Her Name Is Jill.

 

She was born to me 51 years ago, this coming May of 2018. I was 18 years old, and I was supposed to be filled with shame. I wasn’t. I was convinced that I was carrying a baby for another woman who could not. I knew that I would have to place the baby for adoption. I also knew intuitively that someone was already anticipating her arrival. I could feel it.

 

I lived in a home for unwed mothers in Indianapolis—this was 1967, after all. At that time, there was no family support for a young unmarried, pregnant woman. Not even my parents knew I was there. One of my aunts and my older sister helped me to get into the home, and helped me with a backstory for my parents. They thought I was staying with Aunt Jo in New Hampshire, helping her out with childcare while she needed it.

 

I arrived at the Home when I was six months pregnant, with a box of clothes and a Ukulele. While I was there, I taught myself to play some very basic songs (like Kumbaya), and played for the little Mass service on Sundays. I also met two of the loves of my life while there: Richard Niebuhr and Teilhard de Chardin. Early during my stay, I took the bus to a bookstore and bought Radical Monotheism and Western Culture, by Niebuhr, and Hymn of the Universe, by de Chardin. Have you ever read books that set fireworks of harmonics off inside? These two do that inside of me. I can honestly say I don’t know that I understood what I was reading at the time. I can only say that reading them helped me to settle into something larger, more harmonious and stable, inside of me.

 

But I was only 18 years old—still a teenager—one who was absolutely internally bereft and inconsolable at having been left by the young man (also a teenager) whom I loved with all my heart. (He fell in love with someone else, as teenagers often do.)

 

She was born a little early and weighed just over five pounds. Because of that, I didn’t get to hold her until she arrived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at Catholic Charities. I was told when she would be there and that I would need to come in to sign the adoption papers that released her to her parents.

 

I got to hold her for about ten or fifteen minutes. The memory of those moments still make me cry, feeling at the same time both gratitude and loss. That is life, though, right? I often feel at least two feelings at one time. Gratitude that she would be able to have a loving, stable environment (something that I could not give her), and loss of this baby girl, who had been conceived and carried with such love.

 

Fast-forward to about 17 years ago.

 

I was on an escalator in a mall going down when I saw her. I had held her for just those few minutes, thirty-plus years before, and I recognized my baby in the eyes of a woman who was riding the escalator up.

 

I decided to write to her through Catholic Charities, told her a little about myself and asked her if she would write back to tell me how her life had been. I also wanted to know if she would like to meet me. After a few months, she wrote back. She told me that her life had been filled with so much love that it had a near-fairy tale quality. She didn’t want to meet me because she didn’t want to hurt her parent’s feelings.

 

But, she said, she knew she was adopted and had always been curious about me. Because of that, when she was out in the world, she would look into the faces of people around her to see if anyone looked like her. She said that once when she was riding a mall escalator she saw a woman looking at her who looked like she had seen a ghost.

 

She realized she would look like that woman when she was older.

 

I have had two more children, who are also “loves of my life,” who were also conceived and carried in love, and who also create fireworks and harmonics inside of me.

 

And I am grateful for all of it.

Regina

 

Adventuring 2

The adventure is underway.

The house is for sale. And I am in the middle of the process of examining everything I own (once again), looking at it to decide whether it is extraordinarily valuable to me, and because of that status, should travel with me on my  adventure, or if it is merely very important, and so should be stored until I’ve decided where on Earth to land and plant myself. At this point, I’ve got everything I own whittled down to that which is at least meaningful and important to me, so I am now giving things away that reside in that category.

Every stick of furniture will either be sold or given away.

The only things going into storage, are my paintings, blank canvases, easels, and all painting supplies, books (only a few will make it into the car with me), clothes and boots/shoes that I will take pleasure in wearing again, kitchen equipment and tools that I use a lot, and a few other meaningful items.

There are a few things that have lived with me for a very long time, but have always resided in a drawer. One such is the compact case in the photograph (above and right here).

This case is something my mother passed along to me. She had given it as a Christmas gift to her mother, purchased with earnings from her very first job. It is beautiful and means a lot to me. My mom’s Mom, after whom I was named, Regina Reynolds McNulty, was one of the rare people in my life who took the time to look into my eyes and see me. The real me. Not just a projection of what she wanted me to be. She had a spirit like mine.

