Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Transformations through YogaDance

(the photo is of my husband and me at our wedding reception, dancing to the music of Abbey Road)

I have always loved to move to music, even if it just means tapping my feet or swaying. Yogadance, however, has opened up a new level of musical appreciation for me that comes from my core being. Being an "older dancer" means that my body does not always do what I think it should do, and it means having to figure out ways to make it move without hurting myself, but this is an exciting challenge that has made my body more flexible and nimble, even after only four sessions of Yogadance. The stiffness, aches and pains, and resistance that an older body experiences, however, do not limit the expressiveness with which I can now respond to the music.

I had no idea that beginning this class, which I did out of support for my friend Christine and as a way to get back into exercise, would have such a powerful, transformative effect on me.

Last Saturday, it brought me to tears.

The combination of Yoga, which focuses on the whole body, on breathing, on opening the chakras and focusing on the energies of the self, with the choreography and, yes, FUN of dance is amazing.

This is no mere "exercise" routine. It is a process of introspection and transformation that makes one open those deepest, darkest recesses of the self that rarely see the light of day and self-examine them. We dust them off, stretch them out, shake them off, and glory in their hidden beauty. And the most powerful part of all of this is that it is done as part of the community of dancers.

I found myself opening wide, letting in the power and energy of those magnificent women in the room with me, as well as letting go of the angst and emotions that had welled up inside of me.

As we moved and prayed with our bodies, I became one with myself again.

I found myself wanting more. More dance. More music. More chant. More of myself.

What an awesome journey that is!

My introduction to Yogadance has been a re-introduction to me. I have been transformed. And that transformation extends well beyond the hour we spend actually doing it.

Will you Yogadance with me, too? How will you rediscover and transform yourself today?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Plan your own tarot party with Christiana!

Host your own Tarot Reading Party With Christiana, Spirit Guide

Choose the theme – wine and cheese, cocktails and music, afternoon tea party, outdoor patio party – and all you have to do is provide the venue and refreshments. Invite your friends, and voila! A Tarot party!

Christiana can do between 7-10 readings in a single gathering. Cost is $35 per reading, and the host(s) will receive up to two free readings for hosting the event. A separate, private space is required for her to do each personal reading.

Each reading is personalized, and is usually 20-30 minutes in length.

Christiana uses a Tarot Deck called the Lover’s Path, which is a beautifully illustrated set of cards that help her divine the state, needs, and probable paths of her clients.

While Christiana is not a “fortune teller”, she is uniquely gifted to intuit the psychic state and needs of individuals. Her goal is to aid individuals in finding their own true paths to follow.

If you are interested in arranging a Tarot Party, please contact Christiana at

You can also check out her blog at

Welcome spring and embrace renewal with a tarot reading and share it with your friends!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Re-discovery, Re-imagining, Re-invigorating...Re-designing the self

It seems that this is the spring for Epiphanies for me. I've written about a couple of them earlier here, about my "I could have had a V-8" moments. And lately, I've had another major rediscovery, this one about music.

I wrote, from Florida, about being reintroduced to the primacy of water for me, as a meditative and spiritual need. I also wrote about the need to keep teaching.

Lately, I re-discovered my inner musical self.

It all started with a commitment to do SOMETHING again, to get active, and try to get my body healthy again.

I had fallen out of my Y swimming routine, for a gazillion different reasons (ok, excuses). I would start, again, next week, tomorrow, next month, after this (fill in the blank) is done.... And it just didn't happen.

And then, my good friend Christine, over at the Blisschick blog, started offering Yogadance classes.

I had to support her. She was living her bliss, growing her dream. How awesome was that?

So, I committed to going to a Yogadance class. First, one on Saturday. Then, after that incredible experience, I committed to a series of Thursday morning sessions. And I was hooked.

But what, exactly, was it that hooked me, you ask?

Was it Christine's enthusiastic teaching methods?
Was it the skillful blending of yoga techniques and dance movements?
Was it my friendship with Christine?

Well, I admit, all of those played a part.

But the clincher for me was.... are you ready? .... the MUSIC.

