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Year of the Earth Dog – Compassion or Viciousness, What Will We Choose?

January 30, 2018

The Year of the Male Earth Dog is almost upon us! Although I’m currently on a writing sabbatical, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return here and continue my tradition of a lunar new years symbol reading, especially when I learned it was a dog year. Throughout my own life my dogs have been a constant source of joy, compassion, lessons, and poignancy. I can’t imagine life without them, and so it feels especially like a gift to be writing this post.

This year the Chinese and Tibetan New Years’ (Losar) celebrations culminate on February 16th with the new moon, but preparations begin with the full moon on January 31st. Rituals honoring ancestors, cleansing of homes, donations to monasteries, and spiritual retreats are all part of the two week lead-up to the transit from one year to the next. Unlike in Western astrology, the element and animal assignments for each year in Chinese and Tibetan astrology are not based on the earth’s position relative to constellations. Instead they are part of a recurring cycle composed of the possible combinations between the 12 astrology animals, 5 elements, and male/female (or yang/yin) energies. In this sense these systems are more about telling you which energies are ‘up’ and which are not, each lunar year. This post is not a formal interpretation or prediction based on these systems (although I do incorporate some of the traditional readings) but instead an intuitive riff on what these energies are and what you may wish to focus on, using the symbol of the dog as a starting point.

One of the more well-known Italian renaissance paintings of the animals entering Noah’s ark (including dogs!) by Jacopo Bassano, 1570

As I started t0 research the symbology of dogs, my first discovery was that there really is no separating the history of dogs from the history of humans. Our species’ development have been entwined. Archeological digs have found dogs buried besides humans from as far back as 36,000 years ago, during the first hunter-gatherer period. Dogs were community protectors, and likely provided a warning system for early humans against their many predators. Dogs may also have been used in hunting. Whatever the reasons, dogs were with us from very early on, as our helpmates, guardians, and companions.

This ancient relationship is reflected in one of the stories circulated in many cultures about the role of dogs on Noah’s ark. In this tale, the two dogs on board (often said to be Afghans) patrolled the ark continuously, alerting Noah of sick animals, conflicts, or any other issues. One day they discovered a hole in the ark through which water was beginning to pour. One dog ran for Noah while the other plugged the hole with his nose, thus saving the ark and all aboard.

This story encapsulates all the best quality of dogs – their intelligence, protectiveness, compassion, loyalty, resourcefulness and sense of duty. In its best expression, these are all traits associated with the dog in the Chinese/Tibetan system too, and thus these are the positive energies that are ‘up’ this year. Ask yourself how you can bring these forth within yourself. Duty is not always a fun word, and thus not one most of us really like to think about, but this year it is key. Who or what are you responsible to besides yourself? Who or what do you need to protect? What is your duty? This is a year to prioritize your goals with these questions uppermost in your mind.

The jackal-headed Anubis weighing the feather of Ma’at in the Egyptian Book of the Dead

The Ancient Egyptians are known more for their reverence for cats than dogs – particularly in the form of Bastet – but the canine (jackal)-headed Anubis is very prominent as well. His function as the ‘weigher of hearts’ in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (or Egyptian Book of Coming Forth by Day) reflects another quality of dogs recognized across cultures and times – their deep intuition and sensitivity to the truth of human character. Stories abound of dogs who sensed the true malevolent intentions of someone when their owners did not (as expressed in the popular meme ‘I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.’) Anubis weighs the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at – the feather of truth and enlightenment – to assess whether the heart-soul should ascend to heaven or descend to hell. Anubis is a moral compass and standard keeper.

Are you in touch with your own inner compass, your guide to what is right and what is wrong? Can you connect with your deeper wisdom and cut through the noise and ideology of our world in order to sense directly when something is in alignment with truth and when it is not? Do you try to live from this place of instinctual truth within yourself? Turning inward to find this compass, and attempting to live by it, are a big theme this year- and likely will be tested.

Ancient Greek goddess Artemis, protector of wildlife, childbirth, and young girls, with one of her faithful hunting dogs.

Greek goddess Artemis is often shown with her hunting dogs, who are both her companions and obedient helpers. Dogs are grounded, practical creatures. Although they appear throughout mythology, they aren’t dragons or unicorns – they have their feet on the ground and live amongst us mortals. Like Artemis’ dogs, they often epitomize discipline and service. Dog years are considered good times for following through on existing goals. These aren’t necessarily visionary times. Historically dog years can be times of revolution but usually this occurs when the change has been building for awhile. So what have you already started that you need to complete? What do you need to bring discipline and service to – within the world or within your own life? Keep your feet on the ground and apply yourself – this is what is rewarded this year.

The Seven Sleepers and their dog, as shown in this illustrated Falnoma (Book of Omens) from 16th Century Iran

The Seven Sleepers is a tale found in both Christian and Islamic texts from the medieval and renaissance periods. Seven youth who are being persecuted for their beliefs during early Christianity escape to a cave and seal themselves in to hide. They sleep for hundreds of years, awakening once the period of persecution has passed and they can safely and openly live according to their beliefs. A faithful protector dog is key to the story, standing guard outside the cave throughout the centuries.

This story represents the protection and keeping of what is sacred, even in the face of tremendous opposition. The dog is the guardian of those holding truths that must be kept secret for a time, but never die out. What is sacred to you? What is at risk of dying out in today’s world? What is being persecuted that you must stand against? Or more personally, what flame inside of you must be kept alive at all costs, or your life is not worth living? These are also guiding questions for this year. Protect what matters most.

Ferocious, three-headed Cerebrus, from a Greek vase, 560 BC

Of course there is another arcehtype of the guard dog, in reality and mythology – the vicious one. Perhaps the epitome of this is the Greek Cerebrus, or ‘hound of Hades’, who guards the gates of hell. A fearsome, ravenous three-headed beast, Cerebrus flatters and fawns over souls entering, but viciously attacks any attempting to leave. His job is to keep souls in hell. Symbolically, this is what he represents – the forces in us that keep us bound.

Within the Chinese and Tibetan systems, dogs are considered earth animals, linked to the element earth. With this year also being an earth element year, it is considered ‘double earth’. On top of this, it is a yang or masculine year. All together this represents an imbalance that can be problematic, the biggest risk being stubbornness, intractability, and rigidity. These are our biggest binding forces right now. Continued patterns of segregating by ideology, of seeking out media and viewpoints that only reflect what we already believe, of digging in to what we already ‘know’ and shutting out any other perspective, are the biggest dangers for us all. These are the shadow side of the energies arising. Danger lies not simply in any one particular ideology but in how we attach to it, and how we respond to those who disagree. Danger lies in thinking that only the ‘other side’ is being rigid and closed, and not ourselves.

So can you resist this tendency to solidify and hunker down? Can you stay open and inquisitive? Can you seek interaction with those whom you know believe differently than you or whom you even find threatening? Can you break through your own self-imposed inner binds, whatever form they take? Can you avoid objectifying and villainizing the ‘other’?

Dogs don’t fight for sport unless trained and bred to do so by us.

