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Horses on Easter Island – Part 3

February 20, 2011

Two full-grown horses we hadn’t seen before cantered to the other side of the fence and one touched noses with the mare, a gesture of reassurance. The men cautiously moved in closer, and she remained motionless. By now she was completely surrounded with two men at her head, three at her rear, and Randy, with the longest arms, angled beneath her belly on his knees, holding the right front leg and the injured left back leg, his chest pressed against hers, heart to heart. He could feel a palpable vibration of love with her. Instead of anxiety, she exuded relief, gratitude, presence and just a little confusion.

The men took turns severing the thick wire from her back legs. Watching, we could tell what strength it took to split each circle of wire in two. One man would nip through a wire, then hand the cutters to another man and they changed positions. It was slow going. I wondered how long the mare’s patience would last.

Our of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed our Rapa Nui driver with the stronger wire cutters racing toward us on foot. He screeched to a halt when he came within view of the mare and then silently stepped toward her. Within minutes, he had removed all of the wire. Amazingly, the mare held perfectly still throughout, though unwrapping the deeply imbedded wires must have been painful for her. The men had gained her trust. And the young foal stayed close and calm.

Then it was time for the five bottles of essential oils, (clove bud, helichrysum arenarium, cistus and thyme thuyanol) which cost hundreds of dollars, to be poured onto her wounds. As Barry worked, the oils must have stung but she didn’t flinch. Upon finishing, Randy and Barry both looked up at the same time to see our female Maori elder facing them, eyes closed, singing and vibrating her hands toward the earth as she swayed back and forth. They could feel her trance-like connection with the horses and the loving energy she was holding for the healing. Randy then realized it was the indigenous Rapa Nui and Maori peoples who truly resonated with the horses. They were most harmoniously connected with the Earth, speaking the same wordless language as all animals.

The men returned to the road where we held vigil. Our work successfully completed, we embraced each other with giant hugs as the tears flowed, tears of jubilation. The mare and foal walked gingerly back to the road, too, sniffed the water (it probably smelled odd compared to their crater-lake water) and started to graze.

When we returned to the buses with the news that the mare was now free, our fellow sojourners, many who had quietly circled together under the trees, exploded in celebration. Unbeknownst to us, they had been praying along with us the whole time. It had taken all 70 of us, along with our Rapa Nui friends, bonding together to release the mare. We were so elated, we practically floated to our next destination.

When we had each spent time with the intriguing Te Pito Kura/golden navel stone by the ocean, we headed back toward the bus. I was with two of the men who had freed the mare and we were still rejoicing. Then I noticed four horses coming in our direction. Their heads held high, they seemed to be moving purposely toward us, which was unusual. We slowed and they strode right up to us, stopping a few feet away with one horse in front, his eyes and ears intent on us. I began to cry as I realized they had approached us because somehow word had spread among the horse population. With focused attention, the lead male asked, “Are you the ones who saved her?” We replied that we were and they thanked us, saying they had been deeply worried about her and the foal. Then they ambled off.

Our devoted guides returned to check on the mare and refill her water twice that evening before the Tapati celebration. They reported that she seemed stronger each time.

During the opening night festival as we watched hundreds of dancers, singers and people speaking their native Rapa Nui language on stage, my thoughts remained with the mare. Many of us in our group continued praying for her recovery.

The following morning, we boarded the buses with great excitement on our way to meet 70-some horses for our long-anticipated trail ride. Our enthusiasm for deeper interactions with this sensitive, intelligent species was soaring after our encounter with the mother and son. And we were eager to see the spiritual petroglyphs along our equine-assisted journey.

We traveled the same southern road as yesterday on our way to the far side of the island. About halfway there, I realized the mare was nearby. She was communicating with us and the air was vibrating with her gratitude. I twisted around and around in my seat looking for her and finally got a glimpse of her and the foal through a window at the back of the bus. They had just crossed the road and were slowly heading toward fresh water. Cheers erupted as we became aware of the distance she had covered since we had last seen her.

