Opening Your Gifts

IMG_1510Tis the season…for giving and receiving gifts. There’s the hustle and bustle of shopping for everyone on your list, finding the right thing, something that won’t disappoint.

But what if it was easier than that?

What if in just letting go, in following your true path, the rest of the world would be given the greatest gift?

I know it is dark and you are tired and frustrated and angry and feel trapped.

There is a way out. There is an easier, a better way.

You can stop trying so damn hard. Just be. Just be yourself. Your true self. The one who is Light and joyful.

Would you like to follow those things that turn you on, that make you alive, that bring you joy?

Those are the ways that Spirit is talking to you, saying, “Come, follow me. Follow the lighted path.”

When you are in doubt and fear, stop and ask, am I constricted, am I resisting?

Or, am I open, is it easy?

Follow the easy, knowing that the universe is dying to support you, to love you, to bring you joy.

We make it hard by getting in our own way. How do we do that? By thinking we need to be in control. By taking the reins and steering the damn train.

Let go.

Let the real you step out from the shadows. Let her emerge from the layers of shoulds and piles of to-dos.

Set her free to take over your life and open your gifts so the world can reap the joy of your being. So others can enjoy your gifts, your reason for being on this planet at this very time.

She is waiting, will you set her free?

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Freely Accepting Gifts

IMG_0103In working through another layer of worthiness issues, I came across the realization that I have a deep-seated belief that I have to work hard at everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to know how to work hard and to be willing to do it when the need arises. My issue is that I was feeling this about everything, and that’s a big problem. That means that I’m setting myself up to have to work hard across the board in my life, from relationships to jobs to learning a new language to alleviating the pain in my neck.

I know where part of this came from. Good ol’ Protestant Work Ethic, mixed with some immigrant mentality—hard work is the key! You need it to survive. You need it to succeed.

BUT, when we believe that we always have to work hard, then we always have to work hard! We attract what we expect, what we focus on. So, if I’m expecting things to be difficult and that I’ll have to work hard, guess what? It’s going to be true. Smack the forehead!

I was driving to go vote the other morning and a radio station was giving money away. Awesome! Once I stopped, I texted the keyword to their number.

When I thought about winning the $500, I could feel this big boulder on my heart. It felt immovable. So, I thought, what is this boulder?

What was my answer? Guilt! Guilt at not having worked hard for the money.

Here’s the junk I’m feeding myself: When I work hard, I am a good, respectable, and worthy person. You survive through hard work. When someone works hard, they become a success. And, I should feel guilty if someone freely gives me something. (Ugh!)

So basically it boils down to me having to earn anything good in life. This flies in the face of my belief that this is an abundant, generous, loving, bountiful universe.

I don’t have to earn
The blue sky
The warm sun
The taste of a ripe strawberry
The comfort and joy of dark chocolate
The sunflowers outside my window
The coyote allowing me to follow her
The beauty of the jay
The gold of my egg yolks
A restorative, good night’s sleep

These were all just given to me. One gift after another. I didn’t have to work hard. I didn’t have to earn the love of this bountiful universe.

Plus, I know how much joy I get from giving to others. So why am I taking that joy away?!

So, why can’t it be easy some of the time?

If I step away from my you’ve-got-to-earn-it mindset and think about gifts, I realize that, for example, I’m really good at remembering people and names. I don’t have to do any of those tricks to remember a name. It just locks in the vast majority of the time. When people ask how I do it, I tell them, “It’s just a gift. I don’t have to work hard for it at all.”

I know some people are great with numbers, others have been bestowed with musical talents. Spirit blessed you. Sometimes we have to uncover it, finesse it, grow it, but the big part of the gift was just given to you.

Money can be this way too. Money can be given to me, to you, as a gift. You don’t have to earn it all the time. Sometimes, it’s just like a clear blue sky. You didn’t have to do anything to deserve it. It was just freely given.

I guess it’s a part of gratitude. I can just acknowledge this bountiful universe and stay open to its gifts.

