Journey 6: Ascend Toward Stubborn Gladness

stubborn gladness

I loved where curiosity led me on my journey today. I have connected deeply lately with Elizabeth Gilbert, reading her posts daily on Facebook, and feeling so aligned with her journey. Watching her authentic life, I was inspired to read her best selling book again, Eat, Pray, Love. I just finished it and felt that inward stirring that lets me know I am on the right path.

In the book, Liz refers to the Brazilian man that she met while in Bali (the Love portion of her journey) as Felipé. On her website recently, I saw a picture of her with a smiling handsome man and assumed it was her husband. The man in the photo was named José. I realize that for the sake of privacy, many of the names in Eat, Pray, Love were changed. So curiosity led me to the internet today, to discover if Felipé and José were indeed one and the same.

Thanks to Google, I quickly found pics of Liz and her husband, José Nunes. The couple married in 2007. That question answered, my eyes were caught by another headline on Google that stated, Steep Your Soul: A Quote That Made Elizabeth Gilbert Want to Marry Her Husband. Well that was intriguing! Allowing curiosity to continue to lead the way, I clicked on that link and discovered a short video of Liz appearing as a guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday program. I watched the video, very curious indeed about what José had said that won the heart of Liz, who had vowed she would not marry again after the painful and difficult ending of her first marriage.

What an amazing 3:32 video. Liz shares that quote that won her heart. José told her, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen, with her feet up, drinking a glass of wine, watching her husband cook her a meal.” And yes, for most women, that man is a keeper! However, going further, Liz shares that what’s really going on when she sits with her feet up, drinking her wine while her husband cooks, is connection. José loves to cook, influenced by his Italian mother. That’s a gift that he enjoys sharing with his wife. But the real gift that he offers to Liz is his attention. As he gets her comfy, he says, “Now, Darling, tell me everything. What happened today?” Not every man likes to cook. And for some, those roles would be reversed in the kitchen. What struck me was his genuine invitation to share….share everything, while he listened, while he prepared a meal to share, as well. That is what touches the heart, a genuine interest in what’s going on in the life of another.

Liz says she asked herself, “How did I win this life?” A very wise friend of hers told her she blossomed into the type of woman, the sort of person, who attracted this type of man to her.
After her divorce, during her year spent in Italy, India and Indonesia, Liz grew, and shifted, and released the past and cared for herself in such a way that she drew another to her that was aligned with the woman she had become. That part of the video brought tears to my eyes. That’s what the journey, what MY journey is about….becoming the best version of myself…and drawing like hearted, like minded people to me to share the journey. This is NOT a formula for attracting a mate, although soul mates are not excluded. It is a recipe for life. A way of living. A shift that enables a view of oneself that is so rich, so loving, so nurturing that those who appear in our lives are those who are able to sustain themselves in the same way. The journey that is then shared is magical, supportive, encouraging, without neediness or a tendency to look to others for happiness. Those truths resonated deep within me as my soul whispered Yes….I want that for my own journey. I want to care for myself and nurture my growth in such a way that those who journey most closely with me are drawn because they too are experiencing a similar walk.

Liz closes the interview with her favorite quote, which I immediately looked up. From poet Jack Gilbert (no relation to Liz) she shared, “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” (From his poem, “A Brief for the Defense”) Even with all the joy that flows from the soul that is focused in the now, that is connected to Source, that looks within for peace and happiness rather than without, there is no denying that in this world there will be days of sorrow, times of stress, unforeseen problems. The “ruthless furnace” is there. It does not have to define my life. Like Liz, I love that idea of holding on to a stubborn gladness in the face of such trials. It’s not denial. It’s not just a positive attitude. It is striving for a higher feeling, a higher vibration, in spite of all that is going on. It is knowing, in my own heart and soul, that who I am is unshakeable. I can be stubborn. Ask anyone who knows me well! What grace and strength to be stubborn for the sake of gladness.

I am undone by my journey today. I am so grateful that my curiosity beckoned me onward and that I followed to see where the trail would go. Take three and a half minutes to watch this video. For your heart. For your soul. For the sake of stubborn gladness.

