Humble Mother’s Day Gifts – May 10, 2020

Joan Adele deForest Winston with John, Lisa & Andy 1962 (sorry Mary …born 1964)

In the midst of a pandemic…    Today is Mother’s Day. I’ve been missing my mom, and thinking about all the years she lived “on the hill” out in the countryside of Western New York where we grew up. She was surrounded by nature, and lived pretty much in isolation. She didn’t drive, so the world had to come to her. She had a deep appreciation for the deer, turkey, and occasional bear that visited the yard, and she marked the calendar the day each species of bird came back in the Spring. So as I took my daily walk today, I carried her memory and her appreciation for nature with me. The gifts were even greater than most days. #beautyheals #natureheals #loveheals in so many ways.

Gift #1   Just a block from my apartment, I received the gift of another little painted rock – a beautiful blue starfish. When I got home I googled “spiritual symbolism of Starfish” and this popped up from the website Universe of Symbolism:

Starfish spirit animal opens its wings, reaching to feel all that it can.  When you are at the water’s edge of the magnificent seas and oceans something mystical happens as you gaze into the rolling tides… something within you happens and you hear the truth.

Well, that’s a home run message! One thing I’m really missing during this “stay-at-home” time is sitting on the beach at the ocean’s edge listening to the wisdom of the surf.

Gift #2   Walking up Fairhills Drive, where I hear turkeys gobbling every day, today I saw them from afar and up close. I could hear a turkey call from across the valley. When I stopped to listen and follow the sound, I could see in the distance on the next hill, a big tom with his tail feathers all fanned out.

On yesterday’s walk I had continued down the road and through that valley. Today I was called to turn around and go back down the hill the way I came up. Five minutes later as I was taking a close up photo of some yellow roses, I turned and saw a big tom turkey just a few feet from me. I stood still and watched as he did a little dance in the middle of the road and fanned his tail. I could hear little cooing sounds coming from under a bush. He was showing off, trying to coax a hen out from hiding and wasn’t paying me any attention. I very quietly, very slowly edged a little closer, and a little closer. At one point he turned and looked straight at me. I stopped, stood perfectly still as he came towards me… and then he turned and we ambled down the road together for a few yards.

Turkey is one of my animal guides. In the Jamie Sams, David Carson Medicine Cards book and oracle cards, turkey occupies the “below” position in my 9-card totem animal spread. “The Below animal teaches you about the inner Earth, and how to stay grounded and on the path.  Turkey symbolizes the spirit of giving – “Ho, Brother Turkey! So freely you give, Of everything that you are, So others may truly live.”  From Animal Speak by Ted Andrews: Turkey is sometimes called the earth eagle. It has a long history of association with spirituality and the honoring of the Earth Mother.”  So here I am. Here WE are. All of the photos I share on my daily walks are honoring a grounded path and our mother… Earth.

Gift #3   Back down on level ground I took my loop along streets with beautiful landscaping and a vast variety of flowers.  I’ve taken a couple hundred images of camellias, iris, bluebells, rhododendrons, bottle brush, succulents, honeysuckle, and lots of roses.

As I was admiring some tiny little multi-colored blossoms along the stone wall of one home, a gentleman came out the gate, “Hello,” he said. “Are you admiring those flowers?”

“Oh yes,” I said. “I’ve been walking every day since almost the start of the lockdown, taking flower photographs and appreciating all the beautifully landscaped yards in the neighborhood.”

“Would you like to come in and see our roses?” he asked. “My wife is an expert rose gardener, and the rose club meets here. Well, it did until this pandemic hit.”

We introduced ourselves and I followed him through the gate at a proper “social distance,”  into the stunning beauty that surrounded me.  Yellow, white, pink, red, peach, mauve…

“How many variety of roses do you have here?” I asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Come back again sometime later in the day when my wife’s up, she’ll be happy to tell you all about them. Stay as long as you like, and come visit again.” With that, he went inside and left me to the roses. I took a few photos and let myself out the gate.

Elvina & Lisa 2004 – Princeton NJ

Gift #4   A couple blocks from home, near the end of my walk, my phone pinged. A message from my best friend of 45 years, Elvina Tamasi Pettus. Her 65th birthday was yesterday and we had just talked and laughed and cried together, so her message was a surprise.  And what a surprise! It said, “Just wanted to say that actually bearing children is not always the only qualification of being a Mother. For all the guidance, patience, courage and love you have extended to me and your family I wish you a very blessed Mother’s Day. I love you.”

