Opening Doors to Compassion

I love compassion and this morning I was given a gift.

For starters, I went to my favorite coffee shop for my mocha. Anyone who knows me knows that I used to be at Caribou every morning – rain or shine and holidays – even the biggies like Thanksgiving or Easter. The only day I can think of Caribou being closed was Christmas day. Christmas was a hard one for me.

I went to Caribou pretty much every day. I wrote from there, I took the real estate course online there, I studied for my Orton Gillingham classes there, and I had what I called my “coffee shop buddies,” who were the people, mostly men in their 50s and 60s, who also went to Caribou daily. To me, it wasn’t just a coffee shop; Caribou was a representation of what I thought of as “community.”

So you can imagine my dismay when I went to Florida to visit my mom for a long weekend during Thanksgiving break in 2015 and I came home, went into Caribou that Tuesday and one of my buddies, Kevin, said, “Have you heard?”

“Heard what?”

“Caribou is closing on December 6.”

That was less than a month away. I had about three weeks of my community haven to enjoy and it was done.

The Sunday, the day before they closed, I wrote this on Facebook: “Today’s the day… for years on Sundays my routine is to get up early, walk my dogs and sneak off to the coffee shop. I just ordered my last Sunday dark chocolate, almond milk, 2-scoop, no whip mocha. I’m in the big leather chair by the fireplace and I have my book in my lap to read after I post this. I am so grateful for the space and the light I have been offered here. Trying not to cry in my coffee or make this a sad time so I can enjoy it and say good-bye. Tomorrow I’ll start the journey of finding another happy place. The gym?” (Sad, blue face with a tear falling emoticon.)

After this day, I tried three different Starbucks locations near my house, but none offered me comfortable chairs and the comradery with people like I found at Caribou. The mochas there are just okay, not anything I would label “heaven in a cup.” Eventually, I started to experiment making my mochas at home. I bought two cushiony outdoor chairs from Costco for a great price and put them on my deck.

 

new-coffee-shop

My new coffee shop

 

That’s where I spent every morning this past summer while the kids were out of school. I got up, walked the dogs, made my mocha on the stovetop and went straight to my deck. I watched the sun rise on the trees. I listened to the birds. I read metaphysical books, and I meditated using tracks from my phone – Don Simmons from Phoenix and Dragon makes meditation CDs and I have just about everything he’s ever made. He’s even on iTunes.

I really miss Caribou near my house and going there every day. Fortunately, there is another Caribou. It’s a little far for daily visits though. A few of the old Caribou gang migrated over to the “other” Caribou, so when I go, I still get to see familiar faces.

So, today, it’s a Sunday. I walked my dogs this morning in the cold – too cold for a porch sit. It was an easy decision to sneak out and drive the distance to the “other” Caribou. Besides, I needed more ground espresso for my espresso machine and I buy it there (a $20 Mr. Coffee espresso maker).

Once I got to Caribou, I ordered my coffee then flipped the switch on the fireplace (I may not be a regular, but I know how to act like one), and curled up in the leather chair beside the fireplace. It’s not as cozy as “my” Caribou, but I felt at home. I breathed in the smell of my mocha, a.k.a., heaven in a cup, sighed in what felt like relief, and took my first sip. Ahhhh.

I began reading my Mom’s Soul Café book that I am in final edits for (coming soon to an Amazon near you!). I also started to people watch. Each time the door opened, I looked up. I couldn’t help it.

I saw this couple in the parking lot. It was hard not to see them. The woman was “normal” looking enough. She was wearing Ugg Boots, jeans and a long sleeved tan thermal shirt with small pretty flowers covering it. She had long, straight hair parted in the middle. Her man was another story. Think Bon Jovi. His hair was almost wig-like, he had on cargo shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt, nothing too weird, but his hair and face were disheveled, in a hip way. He had earrings on. His face was a little older, but his look was that of a young musician with poufy Bon Jovi hair. I would not label this guy a gentleman by his looks.

I was curled in the big chair and after they got their coffee they sat at a table directly in front of me. They were by the window. I was still reading when the man got up. I watched him walk to the door. That’s when I got my big, wonderful dose of human compassion for the day.

The man had jumped up to open the door for an elderly lady who was struggling just to walk. There was no indication she would have a hard time with the door, but the man anticipated her hardship and decided to help her even if the door was not a problem for her.

You may not think this is a big deal, but I do. Oprah says, after all of her interviews over the years, from Beyoncé to the murderer behind bars, there is just one common thread weaving through us all, and it is this: everyone wants to be seen and heard and to know that they matter.

That’s it. That’s humanity in a nutshell and why compassion is so very important in this world. Seeing that man jump up and open the door for that woman told her loud and clear: I see you. I see your struggle and I am going to help you. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

The elder lady could have been a younger woman pushing a stroller, or a beggar on the corner. She could have been someone being mean because she’s had a life of feeling unloved. She could have been anyone anywhere. Today, it was a woman struggling to walk and a man who saw her need and got up from his seat and helped.

With all of the news lately, the discord we all feel over our beliefs, it was really lovely to see a man get up without considering if they agree on issues and if they are of the same ilk, and just be nice.

I probably won’t be back in the Caribou for a while. I’m happy on my deck with the birds and the trees, but I’m glad that on the day I did make the drive, I got to see kindness in action. It filled my heart and made my soul happy.

Today, I will carry compassion in my heart and look for ways to help others.

 

Mocha on the Stovetop

Make two shots of espresso or 2/3 cup of coffee.

In a saucepan on the stove, put 10 oz. of milk. I use almond milk. Now, put in 3 tablespoons of chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate).

Heat the milk and chocolate over medium high heat. Wisk the two together. Do not boil! But get it hot to your taste.

Put the two shots of espresso in a large coffee mug. Pour chocolate and milk mixture in. Stir. Enjoy.

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What’s in a Label?

I cried this morning in the Starbucks. I had to get up and get a napkin to make sure my mascara wasn’t running down my face. I cried because I read yet another article about Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner. This time, I read about a man named Terry Coffey who was pissed off at the use of the words “brave” and “hero” when Caitlyn is being referred to. Terry didn’t like those terms.

He chose a war picture to post on Facebook which went viral. Men fighting a war is what courage, bravery and a hero looks like to this man. But when he researched the photo further to give the person credit, his trail led to a man who had used the picture as part of coping therapy, which is now becoming a documentary on WWII. The therapy was because the man had been beaten by five men to the point of being in a coma for nine days and had to learn to walk again – for cross dressing.

war pict

I love it when life gives a dose of serendipity pie. Terry wrote and updated his previous position and didn’t think it was an accident he chose the picture he chose. Not that his 600,000 new friends agreed. They seem to love his original post more.

It made me cry.

It would be nice if we could just drop the damned labels all around or find a way to accept that one definition of one word will never fit the seven billion people trying to walk a meaningful path in this life.

When I watch Caitlyn unfold in the public eye, I do use the word brave. I see a man who was scared. Scared but willing to stand in his truth, let come what may.

That’s the thing about a person standing in truth, it’s scary because it changes everything. Every-thing. And that takes courage.

When a person decides to tell the world they are different than most of the population, they are standing up for everyone in line behind them that has been kicked down and literally beaten (in many cases to death).

I am writing a book about my grandmother’s life. My grandmother was beaten and verbally abused by my grandfather. She had to rise up, learn to drive, get a job, and make changes for herself. She had to escape the fear and live her life, and so did my mom and my aunts. They all had to overcome being torn down mentally and beaten physically. And it was BRAVE. And it took COURAGE. And they are my HEROES for being the kind of women who could do that.

And they worked hard so that I could grow up with FREEDOM from fears like those they had to endure.

When I write about the generations before me, I see them all standing behind me, lined up and cheering me on to the finish.

So what’s Caitlyn’s finish? Who is standing behind her? Maybe a line most people will never see, but there is a line. And I believe she’s brave. I think what she’s done takes courage. And I’m willing to bet she’s taking plenty of metaphorical punches for many people today and those yet to come. Based on the words I’ve read, she is fighting a war – a war on standing in a truth where the outcome is freedom to be truthful to one’s self.

