Sunday, September 30, 2007


I have a dream. It lives in the colors of my aura and the cells of my blood. It is the deepest calling of my soul. It is a dream that flows to my conscious awareness now and then to remind me its presence lives within me. To remind me it is waiting to be born. To remind me that faith and trust and love of self are the corner-stones of its manifestation. My dream, my cell-deep, soul-deep dream is to offer Sanctuary.

My Soul Sanctuary, which will belong, in the larger sense, to any and all who come, will be a place of calm and peace and healing for those who are experiencing a transformation in their lives. For those in need of healing from wounds of all levels: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. For those who need to recover or uncover their truth and purpose in life.
Because Nature is a critical element in the healing process of any and all ills, my Soul Sanctuary will be nestled amongst trees and meadows and fingers crossed~ a large pond. The animal barn will be well stocked with fur and soft eyes and eager tongues ready to offer the brand of healing only unconditional creatures of God can offer. Arabian horses, feisty ponies, cats and dogs and pygmy goats and Sanctuary Ambassador, Rosebud the black sheep.
There will be little out-buildings scattered throughout the Sanctuary, ready to accept those who need solitude, contemplation or healing for an hour, a day or a week. Some little sacred spaces will offer comfort for those of a particular faith, some will offer comfort with non-secular themes. A central building will offer the opportunity for community. Classes and council and occasions for joy will be served up on a regular basis.
I can see my dream so clearly because I can see the need for healing humanity so clearly. Those who actively seek to be healed from the invisible wounds of Life have few safe places to go. I dream of building at least one safe and sacred place to facilitate the recovery of hope and trust and love in an individual's soul. Because the healing of our planet and the balancing of our human race will happen one person at a time. One soul at a time. Until a critical mass of healed humans is reached and our planet becomes a Living Sanctuary.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Double Infinity

This is what 88 looks like. This is the current life of a creative powerhouse, born in Northern Germany in 1919. This is my Oma, Luise. This woman, who raised 3 small children during WW2 while her husband fought and died, is a Renaissance woman. Is an artist. Is a woman who doesn't give up. Don't think I'm not counting my blessings about the gene pool I swim in.
At 88, Oma spent 3 days preparing and planting the garden on the side of her house, just as she has for decades. At 88, Oma knits and embroiders with the fervor of someone half her age. At 88, Oma bends orchids and lady slippers and every indoor flowering plant to her will, keeping them in bloom for up to 6 months straight or coaxing successive shoots for years on end. At 88, God bless her, Oma can still serve up a sit-down dinner for 12. (Guests and family are required to wash the dishes. By hand, of course.)
And now, at 88, my Oma is famous. For at least 15 minutes, or until the November issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine hits the stands. You see, inside the covers of the October 2007 issue of MSL magazine, on page 115, you will find Oma's delectable recipe for her family-famous Quince Cake. On that proud page is a photo of the completed cake and the recipe beneath, titled: "Luise's Quince Cake". Today, at afternoon tea, on behalf of her daughter's birthday, Oma served up that to-die-for torte with freshly whipped cream and just the right amount of fall's little-known fruit. I restrained myself, with much effort, to one piece.
What's the secret of a going-strong 88 year old Renaissance woman, I ask her? Keep moving, she says. Stay involved with family and friends of all ages. Create something each day: a few rows of stitches, a new recipe, a clean room. And let yourself be loved.
All photos copyright(c) 2007 Graciel, and used with permission from Oma.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Postcards and Time

Back at the beginning of August, I happily signed up for an international postcard swap offered by an Artist in England. Just the jump-start I need to get my creativity circulating,I thought. I was assigned 9 names and addresses. I pledged to create original postcards for each and send them off by the end of that month. 6 to American addresses, 1 to England, 1 to The Netherlands, and 1 to Australia. It didn't happen. My creative circulation was dammed.
The postcards made for me from the other participants started to trickle in. Beautiful creations with sage advice and quotes from the likes of Paul Cezanne, Anais Nin and Leonardo Da Vinci. One even arrived with 3 specially-selected-for-me tarot cards sewn together: 10 of cups, 9 of pentacles and the Queen of Staffs. Still, my scissors and my paints would not beckon. It was as if someone had closed the door on my imagination and taken the key with them. Mild guilt and embarrassment would not even prod me into action.
As the agreed upon completion date came and went, slowly I wandered to my studio table. I cut out the postcards from 140 lb. watercolor paper and dabbled with my paints. A week went by. I cut out some printed images from original photos, laid them on the painted paper, and another week went by. I found the image of a clock from a 1943 American school book, and suddenly, it was time. Time to circulate, time to assemble, time to get my ass in gear.
At the exact right time for me, everything fell into place. The postcards were unexpectedly effortless. And the theme for all of them became "time". I wrote a different message on the back of each one such as, "Whatever you have been afraid to do, now is the time to get it done". I was pleased with my efforts. I lovingly put them in envelopes, held each one to my heart and said a prayer for the highest good of each recipient. I mailed them. 3 weeks late and right on time for me.
The day I mailed them, I received the last of the 9 postcards meant for me. A simple and beautiful card from The Netherlands. On the back was a quote from my favorite Sufi Poet, Rumi. It said,
"Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
Be notorious."
More perfect words for me, right on time, could not have come.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Empty Heart

