Sunday, March 1, 2015

Finally Friday Week Four: I Am Alive

The Bird Totem on Puget Sound
Okay...It's Sunday! I'm having trouble getting here on Fridays, but it will happen. When Friday comes, I'm out experiencing life because.....well, I am alive!

I think it's easy to forget.

It's easy to get wrapped up in this drama or that drama. Thinking can take such a great hold on the mind that it's easy to forget that life is happening right now.

For the past three or four days, life has been pulsating and vibrating in me. It has been so blissful, rapturous even, that it has often felt overwhelming or hard to contain at times. I was afraid, for a few split seconds, that it would swing the other way and my thoughts would take me down a deep dark path, but it hasn't happened.

I know life has it's ups and downs, but if I stay here in the present and fully experience life as if it is happening to me for the very first time, I experience something indescribable. In fact, words don't often do it justice, but I'm here to write, so I'll do my best. This poem spontaneously came to be right now:

Totem of Life

Do you ever look at the ocean? Really see it.
Do you see the waves, the deep blue, the vastness of it,
A lone boat in the distance at dusk with just a flickering light.
You feel you are on that boat.
You can feel the solitude and peacefulness of the moment.
The boat reflecting back at you,
And you, a lone person on a cliff staring out at the sea,
Are also sharing a moment with that boat and its sailor.

And then, did you see that hummingbird?
The one that hovered above your head,
It's tiny green body full of life,
pulsating with it,
flittering, fluttering from flower to flower,
Did you see it?

And the smell of those flowers....
Of lilies and lilacs.
The sun beating down on your head
Warming your entire body from head to toe,
You tingle with this sensation.

And then the sun going down,
Crimson and orange and pink—
Darker and darker.
The Bird Totem next to you comes alive too.
The outline of it,
Like a person, almost, watching the sunset with you.
A totem of life, of lives...so many lives culminating.
All of life's secrets, prophesies, legends and myths
Become known in that moment.

I didn't expect I'd write a poem today, but it came out that way for some reason. It's these pieces of life woven together. I am witnessing more, feeling more. Who knows how long it will last. I seem to have this curiosity with life these days. When I walk to class, I see the cherry blossoms looking at me like one thousand eyes penetrating my being. The purple crocuses hidden under a bush cry out for attention. I can't rush to class and miss them. All around is this beauty reminding me that I am alive. When I enter this space of now, I understand everything at once.

What have you witnessed about life lately? 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Finally Friday Week Three: Nevermind the "How," I'm Going to Uluru, Australia


Uluru (Ayer's Rock) Australia
"From my experience, the "how" likes to stay hidden. It doesn't show itself until you are fully committed to what you are doing.  Once it knows you are serious, it starts to work in your favor in ways you aren't even able to fathom."—Katherine Jenkins

Well, I guess I was so excited that it was "Finally Friday" that I forgot to post. So now it's Saturday already. So much has happened since I last wrote here.

I took a leap last Wednesday. I leapt off that cliff that I'd been teetering on the edge of (see previous post). I turned around and faced that pride of lions and the Tsunami wave dissipated. It wasn't anything too extraordinary, but it was big enough.

I decided to follow my heart and take the leap, even though I spent a great deal of time dangling on that edge.




The leap was a decision to go to Australia for book research in August. I'm writing a series of fiction books based on the Earth Chakra system and I have visited all of the chakras/vortices in Book One except Uluru, otherwise known as Ayer's Rock, in Australia. This is chakra three and it is pertinent to my first book in the series.

I thought about researching the area via computer and then writing about it, but that just didn't feel quite right. I know that I need to physically be in all these places in order for the story to come alive. I need to breathe life into the words and that's not going to happen unless I am there experiencing the land itself. The narrative has come through me while I'm there.

So last Wednesday I announced via Facebook that I'm going. I was excited to find out that many of my Australian blogger friends/authors are thinking about making the trek out there with me and now it has turned into a pilgrimage of sorts.

My heart was in the right place when I took the leap.

Now I feel like the universe is realigning itself to support this decision. It's saying, "Okay stars, planets and galaxies, this is what she's decided to do, like it or not, so let's get on it!"

It doesn't mean I have it all worked out yet. One of my hesitations was finances. Flying from WA State to Australia is a costly affair. It's around $1500.....and then you've got to have funds once you get there. All the "ands," "sos," and "buts" came in trying to convince me that it's all a bad idea and I should just forget about it. Because really,

 How are you going to do that?

It's all about the "how," isn't it? And sometimes family and friends jump on the AND-SO-BUT BOAT too, and you start to second guess yourself. Now you are in your head listening to all the "voices" telling you to forget it, and you've forgotten everything about your HEART!

From my experience, the "how" likes to stay hidden. It doesn't show itself until you are fully committed to what you are doing.  Once it knows you are serious, it starts to work in your favor in ways you aren't even able to fathom.

It's not just the "how" that gets down to business...you do too.

