Garden of Forking Paths

Topiary by Louise Bourgeois

This Spring, the Met will show an exibit of intentionally unfinished artworks:

The show is a wonderful hommage to artworks that were left unresolved and open-ended, leaving viewers to fill in the meaning and the ending to the story. {click here for Peter Schjeldahl’s upbeat review}

There are many amazing examples of this in literature and music as well.

Bach’s “The Art of Fugue” is a musical piece that lasts for over an hour and ends on mid-note, leaving listeners to hang in the space of the vibrations that the music has created.

And although it does have an ending, Borges’ short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths” begins in the middle of a sentence and ends with the unsettling notion that there could have been many possible endings.

I’m always up for a good story, but I do love art that leaves me perplexed and open to the possibility that there are many interpretations. But the thought does cross my mind that although art and music often leave interpretation up to the viewer, the pleasure of uncertainty somehow doesn’t work as well when it comes to life.

On unstable economic ground? Anxiety!
Not sure about a relationship or job that is in trouble? Insomnia!
Feeling hopeless about a behavior or symptom? Inertia!

Not to mention the hours of despair spent imagining what other people might be thinking about you based on something you said…

The thing is, if you are suffering from emotional blocks, symptoms, or behaviors that are bringing you down…including feelings of inadequacy or purposelessness, chronic pain, or anxiety around almost everything…

…one thing that really helps is to to take the long view by hunkering down into the present. As Borges writes, “century follows century, but things happen only in the present.” And if there is any truth in that, then it’s in the present that you can free yourself from unhappy endings before they actually happen.

A good way to practice this is to look at art not for it’s ability to complete you, but rather for it’s ability to leave you breathing into bewilderment, surrendering into uncertainty, and “thinking out-loud about what you encounter.”

Sound like a weird therapy? Well, I think about myself as a coach for the long view and I help people who are struggling to find direction and a way through their forking paths.

If you’re interested in learning more about me and how I will work with you, click here:

I believe that there are many possible futures. Basically, I’m here to help guide you into the one that will allow you to survive and thrive.

Evening of Trance Writing Winter Recording

To thank you for being a peruser of my blog, I’d like to invite you to sit back, relax, and listen to my recent recording. It’s my end of year gift to you.

Winter Evening of Trance Writing

This recording was made during an evening of trance writing that I led on December 6, 2015. It’s not the best quality recording, but I think you’ll like it — it has a kind of sepia tone, old-film reel vibe. And the background music is a soundscape synthesized by composer Ambrose Bye, layered with sounds collected from the center of the Aurora Borealis by Pete Malvasi.

In honor of winter, the imagery of this visualization is centered around integrations of dark and light. After listening to the visualization (or as you’re listening, if you prefer), set a timer (10-20 minutes) and write or doodle freely, whatever comes to mind — your impressions, thoughts, imagery, memories, emotions, imagery etc.

It is important to scribble without self-consciousness — in other words, write without caring whether what you are writing is “right” or wrong. Just enjoy the feeling of language moving from your mind and into your body, feeling free to write nonsense or draw with  no attention to representation.

When the recording is finished, notice how you are feeling and consider that whatever you are feeling is the message you need to receive at this moment. If you’re not in the mood for writing, feel free to just sit back, relax, and listen…and let your mind wander wherever it needs to go to bring you comfort and relaxation.

And Happy New Year!

Winter Evening of Trance Writing 

Writing Flurries

For me, December is always a month of flurries. Sometimes flurries take the form of snow, but I’m talking about the flurries of finishing things up before the new year, connecting with family and friends, and circulating energy around gift-giving.

Spending time at the beginning of the flurry season by centering into my creative practice always feels important to surviving December.

That’s why I am offering a winter writing retreat, with the option to join me in person, or virtually. My workshops are designed to let you write whatever you need to write. Instead of prompts,I provide guided language and sound visualizations that will enable you to enter into your own
unique writing mind.

Whether you’re working through a stressful situation in your life, finishing a manuscript, or looking to rejuvenate your creativity by generating new work, this workshop will provide you with that space.

Click here for more information, or feel free to email me:

And through the month of December please feel free to listen to my motivate track – for free!  It includes a soundscape by the amazingly versatile musician Paula Carino.  Listen now. (Scroll down when you land on the page).

Centered wishes!



Ritual for the Autumn Equinox

If the summer solstice is about noticing and integrating the sun, its warmth and its bounty, into the darkest parts of our lives (keywords: passion, creativity, creation, rebirth, renewal, action and clarity)….

…then the autumn equinox is about embracing abstractions. The bounty is disappearing, the seeds are beginning to cower underground, the vegetables are being harvested, and the leaves are falling from the trees. Death hasn’t happened yet; it’s in-between waking and sleeping. A kind of “hypnagogic state,” (the moment just before sleep).

To celebrate this equinox, spend a few minutes with Stan Brakhage’s 1963 film Mothlight: a “found foliage” film composed of insects, leaves, and other detritus sandwiched between two strips of perforated tape.”

Take notice: what is dying is alive in this moment.

Gratitude, generosity, giving gifts, letting go…

…embracing negative capability (the ability to exist among doubts and uncertainties with terrific conviction.)

“Death is the mother of beauty” is the oft-cited line of poetry for the Autumn Equinox – but reading Wallace Steven’s entire poem “Sunday Morning” will align you with the sun’s rays, which, at 4:22am this morning (NY time), shone directly over the equator:

And, in the isolation of the sky,

At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make

Ambiguous undulations as they sink,

Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Be well with it!



To the sun I say (Thoughts on the Summer Solstice)

“Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.”     – Daisy, from The Great Gatsby

summer solsticeIt’s easy to lament the passing of the longest day of the year — but where I am on the east coast there’s nothing like that feeling of noticing that it’s 9pm…and the sky is still holding onto a brush of light.

Whether you live in the western desert or the northeast wetlands (it sure feels like that tonight), the longest day of the year is symbolic of the moment when the sun begins its subtle shift southward. The days becoming shorter, signaling the end of summer on the very day that summer begins.

The summer solstice is the metaphor of endings that are beginnings—“in my beginning is my end” and is a good reminder that whatever is happening in your life right now, whether it be joy and celebration or death and suffering, are not permanently stuck in time and space. Everything is revolving. (Which doesn’t mean that everything is fine, or perfect, or just.)

Like fire. It may seem like a constant state of heat and flame, but nothing is constant about such a rapid, persistent chemical reaction that releases both heat and light simultaneously and can flare up within seconds. But contained, it’s pure magic.

“Our ancestors built huge bonfires on this day to celebrate their tangible connection to the vital power of the immense burning star that keeps our planet bright, warm and alive. It’s a good time to remember that we, like the sun, contain the power to nurture and sustain, and that we have a responsibility to burn as brightly as we can.

(It) is the time to invite fire into our lives fire to burn away all that we have outgrown and all that no longer serves us; fire that makes the wild things grow in us, for which our inner selves have longed.

-Cait Johnson and Maura D. Shaw from Celebrating the Great Mother (qtd MysticMamma)

Celebrating this day of days with a fire ritual (no matter if by candlelight or bonfire) is a good way to honor the cycles of day and night as symbols of our own cyclical lives. Holding onto the light, even in the darkest of days, is a survival technique. Taking time to notice it happening on June 21st can help trigger a reminder that light is changing even during the darkest days of winter.

So as you watch the fire transform wood into smoke (or wick into flame), here’s a poetic ritual that honors the ever-changing state of your physical/psychic/emotional skyfield.

Wherever you are in relation to the hemispheres, you can observe the summer solstice by locating yourself within the specifics of your space and time.

Notice: what is to the north of you, and what is to the south? Where is the nearest body of water, or the nearest mountain? What ground lies beneath you, and what is happening to the earth beneath your feet?

Read Frank O’Hara’s A TRUE ACCOUNT OF TALKING TO THE SUN AT FIRE ISLAND and be attentive to the position of the sun, and where you are now in relation to it.

Tell the sun about everything that makes you most angry. Tell the sun your resentments and your failures, your feelings of inferiority and your disappointments.

Write a poem, song, letter — or just feel the heat and think these things out loud. Draw a scribble that represents these things.

Give it to the sun. Throw the scribble into the fire. Release it from your body, feel the intensity of your dark side chemically transform into heat and flame.

Allow the sun to leave a poem in the release of all that.

Breathe into the space that has been left behind. Fill it with purpose and resolve. Let go of what no longer serves you, but hold onto the energy of what has been left behind.

Sleep, and dream. Upon waking, write down your morning thoughts. Welcome the day that marks the day after the first, and last, day of summer.

Here’s my own incantation for the summer solstice in honor of Frank O’Hara:

It’s the longest day of the year and at 8pm, daylight is still in the window.

I’m supposed to let something go.

But there are certain things that I think I’ll hold on to, for just one more trip around the sun.

To the dream that the one who loved me will come back: I’m holding on to that.

To the project that has been unfinished for ten years, now a gathering place for stink bugs in the garage: I’ll hold onto that box — I’m not dead yet.

To the past and how I once hid in a closet covered with clothes and a mask to protest the lack of recognition I was receiving from my mother: Might as well hold onto that, it’s the part of me that bites.

But that pain in my neck – I’ll burn that.

And I’m thinking of burning fences, I’ve got a dog that ignores them anyway.

And if my presence makes another person feel invisible, I’ll burn the space between us.

Minds create chasms; hearts fill it.

To the sun I say fire: mind the gap.

Visions in the light of tradition

As if one blog isn’t enough…here’s a piece I wrote that was just posted for Annie Finch’s wonderful American Witch website: 

As a poet, teacher, and practicing clinical hypnotist I am a weaver of words and a believer in their power to effect positive change in our lives – when they are used with care and grace.

And it was through poetry that I came to believe this. But there is one story that leads me here, to my first post for American Witch Magazine.