If we give in to the darker aspects of this energy rising, the price is clear – conflict and violence. This can quickly spiral out of control. Even conflicts that start in defense of noble values and ideology can take on a life of their own, turning vicious and spiteful, and no longer connected to any moral goal.

Dogs in nature will fight for territory, food, or status but they don’t fight for sport. Humans have trained and bred them for that, reflections of our own darkest depravity. Viciousness for entertainment is not natural to dogs. Is it natural to us? What causes it? It’s all too easy to justify aggression in the name of protecting ourselves and our tribe, in defense of territory or ideology, but when does it stop? Do the ends ever really justify the means?

These are the question we need to ponder and face right now, on a personal and social level.

The actual Hachiko, who inspired the famous Tokyo statue

But let’s get back to the lighter side of dog nature, and what it may have to show us. Above is the actual Hachiko, he of the famous statue in Toyko. Hachiko used to meet his owner at the train station at the end of every workday. Is there anything better than a dog greeting – tail wagging, always happy to see you, whatever mood you may be in? Like most dogs Hachiko offered this every day to his owner, until one tragic day when his owner didn’t return. He had died suddenly at work of a cerebral hemorrhage. Hachiko never gave up, returning day after day to the train station at the same time for the rest of his own life, in the hopes his owner would return.

There are many ways to read this story. Certainly it is a testament to the loyalty of dogs, and to their steadfastness. There are many stories of dogs who traveled hundreds of miles to return to their owners after having become lost. But for me the beauty of this story is also in its tragedy, the reminder of the unpredictability and transience of life. We cannot control or predict everything that will occur. However, we can choose to meet whatever arises with love and steadfastness.

Usually things are the other way around – our dogs pass first. As writer Agnes Sligh Turnbull put it, “Dogs’ lives are too short – their only fault really.” The shortness of dogs’ lives relative to our own is a constant lesson in the transience of life, and a constant reminder to live it fully now. A reminder too that love is what matters most; and when we brave love in spite of fear – with a new puppy or dog adoption after a beloved dog dies – they remind us anew that love is always worth the risk.

So do you live with this mind? Are you holding back anything out of fear? Do you live with the precious knowledge that nothing lasts forever? What are you waiting for?

From a British post card from soon after WWI – the first guide dogs were for British soldiers returning from the war blinded by gas attacks.

As I explored the energies of this year, and the relationship of dogs to humans, at one point I was overcome by gratitude for all they have given, and do give, us humans. I read story after story of dogs rescuing humans, warning humans, helping humans – often to their own detriment (if you are looking to spend a few tear-filled hours lost on the internet, just google any of these topics!) I learned that guide dogs were first widely introduced after WWI, because so many soldiers returned from the war blinded by gas attacks. Guide and caretaker dogs are one of the most beautiful examples of canine selflessness. These dogs go far beyond the training they receive, bonding so deeply to their owners they can often sense even slight fluctuations in their ‘person’s’ biological functions, alert to any potential health dangers.

Selflessness is something we have a complicated relationship to in the West. We are very focused on self-definition and individual accomplishment, and are wary of martyrdom. Certainly self-sacrifice can be unhealthy, especially if it’s rooted in imbalanced power structures, or feelings of unworthiness. But true selflessness is not this. True selflessness is based in compassion for others, and the impulse to act on someone else’s behalf besides our own. It is a reaching outward of our heart. Do you have space for this in your life? Can you reach outside yourself? Can you act outside of self interest? (As a start, consider making a donation to your local animal shelter or to a non-profit that trains guide or caretaker dogs, in honor of the year of the dog.)

The presence of dogs has been shown to have medicinal effects on the ailing, stressed, or injured

To act in this way requires really being present with someone outside of yourself. This is another area in which dogs have a lot to teach us. Have you ever seen a dog not fully present in the moment? Visitation by dogs, and dog ownership, have been shown to trigger relaxation hormones and endorphins in humans, and to aid healing of all types. What is it about their presence and energy that impacts us so deeply? What if we all brought this to every interaction we have with each other? How would the world change? Can you challenge yourself to do that this year?

The story of Yudhisthira’s dog from the ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata demonstrates what dogs teach us.

My favorite dog story summarizes all that dogs represent for me. At the end of the Indian epic the Mahabharata, the Pandava family is determined to renounce their kingdom and ascend the ‘mountain of liberation’ – enlightenment or heaven, depending on your interpretation. They are accompanied by their dog. One by one, the brothers fall on the path, each due to personal weaknesses, and only Yudhisthira and his dog make it to the top. Yudhisthira is greeted here by Indra in his chariot, offering to take him to heaven, but telling him that the dog may not enter. Yudhisthira responds that then neither will he, as the dog has been his faithful companion, and does not deserve abandonment. He turns away from Indra, ready to descend down the mountain with his dog, when Indra calls him back. He praises Yudhisthira for his compassion and selflessness, telling him that this had in fact been his final test, and that the dog was actually Dharma. With this, Yudhisthira enters heaven/enlightenment.

Yudhisthira had accomplished many things in his life, and attained much power. In the end, what mattered most was his development of compassion, and his ability to think beyond himself. For me, this is the highest expression of ‘dogness’ and the potential for this Year of the Earth Dog. In every moment we have a choice, whether we will think or act only in our own best interests, or can consider others’ as well. It is not a problem to put ourselves first sometimes, it is even appropriate, but when it is all we can do, we are missing out – and so is the world. May we all open to others this year, in addition to ourselves. Happy Year of the Earth Dog!

Wishing you the love of a dog in this Year of the Dog

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?”
– Mary Oliver, Dog Songs

P.S. Also, I will start my next Energy Work for Sexual Trauma teleseminar on March 26th.

We are the Doorway – Tending the Light

September 19, 2017

I am running the latest round of my Energy Work for Sexual Trauma teleseminar starting next week, details here.

My oldest daughter recently read Mists of Avalon, and while discussing it with her I realized anew the special relevance it has for me right now. In this retelling of the Arthurian legend, the ‘mists’ are a doorway between the feminine spiritual world of Avalon, and Britain, which is in the throes of repressing all non-Christian, nature-based, and feminine spiritual traditions. As the battle between these two forces plays out, Avalon becomes increasingly inaccessible. It becomes harder and harder to find the doorway to it hidden in the mists. Eventually the doorway to Avalon is all but closed, and its wisdom and energy is no longer available to the people of Britain.

This idea that our world can be cut off from certain dimensions of light and spirit is found throughout many of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, including in teachings on the Kali Yuga within both Buddhism and Hinduism, and in the book of Revelations. Although the details vary, the general idea is that the world’s descent into darkness is a process of humans becoming less and less able to access spiritual planes, and the states of awareness that are associated with them. In the darkest of times, this means a world in which it becomes increasingly difficult – if not impossible – for us to access joy, peace, compassion, magic, wonder, bliss, and love.

This is really the definition of hell or hell worlds – an existence in which beings are trapped in states of fear, anger, despair, loneliness and hatred. In truth, in a typical lifetime here on earth most of us experience glimpses of all of these states on both ends of the spectrum. Part of what defines humanity is our spectrum of awareness – that our experience can range from the darkest anger and despair to the highest joys and love. We are also defined by our social nature, and how contagious these states are – how quickly either fear or courage, hatred or compassion, can spread amongst us when it is shared. What this means, when it comes to the world and its access to light, is this:


We are the doorway.


