Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Wherever a story comes from, whether it is a familiar myth or a private memory, the retelling exemplifies the making of a connection from one pattern to another: a potential translation in which narrative becomes parable and the once upon a time comes to stand for some renascent truth. This approach applies to all the incidents of everyday life: the phrase in the newspaper, the endearing or infuriating game of a toddler, the misunderstand-
ing at the office. Our species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories."
-Mary Catherine Bateson, Anthropologist Read more!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are you haunted?

1.  Are you haunted?  Does a strange quest, question, compulsion follow you?    

These cards emerge from an unrelenting inner compulsion.  Finally, after months (years) of ignoring, arguing, avoiding, I will finally give up and write.  I can give an hour in the morning to this strange pull.  My critic rages that this is crap.  Yes, ok, perhaps.  But I make space for this obsession—to record lessons learned in my own dark woods.  These cards are like hunks of bread I’ve torn and smashed together in my hand, and then tossed to the ground.  Can I understand my long strange trip?  Can I create a path of meaning, if not for others, at least for myself? 

What idea pursues you?  It lurks beneath ipads, tv, and tweets.  It sits like a Loch Ness in your own deep waters.  Will you sit quiet and watch your waters and learn what stirs within? 

Are you called to some strange quest?  Is the work too large?  How can you hope to finish it in one (not even one) lifetime? 

Still.  Isn’t it time to start? 

Give in to the idea that haunts you and watch your stress recede. 

Write, paint, dream.  Walk, play, watch.  Where, how can you serve?   

What is more moral:  following your true nature or doing what others expect?

Cheating, lying (to myself or others)  is not moral.  But following my heart?  If it will not hurt another, I must follow my own path to discover my true gifts. 

I WILL make mistakes (that is the only way to learn).  But I will find my way. 

Deep in your heart, you know what you are being call to do.

Do it.   

© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another Quote to Cling To

You need only claim the events
of your life to make yourself yours.
When you truly possess all you
have been and done, which may
take some time, you are fierce
with reality.

Florida Scott Maxwell 
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Quote to Keep us Going When we Doubt our Abilities or Calling

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching…….…Whether you choose to take an art class, keep a journal, record your dreams, dance your story or live each day from your own creative source.     Above all else, keep the channel open!
Martha Graham
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Bending in a Storm

Found this essay from a year ago.  Seemed apt for this April weather.

A tornado passed near our town yesterday. We were blessed. Although we’ve been without electricity for over 24 hours now; our home, garage, and cars are intact. Some of our neighbors haven’t been so lucky. Many of their towering old trees broke in half or cracked along an enormous limb. These came crashing down on cars, homes, streets and sidewalks.

I was home when the violent storm started. The power shut off and I debated whether I should go into the basement--but it was hard to leave my view at the window. My three-story-tall Black Walnut trees were bending and swaying ferociously. The 80mph winds shook my lovely, old giants—but they did not break.

How did my stately trees survive? Despite their great size, they somehow were able to bend in that murderous wind. I’m not a tree expert; perhaps Black Walnuts are a heartier species. Still, the three in our yard must be internally healthy to have weathered that incredible force.

The storm battered our psyches too.

My husband, Rick, doesn’t feel confident with household maintenance. And since he is “the man of the house,” and I know much less than he does, the burden falls to him. When something goes wrong in our home, he often panics.

When we lost electricity in the storm, I assumed it would be restored quickly, as usual. But as the hours passed and the sump pump filled, Rick began to feverishly bail water. We didn’t have a backup generator. Without electricity our pump wouldn’t work and our basement would flood. I pitched in bailing as Rick carried buckets away. But the storm continued and after several hours we had only kept pace with the incoming water. We couldn’t bail all night. Now it was late, stores were closing and we had few options.

Rick was in a downpour of panic now. I recognized the symptoms. When overwhelmed with fear, in a situation I detest, I too make poor decisions, creating more work and more stress.

Luckily, at the last moment, a neighbor offered an outlet on his generator.

