Yesterday was a magnificent time for aligning with Source. I spent the morning sharing my thoughts on abundance and directed faith at Unity by the Sea, and then got to hear, in a group discussion, the thoughts of others. It’s very rewarding to realize that something I’ve shared has made an impact. It took me many years to discover and embrace it, but what I know now is that empowering and inspiring others is what I’ve come here to do. I’m so grateful for all the wonderful opportunities that are allowing me to do just that.

From there the day moved into a couple hours on the beach, toes in the sand and warm sun on my face. Soaking up the movement of the waves helped clear any stagnated energy within me, leaving me feeling refreshed and open to possibilities, and then it was a hike to Drift Creek Falls. Though the tall needles of pine functioned much like an umbrella, now and then a faint mist made its way through. The lush greens, isolation, and setting sun made the dark forest trail a definite contrast to the light, crashing, airy beach. Each unique aspect of the day served as a way to acknowledge the divine Spirit within.

Connection can look and feel quite different, depending on what I am needing.  Sometimes it’s the gathering with others in community, to see in so many ways how similar we all are.  Sometimes it’s the chaotic noise of self-reflection, the necessary ability to shift perspectives and work through internal barriers.  And sometimes it is simply the need for a deep silence, hidden from the world, remembering that I am walking this path hand-in-hand with my creator.  I am blessed by that extraordinary day in which I got to experience it all!

Standing under Shellburg Falls

Last weekend my family enjoyed a trip to Shellburg Falls.  We walked about 1 1/2 miles up a gravel road to where the official trailhead appeared at our left, then walked the rest of the way following the call of the water.  Sunlight filtered through the canopy of moss-covered trees and lush ferns accented the decor at our feet.  After about a half mile, the trail opened up to reveal a glorious 100 foot waterfall.  The pool below beckoned to each of us in its own way.  I knew that no matter how cold, I was going in!  Anytime I've seen a waterfall, I've wondered what it would be like to stand underneath and today was the day!  Removing my shoes and sliding in, I could feel my body start to go numb in the ever-deepening water.  Emerging on the other side near the falls, the splash grew stronger as I carefully made my way out onto the mossy rocks, standing to get the full effect.  I couldn't help but laugh in delight as the powerful gush fell over and around me!  Looking up, the consistent flow seemed to separate into individual drops, each plummeting to its new home below. It was extraordinary!

A few years ago, I would have wanted to go in, but fear, anxiety, and the embarrassment of what others would think would have kept me an observer at the edge. It's such a wonderful feeling to know I no longer allow that kind of hesitation to stop me from experiencing joy.  These days I welcome and embrace life with a spirit of appreciation for all that it has to offer. 

As I reflect back on last weekend's experience, I see how it ties into the series on prosperity I am giving at Unity by the Sea.  When we become fully engaged in our life, willing to swim in a pool of gratitude, incredible blessings rain down upon us!  Part 2 this week is about moving outside our comfort zone.... hmmm...CHECK!

At a recent visit to Crater Lake, the visitor's center held a sign that said "Tranquility From Turbulence: The present tranquility of Crater Lake was born out of a turbulent past when the mountain erupted violently and the core of the volcano collapsed."

Oh how that reminds me of life!  There was a time when everything in and around me appeared to be collapsing, but with a lot of patience, faith and self-forgiveness, I was able to adjust to a new internal landscape. What resulted is a state of tranquility and joy unlike any I've experienced before.

     I’ve always let myself off the hook when it comes to anything physically challenging.  I was that kid in high school who absolutely dreaded PE class, especially when it meant running around the track.  I could frequently be seen pulled over to the side, tears in my eyes, complaining that I was going to throw up.  Not much has changed as an adult.  One or two times I’ve taken up exercise, but only to the point where that sensation appears, and then I usually back off and eventually quit. 

     There’s a strong sense of adventure in me, but I’ve handled it much the same way I’ve dealt with my physical exercise, as a good idea lacking in execution.  While trying new things and experiencing new places is intriguing, usually my desire to be comfortable wins out, and my adventure-seeking spirit doesn’t make it out the front door. 

     Yesterday was different.  I was determined to actually do it, to go on an adventure.  A friend and I set out with a destination in mind: Abiqua Falls.  I had read of it in a recent article naming it as one of the top 10 hikes in Oregon.  The directions just to find the trailhead sounded like an ordeal all their own and as we made our way, I was thankful we were in my friend’s truck and not my little sedan.

     Since this word adventure has been calling to me, I wanted the definition: “an unusual, exciting, typically hazardous, activity or experience; an exploration of unknown territory.”  So basically it’s about stretching, letting go, opening to the unexpected, and being willing to take it all in with joy.  While there are levels of hazardous, mostly I hear it saying in order to embrace life and the multitude of experiences available, we must first acknowledge at some point we will all die.  Until we fully accept that, our fear will have the power to hold us back.

