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The Joy and Healing of Writing

The Joy and Healing of Writing by Yol SwanLately, I have been focusing my energy and attention on creative writing more than jewelry making. My life has taken quite a turn, with my 13-year marriage reaching an end a couple months ago, and writing has proven to be one of the most gratifying and therapeutic things I’ve ever done (excluding meditation).

I had previously written about what I thought the purpose of making jewelry was (aside from the obvious creative outlet it provides) on my post Why Am I a Jewelry Designer? Just as life had been pounding and shaping me through many trials over the last few years, I was actually expressing that in my jewelry making. You know, as within, so without.

Now the Universe seems to be orchestrating a new phase in my life, with jewelry making slowing down considerably, and the drive and need to write proportionately increasing. Aside from my Spiritual Poetry & Other Self-Reflections blog, which I invite you to visit, I am focusing on a self-help book I have been working on (on and off) for a few months now.

Interestingly enough (just in case you don’t believe in synchronicity), the book is about the self-healing tools I have learned over 27 years, which have helped me to face my life’s obstacles and pain, to grow both emotionally and spiritually. Now they are been put to the test through my current circumstances, and have proven—once again— to be amazingly effective. I just love when life gives me the opportunity to see how much I have grown by challenging me with events I have to overcome! I certainly am, now more than ever, ready to share what I have been gifted with, to help others grow and find more inner peace, including my abilities as an Intuitive Spiritual Counselor and Life & Business Coach. To check what I am up to, visit:

Yol Swan: Intuitive Spiritual Counselor, Life & Business Coach

Happy Holidays!

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The Fragility and Endurance of Life

A few days ago our dog Luna got seriously injured trying to jump over a fence in our backyard. She sliced one of her hind legs pretty badly with one of the metal sticks that held the fence in place, and was in much pain when my daughter and I rushed her to the animal hospital. I was not only in shock at the sight of her raw, bleeding leg, but also very concerned as to how deep her injury could be, and what would come from this unfortunate event. Since there was snow on the ground and I am not very good at driving in the snow, my stress level went up to the roof on the road to the hospital!

And then my energy collapsed, of course. I was sad and depressed, thinking about our beloved furry companion in pain, having to be knocked out and sewed up, away from home and the familiar faces of her human family while the vet would take care of her leg. As the anesthesia was wearing off, I sat next to her and tried to comfort her with my voice and gentle touch. She was in pain. Not only because of her wound, but also because the anesthetic was fading and she was disoriented and in fear. No ligaments or tendons were injured, but the cut was big and it happened where the skin is really tight. So she had to spend that night at the hospital, under the vet’s supervision, to make sure that the stitches would hold.

Post traumatic stress soon triggered my mind in the direction of fear, and I had to constantly keep it in check so as to not get dragged down by all the thoughts that bombarded me that night. Why this? Why now? What next? What if? I was certainly in shock at the fragility of life.

When we brought our dog home from the hospital, she was feeling much better. And so was I by looking at her, with her usual happy-go-lucky and loving attitude. She was in the moment and the past had faded quickly for her. Yet my mind was dwelling—on and off—on the shock of seeing her injured, on her pain, on trying to understand how it all happened, on the uncertainty of life and how things can radically change within a few moments. On what life has in store for each of us that we are not even remotely aware of until we’re taken on an unexpected and rocky ride, like this accident was for me.

As much as I tried to stay in the present, like Luna, my mind would take me back into the past. One of my brothers had Friedreich’s ataxia, which is one of those rare diseases caused by a recessive genetic pattern that affects muscular development and functionality. In other words, my brother lost control of his muscles over the years (due to decreasing nerve signals to the muscles) and eventually was completely paralyzed. His mind was not affected, though, so he always found a way to communicate with us and be part of the family, even as his speech was gradually impaired. I was very close to my brother, always took care of him, and felt very powerless as I was growing up. Yet I also was able to observe how he managed to surrender to his disease so completely that there was no suffering involved for him. It was the rest of us who suffered seeing his body slowly fall apart like that.

Luna’s absolute being in the present reminded me of that incredible capacity to surrender that my brother had. Like him, she was completely surrendered to what had happened to her. No ego, no thoughts, and no attachment involved in her accident. When she was in pain she would clearly express her pain, but when the pain was gone it was gone for good. It didn’t linger in her mind like it did in mine.

The legacy of my brother was to teach me the power of acceptance and endurance; of fully embracing your destiny, with absolute faith and the unfathomable certainty that everything happens for a reason even if that reason may not be readily obvious in the moment. He was able to endure 20 years of a progressive muscular disease, tied down to a wheel chair and a bed for most of his life, with a child-like, peaceful temperament and a loving attitude toward those around him. His inner strength was certainly not based on the fragility of his physical body or his ego. It came from deep within. It was the power of surrendering to life, no matter what.

