Author Archives: Lynn Woodland

December | The Healing Power of Darkness

In this holiday-packed time of year one could almost overlook the deepening darkness and the inclination to hibernate that are natural to the season. People of not so many generations back used to sleep more in these long nights. Not us. We turn on the lights, indoors and out, fight nature’s pull to cozy in, and schedule the splashiest late-night parties of the year. Instead of becoming quiet and introspective, we’re more likely than ever to lose ourselves in a frenetic social whirl.

There is, of course, something miraculous and hopeful happening this time every year, something truly worth celebrating: the simple, wondrous rebirth of light where the ever-increasing darkness of fall gives way to the lengthening days of winter and spring. The many spiritual holidays celebrated within days or weeks of the winter solstice all echo our instinctive understanding of light’s importance to our physical survival and spiritual renewal.

Light is an often-used metaphor for all things wise and wonderful. We “see the light,” find “light at the end of a tunnel” and a “silver lining around every dark cloud.” It’s easy to give credit for all things good to the light and simply ignore the power of dark; darkness, with its opposite connotations of fearfulness, depression, ignorance and death.

Yet, here we are in a time of year when it’s difficult to deny the presence of darkness, as hard as we may try. What’s more, whatever we ignore inevitably has a way of sneaking up from behind and tripping us when we’re not looking. This is certainly true of those aspects of self we don’t like. The ones we keep hidden in the dark nether regions of our being because they’re too painful, too shameful, or too imperfect to admit to ourselves, let alone to other people.

So, here’s a different kind of winter solstice ritual, one that honors the moment of deepest darkness that has to happen before we can give ourselves over to the jubilant celebration of light. After all, this is the perfect time of year to give darkness its due and, for once, stop trying to ignore or artificially light it out of existence. And even though it may not inspire the cheerful exuberance of spring or summer, see if this exercise doesn’t leave you clearer, cleaner, and more ready to fully embrace the deep quiet miracle of light that is the season’s truest offering.

As a starting place, take a moment to reflect on the year that’s been, the one that’s following its natural course and ending in darkness. What are the stand-out “points of darkness” you experienced this year? The very worst of times, the biggest catastrophes, the deepest despair, the times you most want to forget ever happened?

As you recall these moments, notice the feelings these memories evoke. We tend to suppress, ignore or medicate pain out of existence in much the same way we artificially cover darkness with light. Unfortunately, all these pain-coping methods don’t make pain go away, just underground until it eventually grows too big to ignore. So instead of sending one more bit of pain to the dark, crowded storage locker of your psyche, this time simply be with it.

Notice how it feels in your body. Is it a sinking feeling in your gut? An empty place in your heart? A cloud of confusion around your head? A lump in your throat? A tense, armored feeling in your muscles? A clenched feeling in your jaw or fists? A fearfulness in your bowels? Instead of turning away from these raw places, this time give them your full attention. Notice the sensation of the feeling in your body and relax into it. Stop struggling. Stop thinking, stop trying to move on or make it go away.

Also let go of familiar interpretations and judgments you have around these feelings: “My sadness is bottomless. If I truly feel it, I’ll just fall deeper and deeper until I drown.” Or “My anger is wrong. I shouldn’t have it. It will hurt someone.” Tell yourself instead that as you stop resisting feeling, pain stops being pain and becomes something usable, something healing. Go deeply enough into these dark parts of yourself until you feel your resistance letting go, struggle being replaced by surrender, tension turning into relaxation, fear giving way to an awareness that there is nothing to fear.

Now, imagine yourself in total darkness. (Try doing this at night.) Most of us can recall middle of the night anxieties where we lay awake in bed, in the dark, and our whole world looked dismal and dangerous in a way it seldom does during the day. The darkness to imagine now is a different one altogether (or perhaps the same, but we are different). This darkness is healing.


So many of us on a spiritual path have invoked the healing power of light, but what about that of dark? Imagine darkness around you like sheltering earth around a seed. Instead of imagining light pouring into the wounded places of your soul, imagine darkness, like a mother, drawing out of you the pain, doubt, worry, resentment, confusion and fear that interfere with peace. Feel it absorbing into itself the thoughts, memories and patterns that keep you from being your true self. Let the dark take back to itself all the darkness in you so there’s nothing left but light. The light that needs no artificial or external inducement. The Inner Light that has always been there. Feel yourself in this dark like a caterpillar in its chrysalis, safe and sheltered while a miraculous flurry of transformation is quietly underway.

Last, but not least, reflect again on those moments of darkness that have occurred in your life this year and now, instead of feeling the pain, ask them to show you their hidden blessings. How have you deepened, strengthened, changed direction, reached out to others or cared more deeply for yourself? How have you learned compassion, acceptance or forgiveness? Or gained clarity, broken down barriers, found your tenderness, released stubbornness and ego, or allowed others to help you? How has your very definition of who you are changed? Give thanks for the power of darkness to polish, facet and bring out the natural brilliance of your heart.

Consider sharing with another person the story of finding great blessing in this year’s points of darkness. Let the power of your spoken word change your personal mythology, transforming defeats and losses into powerful stories of resurrection.


November | The Season of Food Begins!

Ah, that wonderful time of year after the harvest, when food is abundant and Thanksgiving begins a whole season of eating! Yet for us overfed and diet-obsessed Americans, the season of food can be a time of losing our tenuous hold on sensible eating habits and surrendering completely to more than a month of uncontrolled feasting on rich and sentimental comfort foods.

“But Mom only makes this once a year!” and “It’s only for the holidays…” we tell ourselves, and then in January wonder how that extra ten pounds got there!

If a little cheating on your sensible eating plan morphs into a month-long binge for you at holiday time, consider a different approach, an alternative to deprivation or binging, involving neither guilt nor denial; one that actually results in more gastronomic pleasure than simply eating everything in sight. The secret has to do with replacing quantity with quality and autopilot eating habits with an extra measure of attentiveness.