Ever since I made that announcement, I've been filled with so much positive energy. There's energy around this adventure. I'm excited to meet my Australian Blogger friends and it looks like it's going to turn into a pilgrimage and/or retreat. I bought a Lonely Planet Australia guidebook and a book on sacred sites around the world, I've contacted two Uluru guide companies in Australia to see if they can swing a group deal for me and the group that plans to come along, I've looked into airline tickets and places to stay. I've worked on some fundraising ideas...it's full-steam ahead, friends.

And there are signs too. Right after I made this decision, Yoon and I went for a walk at a park in Washington State and somehow ended up in the Australian Bush...no kidding....

Australian garden in The Seattle Arboreteum
 A section of the top of the park was dedicated to Australia and they had eucalyptus trees and shrubs and flowers all from Down Under. All that was missing was a kangaroo and a koala!

Have you ever listened to your heart and taken a leap without knowing the "how"? What did you do?


Friday, February 13, 2015

Finally Friday Week Two: Using Intuition to Change Your Life

Crocuses blooming at Greenlake
"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself."—Alan Alda

I've been experimenting with intuition for a long time now...perhaps since I was born (ha!). Seriously, though, I can remember when I was a baby lying on my stomach on a blanket in the backyard in the summer. I felt the sun beat down on my bare skin as I pressed my palms into the grass to lift myself up into a mini pushup. I then took fists full of grass, testing out my grip. I remember the sensation of the green grass between my fingers, the coolness of it on a warm day, like silk on the skin. I remember thinking, "I've been here before."

Perhaps we are purest when we are that age—before conditioning sets in and we forget who we really are. We are always taking note of our surroundings and trying to fit in, adjust, follow the status quo, do what's right. Then, it takes our whole lives to remember who we were at that tender age when everything was fresh and new, when we were open vessels absorbing information.

 I now find that I have a set of beliefs, patterns and habits, but are they mine or have they just become mine and who am I anyway? As I get older, I find that I'm unraveling myself to get to the essence of my being. It's not the ego I'm after. It's not the personality either. It's the frequency or vibration. It's the place where I feel most "in tune" that I seek. I'm looking for that place of harmony. I'm getting closer.

Nature always brings me back to harmony and my essence. It reminds me that I'm part of a bigger picture and I can let go of the parameters of my human form and become part of all that I taste, touch, hear, smell and see. Anytime I start to feel contracted, I seek nature. It's my refuge. I become a child again in nature and I start to see things as if for the first time. I could stare at a leaf for several minutes. A chickadee singing its tune makes me want to sing back. Here in the Pacific Northwest, spring is upon us and it's February 13 (Friday the 13th to be exact). I like to pay a visit to the rhododendrons and check on the progress of the crocuses and daffodils (they are blooming in places right now). Even the cherry blossoms are making an appearance!

Cherry Blossoms at Carkeek Park

Rhododendrons at Llandover Woods


I find new things and discoveries every time I walk. Life is changing, pulsating, vibrating all the time. We are different every moment, so how can we really say who we are? We are free to be whomever we want to be at any given moment.

I've been teaching a 5-week Intuitive Writing Class and yesterday was our last event for this session. I'm starting up a new Intuitive Writing class on February 19th. I use Penney Peirce's book The Intuitive Way in my classes. It has wonderful prompts and exercises to help one return to that place beyond the critic. That place that is free, like a child. That's where I believe our true self really lies and where I find my best writing lies. Penney just so happened to be here in Seattle for the Women of Wisdom Conference during our last class, so we all went together for the opening night. She gave a talk on The Power of Personal Vibration. It really resonated with me and I think the my class enjoyed it too! Penney wrote a guest post for my blog on January 1, 2012 here.

A quote I can relate to at the Women of Wisdom Conference

Members of my Intuitive Writing Class at the Women of Wisdom Conference

I've had dreams recently of teetering on the edge of a cliff, just barely escaping the jaws of a pride of lions, and being faced with a giant tsunami wave right before my eyes. All of these dreams seem to represent current fears I'm dealing with. Working with my intuition more deeply these days has shaken my old self up. I'm in the process of creating a new identity that is more in line with my own vibration. Change is not always an easy process. We are creatures of habit and comfort. But I know from my own experience that if I gently push myself past my comfort zone, through that mysterious doorway, an entire world awaits. If I'm really in tune with myself, I won't get eaten by lions or fall off a cliff. If I am pursuing something I'm truly passionate about, the "how" will work itself out and the uncomfortableness will lead to tremendous growth. I'm getting closer. Each conscious step I take is a step closer to the essence, harmony and light that I seek. 

Have you used your intuition lately to make any decisions about your life?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Finally Friday Week One: A New Book and A New Life Plan

"There is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas...Every great discovery contains an irrational element of creative intuition."—Karl Popper

I'm back and I'll be blogging on Fridays for as long as I can. I missed January, but there's no time like the present. I haven't been here in a while! How are you?

