Giving Up, And Starting Over

Wisdom And Love From A Mighty Cat

Boris William. Photo by CS Sherin

CS Sherin, Feb. 20, 2019

A Dark Day

I wrote the narrative below, Give Up, at the end of September in 2014. It is about a dark night I went through that I will never forget. It wasn’t the first hard time I have faced, but it was a pivotal one, different from other times.

It was August 11th, 2014. I experienced a deep depression that washed over me quite suddenly. I was to find out the next day, that it was the same day that Robin Williams died. He was someone who had been a bright light for me in a rough childhood — him and The Muppets. Finding out the next day about his death, I realized I had probably felt a “disturbance in the force,” so to speak, that had affected me. Robin was such a great presence on Earth, dear to many, and missed. I am sure his death was a real energetic part of what I felt that night. But there were personal dynamics at work too.

Before that night, I had already gone through some devastating loss. My oldest sister had died four months earlier, after a long battle with a cancer that had turned quite brutal. A few months before that, our elderly dog had also gotten a brutal cancer, and had to be euthanized suddenly. Simultaneously, I had come to a point in my self-employment where I knew I had to make a change. I had been doing holistic spiritual care for over a decade, and didn’t quite know where I was headed, if I were to stop and change.

Introduction

The story you are about to read is about facing inevitable change, loss, past traumas revisited, and grief. It is also about the life-giving transformations we are able to experience while in relationship with other beings, for instance, a cat. Reciprocal positive relationship with animals, and other beings, can be profound and important in so many ways, if we are open to it. I recommend being open to it.

Perhaps one of the reasons that humanity finds itself facing so many crises and ongoing-history-repeating-itself serious problems is because, we are not in active, consistent, real relationships with the countless other living beings we share this planet with — not in a way that is ongoing, respectful and more selfless than self-serving.

The trees, plants, aquatic life of all kinds, rocks/crystals, land animals, creatures of the air, and below ground all have knowing of various kinds in their being. An openness to cultivating conscious, caring relationships with any of those — choosing to be present for it — could be the transformative change we need at this time. It is important to note that any committed relationship within or between other species needs to contain: consistent presence, kindness, honesty, consideration, and mutual respect.

The following story is evidence of the deep, long-resonating, lasting rewards that come from: a balance of giving and receiving, helping and receiving help, listening and sharing, asking and telling – true friendship. I have Boris, the valiant cat, to thank for the real presence and wisdom won during that dark, hard night on August 11, 2014:

Give Up

There is an escalating pressure mounting around and within me tonight. It presses upon me like an ominous darkness of massive storm clouds, which contain a sharp cold front set against the air — stagnant, oppressive heat, humidity and no wind. A violent storm is looming.

Am I wearing rose-colored glasses, not facing reality? Not usually. I do love being practical and realistic, as much as positive and dreamy. Am I the eternal optimist made of ideals? Yes, that is true. There is a tireless, sleepless affinity in me for honesty and ethics…awake in my heart and mind like an atomic clock.

On my bed this day and evening, a powerful depression intrudes, and disrupts my true nature. I cannot continue. I want to give up, for real.

It is painful, blind, anguish.

It feels like that sucker punch in my solar plexus, from the mean boy in 4th grade. I was taken by surprise, robbed of breath and air, with that sudden punch of pain, that dropped me to my knees — sucking tears out of me without permission. He had walked away without a word.

This swell of sadness tonight is too dark, and overwhelms me beyond reason.

Boris, the cat, is by me now. He is the one who always comes running to see how he can help when it sounds, from somewhere in our house, like someone could be hurt, in trouble, or sick. If he were human, he would be a First Responder, a nurse, counselor, and/or healer. I tell him quietly and despondently that I am giving up. At first I am not sure if I mean my life. The darkness was so overwhelming. I ask myself, and feel deeply: No, not my life. My purpose and work — like a spiritual death, it seems. Boris tells me a surprising thing — with his wise eyes and being, Boris says, “Good. Give up.”

Startled into a sudden alert surprised awareness, that breaks the dark spell, I ask, “What?! Why? Don’t you care? You always care. Why don’t you care, Boris?” He answered with nonchalance, “Give up. I gave up once. After I gave up, good people found me, helped me, and then you found me. And now look at me.” He is beaming strength and love, smiling, eyes happy.

Boris, quite an elderly cat at this time. Photo by CS Sherin

Astonished and awakened, I remembered what he meant. I thought of Boris’s story. Boris had been abandoned by a previous family, along a freeway, that had a tall fence separating it from the countryside. When he was found, the shelter workers told us, he was dirty. The kind of dirty, they said, that only happens when a cat gives up. A cat giving up is a starkly tragic thing. Cats take pride in their self-care and stealthy ability to survive. He had been brought low by the trauma of being abandoned and then trapped near a highway, with bad weather/storms, and no food. He suffered PTSD for a while after we adopted him. He needed antidepressants for a few months, to remember what normal feels like, the vet said. And he did, he got better after those 3-4 months of medication. (Actually, his example back then with needing medication for a while, helped me to address my own needs during a health crisis, not long after his.) It took us a few years after adopting Boris, to fully earn his trust and full affection. In his elder years now, after 11 years with us so far, he is well and happy, fully loved and loving. We know he is no younger than 17 and could be as old as 19.

I paused, and took this moment in.

Maybe the thought to give up wasn’t as bad as it felt at first. It is simply hard to let go of work that I have given all my heart and effort to, along with sitting with the layers of grief. I am loyal. I am a hard worker. Yet, I need to let go of some big things, and adjust to a changing reality and changing needs. Boris is right. I looked over at him in awe. The four-legged, hairy, mahogany-red with white, tall, thin, elder fellow is right. I didn’t expect that from you just now, Boris. Thank you!

