Photo taken by Michelle Fairchild ~ Art in Nature taken on 12.26.18
A message has been repeating itself this past week. I am listening.
I heard it first last weekend during an amazing workshop presented by Cosmic Cowgirls that featured Lyz Anzia, human rights journalist and found of Women News Network. The Women News Network has dedicated itself to bringing global attention to the needs and empowerment of women through online news journalism.
During the workshop one participant asked how do the journalists covering difficult subjects about such human rights issues which include stories about sex trafficking, rape, abuse and more, keep from falling in to despair about the many problems around the world. Lyz responded very clearly that journalists are able to do the work because they know that the work they are doing can help to change such things. In addition Lys shared that the stories they are writing
Just this last Friday night I had dinner with two dear friends who work on the front lines with people in crisis. One works for a women’s refuge shelter. The other has served as a therapist for those with mental health and drug and alcohol related issues. It is common that the shelter is short on staff and yet the clients continue to stream through their doors. My friend’s healthy realization is that she is only one person, and she can only do what she can do during her eight hours at work. My other friend spoke of the high number of 51/50 clients that had been brought into their center recently and then shared about talking to a peer who handles all the cases in a region for veterans who are suicidal. Again the message was we are each one person and we can only do what we can do.
In January of this year I wrote a Mojo Monday post called Change and Empowerment. That post was about how we can be aware of what is going on in the world and being sensitive, thoughtful and caring people, not manage to lose ourselves in all the swirling problems and tragedies in the world. There are always so many issues from the bees disappearing, to animal cruelty, to thousands dying because of chemical warfare, to people starving or not having enough clean water, to girls being sold for sex, and the list can go on and on and on. While I don’t believe that burying our heads in the sand is the answer, it also isn’t helpful to the world or to our own well being if we begin to drown in a sea of depression.
When I see someone I know posting on Facebook one tragedy story after another I want to give them a hug in person and gently suggest “Pace yourself my friend.” Personally I want to be informed of what is happening in this big wide world. I do care deeply about our planet and all the people living on it. My heart wants so much for every person to experience a loving and happy life. I sadly know that this is not the reality for too many living among us. I know that I have to balance out the harsher realities with uplifting and positive stories so that I am reminded of all the beauty and joy that also exists in our world. I also think as Lys Anzia so clearly stated in her workshop, that knowing we are doing something to effect change and make a difference in a positive way can also keep us uplifted in the midst of stories and events that are hard to bear.
The way we make a difference will vary and look different from person to person. I know that my husbands day job as a middle school science and mathematics teacher impacts the lives of his students significantly. He even has students who he taught about 20 years ago who have remained in contact with him all these years. I have worked for a non-profit foster adoption agency for over nine years and working shoulder to shoulder with social workers and therapists to serve the foster and adoptive children and adoptive families has been very gratifying. I also infuse the writing I do for Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine, this blog and the book I am writing with inspiring messages about healing, grace, love and forgiveness. Other ways I try to make a difference is by eating a vegan diet, signing petitions, making my voice heard about political issues by writing my representatives and so on. Even though we may earn modest teacher and non-profit salaries we also still choose to donate to causes each year that speak to our hearts. It may be the local food shelter, a center to help those in need, a family that is struggling, or an animal shelter like The Farm Sanctuary.
|Photo by Michelle Fairchild|
I realize that not all the day jobs out there will feel as if they are designed to serve a greater humanitarian purpose, but that doesn’t stop one from having a positive impact on one’s fellow workers or from volunteering or offering one’s services in other ways. While it may not be the easiest thing to do all the time it is in some ways the simplest, and that is to extend love and kindness to others on a regular basis.
|Photo by Michelle Fairchild|
Think of some things or images that are uplifting to you. Do you have these images in your immediate surroundings? Do you keep things in your environment that bring you joy and remind you of the beauty that exists in our world?
One of the things that is always sure to make me smile are sunflowers. Sunflowers remind me to breathe. They remind me of the wonders of nature and our planet. They remind me that nothing is permanent and that this is a good thing for life is dynamic. The praying mantis friend on the one sunflower reminds me that my positive thoughts create my world and that beauty comes in all forms.
