Who Do You Want to Bring to This Moment?

A quick post to talk for a sec about inspiration.

There are a lot of things said about inspiration. Here are my thoughts: The better we tune ourselves to aliveness, the more Inspiration we can “catch.” Second, the word is about breathing. And spirit. Third, having an Inspiration Mindset is about living this question. “Who do you want to bring to this amazing moment?

It’s a moment by moment choice. I chose just a little while ago when my partner was talking to me while I was catching up on my Facebook feed. I missed the first few words she said and wanted to be all pissy and annoyed because her talking was like a buzzing in my brain that I just wanted to swat so I could keep spacing out on social media. I looked up at her face. She was trying to live her life. That’s all she was doing. I softened my face. I asked a pertinent question. (Not, “What?!”) I listened. I responded. She was no longer distracting me from my distractions. She was a real person. Whom I love. That’s who I want to bring to this moment. That’s what I want to be: Love.

How about you?

Breaking the Family Commandments and Creating Anyway

This past week the loving Universe has conspired to bring me the perfect teachers and teachings. I talked about my fave astrologer and some of the other resources that are helping me lately in last week’s post. Add to them, dreams, random snippets of overheard conversations, and other serendipitous voices in the symphony that is my Universal newsfeed.

Continue reading Breaking the Family Commandments and Creating Anyway

At Imbolc, What Is Stirring?


It is a dig down deep kind of time.

It is a time of falling down into the spacious dark within, until we come face to face with unfinished things and beloved things, with past actions un-repaired and past loves undeclared. And it is a time of becoming whole by facing them.

It is a time of finding an authentic voice and striking all the words and all the ideas that are false. It is a time of knowing what is false.

It is a time of action, actions that are consistent with what we stand for, hope for and believe in. It is a time of understanding that this is how we create our world, one action, one word at a time.

It is a also time of conserving energy and eschewing action that is wasteful and inconsistent with our vision for the world we want to create. It is a time for having the discipline to wait to act until we feel the inner pull and the courage to act when we feel that pull.

It is a time of surrender to something greater, call it God, call it Spirit, the Divine.

A client today came face to face with the question of whether or not she really wanted to make a commitment to becoming a holistic healing entrepreneur, to investing hours and hours upfront on the faith that the investment would pay off, to risk putting herself out there and potentially failing.

At one point she said, “And yet, it’s still there. It won’t go away. I want to do it. I want to do this work.”

And that’s the dilemma we all face. We want this great life. We want a world of opportunity and peace. But we want it to be easy. We don’t want to put ourselves out there, because we instinctively know it will be hard, and we may lose things. We may lose money, time, faith. We will be tested. We might be facing a death of one kind or another. Certainly we are facing the death of our own comforts and illusions.

Because we don’t want to lose anything, we hover around on the sidelines, telling ourselves we’re in the game. But even as we avoid engaging, we walk forward, testing the boundaries of our fear, looking out over our self-imposed limitations and at last naming them.

Leaving our comfort zones we enter the abyss, where life begins and ends. And in the great abyss of the winter night sky, the stars are now in the belly of the Earth Mother, as she gestates a new year into being at this time of Imbolc.

Valarie Kour, storyteller, activist and interfaith leader, in a speech at the National Moral Revival Poor People’s Campaign Watch Night Service, asks the stunning question, “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but of the womb?”

“What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb? What if our nation is not dead but a country still waiting to be born? What if the story of America is one long labor? The midwife asks us to breathe and push. Because if we don’t push we will die. If we don’t push now, our nation will die. So let us take one another’s hand and push together.

Yes, it is a time of pushing. Even while deeply listening and fervently loving, even while afraid and fogged, we are making our sure way out. Maybe we could have done better up to this point, but we don’t have time to mourn the past. We have work to do.

I may ask you this at the end of every blog post in different forms, so relevant is it to these times: What tools of yours are you reuniting with that are right there, ready to be put into action, as you are ready to own them and use them?

I leave you with a song about inspired action, determination and this long, dark birthing process, from the folk duo, Emma’s Revolution, Sandy O and Pat Humphries.

Enjoy, and keep on loving yourself forward.

The Great Recalibration of 2017: Tell Your Story

Today’s post is directed to the women and men who are freaking out right now. If you are walking around in a state of perpetual high alert, with a heavy under-layer of gloom, this one’s for you. A dear friend who is having trouble functioning in the aftermath of the collective trauma that was the American election and its results brought it to my awareness that some of us are not having an easy time right now. I wanted to address that with what I know about healing and the tools I offer to my clients.

Part of the emerging consciousness of 2017 is to be aware of and practice respect for the realities other people are living. This is why I’m grateful to my friend for sounding the alarm that she needed help. It happens that I am not having trouble functioning right now. I’m now measuring my exposure to social media, taking extra care to get sleep, have cleaned up my diet, and am reaching out and connecting with people I care about. This seems to be what I need right now. I have some personal situations that are causing me anxiety, but I’d say they are no more stressful than what most people deal with who are living and breathing. (This will all change in an instant, which is why I post twice a week instead of once.)

