Turn Problems Into Hope

Thoughts matter. What was the first thought you had today? Did you stress over money? Rejoice in the fact you were alive? Weep that another day had begun? Feel gratitude for your family?

I woke up with the most amazing feeling of love. I couldn’t wait to get up and share my love with the world. To share my love with everyone I know. To share my love with you. This was incredible and a long journey to get here.

Normally, I am a giant ball of stress. I make the mistake many do and try and carry the stress for my family so they can enjoy life more. How dumb is that? How can my family enjoy me if I am a giant ball of stress? I certainly am not a joy to be around when I feel this way. I am short tempered and focused on problems not fun.

It is so difficult to shift from worry, stress, anxiety, and problems to love, peace, gratitude and abundance. If you are like me you have heard live in love, practice loving kindness, only positive parenting and probably felt this was unattainable or worse yet that there was something wrong with you because you could not do this.

It is so hard to keep your cool when you are worried about how to pay the mortgage or if you have a job. Stress makes you short-sighted and short-tempered. If getting angry is second nature, then you know feeling awful for that anger follows and suddenly you are in a loop.

Emotions happen for a reason. Breathe. You are human. Stop and forgive yourself. Now breathe again. Do you want to turn life in a different direction? Do you want to find a way to live the life you dream of? Have a life you adore?

I swear it can happen. Even if you don’t know how you are going to put food on the table this week, it can happen. Each one of us has blocks to manifesting a life of abundance. Right now, if you cannot imagine your mind focusing on anything but your problems then we start with the problem acknowledgement exercise.

Problem Acknowledgement Exercise
Get a pen and paper. The back of an envelope, your journal, a napkin, anything will work. List all of the things stressing you out. No matter how big or small. No matter how personal. Especially if that voice says: this really shouldn’t bother me, absolutely list it.

Okay, you have your list. Acknowledge that is an achievement. How do you feel? Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling better for putting it all in one place? Feeling nauseous? Feeling angry? Whatever you are feeling is what you are feeling in this moment, it is not what you have to feel forever.

Take a deep breathe in your nose and a slow exhale through your mouth. Every time you feel resistance or want to give up. Breathe. Breathe until you find your resolve to move forward. You can do this!

Take a look at each item on your list. Look without honesty and judgement. How this happens only matters from the perspective of not repeating mistakes. Blame, criticism and negative-self talk will do nothing to assist you in changing things.

Focus with a clear mind, breathe if you become emotional. Breathe until you are calm and clear minded. See without judgement. If judgement begins, then breathe. Breathe until you are once again clear minded.

Is this something that is an actual problem for you or something someone in your life has told you is a problem for you. Notice I say for you? That is because we often take other peoples issues and make them our own. No matter how much you love someone and want to help them there is a huge difference between help and ownership.

Example one: Work is cutting your hours. Yes, this is an actual problem for you.

Example two: your cousin can’t pay their rent because they partied all month and didn’t save a dime. No, this is not your problem (unless they live with you and are paying the rent).

No matter how much you love this person if you are going to hurt yourself by financially, emotionally or physically helping them. Then you need to take a step back and say at this moment I cannot help them without hurting myself, so they must solve their own problem. This does not make you a bad person.

“No one was put on this earth to solve problems for everyone they meet, know or love. How do I know this? Because if that was your purpose, trust that the Universe would have given you all the resources to do so and live a life you adore.”

— Irisa MacKenzie

Once you have gone through the list and crossed off what really is a problem for you take a moment to be proud of yourself for doing something very difficult. Also, do you any items that you feel guilty for putting down or that the inner voice is saying isn’t a problem? Pull them aside and we will deal with them seperately.

Now, look at what you have left on your list and prioritize what needs to be handled. Start at the top and brainstorm solutions. In example one: Work is cutting your hours. Possible solutions: second job, new job, unemployment, roommate, evaluate finances and see if you can really survive on less, etc.

