SoulSpace: Phase 3 – Cleansing


When I started writing this post, I just completed cleaning my end table. It was a total disaster but now it looks beautiful and my necklaces are all on their little hooks. (Happy sigh.)

Earlier last week, I had created a frame to hang my jewelry on and had been quickly disappointed when at least half of my command hooks feel off the frame and my necklaces all dropped back behind my end table. Behind my end table is No Man’s Land. I don’t ever go back there. So I avoided the whole situation all week. I read about and saw photos of everyone else making great progress in their spaces and mine was completely stuck! I had worked so hard on that dang jewelry frame, only to have an even bigger mess at the end of it! I was very frustrated.

Then today, Michele Bergh messaged me and asked me if I was OK, after reading about my downturn week. Chatting with her helped me to turn things around. She’s a good friend. It gave me just the little push that I needed! So I got home and finished it.

So, next week’s topic is cleansing. Although most of us are busy cleaning our homes throughout this book club, the topic of this phase is cleansing, not cleaning. I looked online to find the actual difference in these two words. On the Grammarist website, they specify that the term clean is used in a more literal sense. You clean the dishes, you don’t cleanse the dishes. Cleansing is used more in the sense that you are making a thing pure. This is what we are doing with our homes. We are making them pure. I found this sweet little quote at the beginning of the Cleanse chapter in the book…

“If a man’s mind becomes pure, his surroundings will also become pure.”  ~Buddha

It can work in reverse, too. If you can make your surroundings pure, it may help with your mind! So, the other week I cleaned my jewelry. Every piece of it. I have a lot, as you can see. Some of it was rather tarnished and I brought it back to life. By cleaning it in this way, much has been cleansed. In the more figurative sense, this action has helped me to fall in love with my jewelry again. I still may get rid of some pieces, but now they are all accessible and fresh feeling. I believe that cleaning and cleansing are so similar because the act of cleaning things does more than just make them less dirty. It gives them new spirit because you have seen the item with fresh eyes. If you clean properly, you take each item into your hands and you honor it as you make it nice again. If you have a million things in your home, this is impossible. So to truly cleanse, you may have to get rid of a few things. Still, honor those things as you get rid of them. They have served their purpose with you.

I was hoping to have my house all cleaned for presenting today’s post, but that was not to happen. It is definitely better than it has been. As I clean different areas, there is a bigger sense of purity in the home. Yesterday, I saw a trim board along the floor that was rather gross. It was in a hallway, so it had not gotten the attention it deserved. So I grabbed a wet wipe and cleaned it really well. It took about one minute.


And now for the special announcement:

For this week’s group chat, I am going to change it up a bit. During the past two group chats, we all just chatted on the message board for an hour while our homes sat untouched. Last week, I was a bit jealous of Sandy Palencar. She said that she couldn’t participate in the group chat because she was busy working on her house!! So this week, we are going to WORK during the group chat! Haha. If you are reading this before Saturday morning at 11 AM Central Time, come prepared to WORK on your house! Don’t worry. We will still connect with each other, but we will have periods where we will work too. Come and join us to find out how we will do that. If you are in the group, but not in the group chat and want to join it, just message me on FB and I will let you in.

So good luck with your homes this week. For those of you not in the group, it is not too late. The group runs until the end of February 2015. Join us anytime. It’s a hoot!

Click here to join the Facebook group – SoulSpace Online Book Club.



What is a Hexagram?


Someone had asked me this week what a hexagram was. It occurred to me that I may be putting the cart before the horse when telling you all about the I Ching without first explaining this important concept. My audience is not always people that have previously studied the Tao Te Ching or the I Ching, so my apologies for not writing this post sooner!

Thank you for the question.

In short, a hexagram is a linear representation of an ancient energy pattern. It looks like this…


There are six lines in total for each one and there are 64 hexagrams in the I Ching.