Conscious eating is all about waking up your taste buds to every sensory delight so that you don’t miss even a second’s worth of enjoyment by falling into unconscious eating habits. It enables you to enjoy your food more while requiring less to feel satisfied.

Binging happens when we’ve stopped paying attention. We may enjoy the first bites but then keep eating to recapture that first moment’s gratification even after the food is no longer delivering. We may eat for reasons other than hunger, to fill an emotional void or to stuff painful feelings. Binging also happens when we’ve developed such a long-term habit of restrictive dieting that one taste of something not our food plan sends us into an out-of-control eating frenzy where we consume enough to hold us through the long drought of deprivation that invariably follows “cheating.”

This holiday plan calls for a softer (in the kinder, not fatter, sense), gentler you. It involves putting down the whip of guilt and discipline and easing up on food restrictions while simultaneously paying more attention to the whole experience of appetite, craving, and satiation. It entails eating exactly what you want exactly when you want, thinking of all foods as equally “good.” This isn’t permission to binge. Rather it’s a challenge to go out of your way to feed yourself exactly what you really want even when eating what’s readily available would be easier. It’s about treating yourself to what will give the greatest possible eating pleasure instead of “treating” yourself with whatever great quantities of sugar and fat happen to cross your path.

This approach isn’t for everyone (and please don’t substitute my suggestions for your doctor’s counsel), but if it’s appealing to you, consider devoting the holiday season to making every eating experience a conscious one where you eliminate as many distractions as possible, like TV, reading material, and eating on the run, in order to savor every bite.

Make eating a meditation: before you put anything in your mouth, become quiet and relaxed, take several deep breaths and say to yourself, “Everything I eat turns to health and beauty.” You can do this even at the holiday table with family and friends. Especially with family where the temptation may be strong to stuff down childhood feelings with another serving of pie. Disconnecting a bit inwardly and putting your attention on the food, your body, your nourishment, and the experience of pleasure can help break the knee-jerk, stuffing-family-feelings-with-food habit.

As you take a moment to be with your food before you consume it, picture it being easily assimilated by your body and turning into health and beauty. Eat slowly, paying attention as you chew and swallow. Stop the minute you feel the first sensation of fullness. If you’re full but can’t stand the thought of leaving all that yummy food on your plate, ask for a doggie bag. After eating, sit quietly for a moment, relax, and take some deep breaths. Imagine a feeling of comfortable fullness and lightness in your body. Imagine that your stomach is filled not just with food, but with peace and well-being that radiates soothing sensations throughout your body.

Don’t eat again until you feel the first sensation of hunger. Then eat immediately, but only until you feel the first sensation of fullness. Pay attention as you eat, chew well, and really notice how food feels in your stomach and what the sensation of fullness is like. Every time you feel hunger, ask yourself what food you most crave. Feed yourself the food or foods that are just what you want. You may find yourself craving previously “forbidden” foods at first because enforced restriction can, in and of itself, create cravings for whatever’s been denied but, as you eat consciously in this way, you’re likely to find yourself satisfied with much less. And, as you eat consciously but not restrictively, you may also be surprised by your cravings becoming more and more balanced. I once saw a perpetually dieting and vegetable-phobic woman, who equated greens with cruel punishment, astonish herself by craving salad after just three days of giving herself permission to eat whatever she wanted.

If you’re tempted to binge, create a healing ritual around eating one of your favorite foods. Set the table, light candles, and eat consciously, savoring each bite. Imagine the food having marvelous healing powers that are making you healthier and more beautiful. Continue eating this way until you feel the first sensation of fullness. (Again, you’ll probably find yourself eating less and enjoying it more.) End by giving thanks for your healing food.

If you do catch yourself eating unconsciously, forgive yourself. Notice what the binge is telling you about your emotional needs. Forgive the eating and address the cause. How are you feeling empty, angry, sad, or scared, and what can you do about it?

After all, the holidays with all their frenetic activity, social obligations, and childhood associations, are prime time for exacerbating emotional eating. As you make a commitment to conscious eating, also make a commitment to self-care. Make a list of other things you can do to nurture and soothe yourself that don’t involve food and give yourself time to do them when the urge to overeat arises. Let conscious eating become just the beginning of a more conscious approach to the holiday season where the frenzy of it all doesn’t override the spirit of celebration and joy.

Lynn Woodland’s Seasons of the Self | October: the Dying Season

As fall deepens and light fades, nature is now showing us her “dying” season. In areas where seasons are dramatically distinct, nature goes out with flashing glory before winter gives the landscape a rest. We humans are a bit more apt to go out kicking and screaming.

Many of us fear terrible, painful or lingering deaths over which we’ll have no control. But, the more aquatinted I become with people at the end of their lives, the more I’ve noticed that we tend to die in a similar fashion as we’ve lived: according to our temperament and much more in control of the process than we think. I’ve come to believe that the time leading up to death, far from being just the necessary end to life, is a profoundly meaningful time during which we resolve and complete the deepest lessons of our lives.


Even those deaths that seem like random, cruel blows of fate unbefitting the dignity of a person’s earlier years hold unexpected gifts and, perhaps hidden purposes. Alzheimer’s is one of the “tragic” endings many of us fear and I know of a man whose father developed it shortly into retirement after a lifetime of hard work. He supported five children and devoted himself to a company that didn’t reciprocate his loyalty, firing him when he was nearing retirement age and had been “used up.” Alzheimer’s seemed like a sad finish to the life he’d lived and the person he’d been. It wasn’t long before his middle-aged son had to take care of him like a child.

During these years of illness, the son spent many days taking his father along with him wherever he went and said it was the first time he’d ever felt close to the man. Once he even took his father to his weekly therapy session, and was amazed by his father’s sudden and unusual moment of lucidity: when asked by the therapist if he understood why he’d been invited to the session he responded, “To show my son that I love him.” Then he lapsed back into forgetfulness.