There are also sources out there that offer up positive stories. One such site is called Daily Good: News That Inspires. Just today a friend shared a an article to warm the heart called The Business 9 Women Kept A Secret for Three Decades. Here is a story about a small group of women who anonymously for many years have done things like paid someones utility bill, bought new clothes for children, donated pillows and linens and personal care products to a shelter for survivors of domestic violence and so much more. They raised the money by selling pound cakes. You can read more about these inspiring women by clicking the linked article title.
Other stories of goodness and kindness abound if we look for them or take notice. There is a beautiful story told in this video about a love letter a man name Fred wrote for his wife who had recently died. You might want to have a box of tissues nearby as you watch how through the kindness of others his letter is transformed into a song.
|Art by Donald Crew from the book Freight Train|
If I ask you what or who inspires you, do answers immediately come streaming forth or does it make you sit and ponder? Just last night and this morning I felt like I was on the freight train of inspiration. Even just now as the words “freight train of inspiration” appeared in my mind and then on the page I thought hmmmm…I should go google that term and see what images pop up. Well it appears that no one has quite coined that term yet, at least according to google, but I did find this wonderful rainbow image from a children’s book called Freight Train by Donald Crew. Needless to say I am feeling a bit inspired by Donald Crew this very moment. Yet, before I get completely off track (no train pun intended) let us return to the topic of inspiration.
Here is one example of how Inspire is defined: to have an animating effect upon one’s mind or emotions; to stimulate to some creative or effective effort; to elicit or create.
Considering this definition of the inspire what or who has an animating effect upon your mind or emotions? What or who stimulates or elicits your creativity?
It will be a challenge for me to limit myself, because there are so many things that are inspiring me every day, but I’ll try to share a just a few on my list today and will provide links so you can explore more on your own.
I just stumbled upon a very inspirational couple just last night via the posting of an artist friend. The history geek in me is absolutely excited about the work of Maya and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, who are the co-founders of the Reflection Press and School of the Free Mind.
is a videographer, webmaster, designer, accountant, manager, builder, architect, editor, publisher, and just about anything else needed to keep the Press running. Matthew came from Philly to San Francisco to intern with COLAGE, a non-profit organization for children with one or more LGBT parents. Growing up with a gay father, isolated in the midst of homophobia, taught Matthew the importance of working to include everyone and inspired his activist spirit to take root.
is an artist, author, educator, publisher, maker, freeek, spirit, big thinker, blissfully devoted spouse and parent who thinks kids and anything creative are awesome. She has illustrated over 20 award-winning, multicultural children’s book and written three. She has written three books for their press, including Claiming Face, Gender Now and I See Peace.
They are currently raising funds for their latest project called Everybody’s History. The overall goal for Everybody’s History is for this to be a large collection of chapter books. Each book telling the story of one hero who has impacted our world, despite the fact that they may at times not have fit into what was socially acceptable at the time. The series will include heroes from the United States, and eventually, the world.
as a small seed from within.
irst I learn to love and nurture myself.
And then as my spirit awakens
I find that when I help others,
I help myself.
And from that awareness
my love expands and overflows
out into the universe.
“I am a watercolor artist and writer. The theme of my work is about unconditional self-love. The reason I write and paint about self-love is because unconditional self-love has the ability to heal and transform our lives. I also believe that when we can love ourselves unconditionally that we create the internal support system that is needed to reach our greatest potential and to live our best life.”
Infinite Love Lyrics
And never let me know
Just to celebrate the notion
Stay with me, don’t go
Cause the truth in your eyes
Is the light in the darkness
You are my love.. My Infinite Love
Other way that we can go
Way that we need be
Here is the prophecy
There’s so, much there
Keep something in
Keep giving in
Keep winning in with
Keep something in
Keep giving in
Keep winning in with
Is the rain falling into the sea
Is the miracle showering me (x2)
I say the blind, the blind
I say the blind will see
Me say now heed the words
And we’re gonna split the sea
What say what
Say what what..