When I was in graduate school at the University of Buffalo, I had a job working in the Poetry/Rare Books Collection at the University of Buffalo. Always a good place for a strange encounter of the logos kind.

I found myself in a corner of the archive in which unpacked boxes were stacked up. I opened one of them (clearly, I hadn’t paid attention to the cautions against curiosity that led to Pandora’s fall from grace!)

I found a scrapbook marked, Black Magic. I opened it and found myself absorbed by eccentric collages of beautiful women cut out from fashion magazines, passionately conversing with insects and wild animals.

I was entranced, and from that point forward made it my project to catalogue the archive of Helen Adam. The book that I edited and introduced, still available (click here), collects Adam’s collages as well as her charmingly gruesome ballads. 

I hadn’t really thought about Helen Adam as a student of The Lore until long after she had died, and long after my edited collection of her work was published. I was in a bookstore that had found her library buried in a state warehouse—a tale in and of itself that sparks proof of supernatural intervention. (You can read about it here.)

The first book that I saw was GYPSY SORCERY AND FORTUNE TELLING: ILLUSTRATED BY NUMEROUS INCANTATIONS, SPECIMENS OF MEDICAL MAGIC, ANECDOTES AND TALES by Charles Godfrey Leland. It was badly damaged by roach stains, but it had her markings and so of course I had to buy it.

I put it on my shelf, and to be honest, have not picked it up until this moment as I sit down to write my first post for American Witch.

It is interesting how the past, the passions and pursuits of our youth, the research and thoughts forged so long ago, continue to weave and intersect the fabric of our lives into rich conversational tapestries.

Here is an excerpt from a section that is of particular relevance to the content I’ll be writing for American Witch – posts that I hope will lead my readers into spells of thought that affect positive change in your worlds. Spells that are as magical in their poetry as they are in any practical effects.

Regarding the issue of “curing certain disorders of afflictions by means of spells or verses,” Leland writes:

A certain word is repeated many times in a mysterious manner, so that it strikes the imagination of the sufferer.

He then goes on to describe a disorder that was of particular concern to people living in the Romanian countryside: the bite of the Wolos, a wooly caterpillar, whose bite is as painful as the sting of a bee and whose side effects can be crippling.

The effecting spell is so poetically curious that it begs replicating in full here:


Holy Wolos.

Once a man drove over empty roads

With empty oxen,

To an empty field,

To harvest empty corn,

And gather it in empty ricks.

He gathered the empty sheaves, 

Laid them in empty wagons,

Drove over empty roads,

Unto an empty threshing-floor.

The empty laborers threshed it,

And bore it to the empty mill.

The empty baker (woman)

Mixed it in an empty trough,

And baked it in an empty oven. 

The empty people ate the empty bread.

So may the Wolos swallow this disorder

From the empty ___________ (Here the name of the patient.)

Leland writes that, “…what is here understood by ‘empty’ is that the swelling is taken away, subtracted, or emptied, by virtue of the repetition of the word, as if one should say, ‘Be thou void. Depart! depart! depart! Avoid me!’”

And so goes the subtle power of words to weave spells through ambiguity, indirect suggestion, repetition, and poetry to bring a person into the healing state.

My next post will continue this thread but if you’re interested in learning more about how this works, check out my Trance Poetics trilogy – a series of three books that will teach you how language works in conjunction with your body’s self-healing mechanisms.

Until then, repeat gentle thoughts to yourself and hard thoughts about how you can take action to make the world a better place.

Sending you all that is light in love and language,


Happy 2015: Year of the Green Wooden Sheep

sheepHappy New Year!
May it be as predicted: more stable, more familial, and more hopeful as people come together socially and politically to re-frame the future and cultivate what we’ve got left of this life on earth.

And it already has…

If you were born on a Saturday, then the light of the sun caught your mother’s eye.
Or, the stars. If tipped towards Saturn, then you are quick to wit and long to love.
If the North Star was turned south, then you have spent your life looking for a home.
There are no trees– so you were born on a Monday.
The snow is silver — so you were born on a Wednesday.
Because of the day and the year that you were born, you are the luckiest dog in the pack.
Because of the exact moment that you assembled yourself into flesh, you fluctuate madly between being temperamental and certain.
You’re lucky in business. Unlucky in love. Then your luck shifts and the opposite happens.
Because love is a seed, you are an oak.
If you don’t find your soulmate in this life, don’t worry. In the next life, you will be born on a Thursday.
How fortunate.
How extraordinary, and lined with gold.
Because golden is the star under which you were born.
Your heart is a house and your family is a campfire.
Always sheltered. Always loved.
It’s because you were born that everything has happened.
                     -Kristin Prevallet

I wrote this poem as a homage to “Could Have” by Wislawa Szymborska; it’s dedicated to Lwin Lwin Mon who taught me MyanmarBurmese astrology while I had the privileged of teaching with her at the University of Yangon in November. Disclaimer: there is no real astrology to be gleaned from this poem, but I hope it makes you smile anyway.)