Each hexagram is made up of two trigrams. There are 8 different trigrams: earth, heaven, lake, wind, fire, water, thunder and mountain. The top three lines of the hexagram represent the top trigram, and the bottom three lines represent the bottom trigram. In the case above, the top three lines represent “mountain” and the bottom three lines represent “wind”. All of the possible combinations of top and bottom trigrams makes 64 (8×8 = 64).

Each trigram holds a special pattern. We all know these patterns, even if we have never even heard about the I Ching. What does a mountain represent? Close your eyes and think about that for a moment before reading the next paragraph…

Mountain represents solidity. Sometimes this is a positive trait, like family heritage that stays solid for generations… a pizza shop down the block that has been open for 150 years, for example. Sometimes it is negative, like when you are trying to get your two year old to get dressed. Mountains don’t move, but they also provide stability. All of nature has held these patterns throughout millenia.  We all intuitively understand the energetic qualities of a mountain.

How did you do in guessing that? Perhaps you thought of other qualities of a mountain. None of it is wrong. Half the fun of it is finding your own interpretations.

In this particular hexagram (#18), it is WIND under MOUNTAIN. So the wind wants things to change, but it is getting stopped by the mountain. Mountains are pretty solid and unchanging, like the traditions we hold. The wind needs to blow and if it is stopped, things decay. The trigram on the top is in the dominant position so the mountain is definitely winning out over the wind.

So for each trigram, there is a specific energy pattern and when they combine it makes a unique energy combination called a hexagram. These energy patterns have been studied in Asian cultures for thousands of years through the Oracle called the I Ching. You could probably pick up a copy of the I Ching in any bookstore. They are fairly common. There are thousands of translations of the I Ching, dating back to the beginnings over 3000 years, perhaps thousands more than that. No one really knows how old it is. According to Richard Wilhelm, a leading I Ching enthusiast, it’s origin dates back to “mythical antiquity”. Gotta love that! Leave it to the I Ching to leave its origins as a mystery!

For thousands of years, the Chinese have consulted this oracle for many issues. It is believed that, by tossing coins in random combinations or picking up “yarrow sticks” to determine your six lines, you will be directed to a specific hexagram to give you advice for your situation. I have found it to be extremely accurate. For this blog, I am reviewing each of the hexagrams in order. I am learning them, too. I am not an expert on the I Ching, but I enjoy studying it and the more I study it, the more I know about it. It is very amazing how accurate the readings are, even though I am just writing a post about them. For each one so far, it has fit my situation perfectly as I read about it to write the post. I love how the I Ching is guiding my life.

Years ago, I bought my first copy of the I Ching from Hua Ching Ni. Then I had the extreme good fortune of meeting him in person. He is a very special being. He has written over 70 books on the Tao and has come from a long line of Taoist masters so he is very knowledgeable. I love his stories the best. I also love Deng Ming Dao’s books. He writes in a style that is very modern and I like his approach to the I Ching especially. I cannot imagine what they went through to create their own I Ching book! Wow. It is pretty impressive. Deng Ming Dao has a great explanation of the trigrams in the front sections of his book, The Living I Ching. Here is an interview I did with Deng Ming Dao years ago. If the topic interests you, I encourage you to explore it with me. Sign up with your email to receive my blog posts as they come out! I will walk you through the 64 hexagrams throughout the year, as well as other projects to study the Tao.

 So what do you know about the I Ching? What would you like to learn about it?


I Ching: Hexagram # 18 – Decay


Oh my.This next hexagram is a doozy! And, of course, perfectly fitting to the work that we are doing in our SoulSpace group!

When I started the SoulSpace Online Book Club, I was a little concerned about the relevance of sorting through all this stuff in my house and how this might relate to my blog topic, the Tao Te Ching (or, in the bigger picture, to the Tao in general). As it turns out, the I Ching is reminding me this month that all of this is connected. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about spiritual topics like studying an ancient text or if we are talking about cleaning out our closets. All of these things relate to my practice of the Tao.

