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Archive for June, 2009

When my thoughts get stuck in spin-cycle, it’s usually because I’m trying to vision a new way of doing something through an old pair of problem-solving lenses. I’m trying to create something new with an old structure. Other times, it’s because I have so much jammed in my mind that I can’t “see” it well enough to organize it. So, I need to get it out in front of me.

One way I do that is by using sticky-notes of various sizes. I color code them and write one item on each note. It doesn’t matter if I’m creating a giant to-do list, creating schedules or writing an article. I find it really helpful to do a big brain-dump of every item related even slightly to the project and then post them on a blank wall. I’m able to then organize them freely by moving them about until their final format completely resonates with me. By completely, I mean with my body, mind, heart and spirit.

Project Brainstorm (Kathy Loh)

Project Brainstorm (Kathy Loh)

This is also a great process of elimination, because it gives me a reality-check as to how much time I really have and how many things I think I can do in that amount of time.  A few “heck yes!” items really stand out on a wall full of “interesting.”

When I am working on a new project, workshop, marketing plan or just creating clarity about who I am becoming now, I will use large re-stickable flip-chart papers. I fill them up with lists, mind-maps, constellations, symbols and images that have something to do with whatever it is I am working on. I don’t always know what it has to do with the project when I add it to the sheet, but the juxtaposition of things sparks ideas. I use plenty of color and I devote each chart to a separate subject. I might mind-map it, collage images and words, show how things connect.  Again, it’s a brain dump that gets it out of my head and in front of me where I can see it. These I post all over the walls of my office so that I can see them individually and together.

(Kathy Loh)

(Kathy Loh)

When I have a period of multiple synchronicities, animal messages, email messages, read a sentence or paragraph that syncs up with something else that’s going on for me, I doodle with them and put them all on one sheet of paper. Then I look for the feedback they are giving me regarding the reality I am creating.

I don’t stop at the notion that a synchronicity tells me I’m on the right path. I assume it tells me to take notice.  Recently, I mentioned to a friend that if it feels like the Universe is hitting me on the head with a repeated message or messenger, I could just as easily assume it’s because I’m NOT getting something and need to pay attention as I could assume it is affirming my direction.

A friend of mine, writing coach and author, Judy Duenow (Judy Baer), once advised me to put all my notes for a book in a basket and let them compost. I like that composting notion and here’s what I’ve added to it. If I’m working on a conundrum, a mystery with which I am living, I move the giant flip-chart papers to my bedroom walls so that they surround me as I sleep.

Words, symbols, images all have vibrations. Their impact is powerful if often subtle or denied. (This is one reason why vision boards can be so helpful in manifesting our desired outcomes.) I’ve noticed that when I put the papers up on my bedroom walls, I have vivid and helpful dreams, insights pop up from my intuition and meditations and answers come to me without my mind getting all knotted up over it. The results are generally more meaningful and creative, when my integral whole (body, mind, spirit, heart) is involved in this composting method, than when my mind takes charge. I get to think outside my normal box, my normal pattern of logic, or otherwise-logic as it were.

It takes patience, though, and I do have to sacrifice nice artwork and décor so that I have blank walls with which to work. My answers might not meet a deadline, but they almost always will be satisfying.  I find less resistance to getting into action when body, mind, spirit and heart are aligned. I’ve discovered that mind loves the extra help and gets to relax a bit. It takes a willingness to live in the dreaming space for an undetermined amount of time and it’s worth it. There’s a lot of tension in not knowing and that tension is the sweet spot of creativity. Creativity loves mystery.

So give it try! The next time you find yourself in a mental spin-cycle, get out the sticky-notes, flip-chart papers, colorful pens, images, scissors and glue and let yourself dawdle a little. Get unstructured. Doodle and noodle. Then let it compost on your walls for awhile and see what new perspectives, connections and ideas arise for you. Let me know how it goes.

Copyright (c) June 2009, Kathy Loh, All Rights Reserved

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Contemplate:

Creating art for near instant destruction…

Creativity as a ritual, as meditation, for your spiritual sanity…

Living from spirit, freely, released from ego attachments…

Joy for the moment…

Taking something to the “edge of its collapse”…(Goldsworthy)

Finding who you are, re-membering who you are in/by the act of creating…

Knowing the whole and each small bit at one and the same time…

Being in-formed by your part in the creative act…

Here are two great inspirations I want to share with you today:

The film: Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time

(here is a YouTube exerpt)

Sand Dancer – in New Zealand…art in the sand that gets washed away with the incoming tide

This is some serious dawdling!

