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butterfly and me 5

Right before dinner Tuesday evening my husband and  I were unwinding on our deck after a long and busy day when a monarch butterfly landed on my shoulder.  It lingered so long that my husband was able to walk by it, go into the house, get his phone (and mine as I was expecting a call) and take several photographs of it.  At 6:00 pm I received a scheduled phone call from my friend, Sara.  My delicate little companion remained perched on my shoulder the entire time Sara and I chatted on the phone.  When I hung up, it was time for dinner and so I gently encouraged it to fly away.  It didn’t.   Instead, it climbed onto my finger.  I sat for some time talking with it and eventually began petting its tiny legs and then its delicate wings.  It didn’t flinch.

After several minutes I  tried to coax it onto the leaves of a plant so that I could go to dinner.  I managed to settle it onto a leaf but once I stepped away it immediately flew around me, landed on my leg, and proceeded to march directly upwards.  Amazed, I reached out my finger and without hesitation, it climbed onto it again.  I lifted it back up to eye level and talked to it for another ten minutes or so.  I walked around with it.  I stopped and studied it again while it seemed to calmly study me.

I have no idea what this little butterfly was capable of comprehending, what it might have wanted, why it seemed to have no fear of me.  It behaved as though it trusted me completely and its dark eyes seemed to look directly into my own.   I was enchanted.  I was touched.  I was captivated.  I didn’t want to anthropomorphize this fragile little creature and yet it became increasingly more difficult to resist asking it what it wanted.  Was it okay? Did it have something it needed me to know?  Was it asking something of me?   It had been with me for close to an hour.  I had things to do, another trip to Lewiston to make, dinner to eat.  I periodically flicked my wrist, encouraging it to fly away.  It didn’t budge.  While it perched on my right hand, I awkwardly lifted my phone with my left hand, placed it between myself and my persistent little companion and attempted to take close-up shots of its wee little face.  Then we walked around some more, the monarch and I.  Next, we sat, facing the lake, a gentle breeze periodically rustling my hair and its wings.  I petted it.  I talked to it some more.  I flicked my wrist, coaxing it to take flight and then repeated the process.  Walk.  Sit.  Pet.  Flick, coax.  Finally, it walked to the end of my finger, paused for a moment, and lifted off.  I ran into the house before it could settle on me again.

I was relieved to be free of it and at the same time, I felt a sense of loss.  The kind of loss I often feel when my friend Stephanie’s car leaves the dooryard, beginning her long journey homeward, away from me.

A Newsweek article published in January of 2019 reported that  Monarch butterflies are going extinct, declaring that a staggering 90% of them have already disappeared since the 1980s and that they may vanish completely from the planet within the next twenty years.

I’ve been doing a significant amount of grieving these days, lamenting the diminishing wilderness, clean water, air, food, species, civility, hope.  There are a great number of us who are grieving.  Who have grown increasingly heartsick from incomprehensible news, distorted facts, outright lies, unchecked corruption, greed, and a tidal wave of hatred.   A CBS News headline declares that “There Have Been More Mass Shootings Than Days in 2019.” We are reeling in response to three mass shootings within the past week, too many dead and wounded to grasp, too much rage to express, too much pain to absorb.

My country feels both more endangered and more dangerous to me than at any point in my lifetime, and a part of me wants so much to turn away from it all, take refuge in shopping, food, numbness, a hundred small and petty distractions.  Today, I keep bringing myself back to those moments with the butterfly.  How beautiful it was.  How fearless.  I recall that in many cultures the butterfly has been perceived as a symbol of profound change and transformation.  That before it becomes a creature of beauty and flight it has suffered a very messy and dark period of dissolution.  While trapped within its cocoon, its little body begins to break down and liquify, dissolving so completely that its caterpillar self ceases to exist.  And yet while the cocoon has been a dark and dismal tomb, it has at the very same time served as a nursery.  Because even as the caterpillar was coming apart, the imaginal cells of the butterfly were coming together.  It was Richard Bach who observed that “what the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls the butterfly.”

A few moments ago I went into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and learned that Nobel Laureate and literary light, Toni Morrison, died yesterday.   She was such a courageous and wise woman who touched and taught me so much.  The news of her death is still too startling and new for me to fully process yet, but one line keeps running through my mind.  She wrote, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the thing that weighs you down.”  Words that resonate so deeply as I sit here in my sunlit room contemplating heartbreak, death, transformation, Toni Morrison, and butterflies.

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography

Last night I watched a funny, touching, and oh so wise talk on vulnerability and how it contributes to “living wholeheartedly” by social worker, author, and researcher, Brene Brown.

Brene asked, “How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?”  She also observed, “Our lives are a collection of stories – truths about who we are, what we believe, what we come from, how we struggle, and how we are strong. When we can let go of what people think, and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness – the feeling that we are enough just as we are, and that we are worthy of love and belonging.

If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness lives inside of our story. It’s time to walk into our experiences and to start living and loving with our whole hearts.”