But others aren’t doing so well, and it’s these people whom I want to reach with this post. So if you are one, I thank you for trusting me enough to keep reading. And if, at the end of this, you feel it has valid and helpful information, please share it with others who might also benefit.

I say that my dear friend’s difficulty functioning was the impetus for the ideas I’m about to share, but actually they started coalescing a couple of days earlier, when my partner shared some Youtube videos of Byron Katie doing The Work with two different people around the ideas, “I hate Donald Trump,” and “Donald Trump scares me.” (You can watch them here: https://youtu.be/BqCBLBoL5D4 and https://youtu.be/ulOFJB0AfLo.)

That’s when it struck me that the people who are having the most difficulty right now are the people who are having post-traumatic stress reactions to the man who ended up in the White House. Interestingly, there are so many kinds of stress and trauma one can have experienced that intersect with the kinds of trauma this person represents and, one could argue, supports: sexual violence, economic violence, social violence, all of which threaten to become institutionally sanctioned in today’s political reality.

It is indeed a time for feeling insecure, unhinged and defenseless.

What do I have to offer of relevance here? Well, lately I’ve been working with a personal and professional development tool that involves helping my clients tell their hero’s journey story. Everybody has a hero’s journey story. The hero’s journey, we learned in English lit all those years ago, has certain universal elements, greatly abbreviated here: a lowly or ordinary birth; a challenge or call to action; an initial refusal or denial; meeting a mentor or guide; taking on a set of seemingly insurmountable challenges; meeting enemies, allies and being tested; success or redemption; returning with the elixir, answer, magic key or giving back. (Here’s a synopsis, adapted from Joseph Campbell’s work, often used to help writers write great stories.)

The reason I love the hero’s journey model is that every single healer has gone through some type of initiation ordeal that first involved trauma or wounding. And without exception we are all healers. (Yep, it’s time to own that, too.) That means that you, the PTSD-suffering person reading this, who is not able to function, who is reeling and can’t find a foothold, are still in your hero’s journey. And that once you begin to see all the elements, you can become the hero of your story, instead of the victim in someone else’s.

And your task, and the task of your support network (all of us), is to help you understand and find the other elements of your story: the guides, mentors and angels who appeared, the strengths and special powers you developed or discovered along the way; the insurmountable challenges you have met; your failures and how they didn’t kill you; your successes and how they deepened you; the ways in which you give back and enrich your communities; the indelible wisdom and compassion you carry; the way you and only you can connect with certain other wounded souls and bring them healing.

As a trained psychotherapist, I know it’s possible to stay stuck at a stage in your journey, reliving the trauma and getting re-traumatized without finding your way out. And I also know that unless we have someone standing for our greatness and seeing the hero in us, we tend to not see our own heroic qualities. And that’s the biggest wounding of all, isn’t it, the way unresolved trauma threatens to steal our very sense of worth and power?

So, good news, bad news: You must tell your story. But you must tell all of it. Not just the part where “it” happened, whatever it was, but also the part about how you got through it, the good, the bad, the ugly. You must tell about the times you almost gave up and why you didn’t. You must tell about the times you did give up and were carried. You must tell about the ways it warped you and shaped you and burned you until you couldn’t even touch yourself without fear of bursting into flames.

You must tell, because your voice is so needed right now. In the collective narrative, only certain people are affected, or just a few people are victimized. This amounts to a universal silence about things that nearly everybody knows personally to be true, and that threatens to drive us into crazy, lonely, dysfunctional places where silence feels like the only safe way to be.

You must tell, because most of the world has been traumatized. It’s only in sharing our collective trauma that we can access our collective wisdom and healing and as a people begin to function again.

And to function as a people means to wake up to the realities we’ve created, to take a step back and to decide that it’s possible to have a kind and just world. And to do that takes great solidarity, inner strength, inner kindness and a very open mind. Changing our world is going to mean taking responsibility for the one we have now. And the first place to take responsibility is with our own world, the one inside our heads, the one we live every day.

If you are walking around in fear of being hurt again, I tell you, fear doesn’t have to have such a great foothold in your life.

I believe the times we are in are calling for us to hold collective space for us to tell our stories. There’s a motto I live by, because I’ve seen it working in my own life over and over again: Everything you need, you already have. This begs the question, “What do I already have that I’m not yet aware of?” You must tell your story to find out what you have that you can’t tap into, because you don’t know it’s there.

And I use the word “tell” both literally and figuratively. The important thing is embodiment. That means doing something, but doing it with intention, with full knowledge of what you are responding to, what you intend to create, how you want to use your power, and who you are being in that action. Do something, but do something meaningful to you. Times like this call us to dig and dig and dig for the deeper, truer meaning in everything we do. The place where the roots meet. That deep.

