Connect to Source: Make Prayer Work for You

This week, we celebrate a National Day of Prayer. While you may have an image of getting down on your knees with your hands clasped like the woman in this photo, prayer can take on many various forms that are as equally valid and spiritual as going to church. What makes something a prayer is its ability to carry what we are trying to say at a deep level, but cannot voice directly.

Here are some ideas for ways you can better voice your deepest thoughts and prayers this week and connect to Source:

Read or write a poem.
Reading and writing poetry is a great way to access Spirit and can be a very prayerful experience. I have been a big fan of poetry since I was a teenager and used to listen to old vinyl records of poems like Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods”. Often, poetry can express what you are feeling without having the words to say your feelings out loud. Poems can ground you closer to our Mother Earth and help you connect to Source, all at the same time. Their beauty can lift you to a higher spiritual place.

Get in touch with your artistic inner self.
Doing art as an act of prayer is an embodied, active prayer. If you undertake art with spiritual awareness, it will have a spiritual effect. In this light, creating art is the channel through which an artist’s prayers are manifested. Art as prayer is a conscious connection to the Creator, a true way to connect to Source. So pick up some paper and paints, or even markers, and draw what comes to your mind when you are thinking of your deepest thoughts and wishes.

Listen or create music.
Everyone can get in touch with their inner musical self and create prayer through music, whether it is listening to your favorite songs or singing and chanting your own music. Music can also be used as an introduction to prayer time or to complete the end of prayer. Kirtan chanting is one form of music that can bring you closer to your spiritual self. But even just putting in your favorite CD and listening to beautiful music you love can help you awaken your larger self and your sense of awe, beauty, longing, pain and joy. You can let music act as a vehicle to connect you to Source.

Move yourself into a place of prayer.
Movement itself, whether it is running or doing yoga, dance, pilates, or martial arts, can take you to a higher zone where you feel more connected to Spirit. Movement itself can serve as a form of prayer for you as it can help you transport your feelings and raise your consciousness. Not only will you feel more grounded and healthier in your body itself, but you will be able to put your mind into a place where you can express clearly your innermost thoughts and feelings to your higher Source. Dance especially can lift you and help you express what you are not putting directly into words.

Visit a calming place.
There are places, besides churches, where you are able to feel closer to Spirit and connect to Source through the power of prayer. Often, these are places close to Mother Nature, such as the beach or a park or the mountains. Take a walk and visit one of these places that help put the serenity back into your mind and thoughts and help you feel that closeness with Source. The thoughts and closeness you feel in these places can function as prayer and serve well to lift your soul higher.

Try not to think of prayer as a rigid, rules-based religious obligation. Instead, look at prayer in its most organic and creative light – through poetry, music, dance, and nature. Prayer is a powerful and beautiful tool that can help you achieve your highest consciousness and enlighten your soul, and everyone should feel invited to participate in prayer.

If you would like to become more adept at prayer and learn to coach others to do the same, please click here for information on my enlightening online certification course in the Power of Prayer.


Déjà vu or Past Life?

Have you ever walked into a restaurant that you know you’ve never set foot in before, and felt an intense sensation of familiarity?  Have you ever met someone for the first time, yet felt like you two go way back?  Have you ever been in a fresh conversation with someone and felt like you already experienced this exact conversation before?  Have you ever felt moments in your life that you dismissed as “coincidence”?  Can’t shake that nagging suspicion of “been there, done that”?  Well, maybe your familiar hunches are more than just feelings — maybe you have actually been there and done that!  What if your feelings of déjà vu and coincidence were genuine memories from a distant past, perhaps even from a previous life you experienced?

The term “déjà vu” was coined by French psychic researcher, Émile Boirac.  The literal translation of the French phrase means “already seen.”  Some refer to the expression as experiencing the past in the present.  Common among both children and adults, it is reported that 60-70% of people have experienced this uncanny feeling that they have already experienced something that is being experienced for the first time.  Déjà vu can be triggered through any of your five senses, it is not necessarily just something you physically “see” – it can be a familiar smell, taste, sound (pitch of voice, background noises), or feel/touch of something that triggers a past memory.  Perhaps you are recalling a familiar smell from your childhood that comes rushing back to you, or maybe the sight or mannerisms of someone you are speaking with reminds you very clearly of someone  you once knew and cherished.  While déjà vu has been documented in studies as early as the 1800s, it remains today a paranormal mystery that has not yet been solved.

One theory worth exploring is that this phenomenon is a message from your higher self.  What if your cosmic self is recalling a memory from a previous life?  This moment can be a powerful, miraculous glimpse into your own soul if you are aware enough to notice it.  This experience can help you in your current emotional healing if you are mindful enough to recognize it.  Your soul on the subconscious level may be sending messages to your conscious mind.  These messages may be the very same déjà vu moments you are experiencing.

Too often, we dismiss these signs as ‘coincidences’ and miss their underlying significance.  Yet perhaps their significance is their very synchronicity and feeling of familiarity, which is letting you know that you are exactly where you should be, when you should be, and with whom you should be.  These moments are signs that are telling you that you are on the right ‘path’ for your soul.

At the same time, know that you do not need to act on your past-life déjà vu moments every time you notice them.  You are not obligated to form a bond with someone in this life simply because you may have had a connection in a previous life.  If you are aware enough to notice the connection, then you are already acknowledging your path and can view the knowledge as another window to a higher self.

