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Lessons from an Owl

If you listened to our first podcast, I talked about owls and how they keep showing up for me. A friend of mine has animal spirit cards she has pulled for me a few times in the past year. The owl card is always one of them.

Every. Single. Time.

Her card deck declares, “When the Owl card appears it’s an omen that a boon or treasure is on the way, either in spiritual or material form. With Owl wisdom on your side, you’ll ‘see’ and ‘know’ exactly what to do with this boon…how it can further serve your dharma and bring abundance to the world. Trust that the wellspring of treasures is infinite.”

She told me to be aware of any and all owls appearing in my life. It started with a bag. I noticed I bought a cloth grocery bag with owls on it. Then, my neighbour brought over a plant in an owl container. I’d see pictures of owls, or they’d appear on TV shows. It seemed, weekly, an owl appeared to remind me that I’m on the verge of something.

A few months ago, my neighbour called to say there was an owl sitting on a peak of my house. I looked out a bedroom window, and there it was – a great horned owl. I simply watched it…or rather, stared at it. Have you ever stared at an owl? How do their eyes not dry out?

In the second podcast, Vanessa and I talked about being open for signs. Well, this live owl, sitting on the roof of my house, was definitely a sign. While I sat and stared at it, it was staring at me. I opened myself up to it.

“What are you here to teach me?”, I whispered, and then sat silently.

The owl had much to say. The following thoughts – no joke – came to mind in the hour we spent looking at each other.

  • It’s painful, but it’s right
  • Do this for you, no one else
  • I’m here for you. You need me. You are supported.
  • This is going to hurt, but it’s going to lead you to greatness.
  • Find joy – experience it, bring it
  • Joy brings peace
  • Wealth is coming (and I didn’t sense it meant monetary wealth)
  • Scratch your itches, see where it takes you
  • Ruffled feathers realign
  • Make time for, and look after, yourself
  • Stretch where you need
  • Slow down
  • Get ready to fly

It was a profound experience. I mean, seriously, who sits and stares at an owl? At the time, my husband and I had already decided to separate, yet live as roommates. I had no idea I was weeks away from losing my job, let alone job searching during a global pandemic when so many people were already out of work.

That owl was speaking directly to me at a time I needed to hear its message.

Wealth did come financially and spiritually. Through my network, a job found me. What was initially to be a contract position, turned into a permanent, full-time role before I even started. I took some of my severance package and garnered the courage to buy some stocks. So far, I’ve done well (my partner refers to me as his personal Warren Buffet). I found joy in spending more time with my dad, son, and dogs. I continue to find peace in taking the time to examine my life, appreciating where I’ve been and focusing on the “now” and what makes me happy. My ruffled feathers are realigning.

I’ve scratched some itches. I’ve always had the urge to paint. A weekend getaway with Vanessa and other friends for a painting weekend got me started. I’ve never done watercolours. I still don’t (I’m more musical than visually artistic), but I’m having a heck of a lot of fun learning, trying, and simply playing with the water and paint.

I’m still working on slowing down. Being a “Type A” personality, I’m very driven. I like to be working; having something to “do”. I’m realizing that spending time thinking, examining, finding what truly brings me joy is “doing”.

I’m still not sure what “boon” is coming my way. I don’t think it’s here yet. I still feel as though I’m on the verge of something. Hopefully, slowing down and creating space will invite it into my life.

Obligations, Traditions, and Making Space For Joy

Hello 2021 from Sharon and Vanessa! We are welcoming in the new year with our second official podcast!

Balancing obligations, traditions with space and joy. Hang on it’s a bumpy ride to navigate.
Leaving lots of space for 2021…

The Essence Of Salt

The ying and yang of salt

I have always struggled with my relationship with my dad. He was a character. Lived life on his terms no matter what or how it affected others. In some ways I envied him and his ability to put himself first. In some ways I pitied him because when you only put yourself first soon others stop including you in their lives at all. My dad wanted to be free. He married an unwed mother(my mom) in a time when I am sure everyone around him thought he was crazy to do so. They went on to have 6 more kids. With 9 people living in a small space, privacy and freedom was at a premium. He was resourceful so he found ways to access and enjoy both of these things. After 45 years of marriage, on my mothers birthday no less, he announced that he wanted a divorce. Loaded up his station wagon and drove away without looking back.

Ah, if only that was the end of the story.