Because of the severity of her wounds, she would probably always limp, but she could still enjoy a long life on the island.

trail ride

Jade with her horse before the trail ride across the northern part of the island.

When we arrived at the trail head, most of the trepidation we may have felt about riding quickly turned into loving admiration at the sight of these magnificent and gentle beings waiting patiently. Many of us just wandered around saying hello to them all. I wondered briefly if these horses, too, had heard of yesterday’s events. I supposed they had.

Our guides for the day informed us that this trail ride would be the largest one on the island in their lifetimes. And though many people in our group had never ridden a horse (and I secretly wondered how well these horses had been trained for novice riders), the day-long journey flowed almost without incident.

Greeting me for the day’s adventure was an innocent, three-year-old gelding, Red, who had never been on a trail ride before. In the saddle with him along the narrow path, I chatted as we got to know each other. His ears stayed glued in my direction, a good sign. Though I’m far from an accomplished horsewoman, I’d been on trail rides at my grandparents’ farm growing up. Acknowledging my prior experience in this situation, Red soon put his trust in me. And I did my best to fulfill my role as a good leader for him.

After a few hours we stopped for lunch at a dramatic overlook by the ocean. Freshly caught fish were soon smoking on an open fire as locally harvested potatoes, beets and lettuces were prepared for us. We feasted using palm leaves instead of utensils, the same as we had for our first Rapa Nui meal on the island.

Then with our bellies full, we formed a large circle. And it was here, after finding our rhythm with the horses, with each other, and with the natural world around us that we fulfilled the original purpose of this long journey to a remote Pacific island. In a simple ceremony between the Rapa Nui and the people who had arrived from all corners of the Earth, words of respect, love and forgiveness were spoken to help cleanse the shadow that hung over this island and these people.

Afterward, many of us honored this ancient indigenous civilization in a sacred cave, hearing stories of the spiritual messages that spawned the elaborate rock carvings on the walls.

Like the horses of my childhood, Red had become a dear equine friend that day and it was difficult saying goodbye when the trail ended. Today, I can still feel him, along with my Rapa Nui brothers and sisters. I remember their loving embraces. And my thoughts often return to the mare and her foal, now a three-year-old himself.

Reflecting upon this memorable journey, it seems that our unexpected opportunity to save the dying mare serves as a poignant metaphor for our healing journey with Mother Earth, the purpose of our trip. We released a tremendously grateful mare from her human-created bondage when it seemed that the situation was beyond our ability to help.

Horses grazing inside the bowl of a volcano crater on Rapa Nui. All photos by Midori Nishida.

Perhaps more importantly, she welcomed the expression of our innate goodness, a goodness that lives in all humankind. I believe it was largely because of our love for her that she regained her inner strength to support her healing journey.

And may our continual love for Mother Earth, from people all over the world, help Her regain Her inner strength to support Her healing journey as well.

Iorana and Maruru (goodbye and thank you, in Rapa Nui)



Horses on Easter Island – Part 2

February 20, 2011

We stood at a respectful distance from the mare discussing our options for about half an hour as people came and went, conversing in hushed tones. Everyone was distraught. Our group had come together from homelands as distant as Russia, Japan, Venezuela, Australia, Europe, Canada, South Africa, and the U.S. And it was clear from people’s expressions that most of us held a deep affinity for the well-being of our animal friends. The mare, at first a bit alarmed by our attention, began to soften as we continually assured her that our only desire was to help her and honor her wishes.

Our considerations for her were: If she were in her death process, would we be interfering, causing her undue stress, if we tried to cut the wires? What if we didn’t succeed and only made things worse? Besides we didn’t have any wire cutters. Nor did we have permission from her owner. And furthermore, she was a semi-wild horse. Even in her weakened state, she could inflict substantial damage if she or her foal felt threatened. From a rational standpoint, it seemed wise to let her be and contact her owner.

