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There are a few things that are begging me to be shared. I know, it's not like I have a gazillion readers, but I feel like I need to share these things because someone out there needs to hear them. Maybe I will have a gazillion readers someday and that someone will find exactly what she needed to hear in the Heart Connected archives? You just never know. So, I must follow these urges.

It is really that simple. What I need to share in a nutshell is simply that you must follow your urges
YOU MUST (in my most convincing Mom voice with pursed lips and squinty eyes).

Some people call them heart whispers. Some people call it your gut. They come in many forms with many names but in their simplest form, these urges, or callings even, are little (or big) signs directing you on your path.

The tricky thing is that sometimes when you see these signs, you might think "Hmmm...was that for real? Or, did I just make that up?" In the course of a fully developed practice of not following those urges, all the signs begin to look like this one:

What felt so right that it made you light up inside when you first thought of it begins to look a little risky. And the warning sign goes up: CAUTION! STEEP SLOPE - DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT.

There are lots of reasons for warning signs. Sometimes they are even warranted, and we can be thankful for them, but much of the time the warning signs are a scare tactic. Real signs, the ones that feel right they come from Source - the Universe, God, Goddess, our CREATOR, your divine self...They are the signs that whisper in your ear while you're minding your own business in an art class and say things like, "Anna, you could do this. You could help people to heal and grow with art..."

Then the ego mind starts with its scare tactics and says, "NO WAY! Who do you think you are? DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT."

It scares me to share this because for many years I was all ears when the CAUTION signs went up. Rarely did I go beyond this point. So even in writing this a little caution sign is rearing its ugly head, telling me that I am on a steep slope and there could be a landslide at any time. 

Thank you caution sign. Thank you for protecting me for all these years. 
I am grateful for your service. 
The thing is, someone needs to know that it is okay to follow 
the urge she had to day - the urge she had to quit her soul sucking job,
or to pursue a dream,
or to reach out to a friend,
 or something. 
I'll keep writing...

The honest truth is that when you do decide to listen to what your very own heart is telling you to do, the signs often look like this:


You will need to know that the curves are coming. You might not know how to handle them. It's okay, the important thing is to keep going.

When I first began my Heart Connected journey it was mostly because it felt right. It had very little to do with feeling prepared or equipped or qualified. It just felt like something I had to do. So I did it. I jumped in. I made business cards, a website, a blog, and a whole lot of other things. There have been several moments of sheer doubt where I have decided to just stop with the whole putting myself out there thing already. I don't know what the future holds. The only thing I know for sure is that there will be curves in the road. Things don't always go the way I hoped they would go. There are curves. I am learning to embrace them. And sometimes, the curves aren't so bad. In fact, sometimes what is around the bend in the road is downright DELIGHTFUL!

What I'm learning is that as I keep my commitment to show up, the road rises up to meet me. There are all kinds of new signs popping up in my life. Signs I've never seen before that tell me I am on the right path. And again, in all honesty, when I see these signs I'm not always sure I am worthy - I still think "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!!" It feels like magic, really. The more I put myself out there, the more I show up, the more I open to receiving these magical signs, the more they appear as affirmations that I am on the right path.

I was recently invited to participate in a bazaar at my favorite yoga center. As I was getting ready for the event I posted a picture on Facebook of some of the creations I planned to bring to the bazaar. That night I received a message asking me to participate in an incredibly inspiring yoga event on Sunday - YogaLove Detroit. WITH MY ART. YogaLove Detroit is an all-day offering of yoga intended to raise money for Gleaner's Food Bank. This is a dream come true for me - to be involved with helping my community doing something that I love to do! I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am SO grateful that I kept putting myself out there. So, so, SO grateful.

Moral of the story: follow the signs that light you up inside. 

Open to the possibilities that await you. Thank the caution signs - they got you this far, but you don't need to rely on the stories they tell you anymore. Listen closely to your truest, most deeply held stories - the stories in your heart. You've already got your wings baby - it is time to fly!