So, this compact case with it’s chamois pouch is both meaningful and extraordinarily important. I’ve cleaned Nana’s face powder from it’s interior and it will serve a new purpose as the holder of the cards I’ll give to old friends and new who’d like to stay in touch while I’ve no actual address. The new cards list my cell phone, email, and website address on the front with a photo of “My Incandescent Wild Soul” painting, while the reverse side displays five recent paintings, one of which is not complete yet.

The painting of the flame colored lily above, entitled “What Would Love Do,” while not yet finished, must travel with me. This is why. My three major travel companions, from moment to moment right now, and on this adventuring with me are: 1. My intuition. 2. The question (whose answer must include me), “What would Love do?” and 3. Radical Trust.

The part of me that craves safety keeps wanting to plan this adventuring. Then my three travel companions crop up in mind and remind me of who I am, and they ask me kind of a snotty question: how can something be an adventure if you know what is going to happen? That makes me laugh out loud, and I step into Radical Trust.

Take care,

Regina

40 Years of Zen Follow-up

 

The other day a reader left a question on my website asking me to write about the continuing impact, if any, of the 40 YOZ brain training that I wrote about on September 29, 2017.

 

There is a remarkable difference. The neuroscientist at 40 YOZ, Dr. Drew Pierson, explained to us that the brain would continue to heal and improve for about six months, and that at about three months post training, most participants report an exponential growth in brain functioning.

 

There are a few ways in which I have experienced just that.

 

The first is the way in which I think. For as long as I can remember, I have been a slower thinker. I’ve always been able to get to the correct answer, but it has always taken me awhile. The brain trauma I suffered was the likely culprit.

 

When I was in the first grade, my teacher, Sister James (from Saint Andrews Grade School in Fort Wayne, Indiana), told my parents that my IQ was that of a genius. By the time I was in the third grade (at Saint Jude’s Grade School, Fort Wayne, Indiana), that teacher told my parents that they should never expect much from me because my intelligence was mediocre at best. My guess is that something happened in between first and third grade that injured my brain.

 

At 40 YOZ, my brain worked at a computer program each day that was designed to allow the brain to heal itself. I watched in amazement as I saw my brain do the work of healing itself in real time. It was extraordinary.

 

I have noticed an amazing improvement in the speed at which I think! It makes me happy to think more rapidly and be able to respond quickly and easily.

 

The second way that I’ve noticed brain improvement is a bit more difficult to describe, but here goes.

 

In the 40 YOZ brain-training experience, each day I spent hours during the mornings and afternoons hooked up to equipment that helped me to learn how to tell when my brain was producing an Alpha brain wave level. When the brain is functioning at Alpha level brain waves, it is possible for forgiveness and gratitude to occur. I mentioned in the first writing about this experience, that the brain injury is the likely culprit that kept me from being able to develop much Alpha level brain wave, and the meditation practice is what helped my brain to function at closer to what we might think of as a “normal” level.

 

I have watched my brain improve exponentially in this ability. I watch with amazement as I move from hurt feelings, into forgiveness, and move very quickly into a state of feeling grateful for what I’ve learned from the experience. In fact, I notice that I’m experiencing gratitude much of the time now. I feel a glowing warmth radiating from the center of my chest outward, which I recognize as the feelings of gratitude and love. This is now a common state of being for me; whereas, prior to the 40 YOZ training program, I would achieve this kind of experience during meditation and occasionally at other times.

 

It simply feels better to be grateful all the time.

 

A third difference is with memory. Before the training, I confess that I was a little worried about my memory. I would experience memory lapses every day, sometimes several times. Now, it is rare when I can’t remember something.

 

I feel like I’m functioning on all five burners of a four-burner stove!

 

Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to answer them.

 

Take care,

Regina

reginaleffers@gmail.com

Adventuring

Adventuring

 

I am at the beginning of a journey that I’ve never made before. I’ll be packing very little into the car to travel with me. In addition to jeans, hiking boots, yoga mat, laptop, and a few very precious books, I’m taking my curiosity, my very interesting mind, practice of meditation, and questions like: “What would Love do?”

 

I am leaving behind (for good) all ideas about what I ought to be. I’ve spent an adult life trying to live conventionally, and have spent that same adult life having to then undo everything I had tried to put together. Most importantly, I do not want to try to build a life that is primarily acceptable to anyone else but me.