After an hour or so, most of the group reluctantly began heading back to the buses. Frits, a compassionate soul who owned horses in the Netherlands, lagged behind with Benito, me and the horses. We were desperately trying to come to terms with our departure when, suddenly, Frits looked Benito in the eye and asked, “Will you give us permission to try to free her?” Benito paused for a few moments, then gave his full blessing.

Frits sprinted to the bus to recruit volunteers. Later, I heard he joined Barry, a healer from Arizona, who had independently decided to help the mare with 5 full bottles of powerful disinfecting/antimicrobial/cellular regenerating essential oils he had serendipitously placed in his bag that morning.

One of our guides found a pair of mediocre wire cutters, and a bus driver departed to obtain a more heavy-duty set. Meanwhile, two other guides rounded up most of our bottled water to fill a large plastic cooler for the horses to drink.

Randy, a friend from the U.S., and I had stayed with the mare. Interestingly, as soon as we decided to attempt to remove the wires, she began grazing and shuffling around a bit, very slowly. But her eyes seemed brighter. I wondered if we had helped spark her will to live. Seeing her desire to eat, I knew we had made the right decision, regardless of the outcome.

As I continued talking calmly with her, she communicated these words, “Even if I don’t live, I’m grateful to know that someone cares about me.” She had been enduring such abandonment in this dire situation for who knew how many days and nights. Surely by now she could feel the immense flow of love surrounding her.

Randy, Guapo (one of our guides) and Benito gently approached her, murmuring soothing words. But she continued to move away from them, the foal always at her side. She seemed stronger than she did an hour ago. The men kept a steady pace in relation to her movements. Before long, the five of them drifted along in unison, together as if in a dance.

Along the isolated road, six women gathered to pray: a Maori elder from New Zealand, two women from Russia, two Americans who lived in Fiji and me. We watched as about seven men returned from the bus and joined the human-equine dance, gently encircling the mare. She limped a short distance toward a long fence and then stopped with her foal nearby. Guapo immediately placed a rope, brought from the bus, on the back of her neck, a trained signal for horses on the island to be still.

(Conclusion in Horses on Easter Island – Part 3.)

Horses on Easter Island – Part 1

February 16, 2011

This is an inspiring story about an encounter with two horses, a mother and son, that occurred in February, 2008, when I visited Easter island, also known as Rapa Nui.
The most beckoning part of the itinerary for a week-long trip to Easter Island/Rapa Nui was a day on horseback that would take our group to ancient spiritual altars and petroglyphs. This pristine northern part of the island was inaccessible by motor vehicle. The true purpose of the journey to this remote Pacific island, however, was to join an indigenous Rapa Nui elder to help forgive and heal a violent part of their human history, helping to bring the energy of this precious land back into balance. Over 70 people signed up for the trip from around the world.


Fifteen moai facing inland along the southeastern coast of Rapa Nui or Easter Island.

Rapa Nui, also known as “the navel of the world,” is famous for its moai — hundreds of stone figures, some as tall as 18 feet, carved from volcanic rock and placed primarily along the coastline. It remains a mystery as to why the statues were created and how they were transported to their current locations on this small island, where the nearest neighbors live more than a thousand miles away. The largest moai is estimated to weigh 90 tons, and is topped with a separate 11-ton stone hat.

This gorgeous island, located equidistant between Chile and Tahiti, is the most isolated inhabited island in the world. The airline flights from either direction take five hours. The island’s triangular land mass is about 8 miles across with a large dormant volcano anchoring each corner. Fresh-water lakes fill some of the many volcano craters, providing drinking water for the approximately 4,000 people on the island, along with about 2,000 horses.

Our first day on the island was devoted to sacred ceremony with the indigenous Rapa Nui people. After watching a vigorous performance spoken in their native tongue, we were served a bountiful, earthy lunch as everyone got to know each other. Then we hiked a few miles down to an ocean inlet that opened into a cave for a group meditation as the mighty waves sang us their songs.


