Spiritual Direction

humility

Note:  I wrote this a year ago today.  I dreamed about this last night. I don’t know why. I suspect that my re-birthday is to blame! The lessons I learned from DEATH are just as intense and valuable as the ones I am learning from LIFE. I am not the same person I was a six months ago. I am not the same person I was when I returned from the ultimate space of LOVE. I continue to learn from this experience as intensely as I learn from living. I cannot tell you what to do. I cannot tell you how to live. You are the only one who knows what you need. I can only show you what I live through my spirituality and my humanness. After my awakening I promised myself that I would love as profoundly as I felt loved in that moment that I died. I swore I would bring that sense of divinity back and it’s been a constant reminder that in one second life can change. Do your self a favor and live like if you are dying. It won’t matter what you did a year ago, tomorrow or in ten years. I will forever be grateful for the guidance and the knowing that all I am and forever will be is the embodiment of true love. In the end that is truly all that matters…to me.  And here is the story:

In a few days it will be a year that I died in the emergency room. One minute I was having chest pains, the next paralysis and finally a moment of leaving and visiting the other realm. It took months of me finding grounding in my body. I felt like I could not fit. I couldn’t grasp returning to the human world. All fear and anxiety had disappeared. All dreams, expectations, and purpose fell to the roadside. Those things that caused constant worrying somehow seemed mundane. Living was mundane, without meaning. My poor fiance couldn’t deal with this new woman. My best friend was fearful that I would return to the world of the dead. It was a constant source of questions, “Are you okay? Do you feel alright? Do you need anything?” I cannot begin to imagine what they witnessed and how they felt through it all.

I would stand in the dead of winter watching the wind go through the trees. I could spend hours listening to the earth stretching, hearing colors, tasting the land like something from a metaphysical movie. Life was surreal. I couldn’t relate to this place when what I witnessed in those moments of meeting Spirit was the most magical experience I could ever imagine. And, for the skeptic in me, if it was my imagination then I would rather that other place over anything here on earth.

Spirituality is a personal facet of my life. It is a path that I try to move through while fully being present in my human form. I am not a religious person, but have studied several religions and philosophies throughout the years. I pick and choose from belief systems those things that feel right. Spiritual direction is for me to travel and often in a lonely manner because let’s face it, spirituality is personal. It is intimate. But, everything I had believed until January 15, 2014, was incorrect. I didn’t see Jesus Christ. I didn’t see Buddha. I didn’t see any of the great masters. I didn’t see a tunnel with loved ones waiting to walk me down the spiritual hall. I only saw love and light. I was engulfed in the warmth of universal ecstasy.  I was in the arms and presence of Source.

Those first three months of 2014 required a constant taste of humanity. I had more Spirit than Ego. I had more essence and love than ever before in my 46 years. I had more presence. I had an infinite amount of time. Although the days still had 24 hours I was able to stretch them into infinite space. I returned with a high pitch that became a meter for b.s. I could read people’s thoughts. I returned with so much love that I would cry just holding a book, a plant, my lover’s hands, my child’s words over a phone call, the cat purring, the dog placing his head on my lap, and anything that came into my space with any feelings. I had a really hard time connecting to my humanness. I had an impossible struggle feeling the hurt that people constantly carry in their hearts. Life is not meant to be such a struggle…but here we are pursuing the impossible with tenacity and hardness while forgetting to breathe the privilege of being alive. We have little gratitude for who we are and what we are meant to be…Divine Spirits having a human experience.

On March a close friend allowed me and my best friend to go stay in her brother’s home on the outer banks of North Carolina for a weekend. I walked the cold beach. Its vacancy allowed me to be again with the earth away from the freezing weather in the mountains. I wrote. I rested. I shared stories with my friend. We cooked. We danced. We walked by ourselves along shorelines. I was once again held by the grace of Spirit, not only for sustaining me through this return in human form, but for allowing me to want to stay here. I got another chance! I have had several of these in my lifetime. But, I had never returned from the Omnipotence presence of love.

Love transcends all. It sees no color, no race, no discrimination, no age, no faults, not a thing. Love sees you and me and this marvelous experience we get to call Life. And, when we embrace it with complete and utter compassion we are returned to a place of mysticism, mystery and the wisdom of time.

As months overlapped, new responsibilities took hold of me. I became more human again. It no longer takes me hours to fit my essence inside of my body. I wake naturally tugged in it. I have had struggles and questions and disappointments, but I’ve had grace and love guiding me along the way. I don’t know why I died. I don’t have those answers. I don’t have direction for another. I am reminded that I have to work on my own journey constantly finding a footing. I overlook things because ego is constantly monopolizing my rational brain. After dying I try to step back and allow the signs of spirit to guide me. Sometimes in seeking, fate hides all resources. We are forced to take new direction.