Letting go….letting go…

(note: if you can’t see these, then go to http://www.YouTube.com and search:

Andy Goldsworthy Rivers and Tides

Sand Dancer

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I had quite the Solstice (and birthday) weekend. Rather than the usual adventures with friends and rituals for planting the seeds of my intention, I experienced an emotional roller-coaster ride as I released more residue from my, gosh-I-don’t-even-recognize-myself-in-it-anymore past.

It fascinates me how things converge in a 48 hour period. Solstice is a portal. It’s a time of releasing the old and moving toward the new vision with powerful intentions and discipline in thought, word and action. Saturday morning, I pulled the angel card Signs. It was a reminder to pay special attention that day. Those of you who read my blog know that I write about getting our information from the world around us. Our reality is our feedback and signs are what stand out to us as messages or pieces of a bigger puzzle.

In my meditation, I discovered an energy ball of anger still lingering in my heart from a brief love affair I had after my marriage was over. As I worked with it, I bumped into a piece of my shadow and I brought it home. I was ready to take responsibility for some rather less-than-attractive behaviors. Doing so, released the anger and I felt a space open in my heart. I asked the angels what would replace that anger ball and they said, “That’s the space where love can come in.”

Then, I got a surge of signs:

  • My landlord was clearing out the garage and having to move some of my things to do so. The garage houses boxes of things from my “past life” as a music teacher, as a wife and owner of a home much larger than where I live now.
  • An abandoned bird nest lying on the trail on my walk
  • A Jay mimicking the cry of a hawk
  • That same Jay dive-bombed by a hummingbird
  • A skeleton of a baby deer, fresh in the last 48 hours, reminding me I’d dreamed of a baby mountain lion the night before

I was being informed of clearing away the old, empty nests, trickery, camouflage and death.

Empty Nest 6/20/09

Empty Nest - (Kathy Loh)

  • While floating in the pool, I was entertained by a brilliant red-orange dragonfly darting here and there overhead
  • By way of a complete fluke, I discovered my ex-husband had remarried last December
  • A hawk landed in the tree right outside my window
  • I sighted the first set of baby quail for the season
  • Butterflies of many varieties danced with the warm summer breeze

I was informed of big picture, vision, gliding on the current, nurturing, sentinel, transformation and re-birth.

The discovery of my ex’s marriage stunned me. My body took a hit and my heart was tender. I knew it was a final piece that had to be experienced in order to move forward in my now, much happier and much more peaceful life.  Add to this, Father’s Day reminding me of how much I miss my dad who passed almost 2 years ago. Grief knows no completely predictable timetable  and there are moments when a little more love, a little more loss, a little more hurt or anger needs to be wrung from the heart.

That was all on Saturday.

That night I asked for a closure dream. I got it. I also dreamed of snakes; rattlesnakes, anacondas, water moccasins and two very large non-poisonous snakes. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have an affinity with snakes, but in this dream, I knew I had to kill the rattlesnakes or they would come back. Snakes are about rebirth.

Sunday morning, Solstice, I pulled my daily angel card and for the 6th time in 9 days, I pulled New Beginnings. “Hey, angels, you don’t need to hit me over the head with it. Or do you…?”

As I continued to work with signs and images, I got clear that Solstice is not always a lovely, easy, day in which we get to lightly and brightly even if powerfully lay the foundation for our future. Sometimes there are energies to be cleared, like grief, anger, and hurt. This can make things a bit, if not very, jangly.

It’s where we hold our focus that makes a powerful difference. I had the choice of going down with the sadness and the misery or holding gratitude for where I am now and focusing on my heart’s desires for the future.  I wanted to hold my focus on the visions I’ve been developing and can see so clearly.

I could feel the saboteur archetype lurking, like a pack of hyenas restless and pacing, licking their chops. They were just waiting for me to get weak enough to fall easy prey to their attack. When those hyenas pounce, it’s a downward slide into the depths of victimhood and hopelessness.

I could hear the dialog in the back of my mind trying to muscle its way into the whole of my experience.  I could see the images from my past trying to get a toehold on my outlook. Yet, when my saboteur tried to convince me of the sad story, my authenticity Geiger counter rejected it as no longer true. It just kept registering as old story; boooor-ing….

Still, it took discipline for me to turn my gaze away from those visuals of someone taking my place in my old life, my old house, my old garden and toward the place of gratitude for the abundance of joy, ease and love I have in my life today.

It took discipline to hold love for my inner child who was upset about not having a happy birthday and pouted, “I didn’t even get chocolate cake.”

It took discipline to hold at bay the constriction of blame and breathe into the lovely expansive energy of love and goodwill I’ve felt for my ex-husband and ex-love in recent weeks.

