Soul Places

Befriending the Soul through Inquiry and Creativity

Tag: life

Dreaming Big or Shrinky-dink?

A Ferociously Journaled Page Curls
Copyright Diane Ludeking 2012

“You don’t love yourself enough to believe you deserve everything you want.” Lisa McCourt, Juicy Joy

This week found me journaling ferociously about what I deserve or what I have a right to.  It began when I realized my life is not in alignment with my dreams as much as I’d hoped.  And although I am narrowing the gap in several areas, I wanted to explore ways to narrow the gap in the areas that appear stagnant.

Seeking self-improvement is a fine line between appreciating what I have while creating something different.  Like being perfectly imperfect, it is quite a balancing act to accept myself as I am while desiring growth and change.  Which brings me to what I think I deserve or have a right to.  I cringe at both those words – deserve, right.  When I have a strong reaction like this, I know there is something there worth exploring.

“The secret to elevating every aspect of your life – love, money, health, life purpose – is simply to elevate your self-love. Lisa McCourt, Juicy Joy

Journal entry 4/24/12: I noticed I’ve been dreaming smaller lately.  Trying to fit into the limits of my own mind, not the limit of the Universe which I wrongly assume is that of my mind.  The Universe is limitless.  What is the point of limiting myself when I could have it all?  Where is my self-love lacking?  Let’s dream again…

And I dreamt big!  I filled page after page of things I’d forgotten and surprising new things I didn’t know I wanted.

Journal entry continued:  I give myself permission to dream big again.  I give myself permission to have it all.  All the dreams and the responsibility that comes with them.  I am responsible!  I am capable of managing the dream.  The dream life.  The dream life is a mirror of my alignment.  How I express my soul and manage my ego.  The dream life is a mirror of my self love.  I am not the shrinking shrinky-dink.  I am not these things that limit me – they are too small for me.  I claim my place in my dreams that are not yet as big as me.

And so goes the stream of consciousness that is journaling.  Some real gems in there and even more “to-be-continueds” as I live more life and learn more things.

Have your dreams shrunk or disappeared altogether?  Gift yourself twenty minutes today to dream big again.  And then take the first step in the direction of those dreams.  Please share your thoughts or dreams in the comments.

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow.  I think this applies to dreaming big too.


What I Need to Know in Life

The Now-Abandoned Art's Orchard

My paternal grandfather was a man with great passions for the earth.  With a seemingly fearless, entrepreneurial spirit he began an apple orchard.  He sought out the perfect, south-facing hill for his vision and purchased it.  He planted trees, nurtured them, learned about them, much how I imagined him as a father with a young and growing family at that time.  A very introverted, thoughtful man, he learned how to graft trees, press apples into cider and how to market his products through relationships.

What he needed to know about life, he learned from an apple orchard.

I remember listening to his stories and how they always seemed to come back to the land, his orchard, his family.  I reflect on his memory, his words, his ability to make meaning with what he knew best.  A thought was a seed.  An idea was a sprout.  The fruits of his labor were apples and children.  He understood the world around him better when he could compare it to growing apples.

I find myself doing the same with what I know intimately.  A lifetime with horses as mirrors and teachers has led me to making meaning from what they have taught me:  work as a unit, always fight for your life in the presence of danger, never take things personally, be congruent in body, mind and spirit.  Understanding their nature has given me tools for processing life.

What I need to know about life, I learned from horses.

Disclaimer:  While there are as many ways to process life as there are people on the planet, it is interesting to apply the lessons we learn from our dog, cat, plant, career, spiritual practices, etc.  An orchard was a significant metaphor for how my grandfather lived his life, but I’m sure there were others.  Horses are the most significant metaphor for my life, but also not the only one.

How can your area of expertise help you make meaning?  Where is the metaphor, the mirror, in what you know most intimately?

A Tantrum Over Attachment

You can barely see it, right?

A beautiful new book purchased as research for writing my fiction sits innocently on the café table.  When I fan the pages to indulge in the fresh press smell, it mocks me.  But I don’t recognize its unfamiliar, bogus tone as I replace it on the table close to me, in order to appreciate it with frequent lover’s glances.  I turn to a gifted, used, older book with great wisdom on how to write dialogue and forget about my infatuation with the new book.  Journaling ferociously about soliloquies and foils, I have gracefully begun courting the Muse.

