Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: 73 Lessons Every Goddess Must Know by Leonie Dawson

If I had a daughter, I’d want her to know about this book. I’d share it with her in bite size pieces, from infancy to adulthood, making sure to reinforce its lessons along the way:
Dream big. Trust your intuition. Believe in your gifts. Make joy. See yourself as radiant. Know yourself as beautiful.
And this is just a sampling. Possibly the most powerful text in this entire book, the most powerful words that could be told to any girl child, teenager, or even grown women are as follows: Inside you there is the wise one. The shamaness. The dreamer. The lover. The creator. The wife. The mother. The daughter. The sister. The artist. The one who knows best. The one who knows all manner of things in this world can be healed with a cup of tea, with an hour of listening, with those lightbeams we call love, and sisterhood. Inside you there is a goddess. Beautiful. Wise. True. Divine. (Can you feel her?)
This is my favorite page of the book, my favorite passage, my favorite bite size piece of wisdom from Leonie Dawson, a mother, artist and author who has made a life for herself and her family by inspiring women to be the goddesses that they truly are. No one told me anything like this growing up. Not even close. The highest compliment I can remember striving for, as a young girl, was to be called 'pretty'.  I wonder what might have been different in my life if I'd heard the passage above from childhood, if I'd not put so much stock into being considered 'pretty' (which, as a young tomboy with unruly dark curls and a swarthy complexion in a sea of blonde first-grade princesses, I rarely was) and put more stock into being myself? I wonder how my teen years might have been different if I'd internalized those powerful words as a child? I wonder how much stronger I might have been as a young woman had I known the truth of those words, as I do now?
73 Lessons Every Goddess Must Know is not the first book I’ve read that deals with these concepts, but it is certainly the most outstanding. Why? Because Leonie doesn’t write in a matter that elevates her, the author, to a wise, benevolent sage position, posessing wisdom far greater than that of the reader. She isn’t writing from the standpoint that she knows more than you, that she is at some higher level of awareness than you. Leonie writes as if she were you, because the lessons she illustrates in this beautiful book are lessons of life, lessons we’ve all had to learn, lessons we’ve still yet to learn. Many of her heartfelt admonitions and stories about her own life are so easy to identify with, sometimes I felt as though I were reading from my own journals. Like Leonie, I lost a brother when I was young. Like Leonie, I’ve seen the things which I thought were the worst that could happen actually come to pass. And like Leonie, I’ve fought against the universe – hard – when it didn’t give me what I so desperately wanted.
And like Leonie, I learned that through it all, I could survive. That I could still find happiness. And that I could come to understand (not fight against) the higher purpose of the universe delivering to me a lesson that I wasn’t aware I needed, and come to be grateful for it. Reading Leonie’s writing is like reading a letter from an old friend, someone who knows you, who has seen what you have seen, who has been where you are. And guess what? You’re gonna want to write back.
The good news is, 73 Lessons Every Goddess Must Know is an interactive book, with spaces for writing, doodling, pages to remove. The chapters are Joyful Goddess, Creative Goddess, Sacred Goddess, Radiant Goddess, and Mama Goddess. And along the way of reading, you’re gonna find that you want to write…something. In the book, in your journals, a long-overdue letter (I for one am a huge proponent of bringing back the lost art of real letter writing), an email, a blog, or just some words across a nice piece of paper, words which you can decorate with sequins, glue and glitter, maybe even some paint, preferably pink or turquoise…this book should come with an advisory label: Warning, reading the contents of this book might lead one to feel inexplicably drawn to create bright, colorful things, write letters and include happy tokens of love, walk barefoot in fields for no particular reason, bake sweet yummy things for loved ones, and relish in the happiness of just  being. Just being you.
Yes, if I had a daughter, I’d want her to know about this book. I’d share it with her in bite size pieces, from infancy to adulthood, making sure to reinforce its lessons along the way. I do, however, have a son, a magical little being who has led me into dances with my soul I never could have learned the steps to had I not become his mother. And I’ve decided the wisdom of this book is certainly worth sharing with him, too. In bite size pieces, from infancy to the man he will someday become, making sure to reinforce its lessons along the way so he will understand not only women, strong, healthy women, but also how to recognize a kindred spirit in a woman, and how to relate to, appreciate, respect and ultimately make a life with the woman he will someday choose to love beyond measure, for that is the only way. As I write this he is here beside me now, thumbing through the pages of the book, watching his creative mama goddess wrap up this review. (You can guess which chapters were my favorite, right?) He has his own lessons to learn in life, and I shouldn't try to keep him from them. Still, I hope that I can teach him to recognize the true and authentic, the radiant, the type of woman who is real, who is not plastic, but whole, and truly worth pursuing.
And so, if you’d like to start your New Years with a gift to your daughters, mothers, aunts, sisters, friends, sons, or even better, yourself, you can order 73 Lessons Every Goddess Must Know by visiting Leonie at www.GoddessGuidebook.com. Of course, you can also visit www.Amazon.com, but that won’t be nearly as fun as visiting Leonie’s site. There’s much magic and happiness to be found there. So come visit Leonie at www.GoddessGuidebook.com,  and discover the Goddess in you!!!
*I prefered using my own image of the book cover rather than a stock photo. You can see my knitting basket as well as my letter writing basket in the edges of the photo, and my personal artwork on the bookmark that extends from the book. Somehow I think this is more appropriate than a slick, stock photo would have been. And I think Leonie would agree... :-)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

So I Am Not Your Idea of a Beautiful Woman?


So I am not your idea of beautiful?

I am...

Soft curves
Braids in a hand-knit cap
Goofy earrings for the fun of it
Tangerine polish on my toes.

You want...

Hard edges
Teased, tortured hair
Diamonds for the expense of it
Acrylic inserts on top of real nails.

So I am not your idea of a woman?

I am...

Independent
Strong as the trees that I hug
Secure in my abilities
Whole, as I am.

You like...

Dependence
Strength is your role
Security is yours to provide
Nothing is whole without you.

So I am not your idea of a beautiful woman?

Well so what?

I am my idea of me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Tinge of Red

Red seems to be on my mind alot these days.


In terminology I come across; the color of items I purchase; or just within my general mood and mindset.


Over half a year ago, I wrote The Persistence of Red, both a poem and a blog (http://panpanstudios.blogspot.com/2011/01/persistence-of-red.html) for this very same reason. The color seems determined to be a part of my life. And the more I resist, the more it seems to pop up.


In the title of books I read (The Red Tent), in the color of a glass ornament I find in a resale shop (pictured here) and in the color of my world and home. The sun casts a rosy red glow through my closed curtains, bathing my entire den in this warm light. My niece has colored her beautiful long hair a deep shade of red. The color explodes from the tips of my fingers, red nails symbolizing both femininity and fierceness.


I can across those terms on a friends facebook post recently. She had simply stated them, no real phrase or sentence. They were just there. Feminine. Fierce. I'm not sure what was on her mind when she posted them. But I'm glad she did.


They made me think, have I been fierce enough? Have I been feminine enough?


I was tomboy growing up. I remember one birthday, when my parents gave me a Cabbage Patch Kid, because that was the toy of choice at the time. I was hopelessly disappointed, having not played with dolls beyond the age of maybe 2. I had asked for a telescope. The Cabbage Patch Kid stayed on a shelf in my room, in it's original package, until I gave it to a younger cousin some months later. I got the telescope for Christmas. And I don't think my parents understand me anymore now than they did back then. Girls played with dolls, after all. They didn't sneak out of the house late at night to look at the moon through a telescope.


