slipping, balance, truth.

It's been a while since I've written.  My life is in a whirlwind, and I have yet to find my balance.  It might be a while until I do. Becoming ok with that is a hard lesson.  Because it means incorporating all of the things I've been learning - and preaching - along the way.

Self-doubt winks over my shoulder like a tornado waiting to burst.  I breathe and meditate to somehow keep it in check, all the while knowing that keeping it in check is not exactly the best way to go about dealing with it.  Keeping things in check is the way I've lived most of my life.

Hold it together.

Well, holding it together isn't working.

This is about trust.  Trust as a practice.  Trust that everything is working out as it should.   Which, in the grand scheme of things, is what I have always believed.  But which, in small, tortuous day to day events, can feel almost impossible to accept.

I am being led to confront people that I have avoided for years.  I am being led to bury old hatchets - hatchets that I had forgotten I even had in the back of my spiritual closet - and move on. I have seriously ill friends who gift me with messages of what truly is important.

I am being led to rethink how I live, think, and act.  I am having moments of crystal clarity.  I always thought those moments were supposed to be beautiful and enlightening.  But sometimes, those moments are just reckoning with what was full-on denial.

This blog has always been about sharing who I am and where I am.

I am in an uncomfortable place.  I feel challenged and unsettled.  I find myself wanting to handle all the things coming at me right now like a car that has accidentally  hit the shoulder hard - if I just hold on to the steering wheel and force it, I'll get the thing back on the pavement.

Only right now, I don't think I'm driving, which makes for a more wild ride.

So the only thing I can do is trust.

Trust that the Spirit in which I place my soul understands and leads.

Trust that I don't have to fake it.

Trust that I will understand the guidance I receive as I receive it.

Trust that life will work out.

I don't have a magic formula or sentence at the end of this post to make it all come together.  It's just not in me right now.  But I will say this:  we all go through this stuff.  It comes at us in cycles, and we're left to understand the deeper meaning.

But that all comes later.

When we go through it, all we can do is go through it.  We can't go around it.  Which can leave is at odd ends with just about everything.

It's all guidance.  Guidance to bring us to where we need to be.  Slipping and falling is part of the process of living. So if you slip, don't think it's the end.

Because most likely?  It's the beginning of something coming out of the pain.  And that beginning is your truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bites of Inspiration

   

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In Italy, food is transformative.  It moves from simple nutrition to becoming the essence of life itself.   During our Beautiful Truth Retreat, we had the chance to  cook with one of my most lovely friends, Carla, who, together with her husband has one of the most lovely restaurants here in Acqui Terme. She taught us so much, she made us laugh, and gifted us moments we'll never forget.

 

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There are more beautiful bites this week:

I am honored to be featured as part of a free interview series called Inspiration Bites, the brain child of the wonderful life coach Alison Ottaway.  The series is completely free, you just need to go and sign up.  There will be an interview recording from international life and change experts every day for two weeks, Monday through Friday.    It starts tomorrow, so don't delay!

your creative calling: what would you do if you weren't worried about being judged?

pursue some path

 

Your idea is your capital.

I don't mean that in strictly a financial sense (although, yeah, that too..).  I'm talking about the capital on which you can focus your energy and open doors to your authentic path.  Your idea is your soul capital. 

Coming to your specific idea of how you would like your future to look professionally and personally feels really complicated and fraught with obstacles.  We don't just block the idea;  we block the manifestation of the idea.

No money.

No time.

Too many other commitments.

I'm not selfish enough to want to live my own idea. 

My partner won't agree.

My friends/family will think I'm crazy.

I won't be able to do it perfectly. I'm not so good at it. 

Look, here's the bottom line.  You  have no idea what will happen if you manifest your ideas and call the forth.  You can't know the lessons that you will learn, the people you will attract, alienate, piss off or laugh with, you have no idea what kind of personal development is in store for you.

You don't know how it will go.

So if you judge your idea as not worth pursuing before you even explore it fully, you've closed the door.  Locked it.  Thrown away the key.  Is that what you want?

It really doesn't have to be that complicated if we lay to the side our self doubts.  And if we stop judging how we're going to be judged for going after our idea.

Often we don't manifest ideas into action because of judgment.  Not strictly the fear of how others will think about us, but the fear of how we will react to people judging us.  Our judgment of judgment.  What we think of what people think of us.

Because judgment will always be there.

It's what we do with judgment that will determine our path.

It's that inner voice that keeps us locked in place, that convinces us the risks are too great, we aren't that good, we don't have a chance, we won't follow through, we just shouldn't bother.

We need to shut her up, that inner voice, because she's so busy judging the judgment of others that she couldn't care less about our authentic selves.

We are the shamans of our own energy, the creators of our own light.  We ourselves determine the doors that open for us.

How do we start?  How can we open our hearts and minds to our best idea?

Enter Wendi Knox.  

Wendi is a magical doctor/artist of authenticity, a magnetic energy medium, a colorful, authentic beauty who has reinvented not only her path, but the paths of women everywhere.   Here's what she has to say about this very subject.

 

I'm working with several women on bringing their idea to cohesive fruition.  I am absolutely and whole heartedly committed to this work.  Do you have an idea you'd like to develop but don't quite know where to start?  I'm here to help you do your best work.  

I cannot believe that Di Mackey and my  Your Beautiful Truth Retreat is less than three weeks away!  Energy will be flying on our little hill in the Italian country side.

And last but not least, I'm scheming with my beautiful friend Barrie Davenport on a new course and on-line workshop about this very subject - calling forth your creative idea and manifesting it into your work.  The launch will be spring 2014.

So now it's over to you:

What would you do if you weren't worried about being judged?  What is your idea?  If you felt free from your inner Edna, as Wendi calls her, what would you do?

 

one small, serendipitous moment

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Even the Dalmation, auspiciously named Joy, embraced the mood in the Piazza.
 

If someone had told me twenty years ago, that one day I'd be sitting in the most beautiful Italian piazza on a sultry summer evening, reading to a group of people from a book that I wrote and had been published, I would have just shaken my  head and walked away.  