The doorways to light and spirit are not ‘out there’ behind the mists. They are within each of us. It is our awareness, as human beings, that opens to these planes and keeps them present in this world. Our chakras, our subtle body, are part of the ‘technology’ of how we are able to do this, regardless of whether someone is working consciously with them or not – the chakras are themselves doorways within us. And the earth itself also has chakras and doorways – places where the mists are thinner and we can travel through. But most of the accessibility and vibration of the planet as we experience it at this point is based on us, what we as a species are doing. As long as there is one person in the world able to experience compassion, love, bliss, joy, or magic, then it is a possibility for us all. The day there is no longer anyone left able to feel these things, the doorways to them are all but closed.

Thinking in this way reminds me of the ancient firekeepers or flametenders– those tasked with keeping sacred fires alive during multi-day rituals or, at some spiritual centers, forever. We are all flametenders, striving to keep the higher aspects of human potential alive and vibrant. This might sound like a very dire way of looking at things, but I find that really it adds clarity of purpose and focus. At a time when the world feels so needy and in crises, it is easy to feel as if you must always be doing more – donate more, give more time, fight harder, become more involved – and of course all of these things are needed and valuable. But the intensity of this can be overwhelming., and drives many people to one of two extremes – weighed down by apocalyptic heaviness, or checked out, choosing to disengage entirely.

Thinking of yourself as a doorway adds another dimension to what it means to be alive on this planet today. It emphasizes how important it is to make the time and space to engage in whatever awakens you to magic, joy, bliss, silliness, peace, love and all things good and lovely. To do so is not selfish, it is essential. Otherwise, what is all the fighting for? We are fighting for a world in which more people can experience safety, material abundance, happiness, and then all of the higher experiences human life has to offer. But if in the fight we lose our ability to feel those things, the world as we know it has been lost anyway, because human life doesn’t offer the potential it once did.

There are many challenges to this, some global, some individual. Here are the ones I find the most relevant:

    • Connectivity. The internet has become a reflection of the awareness matrix we all live in. When so many people in your area, country, or the world are hyper-focused on difficult events – as has happened over and over the last few weeks – it becomes increasingly difficult to unplug yourself and feel higher states. You become a consumer, rather than a creator, of world awareness. So give yourself enough unplugged time within each 24 hour period to disconnect from the anxious and combative energies that often dominate the news cycle and social media.
    • Checking Out. Media also offers an unlimited number of ways to disengage from reality, enabling us to live in fantasy worlds of our favorite television shows, video games, YouTube videos, or even books. Sometimes we need the escape. But if we overdo this, if we really have no idea what is going on in the world or how people are suffering, we can easily lose touch with our heart. If this happens, whatever pleasure our media consumption brings us is astral and disassociative, rather than heart-based. Stay connected to your heart – even if it sometimes hurts. When we shut down our heart, all of the other doorways close.
    • Getting Stuck in Outrage. As Charlottsville victim Heather Heyer’s last Facebook post stated, “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.” I feel this is true right now, but I also feel that if you are ONLY outraged, it can destroy you. You have to make decisions for yourself as to how to act on your anger. We all have limited time, energy and resources – where do you want to put yours? Within the Tibetan Buddhist teaching called ‘Five Buddha Families’, anger is an obstructed expression of the enlightened awareness of mirror-like wisdom. Mirror-like wisdom is a clarity and sharpness of focus dedicated to truth. Anger can play an important role in bringing our focus to a previously unseen truth. But then to act effectively, we must transform that anger to wise action, so that we do not fuel the very negativity we wish to dispel. There is nothing more closed than anger.
    • Compassion Fatigue. This term is usually used to refer to burnout on the part of professionals who regularly work with traumatized or acutely suffering individuals – therapists, counselors, medical professionals, and other healers or emergency responders. When compassion fatigue sets in, we become numb to others’ suffering. We can’t take anymore, and simply shut it out. This is different than checking out however, because we still witness the suffering – we can’t escape it – we just stop feeling anything about it, and/or we engage in ‘blame the victim’ narratives. However, just like with checking out, if we shut down our ability to feel one thing, in this case compassion, we shut the doorways to many other emotions and states as well. An open heart is central to all of the most beautiful states humans can feel. It is the central doorway to light and spirit.
    • Feeling undeserving. With so much suffering in the world – and our ability to witness it firsthand 24/7 – it’s easy to feel that we should deny ourselves joy, pleasure, or light, in solidarity with those who cannot feel these things right now. We might think ‘how can I feel light when there are people homeless, starving, tortured, or discriminated against?’ But on the contrary, you owe it to everyone suffering to keep the doorways to light and spirit alive. Yes, you can fight for change, and yes you can feel both compassion and outrage – but don’t forget to embrace the joys of your own life too. To deny yourself these is to let your flame go out – one less light in the world. Don’t let this happen to you – give yourself permission to be a doorway for light.

There is a lot more I could write about the role of chakras in this post, since that is such a focus of this blog, but I will save that for another time. The most relevant point is that your chakras are each doorways themselves, and to explore these fully, you need to move deeply inward, facing courageously and honestly that within you which blocks them, and bringing forth your light. And all of the above are potential blocks, or distractions, to this healing, empowering, and awakening process.

So unplug, stay present, act wisely, center in your heart, and give yourself permission to feel joy and all things good in the world. Keep the doorways to these within you alive. Embrace your role as a flametender, focused not only on battling what is dark, but also with embodying what is light. Tend those fires of joy, bliss, compassion and magic within you.

Happy equinox, and here are some favorite recent books and blog posts from others that may help you along your way: Pettikin by Abby Smith, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Dreamer’s Pool trilogy by Juliet Marillier, and Sky Mind blog’s two posts on ‘The Suffering of Busyness’.

[NOTE: At the time of this writing, I was not aware of allegations of sexual abuse against the author of Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley. For more information, please see the comments of this post. May all beings feel empowered to speak their truth, and face their shadows. May the light and compassion in us all prevail. XO – Lisa]

Healing the Masculine – As a Woman

July 10, 2017

This blog is dedicated to healing and empowering the feminine, as is my private session work, but of course feminine energy and power does not exist in isolation. The feminine and masculine are codependent, defining each other. Whether we are talking about our physical bodies, our subtle bodies, psychological traits, abstract energies apart from gender, or any of the other many things we label ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’, we cannot ever really work with just one and not the other. Historically the feminine and masculine have been wounded and dysfunctional together, and they now must heal and come forth into the light together.

For some, talking in terms of the feminine and masculine in any context seems antiquated. Certainly within the context of transgender rights, these categorizations seem rigid and harmful. It’s clear that on the level of the human body and gender identification – and I would argue on the level of the subtle body too – masculine/feminine is a spectrum, not a duality. I look forward to the day when it no longer makes sense to talk about ’empowering the feminine’ or ‘healing the masculine.’ When there is a fluidity and wholeness in all of us that allows us to express ourselves in all manners however we see fit.