One Lady a Leaping...

Hello My Sweet Blog!

Oh, how I have missed you.

I think I'm coming out from behind a creative block, of sorts. I just haven't been feeling the love. And, my attention, time, and energy have been needed elsewhere. I am here now though and I have something I really want to share as it is a bit of a breakthrough, and I looooove breakthroughs.

On February 11, 2006, my life changed in a way I had not imagined. I am afraid I would not have had the courage to imagine the impact, and it has taken years to realize the full effect. On February 11, 2006 I gave birth to my second son, Alexander. I had a very healthy pregnancy and there were no signs that my sweet baby would be anything less than healthy. Until he emerged. He was purple. His cry was very faint. The mood in the delivery room went from anticipatory to grave. I had no idea what was happening. Alexander landed on my belly for a brief moment, and then he was whisked away. I didn't hold him again for 10 days.

Alexander the Great this summer.

Thank God, it was only ten days! Thank God I held him again. Thank God he is healthy, and other than being a very feisty little guy, he bears no scars from his rocky start. We sometimes wonder if his start in life inspired Alexander's intensity, or if his intensity helped him fight for his life? I often think that if in the very beginning someone had said, "This will only last ten days," I would have been better equipped to handle the trauma of the birth of a very sick baby. Ten days doesn't seem very long to me now, but then, as the clock ticked, I didn't know what the future held.

I have told this story many times.

Each time I tell it I think, this is the last time I will have to tell this story. And then, each year since on February 11, I wake up eager to celebrate my boy and over the course of the day I notice a heavy feeling settling into my heart. I feel sad. Maybe even a little hopeless. I need to cry. And I always wonder if maybe this time I am really losing it... I can't figure out why I'm feeling the way I feel.

No matter how well we heal or much time has passed, our bodies remember trauma. Some people call it cell memory. I admit, it sounded a little hokey the first time I heard about it. But it is real. We are surrounded by triggers - scenes, smells, people, places - all of it and any of it can trigger a memory deep in our hearts and cause us to feel the way we felt way back when.

On a normal day, it may not be a big deal. We might make a quick recovery. But yesterday was a doozy. Not only was it Alexander's birthday, but we were also closing on the sale of our last house - the house where our family was made complete. The house Alexander came home to, and where his brother welcomed him. Just two years later, the pair of brothers welcomed their sister. Three years after that, in that house's kitchen my husband told me that my mom just called and said she thinks my dad is dead. We had people over after his funeral.

A huge part of my life took place in that house. It only spanned about six years, but those were six very big and eventful years.  Yesterday we cut ties with that house. It was the day I was called to let go of the house where the memories happened - where the people gathered, where my dad last played Amazing Grace before Thanksgiving Dinner, where my two youngest babies learned to walk and talk and where their big brother woke up on his first day of kindergarten.

I sure do miss this guy.

For someone else, maybe none of these things would matter. But for me, they do. When I was a kid people often said, "You're too sensitive, Anna..." I came to think that was a bad thing. Now I know that my deep sensitivity makes it possible for me to love deeply, and to feel intensely. It is a good thing. A very good thing.

Deeply and intensely I felt the weight of a loss yesterday. I felt the sadness of a good-bye. I felt empty. I was a bit of a wreck all day. I was lost in the muck.

A favorite spot in the old house. A decorator told us this chandelier wouldn't work with the farm table we had here. That made me love the chandelier even more.

I didn't want to wake up this morning. I wanted to stay in bed all day. I got up, I got going, and now I can say that today really is a new day. I feel lighter. I'm finally excited about staring some new projects. I was beginning to wonder if that excitement would come back. I'm writing on my blog... I think the fog lifted.

This was not the time that I finally lost it once and for all. I was triggered, I felt deeply, and I survived. Therein likes my breakthrough. In the thick of it all, when I thought this is it, I didn't see the light. I really didn't see the light. I forgot the light. It's strange how that happens, but for me it does indeed happen sometimes. With the sunrise today, the skies are still so gray here in Michigan, but there is the light of a new day.