 

Twenty years ago I was working hard at a job I wasn't cut out to do, pushing hard towards mid-thirties mid-management burn out, wondering if there would ever be time to do the things in life I could only dream of. But that's why it's always a mistake to underestimate life and where it can lead us.

I've had some amazing doors open in my life since then.  Moving abroad, starting my own businesses, learning languages, learning an artisan craft, becoming first a cross cultural and language coach, then a change coach, and becoming a writer.  All of those creative adventures have led here, to now.   So many moments.  Moments like last weekend are the jewels, though, when everything comes together in a perfect blend of gratitude and joy that are meant to be savored.  We send our energy and work out into the world and we don't know where it will lead.  Mine lead me here, to this place, on this beautiful July evening, surrounded by a small group of friends and interested readers, where I could actually sit in my own seat of life's purpose, the one I had created, and be completely present, reading passages about beautiful Piedmont and love from my novel, True Vines.

I felt balance. I felt kindness and good will. I felt love.

All of these wonderful feelings have culminated as a result of hard work and dedication, no doubt.  But there is also a presence of Spirit that leads us on when we do the hard work we know is right for us.  We're granted a fortuitous sense of peace when we're able to let our fear-driven egos take a back seat and  step into our soul-driven life purpose.  There are moments of  great solace and comfort that come from allowing our work to happen.

I want to share with you that in the last few weeks I have had the most heart-warming experiences through coaching.   Every single session has been such a pleasure and has given me more than I ever imagined.  I am talking to the most wise and brave people, ones who understand that they have a sense of purpose to fulfill.  I feel honored to support them and to open new channels of thought to allow energy to flow in a direction that will bring them further into their own purpose.

All of this, all of this wonderful goodness with which I have been blessed - our B&B, my books, coaching, mentoring, art - are a direct result of walking into risk by leaving a predetermined path and crafting an individual one.   I can promise you, it has not always been easy.  There are days when the push back is harsh and I wonder if I'll have the strength to get back up.  But easy isn't what this process is all about.  In reality, everything's easy at soul level. <- click to tweet  It's when our egos get involved, when fear and self doubt creep into the equation that it feels like a monstrous struggle just to move one tiny step.  We feel like we're walking in molasses.  But when we understand our purpose, and choose to walk in the direction that our souls know is right for us, the molasses melts into sweet water and we are free to swim in our own sense of meaning.

When I first wrote the book Your Truth back in 2012, it came from a deep rooted sense that we are all capable of assessing our own needs, wants and desires, manifesting change and coping with the related challenges of embracing risk.  I feel more strongly about this today than ever.

When we make our intentions clear, when we give ourselves over to those intentions, things will happen to move us, shift us and change us.  I know this to be true.  I have experienced it unrelentingly for the last ten years.  Some days it's been amazing.  Some days it's been hard graft.

But last Saturday evening, in Piazza Bollente in Acqui Terme, Italy, it was magic.  And I realized, for one small, serendipitous moment, that it was all for this.

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Photos © Chris Salvo, Salvo Photo (Thank you, Chris) 

from fear to creative explosion in one giant leap

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 Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure - Marianne Williamson

I've been thinking about  fear.  A lot.  When I get this on my mind, it's usually because something has triggered my own anxiety.  Does it matter what it is, the trigger?  Not really.  Suffice it to say I have triggers.  You have triggers.  And unless we are living in a bubble where nothing changes, we'll always have them.

That's the good news.

What?

Yeah. Because fear is the fuel of creativity, if you choose to use it that way. <- click to tweet

How can that be?

If there's something inside telling you to sit down and do nothing, then there's also something inside of you what knows it's absolutely essential to get up and moving.   If something's telling you to contract, then there's also something telling you to open your arms wide and move towards what you know to be your path.

We know we're powerful.  That's why we're fearful.  Fear is the yin to power's yang.  Once we have grappled with the essence of our fear and walked, step by step, in the direction of our power, we know what we have.

I swear, I've looked at fear from so many sides now, and when it comes to roost inside of me, I know as God is my witness that I need to move towards something big.

You want to know what fear looks like?

Fear looks like inertia.  Starting a big project that you always wanted to do and not bringing it to the point where it has a chance for success.  Pushing big rocks uphill is not always fun, or easy, but sometimes you reach the top and that baby flies down the other side, you know?

Fear looks like self-sabotage.Who me?  I couldn't do that. You do it.  I couldn't.   Yeah, you could.  Very much definitely.  You could.

Fear looks like jealousy.  Everyone else's life looking great right now?  Might want to look a little deeper into those feelings.

Fear looks like chaos. Don't take a look at my closet when anxiety hits.  Just don't. I don't know who gets in there and knots up all those leggings, but it must be my slightly agoraphobic alter ego trying to have a go with me.

Fear looks like every person who ever told you you couldn't do something.  All of those people.  You know what you need to do with them? Have a little fantasy, turn them into ants with funny faces, and put them in a jar.  With no holes in the lid.  Let them scream at you from in there until the oxygen runs out.  It won't make you a bad person.  It's just metaphoric.  You can still love them in real life.  Kind of. If you really want to.

See why fear means something big is happening?  Let me tell you what's happening when fear hits.  Something so big that it makes you want to become inert, not admit you can do it , get jealous because you know people who could do it.  It' something so big that it will turn your desk into a chaotic mess and make you believe  all those people who told you you couldn't.

It's that big, the thing you're moving towards.  It's big and it's shiny and it is going to require that you take responsibility for yourself and for it.

It's yours.

So cast of the fear, my love.  Cast of the doubt that you can't move into the flow.  Stop thinking  you're too tired or to busy or just not good enough.  You have the power of the Universe in that talented hand of yours.

Embrace it!

 

creative masterminds: where to start

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There's this notion out there that creative people pop onto the planet with a basic understanding of what they should create and how they should create it.

There's nothing further from the truth. Which is why it's so important to try many different things on your way to creative freedom and integrity.  Because until you go through the process of trying things on, you'll never know what's uniquely yours.  It also functions like a path;  one thing you try might not be right, but it could lead you to another thing, or a person doing another thing, and then you work  to find your way through to your own individual creativity.