Our dog Luna with her affectionate and sweet disposition reminded me one more time of such an important lesson in my life. Life is fragile indeed, but true power comes from enduring the ups and downs as they come, in the moment, and then letting them go. Surrendering to life doesn’t mean that suffering is gone. It simply means that we embrace life as it is, with its share of pain, joy, obstacles, tests, lessons, love, karma, and everything else that it comes with. Yes, we embrace life with everything that it is, with our fragility and our resilience, and we accept and endure the tough times as much as we enjoy the happy ones.

Luna is recovering really well from her injury now. It is still inflamed, but she can walk, is happy and playful, and seems ready to go back to her life in the backyard. We are still keeping her inside, though, and making sure she takes it easy until that wound is completely healed. I am recovering from letting my busy mind make me forget how precious life is, even with its ups and downs, and how each moment—no matter how shocking—is yet a new opportunity to embrace life fully.

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Trust Women

I recently learned that Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered last May, often wore a button that read, “Trust Women.” I liked that slogan. It rings true to me. It makes me think of how important trust is, and how our most fundamental rights as human beings are based on trust. It makes me think of myself as a woman, as a mother, and as a person, and how I have become who I am now. So I had to stop and ask myself, what else does Trust Women mean to me?

Well, first of all, I am a woman and I do trust myself. I cannot fathom the idea of not trusting my intuition or my own ability to think and make decisions for myself. Even when I have made what I thought were wrong choices in my life, many times they turned out to be blessings in disguise. You can say I am a self-made person. I could have never become who I am now had I not trusted my inner voice and as you may say, my gut feelings. Trusting my intuition and my intelligence has allowed me to move through life gaining knowledge of both the world and myself, while also being able to understand the complexities of the human mind. It has allowed me to be a loving mother and wife, and a creative, multi talented person and artist. I has empowered me as a woman. No, I am not simply enlarging my ego here. I truly think that trusting myself has motivated me to know who I am and what my strengths and weaknesses are to become a better person.

Trust was not something that I acquired without struggle. Where I grew up, people were always telling me how I should look, what I should eat, or buy, or do, and how I should act as a woman (to please others, or please men, or be accepted?). I had to become strong enough to listen to myself, stand up, and make my own choices. After all, what I wanted and what I didn’t want was clear to me. It came from deep within me, like flashes of certainty. I am sure glad I learned to listen to and  trust them! My mother was an intelligent and very well educated woman. She taught me the value of culture, art, tolerance, and respect. She was a very religious woman and yet she had the gift of diplomacy and tolerance, and a wonderfully open mind. I will be forever grateful to her and to all the other women and men who trusted and respected me, and accepted me for who I was. In the process of learning to trust myself I also learned to trust others and to trust life as a whole.

The ability to trust comes from having the choice to trust and also from having choices. When there are no choices there is no trust because there is no need to trust. There is only one way or the highway. Women in this country have rights and they have choices, which is not so obvious in other parts of the world. They have the ability to think, to learn and be themselves, and —more importantly—make their own decisions. Women are intelligent, sensitive beings with deep intuition and an incredible capacity to love and give. Yet this capacity to give should not be taken for granted with the thought that their rights can be taken away, including reproductive rights, because those are just as fundamental as any other right. In my book, freedom is not only a fundamental human right, but the uttermost spiritual aspiration of a human being.

Who is to say what life has in store for any of us? We often want to believe that we are in control of things, but I’ve learned that life has its own agenda and it takes me where I am supposed to go to learn the lessons I am supposed to learn. The more I resist, the more I suffer, so in a lot of ways my spiritual path has been to learn to completely surrender to life. To let go and let God, without judging the choices others make. Their path may be different than mine, and they may have to learn lessons that are different than mine. So who am I to judge or impose my belief system upon them?

To me, Trust Women means learning to listen to your inner voice, and it also means learning to accept others’ free will. It’s not about what you or I believe in, it’s about having the choice to believe and choosing to respect that I may not share your beliefs and you may not share mine. It is about trusting each other, trusting ourselves, and trusting women to make the right choices. It is about empowering women to be and believe in themselves. Most of all, Trust Women is about freedom and respect. And that is the foundation to peace and tolerance in the world.

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Avatar, Spirituality and Hope

I ended up going to watch the new movie Avatar last night with my hubby. I won’t tell the whole story because it is a movie you should go see, but a brief summary may be helpful.

The basic theme is clearly reminiscent of Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, and 10,000 BC (even Pocahontas?) and other movies with the theme of the stranger who somehow becomes integrated into a community of indigenous people, ends up falling in love, and then bringing others together to fight a common enemy, of which he was originally part of. Except that in this case the “indigenous” community lives in the planet Pandora, where a US corporation has a military base (with ex-marine contractors) and is ready to take over their land to serve the interests of its greedy investors by collecting the precious mineral Unobtanium, which can save the Earth from its present energy crisis. Sounds familiar?

Pandora’s air is poisonous to humans. Some American scientists created the Avatar Program, which basically enables people to link with their own “avatar,” a genetically-bred human-Pandora native hybrid and transport themselves through a special chamber (much like a sensory deprivation chamber) amidst the actual indigenous Na’vi people, who are these very tall, slender bluish beings, in a sort of parallel reality.