 

I’m 69 years old. It’s time to shake myself up and let go of anything that is “not-me.”

 

I’ve never asked myself the question: “where would I like to live?” I’ve simply followed the dictum to “bloom where you are planted.” And I have.

 

Now I’m most interested in discovering how it feels to live in places that appeal to me. My plan is to rent a furnished studio apartment for a month at a time and explore the areas in which I’m interested. I will engage in each community to see what that feels like—I’ll take yoga or meditation classes and do hiking meet-ups, for example. I also intend to take my laptop to local coffee shops and see what it feels like to work on the books I’m writing. (Sometimes I feel like I am a busy airport with books circling overhead like planes waiting to land!) I would like to plant myself in a supportive, open, friendly, and creative environment.

 

There are places I’ve always wanted to see, like Yosemite National Park and Crater Lake National Park, so I’ll do that along the way. There are also specific people who inspire me that I’d like to meet, if possible, like Meinrad Craighead, a visionary artist. (www.meinradcraighead.com) I would like to visit Georgia O’Keefe’s studio and home. I have been attracted to some of her paintings, but mostly I’ve admired her ability to live on her own terms. Being in the process of making that internal move myself, makes me want to use her space as a touchstone.

 

There is a young artist in Portland, Oregon, whose loose style touches me. Her name is Flora Bowley (https://florabowley.com), and she teaches workshops—I’ll sign up for one of them while I’m exploring that area. There is also a place on the coast of Maine that I’d like to revisit. It was there, on a trip by myself to Clark Island, that I felt more internal freedom than I had ever felt before. I stayed at a place called the Craignair Inn www.craignair.com, which was a small, old-fashioned Inn with a five-star rated dining room! The food was unbelievably good! It is that feeling of internal freedom that I’m curious about. I’m wondering if it had to do with geographic location or one of those experiences that show me the internal space from which I’d like to live.

 

I’ll keep you posted as I do this adventuring. The book that I am currently working on has this working title: The Consciousness Bible.

Take Care,

Regina

40 Years of Zen

I recently spent a week at 40 Years of Zen, a brain training program, founded by Dave Asprey (Bulletproof), on the outskirts of Seattle, Washington.  The week was profound so I want to share it with you.  It’s an expensive training program, but in my estimation, it is worth every cent!

The staff works with just 4 people at a time, so each student is extremely well supported during the week’s training.  The Head of Neuroscience at 40 YOZ, Dr. Drew Pierson (above left), worked with us, along with his research assistant, Sam Tullman, and Psychologist, Brad Lichtenstein (above right).  I’m the one in the center.

On the first day, they mapped our brains.  From the brain map, I discovered that at some point in my life, my right prefrontal cortex was injured severely enough to cause a head trauma that affected a number of areas in my brain.  Dr. Pierson told me that with this kind of trauma he would expect that I would have trouble focusing, trouble falling asleep, and have memory issues.  What I discovered is that the meditation that I have practiced, both morning and night daily for nearly 40 years now, has worked to counteract those expected problems.  He set up a training program for me to help my prefrontal cortex learn how to repair itself.  It was awesome!  I got to see that part of my brain healing itself in real time! Each time I worked with the program, the difficulty of the task was increased, and that part of my brain rose to the occasion to learn what it needed to do to solve the problem.  I was directed to simply focus on the screen, keep my eyes still, and observe.  I didn’t have to try to do anything.  I was told that my brain would do the work on its own.  I can’t tell you how exciting that was for me!

And that was only one part of the training program!

I went to 40 YOZ with the following goal:  I wanted to forgive everything and everyone from my past; let go of any and all resentment or grudges held.  In effect, I wanted to rewrite my entire history through the lens of gratitude.  There were some persistent issues that I’ve worked on with counselors several times in my life, and I would arrive at a place of understanding, even forgiveness.  But ultimately, the issue would come back up and cause internal pain again.  I don’t know if the persistent nature of the issues were because I felt embarrassed and was rendered incapable of mining deeply enough to get to gratitude, or if I simply never felt safe enough to find resolution.  Before I went, I set the intention to address the issues so thoroughly that I would get past understanding and forgiveness, and enter into a feeling of gratitude.  I was determined to tell the whole truth, no matter how embarrassed I felt, and “leave it all on the dance floor,” as they say.  I did.  My life has been rewritten, and I am able to “forgive-into-gratitude” in the moment.