I see this in every creative person out there.  People who are taking their own skill set and using it to create lives that are interesting.  To them.  Your creativity cannot be interesting to others if it's not first interesting to you.

By the time I moved moved to this old farm in Italy, I had been doing ceramics for several years but was not yet making the pots I knew I could.  I also didn't know how I wanted to decorate the guest rooms. We had so much to do;  restoring four massively dilapidated old structures and clearing hundreds of trees overwhelmed us.  For the first year and a half, I had nowhere to do creative work such as painting and ceramics. I had very little hope that I'd even get to the point of really being an artist again.  But what I did do is every time I saw a picture of a pot  or an interior I loved, I pasted it to the back of our barn door.  Pretty soon it became my first mood board.  I was being creative without being creative, and it gave me back my hope for the future when it seemed I would just drown in the work of surviving.

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my first mood board in Italy, pasted to the door of the barn.

I didn't yet know how to make these kind of pots, but I knew deep inside when a photo of one hit a nerve.  The same thing with interiors. I knew what hit me.  So I decided to use the period of "creative inactivity" when we were covered with plaster from head to toe to really thing about what the path would be like as we moved down it.  When I look at the photo of this mood board now, it's astounding to me how many of the pots are uncannily similar to what I make.  I was directing my own creativity here, and it worked for me like a charm.

You have to start somewhere, so start anywhere. The key is to start, and to keep moving into it.  Don't worry if you can't afford to invest money or time in a craft right now.  You just need to start the thinking process.  Take photos of your thing.  Read articles about your thing.  Try your thing out in some small way.  Keep moving your energy in the direction of your thing.  Make a mood board;  join Pinterest .  Learn something about what moves you.  Get addicted to your own personal brand of creativity.  <- click to tweet. 

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Get interested. 

Let the interest spark learning.

Let the learning spark action.

Let the action spark commitment. 

Let the commitment spark drive.

Let the drive spark creativity.

Let the creativity spark magic.  

It doesn't matter where you start; it only matters that you start. 

the miracle

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For you.

You who puts it out there the best you can, day after day.

 You who deals with the fall out, takes responsibility, wishes quietly for more hope .

You who smiles at moments of great weariness.

You who gets up, stretches, sighs, and does it again, day after day.

You who gives too much but can't seem to do it any other way.

You who listens and empathizes and doesn't judge.

You who would like, at the end of the day, just to be heard.  And accepted.  And loved.  Just the way you are.

You won't be broken.  Because you are a miracle.

 

There's one spot left for Di Mackey and my Your Beautiful Truth Retreat at the end of August... come and revel in your story. Di came to Piedmont this week and we had our pre-retreat summit, scheming and laughing, planning and dreaming - all for you.  We want to reveal to you what kind of miracle you really are.

 

 

 

creative release

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I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it  - Pablo PicassoI've been screaming inside.

For calm,  for a rock on the head,  for anything to move me out of a sense of superficial frantic activity coupled with spiritual and creative inertia.

I know something new is coming out of a sense of WE. 

It started two weeks ago with a 20 pound block of porcelain clay, a clay I never worked with.  I cleaned my studio and opened the sack - and started to work with it.  At first - frustration.  Turned to anger- almost tears. Because it was different than anything I ever did before with clay. And my ego was such that I thought I could work with porcelain without even thinking about it.  Ten pieces ended up on a blob on the middle of my work table before I really thought about what the problem was.  The problem was how I as approaching the process. I stopped - worked my way through the complexity of my own reaction. And started again.

"Have fun with it," I said to myself.  "Stop taking this so seriously."

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These pieces are different than anything I've ever made. I posted a couple of shots on Facebook and the reaction was immediate.  People reacted to these raw, just thrown forms straight from their emotional center.  That reaction broke loose something inside of me that made me want to create.  Sculpt. Write.  Bring my work to the next level - and share all of it with you.

Gather your thoughts.

Look at how you live. Your sense of self expands into all that you touch.  Loving that with which you are surrounded will expand your capacity to grow.  Your life is yours to curate and manifest.  The more you dream about what can be, the more you are able to call those dreams forth into your daily life and try new things that can bring you joy.  The Universe will put things in your path to help the trip. But you have to put in the work.  You have to try what you don't know, what you're not sure of.  You have to be willing to be bad at it before you get good at it, and bless the bad stuff as being a beautiful part of the process.

The Universe will give you a green light and let you walk across your own path.  

 

creative sustainability

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. - Albert Einstein

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The heart of creativity is not in its grand spurts of brilliance, but in the tenacity of its sustainability over time.

This is important because burn out happens.  And when it does, we need to remember that not doing anything for stretches of time is part of rejuvenating our creative center. Sometimes other things take precedence that have nothing to do with our creative lives.  Which is perfect.  Because the food for creativity is living, not producing.<- click to tweet.  Producing is what digests the creative food.  But if we don't occasionally step back into quiet, we'll become depleted.  So there's a balance to be found - a balance between creating and rejuvenating.

Our work becomes more meaningful, deeper, and more vulnerable if we let our lives' experiences infuse our creative tea.  The edges become softer.  Wisdom is present in the work.  Whether we're writing, potting, painting, teaching, or building, doing so from a place of peace and relaxation always beats forcing it during a period of depletion.  It took me years to learn this.  I thought creativity was about what I was producing, not about what I was living.  I am here to tell you this was a mistake. Our creativity comes from living.  It's what make our creativity sustainable.

This is nowhere more important than when we want our creativity to sustain us financially.  As creative entrepreneurs, we rely on the health of our bodies and souls to pay the bills.  This is an intricate balance of all that is good, and our work becomes our joy becomes our sustenance.   So it's very important to remember that being true to our craft means taking care of ourselves and our creative needs.

 

 

let go of suffering

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 What's making you suffer right now?

 

 

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Is it your situation?  Or is it your narrative?

Because your situation might be what it is because of the narrative you're telling yourself.  And that might be what's causing you to suffer.

