The Cook Awakening

Solstice Stillness

December 21, 2017
Posted in: Life on Life's Terms, Meditation, Seasonal Change, Spiritual Practice

This is an edited post from January 7th, 2014. I’ve deepened my understanding of the Twelve Holy Nights. May you find value in this exploration of an age-old spiritual tradition.

Happy Solstice from our family to yours!

Solstice candles

Lights of Intention

It’s winter for real, now. The light may be returning after Solstice, but for most of us the air is cold and it’s more comfortable indoors. Or maybe under the covers.

Solstice, December 21st, marks the moment in the northern hemisphere when the day is shortest, the longest night. The tightest contraction, if you will. There’s a span of time where things stop. The days aren’t immediately longer. There’s a resting. When early Christians chose the 25th of December as the birthday of the Christ, they did so for a reason. This is when we begin to experience movement again, just the inkling of expansion. The Sun appears again.

Those first 12 days of expansion beginning on the 25th are times when you can experience the coming energy of the year. What will come into your life? What intentions will you set? The 12 Holy Nights are a time when God or the Universe or the Holy Spirit or your Higher Power, whatever words resonate for you, can be heard in the quiet. Some traditions say the 12th day, January 6th, is when the Magi visited the baby Jesus. When Yeshuah was baptized. When the Sun became known to the conscious mind.

Some say the Earth Mother has been inhaling, pressure increasing – the contraction I wrote about above. She has completed her in-breath, and these 12 days are the resting point before she begins her long out-breath. In this stillness angels circle the earth and want nothing more than you tell you what they know. Are you ready to listen?

When meditating using a focus on the breath, it can be valuable to pay attention to that moment at the top or bottom of the breath. There’s a kind of gap there, a still moment. It’s a moment when people often get lost. We forget what we were intending toward. One of my teachers recommends pausing at the top of the breath with great intention and saying a silent prayer.

This is how authentic New Year’s Intentions can come – from your Highest Self speaking to you about your next steps in life. It’s not something you want to miss in the distractions that often come our way at this time. If you are celebrating a bit of time off work, or are traveling to visit friends and family, make sure you take moments to tune in. Make it a priority.

I plan to end each night with a prayer for insight into my coming year. I’ll record any dreams I remember during the night, or in the morning. I’ve read that each of the 12 days represents a month in the chronology of the year. So, the night of the 24th may bring insight into January of 2015. The 25th, into February. And, so on.

What if your New Year Intention setting were to come from a place of listening, rather than thinking you have to make something happen? What if you were receiving your year, your next steps in life?

What is life asking of you? Can you hear her? Do you make the space for listening?

When the Rubber Hits the Road

September 15, 2017
Posted in: Health and Nutrition, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

Having babies in my early 40s was exciting. I had given up on the idea of having a family of my own— a committed partner, raising kids together. After years of mostly single life, interspersed with intense but short-term relationships, and long-term spiritual practice, I was honestly to the point of considering taking monastic vows. I was already basically living the life of a mendicant— cooking for and managing meditation retreats for half the year, and the other half of the year living in India, studying with spiritual teachers and burning in the transformational fires that only India knows how to create.

Aging lotus plants


I was happy. Not always in a pleasant way, but in a deeply congruent way that was the gift of that long-term spiritual practice. I knew that life was a journey, and I was less attached to goals. More presence, less future and past.

That fateful meeting with my now husband is a story in itself, and not what I want to focus on here.

Having babies in my early 40s was exciting… and exhausting. The relentless requirement to satisfy other beings’ needs (particularly the first, who was born 10 weeks prematurely), the constant daze of interrupted sleep, never having time alone, always being touched (particularly challenging for this introvert), was utterly depleting.
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The Fruit of Practice

September 12, 2017
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation, Spiritual Practice

A powerful, ongoing process was taken to a deeper level when I went on my annual retreat last September with my teacher, Adyashanti. This has been important for my personal and professional development, which is why I haven’t been posting very often. These inner movements need to be honored.

Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, statue by Janet Lee Seaforth, photo by Michael Floyd

Spiritual practice is not always easy. There’s often a honeymoon period that you experience when you begin to truly attend to your spiritual life – whether that’s by taking on a committed meditation or prayer practice, or listening to or reading about particular teachings, drinking them in with strong intention to learn and grow.
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A Rapidly Changing World

February 1, 2017
Posted in: Events, Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Living with Health Challenges, Meditation

It can feel challenging to know what to do these days. Where should I put my attention? What causes should I give my energy to?

Cold comfort for St Francis

I have read some great advice that I will share briefly – choose a couple of causes to give the majority of your time and money to, and trust that the other very important causes will have their champions. It’s the collective that moves change forward – no individual can be active on all fronts. And, make your phone calls about as many issues as you are able.

Continue to do your personal work. The more you understand about how your psyche works, the more you learn to sit with and manage your grief, the deeper your spiritual understanding is – the more resourced you will be to respond to the world in a grounded and effective way.
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Dying to Live

December 20, 2016
Posted in: Events, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Meditation

With all the urgency and polarized emotions in the world now, how can we contemplate doing “personal work”? Isn’t spending time coming to terms with our eventual death some kind of navel gazing? Wouldn’t that be a distraction from what’s really important right now? We have to DO something!

I’ll be honest, after the election I just couldn’t think much about my business, about getting the word out about the Your Year to Live group starting in January, and my counseling practice. It somehow felt trivial compared to the needs of the larger world. I felt paralyzed.

There is beauty in the obstacles

There is beauty in the obstacles

As I wrestled with a mounting anxiety in my body, I turned more and more to the spiritual practices that have been core to my life for 25 years. The practices I teach in Your Year to Live. Meditation. Radical honesty. Saying YES to whatever is, even when it feels intolerable.

I realized that finding the courage to contemplate death is actually vital in these times. Not because I think the changing state of the world is going to hasten death (although it may for some, let’s be honest), but because the fear of death can grip us, subtly or obviously, and prevent us from acting with integrity. And, because not knowing how to work with fear and anger skillfully can lead to action in the world that may not get the results you are hoping for.
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Your Year to Live Again!

December 12, 2016
Posted in: Grief, Life on Life's Terms, Living Into Death, Meditation, Seasonal Change

For the last 10 months I’ve been leading and participating in a group called Your Year to Live. We’re walking through a year together as though it is our last.

I’m starting a new cycle this January, 2017. I do hope you will join us.

Ice Storm

Ice Storm

Stephen Levine wrote the book A Year to Live nearly 20 years ago. I remember hearing about it, and wondering… why would anyone want to do that?

I wasn’t ready.

As many of you know, I midwifed my mother’s death 4 years ago. I’m grateful that she trusted me to do that. It was a painful, profound, rich experience. And, it brought me into a willingness to contemplate my own, inevitable death.
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