The other day I told a friend that I felt like there’s no way I could help another. If I can’t get my own crap spiritually aligned how do I give advice to another suffering from lack of direction? Then it came to me: spiritual direction is about allowing our higher self to find the answers. We reach in and find the truth from faith and intuition. I cannot guide you without you allowing your own guidance to align with your wishes. Somewhere inside you have all the answers. I will not tell you what you need…but I can give you examples of what has worked for me. I can hold your human hands while cradling your heart with a whisper, a touch, a sweet smile and let you know that you are not alone. That’s all I can offer you.

You have to let go in order to begin living. Living is a courageous act balancing the physical forms with the spiritual ones. Allow spirit to guide you. It’s always there. We are made from love, to love, and be love. Mucho love to you, darling!  Begin with loving yourself!

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Peaceful Quest Retreats is Closing

pqr closing

The past 5-1/2 years of our lives in Peaceful Quest Retreats have been a true university of spirit. We have learned so much about others and the purpose of our own lives. It’s been an enriching experience of heart and soul. There was never a single moment of avoiding life because we were living through the many folks who walked through our doors. Bobbie and I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to invite so many strangers into our lives.

As of January 1st of 2016, Peaceful Quest Retreats will be closed. We will not be taking any further reservations. It will no longer be a motel or retreat center. We are closing the doors to a business but not friendships. We are closing doors to one side of this venture while allowing for so many other opportunities to appear. Excitement is in the air! A sense of awesomeness is right around the corner. We welcome the chance to travel and experience life through other venues. This beautiful place has been the starting point for other paths. Each step we take carries with it gratitude, humility, and a reminder to continue loving while trusting in something higher than ourselves. The stories here have allowed us to step out of ourselves and accept what is truly important.

We have seen kindness and generosity during these past few years. Usually it has arrived from the most unexpected sources while taking the heart to another level of compassion. Thank you for partaking in our lives. Thank you for the stories, opening your hearts to us, and allowing us to become part of your lives even if for a day. This place has been magical. It has been a place for healing and growth. We wish you a wonderful new year. It’s been an honor having you stay with us. May you continue following your dreams no matter where they take you…embrace the change with child-like wonder!

Paying an Invisible Debt

debtnotowed

My darling fiancé, Matt, likes to quote Mark Twain, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”  I am reminded that worrying solves nothing.  It’s like filling an imaginary bucket with fears.  The false impression of controlling an event is what gets us stirred up in the first place.  Everything does happen in divine order.  When he says this quote I am able to move from a small doubt to the knowing that I have no dept to pay.

Each person moves at a different spectrum especially when we are being tested with huge obstacles, events, and challenges.  Life does not happen to us.  Life happens through us. When we let go of those stressful strains that fill our spaces, trying to fill the empty bucket with anxiety, we let go of the struggles. Ah!  There is a battle always going on inside of us: ego vs. spirit.  We are such complex beings, because we are created in the image of divinity, but we fight against it. The ego loves to create the lie of separation.

It is said that time heals all wounds. This is only if and when we are ready to release what has hurt us.  I’ve known people whose wounds are older than me and are still living in the memory of the event and trauma.  Surrendering, letting go, releasing…these are all beautiful words of wisdom.  They sound simple.  It’s like telling a person who lives on adrenaline to stop and relax.  How?  How can one start to let go? How do we release the illusion of fear? Not everything that needs to be learned is pretty.  Some things are monstrous, shameful and horrendous in nature, but it is those things that require release the most.  Piggy backing secrets is a sure way of stomping growth and the flow of life. And because we are creatures of habit and patterns the fears of past events overcast the future. The distress of unknown factors create a mountain out of flat land.

I said to Matt this morning that life is an adventure.  He answered, “Not always, babe.”  I then said that not all adventures were fun, exciting, and wonderful.  Some adventures are pretty darn nasty.  I am learning everyday to throw caution to the wind or at least giving it a try.  As a friend recently said, “We can achieve anything as long as we get out of our own way.”  I am constantly reminded that what keeps me from achieving anything is me.  What allows me to grow is me. What allows me to release is me.  What releases the drama is me.  And, at times what creates the same drama is me. I am getting better at releasing and surrendering.  I don’t recognize the woman I was just a year ago, or even five months ago.  I am peeling the onion layers at a time, but instead of getting smellier as I get to the core, I am getting sweeter.  It isn’t easier to face those things that have no answers at this moment.  It can be scary.  It can be daunting.  But, I do realize the need to abandon all control to God.  His master plan is flawless, even when I don’t like it.  Life is orchestrated to be lived through layers of complexity and simplicity; dark and light, yes and no.  The duality of everything makes us, breaks us, and re-creates us.