To be filled, something must first be emptied. A bucket, a bath tub, a bank account, a heart. Nothing truly fresh and fulfilling can flow into an already full space. Especially if the space is mired in stale energy, standing water, or stifling thoughts. Measures must be taken to dump, pour out and empty the vessel of all that stands in the way of new vibrations, new abundance and higher levels of happiness.

A bucket and a bath tub are fairly easy vessels to clear out. A bank account, less easy, if a fresh supply of abundance is not waiting directly in the wings. A heart, less easy still, depending on the length of years it has beat and the traumas it has endured. But the heart is the most needful of all vessels to be emptied, if Life is to continuously offer up its jewels and its succulence. A full heart can no longer take in additional Life. A full heart can no longer take in a finer quality of air. A full heart can no longer recognize uncommon opportunities for love.

The dumping, pouring out and emptying of the heart is messy. Wet. Painful. Exhausting. Seemingly endless once the process has begun. Old thoughts, stubborn obsessions, magician's cloaks, crappy attitudes, stale resentments, refuse of pity-parties, molehills of doubts and soul-shrinking curses against the self are dredged up from the bottom of the vessel. Laid out in all their putrid splendor. Fingered and tasted for current viability. And one by one, by slowly painful one, deemed unfit for further consumption, consideration or space in the vault.

As the heart is emptied, detachment drifts in. As things and people and once-clutched memories are released to the ethers, judgement takes a back seat and impartiality takes the wheel. The more the heart is emptied of its stale view of Life, the more detachment settles in. Until one moment, one brief moment in the process of dumping and pouring, the needle on the gauge swings completely to the left and the heart is rendered empty.

In that brief moment, reached only through wet and mess, a doorway appears. The doorway does not beckon, does not call, does not entice. It merely stands open and allows the heart to understand, if that thresh hold was crossed, if all that was once clung to was left behind, the soul-aspect of the heart, the aspect that never dies, would be okay. It would be happy and free and loved and safe. Everything would be okay.

In the fullness of understanding, in the fullness of complete emptiness, the doorway closes. Calmness drifts in. Somewhere in the background a bell choir strikes a note. A singular peel that echoes and swells into multiple bells and ushers in new vibrations. The heart begins to fill itself, in an unhurried manner, with new abundance. The heart begins to breathe a more refined quality of air. The heart begins to fill itself, in an unhurried manner, with a deeper, more succulent level of Life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Season Of Yoga For One

Today I felt like a celebrity. I had signed up for yoga classes at a new studio nearby. I arrived at the agreed upon time with my blue mat and bottled water, ready to join a group of fellow students in search of grounding and inner peace. 10 minutes past the agreed upon time, no one else had come. I was alone with the instructor. The Universe had set me up to have a private yoga lesson. Swallowing my awkwardness, I spread out my mat, faced the woman I had only just met and followed her lead. Only the rich and famous have private lessons, I mused to myself. Since I'm far from famous, I decided I must be rich inside.

At the end of almost 2 hours of private instruction, I was richer inside than I had been upon waking. My understanding of the discipline and practice of yoga skyrocketed with each adjustment she helped me make and each side-by-side example she demonstrated. My downward facing dog and my hands-free baby cobra are darn close to perfect now.

As I left the studio, stretched and strengthened, I realized how much I've been doing alone. I realized this has been quite the solitary year, by choice and by chance. And I will admit, some days of solitude and solo practice have been lonely. My zest for group gatherings and company in general has waned. My social mojo has seemingly deflated. Some days this concerns me. Some days I wonder what happened to my zest and my zeal for social engagement. My need and delight in activities with others. My joy in intellectual conversation and stupid humor.

The knowing part of myself, the wise part of myself is, however, not concerned at all. This wise woman within me knows there are seasons. Seasons in nature and seasons in the life of every human animal. This is my season of solitude. This is my season of receiving private instruction from the Universe at large. Because one on one instruction is so much more effective in getting a lesson across. So much more effective for bone-deep, soul-deep, never-forget-this understanding. So much more effective for cementing trust in one's self.