What's new, you ask? Before I dive down into the deep stuff (I'll leave that for next Friday), here's a little summary of what I've been up to:

I started the Whole30 program on February 1st. I am not allowed to consume any grains, sugar, beans, or dairy on this plan. I'm not doing it to lose weight or anything like that. I'm doing it because I've had ongoing stomach issues and this is supposed to help. It has made me more conscious of what I buy, cook and eat. It's made me more aware of the entire eating process. It's forced me to slow down and actually cook my own meals and be creative and I feel healthy for it.

Today I made Tikka Masala. I ate it with a salad and my husband had it with rice. I had some roasted chicken on hand and shredded it up a little. After that, I sauteed a half onion in a wok with a little coconut oil, I added in the chicken with a can of diced organic tomatoes, a cup of canned coconut milk, two tablespoons of coconut oil, a tsp of cumin, 3 tablespoons of garam masala and salt/pepper to taste. It was delicious!

 Later I made my own saurkraut. I diced up a head of cabbage, three cloves of garlic, a Tbs. of grated fresh ginger and about a half cup of grated carrots. I put all of this into a large bowl and added in a fourth cup of kosher salt. I then used a big wooded spoon to press the salt into the cabbage. This helped release the juices. I put it all in a glass jar and pressed it down with my wooden spoon. I then poured a little spring water on top to cover the cabbage. I placed a tea cup on top on the cabbage and covered the jar with the lid and set it in my sunny, kitchen window. It will ferment there for three days and then I'll have delicious fermented kraut full of natural enzymes and probiotics. Here is a photo of my sauerkraut before fermentation:



I am also saving money with this new program because I plan my meals ahead of time. I try to buy organic and there are really good deals on whole organic fruits, veggies and meat at Costco these days, so that's where I shopped.

I have also been trying to walk everyday. If I can't walk, I'll do some other form of exercise. Today was really rainy in Washington State, so I went to a yoga class for one hour and 15 minutes. The room was heated to 85 degrees. It was kind of intense, but I felt really good afterward. I felt like many toxins were released.

So my main protocol for my health is to keep up with this Whole30 regime and keep up with daily exercise, meditation and getting a good night sleep.

In other news, after a very tumultuous two days (which I blame on the full-moon and detoxing), the complex Chinese edition of my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, arrived on my front doorstep on Wednesday. I was about to give up on everything (my writing, health goals, etc.), until this beautiful package arrived. It made me realize that hard work does pay off, even if you can't see it right away. So now my book is out in 5 countries (USA, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Croatia) and there are now 3 different editions of my book. Here's a photo of all the different covers:


Mainland China also bought the book, so the simplified Chinese edition will be out soon! 

I am working on a trilogy of fiction books, at the moment, based on my journeys to different parts of the world. I would call the genre spiritual adventure. I hope to share more about this series of books in the coming months. I've decided to keep up this blog on Fridays because I find that writing here has been so helpful to my book writing journey. It holds me accountable for all my plans and dreams. 

I have been taking classes at a place called Psychic Awakenings in Seattle. It's helped me to tune into my intuition and feel more about what's right for me. It's also helped me make decisions more easily, inspired me to start teaching a two-part intuitive writing class, spurred me to create more yoga/writing retreats with my husband both locally and abroad and it's inspired my new series of books. Here's the link to our new yoga retreat offerings:  Yoga Retreats 

In my Intuitive Writing classes, I use Penney Perice's book called The Intuitive Way. I find it to be quite serendipitous that Penney will be at the Women Of Wisdom Conference in Seattle on our last scheduled Intuitive Writing class for this session. We will all be going to the event as a class. Can't wait!

I've really felt called to finish the first book in the trilogy. I can feel that that book wants to be completed by the end of this year and I hope to have the other two developed by then. I hope to devote two weeks in March and possibly one month in September to book writing. I will also write here and there when I have time.

Thank you for stopping by my blog again! I hope to keep up these post every Friday.

What is new with YOU?



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Facebook Detox

Kayaking on Puget Sound from Camano Island
Today I decided to take a month-long hiatus from Facebook.

The world did not stop spinning.

These blog posts will automatically appear there without me doing anything.

In fact, I'm taking this month to not only detox from Facebook, but detox my body as well.

I'm on an all fruit and vegetable detox for a week. Living near a fast pace city, it's easy to get swept away into the abyss of literally hundreds of amazing restaurants and food options.

My body and my mind needed a break.

I felt the need to return to the basics.

So without much pre-planning, today became the day for both—no Facebook for a month and a diet of fruit and vegetables for a week.

I already feel better and realize how many things I've avoided that are important to me by allowing myself to be swept up in the craziness.

The last time I blogged here, I mentioned that I had a crazy whim to leave it all behind and head to the Big Island. I still have that dream and believe that I will follow through with it at some point in my life. I don't imagine myself permanently living there as I've realized this summer that I really do LOVE the Pacific Northwest. However, I may live on the Big Island part-time at some point....like when it gets really cloudy and gray here...

What I've come to realize is that no life is perfect, so instead of day dreaming of where I'd like to be, I've realized that I'm pretty happy where I am in my life.