Go through each issue in front of you and brainstorm. If you do not know what to do about something try to google solutions, speak with a trusted friend or family member, meditate. Write down possible solutions, no matter how crazy they seem. Sometimes the craziest ideas hold nuggets of truth, ideas or wisdom. Only you can find the solution that works best for your life. Trust yourself!

Having a plan or part of a plan doesn’t make the problems go away, but it does give you focus and hope. Changing focus from worry to solution is a step to clearing the blocks from having a life you adore. Hope is the seed needed to find our way back to love.

Take another breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Look at the list that makes you feel uncomfortable. Are the items there something that others tell you how you should feel? Is it something you secretly desire? Be totally honest with how you feel and why. This may take some time and soul searching and that is okay. Simply acknowledging that you have these feelings about these things is the first step to doing something.

That something may be resolving an issue with another individual through communication. You may need to set clearer boundaries in your life which can be difficult and often brings feelings of guilt at first. Personally, I am still working on not feeling guilty for setting boundaries. I can tell you that it gets easier if you continue to practice this.

It may even be that what is bothering you is something someone else is telling you about yourself. This takes some self evaluation to see if it is meant with love and something you do need to focus on or if they are projecting their expectations for you onto you and those expectations are not in alignment with what you want for yourself nor do they resonate with your soul. Only you can determine this truth, but do it with total honesty that resonates from your soul. Work through any resistance until you are certain you are seeing this clearly.

Congrats on taking the first steps to making changes to create the life you adore! Does this mean you are going to start being one with loving kindness or embrace positive parenting and never get frustrated with the kids again? No. What this does mean is that you are beginning the work to creating a life that you adore.

While I cannot offer you a magic solution that fixes everything in an instant. I can offer you truths I have learned along my journey. May this wisdom reach those who need it and may the Universe continue to guide us in this amazing journey of Know Thyself to create a life we adore!

Have a wonderful day!
Irisa MacKenzie

Fear is my co-pilot; where is the eject button?

Every single one of us has Fear. The extent to which fear has twined its way into our mind, thoughts, actions and beliefs deepens the blocks within each of us and keeps us from living our best authentic life.

Fear is the backseat driver in most of our lives. Most of us do not even realize that Fear is controlling our life. Fear limits us. Fear keeps us from living a life that we adore.

Where do fears come from? There are many places that fears grow. Some are from our personal experiences and others are from another individuals experience and influence on our life.

Fear keeps us from:
… setting healthy boundaries,
… being honest with other people,
… following our dreams,
… speaking the truth as we both see and feel it,
… loving relationships,
… health,
… living a life that we adore.

None of us can reach our potential while we have fear whispering in our ear. I have allowed fear to limit my life by listening to fear disguised as practical advice. This was a behavior that I was taught by my parents and well-meaning friends when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, those lessons took hold and formed deep blocks to my happiness, creativity and abundance.

I have always been a writer and photographer. For as long as I can recall they have been my passion. During high school I realized I could take an artistic track to prepare me for post-secondary education or career. I came home so excited with the plan to take a variety of art courses and which technical colleges to apply to after.

There isn’t a time I ever recall being so excited about the potential of life. Knowing that this was my path and plan for my time here. Then I went home and told my parents what I wanted. Practical advice crushed my spirit that day. Being told I was too smart for a path that would never allow me financial stability or respect and was a fool to follow such dreams. Art is a hobby, not a career. Authors don’t make money or become famous until they die. Many discussions on how this was foolish and I would be unsuccessful and starve followed and created blocks within myself.

Rooting blocks and fears:
… Artists cannot support themselves
… True success comes from going to college
… Money is what makes you successful
… Making $50,000 a year and buying a house will make me happy
… A secure job is happiness

Conversation after conversation arose in high school around my passions. Each one was squished with practical advice. Until fear took firm hold and I was a senior in high school. That year was sad. I had no excitement for my future other than to be done with that town and live elsewhere. I was going to a college of my parents choice and taking a major that made them happy. This made me feel worthy of being loved by my family because I was following their dreams; not mine.

