A Modern Mystic

Musings on life, work and contemporary spirituality

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Thank you, Donald Trump; A Buddhist Perspective on Our Real Fears About the Republican Primaries

Even before Donald Trump formally launched his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015, it became fashionable to both dismiss him and  diagnose him as a mere narcissist.

In fact, early on very few pundits took him or his candidacy seriously. Now as his nomination seems more likely every day, dismissals and diagnoses have given way to statements of fear by his political opponents and an all-out campaign to defeat his nomination by the elite members of his own Republican party. Critics who agree on little else seem to be of one mind on Trump: he is dangerous and must be stopped at all costs.

What is it exactly that we don’t like about Donald Trump? Sure, his style is provocative and rude. But more to the point, his conduct is aggressive, grandiose, self-important, entitled, manipulative and completely lacking in any consideration of the feelings or needs of anyone other than himself. Why does this push so many buttons?

Jeffrey Kluger’s TIME article Donald Trump’s Very Strange Brand of Narcissism sums it up nicely:

“I spent a lot of time in the mirror-world of the narcissist when I was writing my 2014 book, The Narcissist Next Door, and most of the experts I spoke to and studies I read define the condition as a sort of toxic mash-up of grandiosity, entitlement and lack of empathy. Trump checks those boxes almost every day—most recently and disturbingly the lack of empathy one.”

What is narcissism? According to the DSM IV, the professional compendium of psychological diagnoses, narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by any of a number of symptoms including:

  • Grandiose sense of self-importance
  • Sense of entitlement or superiority
  • Belief in oneself as “special,” only understood by special or high-status individuals
  • Strong need for admiration, flattery and respect
  • Lack of empathy, unwilling or unable to recognize the feelings of others
  • Manipulative or controlling behavior
  • Focus on getting one’s own needs met over the needs of others
  • Arrogant behaviors and attitudes
  • Interpersonally exploitative
  • Higher levels of aggression
  • Difficulty taking feedback about their behavior
  • Envious of others

If this sounds at least a little bit like just about everyone you know, that’s because narcissism is rampant in our culture. In his book, Kluger makes the case that we are all narcissistic to some degree and that by all surveys, Americans are becoming more so every year.

According to one Psychology Today article, for example:

“One study found that 30 percent of young people were classified as narcissistic according to a widely used psychological test. That number has doubled in the last 30 years. Another study reported a 40 percent decline among young people in empathy, a personality attribute inversely related to narcissism, since the 1980s.”

The irony, of course, is that because we all consider ourselves special, we are all alike. Indeed, what bothers us most about Donald Trump is that we are all a little like him to some degree.

For millennia, Buddhists have used slightly different language to point out this human propensity toward narcissism. Nearly 3000 years ago, the Buddha taught about “ego clinging” as the root cause of suffering. Like the narcissistic politician arrogantly clinging to an out-sized sense of her own importance, sentient beings ignorantly cling to an “I” or “ego” or “self” that doesn’t actually exist. This phantom ego the Buddha described as

  • Singular
  • Separate
  • Independent
  • Most important
  • Owner of everything

We all know that voice inside our heads that irrationally tells us we should be at the head of the line. It goads us to get impatiently aggressive when we’re in a hurry and it sometimes causes a rude expectation that others should get out of our way when we’re on a mission. That’s the voice of the imputed ego calling the shots, and the Buddha taught that giving way to its demands is the one habitual mistake we make that prevents us from experiencing perfect peace and happiness and spreading peace and happiness to others.

The reason Trump scares us is that we recognize our own ego-clinging attitudes in his speech and behavior. In psychological terms, we deny our own selfish shadow tendencies and project them outside ourselves as the demon or villain.

Buddhist practice (dharma), on the other hand, requires self-reflection, self-knowledge, and self-transformation. In other words, we summon the courage to look at our own thinking as the root cause of everything in our own lives. When we cannot see our own faults clearly, we learn to rely on those we trust (for Buddhists, teacher and close sangha) to reflect to us what we cannot see clearly on our own.

It is easy to project what we don’t like in ourselves out there where we can demonize it. It takes courage to instead recognize that we are responsible for what we experience, whether that be light and love or the politics of hatred in our midst.

Donald Trump is a daily reminder to check our thinking, to ask ourselves, in what way do I “build walls” against the things and people I dislike? When do I try to silence my beneficial critics, who are often the ones who love me most? Whom have I made my enemy out of jealousy or fear? Where do I consider myself above reproach, becoming defensive and puffing up my accomplishments to dodge others’ blame? To what do I feel entitled? And most importantly, what do I chase after as the supposed cause of my happiness, whether wealth, friends, food, alcohol, control over others, etc.? If it’s outside my own thinking it will never give me the power and happiness I desire.

Although it’s not pleasant, I’m happy that Trump is dominating TV news coverage, Internet and the radio airwaves right now. His candidacy serves to point out the greed, hypocrisy, and self-centeredness rampant in our government, our  communities, our society,  but mainly in our own thinking. While voting one’s conscience is a civic duty I support, I am convinced that the cure is not to be found at the ballot box, but within our own hearts.

