Tag Archives: Balance


25 Jan

Greetings from the cold walls of the kitchen at the Seminar Haus in Wettenbostel, Germany.  My hands are cold and icy as I take a moment to write a little in the cool winter air.  Preparing yet another pitcher full of hot tea… nourishing me on the inside and I suppose nourishing my spirit as well.

My current project here at the Seminar Haus… painting the ceiling of the Big Dojo, one of the buildings in the collection here.  I must confess, I feel far away from the inspiration of Michelangelo… and I have a pretty good kink in my neck, but in general I am glad for the work.  It feels good to have a place to come to put a little time and energy on something.  To focus on something as simple as dipping a paintbrush into a bucket of paint and then applying it carefully along the seam of the ceiling and its many beams.  While I am painting I have been listening to an Audio book by Iyanla Vanzant.  She is a spiritual author who I have enjoyed over the years.  There was an offer on-line for a free audiobook … so I took advantage of it and downloaded Iyanla’s latest book, Peace from Broken Pieces.  I am not that far into it, but listening to it is like eating some sort of food that I didn’t even realize I was hungry for.  It is satisfying.

My time here in Germany and Europe, as I have written, continues to be a time of healing for me.  A healing path that began most notably with a personal crisis my senior year in college, then ten years of  a steady diet of Paxil … and well, the turbulent journey off getting off of Paxil and life with the puzzle and experience of the trauma that lied underneath.  The journey of healing has shown to me that… it is a process, unfolding, leaf by leaf, flower by flower… and year by year.  You cannot rush healing… perhaps accelerate it at times, but it is its own mystery, its own path.  And at most what you can do is take it and yourself one step, one day at a time to see… and try not to take things so seriously.

I started practicing Reiki about 8 years ago.  I found my way to a first degree Reiki class not long after getting off of antidepressants.  And it, in its own way, was a miracle for me.  The beginning of release.  Sometimes it seems that in healing oneself you must first go down a long and sometimes lonely journey to get to the bottom of the well.  And just when you think you are at the bottom… you are still not there yet.  Still more.  Still deeper.  Still more to lose, give up, surrender.  Healing has shown many different faces to me… despair, loneliness, rage, laughter, unspeakable beauty.  It is in the depth of her invitation that I have found something balanced and beautiful and it is there where I rest my hat.

In Iyanla’s book, she shares her own journey and expresses that she has come to believe that each of us choose our lives… our parents, our families, hurts, traumas, joys and laughter… as our perfect spiritual curriculum.  And it is the perfect curriculum, just for us, as its ultimate goal is to lead us back to God.  And in that way, all the characters in our play of life become heroes… the good and the bad as they have been the exact gift that we needed.  That have sent us to pray, to meditate, to take a different path.

And so, here I am, in the latest chapter of my healing.  I find myself in the lately quiet space of Wettenbostel.  A village of almost 60 people set amongst the potato fields in Germany.  Listening at times to the silly stories of my host and his friends here.  And much of the time on my own and independent.  In the quietness of the woods amongst no one but the trees surrounding me, I see and feel that I am here for my healing.  It is not always glamorous.  I often struggle.  But my time here seems to be folding me into a gentler surrender with myself as the woods and the land hover around me and protect me like a nurturing mother.

Listening to Ilyanla, I am reminded I am on a journey.  I am reminded to be tender and kind with myself.  And I am activated by the idea that my life is my perfect curriculum.  Everyone’s journey of healing is different.  And for now, mine has sent me to Wettenbostel.  Land of the wild pigs at night, late night hot tubs, and quiet nurturing nature.

Photo by Michael Hartly.

Being in Balance

31 Oct

Balance.  Ah… that elusive pendulum… moving from side to side.  I think at some point, afraid of losing my balance…I just stopped moving at all… tried to stay very still.  Frozen.  This is not a good strategy for balance.  It promotes something that is a little more like… I don’t know… a rock…  Unmoving.   Unmoving rock=no balance.  I don’t recommend it.