Each time you notice this paranormal phenomenon, you are thereby increasing your ability to tap into this higher self and higher consciousness.   You will be connecting with your soul on a deeper level. This heightened state of cognizance can help you see your current life more clearly and can help you make the right decisions and changes you need to unblock the challenges that lie in your path.

These moments of déjà vu may very well be your soul sending you clues on how to handle the challenges taking place in your current life.  There is much we can learn from our past, so why not use these glimpses of your past – even past lives perhaps – to increase your understanding, heighten your awareness and learn how to better handle your current challenges?  Pay attention to the signs on the map with which your soul is guiding you!

You may just find a much smoother, more harmonious life in the present, all thanks to these glimpses of déjà vu from your past!


Sticks and Stones: Words DO hurt.


Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

We have all heard this expression as kids.  While this may have seemed like a great tactic to use on the playground in self-defense, words actually CAN and DO hurt.  And the pain caused from them often lingers long past the healing time of any cut or broken bone.  Some words can cause pain that may never go away, or create an “invisible” scar that one carries around their entire life.  The memory of painful words can lead to a lifetime of anxiety, stress, anger, resentment, and fear, among other feelings.

In today’s modern, western society of free thinking and free speech – both wonderful rights which we are blessed to have – we now have the tools to use our words to make an even deeper impact and reach an even broader audience.  On the bright side, we can spread a message of peace, love and tranquility to the world.  We can put kind posts on Facebook walls and support each other from afar.  We can use our words in a supportive, nurturing manner to make someone feel good about themselves.  We have the power to use our words to make others happy.

At the opposite spectrum, we can hurt each other on an even deeper level than ever before, with just our words.  Sadly, many kids today don’t just use mean names on the playground as a form of bullying.  They now use the power of the Internet to post terrible, hateful words they may not have ever even dared to utter in person – words so hurtful and cruel that several kids with bright futures have turned to suicide to escape from them.  The tragedy of cyberbullying has become so widespread that there is now new legislation being drafted to combat it.

Your words can cause harm.

Too often, we may say something without thought.  We may believe what we are saying is right and believe are words will help. In fact, we can still cause damage with our words. 

We may be challenging a person’s way of thinking or actions.  While we may all be speaking the same language, words can be misinterpreted or misread.  Sometimes clarification or further questioning is needed to understand the meaning behind the words. Despite our best intentions, we can still cause pain with our words.


Do you keep track of how many times you say something that can hurt someone else?  Who doesn’t repeat a little bit of gossip here and there?  Whether it’s true or false, we can still cause harm with our words.

Watch what you say, say what you mean, and mean what you say.

We are all inevitably prone to hurting someone with our words, even when it is unintentional.  No one can live their life walking on eggshells every single day – that is just not realistic.  But one choice we can all make is to be aware of what we are saying and its impact on others.  After all, words have started and ended wars.

We can think before we speak and choose words that we actually truly mean to use.  Think about how your words will sound and be interpreted by the recipient.

Silence can be golden.

Ask yourself, do I really mean to say what I am saying, or am I too rushed or careless right now for the right words? Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all! And ask yourself, are the words you want to speak necessary for someone to hear, or are you suppressing emotions of your own and looking for an outlet to let them out? Are you healing emotional hurt of your own and seeking a place to take it out on someone else?

Think before you speak and know that you do not always have to fill the silence.

Choose words for kindness.

Be the better person, connect to your higher self and make a point to use your words to make others feel good, not bad.

As Blaise Pascal wrote, “Kind words do not cost much. They never blister the tongue or lips. They make other people good-natured. They also produce their own image on men’s souls, and a beautiful image it is.”

Choose to be one who makes a beautiful image.


The Price We Pay

Have you ever wondered whether small, constant headaches are the price we pay for living in a hyper-charged, over stimulated society? For me, tension headaches were a daily companion as I went through college and law school. I thought they were par for the course and was a little surprised when I found out that others did not routinely suffer from them.

Women are more likely to develop tension headaches than men quite possibly because we are trained from birth to suppress our feelings. Society rewards us for handling career, family, household, and community responsibilities without missing a beat or feeling exhausted.  But for many of us, it can be a burden—feeling so disconnected between our inner emotional struggles and the outward calm we present to the world. When we hide from the truth, we don’t allow our energy to flow freely in our bodies resulting in ill health in the form of tension headaches.

Here are three things that you can do to find relief from the pain because our fast-paced society is not going to change…only we can:

  • Identify when and how you feel when you experience them. Determining if they are primary headaches (such as migraines) or secondary headaches (caused by other illnesses or triggers) will help you treat them.
  • Honestly, assess the rhythm of your day and determine if stress, food or sleep patterns may be triggering your tension headaches.
  • Mix alternative medicine techniques with any conventional medical treatments that you may be receiving. Our clients have received headache relief from journaling, more regular exercise, yoga, meditation, prayer, massage, and balancing their chakras through energy healing.

Caring for Roberto

I had broken all of the rules about getting too close to Roberto—someone for whom I had played the role of healer. In fact, I had gone so far as to turn my home into a hospice for him.