Prior to the college semester beginning I was in the mountains with friends and family. An older friend who was in forestry and taught me much about nature was chatting with me. He asked me what I was going to do in college. English? Art? Yes, he knew my parents feelings on it but supported me. I told him I was going to major in accounting at an all girls Catholic college. There is nothing wrong with either choice, except they could not be farther from my personal truth. Never, have I seen anyone spit a beer so far in my life. Why? he asked. That isn’t your dream.

The only answer I have found is that in four years of high school so many fears had rooted in me. Fears of being unloved if I was my authentic self. Disappointing people by not listening to their advice. That I would starve and die alone if I followed my art. As such, college was a massive disaster that lead to a lot of debt, personal crisis and heartache but no degree.

Now that fear was the main voice in my ear a constant internal battle began. The battle of who I was and who I was supposed to be. Supposed to be ran the show for a long time. Many years were spent in a corporate financial career that was successful by society standards. This colored my first marriage, living arrangements, friendships and made me miserable. I was financially well-off, people considered me to be in a loving relationship and I had a nice home. Fear and misery were my constant companions. Depression was my best friend because I felt awful for not wanting that life. Stating I was unhappy only led to me being told I was ungrateful.

I share this because no one can tell you what type of life you should be grateful for. Being poor, writing and creating art made me happier than thousands in the bank, a nice house and one sided happy relationship.

No one should tell you what your definition of success is. We all have different goals and capabilities. The interests, passions and desire to share that with the world is different for everyone. Whatever you bring to the world is a gift, if it is done with love.

Fear leads us to judge and put our perceptions, wants, needs and disappointments on others. This creates block after block within individuals and communities. As long as we continue to share fear, we will not know ourselves. We will not build loving, supportive families that create supportive, safe, nurturing communities. Fear will continue to control and destroy the best of what we are … our ability and desire to love.

Love puts us in alignment with the Universe. When we operate from a place of love our world shifts. Abundance, knowledge, wisdom, respect and much more begin to fill the spaces where fear, anger, judgement and other limiting emotions lived within us.

It is Okay to not be okay. Things are never perfect. We are people living real lives and having real experiences. That means this work is cyclical for us. Whether you are just beginning your journey of self discovery or have been walking this path for decades we all have times were we have to remember that It is Okay to NOT be Okay.

Struggles in life are normal. Emotional and mental blocks are normal. It isn’t like you do the work and after so many levels you hit this miracle place where there are no blocks or struggles. I can’t say do this work for a set amount of time and you will earn your trophy. What I can say is that by doing the work you have tools to handle what life throws at you. By doing the work you recognize when you are not being true to yourself. You recognize when fear is whispering in your ear or speaking instead of love.

Today’s Mantra: It’s Okay to Not be Okay and I am still lovable.
You do not have to be perfect to be lovable. You do not have to be perfect, just be the best you that you can be at this moment.

In Universal Love,
Irisa MacKenzie

Lost and Afraid: Daily Subtitles for 2020

Wanting to know ourselves, understand our place in the world and our soul purpose is as old as humankind. The rise of our global pandemic and quarantines have paused all society from the frantic pace to a much slower lifestyle. Humanity is seeing a shift in how we spend our time, while including a focus on political, social, economic, human and educational issues; also, has forced a shift back to self.

For the first time in decades technologically advanced societies are not moving at breakneck speed. We are forced to slow down. This not only has forced us to see and acknowledge global, country and local issues but personal ones. Our lives are quiet enough for us to see where we are in our lives. To notice something beyond our busyness. There is a rise in depression and anxiety that I believe is bigger than the pandemic. It is a loss of sense of self.