So here I am starting to move and sway just a little bit in the locomotion of the balance of me… in Europe… in Wettenbostel.  For me, part of being in balance was just taking the leap and buying a ticket to come here over five months ago.  The beginning of motion…. of moving the rock.   A much-needed shift that was somehow essential for me.  I can remember not too long ago in New Orleans sitting at a Tom McDermott concert in City Park listening to his smooth sounds on the piano partnered with clarinetist Evan Christopher… and although I was enjoying the music… I also felt a creative yearning in me… that was somehow denied.  Not just denied, but that I felt like I had lost access to.  I asked myself, my greater wisdom… I know I am creative, but right now I don’t feel anything like creative.  What can I do to access my creativity again?  The answer I got was… leave the United States.  A little more fertilizer for the seed that was already planted.

I have learned that balance for me starts with simple thing… like getting a good night sleep, walks outside and being connected to nature, doing my regular healing practices like yoga and Reiki.  Drinking plenty of water, not eating sugar and eating healthy and balanced (not always easy for me here at the Seminar Haus!…) And remembering simple things like just listening to music makes me feel great… Some areas of balance for me are still being revealed.  When to go out and play.  Learning to set good boundaries with people.  Connecting to and listening to my heart.  Staying grounded.  Learning to work again… with persistence, fun and quality… and learning when, if no-one else will, to give myself a break.  Ah, there is a way.

My bicycling traveling German friend here in Wettenbostel, Jörn… who for the time being is not traveling and really not bicycling either… but still German, has been a good example for me about work and quality.  Somewhere programmed in his German being he has an immaculate work ethic, working thoroughly and diligently on every last detail.  It is really quite something to see.  Now don’t get me wrong… I have tried to influence him with some of my Big Easy, Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez attitude… but there is a time and place for everything, for all of it.  Balance.

Back in New Orleans, even before Hurricane Katrina… I took some time to make a big change in my life.  A move toward balance.  I took myself off of anti-depressant medication after being on them for ten years.  Paxil.  And in that experience, that rebirthing into me… I found there were many things that were no longer that easy for me anymore.  It was hard to concentrate.  Challenging to work.  Challenging to think clearly.  I got overwhelmed and anxious easily and found people and crowds sometimes too much to take.  I was moody.  Emotionally volitile.  At that time I found comfort in a friends who somehow understood or could relate to the intensity of the experience and transformation… one was a recovering alcoholic who had nearly killed himself drinking and the other had a stroke.  With them I shared an unexpected but shared experience of relearning some basic things and getting a new understanding of who I am and how to function in the world.  One day at a time.  One step at a time.

I had a nice conversation with my host while preparing breakfast for the seminar this weekend.  Some of his past experience includes work as a therapist with amazing experience in the healing and therapeutic worlds.  I shared with him my experience with getting off Paxil.  He acknowledged me for getting off of anti-depressents and shared that, in his opinion anti-depressents can really change the chemical balance of your brain and even damage it.  And while I aspire to create healing and wholeness for myself, I do feel impacted by the experience of being on Paxil.  The painful brain synapses that felt like electrical jolts in my brain while going off the drugs were a small indication of that.

So balance.  And learning, exploring and seeing ways of working and living again.  Trusting spirit.  Living today and letting things unfold.  So for today, after a busy weekend of work, I will relax.  Be in nature.  Maybe paint a little.  Just a day in Wettenbostel.  My life for now in Germany, in the flow.  Seeking balance.

Photo by Michael Hartley

The River

11 Oct

It is rainy today in Wettenbostel.  With the autumn air coming in it’s a little chilly and it is hard to keep dry and cool.  Still there is a quietness in the air today as the guys are spending their time installing a new sewage line.  Some nights spent in the hot tub enjoying the warmth of the water in contrast to the coolness of the air and sometimes the freshness of a light rain, looking up at the stars.

It is nice to feel content for a little bit. The quietness of Wettenbostel and the expansiveness of the land around. With the pouring of the rain and the brisk air my mind today is at ease.  Ah.  Just a little exhale as an easiness creeps into my body… still curious about this European adventure of mine but for today less concerned about it.  Our traveling bicyclist is still here working diligently and Dan has not yet left for his next adventure in Switzerland.  This Saturday is our hosts birthday celebration after which both proclaim that they will move on from Wettenbostel.

Somewhere in the midst of being a little hectic and scattered over the past couple of days I felt something shift within me, my inner voice whispering that I am flowering and going with the flow.  How nice to receive some gentle feedback and how grateful I am to allow gentleness to find its way in.  It`s that river, that current that has its own rhythm flowing within me.  I am beginning to feel its strength that I am part of… connected to.  Its current seems to move swiftly within me while my feet feel firmly planted on the ground.  My dreams have been crazy lately.  I am told by my host that the room I am sleeping in is the dreaming room.  For some reason people say that they dream a lot in that room.