Thank you, Mr. Trump, for the constant reminders to check my own intentions, to stop projecting and expressing my own fear and anger and to instead courageously transform my negative thinking into compassion and love, right here, right now, in my every day life.

Let me be the condition of peace, happiness, gratitude, love and service that I seek in my community and my country. If not me, who? If not now, when?

Let it begin with me.











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Zumba Dharma

11330015_10152922117146616_507874434507975438_nThere’s a new Zumba instructor on Thursdays and I’ve been noticing a pattern of arriving late to her class. She has brought new music, different choreography, and a whole new culture, including new folks I’ve never seen at the community center before.

As I sneaked into her first class of the new year this week, there were already 35 women grinding their hips to the beat and I had to find a spot away from my usual place near the door.

On the other side of the room I suddenly became aware of a new perspective. Beginner’s mind kicked-in and I could see my own resistance to this new situation. I decided to look at my own fear in that moment with a new-found curiosity. I found myself asking, “What would Kimo do?”

Kimo is the instructor I see the other five days of the week. She is a gifted teacher and choreographer: joyful, funny, real, demanding in a good way, and so good at dancing. Always able to go with the flow, I have seem her tie her shoes in the middle of a number without missing the beat; deftly step around a puddle from a leaky roof; overcome technology glitches with the stereo system, speakers, iPod, and microphone. She even taught in bare feet one day when, for the only time in her long career, she forgot her workout shoes. The show must go on and Kimo does, day-in, day-out with grace, humor and aplomb. (There are links at the bottom of the page to view Kimo’s dance artistry.)

But my favorite thing about Kimo is her way of “telling it like it is” in charmingly Japanese-accented English. I find myself using Kimo’s wisdom, not only to get me through the challenge of Zumba, but the challenges of being a human being.

Here’s a little of Kimo’s dharma applied to Zumba and life in general:

Show up and do your best

This is my first chance to focus on the positive. I’m in the room and that’s half the battle. It is far better than procrastinating, sitting at my desk wasting time,  or worse, not going and then complaining that I don’t like the new teacher. I owe it to myself to acknowledge the fact that I am here and to do the best I can.

Look at the instructor’s reflection in the mirror

Rather than being pulled off by those around me (distraction) or watching the instructor’s feet (tunnel-vision), if I concentrate on the teacher in the mirror, I see the whole picture. Everything I experience is a reflection of my mind. Watching Kimo or Kristine in the mirror, I can much better understand my own movement. This is instantly relaxing and centering, even though I must keep reminding myself to do it. Seeing the instructor smiling, I realize that I have the karma to experience such a beautiful sight, such grace, power and coordination. I smile back at the reflection.

Keep marching when you don’t know the steps

It’s not about being perfect, but moving to the music. The more I march in place, the easier it is to find my rhythm and step in time with the others. Again, a wave of relaxation comes over me as I stop trying to do anything other than feel the music and keep marching. Soon I am effortlessly catching onto the complex choreography and laughing to myself with every “misstep.” How often in life do we psyche ourselves out when, if we just keep going, our problems will naturally work themselves out?

“I have faith in your booty!”

Kimo actually said this one day and instantly had everyone laughing. She encourages us to play, have fun, laugh and not take ourselves so seriously, and yes, shake our booties! Having faith in my booty means to stay grounded in knowing that I don’t have to be perfect, but just move and allow my body to lead the way. A baby doesn’t worry how she looks during those wobbly first steps. She just wants to get from point A to point B. And for those of us who think it is silly to shake our booties in middle age and beyond, Kimo puts us in our place. As long as we are able, we should shake it, and have fun doing it!

Don’t forget to check yourself.

If you want to really learn the dance, watch yourself in the mirror to check if your moves match the choreography. Once you can do it while looking in the mirror, you will develop the muscle memory that allows you to dance rapturously oblivious to outside cues, just feeling the music and letting your body lead the way. Similarly, we can’t expect to learn how to live a virtuous and happy life unless we observe our own thinking and conduct, looking at ourselves first when there is a problem. Self-reflection and self-correction help us to develop the habits that produce a meaningful and happy life.

Keep coming back!

The last and most important of Kimo’s instructions: “Keep coming back!”  No repeat, no result. Progress, not perfection. There are many ways to say it, but the bottom line is that unless we do a little every moment, every hour, every day, week in, week out, we can’t get to the bigger goals. So just remember not to bully the small efforts you make every day. Congratulate yourself often for showing up, again and again. Your attitude will improve and you will develop a strong and positive new habit where there was once complaining and procrastination.

After reminding myself to act like a brand-new beginner and to heed Kimo’s masterful words, I know that I will now look forward to classes once again. I have broken through my negative attitude about the new Zumba instructor and I look forward to this coming Thursday – a new day, a new dance and a new dharma.

Kimo’s Facebook Page

Kimo’s Choreo YouTube Channel

Kimo’s Zumba Website






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What’s Death Got to Do with Love?

DSC00094What’s death got to do with love? Everything.

