26 Feb

Wheat from Chaff


I couldn’t sleep last night. Since I take a sleeping pill, this is pretty unusual. My mind was jumping around from one thing to another, and I couldn’t catch any one thing to hold onto. I felt too anxious for my usual cures; reading or Netflix. I paced in the dark. I went outside and looked at the sky. At least it was clear, and I could see the moon and Orion (my favorite constellation. In my mind I heard a favorite song by Prince…or was it “The Artist Formerly known as Prince” at the time?)…The Arms of Orion:

‘When I am lost and feeling alone’
‘I just look to heaven’
‘I find my comfort there…”

And I do feel comforted, a bit. I wonder if I’m taking on too much, again.

It’s been pointed out to me that I tend to take on more than is healthy for me. I rush headlong into so many great ideas that spring up. To an already busy life, I’ve recently added a weekly 6:30 a.m. Toastmasters Club, a once monthly gig at a local hospice for the homeless, and a once a month spiritual worker peer evaluation group. An all-day Reiki training. All great things, right? Right??

And I think, I really need all of those things! If I’m going to follow this dream vocation of mine, I’ve gotta learn to speak comfortably in public, I’ve gotta give back, I’ve gotta get direction from others on the path.

But something’s gotta give. Since I’m not giving up the little time I can get together with my family, and I refuse to give up my sacrosanct 4 hours a week painting with my friends, and I’ve already given up church time…and I definitely need to get in more exercise, not less…

I’m pretty sure that’d be Facebook time. I spend way too much time on social media. It’s an addiction. It’s kind of like food addiction, because like the fact that you’ve got to eat, and then it’s hard to stop, I have to get on Facebook every day to update and check on my Altar Ego page. Then it sucks me in. Setting limits on my time hasn’t gotten me anywhere: I have no self control.

And, from the Tao te Ching:

Rushing into action, one fails.
Trying to grasp things, we lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
will ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the wise take action
by letting things take their course.

So I pray. To the Universe, to Mary, to God, to Orion. Please help me to organize my time. Please help me to discern what is necessary, and what is really my ego talking. Please intervene when I am presented with another thing that seems important to take on. Set me straight. May I have faith in myself that I’ll be able to listen and to act. Whether it’s to say no, or to say yes. To follow through or to it give up. Amen.

What is important, and what is merely an ego-boost for you? How do you know if you are acting from Spirit, or acting from want? How do you glean wheat from the chaff?

~Julie 2/26/2016

photo: from delighteduniverse.com,  artist unknown

03 Feb

Seven Days Away

I thought I’d never get away by myself to that cabin-in-the-woods. But in January I was stressed out and ready to strangle everyone. I don’t know about you, but I feel that way every year following the holidays.  I don’t have that kind of time, I thought. I’m busy! I don’t have a cabin. I’m in-between-funds…

But I also thought (the kind of thought I wouldn’t have allowed myself a few years ago), if I don’t do it now, then when? So I cleared some time…then I asked around for a place to stay. Low and behold, a cabin appeared! Well, it was made available. Thank you, Lori.

This is a blog about my time in Fairview Canyon. Just me and my books and my art supplies. My journals and cards, my exercise bar (yeah, right), my cell phone and some pretty good food. Taoism and Zen teach it’s important to do what you do without trying to accomplish anything. This was to be my time to go with the flow.

Wednesday, January 20

I got a late start and was in a hurry. I stopped at the grocery store, bought things that I like, and was on my way.

I should have replaced my bald tires. There was a harrowing drive from Spanish Fork Canyon to Fairview in a snowstorm. 35 miles an hour on the highway, or die. When I finally got to the resort, but not yet to the cabin, I slid into a snow bank. I spent an hour trying to dig out my high-centered car with my exercise bar (you know, the one Marie Osmond sells on QVC). When that didn’t work, I went for a walk and eventually found a gentleman kind enough to give me a ride on his tractor back to my car where he pulled me out with a chain. Then he informed me I had been on the right turn when I thought twice and hit the bank. I was only a stone’s throw from my destination.

The cabin was perfect! Exactly what I had envisioned. But very cold. I built the first of many fires in the wood stove, and found a space heater in the bedroom. I didn’t want to waste any time, you know, not connecting with my Soul, so I got out the very spiritual books I’d selected for my very spiritual retreat. And settled in by the fire to read…a Stephen King novel. I know. But it was calling me (half price!), at the grocery store!  I stayed by the fire reading (and defrosting) for the rest of the day.

Friday, January 22

wood stove fireA day and a half later (that’s why this is Friday now), Stephen King was out of the way. Now I could begin to be mindful. I discovered oil painting was out (in my rush to get away, I forgot the turpentine! Shit!), so I started reading the Thomas’s: Moore and Merton.

I was entranced by the fire. Over the course of my stay, I discovered many metaphors from the fire; I imagine they are obvious to most people (metaphors like taking the time to prep the fire…or anything… from the ground up or it is harder to get it going…), but they were meaningful to me.




I pulled four SoulCollage® cards for cabin-mascots. sc card dancing on turtleThe one that stood out was, “I am the one who is dancing as fast as I can, showing all of my colorful tricks. But I see that I am really moving very slowly on the back of this turtle.” I reminded myself of my intended eastern practice of Wu Wei: I’m here to accomplish something by doing nothing. Maybe I should relax.