In this hexagram, the lesson is about how “inertia and indifference can lead to decay” (from Wilhelm translation, 1950). Have we not seen that inside the inner depths of our closets? Or the back of our drawers in the fridge? It also talks about how “rigid traditions can result in decay.” We have found this in our possessions, left to us by those passed, that we are now finding it difficult to part with. When I read this line, I thought of the rigid traditions of keeping stuff. Some have shared of being encouraged to keep gifts and cards, furniture from extended family members, childhood items to be kept for our children’s children… these are traditions that do not need to be continued. We can continue them if our hearts want this, but we must not be held to these traditions.

If you are not sure what a hexagram is, read my post that explains what it is.

The work is getting deep here with our spaces. I can feel it. We are purging all these things and at times it frees up our energy and at times we feel stuck. Tonight is one of those times that I feel stuck. As Hua Ching Ni puts it, in his translation, “A place that does not receive air becomes decayed and rotten, thus we have the image of corruption.”

The ideogram for this hexagram is a bowl with worms in it eating decayed matter. Does that not totally describe some of our spaces we have been clearing this week in the book club? He goes on to say that “corruption has already manifested and can no longer be ignored.” So many of the people in our group have said that they NEEDED this group. There is a sense for me that I had to do something about my space. It was choking me.

At one point, Kim mentioned something I thought was interesting. She said, “I have emotional ups and downs with the releasing and I notice that when I tire I tend to put things back and not release as easily. This is so interesting to be conscious of the process. I re-read today (in the book) that we need to connect with what we’re letting go of so that it will be a conscious letting go and we’ll know the reasoning. I took from that that if I do it too quickly, I may then unconsciously want it back. Weird but kind of cool too. Demanding that we stay aware.”

I went back to find this line after reading this hexagram because it spoke to me of what is being asked of us here in this chapter. As we are releasing this stuff in our homes, we must use caution. Be conscious as you go through things and let them go completely so that they do not return.

According to Hua Ching Ni, “Patience, gentleness and tact are essential when correcting past mistakes, especially when loved ones are involved; otherwise disturbance and destruction will ensue. Since the present contains positive as well as negative accumulations of the past, one must be very careful when correcting past errors not to destroy the positive effects.” This was quoted directly out of this hexagram’s commentary by Hua Ching Ni! Wow.


I will finish this post by retelling a story that is written in the commentary of this same I Ching book. An emperor had heard of a very special rose garden. His own garden was the finest in the land so of course he had to see this special rose garden for himself that everyone was raving about! So he went to visit. As he walked around the garden, there were no roses! He was disappointed! Then, he spotted a gorgeous rose. It was the only one in the garden. He fell in love with it and decided to name it the Queen Rose. Was this really a special rose? No. It was just like any ordinary rose, but all the rest had been removed so this rose stood out as special.

What do you think of this hexagram’s lessons? Tell us about it in the comments!

SoulSpace: Phase 2 – Releasing


For this second post in the the series on our online book club for SoulSpace, we will be talking about releasing.

But before we go too much into what we are doing for this next week, I would like to take a moment and celebrate all those who have been busy assessing their homes this last week. It is not always an easy task. Sometimes it brings tears and facing ourselves at what is not always our best. Many of us have looked at corners of our rooms and closets that have not been really seen for a long time and we don’t like what we’ve seen. Others have dug through drawers, bookshelves and baskets to find those things that we inevitably hide from ourselves with a cluttered space. I think that we are uncovering more than just stuff here. We are uncovering our own potential as we recognize how disconnected our space is from who we really are.

Let’s reconnect to our spaces!!

In my assessment, I discovered that I talk a lot about wanting to have people over but don’t honor the people in my life by putting up photos of them and I don’t make them comfortable with good seating. As obvious as some of the stories were in the book of the people that were “missing things” in their lives that mysteriously were also missing in their homes, I could not see it in my own home. That is how it is for us. We are blinded to our own issues many times, shielded by crap.

