Internet Inspiration – August 1, 2014

8.1.2014

Seriously? August?

Elizabeth Gilbert, what you read, I’ll read.

This I meant to post weeks ago, but I didn’t save the link and the power went out and it took me awhile to find it again.

What else do I know about this?

It doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t require anything other than getting quiet and remembering.

And yet at the same time, it is the hardest practice. The simplest, and the hardest.

It asks that I get quiet, peaceful, that I practice legitimacy, that I forgive myself.

And thank you again, Havi, for this piece on Who Is A Writer. (or a Whatever Title You Claim.)

We forget about truth, and this is dangerous. We hurt ourselves with un-truth.

We set up traps for ourselves: “I’m not a real X, because I’m not doing Y.” Or: “I’ll never be able to Y until I pass all these external standards.”

No. You are a writer if you grapple with these questions. You are a writer if you doubt. You are a writer if you care, even if sometimes you care so much that your tangled relationship with not-writing keeps you in bed crying. You are a writer if you yearn for something and don’t have the words to describe it yet.

There are many ways to know you are a writer, and doubting it is something writers go through, so let’s drop this pain-heavy rule that you must be writing now in order to claim that lost part of you.

And speaking of writing, here are 9 unconventional writers’ residencies.

9 Language Boy Meets 6 Language Girl. Essentially, my dream.

If you don’t already know this about me, let me tell you: I pretty much always want to be eating flowers. So I extra love lavender lemonade.

Really enjoyed this video where cocoa bean farmers got to taste chocolate for the first time.

As someone who craves solitude, I really appreciated this article on the power of lonely.

Perhaps this explains why seeing a movie alone feels so radically different than seeing it with friends: Sitting there in the theater with nobody next to you, you’re not wondering what anyone else thinks of it; you’re not anticipating the discussion that you’ll be having about it on the way home. All your mental energy can be directed at what’s happening on the screen. According to Greg Feist, an associate professor of psychology at the San Jose State University who has written about the connection between creativity and solitude, some version of that principle may also be at work when we simply let our minds wander: When we let our focus shift away from the people and things around us, we are better able to engage in what’s called meta-cognition, or the process of thinking critically and reflectively about our own thoughts.

After reading my posts about dancing, my acupuncturist sent me this article by a friend of hers, on why she dances Argentine tango (and she moved to Argentina to dance and study more. Swoon!). This post is magnificent, and I could hardly choose just one excerpt, so make sure you read the whole thing.

You are not responsible for the other person’s experience, only your own. This is a biggie. If everyone could practice this in their intimate relationships, we’d all be enlightened. Most of us normal people care a lot about how other people feel, although certainly some more than others. And so leaders might try to impress their followers, or followers might dance with partners they don’t enjoy so as not to hurt their feelings. But is it worth the expense of compromising your own experience? Liberation: saying no. It’s OK. It’s built into the dance that it is OK to say no. We will hurt feelings, yes. And you will get your feelings hurt too. No one owes you a dance no matter how many years you have danced or if you have studied with so-and-so. Maybe they just don’t like the way you smell, or you are too tall for them, or they are not in the mood, or they would rather dance with someone they know. One need not explain.

I’m always trying to give you guys the most important information I can find. In case you wondered where you’d end up if you could swim absolutely straight across the ocean, I’ve got you covered.

I agree 100% with this analysis of why Melissa McCarthy’s movie disappointed me so much.

In interviews, McCarthy speaks candidly about the “strange epidemic of body image and body dysmorphia” and how she serves as a buffer against it for her two young daughters; she dismisses a particularly vicious critic who turned his review of Identity Thief into a schoolyard diatribe about her “tractor-size” body by describing him as “swimming in hate” and flouting a home life rich in love and a professional success larger than a full fleet of tractor trailers. She bristles when that success is qualified with epithets like “plus-size sweetheart:” “It’s like I’m managing to achieve all this success in spite of my affliction … would you ever do that to a male comedian considered overweight?”

She calls out the fashion elite for failing to court her and clothe her the way they would any other Emmy-award-winning and Oscar-nominated actress. And, in a recent People magazine cover spread to promote her latest film Tammy, she calls out the fashion industry as a whole for failing to court and clothe the legions of women who look just like her: “ Just because I’m a different size doesn’t mean I … turned off a desire for anything current or modern, or a desire to look good and feel good … I was like ‘Where is a cool T-shirt? Where is a great sweater that’s not built like a tent?” That same spread is refreshingly void of any diet or exercise talk, any attempts to position herself as “a good fatty” (a term coined by Dances With Fat blogger Ragen Chastain to describe “a fat person who is viewed … as taking ‘appropriate steps’ to lose weight, or, at the very least, ‘struggling’ with their weight, thereby earning a modicum of very contingent respect from someone who would otherwise be a fat hater). Indeed, she decapitates the “good fatty” narrative with the roundhouse kick and katana strike of a rhetorical question and four blunt words: “My weight? It is what it is.”