Light a candle
Me say don’t curse the darkness
Make a wish
Send it to the heartless
Taking it back in time 500 BC
Takin’ it to the future Historically
Is the rain falling into the sea
Is the miracle showering me (x2)
If you are familiar with author Oriah Mountain Dreamer you might be surprised to learn that once upon a time she doubted if she would ever become a published writer. This is the woman who wrote the piece called The Invitation, that later became a book by the same title. Oriah shares in her book What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul the story of attending a writing workshop, and how after having her writing torn to pieces over the course of several days, and hearing how few people will ever succeed at writing, left the workshop feeling deflated and almost convinced she should throw in the towel. Yet writing called to her soul and she picked herself back up and continued to follow that calling.
It was her determination and an internal pull to continue to write that propelled her forward. She explains in her book What We Ache For how a writer will write, a dancer will dance, an artist will paint or sculpt, the musician will make compose, the photographer will take photos and so on. They will do these things over and over again. Here is how she expands on the subject:
“Sometimes we use the same stories and images, sounds and movements. Sometimes we work on the same themes using different stories and images, sounds and movements. Sometimes we create the unexpected and never repeated. Sometimes we create between interviews and publicity tours. More often we create between dental appointments and taking our children to hockey practice. But we do our creative work. It’s how we learn how to do the creative work. And sometimes we become tired and discouraged. Sometimes we do not want to see the same image emerge on the canvas, find the same theme surface in the story we are writing. Sometimes we are afraid we will never be able to write or paint or compose or dance or film the wholeness or beauty or truth we ache to produce. And in these moments we take ourselves out into the world and let our sexuality, our love of the sensual beauty of this physical life, and our spirituality, our experiences of the truth we ache for, find us and rekindle our passion to create. We let the dance between the world and our imaginations move us. And we begin again, painting or writing or composing moving or photographing or filming. It’s how we dip down into that well of creative potential and weave a story or create an image or find just a single phrase of melody that takes the breath away. It’s how we pray, how we participate in in life. Over and over again.”
Oriah also recounts a great story about John Cougar Mellencamp. She shares how she heard him being interviewed on the radio and described what she heard this way:
“Mellencamp said that people generally fail in creative endeavors because they assume that great artists produce great works of art from the moment they begin. He postulated that for every masterpiece Renoir produced he has painted dozens if not hundreds of paintings that were just not very good. As a composer, Mellencamp had realized that he had to be willing to compose literally thousands of bad songs, songs that were hardly worth singing and certainly not worth recording, if he wanted to write one great song. Mellencamp pointed out that when an artist puts his or her work out into the world it appears to emerge fully formed. Those who received the completed work, the piece deemed worthy of sharing, hav eno idea how long a process was involved, how many previous incarnations hit the trash can or were painted or recorded over.”
Oriah shares that we have to be willing to keep at it, to learn from the doing. If we want to learn how to write or paint or do any form of creative work, we have to be willing to do it over and over and over again, even if the results are not what we want. Oriah shares how she was at first horrified when a respected writer advised her at workshop to lower her standards. She shares that while for a perfectionist this is tough, it is necessary advice, because “Nothing stops the creative flow and obstructs the only path to learning to create – repeated trial and error – like being wedded to doing it perfectly…and nothing frees up the flow, opens the door to the learning that can come only with repeated experience, like lowering your standards, giving yourself permission to write the worst possible drivel that has ever hit the page.”
Lastly Oriah also shares this piece of wisdom that was told to her years ago in a dream. An old man who she had seen in her dreams for many years smiled and said to her, “Do not confuse what you do with who you are, Oriah. You are not a writer, although you may at times write. You are life unfolding in human form, an awareness within which writing, along with many other things –eating, sleeping, making love, walking in the sun, feeling sad or glad –arise. There is no writer, only writing.” She says that this dream led her to this revelation:
“This idea frees us from the sometimes oppressive notion that we make the creative work happen. The human neurological system and awareness is but one of the places where creative work arise and through which it happens. Thinking of it this way, we can let the creative work be whatever it is. We can arrive at our desks or studios, our journals or easels or keyboards or cameras, excited to see what might happen and content to let it be what it is, to repeat the process over and over. This perspective can keep us from viewing creative work as a means to an end, as something with a hope-for outcome, and help us see it rather as an end in itself.”
Here are some questions to consider:
Today I am will to do __________________________ badly.
Today I will lower my standards in how I….
I do ______________ badly, but I do it because….