But that day is not now, and it’s important to talk about it. This has been brought home to me in a very real way recently as I watch my two younger children, girl-boy twins, enter ‘tweenhood’ and middle school. The differences in their gender-based conditioning, and the social expectations they each face, has never been more clear. In some ways, in a community like mine, there has been more change for girls than boys – girls in team sports is a given, and the girls are encouraged to play hard and tough on the field. A boy in ballet however, is still the exception.  And off the sports field, I find the emotional conditioning has not changed much – ‘be nice and get along’ for girls  vs. ‘be tough and be the best’ for boys might be the best way of summing it up.

I’ve written before about how the pressure to ‘be nice’ impacts women and their ability to own their power, so I won’t belabor that again in this post. But what is the impact of the male conditioning to ‘be tough’? Emotional repression, and self-worth based on dominance and achievement, are still bred into our boys. As they move through their adolescence towards adulthood, true expression of their emotions – especially any seen as ‘weak’ – is less and less acceptable. Meanwhile, accolades for accomplishment – whether in sports, academics, or any other realm – is rewarded. Boys receive a very clear message about where their worth lies, and emotional awareness and expression is still low in value.

But the human psyche is sensitive, whether housed in a female or male body. So where does any hurt go if it’s not acknowledged and expressed? A lot of dysfunctional places. Men are twice as likely as women to become alcoholic. Twice as likely to die of an opioid addiction. Between 3 and 4 times more likely to commit suicide. 10 times as likely to be incarcerated. 80% of violent crimes are committed by men. 82% of all childhood sexual assault and 90% of all adult sexual assault is perpetrated by men.

This is what we are facing when we talk about healing the masculine.

Of course the reality behind all of these statistics is much more complex than little boys being told to toughen up. There are biological, economic, social, religious, racial, and cultural factors contributing, and change needs to take place within every realm – just as it does for the empowerment of the feminine. And the sense of male entitlement instilled as part of our still predominantly patriarchal culture is as much a problem as internalized pain (although I would argue they are two sides of the same coin.)

But all change begins within ourselves, so as women, how do we start with ourselves on this? How do we begin to recognize our own part in perpetuating the conditioning at work? How do we surface and shift the dysfunctional masculine-feminine dichotomy as it is reflected in our own psyches and subtle bodies?

Personal Inquiry

It’s not an easy question, but as always, a good place to start is personal inquiry. Often just asking a question brings about a shift. So here’s some questions to  begin asking yourself:

  • Do you on some level label the men in your life ‘weak’ and ‘strong’? If so, what criteria is this based on? Do you label certain men as passive or effeminate, and if so, what criteria does it reflect? Do you find emotional expression in a man, including crying, a turn off? What’s your reaction when learning a man is in a formerly traditional ‘feminine’ role, such as a stay-at-home dad, a nurse, or teacher? In a partner, do you value emotional stoicism or expression? Are you seeking a protector or savior and looking to find that in male family members, friends or partners?
  • What beliefs have you internalized about how you can and cannot express yourself? How you can and cannot dress? What you can and cannot do? Did these differ for male siblings or family members? If you are a parent or work with children, which of these are you passing on? What expectations do you have for girls vs. boys? What messages do you send to each?
  • Within your own personal history, what has been your relationship to and treatment by the men in your lives – father, stepfather, grandfather, brothers, uncles, male teachers, male coaches, etc? How have they made you feel about yourself? Do you harbor shame or anger in relation to any of them, and have you dealt with it? (Of course if you have been the victim of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, or assault, this is an especially big healing process.) How has this impacted your own relationships with men in your life now?
  • Moving inward, do an assessment between yin and yang, feminine and masculine, as expressed within your own personality and psyche. What traits do you consider to be feminine and which masculine? Within each category, which do you consider healthy and which dysfunctional expressions? Looking at it from this perspective, do you see any patterns of looking to the men in your life to fill emotional gaps rather than bringing those forth yourself (this is often related to looking to men as protectors, stabilizers, and saviors?)

Chakra Work

On the subtle body level, every chakra and energy channel mapping system defines certain centers and pathways as yin or feminine, and others as yang or masculine. Working with these energies and seeking to unite and integrate them provides another powerful way of working to heal the masculine. Within the context of the chakra work I share on this blog, the most straightforward mapping is to work with the following:

  • The first/root, third/navel, fifth/throat, and seventh/crown chakras are masculine in their default expression
  • The second/sacral, fourth/heart, and sixth/third-eye are feminine in their default expression

All of the chakras have both emanating/masculine and receptive/feminine aspects, so when we talk about them as masculine and feminine we are talking about a default expression. There are many gradations within this in terms of gender and individual subtle bodies, but I still find it a helpful model for working with in most people. Here are some of the ways you can begin to work with the chakras in this way:

  • Review the energies and psychological functions associated with each chakra (you can use the various charts and mappings included in my Chakra Levels series, or many other posts on the Chakras page, as a reference.) When viewed from this perspective, do you see any patterns related to masculine and feminine chakras? Do you have more blocks in one grouping vs. the other? Or a hyper-reliance on the aspects of one or the other? If so, work with the exercises and the other methods outlined in the Chakra Levels series to address this imbalance.
  • Specifically in relation to your masculine chakras, what blocks do you perceive? Do you have trouble owning the open, powerful expressions of these chakras? If so, determine some ways to work with opening these pathways within yourself.
  • Practice visually integrating the masculine and feminine chakra energies. This in and of itself can be a very powerful tool. Here is one simple exercise for doing so:
    • Hold a fist at your tailbone – focal point for your root chakra. This fist does not represent aggression, but instead a centered, consolidated energy. Imagine this centered, consolidated energy is mirrored within your root chakra beneath your fist as a ball of light (you can use traditional chakra colors for this, or just use white.)
    • Repeat this at your other masculine chakras – your navel, throat, and crown.
    • Sit for a moment visualizing these 4 centered, consolidated balls of light within your subtle body.
    • Now let go of this and using the index finger of one hand draw a figure 8 or infinity symbol an inch or so in front of your pelvis – focus point for your sacral chakra. Imagine this swirling, moving energy is mirrored within your pelvic bowl. Allow your body to sway and move if you like.
    • Repeat this at your other feminine chakras – your heart and third eye.
    • Sit for a moment visualizing these 3 spiraling, flowing nexuses of energy within your subtle body.
    • Now from the bottom up, move through each chakra and connect the centered, consolidated balls with the spiraling, flowing energy. Begin with your root and move up through your sacral, navel, heart, throat, third eye, and crown. See one energy as seamlessly flowing into the next in a pattern. Try to feel this within your body, in addition to visualizing it. Allow some variability in how this appears to you – allow some room for spontaneity.
    • Cycle through more than once if you like. Once you feel as if there is some sense of completion, dissolve the visuals and rest in a sense of wholeness and integration.

Those of you who have completed my DailyOm course or Sexual Trauma healing teleseminar will recognize this as a simpler version of an exercise I do in those courses. Although simpler, it is no less powerful when fully felt, and is easily done on your own if you are familiar with the chakras.