I was blessed with a male child, and I have loved every minute of being mother to a son. But I like to think I could have raised a daughter, too, and shared with her the secrets of the feminine. And maybe I will have a chance before it's all said and done. Poet Anne Soni states in Your Whole Life Till Now, "What else might God show you....actually....that you'd only heard....or read about...your whole life...till now?" In this moment, writing this, I have no idea what tomorrow may bring, much less the rest of my life.


This is part of the joy, that we do not always know what is waiting. But I claim, in this moment, the words Feminine and Fierce. At least twice, I can tell you, I have been fierce enough to face what needed facing and rebuild my life from scraps. And I know I can be feminine, even if I prefer telescopes to dolls.


And I claim the color red, which has an usual way of symbolizing both.


Your Whole Life Till Now, by Anne Soni, was featured in her 2009 collection of works titled The Body That Shadows This Space, published by The South Carolina Poetry Initiative Series. For more information on Anne Soni visit http://www.scbookfestival.org/index.php?c=authors&s=authors_single&id=302

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Disappearing Act

Reading a magazine, I come across a poem by one of my all-time favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye. The title of the poem is The Art of Disappearing.

I want to share this poem, for so many reasons. Because it resonated with me. Because it moved me. Because it reminded me of me. Because it reminded me of time, how precious it is. Because it reminded me that my son is growing up quickly, and every day he takes a step further away from me. But I don't need to try and hold on. I am doing my job. I just need to make sure that when he takes his final steps away, there is something still here.

That I am still here.

And I thought of time. How we give so much away. I thought of the Reiki I class I just finished, of energy, of that familiar sense I've always had with other people,  a curious sense of both awareness and detachment. I remembered a moment in high school when I chose to stand by a friend even though it meant watching my own repution go down in flames. And I remembered a phrase from Gone With the Wind, a sentence spoken by Rhett Butler that lodged in my head when I first read the book at 13 and has never left. "With enough courage, you can do without a reputation." I remembered what it was like to disappear that day, to spend the next few years trying simply not to be seen by a group of people who were, for the most part, so locked into a communal idea of reality that they were incapable of seeing me at all.


The Art of Disappearing by Naomi Shihab Nye

When they say don't I know you
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
that they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say we should get together
say why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastary bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

                                                                          - from Shambala Sun, March 2011 edition

I have a new project. It will never be finished. It isn't art. It isn't writing. It isn't knitting. It isn't teaching. It isn't even mothering. I am, as we all are, so much more than just the things that I create.

I've long had the courage to do without a reputation. But I will never have time to sing the past any of my new songs.

It could never catch up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Danger of Turning Around...

Highway 441 North from Cherokee to Pigeon Forge was the road I needed to take to get to a certain dinosaur exhibit I'd been promising my son we'd go to for 3 years. It was a Friday in July, and we were finally going to see it. It wasn't a long way from where we were staying on the reservation, only about 40 miles, but it meant traveling a mountain road.

I don't like dislike mountain roads, don't get me wrong. But I'm not keen to be on mountain roads and come across signs like this when there's a thundercloud overhead and my son's in the car with me.

I spent a large majority of my life in the mountains, traveling and hiking, exploring and, yes, driving. And I've never turned back from a sign warning me that the road was dangerous. I've never even thought of it. I'm not a linear person who wants a western-style road that goes on straight forever, the horizon stretching out before me. I don't tend to find a path that will work well enough, feel relieved, and simply stay on it. I can't imagine living my one and only life that way.

I love seeing a bend and wondering what's around it, especially when I'm kayaking a river or taking a leisurely walk. I don't even mind curves when I'm driving. When I've got my child with me, however, there's an entirely different feeling that presents when I see a sign warning me that the road I'm about to go down is dangerous.

But I wondered, in the moment that passed as I read the sign, what would be more dangerous: continuing along the road, as so many other people were doing without hesitation ...or turning around, making a lame excuse to my son for why we couldn't go see the dinosaurs, and settling for some other place to visit, some place with a safer, more predictable road leading to it?

What was, really, more dangerous, the curvy road...or the fear of what lie around the curves? After all, on a linear path, you can see what's coming. There are no bends, and as a result, there's no mystery. And when there's no mystery, there's no fear. You just drive along that path forever, seeing what's coming, in control of...of...what?

No mystery means no surprises. No surprises means no unexpected blessings, no random joy. Nothing but predictability...and the need for predictability is usually based on a need to control. Control and fear, those two dream crushers, always hovering around, waiting for a chance to shine thier dark light.

Seeing the dinosaurs was a long held dream. Fear and the need for control kill dreams. This was an all-or-nothing moment, because there was only one choice: to give in to fear and turn around...or not.

I didn't turn around. Not because I'm bold or brave or reckless, but because I had no real valid reason for turning around. No reason I could have given my son aside from fear of a road I'd never traveled, and that just wasn't a good enough one to me. And so I drove carefully, paying attention to the weather, the other drivers, and most of all, the posted speed limits. And yes, we saw dinosaurs. We saw the Tennessee towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which are lovely. The views of the mountains we crossed on 441 North were outstanding. The three tunnels we passed through were unexpected surprises. The rain didn't come, save for a few splatters that I didn't even need wipers for. And on the way back down to Cherokee, we came around a bend and spotted an elk foraging on the roadside.

We've got one life to live. Many unfamiliar roads to take. Many times to be presented with the choice to turn around. Many times to give into fear...or keep going and spot an elk around the bend .

Life is already good. It's up to you to make it extraordinary.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bold Ventures

Last weekend, my son and I took a road trip up to Dunn, NC to visit the coffee shop that my friend and my son's former childcare-giver opened up in October. I'll affectionately refer to her as TT, which is what my son called her from the time he could talk until, well, basically the last time he'd seen her.

TT had opened this shop with her husband in October, but she'd left the Greenwood area about 3 years before. The shop was a long awaited dream. I can remember, when she was caring for children in her home, and I was picking up or dropping off my son, we'd talk about coffee (as it seemed to always be brewing at her home like it is at mine,) and how nice it would be to have a coffee shop.

It did my heart good to stand in her shop, and see this dream realized, for it was a greater dream to her than it was to me. And because we are friends, we know something of one another's history. I know what this shop means to her, because I knew her during the time it seemed, as many dreams do, completely unfathomable that this could ever come to be. Yet here it was.

Because the truth is nothing, really, is unfathomable. Another dear friend of mine is off in Asheville taking a 3 week intensive training to become a yoga instructor. She's 59 and only within the last few years has been practicing the art (for true yoga is more of a spiritual art than a sport), and she was very nervous about taking the training because of...drum roll...her age. I'm glad I was able to help her shrug that misconception off. Age is merely a number, meaningless for the most part, and something I never consider in any way when contemplating a new venture. So what if a person is 25, 59, or 110? It's life. I've regaled my readers before with the story of Paul, one of my favorite people of all time, (and someone who I unfortunately lost touch with during many moves), but who decided in his mid-fifties to chuck a double-decades long career as an attorney and go back to college to become a high school art teacher, a job which made him deliriously happy in a way that practicing law never could.