It took discipline for me to turn down the volume of the internal dialog that binds me to the past and turn up the volume on the dialog with my soul and my creative impulses.

It’s discipline, pure and simple and I’ve come to define discipline as being a disciple to my soul.

How does this story end?

It ends in a wonderful Sunday afternoon shared with a friend hiking my favorite trail, engrossed in meaningful conversation. It ends with dinner and my hosts toasting me, my birthday and solstice.

And wouldn’t you just know it….I got to make a wish and blow out the candles on my chocolate birthday cake!

PS – thank you to all the wonderful friends who sent me birthday greetings and called me. You are the wealth in my life, true earth angels!

(angel cards I use daily: Healing with the Angels by Doreen Virtue)


Copyright(c) June 2009, Kathy Loh, All Rights Reserved

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“I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep.”*

Visiting with a friend the other night, we got to talking about dawdling. 35 years ago, she was a busy mother of 3 young children running a family business. As we talked, she reminisced about a morning that truly stands out for her as a special time spent with her son, who is now nearly 40. I asked her to send me the story again so I could get the details correct. Most of these words are hers with some sentence crafting by me:

One day, when her son was 4 years old, they were walking home together from the family business.  What was normally  a ten-minute drive turned into a two-hour walk. It was early spring and it was one of those crisp, crystal clear, sunny days. There was an aliveness to the air as the sun warmed the morning dew, releasing the sweet and pungent odors of grass, flowers and weeds.  In those days, the neighborhood was semi-rural. There were no curbs or gutters. In some yards, chickens played catch-me-if-you-can through holes in the fences.

Mother and son chose a pathway where they could stop to visit horses in someone’s expansive yard.  As they walked, they stopped to investigate the silvery tracks of snails heading for shade as the pavement heated up. She can still see him, a little boy, scuffing the dirt, creating dust clouds with his feet; the dust sticking to the sweat on his face. He climbed a low fence and he tossed the occasional rock.

She concluded her note to me with, “JUST BE and be in motion. NOTICE the details of the world.  A little boy and his mom in communion with the day – precious moments. Makes me smile to this day – 35 years later.”

What are your memories of precious moments and communion with other; with the day?

For me, it’s the time spent outside of time. The time spent lingering in the glow of friendship and love. The time spent on a trail, on the beach, adrift with the notes of beautiful music.  Like that one night with friends, watching the full moon rise over the ocean while listening to shimmering strains of John Abercrombie’s  Timeless.  I remember an afternoon on the beach where everything was perfection; the sound of the waves, the sunshine, the warmth of the sand, the gentle breeze and the sounds of laughter. It drew me in and I had no desire to leave, ever; until the sun began to set and it got chilly and, I would have to guess, I got hungry.

I remember the moment, while performing a piece I wrote specifically for him, when my father’s voice and the notes I was playing on the piano locked in together, rising into a beautiful unexpected crescendo, taking on a life of its own, something really sublime.  It was a moment when the music used us and we did not get in the way.

I remember being 10 and a girlfriend and I lying on our backs on the carpet in the living room, staring up at the ceiling and creating our own laugh-fest. Gosh it felt good! Summer nights bring on the memory of my bare feet on the warm asphalt of the street after dinner;  those delicious extra hours of play and gathering of neighborhood kids that come with the longer days.

I’ve check off plenty of things on my to-do lists and I’ve rarely been anything other than punctual, but there are times when I’ve just had to ignore the clock say to the trees, to my lover, to my dinner guests, to the music on the page, the keys under my fingers, …….”I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here with you.” When I say this to them, am I not also saying it to myself?

And when I think about it, on my list of regrets, not one was due to taking the time to commune, to dawdle, to play.

When all is said and done, what are the memories that will find you smiling as you look back over your life?

What really is worth your time and attention?

Where, really, do you have to be and for what – and – what will you remember about that?

When a moment begs to be savored, another soul needs to be heard and seen, when beauty calls out “over here…over here…” how will we respond?

If we are always “late for a very important date,” as the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland lamented, then maybe it’s time to create a margin for dawdling in our schedules.

If we can take the time to dawdle, to linger just a little bit longer and then a little bit longer more, we are saying:

“Life I love you!”*  And life will be very happy to hear that!

*The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

( Simon & Garfunkel )

Slow down, you move too fast
You’ve got to make the morning last
Just kickin’ down the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy!
(La,la,la,la,la,la, feelin’ groovy)

Hello, lamp post, whatcha knowing?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growing
Ain’t ya got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in’ doo-doo, feelin’ groovy!
(La,la,la,la,la,la, feelin’ groovy)

Got no deeds to do, no promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you, all is groovy!
(La,la,la,la,la,la, feelin’ groovy)
(La,la,la,la,la,la, feelin’ groovy)

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As promised, here my story of the snake that told time….