After my mother died 20 years ago and we held her memorial in Boulder with the family gathered at my house, Elvina came from New Jersey to mother me. She had known my mom,  and I adopted her mom, “Mommy Adele,” when my mom was gone.  Her mother’s name is my mother’s middle name. From the time Elvina and I met in college we’ve both mothered each other. I’m pretty sure none of this is coincidence… it has to be some past life connection.

It is with deep gratitude that I share these gifts bestowed to me today. And in the midst of this pandemic which is causing so much disorientation and suffering, I pray that you stay safe, stay well and have a blessed Mother’s Day.  May it be so…

Footnote:   A spiritual teacher once shared with me that during a time in his life when he was experiencing deep depression, all he could do was walk. He walked for hours, sometimes days. He said, “Feeling your feet on the ground, emptying your mind and allowing open-hearted awareness to just notice what’s around you, to drink in nature, helps to ground and orient you when you are in a disoriented state.”

I started walking around my neighborhood daily about 10 days into our lock-down, discovering streets I had never walked. With the sun coming up earlier, each day I start my morning meanderings a little earlier and stay out a little longer. I’m not trying to lose weight or get in shape, I’m merely trying to stay grounded, awake and aware. So I walk with no agenda, just quiet mind and open heart. Some days I vary my route slightly, some days I reverse it totally, always curious to see a different perspective with fresh eyes. It’s my spiritual practice these days.  Visit my profiles on Facebook or Instagram  https://www.facebook.com/lisajeanne.winston

https://www.instagram.com/lisajeannewinston/

What are you doing to stay grounded these days?  Needing some soul care?  Send me a private message. Peace and Blessings…  Namasté

Corona-thon Day 40

Self Care – Soul Care

It was the first day of March when I sensed the shift coming. There was already no hand sanitizer to be found at any drug stores, and I was told they would be out at least until May, maybe longer. I went to Target and bought the last package of 15 rolls of toilet paper and the last two packages of Kleenex on the shelves. At the Target check out I was behind a couple with two young boys who were filling plastic crates with $1,000 worth of food and booze. They nervously apologized for taking so much time. I laughed and said that I appreciated their choices in high-end alcohol.

Two weeks later it was apparent a shutdown was coming. Out to dinner with a friend that Friday night, March 13, the restaurant had fewer than a dozen patrons when it would normally have been packed.  March 16, California issued the first, ineptly named, shelter-in-place order.

Living alone with two cats and already working from home, (a lifestyle I’ve lived for 25 years) I figured that the shutdown wouldn’t really impact me much. I’m basically an introvert, comfortable with myself and with being alone. And…it didn’t seem to have an impact.

Except that, during the first 30 days or so, I shopped enough to accumulate more food and booze than I’ve had in my home in the last 10 years. Five o-clock happy hour with a couple glasses of bourbon became routine. I ate comfort food–– mom’s recipe for mac & cheese, pizza, ice cream, turkey with mashed potatoes, watched a lot of TV, went to bed early and had weird, horribly violent nightmares. I zoomed more for work, called more friends and family, and spent countless hours on Facebook and Instagram first thing each morning and last thing each evening, reading endless articles about the breakdown of all our systems, and the climbing death toll.

I watched my tiny retirement fund all but disappear as the market took a dive, pulling it at the worst possible time.

I checked in with hospital chaplain friends, worried for their welfare and all of their front line workers, while at the same time feeling grateful that I no longer worked in a hospital setting. There were ego moments when I felt guilty for my feelings of relief and distance from that work, and at the same time imagined others judging me for not doing enough. All of this just as I was leaving one job and taking a leap of faith into a management role with a new young organization. I was carrying both grief and some relief around all these changes, personal, communal and global. No, the lockdown didn’t impact me… much.

Being mindful not to judge myself harshly, I took note of all of the ways I was being affected by the onslaught of mixed messages and mixed feelings. I needed to find a rhythm of self-care, so I started walking around my neighborhood, taking iPhone pics of flowers while giving passing neighbors a wide berth and a smile through my mask. I discovered streets I’d never been on, and flowers who’s names I didn’t know. I posted on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #beautyheals. Daily walks and drinking in the abundant beauty of springtime blossoms is healing. But the thing I miss most is driving out to the ocean, sitting on the beach and listening to the wisdom of the pounding surf. That soothes my soul…

As the days continue to unfold one into the other with little differentiation, I am finding my grounding in my spiritual direction/soul care practice, holding space for others, listening deeply to their stories and their fears. I also find strength in listening to and learning from mentors and people I admire as they share that they too are challenged in coping with all that we’re experiencing. During these unprecedented and scary times, the message I hear repeatedly is to tend kindly and gently to ourselves as well as others. We are all in this together.