Salt has interesting properties don’t you think? If you explore the makeup of anything on this planet it contains some degree of salt. We can’t exist without it. I have always been curious about Ying and Yang, opposites that attract, cravings for things that aren’t good for you. I often wonder if it’s because of my dad and me trying to come to terms with who he was and my relationship with him. He loved salt. He would add it to almost everything. In his later years, when he was stuck in the hospital with high blood pressure and heart problems he would holler loudly when they took it away from him. My sister and I would sneak in packets of it when no one was looking and he would store them in his table drawer by his bed. He was 89 years old and stuck in his ways, the doctors meant well but didn’t know this man and his love affair with salt.

Salt wasn’t good for him but he didn’t care nor did he want to live without it. He was discharged from his stay and went on to live for a few more months after that. He was a hard man to be around if you had history with him. Yet, he was a fascinating dinner partner or guest if you didn’t know him very well. He was well read and knew a lot of facts about many things to keep the conversation going. A simple operation would have fixed his heart problems if he so chose but he was terrified of going under the knife. His dad had died in an assisted living ward when he underwent a hip replacement surgery. He associated his death with being operated on which wasn’t true but there was no persuading him otherwise. His love affair with salt was the same. It didn’t hurt him he insisted. His heart trouble, blood pressure were all misdiagnosis. He only took the pills because everyone made him…lol. He ate the salt when you turned your back and continued to live as he wanted.

The night he died a few close family were in the room with him. He had mentally checked out earlier in the afternoon in the emergency room but in true dad fashion his heart refused to stop beating. It would choose when to go and prove that the doctors wrong. Salt had not killed his heart. His heart was strong and lasted well into the night.

We chose to have him cremated. Some of his ashes were buried with his brother, some scattered over the prairies where he worked as a lineman for an electric company, some I kept to take to his 3rd wife in California and more we still have awaiting a trip back East to bury with his mom and dad.

The trip to California was something unexpected. I met with his new family that had taken him in and genuining seemed to love him. He had spoke often of the ocean, the beach and the sun. We chose a pier that was close by where I could sprinkle a bit of his ashes to honor where he had been happy.

I was standing on the pier, close to a corner that faced the beach and that had some shelter under a structure. I was looking down into the waves crashing against the logs. The water was almost black in the shadows, swirling up the beach then out again into the ocean. I tipped the container slowly downward and watch the wind catch the contents in a white cloud as it descended. Time stopped just for a few seconds.. the dust drifted aiming for the surface of the waves. The alchemy of the salt water and the porous material was fascinating to watch as they mixed together. The remains landed as a membrane on the black water. Spreading out like a serpent that kept stretching out vertically at first then undulating further and further to form a channel of cloudy white. I watched as my dad seemed to sigh and soak up the salt as if he was regenerating. It might have been my imagination but I thought I saw bubbles popping like epsom salts in a tub. I looked around nervously in hopes no one else was watching my dad reclaim his fill of salt. A white milky image took shape about 6 foot 4 in the water just for seconds before a big wave came crashing down to claim the ghost in the undertow.

Good for you dad I chuckled. I was happy he had found a way to stay true to himself even then. To reclaim a part of himself that he couldn’t let go of no matter what others thought or did.

We are made from this substance, it keeps us alive but also it can kill us if we indulge too much.

Such is the true essence of salt.

I Need Space!

What is it about Christmas decorations? Up until Christmas day, they make the house look festive. Boxing Day arrives and I want to put everything away. Suddenly, the house looks cluttered and busy.

Over the past year, I’ve had quite a few moments of purging. I watched some of the Marie Kondo (KonMari) shows on TV and started to look at my possessions and think, “Do they bring me joy?” Some do. Some didn’t – and they’ve been donated, sold, recycled, or thrown away.

Creating physical space, surprisingly, brought a sense of peace and satisfaction. A less cluttered environment created a less cluttered mind – something my 18 year old has recently discovered. Usually, he lives in a room that can be only described as “urban pig-sty”. Once in awhile, when we ran out of bowls or cutlery downstairs, he’d bring down his dishes and garbage.

A few weeks ago, he cleaned his room – top to bottom. A few days later, I see him carrying down his dishes. I teased him, saying, “It’s only been two days. You’re bringing down dishes?”

He responds, “I’ve been bringing them down everyday, Mom. Haven’t you noticed? I cleaned my room and it feels better. I’m going to keep it clean from now on.”

Having space, orderliness, and tidiness is necessary for me to function. When I was working on my Masters Degree, I had the cleanest house. I needed to clean and order to think. My mind couldn’t work efficiently in a space that was cluttered or untidy.