As I listened to her, I was reminded that each of our stories is brimming with beauty,  strength, and wisdom and all too often right along side of pain, loss, and vulnerability.  The challenge, I think, (one that I suspect I’ll be working on for a lifetime) becomes (at least in part) learning how to honor every bit of it, even the hard stuff,  maybe even, especially the hard stuff.   That no matter how difficult or unwelcome the chapter we find ourselves entering into is, that we muster up the wisdom, strength, and grace to love our stories always; that even when they hurt –  we will love our stories still…

There’s just so much bad news these days.  Are you feeling frustrated, anxious, angry? Would you like to feel centered, grounded, more relaxed?  Take a few slow, deep and deliberate breaths and then watch the above video while continuing to breathe slowly and gently. It’s a brief meditation spoken by Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, accompanied by the chanting of Phap Niem and absolutely beautiful visuals. A feast for the eyes, ears, heart, and soul…

four women standing on mountain
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In “How We Choose to be Happy,” authors Rick Foster and Greg Hicks identify Nine choices that extremely happy people make. What are those choices? According to Foster and Hicks the happiest people:

1. Consciously choose happiness over unhappiness
2. Choose to accept full responsibility for their thoughts, actions, and feelings
3. Choose to look deeply inside of themselves to determine what makes them uniquely happy vs. looking to others to learn what should make them happy
4. Choose to keep what makes them happy central in their lives
5. Choose to convert problems into opportunities and find meaning in even the most painful times
6. Choose to be open to new opportunities and remain flexible and ready to adapt when the unexpected occurs
7. Choose to possess a deep and ongoing appreciation for all that is good in their lives and to stay present focussed
8. Choose to give of themselves generously and without expectation of being rewarded
9. Choose to be honest with themselves and others

How many of these choices do you regularly make?  If you were to commit to making these nine choices every day, how might your life be different?  What might you be doing differently?  How might you be thinking and feeling differently?  I think I’ll make this my journal assignment for tonight.  Join me?

 

woman wearing gray jacket beside white puppy
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

The late nineties were rough years for Neil Pasricha, and after his wife told him that she no longer loved him and a close friend committed suicide, he came home from work one day and in an attempt to cheer himself up he started a tiny little blog he called, “1000 awesome things.” In a TED talk he explained, “I was trying to remind myself of the simple, universal, little pleasures that we all love, but we just don’t talk about enough — things like waiters and waitresses who bring you free refills without asking, being the first table to get called up to the dinner buffet at a wedding, wearing warm underwear from just out of the dryer, or when cashiers open up a new check-out lane at the grocery store and you get to be first in line — even if you were last at the other line, swoop right in there.” And this sweet and simple little blog eventually won a Webby award and launched a bestselling book.
We all need to be reminded of those tiny and all too often uncelebrated pleasures in our lives. So I think I’ll start with just 10. Let’s see…

1. The scent of lilacs from the tree in my front yard
2. Fresh and warm baked bread
3. Birds flying in formation
4. The smell of the forest in springtime
5. A puppy’s kiss
6. A lazy afternoon at Reid State Park
7. The first sip of hot coffee in the morning
8. That feeling that comes right before you drift off to sleep
9. Absorbing the warm sun on my face
10. Being moved by a piece of music
11. Laughing so hard my muscles ache (oops getting carried away here, only supposed to write 10.)

Yup. I feel better. Your turn. Try it. Just list 10!

cover Reclaiming_Your_Lost_Self_and_Healing_into_the_Present (2)

I’m delighted to announce that my six-week course, “Reclaiming Your Lost Self and Healing into the Present” is now offered as a self-paced course.  The course consists of Six major segments each of which contains a number of individual sections.

Table of Contents:

Segment One: Introduction

Course Overview

Guidelines

How Might Your Life Have Been Different?

Journaling

Mindfulness

Meditation

Yoga

Women’s Friendships

Segment Two:  The Lost Selves of Girls

Reclaiming Our Lost Selves

Growing up Female

What Does it Mean to _____________ Like a Girl?

Shrinking Women

Journal Suggestion

Gathering Your Gifts

Dismantling Outer Directed Behaviors

Journaling Questions and Suggestions

Self-Parenting

Four Expressive Capacities

Journaling Questions and Suggestions

Guided Meditation

Check in Questions

Additional Reading/Resources

Segment Three: Identifying and Honoring Your Needs

Journaling Techniques

In the Begining the Girl Child…

Reclaiming Our Birthright

Beauty Sickness

Journaling Assignment

Healthy Experiences for Girls

Honoring Body Connection and Attunement

The Whole Girl

Guided Meditation

The Body Scan

Inner Listening

Inner Wisdom

A Circle of Women

Journaling Suggestions

The Wisdom of Eve Ensler

Check-in Questions

Additional Reading/Resources

Segment Four: Identifying, Expressing and Honoring Your Feelings

Imagine a Woman

Early Childhood Experiences

The Emotional Woman

Healing into the Present

Journal Questions

The Legacy of Unclaimed Pain

Childhood Fantasy: What Might Have Been.  What Still Might Be.

Listening to Shame

Guided Meditation

The Unexpressed Feelings of a Lifetime

Learning to Respond Vs. React

Reparenting the Inner Girl

Healing Shame and Fear

A Circle of Women

Journaling Questions/Suggestions

What Are You Unwilling to Feel?

A Voice of Her Own

Check-In Questions

Additional Reading/Resources

Segment Five: Speak Your Truth

Reclaiming Our Stories

Wisdom and Authenticity

The Voice of the Girl-Child

Reclaiming Your Birthright

Healing Experiences for Girls AND Women

Radical Self Honesty

Telling Yourself the Truth

The Courage to Trust Yourself

Journaling Assignment

Guided Meditation

Giving Women a Voice

A Circle of Women

Journaling Assignment

How Might Your Life Have Been Different?

Check-In

A Meditation of Deep Acceptance

Additional Readings/Resources

Segment Six: Express Your Creativity: Honor Your Artist Soul

Creativity and Our Girl Selves

How Creativity Boosts Our Health

Journaling Assignment

Reclaiming Your Birthright

Your Creative Genius

Healthy Family Experiences for Girls AND Women

Journaling Assignments

Creative Affirmations

Women and Creativity

A Circle of Women

Imagine a Woman

Journaling Assignment

Your Vow

Designing Our Lives

Check-In Questions

Additional Articles/Resources

Note: If you decide to sign up, don’t forget to let me know which times work best for optional group Skype calls on the form included in the introductory section!

Sign up by clicking on the following link

Reclaiming Your Lost Self

 

woman sitting by the cliff
Photo by Jake Colvin on Pexels.com

A few days ago I came across an article entitled, “5 Different Questions to Ask in the First Week of the New Year” and decided to answer the questions suggested in the article.  It was a truly helpful exercise in prompting me to clarify my intentions for the coming year and so I thought I’d share them as well as my answers in the hope that you might give them a try yourself.

1. What do you most want to feel this year?

I want to feel as much awe as possible.  The kind of awe that I felt yesterday standing on the shore at Christmas Cove.  The kind of awe I felt the day before yesterday gazing out over the Atlantic at Lands End perched at the head of Bailey Island.  And the kind that I felt the day before that standing on the rocks at what I’ve come to call ‘the land before time’ with my husband, Kevin, absorbing the warm winter sun, mesmerized by the power of the surf thundering against ancient stone.

When I feel awe, astonishment, wonder, and reverence flow through me.  When I feel awe my soul reaches out, freed in some mysterious way from the confines of my body, released with each exhale to flow freely towards the inexpressible; the beautiful; the sacred.

Awe stretches me far beyond any boundary I have known and dances inside of me – my muse, my teacher, my birthright.

2. Who do you choose to love unconditionally this year?  

I choose to love my father without conditions this year.  I choose to love him even when he repeats himself for the 5th time in fifteen minutes.  I choose to love him when he makes yet another impossible and unreasonable demand.  I choose to love him when old resentments rise up from those deep and dark places tucked untidily away within me.  I choose to love him (and forgive myself) when I find myself imagining the day that I am finally free.

I choose to love the man who carried me on his shoulders, who danced with me perched upon his feet, and who kneeled by my bed each evening with hands folded reverently on my bedspread as we said our prayers.  I choose to love him with as much gentleness, and patience, and gratitude as I can muster.  I choose to love him with a wiser heart this year.

3. How will you get back on track when life gets hard?

When life gets hard I will remind myself that my discomfort will pass, just as joy passes, seasons change,  and each and every night gives way to daylight.  I will breathe into my pain and seek to learn from it when I’m able and ready to.

I will keep working to let go as quickly as possible of the inevitable inconveniences, frustrations, and disappointments that arrive, and stop giving them the kind of power that they would never have managed to acquire without my assistance.   I will remind myself that the stories that I tell myself about my experiences shape them (and me) in significant ways, and so I want to commit to telling myself the best stories I can.

4. Who is someone you could help achieve their most important resolution?

The person who I can help to achieve his or her most important resolution is whomever I happen to be with at the moment.   If I don’t distract or burden myself with the responsibility for someone else’s dreams or aspirations, but commit instead to being a loving support person and witness whenever possible, then I will ultimately have more energy for myself and others.

5. What word can you pick as the quality you most want to focus on this year?

I want to experience much more gratitude this year than I’ve managed in the past.   I want to lightly hold (if only for a moment) as many blessings that come my way as I can in the palm of my hands, place them close to my heart, and thank them.  Knowing that as I appreciate them – they, in turn, will appreciate.

I want to move through this life with reverence for all of the good (both great and small) that is; that might never be again; that might, in fact, without some sweet miracle, never have been; and for that which has always been.   Let me drink in all that blesses and graces my ordinary/extraordinary days.  Let me utter over and over again the words “yes” and “wow” and “I love you” and thank you.”

And now, it is your turn, how will you answer these five questions?

Many Blessings,

Tammie Byram Fowles