Do You Need a New Definition of Success? (If not forever, then for a while?)

pshubert via
pshubert via

Call us flitters, hummingbirds, butterflies, recovering failures, neurotics, highly sensitive, multiply talented under-achievers, people with low self esteem, poor self confidence, people who are not measuring up, people who feel they should be doing something else – Call us what you will, that long, straight, steep path to success is not ours.

Not only is our path circuitous, spirally and meandering, but our successes are different, too.

We are the people who struggle to give ourselves the time and space to write, draw, dance, sketch out a blog design, script a podcast, or develop a recipe. We think we should already know how, or that it’s already too late. We can’t decide which creative impulse to listen to, which is more important, and, yes, which has the best chance of delivering us from our low achieving nosedive.

We don’t believe in ourselves because clearly we are flighty, inconsistent, commitment-phobes. We don’t buckle down, except if we get totally obsessed, and then we won’t stop working to eat, sleep or interact with our loved ones. When we’re done obsessing, we go back to wandering around sighing, weighted down by our unfulfilled potential.

We are folks who really, really want something, but damned if we can tell you what it is. We just know we burn for it.

So we go on earning our paycheck or mopping up the latest oopsie of our topsy-turvy lives. We try to come to center by stilling the voice of discontent in our hearts, when what we should do is stop and listen to it.

Our purpose quest looks a lot like that parable of the three people who’ve never seen an elephant standing in a room with their eyes closed discovering this huge creature that stands before them and trying to come to agreement on what it is. We are all three of those people: heart, mind and soul.

Rather than getting caught up in which one is right, don’t worry what the whole thing looks like or what it’s called. Just trust your senses and give it your own name.  When we name some tiny aspect of it, that’s a success.

When we allow ourselves to actually do something we love to do, that’s a success.

When we pay attention to our curiosity, allowing ourselves to fall in love with one more thing, that’s a success.

When we switch from using others’ benchmarks on the path to mastery to using our own, surveying our inner landscape with compassion, seeing it for what it is, not for what it isn’t, that’s a success.

When we acknowledge the harmful things we are not doing, that’s a success. Any time we pass up the opportunity to indulge in self destructive behaviors, we should stand and cheer, even if our cat thinks we’re crazy. (Even if you don’t stand and cheer, your cat thinks you’re crazy, so you might as well stand and cheer.)

Here are a few of my success benchmarks that I’m sharing with you so that I remember to acknowledge them more often:

Each day clean is a successful day.

Each time I acknowledge another human being’s humanity, I succeed in making myself more human.

Each time I sit down to write, draw or pick up a drum, I succeed in taking myself seriously.

Each time I draw a boundary around my creative time and keep it, I teach others to take me seriously.

Each time I represent myself honestly and resist the urge to package myself differently so I feel more  definable, presentable and finished, I succeed in diminishing  the shame that threatens to diminish me.

How about you? What are some of your unique and personal definitions and benchmarks of success?

Next week: The number one antidote to your creative quagmire: Make space in your life for you.

Until then, I hope you’ll consider joining my mailing list by using the links to the right, subscribing to this blog via email, also to the right, leaving a comment, and  sharing this or other posts that have touched you.

With love,


Is This Love?


Chill candle, found in my Mom's fridge.
Photo by Phyllis Capanna

The working title of this post, up until right before publication, was Hit and Run. I received a communication through this website via the handy contact form on the Saturday after I published my last post. It was from the high school friend mentioned in that post. You know, the one who I said had slept with one of our teachers. It turns out she lied. And for exactly the same reason people in my community have accused the high schooler here: to prevent herself from failing out of high school. My ex-friend said in her letter to me that of the three people she told, one spoke up, and “due to the wronged individual’s incredibly level-headed response and extra time taken to steer me closer to a road of ongoing self-accountability, it was an authentically pivotal life-changing experience.”

