Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Birthday Celebration

This week I celebrated my birthday, and it was quite a day.

I decided to go for a walk as part of my celebration. But not just any walk. I decided to go to one of my favorite Town of Amherst conservation areas to walk in the woods, instead of walking from home around the residential neighborhoods. And since I typically walk 1-2 miles per day, it seemed very reasonable to plan to complete a 1-mile loop at the conservation area only ~2 miles from home.

The day was beautiful and a bit cool, and since I planned to be gone for only ~45 minutes, I took only my camera and driver's license with me. As usual, there were no other cars present when I began the walk. The sign was new -- it said the loop was 0.83 miles, and it pointed to a break in the trees. So I began the walk, and to my surprise, what used to be a dirt road was overgrown with 1' tall grasses. Perhaps I should have taken a clue from that.

I had visited this conservation area in the winter -- on show shoes, I had tromped through the woods and made my way 3/4 of the way around the loop. And then the trail disappeared so I had to retrace my steps and give up on completing the loop. I returned a day later and walked the loop in reverse, finding my way through a mass of dead trees that fell from the maple blight, and locating the loop trail even where the trail had disappeared.

After this winter experience, on my birthday I planned to walk the loop in reverse again, expecting to be able to navigate through the fallen trees as easily as I had during the winter...

The first part of the walk was easy. I found the trail into the woods, and followed the blazes. And like my winter trek, when the trail emerged from the woods, the trail blazes disappeared since they were on the dead trees that had fallen. But I could see the general direction I needed to go in. So I continued walking. Well, it was sort of what you would call walking. But with all the rain we had this summer, the grass had grown over 4' tall. And these grasses were hiding fallen trees beneath.

Walking through the tall grass was kind of like slashing through the jungle, only I didn't have a tool to cut the grass with. Only my arms and legs. So I would lift my knees high to climb over the fallen trees, taking one slow step after another. And more often than not, it took 2 tries to place my foot on the ground around whatever trees were underfoot. I did wonder about snakes, but that was not my biggest worry. I didn't know where the trail was, or how long it would take me to find it. I didn't have any water with me. And my energy was starting to drain.

After 15 minutes of trying to make headway through the tall grass, I realized that I didn't want to turn around. Or that it was unlikely that I could retrace my steps even if I wanted to. And I realized that if the trail was this overgrown, I might never find it. I had visions of Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen" pulling the boat through the jungle and slashing the grasses before him. Several times I walked into underbrush too dense to navigate through, so I headed into more open areas instead, where the grasses were taller but I could make headway. I kept hoping I would intersect with the loop trail which I had walked countless times.

And as in all memorable adventures, I came to the point where I decided that if I hadn't found the trail in 5 minutes, I would get out my cell phone and call for help -- I would ask the Fire Dept. to come rescue me. For I realized that I didn't have the strength to bush wack through the woods for the entire 1-mile loop, and I didn't have the strength to go back. I wasn't exactly lost -- I knew exactly where I was, I just wasn't exactly where I wanted to be.

So when the dragon fly flew by and circled around me, I asked it for help. I asked it to show me the way to the trail. And then it disappeared, so I kept walking. Legs trembling from exertion. Sweat dripping down my back. Face red from getting overheated and not having any water.

And then suddenly tall grasses were gone. The undergrowth was gone. And the canopy of trees overhead shaded an open space before me that was like a breath of fresh air. I was standing on the trail. Even though I didn't have water, I felt as overjoyed as if I had been in the desert and had found an oasis to drink from.

I had spent 45 minutes to go ~1/3 of the way around the loop, and I might have stopped to rest had it not been for the mosquitoes. Oh, and did I mention the poison ivy? I noticed it when I was in the open places, and I had no idea if I had been walking through poison ivy vines as I trudged through the tall grasses. So I didn't dawdle, but walked with purpose to complete the loop trail. In another 20 minutes, I was back at my car. Then in another 5 minutes I was home, and went directly to the shower.

It was quite the birthday walk. In the jungle, only 2 miles from my house. An unforgettable adventure. And I didn't need to get rescued after all. But I did say to myself, after that adventure, that I really like walking around the residential neighborhoods.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

There is Nothing Like Getting Better

I realized yesterday that it had been a long time since I had written on this blog, and that is really wonderful. It means that I am getting better -- I have been spending my time simply living, instead of writing about it.

As I recover my strength and ability to travel, I have gone somewhere almost every month since the beginning of 2009. Some of the trips were to visit family, some were vacations, and some were for professional conferences or to give lectures. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona in March to use the telescopes there to observe galaxies in the Virgo Cluster. That was a spectacular trip! And I went to an international conference on galaxies in June, and gave an invited talk.

And now I am having the time of my life, getting ready to go to Montana where I will lead a retreat on "Astronomy, Spirituality, and the Mayan Prophecy". I am very excited and full of joy as I prepare. I have attended many residential retreats in the past 17 years, but never led one, so I am pulling together the best of all that I have experienced, in combination with my passion for teaching astronomy outside, and creating a unique event in the history of the Universe. Everything in my life that has occurred until now has helped prepare me for this retreat.

And still parts of my days are involved with caring for my body, that temple in which my spirit resides and upon which I depend as my vehicle in this life. I have learned many things in my healing journey that I will apply during the upcoming retreat:

1) It is essential for me to take my time and enjoy the process of life, with all the in-between moments, and not just the destination.
2) It is essential for me to rest when I need, to honor the needs of my body over the desires of my spirit or the needs of others.
3) It is essential to laugh and play.
4) It is essential to be silly and not take myself too seriously.
5) Packing lightly is just not something I do! But it doesn't matter either. I will just ask for help in lifting my suitcase!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Summer Garden Draws in a Special Visitor

This has been a week for visits from special winged friends.

At the beginning of the week, the first brilliant red bud of lobelia (cardinal flower) opened. As with foxglove plants, the buds open first at the bottom and them blossom up to the top of the flower stalk. Then I counted a total of 75 stalks of cardinal flower in my garden this year, all with buds which will open later in July.

When the first cardinal flower bud opened this week, I recalled how last summer a hummingbird zipped through the garden as I gazed, and that was the first hummingbird I saw in the garden last year. But I had seen no hummingbirds here this year.

The first hummingbird I saw this year was in April when I visited the Desert Museum near Tucson, and a hummingbird greeted me as I walked to the first overlook. It was not focusing on any particular plant, but rather it hovered in front of me moving horizontally and then vertically, and it really seemed to be welcoming me.

Then the second hummingbird was in Washington D.C. where I went for Mother's Day. I was getting ready to plant the white trillium flower that I had brought from my garden for my mother, and as I prepared to dig a hole in the ground, a hummingbird came and hovered at the very spot I was selecting for the trillium. I was thrilled!

That was it, 2 hummingbirds in 2009.

Then yesterday as I sat resting on the front porch in the late afternoon, a hummingbird took me by surprise and flew into the front yard, hovering near the deep red day lilies. It then flew to the white foxglove flowers, followed by the very fragrant star-gazer lilies, and finally to the yellow rudbeckia (black-eyed Susans). I was so focused that time seemed to slow down, but all of this must have taken less than 20-30 seconds. So I was a bit dumbstruck when the hummingbird stopped to rest on a branch of the 20' tall rhododendron 'bush'. Here it sat for another 20-30 seconds, and then zipped off when I moved to get a closer view.

So now I have seen 3 hummingbirds this year, and am sure to see more as the cardinal flower opens. I'm ready!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Immortality" Bloomed Today!

The first thing I did when I got out of bed this morning was to look out the front window, and sure enough, 'Immortality' was blooming!!

Maybe you didn't know that Immortality can bloom. Well guess what -- it can.

Two years ago, in the spring of 2007, I purchased from White Flower Farm a collection of re-blooming bearded iris, consisting of 6 varieties of the flower. I planted them and then waited. They didn't bloom once the first year, let alone twice, and I realized they didn't have quite enough Sun, and that the soil was probably to acidic. So I moved the iris to a different spot, put lime in the soil in the fall and spring, and another year went by and still they didn't bloom.

I decided to create a new garden in my yard in a sunny spot that appeared recently when a neighbor lost a tree in her yard. I moved the re-blooming iris to this new garden, added lots of lime to the soil, and called White Flower Farm for advice.

The advice I was given was to fertilize the soil around the iris with a 10-10-10 fertilizer before and after each flowering episode, in the early spring, mid-summer, and late fall. And I was also told it could take up to 2 years for the iris to flower after moving them.

So I was prepared to wait another 2 years before seeing a flower...

Imagine my surprise and delight when a flower stalk appeared on one of the re-blooming iris plants 10 days ago! And then another flower stalk appeared!! Yesterday I counted 6 iris stems with buds preparing to bloom this spring -- 2 of the new re-blooming plants, and 4 from varieties that I already had but that rarely bloomed.

And that brings me back to this morning, when I got out of bed and looked out the front window. Yes, there it was -- 'Immortality' was blooming. Immortality is one of the varieties of re-blooming iris in the front garden, and I find it hysterical that Immortality is the first variety to bloom. 'Immortality' is calling. 'Immortality' has my full attention. With a cup to tea in hand, I went outside to smell the flower. It was heavenly.

So 'Immortality' bloomed today. And the fact is that I ascribe to the belief that the soul returns to Earth numerous times from one lifetime to the next, and that it is in fact 'immortal'. So not only am I thrilled that one of my re-blooming iris is blooming for the first time, but the metaphor of 'immortality' making a grand entrance and presenting itself in my life is not lost on me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Is This Spring Different From All Other Springs?

I don't know why, but there are some things I have noticed this spring in the garden that are very unusual.

First, I have some lily of the valley, and usually only about 1 in 10 plants has a flower. Still, with over 1000 plants in the garden, I have many, many flowers. And yet this year, almost every plant has a flower. To top it off, today I even saw some flowers stems without any leaf. Just the flower!

Then there are the foxglove. Every fall I spread foxglove (digitalis) seeds from the flowers that bloomed the previous summer, and I did so last fall. What I am noticing now is that the ground is literally covered with a carpet of tiny green plants. Many more than usual of the foxglove seeds have germinated and are producing the beginnings of foxglove plants. There must be 10's of thousands of baby foxglove plants.

And more daffodils bloomed this year than any of the past 5 years, and the Jack-in-the-Pulpits are abundant as well. The garden is gorgeous, even though we had some very hot days that killed off the tulips.

So I am wondering if the climate -- a late warm fall & very cold winter -- is conducive to the flowering and growth of the plants. Or maybe it is something else. Maybe it really worked to fertilize the garden early this spring with the 10-10-10 fertilizer!!!

And even though I don't know the exact reason why the gardens are doing so well this year, you can bet that I will continue to fertilize.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Celebrating the Earth

As the weather gets warmer and spring flowers are blooming, I especially enjoy walking around my neighborhood to see all the lovely gardens. And since every physical therapist I speak to tells me to walk every day, even if it is just for 15 minutes, I make a point to go for walks between 30-45 minutes when my strength allows.

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day, with temperatures over 60 degrees around 10 in the morning. So I did my warm-up exercises, put on my walking shoes and headed out the front door.

I chose a route that took me past my favorite gardens so I could see what was blooming and what was just sprouting out of the ground. I saw tulips and daffodils and hyacinths blooming, pink and white magnolia trees flowering, and a large cherry blossom tree in bloom that I had never seen blooming before. There was an audible sound of bees buzzing at the cherry blossom tree, and I stood to look at the beauty and listen to the bees when I passed by.

Also on my walk I saw a fair amount of random trash. A plastic bag here, a bottle there, a cup here, a can there. Most yards were mostly clean, but near the curb there were bits of garbage and trash everywhere I walked.

So when I got home, I made a decision. Since Earth Day is coming, I would give a present to the Earth (and myself and my neighbors) and clean up the neighborhood. I got 2 large plastic bags, my picker-upper tool, and I retraced my walk AGAIN, this time picking up trash. What usually took 30 minutes without stopping became a 90 minute walk as I stopped to pick up every piece of plastic, paper, or metal trash along my route. I filled one bag with trash, and the other bag with recyclables -- mostly plastic cans, bottles, & cups. And before I got home, the bags were full and so heavy that I had to stop before I finished cleaning up along the last street.

So today when it was time to take my walk, I went in reverse to complete the trash collection. And I received several unexpected gifts.

First, when I passed a yard where a woman was gardening, she saw what I was doing and said, "Bless your heart." That felt nice, to be blessed. Someone else had blessed me yesterday as I started out on my mission -- a rabbi from down the street drove past me with my bags and my picker-upper tool and said, "God bless you."

Then on my return today, as I walked down the street that I had just cleaned of bits of trash, the same woman who had said 'Bless your heart' handed me a bunch of daffodils from her garden and said, "Thank you for cleaning up the neighborhood." I answered with, "Oh, this is so sweet. You are welcome." I had wanted to give the Earth and the neighborhood a present for Earth Day, and I received some of the bounty of the Earth in return.

In actuality, I prefer to think that every day is Earth Day, rather than one day a year, and I express my gratitude every day for what the Earth offers us. It was wonderful to receive the gifts of words and flowers. I didn't expect them, and I didn't need them, but they were wonderful gifts and acknowledgments from the Universe that when we give of ourselves, we also receive.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Reds Have Arrived

Spring is here and the reds have arrived!

The red trillium plants are growing in the woodlands.
The maple sap is running (and dripping) and the red maple trees are showing a red glow at the tips of their branches.
The cardinals are happily singing in the trees.

In the sunny spots, the crocus are blooming in whites, yellows, purples and stripes; the anenome are fully opened; the daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips are beginning to blossom; the forsythia and mucronolatum azalea have just opened; the wood poppy and bleeding heart are showing many buds; the magnolia and peach trees are covered with buds.

In the shady places, the plants and flowers are beginning to appear. I can see the tips of many Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants starting to peep out of the ground. Today I counted 116 red trillium buds and 23 white trillium buds, with more plants that have yet to uncurl their leaves; also 14 dog-tooth violets; 4 flowering shoots of 'Dutchman's Breeches' which haven't bloomed for 2 years; 7 bloodroot flowers; 25 columbine plants, and a similar number of cardinal flower plants.

Now about that bloodroot. I wrote last year (on my 3rd blog entry in May 2008) about the sudden disappearance of the bloodroot from my garden. And in the area where it disappeared, where there were over 50 plants just 2 years ago, there are still NO SIGNS of the plant at all. And yet, across the yard near my trillium there have always been a few bloodroot plants (including last year), and this year there are 7 beautiful white, daisy-like flowers.

The sky has been blue all week, the grasses are greening, and the reds have arrived. It is a symphony of color, all to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Multiple Myeloma Treatment -- Saying Emphatic 'NO' to a Double Bone Marrow Transplant

One thing I do know is that doctors don't know everything. A good doctor will admit this. Some doctors like to think they do know everything, including what will happen to you if you do this or that, or don't do this or that. And yet, they cannot predict the outcome of a particular treatment for a disease, or specify a prognosis for an individual other than statistically.

So when the doctors in Arkansas at the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy recommended last May that I undergo a double bone marrow transplant, I asked why. They told me the only way I would be cured was if I got a double bone marrow transplant. And yet, on further questioning, it turned out that not all patients who underwent the double bone marrow transplant that they specialize in was actually cured. I did ask what the mortality rate for the transplant was, and I was told by the doctor that is was 1%. But when I went home to read the literature they provided, I learned that I hadn't been told the whole story.

Yes, the mortality rate for the bone marrow transplant is 1%, if one is talking only about that piece of the procedure. But the overall procedure includes first killing all of the bone marrow with heavy duty chemo, and the mortality rate for that was given as 4%. Then 1% for the transplant. And then they did the procedure again, with chemo, for which there was a 3% mortality on the second try (for the people who got that far). So given all of these percentages (based on 2005 data), the overall mortality rate for the double bone marrow transplant procedure is 8%.

So then I asked the doctor, "Why would I elect a procedure that would have a 1 in 12 chance of killing me, especially when there is no guarantee of a cure?" The doctor answered by telling me that the statistics are much better now, 3 years later, with an overall mortality from the procedure of 3% rather than the 8% quoted in the literature. And I still say -- "OK, with a procedure that has a 1 in 33 chance of killing me, why would I elect to do it?"

There are no guarantees in life, except that life will end. We like to think that we are immortal, and doctors like to think that they have the power to give life, but they are not in charge. They are certainly not in charge of me.

Part of learning whether a double bone marrow transplant is truly helpful to patients should involve following a sample of people who elect the procedure, and comparing them with a sample of people who do not. But when my mother asked the question, "What about the people who did not have the double bone marrow transplant -- how long did they live?", the doctor answered that there was no current data on these people. While the doctors could show that people who survived the double bone marrow transplant would live longer than myeloma patients used to live without the transplant, the doctors couldn't tell me how patients fare these days with newer treatments other than the bone marrow transplant.

In my own oncologist's words, a double bone marrow transplant is overkill. "If you survive the procedure, you will live longer." And I say, "Longer than what?" Certainly longer than if I were to die from the procedure. It's not like I can clone myself and find out what would happen if I do this, or what would happen if I do that. I must choose a course that I am comfortable with. Not the course that a particular doctor wants, because a doctor does not have to live with the consequences of my choice. I do. And I was told that it would take about 6 months for the overall double bone marrow transplant procedure, and then about 1 year for the body to recover. For the people who live through it.

And right now, at this time in my life, I choose quality of life in the present moment. I am face to face with my mortality. I know I will not live forever. None of us know what will claim our life, or when our last breath will be. Just that it will be.

And I will forgo the chemicals and creating a battle ground inside my body. For I choose to live in peace. Loving all of myself. Accepting that which I face. Not being afraid of it, or of what life has to offer. And I have never been so happy, so clear, so at peace and at ease with my life and my choices as I am now. For I know that I am always at choice to make a new choice, for I am the one who is creating my life.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Grateful for the Gifts of Spring

Welcome spring!

This week we have not only transitioned to spring (in the northern hemisphere) in an astronomical sense, with the passing of the Vernal Equinox, but weather-wise we have moved out of winter. What had been a snow-covered yard is now bare of the white stuff, and showing evidence of sprouting green things all over the place. The ground is mostly brown, but the gardens are full of buds of day lilies, daffodils, crocus, lily of the valley, red trillium, and more things that I can never remember the names of. Within the next few weeks, I will see an explosion of color and blossoming all around me.

But even before the snow melted, the gallanthum (common name 'snow drops') were blooming through the snow. Back around March 8, just 2 weeks ago, there were over 30 gallanthum flowers blooming in my yard, and 2 days ago I counted 77. A few of the purple crocus that are in a sunny spot have also opened, although the squirrels must be hungry because they nibbled on a few blossoms to taste the fresh flowers.

When spring arrives, I am grateful for so many things! I am grateful for the warmth of the Sun, I am grateful for the melting of the snow, I am grateful for the blooming of the flowers, I am grateful for gardens to nurture, and I am especially grateful for my increasing health and strength.

And I am also grateful for the crowds of visitors who joined me at the Sunwheel for sunrise and sunset on the Equinox to witness the passing of the seasons. For the first time in 2 years, I was able to lead 2 days of sunrise and sunset gatherings for the public at the Sunwheel, and over that time there were over 160 people who attended the Sunwheel events. So my body has healed sufficiently that I have the strength and energy to do what I love. We saw the Earth's shadow setting before sunrise on March 20 and 21, and both days we also saw the sunrise, we saw geese flying, we saw the sunset, we saw the Earth's shadow rising after sunset, and we saw beautiful colors in the sky caused by thin clouds dancing above us. The Universe put on a show which we were able to witness.

This year, 2009, is the International Year of Astronomy (IYA), and as one of the many IYA activities available to the public, I will be producing podcasts on each of the equinoxes and solstices to teach about the characteristics of that day. The March Equinox podcast aired yesterday, on March 21, and you can access it through the "365 Days of Astronomy" website, and then scroll down to the date March 21. Just after the title of my podcast "March 21 -- The March Equinox: All Latitudes Are Illuminated", you can follow the link labeled "Listen using our podcast player". To get to the website, follow this link.

Life is definitely a roller coaster, and full of lessons and gifts every day. My days are full, as I focus on caring for my health, observing the flowering of my gardens and the astronomical dance of the Universe. My prayer is that I be at ease with what I face, trust the Universe and have faith that all is well, and that is my prayer for you as well. Happy spring!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Guidance from the Universe

Have you ever sought guidance from the Universe using Runes? I have been using them for a dozen years or so, and they are wonderful. A set of 25 Runes, with an accompanying book describing the significance of each one. We are told that consulting the oracle of the Runes is equivalent to consulting the oracle of the Self.

So this past month I have picked Runes, about once each week. The first Rune I picked, while asking in my mind the question, "What guidance was most helpful to me in my life right now?", was the Rune Dagaz -- the Rune of Transformation, Breakthrough, and Day. Then the next week I picked another Rune -- putting my hand inside the bag and focusing on the same question. And this time I picked .... the same Rune, Dagaz, the Rune of Transformation & Breakthrough. That was remarkable, and it doesn't happen often, but it has happened before.

From the Book of Runes, this indicates the following:
-- Dagaz signifies a breakthrough in the process of self-change, a transformation in attitude;
-- the timing is right, so the outcome is assured, although not from this vantage point, predictable;
-- in every life there comes at least one moment which, if recognized and seized, transforms that life forever;
-- rely on radical trust, even if that means leaping empty-handed into the void;
-- with this Rune, one's warrior nature reveals itself;
-- a major period of achievement and prosperity is often introduced by this Rune, the darkness is behind & daylight has come;
-- considerable hard work is involved in a time of transformation, so undertake to do it joyfully.

This seemed like a wonderful message for me, especially the part about undertaking the work of transformation joyfully, and relying on radical trust.

Then 2 nights ago I picked another Rune, again asking the Universe what message would be most helpful for me to hear at this time. I sat in contemplation, opened the bag of Runes, put my hand in, and randomly selected a Rune from the center of the pile. I opened my eyes, and when I saw the Rune I had picked, I burst out laughing. It was ... you guessed it, Dagaz again -- the Rune of Transformation, Breakthrough, and Day.

It is at times like these that I am grateful for being on a conscious spiritual journey. It was tremendous fun to realize that the guidance I am getting from the Runes not only helps me, but brings joy to my days. I wonder what Rune I will pick next?

For right now, anyway, I don't need any more guidance. I get the message. I will undertake the work of transformation joyfully. And trust the Universe.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today's Guidance

As I sat in meditation today, in my mind I asked for guidance in my life, and then I listened.

This is what I heard:

1) Let go of fear.
2) Claim courage to act and be -- in spite of all challenges.
3) Be inspired by the energy of the challenges.
4) Express gratitude and love every day.
5) Pray every hour.
6) Enjoy life every minute.

And so I was reminded that 'e-motion' is energy in motion. And whatever emotion I feel, I can channel that energy for my highest good.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Advice to Myself for Challenging Times

As my spine heals from collapsing due to multiple myeloma, and as my body gains strength from activity, I am growing emotionally stronger as well. And having asked the Universe that my life lessons no longer come through my body, I find that the Universe has granted my request. Yet, I still face some very challenging situations. I am grateful that these situations do not include severe physical pain or limitation of physical activity or the malfunctioning of various bodily systems, and yet these situations cause a great deal of stress, and I feel their impact on my well-being.

So after I did my physical therapy this morning and got out of bed and had my delicious cup of Earl Grey tea, I started to give myself some suggestions as to how to face the challenging situations before me. And after the first 3 things I told myself, I decided to write it all down. I called the list "Advice to Myself for Challenging Times". Here is the list.

1) Speak your truth.
2) Be guided by actions unattached to outcomes.
3) Live in the present moment.
4) Let go of the need to convince anyone of anything.
5) Look around -- express gratitude, see beauty, & feel ease, calm, peace & love.
6) Pray and ask for help.
7) Trust the Universe. Have faith -- that all is as it should be.
8) Let ease be the container within which you live your days.
9) Follow your heart's passion.
10) Meditate -- be still -- and release what no longer serves you.

So during the in between times, when the challenges loom large over me, I read this list to myself and I feel better. I feel stronger. I pray for courage and strength. And I feel joy. And I know, deep down inside, that I am loved, that I am blessed, and that I am grateful to be alive.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A New Perspective

Last Friday night, I was preparing to give a power point talk on the Sunwheel at the first session of the weekend program I led on "Astronomy, Spirituality & the Mayan Prophecy" at the Rowe Camp and Conference Center. I had tested the digital projector in advance, and everything seemed to be in working order.

So I powered up my computer and the projector, and began my introduction to the talk. I was explaining that back in 1992, I went to a 2-week long camp for women led by Brooke Medicine Eagle in western Montana, and there I found a Sunwheel on former Blackfeet Indian territory. And as I spoke, the digital projector went blank and the screen became dark. "Oh no!" I cried. So I kept talking, and fiddled with the projector at the same time, hoping the images would return. As I spoke, I went on to explain that back in 1992 I was active as a research scientist, yet I knew there was more to the Universe than meets the eye. I wanted to experience the larger picture -- that part of the Universe that science cannot explain -- so I was headed for a vision quest during this 2-week long camp. And as I said this to the group last Friday night, the picture returned on the digital projector -- but this time it was upside down! "Oh no -- I've never seen this before!" I cried.

Now, as I faced this inverted picture, I knew it was slightly better than a blank screen, but was still not going to work for giving my talk. And for a fleeting second I noted to myself that the Universe was playing with me -- showing me that there is more to the Universe than meets the eye, and that sometimes it can even be upside down! Here before my eyes was a shining example of something science cannot explain, which was exactly what I went on my vision quest to experience. And I kept speaking, and Gene turned off the projector and turned it back on again -- and the picture was fine.

For the rest of the evening, and for the rest of the weekend, there were no other problems with the digital projector. Just during my introduction that first evening. I will never forget seeing the image of my power point slides upside down. I did jokingly attempt to turn my computer upside down, hoping it would re-invert the image. And for whatever reason it temporarily misfired, I am grateful that the projector ultimately worked. After all, I had a lot of beautiful pictures to show the group. And I will never forget the sense that I was experiencing the magical, even for just a moment, when my words about why I was headed off for a vision quest were matched with a never-before-seen upside down picture on my computer.

But there was a lesson in it, also. Humor is an important teacher, like having images upside down. And even though I rely on the computer in my talks, I would have been able to survive without it.

And in seeing the pictures upside down, we were being given a unique perspective. After all, sometimes it takes a new perspective for us to get the whole picture.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rave Reviews!

Well, I am just back from Rowe Camp and Conference Center, after presenting a weekend workshop on "Astronomy, Spirituality & the Mayan Prophecy," and it was wonderful. I taught about Sunwheels, the Mayan calendar system, Mayan numbers and writing, the Sun & Moon & stars, along with my favorite spiritual teachings and wisdom. Those in my workshop were a set of very special people, and the group was a wonderful size (11 in all) -- big enough for good discussions, for a wide variety of questions and for feeling that my effort was appreciated, and small enough that every person had a chance to speak and be heard.

Here is what the participants wrote in their evaluations:
"I found the Astronomy, Spirituality and the Mayan Prophecy seminar to be utterly fascinating, fun, and enlightening. The science was clear and well defined and blended nicely with human aspects of spirituality. Judy Young was enthusiastic in her penetration of the mystery of the Mayan calendar and presented the material to us in a clear and wonderful way. Judy was very accessible to the class with answering our questions. She created a sense of community and camaraderie in the group. The seminar was well paced and energetic. Thank you so much, Judy. I really enjoyed meeting you. I had been looking forward to this for many years." (Richard M.)

"This has been a wonderful workshop, very love based (in contrast to what seemed to be a fear based one going on at the same time). I appreciated learning more about astronomy which I have never understood at all. I love the various ways to access guidance and the knowledge from many teachers and paths. Fascinating to learn of the Mayan number and astronomical systems."

"Thank you kindly for your invigorating workshop. I found it intellectual and soulful. You were professional, grounded, fun, energetic, knowledgeable, and peaceful. I am leaving with new knowledge, positive action and balanced joyfulness." (Kristie K.)

"This program was great. It fulfilled the hopes and expectations I had for it. I am very interested in spirituality, the Mayan prophecy for 2012, and stone circles. Thank you, Judy. I appreciate your teaching and your excellent, calm, but passionate, teaching style." (Carolyn J.)

"Another outstanding program from a wise and knowledgeable teacher. Thank you, Judy." (Gene S.)

"Your astronomy classes must be awesome. You made the astronomy come alive. Things I knew sort of from books I now understand in my being, and have a new excitement about looking at the stars."

"This workshop has opened me up to the beauty that is in and around me."

"Judy’s delivery was superb. A highly recommended experience. She knows her stuff. As a scientist, she is so serious in combining her spiritual knowledge with the scientific, she is truly an inspiration." (Kettler C.)

After a weekend of teaching, I am now exhausted. But I did it! I took care of my back, rested when I needed, and was able to enjoy and even thrive during the weekend. I consider it a great achievement to have maintained the strength and health of body necessary to lead such a workshop. And because of this success, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my healing and a feeling of excitement over knowing I will be leading other workshops in the future.

One participant had chosen my workshop over attending a program elsewhere with Starhawk, so at the conclusion of the weekend I asked her if she was happy with her choice. Her response was, "Off the charts, baby!"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Astronomy, Spirituality, and the Mayan Prophecy

I am so excited -- I am preparing to lead a retreat this coming weekend at the Rowe Camp and Conference Center on "Astronomy, Spirituality & the Mayan Prophecy". I led a weekend retreat here 2+ years ago, so the experience is not entirely new, but the subject matter is expanded and I am creating something that I have never done before. I do not know where this adventure will take me -- combining astronomy and spirituality and leading retreats around the world -- but I am filled with excitement over the newness, the potential, and the sharing in small groups of subjects that are dear to my heart.

I have even been contacted by people from across the ocean who are interested in these retreats! I have planned another weekend retreat here in at the end of May, and a 5-day retreat at the end of the summer in Montana, "Astronomy, Spirituality, and the Mayan Prophecy: Living the Sacred" .

I am working hard -- collecting materials, creating the plan for how I will present the complex astronomy and interweave meditation and discussion, learning about the Mayan calendar, and the truth about Dec. 21, 2102. I am loving the learning and creating. If you are intrigued by the topic and interested in attending, check out my calendar to find out when and where the next retreats will be.

I also know that leading the retreat will be a challenge physically -- to honor my need for rest and self care. Luckily, each meeting will include meditation, sharing, and food for the soul, along with the astronomy. So even if I am tired, I will become rested and energized.

I am very excited about the upcoming retreat. This will be a weekend to remember!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thoughts on the Economy from a Revolutionary

Well, here are my thoughts on the economy.

Most people I know have been touched by the economy -- some deeply and radically, some less so -- and I expect the same is true for you. The problems are serious, and I know they will take time and thoughtful action to repair.

I have never thought much about the economy, but I am thinking about it now. And it is clear to me that there is fallacy in the notion that the economy could continue to grow, year after year, when much of the profit is based on a finite Earth with finite resources. What we really want is to create an economy based on sustainable practices in a society which lives sustainably within the available resources.

That means using energy from the Sun -- not drilling and exploring and mining. Those practices are not sustainable, not good for the environment, and not good for our health in terms of the byproducts of using oil, coal, and gas.

In fact, just 2 days ago Exxon Mobile reported record profits of $45 billion for 2008. In October, they had also reported record profits for the 3rd quarter of 2008 of $14 billion, with income in that period of $137 billion dollars. The $45 billion profit in 2008 is higher than the previous record of profit for 1 year (their frcord of $40 billion for 2007). These numbers are profit, mind you, not income. They have already paid all the employees, paid all the bills, paid for all the equipment they want to buy, all the exploration they engage in, and that was up in 2008 as well.

