Try This Empathy Exercise

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Go first

Before you’re asked.

Before she asks for the memo, before the customer asks for a refund, before your co-worker asks for help.

Volunteer.

Offer.

Imagine what the other person needs, an exercise in empathy that might become a habit.
~Seth Godin

Practice this exercise liberally and often. It’s not that difficult really.
It sets you apart from the pack, it will get you noticed, it will make all the difference and the habit will just make you feel damn good.

Imagine the needs of others. 

Much love,
Xox


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Let Them Spin Off Before They Puke

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Oh Dear Hearts,

If you are currently on this journey, just know that I am there with you.

While I observe from afar the culling of those around me daily, it has occurred to me that my “circle” is a living thing.

It is alive with its own thoughts and opinions and if we are lucky, it reinvents itself several times during our lives.
I do say this with great caution, because it doesn’t feel like luck – at the time.

Don’t kill the messenger please.

The vision I had one day of my “circle” is that it’s one of those spinning playground circle things. You know the one.
A bunch of us hold on while three or four rascals spin the thing faster and faster until you either puke or get spun off.

In recent months my circle has been spinning very fast, and people have seemed to have fallen away.
I checked for puke and there was none; fortunately they left before they lost their lunch.
That’s good, because now that’s it’s begun to slow down and new people are jumping aboard, I don’t want to make a bad impression.

Just as it did when I finished school, changed jobs, and got married, my circle is refining and reinventing itself. Some in my “circle” have been with me all along, taking the ride, while others have decided to move on.

I bid adieu to those riders. We all had a great ride.
No sadness – only gratitude. Only love.

I can see the new riders lining up to jump on, breathing new life, wisdom and great value into my “circle.”

You can’t control your “circle” and it’s antics.
At least that has alluded me so far and you know what?
Thank God.
My “circle” has no issues. It’s just waiting for the best participants.
It picks the BEST people.

Take heart, I’m riding this with you my loves,
Xox

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Why Different Isn’t Wrong

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The other day in line at my version of The Happiest Place on Earth, Target or Tar-Jeh as I like to refer to it, I overheard a couple of women in front of me scrutinizing the cashier.
“My God, will you look at those fingernails, they’re so long! And that color!”
Her friend stopped unloading her cart onto the conveyor belt long enough to lean forward to get a better look.
“Oh yeah” She replied, “How does she do anything?

It seemed to me she was doing her job just fine.

“And that blue – bleck, all the kids are wearing that. I just don’t get it. It’s hideous.”
I was hoping that Tracy couldn’t hear them, even though they were making no effort to lower their voices, speaking with a kind of rude, audacity, as if they were in some foreign country and assuming Tracy didn’t speak English.
Once they had finished verbally annihilating Tracy, they went to town on the lady in the line next to us. 

“Oh jeeeeeez, she’s too old to be wearing shorts. Not with legs like that. She should get that vein stripping surgery Miki had done, then maybe she could wear those things, but only in her own backyard.”
“Looks like a freakin’ roadmap, disgusting. My eyes can’t un-see that” her friend chimed in, throwing gum and a Snickers on the belt.

I was behind them, and I was terrified. I became a swivel head, looking around with the intention of changing lines.
God no, don’t do that, you’ll just give them a perfect shot of your ass in yoga pants as you walk away. I’ll be damned if I’m going to give them that nugget for their nastiness. Better I just stay put, duck down or become invisible…….
I was certain I was to become the next victim of the Target Fashion Police.

Do you know people like that? That judge anything that’s different than THEIR “normal” as…….wrong.

Hey ladies, with your overdone Botox and fake designer handbags, (sorry, but you asked for it) it’s not wrong – it’s just different.

I once took a friend to a group meditation that I attended once a month. She was interested in starting a practice, and I’d known these people for over ten years. A previous friend I had taken, described this group as an old, cozy pair of slippers – warm and welcoming. I thought so too.

Meditation was great. My friend seemed to genuinely like the people, chatting and laughing afterwords while sipping her alkaline water. 
On the way home in the car, I was in for a rude awakening.