Wow. As my ex-friend rightly points out, her story actually illustrates a completely other point about the fall-out from abuse (in her case, she claims it happened prior to high school), and one that I was not intending to delve into in that post. (Not to mention illustrating the differences between how such situations were handled in the 1970s and how they are handled now.) Interestingly, though, her revelation has served to pull me further down into the dim corridors of memory of myself at that age, and has helped me understand some things about myself that are now painfully clear:

I have historically tended to discount my own perceptions in favor of what someone I am intimate with tells me is true. I am guilty of misplaced loyalty. I am able to compartmentalize experiences and perceptions in the interest of not rocking the boat. I am a slave to comfort  at the expense of my own aliveness.

I went out with a guy who turned out to be a compulsive liar (who, weirdly, shares the same birthdate as my ex-friend from high school.) In that situation, my other friends all got it way before I did, and had a little hobby of telling “David” stories so fantastic that they would be gasping with laughter making them up.

What did I do with his unbelievable tales? I put them in a file marked “hold” and carried on with the relationship. What did I get out of the relationship? Cue the music: Someone To Watch Over Me. But not really. What I really got was another little-bird-with-a-broken-wing boyfriend to add to my collection. Which made me, what? Dr. Doolittle? Florence Nightingale? Or, just kind of misguided about what relationships are all about?

With both these June 30th-born liars, I buried my perceptions to protect my image of them and to protect the “love” I was getting from the relationships. I guess I felt that it was really cool to have someone (anyone) paying attention to me and including me in their little world or wonders. There’s nothing like a relationships with a “colorful” person to distract you from being in a relationship with yourself, in your own life.

What I’ve done is not the same thing as giving people the benefit of the doubt. It’s people-pleasing, a different kind of lying. It’s codependency, as corrosive to the myself as it is to the relationship. Remember the riddle about the two guardians each guarding a different path, one of whom always tells the truth, and one of whom always lies? The riddle is, what question do you ask that, when they answer, you will know which path to take? The thing I am angriest about is that in choosing to believe a lie I became complicit in it. What question, indeed, shall I ask myself to pull me back from that abyss?

At first I was royally pissed that after sending me this bomb shell, my ex-friend disabled the email account she used to access the contact form on my website. It was the line, “There’s no need for you to respond directly to me promptly or otherwise. At least from my point of view” that sent me to that emotional whiplash place, because in fact, there was no way to respond to her promptly or otherwise. Another lie. A subtle one, perhaps, but a lie. By its very similarity to our past interactions, laced with manipulation of one kind or another, it lead me to vividly recall my part in the story I told last week.

I doubted her story about the teacher, and I overrode that doubt, telling myself a good friend would believe. I remember that in addition to being impressed, I was also confused and scared. Did all men have voracious appetites for high school girls? Having suffered the death of my own father (who was coincidentally a high school teacher) I was ready to believe anything about a world I had once trusted. I was ready to believe that his death somehow made the whole world more chaotic and that other people’s bad behavior was evidence of the unraveling I felt.

Besides, wasn’t it best to stick with your girlfriend, just in case she could come to your aid in a time of need? And wasn’t it kind of cool, anyway?

I’m not implying that I could have chosen any differently back then. I am seeing anew how lost and confused I was, gravitating to those who were, too. I’m also not implying that the girl in my town lied. I haven’t met this young woman. I have no gut in her story, no basis for one. I think that’s an appropriate time to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Besides the amends that I must make to myself by steering clear of insanity when I see it (and, yes, we each get to define that for ourselves), and by coming clean with my own admissions of failure, I also wish I could say to my lying friends from the past, “I did you wrong. I should have called you on your shit.” Isn’t that what I would hope a friend would do for me? The next time, if there is one, I am willing to betray myself for the sake of appearances, I must ask myself, “Is this love?”

Today I have compassion for the lost soul that I was as a teen, and although I have been caught in and stung by their deceptions, I also feel for those confused people who felt they had to lie rather use their amazingly sharp minds in their own best interests.

If it isn’t love, it’s as close as I can get today.


p.s Track my progress with NaNoWriMo on the sidebar to the right! I’m having fun!

The Thud of Self-Deception and the Ring of Truth


Can you hear the difference?

I can. Now. But it’s taken years, and it’s been primarily through writing. People won’t always tell you when you’re just standing around blabbing. They know you well enough to know that their feedback is going to fall on deaf ears. Why else would you be going to such trouble to convince yourself of something that is false?