In my altered state, my fleece entrenched arms reach around my full, carnation-white mug to consult my laptop for definitions and synonyms.  Jersey-cow colored coffee spills all over my new, slighted book with unrequited love, my spill-proof mug sitting nearby, unused.  A puddle rests on my laptop, but I am more concerned about my new book.  My most prized possessions are my books, especially the brand new ones, impregnated with unique word sequences and immaculate odors.

My face falls like the girl who got the wrong Barbie for Christmas.  It’s all wrong.  Ruined.  I throw an internal tantrum at my stupidity.  Having told myself several times to move the mug, I now torment myself with reminders of my responses:  I’ll be careful.  I know it’s there.  Holding my once perfect lover now mysteriously disfigured, I get up to retrieve a towel to begin sopping up the mess.  My writing friends exclaim, “It has character now.”  “It’s not so bad – just a few pages got it.”

And they are right.

Attachment to my books has lessened over the years, but today I realize it still needs work.  They are not my lover, slighted or otherwise.  They take turns sitting on the shelf, sometimes neglected for years.  They are pages that desire a life well lived, not unlike myself.  But instead of being thankful for the coffee stains and dog-ears on my pages, the deeply creased spine and curling leafs, I have been careful with my life, fearful of survival, pleasure and everything in between.

I will forever look at this book and be reminded of that morning in the café with my friends.  I am glad for the stains and reminded to pursue the more adventurous life that I dream of.  And that adventurous life has begun with the shifting of attachment and fear to the willingness and cultivation of the marred, perfectly imperfect page of my life.

Arriving with Awe

There is nothing that cuts you down to size like coming to some strange and marvelous place where no one even stops to notice that you stare about you.” Richard Adams, Watership Down

Have I mentioned yet that I rather fancy this book?  It was recommended to me a few years ago by a passing acquaintance.   Having no rapport with this person, I can only surmise that I was desperate for some good book titles.  I wrote it down and bought it shortly thereafter.  It then sat on my bookshelf until a week ago when I decided it was time to open it.  I find myself in a strange and marvelous place in the midst of this most unique story.

Among the red-edged pages of the original 1972 copy I hold in my hands, are the strangest of heroes.  This book reminds me of the thrill of adventure and the innocence in arriving someplace new.  I wonder at the smallness of being me and the grandness of what I have not yet experienced.  I often arrive with awe at beautiful, new physical locations, but I am increasingly arriving at new internal frontiers where the only one that notices me staring about is myself.

Eyeball to Eyeball

Handsome the Teacher

Across the wide forehead in the chiseled face of my beloved Arabian horse are a few white hairs hiding under his thick, black forelock.  Autumn has bestowed Handsome with the beginnings of a multipurpose, fuzzy winter coat.  With his nose buried in his feed bucket, he mischievously and cautiously looks about, eyes just above the rim of his worn, purple pail.  He is cautious of the other herd members milling about, a constant source of competition for food.  The mischievous glances are for me.

A while ago I shared my amazement, jealously really, at a spiritual sister’s ability to receive loud, clear responses to her prayers.  She said simply, “I ask that Spirit speaks loud as I am largely deaf.”  She is not deaf in the physical world, but apparently she is in the spiritual world.  My only proof that this worked was her bewildering results.  I thought I’d give it a whirl.

A few days ago I shared with Handsome my desire to hear him.  I requested that he speak loudly as it is my wish to have a more intimate relationship with him.  He fills his bucket with sighs that signal his understanding, echoing off the walls of his pail and floating up to my ears.  The next day I am sitting on the ground with his bucket between my legs.  Over the last month, he’s taken to flinging his food out of the pail, sending me into brief attacks of panic and defeat.  There is medicine and other expensive supplements in there.  “Please don’t waste it,” I find myself pleading with him.

Today he flings his food most determinedly and then puts his oily, intense eyeball inches from mine.

Stops chewing.

And waits.

In the first breath I think, “you defiant shit!”  And in the next breath I feel something shift.  I soften as I return his gaze.  We are frozen in time.  Immemorial.  Our souls embrace like long lost friends and I feel like we are transported to another space in time.  I am in his world now, the spirit world.  The place I’m meant to live while here on earth, a more connected universal plane where words are more of a distraction than a mode of communication.  Sounds dreamy.  And it is.

