My #Elf Spirit Quest

I traced the steps of Buddy the Elf yesterday, visiting the iconic sites of a magical land called New York City in search of the Christmas Spirit. Elf is my very favorite Christmas movie, and the fact that I was housesitting within reach of the City during the holiday season tickled me to no end. (Imagine Buddy’s shoe shine! lol) After many months of wandering in the wilderness, this would be a different kind of Vision Quest for me, a journey that would bring me both delight and challenge.

My intention was to use the character of Elf as a reference point to connect to the energy of New York City dressed in her holiday best. Would there be magic in the air? Would I be able to feel it? Were others affected by it? And if so, how?

I got into character and made my way to the City.

Buddy the Elf has a childlike innocence about him, and New York City fills him with wonder. He is friendly and outgoing, and his natural proclivity is to spread Christmas cheer wherever he goes. His journey to New York City was an arduous one, but his important mission buoyed and carried him – to find his dad and discover who he really was. He arrives in the City with high hopes. He is kind to strangers, even the naughty ones. He says Yes!to opportunity and gives it his best effort, spreading joy in menial tasks and dark places. He falls in love, gets his heart broken, and still manages to save Christmas. I tried on my Elf heart and followed in his footsteps.

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YouTube video link here!

The crowds were already bustling in the early afternoon on Sunday, just one week before Christmas Eve. I parked just off the Hudson, donned my Santa cap, and made my way through Hell’s Kitchen and into Manhattan. I didn’t actually do any skipping or hopping through the crosswalks, but my insides were bubbling. Everyone looked so normal and busy, and I felt a little self-conscious in my Santa cap at first. Then I giggled at myself. It is New York after all, a place where anything goes. Still, I thought of Buddy in his Elvinwear and felt a sortof kinship in my slightest of standing out.

I passed through Times Square and looked for some fun people to connect with. I wanted to hear if anyone was feeling the spirit of Christmas. I wanted to share mine. I chatted with some ladies from California. I posed with Elmo and Deadpool. I petted a puppy in a Christmas tuxedo collar. Things were going well so far!

My next destination was Macy’s (Gimbels). It was enchanting and overwhelming all at the same time. Lavishly decorated, the store was HUGE, the crowds were HUGE, and… everyone seemed so serious. I headed for the perfume department, wanting to engage someone in a little banter over passion fruit spray. What I found was a literal gauntlet of associates, each more than happy to spray me and offer me their little white tester strips, but not a jolly one in the bunch that I thought would want to play with me. They were there to SELL, and I would let them do their job. I was a little disappointed in my lack of initiation with a single sales associate, but with so many people to serve and perhaps a big commission on the line, I wanted to be mindful of their role in the upscale New York department store.

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I lifted my spirit on the escalator. Waiting for a moment where I would not impede the traffic flow, I toed at it once, imagining I was seeing it for the first time. As I stretched my legs across four moving stairs, I felt the rising sensation in my belly, and the silliness of my antics made me smile. I found the toilets, but they seemed totally normal sized to me. 😉 I had imagined myself singing at the top of my lungs, “I’m in a store, and I’m singing!” But even with the return of joviality, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was just so intimidated. How did Buddy get over all of that intimidation? What might have happened if I had found the gumption to belt it out over the crowd? I imagined people would frown at me in disapproval. Maybe they would have laughed instead. I shrank from finding out, and I found a deeper appreciation for Buddy’s courage, and a deeper respect for his conviction with his message.

Back outside, the air was crisp, and the crowds were gathered around the elaborate window displays, oooohing and aaaahing and recording. In fact, everywhere I turned people were recording moments and memories with their smartphone cameras. They could sense the magic afoot. It was a different world among the window shoppers.

From there, I found the towering Empire State Building and took a spin in Buddy’s revolving door. It was delightful!, like running on a merry-go-round, only a bit more naughty since this was not your typical playground. I was starting to feel like a kid again, loosening up and having a little fun while the adults around me were busy adulting. This was what Buddy the Elf would have wanted, to make gingerbread houses and eat cookie dough and snuggle.

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The line at Magnolia’s Bakery for the “World’s Best Cup of Coffee” was stretched out the door and down the block! I saw others checking the Google Map of the Elf Walk on their phones, verifying that we were indeed in the right place. Where was the lighted sign pointing the way? I guess finally being noticed for having the world’s best cup of coffee has paid off – the place has certainly been upgraded since Buddy blindfolded Jovie here.