Before I got into recovery, I would regularly tell people I would soon be cutting down, or explain why my using a certain substance was okay. Was in fact more than okay! It was an elegant solution to a pernicious problem. Although I could perceive it then, I never understood what was happening when the energy seemed to get sucked out of certain things I said as I was saying them, things I said over and over and over….They had to be true, right?

When you write, and then read so that you are being listened to and heard, when you find yourself stumbling over words, or bored with your own perfectly constructed sentences that march down the page like rows of soldiers – and conversely, when you hear yourself uttering crazy wise metaphors that are sloppy and sideways, but nonetheless full of life  – You hear it. The difference.

When I was in school for occupational therapy, I had to explain what occupational therapy was practically every time I talked about it. And I did, patiently and with enthusiasm. I said something different each time I answered, because I was learning something different, and because some new facet of the field had just come into focus and I was newly in love. I had no pat answers. 

When you’re fooling yourself, you develop an argument. You bring in evidence. You tie it all up very neatly, so that it makes sense and is defensible. You look for agreement from outside yourself, and you use it to bolster your confidence in your position.

When you’re simply being yourself and representing yourself honestly, you don’t have to work as hard to make sense. After all, the truth may not actually make sense, at least not right away. You stand in curious, open receptivity to what your heart and soul are trying to make you aware of. Rather than try to make your irrational parts speak perfect English, you suspend the rules of grammar so that you can connect.

I value the hearing I have developed over the years of writing every day, teaching writing, and working with people on their goals and dreams. I know the ring of truth. And so do others, if they just keep going long enough for it to be expressed. “Teaching writing” is nothing more than creating the space and showing people a few good ways to keep writing until the truth comes out. I don’t know what that truth is until it arrives. But when it does, everybody can hear it. And feel it. It feels good. And depending on how far down the writer had to reach to get at it, it can also feel like a dam bursting, an unwritten rule being broken, or a vow coming undone.

But liberating, no matter what.

I hope you will consider joining me for one of the writing workshops I will be leading in the next several weeks, in Boothbay and Sidney, Maine. If that’s not your locale, and you’re interested in hosting me where you are, drop me a line, and we’ll talk about it.

Here are the details. I hope to see you soon.

Find Your Voice – Find Your Joy*

*Featuring material from the forthcoming book Juicy-Joyful: How To Squeeze More Joy From Your Already Messy Life

Writing Exploration Workshop

Using Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind writing approach, we will begin an exploration of writing and of joy. How do we get started? What makes for a joyful life? Do either of these things come naturally? If so, how do we get out of the way?

We will learn simple techniques for getting our writing started and keeping it going. By tuning our listening, we will hear and feel the unmistakable sound of our own voice. We will each have the opportunity to be listened to in a structured, safe, empowering way.

The principles we use in this workshop can be applied to any self-exploration endeavor and have the potential to yield a lifetime of authentic living, self-love and self-trust.

What to bring:
A fast pen, an open heart, a blank notebook and a sense of adventure.

Three Spring Dates!
  • April 19th, Boothbay, Maine 1-3 p.m.
    Contact: Kitty Hartford at (207) 633-6355. Fee is $18.00
  • April 29th, The Pond, 1783 Pond Road, Sidney, ME 04330, 6-8 p.m.
    Contact Phyllis at Fee is $25.00
  • May 3, The Pond, 1783 Pond Road, Sidney, ME 04330, 1-3 p.m.
    Contact Phyllis at Fee is $25.00

One Resolution and One Intention

I’ve made only one New Year’s Resolution, and I’m doing smashingly at it: I’m leaving my cell phone in another room while I write. That’s it. I like to pick resolutions that are no-fail doable and instantly gratifying. Lazy, or do I know how to hack a resolution? Let’s put it this way: I believe in setting myself up for success.