It had all begun one foggy morning earlier that year. Distraught about being unable to pay his bills, Roberto missed a turn and drove his car off a cliff. He was badly injured, yet he’d managed to crawl back up to the lip of the cliff and was lying in the road. I was on my way to a little chapel not far from my home to meditate in the quiet hours before dawn, driving through the mountains in the darkness, when I saw something that looked like a piece of clothing that had been dropped in the road. As I slowed down to take a closer look, I found a crumpled human being lying there. At once, I slammed on my brakes, jumped out of my car, and ran to his side. A couple also pulled up to help at the same moment and frantically dialed 911 on an early version of a mobile phone. The man on the road was clearly in shock. Having no blanket with me, I cradled his shaking body the best I could with my own body to protect him from the cold.

When I assessed the extent of the man’s injuries, I began to panic. His leg was nearly severed just below the knee, and one of his arms lay completely lifeless on the ground. After what seemed like hours (but was probably no more than 30 minutes), the ambulance arrived, and I followed it to the nearest hospital.

While Roberto was recovering, I visited him nearly every day even though the hospital was about an hour away from my house. His arm began to heal, but after four surgeries to save his leg, it was still in fragile condition. On my daily visits to the ICU, I did hands-on healings on my “patient,” bobbing and weaving like a total fool in full view of the doctors and nurses. Much to my embarrassment, some of the hospital staff watched with unabashed interest while others politely looked away. But no one ever said a word to me.

One day several months after I’d found that poor man in the road, a hospital administrator phoned me at home. Assuming that I was his closest relative, he filled me in on Roberto’s situation. Being an artist who was visiting the United States from his homeland in the former Czechoslovakia, he had no means of support and no medical insurance, so the hospital had been picking up the tab out of their indigent fund. The man on the phone said that this source was now exhausted, and the hospital would have no choice but to put him out on the street the very next day.

I called to alert my husband—who always quietly tolerates my outrageous behavior—and ran to the rescue. I moved Roberto into the guest room. At this point, he still required twice-daily bandage changes and full-on home care, which I did my best to provide.

As we left the hospital, I bluffed my way through wound-dressing 101, assuring Roberto and the nurse: “I’ve had plenty of experience changing bandages on horses. I can do this blindfolded,” when, in fact, I had  dissociated and heard not a word of the nurse’s instructions.

Five days later, a home-care nurse came to review the procedure.

“Show me what you’ve been doing,” he said.

“Well, I just unwrap the old . . .”

“Wait!” he exclaimed, incredulous. “You have to glove up!”

Horrified to discover that I’d failed to wear protective gloves when changing the bandages, he muttered something about AIDS and hepatitis and urged me to get tested immediately.

After a month of caring for Roberto, I sensed something odd one day during a bandage change. I immediately loaded him into the wheelchair, transferred him to the car, and drove to his surgeon’s office. This doctor assured me that all was well, but my intuition knew better. I made a few phone calls and found an infectious-disease specialist in town. I wheeled Roberto into the man’s office and insisted that he be seen right away. When the doctor unwrapped the leg, his face turned pale and he looked at me and mouthed, “Gangrene.” He immediately admitted Roberto to the hospital, where he stayed for three months, receiving IV antibiotics in a desperate effort to save his leg and his life. With a bit of sleuthing on my part, combined with persuasive tactics from my days as a lawyer, I convinced the hospital administrators to take Roberto back on the basis of a loophole.

Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 159-160 of Be Your Own Shaman by Deborah King, published by Hay House Books. ©2011 by Hay House Books.


Mind vs. No Mind

When I was speaking at a conference not long ago, I met a woman named Sandy. She told me that she was 62 years old and had fallen twice in the previous year, breaking bones each time: a couple of ribs in the first fall and a hip in the second. The doctors told her that she had advanced osteoporosis and, naturally, she was quite worried. Sandy didn’t have any idea what was causing such an advanced case at a relatively young age, so she’d come to me for help.

I began by asking her about her childhood, as I had a vague knowing that somehow it was related to her condition. At the same time, I felt into her energy field using my own body as a sensing mechanism. Sandy said that she was born with a hip deformity and had undergone several corrective surgeries before the age of two. This information dovetailed with what I got when she first walked up to me: a lot of fear and a disconnection from the natural world—that is, she didn’t feel connected to the earth and she wasn’t grounded. I concluded that this was likely the result of her early surgeries’ damaging impact on her base chakra.

In Sandy’s energy field, I sensed that her first chakra was distorted in shape and circling in the wrong direction, which means it was unable to take in energy and caused her to exhibit a distorted view of reality. She thought the nature of the world was trauma and pain and that there was danger lurking around every corner. She was also unable to receive any sustenance from Mother Earth, the source of all our strength and health. This explained the weakness of her bones.

Throughout this process, I went back and forth between “Mind” and “No Mind.” We all know what the first term refers to: when we’re thinking with our left brain. In my Mind, I was reviewing what I knew about the condition of osteoporosis and how it’s often a result of a poorly functioning first chakra. From No Mind—that place in ourselves where we sense and feel, and from which we get our intuitions—I received information from the unified field and all of my senses, both normal and paranormal. This is how I obtained the information about Sandy’s childhood and the fact that the base chakra’s condition was a factor.

Next, I focused my attention directly on her physical body and found that her bones had that porous feel I associate with osteoporosis. Again, I moved between Mind and No Mind to arrive at this conclusion. At this point, I was pretty much done with the intake part of the session.

Working in an expanded state, I checked and deepened the connection with my guides (from years of doing this work, I am linked with them constantly). I specifically requested that they work through me, and then I expanded and raised my own energy field to accommodate their higher vibration. The guides began to resolidify Sandy’s bones, using my body as the vehicle.