What are you willing to surrender in order to start living an authentic life?  We all have to be honest and determine what’s important.  If your past is killing you then stop looking at the rear view mirror, you don’t live there anymore.  Sharing and letting go frees the skeletons in the closet and allows you to finally bury them in the ground.  You are only responsible for your life and your choices! Stop trying to pay debts that aren’t due or owed or even in the near future.  If you must, live one-second-at-a-time because during some circumstances living one-day-at-a-time seems like too much. And that’s all we can do to surf the wave of uncertainty.

Lessons from a Mountain Motel

No place like home by Nelson

Five years ago two women, whom had zero clue how to run a hospitality business, embarked on a dream. They bought a little motel in the mountains with high hopes of people from all over coming to rest and relax. Like any great expeditions the lessons learned have been endured through mistakes, guessing, failing, hard work and intuition. These two women have learned many valuable lessons during the journey.  Leaving the city life and retreating to the mountains was a means of allowing the Divine to work through them.  In the process they became great students.

When my best friend, Bobbie, and I told our attorney that we were going to purchase this motel his question was, “What do the two of you know about the hospitality business?”  Bobbie, still working for the airline business, answered, “I’ve stayed in many hotels and know what is acceptable.”  I answered, “I have run other businesses how different could this one be?” To be honest we were clueless and that’s what allowed us to learn throughout the past five years.

IMG_4232Lesson 1: Never judge a book by its cover.  There is a reason for this cliché. Our little retreat center needed lots of love and updating. It has been work in progress. With each renovation, clearing and cleaning we have been polishing a gem. And, just like the physical buildings each person who enters here teaches us something. Sometimes those who look edgy turn out to be the most amazing people. Their stories keep touching us even after they leave.

Lesson 2: “Breakdowns” are “break-throughs” in disguise. Things break all the time. Part of being an innkeeper is paying attention, thinking and listening to everything.  People are constantly amazing us with suggestions. Owning an old motel has its shares of challenges. Flooding issues, electrical problems, remodeling of all sorts have been needed.  We’ve learned that those breakdowns have led to better things. We have broken through valuable experiences. The universe has allowed us to see that things will break at the precise moment that extra money has been in the account.

Lesson 3: Real is just a matter of perception. Time is not an element in the mountains.  There are days I have absolutely no clue what day of the week it is. When you live your dreams there are no expectations for tomorrow. Mondays feel like Saturdays.  We aren’t trying to fix the world. Cutting the grass, cleaning toilets, and doing laundry are part of owning a home. These are chores. There is comfort in these simple acts. We don’t treat this business like work and therefore those who visit feel as if they are part of the place.  We make it look easy because it is enjoyable.

Lesson 4: “Thank you” goes a long way. People want to feel appreciated. They are visiting an extension of our home. This is not just a business. This place is a way of life. A smile and a thank you allow the channel of communication to extend and widen. Many guests enter as strangers and leave as friends.  There have been invaluable commodities of lessons and exchanges from every soul who has stayed in our place.

Lesson 5: Patience is priceless. Through the pursuit of happiness and the quest for peace there are things that will alter one’s patience. People are generally good. The more you allow them to feel as if this retreat center is a home away from home, the more they repay with gratitude. Unfortunately, you can’t please every single person every single time. Impossible! We have learned to make the most of those teachers. They provide invaluable lessons in tolerance and humility.  I know I am constantly learning not to take it personally. After five years I believe this has been one of the most important lessons for me.  It’s none of my business what anyone thinks of this place or me.  I have learned to set boundaries on my worth through this simple lesson.

Lesson 6:  Nature fixes most problems. I have a hard time understanding how people cannot sit outside by the pond and just chill. We can always tell who’s running away from problems by their avoidance with the outside world. We tell them about the trails in the back woods, the labyrinth, the creeks, and the look in their eyes seem to not comprehend the suggestions. Yet, it is these same folks that on another visit take advantage of the magical outdoors and feel renewed.  Contemplation is underrated.