Be here with me.”  Is his message.

He is so right.  My mind had wandered to what I was going to do when I got home, what I was going to right about in my next blog, what was for lunch.  I was with him physically as he ate, but my mind was elsewhere.  He had spoken loudly to me and I got it.  Now I look forward to our eyeball-to-eyeball time, our soul-to-soul time.  Handsome is an amazing teacher, intense and perfect.

There’s a Tennis Match in My Skull

I took my twelve-year-old Golden Retriever, Dallas, to the veterinarian last week.  He has been experiencing mysterious little twitching attacks over the last few months that recently became more frequent and worrisome.  He wears the cutest, curious-puppy-dog face when it happens, as if to say, “what’s going on?” but there is nothing cute about these fits.  His body is getting older, arthritic, grey and has begun to confuse his youthful soul.

A thorough exam and lengthy conversation with Dr. Arnett at Waunakee Veterinary Clinic narrowed us down to hypothyroidism or a tick borne disease.  With his knack for explaining things in layperson terms, Dr. Arnett gifted me with a life lesson to ponder.  He said, “Perhaps these puzzling symptoms are the new normal for Dallas.  All things considered, he is a very healthy twelve-year-old dog.”  As much as I wanted to reject that theory, I knew there might be some truth to it.

My Beloved Dallas

We opted for the thyroid test first as the symptoms seemed to point most earnestly in that direction.  Dallas is at the lowest range of normal, but given his past super-athlete lifestyle, I suspected that this ‘low range of normal’ is actually his version of below normal.  More tests were recommended to help narrow down what is actually causing the low thyroid results.  As my husband and I continue to explore options for Dallas, I cannot get the conversation about “new normal” out of my head.

I am in my mid-thirties now and my body definitely doesn’t behave like it used to.  Nothing alarming, but enough change to perk my own ears and tilt my head in curiosity at.  What if these subtle nuances are my new normal?  Of course, I emphatically dismiss that inkling, wanting things to be the way they always were.  But when the wave of denial passes, I consider this notion again:  when do I stop searching for a ‘cure’ and accept the changes as the ‘new normal?’

By no means am I giving up on Dallas or myself; I intend to pursue my due diligence, all the while entertaining the questions: “Is this body or symptom my new normal?  Are these unusual tremors Dallas’ new normal?” As you read this, dear friend, those questions continue to bounce off the rigid walls of my skull like the tennis ball in a Wimbledon match.  With appreciation for a questioning mind, I will watch this match develop; returning the wicked serves as best I can while seeking a return to normal or accepting the new normal.

Easing In

My Feet in La Duna - The Danube River - in Budapest

This Friday marks the end of a year long course I took for spiritual initiation.  Each student has designed her own ceremony to celebrate this momentous year and all that she has learned.  I look forward to feeling this ritual in every fiber of my being in order to carry it with me forever – along with the rituals of my beloved sisters.  I wrote this poem a while ago but feel that it sums up this last year for me very well.

My Feet in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX

Easing In

by Diane Ludeking

Easing in until last hair joins first toe
Wholly embraced in wet solitude
A muted underwater world


Become her.
The soul you think is separate
Ghosts towards you


Your first love returned
 Together at birth, divided in life
Easing in to a baptism of belonging

The Moon’s Canvas

I have an affinity for the moon.  Perhaps it is because I am a Pisces, a water sign, and the moon controls the water like a marionette directs the puppet.  Perhaps it is because I am a fair skinned strawberry blonde and the sun makes me cringe and retreat to the shelter of a shade tree as though I may spontaneously combust with too much fire exposure.  Perhaps it is because the moon casts the subtlest shadows in the deep of night, encouraging child-like exploration.  Whatever the reason, I found myself seeking the moonlight more than usual this past full moon cycle.


Every night for the week leading up to and following the climax of the full moon, I drove to the farm where I board my horses.  My faithful, gray-muzzled Golden Retriever, Dallas, accompanied me in the back seat with his head hanging out the window.  Faintly illuminated by the moon, I see his loose lips and eyelids flapping in the cool breeze.