At the same time, I “heard” what Sandy needed to do in order to get well. Using that information, I gently explained to her that her bone problems were associated with those early childhood surgeries that had separated her from the earth. Therefore, reconnecting to it would help build bone health. I suggested that she walk barefoot on the beach (she lived very near the ocean) and spend time sitting with her back against a tree. These activities would put her in direct contact with earthly energies to further sustain bone strength.

When the guides had finished their work, I used my focused intention to firmly root Sandy’s first chakra and sacrum directly into the earth. I did this without thinking; for me, it’s as automatic as driving a car or brushing my teeth. I also recommended that she take up a practice like yoga, Pilates, or dance to bring her more fully into her body and aid in keeping the grounded connection I had helped her establish.

Some months later, I heard from Sandy. She reported that she was less anxious, more balanced, and peaceful. She had followed my suggestion and was taking dance classes. She had also formed the habits of eating outside at noon, sitting with her back against a tree, and walking barefoot in the sand at least three times a week. Her osteoporosis tests had improved dramatically, and she no longer needed to take medication for the condition.

Much of the information I received about Sandy, you would have picked up, too. In fact, you’re probably already getting more than you realize about people’s emotions and their health. When you become your own shaman, you will know how to go from getting occasional hunches to having fully developed intuitive skills. These are wonderful gifts of the spirit, and you will know that what you receive is highly accurate. Our culture calls advanced abilities “paranormal” or “beyond the norm,” but that’s only because 99 percent of modern humans have turned these sensing abilities off. The good news is that they can be turned back on rather easily.

Excerpt from Be Your Own Shaman by Deborah King (Hay House 2011)


7 Tips for Getting a Friend Through a Divorce

When the Dalai Lama says that his religion is kindness, you may think that he’s being a little simplistic. But have you considered what it means to be kind? It means really listening to others, allowing your friends to open their hearts and listening to their problems without judging them, then finding the right response that may lead them gently in a new direction.

 A classic time to be truly kind is when one of your friends is going through a relationship breakup. The end of a relationship is one of the most difficult upheavals many people will ever face. It’s an emotional roller coaster that you would like to help your friend survive, but how do you do that?

 Here are 7 tips for how you can help your friend navigate this emotional mine field.

  1. Be careful not to assign blame. Your friend may be blaming his soon-to-be ex, thus fanning the flames of anger. Or he might be blaming himself for failing to keep the relationship alive and healthy, and is angry at himself and guilt-ridden. You can remind him that not all relationships are meant to last forever, and the romantic relationship can transform into one of friendship, which is especially important if children are involved. Suggest he find a place where he can express his anger safely and release his guilt, such as in group therapy.
  2. Encourage your friend to express her feelings, whatever they are. If she’s being stoic, remind her that emotions that aren’t expressed can get trapped in the body where they can do physical harm. She can take up beating pillows or kick boxing or going down to the beach to holler at the waves, whatever it takes to let the emotions run their course.
  3. Help him understand that this is a period of significant loss. Loss of a significant other can be worse than death, and requires a mourning period and great personal adjustment. Grief is normal. He may be losing all their mutual friends, where he lives, even his pets. Remind him he has the opportunity to gain a better understanding of who he is by himself, without having to defer to another, an understanding of what he really wants in life, and what he needs to do in order to heal himself. All of which require time.
  4. Reassure your friend that her sex life doesn’t end when the relationship does; in fact, it may improve. She is still attractive (no matter how old she is) and worthy of finding love again, when she is ready. Her self-esteem need not be lessened by divorce, and there’s no need to “prove” her desirability by jumping into another relationship right away. And if your friend is of the gender of your own preference, don’t think jumping into bed with him/her is an act of kindness, it’s not. Stick to being friends without “benefits.”
  5. Help him with practical matters that may be new to him, like setting up a kitchen and cooking. He’d probably love help with moving, getting settled in the new place and making new friends. Above all, stay in touch with him so he doesn’t feel alone.
  6. It’s very therapeutic to watch others going through the same things you are. Watch movies with your friend that can help her express what she’s feeling, from “The First Wives Club” and “War of the Roses” to “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Waiting to Exhale,” “The Squid and the Whale,” “Wonder Boys,” and a host of others.
  7. We all “get by with a little help from our friends.” Be the friend who can make your friend laugh.

As Oprah has said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” Now that’s the kindness of a true friend.


Capital Punishment Punishes Everyone

Troy Davis was murdered by the state of Georgia on Wednesday, September 21st, yet there remains much doubt about his guilt. Justice seems to have taken a lethal injection in the Davis case – in my opinion, capital punishment is itself a crime. When we deliberately execute someone, we diminish our own humanity.

The only good to come out of the Davis execution is that it has ramped up the forces of those of us who want to see capital punishment abolished. If only it wasn’t such a handy platform for politicians who want to be seen as “tough on crime.” Just look at Rick Perry in Texas, whose constituents cheer his stand on the death penalty.

There are other ways to keep murderers from harming anyone else. I know there are evil people out there. I know there are those who deliberately set out to harm others. But capital punishment is a crime against humanity.

Click here to read my blog on the Huffington Post and post your comment there – make your position on capital punishment known; make your voice count.


The Help

As many of you may know, I’m a movie buff. I love sitting in a darkened theater and being swept away by a good story. Now that it’s fall, it’s movie time again and I’ll be posting reviews of the ones that may open your heart, challenge your beliefs or expand your horizons. Sometimes a movie comes along that triggers a deep emotional response and brings up memories. That happened to me recently when I saw The Help.

I grew up in northern California, far from the segregated South, but my mother gave me a taste of the old South right in my own home. One of the fixtures of my childhood was Mamie, our “help,” who worked for my mother half a day every day and all day on holidays. She came to work for our family when my mother was a young pregnant bride of 19, married to my 41-year-old father, her former boss and a prominent politician. Mamie, who was my father’s age, was always there for me from the time I was born—a loving presence in stark contrast to my mother’s coldness and indifference to me. I adored her.

Just like in the film, my mother insisted on being called Mrs. King (although Mamie called her other employers by their first name) and I was always Miss King. She served our meals and then ate her own in the kitchen. When I was old enough to question my mother about that, she said the help always ate in the kitchen, no matter what color they were.

It was a confusing situation. I certainly didn’t think of my family as racist. My father was a bleeding heart liberal who spent every holiday driving around town giving away clothes and money to the needy. My mother came from a working class background; her own Portuguese mother had taken in sewing and cleaned houses. Why didn’t she treat Mamie more like an equal?

Although I knew that all the “colored” folk lived on the South Side, the poorest part of town, it never occurred to me to question why. As children, we accept what is without question. I knew about the South Side because Mamie lived there, in what was basically a shack. When I was old enough to drive, one of my chores was to drop off the family laundry and ironing at Mamie’s in the morning and pick it up again in the evening.

I left the movie and spent the rest of the evening thinking about Mamie and my family. My mother was considered a kind employer (one of Mamie’s sons still calls my mother once a year to see how she’s doing). Mother insisted I come home from college to be at Mamie’s bedside as she was dying in the hospital. Mother was the only white woman who attended the black funeral when Mamie died at 56 from heart failure (not surprising after eight children and a life of hard and often demeaning work).

As my emotional reaction to the movie gradually faded, I began to question the beliefs I had grown up with about discrimination, about prejudice. As children, we so readily accept situations as normal, as being “just the way things are.” This is why it’s so important to examine our beliefs, so we can shake ourselves out of complacency and come to a more conscious understanding, so we don’t pass along to future generations the same sorrows and injustices.

If you haven’t seen The Help, I recommend it. One of my clients who grew up in Mississippi with a black nanny wept copiously throughout the film. But even if this particular situation is not one that you experienced personally, have you experienced discrimination based on your class or race or religion? Conversely, what have you felt and believed about those who are of different class or race or religion from you?

In the spiritual universe, we are all One. There is no doubt about that. By examining the hidden traces of prejudice and discrimination that you may hold, you can free yourself from whatever hinders you from experiencing that unity.

Isn’t it amazing what a good movie can do?

Mr Manx

Mr. Manx, Cat Extraordinaire

Mr Manx

More than 10 years ago, we moved to yet another horse ranch, a sprawling 20-acre spread backing up to a nature preserve, a magnificent property covered with high grass and ancient oak trees just a few miles from the shores of the Pacific. We no sooner arrived, with our horses and dogs, than the displaced seller called, ashamedly telling us he had been forced off his property some months earlier by a restraining order sought by his ex-wife, an order that denied him access to his  children and property. He seemed resigned about all that but quite upset about a manx cat he loved that might still be somewhere on the property, starving to death.

We promptly began a hunt for the little tabby cat with no tail he described, and spotted him at dawn the next morning, running into a drainage ditch in which he had been living down by the barn. He was emaciated. The vet guessed he might be some 5 or 6 years old and recommended frequent feedings to bring him back to health.

We named him “Mr. Manx” and placed food out for him twice a day. He rapidly gained weight and, feeling more like himself, began hunting again, proudly presenting us every morning with a gopher or two twice his size – dragging them into the house through the dog door and dumping them at the base of the stairs, where I would stumble over them in the dark as I came down in the morning.

As summer moved into fall and the weather cooled, Mr. Manx let it be known that he could easily give up his raucous outdoor lifestyle and move indoors, explaining that his favorite activity wasn’t really hunting, but napping: that cat could nap anywhere at the drop of a hat. He ingratiated himself with the house cats and set a sleeping example no other acquaintance of mine has ever matched – he could sleep so well, he could almost sleep standing up. No matter where you turned that first winter, he’d be asleep nearby: always finding a patch of sun, at the base of the glass door or on a windowsill, or protected from the wind, sunbathing on the upper deck. I was going through a difficult menopause those first years Mr. Manx joined our family, unable to sleep much at all myself, and I used to imagine that the cat was sleeping for me.

One day I realized that Mr. Manx was no longer thin and starving; in fact, he was overweight. Seriously overweight. We realized that he had developed an eating disorder from his days of near starvation; that darn cat just couldn’t stop eating, fearing that food might one day again become scarce. He continued to gain weight until his belly touched the ground and I could no longer lift him.

About the same time, I admitted to myself that my dream horse ranch had a fatal flaw. During the exciting days of escrow and purchase, I had met with several horse trainers who all praised the beauty of the land but, once we were on it, we found that it was really too steep for horses and humans alike. As one fencer put it, “Lady, you’ve got yourself a pyramid here, not a horse ranch.” The house was at the top of a mountain and the horses and barn at the bottom of a draw, and in-between was a no man’s land of rolling oak forests, hiding wild turkeys and coyotes and bobcats and the occasional mountain lion that would stand and stare as I fed and mucked the horses alone at night, giving the twilight an eerie quality.