Before you accuse me of being morbid, stop and think about the symbolism here: we’ve just ended one year and jump-started a new one. This bardo between one year and another is the perfect time to contemplate which endings will spring forth with new life.

In contemplating my own year, with its various endings, I can’t help but think how they pale in comparison to those of my sister, who lost her only son last February. Despite her enormous grief, she says in one of her last Facebook posts of 2014:

“Goodbye 2014. It’s been the hardest year of my life but I’m still happy! I have so much to be thankful for this year and that’s what is most important! I have some amazing friends and family that I love with all my heart and can honestly say that without them I would have not survived! I’m learning new things and learning how to create a different way to live in a life that is different but great also! Happy new year to all and I love everyone that is part of my world!!!!”

Wise words from a woman who has learned firsthand that death is part of love.

Not every death is so literal. In Chapter Five of the classic volume about the deep feminine, Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes:

“A part of every woman and every man resists knowing that in all love relationships Death must have her share. We pretend we can love without our illusions about love dying, pretend we can go on without our superficial expectations dying, pretend we can progress and that our favorite flushes and rushes will never die. But in love, psychically, everything becomes picked apart, everything. The ego does not want it to be so. Yet it is how it is meant to be, and the person of a deep and wildish nature is undeniably drawn to the task.”

The best film I’ve seen on this subject matter is Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless,” released in 1961.  My husband and I watched the film for the first time a few nights ago and Pinkola Estés might have been summarizing the plot in the paragraph above. I was stunned by the similarities in theme. Breathless is as fresh and alive as the day it was released. I prefer the French title, “A Bout de Souffle,” which literally means “the end of breath.” The black and white movie explores the themes of letting go of our illusions of love and romance and does it in alternating thrilling, poignant and funny moments.

It doesn’t take much deep thinking to see that our culture has an unnatural insistence on permanence. Whether we are fixated on maintaining unwrinkled faces and tight buns well beyond middle age or we have an unrealistic expectation that the Dow will rise indefinitely, these will never be the natural state of affairs.

In all things, even in love, impermanence rules. Knowing this is the key to being present, again and again, to our lives and to our relationships.

What are you willing to let die so that love may flourish?


Forgiveness heals


Carrie Ure

I got hit hard with the flu a few weeks ago. It came on suddenly after a series of intense emotional experiences which included landing a nine to five job after nearly a year of underemployment, making a deeper commitment with my lover, hosting my beloved spiritual teacher in my home, and embarking on a year-long Fate and Destiny project with my cherished Sacred Contracts Crew. Perhaps at some point the system must shut down to integrate so many monumental events.

During the past few weeks as these various events coincided, I have  attempted to read Caroline Myss’ new book Defy Gravity. I say “attempted to read” because I have literally been arrested at the beginning of the second chapter. Illustrating the power of this book and these ideas, I been unable to move beyond the first major truth. It’s about forgiveness.

Myss makes the point that all healing begins with letting go of the need to know why things happen as they do. And that is forgiveness in its essence. It’s common in the new age to throw the term forgiveness around quite a bit, yet the concept begs a deeper look. I believe Myss gets it and I have examples in my own life as evidence.

I remember the precise moment her teachings reached me. In my early 30’s I had been struggling with the “why me” syndrome. Here I was, talented, beautiful, healthy, educated, even lucky,  but I couldn’t seem to get my life together. Week after week I moaned and complained to my therapist about what an awful upbringing I’d had. Nobody loved me enough, nobody cared for me when I was a child, blah, blah, blah. I spent a fortune on one therapist, then another and finally a third, a Jungian dance therapist, very well known. Although she had come highly recommended, she refused to take me at first. Perhaps she’d been warned about my propensity to whine. I badgered her until she finally relented.

About nine months into our sessions I walked into her office, a curious, haunted, place. There on a shelf near the door was a huge book with the heavy title, “The Victim in Holocaust Germany.” I will never know whether she placed the book in my path or whether it was simply one of the major synchronicities of my life. Although I did not even open its cover, I may as well have been hit over the head with it. In that moment I saw perfectly clearly that my own attitudes of entitlement and victimhood were keeping me stuck. My pattern of blaming my alcoholic parents and chaotic upbringing for my problems kept me searching for the answers to my miserable existence.

My deeper path in my spiritual life began that day, a long quest to discover how I could forgive my family and myself and set us all free. I left therapy shortly thereafter and never returned.

They say that the teacher always arrives when the student is ready. I discovered Myss’ wonderful first book, “Why people don’t heal and how they can,” shortly after leaving therapy.  In the book she explains that it is impossible to heal while one identifies as ill. This basic premise has remained consistent in all of Myss’ writing and it comes to full fruition in her latest book.

To stop identifying myself as the victim of bad relationships and events has changed my life profoundly. And to stop identifying myself as angry and hurt has healed my relationships.