In my season of solitude, God has come closer. Intuition is easier to act on. My need for approval is dying. And my question of what do I really want has a decent chance of finally being answered.

I'm growing rich inside in my season of solitude, my season of concentrated growth. When the next season comes, as it surely will, I will meet it with greater trust and greater strength. I will meet it with less doubt and more ability to welcome and embrace the harvest.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Flying In Paradise

In my world, it is only a one hour drive to paradise. A passport is required to get there, as is a love for entomological masterpieces. Paradise lies in Canada, just over the bridge from western New York State and slightly down river from the Falls called Niagara. Just outside the gates to paradise a sign reads: Butterfly Conservatory. Inside the gates, my heart takes flight.

Upon entering paradise, I am greeted immediately by four large flying flowers in the most electric shade of cerulean blue. I gasp out loud. They flutter around my head and leave traces of themselves in my stomach. Somehow these four flying flowers have pressed on my tear ducts, even though they are known to stay air born. It is part of their magic and purpose in life to remind all who witness them that beauty is food for the soul. Happy tears run down my cheeks. It feels good to be fed.

Not surprisingly, paradise is a tropical place. Water mists, lush foliage and warm temperatures set the stage for a continuous aerial ballet. It is a cast of thousands and intentionally un-choreographed. Each member of the cast is as stunning as the next. Some even thrill the audience by landing on hats and shoulders or nearby leaves. I walk slowly, so slowly along the paths in paradise, drinking in the colors and the shapes and the intricate costume designs.

And then comes the gift. It happens outside the butterfly nursery. I turn away from the marvel of cocoons and damp wings to be graced with the unthinkable. The elusive. The unlooked-for dream. An electric blue flying flower, the 4 1/2 inch wing spanned Blue Morpho, known to remain aloft, lands on my right hand. On top of the silver filigree butterfly ring I'm wearing on my middle finger. I stop breathing for a moment, afraid it will disappear. But it stays. Commotion begins to swirl around me as other seekers in paradise realize a Blue Morpho has landed. I'm rushed by cameras and rudeness as seekers jostle each other to get a shot of my hand.

There is no option for me to capture this moment, as my camera is held in the hand holding the masterpiece. It doesn't matter. Amid the minor chaos, the Blue Morpho and me have a conversation. I thank it for blessing me with its presence. I tell it how gorgeous I think it is. I thank it for staying. In response, the electric blue flower wiggles its antennas, looks me in the eye and says,"I am you, and you are me". With that, my hand is jostled and the flower flies on.

I linger in paradise, soaking in the glories that God has created. I linger in paradise, imagining my cerulean wings , damp and unfurling, lifting me skyward. I linger in paradise, one hour and one country away, balancing my mind, warming my heart, and feeding my soul.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Choice

I marvel at how easily I forget I have a choice. In everything. I have a choice in what I see, what I pay attention to, what I listen to, what I say, what I do, what I eat. I have a choice in what I think, how I react and most importantly, what my attitude is on a moment to moment basis. I have a choice to accept or reject some one else's opinion. I have a choice to see beauty or discord. I have a choice to feel heaven or hell. My life, my daily existence, is the manifestation of my collective choices.

Why do I choose too often to see discord, accept meaningless opinions and feel hell crawling two millimeters under my skin? Because I slip into the Maya, the illusion of the human world and allow myself to get hooked. Hooked into paying attention to things that lower my brain function and convince me that fear is a reality. Hooked into the insane focus of the media and the power-hungry minds that say negativity is the way of the world.

Fear is not reality and negativity is not the way of the world. It is a choice to buy into that notion, that slight-of-hand illusion, that queller of independent thinking so deadly to the regimes. It is a choice to ignore, forget and feign unawareness of the energy and reality that glues the stars together, pumps blood through my veins and causes the deep sigh of relief when chocolate melts on my tongue. It is a choice to turn away from the energy of love, the reality that remains unscathed despite the Maya, the crap, and the despair.

Love is ever present. Love is everywhere. Love is the invisible force that animates the quarks and the bozons and the building blocks of life. Love is life. If it ceased to exist, so would I. So would you. So would everyone.

Because nothing truly stands outside of love. It is only a choice, a decision of the brain, a habit that causes me to feel like I do. Today, thank God, I choose differently. Today, I make the choice to see love, to acknowledge its role in the very breath of my life, and to let it seep out of my pores as joy and laughter. Today, I make the choice to see beauty and innocence and the sterling in tin. Today, my collective choices allow heaven on earth.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Poetry of Rumi

While the image of the Beloved burns in our heart
the whole of Life flows in contemplation.
Wherever union with the Beloved exists
there is, in the middle of the house,
a flowering rose garden.
Jelaluddin Rumi
Born: 1207