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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Transition

The art of cultivating stillness while simultaneously being available for transition is the theme of the moment as we shift to the new calendar year. How to internally build and support capacity is one of my greatest explorations and curiosities. As we attempt to remain fluid in our day to day activities, it feels equally as important to remain paced and gentle with ourselves. This is the art of regulation, which is to move from one energy state to another. 


In this process, extremes sometimes appear. The brightness of the external world, coupled with the depth of the more subtle need to let go and be still. All the while, paying attention to the needs of the skeleton and the wisdom of the bones. In Chinese medicine, this would be referred to as the Water element. And here within, lies the Jing or Essence, which many of us know as 
life force.
In the northern hemisphere Winter is governed by the Water element. As I lean into the exploration of embodiment and how to stay alive in the process of being contained in the layers of the physiology, accessing the Jing, while also being available to the needs of others. Growth, meaningful dialogues with the external world, interwoven with the art of the 'pause' that is required to preserve Jing. 
In an age that is fueled by the sympathetic response, learning how to negotiate the changing energy states of physiology remains a life's work. 
Sometimes when we are in transition, what we need is the 'pause' in order to gently move into the next energy state. We are often rewarded for the push, for breaking through, overriding and ultimately exhausting ourselves and draining our life force.
My current exploration is cultivating time and space for the in-between, so that we may in turn practice more of the 'pause', thereby reaping the benefits of its' spaciousness. 
I chose these botanical images as representations of these concepts. The bright and beautiful Amaryllis in bloom in the clear Winter light and the skeleton of a magnolia leaf that was gifted to me by a friend. How different these two images are and yet they are vivid reminders of the juxtaposition of internal and external. Yin and Yang. Aliveness and stillness. 
In Chinese medicine, there is a wisdom that expresses one of the gifts of the Kidneys, it states that all of the other organs are controlled by the the Kidney's efficacy in balancing Yin and Yang. This is possible because they are the store house of the resources. By nourishing the Water element, we are in fact nourishing the capacity to live in the spaces between movement,  impulses and activation.


The leaf is tapped to the window just next to the red blossom.
Gentle reminders of how nature pendulates between life and death, Yin and Yang, in a rhythmic continuum. Day after day. Season after season. 
How curious is it to see the gentle softness of a fading petunia along side the rough and spiked external surface of a Jimson seed pod from Accabonac Harbor. There are so many beautiful layers to the stories in these two images. 


So as we transition into the new year and we allow the depth of Winter to wrap us in cold and hold us still, I hope that we may all remember the 'pause' as we pendulate between the brightness and the darkness, the hardness and the softness, the Yin and the Yang, as we build capacity to stay present within each moment. 
Wishing everyone a beautiful and very gentle new year. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Magic from the Great South Channel

Humpback bubble feeding nets, frothy aqua waters, shiny black skins, spouts of rainbows, flying dolphins, breaching whales, swishing tails, and spectacular skies filled my last CRESLI trip out to the Great South Channel. This was my third trip, and it was just as awe inspiring as the trips of years past. It was filled with riveting conversations with fellow naturalists, scientists and writers, shared snacks, and stories of adventures in far away places.
(It's all about the snacks.)
We also exchanged the curiosities of the natural world that we experienced in the past calendar year.
 And, most importantly, we had many laughs with new and old friends.


While taking pictures, I tried to focus on the textures, patterns and the details of whales and pelagic wildlife. Below are the bubbles that are seen as the Humpback whales collectively create a net that concentrates their food. As the sea life comes to the surface, birds swoop in, often sitting on the heads of the whales as they travel with open mouths. 


Below is a Humpback with it's lower jaw billowing and baleen exposed as it comes to the surface of the water to fill its mouth with food. 



Below, one can see a sand eel caught in the baleen of the Humpback. This frothy swirling feeding  mass makes for an exciting symphony of sounds. One of my favorite moments was watching the faces of fellow travelers as the early morning pink skies revealed this magical and mysterious feeding grounds. Sleepy incredulous eyes watched with what I can only express as pure joy, as the whales 
traveled the blue grey slate morning waters. 
There is little to say in moments like this, one can only rest in the knowing that it feels like a sacred experience. Or the places in ourselves where we feel our soulful spaces, knowing that we are part of something greater, and more beautiful.


Observing the water catch the light as the boat traveled at sunset was like watching a gold plated river move under sorbet skies. And as the moon rose, it looked like glitter was being poured over the surface of the ocean. These moments are like optical illusions, filled with exquisite colors, textures and salty goodness. Thank you everyone for sharing this moment with me. 


During moments like these, my imagination goes to a time when botanists and naturalists traveled months or even years along far oceanic routes to new lands to collect and document specimens. Something in my cellular memory speaks to this kind of travel. 