I had to share that with someone. I know there are other people out there just like me - who forget about the light sometimes. I want you to know that it's out there. The light is waiting for you.

LEAP into the light.

This is a page I just finished for LifeBook 2013. It's all about Courage - there is  a bear in the background, and this little lady leaping into the light, I think. I'm not real crazy about how it turned out, but I love this lady. She seemed to be calling for a quote I love - "Leap and the net will appear." Julia Cameron said that.  I'm thinking lots of great things can come from a leap. Lots of good things.

In the light there is space for celebration. In the space left vacant by my memories of Alexander's birth, I can celebrate his 7th birthday and his zest for life. He is worth celebrating. In the space freed by memories of the life we lived in that old house, I is excitement for the family moving in there. I am so happy for them! I hope they are as happy there as we were. Even happier. And, like I said, after sitting in the muck all day, feeling what came up, today there is space to get excited about some new creations.   It is all part of the process - the cycle of light and dark and everything in between. Keep going. Keep moving through it, and into the light again. It's always there, somewhere, waiting to greet you. xo

The Cost of Comparison

I think this is what joy looks like.

Comparison is the thief of joy -Theodore Roosevelt

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy.

This is one of my favorite quotes. When I see it though, I'm not filled with a warm and hopeful feeling, like I am when I read a lot of other quotes. Instead, it feels more like a mobster type guy came up out of the blue and pushed me against the wall. He isn't scary at all because I know, despite his rough exterior, he is a teddy bear on the inside. He grabs me by the shoulders and leans in so close that our noses are almost touching. He smells like Ivory soap and Altoids. He says, "Comparison is the thief of joy" in a tough guy voice. He doesn't add "Got it?" at the end, instead he searches my face, he lands on my eyes to make sure I got it.

My eyes say "Yes. I got it." He slaps me on my shoulder, like football coaches slap their players after a great play, and walks away.

Comparison is the thief of joy gives me goose bumps, but I love it because almost every single day I need that reminder.

I used to love taking my first baby to his well-baby exams. I was so proud of my healthy boy. I loved hearing how he had reached all the important milestones he needed to reach between then and the last visit. I left feeling like a superhero. It was blissful, really.

My second baby was very sick when he was born. We had no idea it was coming. Every little fantasy I had about nursing him right away and holding him close, skin to skin into the wee hours of the night, flew out the window when they whisked my purple baby boy away. I felt like a failure. Fortunately, he came through like a champion and it wasn't too long before the trauma of his birth didn't define him and his life here on earth. Soon, he was meeting all the milestones he was supposed to be meeting. It felt different though. I never felt like a superhero.

When I think about how we compare ourselves to one another, the first thing that comes to mind is those milestones. From BIRTH, before we even have a chance to prove ourselves, in our fresh little, sweet-smelling bodies we are compared to one another. It only makes sense that as parents we learn to determine how well our children are doing by how they compare to other children. And then it goes on. We get graded in school, we compete in sports, we interview for the same jobs as our peers. It never ends.

That's just on the outside. On the inside, we actually begin to tell ourselves we are not good enough because we don't measure up to the people around us. We are not healthy or strong or thin or athletic or smart or sweet or aggressive or pretty or handsome or rich or humble or generous or frugal enough. We are never enough. OR, we are too much - too sweet, too thin, and so on.

We can't win if we listen to what we hear, all around us, even when we think we're okay, because an "expert" will tell us that he can get us where we should be. Or, an advertisement will tell us there is a product that will help us get to where we could be. Slowly, over time, we begin to believe the messages all around us that tell us if we just had this or that, or did this or that, we would be happy. Even when we really are happy, we hear these messages and we have to decide whether or not to believe them.