My house is, mostly, in order. There is space. Energy can move freely through each room (except the garage, which is my roommate’s domain. It drives me nuts). As I look towards 2021, I want to work on creating space mentally. My son is on the verge of adulthood, my marriage is done, and it’s time for me to create space to invite whatever life has to offer to present itself. I need the mental space to be open to new experiences. No longer defined as “wife” or “mother, I need space to figure out what it means to be me.

What makes me happy? What brings experiences, thoughts, ideas bring me joy? How do I want to spend my time and energy?

I need the space to figure it all out.

The Karmic Carrot

I have been curious about ashrams for years. Yes, in part, because of the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” Beyond that though, I had a yearning for the experience. I found one close enough to visit in the Kootenays of BC. One of my nieces is usually game to come along with me as I explore things that are “off the beaten path”. So, off we went. The place is wonderful. A big central compound with communal kitchen and dining. A yoga studio with natural light coming in all directions. A bit of paradise nestled on the lakeshore. At orientation there was the opportunity to choose various practices and sessions to attend to enhance the stay. We both decided we definitely wanted to try something called “Karmic Yoga”.

Cell phone service is discouraged during your stay so I didn’t Google exactly what kind of yoga “karmic” was. My niece and I settled in to a routine of morning flow, community vegan eating and ample time to partake in meditation and chanting in the lotus temple. The place was designed with tranquility in mind. Coves, wooded glens, nature walks and small cabins facing the lake that are filled with cushions and collective ornaments. All the ingredients present for you to relax, take the pressure off and sink into “just being”.

On the second day, we reported bright and early to the front office dressed in our yoga outfits and ready to practice Karmic Yoga. We soon figured out that it wasn’t what we thought it was. My niece is assigned to help clear a section of beach for an upcoming retreat. I was directed towards one of the garden patches. Right, well ok, at least it’s kind of like exercise. I am game to pull some weeds. One of the volunteers points me towards a couple of rows of what appears to be over grown with everything but vegetables. She assures me that there are carrots somewhere in the mix. I am determined to demonstrate my thoroughness and kneel down in what I think is the outside of the rows of plants. “Who sowed these seeds?”, I contemplate while I meticulously pluck at the foreign bodies that have been allowed to grow. It appeared that someone just scattered them everywhere without making an effort to keep them in lines. I spend a good solid hour creating order in the the carrot patch and I am only half way up the rows when the worker is back to tell me my time is up.

I look at her skeptically, then peer down the still wild vegetation rows and shake my head. I have learned some things about myself over the years. I have a compelling desire to see a tasks or project to fruition. Now, career-wise, it has come in handy. They call me “the finisher”. Want something done ? Work with Vanessa. I pride myself on tasks completed well and thoroughly. In this case, though, I had missed an opportunity. I was clueless to the purpose of the time. I forgot where I was and couldn’t see the carrots through the weeds. I told the worker that I wanted to stay and finish the job. I was compelled to make sure the rows were a reflection of order and tidiness. To her credit, she didn’t roll her eyes at me. She smiled and said. “Why would you deprive the next person the opportunity to uncover what they need to experience as they take their turn in the garden?”

I stumbled away confused and not sure that the women didn’t have sun stroke or something. Deprive someone else from weeding carrots? I decided to go sit in one of the meditation chairs in the lake cabins. I was staring out the windows trying to grasp the conversation purpose. I was missing the point. At least I knew that much. As I reflected on the garden task I started to contemplate my behaviour. When did I become so rigid? Since when was I that person who only felt satisfied when I could see straight rows of carrots? It wasn’t lost on me that the worker had cringed when she noticed I had pulled out all of the vegetation that had grown outside the rows. I chastised myself for being so brutal with the destruction. There are all sorts of yoga and variations of practice. My favourite ones are combination packs where you can meditate and connect a flow at the same time. A similar practice is labyrinth or mediation walking. Combining spirit, body and mind to synch up and tune in to what’s happening. It’s a bonus when you can give back to a community while honouring your practice.

I have had plenty of time now to reflect back on this experience and start to understand the point of the practice. It’s not about the weeds unless you get stuck in them and become obsessed with eradicating their existence. I have meditated with plants since then on other workshops, as well as in nature, and have grasped profound insights into myself through their gentle energies. My gardens around my home are natural and intermixed with chaos and spots of structure. I have let go of some of the need for rigid order and embraced the opportunity to just be present. To practice Karmic Yoga is to embrace connecting to, in this case, nature’s lessons given freely when I am ready to acknowledge their presence. I was forever altered in that patch and I am grateful for the carrot.

Yasodhara Ashram

Grey Haired Ladies Taking Over The World

Women grow radically with age. One day, a bunch of grey haired women will take over the world. Until that time, listen into our chat about some ways we can start.