The shifts going on in our world right now are nothing short of monumental, and so many of them can be viewed as part of the rebalancing between the masculine and feminine – a dismantling of patriarchy, healing of the masculine and empowerment of the feminine – within individuals, societies, and the energy matrix that composes our world. In many ways right now we are seeing a backlash against these shifts in our political landscape and commentary. It is very difficult not to meet these forces with oppositional anger, and of course this anger is more than justified. But to respond only in this way virtually guarantees the continuation of these age old ways of being. The question we are all facing now is how to engage differently? It isn’t easy for an individual or society to truly change its entire frame of reference. It is deep work, and something we all need to engage in. And working within the context of the masculine and feminine is an essential part of this work.

Two recommendations worth mentioning within this context:

  • The book South of Forgiveness: A True Story of Rape and Responsibility, by Elva Thordis and Tom Stranger, in which a rape survivor and her rapist struggle to come to terms with each other and the crime committed, looking at rape culture, patriarchy, and gender conditioning along the way. Although I have mixed feelings about this book, it raises questions in a way few other books have done, and for that reason, is worth reading for those interested and who feel able to handle the difficult emotional material and depiction of rape.
  • The online course Transcending Sexual Trauma Through Yoga Online Training, by Zabie Yamasaki. I have been a part of Zabie’s weekend in-person trauma sensitivity training for yoga instructors for several years, contributing a workshop on trauma sensitive meditation and chakra work. Zabie has now made this course available as an online offering, and included a self-healing module sexual trauma survivors may work through on their own.

May both the feminine and masculine within you be healed, empowered, and integrated

May this radiate out into the world, becoming part of the shifts occurring there

May we all know ourselves as whole, happy, and healthy

Why NOT to Believe in Soulmates…

May 4, 2017

I hear a lot about soulmates in my line of work, as in, ‘when will my soulmate show up?’ Or ‘She must not be my soulmate because….’ Or ‘But he’s my soulmate so….’

Over the years I have actually come to see the entire idea of soulmates as very problematic, especially for women, so at one point I did a lot of research on how this idea originated. I turned to classic teachings on karma and relationships from all the world’s major spiritual traditions, and could not find a lot of support for the idea. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato seems to have been the first to use the term, but that was in the context of an allegory that could be considered a creation story; it was not a teaching on karma or relationship. Really the idea of soulmates is a modern idea – a Western one that has combined Eastern-based teachings on karma with Western Romanticism and New Ageism.

Of course just because it’s a modern idea doesn’t make it wrong. But a standard I like to use for evaluating ideas we cannot prove or disprove is ‘does it help people?’ And really in this case, the full question might be ‘does a belief in soulmates help people to manifest more love in their lives?’

From what I have observed and experienced personally, often it does not, especially for women. The soulmate idea is heavily marketed to women in current relationship and spiritual literature, and is basically an adult version of the Prince Charming or Knight in Shining Armor myths fed to us in princess stories as young girls. Both those childhood tales and modern soulmate ideas perpetuate the belief that we are not complete until we have found our mate, and that once we do everything will be great – our inner pain will disappear, we will feel complete and loved, and our relationships will always be easy.

Often these beliefs are held on an emotional level, even if on an intellectual one we reject anything so simplistic. The emotional imprint drives our lives, unconsciously forming the foundation for our goals and decisions. The irony is that letting go of these beliefs is often the key to attracting and opening to true love.

Here are the myths that I feel many of us internalize as part of a belief in soulmates, and why these can be problematic:

Myth #1: Everyone should mate for life, and life is incomplete without a mate. Of course we all want companionship and love, this is a natural and beautiful part of being human. But women often devote the majority of their personal power and attention to finding a romantic partner. A lot has been written about this, and of course a belief in soulmates is not the only factor driving this – there is a whole host of cultural conditioning and biological forces at play. But a woman’s entire happiness all too often rests on the state of her romantic life, in a way that I rarely see play out for men. Singlehood is viewed as a problem that needs to be solved, and the drive to do so overshadows other life accomplishments and experiences. I have worked with so many women who are unhappy whenever they are not in a relationship, and are thus not able to recognize the gifts currently in their lives, including love in forms other than romantic – friends, family, etc.

The irony of this is that in order to open to love, we need to feel it. The best way to attract more love into your life is to open to and appreciate the love you already have. Then your attraction field is not emanating lack and frustration, but expansion and fulfillment.

Myth #2: A true love connection is instantaneous and unmistakable. Movies are filled with ‘meet cute’ moments, and we all want to experience those. Some people do lock eyes across a room and ‘know’ this is someone they want to be with. But research on relationships has repeatedly shown that the happiest couplings are very often those that started as friendships and grew gradually into something more. The expectation that instant attraction or inner fireworks will accompany the arrival of a potential partner may cause you to overlook someone who you could truly grow and flourish with over time.

Myth #3: A relationship should never feel like work. Relationships are where most of us deal with our most complex self. Everything comes to the table when we are in relationship. This is true for all kinds of relationships, but especially romantic. It is inevitable then, that you will come up against parts of yourself, and your partner, that are hard to face. Deciding when a relationship is worth working to save and when it’s time to give up is always very difficult, and there aren’t any generalized rules for it. But every relationship will feel like work at some point. Often when we go through these ‘work’ phases, the relationship is deepened, as are we. Of course, this doesn’t mean sticking it out in relationships that are abusive or chronically dysfunctional, which brings me to the next harmful belief…

Myth #4: Soulmates should stick it out no matter what. My heart just drops every time I hear a woman say ‘but we have a soul contract’ to justify putting up with multiple betrayals or abuse. Often this is coupled with the belief that she is supposed to help heal and save her partner. Relationships are work, but both people have to be willing to work, and you can’t do someone else’s work for them. In addition, some wounds just can’t be healed in relationship – love alone (especially tortured love) is not enough.

Myth #5: My partner completes me. It’s a lovely, romantic moment in the movie Jerry Maguire when Jerry tells Dorothy ‘you complete me’. What a wonderful thing to feel. As a description of an emotion, love as completion works. But on a bigger level, it’s a real disservice to yourself to mistake this emotion for ultimate truth. None of us need anyone to complete us, because we are each complete within ourselves. Discovering this is the essence of the spiritual journey. The greatest love stories are between two individuals who each know this deeply, and can therefore love each other spaciously and unconditionally, without needing the other to fill any holes they feel in themselves.

All too often, we are looking to our romantic partner to make us feel whole. We look to them to make us feel worthy, strong, and seen. But the truth is no one else can heal the wounds within that make us feel incomplete, unworthy, weak, or unseen. A relationship may mask our pain or sense of lack for awhile, but if we don’t deal with the root emotional patterns ourselves, they will eventually rise up to destroy the relationship (or are partner’s will, if they also have not dealt with their own wounds.)

This doesn’t mean that we can’t be in a relationship until we have dealt with all our shit. Two people in a loving, supportive relationship can provide the foundation for each to work deeply on themselves. In order for this to happen though, both partners need to let go of the expectations they have formed that the other person will heal and fulfill them. That is too much pressure for any one person to bear.