Yes, in the first 30 days I over-stocked my shelves, over-ate comfort food, over-drank good bourbon, took an over-abundance of flower photos, over-connected on zoom, and generally over-indulged. I admit to feeling the vulnerability of my 63-year-old self, frightened of contracting this virus. Fed by constant news stories and knowing what a stay in the hospital can bring, I started filling an advanced healthcare directive form.

Sometime around day 30 I noticed another shift in energy. The atmosphere felt less dense and I sensed a thinning of the veil between dimensions, allowing for messages to come through from the Divine, guides and our higher consciousness. My defenses were down, my heart was breaking open into the unknown, the uncertainty yet again. Feeling more open, spacious and receptive, I also felt the collective grief of the ever tightening circle of death, coming nearer to people I know and love.

Dreaming with the Divine

One recent day I found myself leading a grounding guided meditation with a new client, when something extraordinary occurred which became, for both of us, something akin to a Shamanic experience. I usually drop into somewhat of a trance when doing a guided meditation, or prayer. This time felt exceptional.

As I guided bringing regenerative energy up from Mother Earth into our bodies, up through the root, sacral and solar plexus chakras to our hearts–– I experienced a thrumming sound, an energy in my right ear, like blood pumping through veins. And then as I guided us to bring cosmic wisdom down from above into our crown, third eye and throat chakras to the heart–– I experienced the same thrumming sound and energy in my left ear, again like blood pumping through veins. This vibration was now running through me until the energies met at the heart chakra, and then everything suddenly fell silent. For a moment I felt absolutely full of Divine presence, a pulsing translucence entered me, and I wondered what, if anything, my client felt.

After completing the meditation, my client shared her experience saying, “ I felt as if I was in warm water, like in a womb. Your voice was in the distance… and then I heard, “Allah – we are one.”

That night I had a profoundly prophetic dream.  I was in the presence of my guide who, when he comes to me in dreamtime, is always slightly behind my right shoulder, with his hand on my back at heart level, softly instructing me in my right ear.

He took me into a large floating room surrounded by the cosmos, that appeared to be a crystalline like library-laboratory-holodeck. Everything was awash in pale blueish white light. The walls of shelves were full of what he explained to me were, “blocks of time.” Was I inside the Akashic records?  All the blocks on all the shelves glowed various shades of luminescent blue light. My guide told me that I could pull out any block of time and insert it into one of my past experiences to change characters and outcomes.

All the blocks were three inches thick, six inches deep by nine inches tall and appeared translucent. When I touched a block of time, it lit up white. It felt weighty in my hand, alive, full of wisdom and pulsed lightly. I carried it over to the shelves that held my past stories. When I inserted the block into a story it flashed and I saw a new scenario play out, much like what I felt and saw in my life review during my near-death experience.  People, places, sounds, smells all in hyper 360 degree Imax view.

I did this several times focusing on my travels through the years to Scotland, Italy, Spain, and France. With each new block of time inserted into old stories I experienced meeting different people and having more joyful outcomes, full of laughter, abundance and love.

My guide said, “The dimension of time as you incarnate beings know it, is not what you think it is. Time exists in many dimensions simultaneously. Time is relative, permeable, rearrangeable, and can be altered. It all depends on your minds, your hearts and your will.”

It feels to me that the message of this dream pertains directly to our present life situation. It’s as if we are in a movie that has several scripts written by pure potentiality, and it’s up to us to choose the script we play out. We have the power to change the outcomes of this Corona-thon, if we have the minds, hearts and the will to not repeat past mistakes or return to the old normal.

How has this dream impacted me?  My energy has shifted. In this now moment, I am no longer hungering for food, drink or anything outside of myself.  I shifted my walks from warm windy afternoons around my neighborhood filled with photographing flower friends––to cool, still early morning meanderings where I discover small hand painted rocks with blessings, heart drawings and tiny creature relatives.  Morning walks are more peaceful and supportive for me and give me more energy throughout my day.  I continue to practice open awareness and Zen seeing, to keep feeling awe and wonder in spite of these turbulent times.

Deeply humbled by my good fortune, and very aware of my privilege, I am also aware of my limitations, strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been reluctant write a post. So why now, why this? Today, this 40th day of our Corona-thon feels a little Biblical as it were. Perhaps there’s another energetic shift coming? Perhaps this little stream of consciousness relates to you and your circumstances during this time. How were your first 30 – 40 days?  What have your dreams been like? What are you doing for self-care, and for care of others? How has your energy shifted? How are your mixed bag of feelings? What are you noticing about your relationships with others, with Nature, with the Divine?  I invite you to private message me.

