Monthly Archives: December 2009

Grace at Last

“I do not know how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to.” ~ Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

“That’s the thing with magic. You’ve got to know it’s still here, all around us, or it just stays invisible for you.” ~ Charles de Lint

I was in desperate need of some magic this Christmas Eve.

I don’t know what happened… somehow, despite Thanksgiving to mark the beginning of the holiday season, the various parties, and my annual wrestling match with the holiday letter, Christmas itself crept up on me – or ambushed me… I kept thinking, “I don’t know how we got here so fast.”

There was need in the air, and, somehow, all those self care things that I know make such a difference had all been tossed to the wayside… I was burnt out trying to fulfill the demand.  I cried… a LOT…. not necessarily about anything in particular; it just seemed to take very little to tip me over into tears of one kind or another.

What?  You thought we healer types had this all nailed down?  HELL NO!  We’re caretaking human beings – our natural inclination is to give to others before we give to ourselves– it’s a constant battle to make ourselves a priority… this is why we understand so well when others struggle with the same issue – Pot advising Kettle, that’s what THAT is! 😉

So I was worn down, in need of a recharge, and scraping the bottom of the joy barrel just to get on an airplane and go home.

I have a memory of one Christmas Eve – in a church full of warm wood and candlelight, a beautiful soprano sings O, Holy Night – a musical remembrance of one of her own childhood Christmases passed on to me… it was magic…

And very few Christmas Eve’s have lived up to it…

But I needed this one to, and my need made me fearful.

I was afraid there wouldn’t be enough candles, that the music would be weird (the Unitarians are champions at pulling out obscure tunes that no one has heard since they were written),  that the choir would be off key (they frequently are), that the message would be focused on the ordinary (I love, Love, LOVE the minister, but I just couldn’t connect the year the sermon focused on her rain coat), that people from my past would, out of their love, make demands that I couldn’t fulfill.

And it made me – ever so slightly – bitchy…

I was still kvetching as we pulled up in front of the church… “I just need some f”ing MAGIC,” I growled for about the hundredth time.

The greeters at the door smiled and wished me a Merry Christmas.  One, who I’ve known since childhood, hugged me.  The hall was filled with soft beautiful piano music, and the flowers and evergreen branches scented candle lit space.

I closed my eyes and breathed.

And then the choir filed in… I inwardly cringed, setting my face in an effort not to react to the wrong notes I knew were coming…

But it was beautiful… simple… words of hope, and faith, and love, and trust that light would come again.

And I started to weep… I wept all the way through that first song, straight through the Alleluia, and into the first reading – done beautifully by a young woman from the congregation who is studying to be a minister, a young woman I have known practically since birth… I wept my exhaustion, my fear, my joy that this beautiful being had found her calling.

When the choir returned, I found myself profoundly grateful for the missed notes – they gave me a chance to pull myself together… oy!

“What is wrong with you?” My poor mother asked, both concern and a slight giggle dancing in her eyes.

And the sermon… all about losing touch with the season, about finding grace in the midst of things not going as we planned, of peace on earth, good will towards men, and, please, let it begin with me…

I wept – eyes streaming, nose running, not a tissue in sight… my mom leaned over and suggested I use my pashmina which almost reduced me to howling with laughter on the floor…

After the sermon, the offertory – I handed my mother a not insignificant amount of money.

“Oh, no!” she said, “I’ve got it.”

“Mom,” I replied, crying, giggling, snotting, “I needed some friggin’ magic, and I got it in spades.  Pay the lady her money!”

And I ran for the bathroom where I proceeded to cry a little more, use up all the paper in the stalls, replace all the rolls so no one would be left without, and then, hanging onto my emotions by the fingernails, return to the service just in time to hear Maya Angelou’s Christmas poem, which set me off all over again.

And finally, Silent Night sung while a flame was passed through the congregation.  Each person lighting the candle of the person beside them, till the whole room was alight, and each person glowed soft and beautiful… faces full of love, full of hope, full of faith, full of trust.

And mine among them.

My Christmas spirit, landing as most miracles do, just in the nick of time… a reminder that grace comes not so much when we want it to, but when we are in such need that we cannot help but surrender to it.

Grace… grace, at last this holiday season.