Many of us are taught to define ourselves by the job, income and home that we have. That also influences who we spend our time with, the places we go and activities we engage in. Quarantine has stripped all that away. Each of us is left facing the same uncertainty of health and economy. Plus, we have time to see beyond our hectic bubbles and see the many problems and inequalities that humanity still has not solved or even acknowledged.

With all of this laid at our feet our world view shifted overnight. This touched each of us as an individual, whether or not we want to admit it. There isn’t any one of us who is not going through some sort of personal evolution at this time. A personal reckoning of who we are.

Google the phrase ‘journey of self-discovery’ and you will find articles, blogs, web posts and quotes aplenty. Knowing who we are and our life purpose is central to an individuals need to fit in and find a place in the world. I believe it is why we are obsessed with labeling ourselves and others. Human beings need things to make sense and fit together. This gives us a sense of control and order in our lives.

Control starts with knowing you, truly and honestly knowing you. The you in your heart that you do not speak about to anyone. The one who is afraid of being made fun of for liking XYZ. That is the you. That is the person you need to know and cultivate to have a life you adore.

How do you get to know yourself? Make yourself a priority. Set aside 30 minutes a day for just you. Is 30 minutes too scary? Then start with 10 or 15. Make you a priority for that amount of time. Ready? Great! Now what?

I have previously discussed Meditation and Mindfulness, these skills are a great way to know thyself. To go with this I would recommend a journal. Something that makes you feel wonderful and delicious or an old notebook or a private document on your pc. It is your choice. Those who love journalling are probably squealing with delight. For those of you who despise journalling or have never tried it … breathe.

Journalling is simply a private place for you to have conversations with you. Yes, you can have them mentally or out loud, but journalling will let you look back later and remember with clarity things that your subconscious mind has brought forward. This is important because it can often be the most enlightening part of the work to get to know yourself.

This is the part that will help you admit what truly does and does not make you happy. Where you feel uncomfortable. Define blocks in your energy and emotions. Things that tie up your growth; especially hidden fears and feelings.

If you have never journaled before it isn’t that difficult. No one but you will ever see it. This is between you and you. A place for your mind, body and spirit to connect in authenticity without fear of judgement. A place for your true emotions and thoughts to come to the surface and express themselves. NO JUDGEMENT. TOTAL SAFETY.

Meditation Exercise

Wear comfortable non-restrictive clothing. Have the journal of your choice and pens or power supply. Also, a gentle timer.

Find a comfy place to sit and place your supplies next to you. Set a timer for 7 minutes, but make sure whatever tones you use to bring you out of it are gentle and slowly increase in volume. You are trying to relax, not restart your adreneline.

Begin your timer and close your eyes,
Then breathe …
Slowly, in through the nose until you have taken in as much air as possible;
then slowly exhale through your nose until you have expelled as much air as possible;
Repeat until the timer goes off.

You will find your mind drifting to thoughts. Simply bring your awareness (be mindful) to your breathing and the movement of air through your body.

This is your entire goal for 7 minutes.

After your timer has gone off, restart it and pick up your journal of choice. Put pen to paper and begin to write. The goal here is to keep your pen moving (or fingers typing) for 7 minutes without pause.

If you do not know where to begin here are some prompts:

Hello beautiful/handsome self. I am beginning a new journey of Know Thyself. I started with a breathing meditation and now I am writing in this journal.

If at this point you don’t know what to say, continue with: I don’t know what to say so I will tell you about my day. After I woke up this morning I …

Soon you will find the timer has sounded. You can either continue writing or stop. The choice is totally yours.

Obstacles. Every single one of us has obstacles. Every single one of us can think of reasons to not do this.