And now it is time to go work.  No guests this week and the house is all clean.  I will likely help out in organizing the barn today in the wake of the good work and organization of our traveling bicyclist.  And I have just been invited to clear the energy of the barn.  Yeah!  Always fun to do!  Until next time… feeling the flow.

Needing to be

29 Aug

I am sure many of you are familiar with the book and now movie Eat, Pray, Love.  In the real-life story a 30 something woman finds herself in transition… unglued, unlocked… and makes a choice to spend a year traveling.  3 months in Italy… Eat.  3 months in an ashram in India… Pray.  And 3 months in Bali… ultimately love.  Before I made the choice to embark on my journey in Europe, I remember an experience I had.  It was in the bathroom of the mostly empty home where I was house sitting in a suburb of New Orleans called Metairie.  In full transition form, I was living there lightly.  The house was empty and for sale. I had set up an inflatable mattress in the bedroom.  My friend and Reiki teacher, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, who was sharing the space for her Reiki practice had thankfully set up a futon and coffee table in the main room.  Ah, a little comfort of home in the sparseness of it all.  Things were coming to a close at the house and a transition ensued in my world.  The house was under contract, all of my personal belongings fit into a storage unit the size of a closet, and my 1996 Ford Taurus, which had given me 5 good years, was about to collapse.  What am I going to do?  I looked in the mirror in the bathroom… and what I heard was… Eat, Pray, Love…. I smiled a little to myself… taking some comfort in the possibility of a journey.  And that I might deserve to have such an adventure.  I was in need of one.

But where, for now, Ms. Gilbert and I depart ways was she had a plan… a framework for her journey… and at least,I think, an advance on the book she was writing.  And so it seemed, as I canceled my return flight to the states in June and rescheduled it for May of 2012… I was excited but also in a state of the unknown.  Unknown of where I would go and what I would do and unknown how I would finance my adventure…  Now I have some practice and power with this state of being living the mischievous life that I have led in New Orleans… and then of course post-Katrina.  A friend once told me that I am like a cat… I always land on my feet.  But jumping and leaping all of the time can get… exhausting.  It’s that word again… balance.  It seems, here in my state of flux I am craving it.

So I had a little walk today with Marijke, my friend and host in the Netherlands and she asked me… what is your wish?  What is you wish for your time in Europe?  And in a way, the conversation was a surprise for me.  I suppose I was thinking that in going with the flow I would have to surrender to the will of the way…  and in the way, no one asked me about my wish. That somehow I did not have a choice.   Hmmm, interesting question, I thought…  I have to admit, a few weeks into my visit in the Netherlands… I have a lack of focus and what seems to be a handful of possiblibilities for “what’s next” depending on this, depending on that… My “dependence on” has me hypnotized by my need… and less in the here and now.  But she offered, I could consider my wish… and have that as my intention.  For example, she offered, Ms. Gilbert and Eat, Pray, Love… the book that she happens to be currently reading… started out with an intention… of where she would be for each period of her journey.  She offered that as something to consider.  What is my intention?  What would I like this year to look like… with off course leaving room for flexibility and shifting and unexpected opportunities.  But a nice idea nonetheless!

And somewhere in this I find that I need room to be… where I am… and the idea of immediately moving here, then moving there… no maybe there… is a little unnerving.  What would I like?

I don’t know the answer to that question yet.  But I will spend some time chanting about it and sending Reiki.  How does one walk that path… of going with the flow, listening to and being guided by a higher wisdom… but still feeling and staying grounded along the way and being connected to our own wants and desires.  Hmmm… I have explored this road before.  But now, in Europe, in Alkmaar, the volume seems to be turned up a little higher.  It’s so nice to have someone who is kind enough to ask the questions… on a lovely stroll through the maze of paths near her home.

Tonight, friends of Marijke’s are coming to her home to join us for a little socializing and some Reiki.  And for me… it’s hard to just be with all these questions running through my head!  Alas, maybe I’ll start with exploring and asking… what do I want… what is my wish?  And explore the spirit of the intent for my journey.