King Boris, or Chewy Bill, as we sometimes call him, gave me a jolt of understanding that allowed me to release the fear and illusion of failure. Boris helped me to boldly take up courage, and be okay with letting go — even if it feels like dropping off a ledge on a tall building with no net or cushion below. Boris has an intimate, expert knowledge of major endings that are like deaths, and how rebirth is on the other side of it, waiting for us — something much better, and really right. A really wise cat, that Boris. What a gorgeous guide! I scratched his cheeks and massaged his head and chest in thanks. He smiled his open-mouthed smile with twinkling eyes, that reminds my husband of Don Knotts. That makes me chuckle. What I see is a cat who blazes and shimmers, a noble being, who commands his new life with joy — a new life, that found him. He knows — he gained all of it after he had given up.

Afterword

Back to 2019. What I didn’t know yet, when I wrote that story, was that we would yet have to face the death of our elder cats, first Abigail, and then Boris in the following year. Living with, and processing all that grief, led me to shift and channel it, and the love, into practical, tangible work for healthy sustainable living (toxin-free) via Recipe For A Green Life, which took up nearly three years of my life, from start to finish. It was a big leap, and a big risk. It certainly didn’t pay well. Yet, it is and has been important, honors what and how I love, and speaks of our collective, interrelated, priceless connection to all life in totality.

Boris was such a strong presence in our lives — a magnanimous, extraordinary spirit, even for a cat. He always knew that humans are too often so slow to catch on to what animals know, and try to communicate. He was always persistent, and maddeningly so. I actually gained so much respect for his persistence — it can be an endearing, admirable quality. He never gave up on trying to communicate with us; helping us to understand what he needed or wanted, in quite obvious, when his subtle gestures were missed by us.

Pawing At My Heart

For a time before he died, he kept pawing at my upper chest, like he wanted to climb inside my heart. He did it so often. In my distracted, clueless, human way, I thought it was cute, yet strange that he kept doing it. Then, I found out that he was terminally ill. After a while of processing the two things, I finally understood what he was saying to me. He was saying,

One of the times that Boris had just been pawing at my chest. Photo by CS Sherin

“Keep me in your heart.

Don’t forget me.

I love you.

I will always be there.”

When I finally realized what he was saying, it loosed my tears, along with the enormous love grown through a positive, loving relationship with another being over so many years. It still loosens my tears of love, years later.

I picked him up, hugged and assured him that I finally understood. I told him that I would, always. He never did it again, so I know that he knew the message was received. I am so thankful that I was able to drop my human distractions for long enough to truly hear him before he had to leave us.

We are convinced Boris was a mighty spirit that took on cat form for a time, someone we were lucky to know and love. I could tell many stories about Boris’s ways. Like the Easter morning that he jauntily brought in a baby rabbit for me to cook for the holiday. Or, the nap we took beside each other, and the dream that we had — where he taught me to make healing balls of light (it was hard — he was really good at it). Or, how he always came to everyone’s rescue, never once afraid. And, how he wanted a dog so badly, and how he fell in love with her, when we did finally adopt a dog. And, how he had a soul mate, little Abigail (ginger cat) — and how they had an actual impromptu wedding ceremony in our back yard one Spring.

Boris, back in 2011 or 2012, with an orb of light near his paw. Photo by CS Sherin

Yet, for today, what I will say is this: The time, love, and presence of Boris, that strong bright being, lives on and is in my heart always. That alone, gives me courage and the warm action of love for this life — no matter what.C

The Gift Of Perspective

An Artist’s View On Perspective, Astronomy, And Astrology

The Most Crowded Place In Our Galaxy (The Milky Way). Arches Cluster in the constellation of Sagittarius. Credit: NASA/ESA 2015

Please take a moment to do the following before reading further:

  • Take a deep breath in through your nose, drawing the breath from below and around your belly button.
  • Hold the breath in for a couple seconds.
  • Then, release it slowly through your mouth like an audible sigh.
  • Now, smile. Yes, even if you don’t feel like it, and it feels kind of fake. Smile, and then release any tension you are holding in your body with another belly breath in and out.
  • Take one more deep breath, in and out, in the same way. Then, smile again.

Now, consider this. You are here:

  • You are an inhabitant on the planet Earth, also known as: “The Good Goddess”, “Gaea”, and Terra Mater
  • The Good Goddess: Terra Mater, is the 3rd planet from her (relatively young) Sun, which is known as: Sol or Helios
  • Our Helios solar system orbits the galactic center of our slightly warped barred spiral galaxy, which is called: The Milky Way
  • We are within the minor Orion “spur” (near the Sagittarius and Perseus major arms) of the Milky Way
  • Our solar system is estimated to be one of 10 – 100 billion solar systems in our Milky Way galaxy. 
  • Astronomers now estimate that there are at least 100-200 billion observable galaxies in the Universe.
  • At the galactic center is Sagittarius A, which is near the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius.
  • Sagittarius A Star, in the Sagittarius A area, is a newly discovered radio source, and is also near the location of what is believed to be a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
  • The first photograph of a supermassive black hole was shared on April 10th, 2019. This black hole was taken from a neighboring galaxy to Sag A*, M87. Messier 87 is further away, but larger than the supermassive black hole in Sag A*.
Artistic rendition of the Milky Way galaxy, created Sept. 12, 2013.
NASA_JPL-Caltech/R.Hurt

It is still a mystery what the true nature of our universe is…

It is important to keep in mind, that the Earth itself is invisible within scale of size compared to some of the universe’s most gargantuan heavenly bodies.  If the Earth is invisible in scale to some heavenly bodies, what does that make us? What is beyond invisible?