While there, I also learned how to tell when my brain wave is functioning at an Alpha level, which is the level at which thorough forgiveness and feelings of gratitude occur.  This is helpful for generating forgiveness-into-gratitude, in the moment that a perceived wrong occurs.  I also learned that my strongest brain wave level is Gamma, which is essentially the meditation brain wave, and that my left and right brain do an excellent job of communicating with each other (also a benefit of having a daily meditation practice).

Last, but not least, there’s Gil, the 40 YOZ Chef.  He cooks and serves up Bulletproof-inspired lunches and dinners that are delicious!

I strongly recommend the 40 Years of Zen brain training program.  You can read more about the program at www.40yearsofzen.com.

Regina

PS.  The moral of this story is–if you don’t have a daily meditation practice yet, it’s time to begin!

PSS. Even if it’s only a few minutes a day–begin!

 

 

Living My Questions

This photo is from The Bodacious Book of Succulence by SARK.

When I read this quote by Rilke, it tumbled down the stairs in my mind and crashed at the bottom with a resounding “WHOOP” of joy + a little pain!  I don’t know if you’ll be able to read it from the photograph, so I’ll write it out here.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.  Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”  Rainer Maria Rilke

In one fell swoop, I came to the realization that I have tried to come up with the answers to unanswered questions that exist in my heart all of my life.  All of it!  In fact, I thought it was my duty to come up with the answers to unanswered questions that live in my heart, and then try to make those answers happen.  As a side note, I’ve always read the last chapter of any mystery story (as soon as I started to feel afraid, not knowing what would happen), within the first several chapters of any book.  That does say a lot about my personality, right?

When I landed at the bottom of the stairs in my mind, I felt the very QUIET WISDOM, the soul-stirring resonance contained within the action of “liv(ing) the question now.”  I realized that in trying so hard to answer all unanswered questions, it gave me no chance of simply listening to the direction, the murmurings, the callings of my own Incandescent Wild Soul.  The very direction that is able to lead me outside of any culturally approved and expected choices.  The very direction that leads me to live as BOTH the author AND the main character of my own life.  The very direction that leads me to choose myself and to live my Incandescent Wild Soul on the full page of my life rather than relegating it to the margins.

So, here I am, learning to love the questions that live in my heart.  Here I am learning to hold them as Sacred.  Here I am learning that answers to those questions will come to me when I am ready and able to live them.  Here I am learning to trust that if I am able to hold the questions tenderly enough, I will “gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

From my Incandescent, Wild Soul to yours,

Regina

 

Presence and the Creative Soul

 

I have had a daily practice of meditation for going on forty years now.  It isn’t any particular brand of meditation, although I’ve tried many different methods.  About thirty years ago, I had an experience that affected me profoundly.  I wrote it down and have kept it where I could read it once in a while.  The page it is written on is yellowed and ragged-edged.  I am going to recount that experience here.

 

“I entered into a space—it seemed like a room, but there were no boundaries.  It felt populated by presences, and then as I just stayed with the experience, it felt more like a single Presence.  The whole feeling in the room was that of total, focused, intense interest.  I felt as though this Presence couldn’t wait to see what I would choose to do next!  Presence was completely absorbed by the unfolding of me in particular, as when one is completely taken up in a book such that it is impossible to put the book down—the story has you—it holds your interest completely.  As I continued the meditation with unwavering attention, I began to experience this Presence holding that same level of intense interest in Humanity.  I experienced the attention of this Presence absolutely riveted upon us.  I felt no judgment, only care and excited interest.”

 

When I first experienced this meditation, I didn’t quite know what to make of it.  And to tell the truth, it kind of scared me.  But as I’ve continued to work with it, I have experienced more of this Presence’s interest, sometimes even as I go about the business of living my everyday life.  If you have ever been walking along a sidewalk, looked across the street and caught a glimpse of yourself in a building’s reflection unexpectedly, and had the feeling of surprise and not quite recognition—that is a wisp of what this feels like.  I’m afraid that’s not explained very well, but it’s the best I can do right now.  In more recent years, I have come to know that my life—what I choose to do with each moment—best mirrors the quality of this Presence when I am completely absorbed and interested in what I am doing.