     Once we turned off the main road, a decision was made to park at the first big clearing.  It seemed like a better idea to enjoy the rest of the way as a walk, rather than risk encountering another car on the narrow, gravel road.  That initial trek just to get to the trailhead turned out to be almost two miles.  Once we found the official path and headed into the trees, it quickly became evident that this was not going to be the easy hike I had planned for.  The trail, which was said to be about 1 ½ miles long, appeared to be small and head straight down.  Our unsure footing made its way through tumbling rock, over fallen pines and around live ones, and down slippery, steep slopes. Thank goodness for whoever had thought to attach ropes to the trees in order to assist others in the descent.  It did occur to me at one point that what goes down must come back up, but I quickly brushed that thought aside.  This seemed like the perfect moment to stay present and mindful, as the word “hazardous” kept firing in my ear!  As the descent leveled, a large babbling creek bed came into view, and the roar of a waterfall was not far in the distance.  As we moved along, the creek gradually widened and deepened.  It was surrounded on both sides with indescribable shades of lush green.  Now and then, tiny wild flowers sprang from the ground in random patterns, serving as nature’s finishing touch on an already glorious canvas.  Rounding the final bend revealed our breathtaking destination! 

     We were suddenly surrounded by a massive, half-circle canyon, from which plummeted an enormous waterfall, landing in an extensive pool at our feet.  I felt as if I had just stumbled into the most magnificent, sacred sanctuary where admiring the Divine was expected, but not required.  The palpable aliveness of God was in every water drop, stone, and body resting in amazement.  Standing here, in this place, “God in everyone and everything” was no longer a theory.  It was real.  I could feel it.

     There’s nothing like the power of nature to put our humanness into perspective.  The sheer grandeur left me speechless and tearful.  As I stood at the edge of the pool, shoes off, toes being numbed, I contemplated jumping in. The roar of the water tumbling and splashing was beckoning.  How incredible would it feel to leave my clothes on the rocks and dive in, if even for a moment?  Noticing the many others, and pondering that hike back feeling wet and cold, convinced me to be satisfied with merely soaking my feet.

     Immersing in nature helps me remember the beauty of life.  There’s an almost magical quality to water.  The movement of the ocean or the calm of a lake, both have the potential to simultaneously soothe and invigorate my soul.  The water’s mystical power lies in its determination to make a path.  Perhaps that is how we are meant to be living, with a gentle power, allowing nothing to hold us back.  Sometimes we trickle and sometimes we roar, but no matter what, we always find a way to keep moving.

     As we headed back, it seemed every rounded corner brought a fresh viewpoint of the beauty we’d already seen, but hadn’t yet been able to fully absorb.  About ¾ of the way up that roped path, I encountered that place in me where the physical challenge feels too hard and I desperately want to quit.  I offered to carry the backpack so my friend could carry me, but that didn’t seem like a truly viable option!  Slowly and carefully placing each foot as I made my way up, I tuned into my body.  Above the pounding of my heart, all I could hear were my thighs screaming “Are you kidding me???!”  Once my stomach joined in the revolt and started threatening to expel the snack I had just had, it was time to sit and rest.  I needed to confront this breaking point that had held me back for so long.  When every part of me wanted to quit, I usually did just that, quit.  “I can’t” had always seemed like a fact, but now I knew it was a choice.  As my friend patiently waited, probably unaware of my internal conflict, I made a new choice.  I can do this!  I will do this!  With a renewed sense of determination, I gathered all my strength, got to my feet, and finished the rocky ascent.  As I marveled in what I had just accomplished, the 2 mile hike back to the car seemed like a breeze.  We walked. We talked. We sipped water, and I did it all in awe: of life, of nature, of self.  In the past, how many times had I quit before I really knew what I was capable of?  How many times had I chosen to bypass an experience because of the fear that I wouldn’t be able to do it?  How many encounters of extraordinary beauty were out there waiting to be explored?

     I can’t think of a better way to spend a day: time with a loved one, soaking in the inexplicable beauty of nature, and stretching the boundaries of what I believe to be possible.  Adventure.  I’m ready for the next one!

     Sunday, as I finished a song and moved from the keyboard to the podium to give the talk, it hit me. I was living my dream! It wasn’t in an arena of 20,000. It was in a room of 40, but the numbers didn’t matter. The point was, an intention I had innocently stated so long ago, had become my reality.

     It was about 12 years ago when my mother-in-law took me to a large women’s convention in Portland. From the top of the nose-bleed section, I watched a woman come out on stage, sing a touching song, and then go on to speak about challenges in life and her experiences of bouncing back. I had goose bumps running through my body and internally I said, “I want to do that!” At the time, it was a ridiculous, impossible idea. I hadn’t sung or played the piano for many years and I felt I had nothing of value to share with others. But no matter, the intention had been claimed.