Every label out there has more than one meaning, and that is what those words are (even the kindest words are) – labels. And labels are interchangeable and meaningless and meaningful all at the same time. It all depends on who you ask.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Thoughts and concepts create an artificial barrier, a separation between human beings. Your interactions are then not rooted in Being, but become mind-based. Without the conceptual barriers, love is naturally present in all human interactions.”

Today, I strive to let go of the labels I have put on myself and those in my life, and even those of the world. If I do label something or someone, I know that they are just that, labels; that the name I decide to give someone might feel different to me, look different and actually be different, but under the labels we are all the same, one kind, one person connected by one truth that has no label but is called LOVE.

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Trusting in Life

Last week my son was home sick for two days. The week before that, my daughter was home for three days. There were some stuffy noses and not-so-great nights of sleep, but in both cases, I felt like saying, “Buck up!” “Keep going!” “Be a little man/woman!” I wasn’t feeling well either – I had the sniffles and a little cough. I thought I might be feverish too. But I chose to keep going in spite of my plugged-up ears.

Having them home so much felt like it was summer break already, and there are two things I do not like about summer break. One, those women that post all over Facebook how excited they are about having their kids home for months on end. “I’m so excited to have my wonderful, non-fighting, able to entertain themselves all day every day kids out for the summer break!” #ireallyhavemykidssignedupforcampfrom7amuntil4pmeveryday

The second thing I do not like about summer is that my sanity is compromised, often to its breaking point. Maybe those women who write on Facebook have kids that get along, but mine fight constantly. My son is a verbal warrior who talks like a 16 year old instead of a nine year old and my daughter is a spit-fire seven year old who isn’t gonna take that shit. And by not taking it I mean, she screams at the top of her lungs and starts swinging punches at her older, stronger brother. He screams and runs, realizes he’s screaming and running, runs back, throws a jab and runs away again. Everyone ends up crying.

My one consolation on the kids being sick so much over the last two weeks was that they were not home at the same time. So it was pretty quiet. But still, I was torn between having them get up and go on feeling a little crappy or allowing each the down time they asked for. Like I said, I wasn’t feeling great either, and I was still going. Why shouldn’t they?

I started asking myself, Am I raising the next generation of slackers or am I raising the next Bill Gates or Oprah? Would Oprah stay home if she had a cold? I know I saw a show once where she was sucking a cough drop on air.

I compared myself to other parents, Would such and such let her child stay home today?

I gave myself the guilt trip, I’m sure such and such would not only keep hers home she would make sure they had every need before they even asked. I bet she’s happy to have her kids home from school.

In the end, I gave them both the space to heal themselves and decide that if this is what they felt they needed, then I would honor their decisions. I decided to trust myself in trusting the child.

At the same time I was going through asking myself to trust my children, I started noticing reports on TV about a transgender five year old, whose parents allowed a boy child to become a girl. They trusted the child to know what she needed.

In addition to positive comments, I saw many comments that basically said, children don’t know what they need; it’s up to parents to decide.

I guess I see that side of it – I generally do see all sides of the metaphorical coin. But I also have a transgender person in my family. He-who-was-born-a-she was most definitely born a boy in a girl’s body. I can say this with absolute certainty.

There are many, many instances I can cite to get my point across and I’m sure his mother will know plenty more, but one sticks out in my mind. He-who-was-born-a-she was taking a bath with another girl cousin at age three. During the bath, He said, “When I’m older and I get my penis, I am going to….” I don’t know what he was going to do, but that’s not the point. My cousin who is still a girl and is six month older than he-born-a-she said, “You are not going to get a penis, you are a girl.” To which the three year old he-who-was-born-a-she started crying and protesting about the penis he would have someday. He was adamant that he would have a penis.

It is my experience that transgender children are very aware of their private parts at a young age. I can attest that they know early on that they see something differently than the people around them see it.

I come from a family of women. My mom is one of five girls and those five girls had seven girls. Only two boys (mine is one of them) have been born into my immediate family. I have one aunt who is married to a woman. We are a family filled with the feminine spirit. If he-who-was-born-a -she would have been a boy saying he was going to one day get a vagina, I could understand the mishap. Vajayjay is just about all there is at family gatherings – maybe a little boy could get confused.

But, He-who-was-born-a-she wanted a penis. And there was no real reason for it. He cried so young that he wasn’t a born a boy that I saw then that there was no mistaking it, he might have been born a she, but he is a he.