In 1997 in the midst of continuing spiritual work, I picked up “Anatomy of the Spirit.” Using the exercises in the book I began working on forgiving others, including members of my family. I had been carrying one particular regret, a relationship that ended 10 years before, in another part of the country. At that time, I had befriended two women, Evelyn and Jenny. The three of us spent lots of time together, and during the summer Evelyn and I both got married within a month of one another. Jenny attended both and played a crucial role in my wedding, signing the marriage contract as a witness. Shortly afterward during a reunion of the three of us in Evelyn’s newlywed apartment, there was a terrible misunderstanding that left me angry at Jenny. Evelyn and I both severed contact with her.

I later moved to a new city, started a new life and a family, all the while remaining friends with Evelyn. Yet I regretted that I had cut off our friend Jenny. With my new found awareness about victimhood I realized that I had hurt myself and her over a perceived offense and now I wanted to know in my heart that I could return to a place of purity and love. I didn’t even know how to do it, and I figured I would never see her again. I was looking for peace in my own heart, a return to the innocent state before the regretted incident. I began to see my anger and resentment as a choice, and I was ready to choose peace.

I decided to journal about it. It was a lovely fall day and we went downtown on a family outing. My husband dropped me off at a pub near the art museum and left me to my journaling while he took our toddler to the park to play for an hour. I poured my heart into the journal, forgiving myself for cutting Jenny out of my life 10 years before. I recognized the choices I had made, the resentments I had held and I let go of trying to understand the situation or justify my part in it. I wrote until I felt complete and, at last, peaceful about the situation. My husband and son soon returned and we crossed the park to the art museum.

We entered the featured exhibit in the hushed building. My toddler, unable to keep his voice quiet, cried out, disturbing a group of art patrons. Distracted by our noise, a woman in a group of three turned to look at us and my jaw dropped in amazement. It was Jenny, the very friend I had been writing about. She approached me in complete shock. We embraced and I learned that she had been living in my city for several years. We chatted for a few minutes and parted ways, but we ran into her and her friends again twice that very day. I guess Spirit knows my willful character and orchestrated a message I would never forget! Not only that, the following month Jenny showed up in the same yoga class that I attended and we remained there together for the next several years. Although we never picked up our close friendship, we healed enough to be together every week.

Forgiveness has been my constant companion since that time. It is the most powerful force I know. What I now understand is that I have only to sincerely intend it and the task is complete. Anyone and anything, no matter how small or how large, how trivial or important, can be forgiven. The smallest resentments, when forgiven can yield the most leverage.

As I lie on my sick bed, Facebook and my cats for company, I’m weak and tired but I have the luxury of time. Someone comments on my post, an ex-boyfriend I haven’t seen in a while and I feel familiar unresolved resentments welling up. I’m not even aware that I’ve been carrying them around, but I drift in and out of sleep, praying to be released from my negative thoughts about how we parted. My prayer is simply this: may I be willing to let go of any anger I bear toward Richard. May I choose to let go of anger.

Richard calls the next evening for the first time in many months. He hears I’ve been sick. We converse like old friends. I hear caring in his words, I express love in my voice. Would I like him to bring homemade soup, he asks? Thanks so much for the kind offer, I say, but I believe I’ve got all the remedies I need.


Humility and six other virtues to grow a new career

Fall Heart by Carrie Ure

Fall Heart by Carrie Ure

It’s time to revise the old adage, “The teacher appears when the student is ready,” to include the concept of willingness. As a ready student I feel lucky to have attracted wonderful teachers and educational opportunities all my life. Yet it is when I am both ready and willing to make change that the clearest teachings arrive.

Never has this been more true than with my current mentor, teacher and coach, Writer Mama, Christina Katz. I found her in 2008 shortly after saying the words “I want to be a writer” out loud for the first time. Within weeks I heard through the writer’s grapevine about Christina’s books, classes and websites.

A year later, two Writer Mama courses under my belt, a few humble publications and a good start made at blogging, an unexpected exercise gives me pause to reflect on what it will take to make it in my chosen career.

On a lark I joined The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway, an annual month long virtual coffee klatsch for professional and wannabe writer mamas and an occasional intrepid guy. Fighting my own demons of distractibility, boredom and lack of follow-through, I vowed to post every day throughout the month long contest. Only two-thirds of the way to my goal, I could never have predicted how much I would learn in the process.

The questions posed each day catalyze deep thoughts about what motivates me, inspires me and keeps me going against pretty high odds. Paired way down to the basics, my musings identify seven basic virtues that might apply to any new career. To make it as a freelance writer I believe I will need humility, self-love, diligence, trustworthiness, stamina, faith and compassion.

I’ll start with humility, because right out of the gate, there is no greater daily lesson for me. In the process of discovering which area of expertise qualifies me as one of those individuals getting paid for what they say and how they say it, I have had to delve deeply into the question of what I don’t know.  Like the sculptor removing large chunks of marble, I’ve had to let go of whole areas of human knowledge that I will never have the time or inclination to explore. I am left with a richly veined core of ideas just waiting for my unique mark.

Humility grounds me rather than debases me and keeps my feet on the floor, my butt in the chair. Humility requires me to make an honest living and wills me to do what I can and let the rest go. Humility trains my head to serve my heart. Humility lets me sleep at night and gives me permission to make mistakes.