If you don’t know where to begin, I suggest listening to others’ stories and listening with the inner ear, the one that resonates with truth and compassion, the one that listens simultaneously inwardly and outwardly, finding the places where truth rings a steady, dependable, “Yes, yes, yes.”

How To Tell Your Story: An Incomplete List

  • The Women’s March (and others to come)
  • Come out
  • Write and call our elected representatives
  • Tolerate zero disrespect
  • Reach out to people of different political beliefs and start a dialogue
  • Work for economic and social justice
  • Write it down
  • Form a support group
  • Go to or create teach-ins and other information sessions about a justice or healing issue you care about
  • Find ways to offer your gifts in either volunteer or professional settings
  • Do some under-the-radar volunteering with people in need
  • Dance your story
  • Paint and draw your story
  • Create a play
  • Listen to someone else’s story and help them find their hero
  • Reach out to refugees
  • Reach out to other marginalized people in your community and find common ground
  • Listen to an elder tell their story
  • Write a song
  • Ask someone who loves you to describe the hero they see in you
  • Own your dreams and desires
  • Be sexual
  • Be honest
  • Learn Nonviolent Communication

In the great recalibration of reality that is 2017, many have quiety chosen small (and large) acts of power to strengthen their souls and maintain a sense of power. What have you chosen to do, be, have, create or generate in response to the new times we’re in? Would you care to share your story, no matter where you are in your hero’s journey, in the comments below?

With love and gratitude,


Where Your Creative Life Begins

Thanks to every one of my faithful readers who responded to my recent survey. I learned that many struggle with finding time to create and trusting themselves enough to actually do it. I also learned that nobody likes the word struggle. Into my third week of not writing anything but my weekly blog post and my morning pages, I was asked by my partner, “Are you on strike from writing?”

Well, hmmm. Striking is a way of saying I won’t go back on the job until my working conditions improve. Which is funny, considering I am the boss. Okay, so what exactly is going on? Easy. Fear. Fear of having a gaping silent blackness where ideas should be. Also fear of tapping into a live vein of creative gold and having to make good on my commitment to see it through to completion.

An old story.

But what is going on right this minute is that I am protesting the power of that centuries old story by writing. I am exercising my power to express and publish, perhaps to influence, maybe to find like souls and comrades, certainly to find myself–in direct opposition to and defiance of a virtual riptide of silence fed by this fear of the results of my work.

I am aware that to some I haven’t changed a thing by writing today. But to me–and to you, if you pick up your brush, pen, guitar, knitting needles, measuring spoons, the telephone, your sneakers and do something with them–the whole world has opened.

Back when I lived in Massachusetts, I walked to work every day, a couple of miles through the hilly streets of Somerville to my job at the hippest health food store in Cambridge. One day I noticed some broken pieces of blue glass on the sidewalk. For a couple of weeks I walked by those cobalt shards. One day I stooped to examine them. I loved the color. I gathered them up and stuck them in my pocket.  When I told that to my boyfriend at the time, he said, “Congratulations, you’ve joined the human race.”

Since then, little by little, I have let myself love things and have them, little trinkets I find, simply because they delight me. Does it mean I am to be a collage artist? Does it mean I am this or that, or will it make me write better, or get me money to pay my rent?

Nope. It means I listened to myself. To my soul. It means I learned something about how to delight myself. And how not to. It means I overcame something that prohibited me from having simple pleasure. Perhaps it was a belief in “too good to be true.” Or maybe it was a decision I made unconsciously not to “indulge” myself, because frivolous is bad and serious is good.

It also means that now when I sit down to write, I listen to myself. I don’t just keep on walking. I stop. I stoop down. I inspect. I pick it up. I write it down. Every time I do that is a victory.

“Struggle” isn’t recognized for what it is, because in us artists it is silent. It’s not like there’s a fist fight going on, right?

Oh there’s that word artist again. Did you just check out? Okay, in recovery we say people don’t end up here by accident. So if you’re reading this, if it’s feeding you, if you feel what I am talking about, then perhaps you belong here. And if you belong here, then perhaps you are an artist. Perhaps you have an artist’s soul. Perhaps it’s your idea of what an artist is that is keeping you from listening to those precious yearnings.

I was going to do a mock info-graphic, as many blogging experts say help to get readers. It was going to look like this:

Got 5 minutes? Yes/No

Got something to write with? Yes/No

Got a blank piece of paper? Yes/No

For each no, get it to yes. Then sit down and write your struggle down. That’s right. Pick up the cobalt shards, but also write about what you had to overcome to have them. Listen to the sweet strains of your own song, but also sing about how rusty and out of touch you feel. Of course it’s not brilliant, complete, practiced, polished, recognizable yet. It’s just getting to breathe and be. This is the time when those first two cells find each other. Deep in the darkest of empty places, this is where life–your life–begins.