Here was a man who’d never been affectionate or emotionally demonstrative, who devoted himself to what he thought were his duties: working hard for his family and his company. Maybe Alzheimer’s enabled him finally to set down the role of provider and allow some softness into his life that he may never have accepted in his “right mind.” Perhaps, in the end, this was his perfect retirement.

One of the most fearsome aspects of dying is its capacity to plunge us into unbearable pain or disability. I had a close friend who died in her thirties from a life-long degenerative disease. She feared death for much of her life because the course of her illness left people progressively more disabled and in pain. For many years she secretly held a suicide plan for taking her own life before she became too disabled to do so.

She never resorted to it, however, even though her disease did progress as expected. Somewhere along the way she just stopped fighting the pain. Instead of trying to control death from a place of fear, she allowed its mystery to unfold; trusting herself, trusting the process of life. Toward the end, she had many experiences of leaving her body and meeting with “angels” who gave her encouragement and instruction. She also had many deepening experiences of love with the people in her life. She found that in spite of growing pain and physical disability, she loved life more with every passing day. She once reflected in horror that her fear of the unknown had almost compelled her to end her life prematurely, cutting short this richest time of all.

She called me once in the middle of the night and said with much excitement that her increasing shortness of breath, which initially had frightened her, was starting to feel like the beginning of being born—she just needed to push a little harder and she’d be “out.” She imagined her favorite uncle, who had passed away six months earlier, waiting on the other side to catch her as she popped out! The next day, after enjoying her favorite meal of chocolate doughnuts with friends, she easily passed away.

If death is something you think about reluctantly and only with foreboding, consider going into this time of year-the dying season-more deliberately. Decide to become the creator of your death, not its victim. The following exercise is a start.


Exercise: Your Dying Season

Write a story about yourself as a very old person nearing the end of your life. Write this as someone who’s experienced a deeply fulfilling life. As you look back, you see how even the failures and disappointments had a purpose, teaching you something you needed for your next step. You have the perspective of an older, wiser person and can acknowledge your accomplishments, accepting that they didn’t all match your hopes, plans, and expectations. You feel warmth and gratitude for the love you shared with people and, now that many of your loved ones have died, you look forward to making the transition they have already made.

Picture yourself as healthy and vital, even at an advanced age, and your life filled with love, meaning, and serenity. Describe what you do in a day, what you think about, what gives you pleasure.

Continue on to the event of your death. Picture it as you wish it to be. See who is with you, where you are, what the cause of death is, and what the final moment of letting go is like. Describe the experience of releasing your body to a wonderful sense of freedom and joy. Finally, tell how the people who love you celebrate your passing and imagine your funeral or memorial.

Don’t wait passively for death to swoop down on you like some fearsome predator. Instead, choose to go out with the flourish and easy letting go of a fall leaf. Start now, expecting and creating nothing less than the perfect finish to your well-lived life.

September | Embracing Change

Seasonally, September is month of great transition. It’s the end of summer and the fall equinox, which falls in the third week of the month, marks the point at which darkness exceeds light for another six months. Fall encourages a shift in attention from outer directed activity to a more inward focus.

In the growing cycle, fall is when the harvest is collected,the fruit eaten or preserved, and the seeds extracted, while the lush greenery of summer fades. We may want to cling to the last vestiges of summer yet know we can’t keep the dark and cold at bay for long. Change is forced upon us, ready or not, and many of us catch colds in this season as our bodies struggle to adjust.

Psychologically, even though the spring phase of experience, with its rush of births and new beginnings, creates just as much change and stress in our lives as the fall phase of dying away, we tend to associate “birth” with joyous emotions while “death” evokes feelings of fear, sadness, and loss of control. Birth fills our thoughts with wonderful possibilities but death requires true vision and faith to see that, just as every birth leads to death, every death leads eventually to a new birth.

The inner work of fall invites us to look at our relationship to change, our adaptability, and our comfort with endings and loss of control. The spiritual potential of going willingly into this six-month descent into darkness and the symbolic underworld it evokes, is that when we meet our deepest fears head on, we emerge with the deep knowing that, in truth, there is nothing to fear.

September, which merely hints at the darkness to come, is the perfect time to prepare for the descent into winter by shoring up our physical well-being, as the adjustment from warm to cool adds stress to our bodies. Giving some attention to our physical health now can help us through the winter season of colds, flues, and darkness-related depression. What’s more, physical symptoms can give us tremendous insight into our ability to flow with change if we’re willing to understand them as well as treat them.

Even at times we don’t consider ourselves ill, we may still have a symptom or two: chronic allergies, a tendency toward headaches, a pain or weakness in a particular body part, or a susceptibility to certain kinds of illness. Whether we’re dealing with the experience of serious illness or simply the occasional minor symptom, listening to these physical manifestations of dis-ease can uncover levels of meaning and purpose to them that we may never have realized were there.

Our physical symptoms communicate to us in a language filled with obvious metaphors. If we’re willing to pay attention, they tell us a great deal about our needs, imbalances, and our path of healing. The very metaphors we use in speaking often mirror the physical symptoms our body manifests.

I became especially aware of this when I was Director of a Center for Attitudinal Healing in Baltimore and worked extensively with people dealing with physical illnesses. I noticed how people’s pet expressions had a way of literally describing their illness. A woman with cancerous tumors in her leg frequently used the expression, “I can’t stand it!” Someone with food allergies continually said, “I can’t stomach it!” and a woman with skin cancer spoke of things “getting under her skin.”