The next morning, I joined a crowd of neighbors to view the devastation. While the wind had only raged for 10 minutes, the cleanup would take weeks. I thought of the psychological storms that rage inside us and how these too cause damage that requires lengthy clean-up. When confronted with the situations we detest, both Rick and I can be overwhelmed by an emotion, or battered by an alter-ego. The storm takes over, devastating our thinking or our plans.

Why did some trees break? Were they brittle inside? Or diseased? From the outside they appeared healthy (at least to me).

The storms come, both inside and outside ourselves. Either way, we clean up the damage. Today we move tree limbs and clean warm refrigerators, hoping the electricity comes soon. Likewise, Rick and I try to learn from our emotions. We strive to keep ourselves from getting brittle. Then, when the storms come, we can bend.  
 © 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Trusting God or Another Bad Move?

All my life I’ve been stuck halfway between faith and doubt.  When others talk about trust in God, what does that mean?  Do I passively wait for my Destiny to arrive?  How will I recognize Destiny vs. My Own Stupidity? 

Rick has been trying to trust God more--especially regarding money.  Now God is graciously giving us many opportunities to practice that trust.  Financially, we feel like Job--every day brings a new savings account hemorrhage.  Car needs new brakes (3K), our insurance didn’t fully cover Rick’s colonoscopy (1K), little Sophie needed 8 teeth pulled by vet (3K), and last week’s big item-- sewer pipe busted ($12K).  Rick is convinced that God is “testing us.”  Do we pass when the bank account is empty? 

Meanwhile, my freelance gigs have dried up.  Does “trusting in God” mean looking for other work or should I enjoy this time and write?  The question is moot to me—I can’t wait without feeling like a big irresponsible jerk.  I’ve been actively seeking other work.  But questions of “trusting God vs. being responsible” never end.  Should I just take whatever job that I can get?  (I’m getting too old for that!)  We still have some savings so I can wait and “trust.”  But is that simply laziness?  Or is waiting more responsible than grabbing the wrong job—one I’ll want to immediately jettison?    As expenses increase and time passes I feel the pressure of “just taking anything.” 

Ironically, waiting for good things (is that what trusting God means?) feels immoral.  I’ve never been able to do it.  When I produced theatre, I’d get frantic over late props or costumes.  Others would trust that “everything will work out.”   I judged them as simply having low standards.  Even though I believe in God and try to live with a spiritual focus, I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) “trust” God to help me with costuming.  God isn’t following me like some assistant, taking notes of all the things I need and promising to deliver—often at the last, dramatic moment-- when all seems lost. 

I don’t want to depend on God to bail me out if I don’t manage my projects well.

On the other hand, I’ve too often aborted jobs and projects when I encountered colossal barriers.  When problems came, I felt overwhelmed and confused.  I didn’t know that obstacles always come—especially when we’re creative.  Mythically, they’re the ferocious gatekeepers we must overcome on the way to our dreams.  Why must they block our way?  Because--as we overcome the dragon or evil stepmother, we discover our strength and power.  Without the obstacle, the hero is still undeveloped.  Seen this way, I understand the great gift of my impediments — the nitpicking bureaucrat, or the lazy costume designer forces me to learn leadership. 
Last year we put our home on the market.  Our plan was simple—reduce our mortgage.  My fantasy was to move somewhere cheaper so I could pursue my dreams.  I wouldn’t have the struggle between being responsible and following an inner calling.  But, in the dismal market, our house sat--ignored.  In the past I might have pushed my agenda, lowering and lowering the price.  But this time, I tried to watch the flow of Life.  Instead of forcing my will, I surrendered to the frustrating reality:  we couldn’t sell at a reasonable price.   Since we could still afford our mortgage we decided to accept the unknown.  We “un-staged” the house and reclaimed our space.  

Months later, I saw the blessing in our failure.  If we had sold and bought a cheaper home, it would have been much smaller, and in poorer condition.  We would have found more financial freedom, but Rick would have hated the tradeoff.  How much money and time would we have spent, trying to improve the space?   Would we, unhappy again, want to move—continuing our dysfunctional cycle of impulsiveness?  By trusting in God (not forcing my own will), we may have avoided more pain. 