I needed to charge my phone, so I sought out a less packed place where I felt I could catch my breath, plug in, and process what I had seen and felt so far. Just a few blocks further up 6th Avenue was Joe and The Juice, a coffee and juice bar with a nice vibe and a couple of empty seats – one being right in the window and next to an outlet. As I sipped my ginger latte, my eyes were drawn to a big LOVE sculpture and an even bigger line of people waiting to be photographed in front of it. Here is where I sat, journaling, phone charging, and watching couple after couple smile and hug and kiss in front of the LOVE. What a beautiful sight I had been led to *become still* in front of. The spirit of Christmas felt effusive and alive here.

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I headed to Central Park as the sun set and the bright City lights replaced its glow. I left them behind for now, maneuvering my way around decorated carriages with horses offering sleigh rides, their regal hooves clopping the roads behind me. I slipped into the stillness of the park, where night had fallen and the pond had frozen and snow still sat in great patches on the ground. Street lamps sprinkled the pathway, shedding just enough light to navigate between the shadowy hushes of this winter oasis. Here I stood for a great while, grounding, until a fresh serenity filled me, like a breath of fresh air from the North Pole.

 

Buddy and Jovie took their first romantic date skipping between the luxurious Christmas window displays on 5th Avenue. These bright lights were calling me now, winking in the distance. In fact, the whole City now sparkled and shined. Entire skyscrapers were glitzed out, most notable being Tiffany’s. There were dazzling ribbons and bows and candy canes. There were diamond-studded dinosaurs and panthers too. The crowds grew thicker and thicker as I approached Rockefeller Plaza, and I grew giddy as I inched my way among them, shuffle-stepping to the carols playing from the street stereos. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” exclaimed a silver-haired little lady wearing a faux fur chapeau and red lipstick, smiling from ear to ear and clinging to the hand of the smart waistcoat in front of her.

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Saks 5th Avenue had an enormous light and music show, and the air felt totally electric in the crescendo. The square leading down to the ice skating rink took my breath away. Glorious angels stood tall with their horns of proclamation pointing toward the sky and flocking the fountain pools. The Granddaddy Evergreen stood loud and proud at the end, shining his light down over the skaters circling hand in hand. This is where Buddy and Jovie had their first kiss. “I love her! I love her! And I don’t care who knows it!” Cameras and smiles and laughter and awe abounded. It truly felt like I was in a magical land.

Sure, there were impatient crowds too. There was rampant commercialism. There was heartbreak in the homeless scattered about, one with a sign that announced he was “looking for a miracle – $37 will put me in a motel room.” There were also vendors with naked hands, trying to move their wares, artists spray painting nightscape scenes, and food trucks filling the air with succulence and petroleum. I saw all of these things, and I gathered them into my heart. I spoke blessing into them and released them.

I did find the Spirit of Christmas, right there in the middle of the lights and the crowds and the candy canes and the trees and the streets and the homeless and the hoopla. I followed the invitation into magic, and I left my cares behind. I allowed myself to be filled with joy, and a deep peace settled into me. It was a choice. I could choose to focus on what worried me, or I could choose to focus on wonder. I chose wonder.

As a vision quester, I have come to understand that focusing your energy is like watering your garden. What you water tends to grow. Celebrating in the Spirit of Christmas is simply choosing to believe that magic is possible. And as we focus our energy into those magical possibilities, they grow. They grow and they blossom into good cheer, presence, generosity and other marvelous gifts. They bring us together as one heart, one people, one community, one earth.

Doing all the stuff of Christmas does not bring its Spirit to life. Like being in Macy’s, all of the trimmings and trappings were there, but joy was not. It was stifling. If we do all the stuff of Christmas but do not follow the invitation to magic, we have missed the point. In every good holiday movie, Christmas is saved by *believing* in its magic and sharing that magic with others. I believe in the Spirit of Christmas, and in it I have discovered who I really am.

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Many thanks to Melissa at TickledInNYC.com for creating the unofficial Elf walking tour of New York City. I was definitely not the only one following it! Click here to download the tour and follow in the footsteps of the Elf himself yourself!