As I’ve been learning from the Tao Te Ching, looking at our mistakes head-on is a good thing to do and we are all doing it! We are breaking down our weaknesses by facing them and doing something about them this month. The energy in the group is high and no wonder! We are doing some MAJOR clearing/cleaning/cleansing!!

This group is teaching me so much. I am inspired by the conversations that people are having with their families this week for the Assessment Phase: Michele talking with her husband about their artwork on the walls, Suzanne going around and doing assessments of her home with her husband and writing a notebook’s worth of notes, Kristin involving her daughter and husband in helping her to make things better in their new basement creative space… even Linda’s husband and his contribution about not loving the plunger in the bathroom! What inspires me is how so many of you are doing this together with your families and loved ones. That is what makes it so fun! Some of you are even inspiring coworkers and neighbors to do something about their own spaces!

NOTE: If you are reading this and feeling like you want to jump in on this fun, you can still join us. We have just spent the last week or so clearing out closets and going through our houses with “Beginner’s Mind” to see what stands out to us – good or bad. Join our Facebook online book study if you want. It’s free. It’s not too late to start.

So this week, we are focused on releasing. Most of us have started – LOL. If you scroll through the Facebook group, there are tons of images of people’s closets and rooms that they are charging into with the vigor of a large team of people! That’s because we are all behind you!

But releasing is more than just getting rid of stuff. It is about asking the tough questions with your stuff and rooting out what doesn’t belong anymore. It is about saying hello to items you haven’t seen in a while. It’s about thanking the items that have served you well and letting them go to their new home, with someone who is excited to have them.

Enjoy your week! I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with! Here are some images from my own cleaning project – my desk… ack. I wanted to show you my FINISHED DESK but alas, it is still a work in progress. This week my focus is going to be on RELEASING PAPER. (But not family photos, Kim. You can relax. – see the group chat for the rest of that story).


My Desk Project:




This was my desk when I first started cleaning this morning. Believe it or not, it was worse!




Here it was, just a week or so ago. I’ve since moved at least a few of these big items to other spots or put them away.



This was my desk, this morning halfway through my cleaning project. Releasing lots of old paper and still a lot to go.




This is where I left it. I am actually working at my desk right now as I speak so I managed to clear a little space for my laptop. I’ve also done a little more work on it. Definitely a work in progress!




For those of you who are on the group feed, I found this picture on my desk of my sister and our nieces. Top left: Kristin Collins, Me (Amy Putkonen), June Jewell. Bottom row: Bailey Collins (Kristin’s daughter) and Tatia Jewell-Schwartz (my daughter). We all met up last December (2013) for a weekend in Chicago. It was the first time my sisters and I (and our daughters) had ever done a vacation together without our men.



One of the other things we discussed was our spice racks. This is my spice BIN. Eek. It needs a little work.


So that is my share. What have you been working on so far this year?


I Ching: Hexagram #17 – Following



As I read through this 17th hexagram of the I Ching, I was just starting my 8-week online book club. This is a new venture for me, never having been a part of a book club before and certainly never having led a book club before! What has been happening with the group continues to floor me, daily, and this was what came to mind when I read this chapter on Following.

First, a little background… I have always seen myself as a “leader type”, but over the last five years or so that part of me has been challenged. I don’t feel like a leader. Being a Leo, it seems that my disposition almost requires some leadership skills but in the last few years it feels that no one wants to follow what I am leading.

About three years ago, I started this blog. I had given up the business adventure idea (with very few followers) and had decided to just write and not worry about people following, but there has always been this part of me that wants things to go bigger. My ego was most certainly at the helm. I have had some success with this blog, and I certainly feel that I have met some incredible people through this experience but, if anything, writing about the Tao has made me want to let go of leading anyone. This path of studying the Tao is to let go of your attachments and to let the world be as it is.

So when I started this book club, I meant for it to just be a few friends and it has grown into a rather large group! Funny enough, I am leading this motley crew into who-knows-what but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like this group is leading ME into something special and wonderful! All of my dearest people in the world have decided to join me in it, which has been wonderful!

