Lessons from an Octopus

This week I learned some life lessons from an octopus without ever getting wet. If you haven’t heard about it yet, there’s a new documentary making a splash on Netflix called “My Octopus Teacher.” If you have access to Netflix, I highly recommend this film. If you don’t, it might be worth subscribing for a month. To start with, the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking. I truly felt like I was with the filmmakers in the underwater world off the coast of South Africa. Against this stunning backdrop, a beautiful story of trust and connection unfolds. 

The film begins with Craig Foster, the film’s narrator, questioning his place in the world after becoming disillusioned with life. He moves back to his hometown in South Africa and begins free-diving in the cold waters off the cape. Things start to shift when he witnesses an unusual behavior exhibited by a common octopus living in a kelp forest. One of the most heartwarming scenes occurs early in the film when Craig gains the trust of this magnificent sea creature. After spending many days watching her, he feels guided to reach out his hand to the octopus in her den. Slowly, she extends one of her tentacles and touches his fingers. It is such a beautiful example of what’s possible when we take time to build trust with another while our intention is only to learn and join. Couldn’t we use more of that right now?

By literally immersing himself in her world every day for a year, not only did Craig learn a great deal about octopus behavior, but he also became keenly aware of how everything is connected in the fabric of life. This gave him a deeper understanding that he too is part of that fabric. As difficult as it must have been, Craig chooses not to interfere during some tense moments with his new friend. By the end of the film, he is a changed man. He credits his octopus teacher with helping him open his heart and mind, thus improving his relationships with other humans and life itself. This inspiring story touched my heart and opened my mind as well. 

Could you use some assistance in improving your relationships with other humans or life itself? I’m no octopus, but I have been learning, practicing, and teaching the heart-opening principles of oneness found in A Course in Miracles for over thirteen years. It would be my great honor to assist you with a series of Life Coaching sessions or a private Family Constellations session. Both can help you see things from a new perspective without spending a year underwater with an octopus. Please look around my website or send me an email for more information and to schedule a session.

Until next time, may you be open to learn from all the teachers that appear in your life. 

Understanding is appreciation, because what you understand you can identify with, and by making it part of you, you have accepted it with love. 

A Course in Miracles – T-7.V.9.4

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing

Have you heard the phrase “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing?” It expresses the notion that a small amount of knowledge can mislead people into thinking that they are more expert than they actually are, which can lead to errors being made. After my experience last week, I can vouch for the truth of that possibility. 

Back in 2010, I created a website for my business using a simple template. When I was ready to add a blog in 2016, a friend helped me set up a new website. In addition to showing me how to add pages and plugins, she also helped me point the old website to the new one. Anyone who types in the old web address will automatically be brought to the new website. With a little assistance, I’ve been able to maintain my own website for years.

This past Sunday, I felt inspired to start exploring how to give my website a facelift. I found a new template that I liked and a blog with step-by-step instructions on how to set it up. To avoid disrupting traffic to my current site, I decided to experiment using the old web address. That meant I had to stop the old address from pointing to the new one. That part was easy. Then I attempted to connect the new template to the old website. About two hours passed before I finally surrendered. I simply did not know how to accomplish this. I was frustrated to have invested so much time in this project only to end up back where I started.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I tried to post my weekly blog that I realized I had done more damage. When I tried to log in, I received an error message and a warning that my site was not secure. The warning advised me that an unauthorized person may be tampering with my website. How funny. That unauthorized person was me! With my next online workshop just days away, you can imagine I was not thrilled to discover this error!

Thankfully, I had just finished my morning spiritual practice which consists of reading a section in A Course in Miracles followed by a 15-20 minute meditation. I tell my Life Coaching clients all the time that the best decisions are made from a peaceful place. Luckily, I was already in one. If you are not feeling peaceful, do whatever you need to do to return to center. Take a few deep breaths. Go for a walk or a run outside. Take a shower or bath. Dance. Paint. Sing. Chant. Meditate. Pray. Do whatever helps you and take as long as you need. Then, from that peaceful place, ask for guidance on what to do next. 

I received clear guidance to go down to my office, turn on my laptop, and see if I could undo whatever I did. If it wasn’t obvious in a few minutes, I would send an email explaining my predicament to the web designer for the Big Sky Retreat with whom I have worked with for years. He had helped me in the past, so I had faith he could do so again if we was available. If I didn’t hear back from him, I had a few other friends in mind who might have more than my little bit of dangerous knowledge on the subject. Once I sent the email, I let it go and went for my walk in the park.