Lesson 7:  Know when it is time to move on and follow the next dream.  I believe that life happens in cycles. There is a beginning, middle and ending to everything. When Spirit starts showing signs to move forward they appear through synchronicity and serendipitous events.  I began finding the strangest of things in rooms last year. These little objects began to give way to a universal and personal scavenger hunt. It was as if teachers were entering every few weekends with messages in their stories. And in following those stories we have realized that graduation is finally here. This little center has given us permission to move on and follow other creative avenues. I would had never began writing had I not found this place. I would have no clue what it was to unleash my creative process. Just like when something appears in a room that requires attention we must listen to our intuition.

Mountain LifeFive years in these mountains has allowed us to heal from the past.  We thought we would save a little rundown place and in turn the place saved both of us.  Bobbie and I are in awed at how things keep transpiring just because we did what everyone thought was crazy.  We climbed into the unknown and have been walking through divinity all this time.  The quest for peace is the journey.  The rest is just a bonus.  We are excited at the rest of the journey after this gem is passed on to another. I look forward to witnessing the changes and adventures that the new owners will experience. We have been blessed! Happiness is definitely an inside job. It starts with the self and extends to every soul who enters your space. May you find lessons in your everyday journey!

The Adventure of a Lifetime

into the woods

I love adventures! I enjoy the magic and mystery of not knowing and the surprises I will encounter along the way. Almost five years ago my best friend and I found a little piece of heaven in the mountains of Western North Carolina and settled down. We brought with us dreams, passions, and visions. We were to heal ourselves from past lives. We all consist of a million lives in one lifetime. This was the place we would learn about love, letting go, trust, faith, belief, joy and growth. And, as all great adventures there is beginning and an end.  We are both ready for the next chapters. The book is open for us to start writing. We are giddy and delighted with how much is still out there to explore.

Peaceful Quest Retreats has been the magical lamp in my life. It has provided so many good fortunes. It allowed me to shred, investigate, purge, rebuild, restart, and truly love myself like I’ve never known before. I know you ask, “What does a place have to do with all that stuff?” Oh, it has a world to do with it! Why do folks run to retreats, ashrams, monasteries, and other sacred places? Why do they go on pilgrimages? Because these sacred places force the mind, body and spirit to find balance. There has to be a place that removes you from the life you are used to and pushes you to truly see authenticity. Sanctuary does this. Breathing space is a must.  I could write a book about the experiences in this little retreat in a little unknown town called Gerton.  But, those are my experiences.  We all return from sacredness with an awakening to life.

It’s with great pleasure and jubilee that we put this place out into the universe for another person(s) to experience the enchantment, blessings and love. We thank you all for the constant love and support. It has been a journey of a thousand steps and more. Please feel free to pass the “for sale link” below to others. We are constantly hearing “how amazing it would be to live here,” “this is so peaceful, I wish I could take off from the world and do something like this…”  We’ve heard all the sweet desires and longing.  This might be your chance to experience the wonder of this healing and serene place.  Much love and light to all….

http://asheville.craigslist.org/bfs/4986891539.html

www.peacefulquestretreats.com

Lessons from the Mountains

From time to time I will be posting pages from a book I am finishing.  I hope you enjoy these lessons:

In the winter of 2010 I find myself alone on a mountain top in an old motel living with the ghosts of regrets.  My two youngest are still dealing with the changes of the “poor life” versus their other life of luxuries.  Our home is a modest one.  My best friend and business partner leaves to work for weeks at a time in the airline business.  I don’t know anyone in this town.  I am engulfed in my own thoughts and haunting.  I don’t want to fail.  I cannot fail. Each freezing day that passes I want to return to the old places of familiarity.

The winter is the worst seen in many years on these mountains.  The pipes freeze and I am left without water for eight days.  Two weeks prior to this ordeal the basement floods.  There’s a monsoon of waterfalls coming through the walls.  The house is mourning and so am I.  I sit on the steps looking and listening to the cries.  I join the basement in this release.  I don’t know how much more I can take.  Was moving here a mistake?  What will my family think?  I cannot return to the life I had in Florida.  I cannot go anywhere without money.  I am alone.  I am cold and alone in a way I haven’t felt in years.  If stubbornness was a degree I would have a PhD in it.  I think this is what keeps me moving on auto pilot at this time.  I don’t know.  What do I know about living in these mountains that seem to be taking me to places of unknown assurance?