“Ernest guy, what’s his story?” she asked.
I knew who she meant, one of the men IS very ernest in his social interactions.
“Oh I don’t know, I’ve known him forever, he can be kind of intense – but he’s sweet, really.”
“Well, he creeped me out. Then that Birkenstock, ferret faced lady, she’s something else.”

“Hey! These are my friends, sort of….anyway…they’re sweet and harmless and they seemed to really like you.”
I was trying to keep my cool, but I wanted to punch her in the throat. OMMMMMM back to a loving place.

“Yeah, well, they’re not my people, too granola, woo woo, Patchouli, for me. But I did like the meditation.”

Too bad sister, because I’m never taking you again. I thought silently, not wanting to start a car-fight.

I had heard this friend level a judgement on everyone around her in ten seconds flat, but they were usually strangers, not people I knew. (I could only imagine what kind of animal MY face resembled.) Seems anyone who didn’t fit in some little box she had envisioned as “correct” – was wrong.
They were ferret faced, creepy, granola eating (so what) freaks.

“The guy on the corner waiting at the light looks like a pedophile.”
“Look at that girl’s eyeliner, who did her make-up? A raccoon?”

I know this seems like a duh, but I’m going there anyway. Obviously SHE had some self esteem issues or she wouldn’t be looking around with such a cruel eye and sharp tongue.

After I ditched that judgy friend, I still couldn’t escape it, I started to notice it everywhere.

Two guys at Starbucks sneering judgmentally at one of those complicated coffee orders shouted out at the pick up counter. You know the one: grande, half caf, sugar free, one pump, vanilla latte with extra foam.

So what! Why is my order any of your business and why is it somehow wrong?

Variety makes the world go around. I personally relish it.
It makes life and people watching supremely entertaining.

Because it is so glaringly obvious to me now, I promise not to make you wrong.

Be your badass selves.
Fly your freak flags.
Wear your blue nail polish, pierce, tattoo, grey out your hair, Kelly Osbourne.
I LOVE IT. 
DiFFERENT inspires me. It gives me ideas, things I would have never have thought of.

As far as I ever contemplate pushing the envelope, someone has been there, done that, SO last Tuesday.

Start paying attention, see if you can catch yourself or someone around you judging different as wrong.
It’s okay if someone loves pickled herring or sleeps until noon or sings the wrong lyrics to every song (that’s actually endearing).

What do you think? Clue me in. Tell me about it in the comments!

Love you, my different little tribe,
Xox

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Overcoming My Fear Of Bambi , Part II

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Fear had its grubby mitts on me and was dragging me systematically, with every anxious, shallow breath, deeper down the rabbit hole.

It replaced my relatively rational mind with that of a caveman being chased by a T-Rex.

I was in constant fight or flight mode, assessing every threat on a scale of one to ten. One being completely benign, a kitten sleeping on a chair, ten being a lumber truck filled with deer barreling toward us. Every moment on the motorcycle felt like a ten.

What the hell had happened to me?

If I had to name the soundtrack playing in my head all day long, it would have been the theme from Jaws and The Shining on an endless loop, ramping up my adrenalin, and whipping my nerves into a frenzy.

Studies have shown the detrimental effects of fear on the human psyche.
I was a textbook case.

Fear effects our thinking and actions.
It made me into a dumbass. My thinking was completely skewed which caused me to act like a huge fraidy cat.
I wanted to turn right, if you can imagine that, on our Left Turn Trip which prompted a stern admonition from my husband. “You’re acting like an idiot. Stop it.”

Fear hinders us from becoming the people we are meant to be.
Where was that carefree, fearless woman who was game for anything and loved seeing the world on the the back of a bike? She had ceased to exist, replaced instead by a woman afraid of wildlife. Not lions and tigers and bears (oh my) but freaking Bambi.

Fear can drive people to destructive habits. To numb the pain of distress and foreboding, some turn to things like drugs and alcohol for artificial relief.
Yep, I was main lining the wine and chocolate. All concern for healthy living left me. Why bother. I could be killed at any moment so a big, fat, chocolate croissant or a sticky bun for breakfast, were just the gateway drugs for a day of self destructive debauchery.

