Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordy Wednesday - April 25

"There is a place in you where there is perfect peace. There is a place in you where nothing is impossible. There is a place in you where the strength of God abides." -- From 'A Course In Miracles', Foundation For Inner Peace

"If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further." -- Mahatma Gandhi

"The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire." -- Pierre Tielhard de Chardin

"Religion is a guy in church thinking about fishing. Spirituality is a guy out fishing thinking about God." -- From the article: 'Truth from Fireman Joe', by John Fischer

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interview with "Pearls of Wisdom" author Stephanie Bennett Vogt

I've had the opportunity to interview two authors from "Pearls of Wisdom" so far: Stacy Goforth and Liz Byrne. Today we're hearing from author Stephanie Bennett Vogt. Her chapter is entitled "Homes Are Like Us . . . They Respond Well to Love", and it touches on the ways in which our homes can take on our negative and positive feelings.

In the beginning of your chapter, you say, "...when I bring a quality of mindfulness to a simple chore, I noticed that I always feel happier..." In what way do you bring yourself to that inner quietude?

Good question. I think it comes from just being more mindful. When I notice my mind doing its noisy chattery thing, I'll consciously pull my focus back to the chore at hand. If I'm folding laundry, for example, and I notice myself stressing out and focusing on the negative – about how much there is to fold, how nobody bothered to pitch in, how overwhelmed I feel – I'll tell myself to "stop it" (literally - sometimes even out loud) and pull myself back. Minding the chatter is a bit like reeling in a toddler (with ADD) who is going into traffic or reaching for the kitchen knife. With a wily "monkey mind" we have to be very vigilant not to let it take over.

As I get better at connecting daily chores with a sense of mindfulness, ease, and inner peace, I notice myself naturally and automatically stepping into a quiet spaciousness the minute I see the laundry basket. I'll WANT to do it because of how good it makes me feel. The experience can be mind-blowing – quite literally.

You talk about spaces and houses being "alive" in a way. Can our houses get sick, as we do? Since we can't give a house ibuprofen or antacid, how do we help our house to get better?

Yes, houses do get sick. They get sick from human unconsciousness. Stress, worry, and fear, for example, has a sticky energetic quality. These energies stick and hang over the house like a smog.

Our homes will feel clear, sparkly, and spacious to the degree that we embrace, embody, and cultivate those qualities within ourselves.

It basically boils down to this: happy people equals happy homes. As within, so without. There is no separation.

Are there times when something as simple as a rearrangement of furniture or a fresh coat of paint will bring a room into balance, or should it always be a more formal cleansing?

Absolutely. Homes that are cluttered, neglected, and not tended will begin to get stuck, sluggish, and even sick. As I see it, moving the furniture, clearing clutter, adding a fresh coat of paint, folding laundry – with awareness – are all very powerful forms of space clearing. Moving even a single pile from one location to another with awareness moves stuck energy and creates openings.

As a longtime space clearing practitioner I also see the value in a formal cleansing. My problem with it is that if the occupant isn't fully on board, and willing to do the inner work that supports their outer environment, the cleansing will not hold.

When you were sharing the example of cooking a fragrant meal that you enjoy as being one way to improve your home's energy, it made me think of my grandmother's home and the scents that always greeted me when I entered there. I find myself cooking her old recipes when I'm feeling down, and now I wonder, is this perhaps an unconscious method of healing myself and my home space by making it feel more loving? Is this something you would suggest to others?

YES!!! Absolutely. If it feels good, do it! As energetic vibration that is high level and magnetic, the good feelings you feel when you cook a meal that makes your heart sing, for example, will radiate out into every nook and cranny of your home and life and world! Action combined with heart and soul is powerful medicine.

How often do you clear your house of unwanted energies, and what methods do you generally use?

How much time do you have? This is a huge topic and something to which I have devoted nearly two decades. I could talk about clearing metaphysical, geophysical, and electromagnetic energy disturbances and your eyes would glaze over.

After all the training I've done, I think I can safely say that it boils down to our own state of being compassionate and detached. That is all I really "do" now to keep my living space clear. Our inner clarity and spaciousness is energetically attractive and contagious. It's daily practice.

What is your most central and compelling “pearl of wisdom”?

Clearing lightens. Clearing with awareness enlightens.

As humans it is our nature to experience clarity and spaciousness all the time. The problem is
that we forget how. Adopting a daily practice of slowing down, simplifying, sensing, and self-
care (my "Four S's") clears a path to remembering who we are.

Can you suggest some places online or some reading material that would help my readers find more information about home cleansing and clearing?

Yes, my book! Your Spacious Self is the culmination of years of study, deep inquiry, and personal experience.

Don't let the word clutter in the title fool you into thinking that this book is only designed for those of us who suffer from physical excess, either. If you live in a body that gets out of balance, thinks thousands of thoughts a day, feels pain and loss and fear from time to time and gets caught up in the worries of the moment, this book is for you too!  This book identifies the myriad ways we humans hold on and create imbalance in our homes and lives.

How can my blog readers find you?

They can find via my Website: They can also find me through my top-selling course “Clear Your Home, Clear Your Life” on

Thank you to Stephanie Bennett Vogt for her patience with my off-the-wall questions! I can't rave enough about the joy I've experienced in reading "Pearls of Wisdom" and I recommend it to everyone. All 30 pearls are truly wonderful and often highly personal comments on how to live life on your own terms.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordy Wednesday - April 18

"I don't believe in God, I just experience God." -- Jim Burklo
in Birdlike and Barnless

"The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth." -- Author Unknown

"God is in the sadness and the laughter, in the bitter and the sweet. There is a divine purpose behind everything — and therefore a divine presence in everything." -- Neale Donald Walsch

"Not one of God's children can be evil. At worst, he or she is hurt. At worst, he or she attacks others, and blames them for their pain. But, they are not evil. Yes, your compassion must go this deep. There is no human being who does not deserve your forgiveness. There is no human being who does not deserve your love." -- Paul Ferrini

Friday, April 13, 2012

Interview with "Pearls of Wisdom" author Stacy Goforth

I'm thrilled to be interviewing Rev. Stacy Goforth this morning, doubly so because she was one of my classmates at The New Seminary. Her vibrant personality has always impressed me. I remember the first time I saw her perform a sacred dance, and how I felt she had touched on the very essence of the Divine in her movements. Now she is an author, and I am pleased to bring you her answers to my questions about her chapter, "The Golden Rule: A Universal Axiom".

You mention in your author blurb that you graduated as an Interfaith Minister from The New Seminary. How has this affected you personally, and how do you see the Golden Rule affecting you now, as opposed to prior to your ordination?

The New Seminary was such a terrific experience; it opened my eyes to a whole new way of looking at things, and confirmed ideas that had been growing in me for a number of years. Until I attended New Seminary, I thought – like many others – that the Golden Rule was a Christian teaching. It was there that I first saw this beautiful axiom written in other texts, and came to realize how logical it is that God would give this “rule” to all people, in all times and places.

When you say, " . . . we are more alike than different . . ." you do so to highlight the similarities between we humans. What happens when we get stuck in thinking the negative thoughts, concentrating on the differences rather than the similarities? What is the best way to combat that negative slant?

I think that’s one of the hardest struggles we face – getting stuck in our own negative thinking – and I think the only way to fight it is through education; learning about what it is that we are afraid of or dislike. When we do, we can begin to see the truth and dispel the myths and misinformation that persists, that our egos try to hold onto to keep us thinking that we are separate and different or better than others.

The title of the book is "Pearls of Wisdom." What meaning does it have for you?

Jesus said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46) Wisdom is like that – it’s a pearl of great value – and finding it is like finding your own piece of heaven. This book is full of wisdom – every chapter contains beautiful, polished, iridescent pearls of heaven, that were created through the trials and tribulations of the authors. There is something for everyone in this book.

What is the most important "pearl" you have to offer to others?

Don’t be afraid of learning about others – what they believe, what they hold sacred and dear. Learn about them, learn about their spiritual traditions, and you will see that we are all trying to worship (a.k.a. love) in whatever way we best understand. We are all people seeking a better way to live, seeking a connection to the Divine Source and to each other.

What advice would you offer to a person struggling to overcome prejudice and fear of other religions and belief systems?
Fear is not a great motivator – it only leads to more fear and hatred – and where there is fear, there is not love. There is a much better way to live! We don’t have to convert to another faith even if we study it and think it’s beautiful. I am still Christian, although I am also an Interfaith Minister. I see the value in having many different faith traditions – so that there is something for everyone. The Dali Lama said it well when he was asked what religion was the best, “The best religion for you, is the one that makes you the best person you can be.”

How do you deal with it when someone approaches you and their body language and nonverbal messages are sending you one message, and their words are sending another? Does the dichotomy bother you? Would you ever ask about it or explore it in conversation with the person?
I tend to want to believe what people say to me – but when it doesn’t match the energy they are emitting I’ll only follow along for a while before asking questions. That’s what started this journey for me. What I was hearing in church didn’t match the love I felt from Jesus’ teachings – and I started asking questions. For me this process took a long time, because I was raised in a fundamental environment where you didn’t question authority, but now I don’t wait so long! And I think this is important for all of us; in all our interactions, we should ask ourselves, “How does this feel? Does this feel like truth?” And try to find or create the space for the other person to be open to facing their own issues that are leading to the incongruence.

In your chapter, you write, "When we interact with others from a basis of commonality and love, those feelings are reciprocated tenfold." What happens when those feelings are not reciprocated, for whatever reason? Have you ever found yourself giving openly in love, only to have anger or hate returned? If so, how did that affect you?

I used to think this was because they believed something different from me. Now I understand that they are only reacting from their own fear. And as in the question above, I try to create the space where they can be true to themselves, and open to exploring that fear. Usually, that will work, and most people will respond positively. Still, some people are so locked in their own processes and fears, that they will only react with anger, to which I can only offer a silent prayer or blessing for them, knowing that in the Universe, my thoughts and actions will help them – maybe not now, but in Divine time, and for the greater good of all. Also, we have to realize that reciprocity doesn’t necessarily mean from that person – it could be from witnesses to the interaction, or from the Universe in general.

Where can my readers find you online?

You can find me on the web at Sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you a free mini-book: One Spirit … Many Containers. You can also purchase a signed copy of Pearls of Wisdom from my website. And, I’m on FaceBook at

Thank you so much, Stacy, for your honest and informative answers to my questions. Once more, I highly recommend people pick up Pearls of Wisdom. I was impressed with what I read (and in a couple of places, taken aback at the forwardness of some of the writers, but it was a good thing).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wordy Wednesday - April 11

"Practice guerrilla compassion — silently blessing people on line, at
the bank, at the supermarket, in the cars next to us in traffic. Each
blessing is a tiny Sabbath, a secret sanctuary offered to a hurried and
unsuspecting world." — Wayne Muller in Sabbath

"Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won't stay there." -- Clarence W. Hall

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break." -- William Shakespeare

"All it takes is one bloom of hope to make a spiritual garden." -- Terri Guillemets

Interview with "Pearls of Wisdom" author Liz Byrne

Pearls of Wisdom is a wonderful and inspirational book that has caused me to pause in my reading many times over. Pearls, as you know, are created when a tiny speck of sand is caught inside an oyster's shell. The oyster creates the pearl out of its own irritation with the sand. This book is very much like that. The essays within prick at you, and irritate you until you sit down to think about them. Once you do, a pearl will emerge!

Today, we're virtually sitting down with author Liz Byrne, who wrote the chapter entitled, "Just Sit Down: Premeditation Routine." Ms. Byrne is a creative and innovative leader with a broad array of experience as an author, speaker and entrepreneur. Her goal is to educate, motivate and inspire others so they can reach their highest potential and dreams.

Through her own journey of personal discovery Ms. Byrne realized that there were three very simple and core feelings that she chooses to embrace and live in every moment of her life: first - to feel happy in every aspect of her life; second – to be helpful to others through her work and personal choices; third – to be creative in all of her endeavors. Her mission is to assist people in creating the life they were meant to love living by helping them to discover their core beliefs and desires.

What is your chapter about?

My chapter is called “Just Sit Down: A Modern Guide to Meditation.” In it I talk about how I hit a point in my life recently where I was not able to meditate. Even though I had had a good meditation practice in place, when a series of circumstances cropped up in my life, both personally and professionally, I found I could not get myself to commit to sitting for long enough to meditate. All aspects of my life were suffering from it, especially my work. One night, lying in bed I said to myself “Just sit down and do it!” And I did. I just sat on my meditation cushion and began to meditate. What I realized was that I was blessed to have a very specific routine, what I call my “pre-meditation” routine, which is a series of things I do to ready myself for meditation. By having this routine, even if my mind is busy and my body restless, by the end of my routine I am feeling relaxed and focused. By having this and doing this routine, I do not have to “commit” to a long session of meditation, I just commit to 8-10 minutes of preparation and then see what happens after that. In my chapter – I teach the reader the value of having a pre-meditation routine and also teach them how to devise one that will work for them.

Why 'Pearls'? What is it about pearls that struck your imagination, in regard to the title of the book?

“Every pearl begins as a grain of sand…” is what they say in the promotion of the book and in all of the chapters everyone talks about some type of adversity, i.e. a niggling grain of sand, some larger than others, that ultimately resulted in a wonderful pearl in their life.  We all have the opportunity to choose how we will feel and act to various things that pop up in our lives.  Turning adversity into opportunities is always a path that we can choose.

Your chapter is called "Just Sit Down: A Pre-meditation Routine." In it, you talk about the need for a preparation time prior to meditation. What makes your routine pre-meditation as opposed to meditation itself?

Good question!  As I think about it now – when I go through my routine I am somewhat in the process of meditating because I am focusing my attention on various parts of my body, breathing, etc.  And many types of meditation call for a focus on a specific thing, in fact, doing tasks such as laundry or the dishes can become meditative if we allow it to be!  But I call it “pre-meditation” because my goal in meditation is to quiet the mind and think of nothing.  So by spending some time focusing on releasing tension and preparing myself to sit, clearing out any stray thoughts that crop up, I am better able to completely clear the brain for a more focused, quiet, deep meditative time.

Do you believe there is a connection between prayer and meditation?

Absolutely.  In fact I think deep prayer is a meditation.  If the goal of prayer is to become closer to god, to reconnect with your soul, to find peace and solace then these are the exact things that meditation can do for you as well.  In prayer people often ask for something or give thanks for something.  If you make a prayerful request and then quiet the mind – you may find your answer.  If you express gratitude and then sit in that quiet grateful place - you will receive grace.

America is filled with people who twirl their hair, jiggle their foot, bounce their legs, or tap on tables. What advice do you offer to a person suffering from the inability to sit still?

The key is to be in the present moment and realize what you are doing; to stop doing without thinking.   My guess is that people don’t even realize they are tapping or twirling. Part of my pre-meditative routine is to stretch and quiet the body.  If you are sitting and thinking about each part of your body for a few minutes – you will realize what is moving and then you can make the choice to stop it.  If it starts again my suggestion would be to look at what thought came into your mind that resulted in the physical reaction to move about.  So – what thought went through your brain when you started to jiggle or tap?  Is this something you can address or put aside until later?  Being conscious and present is the key.

In your chapter, you say, "...what you do is not as important as simply getting started." What sort of mental gymnastics do you use to prepare yourself for pre-meditation and meditation?