I've written many times in this column about fear, one of those twin demons that keep us from fully living life or accomplishing our dreams. Here are a few fear-driven questions and their appropriate answers:
What will others think?
Usually nil, and it's devestatingly narcissistic to operate from the perspective that others are even thinking of you and what you're doing at all.
What if I fail? What's the worst that will happen in that scenario? Chances are, you'll survive it.
What if I'm told no? You'll say okay, and move on. But at least you would have asked.

I'm sitting here writing this today with the startling realization that, after seeing what my friends are up to, I've been idle long enough. It's time to make some changes. For most of 2010, I was pretty sure I'd be living and working abroad by 2012. A pretty fantastic dream, yes. I'd love to live a while with my son in another culture. But now that plan has effectively been scrapped and it's time for some new ones.

A couple of weeks ago I came across an old life list I'd written in my 20s, things I wanted to do and accomplish. And I was pleased to see that, for the most part, I'd done most of the things that were on the list, even though the list itself had been shoved into the abyss of my filing cabinets for a decade. I'll share a few items:

1. Visit Finland and stand on the shore of the Baltic Sea (done)
6. Make a large outdoor sculpture in an area where I can't control it's permanence (done)
12. Learn to spin yarn (done, and not something I'll likely ever do again!)
23. Write a book (done)
32. Write for a magazine (done)
38. Paint a portrait of a Great Blue Heron (very recently done)

There is still much on the list to accomplish:

2. Learn to dye yarn
8. Have my art exhibited on another continent
15. Visit Australia and learn to paint Dreamtime Paintings with the Aborigines
24. Be fluent in another language
28. Sell art at a street fair
46. Be able to do freelance work from home and not be tied to any certain 'job'

I look at the list. There are a few things on there I no longer want to do, like 'get a tattoo', and of course, many new things to add, like 'own a cottage at a beach'. But I feel blessed to know bold people like TT; my future yoga-instructor friend; and of course, Paul, and to have been touched and inspired by their boldness as they pursue thier dreams. I celebrate what they are accomplishing in thier lives, and it has inspired me to get off my duff and start figuring out what I really want to do with mine. Because no matter what, in the end, there is only one thing in this world truly capable of holding us back.

Ourselves.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Way of Ceremony

What she said:


The only cure

I know

is a good ceremony.

That's what she said.


- Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony



"It still hurts," I say to a friend. "I pretend it doesn't, because I don't want it to. But it does."

"What you need right now is a good ceremony," she replies.

Here's the thing about ceremonies: there are no rules.



I wanted to let go. I thought I already had. But there were still some things that I was holding onto. They were tangible things. Material things. Visible tokens of something that ultimately was false.

I thought I had let go. But I still had the things.

I'm blessed to live by a beautiful creek along a wooded path. I'm blessed that I know a thing or two about alchemy, how to transform the shape or form of a thing, how to reduce it to mere shreds or shards or pieces. I'm blessed that I am bold enough to do this, to give to the water what is burdening me.

I go to the place where the owl sits and hunts, but today, I find crows there instead. They are quiet sentinels, thier black eyes observing solemnly as I toss fragments of things I once held dear into the creek. I watch the rush of water consume all that I offer it, and I think of the Oconaluftee River on the Cherokee Reservation, how it flows and winds, how I love to stay in The Drama Motel that overlooks it. How long it has been since I've swam in that river! How much I'd love to swim in it now. I remember how water is cleansing, how it's always part of any good ceremony.


It is in ceremony that I feel closest to my native heritage. I lift up my silent prayer as the crows rise, crying out, carrying away on thier wings what I don't wish to carry anymore. The crow is a sacred bird to the Cherokee for many reasons, but a favorite old adage lends that crows near a river means a storm is brewing. And a storm brewing means rain will come. Rain means the river will rise, taking in its flowing waves all that I have given.

Nothing could be more fitting.

On the path home, my son and I (because he has been taught the way of ceremony) pass a pair of pileated woodpeckers teaching thier offspring to hunt. Another sacred bird to the Cherokee, I know this rare sighting of such normally reclusive creatures is a very good thing, just as I know the thunderclouds that move in within an hour are going to bring heavy rains, rains that will wash away completely all that I've released.

It's evening now, and the storm, which was powerful, has passed. I am on the trail. Lightening bugs surround me. An owl calls. Another responds. The creek swells. There is no trace within it of fragments from things I once held dear. They are gone. But I am smiling, because I know that it is finished. The water rushes past.


I am free.


The ceremony is complete.


What she said:

The only cure
I know
is a good ceremony.

That's what she said.



Silko was right. Sometimes the only cure is a good ceremony.


Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko is available at http://www.amazon.com/Ceremony-Classics-Leslie-Marmon-Silko



Art: Selu's Gift, mixed media, Amy L. Alley

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The End of Oprah, the Royal Wedding, Toltec Wisdom, and the Power of Words

I could not get caught up in the ending of Oprah.


Or the Royal Wedding.


Or really, tempting as it was, the 'Wiener-tweeting' scandal.


I knew about these things, yes, but truth is, I've just never been one to sit down and watch television, whether it be the news, a spectacular event, or a dynamic talk show that helped millions of people.


The few times in my life I've caught Oprah, I've either been home sick or at the gym in early afternoon, pounding on a treadmill. For as long as I can remember, I've not had the lifestyle that would accomodate coming home from work and watching a show at 4pm. During college, I came home from work by 3pm in order to make it to class at 4pm. Or vice versa. After college, I was usually working a variety of myriad jobs with wierd hours. For years and years, I didn't have cable (or , for one period of time, even a television,) at all.


It's funny, because I grew up in a home with a television in almost every room that was usually on at all times. I grew up with people looking over my shoulder to see the screen or interrupting conversations to hear what was being said on a show. I can remember a family member who, mercifully, I did not live with but visited from time to time, that would actually turn the volume up louder when people were conversing around him. Which amazed me, even as a child, to think that he had real, live people around him, yet he preferred to listen to what was being blasted out of an electronic box in the corner.


I should have grown up to be a television-aholic. The seeds for this fate were certainly sown early on. But mercifully, I was spared by a dynamic teacher who, in a chance moment, uttered a phrase that had an impact on me like no other. He was passionate about his field and a real hipster at heart with a 'kill your tv' sticker on his office wall. There was one day in class when some students were laughing and talking about a popular sitcom and what had happened on it the night before, rather than concentrating on thier assignments. And he walked over to the table where they were sitting and said, loud enough for all to hear, "You can just sit around and watch TV, or you can be so amazing that one day you might be on TV. But you will never, ever do both."


It's been years since I was in that class, but I have never forgotten that moment, or those words. But what I have forgotten is to do is to make the watching television regularly one of my habits. It simply isn't part of my lifestyle. I don't think it is bad, mind you. Criticizing television is not the point of this blog. I think it's fine in moderation. But the ending of the Oprah show made me realize how far out of a loop I am because I don't. My friends were celebrating the show and it's impact on America, and I might have seen it a half a dozen times in the many years since it's been on. I couldn't get caught up in that wave at all. It's hard to latch on to the enthusiasm of others when you can't relate.



I saw no coverage whatsoever of the Royal Wedding, save for a few images on the cover of supermarket tabloids.