Fear steals peace and contentment. When we’re always afraid, our life becomes centered on pessimism and gloom.
Peace and contentment were distant memories for me now. I was a frazzled wreak. Being hyper vigilant is exhausting. I couldn’t even take in the beauty of the scenery, I just wanted to get to the next destination and get the hell off this God forsaken death march…..I mean road trip. 

Fear creates doubt.
Yes – yes it does, and I think my husband started to doubt my sanity right about then.

This next story is kind of my perfect storm of fear’s behavioral anarchy.

One afternoon around three, we found ourselves entering back into a forested area after being along the coast most of that morning. It was extremely overcast, dark and gloomy, so much so that all vehicles had to use their headlights in the middle of the day.
In other words: summer along the Northwest coast.
Well, that sent me into a terrified tailspin. I could feel every muscle in my body tense up. I tugged at my husband’s arm frantically, which is the Universal sign for “I’ve lost my mind, pull over immediately.”

Now stopped on the side of the highway, I scream over the traffic whizzing by into his helmet this question, which I’m SURE is on the MENSA qualification exam.

Its gotten so dark out, do you think the deer think it’s dusk? They can’t tell time, maybe they operate from the changes in light? Are they getting ready to start leaping out? Because if they are, I think we should stop riding RIGHT NOW!”

That was it. He had had it.
He forcefully grabbed both my shoulders, looked me square in the eyes and yelled over traffic, “This has GOT TO STOP. I don’t care if you want to drive yourself nuts, but now you’re driving me INSANE.
I can’t believe I’m even going to say this: DUSK is DUSK. Get a grip woman.
We’re riding all the way to Cannon Beach today and we may not get there until after dark. DEAL WITH IT. I’m finished indulging your fears.
Yes, it’s true, you may die on the bike. It may be a buck, it may be a lumber truck, it may be because I had a brain aneurism caused by this nonsense.
Nevertheless, I want my old wife back.
I want to hear you humming songs and talking sweetly to yourself behind me. I want to feel your barely there holding onto me, not this horrible death grip you’ve acquired. I want to see joy instead of fear in your eyes.
Most importantly, I want your IQ to return to it’s former level….NOW!”

He shucked my shoulders to punctuate the end of his lecture and to make sure I was still paying attention.
Without another word, we got back on the bike and rode away.

And THAT ladies and gentlemen is how I overcame my fear of bambi, and death.

Do you have that someone that will give it to you straight? Not let you be lead by fear? Call them right now and thank them and then tell me about it!

Brave, brave, love ,
Xox


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Overcoming My Fear Of Bambi

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    People always ask me if I’m afraid I’m going to die on the motorcycle, which leads me to ask them: Are you afraid to live?

    About ten years ago, we, my hubby and I, decided to take our “Left Turn Ride.”
    Our plan, (which was hatched over too much wine on a Friday night, but brilliant just the same) was to ride up the west coast of the US, from LA to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, staying as far left as the roads would allow and without having to wear a wetsuit.

    Our motto: When in doubt – turn left.

    Those were in the days before I met Ginger who turned me onto custom earphones and the concept of riding with music playing at all times. I now go to great lengths to assemble the perfect soundtrack for each day of our rides.
    Big, sweeping instrumentals for curves and great scenery, Sting for the moors of Scotland and Ireland, Billy Joel, Annie Lennox or Gaga for city riding and even a best selling book for the long stretches of flat, straight, highway in Wyoming.

    On this “Left Turn Ride” I had only my own thoughts to keep me company, which could put me into a kind of zoned out state of bliss, or wreak havoc, depending on what I was seeing, how much sleep I’d had, and my general state of being that day.

    I know.

    Crap shoot in head to toe Kevlar on two wheels going 80mph.

    I’m a pretty even tempered person, relatively low maintainence (if you just heard a thud, that’s my husband falling out of his chair) I’ve even been known to fall asleep on the back of the bike.
    No, you don’t fall off. 
    No, I don’t admit any of this to my mother.

    Up the coast of Oregon and Washington we rode through mile after mile of gorgeous redwood forests.
    The scent of pine is one of my all time favorite things in the world next to the sound of babies laughing and bacon.
    Redwoods and Pine trees are at the top of my list of the reasons Why I Ride.
    They feed my soul.