Your fastest path to feeling complete is to recognize yourself as whole apart from your relationship. How to recognize this is different for everyone – it is the healing and awakening process, however that may manifest for you. When you recognize your own wholeness, you can love more freely and generously, and attract people to you who can love you this way too. Staying true to that is sometimes a daily struggle, and being in relationship is often our path to bringing it forth. However, not being in a relationship may be the path to that too. Either way, our happiness and fulfillment is not based on finding just one person out there in the vast expanse of the world.

May you find love within yourself

May you know yourself as love

May you bring this love to every relationship you have

Energy Work for Sexual Trauma Healing for Women Teleseminar

March 15, 2017

Although I am on a blogging sabbatical (I expect to return with a new series next month) I wanted to announce that there is still space available in the next round of my Energy Work for Sexual Trauma for Women teleseminar, beginning next Thursday evening March 23rd. You may do the sessions by phone live, or by recording on your own time. The course includes a private forum in which I am available daily for questions and participants may interact with each other (anonymously if you choose.) This is the 15th time I am offering this course, and every time it is slightly different, shaped by the participants and their needs. Every time it is also a course that I treasure, as I am always inspired by the wisdom and healing that participants share with each other, and by what I in turn learn from them. If you or anyone you know may be interested, please see the details on registration here and share:

Energy Work for Sexual Trauma for Women Teleseminar

Thank you for your support.  And happy Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day (last week.) If you are looking for historical spiritual inspiration, check out my Historical Women’s Mystics series.

The Year of the Rooster – Wake Up!

January 23, 2017


A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow. I have seen the light and I’m crowing. – Muhammad Ali

The Year of the Rooster is almost upon us, or the Fire Bird in the Tibetan tradition. Within Chinese astrology, the Year of the Rooster begins January 28th, while this year the Tibetan New Year (Losar) begins February 27th. Not all astrologers in either tradition use the Rooster as this year’s symbolic animal – several look to other birds, including mythical ones such as the Chinese Feng Huang, the Tibetan and Indian Garuda, or the western Phoenix. I’ve drawn upon all of these symbols within my annual intuitive riff on this year’s energies. I hope you find it enjoyable and helpful.


Right now, somewhere on earth a rooster is crowing, announcing first light. Chickens are found on every continent but Antarctica, and all over the world roosters are best known as heralds of the dawn. Through that they have come to symbolize the new day, transition, announcements, and messages. It’s not hard to see this energy at work as I post this two days after the U.S. inauguration, one day after massive Women’s marches around the world, and as Brexit and other major world shifts hang pending in the background. We are in a time of great change, and long established structures are crumbling. For many of us this feels scary and dark. For some it feels hopeful and triumphant.

Whether you are feeling fear, anger, or hope, one thing is pretty certain – you are paying attention. Paying attention and very likely voicing your opinion. Rooster energy is wake-up energy; wake-up-and-crow energy. Have you tapped into this yet? Are you clear on what you stand for, what you value, and what you will do to support those values? Whether you do this in response to social movements, within your own personal life, or on the inner planes of energy and spirit, clarity and expressions of strength are what is supported in the Year of the Rooster.

Of course as we have seen all too clearly in the past year, in so many different ways, shows of strength can easily bring out the dark side of Rooster energy…


Roosters in a cockfight for position in the flock are vicious and unyielding.

A lot of this year (and much of the internet) has felt like a cockfight. The phrase ‘pecking order’ comes from observing chicken flock social structures – there is strict hierarchy, and chickens (both male and female) will peck any member who oversteps their position. Chickens will gang up on a new rooster to show him his place, and a higher place in the flock is only won through fighting, bringing another chicken down a notch. The top spot goes to the dominant rooster – frequently the most vicious. However, the dominant rooster is also highly valuable to a flock, as he is vigilant on their behalf, warning of any pending danger, and going to any lengths to protect them.

We see all of these traits reflected in the traditional Chinese astrological readings of Rooster individuals. An individual born in the year of the Rooster is said to have the capacity for great courage, confidence, resourcefulness, and discipline. On the other hand, potential weaknesses are vanity, greed, selfishness, and negativity. Whether you were born in the Year of the Rooster or not, these are energies at play this year.

What will this year bring out in you? It’s a choice, and not always an obvious one.


Chicken Little is a cautionary tale of the power of fear when we don’t think for ourselves.

What I mean by that is that in this age of instant news – or fake news – and constant influx of information through our various devices and social media sites, it’s not always so easy to think for ourselves and know what we believe. We can easily be caught up in momentum, or emotional triggers, or a desire to be part of a certain ‘tribe’. Social research shows that more and more we are segregated according to the media we consume, with most of us turning only to sources that reinforce views we already hold. We don’t willingly seek out viewpoints that challenge our own, or approach information with a sense of openness and discovery. Our desire to find our tribe, and feel right and affirmed by it, keeps us hankering for the satisfaction of confirmation.

It brings to mind the classic tale of Chicken Little, who mistakes an acorn falling on his head for the sky falling. As he runs about warning others, animal after animal believes his cry, never bothering to look up at the sky for themselves. Soon everyone is in a panic. We all need to heed the lessons of Chicken Little in the Year of Rooster. Do you think for yourself? Can you challenge yourself to seek viewpoints different from your own, and really communicate with people who hold those views? What is at stake is the concept of truth itself.


This print by Utagawa Toyokuni III shows the sun goddess Amaterasu, bringing light back into the world as she emerges from her cave. A rooster in the lower right quadrant helped entice her return.

The Rooster is linked very strongly to the triumph of light over darkness, truth over falsehood, and good over evil in the Japanese folklore of the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu. She retreats to a cave and refuses to emerge after a battle with her brother-god results in the death of her friend. During her long self-exile, the world outside her cave flounders in darkness, while inside she contemplates her own role in events. Other gods and goddesses come together to plot how to draw Amaterasu out of her cave, including bringing a white rooster to crow at the entrance. The commotion eventually draws Amaterasu back out, returning her light to the world. She vows to conduct herself differently, and reaches out to make peace to her brother-god.

Amaterasu’s story is one of many feminine ‘descent’ stories found in various cultures, in which the heroine retreats from the world (sometimes by choice and sometimes not) and enters into deep contemplation, emerging back into the light after she has found herself, and her truth, on a deeper level. Is this what you need right now? Do you need some time to retreat and go deeper into yourself, apart from the clamor of your life? There are many forms of descent/retreat, from taking time each day to meditate to formal spiritual retreat. Descent is not only about gaining clarity, but about refueling, accumulating the personal power necessary to act effectively when the time is right.  Although it’s a year for change and action, choose your moment wisely, and take the time you need beforehand to prepare.


According to one Native American story, comets are a rooster racing through the sky in an attempt to put the fire in his tail feathers out.

I did find one story in which the rooster is linked to the night rather than the break of day. In this Native American tale, a self-important rooster is so greedy for attention that he prances around a fire at a gathering trying to impress the other attendees, eventually getting too close and catching his tail feathers on fire. He flies up into the sky attempting to put them out, and eventually flies so high he ends up in space. Comets shooting across the night sky are our glimpses of this rooster trying in vain to put this fire out.