So when the time arose that she came to us and said she was becoming a he, it was no shock – no shock at all. And although it was a little strange, mainly because it’s just strange to see someone born a female become a male through and through, it was also wonderful to see a beautiful, soulful person become who he was born to be.

I’ve cried so much watching the Bruce Jenner story; maybe for Bruce, but more for my own he-who-was-born-a-she. And for so many people living out a personal journey that must be so hard in a world that can be so harsh when non-conformity is involved.

As always after I drop the kids off at school (YES! Both of my kids went to school today), I was listening to Q100 morning show the radio where a caller called in about the Bruce Jenner story. He said, “Science doesn’t lie, if someone is born a certain sex then they need to stay that gender. What? Are we going to live life on feelings now? Just because someone feels like they are not the gender they were born in we all have to accept that person’s decision to just change?”

The answer, YES! Why not live life on what we feel is right for us? Is my soul based in science or feeling? Is my faith in something bigger than my existence scientific? Is Love science?

Today, I live by my gut feelings, I honor my soul and I give thanks to others that honor their soul, because it is in our souls where we are one.

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Rhythms

Drums play

Night and day

A beating

A rhythm

In the heart

There’s heat

Outside

It’s Cold

Allow

The rhythmic heart

To meet the world

Exactly where it stands

Life is lived

From Inside out

Deep love

shows itself

In the small space

Between these pulses,

Dancing

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What’s in a Prayer?

prayer-on-my-knees4

After dropping the kids at school this morning, I was on my way to the coffee shop (yep, I’m still addicted to my mochas), listening to the Bert Show on my local radio station, Q100. I like this morning show because they talk about random things going on in their lives and I can either relate to them or laugh at their situations. This morning, Bert, the namesake of the show, asked a question that is interesting to me, mainly because I have struggled just the same as he.

He has a friend with cancer. Unsure of how widespread the cancer is, the friend has undergone a test to find out. Today the friend is receiving his results. Basically, this friend will find out today if he lives or dies.

Bert’s dilemma is this (I’m paraphrasing what he said on the radio); Bert said, as a budding Christian, I want to pray for my friend, but I’m unsure what to pray for. On the one hand, I want to pray for his healing, and on the other, I feel like God has a plan for my friend, so it doesn’t feel right praying for intervention into what that plan may be. Maybe my friend is supposed to die and that is God’s plan.

The advice from the two other hosts, Kristin and Jeff, were to pray for peace, comfort and strength. A caller called in and said to pray for the doctors to be able to read the results correctly.

Apparently, the friend has already been through a round of incorrect readings. From what I can gather, it sounds like the poor guy has been on the roller coaster ride of his life, literally.

Like I said, I have also struggled with how I feel on this issue. Do I pray for healing? Is it OK to ask God to go against His plan if it means I get to keep in this life someone I love?

I have been to meditations called “healing circles” where everyone meditating pictures a person who is sick being healed – healed by God. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong, or against God’s plan when I was doing it.

But still, when it comes to personal prayer, I’ve struggled, asking myself the same question, Is it OK to say to God, Please heal this person I love.

I didn’t know how I felt until the caller said to pray for the doctors to read the tests correctly. Suddenly, I was mad. I started talking to the radio, and I even tried to get Siri, from my iPhone, to call the Bert Show. Siri doesn’t know Bert’s number, by the way.

“Pray all you want for the doctors to read the results correctly, but now you are dealing with MAN! HUMANS who have FREE WILL,” I yelled. I immediately thought, praying for this will not get you anywhere. In my heart I felt that praying for something like doctors reading tests correctly is not prayer at all, but asking the doctors to not be doctors. I thought to myself, Doctors are humans in white coats doing the best they can to heal us, but in the end, they are human.

It was like something took me over, and I felt so strongly that her advice was in vain to the truth of what praying is about. It was a feeling that surprised me. And sitting here writing, I still feel the same. Although, I guess if it behooves someone, it wouldn’t hurt to pray for the doctors to read the tests correctly. It just wouldn’t be my choice of prayerfulness.