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Getting Unstuck: A Conversation With God

IMG_3132There was a time, actually, there have been many times, when I knew where I wanted to go, but I could not figure out how to get there. I’m stuck. I’m guessing maybe you’ve been there at some point too. I suspect it’s a human predicament.

My go-to response is to push myself harder, to try to do more. This can work in the short-term with physical tasks or sometimes even an activity (like bust out all the stops because my family member has an art opening and we just need to get it all done.) What usually happens is I eventually just end up exhausted, showing physical wear and tear, and feeling crummy.

At that point I know I need to do things differently.  I’ve tried everything I can reason my way into. I need to get out of my head.

One practice I’ve used when I’m blocked is spiritual free-association writing. I just sit at my laptop, eyes closed, and type what comes.

Here’s the dialog from one of these sessions.

Me: Okay, God, what am I doing wrong? What do I need to do? I am just not seeing the results I want. What should I do next?

Answer: Just rest. You don’t have to jump through hoops to be on your path or to be with me. You just need to be comfortable in your own skin.

Me: What about the victim piece of feeling like I can only be so successful because the “powers that be” are in charge?

Answer: I know it doesn’t make sense. If life was about achievement, then only the most capable would be happy, would win. This life is not about winning. Life is about finding beauty, happiness, and peace.

Me: So I don’t have to try harder?

Answer: No

Me: What about showing you I’m serious and putting in my “earnest money”?

Answer: Do you think I don’t know your heart? You don’t have to prove anything for me. You only have to do that for yourself. To prove to yourself that you are serious. I know you. I know you from the seed of who you are.

Me: So what is holding back the veil or holding it closed? How can I walk through the veil to the life I long for?

Answer: Just stop doing. BE and it will show up. When you stop racing around trying so hard to be good enough, you will sit down in the place just right and realize you are good enough. You are amazing. You are just where you need to be. Doing what you need to be doing.

Me: How do I live into this?

Answer: By stopping all your efforts to begin with. Just let go. Do one thing at a time. You’ve done a lot of hard work trying so hard to be better. You are wonderful, amazing, and healthy. You are shining. Just live into where you are. No more effort. You don’t have to be self-sacrificial to be better. When you think of successful people, they are just being.

Me: Is there more?

Answer: Yes, there is more. Shut off the nags in your head. Remember I love you and I shift the sands you are standing on so you’ll stop doing what you are holding tightly onto. Let it go. Drop it like a hot potato. You know the Zone. When you are being your true self, you are there.

Me: Thank you, God.

Answer: You are welcome, dearest.

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.



On My Way

On my way
The earth is loved into bareness
Walked by thousands of feet

On my way
Along the acequia
I’m companioned by the calls
Of peacocks and roosters
Living into their duty
To make certain
There isn’t a soul left sleeping

The sun peeks over the Sandias
Finally illuminating the
Dawn-rising balloons
Giants that, by now,
Float near the river

Pristine blue dome overhead
And I’m overcome
By the beauty and luck
Overflowing in my days
–Stephanie J. Gretchen

Photo and content © Copyright 2017. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Day 1: Pre-amble

Day 1I am leaving Maryland today. There’s a sense that I’ve started my journey, my pilgrimage. I have that feeling of shifting perspective.

I said goodbye to my dear brother, sister-in-law, and niece this morning. They stood waving in the driveway as I pulled away. They’ve been my home base for the past few months. What a treat it has been to spend this chunk of time with my niece as she perches on the edge of adolescence.

I’m sitting in Panera waiting for my car’s tune up to be completed. Then I’m off to a board meeting in PA. Seems funny to go in the total opposite direction (north and east) for the next few days. At the same time it feels grounding to go to Pendle Hill, a place that is steeped in Spirit, beauty, and centeredness.

I’m so aware of each interaction I’m having. It’s like watching my life in slow motion. This morning I’ve been gifted with joyful souls, caring for me and wishing me well. Little do they know the weight of their words or the distance of my journey. I take their words and the dragonfly’s acrobatic dance outside the window as a beautiful harbinger of what’s to come.

Oh yes, I’m ready!

Photo and content © Copyright 2016. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

A Pilgrimage of a Few Steps


The road to growth can be a circuitous route.