Soemthing wonderful happened to me when the music came on.

My body came alive.

I could not keep it still.

It took on a life of its own, moving, and swaying, and expressing in ways that I thought it had forgotten long ago.

I should have known this. I should have remembered. I was, after all, a dual major in Music and History in college. I am (albeit a rusty one) a singer. I play piano.

But somehow, music had lost its centrality in my life. Swept aside by so many other mundane concerns.

Then my husband bought my my very own 160gig iPod for my birthday. (He has 3 of his own - he's a real music junkie!) And I was like a kid in a candy store, going through our voluminous library of CDs trying to decide which ones to download first.

And last night, another miraculous thing happened. We went to hear Michael Buble in concert in Cleveland. This was our second Buble concert, and it was awesome.

Most incredibly, however, again my body MOVED. I. could. not. sit. still.

And I let my gaze roam over the crowd, watching other reactions to the music, and I was amazed at how many people were just sitting calmly in their seats, listening, like stone statues all in a row.

Sitting still? To MUSIC?

Such a foreign concept to me.

Music flows like the blood through my veins. It makes me move and sing and tap my toes with wild abandon. It frees my soul almost as completely as immersion in water, that I wrote about earlier. Music transports me, and makes me fly.

And I knew, without a doubt, that I can not let another day go by without music. It would be like denying myself water or air.

And this epiphany is like finally emerging into the bright sunlight after a long, treacherous trek through the deep jungle growth. Unfamiliar at first, my body embraced the warmth of the sun and arms stretched to the sky to bring it closer to my heart.

I'm reaching now, for my iPod, to help this body live again.

What makes you live? What have you let yourself forget? What will you embrace again to invigorate your soul?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Consider the Pearl....

This is a photo of two "do it yourself" pearl kits I got while I was in Florida. Well, actually, I bought them at the Fort Myers airport gift shop, so that gives you some idea of just how kitschy they are. The kits included a preserved whole oyster, and a charm necklace, with the inserts that direct you to slice open the oyster and find your (guaranteed) pearl within. There are five possible colors of pearls, they tell you, each one signifying a different promise.

Of course, I couldn't resist. I bought not one, but two kits, hoping to find the signs of glory and richness (in life and spirit, not just in dollars) buried within.

So, I eagerly sliced open my oysters, hoping to find those lavender and pink pearls -the rarest ones, of course - only to find two very ordinary white pearls.

Not that the white pearls aren't special and wonderful. I have long admired the pearl above most other gemstones because of its meanings. And, of course, no two pearls are identical in size and shape. They, like snowflakes, are unique.

And last night I got to pondering my pearls, putting perspective and purpose to my thoughts.

Let us take a moment and consider the pearl.

What a truly remarkable creation, the pearl. It begins as a grain of sand, an irritant, that finds its way into the ducts of an oyster. The oyster, in order to protect itself from the chafing of the sand, begins to produce a protective layer that envelopes the sand and stops the irritation. Over time, this tiny grain of sand becomes engulfed in the material that is the pearl.

A thing of beauty, begun with a sharp irritation.

And that made me think about my own life. It made me think about the current obstacles that stand before me. It made me think about how I might, in my own way, turn my grains of sand into pearls.

For isn't what matters how we respond to what the world throws at us?

All of us face those tiny specks that chafe and scrape and irritate the crap out of us.

How wonderful to be like the pearl and, instead of ending up bruised, bleeding, and injured, turning that source of irritation into an asset, a thing of beauty to behold.

So, in deference to the wisdom of the pearl, I vow to start producing my own sparkle out of grit. And when I get the next (inevitable) email referencing how remarkable it is that I have managed to overcome this "difficult and stressful year", instead of letting it make me mad, I will turn it into a positive and marvel that I have, indeed, managed to keep my head held high when others believed I would curl up and wither.

The oyster would do no less. It produces something of tremendous value when irritated. Something truly unique and without equal.

So will I. Just watch me.

So, remember the pearl. Such a small wonder, we often overlook it's true magnificence.

