What is Your Spiritual Practice?

Stack of pebble stones by a stream in a forest

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been having some fun lately over at our local Unitarian Church. We went for the second week in a row yesterday and I would almost have to say that the second day was even better than the first.

What made it so worthwhile was a program they have called First Hour. Each week, the topic changes and the group is led by various church members but basically it is a space for anyone in the church to meet an hour before church and discuss whatever topics they want. This week, the discussion was about spiritual discipline. As you can maybe tell from this blog, I tend to be pretty open about my discussions on spirituality but this was really fun for me because it was one of the best discussions I’ve had in a group setting about spirituality.

Whoa… a Church? Really?

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 1.18.56 PM
I am a Taoist.

That should not surprise you, since this is clearly my blog. One thing that I can tell you about being a Taoist in a primarily Christian-based culture is that it is hard to find your community of people. I suppose, to be fair, this is tough to do no matter what religion you are because so often the ideals of a church do not fit the ideals of the person attending that church – even when you have a church that fits your denomination in your area.

Growing up, my parents weren’t really Methodist, although they did try to take us to Methodist churches because that was the closest thing that they could find to fit their liberal beliefs in small town America in the 70’s and 80’s.  I can remember going to the Sunday school and feeling very different from the other children there. They seemed to know some sort of code that I never knew. They annoyed me with their rules about how everyone was supposed to live. I wasn’t a Taoist then, but I didn’t feel like I belonged to any religion really. I still don’t.

I Ching #31 – Feeling

A couple holds hands in a park






This post is #31 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you may know that I am now offering personal I Ching readings for my readers.  If you are interested in getting a reading done, please see my I Ching Readings page and we can set something up for you. I Ching readings are good for helping you navigate those tricky parts in life.

Ah, young love…

As I read this chapter, I thought about myself as a teenager and how challenging it was as a young strong woman to manage the affairs of the heart. I did not do so well, in retrospect. I was raised by a mother who was part of the “women’s lib” movement of the 70s in the United States. While she did not actually burn any of her bras, her philosophy was ingrained in me to become a strong woman and I did. I even wrote my entire Tao Te Ching book in the feminine voice as an experiment in what this would feel like. As a mother of a now 14 year old daughter, I am seeing the next generation of this plight on her and how she is facing the subtle inequities of her gender.

I Ching #30 – Brilliance


This is an actual photo I took at sunset. No editing. Just RED. A big ole fireball in the sky.







This post is #30 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you may know that a few weeks ago I told the story of my yarrow sticks and offered up some I Ching readings. I ended up getting more than I bargained for, but doing these readings has been super fun! I am still trying to catch up from that, but if anyone else wants one, let me know. It may just take me a while to get to you, so if you are cool with that I can let you know when I’m a bit more freed up.

This hexagram is Fire over Fire. That’s a lot of fire! Fire represents passion – it represents the mind and ideas coming up. Fire is warmth and light. It’s our spiritual essence.

In several of the translations, the commentary for this hexagram mentions taking care of the cow. Now, you have to realize that this book was written thousands of years ago in Ancient China! So what is “taking care of the cow” in today’s speak?

In Ni’s version, he talks about the Fire representing the mind and Water representing the body. He goes on to discuss how, in the later version of the trigram arrangements, the “Post-Heaven Phase”, Fire and Water were considered the forces that every other energy was based from – replacing Heaven and Earth as the main bases! This is how important Fire and Water are to us! We are made of water but it is our passion (fire) that fuels us.

So this hexagram is double fire, AKA Brilliance. If Fire is the mind, this hexagram represents the brilliance that we are capable of achieving with the right circumstances. We have great spiritual potential. But we must take care of the cow also. Chop wood and carry water. Take it slow and don’t burn yourself out.

Fire is strong and powerful but it can also be destructive. If a fire is too strong, it will burn itself out. Better to simmer things and let them last. Better to share the light with others and let them carry it on. Better to focus your light within and regenerate your being. Our brilliance is internal – not just external. What light is there within you that you can let shine out for others to see? What light can you uncover in others?

With the power of fire comes responsibility. How best can we tame our fire so that it can serve us as long as we would like?


Tell us what you think. What do you think of when you think of FIRE? How about double fire?