Horses grazing near the volcano Rano Raraku on the southeast part of the island.

During our second day, we happened upon our first horses. They grazed around the rim of Rano Raraku, the crater that formerly provided volcanic rock to carve the moai, and now provides the island with a fresh-water lake. These horses all exhibited behavior somewhere between wild and domesticated animals.

They were clearly accustomed to people but definitely kept their distance, avoiding us if at all possible. Horses are by nature prey animals, prone to flight. We later learned that all of the horses are actually owned and branded by various island residents. And though the horses seem able to roam freely, there were a few barely discernible fences here and there. Overall, the horses on Rapa Nui appeared to experience a near paradise-like existence on open land with no wild predators, a tremendous gift for such highly intelligent, peaceful creatures.

Even though the primary industry in Rapa Nui is tourism, the island remains much the same as when Chile first colonized it more than 100 years ago. Hotels and restaurants are modest. People live simply. According to one of our guides, the majority of islanders dedicate many months of the year preparing for Tapati, an annual, week-long festival celebrating the origins of their culture. Ancient sporting events, feasts, theatrical presentations with hand-sewn feather and reed costumes, and the crowning of a queen are all part of the celebration. Luckily, our trip coincided with this festival.

On our fifth day of the trip, the day before the trail ride, our two buses turned off the primary southern road and drove inland a few miles before stopping for lunch. With our boxed meals, we decided to walk a half mile further up the earthen road to sit beneath a grove of eucalyptus and cedar trees. Finding comfortable spots on the ground, we savored our typical, unadorned island fare.

The atmosphere was jovial and we began relaxing for an hour before the buses would take us to our next destination — communing with a sacred stone near the coast that the native people believe emanates tremendous healing energy. Legend has it that an ancient chief brought the enormous, perfectly rounded stone, named Te Pito Kura (meaning golden navel or navel of light), to Rapa Nui eons ago when his home island flooded. Some people say this chief traveled with his people from the mystical land of Lemuria.

Half-way through lunch, a woman in the group approached and asked me to come with her. She said a mare nearby was in trouble, and her baby was with her. When I arrived, I saw the mare had barbed and smooth wire wrapped tightly around her left back leg and smooth wire wrapped loosely around the other rear leg, making it difficult for her to walk. From her wounds on the lower left leg, it was evident she had been tangled up for at least a week, maybe two. Her ribs were showing and though the grass was lush in the partly shaded area, there appeared to be no water in the vicinity. Her body was immobile, listless, her head low to the ground with glazed eyes. The male foal, however, seemed healthy and alert.

Soon others gathered. As a number of us were able to communicate with the mare, it became clear that she was only alive because of her devotion to her son, who was about 4 months old, not yet weaned. She seemed to be in her death process. Our initial assessment was that the situation was beyond hope. This heart-breaking scene evoked shock and tears among us.

We asked Benito, our kind Rapa Nui spiritual elder, about the possibility of euthanasia, or at least contacting the owner. He said he could find out whom she belonged to from the branding, however, he assured us that because it was opening day of the Tapati festival, it was futile to try contacting anyone, the owner or a vet. After witnessing daily evidence of the labor-intensive work that went into preparing for the festival, we knew he was right.

(Continued in Horses on Easter Island – Part 2)





Sea of Humanity

February 13, 2011

Originally written as a newsletter article on 6/14/09.

We’ve been graced with daily rainfall the last two weeks–most welcome in our semi-arid Colorado climate. These showers follow 9 inches of moisture during April and May. The wildflowers have responded with a stunning display and the foothills are carpeted with a luxurious green.

This unusual precipitation is a frequent topic of conversation, eliciting smiles and relaxed body language. The generous rainfall has people, like wildflowers, responding with joy.