It is helpful to gain insight into our growth and development by comparing where we are with other people in similar circumstances. It is completely natural to gather data about people and our environment by making comparisons between what we experience around us and in other people and who we are to ourselves. The thing is though, making comparisons rarely leads to feeling good. Even when our comparisons make us believe that we are actually better or stronger or thinner or prettier or smarter or more enlightened... than the person to whom we compare ourselves.

Comparison truly robs us of our joy. We cannot be joyful in a place where we are comparing ourselves to others, or even to our former selves. I could not be joyful in the birth of my second son, not only because of the sheer trauma of fearing for his life, but also because I couldn't stop comparing his birth to my first son's birth. I felt like the superhero mother I once was, was no longer.

In the process of comparing, we are looking for differences. As we identify differences between ourselves and those around us, and differences between who we are today, and who we once were, we forget about the qualities that remain the same. We forget about the ties that bind us. We forget about the ways in which we are connected.

At each of our cores, in our souls, or in the depths of our hearts, there is nothing but goodness. Were we to distill ourselves to the essence of who we really, truly are, we are all - each and every one of us - love. We all want to live well, in whatever form well takes for us. We all want what is best for our children. That we forget this in the course of comparison, that we fail to see the divine goodness in one another, is the biggest tragedy of all. True joy comes when we feel connected - to each other and to ourselves.

For me, I invite discontent when I compare my work to other people's work. I will always find better, more refined art and writing than mine. I will always find people who run more lucrative businesses than I do. As I focus on the ways I don't measure up to others and their accomplishments, I lose sight of one of the most exciting aspects of life, which to me, is that there are so many different ways to express oneself.  How wonderful to see how other people's inspiration takes form - to see and read and hear what moves other people. These discoveries can be so inspiring. I want to embrace that inspiration and that sense of community and connection that comes from understanding and even taking pride in the fact that we are all in this together. We may have our own individual lyrics and our own unique moves, but we are all dancing on this one stage called Earth together.

I invite us to make notes about one another, if we have to, to learn and to grow, and to celebrate our differences. After all, what would the world be without big, soft women to hug us? And thin women too? Boring. What would our lives look like if we were all the same color, with the same eyes and mouths and hair, and we spoke with the same voices? Dull. We can't all be athletes. Who would be left to cheer? We need to have different strengths and weaknesses. We were meant to have different gifts from one another. Differences are good. We are all exactly as we should be - different. And, while we hold space for our differences in one hand, at the very same time, I ask that we hold space in the other hand for all that is the same: the essence of what we really are - all goodness and pure love. I ask that we recognize, at the end of the day, we are all made from the same stuff. We are all bound by that which makes us human.

Nothing compares to the joy we experience when we embrace that we are connected.


Too Tangled, the Conclusion

As it turns out, trying to update my blog from my iPad is nowhere near as awesome as it is infuriating. I must keep going though...

So, as you recall, my mom and I were holding hands in a pew in a church dedicated in 1816. I was thanking any Spiritual entity who would listen for every thing and one who came before us. I felt connected to all of it, from the dawn of time to the sweet voices singing on the lawn at that moment. I was feeling heart connected.

Today, in our Certification Seminar, Rick Roberts, former Buddhist monk and co-founder of Zentangle, talked about this connection and the ways in which we feel it when we...tangle. Zentangle is a simple method of creating beautiful, artful images by repeating patterns. Anyone can do it. If you don't believe me, I will teach you. After Wednesday. Rick said that making these patterns, these patterns we are learning here as "tangles" but really are the patterns found everywhere in life, is part of our human heritage.

We are entitled to these patterns...the bricks laid one by one to hold the dreams that built this land, the flowers and trees and blades of grass that were planted long ago and grow here now, the lines that make our fingerprints...all of these are the patterns of our lives. These patterns are both our inheritance and what we will use to build the future. Recognizing and repeating these patterns connects us to all that ever was and all that is yet to come. What I love most about these patterns, though, and what excites me about the opportunity to teach with them, is that these simple, complex, plain, and beautiful patterns help us to build and follow a path right back into our very own hearts. That is what this is all about for me and I just cannot wait to share it with you.