I revel each day in learning something new, thanks to humility. With my new found focus, I wake up energized by concrete possibilities rather than defeated and overwhelmed by endless ethereal potentialities. By letting go of what I don’t know, I am free to delve into truly understanding my chosen subject matter.

Reinventing myself in mid-age has indeed been a humbling project. But so has parenting a teenager, going through divorce and dealing with gray hair and corrective lenses. The difference today, thanks to my writing, is a greater willingness to take each day as it comes and do the next actionable step. The student is willing and ready!


Ask a modern mystic: cosmic job hunting skills

Picture 3Looking for work during a recession can be a daunting and exhausting endeavor. Some days I feel defeated before I even start, especially when my favorite morning radio program spews dismal economic statistics. Although such news reports have little relevance to my geographical location, lifestyle, or unique individual skills and experience, I can’t help being swayed by the national media’s insistence that I am only a dot on the bell curve.

How does the job-hunting Mystic curtail the sinking feeling that she is just another victim of an economy gone bad? She pounds the pavement of her inner path before ever venturing outside the house.

I counter the negative psychic effects of the collective’s fixation on bad news by spending time on self-inventory and self-care: lots of rest; a conscious cultivation of positive thoughts such as gratitude, faith and generosity; regular healthy meals; and plenty of down-time to dream and support my own inner vision.

Indeed, the following dream I had the other morning yielded an important clue about maintaining a sane and enjoyable job hunt even during hard times:

I am with my mother and my brother when there is a knock at the door. I open the door to find three masked children outside. They each throw a dime into my house and when I stoop to pick them up off the floor, I also find another coin, a heart-shaped quarter.

My dear friend and Tarot master, Hector Cerbon, intreprets my dream as a spontaneous nocturnal Tarot reading. The dimes represent the three coins, disks or pentacles of the traditional European decks. The Three of Pentacles reminds us that every endeavor, including the successful job hunt, involves community. It is the card of Teamwork.

Just as the two Lovers come together in creative union to produce the third, their child, when we initiate any new endeavor we must acknowledge that it takes others to help us manifest our vision. The card represents the practical skills needed to plan and execute a vision. Working with others is the beginning, not the end of your job search.

That’s why Tip #3 from the Mystic Job Hunter is rally your team.

We all have a team or crew, those individuals who are there for us, whether as confidants and supporters, or because they have practical know-how to share. Some of us have large teams and others small. Some of us rely on the professional perspectives of our team members while others just need a little cheering-on. What do you most need that you cannot provide for yourself?

In addition to being a Mystic and a job hunter, I have long been a Networker. In my years networking I have assembled what my friend, Portland artist Jennifer Doheny, calls “My Team.”

Last night I visited Jennifer’s latest art opening at the Milepost 5’s huge 10-day event, “Manor of Art.” As I wait patiently for my turn to shake her hand and congratulate her on her latest work, I salivate over her series of gorgeous paper “batiks,” back-lit and glowing vibrant greens and indigos. She sees me in the crowd and grabs my arm.

“Carrie, I’d like you to meet Sarah, my graphic designer. Sarah, this is Carrie, another member of my team.”

There is instant recognition and connection, for although we have never met, Sarah and I know of one another’s work as part of the team that supports our artist friend. Of course we had each already heard of the other’s contributions.

Jennifer is not only an early adopter of the team concept–an idea that will become increasingly important as we reevaluate work and career in the new economy–she thoroughly embodies the principle. Her blog, entitled “The World is on Your Side,” states her message loud and clear. Jennifer has long made a living as an artist because she understands her role in the community. She relies on others  to help her plan and execute her mission to provide a positive and uplifting message through her art.

Another teamwork example comes to mind. During the second installment of a year-long course in which I’m enrolled, renowned teacher Caroline Myss discusses the concept of the Crew. At the beginning of the workshop she announces that hard times being upon us, we have to realize we’re all in the same boat navigating the same waters.

We’ve got to row with our crew if we hope to make it, she explains to a ballroom packed with spiritual seekers. The rest of the weekend entails finding a crew and processing some high level spiritual data together.

My crew and I are still together, months later. We navigate four different time zones to participate in bi-monthly conference calls. We also use more informal methods to “check-in” and support one another in our spiritual growth. Not surprisingly, four out of six of us are dealing with the issue of work and career.

Another of my teams is my “family.” My sweetheart, also in the midst of a career change, tells me how much he loves me on a regular basis, not because I’m insecure, but because I have told him that I particularly enjoy positive verbal affirmations. He is also there when I need a hug and he listens without comment when I get discouraged and just need to vent.

Likewise, I pick up the phone when he calls during the day because I know that he likes to share a triumph or disappointment. I edit his cover letters and help him relax when his focused activity turns tense. Our children support us both by helping us laugh, play and enjoy the process!  They remind us that family time is one of the most relaxing and nurturing ways to unwind after a day on the job search.