©2015 Phyllis Capanna
©2015 Phyllis Capanna

Say it. Do it. Write it. Live it.


I was leaving my audiology appointment and remembered that I had brought in my stash of Soul Message cards, intending to give one to the receptionist. I wavered while the thought and feeling of being not good enough, in danger of being rejected, of offering something “stupid” and of no consequence welled up in me as I stood poised in the hallway. I could turn right and head toward the elevators or left to go back to the reception area. 

“None of that!” I said to that cacophony, and turned left toward Mary, the receptionist who’d checked me in. Before I could stop myself, I reached into my bag and pulled out the card that says, “You are a natural healer. Trust yourself.”

I handed Mary the card, she read it, and said, “Aw, thank you! That’s so wonderful! Look! I have goosebumps!” I said, “I just want you to know you are making such a difference in my life.” Her eyes teared up, and so did mine. “That’s so good to hear,” she said. I watched her shoulders drop a couple of inches.

All of us in healthcare love to care. But very often, the people we are caring for are so sick, it is all they can do to take the next breath, sit up in bed, or rub a washcloth over their face. We wonder sometimes if what we do really makes a difference. The administrative staff get to wonder that a lot more. Of course, Mary is the one who makes sure my medical records get to where they need to go, answers the phone when I forget when my appointment is, and greets me when I get there, assuring me with her manner that I will be taken care of competently.

These days, more often than not, I call myself a writer, not a healthcare provider. But it’s the same nagging worry: Does it make a difference? I thought I knew all about the Soul Messages, something I created to act as a loving voice people could hear whenever they needed to, with messages we all need to hear, for encouragement, affirmation, and just plain love. I thought writing was about channeling that voice, then sharing it with others (and teaching others how to channel that voice for themselves), and that completed the circle. But today I discovered that the real completion is to be that voice for someone when I don’t have to, when I’m not being a writer, and especially when a stronger voice inside is telling me not to, because it won’t be good enough.

The Soul Messages are for giving. There’s a saying in recovery circles, “We keep what we have by giving it away.” Damn, but these little cards are teaching me and helping me to grow beyond my self-imposed limitations the more I share them, and the more I listen to that wise voice within that says, “Say it. Do it. Write it. Live it.”

How about you? How has life conspired to have you expand beyond what you thought possible? Do share in the comments below. And as always, thanks for reading.

With love,


p.s. If you would like to be notified of when I will be offering writing and Soul Messages workshops, please join my mailing list, and I will keep you up to date.

 Want a free copy of the soul messages book, or a free set of diy soul message cards?

Help me out by sharing your thoughts in a 2 minute survey, and I will send you the thank you gift of your choice. Thank you!

by Phyllis Capanna © 2015 joyreport

All content is the sole property of Phyllis Capanna and joyreport. If you are reading this content on another site, it has been reposted without the author’s permission and is in violation of the DMCA.  © 2015 Phyllis Capanna

9 Things To Do When Your Mind Is Trying To Kill You

photo by Stephen Gibson
photo by Stephen Gibson

With a little preparation and forethought, you can develop an effective personal toolbox for dealing with bouts of intense negative self-talk and the ensuing depression or anxiety. So get out your pen and paper–You’re about to create a strategy for when the Critic kicks into high gear.

1. Tell on it.

That evil voice inside your head thrives on secrecy. Everyone will think you’re crazy if you tell them you are obsessed with whether or not anyone loves you! First of all, you’re not telling everyone. You’re telling one or two cool people who know what you’re doing and why, and who are willing to admit that their mind occasionally tries to kill them, too. These same people will assure you that you’re not crazy, that they do love you, and will then invite you for an ice cream cone. Your task when you’re feeling fine? Identify who those trusted souls are, and write them down on your strategy list.

2. Go out for ice cream.

I know this is thoroughly uncool. But this is life and death. It’s imperative you go for ice cream. And when you do, skip the virtuous choices. The point is to have pleasure. If what you really want is vanilla, fine, but if caramel topping and hot fudge sauce would make it a pleasure bath, go for it. Gone sugar free? Have diabetes? On a diet? Allergic to dairy? Here are some ice cream alternatives: Cold watermelon. A frozen banana, whipped, with some cocoa powder, coconut milk, or yogurt. A cold, tall nonalcoholic drink (alcohol will only make you morose) with ice cubes and an umbrella. For more yummy ice cream alternatives, check these out. Preparation: scout out the ice cream places near you. Or, lay in a supply of necessary ingredients and cordon them off so the rest of the household can’t get their hands on them. If necessary, disguise them as cod liver oil or lima beans.