But in McCarthy’s film roles, especially in Tammy, hardly take such a revolutionarily blasé approach to her weight. McCarthy’s size is always implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, the brunt of the joke.

And I think this is a really compelling article highlighting why feminism keeps losing while gay equality wins.

The first [hypothesis] is that Justice Anthony Kennedy likes gay rights more than women’s rights. The second is that feminism, as insidiously framed by the Christian right, is all about sex—while LGBTQ equality has become a battle not for sex, but for dignity.

losing weight.

thinking about weightloss

Do you remember that line from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe where the narrator says:

The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

That’s kind of what happened to me over the past few weeks.

A little, baby thought peeked out from under the covers and said, “I might be ready to lose weight.”

That’s all. That’s all she said.

And I re-gained 30 pounds of baggage.

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I have so many thoughts on this topic. And a lot of the thoughts that come to my mind unbidden are ones that take away my sovereignty. So I think my writing on this topic will come in waves.

It started with a passage from The Signature of All Things on the topic of time. I actually started this book a few months ago and then paused and read several other books instead. I’m not sure SOAT needs to take that personally, though. It’s possible that this moss and time contemplation just needed a little incubation period. Anyway, the main character, Alma Whittaker, is a botanist in the 19th century, and she studies moss.

In every way mosses could seem plain, dull, modest, even primitive. The simplest weed sprouting from the humblest city sidewalk appeared infinitely more sophisticated by comparison. But here is what few people understood, and what Alma came to learn: Moss is inconceivably strong. Moss eats stone; scarcely anything, in return, eats moss. Moss dines upon boulders, slowly but devastatingly, in a meal that lasts for centuries. Given enough time, a colony of moss can turn a cliff into gravel, and turn that gravel into topsoil. Under shelves of exposed limestone, moss colonies create dripping, living sponges that hold on tight and drink calciferous water straight from the stone. Over time, this mix of moss and mineral will itself turn into travertine marble. Within that hard, creamy-white marble surface, one will forever see veins of blue, green, and gray – the traces of the antediluvian moss settlements. St. Peter’s Basilica itself was built from the stuff, both created by and stained with the bodies of ancient moss colonies.

Moss grows where nothing else can grow. It grows on bricks. It grows on tree bark and roofing slate. It grows in the Arctic Circle and in the balmiest tropics; it also grows on the fur of sloths, on the backs of snails, on decaying human bones. Moss, Alma learned, is the first sign of botanic life to reappear on land that has been burned or otherwise stripped down to barrenness. Moss has the temerity to begin luring the forest back to life. It is a resurrection engine. A single clump of mosses can lie dormant and dry for forty years at a stretch, and then vault back again into life with a mere soaking of water.

The only thing mosses need is time, and it was beginning to appear to Alma that the world had plenty of time to offer.

Later, when thinking about time, Alma creates a spectrum of sorts:

Firstly, Alma had determined, there was such a thing as Human Time, which was a narrative of limited, mortal memory, based upon the flawed recollections of recorded history. [...]

At the other end of the spectrum, Alma postulated, there was Divine Time – an incomprehensible eternity in which galaxies grew, and where God dwelled. [...]

Geological Time moved at a pace that felt nearly eternal, nearly divine. It moved at the pace of stone and mountains. Geological Time was in no hurry, and had been ticking along, some scholars were now suggesting, far longer than anyone had yet surmised.

But somewhere between Geological Time and Human Time, Alma posited, there was something else – Moss Time. By comparison to Geological Time, Moss Time was blindingly fast, for mosses could make progress in a thousand years that a stone could not dream of accomplishing in a million. But relative to Human Time, Moss Time was achingly slow. To the unschooled human eye, moss did not even seem to move at all. But moss did move, and with extraordinary results. Nothing seemed to happen, but then, a decade or so later, all would be changed. It was merely that moss moved so slowly that most of humanity could not track it.

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When it comes to weightloss, I need to move in Moss Time. And by that I mean, I need to live my life and let things change as they change. I can’t have weightloss as my primary goal, because I tend to devolve into losing weight for the sake of losing weight, and not because my body is allowed to be itself and it happens to incarnate with fewer inches or pounds on it.

