By Anne Marie Bennett

11 Card Draw- More and Less

I did this free-flow reading as a way to ease into the New Year, but you can use it any time to bring clarity and focus to your life.

I drew 11 cards randomly from my deck (without peeking!) and placed them, face down, in a stack on my desk.

Then I turned over each card, one at a time,
and asked it “What do I need more of?” and “What do I need less of?”

NOTE: When the reading is complete, it is very important to read over all of the wisdom and see if you notice any patterns,
then choose ONE “more” and ONE “less” to take action on right now, today, this week, this month.

Here are the cards that showed up for me and the wisdom they gave me:

4th Chakra- Cat:
You need more of a soft heart. You need less thoughts in your head.
Lonely (Committee Suit): You need more connections with others. You need less buying into old stories about loneliness.
Crown Chakra Sister (Companions Suit): You need more connection with Spirit. You need less thoughts in your head.
Brigid (Council Suit): You need more faith that Spring will come again. You need less focus on the coldness of Winter.
Fearless (Committee Suit): You need more confidence. You need less worry and fear.
Success After Failure (Commitee Suit): You need more confidence in yourself. You need less self-discouragement.
Lightbearer Archetype: You need more light. You need less worry about the people who are in your Light.
Jeff (Community Suit): You need more connection with your husband. You need less thinking about the past.
I am the one who is your husband, who loves you unconditionally.
Councili Suit Surprise: You need more joy and delight. You need less frowning and worry.
Doug (Community Suit): You need more hugs and connection with Spirit. You need less false stories about yourself.
I am the one who taught you lessons about love and vulnerability.
Companions Suit Wolf: You need more solid, earth-centered grounding in your body. You need less thoughts in your head.

Mystery Ingredients

grocery bagMystery Ingredients

Several years ago while watching The Food Network, I became seriously attached (that’s my euphemism for “addicted!”) to a show called Chopped where three professional chefs are given a basket of “mystery ingredients” and challenged to create an appetizer, entrée or dessert.

For example, in one episode they had to make a dessert using: boxed macaroni and cheese, apples, raw cashews and cane syrup. Another time they were given short ribs, lemon thyme, zucchini and gefilte fish and challenged to create an entrée. And can you possibly imagine what kind of appetizer you’d come up with if you were given peanut butter, granny smith apples and jumbo shrimp?

Each menu item is judged on presentation, taste, and creative use of the ingredients. In each round, the judges taste all of the chefs’ food and say what they think. After everyone has had their say, they hold a discussion and agree on which chef is to be “chopped” from the competition. After three rounds, there is only one chef still standing and he/she is the winner.

Every time… every single time I look at the ingredients and am positively certain that they won’t be able to come up with something edible that looks good on the plate.

And every time… every single time, I am proven wrong.

This reminds me of when I was teaching second grade. I would sometimes give the children an assignment of combining unrelated spelling words into a sentence. For example, dime-lines-sky. Or dinner-thumb-bells. It always amazed me the sentences those kids would come up with! And it always required a different way of looking at the words, using them out of context. I like to think that this challenge helped them with their creative thinking skills later on in life.

It also reminds me of Paper Bag Dramatics, a fun game we used to play years (ok, who am I kidding… decades) ago in Girl Scouts. The leaders would bring in four paper bags of several unrelated items gathered from different rooms in their house. For example, a bag might include: a toothbrush, a framed photo, a book of maps, a shawl, a piece of chalk, a broken radio and a ball of yarn. Each group of 3-4 girls was given a different bag of items and the challenge was to come up with a ten-minute skit using all of the items together. I loved this game because it brought about much laughter and playfulness as we tried to think of possible creative ways to thread these items into a plausible story.

So… back to Chopped. I loved this show the way I loved Paper Bag Dramatics, and the way I loved challenging my students to combine their unrelated spelling words into interesting sentences because it reminds me of the power of creativity in our everyday lives.

And I can relate this show to the larger mysteries of life as well. At any given point on our journey, we are being handed a bag of “ingredients,” and let me tell you, some of them are more mysterious than others. For instance, right now, my Life Ingredients include: a loving husband who is legally blind, several work projects to attend to, a growing business/work that I love, nurturing a new fiction release, reviving a dusty yoga/meditation practice, and caring for an elderly feline. How do I combine these “ingredients” into my life in a way that brings me balance and inner peace? How do these mystery ingredients come together to make meaning, to activate growth, to bring me closer to myself, others and Spirit?

Take some time to ponder….

What “mystery ingredients” are presenting themselves to you at this point on your journey?  How can they mesh together in a way that doesn’t sap your energy?

