Me and Sophie: Walking

Ah, the blank page. How it stares back at us. I have been away for a long time.

Never very far, occasionally peeking in to see what others are doing. Away mostly because I needed to recharge and the only way to do that was to step back. Way back. Then learn to walk a different way.


I became a Grand Aunt last year, and Sophie is the light of life. She’s an old soul. And she knows it. The whole dynamic of the family changed when she arrived 10 months ago.

My brother became ill and gave us quite a scare, things have definitely been different for all of us. He’s fine, just needed to make adjustments, and although the concern for him is great, I tear up every time I watch him with his first grandchild.

I spent last Saturday with her, reaching for me immediately when I walked in the door. She wanted nothing to do with anyone else. It caught me by surprise because she wasn’t feeling well and she was cranky, and her parents were away for the weekend taking a break so I figured she would only want Grampa or Gramma. But she clung to me all day.  When she got upset or afraid, she came to me. She was up and down, in my arms and then wanting to be on the floor. She never really crawled, she likes someone to hold her hands and let her walk around. A little wobbly so she held my hand and we walked all over the house most of the day. But I knew she was ready to go it alone. It was the moment where you recognize that they are only holding your hand out of fear. They just don’t know their own ability yet, they need to be encouraged to move forward alone and be reassured that they will be ok. Now she’s running back and forth, flailing her arms about and laughing the whole time. She’s fearless. Her sass is strong. She can’t be stopped. (Kinda like her auntie?)

About the time she was born, I relocated to a 150 year old home in peaceful, quiet community of Illinois. Close enough to civilization, but tucked away. My family is not too far away and I am surrounded by the best new friends I would have never met had I remained where I was, or had moved to place where I was not meant to be.

Now I have spent the last 10 years wanting to leave Illinois. But because of Sophie and my brother, I don’t want to be very far away. Besides, Sophie is going to be a big sister nearer the end of the year, and I won’t miss it. Life is such a mystery at times.

During my writing break, I worked part-time for a Midwest winery and over the course of only one year, became a Sommelier. I discovered a passion for winemaking and wine education, that interestingly enough, I never discovered the entire six years I lived near California wine country.  I have a long way to go in certification levels, and have no idea how far I will be able to go, but I’m in the flow and following the right path. The goal this year is to become certified in Napa Valley wine as a specialty and continue to pursue the master levels. Lots of studying ahead.

Not sure where any of it will take me, and that’s ok.  I only know that I have to be around to watch Sophie walk her own path.


Cairenn Rhys, Spirited Quill


The Compassion Book – Ani Pema Chodron

I first became acquainted with Pema Chodron in 1999, when I was going through spiritual crisis. I had gone through a divorce and lost my mother to cancer within the same month. I was ungrounded, and for the second time in my life, I stopped speaking. Then one day, I snapped out of it and made a phone call to my spiritual counselor. She recommended that I come and stay with her for the weekend so I could retreat in healthier way and do some much needed Soul work.

After breakfast the first day, she came to me and asked me if I was familiar with Pema Chodron. I was not, so she handed me a set of DVD’s from one of Chodron’s workshops. I watched the entire series at once because I knew everything was about to change for the better. The series  transformed my life. I chose a different path that weekend, a path that has included Lojong and Tonglen meditation.

Lojong is the Tibetan Buddhist practice of loving-kindness, using fifty-nine slogans composed by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje from the 12th century. The Compassion Book is a great introduction to Lojong for new seekers and those that find themselves needing a spiritual practice that is meant for day-to-day life, in the real world. “Positive thinking” has a place, but we humans need more than just thinking “happy”. Lojong provides a more realistic approach to handling situations and encounters with others by teaching us to look at our own suffering first.

Each slogan is presented in an easy to read format, and they may seem confusing at first. Chodron’s explanations of each slogan are always clear and concise. The slogans are meant to be used in order. Do not rush. Trust the process. Then move on to the next slogan. If you follow the instruction and take the time to obtain the consciousness of applying each one, you will come away with a deeper understanding of compassion to take out into the world, for yourself and others.

This book is the perfect companion to Chodron’s The Compassion Box from 2003. The box contains a CD, slogan card deck and a pocket copy of her book Start Where You Are.  I highly recommend The Compassion Book to carry with you during the day as you begin practice, and keep the cards from the Box somewhere at home where you will see each reminder card for the day.

You do not have to be Buddhist (or of any religious faith) to practice with the Lojong slogans or Tonglen meditation. Compassion is multi-faith. Behaving from a place of loving-kindness each day transcends dogma.

The Compassion Book release date is March 21, 2017. All Ani Pema Chodron’s books and recordings can be purchased through the Pema Chodron Foundation.