When I read the chapters for this hexagram, it explained that success (in leadership) comes from following. What does the group want? Which direction does the group tell us it needs to go? It seems that good leadership is about listening to the needs of others. Don’t we all find that to be true?

So, in typical Taoist fashion, leadership is about following. The circle continues. So in what ways are you following today?

SoulSpace: Phase 1 – Assessment

If you don’t know, I have started an online book club on Facebook with a book called SoulSpace. For the next two months, I will be blogging about this book along with my other blog posts relating to the Tao Te Ching and my study of the I Ching. Yes, it is a bit of a diversion from the topic of this blog but, to me, your personal space is a way that you present yourself to the world. The Tao Te Ching speaks often of how you carry yourself in this world and one way that is reflected is in how you take care of your home and your belongings.

One of my quests for this year is for my home to better reflect who I want to be in the world. This is a fluid thing. I am way different now than I was a decade ago and I am certain that who I will be twenty years from now will be different from who I am today. Currently, my home is not my best presentation of myself. I have neglected some things and it is time to take care of that, so that is what this book club is about for me.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, I hope that you enjoy these posts. If not, just ignore them and come back when I am writing stuff about the Tao. ;)

This book is broken into eight phases: Assess, Release, Cleanse, Dream, Discover, Create, Elevate & Celebrate. The book club goes for eight weeks so this first week is about assessing your home. What do you love about your home? What bothers you about it? So here is my entry on my home. If you are reading this in January or February of 2015, it is not too late to join us.


This piece is hanging in my living room. It is about 3 foot in diameter and I love it. I bought it in North Carolina from a fellow Tai Chi student and it reminds me of the fluidity of the Tao as I go about my days.

Welcome to my home.

It’s little. I would say “tiny” but we know that tiny homes are a separate and different kind of thing. My home is small at around 800 square feet. Three of us live there and it’s size has been both a sense of pride for me and the bane of my social life (or so I claim) for the last seven years or so. I am full of excuses around the state of my home and this has been one of the things that I would really like to clean up with this group. No more excuses.

As I went through this first phase in the book, my mind immediately wanted to go to everything that was WRONG. The list in my head felt justified, as if it finally had the right to say it’s piece. Finally, it would be HEARD! I sat on the toilet one afternoon and stared at the four little holes in the drywall from the toilet paper holder that had been removed the day I arrived when my five year old daughter could not reach the toilet paper. That was seven years ago. I went to the pile of recycling that hits you the moment you step in the front door. I went to the smoky glass 70’s style chandelier that I have wanted to remove since the day  I moved in. Where would I start?! The list was overwhelming.

As I read through the book, I realized that there were also a lot of things that I am already doing RIGHT. I have a little drawer in my dining room stocked with candles for that impromptu candlelit dinner. I have a small stereo system my husband bought me to play jams while my daughter and I do dishes. I have sweet little plants sprinkled throughout the house that give it that homey feel. The sink is usually pretty clean. Every so often, I arrive home to the sweet scent of Nag Champa my husband burns while I away because he knows that it makes me sneeze but I love it so much. Our home is a pleasant place for my daughter to come home to. She tells me that she loves how homey it is.

When I decided to do this book club, I was a little scared by it. At first, it was just going to be my sisters and a few of my friends and then it grew bigger than I imagined. I have a lot of little things about my home that are embarrassing to me, and now I am going to talk about them in a fairly public forum? Am I nuts? No, this is good. It’s good. Because how I talk about my home is a perfect reflection of how I talk about myself. My goal is to better myself. My goal is to use my own life as a platform and an experiment for growing and changing those things that I don’t love and learning to love myself enough to pay attention mostly to what I do love about myself and my home. This is the perfect medium.

The Tao Te Ching has been my structure for self-development for several years now through this blog. It’s a sweet little book of wisdom to help those of us wanting to better our lives. Throughout the next few months, I will be finding ways that my home does and does not reflect who I want to be. I welcome the changes. It is time to begin my match-making efforts.