You go, pearl.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Loving and Living

Tonight, my husband posted a status on his Facebook account that said something like this: "Today was a very long day, tomorrow and Wednesday will be even longer. Luckily, I have a wonderful wife who will help me make it to Friday."

God, he's sweet.

But he's more than that. He is my lifeline.

I've been blogging here about my recent obstacles, and how I have been trying to overcome them, and find my true bliss. I am not new to struggle. In fact, I have faced struggle after struggle my entire life.

I am a survivor. It's what I do.

And yet, until I met Dave, I always survived ALONE. I turned inward, adopted a self-protective stance, much like the hedgehog that curls up in a ball with quills exposed to the dangers that threaten it.

It worked, and I always managed to overcome, to supercede, to survive. But I never thrived. I never knew my bliss.

And then, almost by accident, I met this incredible, wonderful, miraculous man who changed my life.

And when I met Dave, I realized that I was not truly living my life before. I was only going through the motions.

Because, you see, living is nothing without loving. And loving means truly living.

When you can trust someone with your soul, it is an amazing thing.

And my soul mate, Dave has done that for me. We knew at the end of our first date that we were destined to be together. And we were married less than two years later.

The truly amazing thing now, though, is that I no longer roll up like a hedgehog when the predators come sniffing. Now I take hold of Dave's hand, and we face them together, side by side.

And it is truly mind boggling the difference that it has made. With Dave by my side, I can move forward, exploring my possible paths, without trepidation that I will fail. Dave has confidence in me. He believes in me. And I know, whatever happens, that Dave will be there by my side to help me face my foes. And he will be the first to uncork the champagne to celebrate when I conquer them.

With Dave, I fly.

My Dave, who has supported my psychic side, without question, from the day we met.

My Dave, who never scoffs when I tell him I see things, or know things, or have "feelings," and who thinks it's a normal conversation to ask "so, seen any spirits lately?"

My Dave, who told me not to worry when I first told him that I thought I would be denied tenure, because, he said, things will work out.

My Dave, who always can make me laugh, and who takes my breath away with passion and love.

So, tonight, as I reflect, I focus on the most wonderful, positive, amazing part of my life - the part that means I LIVE each and every day. And I give thanks that I finally found him on my life's journey.

And I wish for all of you that you can find and experience this love that helps you truly and fully live each day with joy.

I love you, Dave. You are my soul mate. With you, I live.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Balance and Finding Our New Limits

Today's post is about finding balance, stretching the self to find the new limits and trying to overcome the obstacles that stand in our way. Interestingly enough, as I sat down this morning to write this post, I opened my good friend Christine's blog, and she has written this morning about the concept of nueroplasticity and the ability to rewrite our brains.

Yesterday, I had a difficult day. It was not difficult for any earth-shattering reasons. It was a normal day, and I had plenty of mundane tasks to keep me occupied all day long.

Yet, something was wrong. Sometime just didn't feel right.

It took me most of the day to figure out that I was battling depression.

It was not the anxious, fear-riddled depression of my earlier days. This was unique in that it had a particularly overwhelming sense of calm that accompanied it.

That's why it took so long for me to identify it.

And I've been having a series of very vivid, highly symbolic, and somewhat negative (ok, some were outright nightmares) dreams this week that added to that sense of mental and physical unbalance yesterday.

So, when I finally had that "oh, duh!" moment yesterday afternoon and realized that depression had me in its grip, I'll admit, I was a bit angry. I thought I had left that depression behind in Florida, blown down the beach like a tumbleweed in the Old Wild West. I believed that my reinvigorated use of water had conquered it.

And yet, there it was. Clear as day. Marring my otherwise positive Friday.

So, what did I do? I got out my brand-spanking-new iPod (a birthday gift from my wonderful hubby before I went to Florida), and cranked up the tunes. I let music carry me away. And it helped.

And last night, I lost myself in the fantasy land of Alice, courtesy of Johnny Depp. (what an actor!)

Today, I am going to take my very first ever YogaDance class, and try to stretch my body as well as my mind. (I'm hoping to reach those cute little toes pictured above!)