Yet, we are present and in relationship with all that is. This is amazing and good to orient ourselves in this way, beyond the mundane, while remaining rooted in facts of reality, as we know them so far!

This is what we call perspective on the grand scale…thanks to astronomy.

About Perspective

Perspective is personal and subjective.  And it can change suddenly, with a new experience, new thought, and by getting distance from things we have become too mired in.

As an artist, I find that when I work on a piece, sometimes I become too close to it, and lose perspective — much like a teenager focusing too much on one feature — losing all perspective on actual proportion and objectivity. 

Often, I need to walk away from a piece of art I am working on, stand at a distance, look at it upside down, and even put it away for a while in order to see it with fresh eyes, and as it really is. When I do that, then I can appreciate it, and know what it needs, or that it is done.

Differing perspectives can grant us new glimpses of reality that we hadn’t considered. This can actually shift our mindset and cycle of thoughts and habits for good. Perspective can give us  space  to breathe, imagine, and create anew. 

Perspective can release undue pressures, and refocus our attention on facts of core, maybe overlooked, importance. If you did the breathing and smiling exercise at the beginning, and then read the astronomy “you are here” facts, did that change your mood and perspective in any way?

Our minds too often fixate and replay old thoughts and stories without taking in enough of what is happening, what is real now, and the scale of our experience across the dimensions of time and space. Breaking out of those confines means opening ourselves to new thoughts and points of view, literally, figuratively, and through movement, like travel.

Myth, Mysticism, and Symbolism

While astronomy is able to give us that amazing perspective on the grand scale, as demonstrated at the beginning of this article, astrology accomplishes this as well, only in different ways.

Symbolism and mythology are, and have always been, a basic foundation in all schools, cultures, eras, and approaches of astrology worldwide. It has also always been a way to frame the spiritual and mystical with symbolic interpretations of our life experience on Earth from our viewpoint “below” that reflects some of the “above”.

The deeper meaning found in astrology asserts that we matter, and have a right — a place (birthright) in the scheme of things in this galaxy — whether we have power, wealth, recognition, privilege, or anything else or not.  This is fertile ground for symbolic and archetypal self-exploration (the microcosm reflecting a macrocosm) and mysticism.

Zodiac Anatomy. Art by: Limbourg brothers circa 1411/1416, US-PD.

The 12 Zodiac Signs

The twelve zodiac signs, used in western astrology charts, are largely rooted in names and stories that come from Greek, Roman, and even Babylonian and Egyptian mythology and symbols.

The western zodiac signs are symbols based on the zodiac constellations, yet they are not the same thing. The zodiac was documented by ancient astronomers, many of whom were also astrologers at the time. Astronomy has since moved well beyond the twelve signs used in astrology.

It is important to understand this: astrological signs aren’t astronomy’s constellations. The constellations are numerous, vast, and literal. The astrological zodiac signs are symbolic, limited to twelve, and are related to our point of view from Earth. Astrology’s signs aren’t real in the astronomical sense. They are symbols created by math and the Sun’s relationship to the Earth throughout a year’s time — something called the ecliptic. The astrological zodiac is an area in the sky that is seen from our, on the ground, point of view.  Astrology is personal and symbolic. Yet, that doesn’t limit the depth and relevance of this esoteric tool.

The Astrological Birth Chart

The birth (natal) chart is the foundation for most every kind of personal report in astrology. The astrological birth chart is an imprint of us, our total life here, from the vantage point of our geographical placement (latitude and longitude) and time of birth entry on this planet, and again, in relationship to some of the main heavenly bodies in our little solar system neighborhood.

The birth chart contains personal potentials in the many areas of life — from the deep and shallow, daily and routine, to the mystical and esoteric. The planets, stars, and other heavenly bodies used in astrology are utilized as symbols that enrich our point of view, and help us to gain new perspective about ourselves and our possible life trajectories.

In addition to the 12 zodiac signs, western astrology uses:

  • Mythology and mythological archetypes
  • Symbols: elements (earth, air, fire, water), modes of dealing with change and collaboration (fixed, mutable, cardinal), and yin or yang energy
  • Aspects, which are dynamics of energy, based on degrees of relationship between heavenly bodies and our time and place of birth
  • Ancient to modern methods/calculations based on the heavenly bodies’ relation to when and where an individual (or other event) is born on Earth, down to minutes, latitude and longitude  

The birth chart itself:

  • The chart is a mandala (circle) that is divided into 12 sections, called houses, which represent different areas of life, from the personal and private to the public and transpersonal
  • The calculation of the astrological birth chart is the basis for all other calculations and reports made in astrology
  • The birth chart is relevant for the individual’s lifetime, and covers nearly every important area of life with some surprising detail
  • The birth chart encompasses a lifetime, therefore time is represented (past, present, potential future), yet it is also timeless — filled with spectrums of layered potentials, strengths, and challenges

Astrology is an incredible timely, yet timeless tool, which can illuminate many things, including: influences, patterns, cycles, inheritances, and dynamics in our now, in our past, and even our potential future. The main heavenly bodies in our solar system, in western astrology, represent qualities of personality, lessons, patterns, cycles of energy, phases, and time, as well as dynamics and tendencies related to myth-inspired archetypes.

For the astrologer, the planets and other heavenly bodies of focus (asteroids and mystical points, for example) amazingly mirror our inner and outer realities in perplexing, yet accurate ways. The tool is complex and layered.