What I mean by that phrase is that since there are so many suggestions as to how to meditate, how to prepare for it and what to have in place that it can become confusing and we may get stuck in what is the “right way” to prepare to meditate.  The overall goal is to be able to sit comfortably and quietly.  So I don’t prepare for pre-meditation, my pre-meditation routine is my preparation for full meditation.  I suggest that each person choose a couple of things that help them to get comfortable – like stretching or a breathing exercise.  This combined with having a specific space in which to meditate is the simplest way to get started.

Near the end of the chapter, you discuss calling upon someone or something (God, angels, ancestors, etc.). Why is this something you suggest? What if the person meditating doesn't believe in God?

I receive a lot of inspiration from my meditations and I know this is because I call in my spirits and guides to be with me in my meditative state.  It is, of course, not a requirement.  But perhaps a person without specific beliefs might acknowledge the power of the universe, or the cosmic energy that surrounds us, or perhaps nature in all of its wondrous beauty.  We are not alone in this world and there are forces that can guide us if we are open to them.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to a person just adding meditation into their daily routine?

To “Just Sit Down” as is the title of my chapter :-).   The key is to not make a big deal out of it in terms of how long you are going to meditate for or how you are going to sit.  You do not have to be in full lotus posture for an hour to receive the benefits of meditation.  Just begin with a special space for it, get comfortable, quiet the body and slow your breathing and see what happens.  Begin with 10-15 minutes a day.  You will be surprised at the benefits you receive from this simple meditative practice.  Namaste.

How can my readers find you?

My website is and you can also reach me via email at

Thank you so much to Liz Byrne for answering all the questions I had for her. It was a fascinating interview. I highly recommend Pearls of Wisdom to everyone. I was surprised at the depth of many of the chapters, and I find myself going back to it for sermon ideas, for meditation gems, and just to read for comfort.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Diverse Communities Join for Interfaith Seders in 2012

Diverse Communities Join for Interfaith Seders in 2012:

'via Blog this'

How wonderful to see Jewish and Christian communities coming together! I think one of the best Eastertides that I ever had was the year that I (the pagan priestess) led a (Jewish) seder in the basement of my (Christian) church with a (Christian) congregation. So much fun, and so much learning done!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The United Church of Jaffrey

Rev. Allyson with turkey (2009)
Come one, come all! On Saturday, April 14 from 5-7pm, the United Church of Jaffrey (54 Main Street, Jaffrey, NH) is hosting a turkey supper with all the fixin's. There will be roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potato and gravy, vegetable medley, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and even homemade desserts. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

I wish I could be around for this event, but I will be in Maine that weekend, preaching at Lovell United Church of Christ. My mentor, Pastor Alison Jacobs, is the minister there and she is going away, so I'm covering for her. But please do visit the Jaffrey church, enjoy the turkey, and then tell me all about it!

Mt. Monadnock / Wikimedia Commons
On Tuesday, April 17 at 7pm, Edie Clark will be appearing at the United Church of Jaffrey. As the flyer says:
Two years in the making, Monadnock Tales, a fusion of music and poetry, had its world premiere in May 2002 at the Colonial Theater in Keene and has been performed several times since. The orchestral work, which has been described as a "prayer to the mountain," was a collaboration between composer Larry Siegel and writer Edie Clark. The text of the work, a long narrative poem written by Clark, weaves the history, lore, and legend of the mountain into verse. Clark will talk about the process of creating Monadnock Tales and she will read from the poem.

Both these events are near and dear to my heart. If I'm lucky, I might just make the one on the 17th. I hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wordy Wednesday - April 4, 2012

A Prayer in Spring  by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

"Male or female, the truth is the same: If you want to find joy in life, live simply: eat simply, drink moderately, work constructively, and cultivate a few close friends. That's it. But chances are you can't  accept that. You want something more complicated. You want something you have to spend your life pursuing, something so rare that when you die without it you do not despair but imagine it was just too rare to find. Nonsense. Life is simple; joy is simple; but only if you have the courage to live simply enough to experience it." -- Rami Shapiro in Ecclesiastes Annotated & Explained