With feed bucket slung over my arm we embark on our nightly quest for moon cast shadows.  Tree branches rub together in the wind making creaking sounds reminiscent of ancient hinges on a door someone forgot to latch.  The hum of night creatures accompanies us with their own curiosity in tow.  We follow the trail up the hill as I call quietly for my equine friends.  Emerging first from the shadows each night is my twenty year old companion, Handsome, in search of his nightly meal.


As he munches and sighs under the magnificent oak trees, four more horses materialize to become the perfect blank canvas for the moonlight.  My other horse, Joey, comes the closest and stands with Handsome, Dallas and I in the serene embrace of night.  I begin tracing with my fingertips the shadows of the trees on Joey’s body.  He tolerates this for a time and then maneuvers his powerful hindquarters in a way that says quite clearly: “Scratch here.  Right now!”


“Joey, I’m trying to have a moment here,” I laugh at him, losing my place on his canvas and then obligingly begin to relieve his itches.  Walking mindfully among the herd I note the different patterns cast on their bodies by the shimmer of the full moon.  The muted light does not balk at the obstacles of trees, animals and weeds as it makes its way to its final destination.  It simply stops and illuminates whatever objects come between it and earth.


How do I balk at the light life gives me?  Do I allow the light to fall where it may or do I find myself wanting a different experience?  Can I too be the moon’s blank canvas?  And what would that look like?  I open my journal to a blank page and respond.


What Do a Poet and a Dietary Cleanse Have in Common?

My Yummy Cleanse

I started reading Crossing the Unknown Sea – Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity by poet David Whyte last week in order to shed more light on my fears about claiming a vocation.  The thought of stepping back out into the working world sends my heart into a free fall and when I reach for the ripcord I find nothing but whistling wind and vanishing faith.

I also decided to start a cleanse on Monday to rid my body of the holidays and any questions I have about using food to depress myself.  Coincidentally, David Whyte had a story in his book that resonated so clearly with me:

Whenever we are faced at last with a change for which we have looked for years, we must slip off the habituation of those same years and learn ourselves anew.  I remember taking a friend, known for her grand and well-loved addictions, for a Japanese meal.  She was amazed by the lightness and cleanliness of the food.  “I feel so good,” she said as we left the restaurant, “just as good as I [felt] when I came in.  This is so unusual for me with eating,” she said.   “I always overdo it.”  She went off to bed marveling at how light she felt.  The next morning at breakfast, I asked how she had slept, and with a kind of sheepish horror she confessed that she had felt so good getting into bed that she had actually been unable to sleep, as if something still had to be done and she hadn’t quite got to it.  She finally went to the pantry and pulled out the biggest, fattest bag of rustling Doritos she could find.  Once she had taken them under the covers and consumed the whole lot, she felt normal enough to go to sleep.

Okay, so that story was not coincidentally in front of my eyes at the very time I was struggling with just such an idea.  He goes on to explain my struggle:

There is a certain kind of heaviness and insulation we can grow used to.  The body can feel strange when it inhabits the world in a lighter way, when it encounters a form of happiness or fulfillment for which it has had no apprenticeship.  A lightness and litheness that gives us a sense of ease, movement and potential may bring things that have always been a struggle to us more easily, and scare us to death in the process.  It may be that we felt that lightness years ago but failed in what we wanted and now the return of that possibility can be just too overwhelming.

David Whyte has shed much awareness on the subject of failure and enduring healthy life changes for me. My desire for a more healthy body and mind is germane to the task of bringing my unique gifts to the world.  Now it is time to act with gentleness and patience as I acclimate to a new way of being in the world.


A Theater Turns into a Lion’s Den


Originally uploaded by Masaai

A serene matinee with family
Brings out the predatory lions and lionesses
An innocent boy sent to inform the voyeurs
The film is broken and will take some time to fix

A pride of lions exits, teeth bared, blood thirsty, angry indignation
Several lions at once lunge at the boy with verbal fangs, deluded claws
I watch from my perch in the middle of the theater
As all traces of blood retreat from his childlike face

His mangled intentions seize his wounded spirit
And drag it from the theater, fearful, forsaken
Safe once again outside the lion’s den
He exhales and gives thanks – his life was spared

Next a woman sent – she’s been in the den before
Free movie passes for everyone
Thanks for your patience
We are doing all we can

The prides are satisfied, licking their paws clean of a soulful meal
And as the film rolls once again
We settle in to resume our ogling
Inhaling deeply the breath of our first victim