In looking at only one or two aspects of a birth chart, like the Sun sign, Rising (ascendant) sign or Moon, the big picture is missed, and  key facts may be missed or misinterpreted. This is most often due to other areas of the chart that are more dominant. This can significantly change an interpretation and understanding. For example, I had a client that was an earth Sun sign, but never felt it was accurate or applied to her. It wasn’t obvious in the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant, but she was actually predominantly a water person, with all of her other planets in water signs. When I explained her natal chart to her in a consultation, she found relief and happiness in hearing, finally, aspects of her own experience mirrored accurately for her in the astrological interpretation.

Experiencing the in-depth interpretation of a birth chart is an esoteric and mystifying perspective, and so interesting to experience and share.

No belief required.

Astrology is an esoteric spiritual tool that can provide pivotal and helpful insights, which come from interpretations of symbols in relationship to each other that are based on astronomy, mythology, and earth-based symbols, patterns, and cycles.

We do not need to believe in astrology in order for it to be useful and real. It is just like how we have no need to believe in a paint brush, a wrench, or in clay in order to use and benefit from any of them…just like we do not need to believe in meditation in order to practice it and benefit from it.

Astronomy VS Astrology?
How About A Holistic Vision Of Both/And

Instead of lumping astronomy and astrology together, and instead of comparing them as competing practices, I find that it is much more reasonable and fulfilling to abandon the either/or approach in favor of a more holistic both/and approach to different disciplines, and ways of seeing and interpreting things.

Astronomy is a scientific discipline that gathers and develops information, research, evidence, discoveries, theories, and facts about our physical existence on Earth, in this solar system, galaxy, and universe. All of the information and exploration, as well as the images, and growing knowledge about the true nature of our universe is the result of a legacy from ancient astronomers that evolved into what modern astronomers and scientists now provide. It is captivating and inspiring to learn about and explore. Astronomy is fascinating and inspiring. It certainly has the power to lift us up into breathtaking and mind-boggling new perspectives. We need that!

And, despite the adversarial and dismissive tone taken by some scientists and astronomers about astrology, astrology also remains strong and relevant. They may call astrology a pseudoscience or placebo all they want, if that is what they need to do in order to distance themselves from astrology and assert their specialized authority.  However, this doesn’t change the fact that astronomy can and does enrich the ancient and vast traditions of astrology, yet…it can never replace it.

As someone who has overcome great odds with the help of creative and spiritual tools and techniques, I understand the importance of spiritual practices — meaning, ritual, and the rich sacred value of symbolism, intuition, and imagination.

There is also great value found in ethical science, logic, and critical thinking.  I refuse to abandon either one. We don’t have to.

A holistic approach and vision means that science and spirituality don’t have to agree, speak the same, or see the same…AND neither one can, or needs to, replace the other. They are individual, loosely related, and part of a whole — which is much bigger than either one.

Most of us need some sort of deeper meaning and context in order to enrich our lives, and experience fulfillment — we often don’t limit that deeper meaning and context to one discipline, genre, or perspective.

Our intelligence (emotional and intellectual), and our spirit (energy and consciousness) thrive when we are able to place meaning, and a deeper sense of purpose into the fabric of our lives — while also addressing, in real ways, what is broken, what needs to be faced, and what needs to be encouraged — in order to begin or continue healing. Partly, this often involves weaving many different aspects, disciplines, and points of view together. We are well within our rights to synthesize and adapt what we see, learn, and know. Our ability to work with symbols, mystical aspects of life, and apply deeper meaning within scientific claims and discoveries is a part of our unique perspective and being as humans.

Free Will, Fate, And Improvisation

As human beings, we have free will, choice, action, instinct, common sense, intuition and presence. This is despite qualities and energies that seem to be or are, in some sense, fated or fixed. We are not bound by fate entirely, in life or in astrology — even though there are some fixed dynamics in life and personality in some ways. 

For the most part, l i f e is an improvisational dance…unpredictable and changeable.

Maybe what is really needed, is to discipline our thoughts and emotions; practice awareness, and exercise our sacred imagination for collective and personal benefit and enrichment. If this is true, it is good news, as long as we are willing to face and take responsibility for our shortcomings, continue learning, growing, and respond and act on the information we are given in the best ways possible — unique to each of us. That means looking at our blind-spots, wounds, and shadow qualities as much as our gifts, talents, and amazing potential.

This also means doing the work we are meant to do seriously and earnestly. Still, it is important to not take ourselves or each other too seriously! Good humor is essential. 

Good humor helps us to endure challenges and hardships, maintaining sanity and balance. The best comedians illuminate what is wrong in a way that awakens and frees us, via real heart, mind, and belly laughter. The best comedians touch on truths that jolt us into really and joyfully seeing how weird we and life are, and the dysfunctions that we deal with in our culture. Good humor relieves some of the pressure points of pain, and gives us space to breathe and clarity to see, process, and address it anew. Any discipline, from the scientific to the mystical, can benefit from maintaining humor.

An Ancient, Diverse Legacy

The history and use of astrology in conjunction with astronomy has been going on since ancient times.  Astronomy and Astrology were one in ancient times  —  identical twins, in a way  —  who later parted ways (circa 1400–1700).  Astrological tradition has continued in different ways throughout history and around the world:  Egyptian, Hellenistic, Indian, Chinese, Greek, Roman, Indigenous, and Renaissance Europe.  Each had and has their approach and system/rules for calculations, perspective, and symbolism.  Many are complex and layered.

Byzantine Mosaic Of The Zodiac Wheel. PD

There are esoteric, evolutionary, humanist, classic, modern, ancient, many Indigenious systems and schools of thought. There is the Heliocentric (Sun-centered, using Sidereal zodiac) or Geocentric (Earth-centered, using Tropical zodiac) differing ways to calculate houses, varying degrees for orbs, and more . There are countless origins, approaches, technical details, and facets to astrology.