Two grey haired ladies plotting to take over the world

Senior Moments

You might think the title refers to moments I’m having myself. Nope. While, I admit, I do have a few “senior moments” of my own, I prefer to attribute them to “the time of life” I currently inhabit.

No, what I’m talking to is living with seniors. Three and a half years ago, my parents moved in with me. Mom died in April 2019, and I still have my dad. He is a never-ending source of amusement.

When he was more able-bodied, he attended a senior’s group three times a week. He came home one day and told me, “Those people are so funny.”

“Why’s that, Dad?”
“The things they talk about! They’re all so OLD!”

My dad is one of the oldest members of the group.

Another time, Mom and I took Dad to get his hearing tested. He needed hearing aids. At first, he complained everything was “too loud”. We explained he was hearing at the same volume as everyone else. He just wasn’t used to it.

Often, he’d have the TV blaring. We’d ask if he was wearing his hearing aids.
“Yes!”
“Then, please, turn down the TV. You can turn up the volume on your hearing aids.”
“I can’t! My fingers are too fat!”

After a few months, he’d only wear one aid. I told him he needed both as they are stereophonic.

“I can’t. They hurt my ears.”
“Then we need to go back and get them fitted properly.
“No, I don’t want to bother you to do that.”
Because, apparently, shouting and/or repeating everything wasn’t a bother.

Do you want to know why they hurt his ears?

He spent a year wearing the aids in the wrong ears. The individual aids are colour marked to indicate left/right ear. Dad is colour-blind.

My favourite “senior moment” was teaching him to use the Google home mini to set an alarm.

“Dad, you have to say, “Hey Google to wake it up.”
“OK.. Hello Goo-goo. Hello. Hello.”
“No, Dad. Just say “Hey Google” like you’d say to someone on the street.”
“Hey, Goo-goo. Hello, Hello.”

Dad is nothing if not polite but Google was confused.

“Like this, Dad. “Hey Google. Set alarm for 8:00”
“Oh. OK – that’s good. It’s set now, right?”
“Yes.”
“I don’t trust it. I’ll be surprised if it works tonight.” (We were setting it for 15 minutes later to test it)
“It’ll work, Dad. When the alarm starts, you have to say, ‘Hey Google, stop’ or ‘Hey Google, quit’. Whatever you want it to do, you have to start with ‘Hey Google’.”
“OK, I’ve got it.”

A few minutes later the alarm goes off.

“Ok. Thank you….thank you…That’s enough! Thank you! THANK YOU!!!! Why isn’t she listening? How do I shut off this damn thing?”

Bah, humbug…or not

I have to admit, I’m not feeling “Christmassy” this year. As I sit and write, I’m listening to Christmas carols, hoping to get inspired to start baking. So far, it’s not working.

I don’t know what it is, but Christmas is starting to feel like an obligation. It’s something I *have* to do, rather than something I *want* to do. Thirty years ago, I was one of those people who put up their tree after Remembrance Day and left it up until after Ukrainian Christmas in January. This year, I struggled to find a reason to put it up at all.

But, it’s up. I ‘unfluffed’ the packed artificial tree on my own. I decorated it myself. I will bake treats for my family without their help. I do all the shopping and wrapping of gifts. It very much feels like the story of “The Little Red Hen” – everyone wants to enjoy the outcome, but no one wants to contribute to what makes it happen.

Bah, humbug.

I’ve decided to change my mindset and see this year as an opportunity to start new traditions. We are all adults now; no small children and the magic they bring to Christmas. No early mornings to open gifts. There aren’t piles of presents anymore. As adults, we have enough “stuff.” I’ve bought a few gifts for my son and Dad. I’ll make the traditional foods we enjoy – lefse and krumkake being the two favourites.

One new tradition I started was getting a second Christmas tree and decorating it with all the rosettes my dogs have won over the years. The rosettes had been in a bin for years and I didn’t know what to do with them. A friend suggested I display them on a tree. I loved going through the bin and reliving the memories I shared with my various dogs. It brought me joy.

Another new – what I hope will become a tradition – is deciding to make an experience the gift my partner and I give each other. This year, we plan to find a remote cabin in mountains for a weekend getaway. We’d rather explore the world around us and make memories instead of worrying about what to buy each other.

I want to find other things to make into traditions. Maybe it’s getting a real tree each year instead of setting up the artificial tree. Maybe it’s finding new movies or games to enjoy with family and friends. Maybe it’s going on a trip and having Christmas in another country.

Whatever it is, it needs to be something I look forward to each year.

Do any readers have suggestions?