I believe in a Higher Power that is somehow involved in my life. I’ve learned that it is far wiser to go with Life’s flow (Destiny, God’s Plan?) than to fight for my own agenda.  I’ve seen the difference.  Sometimes opportunities move rapidly toward me, and sometimes a relentless parade of barriers block my path.  Being responsible is learning to respond (be response-able) to Life’s changing circumstances, moment by moment. 

Instead of letting my emotions dictate my actions, I’ll become aware of them.  I’ll uncover my deepest fears (“What if I don’t get what I want?  How will I handle that?” or “What if I screw up again?  What will everyone think?”).  I trust in God to help me tolerate these feelings and move through them.  Then, when watching our bank account dwindle, I can admit these fears to myself and to God.  “I’m afraid regarding money.  I don’t want to be irresponsible but I want a vocation that is meaningful.  What should I do?”  Then I can listen and wait.  In the quicksand of strong emotions and distorted thinking, I’ll need to discern what is true.  At this time, in this place, what is the responsible action?  What have my past mistakes taught me about my reactions now?  My mistakes are my greatest teacher, helping me recognize my faulty thinking.   With practice I’m learning how to balance between waiting on Grace and taking responsibility for my life.  It is a high wire act. 

© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Be Kind to the Scaredy-Cat

Last night I dreamed of a skittish cat that I’m trying to calm.  A man near me begins to handle her roughly.  The cat is growling, almost barking with fear and anger.  I angrily tell the man to never do that again.
In my dream journal I write, “Who is the cat?”  Me?  Yes, I am skittish.  Especially when leading others in any heart-felt work.
Then I feel a jolt of remembrance—this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the “scaredy-cat.”  Years ago, I worked with the archetype and recognized my own cat-like traits--positive and negative.  As a leader, I am acutely sensitive to the energies of a group and can adjust to their needs.  But too often, my hyper-alter state morphs into a paralyzing fear. 
Thank you Dream, for the reminder--to be kind to my internal scaredy-cat.  This isn’t an intellectual dream analysis but a deeply felt recollection.   I’m posting cat pictures and signs throughout the house and will gently cherish my inner cat today….
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

State of the Art Plumbing Project--Inside and Out

Getting lots of sympathy from family and friends over our recent plumbing project. Interesting!  For me this construction/demolition has been a #3 level of annoyance while my search for a compelling job continues at a #8-9.  (To be fair, I don’t share my struggles. How could others understand, if I’m perpetually confused?   Or is it embarrassment?  Shame of my constant search for my vocation?)
This morning I saw the synchronicity--that my soul is also undergoing an excavation.  At the base (ment) of my personality I feel exposed as old habits and assumptions are ripped up.  I’m exploring the deep underground of my psyche.  Is this difficult time really about removing an old psychic system and replacing it with one geared for the present moment, not the past?
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Working with dreams

For years I’ve read about the importance of actively encountering the images in my dreams. Slowly, I’ve begun to have a small inkling of what it means to “work with my dreams.” I’ve come to appreciate the advice I’ve often heard to “not overly interpret” but to “live with” the symbolism. I’ve drawn dreams and made crude artifacts, but mostly I’ve tried to actively imagine the characters and situations. Not all dreams lend themselves to further “amplification” so I’m always grateful when a juicy one comes. I’m thankful for the powerful symbols in last Wednesday’s dream. Here’s the section that has affected me.

----I am at a smorgasbord/Chipotle kind of place. Very abundant, incredible food. I don’t know what to order. Suddenly a robber comes and all the staff leave and I’m left alone in this smorgasbord. I can’t decide what to try and feel afraid that I’m going to get caught pillaging. But the staff is still gone so I go around rapidly trying things. I pick up a giant mango, peel it and taste. While the food is amazing, I’m not really enjoying it because I’m not sitting down to a meal, I’m just snatching tastes, furtively. I become paralyzed trying to figure out what I want. Eventually the staff comes back and I get ready to leave with my tiny burrito that was never fully made.

Much more happened in this dream but these images (of my greed and sneakiness robbing me of joy) have given me guidance. I continue to remind myself to relish my wealth of opportunities, ideas, and impulses. Instead of rejecting this abundance within me (my many dreams of writing, training, running retreats etc…..) I can allow myself to fully savor different flavors.