    Sometimes the forest gets so dense and dark and the smell gets so strong, like a Christmas tree farm, you become completely transported to another time and place; of fairies, devas and magic. The trees truly are not just living, but ALIVE, and so is the forest……and therein lies the rub.

    One day in central Oregon, if I remember correctly, we saw remnants on the road of a deer that had the misfortune of meeting the front bumper of a logging truck at 65 mph.
    Then another.
    The next day, a red pickup was at a gas station, totaled on all four sides as a huge buck had gone up and over the front hood and windshield, with its legs making contact with the side panels on its way down the back and straight to heaven.
    That is when my thoughts, left to their own devices without the distraction of music, went to work on me.

    “What happens if we hit a deer?” I asked later at lunch, picking all the good bits out of my salad.

    My husband looked at me as if I just slapped him and slowly put down his fork.
    Shaking his head and fiddling with his paper napkin (he HATES paper napkins, it’s the French in him) he let out a long sigh.

    “Well, I will try to slow down if I have the chance, I won’t jam on the brakes and I won’t swerve out of the way because THAT will kill us for sure.”

    I stopped chewing.

    “When we hit it, the guts will splatter all over us, the deer will die, it’ll total the front of the bike, but hopefully we’ll be okay.”

    Shit. I dropped my fork.

    “If it’s an Elk or a Moose, you can kiss your ass goodbye.”
    I’ll do all the same things, I’ll slow down, go straight ahead…..but we’ll all die. That’s a huge animal.”

    He nonchalantly picked up his fork and started to eat again, like he just gave me the weather report.
    Cloudy with a chance of reindeer.
    I’m crying now, and in my best freaked out seven year old voice I wail:
    “What!!!!!!!??????? You mean…….we could DIE! Holy shit!”

    He’s laughing now, big giant guffaws of laughter. 
    “You’re kidding, right? It never occurred to you you could die on a motorcycle?”

    Because my fate suddenly seemed uncertain and life too short; I stopped a passing waitress and ordered a hot fudge sundae.

    “Well, no. Certainly not at the hands of Bambi.”

    He went on to explain that the greatest threat was when the wildlife was most active – dusk and dawn. That is apparently when the most vehicle versus fauna accidents occur.

    My husband has this theory about accidents. They are a series of random events that converge at the same time and place. If you remove ONE component, the accident cannot occur. For instance, if you forget something and run back into the house delaying your departure by five minutes, that will either place you on or remove you from the accident timeline.

    I wanted to remove US from that timeline.

    My new rule: No riding before nine in the morning and kickstands down by five.

    Suddenly my beautiful pine forests were filled with terrifying, furry, four legged terrorists ready to leap out at any moment and render us dead.

    Why I Ride is all about the experiences. Living life.

    Hadn’t I just said that to the person that asked me if I was afraid of dying?

    Now I found myself afraid for tens of hours a day, looking for animals lurking in the landscape, ready to leap.
    Cute became creepy.

    Fuck I hate fear, it changes you…..it was changing me.
    It was making me afraid of some implied danger, trading beautiful experiences for the illusion of safety.

    I was willing to forgo the sunrise and sunset rides, the mystical, foggy, early morning departures right after coffee with the promise of a big breakfast after a couple of hours of sleepy coastal roads.
    No way Jose, I’m sleeping in. Those brazen killers will be stirring at that hour.

    Wait…..why do I ride?
    (To be continued)

    Xox

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  • How To Find The Perfect Red Lipstick, Enlightenment and a Man

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    If it looks good, you’ll see it. If it sounds good, you’ll hear it. If it’s marketed right, you’ll buy it. If it’s real….you’ll feel it.
    ~Kid Rock

    It used to make me furious when I was a young girl (under thirty) when someone; a guru, the lady at the cosmetics counter at Bullocks, even my mother, would end a piece of advise with the phrase: You just know when you know.

    “How will I know when I’ve reached enlightenment?”

    “There are soooooo many different shades of red lipstick, which one looks the best?”

    “There are thousands of great men in the world (saying thousands instead of millions was me being discerning) how will I be able to pick just one?”

    I was looking to these experts of the human experience for answers, and the one I got most often was: You just know when you know.