And if it weren't for the fact that I had to spend five hours sitting with my son last week in the ER, I would have no clue who Anthony Weiner was or what he tweeted. (And to be honest, when it comes to that, I think I'd have been okay to not be in the know for once.)


No, the point of this blog is not to criticize television or those who make watching it a part of thier daily lives. It has its place, certainly. The point of this blog, rather, is to celebrate the power of words. How profound a simple phrase uttered by a respected teacher can be. Don Miguel Ruiz states, in The Four Agreements, that "....words are not just sounds or written symbols. Depending on how it is used, the word can set you free, or it can enslave you more than you know. The word is a force....all the magic you possess is based on your words."


I internalized my teacher's words and they became part of my lifestyle, a habit now that I find almost impossible to break, a lifestyle choice I've really no desire or intent to change at this point (who would consciously try to spend MORE time in front of the television?) But all the same, what we internalize, i.e. the words of others, can easily become part of who we are, as my teacher's words did become part of me, casting a spell across my being that lead to my subconciously cultivating a lifestyle that television would not be even a minor part of.


Being impeccable with your word is, based on ancient Toltec wisdoms, Ruiz's first 'agreement'. What comes out of our mouths has the power to change lives, or destroy them. And what comes out of the mouths of others can have the same power to change or destroy us...but only if we internalize it.



We can't control what others say to us, however, because many times what people feel, say and do is based solely on negative realites they have constructed for themselves. But we can, as Ruiz encourages, strive to be impeccable with our word, because it is, in the end, our magic.


And our magic becomes our legacy.





The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a recommended read for anyone wishing to make a positive change in thier life. It is available at all fine bookstores and also can be ordered by following the link below: http://www.amazon.com/Four-Agreements-Practical-Personal-Freedom/dp/1878424505/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307622961&sr=8-1












Sunday, June 5, 2011

Captain of My Own Ship

This is a re-post of a blog from January. Writing this was to become the catalyst for a new chapter of life, and it seems appropriate now for the Boldness Initiative column. If you've read this blog before, then you should know the past few months have changed me, and as a result, I've revised this blog, and I'm much happier with the version I am posting now....would love your comments on the changes! Enjoy!!!



To Be, Or Not To Be, BOLD


A dear friend asks me what I want from life, and I don’t have a clear answer to give her. After all, it’s an open ended question, bound to have different answers at different times. But I know I need to give her a response, and so I think about it for a moment....What do I want from life?


The answer comes like waves crashing into the shore: I want to be bold.


Well, that may not make a lot of sense initially, but think about it for a second...what does being bold really mean? Taking a brave step? Going out on a limb? Or just facing up to a nasty neighbor who insists on using his leaf blower to redecorate your lawn? No, being bold is more than that. It's a way of life.


Bravery and courage are typically attributes that we can all call upon ourselves to have from time to time. But boldness is living fiercely, taking risks, and making sure that the adventure of one's life is never, ever typical. I was introduced recently to the ancient myth of Ariadne and Theseus, famous lovers from Ancient Greek mythology, and their story is one of boldness…mainly Ariadne’s boldness, and Theseus’ lack of it.


I’m trying to decide if it’s a sad or happy tale, as like many Greek myths, it appears in a variety of forms, with different endings. But after doing a little research, I found the one most common telling of the tale goes as follows: Ariadne was a special young woman who possessed an ability to defeat the Minotaur, who lived at the center of a labyrinth. Her secret was a ball of yarn, red yarn, a special fiber used to find one’s way out of a labyrinth that no one had ever escaped alive. (love that YARN was her magic tool!) But the labyrinth belonged to her family, the minotaur was her half-brother. She never thought to use her special gift...and then, she saw Theseus.


He’d come to slay the Minotaur, and when the duskily beautiful Ariadne first cast her black eyes onto the handsome, fair-headed warrior, she was in love. She knew that even if Theseus defeated the Minotaur, he would never find his way out of the ever-changing labyrinth, and thus, she changed history by being bold enough to take the chance of helping the handsome Athenian. She knew if she were discovered assisting him, she’d be cast out of her family, never to be allowed to return to her homeland, possibly even killed. She knew the risks, but Ariadne also knew what it meant to love another person completely. And so she shared with Theseus the magic of the red fiber, and he defeated the Minotaur and found his way out of the labyrinth.


Theseus pledged love to Ariadne and took her away with him when he sailed from Crete back to his home in Athens. But it was a long journey, and Theseus began to have second thoughts along the way. He began to fear the reaction of his fellow Athenians if he pulled ashore with this dark foreigner. He was a prince, after all. It could create trouble in his kingdom to have a Creten bride. Despite his affection for Ariande, he began to believe that his life would be simpler without her in it. And so Theseus, because he lacked boldness, took the easy way out. He pulled his ship ashore on the island of Dia, telling the lovely Ariadne to take a nap on the sand while he checked on the ship. And while she was sleeping, Theseus set sail for Athens, leaving the woman he'd given his word to alone on a foreign shore.

There are differerent versions of what happened next…but the one I use here tells that Ariadne woke up, realized Theseus had abandoned her, and was devastated. She couldn’t believe that this man, whom she had loved so much, would abandon her so coldly and without any real explanation. She spent days, weeks, and then months watching the sea, waiting to see the sail of her beloved’s ship. But of course, it never came.


She was sad for a long, long time, but then one day, she summoned the same boldness that had given her courage to love and save Theseus and applied that to her own life. She made a new home on the island of Dia, learned the native language and customs as easily as she would have in Athens, and began to be a happy, productive member of Dian society. She stayed as busy as she could, but still watched the sea each night, because broken hearts do have a way of beating loudest when one is alone in the eve.


And then, one day she finally saw a ship’s mast looming on the horizon. Her heart soared…but it wasn’t Theseus who pulled into shore. It was the dashing and truly bold Dionysis, who took one look at her and saw all the wonderful attributes Theseus had seen but not been man enough to claim. And Ariadne saw in Dinoysis a kindred spirit, someone whose boldness matched her own, a man who wasn’t intimidated by a woman’s strength, but instead, reveled in it.


And what became of Theseus? Oh, he had a pretty good life, I suppose. He returned home and fell into typical, normal patterns for a young prince of his day. He would become king through his birth, not by his own doing. He wasn’t as lucky as Ariadne, for he would never again find someone who loved him the way that she had. He’d marry twice and be betrayed by each wife. Ariadne would become immortal through her marriage to Dionysis, who was actually a God. When she was slain in battle (because she was bold enough to fight), he braved the underworld to bring her back, and then took her then to live on Mount Olympus, home of the Gods.


What Ariadne did - and was willing to do - for Theseus showed a far greater courage and strength than he possessed, and most likely, he knew this. It can be very intimidating for a man who considers himself strong to realize his woman's courage far exceeds his own. Whether or not this was true with these two lovers, Ariadne did survive Theseus' betrayal using the same inner strength that had enabled her to love him in the first place. She could have let the hurt of his betrayal destroy her, just as we can all choose to let pain destroy us, but she didn’t. She rose above what he had done, and in his absence she began to see him for what he really was: A fair and handsome man full of sweet words and bravado, but in the end lacking the one characteristic she'd learn was most important to her in a partner: Boldness.


It was quite some time before she would met the wildly charismatic Dionysis on the very shores where Theseus had dumped her, but when she did meet him, she was finally ready for a man whose strength and courage matched her own.