Next week, I am starting my Y swim routine again, as I vowed I would while I was in Florida.

I will not let the depression win. I can conquer those synapses in my brain, and I know that I am more powerful than they are.

It's all about balance. If the depression starts taking me too far in the dark direction, I will simple respond by pulling us back to light. I will use music, and water, and air to remind myself of the positive energies that embody me.

I will triumph. Because it's what I do.

What will you do?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Little Bit of Florida, on the Shores of Lake Erie

Well, after a long and stressful travel day, I returned to the land nestled on the shores of Lake Erie, to resume my normal life. I found my husband and four restless pets waiting anxiously for my return.

And I returned to my daily routine of going to the office.

But something is different. Actually, many things are different.

First of all, I'm not teaching this term, since I have been granted a research contract, releasing me of my teaching duties to focus on my academic research. (That's a topic for another blog, another day).

What that means, is that I am not driven by the clock this term. No need to cram tasks into the brief blocks of time between teaching.

No frantic scramble to get papers graded in time to return during class.

The luxury of being able to THINK about the tasks that lie before me, and to actually follow through with them as I do them.

It is a wonderful, though strangely disconcerting, feeling.

And yet, something else is different.

That something else is me.

My mind set.

As I wrote about on several posts here, I did a great deal of reflection while I was in Florida. I let my mind go. I let my elements, water and air, cleanse and rejuvenate me. And I reclaimed control over myself and my life.

So, as I returned to school this week, and took up this new slightly awkward routine, I realized that I am a new person.

And it all revolves around that integrity I spoke of in an earlier post.

I COULD be staying home, doing what I feel like, and not worry about the job. After all, they didn't grant me tenure, and don't want me around for the long haul, so why should I bust my chops to work for them?

But, you see, the work isn't for THEM. It never was.

It is now, and always has been, for - and about - me. About realizing my true self. About finding my bliss.

And today? What wonderful thing happened, but that a book rep knocked on my door to offer my desk copies of texts for my courses, and we wound up talking about my OWN book project, and making a connection that might - just might - end up in a book deal for me at the end of it.

See? Integrity.

If I had not been in the office today, if I had chosen to sleep late and read what I wanted to read, instead of going in and doing scholarly tasks, I might have missed this opportunity.

And I know this is the case, because this morning, I saw and heard seagulls outside of my window.

In Erie, Pennsylvania.

Now, we have gulls here, don't get me wrong. They are often on the lake and at the shoreline.

But we live inland, about 47 blocks from the lake, on a hill. We don't usually get gulls up here.

Today we did.

And I know why.

The gulls were there to reinforce the lessons I had been learning in Florida. Like the dolphin who appeared for me in Florida, the seagulls' connection to the water is symbolic for those with this totem. Water represents the emotional side of a persons psyche.

The seagull is a messenger. If it dives into your life (as it did into mine this morning) this can indicate deep seated emotions that need to be healed. If seen bobbing on the surface its asking you to let go of worry, go with the flow and enjoy yourself more.

More importantly, seagulls hold the teachings of fairness and respect and show those with this medicine how to create relationships based on these two principles.

Relaxed and easygoing in all of their pursuits, seagulls bring us the gift of a carefree attitude. They are casual about how they build their nests and where they live.

Those with this totem should try to remember that the complementary side of a carefree nature is the proper acceptance of responsibility. When you commit to something and others are depending on you its not appropriate to just fly off if the mood strikes you. It is good to temper a carefree attitude with a responsible nature and to know when each behavior is appropriate.

So, the gulls, like the dolphins, were showing me that I must hold onto my integrity and self-respect, and carry out my responsibilities for my own sense of balance. Then, and only then, will I have met and lived my true bliss.

So, I remain watchful for those totem signs that tell me I am on the right (or wrong) path, and I listen to their messages.

What are the totems telling you today? Are you following your bliss?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Mighty Dolphin

"What sweet mystery about this sea, whose gentle stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath." Ishmael, in Herman Melville's Moby Dick.