My grandmother Isabelle May who had deep roots in Appalachia, was a botanist and shared many of her travel adventures to far away places during my childhood. Through her letters and conversations, she spread her love of meeting new people, drawing plants and sharing her gifts. 
Her curiosity was contagious and feels very much alive in me, especially when I spoke with fellow naturalists.


 In years past, it felt unlikely that I could ever catch a photograph of one of the common dolphins in the air! They are so fast, most of my dolphin photography is done underwater with more time and contact.
I am thrilled that I was able to capture this dolphin with its' shimmering skin and visible markings, most likely from other dolphins.


The tail of the Humpback whales are especially graceful and beautiful. 


I love how in the photograph below, the early morning light reflected off of the skin of the tail. 



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Passion Flowers and a Sweetheart Moth.

Yesterday brought a surprising amount of energy from the Heart into the garden. A new passion flower erupted into a dark purple surprise and a Sweetheart moth revealed itself and its dark orange underwings. 
The genus is Catocala, they are also known as underwings. 


 What I love about this picture below is that you can actually see the proboscis curled up between the eyes and just a hint of the orange under the wings. 

It is the height of the warm season so there are many new discoveries in nature. 
Another new discovery that I welcome everyone to explore is the new look of my website:


It is updated and redesigned with many new images. 
Please feel free to have a look! 

Best wishes, 
Maria


Monday, July 4, 2016

Sacred Spaces

There is a beautiful hummingbird that has become a resident here in the garden over the past two months. Until today, it has been incredibly elusive and shy as it drinks the nectar from the salvia, fuchsia,  cleome, cardinal vine, and agastache flowers. This morning, it appeared to be more comfortable with my presence and allowed me to take photographs as it was perched in a cedar tree on the edge of the garden. It sat on a thin dry branch. It was protected and safe.


I am very curious about what creates a sanctuary and a safe place for one to land and mend. This concept is very important as I assist my patients heal from trauma. Sometimes the layers of  trauma may present as complex and energetically dense. Creating a safe and contained space is the first and most important step to regulating and mending. When we feel safe, our nervous system is more available for healing work and we are able to access more spaciousness within our bodies through the para-sympathetic state. This spaciousness allows us to slowly uncouple the energy of trauma from our physiology.


I feel that this is the most sacred healing work and when the physical spaces that we live and work in reflect order and a precious energy then the unwinding may be more elegant and supported. 
Today I created a small sacred space in my office where I included fresh flowers, some of my favorite crystals and one of my favorite statues. I love what I created and realized that this made me so very happy. My little vignette sits on top of a Florentine set of drawers that belonged to my grandmother Isabelle. The Chinese lacquer vase belonged to my mother and one of the crystals was a gift from a dear friend that is beautifully tucked away in a small metal tin with an image of a peacock on the lid. Having fresh flowers, like a gorgeous, fragrant and elegant magnolia takes us where we can allow ourselves to be enveloped by the senses, nature and beauty. 
One could find sanctuary in the center of a magnolia, or in the shimmering surface of a crystal, or a photograph of a magical hummingbird. These are all beautiful resources.
During these volatile  times on the planet, staying true to ourselves, our process of regulation and cultivating sacred spaces feels more important than ever. Our capacity to regulate, stay fluid and maintain flow is ultimately what I believe will help to stabilize unsettled energies that we may feel within ourselves and the outside world.
My next creative projects will include creating sacred spaces in nature with cedar branches and vines that I have been collecting for over a year.  I am also helping others find and create sacred spaces on their properties and in their homes so that they may develop their own sanctuaries for healing, resting and mending.
Wishing everyone a safe and beautiful season. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Atlantic Spotted Dolphins.

As I work on updating my new Prettymedicine website, I discovered over one hundred pictures that I never saw or edited from my last trip to the warm waters of the Bahamas.
There were many precious gems, but this one took my breath away. 
A mother and baby Atlantic Spotted Dolphin. 


I will add a blog post when my fresh new site is up. 
Until then, may everyone dream with the dolphins. 
Best wishes, 
Maria





Monday, May 23, 2016

New Thoughts and Beginnings.

Since my last post so many things have shifted. For one, the weather is warmer, the butterflies and moths have arrived on the East end of Long Island and I am in my second trimester of Doctoral work. 
I am also in a year long advanced trauma training that takes me to the base of the great Rocky mountains. 
These big shifts take time to integrate. 
And then we need to find the words.
How do we express the depth of the gratitude? 
There is a splendid gift in the company of gifted healers who carry the heartfelt wish to bring goodness and mending to the world during these challenging times.