For example, one school of astrology is Jyotisha, also known as Hindu (Indian) astrology. In more recent history, the Western world calls it Vedic astrology. Hindu beliefs about karma influence Hindu astrology. Also, Hindu astrology uses the Sidereal zodiac. In contrast, Western astrology usually uses the Tropical zodiac.

In ancient times, astronomy and astrology were most often united, rather than separate. Religion and mythology were integrated with the mathematical calculations and observations related to the night sky.

Here is a general and rough estimate of a timeline for some ancient astronomy-astrology origins:

  • Indigenous worldwide (ancient BC)*
  • Mesopotamian/Sumerian (6000-4500 BC)
  • African (3900 BC)
  • Irish (3200-2900 BC)
  • Babylonian/Chaldean (3200 BC)
  • Egyptian (3000 BC)
  • Indian (2000 BC)
  • Mayan (2000 BC)
  • Chinese (1500 BC)
  • Greek (700 BC)
  • Hellenistic (525 BC) Egypt: conquered by Persians, Mesopotamian influence
  • (332 BC) Greek/Roman: Alexander the Great, Greek influence mixed with Babylonian (“Chaldean wisdom”), Horoscopic, and Egyptian
  • Ptolemy (140 AD)
  • Aztec (1300 AD)

*Western history has no firm dates for Indigenous star knowledge and teachings, yet there is an established legacy among Nations and tribes around the world, that belong in ancient BC, before or like — the estimated Sumerian, African, and Irish astronomy origin dates.

The countless approaches in astrology differ greatly, even within one system. There are different calculations within and between systems, different orientation (earth-centric or sun-centric), different symbols, and different philosophies.

Astrology has ancient roots globally, and it endures. The global longevity, with room for different viewpoints, methods, new discoveries, adaptations, and approaches, is evidence of its ongoing usefulness as a tool for personal development that seeks to be aware of being present in the universe, connected to universal qualities, cycles, patterns, and potentials.

However each of us gains new and expansive perspective, it is a gift that aids in our enrichment, well-being, and development. The sky is the most expansive physical reality we experience in this life. Becoming curious and interested in the many ways we can nourish our lives in relationship to it, the better!

Friday Meditation: Photos And Moments Become Art–Stepping Stones Along The Way

October 12, 2018
by CS  Sherin

golden-eagle_skeeze_pixabay
Photo, Golden Eagle, by Skeeze on Pixabay

I remember in college when I was going to art school that I kept a postcard up on my locker. It was a photograph of a golden eagle soaring in a clear blue sky. That photograph reminded me of a spiritual experience I had at the top of a mountain in the Rockies on my 13th birthday. It was a long, tiring climb, and it was my first ascent up an actual mountain. At the top was a revelation that engaged my whole being. At the top I could see across the range of mountains. At the top were trees, and ponds with tiny fishes or tadpoles, and very close above me was the silent grandeur of golden eagles soaring. Everything I saw and was a part of transformed me. It is an indelible experience and memory for me. The postcard was an image that kept that kind of energy present in my consciousness. It set the tone for every day that I earned my Studio Art degree. The meditation for today is photography, and specifically images that are meaningful to us.

When Autumn begins, the leaves fall, the air gets chilled, and I naturally begin to look forward to bedtime when I snuggle under the weight of blankets at night like a little squirrel in a nest. I delight in having reason to heat up some hot cacao to drink, and my inner bear feels the deep pull into, not hibernation, but into the inner cave of introspection, where I look back at what the summer was, in photos and dream journals mostly, and then look at what is changing outside, and what my goals are for the coming winter. As much as winter can be a challenge sometimes, there is nothing like transitioning from season to season, embracing each one as much as possible, flowing with the ancient rituals of our Earth’s rhythms and cycles.

I push aside the stresses that would demand my attention. I shut off the social media. I walk away from the phone. I resolutely choose, over and over, in each season, to walk in nature with my beautiful little dog, Samantha and with my husband and daughter. I choose to write and photograph what I see, what grabs me in the moment. And that is what they are, passing moments captured on digital photography. And it becomes not only a memory preserved, but also awakens a deeper appreciation in me of what potential, wonder, and beauty there is in every moment.

 

“People take pictures of each other

just to prove that they really existed…”

~ “People Take Pictures Of Each Other” by The Kinks

If that statement in the song by the great British Invasion era rock band, The Kinks, is true–there must be a fevered desired like never before to prove our existence to one another and ourselves. Yikes. Yet, I would like to think that even as we try to grasp beyond chronological time and the fleeting moments that slip on and on, just like the waves upon the shore of our ocean–that each art piece, photo, and movement for creativity is a stepping stone on a wonderful journey that is actually filled with mystery.

My inner bear of introspection is feeling very happy to share some of my favorite pics that journal moments in this past summer leading up to now. I have added some in-the-moment poetry with the images. May this be a joyful meditation and moment of recharging for you. Happy Friday!

Anniversaries bring out the pale pink rose vibrant with hope, love, and scent to heal the heart. It speaks of our love first-born, and then weathered and seasoned over decades, still new and emerging. Pink Rose Opening, 2018 Chandra S Sherin©

 

Out of hand (and foot) dangling like notes of music in the air, shoes that weren’t needed as one flies up like a bird? or left behind as one runs barefoot away from tight-fitting shoes with flimsy souls. Heavily populated wires mark territory for the imagination. Shoes On Wires, 2018, Chandra S Sherin©

 

We walk together through gardens, marshes, forests, city-scapes, and beaches. We meet the bees, birds, squirrels, butterflies, and other critters with wonder and love. We stand by the sunflowers praising the bees. We walk side by side through time and dreams. Bee On Sunflower, 2018, Chandra S Sherin©

 

The trees send out a proliferation of seeds in both the Fall and Spring. The amount of persistence required to carry out survival and ancestry. And in the cold climate the leaves burst in orchestrations of color as they die and fall. So much movement and beauty that flows from a stationary being, who is deeply rooted. Red Leaf With Yellow Leaves, 2018, Chandra S Sherin©

* If you would like to buy prints of my images/art from this site or my other social media sites for your personal or small business use, please contact me. Prints are custom order and on archival quality photo paper.