The other day, as we sat on the deck at the Lodge, enjoying our leisurely three-hour lunch, a tremendous thing happened.

The dolphin appeared.

Three of them. A trinity of dolphins.

Just for me.

The locals said that they hadn't seen the dolphin around for weeks. That is, until I showed up.

And I believe it was a message for me.

You see, the Dolphin is one of my totems, but it is one that I have ignored for a while now, in favor of the frog. My husband's totem is a turtle, and the frog is just a natural balance to the turtle. So I forgot all about my beautiful dolphin.

Until this week.

This week, when I have been reintroduced to the power of the water and its important role in my life.

So I thought I would share some of the dolphin symbolism and its auspicious meaning for me at this moment in my life.

Water, my dominant element, is a sign of cleansing, freedom, and mobility. That makes perfect sense to me, as I feel reborn when I spend reflective time in the water.

Water is also a universal expression of the unconscious. This, too, makes sense, as I have an intuitive skill in revealing that which lies beneath the surface.

And so it is also logical that my totem would be a water animal. Both the frog and the dolphin are the ultimate sign for me, as they both are known for being in two worlds at once, both of the water and the air.

They bridge the elements, each in their own way.

The dolphin reminds us to live with the same unbridled freedom of the water animals who frolic and play with gleeful abandon. Have you ever watched them following in the wake of a boat? They jump and twirl and race and exude pure joy.

The dolphin also represents transcendence, harmony, intelligence, resurrection, and noble power. I belive that this trinity of beings was sent to remind me to tread with assurance and grace, in this time of transition, and that as long as I follow the path that lies before me, I will overcome the adversities that try to subdue me.

I will transcend, and I will be reborn.

The dolphin are also closely associated with kingly qualities, but not of the dominating kind. They are gracious in their reign, and this grace is their core theme. This is actually very close to the topic I was addressing yesterday in my post, when I stated that I must continue to do my best, and not stop fulfilling my duties, because it is what I owe myself.

This is the ultimate grace.

We do what we do, simply because is it the right thing. We do not look for vengeance, or deceit. We simply must be the best we can be and the rest will sort itself out.

The dolphin are also the epitome of duality, representing both the lunar and solar symbolisms.

As a sun symbol, they signify life, vibrancy, activity, health, renewal, and intelligence. Again, as a powerful symbol for me at this moment, I was struck by their importance in terms of my own personal renewal and revived power.

As a moon symbol, the dolphin symbolizes hidden power, intuition, dreams, conception, and the feminine aspects. I believe this is affirmation of my new venture to provide spiritual guidance through the tarot and dream interpretation. I took this as a very positive omen for my future.

The dolphin then, is perhaps the greatest conveyer of the concept of balance, of the yin and the yang, bringing two halves together.

These powerful totems appeared, in the most powerful number - 3 - to reassure me that I am on the right path, and that as long as I remain balanced and focus on my own personal sense of power and intuition, I will walk the walk of grace and bliss.

What are your totems? Are you listening to the lessons they are teaching you?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Doing the Right Thing....for Yourself.

This morning's post is about perspective and integrity.

As you know if you've been following my blog, this has been a rough year for me. At several points this year, I've been told and have felt, that I should just "go through the motions" and not give my all in this position, since they don't seem to appreciate my efforts.

And, I admit, at times, I gave in to this sentiment momentarily.

But then, something significant happened. My INTEGRITY reared its head and thunked me across the forehead.

This happened again yesterday.

I have always had a hard time leaving work behind, and this trip is no different. After a wonderfully relaxing day, I came back to the condo and immediately opened my school email.


Because what I found there royally ticked me off, and made me want to just say "screw it all."

There was an email exchange with my chair over next year. In his tenure letter, this very same chair had criticized me for "continually insisting on teaching overload courses, against the advice of her chair." And this email exchange yesterday? Ultimately asked me to teach not one, but TWO overload courses next year. WHAT?

Of course, my friends said "SAY NO! You don't owe them ANYTHING!"

But the money is good.