“Grace is the face that love wears when it meets imperfection.”~ Joseph R. Cooke

Lighting Candles

Some of you may recognize this as the text of HHP’s Holiday Message from 2007… I was re reading (as we who attempt to write are wont to do) and thought that, while the theme is similar to this year’s, it comes at these universal ideas from a slightly different slant… I hope you decide it was worth repeating.  And for those who’ve not read it before, I hope it washes onto the shores of your consciousness in whatever way is most useful for you!

Blessed be!


Whether we observe Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Bhodi Day (the Buddhist day of enlightenment), or Solstice, this is the time of year that we celebrate the coming of light out of darkness.

In Chicago, under gray skies, buffeted by the cold winds off Lake Michigan, amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, it isn’t hard to understand why our ancestors felt the need to remind themselves that brighter days would
indeed return. It seems ironic that these holidays of light often bring a sense of darkness with them.

Whether we are suffering from a lack of UV rays, or from the disparity between the Hallmark version of what the festivities are
supposed to be and what our experience actually is, December can be difficult.

Theologians speak of a “Dark Night of the Soul,”a time of loneliness and desolation brought about by the letting go of the ego’s hold on the psyche. This surrender makes space for a transformation in the way we define ourselves and our relationship to both the world and the All
That Is. The interim period can be frightening, hence the perceived “darkness”.

But those who have preceded us through the night advise that there are blessings to be had in the dark. Helen Keller reminds, “everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence,” while Og Mandino states, “I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.”

And while in the midst of our pain, it seems as if it will never end, mythologist Joseph Campbell assures, “at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.”

Perhaps these holidays come at the perfect time, giving us a unique opportunity to practice the faith and hope that will sustain us on both our physical and spiritual journeys.

And the blessing is two-fold, for not only do we receive this timely reminder that dawn follows even the longest night, but we are also granted the privilege of gifting light to those we come into contact with, both loved ones and strangers.

If you were to fly across the country this evening, looking down at the houses below, you would see that every community is connected by a network of holiday lights, a physical manifestation of the energetic
web of life that literally connects each living entity to every other. We just never know when the joy and good cheer, the kind word and
warmth, we share might be the very spark another needs in order to relight their candle in the dark.

And this gift we give comes back to us. Motivational speaker Ben Sweetland
promises, “we cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.”

Here at HHP, it is our privilege to bear lanterns in the night, to be torchbearers through the labyrinth of personal transformation, and we are
honored by your trust. We are so very blessed to have each and every one of you in our lives, to witness and support the unique and beautiful
light you bring to the world. Remember during these cold days of darkness that we are right here, lighting candles!

May you and yours experience Peace, Joy, and Light for this holiday season and beyond!

HHP Holiday Message 2009

It has been a hard year…

Jobs are down while interest rates are up.  We have committed 30,000 of our young people to a war half a world away while we continue to lead the battle on not one but two fronts.  The fragile hope of last year’s political elections has been tarnished by the reality of the very real and slow (sometimes plodding, often frustrating) work of turning a country towards what we hope are brave new shores and what we fear is more of the same…

And now we find ourselves in the season of Faith.

Faith that the oil will last as long as it needs to, faith that a newborn can bring peace to mankind, faith that building strong families can lead to a better world, faith that one man’s enlightenment can ignite candles of consciousness the globe over, faith that even darkness has a bottom from which we will eventually return to the light.

“Faith,” says Martin Luther King, Jr., “is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

By its very nature, faith is not easy, and when you feel as if you have been burned by hope, that you have tumbled one too many times down the stairwell, it becomes exponentially more difficult.

Cynicism, pessimism, and distrust are so attractive in these dark nights of the soul.  There is a kind of logic to holing up behind their walls and saying “enough” to pain and suffering.

But at what cost?

“To sacrifice what you are and to live without belief.” maintained Joan of Arc, “that is a fate more terrible than dying.”

And award winning author William Styron acknowledges, “It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul.”

Fearful of moving forward; aware that the tactics we take to protect ourselves are themselves a kind of death, what then are we to do?

In those moments when we cannot ourselves muster enough trust, we must depend on those who love us to keep our dreams alive on our behalf.  It is so much easier to see another’s possibilities – to realize that what seems like an insurmountable problem is an opportunity for growth, that what feels like bottomless despair is the beginning of joyous enlightenment – to know that there is an end to pain and misery.