But even if she hadn’t met Dionysis, Ariadne would have been okay. She’d have still had a fulfilling life because she was a survivor. She did not take the easy way out. She took risks. She sometimes lost. But she rose up to face the challenges life cast upon her, because she was a bold and courageous woman. Left alone to cry on an island, she didn’t let that experience keep her from eventually finding her feet on Mount Olympus.



There are a million versions of these ancient myths to be found, you might easily find this tale told in a variety of ways, but I use this version here to illustrate the fact that we never know what life is going to throw our way, who is going to abandon us, and where we might find ourselves after that. But there is one thing to be sure of…there are those who preserve towards a dream, and those who simply talk themselves out of dreaming and settle for whatever comes their way. Because that is, of course, much easier.

What do I want the most out of life? I take a deep breath, and I turn to my friend.


“I want to live boldly,” I respond. "And I don't want to watch for sails on the horizon. I think I'm better suited to be the captain of a ship than I am to sit in the sand, hoping one will appear."



My friend smiles. It was the answer she'd been hoping to hear. And I smile too, because it's something I've known all along.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Swimming Lessons




I reached into a jacket pocket today and I found a $5 bill. What a surprise.

Surprises throw me off center. Even good ones can leave me speechless. I never know quite what to do when faced with something I am not expecting.

I used the money to buy a bouquet of flowers. Bright pink ones.

Tomorrow I'm going shopping for a bright pink dress to replace the gold one I returned in February. (February blog http://panpanstudios.blogspot.com/2011/02/spring-cleaning-golden-threads-and.html) I saw the dress I want in a Greenville store back in March, but I wasn't feeling bold enough then to wear pink at that time.

Then, I had swimming lessons.

Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now exhale. Do it again.

Are you ready? Yes, the water's cold. It always feels that way at first.

Wade in slowly. When the water is up to your thighs, remember that swimming is a natural instinct, like walking.

We begin in water. Lean forward...reach your arms in front of you. Your soul will remember this feeling.

Play for a minute. Enjoy the feel of the water. Lean forward. Lean back. Have fun. This you feel okay doing, because the water is shallow. You feel safe. You've been doing this your whole life, really.

But it's not what you came here for.

Exit the pool. Walk around to the far edge...the deep end.

Breath in deeply. Hold it. Exhale. Do it again.

The butterflies in your stomach are natural. Make friends with them. They remind you that you're about to do something bold.

Don't like being in over your head? That's okay. It's frightening to most people. But fears can be conquered. That's thier one beauty.

Remember you are loved. Deeply. You will not drown. Not this time.

Breath in. Hold it. Exhale. Breath in again.

Now...close your eyes...tell yourself that you are bold....and that you've played in the shallow end of the pool for far too long.

Jumping in is a leap of faith.

Take it.

Loving. Trusting. Hoping. Believing. Living. Being. Take a leap of faith, and jump into these pools.

As Paulo Coehlo states in The Alchemist, "It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." No matter what dreams you have, chances are they won't come true if you just play it safe in the shallow end of the pool. Chances are they might not if you jump in, either.
But when you are bold, the odds are in your favor. Fear and control are no longer your constant companions. Courage takes thier place. And the universe begins to open up.

Dive in.




Painting: Breathing Underwater, by Amy L. Alley

I hope you have enjoyed the daily Boldness Initiative blogs. I've enjoyed hearing from my readers via email, comments, and on Facebook. Your stories have been very inspiring, and I appreciate those who were bold enough to share them in a post or comment! Thanks to everyone who took time to read these blogs daily! It has been a wonderful personal challenge to me to create and maintain this site and I hope what you've read has inspired and encouraged you! I will continue to maintain the blog on a weekly basis. Please continue to share your stories of living bold by commenting here, through Facebook, or by emailing me at
amialley@hotmail.com

You Can Do Anything...

A friend posted the following qoute on Facebook:

"If you just look for what's right - in others, in relationships, in yourself and your journey - you'll always find it....same when looking for what's wrong."

I love this, and thought it would be a perfect jumping off point for today's post.

We do posess the power to surprise ourselves, to be bold, to take risks that change our lives and give us amazing moments.

But to everything there is a flip side...we also possess a powerful capacity to look for reasons NOT to be bold. To talk ourselves out of doing things, even when they are things we really want to do. To listen to the ones who talk us out of doing things that are too different, too far from the norm, too unlike anything THEY'VE ever done...instead of listening to the ones who tell us we are not typical, that we can do anything, that we only need to be bold enough to believe.

To be bold means to challenge yourself to live intentionally and authentically. To trust in your own wisdom and choices. To refuse to carry Fear and Control around in your psyche anymore, and to start looking for what is right in situations, instead of dwelling on what is wrong.

As the old adage goes, attitude truly is everything. Changing your thinking is a first bold step towards living a fuller, more authentic life. It can make all the difference in the world.

We are only typical if we choose to be. Be bold enough to look for more within yourself, and you'll find it.


You can do it.


You can do anything...:-)



Painting: Universe, by Amy L. Alley.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's Always Been Inside of You....

Boldness means different things to different people at different times...but the ability to be bold is always inside of us.

We just may not have ever really wanted to, or had to, tap into it...until now.

Being bold can mean conquering a fear, like being afraid of water but learning to swim. Or it can be doing something dramatic, like adding a colorful streak of blue or purple to your hair. Or it can be mustering up the courage to express a feeling you've been holding back. It can be wearing a bathing suit you love even though you know your body isn't perfect (what is physical perfection, really?) Or it can be speaking a language you haven't mastered yet, knowing that you'll screw up a few words along the way. It can be planting a garden knowing your entire family will laugh about it because of your inability to keep houseplants alive. Or it can be taking a first step towards following a destiny you know is calling, with no certainty of what might happen beyond that very first step.

I'm including a link to a video at the end of this post. This popular singer/songwriter has said beautifully how we all posess the power to be bold. The characters portrayed in the video show how boldness means different things for different people, but it is always something to celebrate. This is, incidentally, the current favorite song for my son and I. When it comes on the radio, we both become happy, and even he can sing it word for word. When he's frustrated trying to learn a new skill, I'll tell him a few lines of it for encouragement.

It's a catchy tune and a powerful message that reminds us that being bold is not always huge, grand moments...bold moments are when we put fear aside and do what we know, for whatever reason, we simply must do...

It's a power you do possess...and as the song says, it's always been inside of you. Enjoy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGJuMBdaqIw

Painting: Horse in a Green Pasture, Amy L. Alley. This is the first painting I ever did, at the age of 13. No one had told me I could paint or encouraged me in any specific way to think I could...it was simply something I wanted to do. I saved up allowance money until I could buy canvas and paints, and then I just did it. I didn't wait for permission or to be told that I could. I followed my heart, and my life was never the same again! :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming Out of Our Shells

On Easter Sunday, my son found a turtle. It spent most of the day with us, until evening, when we released it into the woods that border our home.

Initially, of course, the turtle remained in it's shell, barely peeking out. As time passed, however, it became bolder. A head emerged. Then two legs. Then two more. Eventually, he was slowly crawling around on our patio.

However, one quick move, one fallen shadow, one loud laugh and zip! He was gone, retreating back into his shell, sealed up completely.

"Why does he do that? Doesn't he like us?" My son would ask.

"He does it to feel safe," I'd respond. "It's his protection."

"Why don't we have shells?" He asked.

"Oh, Honey," I said, "We do. People have the thickest shells of all. You just can't see them."

And this is true. As human, we have shells that are more impenetrable than the walls of armored cars. We go into them for the same reason that my turtle friend did...protection. We can hide there. We don't have to reveal ourselves when we're tucked away inside of our shells.

One of the boldest things we'll ever do is to slowly emerge from them.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Transformation



Today's post is brief, and to the point.


Believing is bold. Doubting is not.



The caterpillar does not spend a moment's time obsessing over whether or not it has the power to become a butterfly.


It doesn't try to rush things or force anything into being. It simply lives, eats, and when the time is right, (and it knows, as we all do), it builds a cocoon...and waits.


And when the time is right, (and it knows, as we all do), it emerges better than it was before.


It doesn't question or doubt the magic needed to make this transformation. It just believes.


And waits.






Monday, April 25, 2011

Time to Unravel

A couple of years ago, I learned to knit...not a common hobby in an area of the world where it's 70 degrees or higher for much of the year.

Still, I love it. I love the fibers, how they feel to the touch; I love my wooden needles, the low clicking sound they make when I'm working; how it feels to have a few skiens of yarn and a pattern for some warm, cozy thing.


I also love taking a pre-existing knit item, unwinding it, and turning it into something new. As a matter or fact, I make a majority of the things I knit from this 'repurposed' yarn. I'll find a sweater for just a few bucks at a resale shop, or I'll eye the older ones in my own closest, and begin the slow process of unraveling them.


It's a bold move, because I am taking something that seems fine as it is and completely undoing it in the hope that, from what I've unraveled, I can create something better. The bold move is taking that initial step to start the unraveling process, because once that begins, it's not reversible. You can't undo the damage of unraveling...you can't leave something half together and half apart. Once you've began to unravel, you just have to keep going. You have to complete the process of letting it all fall apart until what once was a perfectly fine garment is now a pile of loose yarn at your feet.

As you slowly wind the 'repurposed' yarn onto a skien holder, you're thinking about where to go from here. You don't think about the sweater you unraveled, there's no reason to, because it doesn't exist anymore. But you still have something...you have the transformative force of creative alchemy, and enough material now to make something even better than what it was before.


It is bold to intentionally unravel. We often do it without even realizing it. We know that something in our lives, for whatever reason, just isn't working. And so we unwind it, step by step, until it's in a pile at our feet, and we're sitting there wondering where to go from here.

There are two choices: You can leave the unraveled yarn in a pile and forever know that you completely destroyed something that, while maybe not perfect, was still good...or you can use what you now have at your feet to create something new, something even better than you had before. It may take time. That's okay. You may not have a plan at first, and that's okay too. What you do have is the power within you to transform what was simply good into what will become amazing.


And you do have this power. We all do. We just have to be bold enough sometimes to unravel.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our Personal Legacies

Yesteryday's post was on choice, how we have the power within us to make choices that determine the direction of our lives.

We also have the power to choose to be bold, or live quietly.

What we choose to do becomes part of our personal legacy. If we choose to be bold, that, too, becomes part of our personal legacy.

In my first post, I mentioned the work I once did at a retirement center, which mostly consisted of sitting with elderly residents and offering companionship. And listening. I listened to many wonderful stories of lives fully lived. And I never once heard anyone say, "I wish I had been LESS bold. I wish I had not taken that chance and told that person how I felt. I wish I had not traveled to that place. I wish I had not learned that new skill or language or taken that new oppourtunity."

Instead, what I would hear was, "I wish I had been MORE bold. I wish I HAD taken a chance and told someone how I felt. I wish I HAD traveled to that place, or learned that new skill or language or taken that new opportunity." For what we don't do also becomes part of our personal legacy. And never knowing what an outcome might have been can haunt us in a far greater way than taking a risk and having events not turn out the way we'd hoped for ever would.

We create our personal legacies with each step we take, and each step we don't take. Nothing is left up to 'fate', and things don't just happen for or to us. The power of choice gives us the freedom to determine what much of our experiences will be. Just as I am the author of this post, we are all the authors of our own lives. We just have to be bold enough to pick up a pen and begin writing.

Painting: Things We Let Go, by Amy L. Alley

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Making Choices

There is a personal power that we all have within us...it is our ability to make a choice.

If you have ever been stripped of that ability for any reason, then you know how powerful it is.

It might be a small decision, or a large one, depending on what you are choosing to do. But the ability to make a choice is still a power that you possess.

Sometimes we are presented with a situation where a bold choice needs to be made, one we know it has the potential to change our entire lives. But here is a secret: Nearly all the choices we make have the potential to change our lives.

And of course, to be - or not to be - bold is a choice. To believe in something - or not to believe in it - is a choice. To continue along a current path is a choice. To listen to our heart is a choice, and to pursue a dream is a choice.

And a risk.

Paulo Coehlo states in his internationally best-selling book, The Alchemist,"It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting." Whethr or not our dreams come true in the future depends heavily on the decisions that we are making in the now. Sometimes it takes years to know if a choice was the right one. But one thing will always remain true: To pursue a dream is to risk failure...but to give up on a dream is to garuantee it.

In keeping with this theme, I'm including a video interview of well-known actor Will Smith talking about not only this book, but also the power we have to be the alchemists of our own lives. It's a brief but insightful clip that I hope you'll find inspiring!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A0LDp0e9X4&feature=related

Painting: Blessings, by Amy L. Alley




Friday, April 22, 2011

Trusting Your Heart


Trusting your heart.

It's one of the boldest things you will ever do.

And sadly, it's something many people never learn to do, because our hearts are usually guiding us in one direction, while our heads are asking, "Are you insane?"

When this battle is raging within us, it can be brutal. We're often taught that trusting the heart is wrong, that it is more logical to just do what makes sense. But when has logic ever changed a life or brought joy to a soul? It has it's place, yes, but it's rarely to be found in matters dealing with the heart. And doing what makes sense often just means taking the easy way out, which rarely is going to result in joy.

Trusting in the heart means yeilding no power whatsoever to those twin devils, fear and control. It means releasing them completely, which can be very unsettling if you have had them as companions for so long you've grown fond of them. But fear and control keep us right where we are. The heart leads us to places we never imagined we'd go. It tells us to trust enough to take a risk and love, not just a little, but completely. It can even open up enough to forgive a deep hurt, because the heart knows not a one of us is perfect, and it takes a truly bold soul to admit they could have been wrong...just as it takes a matching bold soul to say, "Yes, you were...but I'm still here."

If your heart is guiding you somewhere today, be bold enough to trust it, even if it means taking a risk. Human beings are blessed with a tremendous capacity to love, to believe, and to forgive. Most people barely tap into this potentional during a lifetime. They wade around the edges of the shore, where it is safe.

The bold trust thier hearts, jump into the deep, and swim.


Painting: Night Lillies, by Amy L. Alley

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A New Way of Seeing

I love my home. And for the last 7 years, I have loved the trees that surrounded it. They obscured much of my home from view, and kept my yard completely in the shade, yes. But they had always been here. They were safe and familiar.

But like many things that seem safe and familiar, they were silently wreaking destruction. Over the years, the root system had ran deep, mangling pipes, cracking the foundations, subtly lifting the sidewalks just enough to make them dangerous. After all, you often don't see what's going to trip you up until you are flat on the ground looking at it.