Suffering, unless you have a serious or life threatening illness, is mostly self induced.  I know it hurts to hear this.  It hurts me particularly this week because I have been doing some pretty intense suffering of my own, but if I am completely honest here, I brought a lot of it on myself. Ok. No.  I brought it all on myself.  I have a million good excuses that I could roll out right here  and now for having put myself through some pretty tortuous mental gymnastics that have gotten me absolutely nowhere except sleepless.

But instead of beating myself up about it, I'm dissecting it - and turning it around. What if the situation that I was in was happening to my best friend instead of to me?  How would I react then? I know exactly what I would do.

I'd tell her that objectively speaking, her situation is just not that bad.  That there are a lot of people who would just love to be in her position, even though it's stressful right now.  And that she's got the strength and ability to change things up and make herself feel better.  That she's strong.  That she's got a lion's heart and that she is courageous.  Then I decided it's time to be my own best friend. Because those are the things I need to hear right now about myself.  That I have the power to change the things that are not working about my own situation.

This doesn't just work for me, by the way.  I'm not the only one holding on to things that hurt me.  What about you?  What can you let go of today that is going to help you change your narrative about your situation?

Let go of trying to be perfect.  You know this.  I don't have to repeat it.  Do I?

Let go of judging people.  Even the ones you think you know especially well.  Don't judge anyone.  Everyone has the chance to learn new things, to change and to grow and be different than how you perceive him or her to be.

Let go of thinking you can't change.  What you believed yesterday or ten years ago might not hold water any more.  Shed the ideas and notions you have that no longer work.

Let go of resisting. When resistance comes to visit, know that you feel it the most when you need it the least.

Let go of the past. The past counts, but not nearly as much as you think.  And it does not in any way predict what you're capable of in the future.

Let go of trying to be fabulous at the things you suck at.   <- click to tweet  If you blast through life riding the tide of your strengths, you will have a blast.  If you struggle through life trying to be masterfully good at things you don't like doing, you will suffer - and that is completely self induced suffering.  Don't like accounting?  Get an accountant. Let her explain what you need to know, and let her do her job.

Let go of telling yourself you don't need any help. 

Let go of believing that other people are making you miserable.    You can feel anything you want.  Just know that your feeling world is about you and not about anyone making you feel anything.  It can also be divorced from reality - feelings often are.  If you are feeling sad and anxious, it's very likely got more to do with your perception of your situation than the situation itself.

Let go of haters.  

Let go of the idea that past traumas keep us from moving forward.  Our stories effect who we are.  But the upshot of this is that these stories, however they happened to us and worked through us, are there to help us understand ourselves.  When something moves us, it's like a crack appears, and through that crack glows a warm light, and that light propels us forward into a new understanding. Let your past move you forward.  Your stories are your wisdom.

What do you want to let go of today that would make your life joyful?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the messy bomb

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Go ahead.  Stumble. 

I am talking about letting things get messy.  Well, you know, things do get messy, right?  As much as we like to believe that our story is a clean one, one that moves towards the light, step by step, until one day we wake up, fulfilled and balanced, we know deep inside that that's a crock.

Uh-uh.

I am a grand starter of projects.  Have an idea?  Call me.  I'll get excited about it for you.  I have an exuberant amount of creative energy.  It took me years, however, many of them, to turn starts into creations of any significance.  And what I found in that process was very interesting and kind of shocking.

I found a veritable minefield of messy bombs that I needed to step on so they could explode all over the place.

Writing True Vines, I was about half way through the first draft when I started to worry.  What would people think of the book?  Would someone actually want to publish it? What did I think of the book?  Would it be worth reading?  Would anybody buy it?  Would it be worth the money they paid?

Why in the world was I even bothering?  I wasn't a writer.  What made me think I could be a writer?  Who gave me permission?

Who in the hell did I think I was? 

The bomb I  stepped on made me crawl under the covers and cry or zombie out for weeks. I felt shattered by self doubt. Until I stopped and made the decision that I was going to write the book anyway.  I wasn't going to care if it sold, if a publisher wanted it, if anyone else gave a damn about it.  I was going to write it because it was important to me.  If nothing would come of it, I would somehow be ok in the knowledge  that just writing it was a worthwhile task. I stopped wallowing and I put my canoe back into the current.  But don't believe the wallowing was a bad thing!  It was necessary part of coming to the conclusion that the book would get written at all. The book that became published, that people are reading, that has brought me so much joy and assured me that I am indeed the writer I always felt I was inside. I didn't need anyone's permission or approval after all.

Getting the most out of life means allowing the mess.  Understanding that we are, in all our sum parts, quite messy, beautiful creatures, full of contradiction and pain, love and hurt, light and dark, who manage to still weave through and shift ourselves back into gear. 

We get to be shattered.  We get to be broken.  We get to be not ok.  And we get to understand that those are all parts of authenticity.

The mess has a point, and that point is passion. To get to the passionate part of our life's work, we have to open ourselves up to the fact that we are, in fact, capable of shooting ourselves in the foot in uncountable ways. It's the minefield, my friends.  But it's not the minefield that you have to cross gingerly, hoping not to disturb the peace. It's the minefield that you must trample on with a pair of clod hoppers.

Because if you go after your passions, the peace, my friends, will get disturbed.  You can count on it.

And you will emerge, maybe a little scarred, some mud stuck in your hair, with your chin set, your eyes clear and you will be saying to yourself, "There you have it.  I did it. And here I am .  Still alive."

More than alive.  You get to have yourself, really and truly.

Don't fear the messy bomb, people.  Don't fear it at all.  Because good things, very gorgeous miracles come from the your very special mess.

 

 

 

intrepid grace

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I've come back to beautiful Italy from a two week visit to the United States.

I had so many wonderful and deeply emotional moments on this trip; it was packed with loving and meaningful encounters.  I visited with people who had been through so much suffering and change.  I saw old friends and new ones, got to speak to people who came to hear me read from my book, and  talked for hours with loved ones.  It was a trip to savor and to reflect upon; so much of what I experienced confirmed that stepping in to love is the only thing to do.