Here are some things I'm grateful for:

1. I am grateful for my husband Yoon and all the inspiring talks we have about life. I'm grateful for the silence and space between us when we walk and just observe the sights and sounds of nature

2. Nature in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the summer, is unbeatable. I love that for three months I can hike on trails under a canopy of pine, cedar and fir and pick berries all around me (huckleberries, blackberries, thimble berries, and salmon berries). The abundance of nature is so evident here.

3. I'm grateful for my home and humble garden of tomatoes, kale, beets, squash and herbs and for the great, big, yellow, juicy plums I just picked from the trees across the street.

4. I'm grateful for my job and all the wonderful students I get to work with! Yes, I actually get to spend time with people from all over the world for my job.

5. I'm grateful that I have amazing co-workers who inspire me everyday.

6. Even though I need to detox from it sometimes because there are endless, amazing options, I get to live in Seattle!

Okay, I realize that this list could go on and on....I have so many things I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for all the retreats Yoon and I have coming up. I hope you will join us for one of those:

Link to Yoon & Kathy's Retreats!


I'm thankful that I made it back to this blog! How are all of you doing?

Have you ever felt the need for a mental or physical detox in order to see the simple things that make you feel grateful and happy?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Where have you been? Shedding my skin....

"RECEIVING" by Francene Hart
Where have you been? Oh, that's right. I'm the author of this blog. It's been awhile. Truth be told, I'm in a very strange transition period in my life.

I have this strong desire to shed everything I own, burn papers in a big pile in the backyard, give my clothes to Goodwill, sell my car and hit the road.

Right now that does not seem too feasible. I have bills to pay, I have a job and I've created a life here. But this urge keeps tugging at me...keeps calling me...keeps telling me there's somewhere else I need to be.

I did hit the road for awhile actually. I took off for 10 days on a road trip with my husband to Northern California. We just got back last Saturday. My main purpose was that I wanted to be in the Mt. Shasta area for summer solstice because I'm working on a series of books and part of the first book takes place in that area. I'll have to tell you more about that later.

So what would you do if you had all the money in the world or it was not an issue stopping you from doing the things you want to do? Really, tell me....is there something you'd like to get rid of, let go of, do or be?

Here's what I'd do:

I'd move to the Big Island...a place that has been calling me for a long time. A place I've only visited twice. I would live or be close to a community of healers, seekers, yogis, shamans. I would write, work on my books, study healing arts, teach intuitive writing, practice yoga everyday, meditate, eat fresh fruits and veggies and live off of very little. I don't know if I'd live there forever, but at least until I was called to live somewhere else.

While I was in Mt. Shasta researching my next book, I met a conscious intuitive. My husband and I met her standing at the base of Mt. Shasta dressed in white. She seemed like any other person, but somehow she summoned us to come to an event the next day for summer solstice. I can't explain here all that went on at that event, but I will say there was magic. Things happened that defied the laws of nature and made me question logic itself.




Long before I visited Mt. Shasta, I had a dream I was standing in a circle of woman in a clearing somewhere on the Hawaiian Islands. The stars and moon were all above us. There was a wise woman leading the group and the rest of us were a mix of seekers, healers, yogis, and intuits.

That exact group of people from my dream were in a circle in that room near Mt. Shasta. There were about 30 people at the summer solstice event, but five or six of us, all drawn to the Hawaiian Islands, happened to sit together, yet we did not know each other. One woman who sat next to me felt like a sister. She'd left everything behind to live on the Big Island. The two women behind me had lived on Kauai and were feeling called to return, but did not know why.

I could just call this a coincidence, but I'm starting to listen more deeply to these events, signs, dreams, symbols, urgings and callings. I find that when I do things that don't suit me anymore, life does not feel quite right.

None of the urgings or callings make any sense to me, yet I feel so drawn to take this leap. There would be lots to figure out before I do it. I would have to leave my comfort zone...I don't know how I'd survive there. Basically I'm afraid of giving up what I know and have here.

So that's why I haven't been here in awhile. I'm just trying to take this all in. I think I'm in a gathering stage.

I've been working on a series of books...very different from my last one. These books are works of fiction, but will be based on my real travels to sacred places on the planet.

So what to do with all of this? How will it all unfold?

I do not know, but I'm listening and I'm ready. I can't force anything, I know that. I will know when the time is right...

Have you ever felt a strong urge or call to move in a certain direction or let go of something?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Musings from My Backyard and My Book Releases in Taiwan....

I've got lots of pots starting to percolate and bubble on the stove, and in the meantime a few earlier creations are now completely baked and ready to come out of the oven. Am I hungry or what?

I just got word that my book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, will be hitting bookstores in Taiwan on May 31st. It's very strange to see my book in Chinese characters. Here's what the cover looks like:


 I wonder what the response will be halfway around the world. I am seeing people reading it on subways and buses. I see a woman, dressed to the nines, on her lunch break, diving into it over a bowl of steamy noodle soup. Maybe it makes her question what she has been doing all this time? Maybe she will suddenly get an undeniable urge to hit the road?