One recent overcast morning, I found myself outdoors amid 54,000 people. Thankfully, the rain was not expected to begin until the afternoon. As I blended with the crowd, I wasn’t sure exactly why, after 9 years in Colorado, I decided to walk in the annual Bolder Boulder 10K race. However, I savored the cool and blessedly dry weather as I joined my wave near the starting line.

My group of about 300 walkers was one of the final waves to begin. As we eased forward, a memory of a race I had seen in Kansas City 20 years ago flooded my senses.

One summer day in 1989, I received a notice on my door that a 4K race would pass in front of my house the coming weekend. That Saturday morning just after 7 am, the sound of hundreds of sneakers making contact with pavement filtered into my dream-space. I pulled on my robe and padded downstairs.

Still inhabiting the land between dreaming and waking, I stepped outside to resonate with this flowing river of people and felt an intense rush of emotion. Witnessing this amazing sea of humanity, moving as one, so beautiful, so full of life, I began to weep. I watched the young and old, bald and pony-tailed, robust and lithe, stern and smiling bodies as they passed by, and kept passing by, cascading through my ┬áneighborhood. My response was similar to the joy I often feel watching the Olympics–the world gathered in peaceful, celebratory community.

In my robe, I watched and cheered with my neighbors until the last walker ambled by more than an hour later. I felt as if I had fallen in love with each and every person in the race that morning.

And now here I was at the Bolder Boulder starting line, joining these other walkers destined for Folsom Field 6 miles away. I wondered how I would feel as a participant rather than an observer. I also wondered how my body would respond without any training to speak of. Much to my relief, the relatively flat course was remarkably easy and we were entertained by 10 live bands, bagpipe players in kilts, belly dancers and by offers of donuts and beer! The atmosphere of the crowd was sheer joy.

After an hour and a half, my wave headed uphill to the field house. As soon as I stepped into the stadium, tears began to well. To my complete surprise, my wave of walkers arriving almost 4 hours after the race first began, was being cheered on by more than 15,000 people standing in the stadium, waving flags and brimming with enthusiasm at our entrance.

Spontaneously most of us began to jog in response to this outpouring of encouragement. We smiled and waved back in joyful astonishment as we floated around the track to the finish line. This beautiful sea of humanity opened their hearts to us and we basked in their love.

Later at the celebration’s close, as a singer offered his final notes, drops of delicious rain began to fall.

(Photo from video footage of Why Run, a documentary about running currently being edited. See trailer at



Pets as Teachers

February 13, 2011
yellow lab

Originally printed in the Healing Path magazine, Nov./Dec., 2005

The truth of the matter is, as much as we adore our pets, life with our animal companions can sometimes challenge us to our limits.

My first cat after college, Nazare, loved to hunt. As presents for me and entertainment for him , he would sneak live birds into my apartment and release them. (Well, it was better than mice, I suppose.) He rarely harmed the creatures, thank goodness. But guiding a startled bird toward an open door while keeping my cat at bay led to some very frantic moments. Scolding didn’t accomplish anything. Eventually, I became adept at calmly rescuing the occasional trembling bird from my chandelier.

And the funny thing is, as a result of this training, I became more proficient at dealing with crisis situations in my life. Whether he was aware of it or not, Nazare taught me how to respond to unexpected chaos.

Today as an animal communicator, I remain intrigued with the life lessons, or agreements, between people and their pets. I find that by understanding our agreements with our animal companions, we can develop deeper and more harmonious relationships with them.

One client, Alisha, a composed 20-year-old student, was at her wit’s end with her two-year-old Siberian Husky, Gaia. This boisterous dog constantly disobeyed Alisha — disappearing for an hour on a walk, ignoring simple commands she had followed before. Yet Gaia was clearly bonded with Alisha and wanted to please her. After failing an intensely rigorous dog obedience class, Gaia seemed doomed for the Humane Society shelter.

Looking at their agreements together revealed that Gaia and Allisha held opposite views regarding rules — Gaia, a free spirit, perceived rules as limitations while Alisha, a highly organized person, found solace in following rules to the letter. Alisha was trying to force Gaia to become a perfectly obedient dog in every respect, which left Gaia feeling like she was in prison.