So many of those I saw on this trip have been through journeys of illness, pain, anxiety and struggle, in situations that were or continue to be incomprehensibly sad and difficult.  In each of the interactions I had, I came away astounded by the human ability to demonstrate grace at the darkest moments.  I was filled with gratitude and respect for the human spirit in the face of seemingly impossible odds.  The grace seemed tenacious to me.  Gripping.

So I named it intrepid grace.  It's that thing that keeps us human when we are battered by inhumanity.  It's the grace that propels us forward, helps us focus, and lets us know at an existential level that all is truly well.

And to experience it in such a personal way was deeply moving.

Now back in Italy, we're only four weeks out from opening the B&B for the season. That might seem like a lot of time, but it's a flash, considering there's still snow on the ground in spots!   There will be major cleaning, planting and cooking taking place over the next month.   The yang of the season is calling, pulling me out of the retrospective winter into movement and activity.  I'll step into the flow, and see where it takes me.  Big change is in the air.  Just around the bend.  I can feel it.  I'll do my best to meet it with intrepid grace.

book signing one - diana

move forward. stop resisting.

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last bit of winter
last bit of winter

This picture is the last winter photo of the season, taken during a hike in my home town of Milford, PA while here for a book signing event.

I love doing my work.  I often find myself surrounded by the most interesting, multi-faceted people, and because flow happens when we least resist it, doors open.   Nothing happens unintentionally.  It's how we step forward, heart first, into our work, that sets the tone of what happens next.

This doesn't mean it's always easy.  There's a skill to not resisting and moving forward at the same time.

Often, we want to move forward out of a desire to control the outcome. Which almost always means resisting real events.  Because events can never mirror what we hold in our imagination to be the way things should go.  So walking forward and accepting,  walking forward and surrendering, is an acquired skill.  A muscle to develop.

Years ago, when we first moved to Italy, I had a very strong idea of how things would be, and how I'd "manage" events.   I had a vision, a solid one. But problems started to occur almost the minute we landed on the ground.  We were confronted with so many traumatic things, none of which were on our radar screen at all:

An unprecedented and unpredicted drop in the Dollar against the Euro meant a completely unplanned-for evaporation of our working capital in the first two years.

We grossly underestimated the cost of renovation.  We had bad advice from dishonest people. And we were just naive enough to believe them for a little too long.

We didn't have the proper equipment. We lacked, and still lack, a 4x4 or pick-up truck.

We had no idea what it meant to have a house carved into a mountainside, how water runs down, how it effects foundations and structures, how it finds a way into everything when you don't want it to.

We didn't know how hard it would be to clear woodland.  We lost over 30 trees in our first snowfall nine years back and didn't either own or know how to use a chain saw.

Every job that we thought should have taken a week took a month, and the tougher jobs took years.  I, in particular, worried endlessly about money, our health, the future, and what we had gotten ourselves into.

In short, we moved forward every single day.  But I personally put up so much resistance, every moment comparing the way I thought things "should be" with the vastly different reality that I ended up drained, injured and sick. For several years.

Now juxtapose that against the fact that within a very short time, we had managed to open what is a successful B&B and all the people who came to us just loved it, despite the fact that it wasn't perfect or even close.   Everyone could see the blood, sweat and tears.  But the only one who could not really enjoy a single second of it?

Yours truly.

I couldn't see how taking on this seemingly impossible project under difficult circumstances has forced me to grown in ways I had never anticipated.  I couldn't appreciate what my situation was teaching me.  All I could feel was pain - intense pain - because my reality wasn't matching up to the thought of how I felt things should be.

One day, in a session with my coach Amy Oscar, she said to me, "You know, I've never had an inanimate object try to speak through me.  But I think your house is trying to tell you something.  It's trying to tell you that it's OK."  My house would let me have my pain, let me beat against its stone walls as it had done for generations of women before me, and would let me stand up, get my bearings, and move forward.  If I could only accept its lessons and not fight them continuously.

If I could only stop crying and start understanding what the real message was of why I had come to Italy in the first place.

If I could only stop resisting. 

I am in America right now, where I gave my first book reading, where Amy and so many other of my loved ones were in the audience, and I realized something:  This house in Italy - it gave me this moment.  This moment filled with love and gratification, with so many beautiful people in my private and professional circle.  This house helped me retouch with people from the past, and led me to shake hands with my future mentors and friends and partners.  This house, this impossible, beautiful place on a hill in Italy turned out to be my salvation.

You don't need a house in Italy to stop resisting while continuing down your path.  It is possible for you to move forward and to stop resisting at the same time.  My dream upon coming to Italy is vastly different than how it's turned out.  In many ways, it's a far deeper and more meaningful experience than I ever could have imagined.  I know more now.  I trust my instincts more than ever.  I can sense people's pain and blocks and reach out to them and help them understand their own knots, and untie them.  Before I came to Italy, I was so knotted up myself I could barely even stand up straight.  But I didn't know that then.  I needed to drop myself into a nearly impossible situation and find my way back to myself.

Your goals are your goals.  They are good. But they are not necessarily going to be the result of your work.The result might look completely and totally different to what you have in mind at the outset.  This is a good thing, my friends.  A very good thing.  Because if you move forward, listen, accept, surrender to what is, and keep moving forward despite the difficulties and the obstacles, you will end up with a level of personal success that is beyond what you are even capable of dreaming right now.

Remember who you are as you move forward. 

Remember to listen carefully, not only to what people are telling you, but what your inner voice is trying desperately to communicate to you.

Remember to put love forward, including loving yourself, as you move along.  Taking care of yourself as you move into new things will keep you well during what might be frighteningly uncertain times.

Remember that you can do many things, but you can't force anything.  Take reality at its word, absorb its lessons, and adjust your plan.

In the end, you'll find yourself exactly where you are meant to be.

****

This past week in America has been an emotional roller coaster.  I had the most amazing book signing with over 60 people in attendance.  My cousin Lisa Rolleri of Domestic Diva made the Italian cookies, most of them gluten free, family & friends came from far and wide, and we raised money for the Pike County Public Library.  It was a fantastic event, the first of what I hope will be many.