I recently went to a two-day spiritual event. The spiritual tradition was fairly new to me, although I had heard of this spiritual leader many times before.

On the first day I waited for 6 long, hot, tiring hours for my personal blessing. As the day wore on I found myself wanting to slip into exasperation at the seeming chaos, and reminding myself that this event was about loving kindness and maybe I should try a little of that. I felt surprisingly fussy and exhausted from the wait, the height of expectations, and the struggle of trying to understand the speaker. As I drove home that night,  I felt like I truly had been on a pilgrimage that day. I was in bed by 9:30 that night.

I played with the idea of not going the following day. I was tired and cranky and felt like I had been all revved up with no place to go all day. Did I really want to subject myself to that again?

I pushed on and went anyway. The following morning’s yoga, meditation, and teachings were wonderful. It was fascinating to learn more about this wisdom tradition, to understand a little more about this different road to God.

After a delicious lunch we went into a two-hour teaching session where I fought hard to understand what the speaker was saying. It was also late afternoon, the room was warm, and the lights were dim…food coma. I struggled to stay awake. After the teaching there was an hour-and-a-half-long meditation session in a darkened room. I lasted about 15 minutes before I popped out of the Depth. For the next hour and fifteen minutes I fought one dragon after another, changed positions, and tried every trick in the meditation book. I kept coming back to the prayer, “I know you’re there God. Help me find you.” I was totally unable to connect. I jumped out of my seat as soon as she concluded. I was out the door before you could say, “Namaste.”

As I exited the building, I saw a beautiful bird feather on the ground in front of me. I paused. I got into my car and a catbird jumped onto the hood and started tapping on the windshield right in front of me, “Knock, knock, knock, are you there?!” I heard the message—Work is happening, progress is occurring even when the space feels empty. It’s like when there’s a rainy day, just because there are clouds doesn’t mean the sun is not there. God was with me all the time.

This was not one of those rainbow and butterfly spiritual experiences, but sometimes the road to growth is a circuitous route.

Photo and content © Copyright 2016. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

The Labyrinth and Care for Self

IMG_6035Sometimes I’m just blown away by how clearly Spirit moves in my life.

I was at a retreat recently and decided to walk the labyrinth one morning as the sun was rising. Since it was early morning, I was aware that the soles of my shoes were particularly noisy on the pea-stone gravel the labyrinth path was made of. I thought, “Oh, I have socks on, I can just walk the labyrinth without shoes. That way I won’t bother anyone.”

So, I prayed and started walking. I had a nice rhythm going and was deep in prayer until about a third of the way in, I noticed my feet were starting to hurt. It wasn’t painful, but I was aware of my feet being uncomfortable.

I thought, what do I do now? Step, step, step. Do I stop here and walk directly to the entrance to retrieve my shoes? Pray, breath, step. I continued to say my prayer in pace with my walking. Step, step, step. Do I walk back, following the path to the entrance? Breath, pray, step. Do I muscle on and just keep doing the labyrinth? Pray, breath, step.

I vacillated between praying, and wondering about going to the entrance or the center. What to do? Then, I stopped. I was at the entrance, right next to my shoes. I’m not sure how I did it, but thankfully, there I was. I had to laugh at myself. I said out loud, “Got it, God! Thanks!” The lesson of the labyrinth, the answer to my prayer, the gift of that moment was—“Steph, take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be hard.”

The spiritual journey doesn’t have to be a trial. It doesn’t need to be about self-sacrifice, putting others first, or pain.

In the comfort of my shoes, I walked to the center of the labyrinth and sat in silence as the sun rose, thankful for the chance to learn this lesson in a physical, gentle, and simple way.

Yes, take care of myself. It doesn’t have to be hard.

Photo and content © Copyright 2016. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Full

2014-12-05 16.18.03The first Saturday in December holds a favorite event for me and my family. It’s a winter festival full of community, yummy treats, books, and pretty things. It’s like old home week where you get to see so many current and old friends, catch up, do a little holiday shopping, support good causes. The extrovert in me loves it!