For those of you in the group, I will share some photos in the Facebook group as I go along. For those of you just passing through, here are some photos of what I found…

My Uncool Retro 70’s Chandelier…


I hate this thing. When I first walked into my home seven years ago, I pointed at it and said, “This thing’s gotta go.” Whatyaknow, it’s still there! Sadly, I even have a lamp to replace it. It will be my pleasure to replace it! I will post a photo when it’s GONE.


Gustav Klimt, The Kiss



This is hanging in our bedroom. I love this piece. Before I met my husband, I read a book that suggested that, if you want a partner you should find pieces to put in your space to remind yourself of what you want. I want a guy who kisses my neck like this. Oh yeah. And then I found my sweet hubby.


My Paper Jungle




This is my desk. For reals. Do you wonder how I ever get any work done at my desk? I don’t. It’s a dumping ground for all things dining tableish. And apparently, shoe boxes.


My Art Stash, Part I


One day, I was looking at my art stash cubby and I didn’t know where anything was. So I got out my fab laminator and wrote up some cute little cards and then laminated them. I used some of that cool paper stash that I always buy when I am with my sissy, Jackie, on our art shopping visits. Oh yeah! Can you tell I love sharpies? The first bin was so full I had to have TWO whole drawers of sharpies! A girl’s gotta have her Sharpie!


My Favorite Tool




My I first met my husband, I found that he had one fatal flaw… he HATES doing dishes. Hates it. Like, he won’t touch them unless he’s on fire and his life depends upon it. So after a couple years of extreme dish torture, I told him that I HAD to have a dishwasher and he agreed. Our kitchen is tiny but we managed to find space for this little lovely. The kiwi tells us that it’s dirty. Remove the kiwi when you start it, please!


Candlelit Dinners



I won’t get too ahead of myself, but one thing that is encouraged throughout this book is to “elevate” your surroundings with things you love. One tradition we always had in my family growing up was to make steak fondue on Christmas Eve. So this year, we re-instilled this lovely tradition with a candlelit fondue dinner. That is Eric and my daughter, Tatia. You can see by the games on the table that we aren’t too formal around our place to fully clear the table – even for special occasions, apparently! haha. It was a lot of fun.


Now it’s your turn! What is laying around your house that inspires you or bugs you? Write about it in the comments or join us in our online book club on Facebook!

Pay It Forward Art-Making Project of 2015


Oh gosh. This year is starting out with a bang, isn’t it?

Yesterday, I completed 81 weeks of Tao Tuesday posts!! Yeah! Time to celebrate!

I came across Deborah Weber’s post today and, like the crazy person that I am, I signed up. It’s a “Pay it Forward” Art Project. No, it’s not a chain letter. (I hate those.) Rather, it’s a fun little experiment to get people doing art and sharing it with other crazy people.

Yeah, I’ll do that. 

I love doing crazy stuff. I don’t do it nearly enough! I love doing art. (I don’ t do that nearly enough either!) I have an idea for what I am going to do for people but it is a total secret. Once I am done, I will share them. I promise to take pictures as I go. So go ahead and comment! I dare ya! See where it takes you.

Have you ever met a crazy person? Well, not just ANY crazy person, but a crazy person who does a bunch of wild stuff and you wonder what you signed up for when you are with them? I know a few people like that. They are so much fun! I often think that I would like to be like that. What would my life be like if I just did crazy stuff? This is kinda crazy stuff, isn’t it? Yes, I’m doing that. If you are one of my FIVE, I will email you for your address, so no need to publish it here. Just comment and let me know you want to be a crazy person like me.


Here are the rules:

I promise to make a small work of art for the first five people who comment on this post and say “YES, I want in”. 

You must in turn post this invitation on your blog (or Facebook page) and make something for the first five who comment and say they want in.  The rules are simple: – It has to be your work, made by you, and the recipient must receive it before 2015 ends. – It can be anything art-based: a drawing/illustration or a conceptual work of art, a photograph, a knitted item, cross-stitch, paper maché – or anything in between. I’m paying this forward thanks to Tracy at InkyTwig.