The Story of My Yarrow Sticks {The August Break}



A friend of mine is doing a challenge called The August Break, which is a challenge to take a photo every day for the month of August. I am already starting late, and I am not fully committed to doing one every day but I love playing along anyways. It’s fun to see what people come up with.

My first entry is the photo you see at the top of this post. I chose this one to start with because its got a great story behind it. The stack of books are my favorite I Ching books. I have been writing about the I Ching on this blog for a while now. A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine and she and I decided to exchange a dream interpretation for an I Ching reading. Although I had been studying the I Ching for some time, I hadn’t been doing many actual readings recently, so it was fun to do one. I mean really fun. The kind of fun that you have when you know that you are doing your true passion. It just flowed! It reminded me that I want to do them much more frequently.

I have a special set of Chinese coins that I use for the readings (see below). You toss the coins and they help you to determine what the different lines of the I Ching represent. This is the simple way of doing the readings.



The more traditional way of doing an I Ching reading is with yarrow sticks. This method is somewhat finicky and time-consuming but it is how they were done for thousands of years. The time it takes to achieve your results seems appropriate somehow. It forces you to consider if the weight of the question is worth the effort of the sticks before you consult the I Ching about it.

So, I was telling my husband how much I loved doing the reading and how it just felt so RIGHT. Then he comes out with this beautiful wooden box. Yes, the one in the photo. Perfectly nestled inside it are 50 yarrow sticks. These are not just any yarrow sticks. These sticks were hand-picked, cut to the size of this special box and dried in the basement of my husband’s childhood home when he was about 18 years old. Apparently, at the time he was curious about the I Ching so he just made them. He never used them. They were meant for ME. It was the sweetest present he’s ever given me and that is saying a lot because he is a really good gift giver. So now I have my sticks to do I Ching readings. If anyone wants one, let me know! I will be very happy to do one for you.

PLEASE NOTE: I am no longer doing free readings for people, but if you would like to schedule a paid reading, please check out my I Ching Readings page! I would love to do one for you!

Book Study Delayed


Hi there!

I just wanted to post a quick note out there in case any of you were thinking of doing my book study group for The Untethered Soul this month. I have decided to postpone this book study for a while. This has been a super busy summer and I haven’t been on the blog as much, so it really isn’t the time to do this book study. I will let you know when I decide to do it – probably late fall or winter.

Have a great summer, everyone!

I Ching #29 – Abyss


This is the Chinese word for Water (K’an). I drew this with my Buddha board, then modified it in Photoshop. K’an also means danger.



This post is #29 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

I’m not sure if I told you this, but I am memorizing the 64 hexagrams – at least the names of all of them – so that if I see a hexagram, I know what it is called. This one is a special one because it is one of 8 hexagrams that is doubled – water over water. I like to think of the Grand Canyon when I think of this hexagram, which aptly explains both the power of water and the potential for danger. You wouldn’t want to get caught in the bottom of the Grand Canyon during a flash flood!

I love the beautiful subtlety of the I Ching. This image of water, being one of the eight trigram images as well, is significant because it reminds us to stay true to the highest virtues. Water flows gently over everything in its path – it takes the low road and yet it is extremely powerful for this reason. Water stays true to itself because it holds no pretenses.

I especially loved what Deng Ming-Dao had to say about the potential of this hexagram:

It is indulgent when people claim that they cannot find the meaning of life. They can. They just do not want to risk danger to find it. And so they sit at the edge, never going into the darkness to seek the answers that will slake their thirst. 

The “Abyss”, as this hexagram is also known, is about seeking that depth of our souls. Are we afraid to go deep or can we be like water and be fearless enough to reach our lowest places?

I Ching #28 – Great Excess



28: Great Excess (Ta Kuo)



This post is #28 of 64 hexagrams in a series of posts about the I Ching, an ancient Taoist text that has many ties to the Tao Te Ching. For those of you new to this series, you may want to start by reading my post called “What is a Hexagram?” that helps to explain more about the general idea of the I Ching. If you are just starting this series, you may want to take a look at some of my other posts on the I Ching.

As I think of this hexagram, I think about my front yard – a gardener’s nightmare. It is completely overgrown from several summers of neglect! I took the photo above  in a cave in Puerto Rico.  It is a perfect example of my front yard and of this hexagram.