Do you need to add a few more ingredients into the mix in order to lighten your load and/or to allow you room for rest and renewal?

Let me know… I’d love to hear how this story has made a difference for you!

Gratitude and Grief

We’re well into autumn now here in eastern Massachusetts, and our thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving and gathering the colorful fallen leaves that are collecting on our lawn and driveway.  When I drew this card today, I was reminded to think on other things that can be gathered, like. . .for instance. . . blessings!

I love having this card in my deck to remind me to notice and actively collect blessings (that for which I am grateful) all year long, not just at Thanksgiving and the holidays.

The last few years have been difficult as we said good-bye to our beloved feline Seymour as well as Jeff’s mom, Connie (she was 93!) I’ve been turning more steadily to a practice of gratitude and it’s been helpful as I’ve been wading through streams and rivers—and some days seeming oceans—of grief. Practicing gratitude doesn’t necessarily lessen the grief to any extent, but it makes it easier to carry.

Who are you?

I am the one who stands in a field of flowers. I am the one who gladly picks the flowers and gathers them into my big bowl.

I am the one who is grateful for every blessing that comes my way, every single one.

I am the one who notices my blessings, who takes time to savor each one as I gather it in.

I am the one who is thankful for each and every moment of the six and a half years that Seymour graced my life.

I am the one who feels blessed for the love and presence that he blessed me with.

I am the one who is grateful for my relationship with Connie and the love that she so generously showered us all with.

I am the one who continually looks around my garden of blessings… I am the one who carries the gratitude alongside the grief.

NOTE: I am offering a SoulCollage® self-study program called Healing Hurt Hearts at the Holidays. If you are carrying any hurt or grief that makes the holidays difficult this time of year, check it out. We have scholarships available too! More info here.

Sea Glass Memories is Here!

sea glass memories cover with borderToday’s the day!

Sea Glass Memories is in the world at last and I am full of joy to share this new release with you all.

This is the second book in my Seahaven Sunrise series, but it works beautifully as stand-alone women’s fiction.

A cozy novel with the charm of small-town life
and the reassurance that we are resilient
and capable of love…

I love this quote from the Independent Book Review site because Elana Jeffries, along with Aunt Kit Gilmore, show tough yet tender resilience in the face of difficult losses. And they both discover, at their own pace, that they are indeed capable of loving and being loved again.

As Leah St. James says at Elana’s first Together-Not-Alone support group meeting:

“When we experience grief, instead of feeling whole, it can feel as if we’ve been broken into pieces that are tumbling around inside us like shards of glass in the ocean. The sea glass helps us remember that the pain of any kind of loss—any kind of brokenness—has the potential to soften if we allow ourselves to be with it. Our tears, our rage, our denial, our anguish—over time—can smooth the rough edges of our grief. I also believe that we can hold onto the sea glass as a reminder of what we have lost as well as how we survived it.”

If you have ever lost a beloved, did you think your life was over, that you would never love again?

sea glass definition book adDo you remember that feeling of being broken into pieces?

How did you get through it?

Can you see how the metaphor of sea glass can be helpful to you in difficult times?

My biggest wish for Sea Glass Memories is that when you read it, it will weave some surprising hope and even the teeniest ray of possibility into your day, no matter what life has thrown at you.

I See You

After seeing the original movie “Avatar,” one of the many things that captured my spirit and imagination was the way the creatures of Pandora greeted one another. Upon crossing paths with another being, they would pause, touch their heart, and say “I see you.” And they weren’t speaking of a superficial “seeing.” They really were pausing and looking into each other’s eyes as they said it.

I see you.

They were acknowledging the presence and the soul of the other.

I’ve been thinking how wonderful it would be if we did that here on earth. What a different world it would be if we each paused just a few seconds on greeting another, just a few seconds to really see each other, to notice the underlying beat of Spirit that connects us all as One.

At that time in my life, I was working in a bookstore, so I decided to try this there. My path crossed with many people in the course of a day at the bookstore, and I was amazed at how this practice calmed my own body and made me smile on the inside. Of course, I didn’t say “I see you” out loud to everyone, but I did say it on the inside and it made a huge difference in how I helped them, and in how open my heart was that day.

It’s also a beautiful thing to do with the people in your inner circle, people whom you see and welcome into your heart on a daily basis. Instead of just hurrying by with a quick kiss on the cheek, how about pausing for a moment and acknowledging their presence? You don’t have to say “I see you” out loud. It’s just about taking a moment to remember who this person is to you, to recognize that spark of their soul that speaks to your soul.

If you enjoyed this short wisdom essay, there are lots more in my book
Through the Eyes of SoulCollage®, available here.