In 2005, I was in ceremony with White Eagle (medicine Keeper of the Origin Teachings of the Delicate Lodge) near Abiquiu, New Mexico. I camped on the land, in the shadow of the Cerro Pedernal with about 9 other people. We lived very simply; cold-water hose showers and pit toilets.  We gathered for story telling, lessons, fire building, medicine wheel training and spent time in solitary contemplation.

One of the highlights of this area is the amazing vistas common to New Mexico. Georgia O’Keefe used to drive out to this land, set up her canvas in the back seat of her car and paint. The ground is covered with thorny cacti  and alive with large red and black ants. (A little aside, there are 241 species of ants in New Mexico.) The cliffs are multi-colored red, brown, buff; limestone, sandstone, shale and a lot of clay.  Pinion, sage and beautiful ancient Junipers stand watch over the land. Below the cliffs of White Eagle’s land, runs the Rio Chama.

We each chose our “spot” for contemplation. It was a place to which we would return regularly that week. Most chose some point along the cliff line. I found a spot along a wash that had an amazing vista of the green valley on the other side of the ravine. I could see mesas in the distance which would have been in the general direction of Ghost Ranch. Two Junipers stood guard at my spot and the land fell away between them in stair-step fashion where seasonal rains had carved their natural pathway toward the river.

View from my spot (Kathy Loh)

View from my spot (Kathy Loh)

One day, after White Eagle had sent us out for solitary contemplation, instructing us to return at a specific time, I arrived at my spot suddenly realizing that I did not have my watch. One of the things I loved about my spot compared with sitting at the edge of the cliff  was that I could not see any of the other participants and they could not see me. So, I could not rely on someone else to be my timekeeper.

I was debating about whether or not to make the trek back to my tent for my watch when I spotted a large snake resting about 5 feet away and just down the wash from where I was sitting. As always, when I see that spotted pattern on the back of a snake, I check the tail. No rattles, phew! It was likely a variety of gopher snake. It was a good 4 feet long, and was resting with its hind half in the sun and its upper half in the shade rising up a ledge. A bulge gave away the fact that it was digesting a recent meal.

I struck a deal with the snake. I said “When you move, snake, I will know that it is time to return to the medicine wheel.”

I then proceeded with my contemplation and journaling. All this time, the snake never moved.

As time passed, I got a little antsy. I asked myself “OK, are you going to put full faith in this snake?”
“Yes,” I replied. So, I waited and meditated some more.

Eventually, the snake began to move ever so lazily, heading further down the gully. “Now’s the time,” I told myself and I got up to make the journey back. Just then, I spotted one of the other participants some distance away making his way back to camp.

Snake’s timing is precise.

I’ve been writing about dawdling and losing track of time. I have a desire to be able to fall into that lost space, that pure presence without an eye on the clock. This has led me to fashion most of my days with enough flexibility to muse, wander, get lost in a project.

I’ve learned to rely on the partnership of animals. If I need to get out for a walk, Callie, the local dog, will show up at my door and bark to invite me to head out to the woods. I trust her instincts and, if it’s at all possible, I drop everything and go.

When hummingbird comes up to my window and hovers right in front of my face for a moment, I know it is time to add a little variety and joy to my day.

When I was in need of solitary time, bobcat made a regular appearances day and night.  My neighbors, who have lived here over 20 years, have never seen a bobcat, and I was seeing this one regularly.

Squirrel reminds me to plan ahead and hawk shows up when I need to get some distance on a subject.

Last weekend, 2 snakes appeared near my front door, while another showed up on my walk yesterday.

In January, I participated in a Tarot Pilgrimage with Pamela Eakins of Lightning Spiral Mystery School. At the pilgrimage we pulled a card for each month of 2009. My card for June depicts two serpents. Nice synchronicity.

Animals, seasons, trees, flowers, they are all speaking to us all the time. They are all willing partners. Whether or not we listen is up to us. It takes trust and a leap of faith and, in my experience, it is trust well invested and faith well founded and well rewarded.

How have animals partnered with you? I’d love to hear your stories and invite you to share them in the comments section below.

Note: for anyone interested in learning more about animals as messengers or looking for a great Tarot deck and book, here are three great resources:

Animal Speak by Ted Andrews

Medicine Cards (book and cards) by Jamie Sams and David Carson

Tarot of the Spirit by Pamela Eakins

Copyright(c) June 2009, Kathy Loh, All Rights Reserved

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Dawdling un-rule #2 is no time, now time.