 

Lately, I have spent most of my days completely absorbed and interested in my work.  I will tell you more about that in my next post (and I won’t wait so long to do that!).

From my wild soul to yours,

Regina

United States Women’s Leadership Development Council

This is a call to all women who are citizens of the United States of America.  We are starting the United States Women’s Leadership Development Council (USWLD).  Please join us!  First, I will tell you the purpose of the USWLD; then I will tell you why we must do this.

PURPOSE: Our mission is to develop women to lead/govern/run for President, Senate, Congress, Governor, Mayor, and so on.  We will create conferences (or collaborate with existing conferences) to teach women the following:

1. How to create a vision large enough to unify and solve problems taking the long view of the country, a state, a city, etc. (We currently have fear-based, short term problem solving.)

2. How to lead, think, problem solve, and govern using the principles of democracy.

3. How to fundraise using a new paradigm that works for the citizenry and the entire economic base.  (The current fundraising paradigm privileges corporate donors over the citizenry.)

WHY WE ARE CALLED TO DO THIS:

  1.  Too many intelligent and thoughtful young women are not even considering the possibility of running for president/governing this country.
  2. We have a country of citizens who think “politics is dirty.”  (“Dirty” in this case means unethical, sleazy, etc., something too many thoughtful, intelligent women would avoid.)
  3. When we are aware of a systemic problem, we have a responsibility to assist in cleaning it up!  (To quote my mother, and probably all mothers, “it won’t clean itself up!”) We simply cannot pass this “dirty” system along to our children and grandchildren.

Let’s work on fixing this together!  Who’s with me?

 

Art + Intention Workshop

Art + Intention Workshop led by Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.: May 26, 2017, Ludington Area Center for the Arts (LACA), 10AM to 4PM.  Call 231-845-2787 to register.

The intention here is to pick a change that you would like to make in your life, and then have fun making something that represents that change.  (You do not have to be an artist in order to participate in this workshop.)  First, you’ll spend some time defining the change you want to make, and then will create a meditation piece that reflects that change.  Each day looking at your piece first thing in the morning and then again before you go to bed at night will enable you to keep your desired change at the forefront of your mind, making it easier to achieve. We will meet from 10AM to 4PM with a short break for lunch at noon.  All materials and a box lunch are provided.  You will take a 20″x20″ meditation piece home with you, along with written instructions about how you can work with it each day.

Participant cost for this one day workshop is $100.

Plan your stay now at: http://www.ludingtonbedandbreakfast.com or at: http://www.pentwater.org (Pentwater, Michigan is just 15 miles south of Ludington, Michigan.  Both are on Lake Michigan and have gorgeous beaches.

Living In Wholeness


Artwork by Ellen Sauer (www.ellensauer.com)

Step 9 is: Develop a practice of feeling grateful (for the miracle, as if it has already taken place–say thank you, knowing that it is in the process of coming into being).

The artwork shown was created by Ellen Sauer for the Women’s March in January 2017, and the words “Love Liberates” were written by our nation’s beloved poet, Dr. Maya Angelou. The reason I chose this piece to illustrate Step 9 is because the most important work of all in developing a practice of feeling grateful is that in doing so, we are directing the liberating quality of love toward ourselves.

This miracle began as “I want to open to living a bigger life,” has moved through “I am my Core Self,” and ends in step nine as “Living in Wholeness.”

I am grateful. Working through the process of these steps with this miracle, I’ve come upon stumbling blocks inside of me that would have stood in the way of my being able to represent my work (with gusto!). I feel confident that this miracle is “in the chute.”

Every day, as I develop the practice of being grateful for this miracle of living in wholeness, I notice places where I’m fractured–cut off from that wholeness. When I locate those fractured places and patterns, I stop and direct the feeling of compassion for myself into them. One common example that I keep running into inside of me is in the pattern of making myself small to make others feel comfortable. It’s a common one for women to experience in our culture.

When I went off to graduate school to work on my doctoral degree in Philosophy, my husband, at the time, told me that no man will ever want me because men don’t want their wives to be smarter than they are. (He had a Ph.D.) I went anyway.

As I direct compassion into this pattern, the fractured pieces of smallness dissolves, and I am once again returned to the experience of wholeness. I experience love liberating me.

CL (Choose Love)

Regina