3. Listen to music.

Your choice: Loud and danceable or soft and meditative. Both have their place. Although it has been proven that language and music both share common brain areas, listening to music is one of the foremost tools for dealing with depression and upset. A right brain function, listening to music activates your vision centers and engage your imagination in a way that listening to the Voice of the Purse-lipped Critic doesn’t. And don’t forget the guilty pleasure music. You know, the stuff everyone else in the house hates, but you secretly enjoy? So, what is it? Country? Christian rock? Perry Como? Kumbaya? Metallica? Your preparation for this strategy is to listen to both the music you know you already love and to explore some new listening material and assemble a playlist or two to pull out when your Inner Party-Pooper picks up the megaphone.

4. Say a phrase to stop thoughts in their tracks.

There are many theories on this, including that using a phrase is the wrong approach. I am a verbal person, and I find that using my verbal skills on my own behalf helps rally the healthy parts of me to come to the aid of the parts that are having a hard time. The first phrase I learned to use was simply, “Stop!” I recently read, “No more of that!” It also helps me to see negative thoughts as intrusions, and to treat them as such, setting a firm boundary that they are not welcome. Sometimes I say a prayer. I tend to revert to Christian prayers I never in a million years learned as a Catholic kid growing up in New Jersey, but “Get behind me, Satan!” just pops out of my mouth when I’m feeling attacked. For another approach, Access Consciousness says, “That’s an interesting point of view.” They also have a clearing statement that seems designed to boggle the mind. Most importantly, don’t argue with the voice. Treat it like you would someone who has no social skills. Here in Maine, we politely ignore socially awkward behavior. It’s kind, non-confrontational, and allows the gaff to float away without the added weight of a response. It helps if a socially deft person quickly steers the conversation away, giving everyone a chance to regroup. So, use your stop phrase, then move on to one of the other tools in your repertoire.

5. Laugh at it.

If there’s any way at all to laugh at the voice, do it. Repeat what it’s saying in a funny voice. Exaggerate it until it sounds absurd. Call your inner sh*thead by a funny, demeaning name. Mine is, as I’ve confessed previously, “Silly Poopy Banana Pants.” Sometimes when I say the thoughts out loud, they sound exactly like the soap operas my Mom used to watch when I was a kid and she was doing the housework. “Honestly, Colin! Don’t you see that Jessica just loves you for your fortune?” “When my father created this dynasty, he never intended for the likes of you to be at its helm!” “You are a miserable example of a human being. Get out of my way, or I’ll have you removed!” Think about the kind of person who would go around haranguing someone all day. How happy and powerful can they be, really? Are they getting any? Not likely. Your assignment: think up a name for your Crapthrower. When it kicks into high gear, wag a finger at it, while picking up the phone to call one of your trusted friends, and warn it: “Fair warning, Farts On Self, I am going for reinforcements!” 

6. Wear aluminum foil on your head.

Just kidding. But, seriously, certain things serve a protective function from self-obsessed, critical, demeaning thoughts. Chief among them is humor. The kind of humor that plays on common human vulnerabilities, that lets you know you’re not in this alone. (It’s also fun to laugh at other people. See life and death, under Number 2). In your better moments, assemble of stable of materials that always crack you up. When under attack, unleash the humor monkeys. Anything goes, from laughing tracks to Mark Twain. I used to keep a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by my bedside. John Stewart, Seinfeld, innumerable stand-ups, bloopers, all are available easily. For added protection, expose yourself to laughter on a regular basis.

7. Connect with someone in the real world–as their helper.

 You’ve already told a trusted friend you are having a rough time. Now, go out and do something nice for someone else. If it’s a little inconvenient and awkward so much the better. Research has shown that when we go out of our way to help someone else, and that when we persevere in the face of challenges to accomplish something worthwhile, we will not only forget about our own problems, but will help us feel better about ourselves. The only way to prepare for this is to promise you will get up, get out and into public somewhere, and look for someone who needs a hand or a smile. I once saw a homeless person up ahead in stalled traffic and decided to give him the five bucks I had sitting on my dashboard, so that I could have the human contact. Done with the right intentions, an interaction like that can boost your self esteem dramatically. His “God bless you!” hit me in the heart, and as our fingers touched, I felt I’d done something to humanize both of us.

8. Don’t just sit there, do something.

Do not sit and think about shit. Instead, vacuum the house, mop the floors, sort through your sock drawer, take out the recycling, get rid of that pile of bills from last year that are under the coffee table. If cleaning and clearing triggers an inner guilt or shame-fest, then get involved in an absorbing activity: puzzles, coloring (yes, there are some great adult coloring books), crafts, photography, to name a few. Your activities don’t have to be complex, cost a lot, or take you out of the house (although that might help), but they do have to be failsafe. Think: taste, touch, sound, vision. For more suggestions, check out this list

9. Put down the self improvement books.

Now is not a good time to remind yourself of the many ways you need to improve. It’s one thing to focus on your potential; it’s another to focus on your flaws. In this state of mind, it’s doubtful you’ll be anything but focused on what’s wrong with you. It’s better to read about someone else’s triumphs in the face of adversity, or another inspiring tale. Better yet, start your own book, highlighting the many ways you have succeeded in spite of the obstacles. While the jury is out over whether or not self-help actually helps, the results are conclusive that stories help activate our imaginations and get us thinking in new ways. If you haven’t already done so, pay a visit to your local library. It’s a great way to take care of yourself, get out of the house, and give your brain something positive to do. In your happier moments, try asking others what inspire them and what reading they are currently absorbed in.