I think most of us know when we’re ready to make a change, and when we are, we go ahead and set it in motion. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It just means we don’t have to talk about it. Instead, we look around and ask ourselves what we need to put into place to make it work. That’s a process. Not that I don’t love and adore magical transformations that come in an instant of expanded awareness – But in most cases that magical moment has to be followed up with action in order for the change to take root in our lives and create the new reality we desire. By focusing on the magic to the exclusion of the process, we cheat ourselves of the satisfaction that empowering changes bring. Hence, I opted for a small, doable change born of a moment of expanded awareness (i.e., I am very distractible and will use the phone to avoid writing through stuck places in my project.)

What one, small change could you easily make that would increase your success in some area of your life today?

In addition to that one mighty resolution, I have also set an intention and focus for my healing journey this year. It’s is a happy little made-up word that spell check hasn’t caught onto yet: Enoughness.

I’ll be ferreting out the insidious pockets of not-enoughness in my mind and heart and studying how they show up in my life and world. My intention is to heal those unhappy not-enough realities. I’ll be writing about the process here.

Meanwhile I’m creating new ways to empower people to bring their unique gifts out into the world.

If that sounds like a good time, then perhaps you’d like to join me. I have two workshops coming up for your consideration:

Find Your Voice ~ Find Your JoyIMG_1463

A six session writing workshop focusing on the roots and tangles of joy in all its mysterious ways. If you want to get out your pen and fill some pages while exploring your relationship with joy, please join us! The location is the Universalist Unitarian Church or Waterville, Maine, 69 Silver Street, 04901. The dates are Saturday mornings 10-noon, February 7, 14, and 28 and March 14, 21 and 28. The fee is $75. A deposit of $25 holds your place in the workshop. For more information, read about it here.

Registration information below.

bohemiancolorfulpantsPull Up Your Big Girl Power Pants III

What’s that you say? You missed the first two Power Pants workshops? Not to worry, you can still join us for a deep dive into our personal power to create the life we want.

Join us in beautiful Surry, Maine for a two hour workshop in which we revisit, revive and rev up our Manifesting Muscles.

Our theme will be (of course!)…

Enoughness: Exploring Our Beliefs of Abundance

Sunday, February 1, 2015
Noon – 2 pm
Fee is $5. (Yes, that’s $5.)

Lastly, A Thank You

Thanks to everyone who ordered Soul Message cards and books over the holidays! I had a great time creating special, one-of-a-kind gift cards to send to your loved ones and friends. Feedback is trickling in about the timeliness and spirit of Love that the lucky recipients are experiencing with the Soul Messages. If you have yet to explore Soul Messages, you can read about them [here, on their new website.

Feedback completes the circle: I write, you read, you tell me how my work effected you, I am complete. Want to do something really helpful that doesn’t cost a cent?  Write a review of Soul Messages. Please follow this link and let prospective readers know how you’re using and enjoying the book and cards.

And thank you for reading this far. Please get in touch if you would like me to offer a workshop near you and have a venue in mind. (Living rooms work!)

If you would like help with bringing your unique gifts into the world, use the contact form below to set up a free 30 minute consultation via phone or Skype to discuss your project, goals and dreams.

Please fill out the contact form (below) if you wish to register for either of these workshops, would like more information, or to inquire about private consultation.



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 joyreport

Easy Doesn't Lead To Happy

That’s my lesson of the past couple of weeks. So many times I’ve been faced with wanting to stay in my gauzey, cocoon-ish comfort zone but have made the choice to go ahead and face something I dread or be with someone who challenges me, because I recognize that I am in a comfortable but unsatisfying rut. After all, I’ve told myself, this is the stuff I write about. So do it.

And each time it’s worked out fine. In fact, as soon as I realize I have a choice, I’m okay. The only way to break out of the prison of my conditioning is to question myself awake. Then and only then can I see the prison for what it is: a place I’ve put myself because on some level it’s comfortable. Even dissatisfaction and unfulfilled dreams are comfortable, because they are so familiar. I know them inside and out. And familiar is easy. The thing is, easy doesn’t lead to happy.

That’s a tough one. It’s the exact opposite of every fairy tale I’ve internalized about what my goals in life should be. After all, some of the greatest myths of our age have to do with something called leisure, which has to do with the idea that only rich people get to sit around and do nothing, i.e., have it “easy.”

Certainly without a guiding mission, vision or purpose, any life – busy or laid back – can lack soul and satisfaction.

