instincts. Because horses are prey animals, they interact differently with the world than humans do as predators. Spending time with Tom teaches me to be more aware of my surroundings, effective collaboration and how to wordlessly communicate. I’d like to repay him by enhancing his life in return. That he comes to greet me upon arrival—sometimes leaving horse friends and grass behind—it seems I do.

Tom raced on the flat track for 5 years, earning almost a half million dollars. The average life span of a horse is 25-33 years. Horses race young, so they often have many years to live at the end of their racing career. Just like a retiring pro football player. This is why I said yes when asked to join the board of ACTT Naturally, a new not-for-profit that will retrain and rehome thoroughbreds no longer racing (www.acttnaturally.org). Tom helps me grow as a human being. I would like to have a part in others finding such a relationship to open their hearts to.

Recently, I went to a place called Earthlands-University of the Wild. I was able to spend time alone on the land there. Having been a student of Tom’s, I sensed my surroundings as a prey animal—merging with the habitat, along with the trees, plants, and birds. It is my belief that what the world needs and wants above all else, is for humans to connect to the earth’s wild rhythm, and know it as the wise, self-sustained, elder that it is. Perhaps, by spending more time listening to and learning from animals, we too will embrace domestication while remaining in harmony with the Earth.

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“How do you value your life, Katrina?” This question was asked of me by Harrison Jim Sr., a Navajo Medicine Man coming to the Northeast as part of the Navajo Horse Healing Project. We were discussing his upcoming visit and other potential ways to bring their teachings to our community. I was stumped by the question, in part because of the use of the word “how.” All the quick answers that came would have answered, “what do I value?” The conversation at that moment was about charging a fee for their talks and healings, so I knew his question was not a matter of semantics. After some silence and then my answer “I’d have to give that some consideration.” Harrison added, “what value do you place on having peace and harmony restored in your life? That is what we ask for in exchange of our knowledge, gifts and healings.”

This question was bouncing around my head when an old note showed up on my desktop. It was recording a time while driving down the Northway and a Target delivery truck passed me. I noticed the tag line “Expect more. Pay Less.” I’d probably seen that line many times prior, however, this time the symbolic imbalance caught my attention. Expecting more and paying less seemed like an American Mantra. What does this say about our culture’s idea of reciprocity? While the Target tag is referencing money in exchange for goods, we cannot separate that belief out from other areas of life, such as interpersonal relationships and how we make a living. With the assumption that we should pay less and get more, there is no equal exchange, creating imbalanced transactions—including the one we have with life in general. On the surface this may not seem important, on an energetic level it leaves everything in disharmony.

I hadn’t yet found my answer to Harrison’s question, so I continued to ponder values in general. We all can come up with a list of them—perhaps peace, joy, friendship, equality, love, family and so on. However, our behavior speaks to what we actually value more than a list of words. Rarely would someone openly include their ego on such a list or big business, yet many people display these as their priorities by how they live their lives.

On a different note, it came up in a few conversations recently that I am seen differently by others than how I witness myself. The differences were not necessarily negative, as one said she thought I was girly. Who is right? The person on the outside doing the seeing; or me on the inside who is doing the feeling? Perhaps both. While I am more comfortable with being well-liked, having a nice reputation, and being perceived my way, I place greater value on being true to my inner world, and authentic to my own experience of life no matter how that appears on the outside. Acting from the inside out means giving up impressing a specific image outwardly. In reality, this is never truly possible anyway; how we are perceived has more to do with the perceiver than it does with us. Which is perhaps why we are both right. Even so, when we are not paying attention to our inner world, falseness can fool others more easily, usually because it fools ourselves first. Life seems to ask us at times “are you truthful about your priorities, or do you only mean it when receiving approval, recognition, and adulation in return? Knowing I still hold blind spots causes me to continually question my genuineness.

While there are times I’d rather feel certain about myself, I have realized that without questions, habitual responses and or addictive behavior replace real presence in each moment. So, I will continue to examine my truth. Just as there is no way to peace, peace is the way. There is no right way to authentic expression, living it is the way. In doing so, we sometimes get it wrong. Sounds contrary, but true all the same.

Going back to where we started, how do you value life? In what way do you want to experience it—through peace, health and harmony or stress, illness and worry? What are you willing to exchange in order for that valued experience? Our human world has created money as a symbol of exchange; it is the main way in which we support what is important to us. Where we spend our most dollars is where our values truly lie, regardless of whether those things are on our list of principals. The same holds true for where our time is spent, the activities as well as the motivation behind them—such as fostering an ego or satisfying our soul. Questioning ourselves regularly will bring about authentic alignment, much greater than rigid rule-following will.

Come out and hear Harrison and Gino talk about the Navajo culture on July 14th. We will be at Coesa Holistic Wellness Center in the Saratoga State Park starting at 7. It will be a powerful and valuable evening. While the suggested donation for this experience is $20, you may choose what to pay. In deciding the amount, consider what you’d pay for an night of entertainment. If you receive something more substantial, perhaps inspiring and or perception changing, offer an amount in accordance of value to that which you received to the best of your ability. The funds will be going to Gino and Harrison so they may continue to provide for their family while they are away from home. The following evening, on the 15th, they will be creating ceremony for the waters of Saratoga. Again you are welcome to join. The waters are not only important to those who choose to drink their healing properties, but because they run under the ground on which we walk they influence us all. In addition, please read about their Navajo Horse Healing Project on page 10. It is going to be a great summer. My choice is to experience it through peace, harmony and love. What’s your choice?