Journey 5: Outlander Series – Dragonfly in Amber

dragonfly in amber

One of the things that I love most about reading is the ability to journey without leaving my cozy house or reading chair. After a long and somewhat difficult day, nothing was more appealing tonight than settling into that chair, with a warm fuzzy throw over my lap, and journeying by way of a wonderful historical fiction book to another place and another time.

The Outlander Series, written by American author Diana Gabaldon, is comprised of 8 books that encompass several genres including historical romance, historical fiction, adventure and fantasy. I began reading the series and was drawn in immediately. The main character, Claire, is an World War II nurse who inadvertently travels back to 18th century Scotland, where she encounters Jamie McKenzie Fraser. A young strapping Highlander, Jamie is an intelligent, good humored man with a complicated past that keeps interjecting itself into his present life. Jamie rescues Claire after she finds herself transported to a different era, bewildered, and being pursued by an English army.

It’s a colorful, rich, bawdy romp through a country that I dearly love. I finished reading book one, titled Outlander, while I was in Scotland last August. How incredibly amazing to read the book and then tour the Highlands. The places that were described in the book, I saw. It was not difficult at all to peer into thick green forests and imagine Jamie and Claire riding their horses through the trees. Although the story takes place in the 18th century, Scotland is not that much changed! Standing there in the mist, on the shores of Loch Lomond, I could feel the ancientness of that country, feel the history seep into my feet from the ground. It was  magical and unforgettable.

I am now reading in the second book, Dragonfly in Amber, and I’m grateful that there are six more books! Due to the popularity of the series, Starz now has a TV series that captures the adventures of Claire and Jamie in a more visual way. I don’t get the Starz channel, so I look forward to season 1 coming out later this year. Then I can journey back to Scotland in a more profound way, as the series was filmed on location in Scotland. For this evening, I’m content with my book….and my oh so vivid imagination. That’s all I need really, to be back in Bonnie Scotland again.

Enjoy a peek at the Starz TV series, Outlander

Journey 4: Hercules

Hercules movie

I love “larger than life” characters in epic stories. As a child at the movie matinee every Saturday, I cheered on super heroes such as Superman and Spiderman. In a slightly different genre, heroes from classic mythology captivated me also, including Jason and his Argonauts, and the strongest man in the world, Hercules, well known for his far ranging adventures and amazing feats.

When a new super hero, or Hercules, or Argonaut, or Titans movie comes out, I’m there. It is partly because of the memory of being awe struck by these stories brought to life on the big screen. And partly because as an adult, I still enjoy a good hero movie. I love it that good always prevails. And that even heroes have doubts about themselves and yet overcome fear, loss and being misunderstood, to step up into the space that they were born to occupy. I wanted to see the newest Hercules movie, starring Dwayne Johnson, when it was playing at my local theater. I happened to be in Scotland at the time, pursuing a quest of my own, and I missed it.

Over this holiday break, I rented the DVD and tonight, I had the pleasure of watching an amazing hero again. My journey took me back into the legends and myths of mighty men and offered me a glimpse into my own past and my own heart.

The movie opens with Hercules’ nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), spinning the tales of his legendary uncle. He briefly recounts the circumstances of Hercules’ birth, sired by the god Zeus and loved by a mortal mother. Zeus’ jealous wife, Hera, intending to kill Hercules, brings many challenges into his life. Iolaus briefly touches on the Twelve Labors of Hercules, in which he attempts to please Hera by performing dangerous and near impossible feats. He becomes legend, the stories growing even as Hercules’ reputation takes on a dark twinge with the unexplained deaths of his cherished wife and children.

After his Labors, Hercules seems destined to fight, to battle on behalf of others, to slay beasts of all kinds. In this movie, based on the graphic novel, “Hercules: The Tracian Wars”, the storyline focuses on Hercules as he and his band of loyal followers agree to battle a warlord on behalf of Lord Cotys (John Hurt), ruler of the kingdom of Thrace. Hercules and his band train the unprepared army, readying them for battle. Outfitted, trained and with a confidence imbued by fighting alongside a demi god, the soldiers and Hercules are successful at defeating the army of Rhesas (Tobias Santelmann) and bringing the warlord back to Thrace as a prisoner of war.

The quest over, all should be well. However, all is not as it seems. The true enemy is not Rhesas, but Lord Cotys. In defeating this evil man, Hercules must not only find his true strength, based on who he believes himself to be, but also confront the pain of his past.

I enjoyed this film.  I’ve seen many Hercules movies and this was a different storyline, coming later in the life of the world’s strongest man. I appreciated his band of followers, who, with the exception of his nephew, were all acquired during his Labors. Autolycus (Rufus Sewell) was his right hand man, Amphiaraus (Ian McShane) his Seer, Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) the Amazonian woman who excelled with the bow, and Tydeus (Aksel Hennie) was a fearless warrior with a troubled soul, whom Hercules rescued as an orphan. This eclectic band was more than a group of mercenaries, they became family.

Johnson played this Hercules as a brooding, honorable man….a get the job done and get out type of fighter. The part of the movie that I was most touched by involved Hercules moving beyond the legends and stories about his feats and finding out who he was. Chained down in a dungeon, his band held captive in nearby cells, Hercules was faced with deciding if the tales about him were true, or just stories. Urged on by the questions of Amphiaraus, who in essence was asking his friend, “Who are you, really?”, Hercules at last throws back his head and bellows, “I AM HERCULES”. And frees himself from his chains. What a defining moment.

My defining moments have not been as dramatic. And there was no one in danger of being killed as I wrestled with my identity. However, I have been just as immobilized as the chained Hercules as I sought to figure out who I was, really. And the one in danger of being harmed was my own shining soulful self. During our journeys, we are all brought to these defining moments when we must decide if the stories about us (the tales others tell about us) are truth for us or if the truth lies somewhere deep inside, near our hearts. It’s not usually one ultimate moment, although that can happen. It is more likely a series of moments that present the ultimate question, “Who am I, really?”

What I declare after the words, “I am…” is crucial. When I began to move past all the labels that I had attached to myself…I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a realtor, I am a daughter…sister…Yaya…then I began to uncover who I really was. Like Hercules, declaring who I am, truly and deeply, brings a strength that frees me from all the expectations that I have bound myself up with. I am Cindy. And more deeply, I am Mithril, which is my soul name. Strong, silvery, beautiful, protective, nurturing, valuable. At my core, that’s who I am. All else flows from that awareness. My journey with Hercules this evening reminded me of who I am. And for that, I am also….grateful.

Cindy is open and ready to receive e

                        I am Mithril

Journey 3: Tolkien Birthday Toast 2015

Tolkien Toast

What a fun journey today, into an enchanting event celebrating the birth of one of my favorite authors, JRR Tolkien, who was born on this day, January 3, 1892. Because of the recent release of the final Hobbit movie, I have a very high awareness of all things Tolkien and Middle Earth. That awareness zeroed in on this special event, which I have never celebrated before.

Every year, on January 3, the Tolkien Society encourages fans from around the world to celebrate Tolkien’s birthday with a simple toast. At 9:00 pm, local time, well wishers raise a glass of their drink of choice and toast the birthday of this beloved author. The celebration is simple:

Stand, raise a glass with a beverage, non-alcoholic is fine, and say the words, “The Professor”, before taking a sip. Sit and enjoy the rest of the drink.

Many Tolkien Societies, called smials, meet at local pubs to dine together and raise a toast in the Professor’s honor. A smial is a Tolkien group that meets regularly, named after the word Tolkien used for Hobbit homes. I checked. There are smials all over the globe, including Indonesia, London, New York City and Romania.

Tolkien Toast not all who wander are lost

Tolkien is best known for his collection of fantasy literature that includes The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. With his vivid imagination and a passion for languages, Tolkien created a whole world, Middle Earth, populated by various races including men, elves, hobbits, and dwarves. The wizards were the protectors of this world. There was good in Middle Earth, and great beauty. And darkness that coiled into evil, challenging the light. Tolkien not only birthed an entire world, but created complex languages for each race of beings. The movies adapted from Tolkien’s books are amazing…the works of Tolkien are extraordinary, with the power to change lives.

I loved raising my cup of hot tea in a toast to The Professor at 9:00 pm this evening. For the occasion, I used some of my Scottish Tea, which is precious to me now as the supply dwindles away. Tolkien has certainly touched my life. The journey I have been on the last 15 years has been strongly influenced by this English author, poet and professor. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think on his works, his quotes, his characters or the movies. Happy birthday, Professor! And thank you.

Tolkien Toast little by little

Journey 2: Spinach Smoothie 10 Day Cleanse

spinach smoothie 2

There is something so inviting about a clean slate. The freshness and newness sparks creativity and begs to be filled. The new year offers such an invitation. With the passing of the old year, I release all that occurred, the good and the not so good, and feel energized and inspired to begin anew. No wonder so many begin diets or start to exercise again or make changes in their businesses on January 1. It I Is the closest thing possible to a “do over”.

I love stepping into the new year with my new word and theme. In my mind, when I was a child, December and January were 12 months apart. I saw a year ending. And then a new year beginning with no connection between the two events. It truly was as if I stepped through an open door, into the new year, and then the door closed behind me. And far, far down at the end of the road, December waited. I was almost to my teens before I made the shift that allowed me to see that December and January were side by side, so to speak, and that December flowed right into January. I still like that distinction between the old and the new, however.

I think another reason so many begin a diet or exercise with renewed vigor is because we’ve eaten so many sugar and calorie laden foods over the holidays! This was certainly true for me. My journey today led me to try a spinach smoothie, as a teaser. Tomorrow, having tried the smoothie and liked it, I’ll begin a 10 day cleanse, drinking three smoothies a day. My sister Linda provided the Woman’s World article for this inspiration.

I like the idea of a cleanse right now for several reasons. I want to reset my body’s eating habits, after weeks of not being as mindful as I’d like to be. The smoothie is nutrient dense and balancing to the body. I look forward to feeling a surge of energy that is sure to accompany the removal of sugar from my diet (again) and the inclusion of good-for-me power foods. And, although it could be seen as boring, knowing exactly what I will be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 10 days frees my mind from having to think about what I will eat. I can turn more energy to other pursuits, such as writing.

Here is the recipe, as suggested by Woman’s World:

2 cups of fresh spinach blended with 2 cups of water. Puree until liquefied. (This happened almost instantly and I used a regular blender set to high speed.)

Add ½ avocado OR 1 ½ teaspoon of coconut oil OR 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed

Add 1 scoop whey protein powder OR 1 small container full fat Greek yogurt OR ½ cup silken tofu OR 1 Tablespoon unsweetened almond butter

Add 1 cup fresh or frozen berries

For my smoothie today, I used fresh spinach leaves, coconut oil, Greek yogurt and frozen blueberries that had been picked locally. I blended well and drank. It was tasty, with the blueberries being the most prominent flavor. I think next time I will add crushed ice in place of some of the water, for a thicker smoothie.

Spinach is considered one of the healthiest foods in the world. This dark green leafy vegetable is extremely high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Benefits include lowering blood sugar, cancer and asthma prevention, curbing appetite, improved skin, hair and bones, lowering blood pressure and promoting a healthy digestive tract. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant ratings, meaning it is beneficial for the nervous system and brain health, for cancer prevention and as an anti-inflammatory. What a powerful combo to consume! The coconut oil, flaxseed or avocado add necessary healthy fats, while the Greek yogurt, whey powder or almond butter adds protein and keeps hunger at bay.

I’m excited about this cleanse. It will jumpstart my healthy eating and transition me back to an overall, and ongoing, healthier lifestyle. I have places to go and things to do! A healthy, strong, vibrant body gives me someplace to live, while I’m on my journey!

spinach smoothie

Journey 1: A New Adventure Begins

open door beyond

Well, hello there! Were you wondering what I would be doing today, since I’ve completed my Year of Firsts? About half way through that amazing year, I knew something beautiful was happening. The firsts opened up all kinds of opportunities. And one of the biggest blessings was that a desire I have long held, the intention to write daily, became a reality. I began the blog as a way of being accountable and to have a record of my firsts. I knew my memory would be faulty. The unexpected benefit of blogging was that I developed the habit of writing. Daily.

I don’t want to lose this discipline. I enjoy writing. It became apparent, as my new word and symbol began to materialize, that the adventure wasn’t ending after all….a new one was beginning.

My new symbol for 2015 began appearing first. I shared in last year’s blog that I realized three years ago that my word and symbol for the year choose ME, rather than me choosing them. As I pay attention to what is flowing into my life and mind, as synchronicities arrange themselves and bring my awareness to what is being presented, a pattern appears. Repetition occurs to make sure that I get it. And get it I do. It is an amazing process and one that I watch for now, without trying to make anything happen.

About mid year my symbol started showing up, in my mind, in dreams, in books, on TV, in conversations. I noticed it because of the repetition. When I see something over and over again, in a relatively short time period, I pay attention. The symbol for 2015 is an open door. This symbolizes, for me, an invitation to step through….and go on an adventure! As Bilbo tells Frodo, in The Lord of the Rings, “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” That quote captures the mystery and the journey aspect of the open door. I’m excited to see where I am swept off to this year.

My word came immediately after. Journey. And as with the symbol, the word began to show up in all kinds of situations. When I am being given these tools for the new year, I ask, “Please confirm this word (or symbol or song) for me.” And always, the confirmation is given. Knowing that I wanted to continuing writing about my experiences, I toyed around with the idea of a daily journey, and changing my blog format from Day 1 to Journey 1, and so on throughout the year. I looked up the word journey. And found my ultimate confirmation. Looking at the word origin I discovered that journey comes from the Old French word journee, which literally means, “a day’s travel”. I almost fell out of my chair. That fit perfectly with my desire to experience a journey and write about it daily! The word journee comes from the Latin word, diumum which means “daily portion”. How absolutely perfect. Daily portion….a day’s travel. I knew I had my word.

The year began to take shape. I was to complete 2014’s daily firsts and then move to a daily journey in 2015. My guides for this journey are curiosity, enchantment and soufulness. I will take the daily journey as directed by the presence of at least one of these three elements. I  picture them as Gandalf the White type figures, walking beside me with their staffs, saying, “Cindy, come this way. You won’t regret it!” I am curious already to see where my journeys take me.

Last of all, as is usually the case, my theme song for the year appeared. This component normally shows up in the month of December. A week or so ago, as I realized I was not yet aware of my song for 2015, I simply asked the Divine, “What is my song for next year?” When I ask, I trust the answer that is given. I had my iPhone next to me and I opened the playlist of songs and hit shuffle. The song My Life, by Pam Rose, immediately began to play. I laughed. I’d forgotten this song was even in my phone. I listened. And listened again. And a third time. By then I was no longer laughing but had tears in my eyes. Yes, of course, the perfect song. I’ve included a YouTube recording below. The opening lyrics are:

I want to know if I walk down a certain road, it was my choice.

                   And I want to know if I had something to say, I raised my voice.                          

I don’t wanna wake up a little too late and say

I could’ve done this or I should’ve done that.

When I close my eyes at night I wanna know I’m doing the best that I can…

I love how these mysteries of the universe all come together in my life. And sure, I have a choice whether I will accept these Divine nudges or pick something else. I choose to embrace what I’m being given. It holds a promise for me, as in, “Your mission, Cindy, if you choose to accept it involves…” I accept, without even knowing yet what it involves. I know as I walk down that certain road, there are adventures ahead and lessons to learn and limitations to bust right through. I am ready for this HUGE journey, made up of 365 daily journeys. Walk with me, for a little while or a long while. It’s going to be good!