These dream images have had a profound influence on my last few days. I am embracing my impulses and enjoying them instead of rushing myself from idea to idea in a frantic need to “figure myself out.” Several projects have presented themselves to me (like a luscious mango). I’m tasting each and enjoying the taste without worry. I’m allowing myself to have a plateful of different items, instead of insisting that I decide on one direction.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Character study—Grace

Like a puppy, I follow my Muse, here, there. Another wasted day. How is it, after all this time searching, there is no path for me?

The church, work, friendship--all bores. And now, even my beloved Writing holds no life. What difference does it make, if I clean the house, buy a new bra, or attempt to write—something, anything? There is no need for me. How does each day pass? Somehow I move from superfluous to redundant to unnecessary.

For decades I had dreams and goals-- but now? I belong to no one and nothing. Bobbing, lost, on a sea of selfish distractions, afraid and unsure how to give. Why am I so stingy? How can I serve?
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do you know Marlene? Are you Marlene?

Marlene feels guilty. She loves George but sometimes, after hanging out with charismatic neighbors or coworkers, she feels an aversion to him. “He’s not that attractive,” she thinks. How did I end up with him?

Marlene avoids conversations with cute ex-boyfriends or former bosses. These beautiful people stir up her feelings of discontent. She loves George. She’s happy with him. She just wishes he was more handsome.

She is happy. This is a small problem.

Still, Marlene’s secret and her guilt are heavy burdens.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Alchemical World

My happiest moments are joining the world in its churning, alchemical process. I take hard rice and transform it, with veggies and squash, into a new reality—a healing meal. I bring the scraps to my compost and, months later, bring rich dark earth to my garden beds. I bring tiny seeds also, which transform into plants and sturdy veggies that I bring to the stove and metamorphose into rich soup.

How wonderful to work with these mysterious powers that create the slow miracles of daily life. The world is a playground of magical matter that transforms. Likewise, with prayer, meditation, or mindfulness, our psyches transmute too.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Is it just me, or have you noticed that (within the last 20 years) the din of competing voices has grown more strident and piercing? As our population rises, does our competition for resources intensify? I’ve felt this--both inside my own psyche and in my world. Social “networking” is our current euphemism for our evermore aggressive rivalry. If there isn’t enough (jobs, money, prestige) to go around, I must howl louder and grab what I can. Even if the prize doesn’t truly satisfy or fit me—I must seize it and hang on tight. To seek “right livelihood” or my vocation (what is THAT?) is crazy. Wake up. There are not enough good jobs or decent salaries. I shouldn’t indulge in pipe dreams.

As a theatre artist and writer, I’ve always felt the scarcity of options and the intensity of competition. But now, in my 51st year, I’m exploring a new way. Could it possibly be true that there is some kind of Force (call it God for short), that calculates our unique needs? This Force doesn’t magically deliver our prayer-orders, like some Benevolent Bureaucrat in the sky. But consider this—an unseen algorithm--some mystical order that is part of the God Force. When we align ourselves in this Field of God, we find the path that leads to creativity and “just what I need.”

But how could this be true if reason shows me a small number of theatres producing plays and many more playwrights seeking admission? How can this work when 90% of the world’s resources are in the hands of 2%?

Good questions! But maybe the wrong questions. I am beginning to believe in Abundance as another frame of reality. One that, like the new physics, I cannot see (or even understand) but a fact that I experience every Spring when I throw out seeds and uncover my perennials.

How would it feel to believe that “there is enough for me” and “I get exactly what I need?”

Just writing that sentence brings peace and calm to my heart.

I’m writing lately without obsessing about selling, marketing, or promoting my work. What if I did what I feel called to do? What if I simply wrote and did the best I could? What if I trusted in God and Destiny? Why not try this? I’ve tried competition. Not only have I “failed” but my soul has withered. Trusting in God revives my soul. I give up worry, and a shriveled soul and get peace and joy? Not bad. It’s not easy—I have to have the courage to look selfish and fail. But I can do this. I can finally (finally! FINALLY!) start down my own unique path without retreating because I lost faith after calculating my odds of success.

What if I took my own path without the calculation?
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved. No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Last night's dream

Have you seen "Inception?" Cool and provocative re: dreams.