We are in this together; feeling it, breathing it, living it. If we’re able to follow the golden threads of synchronicities and blessings through this time, and be more forgiving we might discover more peace and give ourselves permission to be who we are, while creating a new normal that’s for the highest good of all.

May all beings be well…

Namasté

(all photos ©Lisa j Winston LjW Divine Sight – click on any to scroll through gallery)

 

Seeing, Being, Playing

A rare balmy, calm afternoon communing with the Anemones, Chitons, Snails, and Kelp in the tidal pools at Agate Beach, enjoying the oneness: no mind, no thoughts, no time nor space, simply being with the experience. And then I couldn’t resist the urge to indulge in photo-play, bringing everything from that day and previous visits to life in a supra-real way.

Click on any image to scroll the gallery. All photos © LjWinston / LjW Divine Sight

Put Love First

My last post was in August, about the time I officiated my nephew’s wedding to his beloved. Shortly after that blessed family event, I attended the International Association for Near Death Studies conference on the east coast and while there, had the opportunity to visit with, and offer comfort, for three life-long dear friends who had all lost loved ones this past year to untimely deaths. Without knowing it at the time, I was living the answer to the question I would soon ask Spirit. Sometimes what we need to see is right in front of us.

A couple of weeks after my east coast trip, I was off to Hawaii to plan a group retreat. In my experience, the energy of the Big Island has a way of burning off any obscuration that may cloud one’s heart. While there, I walked a labyrinth and, as is customary for me, I asked a question upon entering. “What is blocking my path to right livelihood? What am I not seeing?” Before I reached the center I heard, “Put Love First.” This stopped me in my tracks and prompted the following internal dialogue with my higher Self or Spirit, however one wishes to see it.

“Really,” I said, “That’s it?” That’s all you’re giving me, another koan?” Spirit has a tendency to speak to me in short koans with no explanations. (Read my previous blog posts about my NDE.)
“Yep.”
“Put love first. “Love of self, love of other, love of the world, what?” I asked.
“Yep, all of that.”
“Uh Huh, thanks,” I said. I kept walking in toward the center of the labyrinth, where I stood for a while bowing in all directions and giving thanks for the opportunity to inquire and listen.

As I took my time walking back out of the labyrinth, I let Put Love First percolate, repeating it in rhythm with my steps, letting it sink into my body as well as my psyche. Simple, yet profound, these three words have become my mantra, and the question I ask when discerning what direction or action to take, even what words to say to another.

Over the next several days in Hawaii, meditating on Put Love First shifted my energy from fear and lack, striving and resistance, to a relaxed state of gratitude and abundance. By putting love first for myself and another, I released a commitment that was no longer in alignment with either of us and kept a friendship intact. I recalibrated my intentions to complete my memoir, launch my private practice, and stay close to heart and home.

Put Love First became a theme to work with in my own spiritual direction sessions. It manifested in a healing collage, and ideas began to sprout for how to grow it into something to benefit others. It’s certainly not a new message, nor is it unique. It’s a basic tenant of many faith traditions, said in slightly different ways. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love one another as I have loved you. – Christianity   Lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity are the four qualities of the heart that reside within everyone. – Buddhism

So as we enter this super-sized, consumerized holiday season full of glitz and gluttony, I share with you this gift from Spirit, Put Love First, and invite you to give the gift of your heart. It doesn’t cost anything to offer a kind word, a smile, a hug, or a slight bow to someone, acknowledging that the light in you sees the light in them.
Namasté, Peace, Salam, Shalom

Put Love First Healing Collage – features Rev Lisa’s original mandala artwork and photographs along with clippings from magazines.
©LjWinston November 27, 2019

Part 8 – From Spirit to Matter

Grace and Divine Presence

Coming Home

What a surprise it was to end my year of ashram life and enter into a year of residency as a hospital chaplain. Resistance is futile when you’re lead by Grace. I came full circle in my material and spiritual worlds; from almost dying while a hospital patient, to being a hospital chaplain ministering to those suffering various stages of trauma, illness, grief and the dying process. Divine Grace was asking, “You glimpsed the threshold of death, can you be fully present with others as they approach their own mortality?”  The answer was yes, and… as a hospital chaplain I found my experience to be some of the most holy, life-affirming, bittersweet and exhausting work one can do. It required stillness in the midst of chaos, both internally and externally, and mountains of self-care.

Zen seeing too requires stillness and a deep appreciation of every breath. My contemplative spiritual practices offered regenerative energy during that time and kept me grounded. I practiced walking meditation and mantras between patient visits, and I spent my days off in my photoshop/darkroom creating books to help teach others “how to see.” It was during that time that I gave birth to two more photo books, 108 Explorations of Zen Seeing and a collection of B&W Zen Contemplative images.