Never one to let the grass grow under my feet, I again took up the arduous search for yet another perfect ranch property and, many months later, stumbled on one just a few miles away. By that time, Mr. Manx had become a key member of our family and I obsessed about the difficulty of moving him, knowing that cats don’t move easily. But Mr. Manx had other ideas, and jumped in my car the day of the move, telling me that crating him wouldn’t be necessary, he was ready to go. At the new ranch, he took over the kitchen and it was impossible to sit for a meal without having that 30-pound cat at your back, sharing your chair with you. He was especially fond of reading with you late at night and loved Seinfeld reruns; they were his personal favorite.

That ranch was the last of our properties that Mr. Manx hunted: when we moved from there, he announced he had retired from hunting and sought a promotion to full-time housecat, one that he surely deserved.  When we moved on, first to Santa Barbara, where we briefly flirted with being citified, which worked not at all, he slept on the deck, totally disregarding the multi-million dollar view of the city, the mountains, and the ocean just below.

He much preferred our next place in the Santa Monica mountains of Malibu, another grand ranch at the end of a long single lane along a cliff, with incredible valley and ocean views and bevies of butterflies hovering nearby. This time, the bobcats and mountain lions brazenly came right up to the house, taking your breath away, and Mr. Manx elected to live totally inside, only venturing out into the special cat cage we constructed for him that had its own oak tree for his napping pleasure. It was at this house, an amazing two-story French country home set in a meadow with its own lake full of frogs that serenaded you at night, where the horses roamed free, that Mr. Manx began the practice of traipsing around, especially late at night, singing a plaintive song, sounding not happy but not unhappy either, just using his voice and keeping it tuned up. He wasn’t fond of that ranch because I insisted on sleeping the better part of the year in a tent, way out on the edge of the cliff with the horses, quite some distance from the house, and he wanted me close by. Once I moved back in for the winter, he was happy again, and slept at my feet as I wrote my first book. He always said writing was easy, like falling off a log, but I never found it so.

The years went by and I began to think Mr. Manx immortal, never aging, always ready to help me write a paragraph or two, eat lunch, or take a nap. But he died suddenly this evening, with no warning whatsoever. He was having trouble breathing as he was raced to the vet, who declared Mr. Manx quite old, geriatric really, and already in the throes of moving on. He seemed unperturbed by all the fuss and quietly expired, with as little fanfare as he had lived. The moment he left his body, I could feel his enormous spirit everywhere, filling me and then the space around me, no limits to him now as he expanded.

What is it about cats that makes them think they are ageless, that allows them to spring effortlessly from floor to kitchen counter if there’s tuna anywhere to be found? Don’t they know they’re elderly and should be on a walker or at least be carrying a cane? What is it about cats that allows them to enjoy every moment of every day, totally present, never worrying for one second that they’re getting old or fat, as Mr. Manx was for sure, or wrinkled or infirm?  Always enjoying every second of every day, the breeze, the sights and the sounds, and only wanting your company, to be with you watching the setting sun.


Clear Skies Ahead

In California, where I live on occasion, the earth shakes periodically, and fire scorches our “golden” hills. On the East Coast, wind and water have been the elements of destruction lately. We tend to forget about the power of Mother Nature until she grows fierce and threatens our usual way of life.

Irene brought us back to reality. The name Irene comes from Greek mythology, where she is the Goddess of Peace. Tell that to the folks who have had to abandon whole towns and communities near overflowing rivers and streams. This peaceful lady did something no one has ever been able to do before: totally shut down New York City mass transit and mandated the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from low-lying areas. The “better safe than sorry” refrain is only heard, it seems, when disaster is imminent, not in the planning stages before we build our homes and businesses in flood or fire zones, or sitting on top of major earthquake faults.

Many of us were glued to the Weather station or to our favorite news programming for days as we watched Irene crawl up a thousand miles of coastline. There’s a part of us that loves to watch Mother on a rampage, as long as we’re not the ones directly in her path. It awakens the desire to break free of all restraints, to go wild, to throw dishes and break windows, to dance in the wind and wash away complacency in a roaring flood.

We forget that we, too, are governed by the same elements as nature: fire, air, space (ether), earth, and water. Millennia ago, the seers of ancient India recognized this fact when they created the first medical system, Ayurveda, which is based on balancing the elemental energies, called doshas: vata is air and space, pitta is fire and water, and kapha is water and earth. Ayurvedic practitioners understand what aggravates each dosha, and what food and lifestyle choices can bring it back into balance. Ayurveda also has a regime for purification, called panchkarma, that eliminates toxins from the system.

Natural “disasters” are purification on a big scale. The old gets swept away, bringing the opportunity to reevaluate the strength of infrastructure and the health of our governing bodies. They bring out bravery—like risking electrocution to save a child—and compassion for the victims. They unite us as we work together to save a city or rebuild what has been wrecked. There’s no one to blame—no terrorists, no evil megalomaniacs. Just an acceptance of what is beyond our control and an understanding of what must be done. Not a bad lesson to remember when the skies clear.


Catalogue of Regrets

There’s a wonderful line in the Paul Simon song, “Everything About It Is A Love Song,” that goes: “Open the book of my vanishing memory, with it’s catalogue of regrets. Stand up for the deeds I did, and those I didn’t do.”