Finally, don’t underestimate the creative ways in which your team can help out. I recently met with my financial advisor, a savvy business woman who spent the entire hour not evaluating my IRA mutual funds, but brainstorming ideas for getting my freelance career off the ground. A true crew member will support you in the way you need to be met, rather than with a pat one-answer-fits-all approach.

While I am lucky enough to count healers, teachers, financial wizards, neighbors, computer specialists, marketing and sales experts and artists among my crew members, any one of them can be counted on to provide the extra service of acknowledging and affirming my unique contribution to the greater community.

As a Mystic job hunter, I am learning important skills that aren’t taught by career coachs and the popular job market press. I’m learning to assemble a team of experts who know me, believe in me and support me in the precise ways I need to be loved. I’m learning that one of the first practical steps toward getting the job I want is to ask others for help and support from a place of self-awareness and mutual respect.

And building your personal team is good practice for team-building at work. Try it before you get hired!


Mystic job hunting: yes is the new no

Sky's the limit, photo by Carrie Ure

Sky's the limit, photo by Carrie Ure

On Monday morning I hit the ground running. DAY ONE of serious job hunting. I make a short list of networking calls, read Internet articles about how to get a job in the current economy and research how to be a master job-hunter on craigslist, all before 9:00 AM.  I polish my resume and write a punchy tagline for my cover letter: “Can-do attitude meets your communications and customer relations needs.”

I am reacting to a pep talk from a friend the morning before. He had told me that it was time to get a job, think practically, put my writing career on hold while I focus on making an income from a “high probability source.”

“You have simply taken a wrong tun on the path and it’s time to retrace your steps to find a more practical direction,” he quipped.

“You mean Starbucks?” I ‘d sobbed, reaching for a box of tissues.

“Yes, if you must. It’s time for the Mystic to experience a reverse transformation.”

The next morning I sit with my iPhone and a cup of tea, to start virtually pounding the pavement. I grab for the low-hanging fruit: capable, successful people I have worked with in the past, people with whom I have stayed in touch, people who like me and who’ve been supportive.

The first person flat-out tells me that she can’t help me because she is busy making a living herself and the rest of the time is devoted to her spiritual practice. Okay.

The second tells me that Starbucks is really not that bad and that hard times demand drastic action. NO!!!!

The third, a friend of 15 years, has worked with me in two different industries.  A well respected and highly motivated entrepreneur and normally ebullient person, he launches into a whine about how our former employer professionally slighted him several years before. YIKES!

Not one of these informational networking calls is the slightest bit helpful.

Discouraged, I call my dear friend Holly, psychologist, astrologer and wise woman extraordinaire. She reminds me that no plan without a good intention is worth pursuing. Acknowledging that times on the material plane are tough, without faith and self-love, nothing is possible, she says. I think about my path. Is there anything to do but keep trudging forward with dogged determination and steely strength?

Then I remember Yes Man.

The 2008 film, directed by Peyton Reed, tells the story of Carl, played by Jim Carrey. He’s a depressed loser. Divorced and in a dead-end job, he spends his time alone in his apartment, shunning the daylight and the good intentions of his best friend. When he accidentally runs into an old acquaintance and is dragged to a New Age spiritual revival meeting, Carl agrees to a magical contract to say yes to everyting. Hilarious situations then ensue involving homeless people in his car, dates with mysterious women in berkas and well, you’ll have to see it. The film ends with a wiser and more compassionate Carl transported to the life of his dreams.

Impressed by Holly’s unshakable faith in a new future and my intuitive compass pointing to Yes Man, I decide to forgive the movers and shakers I know who are shaking in their boots right now. I relax and stop resisting my experience. I decide to just say yes to the rest of the day.

The phone rings immediately. My ex-husband. Yes. Could I interrupt my job-hunting to do an errand for our son that we’d been putting off? Yes. He picks me up five minutes later and while we wait in line at the bank, Hal tells me that he googled my name and found my blog. His wife was so enthralled reading it that they were late for an appointment. Wow!

“We didn’t realize how well you write,” he says. “We’re sure that you’re going to do well in your new career.” Yes.

I get home just as another friend calls. She had suggested a few weeks before that we prune an unruly pine on my back patio. Was today (prime job hunting time) a good time? Yes! Is it okay if she has a sandwich first? Yes! (You diehard TO DO list job hunters out there, stick with me!)

A half hour passes, just long enough to find me preoccupied about craigslist and all the job hunting opportunities missed while I field a call from my sweetheart, who also happens to be looking for work. Could I spare a few hours from my computer to meet some of his friends at an outdoor concert this evening? Yes!

An hour later, Geri hands me the chain saw and hops down from the tree. I can’t believe how many branches have been removed, what a chore it will be to haul them away and how far off my path I have wandered today. Not only that, it’s almost time to shower and get ready for my evening out.

“Should we take off that one big limb?” Geri interrupts my self-obssessed reverie. Yes!

She scrambles up the fence and takes one last whack. I step back to take in the view and there from my living room and patio, is a beautiful view spread before me, a park-like setting with nothing but huge trees. And in the center, a gorgeous red Japanese Maple sits beside an illuminated path leading up a hill. I had never noticed the path until now. Yes!