After my book came out in Croatia, readers from this mysterious land began to contact me via email and blog comments. Suddenly I wanted to know every thing about this place and its people. I watched a Rick Steves's show on Croatia and started to get a bad case of wanderlust again.

But my backyard is really not that bad, to be honest.

Since I live here, I don't think too much about where I am. I'm currently reading Jack Keroauc's The Dhamma Bums. There's a reason for this. It's one of the pots on the stove at this very minute that's about to bubble over. I'll let you know the details soon in another post, perhaps.

So here's Ray in The Dhamma Bums, traveling here there and everywhere, and where should the finale, the final destination, the place of dreams, the much-sought-after holy land be?

My backyard.

My digs.

The place where I grew up.

The Great Pacific Northwest, but more precisely Washington State.

You don't think too much about where you live until it is glorified in some book. And then, where you live seems to take on a whole new look. It sure did for me.

Here's what Ray in The Dhamma Bums says about where I live:

"The Northwest was a great deal more than the little vision I had of it of Japhy in my mind. It was miles and miles of unbelievable mountains grooking on all horizons in the wild broken clouds, Mount Olympus and Mount Baker, a giant orange sash in the gloom over the Pacific-ward skies that led to the world."

And that's just the start of Kerouac's description of where I live. This suddenly made me take a good, hard look at my surroundings starting with my yard. Here are a few photos of my garden and street:


Rainbow on my street the other day and towering Evergreens

My front garden fence with Japanese maples

Purple Clematis we planted two years ago now climbing the fence

Irises blooming and my reading table in the background


Then, I began to explore my neighborhood. I had no idea that less than a mile from me was an old growth forest, a babbling creek and a place called Hidden Lake, so clean it made me want to swim with the little ducklings there.

Lupus and daisies with the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound

Little ducklings swimming on the crystal clear Hidden Lake

My husband in an old growth forest practically in our backyard

Living in the one of the most wonderful place in the world! This is right in Seattle.


I can't say I still don't have wanderlust, but I will admit that I am starting to fully recognize what a dream place I live in?

Do you like where you live? Do you ever take for granted the place you call home?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Changes

I feel a big change coming soon. Things are all up in the air in my mind, but on the surface life rolls along just as it always has. I think this idea of something new on the forefront has been on my mind for a long time, but now it appears to be a burning desire to move.

Move in a different direction.

Walk along a different path.

I feel it will all come to fruition....

soon.

We don't make things change in nature, they just do.

What I find is that when I'm resistant or fear the change and try to continue along the same road that no longer fits me, the desire to change course burns even stronger in me. It won't leave me alone.

So I decided to go out with my husband today and witness the inevitable changes in nature. We hopped in the car after breakfast and headed out to Discovery Park.

Along the path, through a tunnel of greenery, we saw that the salmon berries had decided to ripen a bit earlier than usual. All the way down to the ocean we picked these juicy gems and popped them into our mouths. It was our own garden of Eden.




When we got down to the ocean, wild roses greeted us along with daisies and lupus. Behind them, the Olympic Mountains stood majestically in the background. I felt the warm sun on my shoulders and back and realized I had forgotten suntan lotion. It's rarely needed in these parts.



The tide was way out due to fact that the moon is currently full. We walked out where clams were squirting and half-devoured crabs lay mangled on the sand. The seagulls had obviously had their lunch.


Yoon plopped down in the dry sand near a pile of driftwood and I followed. I sunk my bare feet deep into the warm grains and rested my head on a log. I felt light and happy and assured that I didn't need to push things.

Change will come, whether I like it or not. Nature is evidence of that. I just need to fully feel each day, each sight, sound smell, taste, touch...pay attention to the bees working their way from flower to flower. Watch the kids on the beach joyfully searching for sea creatures.

All in due time.
All in due time.

I feel it will happen sooner rather than later, but I'm not going to wait for it. I am not going to wonder about it anymore. I'm just going to enjoy my day.

Are there any big changes or shifts you are also currently experiencing?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Student-Centered Learning or How About Cheesecake in Class?

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."—Benjamin Franklin

I'm teaching several different types of classes this quarter and have close to 100 students! I teach at a local community college.

This quarter, I'm teaching everything from a Prep for Small Business Ownership class for immigrants and refugees as part of the ABE ESL program to a new class I created as part of the Arts Now program called Blogging and Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within.

I'd like to say that I'm not just teaching, but allowing students to become the center of their own learning process and development. I can give instruction, information, ideas, materials, stories and share my own personal experiences, but the students must take the extra leap and apply all these things to their lives.

For real learning to take place, experience is necessary. 

The classes I remember most from school are the ones where the teacher was more like a guide and it was up to me to take these ideas and materials and put them to use.

So what does this all have to do with cheesecake, you ask?

In my Prep for Small Business Ownership class, I had the students read an article from 2005 Small Business Resource Guide (A supplement to Business Examiner). It was a little magazine that is chocked full of interesting "real life" stories about people who took the plunge and started their own businesses.