We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone,” admits writer and painter Walter Anderson. “But paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”

In the season of Faith, we ritualize the longest night of the year and acknowledge the joys and difficulties of belief during the darkest moments.  We gather together in churches, synagogues, and temples, in the woods and on the beach.  We join hands in the dark and turn together towards the light.  We bring, each of us, our own small glimmer of hope, sharing the faith amongst us, until it builds to a blaze, enlightening and warming us all.

We here at Holistic Health Practice are honored to hold space for your hopes, your fears, and your potential.  We will hold you gently in our hands, as  you hold others, knowing it is a privilege to tend and nurture that spark of faith until you are ready to carry it yourself, to walk beside you through the darkest nights and into the dawn.

We are right here.

Blessed Be!

Kurt, Sara, Amie, Tara, Kevin, Derrick,

Sheree, Matt, Tory, Karyn, Jane

Butterflies are Free

“How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” ~ Trina Paulus

I always thought that if you opened up a chrysalis, you would find – depending on when in the process you peeked – something that was a little more caterpillar on the way to being a butterfly or a little more butterfly on the way from being a caterpillar.

Turns out that what really happens is that the caterpillar, once inside the cocoon, actually disintegrates – just breaks down into DNA soup, a puddle of glop– from which it reconstitutes itself as a butterfly.

The caterpillar actually has to cease to exist in order for the butterfly to even begin to form… the butterfly is the afterlife of the caterpillar.

Then, after having gone through the whole transformative process, having died to what it was to become what it must be, the butterfly has to break out of the shell that has sheltered it… and it’s not an easy process.  The butterfly must fight to free itself from the very walls which have protected it through its metamorphoses

But… if you were to come along and release the butterfly, you would cripple it.

Without the work it must do to free itself, a butterfly’s wings won’t open fully and will dry without unfolding, leaving it misshapen and forever grounded.  The butterfly needs the birthing struggle in order to be capable of flight.

Every growth process has its own struggles and time frame… we plant seeds in the spring so that we can harvest in the fall; babies conceived in November are born in August…

And no one would consider rushing these processes; no one would consider skipping steps in order to get to the end result more quickly…

Ok, big industry does ALL KINDS of things to ripen fruits and veggies faster, but have you TASTED that stuff????  UCK!!

Which is my point – transformation takes as much time as it takes, and, unfortunately, there is no standard time line for spiritual growth.  It’s a messy proposition, and it often feels worse before it feels better.

And it’s so very hard to sit in the glop when you have no idea when it’s going to end.

So the butterfly becomes a totem – a reminder that :

The glop is actually a necessary step on the way to winged-ness


Transformation alone is not enough; the struggle to leave the cocoon is necessary


That at the end of the struggles, there is beauty, and grace, and FLIGHT.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” ~Maya Angelou

Oh, the Humanity

“Strong people make as many mistakes as weak people. Difference is that strong people admit their mistakes, laugh at them, learn from them. That is how they become strong.” ~ Richard Needham

I have an inherent distrust of so called spiritual leaders who profess to have all the answers.

They set off my bullshit meter.

Because – let’s be honest – NO ONE could possibly have all the answers, if for no other reason than that we haven’t even begun to figure out all the questions.

Once upon a time, I spent a significant amount of time in fairly close proximity to a well-known “spiritual teacher.”  This man had the books, the workshops, the press… and the amazing thing to me was that he was living a life in direct contradiction to his teachings.

And you weren’t allowed to question him.

If he had been honest – if he had been the type of person who was capable of saying, “you know, I have a clear vision of how things should be, and I’m human.  I’m on this path, too, striving to integrate these big truths into my every day life and I don’t always get it right.” – I might have followed him anywhere.

But instead, because he was a self-proclaimed prophet, and his actions were indisputable, I first grew to despise him and then to pity him.

But I surely didn’t respect him.

We worry that admitting we are human will make us appear weak; we fear that being fallible will detract from the truths we speak.  But, in the end, the people we most admire and trust are the ones who have the confidence and integrity to say, “I don’t know” or “I was wrong,” or “I struggle, too.”

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience,” said Teilhard de Chardin, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

And, making mistakes seems to be inherently human; therefore, part of our purpose must be to goof up and learn from it.

Wouldn’t it be best if we just admitted it, and got on with the process of growing?

“A great man is always willing to be little.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson