In addition to writing and co-authoring the upcoming 10th anniversary edition of 29 Gifts, I offer Spiritual Care and Education, through classes and workshops, small study groups and one-on-one coaching and mentoring in spiritual practice, personal evolution and well-being technologies. Read my bio to learn more about my friendship with Cami and my connection to the 29 Gifts movement.
Occasionally I get to work with famous people. Angelique Kidjo came to see me via a French restaurateur I have known for many years. She and Angelique have known each other for an equally long time. Angelique was in town for a performance at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, touring and stressed, so my friend sent her in for a massage and healing session. Angelique was exhausted. Months of touring through many different cities, keeping odd hours, sleeping in hotels and handling ‘road’ food were wearing enough. Back home in Benin, her father and one of her brothers were dying. And Angelique could not yet go home. She talked about her life and her inner conflict between her current commitments to appearances and to being with her loved ones. It was easy for me to think she could just chuck it and say, “I have to be with my family.” I would. My job was not to push her (life was doing that), but to help her to relax and to let go of her stressful attachment to time and space and people for a short time. After her treatment I walked Angelique out to the car, where she immediately got on the phone. I felt a bit sad thinking how little control she had over her life. Had my French been up to par, it might have registered with me that she was calling to arrange a ticket for me to her performance that evening. Chagrined, I realized how little time “off” she had just had, and yet she did not hesitate to get on the phone to do something for me. I saw a few more clients that day for massage and spiritual coaching. I finished about 7 that evening without much energy left for more than a meal and a walk around the block. But a small insistent voice inside urged me to go to Angelique’s performance. By the time I arrived and found a spot for my car on the north side of the Berkeley campus, I was very late, certain I had missed most, if not all of the show. That night Zellerbach thrummed with happy, dancing, jumping and howling folks of all ages, colors and sizes. Within minutes of my arrival, Angelique introduced the band (each player from a different African country), and gave each time to display their talent and share the unique sound from their culture. She talked about the roots of rhythm reaching the heart of all cultures, the power of music to unite people around the world. After another exciting piece, she stopped again to talk with the audience. A hush stole over the room as she told us to be kind to one another, that if we are to change fear to love in the world, we must begin in our hearts and at home, and to remember to actively, deliberately “love the people you love and tell them you love them often, today…” because “you never know when (if) you will see them again.” I realized then what a great and noble act Angelique is in all aspects of her life. She did not dramatize or bare her personal grief and emotional conflict. Instead, she gave us a powerful reminder of our slender connections to this life and to those we love. It struck me that she had transformed her personal tragedy (the immanent deaths in her family) to a universal call to active love and unity, to be real in relationship, and to heal the old wounds that separate us from one another. I was humbled to realize how one person can influence thousands of people all over the world, every day through her music and messages of love, peace, justice and compassion. In Shamanic Healing work we often drum for others. Our teacher encourages us to “put people on the drum” as a way to build power and transfer or send that energy to those in need. Angelique’s concert was such a building and transference of power—the power of love. The evening soared to and end with a hundred or more people cramming onto the stage to dance with Angelique--children, grandmas, guys in suits, hippies, students--a fairly complete slice of humanity. I would have joined them but for the hundreds more jamming the aisles, dancing and whooping all around me, gleefully blocking my path to the stage. The joyful uproar of drums and voices had shaken the tension and smallness out of me and I gladly lost myself in the crowd.
When I graduated massage school in 1991, I told my class that my goal was to heal the world, one massage at a time. I believe that each of us hold the power to change each other’s lives in some small way. Small things become big things. I figured each person who received a relaxing, rejuvenating massage would go home a kinder and gentler citizen, a more loving spouse, a more present parent, a more self-respecting being. Imagine hundreds and thousands of people transmitting and receiving love, peace, charity, encouragement, justice and hope. Keep going. Imagine the small changes making bigger changes in the way we treat each other as nations, ultimately to how we relate to the living entity that provides everything we need for life: Earth.
Some of the greatest service we offer to one another is in our transformed pain. This is the path of the wounded healer in action--to take our perception of injury, apply the magic of personal alchemy (time+pressure+insight+courage) and work it into a blessing for another. As we heal deep emotional pain, we open to deeper love, an energy that travels back and forward in time, changing our self-concept and rippling out into our sphere of humans. Thank you for reminding me why I am here! And Brava, Angelique!
The gift of Marriage as a community event/Angel Stork, minister-officiator
“A life lived well, is an embodied promise and commitment to all” Elliot F. Eaton
Before equal rights in marriage came to California, San Francisco’s mayor made gay marriage legal in the city-county, and thousands rushed to get married before the legal machine would shut it down again. During one of those brief windows of open time, Rick and Elliott and I sat down for the first time to discuss their wedding ceremony. I could tell from that first glimpse into their personalities, their life together and their shared beliefs, this would be an unusual wedding ceremony.
We talked about the many ways we could bring their beliefs and vision together in words and simple rituals. They were already several steps ahead having chosen a location, some readings and some private rituals. I could see that my skills would best serve to fine-tune any idea already on the table. Working together, they transformed mundane rituals into sacred and created a context for ceremony where private intentions could bond with community.
Rick and Elliott are Buddhists in temperament as much as in practice, though they do not seem to be aligned with a particular temple or system. Rather, the ideals of Buddhism—non-attachment, loving kindness, and mindful, compassionate action—seem to permeate every choice.
I was not surprised to see the first draft of the ceremony: nearly complete without much adjustment or editing needed from me. Here is a reading from their ceremony that served to clarify their perspective.
“Serenity Found” by Beverly Sills
“We had found a kind of serenity, a new Maturity… we didn’t feel better or stronger than anyone else but it seemed no longer Important whether everyone love us or not – More important now was for us to love them. Feeling that way turns our whole life around, living becomes the act of giving.”
There are people (family) who would not attend the ceremony because they could not support a gay marriage. Rick and Elliott chose to accept them and make space for them anyway.
Gay and Lesbian couples live as a community within a community that largely chooses not to acknowledge their rights or accept their way of life. Within their ceremony, Elliott and Rick held a loving space for one community, choosing not be party to divisiveness, but to uphold their commitment to have compassion for all beings.
There are many who do not feel any support from their community to be openly partnered, let alone married. Rick and Elliott, overflowing with love and richly adored by their closest friends, chose to dedicate their own marriage to healthy and compassionate relationships for all.
“…Rick and Elliott rededicate their marriage to be a symbolic invitation, they give permission for those not currently partnered and for those who are enjoying a committed partnership, to hold a place of compassion for each other, our families, friends and community.”
Finally, after making their personal promises to each other, Elliott and Rick made their “I do” confirmations with Tibetan singing bowls-- “…by the sounding of the Bowl do you make this commitment for you, (each other) and the Entire Community?
Many of the weddings I perform have one couple as the center, one central idea summed up in statements and vows. After this ceremony, I began to serve more couples reaching beyond their personal focal points, and whether gay or not, looking for ways to include others in the ceremony, broadening the whole notion of commitment, appealing to the “village” to support the marriage.
I am fascinated to see who attends a wedding. We are not merely witnesses. Family and friends who gather to celebrate become participants in the “contract” created by the couple. We help them uphold the intention and reality of their marriage. Furthermore, couples have tremendous power to influence family and friends through the act of declaring and ritualizing their own beliefs and intentions.
Rick and Elliott have given me and their family and friends a rare gift—an opportunity to expand the love we feel for them toward all people, to transform the ideal of compassion into a living, breathing act of love. By opening the invitation to all beings, they opened the heart and intention of marriage to include even those who would scorn them. Abundant in love and hope, Rick and Elliott, through their marriage, have performed an ultimate act of charity for us all.
Just got home from Louisiana, visiting my grandson and his parents and grandparents, to celebrate Roy's 1st birthday and baptism. Speaking of gifts, the entire trip was gifted to me by my daughter and her father! I was not allowed to pay for anything! But was free to hug, love, play with, sing to sleep, and carry my grandson, and do a few dishes and pick up here and there to lighten the housework load. I am so grateful to have been given such an amazing experience, I feel so blessed by my family's generosity. Knowing my daughter would not accept any money from me, I slipped a 100 dollar bill under a note left for her, and asked her father to make sure she got it and did something for herself. That bill had been given to me to spend freely on my trip, but I had not been "allowed" to buy anyone dinner or anything else. So, I knew that bill had to move on and not come home with me. It moved on easily, with my blessings. I am posting an old story in the Discussion forum--enjoy!
If you are just joining the 29Gifts community, we are excited to get to know you and hear about your experiences in giving. If you have a hugely AMAZING story to tell--post it! If you do not feel you have a had that OMG experience yet, NO WORRIES and no hurry. Just give your gifts, post the little things, interact with the community, get into the spirit of giving--and pay attention to how you feel about yourself and your life! Little, simple giving stories are as important as the OMG ones!
One of the amazing things about this 29Gifts process is how I am led, guided toward gifts, blessings and prayers that exactly fit the circumstances, temperament, character and needs of my "giftee." I do not need to pre-figure or plan. The gift is always just right! A few weeks ago I posted a little story called "Turquoise Pashmina" (see Discussions/Great Giving Stories--I think its still there) about how a turquoise pashmina shawl came to me a few years ago and recently moved on to a new friend. I met Cindy at a networking meeting and gave her the shawl. A couple of weeks later we got together and Cindy gave me a little red rubber heart with a smiley face--the kind of rubber thingie you sometimes hold and squeeze when you donate blood. I laughed and thanked her. I took it home, played with it off and on--it's fun to squeeze--and then parked on my bedroom dresser. The other day I ran into Paula; I had not seen her for several months. We were happy to see each other and sat down to catch up. Turns out she has a heart condition that threatens her breathing, therefore her quality of life. Two days later Paula came to my home office for some healing--intuitive reading, craniosacral and myofascial work, amplified with Reiki. When we finished, she was in good spirits, grounded and feeling very hopeful. She went out to her car. For no particular reason I walked into my bedroom. Then I saw the little smiley red heart and knew it had to go to Paula! I ran out to her and told her she had to have this little gift. As I opened my hand and placed the little red heart into hers, a great smile of delight spread across her face and we laughed and laughed and laughed. I laughed all day when I thought about Paula and how she laughed and received, how the laughter seemed so good for her heart at the time. Later I remembered that Paula practices Laughter Yoga and teaches others to loosen their tension and raise their body vibration through laughter. We always get just what we need...
Your "Wrap me in Turquoise" story is still there. We don't delete any anything out of our forums unless they are seemingly "harmful" or against our common mission... to create a worldwide revival of the giving spirit.I love that you passed on the shawl and your seeing reciprocity with your giving.
In the Raspberries... For a time, I lived in a small town in Alaska while I was pregnant with my third child. I had gone to the Kenai Peninsula to teach meditation and energy healing, do readings and run church services for the 50-odd folks who welcomed us into their town and their lives. My days were full—working as a part time preschool teaching assistant slash animal tamer and preparing for the four different levels of classes I would teach each week. Evenings I was in class, or doing readings or keeping notes on what had transpired during classes and sessions with students. I seemed to have very little time to myself or for the baby growing inside me. So, I walked every day, even in the heart of winter, enjoying every moment in the beautiful, vast outdoors.
One day, having some free time between tasks, I took myself to a raspberry patch in a partially wooded (“brushed” would be a more apt description for places above the tree line) area outside of town. A light rain fell around me and seemed to heighten the sweet scent of ripening berries. Pick 2, eat 1 is my method. As each luscious berry melted on my tongue, I felt all my life concerns slipping away. I could not have been happier.
Licking my paws, it occurred to me that I was trespassing in the back yard of the black bear, a very nosy and aggressive omnivore, known to carry small children out of schoolyards for a mid-day snack. I realized that if a bear approached, I would not hear it for the soft rain landing in the bush and grasses around me. I was very pregnant and could not outrun a mouse, let alone a fast-moving angry bear.
Then it hit me: If this is to be my last day, I’m okay with that. I’d rather die with the taste of raspberries in my mouth than go any other way. I smiled and went back to picking 2, eating 1 without a care in the world.
I love remembering that moment because it continues to teach me about being present. And, being present, I am happy. I feel certain that my happiness in the berry patch did not obliterate or diminish my survival instincts; indeed they were very much alive and functioning. Being present is being fully alive in the moment, tuning in with all faculties. Had there been real danger, I would have sensed it through intuition and awareness (my first 5 senses being much engaged at the time). Being present brings a confidence of knowing, usually not present in other states of being.
As we in this community know, giving induces a similar state of excitement for being. Making a habit of generosity enables us to recollect our sense of self from wherever we have been in life, and re-charges our batteries for where we are going. In his wonderful book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Steven Post writes: “In the giving of self lies the unsought discovery of self. In other words, when we give, we find our true selves.”
I am fortunate to live, work and socialize amid a community of generous, conscious folks in West Sonoma County, California. It is not uncommon for a visiting friend to bring a gift of canned local fruit, fresh picked flowers, or a bag of apples or zucchini or tomatoes from the garden. Many of my friends are also inspired givers, like Teresa, who surprised me one day with the gift of a turquoise pashmina shawl. Teresa is known for her many talents, great humor and compassion, and also for her shawls. She has given me several over the years, one exquisitely beautiful Pashmina she brought back from Italy. She really gets my colors, too, especially teal, turquoise and purple. The turquoise pashmina became my go-to wrap for cool evenings, kept my neck warm all winter and my knees warm while meditating.
Last week I went to an unusual women’s business meeting in Santa Rosa. My friend Ann highly recommended this group of women doing conscious work in the world, so I registered online and started thinking about “business casual” dress and how to make that happen. It was going to be hot, in the 90’s, but I thought we might be in cold air conditioning all day, and I should bring a light sweater or over-blouse to manage the indoor chill. The turquoise shawl called to me several times. But I kept trolling my closet for more “appropriate” outerwear. At the last minute, I grabbed the shawl. It might be too casual for “business” but I loved it and it would be comfortable. What an amazing meeting! Our hosts, partners in success coaching for women, led us in a breathing meditation, two really different and fun networking exercises, and answered a few life questions by “channeling” through healing guides and divining cards. We were treated to wonderful raw snacks designed and created by one of the women in the group. The guest speaker, Lisa, spoke gently about love and consciousness, and led us through three brief meditation-like journeys to reconnect us to our true, internal sources of love. After the meditations, Lisa asked for comments. Cindy Jarrett, sitting at a nearby table, spoke about her experience: she remembered herself as a baby seeing the color turquoise in her environment, really being drawn to it, loving its subtle vibrancy and by noticing the color, feeling-sensing her self as a whole person for the first time. Her moving recollection reminded me of my child-self, of times when I was fully aware and awake to my self, with a glimpse of not only who I was/am, but who I might become. Something stirred in me, an urge without words or thought or attachment. I suddenly knew that my turquoise shawl was ready to travel. After the meeting adjourned, I approached Cindy and we introduced ourselves. I told her how her story resonated with me, and that I was urged from inside to give her something. As I helped to wrap the shawl around her shoulders, a big smile lit up her whole face and sparkled her eyes, adding unexpected emotion to her gratitude. Just writing and remembering our encounter has me smiling again, my heart light and happy. Cindy, who loves turquoise, also loves and lives with horses. She knows about “horse energy” and leads a chanting group with her husband. I am intrigued; we are now connected and will meet again soon. Cindy Jarrett is a Communications and Relationship Consultant. Learn more about her work and Horse Medicine at http://www.DesigningAccess.biz
My Mission Bringing High Functioning Adults Emotional Education and Development for Becoming an Emotionally Mature, Spiritual Adult, and for Relationship Success withConscious Tools, Structures and Practices.
In my little west Sonoma County town, some folks have placed little free library boxes. They are well made, with roofs and windowed doors to protect the books from the elements. They each hold a dozen or so books. I love these little free libraries and make a point to visit each of them on my walks in and around town. I borrow a book and after reading it, usually drop it off at another little library box, to keep books in wide circulation. I sometimes bring a book from home to give to the little library. One of my gives last week was to consciously focus and spend time looking through my books for something special--not just a book I wanted to get rid of. I found a lovely book, full of essays about god and spirit, written by some of the greatest writers of our day. As I walked my book to the little library, I blessed it and wished it to bring happiness and new insights to the people who will read it and perhaps pass it along.
Last week I posted a list of 29 plus gifts given. This post is about what I realized I had received as a result of giving those gifts. I hope you will enjoy, and as you track your own giving progress, take note of how you feel and what qualities of being you experience through giving your gifts. 1: Compassion 2: Enthusiasm 3: Excitement 4: Enhance Presence 5: Mindfulness 6: Revelation 7: Coherence 8: “Rainbows” 9: Inspiration 10: Insight 11: Willingness in my attitude 12: Gratitude 13: Synchronicity 14: Oxytocin (love hormones!) 15: Companionship 16: Usefulness/Purpose 17: Blessedness 18: Friendship 19: Significance 20: Humor 21: Courage 22: Rest and satisfaction 23: Joy finding my new home 24: Wonder 25: Appreciation 26: Celebration 27: Love 28: Grace 29: Trust Many Blessings, Angel