A good way to understand the language of your own physical symptoms is to consider the metaphorical meanings of the affected body parts and functions. For example, hands are for handling things. If you have pain in your hands ask yourself: are you holding on too tightly in some way? Are you trying to “handle” everything yourself? Do you have difficulty “reaching out” for love and support? Are you having difficulty “grasping” something? If your neck and shoulders hurt are you “shouldering” more than your share of responsibility? Are you being “stiff-necked,” and overly rigid in how you are seeing things? If you are a woman with tumors or pain in your breasts, have you been suckling the world until there is nothing left for you? Do you feel in need of nurturing yourself? Do you feel in some way inadequate about yourself as a woman? If you have heart problems, have you felt “heartbroken”? Have you closed your heart to warmth and love? Have you lost your joy and passion for life? See which metaphors best fit the way you feel.

Addressing the situation indicated by the metaphor can powerfully support and sometimes even alleviate the need for other treatment. For example, during a time when I felt sorely burdened by the pressures of life (“shouldering” more than I could carry, so to speak) I developed a painful “frozen shoulder” condition for which a medical professional prescribed several months of physical therapy. I “treated” my emotional condition of feeling burdened by clearing many projects from my plate and giving myself a highly uncharacteristic several-month break from work. I played more, worked less and made relaxing a priority. As I felt less stressed, my shoulder improved so quickly that I wound up not needing the physical therapy.

Illness is a wonderful catalyst for change. Rather than being an indication of something we’ve done “wrong” as is sometimes suggested in a new-age distortion of mind-body psychology, illness has a way of helping us meet unaddressed and perhaps unrecognized needs for growth. Just like the fall season, it forces change upon us, ready or not. Whether we resist these changes or meet them willingly, illness often gives us permission to explore positive and much-needed options we wouldn’t have allowed ourselves to consider otherwise, ranging from slowing down a bit to completely and permanently restructure our lives.

We can, of course, choose health and embrace changebefore a physical condition forces it upon us, and this can be the best form of preventive medicine. This month, consider beginning the descent into the dark cold of winter by paying closer attention to your body. Let your symptoms tell you when you need to take a “health day” or reach out for help, or ponder the bigger ways your life may feel out of alignment with your highest good. Choosing health in this way usually requires a stretch out of the “comfort zone” of familiar behavior but the pay-offs are well worth it.


Seasons of the Self—August

Now that we’re well into the summer season, it’s easy to see the steady subsiding of daylight. Yet, while the ebbing of light reminds us that fall isn’t far away, the warmth of August is still all summer. This month is a time of fulfillment: everywhere we look, gardens are producing a perfection of ripening crops and burgeoning flowers. Soon it will all be gone but now nature is a feast. With the darkening of fall so close and the heat of summer so present, more than any other season, this late summer month urges us to appreciate the moment, to “be” rather than strive; to live in the fullness of what is and be grateful.

pieraugustI always experience a kind of stillness about this time of year. The expansive growth of spring and summer has spread outward nearly to its limit and in August everything seems to stop for a moment as energy, set all in one direction for nearly half a year, approaches a turning point. In the creative process, it’s akin to the final completion of a project, right before the empty let down that precedes the beginning of the next one. By contrast, stillness of late winter is a time of living empty and pregnant with possibility right before bursting into new growth. August is a time for living full right before it all ends.

Chinese medicine relates this time of year to “grounding” and digesting. It’s not enough to work hard and produce a successful metaphorical crop. For health and well-being we also need the capacity to be present in the moment, in touch with the earth around us, and able to take in and digest the fruits of our labor. We need to be willing to receive.

Receiving is a key, yet often overlooked, aspect of empowerment. It’s easy to become so fixed on the goal and the process of achieving that we forget to be receptive. We may even unconsciously deflect what we most want without realizing it. When we often feel burned out, that we’re doing too much alone, that our efforts are greater than the rewards and we’re somehow missing out on the joy of life, we may be forgetting to receive.

It’s an easy thing to forget. Our culture is so goal-oriented and, consequently, future-oriented that many of us have this tendency ingrained to some extent. We get to thinking that our happiness depends upon achieving certain external outcomes such as a successful career, lots of money, the perfect relationship or a nice house, and then we postpone happiness, doing whatever we have to do to achieve our goal, telling ourselves that we’ll get our reward later. And, while we may succeed in getting the external things we aim for, we may never receive the experience of happiness we were hoping for. By the time we reach one goal we may have already formulated the next one and skip right over the joy of having arrived because we’re so focused on how far we still have to go.

Receiving isn’t simply about accepting what we want when we want it, on our own terms. I’ve often seen people think they have no problem with receiving—it’s just that what they want hasn’t shown up yet! These folks are often holding out for the big prizes they’ve set their sights on while deflecting dozens of small gifts each day. I tend to think that God will only give us as much good as we can stand to receive and if we refuse or ignore the small gifts, we won’t be burdened with bigger ones!

If life’s big gifts are eluding you, ask yourself these questions: When you see a nickel in the street do you pick it up and feel richer or do you pass it by, wishing it were a $20 bill? When someone compliments you, do you appreciate it and say thank you or do you look away, make a joke, and say something self-deprecating? If someone offers to buy you lunch, do you graciously receive it, automatically refuse it, or accept it but feel uncomfortably indebted? When you receive presents, do you enjoy them or are you hard to please with gifts? Is your mind so busy with thoughts of what you’ll have to give back in reciprocation that you don’t feel much pleasure in the receiving? When someone offers to help you, do you gratefully receive it or insist that you can manage alone? (Do you assume you can manage alone more easily than with help?) And, when someone loves you, do you feel blessed by this most precious gift or do you retreat in fear? Do you find the love of only a specific few to be valuable and fail to appreciate the many others who care about you?

If you’re starting to recognize in yourself some of these signs of poor receiving, you’re far from alone, but this is the perfect time of year to begin a new habit. This month, start noticing that there is always something to receive from life. Make a point to recognize all the large and small gifts that come to you and receive them fully. Keep a written account of them. Receive each gift as gratefully and openly as you can, letting go of any of your usual methods of refusing or ignoring God’s gifts. The more you cherish what’s offered, the more you’ll find yourself attracting what you most cherish.