Revelation number two: I still have to go against the grain to live my message. And what is that message? The message is we have the potential to create our own reality. To do that, we first have to sift through and examine all the beliefs about ourselves and our world, rejecting those that sell either of those short. Enter the Soul Message cards and book.

But the cards and book are worth nothing if, in my hardest moments, I cannot find a choice that shifts my pain into something empowering. Even if it doesn’t take the pain away.

So, what are the choices I am talking about? I am talking about choosing to be loving with people, which includes letting go of my needs and judgments about them; owning my reactions, not living them. Forgiving. Sometimes over and over again.

I’m also talking about being loving with myself, but not in the “If you really don’t want to do it, you don’t have to” way, but in the “Chin up, baby, this is the kind of person you want to be” way.

It means choosing the empowering belief as an action – “The Universe adores me, so this is not evidence of a whimsical god toying with me. There is a solution. I just can’t see it because I’m paralyzed with fear of betrayal right now.”  And then picking up the phone to check someone else’s perspective.

And it means rejecting the disempowering belief in an active way, too: “ No, people are not all out for themselves. This person is just fixated on doing what they think they have to do to survive, because they’re afraid. I’ve been there.” And then connecting with that person, human to human. Maybe there’s something I can do for them. Maybe all they need is a warm smile. Sometimes just the shift in my awareness changes the whole scene.

And then, prayer. Prayer for me is stopping for a moment, focusing on my heart, affirming my “I am good- you are good- the universe is good” truth and setting my intention for a healing.

It’s all about healing. This whole crazy, spinning out of control mess of a world is all a giant conspiracy to wake us up, snap us out of those limiting beliefs and as a last ditch experiment try loving ourselves and each other and believing in goodness for real. Like with our asses and our pocketbooks, our politics, policies, and in our moments when no one is watching.

When no one is watching, I sometimes struggle to live all this. Writing about it here helps me connect with my big truths and with my tribe.

What is the vision, mission and purpose that give your life meaning?

What do you struggle with that is in stark contrast with what you say you are all about?

What do you do to connect with your big truths and your soul peeps?

Stay tuned for my web/biz/writing/inspiring re-tool coming this Fall! There will be freebies! There will be new products! There will be creativity, recovery and spirituality aplenty.

I look forward to having you as a friend on this journey.


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by Phyllis Capanna © 2014 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.  © 2014 joyreport


Yay, I failed!

© Phyllis Capanna
© Phyllis Capanna

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

I’m happy to report that I have failed the 21 day challenge! Each and every day.

I can totally hold up my hand, walk away from, and avoid gossip. I passed up opportunities to share juicy tidbits on a fairly regular basis. I’d even go so far as to say it’s a strength of mine, not gossiping.

Criticizing is a skill, too, I’m afriad. Maybe I could put it to good use, somehow? No, I think it’s something I would like to soften and transform into tolerance, curiosity and openness. It’s a solitary, hard place, criticism. It’s a scared, tense place. The jaw is set. The lips are firm and frowny. The moment is squeezed out, and in its place, an agenda.

Complaining and criticism, now that I think of it, go hand in hand, and I am a champion. One graced day, I was able to catch myself and realize that lack of trust is often at the root of my complaining. Therefore, those moments are an opportunity to practice trust. I was practically chanting the word “trust!” out loud in that moment to keep something critical and complaining from coming out of my mouth.

There have been times I’ve done that very thing to keep intrusive thoughts from taking hold and polluting my mental space. But then I learned that what the ego hates more than anything is to be laughed at. So, toward the end of the challenge, I went around chanting, “judge, judging, judgey, oh, judgeroo person, you’re at it again! La la la!!”

So, here’s what the Soul Messages have to say about failure, and then, as usual, I’d like hear from you. What was your experience during the 21 Day Challenge?

“The Universe wants you to re-frame your idea of failure. It is not the end of the world to fall short, to not make a goal, to have something break down or misfire. Failure is as much a part of life on Earth as when projects are completed, goals are met, and plants bear fruit. Failure is not wrong, it just is. Use the opportunity to gather more data, make adjustments, and try again. 