I started to think back to what happened when I gained weight. I know (and have known for some time) that my weight gain was largely emotional in nature. And I don’t just mean I was eating emotionally as a coping mechanism (although I’m sure that happened). I mean that I gained weight when I was truly, devastatingly learning how to fail.

I stayed in a relationship for way too long because I got fixated on an (arbitrary) end result. I ended up in a toxic work environment that would require its own post to do the retelling justice.

I needed the weight.

It was a placeholder for emotions I didn’t know how to unravel.

It was a literal, physical anchor for me on Earth when I wanted to numb out.

It made me physically bigger, and everyone knows that the big animals in the animal kingdom don’t get messed with.

It forced me to literally take up space on Earth when I wasn’t able or willing to do so with my soul and spirit.

It protected me from unwanted sexual attention, and gave me a little bit of invisibility when I really needed to be in solitude and come back to myself.

So when I had that thought that maybe I was ready to lose weight, what I meant was that I was maybe ready to stop carrying around the emotional baggage from that time. What I meant was that I didn’t need to literalize my emotional experience anymore, and that I could lighten up, both emotionally and physically.

My thought, as Havi so beautifully puts it, is that Now is Not Then. Even though in many ways I am the same woman I was then, I’m not. And I don’t need the same coping mechanisms she did. I don’t need to hold Weight From Then.

Of course, those innocuous thoughts were no match for the ingrained panic and perfectionistic patterns that live in my subconscious. “Weightloss?” They asked. “Eat less, exercise more! Take vitamins! Work out for 4 hours a day! Don’t eat that food! Don’t eat at all! It’ll make you fat! I see cellulite! Don’t sit, stand and march all day! Back to juicing! Raw food diet!” etc. You know the drill.

Every pass in front of a mirror became an opportunity for evaluation and feedback. Interactions with other people yielded a running commentary, speculating on how they were judging me. It became an opportunity for me to really face how much I think other people are judging me.

In short, I ceased to remain myself, and became a moldable nothing, trying to squeeze myself into Perfect.

Fortunately I’m old and experienced enough to see it happening, but it makes progress hard. In fact, even thinking of things in terms of progress puts me back into that dichotomy of “right” and “wrong” progress. It’s hard to stay neutral and just let my body be what it needs to be.

So that’s where I am now. And it’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s actually happening in my head, so maybe you can see why I wasn’t able to post very much.

At the moment I’m still working through what I want to do (if there’s anything to really actively “do”) about this potential weightloss. I’m examining what I really want, maybe it’s a smaller body, maybe it’s a chance to have my body not be an expression of those 5 hard years and instead to be an expression of myself now. I’m thinking through what I’m afraid of when it comes to losing weight.

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It’s hilarious to me that I thought this was going to be a short post, that I wouldn’t be able to articulate my thoughts. And it’s true that I haven’t articulated ALL the thoughts; I’m sure I’ll have much more to say on this topic.

But in case you relate to this difficulty in setting goals and remaining yourself, well, I actually don’t know what I want to tell you or what I can tell you that will be helpful or reassuring in any way. But Geneen Roth has no shortage of insight. She writes,

The nub of any addiction is the belief in your own deficiency and the assumption that it can be fixed by a tangible substance.

The image that comes to mind is that I’m a 5000-piece puzzle, beautifully constructed, with one piece missing (or 2. or 5. or that all 5,000 are there but someone just scotch-taped them together however they wanted. whatever). And all of a sudden, the other 5,000 pieces cease to matter, and my entire life and purpose on Earth becomes finding that missing piece. It’s a hard way to live, and not particularly sustainable.

You are alive. You are whole. All is well. We don’t need to think or behave like addicts. We can be curious, be willing to be surprised, and come into a relationship with ourselves that’s bigger than just fixing that broken part of ourselves.

Love, Kathryn

My Favorite Posts I Wrote as a 28-Year-Old

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It’s my birthday today, friends. I’m 29.

So here are some of my favorite posts I wrote as a 28-year-old. Turns out there are more here than I expected, but it’s a nice little retrospective. I find that the posts I like the best are the ones where I didn’t really concern myself with my audience (even though I love you dearly). Whenever I was trying to be “helpful” I found my posts flat and kind of uninspiring. Writing for myself was much more fulfilling, and then you, my darling readers, can take the ideas for your own. I wrote it for myself, and you can have it for yourself.

These are the posts that stayed with me, and if you have others, let me know!

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Admittedly, the powerful parts of this post are not my original thoughts. But I think of these excerpts often, and they never fail to soothe my soul. The Latin root of the word “decide” is caidere which means “to kill or cut” (Think homicide, suicide, genocide). Technically, deciding to do something new without killing something old is not a decision at all. It is merely an addition. But killing something old is hard, and we sometimes don’t take the requisite time to mourn.