I say they should be taxed heavily. Like a windfall profits tax of 99%. After all, I get taxed on my income -- my income, not profit -- so why shouldn't they? Why should they be allowed to continue their practices that harm the environment? The environment that we all live in, breath the air in, drink the water in.

After all, corporations do not have a natural right to exist. They have a legal right to exist, granted by states when corporations incorporate. That right to incorporate is not guaranteed. Imagine insisting that corporations act in the public good and the good of the environment in order to exist.

Maybe it's time for us as a people to consider whether we want companies which exploit the environment to continue to exist. After all, do record profits at a time of economic disaster reflect the public good, or public exploitation?

The Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts is short $45 million dollars for the current fiscal year, and I know similar disastrous situations are present at other universities as well. I do not know the resolution of these difficulties, but I do know that record oil company profits at the same time just do not fit into the same reality.

I repeat -- I believe we need to tax the oil company profits heavily. After all, they will go a long way to providing the funds for the economic recovery in the US.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Unexpected Gift

I have always loved surprise gifts. And I especially love the ones that sneak up on me and take me unawares. Like the unexpected gift I got this holiday time...

I was in Maine visiting my daughter's in-laws for the holidays, along with my daughter and her husband of 1 year. Knowing I would be without my reclining lift chair for 5 days, I decided to take my traveling air mattress with me so I could lie on the floor to rest my back during the day. And that turned out to be a wonderful choice.

But I also discovered something wonderful. In the mornings when I set out to do my physical therapy exercises, I decided to lie on the air mattress and try some of my former yoga routine that I used to do lying on the floor. With the air mattress under me, my back was comfortable enough, and it was actually possible to move my body in ways that I haven't been able to in well over a year. And it felt so good to stretch my arms, my legs, my back. Reaching this way, moving that way.

When I returned home, on the morning of New Year's eve day, I carefully put my yoga mat on the floor and added a soft blanket on top for padding. Then I got onto the floor and spent 45 minutes going through my old yoga routine. Moving from one pose to another took a little thought after so many months -- 18 months in fact -- of not doing yoga. But it came back very easily, the recollection of what to do. And in the moving, my heart went to a place of such gratitude that I spent much of the time wiping the tears from my eyes. And stretching gently. It felt SO good.

Since returning home before the New Year, I have continued with morning yoga on a padded mat. This has given me the benefit of adding a gentle stretching routine to my daily physical activity, and also giving my back more time in the horizontal position in the late morning. After all, 2 years ago one physical therapist suggested that I spend 15 minutes in the morning and evening lying on my back on the floor with knees bent, in an exercise she called "decompression". It has taken me until now to take her advice. Better late than never.

So this was the unexpected gift, the return of my yoga practice at the start of the New Year. All it took was a trip to Maine, a padded yoga mat, and 18 months of healing from a collapsed spine. My muscular flexibility, or lack of it, is another thing entirely. But being the eternal optimist that I am, I know that my healing will continue and that some day I will be touching my toes and doing Sun salutations!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Excited About the New Year

I love celebrations -- be they birthday, holiday, New Year's, anniversary. My ritual on New Year's Eve for many years has been to take inventory, month by month through the past year, and recall the highlights which made that year unique and special. This process helps remind me of all the wonders that have come my way, and of all that I have to be grateful for as the new year begins.

And as the year 2009 begins to unfold, I feel enormously positive and hopeful. And it's not just because of the changing political situation that will occur when President Obama is sworn in on Inauguration Day. Positivity and hopefulness are qualities that I display in general, and now they are enhanced due to the fact that I am much stronger than I was 1 year ago. Yes, I am healing.

One year ago at the beginning of 2008, I was still on chemo, I had just stopped using a walker when I was indoors, and I was just beginning to be able to get any regular exercise through walking or bending my body. Also, one year ago I developed vertigo while taking Revlimid to treat the myeloma (and that condition -- of getting dizzy when lying down and also when sitting up -- stayed with me through October 2008).

My condition now is very different. I can stand up straight with ease. No dizziness. I can bend forward and sideways. I can open the refrigerator (good thing, too, because I love ice cream). Last week I went snowshoeing in the woods for an hour, for the first time since my spine collapsed. And I can lie on the floor and lift my legs. I can do some parts of yoga poses. Most of this was impossible 1 year ago.

There has been so much improvement in my condition since 1 year ago, that I am certain that in the coming year I will see even more. And THAT is something that I will continue to celebrate for the rest of my life.