Ah, regrets. We all have our own catalogue of them, divided into the things we’re sorry we did and the things we’re sorry we didn’t do. I imagine there’s a long list of politicians who are sorry they unzipped outside of marriage—not at the time, perhaps, but certainly when the media caught them and public indignation forced their resignation. What regrets heads of state must have about ordering troops into war, or is it only us civilians that regret “collateral damage” to innocents? Do Congressmen regret the bills for the public welfare that they didn’t vote for because of political posturing?

Do rock stars and entertainers regret their wanton use of drugs, prescription or otherwise? If only we could hear from Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and host of others. And we could tell them about our regrets: the way we were mean to someone, the way we hurt those we loved, the time we wrote that email we never meant to be seen but we pushed the Send button anyway. Or the things we didn’t do because we were afraid—of rejection, of pain, of our status.

Regrets can be so tricky. Imagine being harmed by something that didn’t happen! And the regrets we carry can manifest as physical ailments. Many of my clients made themselves ill over sorrows tied to chances not taken, roads not traveled, relationships not pursued.

For example, Dynasty, a 40-year-old mother of three, came to me with neck pain so severe that she had used up her sick leave and vacation time because she was unable to get off her couch. Doctors labeled her neck problems as stress related, but she couldn’t find relief. I asked her about regrets and silent sorrows. She took a deep breath, a few tears fell, and Dynasty told me how sad she still felt about not being at her mother’s deathbed six years earlier. BINGO! We had just found the answer to her neck trouble. My advice to Dynasty, who hasn’t had a recurrence of the phantom neck trouble, was threefold:

  1. Voice the regret. No matter how illogical it is, no matter how much we understand that we can’t change the past, no matter how over it someone thinks we should be. Speaking the words out loud begins to release it from your body. Find a trusted person, an isolated mountaintop, even a loyal dog, but say the words out loud. In Dynasty’s case, she need to say: “I regret not coming home to be with my mother when she died.”
  1.  Look at how that regret has shaped your life. Did you grab onto other relationships with a stranglehold? Did you avoid getting close to people so you couldn’t lose them? Did you march along with a smile on your face to shut the door on the pain? Or did you recognize the gifts that came to you from this kind of pain? Did you learn to cherish your family and treat them kindly? Did you learn to never miss an occasion to tell someone you love them? Did you begin following your doctor’s orders to maintain your good health? Recognize the effects these regrets have had on shaping your life. Some will be unpleasant to look at, but chances are, you have also gained some positive lessons as well.
  1. Release the regret. Yes, it shaped me and taught me things–good and bad. Yes, it took root in my body and showed up as a sore neck, or a bad back, or ulcers, or knee trouble. Release yourself from this regret. Go to a peaceful outdoor spot and choose a natural item, like twigs or pebbles, as a symbol of your main regret. Sit quietly with your item, and when you feel ready, whisper the regret out loud one more time. Then release the pebbles off the side of a hill, or toss the twigs into a running stream. Watch them disappear and accept that you are no longer held by that sorrow.

When your regrets are based on actions you did, such as the chaos and despair your heavy drinking inflicted on your family, have you forgiven yourself even if those you hurt have not? Share your honest regrets with those you have hurt. Try the Hawaiian forgiveness exercise in  my book, Be Your Own Shaman.

Regret is an acid that eats at you. It can be tricky to tease out, because we internalize it so subtly. But by getting it out in the open, into the fresh air and sunshine, and releasing the shame and sorrow from your body, you can find freedom from your own catelogue of regrets.


Intimate Relationships

An intimate, stable relationship is the crucible in which we learn how to stand strong in our own individuality. It’s not an easy task. We need to trust each other, to feel emotionally “safe,” in order to bring forth the full expression of who we are. Unfortunately, a lot of us think a relationship should look like the one the romance industry promotes, full of hearts and flowers and sexy lingerie. We picture ourselves walking hand-in-hand along the riverbanks of Paris, sharing Mai Tai’s on the beach, gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes across a candle-lit table.

The truth is that our bodies are programmed so that the early infatuation we experience will pass in roughly six to twelve months. At some point, either you or your partner may want to run away from the relationship. I need time alone. You’re smothering me. Or you don’t spend enough time with me, you’re always at work or with your friends. What statements like those really mean is I’m trying to figure out who I am and what I want.

As you reach the infamous seven year mark in a relationship, either partner may feel the strong need to run. And when women enter perimenopause, the compliant little wife may suddenly become a fierce tiger, and scare her partner. As men and women hit their mid-forties to mid-fifties, they may develop more of the heavier qualities of the earth, sleeping more or becoming inclined to depression. Or they may exhibit too much of the fire quality, become overly driven and ambitious and rushed.  Or they may develop too much air quality and become anxious and worried and have trouble sleeping. These are classic times for one of the partners to have an affair, or many affairs.

Most relationships crack because of lack of trust brought on by either financial or sexual factors. If your partner is not contributing to the monetary welfare of the relationship—can’t get or hold a job (especially in this economy), gets an inheritance and blows it on a Porsche instead of a college fund for the kids, or develops a gambling addiction, for example—money is the main factor in the loss of trust in the partnership.