Did you know that reading or hearing others' dreams can encourage them in you?

Here's part of mine from last night.
Dreamt I saw a very young doe sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. My dog Sophie trots over to the doe and I’m afraid that she will attack it. But she barely acknowledges it. I’m relieved. The doe rises on its thin limbs and starts to walk in Sophie’s direction. I intend to follow to check on it.

(I'm struck to see that my innocence (a motherless doe) and my instincts are about the same size in me. I may be a bumbling, fumbling fool in the world, but I have retained this rare doe. It has not been lost or killed (thanks be to God).

Where is the doe going? I don’t know--but it follows the dog. I follow these both—my instincts and innocence).

Would love to hear your dreams also.... Read more!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Falling Backwards....

Lately, I’m very conscious of my persona--the part of me that seeks to impress or pretend interest where there is none. It's a necessary construct but I long to spend more time working from my soulful, innocent, center. When I experience that truthful, generous space, my heart longs for it. My heartfelt prayer is for a vocation that brings out my best. A work that allows me to offer my unique talents from a more open, peaceful, and noncompetitive place.

To my worldly self, my willingness to trade money for meaning can feel like falling backwards off a steep cliff.

I’m comforted when I remember the archetype of the holy fool. Others have embraced his crazy journey. I can too.

Illustration by Ma Deva Padma

© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved Read more!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Emotions and the Hero's Journey

There is no way to take our own hero’s journey without facing our confusing and painful emotions—especially fear, anger, and shame. When we fully explore this inner realm (of our emotions), we will experience the struggle of all heroes. The details of our outer life may be mundane, but our inner world contains the same demons, angels, allies, and monsters of all great mythic journeys. Our inner phantoms may be invisible but they are still very real. And just like adversaries in myths—our inner foes disintegrate and disappear when conquered.

Since our inner landscape is invisible to most others, we are tempted to ignore, avoid, or deny it. No one can prove that we are lying to ourselves when we disown our anger, fear, or shame. But our self-deception only prolongs our journey through our unique trials of self-actualization. The sooner we begin slaying our dragons, the sooner we can win our beloved and the pot of gold.

Like the knights of King Arthur—we are obliged to find our own unique path and take this journey alone.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved Read more!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interior decorator of my soul

We’ve lived in our tiny bungalow for 8 years. Even now, we are just learning to use the space well and organize our things. After each small or larger change, we wonder why it took us so long to fix our previous disorganization, clutter, or poor design. I’d like to live in “house perfect” (like my friends and family) but it’s a low priority. Improvements to our home move slow slow slowly…….

My inner world gets most of my attention. I ponder every inch of my soul’s living space. When I notice a broken thought, a dangling nerve, or a mismatched perception, I focus on it with laser-like attention. But I cannot simply give away this damaged piece of myself. I cannot simply buy a new thought, mood, or impression. I can only create new parts of myself slowly—if at all. But, once I glimpse my own brokenness, I find it hard to look away. I’m like my friend, Donna, who cannot rest if she sees a tilted picture frame. No matter how tired, she must get up and straighten the picture. It bothers her.

I’m like Donna. But instead of brainstorming about my kitchen that needs remodeling, I stare at the dented, scratched and damaged parts of myself. I move toward them and observe. I ponder and pray, ponder and pray, journal, ponder and pray. That’s all I know how to do.

Am I torturing myself by pondering my perceived “failures” so often? Feels like it. But I want to be in a showcase soul. As every homeowner knows, construction in a home (while you’re living in it) is harrowing. But we suffer through it because the rewards are great.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved Read more!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who am I?

My life is a skirmish—a war between my true Self and my Frankenself, the one pieced together from hurts and fantasies. Her gleaming smile, her Eileen Fisher suit—this monster charms as she steps over the bodies. She aims high. She will win.

So I confound her. I change my mind. I put away the suit and think. And pray. And wait. Who am I? What am I here for?

Frankenself shrieks. She screams about my failure. “Stick to the plan! Why can’t you stick to the plan??”

But I don’t want to bask in awards and an impressive bio. I’m searching for an elusive Self, the one who speaks little and disappears.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved Read more!