The article they read is called Agencies Can Provide Sweet Deals and it's about a woman named Danelle Bentley who loved to cook delicious cheesecakes for friends, family, neighbors—anyone she could think of. Many of them, after tasting her creations, said, "This is the best cheesecake I've ever eaten—you should go into business."

She didn't take it seriously at first, but before long she had transformed her garage into a commercial kitchen and later opened her own shop, Dee's Licious Gourmet Cheesecakes, and was selling to a restaurant chain and even sold a product at Costco.

After reading the article in class, I said, "I wonder if she is still in business? Maybe you all could Google her and find out."

One student took this very seriously and managed to track Danelle down. She even went to her place of work and interviewed her and came back to the class to report what she discovered.

At first I was a bit surprised and even thought maybe this was a step too far, but the student had a very pleasant experience chatting with Danelle about her cheesecake business and this gave me the opportunity to contact her and ask if she'd come to the class as a guest speaker.

Even though Danelle is no longer in the cheesecake business, her experiences—both positive and negative—about operating a small business were invaluable to my students.

Besides that, what an amazing journey it was for my class to read an article in a 2005 supplemental magazine and then have that person show up in class with arms full of mini cheesecakes (a secret recipe) for my students. They were so thrilled and had so many questions.

It was one student's very keen interest in finding this woman that brought her to our class. This made our class experience and the learning process much more interesting for the students because they were involved in this process.

The entire class came up with questions to ask Danelle and I compiled those questions into a list and emailed it to her.

I know this was an experience the students will never forget. At the end, we all clapped and thanked Danelle for coming and took a picture with her.

Students in my Prep for Small Business Class with Danelle who formerly owned Dee's Licious Gourmet Cheesecakes

Perhaps, after years of being out of the cheesecake business, the enthusiasm of our class sparked that interest and passion in her again. At least I know it did for the time she was in our class and we were so lucky to hear her stories.

Was there ever a time in school where you were excited to be part of the learning process? What were you doing? Do you have any specific teachers you remember very well?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blogging & Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within

This quarter, at Edmonds Community College, I'm teaching a new class called Blogging and Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within. I gave my students the challenge of writing everyday for one week and I was surprised to discover that many of them are doing just that!

 I received so many benefits from blogging and journaling over the years. I wrote 365 blog posts for two years straight. One year was in the form of daily lessons (2010) and another was in the form of inspirations (2013).

I was surprised to discover that one of the students in my class started her own 365 daily posts in the form of reflections. Here is a link to her first post that describes our first class meeting and her inspiration for writing everyday:

http://colormemod.com/365-reflections-reflection-1/

I learned so many things during those two years I blogged daily. Here are a few things I learned:
  • I can stick to a goal and complete it. Even a goal that is every day for an entire year!
  • There's always something I can write about and in keeping up with the practice of writing every single day, I learn so much about myself.
  • The writing that comes from my daily blogs and journals does not need to be perfect. Sometimes there are spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. The important part is to get the words out and I can go back and edit later.
  • The daily act of writing is important part of freeing the writer within. Without this daily act, one becomes rusty and out of practice. 
  • I was surprised to discover that my daily posts actually attracted a following. Some came just to see if I had kept to my word about blogging everyday.
  • Writing every day on my blog helped me to free the writer within and enabled me to write my memoir, Lessons from the Monk I Married, which was published by Seal Press in 2012.
  • In blogging everyday, I became part of the blogging world (the blogosphere) and was excited to meet new people and find other bloggers with similar interests. I have met, both online and in-person, so many!
  • I realized that you don't have to carve out hours and hours to blog. You can set a timer and create a post in 10 minutes. Then add a photo or a quote to spice it up and....Voila! Everyone can spare 10 minutes in their day. If I did it for two years while writing a book and working, you can too :)
  • When you write everyday, the real YOU cannot hide. I call this 'intuitive writing'. You don't edit or judge, you just write. The important part is to keep typing or writing without stopping. Let the words flow out, later you can go back over what you've written. In both my blog and book, my strongest writing has come from intuitive writing. 
  • People ask me how I built up my blog. It was the joy of coming here daily to WRITE. It wasn't about seeing how many followers I had or how much money I could make. It was simply about showing up here. From there, things began to happen organically.
I know there are dozens of other things I have learned in the hundreds of posts I've created here. Now I feel confident enough to teach classes at colleges, retreats and in-person about my experiences. It brings me joy to share my journey and be part of other people's journeys to blogging and journaling OR freeing the writer within, as I like to call it :)

Have you every written every single day for any period of time? Do you blog daily or regularly?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perfection is in the Eye of the Beholder

Reading outside in the sun today!
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."—J. D. Salinger

I watched a documentary on J.D. Salinger on Amazon Prime, which I get free with my Amazon Prime membership. I've been watching lots of documentaries lately, especially about authors.

J.D. Salinger was a recluse. He lived in his own world and did things his own way. On the outside it might have seemed crazy, but to him perhaps it was perfection.