What’s more, the Universe is on your side. The Universe does not abandon you because you screw up or don’t succeed at something. The Universe and its laws are eternal, unconditional and impartial.

Every time you begin anew, you have the opportunity to breathe life and energy into something you are trying to create. Every time. Universal law is not “three strikes and you’re out.” It is not even, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” The Universe is still on your side even if after a few trials you decide to abandon a goal and go for something else.

Life is a creative process, which means it is messy, chaotic and stagnant – as well as predictable, orderly, symmetrical, abundant, and crazy. Stop being so hard on yourself. While you’re at it, try being a little less rational, too. Think of this as an experience that is giving you the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the laws of life that are at play.”

Excerpted from Soul Messages by Phyllis Capanna, © 2014. All Rights Reserved.

21 Day Challenge: Quick Check-in. Where has it taken you?

A quick check-in here on the 21 day challenge to abstain from complaining, criticizing and gossipping:

Wow. The first thing that happened over here is I encountered what can only be described as a shitstorm of resistance and some doozie circumstances that really tested my resolve. (Nothing like attempting a communication overhaul during a Mercury retrograde!) It is so satisfying, in a short term kind of way, to complain!

One of my conflicts around this is, I am an expresser. After spending years not saying things that needed to be said, I almost cannot stand to not say something that I feel strongly about. Which caused me to wonder how discerning have I been about the things I feel I need to express? Do they need to be said to relieve my frustration that circumstances aren’t going my way? Or do they need to be said because of the value they will have in resolving something? Big difference.

Take away number one: Think first. What is my motivation for speaking?

Second, what else can I do to tolerate frustration? All too often the thing that feels best is to tear someone else down, usually not in their presence, but to myself in my private reality, where everyone else is at fault and I am an innocent bystander to their unskilled behaviors. “The world according to Phyllis” syndrome. It’s their fault this is happening. If only they’d (fill in the blank.) Everything was going along fine until that stupid thing they did.

Wait a minute, that sounds a lot like… blaming. And, again, wow! I am a blamer! Oh, ouch, ouch, ouch!!!

Picture it: It’s a hot afternoon. I am sewing 5 sets of cafe curtains. I am ironing the hems before sewing. I am thinking of all this, watching my swirl of thoughts around how everything is someone else’s fault, the crazy mixed up communications that have been happening, the scheduling glitches, my life…and realizing I am a blamer. I am putting my hands to my face and groaning. Yes, that’s how it was for me on Day 5.

And then, because I have angels, and because I retain what I’ve read when I am devouring something that is filling a need, Edwene’s words float up into consciousness: “Happiness is a choice. Inner peace is a choice.” Of course she’s not the first one to say this, and it isn’t the first time I’ve heard it, but it’s somehow never hit home quite so deeply that I can choose happiness myself in this most shitty of moments, like right now. In other words, I can stop making other people responsible for my happiness. Recovery from Victimhood 101.

Which harkens me back to a seminal event in the evolution of my consciousness, which I have come back to again and again, a koan for Phyllis: Long ago, while in an intensive on transpersonal psychology with Tom Yeomans at the Concord Institute, I did a meditation in which I was to ask my Inner Wise Person the purpose of my life. My Inner Wise Person obliged my request by writing it out for me: “En-joy-ment.” Just like that. I didn’t see that one coming, at all! I, like most of us, have been trained to believe that life purposes are big and important, weighty and profound.

It turns out that it has been profound, for me, because it’s taken me until now to actually get that I can do that regardless of circumstances. And if I can do that, then nobody can take that away from me, except me.

This sounds annoyingly simplistic and gratuitously New Agey, but there’s no question that enjoying life has not come easily to me. So, my practice has been to find something to enjoy in each moment. (Because as with any new skill that challenges your sense of who you are and what is reality, moment by moment is the only way for it to take hold.) The first thing I noticed was that enjoyment is not a mental thing, like appreciation. It is an immediate, visceral thing. Watching the lush green maples sway in the breeze. Savoring the taste of a stick of gum when I first start chewing it. Feeling I am up in the sky while gazing at cloud formations. The play of sun and shadow on a wall that I mistake for a living thing, which then becomes one, to me.