 

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Bat Flight, Carlsbad Caverns, Photo credit nps.gov

Bat medicine is rebirth, but first…

What NOT to do when fear and pain creep in

My publisher and editor warned me that the week leading up to my book launch could be fraught with extreme emotional reactions. It’s the new reality setting in… the fact that I am being exposed – seen and vulnerable at a whole new level. I understand this intellectually, and I am grateful for the warning. I think to myself, “Okay, thanks! Now I will totally see this coming. I will recognize it for what it is, and I will not give in to it. I will remain connected and committed to the vision. I will not freak out.”

Bwaaahahahhaaaa!

A year of uncertainty caught up to me in a Red Roof Inn on a Monday night.

When I say “a year of uncertainty”, I am referring to what my friend Kelli calls the Void – the place where one door has closed and another has yet to open. It is a dark and difficult place to find your footing. You are never quite sure which way is up and which way is down and which way will lead you forward or even if forward is a place that exists anymore, and if so is it the right way to go? In this vast wilderness, the only thing I had to hold onto is my resolve in the following: I am a child of faith, I am divinely led, and I will have all the resources I need. I have been navigating this wilderness void for the last year, roaming from place to place, searching for something that meant more than my wandering did. People have asked me when I am going to settle down. “I don’t know,” I say, “But I’ll know when I know.”

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I believe I have found that something I have been searching for. The door is opening before me, and I can finally see a little light from the other side streaming in. I am returning to a place of passion and purpose. I am returning to a place that feels like home. My book launches in one week, and with it my new business as a solo women’s adventure coach. But first…

Two miles from my exit, I pass under a sign that reads Bat Cave. It catches my eye, as Bat was also present at my recent Reiki attunement. Bat medicine is rebirth. I am excited at the concept of rebirth. Yes! Thank You! THANK YOU! I am ready to step into my new life. I am ready to dive headlong into whatever is next for me. In my enthusiasm for the beginning my new life, I neglect to figure what rebirth requires – death. One must die before one can be reborn. As I check into the motel and settle myself for the evening, the hypnotic hum of the road is broken, and it takes my breath away.

Bat Flight, Carlsbad Caverns, Photo credit nps.gov

Batman Begins

I am reminded of the story of how the Batman was born. A deep pain drove Wayne into the wilderness. Here he encountered the League of Shadows, finding an outlet for his fury and a discipline that honed it into a new purpose. His final test was to face his deepest fear and to be transformed by it. Only then would he be free. Only then would he be fit for service. Into the pit of his childhood terror he fell, and when he rose again, he was a new man – The Batman.

At a Red Roof Inn on this Monday night, I too fall into the pit of my childhood terror. The menacing face of fear looms large at me, fangs staring at me. He slithers under my skin and consumes me from within. He hisses in my heart… Time has run out. You have nothing left. You are alone. No one can save you…

This is not the first time I have fought fear. I grasp at my gratitude, and it is but a vapor against the stark reality of the claims made by fear. My faith fails me. My spirit fails me. I grasp at my mantras, and they fail me. What is happening to me? I wince against the shadow. I know better than this! Fight, Sonya! FIGHT! But there is no fight left in me. I feel my heart failing, the shallow beating shallow beating shallow, shallow, shallow. I just need to sleep. I am so tired. I am so very tired.

I struggle all night to catch some rest and reprieve from the onslaught. I run my Yoga Nidra meditations over and over. I focus on breathing and calling the light. As day breaks, I find myself utterly broken with it, exhausted and desolate.

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Breakdown

The last of my points are spent, and I check out of the motel. I don’t know why this hits me so hard. Things are going exactly as planned. I weep as I load the car. There is no strength left in my legs. I weep as I drive out of the lot. There is no strength left in my arms. I weep as the road stretches out before me, yellow dash, yellow dash, yellow dash. My eyes burn red and blinking and weary. I weep as I enter the forest. Please let there be a place for me. I weep as I pitch my tent and pour myself inside and collapse onto my back. My head swells and aches and throbs, and my body writhes and racks itself in emotional agony. A wellspring of tears from the depths of my soul bursts open bitterly and refuses to be consoled. Tears run forcefully across my cheeks and pool down into my ears and stop up my hearing. My mouth gapes open to cry out in pain, but the cry is silent – a black hole.