I had never read The Catcher in the Rye. It was never required reading for me in high school or college, even though I studied literature/writing in college. Suddenly, after seeing this documentary, I had to read it. I immediately ordered myself a copy of The Catcher in the Rye from Amazon.

It was a tiny paperback book with the title in a 50s-looking font. It had an orange cover with a carousel horse on it.

At first, it was hard to read and I couldn't understand for the life of me why this book was a sensation. Every other word in the book was goddam. But then something happened. I let go of my ideas of what this book should be and entered the scene. I went for a ride with this author. I was part of the story.

For the last few days, I could not put the book down. It was a coming of age story of Holden Caulfield. Nothing was going right for him. He got kicked out of school, he got beat up, he didn't fit in, but he could only be and think who he was at that time. He definitely could not pretend to be anyone else. In fact, the entire book was a comment on how people in society, at that time, were just pretending or acting out their parts. The word phony was used dozens of times.

Yesterday I had so much to do, but I didn't do anything I was supposed to do.

I pulled two chairs together and made a makeshift lawn chair. I got myself a drink from the kitchen and I sat in the front yard in the sun for two entire hours reading The Catcher in the Rye. 

I forgot where I was.

I forgot who I was.

I forgot I had things to do.

A good book will do that to you.

Finally, I pulled myself together. I got my wits about me and got to work and taught my classes and it went really well.

But I wouldn't have done it differently. It was perfect. A perfect afternoon in the sun with an excellent book that took me awhile to warm up to.

It made me want to read more and write more. So here I am.

Have you read a book recently that made you feel good, made you think or made you change your mind about something? What was it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Prescribing Love

Love just may be the best medicine
I had a profound experience at the doctor's the other day.

I recently stopped going to "regular" doctors. I was just another number at those places. Just a pile of flesh to probe and poke and stab and write up tests for. I was prescribed all kinds of things that were probably deadly. I was told there was nothing that really could be done. Unless, of course, I was dying.

So I sort of gave up hope.

I'm not dying. But I have had serious digestive troubles since traveling to dozens of countries in my youth, some cleanlier than others.

I picked up different bugs here and there along the way and it was all finally taking a toll on my system.

A few friends recommended Seattle Healing Arts.

"Oh, this is not like going to the DOCTOR'S office," a friend assured.

She explained how they had naturopathic doctors, Chinese medical doctors, massage, Ayurvedic doctors and even a few regular MDs sprinkled into the mix. She told me about how "un-clinical" the place was. There were beautiful paintings, buddhas and they played soothing meditation music while you waited.

I started seeing a doctor there and he's changed my entire view about "going to the doctor."

On our first session, he spent TWO entire hours with me. He let me speak and he listened.

He just listened.

Occasionally he'd ask me a few questions, but he was really very present with me.

I felt a very soft, gentle energy flowing from this doctor.

On my last visit, he had dozens of acupuncture needles stuck in me. Now you have to understand that I really dislike needles of any kind and hate to draw blood.

But I felt so at ease with this person and hardly noticed what was happening. We talked about life while he was giving me this treatment. I felt genuinely cared for.

After the acupuncture treatment I received, the pain in my stomach is now gone.

After being with this doctor for about two months, I've had a profound healing experience like none I've ever experience in a doctor's office before.

What was different?

It was love.

Genuine love and care about another human being.

Of course I believe that proper medicine, herbs, treatments and supplements all help, but all of this is nothing if you are just a number.

I finally feel like my body is really healing.

I'm not just a number anymore.

I'm a human who has been the recipient of the best medicine of all: love.

Have you ever been healed by the love of another person? 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Coming Out Of My Shell

Swimming with enormous sea turtles helped me open up again
"At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself."—Alan Alda

Winter was a long, hard haul. I wasn't here at all. I agreed to teach a split schedule at the college where I teach ESL and that just about did me in. The result: I was sick with the flu for an entire month.

I haven't been sick for an entire month since I don't know when.

Obviously I had taken on too much and was out of balance because of this choice I had made.

Never again.

My body and intuition are strong and always give me clues as to what feels right or wrong for me, yet sometimes I choose not to listen to my gut, intuition, hunches, instincts.

Fear is usually what causes me to go against these.

Fear of not enough money. Fear of what others may think. Fear of losing something. Fear, fear, fear...

Fear of death.

I went to Seattle Healing Arts and met a doctor who changed my whole view of things. He told me I needed rest. He said I was under stress.

Me?  Under stress? Someone who practices yoga and meditation? Someone who knows when too much is too much?

But I listened to him. I listened hard.

My digestive track was also out of whack. He prescribed me herbs and a round of antibiotics to get rid of parasites. He gave me a food allergy test and recommended I take a vacation or get a massage.

So that's what I did.

Actually, my husband led a yoga retreat at a private farm in Kula, Maui for 7 days and I was there leading the writing/collaging part of the retreat. We just came back yesterday.

It was so healing for me and those 10 days (7 for a yoga retreat and 3 for our own retreat) changed my life.