    Ugh. I don’t want a Zen koan, I want some real life, practical wisdom. Little did I know, that’s EXACTLY what they were dispensing.

    The more often I heard this pearl, the more it sunk in and I began to take it under advisement.

    One Saturday afternoon at the West Hollywood MAC store, as I lined both hands and up one arm with samples of their thirty shades of red, while waiting for a gorgeous tranny to finish up a false eyelash tutorial and give a girl some help; it hit me.

    Just like that, it was suddenly clear. The clouds parted, and I just KNEW.
    Out of all the choices supplied by MAC that day, two shades were just okay, the rest were shit, too pink, too blue, too dark. Then, there was THE ONE (cue the children’s choir) – it looked spectacular on my yellowish skin tone.
    I ran to the window for natural light – still good.
    All indecision left my body as I grabbed a wipe, cleaned myself up and ran to the counter to make my purchase.
    You just know when you know.

    My pocket Guru that helped me out during all my spiritual troubles in the nineties, doled out that phrase to me like mints after Mexican food.
    At the time I had an annoying habit of questioning EVERYTHING
    .
    “How will I know if the voice in my head is my intuition or that little devil that lives on my shoulder?”

    “When do you know if you’ve reached that place in meditation?”

    “How do you know when you’re done praying?”

    “How can I tell if I’m living my life’s purpose?”

    Some of my queries were existential masterpieces and some, even if I do say so myself, were mind numbingly dumb; still, his answer was always the same:
    You just know when you know.
    He was right. Damn him.

    Where men were concerned, this phrase proved most infuriating of all.
    I’ll just know…….shit.

    I had married at twenty, thinking I knew, but if I’m being completely honest (which is always my goal here) I had my doubts at the time, just no courage to go along with them, so I went through with it.
    Like I’ve written before, it should be against the law to get married that young. You shouldn’t be allowed to make that big of a life decision when you’re not old enough to buy beer.
    Some people DO know at a young age, but it’s as rare as being struck by lightening – and that’s how I imagined it would feel to just know.

    As each year went by after my divorce, I felt a lot of things about a lot of men, but certainty wasn’t one of them.
    As I entered my forties, life experience came in handy as a kind of roadmap of what I DIDNT want. You know what I mean.

    When you know what you DON’T want, you are clearer on what you DO want. No mullets, no long, yellow toenails, no mommy issues, you know, like that.

    I was waiting for lightening. But when it showed up it was more like goosebumps. That’s my signal when I just know – my whole body becomes covered with big, giant, goosebumps…..oh, and I shake.
    Good job Universe, that’s some pretty undeniable physical evidence to let me know – when I’m living my purpose, I’ve found the perfect shade of red lipstick and that this time I married the exact right guy for me.

    My advise to you? Pay attention; to your body, to your gut, to your heart, because they DO help you out.

    Life gives us all sorts of signs about when to leave, what to say, when to forgive and which black shoes to wear.

    Be on the lookout for shivers and goosebumps and lightening.
    And take it from me, The Former Queen of the Jaded Skeptics.

    You WILL just know when you know.

    Do you get physical signs that let you know that you know? What are they if ya don’t mind me askin’? Tell me about YOUR experience with this phrase, I’d SO love to hear about it!

    In case you’d rather listen than read, here you go:
    https://soundcloud.com/jbertolus/how-to-find-the-perfect-red

    You KNOW I’m sending some love,
    Xox


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    SOMETHING From NOTHING

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    Creation!
    Think about it.
    This world operates on a kind of cosmic auto-pilot where Divine Order prevails.

    Buds turn into flowers, acorns to oaks, tadpoles to frogs and an egg and sperm into a human being.
    It is automatic, pre-programmed alchemy, mixed with a dash of abracadabra and a pinch of magic.

    If you’ve ever planted a garden from seeds you’ve witnessed this.
    One day there is dirt. Then maybe some dirt and fertilizer. Later, you throw down some seeds, quite randomly actually, trying your best to duplicate Mother Nature; add some water and sunshine and voila! In a few days, from what was previously barren earth, little green sprouts start to peek their way into existence.

    You, with a lot of help from the Universe, have created SOMETHING from NOTHING.