Prior to beginning this post I decided I would create a 2013 word art piece. I committed to just whipping it out and then posting it, no matter what I thought of it when I finished. I toast to us all trying new things, making mistakes, creating for the sake of creating, accepting imperfection, loving the process and the journey, rather than just the end products.
My words for 2013 are Wonder, Wow, Love, Health, Grace, Peace, Breath, Action, Courage and Mystery.
What words might you want to claim and hold close this year?
|by Michelle Fairchild|
Your purpose was simple?
Love is all that matters?
Our collective purpose on this planet was Love?
|“Love Thy Neighbor” by Kay Smith|
All we really had to do during our time on this planet was to love one another?
After Love, everything else about having a purpose was secondary?
We discovered that living and breathing animals all want to live as much as we do?
We began to live our lives as if Love is all that matters?
We didn’t take things personally?
We realized we are perfect as we are?
We forgave yourselves…and everyone else too?
We gazed into the eyes of our former five-year-old selves?
We set anything painful from our past down and give it a loving kiss goodbye?
We all released our fears?
We took exceptional care of ourselves?
We took exceptional care of our planet?
We loved ourselves? Really, really, really loved ourselves?
We had only a year to live? A month? A week? A day? An hour?
We realized that we are all connected?
We finally understood the mysteries of our world and the universe?
It was revealed that every single one of us on this planet is a part of God?
|Necklace made by Michelle Fairchild while healing her wounded heart.|
Many people are familiar with the term “aha moment.” We Cosmic Cowgirls refer to them as “awe ha!” moments. I had my own shift recently after attending the latest Cosmic Cowgirl Hodown member conference. My realization was that I don’t feel wounded by the old stories of my life anymore. This was a truly beautiful realization for me, as in fairly recent years I went through some significant life changes and also experienced some difficult life challenges.
In fact, I am not being overly dramatic when I describe the period as the dark night of my soul. My personal struggles led me to retreat from some long held relationships. Thankfully, instead of going down a completely self-destructive path, I chose to dig in deep and accomplish some incredibly cathartic soul work. I underwent a period of the unburying of the old hurts with the guidance of two therapists, and my husband and I also went through counseling together. During this time frame I had questioned my lovability and likability. Anger and rage that I had stuffed also needed to be addressed and processed in healthy ways. There was a point where my natural sunshiny ways of spreading love were dampened and I questioned deeply what love meant to me. This proved to be a profound experience. I now see that making it through the dark times has led me to a lighter place, one where the love is deeper, the grace so much more profound and the forgiveness so much more freely given. I have also seen my spiritual wings grow stronger and more sure of themselves as I look at the world with awe and wonder.
I agree whole-heartedly with the brilliant author and motivational speaker leader, Iyanla Vanzant, that in order to heal our pain three things to need to happen, we have to feel our pain, we have to deal with it (really deal with it) and then we can heal it. Feel, Heal, Deal.
I also must add that one of the gifts of belonging to the tribe of Cosmic Cowgirls is the way we are encouraged and even challenged to open our minds and think about things in new ways. In courses I have taken with Cosmic Cowgirl University I have continually been reminded of our ability to write our own Legendary story however we choose. I have been going through the process of doing this work with Cosmic Cowgirls for the past four years and there were initially times where my story made me sad. There were parts that brought up pain and old losses and I would get stuck and just stop. There was a time frame when I realized that the rose-colored glasses I had been wearing for years had developed some serious cracks in them and I couldn’t go on.
Now I see so much more clearly how everything that has occurred in my life has contributed to who I am, and I really truly love who I am. My Legendary story is a big adventure with plot twists, exciting heart-stopping drama, exotic adventures and whole-hearted love because of the joys, the losses, the love, the lows and the highs.
In the eight years I have worked for a private non-profit fost-adoption agency I have learned a great deal about special needs children, wounded hearts and souls, and the therapeutic process. My knowledge and understanding of how wounds affect behavior and our choices expanded ten-fold during those years.
Then with my most recent “awe ha” moment it became even that much more transparent how many people are living lives as the walking wounded. While I will not allow others to intentionally hurt me and I have learned a great deal more about healthy boundaries in relationships, I also have compassion for others, knowing that how some people respond or act is due to their unhealed wounds, which in most cases I have nothing to do with at all. For example in best case scenarios those who are wounded, but haven’t dealt with it, do things like living life reactively, being blind to why things push their buttons, acting defensively, when they would really prefer to act lovingly.
In the worst case scenarios the walking wounded can cause others grievous harm and pain. These are the situations that lead to violence, cruelty, and committing crimes. One way of viewing those who are wounded and then act out by hurting others can be through the lens of a quote by buddhist Thich Naht Hahn, “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment, he needs help.” Iyanla Vanzant goes more in depth about all the things stuffing and masking our pain can lead to, such as addictions (ie drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling), criminal behavior, as well as such things as low self-esteem, depression and lack of direction in life. Iyanla also shared during her live show with Oprah about how people can also become addicted to their story of pain. She tells one man who had been addicted to drugs and alcohol for twenty years, and after ten years of being sober and is still unhappy and has been thinking about using again, that he has become addicted to his story. She challenges him on what he would be doing if he was to really choose to be happy and move forward with his life, instead of living in the past.
One of the events that helped push me over the hump and firmly into a new awareness took place at the most recent Cosmic Cowgirl gathering. During the closing ceremony, beautifully directed by a member, each woman went around the circle and one-by-one, linked arms with each woman and while looking into one another’s eyes said these words, “I see you. You are my sister.” It was a very moving, and at times emotional exchange, for those participating. Days following that event, when I was asked by someone, who I had described the experience to, if saying those words was difficult, and my response was “Not at all.” I shared that when those exchanged took place it was about really seeing a person and their inner soul. In my spiritual practice it was also about seeing that God essence that exists in all of us and is that which connects us all.
Do you feel wounded?
Are there things in your past that still feel left unresolved?
What are your thoughts about healing?
What are the stories you tell yourself about events that were hurtful?
How do things from the past affect you now in the present?
What if you decided to start telling a different story?
What would happen if you were to heal and move on? What would you be doing? Who would you be?
More to explore about healing the wounded heart:
There is a documentary called The Dhamma Brothers. It is about an Alabama prison, known as “the house of pain,” that allowed a Buddhist meditation practice to be brought within its walls and taught to some of the prisoners, most of whom will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. It is eye-opening and moving to hear some of the prisoners share their experiences with the meditation course and the changes it brought to their lives. One of the prisoners in the documentary shared how he was more a prisoner when he was out on the streets, acting out all his pain in hurtful ways. He will be in prison for the rest of his life, but the meditation practice led him to finally feel his pain and then deal with it, which finally allowed him to heal. He actually stated that he feels more free now then he did prior to being in prison. The reality is that he was in a prison of his own making, as are others out living lives in which they are hurting, unhappy, addicted to alcohol or drugs, which they use to dull the pain.
Here is a brief video with the director presenting at a TED talk about the making of The Dhamma Brothers.
To the Iranian people
To all the fathers, mothers, children, brothers and sisters
For there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate.
I’m not afraid of you, I don’t hate you.
I don t even know you. No Iranian ever did me no harm. I never even met an Iranian…Just one in Paris in a museum. Nice dude.
I see sometime here, on the TV, an Iranian. He is talking about war.
I’m sure he does not represent all the people of Iran.
If you see someone on your TV talking about bombing you …be sure he does not represent all of us.
I’m not an official representative of my country. but I know the streets of my town, I talk with my neighbors, my familys, my friends and in the name of all these people …we love you.
We mean you no harm.
On the contrary, we want to meet, have some coffee and talk about sports.
To all those who feel the same, share this message and help it reach the Iranian people
My name is Ronny, I’m 41 years old. I’m a father, a teacher, a Graphic Designer.
I’m an Israeli citizen and I need your help.
Lately, in the news, we’ve been hearing about a war coming while we, the people are sitting, watching like it has nothing to do with us.
On March 15th, I posted a poster on Facebook. The message was simple.
Iranians. We love you. We will never bomb your country
Within 24 hours, thousands of people shared the poster on Facebook, and I started receiving messages from Iran.
The next day, we got featured on TV and newspapers, proving that the message was traveling. Fast.
Please help us prevent this war by spreading this message.
We need your help raising money in order to buy media: billboards, major magazines, TV ads and finally Times Square screens. We want everybody to understand that there will be no war.