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I still think of this post often, because I struggle sometimes to remember that being lovable (or desirable, or sexy, or successful, or whatever) doesn’t require that I be found lovable (or desirable, or sexy, or successful, or whatever). Can I not only give that to myself, claim it for myself, but also resist the impulse to let other people take it away?

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Still true for me. I’m a terrible eater. In fact, I feel this way about most activities that have to occur daily. Can’t I just do it once and then have it self-sustain? So I still remind myself that part of the practice is to come back, even when the results don’t live up to what I imagined in my head. What’s that line from Anais Nin? “You live out the confusions until they become clear.” And that leads right into another favorite:

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Yet another post I think of often. I love this essay by Henry Rollins (and also every essay by Henry Rollins). It’s true for me that some things persist until they’re no longer needed, and then I can release them with ease. And when they persist even when I don’t want them, it’s not because I’m a failure; it’s because it’s not ready yet. Deep breath.

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It’s never about the food. The food is a go-to, a coping mechanism. It’s a really effective one. But once you’ve taken away the unconsciousness of your food habits, at some point you’ll have to look at the underlying emotional issues. Assume legitimacy.

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I don’t actually think this post is one of my best, so you don’t have to read it. The important part is this:

There is NOTHING about today that can explain the emotions I’m feeling right now. But there’s nothing about these emotions that I’m ready to NOT feel. There’s nothing about this story I’m ready to let go of.

And maybe that limits me, but fuck you.

Those are possibly the truest words I’ve ever written.

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I loved thinking of meals that mattered, and I particularly love and have memorized this quote:

Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next—and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.

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My first heartbreak. I’ve never read anything more soothing than this essay on pothos,

the longing toward the unattainable, the ungraspable, the incomprehensible, that idealization which is attendant upon all love and which is always beyond capture…. we see that pothos is the motive force that drives desire ever onward, as the portion of love that is never satisfied by actual loving and actual possession of the object. It is the fantasy factor that pulls the chariot beyond immediacy, like the seizures that took Alexander and like Ulysses’s desire for “home.”

We are what we reach for.

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Bitch Boss and Boss Bitch. Still large and in charge, but in a trusted advisor kind of way :)

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The important parts of this post are really the poems. I think that one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to recognize that, if you’re reading this post, your life is probably not in any immediate danger. So don’t put yourself in a survival response. Your appetite is not a weakness. It’s not a threat.

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Because sometimes you’re in a situation that’s f*cking bullsh*t, and you’re not wrong to think so. Don’t make yourself wrong if someone else is acting like a jackass.

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I’m still surprised that I wrote this one, to be honest. I’ve never had a clinical eating disorder, but this is what happens in my mind sometimes when I feel absolutely powerless and out of control and try to compensate using food.

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I have to be very mindful to not let the Old King take over for me. Sometimes I still default to rejecting what I can’t control. Aren’t we fortunate to have many opportunities to learn? :) Be big enough to accept all of yourself, even that part that seems like chaos.

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I’ve been thinking of this post recently, particularly the idea of tolerating discomfort. It seems to me that “tolerating” might be the wrong word, because it implies resignation with an endgame. Ok, I’ll tolerate this stuff for now, but I’m only doing that so it can go away.

Sometimes feeling what we’re feeling and really letting that truth rest in our bodies is necessary. When the Supreme Court ruled on the Hobby Lobby case a few weeks ago, my only response for at least a week was, “What the actual f*ck?” I needed to mourn that decision, not spring into action.

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And my latest. I can’t get enough of this idea that divinity requires a human anchor to exist on earth. We are the ones that must come to consciousness and let the divine move forward. And that these opportunities often come nestled in between mistakes.

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So thank you, Me-From-Then. Thank you for writing. I’m looking forward to seeing what 29-year-old me has to say.

And thank you, friend, for reading. I hope sometime today you can take a break and drink your favorite drink or eat your favorite food or otherwise demonstrate self care. I love you very much.

Internet Inspiration – July 11, 2014

7.11.2014

Internet Inspiration is BACK! I was feeling so bad that all I was posting was Internet Inspiration; it felt like a cop-out. And I had a ton of things I wanted to share, but then I left my laptop in MD last weekend and won’t get it back until this weekend (thanks for bringing it to me, David!) and of course, I don’t find a good article and immediately put it in the post and save it to the cloud; that would be way too easy. I let all my computers become a tabstravaganza and hope that the power doesn’t go out and that I don’t leave my computer somewhere. Over the past few weeks I’ve been on the losing end of that strategy.

