Tag Archives: life

Feng Shui the Psyche for 2018

20 Dec

Call me superstitious but I take the transition between one year into the next very seriously. How one spends New Years’ Eve isn’t so important but the period leading up to it is: the week between X-mas and New Years can be a valuable time to take stock. It’s an opportunity to think about all that has transpired and to set a template for what one wants to create.


The only way to do this though is to carve out space in our schedules and psyches for contemplation. Who can think straight when our minds are running a million miles a minute and when our bodies are bone tired from pushing to the limits?

In Chinese thought, Feng Shui entails “a system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy (qi).” To have qi moving with ease throughout a home or office, the furniture needs to be arranged in a way that optimizes its flow. If we were to apply the same concepts to our lives, we need enough spatial freedom in our schedules and psyches for qi to flow at maximum efficiency. If the Feng Shui of our inner lives is inadequate, some rearranging and prioritizing of how we’re spending our time and energy might be in store.

The last two Decembers I’ve had to consider, “If I’m this tired now, how will I feel in the New Year?” I want to start 2018 with a feeling of vim and vigor but I can’t if I’m emotionally, physically, and mentally depleted. How do I hit the re-set button? What can I stop doing or take a short break from?

I don’t think I’m alone in these feelings. Modern life is pushing us to move faster and faster. Our smart phones keep us constantly connected to work, friends, family, and information. Rarely do we get a break unless we turn the damn things off. Even when things are wonderful, we’re over-stimulated and taxed. Abundance of any kind comes with stresses too. We have to manage the bounty on our plate and even nutritious food is unhealthy if we’re stuffed to the gills.

If we don’t take stock, we suddenly find ourselves crushed under a wheel of demands and stresses we can’t manage. Then the feeling of being victimized by “it” only adds to the stress.

But pain is information. It’s trying to tell us something. We can take cues from when our energy feels blocked, gummed up and low. Usually, that is a sign that it is time to practice some feng shui. For me, that means slowing down and doing less. It means not going to the gym but to the hills for a walk instead. It means spending more time in quiet and less time in the car. It means telling people I’m getting off the grid for a bit and that I might not be so quick to respond to calls, emails and plans. But I can only put rest into practice if I clear space for it.

Before the new year starts, it can be good to write down what we want to release from 2017 and what we want to create. But we also need to consider what is realistic when mapping out our goals, projects and intentions. Rome wasn’t built in a day. So perhaps we focus on a few things for January, February and March and then concentrate on other items during the remaining months. The key thing is that there is enough psychic space to keep the energy moving through freely. Otherwise, we don’t think well, sleep well, or relate well. Perhaps new years intentions aren’t so much about goals as about how to live and love well and how to embrace our passions without losing ourselves in the process.


Life, Death, and Creativity

30 Nov


My family lost a member to suicide this week. For all involved, it has been a time to process this information while offering support. There is a legacy of loss here that can’t be negated. My mother’s death from seven years ago was on people’s minds as well.

Tragedy always strikes in the strong currents of life. There is a never an ideal time for loss. Often you’re already at max point with the demands of work and day to day, yet death insists that you stop. It insists that you keep going as well. When I received my mom’s suicide note, I was asked to come into work until I knew more because the hospital accredidation surveyors were there for their annual review. I thought this was the height of insensitivity, particularly from a mental health organization, but I went in and led groups and charted my notes. Three days later the police called me.

This is life. It will toss you about like a garment in the washing machine on spin cycle.

The day after news of the family death, I received confirmation that my male lead in the short film I wrote and am producing and starring in got cast on another film. He was already in Europe on a film and starts work immediately on a new feature.

Making a film doesn’t begin to weigh in comparison to the life and death of an individual. Yet in this chaotic swirl of the last few days, creativity affirms life in the face of death. We can collapse or create. Or collapse and then create. We film in a week in LA. Figuring out a new shooting schedule with a new lead who has the chops was like trying to solve a rubik’s puzzle but we did.

It is a constant honoring of loss while moving forward with life. After the film wraps, I see clients, finish up a course, and then get on a plane to see my grandmother one last time before she passes. She has held out beautifully on hospice living longer than we expected. Then it’s another plane ride and teaching for a week while we all continue to grieve for the recent death.

For the most immediate family members, they will not be moving on quickly. For them, they will need time to stand still. They will need to simply rest while remembering to eat and take out the trash. And then one day, the darkness will lift a bit. They will take a step out from the shadows and they will see a ray of light and life. During that time before and after, we will hold hands and make phone calls for this is God’s grace.