In this story we see some of the dark side of rooster energy – self-importance, arrogance, and a need for attention. It’s sometimes difficult to see when this is functioning within ourselves. Humans are social creatures, and we naturally seek out others’ attention and approval. There is nothing wrong with this if we are solid in ourselves, but when we lose touch with our inner compass, it can really lead us astray. Self-knowledge and self-honesty are essential to bringing out the higher qualities of rooster year energy. Be on the lookout for when your decisions or actions are based solely on seeking approval from others, rather than on what you need or want yourself.


This image of Mercury and his rooster are from a Renaissance Tarot deck featured at Raven’s Tarot Site (click the picture for more.)

In Roman mythology the rooster is linked to Mercury, god of commerce, communication, speech and messages of all types, including messages from the Underworld. This link may go as far back as the Babylonions, who saw a rooster in the constellation for Orion, messenger to the gods. I sense this link to messages is very important this year. In the outer world, certainly, it’s a year for sending strong messages about what you believe, and we’ve already seen that in action. But it’s also a year for seeking messages from the spiritual and inner planes. I’ve already mentioned descent and retreat, and certainly inner messages can come to us through that, but they can also come anytime, in the middle of our busy lives, if our connection to spirit is strong. Turning inward continually to strengthen this connection is vital amidst the noise of rooster energies. Listen for the ‘still small voice’ within.


Images of Gustav Klimt’s lost painting ‘Garden Path with Chickens’ were recovered through old photographs as part of The Clark Museum’s Lost Art Project (clickthrough for the Clark museum site.)

In my search for chicken and rooster stories and images, I came across this lovely Klimt painting, Garden Path with Chickens. Both the painting and the story of it captured my attention and felt very apropos for this year. The painting was moved to Austria for safekeeping during WWII, only to be lost in a fire set by retreating SS troops at the end of the war. Images were recovered through the Lost Art program of the Clark Museum. Lost Art brings to mind for me Lost Wisdom and Lost Knowledge. What can we learn from looking to the past?

In our future-minded, technology-focused culture, looking back is often not valued. Yes we have retro fashion trends, and sometimes a rosy nostalgia for past phases of history that ignores the shadow side of those times, but I’m not talking about that. I mean real connection with wisdom traditions, with lineages in which this wisdom is passed down from generation to generation. Wisdom forces within these are trying to speak to us right now about the future of humanity and our planet. There is a lot at stake, we can sense that, but we aren’t the first. In the inward-facing part of your journey this year, seek out lost wisdom from the past. You may find resources and knowledge that surprise you.

05_Firebird RATMANSKY

American Ballet Theater Principal Ballerina Misty Copeland as The Firebird in the classic ballet of the same name.

As I mentioned, in the Tibetan and some other astrological traditions, the symbol of this year is not necessarily the rooster but simply the Fire Bird. As a ballet fan, I could not help but think of the ballet of the same name, and the Slavic myth that inspired it. A Fire Bird in Slavic folklore is a magical, luminous, elusive bird, and a sighting or found feather from her often inspires an epic quest in search of her. If she is captured she sometimes brings doom and sometimes magic into the life of her captor, but whichever it is, it is always life-transforming. In this tale we see the traditional, male hero-quester archetype, a contrast to the feminine descent myth. The hero must go out into the world to find his fate, enduring many hardships and trials.

As contrasting representations for the spiritual journey, the yin/feminine descent and yang/masculine questing archetypes are not about gender (although they do say something about how men and women tend to seek.) We all go through both phases at various times in our lives. Specific to the Fire Bird myth, one lesson shines clearly through – attempts to control the Fire Bird always lead to trouble. Her magic will not function properly when forced, and the results of it are often dire. The Fire Bird must be treated with respect and allowed her freedom. Beyond the obvious socio-political interpretation of this message, I think it has meaning on the personal plane too. You can’t force personal or life transformation simply through sheer will or control. Attempts to do so often lead to results you didn’t foresee and don’t want.  You need to sense flow, let go, and open your mind and heart to possibilities you hadn’t previously considered. In relaxing, inner magic is often found, and it is more powerful than force.


A bird represents desire in the center of the Tibetan Wheel of Life, one of the three poisons leading to non virtuous actions, along with ignorance (pig) and anger (snake.)

In Tibetan symbology birds make an appearance in several different forms. One is in the center of the Wheel of Life, where a bird (sometimes depicted as a rooster, but usually not) represents one of the three poisons – desire. It’s not desire itself that is a problem, it’s our fixation on the idea that getting what we desire is the only path to happiness. When trapped by this fixation we are stuck in a cycle we can never escape. Either we get what we desire and experience temporary happiness before we set our sights on fulfilling our next desire, or we don’t get what we want and are unhappy.

How to break this cycle? We don’t necessarily have to deny ourselves the pleasures of life, but may need to change our relationship to them, admitting our fixations and taking steps to loosen the hold they have over us. In its more dangerous form these fixations can become true addictions, but often they take a subtler hold on us, though no less limiting. Do you have a fixation in your life that you know is not good for you? Can you see through it this year and take steps to loosen or break its’ hold on you? This is a year where the strong yang energy present, combined with the counter yin contemplation energy, can both be drawn upon to help you change your relationship to the desires you know are not serving you.


Garudas are powerful symbols in both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism.

A mythical bird called a Garuda is sometimes also linked to Fire Bird years. A Garuda is a large humanoid bird found in both Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. In Hindu mythology, the Garuda is a divine being, and frequently Lord Vishnu rides him in his travels. In Hindu stories the Garuda is a mighty warrior, and in his traits we see parallels to both the strengths and weaknesses traditionally associated with the astrological Rooster – the Garuda can be either incredibly courageous and noble in his protection of what is right, or brash and violent when he acts impulsively.

Within Tibetan Buddhism, the Garuda has several different meanings. As in Hinduism, it is often a symbol of protection, but on a more abstract level it represents freedom from hopes and fears. Because the Garuda is said to be born fully grown, it also represents our primordial nature, the true essence of enlightenment present within us at all times, whether we live in awareness of it or not. Awakening to this primordial nature is in fact our path beyond hopes and fears, desires and aversions. Do you believe in your inherent wisdom, the awake mind and heart within yourself? Are you connecting with it and cultivating it? Again, in this interpretation of the Garuda, we find this message of moving inward – which seems to counter the traditional outward, crowing Rooster energy.


The Chinese Feng Huang is a symbol of high virtue and grace.

In the Chinese Feng Huang we find another mythical bird often called to mind in Rooster years – in fact it is sometimes referred to as the August Rooster in China, or as the Chinese Phoenix.  The Feng Huang’s body is a composite of many birds, and each part symbolizes an aspect of the celestial world. The Feng Huang is a symbol of virtue and grace, and the five colors of its tail feathers represent Confucious’ five virtues of benevolence, honesty, knowledge, integrity, and propriety.