There is the police man who let me be the first in line after a five hour long delay on the Long Island Expressway, to allow me get to the airport, followed by the person who left the long term parking spot seconds before my arrival so that I may park my car and make my early morning flight. The parking attendant who said 'Honey, there is only one spot open here and it's yours'. 
Followed by the angel and dear friend that picked me up at the Denver airport to take me to the heart of the city where we studied new and beautiful methods for mending of the nervous system.
And then there are the gorgeous hearts who are on this mysterious journey of mending trauma. 
Thank you Kathy and Yuri.
And the amazing people from all over the world; Japan, New Zealand, Italy, and the United States. Thank you all for being a part of this gorgeous and meaningful work and training.
Knowing that we are all supported by the prayers of the monks is deeply inspiring and confirms the depth of our commitments to this important healing. 
On the inside, there is now a new level of commitment to the work, a stronger sense of importance to each and every effort that I make to support the mending of trauma.
 I am grateful.
And to the incredible hearts who come into the practice with their openness, willingness and gifts of beautiful peonies.
Wishing everyone a colorful and beautiful Spring!







Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Magic and Spaciousness of Baja.

Last month I had the great fortune of visiting Baja Sur, Mexico. It is a place that I always wanted to visit and explore. The East and West coasts of Baja are grounds for Blue whales, Grey whales, Humpbacks, Orcas and so much other wildlife. 
I was immediately struck by the spaciousness that I felt in such an arid and open land. 


The colors are exquisite and the landscapes are truly breathtaking. The skies go on forever. 


The moment I arrived, I felt my body become more spacious, the sun kiss my face and the sound of my mother tongue soothed my heart. For years I had wanted to visit this far away terrain with it's sun drenched mountains. 


A rare gift of time with a hummingbird mother and her nest with two eggs was an extraordinary sight. As I watch for hummingbirds in my garden, I immediately recognized the lighting fast speed of this beauty. 


Her nest was at the top of a cactus, between two buildings. She flew from vine to vine collecting nectar, all the while keeping an eye on the eggs. One morning, I saw her elevated in the nest and she was feeding two little beaks with her very long tongue. The eggs had hatched and two perfect babies had emerged. As she swooped by my head, back and forth, her delicate chirp almost felt like messages to the chicks, reminding them they she was close.


Between trips for nectar she sat upon the chicks and protected them with a watchful eye.


Below is a collection of shells from the Sea of Cortez.
Each and every time I gather shells from a new land I think of my grandmother Isabelle and her beautiful collection that sparked not only my curiosity for nature but also far away places that might have such treasures.


Dawn at the Sea of Cortez. 


The starkness of Baja stole my heart. These beauties wait patiently along side of the water waiting for just the right opportunity to pluck their meal.




I am quite sure that a part of me was left behind in the beautiful waters of Mexico.
 It is so rich with life. 


There is little to write about these pictures, they tell their own delicious and mysterious stories. 


Gracias Baja Sur!



New Discoveries.

As with all new endeavors, there are always new discoveries. Much to my surprise, a recent project for one of my doctoral classes opened up an entirely new realm. It is the world of video. 
I am so grateful to Dr. East Haradin for her encouragement  in my Practice Based Learning class. She has lent us her heart and offered support and motivation to grow, expand and to ask ourselves how we can become more of ourselves and bring this facet of our being to the medicine that we practice. 

Just weeks after completing a three year professional training in Somatic Experiencing, I began my Doctoral classes through Pacific College of Oriental Medicine where I received my MSTOM. The completion of this program is the next part of the journey as I begin to research Integrative Neuroscience and explore our relationships with rhythms and the natural world. 

So many beautiful aspects of my work are now coming together. Creating the video with pictures that I have taken and small videos from nature has been a reminder of how everything may be interconnected, even though it may not always appear so at the moment. 


My fascination with nature, internal regulation, its' rhythms, and mending of the nervous system are coming together in a poetic and personally meaningful way. 
This is the first video that I have ever made, but I'm inspired to create more pieces in the future. 

Thank you Dr. East Haradin, Dr. Peter Levine and Dr. Mary Giuffra for being such generous luminaries on the path. 

Happy Spring!


video

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Transitions.

As the days are slowly becoming longer and more light illuminates the recesses of former dark winter days, I am beginning to feel shimmers of hope for Spring. She is just around the corner. I heard her whisper her silent arrival today. The buds are swelling and the shoots are pushing their way through the earth. 
The elegant starkness of Winter is beginning to melt away.


These are images taken this week, dried and simple beauties, surrounding a gorgeous vintage image of blue birds that one of my favorite people sent to me in a generous care package. 
Water and seeds are left out daily hoping that these sweet blue birds might come back. 
The camera is ready for the opportunity to capture them again as they sing that special song that makes the heart sing.
It is week five of my doctoral program. I am grateful for the opportunity to further my study of the medicine in these changing times. I am writing, researching and learning new things daily, all the while, coming back into the knowing that any day now, her majesty will surprise us once again with daffodils, magnolias and hanging wisteria.