Featured Image, Golden Eagle, by Skeeze on Pixabay.

 

Mental Health Awareness Week, And 4 Things That Helped Me

“Hole” by Grafontour on Pixabay

CS Sherin, 10-10-2018

NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) designates this week as “Mental Illness Awareness Week,” with a goal to promote “CureStigma”, which illuminates the needless stigma people with mental health issues face in our culture.

Mental health and mental illness are important, huge issues in our world. There are so many aspects we need to address, I cannot begin to elaborate on it all here and now. All in all, we need to create systems that are healing and healthy for people, communities, and nature — and dismantle the corrupt, abusive systems, which contribute to trauma and mental health disruptions.

From a personal perspective, mental illness shaped my early life, as my father was mentally ill. In fact, he was a sociopath and/or narcissist. You can be sure there is a stigma to those words. And this is the first time I have said it in public. The repercussions of his mental illness, and the actions he took while mentally ill, are still felt in my life to this day. It has always been hard to deal with, whether he was present and alive, absent and alive, or now absent and deceased. In short, he was a product of an institutionalized infancy (state orphanage till the age of three) and institutionalized systems, like the military. Many institutionalized systems that care for children can create narcissists and sociopaths.

Beyond that, I faced my own mental health issues as an adult. I had a traumatic childhood, and faced unfriendly peers and teachers in elementary and middle school. As a young mother , I experienced a trauma that caused me to have PTSD, which I saw a therapist to treat. That was the trauma that was the tipping point of traumas, a culmination that started in childhood. A couple years after that, I became severely ill from Lyme’s disease. It was not diagnosed right away, and I ended up not being able to work for three months.

This caused what the doctors diagnosed as mild depression that was joined with IBS, anxiety, and panic attacks. After slowing recovering, and having taken the medications and therapy that I could from western medicine, I sought deeper and more empowering methods to heal my inner wounds and traumas.

That started me on the path of spiritual work like reiki, and holistic wellness in general, which I applied to myself before sharing it to help others. Looking back at all that I went through related to the spectrum of mental health to mental illness, I can tell you some of the key things that really helped and made a difference for me. We are each unique, and we each find our way to health and wellness in our own ways, but perhaps some of the following things we have in common. Here are four things that helped me the most as I climbed out of the dark abyss, known as a mental health crisis, back in the early 2000s:

  1. I asked for help. I knew my brain chemistry had literally changed from the trauma and illness, and that I couldn’t help myself this time, no matter how independent and private I love to be. I asked for help, and I needed it. I went to my doctor. I went to a therapist. I took an antidepressant for a period of time, and it helped. I was dedicated with a strong desire to find myself and climb out of the dark abyss I had fallen into of panic attacks. The most important and helpful thing that the therapist told me is that: my reactions and mental health crisis had to do with things happening to and around me that weren’t normal or healthy. Therefore, my reaction was healthy and normal, and my mental health crisis was a part of that health. That was a big relief, and goes a long way to removing the stigma.
  2. I read a book that helped me to see that the terrifying panic attacks that made me feel like I was dying a horrific death were actually an opportunity to connect with a deeper and truer part of myself. The panic attacks were an opportunity, it said, to face fear in order to rise up stronger. That book is called, Riding The Dragon by Robert J. Wicks. Books, dancing, and music have always been lifelines for me. That was one of them.
  3. I found life-giving support from people who know, love, and support me — people I trust and feel safe with. For me, that was my husband, sister, mother, and a close friend. The faces of the people in our lives may change at different stages in life, yet the important thing is to find at least one or two people, who are safe, healthy, loving, supportive, kind, and honest. When there is no one that comes to mind, that is when finding help and community through support groups and counseling can be the best alternative.
  4. I used the free tools that I had been taught as a teen and young adult. I had an unusual childhood, and not all of it was bad. I had some unusual, stellar, rebellious-in-a-good-way mentors, friends and family who taught me skills and tools that serve anyone well: breath work exercises, exercise/walking daily, singing, dancing, meditation, yoga, art/creativity, retreat, positive visualizations, prayer, healthy diet, avoiding toxins and chemicals, and spending quality time with loved ones, animal companions, and in nature.

The truth is, mental health issues affect everyone.

We are all on a spectrum of mental health to mental illness, and it fluctuates according to our experiences, environment, and many other factors.

There are few if any people I know who don’t experience some kind of mental health issue in some way, at some points in life. Grief, genetics, disasters, violence, war, abuse, corrupt and broken systems, institutions all play a part in how our brain chemistry balance fluctuates, and our in our ability to manage in insane conditions.

“Stop the Stigma” by Geralt on Pixabay

What helps me to speak up now is knowing that I was lucky to have the help and the tools. I was lucky to find a way through it. I was lucky to know I needed to ask for help.

Now, like too many other Americans, I don’t have and can’t afford health care on a regular basis. I may not need it now, but that doesn’t mean I can count on that always being true. I am proactive, and use the holistic tools that have served me well. But that isn’t always enough.

Not only that, some mental illness needs ongoing treatment and care from doctors and therapists. Our healthcare system is broken, and people who need help aren’t able to receive it.