Land of a thousand Lights

We land in Marrakech and quickly are swept away by a complete stranger holding up a sign that reads “Knecht”. My research on the camel trek was sketchy at best. I am not that big on details when it comes to adventures. Sometimes, it’s best not to know and just “go with it”. I did, however, review the itinerary and noted the need for warm clothes in June (which was not needed). The drive through the Atlas Mountains takes 5 hours and is mired in near miss car crashes around mountain corners, construction, police stops for speeding along with some language barriers about why we needed to speed. We are dropped off in the middle of the desert. In the distance I can see the camels and the nomads. Oh, the nomads, what a wonderful breed of maleness. I ask one “Where were you born?” He points off into the distance,”There”. I look confused, he clarifies “I was born in the desert”. “Ah,” I sigh. So amazing.

There is a brief tutorial about how to get on the hump and we are off. I pinch myself because I can’t believe this is real. I am riding on a camel in the north edge of the Sahara desert. It never occurred to me that the ride would quickly become uncomfortable. These are dromedary camels (only one hump) and you are sitting directly on the hard substance bouncing up and down over uneven terrain for over 2 hours. It was breathtaking, magical, but my female parts were ready to descend when we finally got to the camp. The lowering of the camel was like a lift going down. The height of this magnificent creature is staggering.

We were assigned a yurt and went to clean up for dinner. Dinner was a variety of Tangine foods. This means food cooked in clay pots and consists mostly of root vegetables, lamb and spices. It goes dark quickly as we emerged from the dining tent. Our jaws dropped to see the sky. They don’t call it the land of a thousands lights for nothing. The night sky was breathtaking.

A fire was set up and the nomads began to drum and sing for us. They encouraged us to try our hand at the drums. I was in heaven. Much later we drifted off to bed in our Arabian tents. A gust of wind caused our door to swing open about 4 am. I felt it and was awakened. I got up, quickly dressed and made my way up the nearest sand dune to watch the sunrise. The camels were hobbled half way up the dune and I stopped to sit and hang with them for a bit. It’s a moment I will never forget and have used to help me transition from awake to meditation on occasion.

We come from the earth. The berbers of North Africa have something subtle in the way they move and exist. It’s a sense of being content that I am not sure I have ever experienced before or at least noticed. They live in a mystic world and I am so grateful I got to experience it for just a moment.

It’s more a Life guide than a religion…

Life long discipline of practice

I grew up in an extensive Mormon family with a mom deep-rooted in the beliefs and a dad willing to go with the flow as long as he could research genealogy. The religion is fine and does teach some useful values on how to raise kids and stay humble. What rubbed me was the definitive roles of men and women. I am not going to explain this deeper right now (maybe in another post) as it doesn’t pertain to this conversation. I would call myself agnostic as I believe in energies, karma and connections to the universe. Through my searching, I came across Shamanism and signed up for a weekend workshop. As I sat in the opening circle with 13 other people, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the situation. The workshop was being hosted in an annex connected to a Catholic church. There were pictures of popes lined up on the walls. Here I was an ex-Mormon in a Catholic church about to experience journeying with a shaman practice that predates Christianity. Hah! The universe has one hell of a sense of humour and the irony wasn’t lost on me.

I love the fact the word ‘shaman’ some say means ‘he or she who knows’. It’s actually a practiced discipline instead of a religion and has many variations depending on the culture and country. The workshop I first attended was a contemporary western version. Which, in short, is a type that tries not to be too specific about meanings or practice. That way, you can experience the discipline before getting detailed protocols based on culture and beliefs. Our first journey involved a quest to find our spirit animal. For non-believers it seems a bit strange to lay down on the floor, cover your eyes, listen to the sound of the drums and focus in on your cleverly crafted question of what animal will guide you as you start this trek. I consider myself an intuitive person. I meditate on occasion and sign up for workshops that will push me into all sorts of uncomfortable situations.

This was different for me though. As I took some slow, easy breaths and listened to the instructions, I had the feelings of rightness. The spirit animal was waiting for me as I opened my mind and the animal was not what I expected. I always assumed I was a deer or grizzly kind of being. Nope.

Spirit allies in animal form (The Shamanism Bible by John Matthews). I like that explanation of what a spirit animal is. As I grow in my practice and partake in many journeys, I have gathered quite a collection of -not only animals – but guides that help me with various challenges and questions I can’t seem to figure out on my own. It’s been a life saver for me in many ways and has helped me get through some very dark moments in my life.

If you are curious about learning more on the practice or the subject, here are some suggestions to explore:

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Calgary Chapter

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Main site