    That never ceases to amaze me when I slow down long enough to actually let it sink in.

    SOMETHING from NOTHING.

    Ideas become real, caught in third dimension, for eyes to behold, scholars to ponder, haters to hate.
    We cannot help it, residing in this world of creation.
    It is everywhere.
    Bee hives and boobies, birds nests, coral reefs, ant hills.
    Nature is constantly showing off. Her cycles of birth, life and death, showing us the way.
    It’s that ashes to ashes thing she does so well.

    SOMETHING from NOTHING.

    The earliest men and women stared at the blank walls of their caves and after dinner and dishes, they drew with ash from their fire what they saw around them.
    It’s in our genes.

    A blank canvas calls the painter to it, like the marble summons the sculptor.
    Aren’t we all glad the marble didn’t summon the painter, the canvas the cook?
    Divine Order is savvy that way. An acorn doesn’t become a rosebush any more than we hatch from eggs, it’s all been worked out and it’s perfect.

    SOMETHING from NOTHING

    It’s the same with writing.
    I start with a blank screen. Some days it taunts me with its blankness, but then the Muse starts to talk, and when she talks I listen – and I write.
    Soon, that blank screen is filled with five hundred words. In the old days I would have been engulfed in a sea of crumpled rejects, these days if something doesn’t jell it’s as easily forgotten as delete, delete, delete.
    I know I’m no different from every other writer when I confess to being as surprised as anyone, that the ideas actually make it to the page.

    SOMETHING from NOTHING.

    Cooking.
    Random ingredients, spices, oil, water, et al, gathered into an empty pot, simmering, beckoning for recognition. An hour ago this dish ceased to exist. I’ve said it before – add the final ingredient, LOVE.
    It’s freaking alchemy. I’m telling you.

    If you make jewelry, it all starts with an idea. Then add gold, stones and artistry.

    If you build a house – idea. Then add dirt lot, lumber, elbow grease.

    If you write a song, it’s an idea that attaches itself to music. How about THAT.

    Every Corporation, company, great cause, charity, invention, started as an invisible idea.

    SOMETHING from NOTHING.

    As I see it, it goes:
    idea, intent, execution…..stand back……repeat.

    We all do this in so many aspects of our day to day life, I think it’s important to recognize the alchemy and be appreciative of the fact that Divine Order exists.

    SOMETHING from NOTHING.

    What do you think? What have you created today?
    Do you take the time to notice Divine Order in nature?
    I’d love it if you told me what you create from nothing – Share it with us!

    If you’d rather listen than read, I get it, here you go:

    https://soundcloud.com/jbertolus/something-from-nothing

    Big love,
    Xox


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    The Aspen Analogy

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    I remember as we were riding motorcycles last summer along the continental divide, admiring the groves of beautiful Aspen trees that filled the landscape for mile after mile, as far as the eye could see. At that point of September their leaves were just turning the color of daffodils.

    They are one of my favorite trees.
    I have often marveled at their physical beauty, their mottled white bark and shimmery leaves; but when one of my teachers back in the day told me their amazing story, and how it related to humanity, well, I developed an entirely different appreciation.

    Somehow the roads conspired with the music in my ears (or I’d just gotten better at choosing the tracks) as we would wind in and out of the gently sweeping curves, the edges lined with groves of graceful Aspen trees.

    I like big, full orchestra, instrumental pieces when we zig zag through forests.

    It provides a perfect soundtrack.
    You all have soundtracks to particular moments in life – right?

    The day I’m thinking of in particular, I was listening to Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Special Edition, which is his genius SO album mixed with full, and I mean FULL orchestra.
    Many of the instrumental tracks are over seven minutes long and IN YOUR EYES, playing at full volume in my headphones all throughout the mountains of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, just made me weep.
    Perfect temperature, scenery, music, road and company often do that to me.
    It really is magic.

    http://youtu.be/Aq9ZHVAOZDw

    But I digress.

    Here’s what so unusual and really quite mystical about the Aspens.
    They are believed to originate from the root system of Pando, which at an estimated 80,000 years old, is thought to be among the oldest living organisms on the planet.