I lie there at an utter loss for what feels like an eternity. My body and my mind is wholly paralyzed, numb with fear and pain. I am deaf and dumb and blind, hopelessly frozen. My body sinks deeper and deeper into the earth, engulfed by the black cloak of shadow. I let myself sink. I let myself go. I find rest in this pit of terror, letting go of any effort to free myself. I become perfectly content to just lie there forever, unable to move my fingers or toes, unable to open my eyes or my heart – just perfectly, exquisitely embalmed by the ground.

Called Back from Beyond

Somewhere far, far away, a small sound breaks through. I hear a bird calling, an echo from some distant land. My mind orients toward its song. I hear a creek babbling, a playful, bashful dancing across the dream of a forest floor. The sound of scurrying water fills my ears, and awareness rises within me. I feel a tingling in my body. I feel my eyes behind my eyelids. I feel myself, the witness, rising up into my body.

I flutter my eyelids, and they open. I wiggle my fingers and my toes, and goosebumps spread out across my skin. I swallow and stretch my extremities, groggy and disoriented. I see shades of orange and yellow as my eyes try to focus. I become aware that I wear glasses and would need them to see straight. I curl onto my side and push myself upright into a seated position. I spot my glasses and push them onto my face, my vision sharpening slowly. The orange is my tent. The yellow is the sun.

My phone whistles at me. I reach for it cautiously, still moving like molasses. It’s Mom. Her text says, “New breakthrough. Call me.” I see my water bottle sitting within reach, and I wrap my fingers around it and pull it into my lap. I unscrew the cap and take a sip of water. I swallow and feel the water dance down my throat. I take a bigger sip, and I sigh as the water flows and soothes. Yes, call Mom. Breakthrough. Good.

I rally myself up and out of the tent and into the car. I turn the key over in the ignition and roll the windows down. I drive slowly to the rec area where I will have signal. I take a deep breath and another drink of water, and I call my mom.

Breakthrough

Mom has been listening to Louise Hay, and she is bubbling and gushing about all that has just come alive in her. The word became flesh. The fog in my mind begins to lift as she speaks. Something about how love for our Self is the birthplace of miracles. Something about a love so deep and pure, the kind of love we have always longed for, and how we are supposed to give that love to our Self. “We must become the love we have always dreamed of, Sonya! And we must give that love to our Self,” she says.

I can feel my appetite starting to return, and I pull out some spicy hummus and zucchini as she continues talking. I can feel the color returning to my cheeks as well, as I slice and scoop and chew and swallow and listen to my mother. Her voice is like salve to my soul. I wish I could tell you exactly what she is saying, but all I really hear is LOVE, love for our Self. Something about all those things we wish our mate would do for us, we need to do them for our Self. If we want flowers, then give flowers in love to our Self. If we want to dance, then take our Self dancing in love. Send our Self a card to show our Self how much we love her. We don’t have to look outside ourselves for love. Love, Love, LOVE our Self.

Something clicks in me as I remember what I read in the brand new book by my friend, TheoSophia Rose. “I am the love I have been looking for my whole life,” I said. And I know that it is Truth speaking.

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Breaking Free

How can this be? We are just supposed to love our Self? I know that I know this, that I learned this along my journey, but I feel like I have only scratched the surface. I realize I have a head knowing. What I need is a heart knowing. What would it feel like to love myself so thoroughly and so fiercely that my deepest longings are actually being fulfilled? Why does this feel so preposterous? Can it really be that simple?

When I return to camp, I spot a cluster of tiny purple flowers. I pull a small glass from my car and pour some water in the bottom of it. I wander around camp and down to the creek and collect a few more sprigs – a little more purple and a little pink and a little yellow too. I slip them into the glass and sit them across from my chair. There! I brought you flowers, Sonya. I know how much you love them. I want you to know how much I love you too. I feel myself smile all the way down to my heart.

What else do we want, Sonya? I remember the painting from my cousin Teresa, which has accompanied me throughout my journey. I pull it from the car and prop it up next to the flowers. I sit and admire my new pretty sitting space. It speaks to me, and I love it all. The sun dapples through the trees, beginning its even decent. A soft breeze whispers by. Pale yellow leaves drift through the sky, being loosed and falling from the branches above like giant auburn snowflakes. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. When I open my eyes, they fell anew on the painting of the moon and the Phoenix.

You know you have laid ahold of the right dream when you are willing to let it be the death of you — only to rise again. Book launch in T-minus seven days.