Suddenly I know that I am on the right track and that I should keep my faith in myself and keep moving forward.

Brian and I arrive a few hours later at a beautiful sunny park. Yes! Cha cha music blasts, children scamper on the lawn amidst overflowing picnic baskets. Would I like some pink wine? Yes!  I sit among new friends spread out on blankets and survey the scene. Yes!

Within a few hours I have met three new friends, exchanged contact information and one of them gives me an idea for marketing my writing to a new audience, in an industry that is thriving despite the economic downtown. She even offers to take the time to give me research leads and to meet me to discuss my options. I promise to follow up the next day. Yes!

I get home to find my first ever paycheck for my writing. Yes!

Job hunting? Stay true to your path and just say YES! Let the universe take care of the pavement-pounding.


The Apollo Archetype

self portrait by Asher Daniel

self portrait by Asher Daniel

Archetypally speaking,  if we’re going to move from the Fossil-fuel Age to the Solar Age, we’re going to need a mascot, and the Greek god Apollo is the likely choice.

My recent fixation with Apollo started several months ago when I took the diagnostic self-test in Peter Lemesurier’s fine book, “The Gods Within.”  Who knew that I was a prissy, controlling, self-centered, overly rational and eternally boyish adolescent trapped in the body of a middle-aged woman? The truth is that I am not alone.  No matter one’s gender or station in life, our western culture prizes staying in our heads. Orderliness, youthfulness, and the fascination with science and technology rule the day.

I sat with a client the other day to use her Sacred Contracts chart to access higher wisdom about a thorny life issue.  As we settled in, she opened her spiral-bound pad to a drawing that stunned me because the day before I had made the same sketch. In her version, a circle filled with third-eyes radiated six paths and six negative spaces, twelve rays in all. Each ray pointed to an idea or course of action, like a solar-powered TO DO list. We had both taken our personal mundane issues and applied symbolic sight using the image of the sun.

I saw the Sacred Contracts sun-dial illuminating our way, and I felt connected to the wisdom of the ages. After all, mystics have always sought their answers in the larger perspective, and in doing so have “discovered” every human science from astrology and astronomy to physics and meta-physics. Apollo shows us that our discoveries in the world are fueled by the search for the self.

Just as a magnifying glass can concentrate the vast solar rays to burn a pin-hole into a blade of grass, we can use the powerful Apollo Archetype to harness overwhelming universal themes and bring them to bear on our own earthly issues.

For me, it’s easy to conjure the Apollo Archetype because I live with an adolescent boy. My son (pun intended), stands right on the precipice of puberty. He is poised at the perfection of childhood energy, innocence, purity, and light-hearted joy. Not afraid to play, he is in love with discovering his own mind;  he is giddy with appreciation for technology; and he is innocently enthralled by competitive team sports. He has left sloppiness behind and arrived at gracefulness.  At the end of his 12th year, not yet sullied by the messy chaos of falling in love or the trauma of making life-altering decisions, Asher is the very embodiment of the Greek god Apollo.

Everyday I am inspired by Asher’s energy and enthusiasm. I am amazed by his ability to stay in the batter’s box, feet planted, a fast-ball racing toward him at 60 mph. He knows going up that even the best batter has only a 30 percent chance at hitting the ball, and a much slimmer chance of making it to first base. Yet he stands in the box and faces doubt, fear and distraction. I challenge myself to do that same dance at my desk each day.

It is no wonder that the first step in healing and integrating Apollo energy is to bring everything into the light of day, where shadows lose their power. Thus, cities pass “sunshine laws” to expose lawmakers’ actions and redress corrupt back room deal-making.  Daily, all over the world, hidden banking practices come to light during these trying economic times. There is a new level of transparency of human endeavor as scientists discover the most detailed mechanisms of the mind and body. Spiritual bookstore shelves burst with modern stories of enlightenment, examples of the harnessing of Power (the sun simply radiates energy), rather than the exploitation of Force (fossil fuels must be extracted by mechanical means).

As Lemesurier points out about Apollo Therapy, “We need to let his heavenly light back in to dispel our self-imposed darkness. And not only on the psychological level,  but on the bodily level too.”

Clearly, it is time to lighten up, to see ourselves in a new light, and to shine our lights. I would encourage anyone in the grips of depression, despair or hopelessness over personal or global issues to study Apollo and become intimate with his true nature. Consider being a spiritual solar-panel. Harness the power of symbolic solar sight to generate and radiate your own individual contribution to the world.

Like it or not, we must expose ourselves to illumination while integrating the deep shadows cast by this important archetype if we are to redeem ourselves and our world in the Solar Age.

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Turn magical thinking into symbolic sight

My magical friend Clare

My magical friend Clare

Is there somebody in your life or in your own head who constantly tells you to be realistic?

“Get real! Don’t be such a dreamer!” Or how about my father’s favorite saying during my childhood: “Get off your high horse!”