The Feng Huang was often used by Chinese emperors to represent the start of a new era. But it has also often been used to represent the union of yin and yang, and the balance of both strong outward, and reflective inward, movement. Within Confucious’ teachings this balance is taught to be the essence of ethical behavior. Self-cultivation of the five virtues, rather than simply adherence to rules, is emphasized as the foundation for action. What virtues do you value and are they the compass for your decisions and actions in the world? Do you work to align your thoughts, words, and deeds with your values? Personal responsibility is extremely important when working with strong Rooster energies.


Fawkes the Phoenix on the cover of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Finally we come to my favorite mythical bird – the Phoenix. Through its continual cycle of burning and rebirthing from its own ashes it is perhaps the penultimate Fire Bird. A version of the Phoenix existed in Ancient Egypt in the form of Bennu, but we primarily associate it with Greek mythology. The theme of the Phoenix in all its iterations is cyclic rejuvenation, just like the rise and fall of the sun each day.

My favorite Phoenix comes from a more contemporary mythic tale – Harry Potter. Fawkes the Phoenix is Dumbledore’s companion and protector, and in many ways he lies at the center of the story, as twin feathers from his tail form the core of the wands of both the hero and villain – Harry and Voldemort. Within the Potter series, the song of a Phoenix is said to strike fear into the hearts of anyone whose intentions are evil, and provide courage to those whose intentions are good. The tears of a Phoenix can heal poisoning, as well as other illnesses and injuries inflicted by the darkest beings. The Order of the Phoenix is dedicated to defeating Voldemort.

But Dumblodore is always very clear about what must fuel the defeat of darkness in the world, the only magic strong enough to do so, and the main thing Harry and his friends have going for them – love. The Phoenix represents the continuity and power of love, kept alive despite adversity, awakening again and again within humanity. This brings us to the most essential questions in any year whatever the year’s astrology or energies – are you connected to love? Are you fueled by love? Are you aligned with love? When things seem dark or complicated, these simple questions can often cut through to help you light your way.

So there you have it – at best Rooster/Fire Bird energies are strong, courageous, ethical, and fueled by light and love. At worst they are arrogant, self-righteous, hypocritical, greedy and selfish. The journey to manifesting the former and not the latter in your own life rests on a balance between the yin descent path of contemplation and openness to inner messages, and the yang questing path of bold seeking and acting in the world. It’s a razor’s edge year, walking the fine line between the two paths, and the two expressions. Many blessings to you on your own walk.


Although the rooster heralds the dawn, he does not control the day. Come out of your shell and crow what you want your life, and the world, to be about.

May 2017 bring you much wisdom, love, clarity, and power.

Hello from 2017 – Books, Posts, and Themes

January 7, 2017


Spiritual opening is not a withdrawal to some imagined realm or safe cave. It is not a pulling away, but a touching of all the experience of life with wisdom and with a heart of kindness, without any separation. – Jack Kornfield

Ready or not 2017 is here! Although of course energetically for many around the world, the New Year doesn’t really begin until the Year of the Fire Rooster (or Bird) kicks off on January 28th (in the Chinese calendar) or a month later (in the Tibetan.) I will post my usual symbolic meanderings about this soon (the Year of the Monkey sure kept us on our toes, no?) Then I will be taking a blogging sabbatical for awhile – as you can see, I wasn’t able to blog much in the second half of 2016, and have decided I should just take an official break and finish out some projects. Since I didn’t offer my usual December energy work teleseminar or book giveaway for Winter Solstice, I hope to return and do both just in time for Summer Solstice in June.

In lieu of both now however, I thought I would kick off the year by listing some of the 2016 books that I liked and that you may find helpful, and offer some suggestions for what to focus on as this year shifts into gear. First, some of my favorite books – or at least my favorites that are related to the themes of this blog:

Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur – raw and inventive poetry on themes of abuse, love, heartbreak and empowerment, grouped into 4 sections ‘the hurting’, ‘the loving’, the breaking’, ‘the healing.’

Love Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton – written by the creator of the popular blog Momastery, this is her memoir of self-discovery as her marriage implodes, which also flashes back to earlier days of past addiction and pain. As she works through both she dives deep into what love really requires.

When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron – not a new book, but the 20th anniversary reprint edition; a classic that anyone will benefit from reading once – or more.

Enlightened Parenting: A Mom Reflects on Living Spiritually With Kids, Meryl Davids Landau – warm and insightful essays on how to embrace parenting as your spiritual path, and on integrating spirituality into family life.

The Awakening Body: Somatic Meditation for Discovering our Deepest Life, Reginald Ray – six accessible but powerful body-based meditations adapted from the somatic and energetic practices of Vajrayana/Tantric Buddhism, Taoism, and other spiritual traditions. Although the author talks mostly in terms of the physical body, from my perspective these are really about the physical/subtle body interface, and they are a great spiritual counterpart to the trauma-healing somatic work of Peter Levine and others, which I have written about before here.

Excavating Pema Ozer by Yudron Wangmo – an interesting novel about a teenage girl discovering Tibetan Buddhism when sent to live with her grandmother. An accessible and entertaining introduction to Buddhist teachings.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, by Krista Tippett – the author is the host of NPR’s On Being, and in this book she draws on the many interviews she has done with great spiritual, scientific, academic, and social leaders to probe the major challenges and themes of our time.

I also recommend a followup book to one I recommended last year – Walking the Advanced Path: Revelations and Reminders on the Direct Path of Awakening. And Cyndi Dale has written an outstanding and comprehensive new encyclopedia of the chakras, Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Chakras (which I am proud to be mentioned in within a couple sections.)

Outside of spiritual teachings, I really enjoyed memoirs by two interesting and empowering women this year – comedian Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo and writer Jennifer  Weiner’s Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love and Writing. Both are sharp and funny but not superficial, as both women share painful childhood memories, and are honest and insightful about the conditioning women receive about our bodies, sexuality, and power.

Closer to home on the writings front, I thought I’d share what the top posts at Mommy Mystic were in 2016 (drawn from all posts, not just those published in 2016). Perhaps you missed one of these or would like to revisit:

21 Ways to  Care for Your Sacral Chakra

Are You A Mystic? 10 Signs You Are

The Chakras and Sexual Trauma

The Mother-Child Energy Connection

Working with Your Sexual Energy

The top posts published in 2016 were:

Mischief and Wisdom: Finding Your  Way in the Year of the Monkey

Chakra Affirmations for Transforming Anxiety

10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving as an Empath

I also was interviewed last Fall by Caroline McGraw at The Clearing, a residential facility incorporating spiritual psychology for the treatment of addiction, abuse, and related emotional issues, and some of you may find this interview or other resources at The Clearing blog helpful:

Interview at The Clearing

As for energetic advice going into 2017, I think more will surface as I prepare my lunar New Year post, but for now I will say openness. Openness is my word for 2017, and opening. So consider what it means to open – open to seeing situations or people in a different way, open to new experiences and goals, open to unconditional love, compassion, power. To truly open means letting go of limitations, fears, expectations, anger, and even hopes at times. Energetically and emotionally it means finding your internal knots, and gently allowing them to untie and release. I sense this focus on opening may be most relevant right now, within the energetic transit we are currently experiencing, and that a more focused approach will be needed in a month or so. But for now open. 

Wishing you opening in heart, mind, and body as we enter 2017.





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