I partly went to this retreat to research my next book which I'll tell you more about later, but I mainly went for the healing aspects of being on this island.

I ate fresh veggies and fruit everyday, I did yoga almost every morning, I hiked in a bamboo forest and near waterfalls, I swam in the warm ocean, dug my toes into the sand, felt the sun on my face and the healing hands of my husband on my body (he now does energy healing massages in addition to yoga).

I swam with enormous sea turtles. I felt the power of their beings. These ancient creatures healed me.

After the retreat, we visited a friend in Kula and stayed at her place for two nights. She made the most delicious food straight from her garden: a salad of kale, spinach, arugula, basil, etc. And she made a seafood pasta dish that was so tasty.

I listened to the wind through the sugarcane fields.

I listened to bird calls.

I heard the ocean.

I saw the new moon.

I saw the sunrise from the top of Haleakala.

I listened.

I really listened.

I know what I need to do. It's deep in my soul, but I am not sure why I sometimes work against myself.

A new quarter starts on Monday. I am a bit scared of losing all that I gained while away. I want to keep myself in check and tune in when I have free time. I want to write here on this blog and I am working on a new book.

I'm back. I'm coming out of my shell. It was a long winter, but I'm ready to swim the gentle waters again.

Did you ever do something that went against your instinct or intuition? What was the result? 

Friday, February 7, 2014

A New Chapter

"Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life."—Omar Khayyam

I've been avoiding writing anything here. After one entire year of writing inspirations (2013) and another of writing lessons (2010), I'm not sure I have much left to share.

But I still want to write.

Write here now.

So here I am on a Friday night. It's 8:02pm and I'm alone.

Yoon went off on a retreat with a Tibetan Rinpoche he met in the Seattle Public Library long ago. His name is Sonam Rinpoche and I really had hoped I could be there too...but....

I came down with a bad cold and felt I needed to rest and to have some time to myself.

So that's what I'm doing.

I just signed up for a free trial of Netflix for one month. Tonight I watched a movie called Life in a Day.

It was recommended to me by a friend.

Human life is so interesting. Somehow, we are here and our basic needs like food, shelter and water need to be met. Then there's a need for love or to have someone care about us, including ourselves. If those are met, life becomes a patchwork quilt of moments and experiences—some good, some bad, some neutral.

Life is not one big event, goal, award, promotion, marathon or expedition.

It's here now.

Now I'm sitting in my office on a futon. Clothes and blankets are strewn around the room. I'm feeling a bit lazy, so I haven't organized. I'm wearing a big, long, wool scarlet sweater with wooden buttons. It feels warm and cozy. I'm also wearing black wool socks and gray pants. It's cold outside and there's been talk of snow, but I haven't looked outside to see if there is any yet. I feel relaxed, calm, contemplative, and a bit hungry...I may grab a bite to eat.

So this is a new chapter...

...of living moments.


How about this moment in your life right now? I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365 Inspirations—365: Happy New Year

Well, goodbye year of the SNAKE and hello year of the HORSE....If 2013 was a hard year for you, the snake might have something to do with it. Snakes are deceptive and creep up on you when you least expect it. I know so many people who experienced unexpected setbacks and difficulties this year. But the good news is, the Year of the Horse, a compassionate and loving creature, is here for 2014.

This is a pre-written post. Right this very minute, I'm at a silent meditation course in CA with no contact to the outside world. In other words, no reading, no writing, no electronics, no dancing, no singing.

Just meditation. That's it.

So I'll be ushering in the New Year with eyes closed and legs crossed.

I so need this time. I'll be welcoming the Year of the Horse in silence.

Now is a time when people write down New Year Resolutions.

After writing 365 blog posts for this year, I feel like cutting myself some slack on the resolutions!

I made it to 365 and that's a miracle in and of itself!

But I'll give you the gist of what I see in 2014:

1. More meditation, yoga and inner work.
2. Less computer (except for book writing and a handful of blog posts)
3. More walks in nature
4. More focus on friends and family
5. Exercise and healthy eating

I was thinking I might join a gym too, but I do get lots of exercise with walking and yoga. I plan to continue working on my new book and not blogging every day will free up some of that time. I also really want to cut sugar, grains, and coffee from my diet. I felt so good when I did that before.

I want to say that travel is in my horizon. I see it, but part of me feels the need to save and to just observe where I am. In 2013, I went on so many trips and yoga retreats—Peru, twice to Hawaii, twice to Las Vegas, Sedona, and right now I'm in California for this course. It was exciting, but perhaps I need to see how it feel to stay home for a year? Maybe it will give me an opportunity to travel inward if I stay right where I am instead of always being on the go!

Maybe I will get some clarity about my direction at the end of this meditation course. It ends on January 6th  and I'll be coming out of silence then.

 Thanks for tuning in here for an entire year. I plan to still write posts, just not everyday.

Our next retreat is at The Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island January 24-26! Hope to see you there. You can find out more about it here.

Did you enjoy these blog posts for one entire year?