This hexagram is about being unbalanced. The other day I was having breakfast with a friend of mine and she was talking about housecleaning. She said if you handle things as you notice them, they don’t become a big problem. But if you ignore things, they quickly grow out of hand (like the weeds in my garden?)  You get overwhelmed and then you have trouble keeping up with it all. Isn’t that so true? If we are trying to keep our kitchen clean, the mess can quickly get out of hand if we forget about our commitment to our goal.

In Hua Ching Ni’s interpretation of this hexagram, he explains that it is important to stay on your spiritual path.  If we allow ourselves to get distracted by many of the myriad things life offers us, we will not achieve our spiritual goals. When I read this chapter a few days ago, I struggled to understand how this advice applied to my life. In my study of the I Ching, I have noticed that it frequently takes me several days to grasp a concept being shown to me. So I let it go and then came back to it to see what had come to the surface.


While my front yard is certainly not a spiritual path, per se, it represents the essence of great excess in my life. With Taoism, much of the practice is around seeing these sorts of patterns in your daily life. In Ni’s interpretation, he reminds us to stay flexible, soft, calm and patient. I need to practice this with myself when I get overwhelmed. I tend to be hard on myself sometimes because I feel like the spiritual path is supposed to be all the “important stuff” and keeping my sink clean or weeding the garden don’t seem to count. But this hexagram reminds me that they do.

I enjoyed Deng Ming-Dao’s interpretation of this chapter. He went further to explain that great excesses are our teachers if we chose to learn from them:

Great excess. Only the truly great can cope with it – and no one becomes great without being tested by great excess.”  ~Deng Ming-Dao, Hexagram 28, The Living I Ching

This reminds me of something that I learned reading Moonwalking with Einstein, a book I read recently about developing your memory. The author, Joshua Foer, was trying to become the U.S. Memory Champion from only a year of study and had come to a plateau in his training. No matter what he did, his ability to memorize cards did not improve. So he asked his coach and his coach recommended that he start tracking his own scores and to write down what he learned from his practices. It seems that, tracking your progress is a way of moving beyond these plateaus. Can we track our progress with our spiritual goals as well? I am curious to explore this idea further.

Deng Ming-Dao explains that the word Kuo in Chinese (part of the name of this hexagram) has an alternate meaning of “a crossing”. He likened it also to a snake shedding its skin. We become better human beings when we can surpass our own barriers. The “great excess” that we experience is sometimes represented by our outgrowing old patterns of behavior that no longer fit us.

The “great excess” highlighted in this chapter can also mean death. Like the Death card in Tarot, there are many ways to interpret death. Sometimes it is an actual death, but more often it is the death of an older, outdated part of yourself. Like another friend explained to me, death can also be about revisiting parts of your inner child that are not yet resolved.

As I connect this information about the extreme changes of death to Ni’s chapter on remembering your spiritual path, it occurred to me that his reminder to stay on your path is most important during times of extreme changes in your life, such as a death of someone close to you. While we cannot control the external circumstances of our lives, we can control our own behavior and choose what is best for our spirit in any given moment. Extreme changes are very difficult to navigate, but it is these changes that will challenge us to put our spiritual practices into action. But, unless we have been practicing improving ourselves on a daily basis, we will not have the strength to withstand these tumultuous times. We will crumble. Crumbling isn’t necessarily bad. Things often crumble to make way for a new beginning. And, like Deng Ming-Dao said, “no one becomes great without being tested by great excess”.

A Quiet June


I have decided to do a media fast during the month of June. Basically, this means that I will not be on Facebook, browsing the Internet, watching Internet television or blogging. I am allowing myself communications such as Facebook Messenger (app) and texting and cell phone usage, because the goal is to experiment with my dependence on the Internet rather than to cut off communications with my friends and family.

I will not be responding to comments during the month. Just know that I appreciate your visit and I apologize for that. When I return in July, I will respond to any that need an answer.

For those of you in my Conscious Living Book Club, I have decided to make it a quarterly thing – which means that we will be studying The Untethered Soul in August instead of June as originally discussed. I will also be moving the group to Facebook (rather than GoodReads) so stay tuned for future communications on that when I am back to blogging in July.

I will be back to both of my blogs in July. Have a wonderful month, everyone!



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