That’s not really the point, although it is what got me involved. And, I love that Bert has me thinking the question this morning, What do I believe of prayer and how do I use prayer in my life?

I have actually read books on the subject. Sermon on the Mount, by Emmet Fox is a book about The Lord’s Prayer. Many books on lovingkindness give prayer suggestions. One such prayer is, may there be peace in my life, may there be peace in the life of my family, may my community feel peace, may the world feel peace. In other words, it’s a kind of prayer ripple, starting with you and going out, out, out to encompass the whole of our world, and even our Universe. It’s a connectedness from the single to the infinite.

But, pondering my personal prayers and how I use prayer, here’s where I am today.

I know first is gratitude. I want to constantly let the Universe know how grateful I am for life; the Life Force that lives within me. I find myself silently saying, Thank You, a lot. It just comes to me in a moment and I express it. Nothing thought out, it’s just there and I say it – sometimes out loud and other times silently. It can be when I hear my kids actually getting along or just looking at a tree that I find fascinating. No matter what the “it” is, “it” is Life and I say Thank You.

Next, I do pray for what I want, but it is more in the form of intentions I set. Like a prayer vision board. For example, I might pray to God and let God know my intention is to write, because I believe with my whole heart this is what You intend for me. I want You to know I’m here, listening to my “gut” and heeding my intuition that You have given me. I hear in my Heart this calling and I intend to fulfill my dream, which I feel is a reflection of You, God. Oh, and thank you for this calling!

I also pray a ton about motherhood. I pray, pray, pray that my kids’ psychology bill will be low later in life and they will both be who they came into this life to be. In motherhood, my go to is The Prophet poem, On Children. I pray I can be that parent.

This leaves praying for others. I find I see the beauty in people much more than in my past. I can look at someone and know in my heart they are precious. I see we really are One.

At some point, the huge gap in between someone’s teeth stopped being something that made me think, “Why don’t they get it fixed,” so much as, “Look how precious they look when they smile at me with this difference.”

I’m using a superficial difference on purpose, but it could be anything. My point is, I don’t pray for people to be any different than they are. They are as they are meant to be. It’s not my job or right to change them. Everyone’s journey is their own.

What if this person is a drug addict? Is that God’s plan? I believe not. In this case, I would say, God, please restore this soul to its soul state. Please allow this dead person to awaken to Life. To you. Deliver compassionate people into this Life before it is too late.

In my world, drug addiction is like cancer. Why would I pray for the drug addict to be healed and not the cancer patient?

Jesus healed the sick and infirmed. He even brought back the dead. Why would Jesus intervene for God and not ask us to do the same. Didn’t Jesus say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, He that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father.” (John 5:19)

If Jesus was a healer, and Jesus was to be the Christian example of living life to God’s fullest, wouldn’t God ask us to be healers also? And if we can’t directly heal, as Jesus could, wouldn’t we then be asked as healers to pray that Jesus intervene to our Father to heal our loved ones of any and all afflictions holding them from being the best human reflection of God?

Cancer is a killer and we are meant to live a full life – for God’s sake. Anything that disrupts that is not God’s will. It is Dis-ease in life. There are many who believe in the power of intention and this theory of Dis-ease, which translates into a life of disease, like cancer. See Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life. Another example is Feelings Buried Alive Never Die. Both of these books have “dictionaries” of health issues and what causes diseases. Others believe we came into this life with baggage from past lives and they can be healed.

No matter what your beliefs are, I now know that I believe in praying for healing. In my heart, I believe God would have me intervene and say, give me my loved one! And I say this knowing that any time I pray something in Love, God smiles at me; touches my cheek with that wind I feel which comes out of nowhere I can see. Even when I don’t get my way, I know God smiles when I ask for anything with a pure heart of Love.

So today, I pray that Bert’s friend be healed of his cancer in full. I pray he goes forward to live a complete life with his wife and child. I pray that even if he is eaten up in cancer and is predicted to die tomorrow, that Jesus come to this man to heal him in body and soul. Show us humans how it’s done! Give him Life, even in the face of death. I call on all of the healers out there in our world, and in the next, to heal, heal, heal this man of his dis-ease. And so it is, and it is so.