9 Aug

Cha-changes.  They seem to be everywhere.  Changes on the inside.  Changes on the outside… and not just for me… this gypsy wanderer from New Orleans…  I am sitting in room number three in the “small dojo”  at the seminar haus in Wettenbostel savoring a bowl of muesli with strawberries (erdbeeren…) and bananas.  Still sort of basking in the wake of the Friends and Reiki weekend….an extended journey in Reiki with Reiki Masters and practitioners gathering from Holland, Germany and Austria… lots of Reiki treatments!

The theme that jumped out from the weekend was…changes.  It was interesting to see that everyone at the gathering was in major life transition in some way.  We took an evening to share about our transitions.  The common theme in our changes and desire for changes was… Balance.  Balance in our lives and relationships, with our food, our family, the world around us.  Balance within.  And balance with our work and play and the way that we create and earn money in the world.  We shared and took note of what really mattered to each of us… and perhaps wondering where we went astray from that… and looking at… what is next.

For me personally, so much of my adult life has been dedicating to healing.  It wasn’t until my past year in New Orleans that I finally began to experience a deeper, quieter place in myself. A place in me where I could just… ahhh… exhale fully.  I felt the need to keep my life really basic.  This included minimal financial responsibilities, simple responsibilities with work and minimal responsibilities in relationships.   I house-sat in two different homes my past year in New Orleans.  My job was selling Shiitake Mushrooms at our local farmers market for a very kind Mississippi farmer.  The simplicity of this space gave me time and energy just to be with me.  I can recall walking by myself along the train tracks near where I was staying feeling something begin to settle in my bones.  Me.

And then of course what started to happen in my life?  You guessed it.  Changes!  My furniture in a leaky storage unit got damaged from mold… nearly everything had to be thrown away.  The house where I was house-sitting sold… yeah for the house… but what next?… and then my lovely 1996 Ford Taurus which I bought in Austin, Texas shortly after Hurricane Katrina let me know life was heading for changes.  It broke down beyond repair.  I gratefully sold it to a mechanic who was willing to take it off my hands… and then I was, well, perhaps free…

As these changes happened so quickly for me, it was a little more than my brain could sort through and organize, so I reached out for support.  I contacted Maureen Pua’ena O’Shaughnessy, a Reiki Master in Hawaii who also works as an intuitive guide, and scheduled a phone session with her.   She assured me that all of these changes at once were an opportunity to see what I really wanted – that it was indeed possible to have a good healthy work life, earn money, have a place to live where I loved and still have and cultivate the peace and soft pace I had started to love, nurture and need in my life.  And she let me know that as I became an “energetic match” for that life, that which I wanted and needed – including a satisfying but balanced and well paid work life…would show up in my world.  And if I wasn’t quite a match for it yet… if I still needed to grow, then something else juicy would come along in the meantime –  like a trip or travel… and here I am in Europe.  Growing.  Restoring.  Exploring the texture and feel of balance for me in my life.

One area of growth for me is… well in truth… people.  All of them.  Most of them… I can tend to feel… uneasy around… people.  This is not some prejudice I have towards people…  I can also be uneasy around dogs, bees and other various creatures.  But while I began to find my comfort in me, I am still exploring extending that same comfort within myself when I am not by myself.  This weekend at Friends and Reiki was an excellent chance to shake up my comfort zone a little bit and extend myself… and it was… well, uncomfortable.   I was surprised at my feeling of inner panic as if noone asked me to dance at the high school prom. I wanted to run and hide when the group arrived, like I was four years old hanging on to my mothers leg.  But the joy of the weekend came from poking myself out a bit more than usual… connected conversations, playing the drums with others, even playing a little guitar and singing together… things that I secretly desired to do with others, but prior to this had almost exclusively done them by myself all alone…  ah…Balance.

And today my gypsy is tugging at my sleeve again as I prepare to travel to a new place.  Like Mary Poppins packing up my bag and heading off… to where the wind blows. Tomorrow  I will join Marijke Lemmen, a friend in Reiki and Reiki Master as she returns home to Holland.  The situations in my life shift so quickly-like the weather here in Wettensbostel, cold in the morning, sunny midday, stormy by afternoon… except when, perhaps the sun might peek out again…  Totally unexpected.

So life moves on.  And how great it is to be connected with others… changing and balancing.  Perhaps you are too… it seems to be a phenomenon these days.  I have started sending Reiki energy to the idea of change and balance in my life and to those who were at the Reiki gathering.  A little extra support as things spin and shift within us reflected in our outside world.

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