That was music to the ears of my Magical Child. Whenever I got the message that I was unrealistic in my expectations, too idealistic or just weirdly creative, I took my dreams inside and spun fantastic scenarios of the life I would lead when I became an adult, the sovereign of my own material realm. I’m grateful that my childhood magical thinking generated friendly companionship when I was lonely, spiritual guidance when I was lost and a creative life plan that I am just now beginning to understand and implement. To put it another way, no matter what went on during my upbringing, I never stopped meditating on my own happiness.

Yet we all eventually outgrow adaptive or self-soothing childhood day dreams. We arrive one day at a decision point. Do I take this job or that one? Do I stay home with my child or go to work? Do I marry or stay single? Many of us decide, then and there, to throw away the dreams, do the right thing, GET REALISTIC!

Now the good news. After years of laboratory testing, I have reached my findings on how to achieve lasting happiness. My studies show that becoming more realistic is not the way to go.

Please don’t quit your day job or stop flossing your teeth regularly. But neither should you throw out the inner dreamer just because the reality-Nazi in your head screams more loudly.

I recommend transforming your childhood magical thinking into adult symbolic thinking. There are several advantages to this strategy.

First, your inner child is more in touch with what really makes you happy. She is also gentle, innocent and motivated by love. She is neither expecting to get hurt nor bent on hurting others. Imagine a world — I often do — where EVERYONE is doing what makes them happy. I dare say that is a shang-ri-la worth visualizing!

When we access symbolic thinking we shift into the realm of potential. We open new possibilities for ourselves and we inspire others with our newfound vision. Often, a paradigm shift, alone, is enough to resolve our issues.

Take my mole “problem,” which has generated a fair amount of discussion on Facebook. Some have expressed squeamishness. Others have inquired about the causes of the problem and compared my situation to the state of their own lawn. (The funny part is that I don’t even have a yard.) Still others want to know what can be done about them, you know, the moles. All these approaches, quite normal and rational, belong in the realm of reality.

Funny that, aside from the question of how to properly dispose of a dead rodent, I bypassed reality and ran straight for the symbolic. My Magical Child loves the creepy factor of stepping on dead rodents in the middle of the night. That always gets a squeal and a giggle. She laughs at the irony that the former owner of the house is a Ms. Moles. She’s enthralled by the fact that there have been five moles in five straight days. She is inquisitive; who knew that moles came in so many different sizes, shapes, and nose lengths? And she breath-takingly awaits future mole sightings, especially in the bedroom.

My grown up magical child, the one who provides my faculty of symbolic insight, knows that I have been working with facing my fears: resistance to making a living for myself (bringing home tasty rodents for my family); fears of digging down deep to get the bottom of my current life challenges; procrastinating job “hunting” and researching (digging into) my field. And, wouldn’t you know it, there is my life-long phobia of rodents. HAH! Symbolic sight helps me laugh at myself. It’s pretty funny to find myself projecting my fear of earning a living onto my nine pound brown tabby!

A friend replied after reading my last post, “I wish I had your positive attitude.” Well, I attribute my attitude simply to the stubborn habit, born long ago, of looking for the symbolic meaning first.

Sigh. I still have to pick up the dead mole at the foot of the bed, but I’m so grateful for the new insight dragged in with it.


Mole medicine

Photo 75For the third morning in a row, my cat Havana woke me up today at precisely 4:45 a.m. And for the third time I stumbled out of bed right onto a dead mole. Three days, three moles. And they’re getting bigger.

She’s trying to tell me something.

Later I sat at the table sipping a cup of tea. The morning sunlight glinted on the dead mole which Havana had moved from the bedroom to the kitchen so that I could get a better look at it. As I sat ruminating about the many mole funerals I have conducted since moving here a year ago, I realized that I had indeed purchased the house from a person with the last name “Moles.”

Now I was really paying attention.

Mole medicine. That’s how the Native Americans phrase it when an animal totem appears in one’s life. Apparently I am a slow learner, my cat is a patient spiritual guide, and mole has many lessons to teach me.

Symbolically, I’m being asked to ground myself. I have written recently about landing the plane, peeling potatoes, and falling. All the signals in my world now conspire to show me the quiet humility in returning to my roots and family. I have been spending more time alone, in my home, taking care of simple necessities.

Mole teaches us to pay attention to sense perceptions, to trust the wisdom of the body, to balance thinking with feeling and to touch others. As I retreat from my head to sit more in my body, I notice that even my teen-age son wants to hug and snuggle more.

Mole likes to dig beneath the surface of things. His natural predator the cat, a nocturnal creature, also feels comfortable in the dark. How much of our lives have we spent afraid of the dark, the subconscious, our own hidden thoughts? I, too, have begun to explore the hidden aspects of myself with the clear goal of getting to the bottom of things.

Mole is blind, yet he digs for treasure nonetheless. For that reason mole teaches us to follow our intuition, feel our way and work steadily toward our goals.

Finally, mole is also the perfect totem for me now as I search for a job. Perhaps once a steady paycheck arrives, Havana will no longer feel the need to provide for the family.

We’ll see.

A mole

Digging in a hole

Digging up my soul now

Going down, excavation

Higher now

In the sky

You make me feel like I can fly

So high


U2, “Elevation”