Had the decision been mine alone to make, I'm not sure if I would have been bold enough to remove the trees, even though I was aware of the destruction the roots were causing. It's like that sometimes, with things that run deep, with strong walls we build around ourselves and hide behind. We live within thier confines, and we convince ourselves we are happy because we feel safe...even though we know, on some level, we are paying a price for hiding.

But the decision was not mine alone to make. And so, over the past few days, the trees have been taken down one by one, and the shadows that my home has been hiding behind have been suddenly lifted. The change was dramatic, as they sometimes are. Light now fills a space where once shade reigned supreme. This morning, for the first time since living here, I stepped out of my front door and felt sunlight on my face.

I do mourn for the trees that are gone, for the branches whose berries drew Cedar Waxwings and tree frogs to our doorstep, and whose lovely white blooms announced the coming of spring each year. But those same branches had shielded my home from light for a very long time. And I know a change that lets in light is always good.

Now my yard is bathed in sun. I plant happy yellow marigolds in a spot where, before, only shade-loving plants would bloom. A new phase is beginning.

I feel bold.


I am ready.

Painting: On the Eve of a New Way of Seeing, Amy L. Alley

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who Made Them Kings of Anything?

While thinking of what to say in today's post on boldness, I happened to hear a song on the radio, and had to laugh. It's called King of Anything, and it's performed by Sara Bareilles.

And it's great, plain and simple. It says what some of us long to say to the people in our lives who try so hard to control us that they end up just making us angry or sapping our spirit.

They don't mean to...but the price we are often going to pay for living in a bold, intentional way is that those who aren't able to (yet) are going to want to subdue our efforts. Whether it is parents, bosses, spouses, friends, family members, or sometimes even our grown children, people can be very threatened by someone who is doing something different.

Different threatens the status quo and makes people assess thier own lives, and often, they don't like what they see. The easiest way to deal with this is to try and reel the 'different' one back in so that everyone is the same. Like the infamous Borg of Star Trek fame, they seem to be saying to us, "Resistence is futile. You will be assimilated."

But you can't be bold and be assimilated. You can't be bold and live a blue-print life. And you can't be bold and be afraid of the consequences that often come from living in a different way than those around you, even if the resistance you face comes from those closest to you, as it so often will.

But you can be bold. Enjoy this little empowering song!!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPk4_XfYhjg

Painting: Summer Nights, by Amy L. Alley

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

If You Don't Ask, You Don't Get

There's an old fable I really love about a man who keeps praying to win the lottery. He lives a very righteous and noble life, but of course, he never wins the lottery, despite his consistent prayers and pious lifestyle. At his life's end, he falls to his knees and asks, "Oh God, why did you never let me win the lottery?"

God replies, "Why did you never buy a ticket?"

This reminds me of a rather bold friend I had in college who totally embodied the spirit of 'if you don't ask, you don't get.' This friend, whom I'll call J, would sometimes embarrass me in public, asking for things like better seats in restaurants or discounts for movie tickets. He even occasionally asked people we were visiting for things in thier homes...it embarrassed the daylights out of me at times, as well as his other friends and especially his quiet, mild-mannered girlfriend, but he would simply shrug his shoulders and say, 'Hey, all they can say is no. That's not going to kill me."

"But it's embrassing!" I'd say, and he'd laugh.

"I'd be more embarrassed if I wanted something and was afraid to ask for it," he'd reply.

I'm not sure if I'd ever take asking for what I want to the extreme that J did, but there was a method to his madness that I do now recognize...it comes back to the old adage, if you don't ask, you don't get. Whether you are asking the universe to bring into your life something you desire; your boss for that long overdue raise; a person whose smile you can't get off your mind to have dinner with you; or asking a stranger to let you have the window seat on a plane. If you don't ask, you don't get. Plain and simple.

Of course there is timing, and tact, and ways to ask without being as obvious as my friend was, but being bold enough to ask for what you want from life is a big step towards actually having it.

But the man in the fable reminds us that asking is not the only step. Sometimes we need to follow up that bold request with a little action. After all, we can't expect to win the lottery if we never buy a ticket!

Painting: Mixed Blood, by Amy L. Alley

Monday, April 18, 2011

Healthy Chaos

I once read somewhere that chaos is actually a higher intellectual form of order.

Gosh, I hope that's true.


As I write this now, my son is awake, has adorned himself with clothing from his costume chest, and has let the dog out to play. The television is on and the laundry basket has been overturned. Easter craft project supplies are spread out on my bedroom floor, red glitter shining in the light. The phone has already started ringing, and it's not quite 7 am.


Most mornings I arise by 5 in order to have a couple of hours peace and quiet, because that's all I'm usually going to get. Today, however, I decided to sleep in a little...and I awoke to this scenario instead. But that's okay. Every happy home, every content family has thier little healthy doses of chaos. Only plastic people in magazine spreads have calm, white-on-beige lives with children who never hold up a homemade sword and shout 'For Narnia!' or run through the house with a barking puppy nipping at thier cape.


What defines chaos will differ from person to person, depending on one's comfort level with distractions and ability to multi-task. It isn't the same as unhealthy drama or univited disasters, no. Chaos is more of something that we bring into our own lives in an effort to, believe it or not, make them richer, fuller, and more extraordinary...because it can be quite difficult to live in a bold, intentional way and maintain that plastic, white-on-beige magazine-spread existence. While it may be classy and elegant to look at, here's one thing it rarely is, especially for children: FUN.


Because of the happy chaos that is enveloping around me now, I need to end this post. But just remember, to be bold might mean having a little more healthy chaos into your life than what you're used to.


It might be different...it might feel crazy at times...but it can be so much fun...


Painting: Amidst Chaos, by Amy L. Alley

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Soul Connections

They met on a mountain top in Africa, having both summited long before any of thier companions reached the top. They sat for quite some time together, laughing and talking, sharing a bottle of blue Gatorade and stories about other climbs.

It was hard to explain. There was a spark, but they were both in long-term relationships with other people. Still, there was a connection, and it was strong. When thier companions, including thier respective signifigant others, began to summit, they said goodbye. Niether understood the sadness they felt in parting. After all, they'd only just met, and didn't really know one another at all.

Time passed. The relationships they were in each fell apart for different reasons. He thought often of the girl he met on a mountain top. She thought of him, too. They each knew the state where the other lived, (him in Michigan, she on the West Coast) but they had not exhanged last names. As hopeless as it seemed, they remained on one another's minds. He could still hear her laughter and remember how it had made him smile. Someone asked him once if he believed in soul mates, and he thought of her, and said yes. She loved star-gazing, and would often think of him while walking alone at night. She could still picture his face clearly, and she'd wonder where he was, if he ever thought of her.

When his friends asked him to go climbing in Alaska a year later, he almost said no. He was busy at work and felt he wasn't in proper shape for a trek. But there was something pushing him onward, telling him to take the chance that, crazy as it seemed, maybe, just maybe, what happened once might happen again.

It was the same for her. She didn't even like climbing, not really, but when her friends asked her if she'd like to hike in Alaska, she said yes, imagining how amazing it would be if she was to meet the same man again in the same way.