And the next time you walk out of doors, take a moment to just give yourself entirely to the sensations of temperature, breeze, smells, and colors. Breathe deeply and let yourself fully experience the pleasure of the moment. If your mind needs to chew on something, simply repeat over and over a phase such as, “I am overflowing with the richness of life.” Making time to pause and appreciate life’s simple gifts may very well help you recognize and open to other quality-of-life experiences that have been passing you by. Enjoy!


July | Getting in Synch with the Season of Abundance

We so often see our human condition as set apart from the natural world. Not only has this collective mind set contributed to the serious environmental problems of our day, it also denies us access to a certain down-to-earth wisdom about life. I’ve noticed that the more I pay attention to the cycles of the world around me, the more my own life naturally flows in harmony with the seasons. Just as if some big, unexplainable wave has picked me up and is carrying me, life takes on the ease of floating downstream instead of fighting the current: fall brings endings and opportunities to let go of what I no longer need; winter brings introspection, and spring, new beginnings.

This time of year, when the natural world is growing, flowering and producing lavishly, there’s an easy abundance to life. Things seem to pop into manifestation with little effort. In my classes, this is the time of year I like to give attention to prosperity and abundant living.

This connection between seasonal cycles and personal life may seem like a stretch to many, especially if our human experience bears no resemblance to the outer world. When we’re out of synch, we’re likely to fall sick in the fall/winter months from our inability to let go and flow with change. We become depressed in the dark seasons from our failure to access the inner light of inspiration. Then we don’t have the energy to begin new ventures in spring, and summer finds us in scarcity rather than abundance. A way back to an easier harmony with life is to study the season that best matches our current out-of-synch experience and learn from it.

So, should summer find you in a place of scarcity rather than abundance, much can be learned through studying the sparseness of winter. This empty, barren phase of nature is a concentrating time when energy pulls in and pulls back, in order to gain momentum for the next burst of growth.

In times of financial or other scarcity, we often start worrying, panicking and withholding, which only sows seeds of more scarcity. Because many of us have learned to connect financial prosperity with such large issues as well-being, self-worth, and even survival, when our money supply is threatened we tend to feel threatened in all these other areas as well. We may become so wrapped up in our feelings of fear and powerlessness that we don’t even see how many practical options we have for making less money more manageable. So, an important first step in times of scarcity is to address our state of mind, because action taken from a place of anxiety and weakness is bound to create more of the same.

In the natural world, scarcity doesn’t last indefinitely. A season serves its purpose and evolves into something else. As soon as we begin to think of our experience of scarcity as a “season” we’ve defined it as temporary, and thereby given it permission to evolve into something else. Times of scarcity often precede big jumps forward. Consider how a bow and arrow works: the pulling back creates the force that propels it forward. Similarly, taking a few steps back builds momentum for a big, running jump. How we work with the leaner times in life has a lot to do with what we allow to happen next. They can be very potent launching pads for prosperity and abundant growth if we recognize them as such. The following are some suggestions for making the most of your seasons of financial scarcity.

Dream. As in winter, times of financial scarcity are good times for envisioning what you want to do with more money and with your life in general. Imagine this to be like pouring through gardening catalogues in winter. Just as you have faith that seasons change, feel the same certainty that this financial season will change. Let your dreaming fill you with pleasant anticipation for what the next growing season will bring and use this time to turn within (think of hibernating in winter) instead of externalizing your energy through spending.

Clean house, materially and emotionally. Lighten up. Let go of the past and what you no longer need. Make room, literally and symbolically, for the coming growth and prosperity.

Practice Mindful Spending. Become conscious of how you flow money. Let the lack of excess help you get clear about what’s really important and spend only on that. Try this: all this month, every time you spend even a cent, ask yourself: “Is this expenditure taking my life in the direction I want it to go? Is it enhancing the quality of my life, prospering someone I would like to see prosper or supporting something I believe in?” If not, rethink spending your money in that way.

Become, out of necessity, a good steward of your money, using it in the highest way. This will make you magnetic to more and will also teach you how to wisely use more. This lesson in wise spending may be just the preparation you need to attract a significantly larger flow of money into your life.

Find ways to enjoy life that don’t require money. Become aware of any ways you’ve become dependent upon money for recreation, self-nurturing, self-esteem or socialization. What you create, experience, and how you stretch when the easy crutch of money is taken away may be a big part of why you unconsciously called this season of scarcity into your life.


As you honor this “winter” phase in your life, don’t forget to appreciate the abundance of the natural world. The beauty of summer can be enjoyed for free. Give thanks for the blessings in your life and then, in the coming months of fall, allow something old and unnecessary to die away so that winter can fill you with new inspiration. As you let the wheel of the seasons carry you forward in this way you may be amazed at the abundant life you’ve created by the time next summer rolls around.

Seasons of the Self | June

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This month of June is all about the light. The lightest weeks of the year [for those in the Northern Hemisphere] fall in this month, leading up to and following the summer solstice, in the third week of June. It’s hard not to feel the energy of it. Just as the dark of winter leaves some depressed and listless, this time of year is more likely to result in restless energy and sleeplessness as sunlight streams into our bedrooms earlier and earlier each morning.

In homage to this month of light, this article, too, is all about the light. Light: so pure and primal it’s perhaps one of our most-used metaphors. It stands for clarity, goodness, spirituality, and salvation from all things dark and frightening. Light is life-giving and divine. From the world of science, we know that light, energy and matter are all variations of the same. As quantum science demonstrates that most of reality goes on at a level imperceptible to our human senses, it’s also showing the very underpinnings of the universe to consist of a field of light.