And, more importantly, if I don't teach them, no one else will. And the students, for whom I have been working all along, will suffer.

Oh, and one of those overloads is for the Adult College. The email request from the coordinator of that program wrote in her email to my chair, "We were wondering if she would offer another course this year, since she is held in high regard by the adult students."

That, in itself, was enough to confirm that I need to teach the overload.

That was affirmation that I was doing the right thing.

Besides, I can not bring myself to hurt the program just to be petty.

I refuse to lower myself to their levels.

I had another email exchange yesterday that also reinforced this idea.

I had a student who simply "checked out" during Winter term. He had been told that he could not graduate, and he simply gave up. So he failed the course.

Then, during finals week, he was given new information. He was told that, so long as he did not flunk any courses, he could graduate.

It was too late. I had already posted grades.

So he sent me not one, but TWO, pleading emails, asking for another chance to pass the class.

And I replied to him yesterday, with a response that he did not want to hear.

I told him that sometimes life teaches us difficult lessons. I said that we should always fulfill our obligations, even when it seems futile, because we never know what might lie beyond the next bend in our life's road.

And this, ultimately, is why I will not give up, or just give the students an "easy pass" when I return to teaching in the Fall. I will continue to give my all and fulfill my obligations, not because I owe the institution anything, but because I owe it to myself.

My integrity will allow me to do no less than my best.


And the rewards will be far greater than being granted (or denied) tenure. They will be self-respect, integrity, and honor.

And I can walk away from this institution at the end of next year with my head held high, knowing that I have done my best, done good work, and left a lasting mark among the student population.

So, where are you going to leave your mark? Are you waiting for that external, material reward for your actions? Is your perspective clear? Follow your integrity, and you will find the must fulfilling path to your bliss.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Another epiphany of sorts....

This morning, I grabbed my towel and headed down to the hot tub and pool for my morning ritual of a soak and swim, to help my aching back. And as I sunk deeply into the roiling waters of the spa, I had one of those "I could have had a V-8" moments - you know, where you thunk your forehead because you made a stupid mistake.

Because this morning, as I settled into the water, with no other soul in sight, closed my eyes and let myself be surrounded by the motion of the jets, it came to me.

Water is my element.

I need water every day, in some elemental and powerful way, in order to experience my bliss.

My good friend Christine writes about this at her Blisschick blog, and she just posted an incredibly powerful piece on how dance helps her feel this elemental revival of self in her own life.

For me, I need the water.

And silly me, I thought I was getting it.

You see, we bought a hot tub last year. Every week, we are in the hot tub at least 3 times a week. We soak and talk and relax. And it feels wonderful. Especially when the snow is gently falling on us.

But this morning, I realized that this is not enough.

For today, I spent 10 minutes in the spa and then skipped over the pool to do several lazy laps in the cool water. And this is where my energies are restored.

I have belonged to the Y for years now, having joined with a friend with whom I went swimming regularly. The friendship has since fallen away, and I continued the swimming routine for a long time, but this past year, in the midst of all my turmoil, I found more and more excuses not to make it to the Y for my swims.

It was too cold outside.

I was too busy.

I was too tired.

It was dark outside.

I'll start next week, after this (fill in the blank) is over.

And on and on the list of excuses went.

And as the year progressed, my stress levels rose to alarming levels. My physical and mental health deteriorated. And I was losing grip on my sense of balance and being.

Until this morning.

Swimming, for me, is not about the physical exercise (although it is a wonderful way to get the body moving, with aerobic exercise that is less jarring on the joints). Rather, what I rediscovered this morning is that the process of swimming cleanses my mind. It is as if all the stress and distress of my life is rinsed away by the water flowing over my body.

This makes sense, since I am a Pisces. I belong in the water. I have always known this. I have just not always embraced it.

When I enter the water, and close my eyes, I can make the world go away.

I focus on my breathing.

I feel the texture of the water as it caresses my limbs and supports my body as I move through it.

I become one with the water.

It opens my senses and electrifies me.

I rediscover myself.

Swimming makes me fly.