And as I have switched into enjoyment mode, which feels like something I stopped doing when I was about 5, I have also begun to sit to eat, to watch moths and butterflies, and to miss my Honey-Bear, who died about a year ago. The simplest things are enjoyable. Even grief that springs from great love.

So, that’s me. How about you? Where has the 21 day challenge brought you so far?

What If You Ignored Yourself and Did It Anyway?

© Phyllis Capanna


“The Force that through the green fuse drives the flower…”

It hasn’t been as warm as we would like, but as soon as the light changed at the vernal equinox, everything began to shift. It’s how our earth is made to work. A tiny shift in the angle of the sun creates a season change. So, what’s kept it cold? Basically, the atmosphere, that ecosystem of air, moisture and movement that creates our weather. In non-Western cultural and spiritual traditions, each of the elements (as in building blocks) that makes up our physical world corresponds with certain universal qualities or states of consciousness. Air corresponds with thought and what used to be called ether, or life force. Often referred to as chi or ki, the life force is that unseen energy that is vitality itself. Water corresponds to emotions and the unconscious.

About to Burst Open
© Phyllis Capanna

It occurred to me today that this is exactly how our thoughts and feelings influence our internal weather. We are given the light. With our thoughts and mental orientation we either allow it to warm us or we keep ourselves out in the cold, suffering from past hurts and false ideas about who we are and how love is doled out. When we are in that state, the chi, or life force, cannot flow.

“A bucket turned over even in a rainstorm remains empty.”

When we find ourselves in a place like that, where all around is sustenance and we cannot partake, it is a spiritual emergency. We are cut off from source. What we need are tools to bring us from emergency to emergence. We need to allow something greater to come forth from within us, so that we can transcend the polarities that threaten to pull us apart. (These are the either/ors that eventually drive us crazy, so that, if we’re lucky, we “crack.” This, too, lets the light in. Eckart Tolle’s and Byron Katie’s stories are illustrations of this.)

Sky From Bangor on the Interstate
© Phyllis Capanna

Today I found myself saying to a client (those readings again!) that sometimes the best way to transcend a crippling personal mental environment is to give up trying to solve it and focus on taking meaningful actions. Do good work, nurture relationships that matter, learn how to love better.

Mental weather patterns that won’t give demand only one thing: Stop waiting for the weather to change to live your happy life! Have your parade in the rain. Wear a parka to your picnic. Plant daffodils in your snow banks.

Instead of referencing your sore spots (Nobody believes in me, I don’t have enough credentials, I’m afraid to ask for what I need) shift your focus to a larger goal, the one that would motivate you to get out of bed in the morning if you let yourself live it, if only in your own head. (Which is where it has to start its life anyway.)

Here’s the really startling truth about stopping picking at your scabs and focusing elsewhere: It requires giving up hope. That’s right, we have to give up the hope that by constantly attending to them, we will somehow manage to heal our wounds instead of re-opening them again and again.

Of course, it doesn’t really mean giving up all hope. It means letting go of misplaced hope. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not within our power to heals ourselves, just this once. Maybe we have to place our trust in something greater, impossibly mysterious, and endlessly unfathomable, but as dependable, not as the weather, but as the light. It might take something that big to heal that one intractable wound. That one.

This is essentially how I came to writing, readings, making little cards, doing workshops, and everything else I have done: By paying attention to the drive to translate what I care about into actions that connect me to people, to life itself. It’s my desire to be out on the dance floor despite the things that might trip me up.

Ultimately, it is love that got me here. In spite of my deepest insecurities and lack of credentials, this is my act of love to myself and to the world.

Do you hold yourself back from your act of love to the world? What if you ignored yourself and did it anyway?

© Phyllis Capanna
© Phyllis Capanna


© Phyllis Capanna
© Phyllis Capanna

In other words, the pieces are in place. Now.

What the Universe wants you to do is see that this is true. How? Have you ever colored all over a page with bright crayons, then colored over that with a black crayon, then scratched away the black to make a pretty picture?