In the seventies, the highly distinguished physicist, Hal Puthoff, pioneered study into the mysteries of this energy field, called the Zero Point Field, and has since been followed by many others. The Zero Point Field essentially is the energy left in a space when all possible matter and energy are removed. This remaining field comprises, literally, a super-charged, sea-of-light backdrop to everything and physicists have theorized that if we learn how to tap it, it could become a limitless energy supply, meeting all our current needs, even enabling Star Trek-like space travel. As well-known physicist, Richard Feynman put it, “the energy in a single cubic meter of space is enough to boil all the oceans of the world.”

As physicists are working to explain and tap this incredible ocean of light, another very different glimpse into the light comes from the growing body of research on those who’ve had near-death experiences. Consistently, people who have clinically died and been revived tell a similar story of coming into contact with a mystical light. These experiences are profoundly transforming, leaving the survivors forever changed, with a measurably higher zest for life than the general population, healthier, and more apt to have psychic abilities.

Could it be that the cessation of life as we know it in a physical body allowed these individuals to have a perceptual awareness of the Zero Point Field and tap into its unlimited power? And is there something we can learn from their experience to help us tap this energy without physical trauma? Perhaps a key lies in another consistency to their stories: invariably they describe “the Light” as being synonymous with unconditional love. The mystical light that people experience is far from cold or neutral. Rather, it’s powerfully benevolent. Much like what religions of the world have called “God.”

Science writer and author of The Field Lynne McTaggarthinted at this benevolent nature of the universe in the summation of her excellent compilation of cutting edge science. She suggests that new scientific thinking promises to give us back our optimism as we realize that we aren’t simply alone in an indifferent universe. “Far from destroying God,” she says, “science for the first time was proving His existence…”

Scientists are working on machines to extract energy from the Zero Point Field, but with this blurring of lines between science and mysticism, might there be a more common-place path into the Field—one more accessible to all of us—through mystical experience and unconditional love?

In a paradoxical illustration of spiritual law, I often cite Mother Theresa as a role model when I teach classes on prosperity. Paradoxical because Mother Theresa lived such a simple life among the poor and we tend to remember her for her unconditional giving, not her materialistic “getting.” However, Mother Theresa was amazingly good at manifesting material resources. Accounts of her life are filled with stories of last-minute saves where the support she needed to continue her humble work show up, often in serendipitous and miraculous ways. Her counsel to the rich was, “give until it hurts” and, for her, they did.

Yet, her priorities and attention remained on caring for the poorest of the poor rather than on how to get what she needed. Just as she manifested easily without it becoming her focus, I believe she gave easily without having to work at it either. As she once put it herself, “When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.” She lived in an awareness of God’s love that so filled her to overflowing, all she could do was share it. Consequently, she wasn’t focused on giving or getting. She was simply living in the fullness of God, which heightened her abilities to both give and attract.

If, as near-death accounts suggest, unconditional love is synonymous with the sea-of-light underpinnings of the universe, and if what religion calls God has some corollary in the Zero Point Field, could it be that Mother Theresa discovered what physicists haven’t: how to tap the limitless power of the Field? And might her simple statement be the way? “When you know how much God is in love with you” (when you’re cognizant of the benevolent sea of unconditional love/light and your Oneness with it), “then you can only live your life radiating that love” (then, in other words, you quite naturally tap the unlimited potential of this sea-of-light Field).

By Mother Theresa’s wisdom, access to the Light begins with “knowing” it—and what better time of year to know the light than now, in this light-filled month of June? Consider giving yourself a special moment—the closer to the solstice the better—out-of-doors, not just to work, play, or sunbathe in the light, but to recognize your Oneness with it. Let the sun’s light be a physical representation of the sea-of-light Field holding us all in its embrace of unconditional love. Name it according to your beliefs: God, the Light, the Field, and let its regenerative powers wash over you, healing your body, calming your mind, heightening your zest for life and restoring your faith in a benevolent Universe.

May | Reaching for the Sun

This month of mid-spring is all about growing: light, warmth and vegetation are all on the rise. The essence of May can be captured in the image of plants reaching toward the sun at the stage just before they tumble over, pulled down by the weight of their own abundant growth. In the seasons’ never-ending interplay of light and dark, now is when light is most on the rise. Not at its peak, which comes next month with the summer solstice, but growing stronger every day. As a personal metaphor for growth, May embodies the energy, aliveness and passion of reaching for the heavens and pursuing our dreams. So, if there’s something you’ve wanted to do but never seem to find the time or energy for it, now’s the time!

Spring flowers

However, passion alone isn’t enough to bring our dreams to life. What makes the difference between exuberant, undirected bursts of energy and productive manifestation is will. Passion without will is like a tomato plant that’s left to grow like a weed without a stake. There may be tomatoes but they’re all on the ground rotting and buggy.

Will is our power to get the job done, to put dreams into action and make our creativity truly productive. It’s not to be confused with self-discipline which is the force we need to exert to keep ourselves doing what we don’t really want to do. Self-discipline becomes necessary when we’re acting on what we believe we should do rather than what our heart wants. It’s fueled by our fear and we act because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t.

By contrast, will is fueled by love. It’s the energy we put behind things we’re passionate about. When we’re pursuing our dreams, we may experience challenges or feel resistance but the energy to push through comes more readily. We handle the boring chores and obstacles of life easily when they’re steps toward our heart-felt desires.

While the energy of willpower in service to our dreams is easier to call up than self-discipline toward those things we have no passion for, will still needs to be developed. It’s like a muscle: if we don’t exercise it, it becomes weak. When we seldom use our will, it’s not there when we need it, much the same as when we seldom exercise our bodies and find even the simplest exertion leaving us breathless.


Three Aspects of Will

I think of will as having three distinct and equally important components. The first is courage. Courage includes obvious acts of heroism and bold action in the face of real or perceived danger, but it comes into play in more subtle ways as well. Any new venture requires a step beyond what we know and, consequently, a step out of our comfort zone. For example, if you haven’t exercised in twenty years, going to the gym for the first time can be a courageous act.