Jake, the main character, is a paraplegic ex-marine who, through a series of chain events, ends up being accepted by the Na-vi people and trained in all their skills by a native woman named Neytiri (whom he marries). Jake lives a double life. His physical body is in the lab chamber while his mind is in the magic world of the Na’vis. When his chamber gets unplugged, he comes back to human reality. In the Na’vi world, he is free to run and fly on magical creatures while discovering their ways. In the human reality, he has to record everything he is learning and respond to the demands of both scientists and army superiors, who are using him for their “reconnaissance mission” to invade, relocate the natives, and take the precious mineral they want. Interestingly enough, the name is unobtanium, which probably refers to the fact that it is unobtainable for them, as it is the energy force that maintains Pandora..

Yet the ways of these spiritual indigenous beings, who are so incredibly connected to the forest, their ancestors, and the energy around them, slowly transforms Jake and his perception of the world. Through learning their ways and seeing through their eyes, his mind gets purified and he truly becomes one of them. After some sad and action-packed events, he becomes their leader and summons other clans to fight  together against the American corporate army. Eventually he is given a new life with the Na’vi by transfusing his life force onto his “avatar” on Pandora and letting go of his human form.

Anyway, this is one of those movies you need to watch to understand what I am saying. And more importantly, the visual effects are amazing! The world of the Na’vi is so visually astounding that it is impossible to describe. The colors, the animals, the flowers, even how the grass lights up at each step… It is a fascinating and magical world, filled with energy and beauty. That alone is worth paying your ticket at the movie theater and watching it on the big screen.

On the other hand, although the movie is a feel-good type of movie, with a happy ending, for some reason it did not make me feel good. Yes, the indigenous communities, in conjunction with Mother Nature, defeat the greedy officials and deranged US soldiers, but their most important tree, their life giving tree, which is connected to all other trees and creates a network between nature and people, is destroyed in the process. This is what war does, no matter who wins in the end. In the movie, the Na’vi move on with their lives, but the destruction caused by the US army will never be forgotten and their landscape will never be the same. The wounds of war will remain.

The gorgeous landscape of Pandora is even more acutely contrasted by the incredibly powerful weaponry that the army has. There is this AMP suit, which is a bipedal exoskeleton gigantic robot-like cabin that allows the soldiers to walk on Pandora’s territory without having to breathe the air, while also serving as a shield, a machine gun, and an army suit. Of course it is huge and powerful. I can’t help but thinking that these things actually exist, or are in the process of being created. Why? Probably because one of the main things that the movie reminded me of was the human capacity for arrogance, greed, and power lust. There is only a handful of humans in the movie that do not want to destroy Pandora or don’t have an agenda. And there is only one (Jake, the hero) who gets transformed and switches to “the other side,” mainly because he has nothing to lose and simply surrenders to the process. As he even says to his future-wife, “his cup is empty.” Everyone else is driven by greed, intellectual arrogance, or plain ignorance and brutality.

Of course, I have to remind myself that the spirit of the Na’vi is also within all of us, and that on some level we all have the capacity to explore other worlds within, where there is beauty, peace, and love. Like Jake, we live our lives in the world of humans, surrounded by greed and violence, and mostly driven by our selfish ego, but we can also tap into a different reality where we connect to everyone and everything, realize who we are, and completely surrender to our divine nature and the process of life.

The Na’vi believe that everyone is born twice. To me, that means that we are born once with a physical body, and then the second time we are reborn in the world of spirit and awaken to the reality of our true self. That is our ultimate goal.

Neytiri tells Jake that “all energy is borrowed and one day we have to give it back,“ which obviously refers to the energy of life, or life force, that connects everyone and everything around us. Unfortunately, humans have been very good at taking from the Earth, but not so much at giving back, so now we are on the brink of destruction while the world is still driven by pure greed.

I can’t help but wonder why they entitled the movie Avatar. In Sanskrit, the meaning of the word avatara is that of the descent of a deity into human form. In other words, an avatar is a direct manifestation or incarnation of the Divine in human form, that is, one that has not had to reincarnate a million times before, but appears directly to help humanity in times of great need. In the movie, Avatar is the name of the scientific program and also the hybrid creatures that allow humans to live in Pandora as a Na’vi being. Obviously, in this case the avatar is a human who saves planet Pandora. But is he who saves the planet or is the planet that saves him? And why Pandora? Because after all the destruction brought by the US army, like in the Greek legend, only hope remains. One of the most important goals of any avatar is to bring hope, because without hope human life would not exist.

The movie made me reflect on the darkest side of human nature, and how greed and power rule our poor, devastated Mother Earth, but it also reminded me how important it is for each of us to look within and find our creative, magic, and spiritual nature, transform our own motivations and environment, and hold on to hope for a brighter future. Similarly to Jake, our physical body follows its own needs in the world, and is ruled by the laws of nature, but our mind is what needs to be trained and purified in order for us to reconnect with our true nature. In other words, we need to find the avatar within while letting go of the outer demands of the ego.