After that, my mother and I travelled to visit an ill family member.  It was an emotional reunion, and one that brought many feelings of both love and sadness.  On the heels of the book signing, I was reminded of the fragility of this time we have and how important it is to project love as often and as much as possible.

I look forward to returning to Italy to exorcise winter out of the house, and to prepare, once again, for visitors from far and wide.

I wish you all, my dearest readers, a wonderful week, whatever your goals, and wherever you are.

your own sun, moon, sky. yourself.

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P1020628

The more you gravitate toward doing your own work, the more life will test you. This is a good thing.  It might not feel good at the moment, but it's a good thing.  Because as you gravitate towards the things that move you and that mean something to you, you'll bounce against your own personal limits.

Think of yourself as living inside of a balloon  - a really big one.  It's translucent but not transparent.  But you know, because you've concentrated really hard, that the real joy, the real love, your real story is outside of the balloon.  You can see the way the light prisms out there, and it's glowing at you, through the skin of the balloon.

But the balloon keeps you safe, and as long as you accept its limitations, you can walk around inside of it unimpeded.  The balloon is your safety zone that cuts you off from your truth.

The balloon has had its benefits, but it's served its purpose.

So you start taking a running jump, and bashing into the side of the balloon.  And it stops you. Hard.

It's resistance.  It's self doubt.  It's holding on to how others think about you too tightly. It's judging others and allowing them to judge you.  It's bad boundaries, and it's not being able to say no when you really want to.  All of those things have formed this micro-thin fiber that's tightly woven and creating the inner surface of your balloon.  And seemingly impossible to break, since you're thrashing around in the darn thing trying to get out so hard.

Until on day you realize that it's not about bashing through your comfort zone.  It's about loving your way through it.

You want to try new things that are outside your comfort zone? Try compassion, patience and love.  Towards yourself.

Take steps carefully, prudently, but determinedly.  Do your homework.  Take care of yourself.  But keep moving.  Take pushback as learning and find another way.  Allow yourself to fall, and to get back up.

You know what's going to happen?  All those hard fibers of resistance?  They'll start to dissolve.

And suddenly, that balloon that kept you closed up inside becomes something else.  It becomes the stage that introduces you to the world.  It becomes the steps that you climb.  It becomes the story that is under your feet and reminds you of how far you've come.

And you are the glittering light that you viewed at from inside.  You are the glow.  You are your own sun, moon and sky.

winter5
winter5

 

 

 

love is intentional

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deb digs

 

 

When you move forward with your energy, you are filling the space with intention.  Intention works like ripples of you that move things.  When things go in another direction than you thought they should, it's because they need to do exactly what they're doing. You'll learn something other than you thought you would.  But it's your intention, the push behind the movement, that moves you to where you need to be, regardless of the outcome.

Which is why the best intention of all is love.

When you fill your space with the intention of love, then you become the loving force yourself.  Expansive.  Forgiving. Strong and yielding, wise yet always the student.   When your intention from the outset is love, you  pour that into all of your interactions.

Isn't that nice?

Just think of it from the other side.  Suppose all the people you know, even the ones who have a disagreement with you, put forward the intention of love when they spoke and interacted with you.  How would that make you feel?    Cared about?  Joyous?

 Maybe a little buoyant?

Putting forward an intention that promotes buoyancy of the human spirit.  Now, there's a concept we can get behind, right?

We can change the world with intention, one loving interaction at a time.  We don't have to think badly of each other, even when we don't agree.  We don't have to sit in a corner of hurt over unintentional slights, or even intentional ones.

We can choose differently.  We can react with a deep, caring love that reaches beyond the hurt.  We can't be everything to everyone, but we can sure be loving towards everyone.  Even people who don't make it easy.  We can love them too.

Be generous with your "I love you"s.  Don't be scared it won't come back to you.  The more you put out there, the more it will come back to you, in abundance, with multitude.

Give the gift of buoyancy today.

Intend love.

 

 

the lion's heart of a graceful giver

Mocha

I want to tell you about my friend Jane.

Art is an amazing communicative tool.  It bridges people from all sorts of diverse lifestyles and mentalities, and gives them common ground.  In the hands of my friend Jane Barefoot Rochelle, it's so much more.

First, there's what she creates.  She takes things from your life - photos, words, ticket stubs and turns them, through the art of collage, into a meaningful, dynamically powerful piece of art for your home.  The more you look at her collages, the more you see.  Layers.  Just like the layers of time, some of them onion-skin thin, over other layers of time, all balanced to create, with incredible clarity, an image.  The image is simple and complex, and stands as the unifying message for all of the layers.

This is soul art.  Of the highest form.

Jane grew up in a loving family.  Her parents, having grown up themselves in poverty, were resourceful at repurposing everything they had, and provided her with a wonderful childhood.  Her playground was the woods where she wandered and dreamed with her siblings. She always felt the call of the creative arts. Jane became a teacher of children, and was deeply effected when she saw young spirits being crushed by careless remarks and  blanket dismissal of creativity.  While she never had formal art education, her path led her to several mentors. Jonas Gerard, Brenda Seright WilliamsStuart Cubley, and then finally to the creative collagist Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson - each experience and teacher giving Jane a new layer to the creative work she had set out to do from the day she was born.

Jane and I had often exchanged emails and thoughts.  She is a certified  Healing Touch practitioner.  I love her energy, her spirit.  But there's something more about Jane.  When it comes to giving love to other people, she has a lion's heart.  And when she puts her creative energy, her love and her giving nature in a chosen direction, she creates magic.

Like what she did with my Max here.  This collage brings me joy every single day.  

When I think of my own journey, and the people that have crossed my path, I am constantly reminded of the givers.  The people who give their time, their thoughtfulness, their energy to others.  The ones who serve.  The kind of person that takes your breath away.  Jane is one of those people.  I remember my Healing Touch Session with her. It was during my season, and we communicated about it via email.  I was tired, anxious and overworked.  But I laid down on the sofa, as Jane had instructed me to do, and with a very short time I was in an alpha state.  I received a very clear voice message, sung by a distant choir.