It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an artist, try something out, google/ YouTube how to make stuff, step out of those boundaries.  Have fun and spread the love!

 First five, GO!


I got this great photo at!
I got this great photo at!

Every week, for the last year and a half or so, I have been posting these chapters on the Tao Te Ching and opening up a Mr. Linky for others to include their commentary. This is the LAST POST of that project! Yeah! I want to thank those who stayed with me and those who participated in this series (and those yet to participate!!) Specifically, I want to thank Louis Weltzer. Without his endurance and consistent query into this ancient text with me, I may never have completed this. I also must include his wonderful friend, Bob, who through the extensive commentary, and through his own various blog posts on this topic as well – it would surely have not been nearly as fun or as interesting a project as it was! I also want to thank Ronda, who although she did not do the entire huge series, she was there throughout, adding her commentaries and she was with us in spirit as we went all the way to the end.



Chapter 81

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not sincere.

Good women don’t argue.
Women who argue well aren’t good.

The wise person does not have book knowledge.
The person with book knowledge is not wise.

The sage does not collect things
and so she gives to others.

Since she gives to the people,
she has tremendous abundance.

The way of Tao is sharp
but never harms.

The way of the sage is to serve
and not compete.

Read the essay on Chapter 81



If you haven’t participated yet and you think it would be really fun to try this project, it’s not too late. You can always start at the beginning and do the earlier ones. They are all linked up on the List of All Chapters page so they do get looked at later on by people stopping by. Have fun!

Awareness: Part I

The following entry was originally posted back in 2012 (with some edits to bring it up to date). This was a project that I started back then, and never completed. Funny enough, it was the chapter on Consistency that did me in! Haha! I guess I wasn’t consistent enough. But, like anything, if you allow yourself some failure now and then to be human, you can forgive yourself and move on. I am reposting this entire series and completing it this time. Let’s hope, anyways! Enjoy!


This is part 1 of a series on Awareness.  This series on awareness is the first series in our Tao Te Ching Exploration Project. Throughout this project, we will be discussing some of the basic principles brought up throughout the Tao Te Ching. The principles we will cover are Awareness, Stillness, Discipline, Humility, Flexibility, Consistency, Connection, Service and Leadership. I am sure that there are many other principles that have been discussed throughout the text, but these are the nine topics that I am choosing to focus on over the next several months.

I relate to each principle by focusing our attention on each of the nine chakras, based on the Q’ero Shamans’ chakra system that is explained in depth in Dr. Alberto Villoldo’s book, Shaman, Healer, Sage. In this system, the chakras extend outside of our human form, which allow us to recognize our greater aspects of being. With nine chakras and nine disciplines, we will end up with 81 essays on living with the Tao in mind throughout every aspect of our being. (Since there are 81 chapters in the Tao Te Ching and nine is a completion number, I felt this was a fitting tribute.)

I hope that you are enjoying the series and will continue to explore with us throughout the rest of the project.



Awareness is the ability to notice what is going on around you. In some ways it a finite thing, but in other ways it is infinite… evolving. If you think of it as evolving, it is easier to move forward when you get stuck. I get stuck if I am feeling that I am failing at something. Awareness is something that is very easy fail at it because in any given moment, you are either aware or you are not.

Awareness is about paying attention.

Your attention can only go in so many directions. In our multitasking world, to divide your attention amongst multiple things you really don’t have the clarity of attention.

The question is, what are you going to put your awareness on?

Your awareness is always on something. Your awareness is sometimes in the past. Sometimes you are daydreaming about the future. Any time that you are not in the present moment, you are not aware.


The Root Chakra

For this first post in the series, we are going to focus on awareness from the perspective of our root chakra.