The Universe wants you to clear away what’s in the way of receiving now everything you need to fulfill your dreams. The best way to do that is to ask and take action. Need a studio or office space? Ask. People. Talk about it. Need an extra $1000 to get started? Ask. Knock on doors, fill out applications, go to a bank, talk to resource people, research and connect.

Picture yourself and your daily world. Now picture a door, and on the other side of that door is your dream, come true. This message is about opening that door. Chances are you have been up in your head. Out of fear you have not taken steps toward fulfilling a key part of your dream.

Create some energy around your dream by actively engaging in making it happen. And here’s the trick: Don’t get hung up on immediate results. Just take actions. Small actions, big actions. Trust your instincts.

In this creative partnership, the Universe is saying it is your turn to take the lead, and the Universe will yield it all to you.

photo: Phyllis Capanna
photo: Phyllis Capanna

The preceding post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Soul Messages: Lavish Love Notes for the Soul. Except for sharing on social media with attribution to the author, no portion of this blog or post may be disseminated without written permission from the author/publisher. © 2104 Phyllis Capanna

For more Soul Messages, check out the whole deck, available here.

Coming Soon! The Soul Messages book! (Due date: March 15, 2014) Sign up for my mailing list (to the left or below) to receive the birth announcement and to get in on the festivities.

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by Phyllis Capanna © 2014 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.  © 2014 joyreport

You Have Brilliant Ideas and Instincts


There’s that word again: Brilliant. Maybe brilliant isn’t what you thought it was. Maybe it’s quieter and subtler than you thought.

Maybe you are so busy playing traffic cop to your thoughts that you have forgotten how to be curious and playful with your amazing mind. Maybe your wonderful mind is presenting you with the answers you need, and you aren’t paying attention.

Have you gotten into the habit of analyzing and demanding proof long before you have given any of your ideas a chance to breathe? Do you find yourself talking yourself out of what you know, instead of trusting it and acting on it?

Maybe you think other people are smarter than you. Maybe you don’t think you even have instincts. “Other people are intuitive and wise, I’m just going along.” Maybe you have been lettings others’ voices and needs be louder than your own. Those who are seen as wise and brilliant have probably given their ideas a little more air and positive regard than the rest of us.

It’s simple: Our lives originate in our minds. Some of what churns through there is crap – re-runs, carping, worries – and some of it is the great calculator keeping everything running smoothly, and the rest is thinking up our lives: What if I tried wearing bright yellow? Can I add audio to my eBay listing?  How about an addition for the washer and dryer… A way to use banana peels to make plastic? … Band-Aids on my fingers for guitar practice

This message wants you to keep the flow going, not to stop because something might be unrealistic, or poorly timed, or completely half-baked and crazy. This message is a green light in a sea of yellow. It’s a friend who believes in you. It’s an optimistic maybe and an invitation to keep exploring. It might work, or it might never happen. The proof isn’t needed right now. Just relax and enjoy what’s going on in there. Listen to yourself and give yourself some credit for having a fine and unique way of looking at things.

You are partnering with the Force of Life to create the little corner of the Universe known as you! The Universe wants that corner to be equipped with everything you need! So when you, the engineer, show up, it wants you to keep creating! It’s given you the tools; it’s your job to use them.

Try out this message for a day. Tape it to your bathroom mirror, your dashboard, your laptop, or your diary. Write it on your palm. Share it with a friend and take turns saying it to each other. If nothing else, it will teach you to recognize an idea or instinct when it shows up, and that is a very good first step toward strengthening your confidence and turning those ideas into something satisfying.

The Universe is with you! And thanks for listening…to yourself!

Wood Sculpture

This post contains links to three examples of people who listened to themselves and created something great! I hope you’ll read about Elif Bilgin, who created a bioplastic from banana peels, visit the amazing It’s A Burl workshop and store in Kerby, Oregon, where fantastic things and creatures are found in wood, and check out my Soul Messages page, where you can purchase an entire set of Soul Messages: Lavish Love Notes for the Soul, currently discounted to make room for new inventory with my updated web address.

And a heads up that on July 30th I will be teaching a workshop in Blue Hill, ME, Pull Up Your Big Girl Power Pants: Creative Visualization for Women (men welcome!) Stay tuned for more details!

Thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts!