Spring Equinox - a time when the day and the night are in balance for one moment, and then the wheel turns again. How many of us strive for the perfect balance when Nature shows us that it doesn't exist but for a moment? Life is precarious, one moment all is well, and the next the biggest hurdle we have come across is in the middle of our path. We jump, we walk or run around it, we bulldoze over it, we examine it closely or pretend like it isn’t there. Maybe some of us hug that hurdle and say a prayer of gratitude or disgruntled words when we meet it and others of us circle back to explore that hurdle for meaning, insight, and guidance. But that hurdle in our wake shifted the currents and forward in a new way is what calls us.
Spring holds the energy of May I Be Open for us to witness, emulate, and ponder these words for ourselves on our journey. May I Be Open asks us to be open to what arises within us with compassion and curiosity. May I Be Open invites us to explore what is opening inside us, even if it challenges us and make us a bit more uncomfortable. May I Be Open is a call for discernment, to be in a new way with boundary and stability. May I Be Open invites us to renegotiate our new life. May I Be Open isn’t a call to be a scapegoat, a dumping ground, or to share when it isn’t safe and welcome to do so. May I Be Open isn't anyone's business but your own. May I Be Open is a tender inner call to soften to a new way of life, a new experience, a new paradigm that aligns with your soul’s journey. It is a quiet, tender call like the new shoots of a dear plant that you want to protect from the elements.
May I Be Open is a whisper to the universe that we are resilient, we are hopeful even in the face of despair, that we will put one foot in front of the other - even if we have to scoot it forward because we are too afraid to pick it up or drop to our knees because the ground needs to be closer. This isn’t a lion’s roar, but a call inward to all your aspects that may be trembling from the last year or lifetimes, that even if the outside world’s constitution isn’t welcoming, that our inner constitution is.
May I Be Open is the spellcrafting that the new buds and leaves bring to the world during this moment of renewal. Let it work its subtle, nuanced, shapeshifting magic inside you so in turn it may restore our world.
Many Blessings, Valerie
Living a spiritual life in our modern world is a layered experience. We need to hold the individual and all of their layers, society and all of its facets, the levels of reality, and the cycle of action and reflection deepening in daily life. There are a lot of subtle moving parts to account for and tend to. In many traditions this is not an individual experience. But in a society where spirituality is quantified and turned into a commodity our spiritual lives are often broken into parts instead of honored in its infinite layers. Instead, we are encouraged to be spiritual on our own time and individually.
But we are wired for connection. Connection to Self, other humans, Spirit, nature, and the unseen world around us. We need help interpreting our symbolic selves & holding the paradox that is life. We need spaces where we can ask questions freely, share vulnerably, and process openly. We need people and places that tend our souls and hold space while we do the deep, subtle work of our Spirit & Souls.
Winter Solstice is here for us in the northern hemisphere. The longest night is upon us and then just like that the wheel will turn to bring us a molecule more daylight with each new dawn. Already weary from the pandemic and it's high cost of life, distance, and uncertainty many of us are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. But what if just for this moment you steadied yourself where you are and surveyed the way you have just journeyed? This season is one big threshold - first the solstice then the new year - and threshold's give us the opportunity to look forward and backward while also remaining in the present moment.
Many of us are tired - we were fatigued before this year began and now the constant stress has challenged us. Winter is the time for rest, and this year, it seems we have been given the opportunity to really tap into the winter season's essence. Learning to rest is no easy lesson, and one that our culture doesn't often support. Rest can take many forms beyond nightly sleep (and naps :-). Rest can look like lounging, creating, meditating, bathing, healing, dreaming, etc. Rest is giving our bodies, minds, and spirits time and space to luxuriate in what feels good and nourishing.
So on this sacred day - the longest night - my invitation is to rest and dream. The future will be here soon enough without any effort from us. May you be safe, may you know shelter, and may you find refuge in this time of transition & renewal.
National Day of Mourning
"Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience."
~ Plaque Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England
Thanksgiving this year feels especially complex and multilayered, which isn’t unlike life. As in past years, the theme of gratitude and the plethora of sale emails have been permeating the last several days. But this year isn’t like other years. The CDC asks us to limit gatherings and not to travel, a pandemic has taken precious loved ones from us, many are struggling to put food on the table, and society is at a cultural turning point. This feels like the perfect time to practice embracing life as the paradox it is.
The tableau of Thanksgiving is rooted in historical misrepresentation and societal expectations. Throw in a pandemic and this year's Thanksgiving is likely something most of us haven't experienced. Maybe you are enjoying the holiday without the pressure to gather or go from house to house, or possibly you are mourning the loss of your traditions and are looking forward to a time when life "returns to normal." There is room for everyone in the emotional continuum of the day, which I hope also includes some learning and unlearning around the historical roots of the holiday. I write this newsletter on the land of the Myaamia, Shawnee, and Osage Peoples along with the Indigenous people of the Hopewell and Adeena whose earthworks are visited throughout my area. We live on land that is steeped in community, honoring, and conflict. For many, this is not an easy part of the holiday to reconcile. But that doesn't mean we have to turn away. As Glennon Doyle says "we can do hard things." In my continued learning around the holiday, I came across the National Day of Mourning. The words on the commemorative plaque is above. I share these words because of the clarity of the heartfelt, reality-cutting message. We can do hard things and not turn away from the historical realities of day. We have the ability to embrace and honor the complexities of this day. Maybe in addition to gratitude we can also make Thanksgiving a day of learning and reverence.
I want to acknowledge that this year may be especially hard due to the loss of traditions and the loss of loved ones that we will never kiss and hug again. The personal grief compounded by the urgency of society to examine our history of enslavement, genocide, and racism is a lot to hold. Now is the time to be kind and gentle with ourselves. Learning and unlearning doesn’t have to happen all at one time. It can be done sip by sip. Contradictory emotions can be experienced at the same moment. Honoring your own complexity gives space to honor the world’s complexity. Simple and complex – life is both. So on this day of giving thanks, I would like to extend my deep gratitude for this community's willingness to show up, do hard things, learn, grow, and provide space for this woman’s most unusual new age musings. And as always, if you need support, I am here. Please reach out.
In following the natural cycle of the year, there are eight major turning points. Two solstices, two equinoxes, and the four midpoints between the solstices & equinoxes (Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain). On this wheel of the year, we find ourselves at the celebration of the first harvest - Lammas. Here is a moment to reflect on what you planted at the beginning of Spring and observe what you are harvesting now. As any gardener knows, one does not have full control over the outcome of the crops. Gardens are at the mercy of the quality of seed, the quantity of water, the mercurialness of temperature, the hunger of animals, and the skill of the gardener. With the best of intentions, some years the garden just doesn't grow as planned. Many of us are harvesting radically different crops than what we envisioned for ourselves at the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
COVID arrived in most of our lives right at the beginning of our planting season. Winter's planning and dreaming mostly likely isn't what we planted or are harvesting now. It feels important to acknowledge this and reflect on what is here in this moment. For some, there has been new growth in places once not thought possible, for others - heartache and grief at the loss of loved ones, opportunities, and a culture that feels in chaos. I invite you to be with all of it - not because it's easy and comfortable - but because it is necessary for healing and carry all of this forward. This will not be the only invitation for harvest and reflection from the natural world this year - we still have two more Fall harvest holidays. In addition, this could be a time to plant some new seeds for fall crops. Now is the time to plan & plant with careful consideration of the current climate and then follow with right action.
Anchoring into the natural world opens us up to honor what is while understanding that time moves forward. Tentative step by tentative step we carry within us the deep knowing of what has been lost (as well as gained) and also the tender faith of a new day. If you find yourself disoriented and looking for clarity the natural rhythms are always your friend. Your honoring and connection doesn't need to be a grand gesture. It can be simple, quiet, and modest and will be just as sacred and meaningful.
In this moment of harvest, I am grateful for you. For all the ways we connected and for the opportunity to share my gifts & resources with you. I'm humbled that this is the work that chose me and found each of you.
This is a holy week for so many - Jews celebrating Passover and Christians observing Easter. Both holidays have roots in the ancient traditions and both have the themes of rebirth, renewal, faith, and resilience. It's hard not to witness these themes in our daily lives as the society that we know has changed dramatically in the last few weeks. We have been called on to dig deep into our personal reserves to muster resilience for even the most mundane of experiences - grocery shopping, walking around the neighborhood, navigating government structures, etc. To cope with this crisis, many of us are looking to the future, when life will be better, when we can return to "normal." But as the quote by Murakami so eloquently states, our normal will be new in its form. Our rebirth and renewal will be from a place that absorbs all the wisdom from this time, and leaves behind what is outdated, no longer useful, and personally destructive.The phoenix rising up from the cosmic fire, leaving its former self behind.
So many of us throughout our lives have experienced our own crucible that left us far from our beloved normal. When we are forced to move from what we hold dear, there is grief, sadness, and anger. But what I have also experienced (often with a HUGE dose of resistance) is an emergence of new opportunities and ways of being. We experience this as a reincarnation within our current life, pieces remain the same but are colored by newness that we never considered before. Frankly, I wouldn't be discussing these themes at this point in our collective crisis if this wasn't a holy week. But the timing is an invitation for us to take note of what is inspiring us, what is challenging us, and what whispers of new ways of being arising inside us. These small moments are breadcrumbs to the new normal we face once we emerge from this challenge. And we will emerge, just as creation from the egg and the phoenix from the flame have done over and over again.
My invitation to you is to take notes, literal notes, of what is arising for you during this time. What are you enjoying? What is challenging you? What are the habits you turn to when you are limited in choices? How are you feeling? What are your concerns and worries? What are your observations of yourself, your community and culture? Once you make your notes leave them be if you want. Maybe now isn't the time to make meaning of all that is occurring, maybe it's time to add your notes to the fire and see what arises weeks, months, and years from now. It's hard to make meaning in the middle of an experience - and Goddess we are in the thick of it. But a storm eventually moves along, and in its wake there will be time to take stock of the person that emerges. But for now, as the storm rains heavy, I pray we each have shelter that is safe and healthy. I pray that the new normal lands with softness and grace. And I pray that this is a true season of Passover - where the Divine spares each of us hardship as we shelter.
With devotion, Valerie
Hi All, How are you? I’m moving through thoughts and feelings a mile a minute. One minute I’m ok, the next I am feeling all my fears and worries. Can you relate? I’m used to spending most of my days alone for the last several years, so this isn’t too much of an adjustment for me. However, my need to stay up to date and be a diligent researcher along with my own health concerns is activated my system left and right. I’m sitting here practicing, failing, and succeeding calming my nervous system. Yesterday a bath and yoga nidra did the trick, today it’s soothing self talk and self massage that is helping me ride the wave that has peaks of panic.Over the years, I have learned this calming isn’t always a solitary act. I used to have a lot of shame around being hyperaware, sensitive, a canary in a coal mine, but the more I have learned about trauma, resilience, and healing, the more I have learned that calm is a co-creative process. Until we are solid in our practice, quieting our systems takes guidance whether that is in recorded form, written material, video, or in person. Practicing feeling safe, secure, and centered requires us so often to “be seen” by someone that can witness us with compassion. As a minister, I consider my primary job to partner with those that are suffering and in crisis – “for though I walk through the valley, I am not alone.”
We are a household of two, and over the years we have tried not to freak out at the same time (maybe in the same hour but not at the same time;). We each have our own strengths and unique needs regarding safety, and it helps to know what those are. But what happens if you find yourself in a crisis and you haven’t really thought of what makes you feel safe and secure? It’s hard to hit the ground running, if you haven’t fostered a trust in your coping toolbox. Be gentle with yourself right now. Tell that screaming inner critic (panicked helper, etc) that you hear it and it’s not being helpful. Often – I raise a hand to it and say “not helpful.” And turn back to the task at hand.
You maybe in crisis right now - concerned about basic needs, your health and the health of your loved ones, and it maybe clear to you that you are triggered. OR you maybe in crisis right now and that is not the word you would use. But, figuring out the new normal, navigating work from a new space, different people in your energy for differing hours, hell – navigating the grocery story is not what it was two weeks ago. You maybe more tired, more wired, more on edge, angry, depressed, sad, irritable, etc. And these are all signs that a nervous system is on alert. Add on being sensitive, in tune, connected and you are feeling all the feels right now. Totally normal.
In crisis, meaning is difficult to find. Yeah I have seen the social media posts inviting me to see this pandemic and physical distancing as an opportunity for growth, meaning, everything happens for a reason, God/Goddess has a plan. BUT I invite you to be patient with your meaning making. Acknowledge that this moment, maybe you have seen a silver lining or maybe there isn’t one for you right now – and that is ok. Life just IS sometimes. Meaning may never come or it could be days, months, and years away. A quickly rushed meaning could cut you off from the deeper learning and curiosity that is required to slurp all the nectar out of less than ideal situation. Meaning often comes with distance – it unfurls as you walk away from the immediate experience. Don’t struggle for something just because so many others are using that to get through this moment. If you haven’t found calm or meaning yet – that is OK. This isn’t a rush to enlightenment. And if you found it and then it left you –say it with me…THAT is ok.
Since calm is a co-creative practice, my ministry at this moment is to practice with you. Want some specialized help with touching into calm? Need someone to share those thoughts and feelings that you think other will judge you for? Want long distance healing? Need prayer and connection? Want me to pull cards and doing a mini-reading? I am here. And before you say, “Valerie, I would love to but I don’t have the money. “ I say to you – this isn’t about money, building my business, or getting clients; this is about doing the work of the Divine, together. And that is more than enough. I will not send anyone an invoice, and I will not initiate a discussion of payment. You can talk with me if you want regarding payment, but it won’t come from me.
Community, I have no doubt we will get through this. It may not be pretty at times, it certainly isn’t easy, but you are not alone. Sincerely, Valerie
I know I have been MIA from your inbox. Maybe you haven’t even noticed with all the info that comes at us daily. So why break radio silence now? Because that bossy Spirit voice in my head told me to ;-). The last several years I have taken a deep dive personally and professionally into the nervous system and how it informs our minds, emotions, bodies, and souls. I have learned several valuables tools for myself when my system becomes immobile, traumatized, and straight up full-blown panicked. I guess some universal force thought these tools might be helpful for many of us given the interesting times we find ourselves living in.
You know what doesn’t help when I am panicked? Someone telling me to calm down and to not be afraid – in all its variations. Right now, there are a lot of don’t be afraid and remain calm messages. But just like if I told you to not think of a polar bear – you can’t help BUT think of polar bear. The same is true of the message – no fear and be calm. It can cause frustration, confusion, shame, and an activated nervous system when we ignore what our system is doing. For those of us that have a sensitive nervous system (a finely tuned instrument if you will) it can be challenging to find stillness and quiet when we are trying to stay informed, and so much is electrifying our systems. So I wanted to pop in one sensitive to another and give some concrete pointers on how to turn down your system. This is not an exhaustive list. Much you might already know, but some maybe new tools for your nervous system. This list isn't a perfection list - it's a practice list. Downshifting your nervous system is a cumulative practice. Some of these tips may give you a big reward and others may give you a tiny shift. Both are valid options for your system. I hope you find this list useful! As always, reach out if you need me!!
I woke up this morning to see our daffodils beginning to bloom and the first green on the honeysuckle. Spring is upon us. Many of us will celebrate Easter and Passover this weekend - both holidays that reflect the natural world's experience of renewal that is on display right now. I invite you to use renewal throughout your daily life to course correct whenever you find yourself losing faith and hope. These virtues help sustain us when reality requires us to take responsibility and do the courageous work that life asks of us. Hope and faith aren't pollyanna masks we wear. They are spiritual practices that sustain and renew us again and again. So many of us experience an ebb and flow of faith and hope - that is human and natural. They are trusty friends that understand the cycles of life - they have no expectation of you. Just come back to them when you are inspired to do so. Hope and faith are deep wells that beckon us back to re-enliven ourselves for our own benefit and for the benefit of our communities. May you be inspired by season of renewal to reclaim faith and hope as trusty allies in your daily life.
Thirty years ago this month I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah. When I was eleven my father asked me what I wanted to do for my bat mitzvah and I said “everything my brothers did.” While I am sure my parents thought this was a typical sass answer from their daughter - and it was - I was also sincere. I had studied Hebrew for years and there was no way that my dad was going to stand up and read prayers that I was fully equipped to read. The answer stemmed from an inner knowing that how women were treated in synagogue with limitations and at times not even counted as a person was not just. My parents took my sass answer, and went about changing the institution. My bat mitzvah on that Saturday morning in October was a place divided. Those that did not want to witness a woman reading from the Torah held a separate service downstairs. And those that were ready for the change and those that were willing to grow - witnessed me leading much of the service, reading from the Torah, and unknowingly observed a powerful change of heart from a congregational Elder. This ceremony is a powerful reminder to me that social justice is at the very heart of my being and that we can be champions of that change, or uphold the institutions that seek to divide.
But lately, when I think of that weekend, another story emerges as significant as changing an institution. It is a story that I have told countless times, but this year has taken on new insights for me. It is a seed planted 30 years ago. During my bat mitzvah weekend, at our house, my great Aunt Henrietta sat me down at my father’s turned leg writing desk, took out a regular deck of cards, and read my fortune. This is the moment something in my soul was given the words for what it knew was possible - the moment when something I had known deep inside me sparked alive, sprouted and started pushing through the darkness of the fertile soil to reach daylight.
I loved everything about that experience with Aunt Henrietta - everything except it ending. She read my cards in the most elegant and fun way. I can’t recall details about the cards that emerged, but I do remember her talking to me about life and her mother reading cards. Here was my initiation into another part of my tradition.
During my reading, I remember feeling seen and connected, and deep knowing that I belonged. I also had hope that good things were to come and that there was a tool out there to guide me when life got turbulent. This reading was a tremendous gift to me. It started me on a path that still unfolds today.
I think about that moment and I wish I could go back in time and sit with Aunt Henrietta again at that desk with a note pad and a tape recorder. And I would thank her for inviting me into her world, our world. I miss that naturalness and innocence of reading cards as ordinary and belonging – the seamlessness of it intertwined with my Jewish rite of passage.
Over the years I have had the great privilege to read for people. What started as fun and entertaining has become an offering of compassion and responsibility. The cards can be scary to people, the unknowing of what will turn up - the poignant truths that require actions of courage and grace as well as the signposts to joy and freedom. To me the table, the cards, the people sitting, are sacred space – sincerity and reverence with a hearty dose of laughter and meeting people where they are the foundation to an empowering reading know matter what outcome the cards reflect. This reflection of thirty years ago was met with a request from a friend to do readings in her shop. I couldn’t think of a better signpost to follow.
I love the divine timing of this invitation to read. In spiritual life, patience is certainly a virtue – and one that many of us have a difficult time cultivating. But have hope. Seeds planted 30 years ago may just be the answer to your deep longing. And as the moon is new and the season turns to Spirit, I invite you to examine your own stories for new meaning and seeds that are ready to harvest. With gratitude, Valerie
P.S. As I go to publish this, I got a flash remembering followed by a huge chuckle…I wrote my dissertation with Tarot cards framing my analysis. How could I forget that?! Why did I ever lose the thread of this powerful tool that has been with me since my childhood? ❤
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