Our root chakra is all about our security in the world. How safe do you feel? For each of these posts, I will have a little exercise for you to try. Please come back and let us know in the comments how it went for you. For this first post, I want you to get a sense of your level of fear throughout your day. Listen to your self-talk and notice what you are saying about safety concerns. Observe your patterns. Notice the choices that you make and ask yourself why you made that choice. How many of your choices come down to feeling safe? The subject of your safety could be anything. It can be your physical safety, but it can also be monetary, relationships, job safety, anything. Which parts of your life don’t feel safe? Just notice these things without judgement.

The root chakra is also about addictions. Are you addicted to anything? Notice any impulses you have and the feelings that go with it. A long time ago, I used to smoke. My sister and I decided to quit one day, so we did it together. We took a class and they had us write down every cigarette we had and what was our reason for having one. For some reason, it worked because both of us quit. Unfortunately, I think that we were the only two in our class that did it but I think a big part of that was because we did it together. We took it seriously and we talked about it together. I think that there was a lot of merit to looking deeply into the face of our addictions. I think right now I am more addicted to chocolate. We all probably have something that we are addicted to. It is human nature. The key is not to judge ourselves, but just to become aware of it. Look at it with a sense of curiosity, as if you were watching a scientific test subject!

Another aspect of the root chakra is our relationship to sex. Other chakras deal with this subject as well, of course, but this would be the relationship to the raw element of sex – our more basal animal instincts. Our species survives because of sex, so it is a vital part of this aspect of our humanness. What is your attitude towards sex? Do you have any fears in this area? If so, just notice them. Journal about them if you want or just reflect. How aware are you in this area of your life? Pay attention to what comes up. (No pun intended! lol…)

The most important thing with any of these exercises is not to judge. These are not exercises in self-bashing. We are studying ourselves. We are uncovering the beautiful thing that is YOU. If it helps, imagine that you are someone else looking at your life. Try and observe yourself unattached and see what comes up.

Read The Study of Awareness: Part II

I Ching: Hexagram #16 – Delight




As I read this 16th hexagram of the I Ching, I am sitting in the most delightful space, poolside, at my house of my dear friend Robbye’s boyfriend, Matt, in Largo, Florida.  He has been gracious enough to host me in his home for a week as me and Robbye catch up after a year of being apart. As always, when I read these chapters to report them out to you lovely folks, the words are so appropriate for where I am right now.


In this chapter, we are cautioned to not let delight get the best of us. Yes, it’s exciting to be delighted by something – like this sweet little new puppy that Robbye just got – but we should also hold just a little bit back in preparation for the turn. By “the turn”, I mean the natural swing of things. Last night, we were sitting around talking after a joyous day of looking at cute neighborhoods and visiting the botanical gardens that Robbye loves to go to in her free time. I can’t help but delight at how wonderful it is to be down here enjoying her company. But, in the background there was also sadness. Sadness that this fleeting delight is a temporary thing and we will soon be going back to our ordinary lives far away from each other.

My daughter often balks at me when I claim the beauty in things like death and sadness, but it is true. There is beauty in all things, but letting things go has a beauty of its own and this hexagram warns us to not get so caught up in the delight that the inevitable downswing doesn’t catch us in the backside. It suggests that we should rather enjoy the delightful things in our lives and accept their temporary nature, like the sweet flowers that I saw at the botanical garden yesterday.

Have a lovely new year, everyone! I will leave you with a few photos of me and Robbye having some fun dancing and of her new puppy in the little sweater that I knitted for him. His name is Otto, so if you are ever in Largo, Florida, be sure and stop by and say hello.



Here’s Otto in the sweater I made him, chewing on his favorite toy.



Me & Robbye pretty much danced the night away in Matt’s friend swag bachelor pad. It was a hoot. A few rowdy guys even took their pants off when the song prompted them to do so. Robbye and I were good, though. We did not.















I’m thinking that it is unlikely that I would either feed or molest any gators, but they feel the need to warn me nonetheless.



This is Matt. Yes, he’s a funny one.




Dear Robbye at the botanical gardens. No, she did not pick that flower.

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