     The old cliché seems a good fit here: Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it! I imagine the whispers between my Higher Power and my soul may have sounded something like this: “Need some life challenges to speak of? Well, how about if we start to unravel your life, one choice at a time, until you find yourself with nothing. Maybe we’ll crack this façade you’ve got going on to the point of leaving you huddled in a corner, surrounded by tears, disappointment and loneliness. You’ll be unsure of who you are or why you are even on this planet. We’ll allow the choices to destroy whatever positive image you might have left, and leave you questioning your value as a wife, a mom, a daughter, and a person in general. Will that do? Ooh, yes! Maybe create a nice rich soil of life’s difficulties for you to dig in. You can use it to uncover your true self, learn to share from an authentic place, and build a platform from there. Of course we’ll also have to get your creative side going again, but we’ll do that in unexpected ways, through avenues you never could have imagined. Will that work?” Standing here now, reflecting on that possible soul conversation, I marvel at all I’ve been through and how far I’ve come. Yes Spirit, I think that plan did the trick!

     The fruits of our intentions and dreams have a way of sneaking up on us.  About four years ago, I stumbled upon a video of Sarah McLachlan and Carlos Santana playing together on stage. She had been invited to do her song Angel with him, unrehearsed. As I watched the musical dance happening between the two of them in that performance, my soul set another intention. “I want to do that!” The “that” was to embody the confidence to play and sing a song with such passion that I could allow room for someone else to sit in and improvise with me.  Together we could make something beautiful. Forgetting all about that intention, one day many months later, I was in the recording studio with my producer, who also happens to be a fabulous guitar player. We were rehearsing for a small fundraising concert we’d be doing. As I started to warm up and play Angel, he began improvising along with me. I was suddenly flooded with a feeling of realization, to the point that I abruptly stopped and turned to him. This was the moment I had dreamed of! We were not two famous artists on a stage in front of thousands of adoring fans, but that didn’t matter. I had gained enough confidence and we were creating some musical magic of our own.

     Nurturing dreams into existence is an interesting process. If I had set a specific five-year goal plan, I never could have envisioned anything as wonderful as I’m actually living now. There’s a flow to the process that gets stifled in rigid planning. If we get too set in our own ideas of how things will or are supposed to look, we can miss unexpected opportunities, ones that could take us even further than we ever dreamed possible. I’m learning to stay flexible and leave a little room for the Universe to work its wonders. Often times it’s not until we’ve reached another step or turned a corner that we are able to see all the current possibilities that weren’t even imaginable from where we stood before. I’ve discovered holding the vision isn’t about achieving a specific end result. It’s about embracing unused gifts, stretching the mind, and opening the heart. It’s about who we become in the process.

     One year ago, I was in New York City for a Publicity Summit, and as I attended the various events, it just wasn’t feeling like a good fit. I wondered why Spirit had nudged me to go at all. One night my accompanying friend treated me to an evening of Broadway, Carole King’s musical Beautiful. I didn’t know much about her life or music, but I got to know her as the story unfolded in front of me. At the end, Carole surprised everyone, even the cast, emerging from behind the curtains! In her words, it was the first time she had summoned the courage to see her own story played out on stage. She interacted with all of us, doing a song which extended the overall length of the show by another 45 minutes. It was a glorious moment that sent goosebumps down my spine, even still brings tears to my eyes. This was why I had been brought to New York, to see and experience this moment. For years, I’ve been imagining a musical show, one that would bring my recent difficulties and transformation to life. As a kid, my number one dream was to be on Broadway, and even after all I’d been through, that dream had gone dormant, but had not died.

     Last month I found myself standing on stage at the Elsinore, a local historic theatre that was designed to resemble the castle in “Hamlet”. It seats about 600 on the main level, and another 200 or so in the balconies. The beauty of its décor and ornamentation is breathtaking! Standing on the stage, I had a clear vision of every seat full, a black grand piano on stage, and me. Everything about that felt right. I was ready to take the leap, reserve a date, and begin the process. The theatre’s manager, who was giving me the tour, wasn’t quite in line with what was happening within me. This is common when it comes to our dreams. Others don’t or can’t always “feel” them or believe in them at the level we can. He was questioning whether this was the right place for me. Could I really sell enough tickets to fill at least the main level? I had no idea how, but standing there, I knew without a doubt, I COULD! I had a vision, and it was spectacular! I saw people entering the doors, finding their seats. I saw the lights dimming and the curtains opening. I heard the music. I saw the laughter. I felt the tears. And when the curtain had closed for the final time, I saw myself entering the beautiful, grand lobby. Hundreds of people were milling around, enjoying the reception that was there to thank them for their support. I was hugging old friends and greeting new ones, signing books and CDs, and marveling at the way our dreams come true. 

     In January when those curtains open and this next phase of my dream takes the stage and comes alive, I’ll know this for sure: I am not Carole King and I may not be on Broadway, but that doesn’t matter. I am thriving inside my own dreams, and that is enough.    

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