At first she couldn't believe it. When she reached the mountain top and saw him sitting there holding a bottle of blue Gatorade, she thought she was hallucinating. When he saw her, he dropped the bottle, and niether spoke for quite some time. They both knew, in that moment, they had in front of them everything they had ever been looking for. They didn't know how they knew, only that they did. They exchanged all necessary contact information, and were married a few months later. Their friends thought they were nuts to change thier whole lives just because they'd met twice on the top of mountains, but they knew what they had was amazing, and they also knew they had been blessed with something that the universe rarely offers...a second chance. Oh, there are second and third and even fourth and fifth chances, yes, to find love, happiness and joy, but rarely is one blessed with a second chance to have the exact same thing. They had missed the mark in Africa...but when they met again in Alaska, they grabbed hold and did not let go.

I read the tale of this couple in a newspaper many years ago. The focal point of the story was soul connections, how they are one of life's most amazing experiences, how they are always mutual, and how they rarely manifest themselves in ordinary ways. You're not likely to find one with a co-worker or someone you meet at a local bar, and you're rarely going to find one when you are actively seeking it. Soul connections happen on a deep level that requires being bold, because they won't usually come to us at convienent times or in ways that make logical sense. That's the beauty of it, but also, the very reason many people don't recognize when it's happening in thier own lives.

But the wonderful thing is, they do happen. We just have to keep our eyes open and be bold enough to believe in something beyond the ordinary.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Boldness Looks Like

It's the mid-point of our month-long boldness initiative, and time for a moment of reflection.


Take a pencil and paper, and write down 5 things you've done this month that were BOLD.

I did this exercise recently with a friend, and she sat there, tapping her pencil on the table a few minutes before putting it down and pushing the paper away.

"Nothing!" she said. "I haven't done anything bold. I'm still just spinning my wheels."

"Dig deeper," I said. "Maybe you just don't realize what boldness really looks like."

This lady had taken major steps towards living the authentic life she really wanted. For years, she had rarely went out, although she longed to have more friends. But she'd attended a social gathering that week and even asked someone she'd met there to have coffee later. She'd inquired about taking a summer workshop on a subject she'd always been interested in. She'd gotten up early each morning to write in her journal. She'd began collecting pictures from magazines to use in a future vision collage. She'd worn a colorful outfit to work instead of her usual black and tan seperates. She'd even bought and worn a pair of heels instead of her sensible flats, and added dabbing on a tiny bit of make-up to her usual morning routine.


And yet, she didn't think she'd done anything bold. But sometimes, just being bold enough ask someone to coffee can change our lives.

Recognizing our small steps paves the way for the confidence we need to take big steps. One of the primary reasons for starting this blog back on April 2 was to encourage and inspire others. If you've been inspired to take small (or big) steps towards living a more bold, intentional life, please share your story here in a comment or via email at amialley@hotmail.com .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Activism

"Mama, we've got to save him!"


I'd already jumped the creek when I heard my son cry out these words. I turned to see him leaning forward, pointing to a small caterpillar thrashing about in the muddy water.

It was a delicate balancing act to stand on a muddy creek bank and hold a stick out in an attempt retrieve a caterpillar without impaling it, but my child didn't stop until the small creature was safely out of the water and resting on the limb of a nearby tree.

I've taught him not to think of things in our environment as just a caterpillar or just a tree or just a bird. I've taught him not to step on insects just because they are small, which once led to something of an altercation with another child who was gleefully stomping ants in the park. I've taught him that our forests need to be protected, and he once startled me by yelling "Stop it right now you mean guys!" from the car window at a work crew in the process of destroying a wooded area we'd always enjoyed passing by (it's a housing tract now). But it is in moments like this that, as a parent, I feel proud, because my child is caring about something else enough to stand up for it. I can see the seeds of eco-activism being sown...and I love it, because I've never known an activist who wasn't bold.

Julia Butterfly Hill (http://www.juliabutterfly.com/en/) was bold enough to live in the branches of an ancient redwood tree for almost 3 years in order to save it from being destroyed. Simon Jackson, (http://www.spiritbearyouth.org/?page_id=3) at the tender age of 15, was bold enough to go against the government of his country and mount an international campaign to save the habitat of the rare Spirit Bear. My son was bold enough to risk falling face-forward into a muddy creek in order to save a caterpillar from drowning. Not quite the same thing, of course, but a definite start.

Like a stone cast into a still pool, our actions, no matter how seemingly small, can create a ripple effect with the power to reach far beyond what we might imagine ourselves capable. Only one thing lies certain: Nothing is changed if we do nothing. I applauded my son's efforts the day he saved the caterpillar, and I let him know that his actions made a big difference. Maybe not to the world at large, but definitely to that little caterpillar.


Being bold sometimes comes down to this: it's not so much what you do as it is the fact that you do something.


Painting: Refugee, by Amy L. Alley

Being Spontaneous

Last Saturday, I went to the local outdoor market to pick up some produce and maybe a plant or two. I came home with a 9-week-old German Shephard-Lab mix puppy.

I had no idea when I left the house that morning I'd be taking on the responsibility of a puppy within the hour. I had not even considered getting a dog, not really...but sometimes, the best decisions we make for ourselves happen in spontaneous moments like this when we act on instinct and operate from the heart, not the head.

While some choices we make do require careful thought and consideration, being spontaneous can open doors for us that we didn't even know we wanted to walk through. It requires not only being bold, but being bold enough to trust in one's instincts and not overthink the outcome of every decision. It requires complete release from any sense of those twin devils, fear and control, which hold us back from living in a bold, intentional way. And often, it's the spontaneous choices we make that bring the most happiness and positive change into our lives.

Are you bold enough to be a little spontaneous today?


Painting: She Walks Two Worlds, by Amy L. Alley

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Old Rules


My friend K is not from the Southeastern United States, and as a result, often finds humor in the so-called 'rules' of Southern Culture.


Some of our most interesting debates concern fashion, and the often bizarre do's and dont's that seem to exist only in this region of the world. No wearing white after Labor Day or before Easter. A man can't wear a hat inside unless it's a cowboy hat. Only light purple can be worn in spring; dark purple is a fall color. Don't wear black in the daytime...the list goes on and on.


"Who came up with these rules?" K asked me once. "Is there a guidebook everyone reads, or are you all just taught this from birth?"


I had to laugh, because the truth is, I've no idea of the origins of these old fashion rules or why people continue to follow them. But we often follow so-called rules with no idea what logic - if any - lies behind them. We shouldn't date this person because they are younger than us, and we shouldn't date this other person because they are older. We shouldn't wear our hair long after a certain age. We shouldn't try and write a novel until we've had more life experiences. We shouldn't laugh loudly in public. We shouldn't suddenly want to learn to play a steel drum...the list goes on and on, and often, no logic lies behind it.


Instead of a list of shouldn'ts, how about a list of shoulds? We should be bold enough date who we want to date. We should be bold enough to wear our hair the way we want. We should be bold enough to try our hand at a novel, no matter what experiences we have or haven't had. We should be bold enough to laugh from the heart and not worry if it's too loud. We should be bold enough to learn to play a musical instrument at every given oppourtunity. And because it's our life, this list should go on and on, even if no logic lies behind it. After all, it's when logic disappears that joy often comes out of hiding.


The old rules...do they really make sense, or do they no longer apply? Can you be bold enough to shake them up a little?