I had decided to stay away from electronics, and you know, commune with nature and stuff. But the phone worked, and I checked in with Facebook. Tomorrow, I vowed, no phone.



Saturday January 23

Thomas Merton’s reading of the day: Stay away from TV and other addictions! So, no Facebook for me. And no cigarettes; my plan is to quit (again) while I’m here. I draw some sketches, take a bubble bath (thank goodness the water heater works), go for a walk.

After an hour or two of digging my once-again-stuck-bald-tired-car out of the driveway, I drove into town for firewood (I was using it up like there was no tomorrow!). And I bought turpentine at the hardware store! I will paint!

When I got back to the cabin, I stared at my painting for a while. The light was going. Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Julie oil pastel

Instead, an oil pastel of a frightened 12 year old me began to emerge in my art journal. I realized I feel that way again. I have no control of certain events around me that will affect my life. I want to close my eyes and pretend everything is hunky-dory, but I have to look. It’s a feeling like there’s a train coming down the tracks and I can’t get off the rail.




sc card Mary roses




That’s when I had a beautiful experience of Mary Energy; the smell of roses. I felt held, and knew everything was as it should be.

I cooked spaghetti. I’ve never cooked spaghetti just for me before! And decided to watch a movie from the cabin’s selection. I chose Contact. I love that one: Jodie Foster is beautiful in that dress! And I love the theme: We can’t prove the existence of God (or love), but for those who believe, experience is proof enough. And, “if it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.” I had carrot cake for dessert.


There was a full moon. I was out on the porch smoking that cigarette I wasn’t going to smoke. About 25 yards away, I saw a shadow move. It was an animal, but what kind? Bushy tail…a fox? It stopped, turned, and looked at me.  Although I couldn’t really see his eyes, there was a mystical moment of stillness and quiet, and we connected.

Sunday January 24

cartoon cabin copy

I noticed that I’d been dreaming!  Really, I’d been remembering and writing them down. That doesn’t happen at home. Maybe because Matt’s right there, and I’m worried about waking him, or he interrupts my rememberings in the mornings. I spent some time interpreting my dreams from the last few nights. Mostly, they were dreams about my kids. It’s a new chapter in my life when they need me less on a day to day basis, and though the possibilities for my own life are exciting, I miss them.


It was super-cold, and I spent more time building and staring at the fire. Instead of working on my painting, I sketched some (the fox), and created three SoulCollage® cards. And worked on scared adolescent Julie some more.

I did a tarot reading. It looked abysmal for the upcoming months, so I tried to make it come out in my favor (you know you do it, too!). Nothing doing. I’m buckling down for a stormy spring. But I’m also determined to watch for ways to change my fate (I’m a Leo, after all).

I had three tiny canvases with me, so I did three tiny oil paintings from the trees and landscape right outside the cabin window. I like two of them.

I posted the tiny paintings on Facebook. I didn’t feel too badly about breaking my no-Facebook rule. I mean, if trees are painted in the forest, and no one sees them…

Monday January 25

This was the day I was supposed to go home, but I looked around and realized I needed another day. If I leave really early tomorrow, I thought, I can still make it to teach my Art and Soul class at Valley Behavioral Health at 1:00! I can milk this! But only if Matt would help me out with my mom’s meds at home. Luckily, I have a really wonderful spouse.

Another walk in the snow. I had to stay on the roads because the snow was so deep; up to my hips! It was so beautiful that day; all sparkly in the sun.

I tried to fit in everything I wanted to do (well, except for the Marie Osmond workout). Zen flew out the window.  No time for napping! More art, more meditation, more journaling, eating that perfect pear I brought. Basically, I stressed myself out being all type-A about my mindfulness. This is how I tend to live: procrastinating and then catching up. The retreat was a mini-life. I’m grateful for the insight.  I promised myself to pace myself better when I’m home. At least if I procrastinate, let it be with mindfulness. 😉

Tuesday January 26

I got up early, as promised. It took me twice as long to clean up as I had anticipated, and I skipped the shower, thinking, it’ll be easier when I get home. I got everything into the car, and…the car was stuck in the snow. Again. An hour of digging later I decided it was time to call for help, but tractor gentleman wasn’t in. Basically, I found the only two cute retired men on the mountain, and they were happy to help a damsel in distress.

I’d texted Valley: don’t count on me for art today. But, when I was on the road, I realized that if I drive 80 miles per hour, I can make it!!  And that’s what I did. I pealed up at 1:00 sharp, and taught abstract emotive painting while wearing smoky clothes and snow boots. The students didn’t care, and I was proud of myself for looking like Sasquatch and showing up anyway.

So now I’m home and back to work. During my seven days away I got some rest and I learned a few things about myself, but mostly I was reminded of the ways I deny myself time for noticing my life, and get caught up in things that don’t matter much. Pacing. Wu Wei. I am only one person and I can’t do everything. But if I stay committed to my calling to serve others with love, and honor myself and my life as I do the lives of others; if I do my part in this co-creation with my Source that is my life, all will be well. I trust.

~Julie  2/3/2016