The second aspect of will is strength. This is the willingness to work hard at something, draw upon all our resources and apply ourselves fully. No matter how much courage it took to join the gym, that’s not enough! We need to actually get on the equipment and give it our best, until we’ve applied all our physical strength and emotional fortitude.

Last, but far from least, comes commitment. This is where, after courageously joining the gym and working out ferociously, we come back and do it again. And again, and again…. Commitment is the willingness to follow through on our intentions and act with consistency, even when it’s become a little boring, because we know it’s in service to our highest aspirations. Commitment lacks the high energy of applying strength and the adrenalin rush of courage but without it, the tremendous energy expenditure of the first two can wind up being for nothing.

Most of us are better at one of these than the others, and we may be comfortable with applying all three in certain contexts. A firefighter who exhibits obvious courage in his job may quiver in fear when it comes to taking emotional risks. People who are excellent at keeping their commitments to others may not be able to summons the energy to keep the ones they make to themselves. The more we develop an over-reliance on comfortable strengths, the more we limit ourselves and become weak.

Just as will becomes weak when not used, the good news is that we can grow it stronger with practice. So, if you have a special dream, why not make now the time to grow it? Offer a small effort and let the energy of the season carry you higher. To get you started, here are some calisthenics for the will:

Calisthenics for Developing Willpower

Identify your most passionate goal and think of one step you could take toward it that would push you out of your comfort zone, requiring some courage. Next, think of something you could do in service to this goal that would test your strength and take some real effort on your part. And finally, think of one small action toward furthering your dream that you’re willing to do every day for a month in a committed way.

Now, of course, it’s time to get moving! If this goal is truly something dear to your heart, considering taking this challenge and discover for yourself how far passion and will combined can take you.


The Spring Equinox, the official beginning of spring, happened in the third month of March, marking the point where, for the first time in six months, light and darkness are equal. We’ve entered the season where light is on the rise, growing stronger every day, and it can’t help but touch us all and get our energy moving, even if we don’t consider ourselves terribly attuned to nature, even if we never garden, even if it’s still Minnesota-cold out (as it is where I live). When light is rising, we know it in our bones. At the very least, we find we don’t need our Seasonal Affective Disorder lamps as often and notice our houseplants going wild. Every year this time, the presence of light awakens us in any number of obvious as well as deep, primal ways.

Of course, the true rebirth of light happened at the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. Yet, winter light is a quiet power, both dormant and pregnant, like the time after conception but before birth. Spring, on the other hand, is for “hatching.” Easter brings with it a riot of candy eggs, baby animals, and Jesus rising from the dead, as Christian symbolism blends with earlier, earth-based, traditions of the solar sun being on the rise.

This energy of birth and beginnings is exciting, fresh, and a bit fragile. There’s an openness and child-like innocence to it; a sense of the world being new and that anything is possible. What better time to consciously cultivate this energy of excitement, fresh perspective, and willing suspension of disbelief, not as a naive first step on the way to a painful crash, but as a creative force? What better time to open ourselves to miracles?

If the pure presence of spring isn’t enough to open your jaded mind to the possibility of miracles, try wading into some of the mind-boggling findings of relativity theory and quantum physics over the last century. Science is now showing us a remarkable new definition of reality in which time and space aren’t fixed, matter isn’t solid and the very nature of matter changes according to the expectations of those observing it. We’re seeing that consciousness in and of itself has the power to affect the physical realm and that minds are joined beyond the limits of time and space. To quote one of the pioneers of quantum physics, Erwin Schrodinger, on the nature of consciousness, “the overall number of minds is just one.” (A good starter book on new science is Taking the Quantum Leap, by Fred Alan Wolf.)

But this article isn’t just about the mysteries of time, space and matter. It’s an opportunity to explore and experience these mysteries first hand. It’s an invitation to suspend disbelief, allow your mind to be boggled and take a leap out of the box of what you think you know because what follows is an exercise in miracle-making.

Going back to Erwin Schrodinger’s idea of “One Mind” and combining that with mounting evidence of the mind’s power to affect matter (on this, check out physicist Helmut Schmidt’s research with random events generators, for starters), and then throwing in what we’re beginning to know about the fluidity of time and space (thank you, Einstein), take a little leap of imagination and consider that, simply through your intention to do so, you could connect with every other mind who has read, is reading, or will read this article. Imagine that, beyond the illusionary limitations of time and space, together we could (perhaps have already?) form a powerful, synergistic force of Mind capable of moving proverbial mountains of matter. (Why not? It’s been documented that prayer said anonymously, sight unseen, on another’s behalf has a statistically relevant, positive impact on physical health. Check out the book, Healing Words, by Larry Dossey, M.D. for more on this.)

So, if you’re still with me, stop for a moment and really imagine this. Envision your mind joining with the minds of all who have read, are reading and will read this article. Imagine us joining in a common intent that every reader now experiences something miraculous this month. (What’s “miraculous?” I think of it as something better than we expected, perhaps didn’t believe to be possible, always win/win, and often showing up through serendipity rather than effort.) As your mind follows along here, already you’ve become more than a passive reader—you’ve entered the process and begun to reshape matter, starting a healing ripple for yourself and countless others you will never know.

Picture this joined consciousness as clear, beautiful, and only positive—an ocean of pure potential having the power to do great good and incapable of doing harm. Imagine that beyond time and space we’ve formed a synergistic, only-for-good, creative force, ready to be directed. You can add your own mind power to this in any way your imagination might suggest: aim a beam of light from your heart to this collective pool and see it grow brighter; hold a heart-felt intention that these many others who you’ll never know now receive whatever highest good best serves them; or simply think and say this to yourself. Imagine you believe this is true even if you don’t. The power of our consciousness magnifies whatever we give consistent attention to so simply holding in mind an imagined reality is akin to planting a seed. Bringing it to mind repeatedly provides the sun and water that nurture its growth.