    Aspen are very rarely solitary trees, their roots can lie dormant under the surface for years, for instance after a forrest fire, or severe climate change, where they will wait for the optimum conditions for an entire grove, not just a few to flourish.

    A tree is actually an above ground stem that has emerged from a single underground root structure.

    In other words, they are a collective, a community, all connected to each other with a strength and durability that remains unseen.

    Don’t you love that?

    My teacher relayed that story to me, which of course I immediately looked up, because it sounded like a bullshit fairytale; to make the point about the origins of our souls.
    He hated that description: human soul, it would get him all fired up, red in the face.

    The soul is immortal, being human for a brief moment of time,” he ‘d say.

    “It is ancient, and every soul is connected, like the root system of Pando, Pando representing God or Source or whatever you want to call it.”
    “We, humanity, are the like stems or Aspen trees, we think once we’re above ground that we are autonomous, (the trees would NEVER be that stupid) when quite the opposite is true.” He was on a roll now.

    “We get all of our wisdom, strength and beauty from our unseen connection to each other and God. When one part of the group of Aspens is suffering, it effects the whole, once a certain percentage dies, the whole grove is lost. When it thrives, the same is true.”

    He was making a second point about a world community, and about the fact that we should care what goes on not only next door to us, but down the street, in the next county, state and every country of the world. We tend to not pay particular attention to wars and suffering in far away lands, but if you subscribe to the Aspen analogy, any human suffering effects the whole.

    That particular teacher was a citizen of the world and he had a soapbox and wasn’t afraid to use it.

    As I rode through the groves of Aspens, at the end of last summer, beholding all the beauty in front of me for those three weeks I remembered his lecture and I could feel how sacred this planet truly is.

    If you EVER doubt that, walk or ride, through nature.
    No soapbox necessary.
    That my loves, is Church.

    Tell me, do you feel the Universal connection in nature? How can we practice more connection in our day to day lives? Any thoughts? I LOVE your feedback!

    Sending Aspen Connected Love,
    Xox

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    Permission Granted!

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    Remember permission slips?

    Those signed (or forged) whichever the case may be; pieces of paper that granted us access to off the grid childhood activities?
    Weekend trips with Girl Scouts, grade school field trips to museums or the Observatory, Wednesday McDonald’s hamburger lunches in sixth grade?

    Proudly, I had my dad’s signature down pat, the giant R of Roy with the straight tail of the Y, ending downward, no curling back up, no frills at all, very masculine, completely unlike my own sixth grade cursive; so occasionally, even though I had brought my delicious Spam with mustard on white sandwich in my Partridge Family lunch box for lunch that Wednessday, I’d permission slip myself a burger.

    Forging (not to be confused with foraging) for food……hmmmmmm I’m sure there’s some deep hidden meaning in there.

    Anyway…….
    Brene Brown talks about writing HERSELF permission slips.

    I LOVE that idea.

    When she was on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, she had one tucked inside the pocket of her jean jacket.

    It read: I give you permission to be excited, goofy and uncool. 
    Just show up and be seen.

    From what I observed she didn’t get too giggly or over stare, she had her occasional “Holy Shit, I’m sitting with Oprah” moments and they felt completely authentic and actually a bit brave.
    She didn’t pretend “Oh hey, no big deal, I’m fine, I’mcool.”

    As the story goes, after the show she heard that Maya Angelou was in another part of the building recording some audio poems. So instead of nonchalantly replying: “Oh, that’s nice” she abandoned cool once again and told Oprah how much she admired Dr Angelou.
    After all, she still had the permission slip in her pocket; and as is often the case, the Universe rewards genuineness.
    Oprah asked if she’d like to meet Dr. Angelou.

    Hell yeah! (My words – just guessing)

    Here are her feelings about the encounter in her own words:
    So grateful that I got to meet Dr. Angelou, look her in the eye, and tell her what her work means to me. When I told her that I love playing her reading of “I shall not be moved” for my students and children, she grabbed my hand and sang, “Like a tree planted by the river, I shall not be moved.” It was a sacred moment.”

    Just imagine if she’d brushed off the mention of Maya Angelou with a Too Cool For School attitude, she would have missed that once in a lifetime moment.