One of the most common betrayals of trust happens when your partner (or you) has an affair, which is pretty difficult not to take personally. Ideally, it would be nice to be able to forgive and move on, but a lot depends on the circumstances. Was it a single one-night stand? A long-running affair? Many different partners? There are few relationships where one or the other partner doesn’t at least think about straying at some point. But looking outside the marriage is really just a diversion from the basic issue, which is finding ourselves. However, it is a compelling diversion that basically switches our attention from our present partner’s needs to the new partner’s needs. . . and often duplicates the problems we had with the last partner.

I work with so many people who blame themselves when their partner cheats or lands them in financial difficulty. The key point to remember is that your partner’s behavior says more about the problems your partner is trying to resolve from his or her past than about anything directly related to you.

Unfortunately, when we’re betrayed or our trust is broken, we tend to shut down our heart. When a dog is hit, it cowers close to the ground. Well, we do the same thing if our heart is hurt. If we don’t open our heart and let the pain move through, how can we be open to new experiences of love? This is why it’s so important to clear the energy from past relationships out of your personal energy field and out of your body (see the shamanic technique, the “Sweeping Breath,” on page 117 of my book, Be Your Own Shaman). That old relationship can slow you down and make you feel confused, unfocused, unhappy, lethargic or, worse, it can make you toxic and sick.

I’d like to pass on to you the two biggest tips that I have learned in over thirty years of marriage: First, if you meditate every day with your partner, you’ll find it’s pretty easy to get along. Secondly, when you are really upset with your significant other, begin every statement with how you feel. Start the sentence with “I feel horrible when you say such and such,” instead of saying, “You always say...” That gives the other person a chance to realize the impact they are having on you instead of going immediately on the defensive.

As you grow in your emotional health, your relationships will reflect a more mature intimacy, which in turn allows you to be fully who you are. If your relationship can survive the power struggles and betrayals, it means you have healed the wounds inflicted in the battle of the sexes for nurturance, power, and self. You realize you can separate from each other and come back together without losing yourself, and you can finally claim the prize of real intimacy.


Scared of Your Emotions?


When you see a mother with her baby, are you jealous? Or are you relieved it’s not you? Or maybe angry that she could have one, but you can’t? What about your feelings about your partner, or lack of? How do you feel walking in to work? When your kid flunks a test? When your computer crashes?

Are you afraid of what you feel? Scared that the emotion will cover you over like a tsunami and drag you out to sea? Take over your life?

If you’re trying to heal yourself, you will have to learn to release the toxic emotions you buried because you were afraid to feel them. You won’t want to dwell on the feelings as they come up or beat yourself up about them or try to change them. You’ll want to observe the emotions as if they are passing clouds—you feel the emotion arising, acknowledge it, and then watch as the storm clouds blow away.

Of course, it takes some time to be able to get comfortable with your emotions and not get caught up in them. I remember being in a courtroom as a young attorney during the time I was learning to name and acknowledge my emotions. I would write down what I was feeling in the margins of my brief, which was usually jealous, jealous, jealous. That’s how I felt about all those other lawyers who seemed so self-assured. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable with my jealousy and to stop trying to make it disappear. But when I did, I was able to uncover the fear that had created the jealousy, so I could then deal with it.

If I were to ask you, What are you feeling right now? would you be able to answer?

Here are words for some of the emotions, to get you started.

  • Fear is always the basis of the other emotions. It ranges from anxiety and nervousness (including worry, distress, dread, dismay) to fright, horror, or shock that can lead into panic, terror, or hysteria. Or maybe you’re just shaking in your shoes or have butterflies in your stomach!
  • Jealousy includes envy, wanting what other people have, or you can be filled with resentment, bitterness, or spite.
  • Anger goes from irritation to rage. You can be annoyed, mad, furious, disgusted, or spiteful. Do you see red? Maybe your anger is nothing more than displeasure or pique rather than being infuriated.
  • Sadness moves from feelings of self-pity to suffering hurt or anguish or grief. We can be wounded, upset, devastated, or simply unhappy, miserable, or gloomy. Maybe you’ve just got the blues.
  • Shame can come from disgrace or dishonor, humiliation, embarrassment, or indignity. It is closely related to guiltremorse or plain old regret.
  • On the other hand, you can be filled with love and affection, be cheerful, proud, full of optimism and joy. Are you content and happy? Hopeful? Maybe blissful, in good spirits, without a care in the world.

As you can see, there are a lot of choices when it comes to naming your emotions. Let your choice be guided by your “gut feelings.” When you feel a sense of connection with a particular word, write it down in your journal and try to elaborate on what is causing it.

Now can you answer the question: What do I feel right now?

Just pick a word. It would be nice once in a while to have words like peaceful, happy, and cheerful. But whatever the word is, be really honest about it. Don’t try to change it and don’t criticize yourself; instead, congratulate yourself for the awareness. Absolutely everything starts with awareness.


Shame on Him, Not on You

Powerful men in the public eye seem to think they can have their way and get away with it all. But eventually they get caught, and the litany of their lies and excuses is embarrassing. Just look at the apologies offered by Anthony Weiner, DSK (the Frenchman vs. the hotel maid), John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenagger, Bill Clinton, and a host of others over the years.

Some broke the law, like Edwards using campaign money to fund his trysts, while others simply lost the public trust and broke their wives’ hearts. These woman had to deal with public humiliation as well as with their private suffering over their husbands’ betrayals.

Read my blog, “Weiner: Shame on Him, Not on Huma,” in the Huffington Post at for more on this topic and be sure to comment on it there; would love to bring this shameful behavior more into the open, where it can be healed.