The difficult lesson together involved each of them finding more balance regarding discipline in their lives. Gaia knew that her free-spirited nature could easily lead her into dangerous situations. So she trusted Alisha to guide her toward safety in life. But Gaia also needed breaks from the constant training to express her adventurous nature.

Alisha, on the other hand, was learning from Gaia how to relax her need to control her environment so she could take more risks and explore a greater level of freedom in life.

Soon after our session, their relationship blossomed. As Alisha eased up on enforcing unnecessary rules, Gaia began responding more willingly to her requests. And Alisha is now able to take life less seriously as she learns from Gaia’s boundless enthusiasm for life.

All agreements with our pets are not as challenging as Alisha and Gaia’s lessons together. Sometimes animals simply help remind us about the basics in life — love, play, and loyalty to our friends.

Once, I had the honor of meeting a spunky 46-year-old turtle, Zippy, who had stopped eating. True to his name, Zippy careened around the room with plenty of energy as we talked. Laura, his person, obviously cherished this life companion, whom she had cared for since the age of eight. One of Zippy’s agreements with Laura was for her to provide a secure home for him in a house with four cats.

When I asked why he had stopped eating, he kept repeating, “Home, home.” I asked Laura if she knew what he meant. Her eyes dropped and she said, “Oh, I moved his house to a spot I thought he would like better.” She paused then continued, “It was about the same time he stopped eating.” In the new location, he didn’t feel as protected from the cats, so he stopped eating to alert Laura of his discomfort. The problem was quickly rectified and Zippy resumed eating.

Becoming aware of the life lessons we are learning with our pets only enhances our relationships with them. So the next time your animal companion challenges you, ask yourself what you might be learning from this amazing creature who has chosen to share a life with you.

(Photos courtesy of

Buck deer

February 13, 2011

Originally written as a newsletter article on 7/12/09.

young buck deer

A young buck deer.

One morning this week I awoke at dawn. The temperature was predicted to reach the mid-nineties so I soaked my garden in the cool morning air. As I turned the water off, I was treated to a rare sight–only a few feet away strolling along my sidewalk were four, young buck deer. Now deer are spotted fairly often in and around town. But for some reason, most of them are female. To see one buck is unusual. So four? At my home where deer rarely appear? I stood in speechless wonder.

The attitude of this male pack reminded me of teenaged boys, both confident on their journey and self-conscious at the same time. One young buck trailing somewhat behind the group caught my eye. I greeted him wordlessly and he held my gaze as he passed. His fuzzy antlers were about 18 inches high. He was too cute! I noticed the delicate shape of his hooves, and the gentle clicking sounds on the pavement, like high heels.

The group moved to a crossroad and one buck headed north down another sidewalk while the others waited, watching. The lead deer soon came barreling back as if to say, “No, not that way!” Congregating again at the corner, they circled a bit as if confused about which way to go. The gentle buck I had greeted turned toward me again. Acknowledging their obvious desire to find the quickest way back to nature’s open space, I adamantly pointed toward the mountains.

They quickly checked in with one another for a few seconds, then took off at a gallop toward the mountains I had pointed to. These guys not only asked for directions, they followed them!

We love to joke about the differences between the male and female. And the differences are frankly significant. They’re physical, hormonal, familial, societal and even spiritual. Most of us move through life primarily in our masculine mode — logical, thinking, strong, independent, active, rational; or in our feminine mode — creative, feeling deeply, being taken care of, relationship-oriented, passive, intuitive. We may easily embody both attributes, such as being a rational leader at work while pursuing expressive artwork at home. However very few of us embody BOTH the masculine and feminine aspects at the same time.

I believe some of the most important spiritual work today involves intertwining our masculine and feminine attributes (along with using the left and right hemispheres of the brain simultaneously) so we can enjoy a balanced, integrated existence. So we can wear our powerful antlers as we test our abilities in dainty high heels. So we can integrate both aspects of ourselves, both sides of our brain at the same time, and become whole.