    How many wonderful, sacred, ridiculously epic moments do we circumvent due to our habit of playing it cool?

    How many beautiful creations do we talk ourselves out of?

    How many people do we meet and feel a connection with……and do nothing?

    How many books are unwritten, paintings un painted, businesses un started and plans unhatched because we lack the courage?

    Maybe all we need is PERMISSION.

    I for one, have started her practice of the permission slip.

    Here are some I’ve written lately:

    I give myself permission to not always know what I’m doing.
    I give myself permission to play more.
    I give myself permission to suck while writing the book.
    I give myself permission to be happy even though I don’t have a “job”
    I give myself permission to not like everyone

    If you Google BRENE BROWN PERMISSION SLIPS and look at images, there are hundreds of ideas if you have trouble getting started.

    I’d LOVE it if you’d write at least one thing in the comments. Tell me, share, you’ll give other people the courage to do it and maybe give them a few ideas too.

    Go ahead -
    I give myself permission to__________________.

    I give myself permission to adore you guys,
    Xox
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    Eyes Wide Shut

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    We talked in the Wednesday Group about clean living.
    B O R I N G……..(insert loud snoring here)

    Actually, we talked about it with genuine enthusiasm; healthy eating, minimizing alcohol and caffeine consumption, dialing down the gossip, amping up the exercise, trying some liver cleansing and becoming financially responsible.

    It may not seem to make any sense but it all comes part and parcel with becoming self aware.

    We must clean our house before the big guns, self esteem, self awareness and self reliance can come to stay.

    Here’s where things start to get a bit dicey:
    Your life REALLY makes an about face when you become self empowered and ramp up your yoga, meditation, prayer, green juice and self love consumption.

    As you undertake this internal housekeeping, not only do you and your liver become furious knuckleheads (temporarily) but so do the people and circumstances around you.

    I was told at about this point in my spiritual journey, twenty or so years ago, when I couldn’t believe how ridiculous everyone around me was behaving; this honey of a tongue twister:

    You can’t unknow what you now know

    Huh?

    In other words, there was no going back.
    No more Eyes Wide Shut.

    Oh…..how I prayed at times to go back to being unconscious, and now so are my women.

    All the Good Time Charlie’s that used to appear so charming, jovial, fun and engaging while they dispensed their alcohol fueled advise; now they seem like raging alcoholics, in horrible jobs, with relationships they can’t stand and their advise is just…….well, it’s justBAD.
    Honestly.
    When did THAT happen?

    How did we never see that before?

    You’re out there, transforming your little ass off, making all these brave, impressive changes in your life, and the peanut gallery is……. supportive…..except for the ones in the bleachers that want you to stay the same.
    They are fearful and they are LOUD.
    They call, they text, they email and talk to your family as they fight to remain relevant in your life.
    One of the interesting things that happens as you awaken is that the Universe will supply to you, a living, breathing, “devil’s advocate” who embodies all your doubts and fears and becomes like gum on the bottom of your shoe – annoying and hard to get rid of.

    It’s a good plan. It causes you to plead your case, gain clarity and steels your resolve to evolve.

    As you survey the landscape of your previous life, you realize it was populated by a cast of rather reckless characters, of which YOU were the ringleader.

    Your eyes were wide shut as you ran up your credit card debit, enabled a friend, and did your best impression of an ostrich, head in the sand, while bills, the shrapnel of your lousy choices and legal papers gathered around you and swallowed your butt.

    It was a bit of a circus, and we all know, when you join the circus – you join for life….unless you open your eyes and clean things up, and that doesn’t make your circus family very happy when you decide to ditch your baggage and leave the Big Top.

    Some people around you, old friends and co workers will seem crazy and even a bit frightening. 
    Don’t be alarmed, you may just have to chill while the circus leaves town and circles back around.
    Give them time.
    They’ll get used to the new Eyes Wide Open you, and they’ll either embrace the new, improving you….or not.

    In any case, just love them.
    The key is kindness and the very thing we all desire – acceptance.
    Send them light and love and the courage to open their eyes.

    How are the people around you behaving? Are they accepting your “eyes wide open?” How do you avoid getting hurt and angry? I’d love to hear about it!

    Sending circus love,
    Xox

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