We cannot remain silent. Not only do we need to dispel the stigma of mental illness, we need healthcare and insurance to serves a higher purpose of wellness with ethics, inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency.

If you struggle with mental health issues, the stigma of it, and in needing help but not being able to afford it, you are not alone.

If you need help right now, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to find support and help. They provide resources, hotlines, and a lot of the help is free.

Wild Clover News, And A Key To Greater Fulfillment

CS Sherin, Aug 30, 2018

Some news to report, and then the main thought for the end of summer….

The end of a huge project:

It is the end of Summer here in the Midwest of the US, and here I am to update you on all the news here at Wild Clover. I have been absent from my posts both here and at the Recipe For A Green Life blog. The reason? Last week saw the completion of the second edition of my book, Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book, written by me, edited by Charish Badzinski (who also wrote an amazing Foreword), and published by Wild Clover Press. For those who don’t know about this, or are confused, here is the genesis of this huge project, summarized:

  • January 2016 — I wrote and released a draft publication called, A Green Lifestyle Recipe Book (paperback, 5.5×8.5, 135 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-58700-3).
  • Shortly after that was published, I found an amazing editor to take that draft publication to the next level.
  • May of 2017 — Recipe For A Green Life was published (paperback, 7×10, first edition, 470 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-79614-6).
  • After the paperback was published I pursued getting it into E-book format. There were a lot of challenges to that, (a year’s worth) which I won’t get into here, but that led to the next big step…
  • May of 2018 — Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book, 2nd edition premiered in E-book format.
  • And finally, August of 2018 — the second edition of Recipe For A Green Life: A Holistic Sustainable Living Handbook & Recipe Book (7×10, 2nd edition, 488 pages, ISBN: 978-0-692-11083-6) was released in paperback with a new cover and all the updates!

That was the biggest, most demanding project I have ever worked on! 10,000s+ of hours went into it, over-time without pay, and many things I have passion to do went on the back burner for so long. Making note of these facts, I looked at the result–what I accomplished, and I feel it was worth it! It has been pure joy and relief to be done with the writing, research, editing, formatting, and publishing for this huge undertaking. Saying I am really pleased with the final outcome and what the book has become is an understatement. It isn’t perfect, but it is the best I could possibly do, and it is done! 🙂

A Key To Greater Fulfillment

It’s all in your mind, body, and present moment

Wm. Morris, 1860-66, PD. Google Art Project

Sometimes hearing someone state the obvious can be annoying. Other times, hearing someone state the obvious can be a revelation, which awakens us to a simple truth we somehow lost sight of. The details and harried pace of life too often push us into unnatural and unhealthy positions, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. We spend our days at a pace and itinerary that we may not really want or choose, despite our gifts for scheduling and pacing ourselves.

It is the old trick of life: we make plans, pursue our goals, work hard, do our best, and then life happens to us, again and again. And life doesn’t care in the least that we had plans, great plans. Life has other ideas, and they are often bigger and stronger than ours.

So much of life is what we didn’t plan, didn’t intend, don’t want, or didn’t know we wanted — and it shows up, trashing our idealized path forward. Maybe because of this, with the pressures of daily obligations and duty added in, we lose sight of simple truths, which can free us anew. Those simple truths grant us breathing room that ushers in more flexibility and adaptability, and healthier, well-rooted positions — as we keep moving towards worthy goals.

Stating the obvious as a revelation goes something like this:
The present moment and day is all we ever have. We don’t “have” the past or the future.

The past and future are both alive to some extent in our thoughts and being, but what we really truly have is each passing moment.

What is happening now? What isn’t happening now?

What isn’t happening now can be obvious, yet still lost on a frantic mind. In fact, when I was in therapy many years ago to treat the PTSD I was experiencing, it wasn’t the therapy that became my major breakthrough to relief and greater wellness. It was claiming over and over again the obvious fact that even though my brain kept flashing back to the trauma, that wasn’t what was happening now.

When my brain got caught on a loop of worry, stress, or anxiety, my mind was manufacturing more stress, and I wasn’t able to center myself or really deal with all the emotions — until I dedicated myself to returning to the present moment, using my breath to manage and release the built-up stress.
In meditation the idea is: to clear the mind, focus on reality without attachment, and stick to simple truths and facts, like breath. I am breathing. That is a fact. It happens without my effort. It brings me health and life. Breathing in certain ways, from deep in the belly, helps to relieve stress, stuck emotions, and physical tension. Breathing in peace and relaxation, and breathing out fear and worry, becomes a way to come back fully to be in the present. Getting all the mental and emotional obstacles out of the way, then we can actively build on a present, open, relaxed and adaptable mental state.

It is important to grown a particular awareness. That is of the part of our consciousness that observes our own self breathing. This is the same part of our consciousness that observes a candle flame, or our rampant thoughts scattering in and out of meditation time. It is a quiet, matter of fact, kind, yet neutral awareness.

The conscious observer within harbors zero judgement and worry. The quiet, peaceful observer within is the part of our being that is meditation, health, and the key to true wealth, which is inner peace and freedom to be.
The part of us that is able to observe and name things without affect is the inner peace, the voice of reason, the deeper self that recognizes that we possess nothing (except our own being), and have no real security (everything changes, there are always things out of our control), and that being aware and present is the greatest power and asset we have in this life. In meditation the inner observer names what it observes rather than fighting, resisting, or focusing on a thought. That is worry. That is fear. That is a random thought.

Probably most of the stress and problems, that we dwell on and sometimes create in our thoughts, are happening now.

The difficult part of life in the era we exist in, is that we know what is happening in our city, state, country, and world daily and weekly. When we carry that awareness with us, it can be too-heavy of a burden to process. We cannot fully process or answer to all the world’s conflicts and tragedies at once, in a day, week, month, or year.