The days are gloom.  My entire essence is going against this terrain.  Now, on the fifth day without water, I decide to go to the frozen pond and grab a bucket full from the excess trickling down the mountain side.  It is two degrees outside.  I am in my pajamas, hair up on a bun, and water boots to guide my slippery path.  I go down frozen steps, iced and slick just like the pond.  I stand on the ice waiting for the trickling to fill the bucket so I can flush toilets.  I have a half-full bucket when I decide I am cold.  It’s enough for one flushing.  I make it up three steps when I hit an ice chunk and I tumble down the steps on my ass dumping the icy water on my legs.  I am wet, cold, sore and angry as hell.  I yell to the heavens, “Is this all you have?  Really!  Keep giving it to me and I will continue to take it. If I am not supposed to be here then show me a freaking sign so I can leave.”  The valley is quiet. The voice travels and echoes through the dead-ness of winter.  I am so tired of this crap.

I enter the house and cry on the floor in front of the fireplace. I have no money to get someone to fix the broken pipes.  They need to thaw and I need to as well.  I am frozen in my emotions as I cannot figure anything out.  I don’t know exactly what I am supposed to do at this point.  I go downstairs to my basement bedroom where the water has frozen in places.  The large part of my shoes had to be thrown out.  I am down to nothing in my ability to think or find a positive outlet. These are the moments that bring me to my knees.

I think of these mountains, the Appalachian Trail, the beauty and serenity of winter.  I am traumatized by all the white stuff on the ground.  I am not made for this cold.  I cannot stay warm.  I am afraid of the heaters being on too long and causing a fire.  I am afraid of the gas fireplace leaking gas while we sleep.  I make sure the kids have warmth upstairs in their rooms but I have nothing downstairs in the dungeon.  I wrap myself in layers and wait for sun and warmth.  It is months before I feel heat on my shoulders.  It is years before I recognize the power of these lessons.  I am stripped down to nothing.  Even my favorite shoes are gone.   I wait for a sign and it doesn’t arrive until I am ready to conquer my ego and self-worth issues.

The next morning it dawns on me that I have antiques I can go sell.  I have an engagement ring that I can pawn off for food and fixing the well and pipes.  I grab a hold of everything in a box and trek down the mountain, avoiding the black ice that has taught me to tread carefully for days now.  I go to an antique warehouse in Asheville.  I enter with four bottles that are full of liquor and have a music box with a ballerina dancing in the bottle.  They are worth something.  The Dutch company has been out of business for over thirty years.  I know their worth.

Two of the bottles get purchased. I then ask if they buy jewelry and immediately I take the ring that my ex had given me under false pretenses and place it on the counter.  The woman checks the diamonds and asks what I want for it.  I tell her that I don’t know and to make me an offer.

She offers me two hundred dollars and I tell her I will take it.  But then something magical happens as she starts to write the check.  She closes her checkbook and tells me, “You know this ring is worth more than $200?”

“Yes, I know.” I stare into her eyes.

“I can’t buy this from you at that price, ma’am.”  She hands me the ring and I place it in my pocket. She looks at me and the remaining bottles, “You know God provides tests all the time.  Some of us pass them and some of us fail.  You have made me question my character.  I almost failed another test from HIM.  Do you understand this?”

I say to her, “Sweetie, I am humbled by the fact that you didn’t rip me off. I have no sentimental value to the ring.  I would take the $200 if you care to buy it.”

She says, “Thank God.  I just cannot write the check. I cannot rip you off like that.”  Her eyes get glossy and she smiles in such a sympathetic way. She asks, “What is the story behind the ring?”

I tell her it was given to me by my ex and it was to cover up his infidelities at that time.  I couldn’t wear the ring and had not worn in years.   I want to tell her that it’s okay. I am okay with letting it go.  I want to eat something other than Ramen noddles, pay for my pipes to be fixed, and maybe take the kids to a movie.  I want to buy water so I can wash dishes.  I don’t share any of this.

I tell her thank you for her honesty in regards to the value, but as I am walking out of the store she says, “Miss, you are like that ballerina in the bottle.  Don’t ever underestimate yourself.  You are stronger and more graceful than you can imagine.”

I walk out with tears racing down my cheeks.  I had not shared the story of the bottles and my childhood. I don’t tell her that when I was six years old, in one of many Houdini acts, my father showed up with a similar bottle as a gift to my mother.  I remember standing by the dining room table watching the ballerina dance inside the gold liquor while my parents argued in the kitchen.  I wanted to be just like the ballerina: graceful, thin, beautiful and oblivious to my surroundings.

As I get in my car I realize that I am finally that graceful little thing inside of a bottle dancing to a French melody.  I have become the grace that carries me and pushes me towards the rhythm of God’s tune.  I know this.  And forever I will be grateful to this stranger for pointing it out that I am stronger than I think.   I am the embodiment of grace and forgiveness.

I now have some money.  I stop for food and I return up the mountain with a bucket full of hope, grace and peace until the next lesson these mountains choose to bestow upon me. .