You and I must make each night a prayer.

Every day a beginning.

 

I came back into the room about a half hour later from this semi-dream state feeling clear.  I didn't completely understand what happened, but then again,  I decided I didn't have to.  I had put myself in Jane's hands, thousands of miles away, and had felt reassured and calm.

Jane reminds me, with her gentle presence in my life, that giving is the most exciting, important thing we can do in life.  Be Santa's elf.  Be the one who buys a cup of coffee for the person next to you in the cafe.

Be that person.

Be the good in someone's encounter with you.  Assume they can use the kindness and will pass it on in their own way.  Don't be a cynic.  It's just better that way.

Jane's moving on and deepening her artistic journey.  Her next step is to open an art gallery, Barefoot Studios, for all the people she knows that create beautiful things and have the souls of givers. The opening is only a few weeks away.  I know she'll be amazing at it.  She's got that lion's heart.

 

Contact Jane at her website and have her turn your journey, your memories, and your dreams into a piece of art to treasure forever.  

 

podcast: your beautiful changing life - a new career

Has it crossed your mind to completely change your career, but the simple idea of it seems overwhelming and impossible?  Would you like to change what you do for a living to something that satisfies your soul rather than just your pocketbook?  In today's podcast, I answer a reader's question regarding making a huge change, and talk about some of the pitfalls we can avoid along the way.

the life of the creative, curious person

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I received the most amazing message the other day from a friend with whom I attended college over 35 years ago.  This is a woman with whom I lost touch almost immediately after graduation but never forgot.  She was this beautiful natural redhead with depth and aura.  I often wondered what happened to her. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, we rediscovered each other and, since she's a kindred spirit, we took up where we left off, not having to communicate with great regularity, but with the knowledge that whenever we would communicate, it would always be the same, wondrous, easy dialog we've always enjoyed.  These types of connections are real, powerful and prove that we are energy - and that as such, we connect at levels so much deeper than we are aware of at the surface.

Her message had to do with the issues we face as artists and creatives - the most notable, being understood by those around us.  My friend contends, in her message to me, that the reason creatives sometimes feel like fish out of water has to do with...

"...A very fundamental difference in how we see the world, and what’s important to us."

This different way of seeing the world alters our perceptions, and makes us vulnerable in ways that are difficult to articulate.  There are not many creative people I know that have not experienced some sense of sitting on the outside.  As if being creatively individualistic is sometimes too much of a challenge for group think, and therefore isn't always appreciated. Creative people are often seen as demanding, because of the desire to be understood.

Creativity is a burden and  a gift.  It can make life difficult; it can challenge relationships between ourselves and others but at the same time it gives us tremendous opportunity.

It's as if the lens of the creative person focuses on things that don't even seem to be there at first glance, and then tortures itself to bring those things into focus, obliterating the obvious,  exalting the subtle.  The creative person digs, sometimes with great fury, to uncover the greatness in the ordinary, the meaning in the forgotten.  And she does this because she can't not do it.  Because to not do it means to die inside.

Because the creative person is nothing if not curious. And curiosity brings with with it, by its very nature, change.  Development.  Growth.  Casting away of one school of thought, opening to another.  And that brings with it humility, vulnerability and sometimes pain.

Each of us, at our core, is creative.  Curiosity is something with we humans are each born.  We can take that curiosity and bury it.  We can think of life as boring and dull, and make our own existence living proof that it is so.  Or we can honor our own creativity, allowing it to blossom in which ever way seems the best for our nature.  Creativity is not limited to art and music.  It encompasses everything from math to Mozart.  From chemistry to Cézanne.  There is creativity in how we live, what we wear, how we express ourselves.

But creativity does not stand a chance if there is no curiosity behind it.  And curiosity, by its very nature, comes with a life long question mark.

What can you do?

What can you reach for?

How far can you go?

There is power in the knowledge that the answer to all of these questions will always be more questions.  We're not really here at all to get answers, because there aren't any, not really.  Which is why curiosity is so important.  Our wisdom comes from the path, from the trying, from being open and humble, not from having the answers. 

There are no final answers.  There are only more questions. So you can roll up and die of boredom right this very minute or you can choose the other option.

Ask your questions. Work for the response, and discover the new questions buried within the answer.  

Such is the life of a creative, curious person.

 

 

 

year end gratitude

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My dear friends,

I am sitting here at my desk, the wood burning stove roaring beside me, icy fog right outside the window.  I struggle to find the right words, the appropriate tone for this year end post - because 2012 has been a convoluted, mysterious concoction, and I don't really know where to begin.

This was the year that calamity and catastrophe made me realize once more how important it is to follow our hearts and do our work.

So many lost so much in the last couple of months.  The devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused on the area of the country closest to my heart was terrifying to watch from the distance.  The slaughter of babies in Newtown was close to unbearable to process, made worse by the rhetoric that has made my beautiful country one of the most dangerous places to have a school aged child in the developed world.  In all of the grief, anguish and paralysis, a voice returned to me over and over.  Do your work.  Do your work. Don't you see?  You're healthy and have all you need.  Now do your work. 

I'm forging ahead, making notes and setting my sails.  I'm listening to what my heart is saying. I have so much to do in 2013.  There's a third book to be finished, a mentoring business to develop and pottery to be made.  A B&B to be opened, once again, and guests to be cared for.  All of those people who are suffering?  I want to help. And this year I am going to figure out how to do it.  It wasn't for nothing that two days ago, the universe brought me this message from James Doty, MD.  Take a half hour and listen to this man. I want some more of those good endorphins that come with giving.  I've donated money and some art to different causes but this year I want to do more.  I started collecting ideas last summer to create an artists' website for special causes but got sidelined by my book's editing and the  B&B.  So 2013 will be the year.  I want to do my work and bless all the gifts I've been giving in abundance.

This was the year I met on line friends in person.