The meditative practice of letting go and clearing the mind — in order to connect with a deeper consciousness within (that is synced with the present moment) — is the most healthy and dynamic action we can take, for our own health and for those around us. It can lead to solutions that we may never have opened to otherwise.

What is happening now, in this moment? Right now, when I am first writing this, I hear a migrating bird singing a really sweet little tune outside, and it is a cold dreary day in the Driftless region. My fingers are a bit cold. I hear my cat in the window looking at the bird. I hear the sound of my fingers on the keyboard. I feel my breath growing shallow as I focus on writing, and I remember to take a deep breath from my belly. As I do, I feel the tension leave my upper chest, that is still faintly present, from a cold virus that is mostly gone. That is all there is to be with, and deal with now.

Each now is different.

Each now depends on each of us.

If you have the power and mobility to do something for someone else, and you have the energy and many resources as well, then your present moment includes a longer reach than many in this world. Best to connect with that deeper self as much as possible to make the most of it! When we are relaxed and centered we can make better decisions and more efficient and meaningful actions.

Checking in and remaining present in the now tunes us in to reality, and realities, around and within us. It plugs us in to: inspiration and connections that we couldn’t have accessed when we were lost in endless mental loops of worry, fear, blame, anger, self-consciousness, past memories, future aims, etc.

For many of us, the present moment is breathing, being, and responding to what is in the space around us in the best ways possible, or taking a break to find space within, in order to respond or begin responding when we are really ready.

The Most Valuable Currency We Possess

Roses in Seattle WA. Photo by CS Sherin

Being fully present in the current moment means we are contributing our most precious and valuable currency in this life — our presence.

Our personal resources consist of: time, energy, and presence — primarily. We each have unique contributions to make, yet we all have those foundational currencies in common.

Personal resources are personal forms of currency. This includes health, values, and well-being.

What are we giving our personal currency, our presence, to? Self, loved ones, friends, clients, animal companions, nature, the phone, social media, or…something else? Or, are we really present very much at all? Are we distracted, lost in thought?

The best we can do is to refresh ourselves and our presence regularly, so that we are able to contribute to our lives and others’ in the best and most effective ways possible.

Reality of the present moment can often mean that all we have energy for is a meal and a nap.

We are animals too. We human animals have to find a balance of need, want, creating, and being

For those who depend on us, we have an added responsibility to really be present at important times. The gift of presence isn’t just our thoughts, feelings, or physical body. It is all of those, and none of those dominating.
Presence is without judgement, and is aware. Presence is without overt emotions — compassionate, without enmeshment. Presence is the physical body actually present, but also with complete relaxed attention. Being truly present can usher in amazing movement. No wisdom has to be uttered. Being truly present can be profoundly healing for self and others.

The heart and mind become grounded and saturated in a profound peace as this practice becomes habit. It doesn’t isolate us from reality, it allows us to be grounded and centered enough to deal with reality and difficult changes and feelings. The body is listened to, and can become a beacon of presence.

Putting a stop to unhelpful thoughts running amok happens through observing them without reactivity or judgement. Part of that a thought go after it is named. That takes practice and dedication. It is worth it.
For myself, and many other people, spending time in nature and/or with animals connects us immediately with the present moment and grants us access to sometimes hard to find emotions like: joy, gratitude, and unencumbered love — absent of control or ownership.

With practice, it becomes easier for the mind to automatically let go — particularly as we observe the patterns, beauty, and details of nature; or the earnest love and entertainment found in the company of animal companions.

Another easy access to meditation and present moment facilitator is through creativity, like: making soup, baking, washing the dishes, walking/hiking, weeding, and gardening. There is a certain meditative quality to these that assists the mind in letting go and being.

Before PTSD I was able to be present naturally as a child. Most children naturally have this, if they were allowed to. Presence and present moment awareness isn’t alien to us. It is simply that the cultures and systems we grew up in conditioned and programmed us otherwise.

In the deepest of ways, in these times that numb the mind, bear down on the spirit, and break the heart, this practice of being present to the simple truths (being, breathing, observing) and best free tools (breath work, meditation) is essential.

Well, that, and good humor. I always like to remember humor, and music, and movement too. Engaging the senses, movement, and activating humor can help to shake loose stagnant thoughts and feelings too.

Ongoing creativity leads to freedom and wellness. There are many pathways. That is one. Creativity and the present moment are synced, in my experience. We engage creativity when our minds are present and free. And often, we can free our minds through creative action…

For all our lives, the core truth is that: we only have ourselves, our being and body as a constant. Therefore, it is wise to be kind, present and true to self first. In doing this, life and personal goals flow more harmoniously, like creativity in the present moment.

Futurism

We look forward — to plan, to build, to dream, to meet, to move forward. Looking forward, as long as we are not obsessed, is natural and good, just like looking to the past is. In fact, understanding and remembering the past is essential to moving forward into the future with greater wisdom and health.

We don’t want to get stuck in the past, or be on a repeating loop of unfortunate patterns on into a bleak future.

We do need to make new and different choices. We need to take well-thought out and reasonable risks. We need to make sure that we don’t keep repeating what is comfortable and familiar, just because it is that.

At this time we are being called to remember, learn, be, move forward, act, and create something new. Each moment is an inner and outer now. Be brave enough to release what is getting your way to being true to who you are. But first, learn to clear your mind and connect to your deeper self and deeper knowing.

Beyond this, it is essential to observe and evaluate how you spend your most valuable currency — your presence, time, and energy. Make adjustments. Keep at it. Then, trust the flow of being and creating, and make the most of each now.

all my best,

Chandra
Wild Clover