How about you? What are your favorite strategies for dealing with negative self-talk? Let us know in the comments below.

As always, thanks for visiting.

With love,


For further reading:






Our Labors and Their Fruits

photo by Phyllis Capanna
photo by Phyllis Capanna

This early Spring, I planted all my saved seeds from seasons past, realizing they don’t gain in potency the longer I hang onto them. So, with the wrong pots, the wrong placements, the wrong everything, I flung seed into dirt. I even threw some out for the wildlife, up by the leach field. I made contributions to my wildflower backyard overgrowth. (This was before I transplanted milkweed from Massachusetts in a fit of monarch butterfly love.) It was just a couple of days of realizing I’d accumulated quite a lot of “maybe this and someday that,” and it was time to let go and take what came of it, including, most likely, nothing.

Instead of kale or beans, in the pots lining the edge of my garden here at camp, tomato plants sprang up. They must have been in the compost. The volunteer tomato I am sitting next to today has set fruits that won’t ripen before the end of summer. I contemplate its perfect, toothed leaves, green with purpose. I note the bees visiting from blossom to blossom. the fine fairs along its stem, its symmetry and stature–It is a perfect specimen. It doesn’t stop setting fruit and being green just because it got a late start.

Everything today seems strewn with web filaments, visible if caught at a certain angle to the sun. I wonder if the spiders have anywhere they don’t weave. They weave inside our lampshades, across our doorway, above our bed, and, too, it looks, across the lines that reach from the pine by our door to the pole across the road. When they have woven us together completely, will we know?

How many total annihilations of their habitat do they suffer, and still they spin?

photo by Mary K Baird
photo by Mary K Baird

Hummingbirds chitter to each other along the fly route from the feeder to the nearby trees and over to the roof. I saw one once hovering and hunting for food in our rain gutter over the back door. I wonder if they eat spiders. I wonder what other edibles are living in our rain gutter. Maybe they prefer the gutter fare to the sugar water we put our for them and are too polite to mention it. Maybe they think we’ll catch on if we see them hovering often enough. I’ll bet they say among themselves something of the inverse of what we say about them: “For creatures with such big brains, it’s astounding how slowly they learn!”

I’ve gone for an afternoon swim. It was supposed to be rainy today, but instead it’s sunny, breezy and warm, a perfect late August day. I sit on a chaise longue in the back yard taking in the volunteer tomato, the gentle spearmint with it furry leaves and purple spikes of flowers, the glistening web tatters above, the lake across the road, the hummers, and I feel a tear trickle down my cheek. Even though it’s late summer, everything is still thrumming along in cruising gear, still joyfully green and blossoming. I look for a telltale sign of sadness or defeat among the life forms and find it only on my own cheek.

I relate to the volunteer tomato, to the bees still hunting for food, to the hummers hard at work, to the spiders perpetually weaving. I guess it doesn’t matter that I’ve gone from precocious to late bloomer in one lifetime, that I’ve achieved my purpose in becoming a person who writes and is read, that I’m not sure where and when or if ever anything will bear fruit beyond the fruit of the moment in which I am in the act of creating and free to do so, at liberty to say. Yes, that does matter, doesn’t it, finally? I am so blessed to have this time to contemplate, commune, learn, and feel.

I am also given the gift of having listened, long ago to a force, a force that urged me to entrust myself to the process of writing it down, until through repetition this process has taken on the power of a sacrament, a blessing that can cleanse me and that protects me from other forces that seek to have me go to sleep and never know what lies within. So that now, this within, this place I access, is a field of energy, a portal to everything beyond. Inner space and outer space are one in the same. To those who would deride us navel gazers, I say, “Get moving! I see right through you.” (But I don’t do it for that, do I, even though as a kid, Number 3 on my list of future professions was “spy?”)

It’s just that, we are more alike than different. It’s just that, we each have this access to something deeper, greater, flowing, alive, wise and real. It’s that this is our birthright, to know, to feel, to express, to make beauty, to enjoy to the point of tears. It’s that we have hearts and souls and that this is who we are.

And when we are in right balance with ourselves, we fling seed and welcome sprouts, welcoming all results, no matter that they are short-lived, inferior, surprising, inconvenient, embarrassing. We who are all about the process know that more often than not we also get to eat something delicious that nourishes us further and yields seeds for the future.

photo by Gabor from Hungary
photo by Gabor from Hungary

In other News

I am busily at work on several great projects that I’ll be sharing with you in the coming months. I am putting together writing workshops for those who can attend in person, one about getting started and one about finishing. The revision of the Soul Messages book is almost complete! I will be offering my readers a chance to have a free copy of either the Soul Message cards or the revised book in exchange for completing a survey, coming very soon this Fall. I am also developing a Soul Messages workbook, which I hope will be available by the time my first Soul Messages Workshop is happening this October. Lots and lots of busy weaving, foraging, and setting of fruits! Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

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With love,


All content is the sole property of Phyllis Capanna and joyreport. If you are reading this content on another site, it has been reposted without the author’s permission and is in violation of the DMCA.  © 2015 Phyllis Capanna

Remembering Layne Redmond

The following essay is from a blog series, 30 Days of Joy, now part of a book in progress, Juicy Joyful: How To Squeeze More Joy From Your Already Messy Life. I am using it as today’s blog post to honor the memory and living legacy of Layne Redmond, master frame drummer and pioneer in bringing the Middle Eastern style tambourine technique to the West, and to me and to my teachers here in Maine, in particular. Without Layne’s work, we would not have each other, the drums, the delicious frame drum community, or the rhythms and their magic in our lives. Layne died two years ago, leaving us to carry on the teachings and share the wealth we have inherited. Her book, When the Drummers Were Women, is a classic and must-read in the women’s spirituality movement and is still available. Namaste, Layne! We love you and miss you.

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Layne Redmond (1952-2013), master frame drummer, teacher, historian

Drum Joy

My moment of clarity with drumming came years ago, listening to a friend in my living room playing an African rhythm on the djembe and singing. Something hit me about her making music with her body, a hollowed out tree, and a reverberant, taut animal skin. The rhythms were not directly translatable to my Western musical paradigm, but obviously had an internal order and sense that I could not quite penetrate by any means I possessed. I took in the whole experience of person, voice, hands and drum and said to myself, “I want to learn how to do that!”

It was revolutionary, because in my upbringing some types of music were “real” music and “real” art – “serious” music – and some musical expressions and instruments were more valuable. Melody, voice, harmony, these were at the top. Wanting to play rhythms was akin to wanting to be a music stand: close to music, but not music. Now I see rhythm as the skeleton. Without it, nothing else in the music functions very well.

Sometime later, I was invited to go with a friend to Kripalu in Western Massachusetts, to take a weekend class with Layne Redmond, frame drummer and author of When The Drummers Were Women. This was a weekend of learning to play the Middle Eastern style tambourine and learning what Layne’s work was all about.

The whole weekend I kept saying, “What am I doing here? I can’t do this. It’s hard. I’m not going to be able to do this.” 

At the end of the workshop, Layne put tambourines out on the floor and offered them for sale at a discount. My eye caught a beautiful turquoise tambourine that had large, shiny, brass jingles. ( I later learned it’s real name is riqq, a type of tambourine from Egypt.) I picked it up, and I loved the sound of it. Layne came over and  played it and said, “It’s a good one.” It was sixty dollars, and I bought it.

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I brought it home and I became obsessed with learning the rhythm she had taught us in the workshop, a 6 against 4 rhythm that defied analysis and seriously messed with my coordination. But once I got the hang of it, it did something to me, to my body, to my mind, to my energy, to my mood. It made me happy, calm, energized, alert.

During that weekend with Layne, I learned that there is a frame drummer in the cultural origins of every single person on the planet. And that frame drummer was most likely a priestess, who used the drum to induce a trance state through which she could connect with the Divine. Later, I learned that the spiritual aspect of drumming is not limited to the frame drum and is known across every culture.

Drumming bridges the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. There is smacking something with an open hand and feeling the vibrations in your heart. There is math. There is synchrony. There is chaos, and it’s okay. There is listening, and speaking. Drumming gets you in touch with your body, in touch with the ways your body is out of balance and disproportionate. Drumming strengthens the bridge between the two hemispheres of your brain, and the two sides of your body. Drumming brings involuntary smiles and unforeseen tears.

I love what everybody brings to the table while holding this little drum in their hands.

This sounds so insignificant in the face of drought, floods, shootings, war, and poverty. But I don’t think I’m going to help anything by turning away from the things that make me happy. I drum to stay spiritually fit, to stay joyful. I also drum with people because of the magic that happens.

Look, I want everybody in the world to drum. I think if people drummed together it would be a different world. I think if neighborhoods drummed together, if nursing homes drummed together, if my entire company took time off and drummed together, if they drummed together in Washington, D.C. and at the U.N., it would be a different world.