But whatever. There’s always good stuff on the interwebs. I hope you all are having a lovely week!

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15 Dead Giveaways that Someone is American. I think this is probably true, and not insulting at all (which I was expecting it to be).

I have so much love for this post on inhabiting soul from Susannah.

“You are an embodied soul. That means what your soul experiences, your body experiences.”

Underlining it with my orange pen, I read it again. There was a bell ringing in my head. I copied the quote into my journal, and then carried on writing:

I spend so much time fretting about being a soul “trapped” in a body, when, actually, my soul permeates every part of my body. I am an embodied soul. My soul and my body are not separate! If I consider that every single cell in my body contains my soul — that it’s not just perched in my head or my heart, or floating around outside of me — but actually IN me, inside every part of me, it makes me look at my body differently. It’s not “just the car I drive around in.”

Maybe this sounds obvious to you, but, friends, it was the first time I really got it (cue the irony) deep in my bones. From the tips of my toes and the in-growing hairs on my shins, to the wobbly flesh on my hips and the freckles on my nose, every single part of me contains my soul. After a lifetime of dismissing my body that was the day the dam broke and my head and body got stitched back together. I honestly don’t know why it had never occurred to me before.

I love this stencil wall from Ellen. Even after reading about all her frustrations, I still want to paint a wall magenta and do this stencil in gold.

Steve says it’s not about being fragile or sturdy, but about becoming antifragile. Love it.

Antifragile: Don’t handle with care! Throw it, try to break it, drop it, throw randomness and chaos at it, for it becomes stronger as a result.  Like the mythical Hydra: cut off one head, and two heads appear in its place.  In fact, antifragile objects can become weaker if you don’t mishandle them!

The most important skill you’ll learn this week: how to take jumping photos with an iPhone.

And, a public service announcement from Sarah: turn back the bread.

 

And Once You’ve Danced Again, Think Some More

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Friends, this post is a continuation of yesterday’s post. I just got back from a fun time dancing, and I have notes.

First, I’m pleased to report that I had no instances of “I’m wrong,” several exchanges where I said, “What am I supposed to do with that lead?” and let my partner teach me something new, zero falling, three dips, and many many spins. I also danced with that guy that frustrated me last week, and we had a great dance.

But there was a shortage of men tonight, so the ladies had to sit out for some dances. I never mind; I like watching other couples dance.

Tonight I paid special attention to couples that “messed up” during a dance, and the funny thing was, every time it happened, the pair would make eye contact, smile, laugh, and move on.

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And I got to thinking about this idea I’ve been discussing with my therapist, which is the idea of the Death of the Great Other. I think this idea originally came from an essay by Nietzsche where he asserted that God was dead.

** Some reading and commenting zen: I don’t follow any organized religion, and it’s certainly not my intention to offend. Please read this with your metaphor glasses on, and not your literal ones. **

So in Christianity, the divine being is actually a holy trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Most branches of Christianity believe in the trinity to some extent.

Nietzche (and many post-modern and post-Christian thinkers) contends the idea is that in the beginning, God was this omniscient, omnipotent, transcendent, divine being out in the ether (the Father).

When He chose to incarnate in Jesus (the Son), Nietzsche believes that in that moment the transcendent nature of divinity was lost, and any remaining divinity resided in this man, Jesus.

Jesus was tortured and crucified, and as he was dying on the cross, he cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Nietzsche believes that in that moment, the last shred of divinity left Jesus, and he died a mortal man.

So what happened to that divinity?

(This is the part I love.)

Jesus said,

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them. [Matthew 18:20]

In other words, any divinity left in the word has no real anchor, and cannot exist in any capacity in the world unless two (or more) people come together consciously. It ties into this idea that there is a collective Psyche trying to make things happen in the world, but incarnate beings are required for the job.

We, and our connection with others, are required for the divine to exist on Earth.

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So anyway, I thought of that as I saw these couples mess up. Because sometimes during the song, there would be no eye contact. Both people would just be doing their own thing, in their bodies, moving how they wanted. And then, both would realize at the same time, “That’s not what I was expecting!” and they would make eye contact and reconnect.

That “mistake” was an opportunity for connection, an opening for the divine, snuggled right in there in the time streams of embodiment. It was beautiful to watch.

I encourage you to let this one marinate, my friends, as you gather together with all your people over the next few days and weeks. Can you see the divine in your conscious, authentic, loving connections?

Can you observe these interactions, willing to be surprised? Let me know.

Love, Kathryn