Now, should this friend have to give up this life and go to God, I will then pray, God, I pray you accept this soul into your grace to watch over his loved ones in this difficult transition. I pray for your Love to envelope this man and heal his dis-ease from this life; that he may be there for his loved ones, to look over them and guide them and keep their presence in this Life in grace. Amen.

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Making It

Mom's Soul Cafe

On an ordinary day
In an ordinary home
A plain piece of toast
Baking in the toaster

Bacon sizzling on the stovetop
And kids running around and around
at my heels
Laughing like children do

The dog barks
The cat meows
And the fish need feeding, again

I hear the musical, hello
Coming from that guise of modern living,
My phone.

The voice on the other end says,
You are not ordinary
You are loved
You have made it to numero uno
And the masses think you are
Perfect

I jump and I scream
I think I did a cartwheel
Though I can barely
Recollect
The feeling

Because just as I let
It sink inward,

The toaster pops
The bacon is burning
And the kids still run at my heels

The dog barks
The cat meows
The fish are still hungry

And I was ordinary
Again.

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Time to be a Soul

It’s a little hard to write about my soul these days. I haven’t been going meditations for a while. I haven’t been to yoga since the summer began. No psychics, mediums or metaphysical anything for months. I even took a break from teaching Sunday-School this year at the Unity Church. My only explanation is that age-old reason: I’m busy.

Last October, I got my real estate license. I had a post license course to take after I got the license. It’s done, but it took a year (not because it was that hard, but remember when I said, I’m busy? Well, it applied to getting this course-work done too). Now, I’m practicing real estate. This is in addition to marketing work for people, making lip balm and deodorant, and other little ventures. Oh, and there’s the being a mom thing which pretty much takes any and all spare time (and the not spare time) I have and seems to become more demanding (in a good way) by the day.

Although I haven’t been acting much on my spirituality in the ways I used to, I do find that all of the time I had in the past to devote to my soul has given me the tools I can use now that I am feeling so hectic.

The times I walk my two dogs, I am able to take a breath, let my “list” go and find something beautiful to enjoy.

If I catch a little cat nap before picking the kids up from school, I put on a meditation from my phone that lulls me into a floaty space somewhere between relaxation and sleep. I doze off to affirmations of kindness and visions of those things I want to manifest for myself.

I have gone back to reading spiritual books, which I had not found time to do because of so much studying for my real estate license. I just finished, The Transformation by Ainslei MacLeod. He writes about how we come into this life affected by our past lives. It helped me to reconcile my feelings of missing something soulful if I’m not sitting on the mountain in a lotus position with my hands in prayer pose. That’s the vision I get of myself when I am immersed in my spiritual activities. He said, sometimes you can’t find spirituality on the mountain. You have to come down and live life.

This statement hit home with me. I’m definitely not on the mountain right now. But, because of all of my studies and actions in the past, I think I’m able to find deeper meaning in the activities of being busy than if I had not taken the time to see the soul-filled side of life. I feel like the people I come in contact with are important to the lesson. I’m encouraged to give them the real me, rather than pretend, or wear some metaphorical hat that I think they expect to see.

What I took from The Transformation is that we all came here with happenings in our soul’s past that hinder and help us here today. When we honor those qualities and overcome them, we move away from that “lesson” and on to the next. We get to stop the repetition. That’s why it’s important to live life and also to sit and breathe in that life with down-time; to listen to the whispers of the soul.

I also learned that spiritual acts big and small are part of a spiritual life. So, even when I am not going to all of my normal activities, I am still acting in spirit every time I’m honest, respectful, compassionate, or when I help someone, give someone a smile, donate to charity, or find a cause that I believe in and support. I’m finding out that there is no end to what I can do outside of a room full of like-minded people to still live a spiritual life. And that is my goal right now, to maintain a soul filled existence while conserving the time that I have to get done what needs to be done for now, so I don’t feel overwhelmed. At some point, making myself be somewhere just adds to the “to-do” list and becomes more stressful than not. Suddenly, it’s not something I’m doing for myself like it was before.

I really miss my friends from my activities at the metaphysical places I attend. And, I’m sure I’ll be back. In the meantime, I think I will be exploring my spiritual side in a different way than I ever have.

Today, I am enjoying living my oh-so-busy life from my soul’s perspective.

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