Give Me Your Burdens

24 Aug

At my mom’s funeral, I wondered how the priest was going to handle the fact that my mom died by suicide. Instead of condemning her to hell, for in Catholicism suicide is often viewed as a sin, he spoke of God’s grace. After mentioning my mother’s innate goodness, he read Matthew 11:28-30:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and You will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

That scripture has always meant something to me since then, although if truth be told, I often forget about it. Yesterday, it was a passage cited in church during our lecture series on hope. I wasn’t feeling a lot of hope at the moment but the passage started speaking to me. Our brilliant pastor, Ed Noble illuminated things. “God doesn’t say, ‘Come, all you who have it figured out, you who have “it” going on in life. You with no burdens or issues or drama. You who are perfect and not screwed up like the rest of us.’  No. God says, ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…'”

Some of us have never had a consistent landing place; a soft place to fall; a place where others have our back on a routine basis. As I probe into some of the deepest wounds of my life, I realize that for much of my childhood, adolescence and adulthood, I have struggled alone. Where were the parents to turn to for solace, or the beloved spouse, or the tight extended family/community, always there for you? That certainly has never been my reality. More often than not, it has been me, myself, and I. I’ve figured out how to move myself from point A to point B, how to put bread on the table, how to bury my parents, and how to navigate life’s challenges. I turn the key in the door each night and welcome myself home. But none of us can exist like that without ultimately cracking at some point. My mom did. She couldn’t feel God saying, “I’ve got this. Lean into me.” It took taking her life until she could finally come into the arms of Jesus and hear him say, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…”

Christ was heavy laden. He certainly didn’t have it easy. Even if you don’t think of him as the son of God, it was no picnic to be crucified by the Romans for basically doing good in the world and being a rebel. But I love this painting I saw recently depicting he and his mother on his way to his death because for a moment it shows Jesus’ and Mary’s roles reversed. In this moment, it is Mary who with her eyes is saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden…”


I am convinced that the only hope there is in this extremely broken world is that which is Divine and of God. There is too much pain, too much isolation, too much fucked up-ness to get by unless you cling to the Light vs. the Dark. We can cry out in the unfairness of it all or we can surrender and rest in the peace He offers us. And then we must in turn, take this same peace and extend it to others. It’s as simple as that. That’s all there is in life. Everything else is a mirage. Spiritual love is the only force of any significance. Because without it, we’re all lost, simply clinging to materialism, ego, an absurd attempt at control, lust, posturing, and grandiosity. “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36.



Momentum: When The Tide Quickly Changes

23 Jun


The other morning I went surfing. As is typical of summer, the waves weren’t doing much. The sets were coming slow and when a wave did break, it had little gusto. I had to paddle hard to catch it and when I did, the wave’s momentum often just petered out, leaving me standing on my board like a gymnast on a balance-beam poised for dismount.

Summer surfing can be frustrating when you have too many mornings like this. After all, the whole point of surfing is to catch a wave and feel the rush as you ride it all the way to shore. There is nothing on the planet like it.

Sometimes, I don’t mind the slowness. It’s nice to be out in the water and have days where I can simply sit on my board and think (or not think) while the gentle lull of the sea rocks me back and forth. It’s nice to feel like a baby in the cradle with God looking down from above. However, sometimes this lack of action irritates. I don’t want to sit around waiting, or to feel the initial thrill of catching a wave, only to have it take me absolutely nowhere. Then I think, “Why didn’t I go to Pilates this morning? It would have been better for my back.”

Yet yesterday morning took me by surprise. As I positioned myself for a wave I felt certain wouldn’t break well, I found myself shocked into awareness that the tide had changed. This wave had speed. Its momentum took me by surprise and ended up knocking me off my board after I caught a bit of its buzz. As I tumbled in the surf, I could feel its foam rage above me. This wave was going forward whether I was prepared or not.

Surfing is a crapshoot. So is life. You never know what you’re going to get. You can get a mushy, little wimpy wave that does nothing for you or one that almost drowns you. Sometimes you get one that is perfect and takes you all the way in. The best are the ones that excite you without throwing off your balance and that have no one else riding it. Then there is just the right degree of safety, comfort, delight, and edge. Those are the cowabunga days where you thank your lucky stars you got off your lazy ass and put on that damn seal suit.

Surfing reminds me that there is nothing more important than suiting up and getting in the water. If you stay on the shore, you will never catch a wave. Yes, surfing can kill you, but I’d rather die playing than never playing at all.

A Matter of Life and Death

6 Nov

I remember the first time I made a truly conscious decision to keep my mouth shut. I was standing in the kitchen with my father when I was about 16 years old. I was never a disrespectful kid yet I had said something one hundred percent truthful. My dad was under the influence of a substance and although he had never been a violent man, I took one look at his face and my intuition told me to shut up. I stood in disbelief and fear as I realized that the man who had so beautifully raised me to think critically no longer wanted to hear my thoughts. In fact, there was no tolerance for them if they differed from his.

It was one of the most painful truths of my life and it took me years and his death to fully metabolize it. It also took me years of looking up to powerful men in admiration before I realized I radiated that same power. All I had to do was learn how to access and express it.

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All of us, regardless of gender are susceptible to such an experience, yet I think there is something unique in the female experience that makes us more vulnerable to silencing our truths over time. Finding our voice again requires the arduous journey of the salmon as we make our way home.