The Divine Feminine has awakened recently and understands our spiritual path toward wholeness. She knows that we need to honor both our male and female aspects within us to evolve spiritually, to transcend duality, to heal the planet.

So who represents the highest expression of the goodness of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine in the world around you? For a friend of mine, the highest form of Divine Masculine in her life is her beautiful male dog. For someone else, Oprah may represent the Divine Feminine. Once the healthy qualities of male/female expression become alive and balanced inside of you, you’ll be able to call on the strength/protection of your male side to feel safe in the world, as you express your female heart’s loving desire to fulfill your spiritual purpose. (By the way, most people concur that spirituality is located in the right/feminine side of the brain. Check out neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight, or google her to see her inspiring video.)

Finally, like the deer who wandered into my neighborhood, many spiritual seekers find ourselves not completely comfortable in a suburban/urban environment all the time. We long to smell wild flowers instead of air freshener, to hear a hawk call instead of a refrigerator hum, and to embrace Mother Earth in Her pure, creative exuberance.

Mother Earth knows where we long to go spiritually and will show us the way if we look in Her direction. If you trust her, follow Her.

(Photo of deer from




Nurturing yourself

February 13, 2011

This newsletter article was originally written on 3/29/09.

During these stressful times, a glorious gift to yourself can be nurturing your physical and emotional bodies.

Many years ago I learned important lessons about nurturing myself when my ability to walk became restricted for a few months. In addition to the physical discomfort, I became depressed as my world narrowed. However, once I stopped resisting and decided to relax into my predicament, I found great joy in the hidden treasures of slowing down.

The world seemed remarkably full of life everywhere I turned. To aid in my recovery, I began using essential oils early on. Lavender in particular always lifted my mood. This sensory delight led me to begin balancing the pain in my body with a variety of simple, healthy pleasures throughout each day.

Because of my physical condition, each step was a precious gift. So I carefully planned outings around sensory experiences that would rejuvenate me. Sometimes I drove to a park and took 5 careful steps to sit on a rock by a pond, breathing deeply as I watched ducks glide in and take off. Or I would drive to an expansive overlook to watch the sun set.

When I became more adventurous, I traveled to an antique gallery/cafe and sat in one of a number of luxurious chairs as I waited for a lunch table. I remember the delicate wafting of tomato basil soup and pepper spiced ratatouille coming from the kitchen. When my meal arrived, I savored each bite, noticing the life force flowing into my body. It felt as if I had never really tasted food before. Gratitude began to pour into my being.

At home I rediscovered the comforting presence of a hot water bottle and a rainbow shaft of light from a crystal moving gracefully along the floor. Before long, everything around me seemed to spring to life–a philodendron in a hand-made pot, the grace of a sheer lampshade. I felt an inner happiness for the simple blessings of life itself that I never knew when I was rushing about.

Also during those quiet few months in my life, I was drawn to move deeper into meditation. I read Peace is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who suggests that along with inner stillness, people simply smile many times throughout the day. Smiling changes everything from your attitude to your muscles to your hormones. It helps heal us physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. So I began looking for more things in my limited world that caused me to smile.

Here are a few: the soulful eyes of a dog, finding a face in the clouds, children squealing with delight, earrings that dance, ice cream, feeling a cat’s purr, a single flower in bloom, juicy mangoes, warm sunlight filtering through tree leaves, the earthy smell of a horse’s coat, flannel anything, lemon sorbet, swans, a potter’s glazed bowl, a capella music, a cup of cocoa by a fire, squirrels playfully chasing each other around a tree.

Eventually I made a complete recovery, and I enjoyed the healing process, well mostly. However, the lessons of engaging in the beautiful dance of life, becoming still every day, and smiling often remain with me to this day.




(Photo courtesy of