When we dawdle, we lose track of time, or at least, we stop tracking it momentarily.

(Whether or not time is actually an illusion anyway is another topic, a great one for social dawdling.)

I’ve heard so many creative clients say that one thing they love and fear most about the process of creating art is that they lose themselves in it. They lose track of time and time seems to forget them.

I know this is true for me. If someone calls while I am in the midst of composing, I have a hard time bringing myself out of the music and into the conversation, out of reverie and into, uhm…what day is this? Don’t make me jump from composing to the calendar!

I wonder if this is why we creative types say we want huge expanses of time in which to work; in which to get lost. We dream of a day, a week, a month outside of time. Oh to have the clocks stand still for awhile.

As a child, I naturally dawdled, being so otherwise-attracted to the world around me and the songs within me. I still remember how jarring it was to be called out of my reverie to go somewhere and to “hurry or be late.” Somewhere, I collapsed dawdling and loss of time, even presence, with bad behavior and wasting time.

Dawdling in Glacier National Park

Dawdling in Glacier National Park 2004

What I notice now, is that dawdling expands time. It renders the space between the minutes, the space between the hours longer. Presence creates more time.

It follows then, in my crazy logic, that dawdling is a time saver. (Hey kids, try this one at home!)

Whether we are musing internally, observing outwardly, or living at the intersection of the two, time becomes no-time and our awareness of this moment becomes all of time.

On the clock, an hour is an hour. Within me and my experience of life, an hour is all over the time-map.

If I am willing to surrender to dawdling, surrender to the reverie of musing, I am more able to receive the gifts of the creator (whether you read this Creator or creator)

And here’s my favorite part:

In that deep presence there is no judgment. There is no projection of me on to other people I imagine watching me to make sure that I am behaving. With the suspension of time, comes the suspension of the inner critic.

I am free to sing, to twirl, to follow whatever wants to unfold, to free my body to move more naturally. The other day, this meant walking down the driveway in a switchback pattern and I could not, I just could not do it without opening my arms like airplane wings.

I admit it, I felt a little bit shy and a little bit silly.

I admit it, I felt fantastic!

It was not the straight line home.

It was not the most efficient use of my time and energy, or was it?

(Tomorrow, I’ll tell you the story of the snake that told time)

Copyright(C) June 2009, Kathy Loh, All Rights Reserved

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Dawdling unrule #1 is to travel in un-straight lines; in squiggly-wiggly lines.

Dawdling is about the journey rather than the destination.

It’s free-form travel: the scenic route.

It’s the flight of the butterfly dancing from flower to flower in the least efficient manner. They appear to be fascinated with their amazing new wings. I imagine them thinking “Look at my beautiful wings. How did I get these? Look at me dancing. Oh, there’s a pretty flower, yummy. Ooh that sun feels good. Think I’ll stretch out my wings for a good sun-soak.”

"ah" (Kathy Loh)

"ah" (Kathy Loh)

Dawdling is hither-thither travel. The beginning and end points are where we start and where we are when we decide we’ve arrived.  When I dawdle, I dream, I float, I stop, I backtrack, I am curious and I investigate for no good reason other than because I am attracted.

It’s not that there is no destination. It’s just that the destination does not overshadow the journey.

OK, let’s just say it…We can live life in the fast lane, super efficient, always focused on the destination and, in the end, we will be able to say we were, well, efficient and productive.

We are all headed toward the same final destination. I don’t know about you, but a straight line to death is not appealing to me. If I’m going there anyway, I’d just as soon enjoy the journey. I want to exercise my wings, take in the sweet nectar of life and soak up the warmth of the sun. I want to stop and spend time with you, with the tree, with the lizard on the porch.

There’s straight line efficiency and there’s energy efficiency, my energy.

My energy is depleted by fast-track living and busy-ness competitions. I am happy to lose that game. To those who embrace that mode of life-travel, I say “You win! You can be busier than me. Knock yourself out, because you will.”

My energy is restored when I dawdle. I feel alive and I have a deep desire to know that when I reach that final destination common to us all, I fully engaged with life along the way.

It’s just too darn beautiful here to miss out on that.

We are all too beautiful to miss out on each other.

If you are not sure how to dawdle, find a butterfly and follow it for awhile. I guarantee you, the butterfly will teach you all about it.

Dawdling is the path of Love and Love is the Great Mystery.

Will you dance with me there?

 Copyright(c) June 2009, Kathy Loh, All Rights Reserved

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