I volunteered this morning to help set up the Coffee House with one of my best friends. Spending time together was a gift. I could have stopped right there and it would have been enough. But, there was icing on this cake!

When we finished working we got to catch up with lots of other people dear to us plus do some shopping while supporting good works around the world: schools, clean water, literacy. Talk about warm fuzzies at every turn.

The day moved on and all of a sudden I realized I was no longer clear on where I was on my gift list. And, my list is not very long or complicated. As this happened I also realized my feet were starting to get tired from standing all day. Obviously I was done. I walked back upstairs toward the parking lot, sprinkling short goodbyes along the way until I made it back to the car. As I sat down on the couch back home and put my feet up I felt my back and feet relax.

I think I may have learned something over the years. At the first sign of “doneness” I let go of the joyful event and, satiated, gently went home. I had that sensation of happy fullness. I was not driven by, “I’ve got to get this done!” or any feelings of missing out on something. I just rested in the delicious aftertaste of a wonderful day, full of blessings and bounty. I had been fully present to the simple gifts of friendship, good music, teamwork, community, and an awesome cupcake. And, in gratitude, I put my feet up and was able to continue to relish the holiday season.

Photo and content © Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Gifts Hidden Beneath

2014-12-02 12.03.32It’s a rainy December day, gray and still. As I adjusted the plants in my son’s room, trying to give them enough slanted winter light, my attention was pulled to the creek below our house. The serpentine curves are wide and full of this winter rain. There is even a little white ripple in the normally meandering flow.

We recently moved, so this is the first fall and early winter we’ve experienced here. When we moved in, the woods were thick and lush. When my son opened his shades the other day he said, “How did I not even know there was a creek below my window?”(It could be because he is a teen and doesn’t open his shades all that often.) Regardless, this is one of the blessings of this season. This part of the earth has shed what’s extraneous at this point. It is stripped naked and in traveling lighter more of what’s beneath becomes clear.

Last night I had a glass of wine whose brand boasts of not being encumbered by the oaken aging process. Here too, traveling simply without losing one’s delicious essence is illustrated.

I’ve often thought of autumn’s gift as the symbol of letting go, of releasing what is no longer needed. I thought the traveling light was the gift, but now I see that is just part of it. In letting go of what is carried we’re not just lighter, but we can see more deeply what has been hidden. What gifts are laying fallow, waiting to be seen and brought into service?

Photo and content © Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.


cropped love to infinityI was out to brunch with a friend the other day. We were talking about something I felt to be important. My friend had just shared and I was responding with my thoughts. In the middle of my sentence my friend said, “Oh my gosh, wait a minute. I just figured out what to do with blah, blah, blah,” a subject totally off topic.

Hurt and feelings of not being respected or cared for rushed over me. I emotionally withdrew immediately, as if I had touched a hot stove.

My friend quickly apologized profusely. It took me a minute or two, but I worked my way back to open hearted again. I was happy because this has been an “issue” for me in the past. Getting my feelings hurt after being interrupted and taking a while to recover have both been recurring themes. It’s all wrapped up in worthiness.

What happened differently this time is that I recently read about Byron Katie’s “The Work.” I asked myself if it was true that my friend interrupting me was a sign of her not caring, not respecting, and not loving me. No, I couldn’t say that any of that was true. The next internal question was, how do I feel and act when I believe it’s true. Well that was evident, and it felt like crap. How would I feel if I didn’t believe that junk? I’d just let it slide, comfortable in my worth and knowing that I’ve done the exact thing to others and it wasn’t necessarily because I didn’t care or wasn’t listening.

This all helped to shift perspective, but the clincher was that I then emotionally went to a place where I remembered how loved I am by the Universe. There is so much love out there for each of us, simply because we exist. I don’t need to get wrapped up in whether or not someone’s actions step on my toes and hurt my feelings. Now granted, this was a minor issue. It wasn’t like she beat me or something, but it was a baby step forward in feeling how beloved we all are and the Divine Nature that resides in us all. And for that, I am so grateful.

© Copyright 2014. Blessed Journey Blog. All Rights Reserved.