There are so many connections on line, and so many limitations as well.  It's a genre that I don't yet fully understand.  But as I venture further and further into communicating this way (in 2013 it will be 7 years since I started my first blog about life in Piemonte!), I am learning more about myself and accepting, as gracefully as I can, the responsibility of sharing what I know about change, about empathy, compassion and vulnerability.  I often read in your comments what amounts to a reflection of what I feel, and that sense of solidarity between people that have never met in this media that continues to push (and sometimes intimidate) me.

In 2012 I had the rare fortune to meet several long term online friends in person.  These are people from around the globe who had brought decency and kindness and warmth into my life in a virtual sense, and are now part of my real life group of people who I am privileged to know.

Photographer and life philosopher Di Mackey came into my online several years ago.  Her blog, named People Become Stories and Stories Become Understanding was a peaceful, thoughtful place.  Di's love affair with Genova brought her here in November.  I took part in her photography workshop, Camera Journeys, where I met incredible women and realized, well, people become stories and stories DO become understanding.  There will be much more on that in the future, but suffice it to say that it was a weekend of women and stories that I will never forget. Oh, and I learned all about shutter speed and aperture, too!

Coach/writer/entrepreneur Barrie Davenport and writer/director Katie Tallo, talented women who I met in 2010 online through blogging, came to visit us this year at our B&B.  It was a wholly amazing, loving time, full of gut laughing and serious conversation.  It made me realize, once again, that the internet is really perfect for picking up vibes between like-minded people and providing a platform for really getting to know one another, if we choose it.

In November I received a call that a Facebook friend was in Acqui Terme.  Corinna Tonti, who owns and operates San Ponente Agriturismo in Umbria, was right down the road!  We put on some clean clothes and went into town and had an impromptu lunch with Corinna and her husband Ivan.  It was one of the most enjoyable afternoons we've had and left us wanting more.  Ahhh, the wonders of Facebook!

Artist, actress, and creative soul Lucinda Keller came to Italy last week on a solo trip and made the journey to Acqui Terme to visit me.  We've known each other for years online, and our conversations were fiercely deep as we tried to pack as much as we could into a 24 hour visit.

To find out more about these amazing women, their art and writing and lives, please visit their websites.

This was the year I became a published author.

I self published one book and had another published in the USA.  It's been quite a journey to accepting the title of "author" but here I am.  The support of both books has been wonderful and I will be finally touring a bit in February and March to promote True Vines.  Looking back, the learning curve on writing and publishing has been monstrous and I've learned a whole new profession.   As the reviews come in of True Vines on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes&Noble Online, one of the most notable came from an Italian:

"What I liked most is that the Italians portrayed in this novel are real life people. Good and bad people with their problems and insecurities like everybody else in the world. Not the cute-but-dumb peasants or clever thieves often favored by expat circles. I liked it that there (are) no winners or losers "by nationality" in this story. There's people and their stories, no matter what their passports say."

This was the year my heart became full through your words.

Thank you to each and every one of you, for coming here, for sharing the most beautiful, personal, and heart felt comments.

I don't know if I can convey to you what an honor it is to write for such insightful, empathetic people, people who want to understand, grow, change, and accept.  Sometimes I feel that you are way ahead of me, and you pull me along, me spitting out the words that you  have encouraged me to share, by nature of your being in this space with me.

And it's you, my readers, that I wish the warmth of this wood burning stove, the loving company of family and friends, the serenity of good health, the wisdom that it all can change on a dime, the fortitude to forge ahead, the strength to understand your own truth and to live it fully as we march bravely and gingerly into 2013. 

 

 

 

 

 

create. here's why you should do it.

a heart on a wall in Genova.  taken during an amazing photography course with Camera Journeys 

 

You need to create. 

Do it for all the ones who came before and couldn't because their lives were tied up in keeping children warm and fed .

Do it for the times your heart bled with pain from being misunderstood and powerless.

Do it as a prayer, or as an answer to your own prayers.

Do it because by doing it you can never be a small person.  Creating expands you.

Do it because you'll get feedback, and feedback will make you better.

Do it so you see how hard it is.  You'll never judge anyone again.

Do it so that those who've judged you can see how wrong they are.

Do it so the ones who love you unconditionally can see how right they are.

Do it because in doing it there's honor and justice and just the process of doing it makes the world a better, more wholesome, more healing place.

Do it because if you don't, it will never get done no matter how many times people tell you there's nothing new in this world.

Do it because people will see who you really are.  Your truth shines through in your art more than it does in anything else.

Do it because you might inspire another.  You might mentor  a broken heart with words, soothe a broken spirit with painting, give a broken life a reason to try once more.   You have the power to do that.

Do it because putting yourself on the line and letting the chips fall speaks volumes to your character as a human being on this planet.

Do it because doing it makes you vulnerable and whole and accepting of the efforts and foibles of others.

Do it to make yourself happy.

Do it because creating is energy, and energy begets energy and energy is the Eternal Spirit.

Do it because by not doing it, you are not honoring your true purpose.

Do it because, well, just do it and find out your own reasons to add to this list.

 

What I'm creating:

I got my Etsy shop up and running.  (I hate that things cost so much to ship to the USA.)

I'm grateful as can be to Lori at Tiny Buddha for allowing me to guest post on her beautiful blog... and I welcome all the new readers that have come here as a result, have bought my ebook Your Truth (now at a reduced price of 2.99!!), and have commented.

I'm loving Tammy Strobel's wonderful audio blog about my book, True Vines, and  Karol Gajda's new app project - it's all about gratitude and love.

I also feel very grateful for all the amazing reviews I have gotten on AmazonBarnes and Noble and Goodreads about True Vines.  Watching this book take flight is amazing.  I'm planning my postponed trip to the states to indie bookstores - I'll be heading out at the end of February, and hope to meet some of you in person.

I'm working hard on my Mentoring program for 2013.  I've received many requests for coaching and mentor services for the upcoming year and I'll be sending out information in  January.

We're preparing for visitors during the holiday season and looking forward to long evenings chatting, eating and drinking wine in front of the woodburning stove.

I'm awaiting the winter solstice of 2012 with a full and grateful heart.  Thank you, my friends.  Your love has helped make the year a very special one for me.