Now, all that’s left is to have faith. Faith means expecting success and seeing signs of it everywhere and in everything. It’s not a matter of hoping and wishing, which keeps our attention focused on something that isn’t here yet. “Faith” is when we’re so certain the future will unfold perfectly, we feel no need to be attached to it at all. Consequently, faith keeps us very present and at peace in the moment. Once we’ve stopped trying to worry the future into being, the miraculous present happens, with grace and serendipity.

So, instead of looking for signs of your success, which is tinged with an attitude of prove-it-to-me doubt, this month practice finding signs of success. It’s a little like being on an Easter egg hunt. You know without any doubt the eggs are out there. Some may be so obvious you’ll practically step on them, while some you might have to peek behind bushes and rocks to uncover. Play lightly with the possibility of miracles this month and see what shows up when you least expect it!

March | Light Exceeds Darkness

Welcome to spring! The Spring Equinox, which happens around the third week in March, marks the point at which the darkness of winter finally gives way to the light of the warmer months. Then, every day for the next six months, light exceeds darkness. As the world around us goes through this dramatic shift of focus from dark to light, we can’t help but feel it.

Just as the dark depth of winter urges us to hibernate and turn our attention inward, with the event of spring we start to “wake up,” come out of ourselves, and think about planting new seeds (literally and metaphorically). In my home state of Minnesota and other northerly regions, March can be a bit of a tease. The light brings on dreams of warmth and growth while the weather is just as likely to be burying us in the biggest snow drifts of the year.

This month of March—too early, in many places, to get started on the garden—is the perfect time for the important work of taking stock of what we’ve grown over the past year. This step is important whether it relates to our personal growth or the vegetables we grew last year. If we don’t stop and reflect, we’re likely to create the same thing over and over again, whether we like it or not.


This step is also crucial because what we give attention to we tend to grow bigger. Consciousness is a powerful force. Simply by holding something in mind we give it creative attention. Even physicists are realizing that experiment results have a way of reflecting the scientist’s expectations. Seeing “the glass half-empty or half full” isn’t just an overused definition of optimism and pessimism. It’s a powerfully creative act. The more we focus on the “half empty glass,” the more likely we are to drain the half glass we started with down to nothing. The opposite holds equally true and reviewing the growth we’ve accomplished in the past amplifies our power to experience accomplishment in the future, just as dismissing how far we’ve come keeps us perpetually in a state of having a long way to go.

As you take stock of the last year of your life, is it easy to see an abundance of positive growth, successes, and forward movement? If so, your next step is easy. Instead of focusing on the hurdles you imagine lie ahead, consider what your life might look like in another year of as much growth. Remember how you envisioned your future a year ago. Were there blessings and leaps forward that you didn’t expect? If so, imagine the coming year filled with at least as many surprising turns for the better. Don’t try to plan or guess what these will be. Just let yourself feel excited at the thought of how much you’re likely to accomplish based on how much you’ve achieved this year.

What if you look back and don’t see much positive growth? Or worse, if it looks like you’ve taken a few steps backwards? First and foremost, know that the interpretation you give to your experience is a creative act and has a tremendous impact on what you create next. So if you feel that you’ve just stood still over the last year, consider that perhaps you’ve stood still the way plants “stand still.” Have you ever watched a plant grow? You can stare at it all day and not see much happening but that doesn’t mean it’s not growing. Meaningful growth sometimes requires time to develop in a way that’s strong and lasting.

Even dramatic change that comes quickly sometimes requires time for us to see it. I’ve witnessed any number of people release physical illnesses spontaneously through spiritual work. One was a woman who had attended some of my spiritual healing services. She shared that she had become free of a chronic asthmatic condition she’d struggled with all her life without realizing it for many months. It wasn’t until she became aware, one day, of being in an environment that would typically have provoked an attack that she realized she not only felt fine, but she hadn’t had an attack in ages. She didn’t notice the absence of her illness until it was long gone. Sometimes our expectations about how change happens won’t let us accept or trust a change that happens too quickly or too easily and our minds need time to grow into the change we’ve already made.

OK, so, maybe you can’t relate to the “plant growth” metaphor and really believe your life has been stuck in a pit of stalled movement. There’s still a bigger picture to be seen here that can provide momentum rather than inertia for your next season of growth. Imagine all the ways that standing still is a powerful part of moving forward. Think of a seed lying dormant underground during the winter months, or a caterpillar motionless in its chrysalis. A seed growing in the wrong season would stand no chance of survival and a half-formed butterfly emerging too soon would never fly. Even though you may never see the bigger picture of why, consider that your “still” time was simply not the right season for forward momentum. In the absence of visible change, ask what have you been incubating under the surface, out of sight? Keep asking until you get an answer. There is one.


And if you think you’ve taken a step backward in your growth, consider how even backward movement can be a step in the right direction. Think of an archer pulling backward on a bow to create the momentum needed to propel an arrow, or a jumper taking steps backward before leaping. Think of how pruning a plant creates more lush growth. I remember a time when the harder I worked, the more my business fell apart. I felt like a miserable failure whose talents were minimal and unwanted. It was a horrible time of life. I would never choose to repeat it. But, in retrospect, I would never want to have skipped it because I’m not sure anything less dramatic would have gotten me to change directions and find the much different and better path that allowed me to excel and succeed. (It also taught me to be more flexible so I haven’t again needed to be beaten down so thoroughly before I change my course!)

Even the worst failures, losses, lapses, and emotional or physical break-downs provide opportunities. They enable us—sometimes force us—to develop new priorities, grow new strengths, and to find our buried vulnerability, tenderness, and receptivity.

All this allows rigid patterns of living and thinking to crumble so something more alive can grow. As you appreciate the importance of what’s fallen apart and acknowledge the things you’ve accomplished, you cultivate fertile ground for your next growing season.