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On being #WiselyWild

Okay, so here it is: What NOT to do when fear and pain creep in

  • Turn off the reminder that you have a call with your book coach in 15 MINUTES, just as the breakdown begins. This is THE TIME you need her most.
  • Decide that you will NOT reach out to ANYONE, including your pilgrimage coach, because you don’t want to burden anyone or let them see you like this.
  • Turn on a movie for release and inspiration instead, because you can do that alone and it reminds you that the hero always crumbles before the big victory.
  • Text your ex when said movie also reminds you that you might very well have all of your dreams come true, except the one you dreamed with him in it.
  • Expect your ex to be charmed by your exquisite vulnerability and realize he needs to save you after all.
  • Continue to ignore all indications that NOW would be a good time to reach out to the people who love you.

Have a plan for when the darkness falls. If it never does, SWEET! If it does, STICK TO THE PLAN. You have allies for a reason. For peace sakes, let them help you.

If you don’t have a plan and you don’t have allies, just HANG IN THERE. This too shall pass. And when it does, cultivate some new, meaningful relationships. You may be flying solo, but you do not have to do it alone.

Are you the one?

Please Lord, help me get one.

I woke at 5a this morning, ready to rise and shine. I’m staying with my bff in Madison, Virginia, near the base of the Shenandoahs. The house is quiet at this hour. I tip-toe out the room and start the coffee. I tip-toe out the front door with Justice. Good morning, world.

The sky is still dark but alive with singing. Crickets, cicadas, frogs? I wish I knew the source of my serenade. I stand on the front porch and close my eyes. The singing fills the air and wraps around me, amplified. I feel it penetrate my tired bones and rouse me gently. I take a deep breath in, hold… and let it out again.

I tip-toe back inside and pour my coffee. I settle myself at the kitchen table with my journal. The TV is still playing in the window room beside me, and I recognize the scenes of Hacksaw Ridge. The battle is just beginning. I know what happens. It’s brutal. It’s ugly. And in the face of defeat, the conscientious objector calls upon an unseen force, “What do you want me to do?” and “Please Lord, help me get one more.”

I see the faces of women, their bodies strung out on the battlefield. Wounded. Alone in their suffering. My heart cries softly, “What do you want me to do?” and “Please Lord, help me get to one.”

I had no idea when I went on walkabout that my journey would produce a book. I had no idea when I began my book that my journey would produce a movement. But as healing comes, healing gives. The more I speak with women, the greater my resolve to hear more deeply, to help dress the wounds, and to facilitate a move to safety, where radical healing can take place.

Are you the one?

As the morning rises, the night songs give way to the day. Birds call. The pattering of rain drops on leafy green. The porch swing sways. The dew hangs on the air. I tip-toe barefoot in the grass and welcome what is to come. My inbox is open and ready to receive you.

Your #hero within

What do these three movies have in common?

I have seen three great hero movies recently. Edward and I saw Wonder Woman at the theater on opening weekend, about a week later we rented Hacksaw Ridge from the Redbox, and most recently watched Disney’s Moana with nary a child to accompany us ;). All of these were classic hero tales – opening with the age of innocence, followed by the call to duty, perseverance in peril, facing an “insurmountable” obstacle, disillusionment at seeming defeat, the climactic epic battle, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

Hacksaw Ridge poster

What is it that draws us to hero movies? My personal theory is that we each want to believe we have a hero within. We need to believe that when the chips are down we would rise to the occasion with great courage and integrity like Diana Prince, Private Doss, and the Polynesian princess. I’d like to think so too. I’d like to think I am living in a world among heroes.

What I find to be true is that people don’t always act their best under pressure. Stressful situations don’t always bring out our greatest qualities. These are typically not our finest hours as we would hope. We have difficulty overcoming self-doubt and pain. Instead of rising up, we say and do things that do not exemplify our most heroic selves. This can be a crushing blow, and the worst part is that this blow is delivered by our own hand.

Moana-Poster

But I still believe I am living in a world among heroes. The common factor I find in the lives of heroes is this – one who acts as a hero under pressure is one who has acted as a hero in the mundane. Cultivating heroism in our everyday lives is the key to being ready and able to act with courage and integrity in that defining moment.

What is your most memorable example of a person cultivating heroism in everyday life?