The other day I saw someone who has known me for a long time and I said to him, “You know, I don’t know why but actualizing my creativity has been more important to me than anything else in my life. It’s been like a matter of life and death.” Later that night, reflecting on this, it hit me. Expression has been a matter of life and death. I had sensed the potential for conflict and violence in that encounter with my father and it didn’t matter whether or not it had transpired. For many women around the world, speaking up for their needs and rights leads to abuse and in some situations, death. Likewise, not using one’s gifts creates its own form of spiritual and psychological death.

Yes, love and child bearing are beautiful aspects of femininity but before all else, it was more important to me that I verbalize my truth before pursuing these. And I will devote the rest of my life to helping women and men find theirs’. But in-between time, I will be shouting my voice from the rooftops. I want my “Yes!” and my “No!” and all the vocalizations in-between.

They say when Sleeping Beauty finally wakes up, she is almost fifty years old. No matter. Nothing is better than being awake and alive.

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Embracing Complexity

25 Oct

When I was a young girl I read a book called The Mists of Avalon that described the island associated with mystical practices in the Arthurian legend. In the story I was struck by the fact that in order to get to Avalon, one had to part through a veil of mist that kept Avalon hidden from the day-to-day world. To lift the mist, a person had to have the ability to navigate between various physical and spiritual realms. Without a doubt this stirred my imagination about what might be on the other side of reality in the realm of the subliminal, supernatural and/or spiritual.


Regardless of one’s beliefs (or lack of), there is so much about the Universe we don’t understand. What is happening in the galaxies or when cells divide or when a flower’s petals fall to the ground and new blossoms appear in their place? And how is one to make sense of all of this? These questions are not unusual when we witness death in our lives. Thus for me, one of the surprising blessings that came after my mom died was a budding awareness that life may very well extend beyond what I perceive in my day-to-day reality.

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I was not raised seeped in religion. I didn’t necessarily perceive heaven as a place one would travel to after death, yet I didn’t dismiss this idea either. What I sensed prior to my mom’s death was that multiple dimensions of spiritual reality co-exist with our day-to-day experience but that we are often grossly out of touch with these realms. When meditating or during highly lucid moments of concentration, I sometimes sensed a type of Avalon existing side by side our world. And if we but opened ourselves to this other sphere, the veil separating us would lift.


When my mom died, it felt like that very veil was lifted for a few weeks. My perception of God seemed illuminated, which surprised me greatly as I was not looking for religious solace to heal my wounds. And yet despite this, the spiritual world felt deeply palpable to me. The peace and beauty I perceived intermittently while grieving my mom’s death felt like glimpses of Eden here on earth despite the fact that I had just lost my mother. Death seemed to heighten this spiritual awareness. Transformation took on vast implications.

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The world is vastly mysterious. When I focus my mind on this the petty worries of the here and now shrink in size as I conceptualize something far greater than me operating behind the scenes. It’s not that my life is meaningless in this larger schema. Rather, it’s a part of it and I don’t have to understand all the minute details.

I have come to believe that heaven and earth co-exist. While we are definitely not living in Eden for the world is fraught with pain and evil, fragments of the Kingdom are here now, being inaugurated. Where there is love, God exists. Each time I witness an act of human kindness, I see fragments of heaven.


Years ago I had an art teacher from Europe who used to say in his thick accent, “If you analyze a painting, you kill it. You take its beauty and power away. Sometimes you have to just let it be.” The same could be said of life’s enormous complexity. As much as we want to nail down our understanding of it, this is impossible. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t want a simple God and I don’t want concrete answers. Instead I want to ponder the beauty and mystery inherent in all life forms. I want to hear the echo of transformation, a refrain playing through the caverns of my soul like a saxophonist’s music bouncing off the subway walls.



20 Aug

Last night I heard a news story about a baby Orca that had gotten separated from his mother. He was out in the ocean crying mournfully for her and fishermen heard the high pitched wails coming from the sea. Orcas stay close to their mothers throughout their entire lives so the baby was quite distressed.

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To help the baby, they moved the whale along until it could join a pod of other whales.

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As I sat listening to the recording of the little guy wailing, I thought, “How we all lament. If even an animal cries out in anguish, why do we not give ourselves permission to do the same?”

In today’s sanitary culture of cognitive behavioral therapy, where we are told our thoughts influence our feelings and behaviors and thus if we but master our thoughts, we can manage our feelings, I reflect on that little Orca and think, “What a load of crap!” Sometimes we need to just cry out. There are some dimensions of experience that can only be expressed in a moan.

A theologian friend of mine the other day, recognizing my rationalizing over a profound wound in my life quietly said, “You know, Lise. God does let us down. You can admit that. It is okay to say, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'”

Perhaps that little Orca knew that he had permission to cry out. Perhaps he was simply acting from instinct. But there are places where the intellect has no defense. Where the only words that voice truth are those of the poet or the mourner. And sometimes that is, “Better than a hallelujah” (Amy Grant).