The weather in Houston was beautiful that morning. I’m so glad I didn’t deprive myself of the opportunity to be outside getting fresh air and exercise among the trees. When I finished, I looked at my phone and saw that the web designer had responded to my email. Based on my description and the screenshots I sent him, he was pretty sure he knew what had happened. After giving him access to my account, he was able to repair the damage I had done by the end of the day. 

To say that I was grateful would be an understatement. To be clear, I wasn’t just grateful that my website was fixed. I was grateful for the awareness that this situation didn’t have to ruin my day. I could have stayed in my office trying to figure it out instead of enjoying the sights and sounds of the park. I also could have spent a lot more time beating myself up for creating the problem in the first place. The real miracle was my choice to not judge myself harshly and to experience peace despite the unwanted circumstances. I won’t say I did it perfectly, but I certainly did it better than I would have five, ten, or even one year ago. That’s the power of having a spiritual practice. You can choose peace!

Is there a situation in your life where you could use some assistance in choosing peace? I would be honored to help you with a series of weekly Life Coaching sessions. All of my sessions are based on the strong principles found in A Course in Miracles and the philosophy of Family Constellations. Sessions can be done from anywhere in the world by telephone, Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. Look around my website or send me an email for more information or to schedule your first session.

Until next time, may you remember that a little knowledge can also be a peaceful thing!

I could see peace in this situation instead of what I now see in it.

Workbook Lesson 34 from A Course in Miracles

What If You Already Have the Bare Necessities?

As many of you know, long before I started doing the work I do now, I was a puppeteer and parade performer at Disney World. Although that was over 20 years ago, once in a while I still have dreams that I work there. Because so much time has passed, in the dream, I don’t know where to get my costume or how to get where I need to be. Most of the time, I don’t make it onto parade route. If I do, I don’t know the dance steps so I just make stuff up and pray nobody notices. As you can imagine, these dreams are extremely stressful. They certainly don’t reflect the joyful experience I had while working there.

A few weeks ago, during one of our A Course in Miracles online study groups, we discussed the idea that each of us always has a Divine Presence accompanying us. Whether we call that presence a guardian angel, God, Spirit, or simply a loving connection to a benevolent Universe, with this belief life feels more peaceful, manageable, and hopeful. I invited the participants to consciously invoke this presence into their awareness before falling asleep at night in whatever way felt right for them. Truth be told, I often forget to do this myself, but that night I remembered. After putting my Kindle on the nightstand, I closed my eyes and imagined myself enveloped in a loving, golden-white light and asked Spirit to watch over me while I slept.

In my dreams, my mind once again wandered back to Disney World, but this time it was different. I was cast as Baloo the Bear from The Jungle Book in a brand new show at one of the theme parks. The stage was gorgeous with hundreds of live green plants and tall palm trees. It also had a magnificent waterfall cascading down over a stone wall into a flowing stream at the front of the stage. The lush greenery, the smell of the dirt, and the sound of the waterfall made it feel like we were actually in a tropical jungle. I remember feeling incredibly grateful just to be there. The fact that this was my place of employment was astonishing. It was a familiar feeling that I experienced many times during my 7 years at Disney World.

Next in my dream, the show director decided to stage the “Bare Necessities” scene with Baloo and Mowgli. I had the sense that the other performers were extremely nervous about this show and this scene. I, on the other hand, was feeling only confident and excited about this opportunity. When the director asked me if I was ready to start, I emphatically answered YES! Having heard and sung this song many times, I knew the words by heart (with the exception of the “prickly pear rap” that Baloo breaks into later in the song.) However, that felt like something I could learn easily with a relatively small investment of time and energy. When the music began, I strutted into the forest happily singing, “Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife!” 

I woke up not long after that scene feeling so happy and hopeful. It felt like a clear message from Spirit that there are new opportunities waiting not only for me but for all of us. We already have all we need within us to start a new, beautiful chapter. True, we may need to invest a little time and energy to hone our skills, but the bare necessities are already there. What a different experience from the stressful parade dreams I usually have! I can only attribute this change to my conscious invitation to that Divine Presence and the remembrance that I never have to do it alone. Now, if I can just remember to do that more often!

Is there is a situation in your life that has you feeling stressed? Quite frankly, that seems like a silly question in 2020. Whatever your belief system, if you are going through an exceptionally challenging time, I encourage you to ask for help. Reach out to a friend, neighbor, relative, your Higher Power, guardian angel, a professional coach or counselor, or all of the above! You don’t have to do it alone. If I can be of assistance with a series of Life Coaching sessions or a private Family Constellations session, please contact me by email or look around my website. 

Until next time, may you remember Baloo’s advice and remember that you are truly never alone. 

As evening comes, let all my thoughts be still of You and of Your Love. And let me sleep sure of my safety, certain of Your care…

A Course in Miracles ~ Workbook Lesson 232

Baking a Hopeful Cake

While I was on the road in August, my partner started watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix to lift his spirits and take a break from the heaviness of the news. When I returned, I occasionally caught glimpses of the show as I passed through the living room. I’ll admit, I thought it was silly to see people getting so stressed out about cakes and buttercream frosting. A few weeks ago, I plopped myself down on the couch next to him and started asking questions about the contestants. I was surprised to learn that they were not professional pastry chefs. They were just regular folks from all walks of life that simply love to bake. Because I love people, once I learned more about them it wasn’t long before I was invested in their weekly triumphs and challenges. Now, I too, am hooked on the show.

We enjoyed the next season together, and then the show made a few changes going into their 2017 Season. The show changed networks in the UK, and out of loyalty to the BBC, one of the judges didn’t return, nor did the two comedians who were presenters. I was skeptical about these changes because I had become quite fond of the original cast members. One of the new presenters, Noel Fielding, seemed a bit odd and not a good fit for the show in my opinion. However, since I thoroughly enjoyed the previous season and a half, I gave the newcomers a chance. I’m so glad I did! We are now watching the 2018 Season, and Noel has become my favorite part of the show.

One baker seems to consistently keep her cool while the other contestants freak out about the difficult baking challenges. Noel observed this quality in her, and in one episode, casually predicted one day she would snap under the pressure and burn the tent to the ground. It was so unexpected she immediately cracked a smile and began laughing. In another episode, one contestant was having a particularly difficult time molding her chocolate. Noel stopped by her station to ask if there was anything he could do to help. When she said no, he spontaneously started drawing a cartoon cat on her recipe paper saying this should help. When she looked at his drawing, she burst out laughing. He had added a word bubble coming from the cat with a four-letter expletive which probably summed up how she was feeling. The previous presenters were entertaining, but they didn’t make me laugh out loud as Noel regularly does, nor did they dress up like Marie Antoinette for Cake Week. (Oh yes he did!)

After that incident, my partner observed that I had significantly changed my tune about Noel since the previous season. He was correct. It was a powerful reminder for me to be open to change. We so often resist change because we fear what comes next will be worse than what we have. Sadly, that kind of thinking can keep us stuck and prevent us from a life beyond our wildest dreams. If I truly believe the Universe is always conspiring for our greatest good, why would I doubt that what comes next will be better? I ran across an explanation for this in A Course in Miracles recently that stopped me in my tracks:

Change is always fearful to the separated, because they cannot conceive of it as a move towards healing the separation. They always perceive it as a move toward further separation, because the separation was their first experience of change. You believe that if you allow no change to enter into your ego you will find peace.  T-4.I.2:2-4

Said another way, don’t rock the boat. The last time the boat rocked someone fell in! If we just keep everything the same, no one will get hurt. Of course, this isn’t true or possible. Things are always changing here in the world of form. This lesson and this quote help me to have faith that what we are currently witnessing is the end of an old paradigm and the birth of a new world that works for all of us, not just some of us. With acceptance, right-action, and love as our guide, things really will get better.

Are you ready for a change but find yourself afraid to take the first step? I would be honored to assist you with a series of Life Coaching sessions or a private Family Constellations session. Both can uncover unconscious obstacles to the very thing you are wanting to experience. And thanks to the miracle of technology, all sessions can be done with a computer, tablet, or telephone from anywhere in the world. For more information or to book a session, please look around my website or send me an email. 

Until next time, may you allow the winds of change to bless your life abundantly and carry you to a greater experience of peace, love, and joy.