So today, I am making a promise to myself. I will no longer ignore the needs of my body. I will continue to embrace my need for water. I will immerse myself in the water as often as I can. I will return to the Y.

And I know, if I do this, I will continue to fly.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Sheller's Lesson

Greetings from Marco Island, Florida!

Since I am writing this post from the lovely island, I thought it might be appropriate to use a beach metaphor in today's reflective writing.

Since my first trip to Florida in 1984, I have been an avid sheller. ( A "sheller" is a seeker of seashells, also sometimes called "beachcombers", looking for those treasures from the sea.)

You know the type - I'm sure you've seen us if you've ever been on a good shelling beach. We walk slowly, back bent, scanning the beach carefully with our eyes, looking for telltale signs of a fertile shell bed.

We carry plastic baggies and perhaps a small shovel or brush, and we giggle with glee over every single find. It's like being a child at Christmas once again, when every small package makes us squeal with delight.

As I walked the beach late this afternoon, after two days of wild weather on the island, I found that it was a sheller's wonderland. Shells of all types and size littered the sand, including many still hosting creatures (dead and alive) in their interiors.

So today, my first day of my time here at one of my favorite spots in the world, I was presented with a beautiful gift, seemingly just for me.

Today, the weather was brisk and windy, and as I stepped out onto the beach, I began to feel the wind blowing my stress away. The combination of water and wind, my own personal primary and secondary elements, swept over me and soothed my aching and weary body, regenerating my soul.

As I started down the beach, I found myself naturally falling into my shelling behavior, even though it has been five years since my last visit here. (Note to self: five years is way too long between visits...) This unconscious behavior was so natural and instinctive, that I almost didn't recognize that I was doing it.

And as I scanned the sand, marveling at the wide array of shells, I was struck by the lesson that we can take from this simple act of shelling. For you see, a sheller must exhibit patience, dedication, caution, and respect in the process of finding the treasures of the sea.

Each individual sheller has his or her own agenda. Some collect only the large, perfect shells, like the familiar Conch shells that lay scattered along the beach this afternoon, still housing their animals.

Others look for the greatest variety of shells they can find, looking for one of everything, to create a library of sorts of their own shells.

Personally, I have my own favorites. I pondered this as I walked today. I have a fondness for the "turret" or "worm" shells - the tubular, scrolled, and delicate small shells that are much more difficult to find.

I tend not to like the bivalve shells, though the beach is literally covered in bivavles of all shapes, colors, and sizes. I decided today that the reason I shy away from these bivalves is that you rarely find a complete (yet empty) bivalve. Somehow, I find that sad.

So, there I was today, within five minutes of gaining the beach, and I looked down (in my natural shelling pose), and what lay at my feet but a gorgeous turret shell, nestled deep in a pile of broken bivalves. It seemed to be a beacon to me, a message that I was on the right path.

So, this is the message of the sheller. It is not a task to be rushed, but one that must be approached with diligence, care, and patience. The bent back walk of the sheller is not easy, and the result can be pain and discomfort, but the result, when we take the pains to do it correctly, can be extremely rewarding.

Life is like this, too.

Sometimes we get so busy digging through the bivalves of life (all those annoying details of life that distract us from our real path or purpose) that we don't see the beautiful turret shell lying just at our feet. If we don't step carefully, we will crush it, or miss it completely.

Sometimes, too, we can be looking so intently at a problem that we can't see the solution right in front of us.

I passed a large bed of shells today, scanning it intently, looking for my favorite shells, and was distracted by a gull who laughed at me (it was a laughing gull...). I looked away to respond to him, and when my eyes returned to the spot I had just searched, I found the best shell of the day, right in front of me.

So, for you, my friends, I am sharing this lesson. Treat life like a beach full of shells. Keep searching for those treasures that lay hidden, waiting to be exposed.

Yet if we rush, or if we are distracted, we might miss that most precious find.

Patience is the key.

Be prepared. Keep your tools handy. And be ever observant for those telltale signs that will guide you naturally to your finds.

Oh, and remember to let your elements help cleanse you, as mine have cleansed me today.