My spiritual and creative evolution, and the integration of my NDE has felt like an upward spiral, both my heart and mind opening wider as I come home to more of who I am.  Discerning that my path lay beyond the confines of hospital chaplaincy, I now weave spiritual direction into my creative, sacred, healing arts experience, offering individual and group companioning for those seeking deeper connection with their inner and outer worlds during challenging times.

I continue to show up with beginner’s mind, curious and in awe of the possibilities that can unfold. That’s not to say that I don’t experience fear, doubt, anxiety and worry. I absolutely do, and when they require attention, I practice  maintaining stillness amidst chaos, allowing me to return to trusting my Self and the Grace of Divine Presence.

Thank you for reading and witnessing these glimpses into my story. I end this blog series with the following questions for you to contemplate:  “One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” ― Rachel Carson

Part 7 – From Spirit to Matter

Wabi-Sabi – Nature’s Imperfection

Seeing What Is 

Two years into California life I still felt unsettled, ungrounded. I had studied with amazing spiritual teachers, taken a trip around the world and photographed to my heart’s content. I was still living off of savings, not working. I sought advice from one of my teachers, guru Babaji, and decided to go back to school, to enter seminary. This provided routine, structure, and a community of like-hearted souls taking action in the world. It also created a great deal of angst as I vacillated between the idea of being a chaplain, or an artist, and worrying about how I would ever use any or all of my talents to create right livelihood. I had entered into another phase of integrating my NDE… the either/or mode, not this/not that, and couldn’t see the both/and  opportunities of being rather than doing. The more I struggled to understand the more resistant I became. One day my academic advisor suggested that I just step back and allow things to unfold.

Stepping back and allowing lead to a year in residence at Sonoma Ashram. There I learned how to breathe into a simple, albeit very structured, contemplative life. A life of seeing what is, no more – no less. I let go of more belongings, of inhibiting thoughts and negative beliefs. Baba would say, “Nothing is worth losing your peace.” And when I lost my peace, his reminder was, “Stop, take a step back…”  The daily practices opened my heart, I became more compassionate, and I learned to be still amidst the swirling Shakti energy that created daily paradox within our community of residents and guests.

Then the 2016 election happened. It felt like the earth shifted on its axis and she entered into a dark night of the planetary soul. I was ordained a couple of weeks later and it became apparent that my time at the ashram was ending. I needed to be out in the world, although I still didn’t know what I was to do. While I hunted for work, I sought refuge in my photography as a spiritual practice, walking every day, going to the ocean, or meandering around the ashram grounds. I found peace in nature and in seeing the Divine everywhere. Wabi-sabi – the imperfection of what is, nothing more – nothing less.  By summer I was on to my next adventure.

Visit more of my Wabi-Sabi collection HERE.

 

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”   –  Confucious

Part 6 – From Spirit to Matter

Divine • Light • Mandalas  – Cosmic Consciousness Through the Chakras

Portals of Ascension

Seven years after my near-death-experience (NDE) I moved from Colorado to California to study more deeply with the spiritual teachers I had met through Mystery School. Seeking that Divine connection, that feeling of oneness, I continued my training in world wisdom traditions, spiritual psychology, Reiki crystal healing, and our Chakra system, becoming a skilled healer.

As often happens with near-death-experiencers (NDERs), in spite of the fact that I had a spiritual community, I didn’t feel like I truly belonged. Solitary, contemplative time exploring with my camera was my preferred way to ground into a sense of belonging with myself and my environment. To avoid increasing isolation, I sought connection with other photographers. During a short-lived stint with a photo club, I met someone who, like me, found photography both grounding and uplifting, and a way to create a deeper connection with self and others.

She also loved to photograph holiday lights, so we played with what I call “Camera Dancing™” ––moving the camera liberally, while using a slow shutter speed. It was so much fun! When I looked at the original images in photoshop, I thought kaleidoscope!  I mirrored each photo once, then twice. Amazing portals appeared! Spirit took over the process and the images came to life. I experimented meditating with them and found that I could unblock and re-energize stuck energy in my chakras, from root to crown. This collection has become one of my many creative, sacred, healing art tools I share with others.

Movement and mirror imaging come together to create Divine • Light • Mandalas

See slide show HERE

 

Transformative art must express something beyond where you are, it demands that you grow beyond your current self. This is where an artist’s angst and the pain of transformation coincide. You reach toward the true, the good and the beautiful and become a better person through the struggle.
—Alex Grey, artist