See, when you put a drum in your hand and you sit in a circle–I know it sounds like a cliche, and I know I am a cliche to some people, but I live this way because I’ve seen miracles happen. I’ve seen tears streaming down people’s faces from drumming. I’ve seen old ladies get up out of their wheelchairs with oxygen still attached to their noses and boogie.  I’ve made friends through drumming. I’ve seen healings through drumming–

When you sit down together and make music together–and this is not  a whole group of people playing the flute, or a classroom learning brass, or a woodwind quintet–

There is a direct transmission from a mysterious place inside you that has rhythm, movement, pace, dynamics, texture and mood. It’s a direct transmission from that which some people call Soul to the body, through the hands, onto the head of a drum that travels around the circle, visits each person, making something greater than each individual contribution, and comes back to you, as something greater within you. It’s an automatic connection to something primal and universal. We access an innate knowing that we carry around within our DNA, and we become confident expressers of things that have no words. We laugh with each other, and we can’t say why. We bond over the voices of the different drums and the rhythms we make. We instinctively know to savor the moment, because it will never be again.

When you do that with other people, there’s a place where we come together, and there are places where we’re different, and we don’t have words for it, but it feels good. It is both rare and familiar, unique and natural. After an hour of drumming in harmony with a person whom I think of as an enemy, I’d be hard pressed to do anything to harm that person.

Now you could argue that just the act of sitting down together would bridge whatever gaps and differences we have and that the decision to do that is really the healing factor.

And I would say, Great! Let’s go for it. But just in case it breaks down, make sure you have drums available.

Yearning to connect with drummers? Check out these Facebook places: Worldwide Frame Drumming, Rhythm Rising Frame Drum Ensemble, Inanna Sisters in Rhythm, and New England Area Frame Drummers, and many, many more.

As always, thanks for reading.




The S-Word

Universe Designs

The Universe designs the perfect circumstances to support your success.

If the first thing that jumps to your mind when you read this assertion is your most recent flop, read on. And keep in mind the corollary: “If at first you don’t succeed, there’s more to the story.”

I’ve decided to jump into the topic of success, because it is such a loaded one for me, and, I suspect, others. Even the word is distasteful and alarming, as in gets my cortisol levels up. It can’t be success I’m talking about, can it? That illusive yet over-worked topic that people either pay thousands to master or give themselves energetic whiplash pretending they don’t care about?

I thought I didn’t care. Until I learned about someone else’s success. Someone in my own field of touchy-feely personal growth and healing. Someone I did not regard as a writer. Someone who seemed to just jump in and voila! Success! Even though I understand the mechanics and manipulation that go with claiming bestseller status on Amazon, I was still stung by her book’s success. 

Even though, even though, even though. I still felt humiliated, hopeless and terrible. As in terror. Yes, I would fail. It’s written in the stars. I am hopeless. It will never happen for me.

Some good news: I knew what to do. I wrote down, in excruciatingly detailed and honest language everything that was going on in that mind of mine, all the reasons why I was a failure, all the reasons why being a failure meant I was also useless as a person, all the reasons why being a useless person was who I always had been and always would be.

Then I turned them around into affirmations. Well, not right then. First I spent at least an entire summer’s day in Maine (which means I wasted the equivalent of a week anywhere else) feeling as though I were dying, trying to convince my partner that I was dying, and losing all interest in any of the things I usually enjoy. Yes, it was that bad.

My depression lasted for a couple of weeks. I started calling it what it was, and I started talking about it in safe places. I started to ask myself why I cared so much what happened for someone else. And most importantly, I started to ask why I wanted what I wanted, and how did I define success.

The most obvious lesson gleaned from my plunge is that my ideas of success were based, at least partly, on competing with and coming out ahead of others, and on getting validated and legitimized by others’ recognition of my work. I also had success tied in with self-esteem and worthiness. As in, I had to prove that I deserved to exist, and the way that I would prove that would be to become a bestselling author.

My depression actually helped me by bringing these beliefs to the surface where I could see, examine and question them. No wonder I had been holding my fledging business at bay and felt estranged from its heart and soul. I didn’t actually have a handle on its heart and soul. I was in it for the wrong reasons. Yet I knew that I was called to reach beyond writing just for myself. I knew I had something of value to share.

My Mastermind group helped, my friends in similar fledging endeavors helped. They helped mostly by doing an enormous amount of listening as I talked myself through the process of discovering what mattered most to me as a writer of healing works.

Eventually, I sat down with my trusty yellow legal pad and took each one of those damning beliefs and turned them into affirmations, and from there developed a new list of Soul Messages, all related to the topic of success.

I also wrote down some guidelines for how to turn affirmations into Soul Messages, essentially turning I-messages into ah-messages by using the word “you,” as if someone were telling you about yourself and about life, as they do when we are young sponges absorbing everything the big people tell us.

I still don’t like the word success, and I’m open to suggestions. I don’t like it because anyone like me, who has all this emotional charge around the concept, will look the other way when they see the word, and these are the very people who might benefit from the messages. Maybe I need to find words that a child might use in talking about success. Maybe the entire concept is something we only develop as part of a mindset we adopt because we think we have to, in order to be legitimate adults.

I don’t know. You tell me: Is success a valid topic for the Soul Messages lady?

Love you lots,


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