Here are some of mine:
* There is too much housework to do and if I don’t do it, it won’t get done
* My kids are too little to be left unsupervised
* My partner will feel neglected or ignored
* The puppies will destroy stuff if they are not being played with
* I’m too busy

Let’s get some perspective on these “reasons” a.k.a. obstacles:
* There is always going to be housework and it is never going to be done. Tell your family you need help, it will be the first of a zillion conversations you will have with them about restructuring expectations of who can do what around here. Your loved ones giving you 15 minutes isn’t going to end the world. In fact, it may just make your part of it better.
* The kids. If they are infants or babies, they do sleep at some point. Try it then and if you fall asleep there is the next time you nap. Just accept your house and you are going to be some form of tired and messy for the first two years and you will retain some of your sleep-deprived sanity. Older kids. Let me guess they are always begging for tablet or tv? Make it a win-win give them 30 minutes of television or tablet for your 15 minutes of sanity. Give the older ones some sort of treat for wrangling the smaller ones while you do this. With some training, it works. Currently, my 8 & 6 year old are with the 3 year old on tv. They have been taught to help him with the potty and get milk/cereal/granola bars while I work in exchange for accumulating free time of their choice (usually a game).
* My partner isn’t a baby and he will be the first to tell me to do what I need to do. Because if I am happy with myself, I am a better partner and parent.
* The puppies can either be watched by the kids or like infants they too will sleep, eventually.
* I’m too busy. Open your calendar. Pick a time of day that feels right, morning, evening or afternoon … schedule 20 – 30 minuets for the next 7 days each day for you. You are in your calendar and just as important as date night, kids play dates, picking up the dry cleaning, work and whatever other social things are there.
* Post this mantra on your mirror, in your wallet, in your cell phone case (wherever you will see it): I am important. I am valuable. I am a priority in my life … repeat three times each time you see it.

As one overworked, overextended, struggling human to another … I give you permission to give yourself this delicious gift.

Try this and let me know what you think.
Blessings,
Irisa MacKenzie


Meditation, Mindfulness, Multi-tasking, YUCK

If you read any sort of self help, positive lifestyle, forward thinking, go-getter, mindset information you have likely heard the terms Meditation and Mindfulness. What’s the difference?

Let’s start out with the basic definitions found in society for meditation and mindfulness. Meditation is defined as: to engage in contemplation or reflection or to engage in a mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. Mindfulness is defined as: the quality or state of being mindful (inclined to be aware) or the practice of maintaining a nonjudgemental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.

Confused? Don’t worry this is not uncommon. Let’s start splitting the difference so you can understand each concept and how they can support each other. Then we will discuss why and how you would want to incorporate these concepts into your life.

Mindfulness is akin to living in the moment. We have a ton of mundane tasks that propel our lives forward each day. Often when we are doing one task our thoughts are on another. This is not mindfulness.

Example of Mindfulness … when you brush your teeth, observe where your mind is and what you are thinking about. Are you concentrating on brushing your teeth or are you running through the next steps of your day? Mindfulness is concentrating on brushing your teeth. Multi-tasking is running through the next steps of your day.

Is multi-tasking better? Contrary to what I learned in 20 years of corporate working; no, multi-tasking is not better than mindfulness. Constant multi-tasking leads to stress, burnout and mistakes. Also, stop trying to be a super person who feels they have to do it all, all alone. That is a foolish concept that our society puts on us to isolate us from community.

Is multi-tasking always negative? no, not at all. There are many times it does come in handy. Example: Cooking in my house is multi-layered. We have one vegetarian, one gluten-intolerant, one toddler, and meat eaters. Aside from cooking more than one item at a time we need to account for everyone’s needs on top of balanced nutrition. Meals that have meat need to be in a separate pan from the rest of the items being cooked. Something with gluten has to be separate from the other items to prevent an allergic reaction. If I did one item, one pan at a time I would never leave the kitchen. In this instance, multi-tasking does come in handy along with mindfulness.

How does mindfulness co-exist with the multi-tasking of this situation? I need to be mindful of what is happening with each pan to prevent cross-contamination of ingredients. This ensures dietary preferences and needs are respected. Also, there are differences in cooking times between items and when to add different ingredients to the different pans to improve the flavor and quality of the meal.

Hopefully that example assists in illustrating the difference in the concept of mindfulness vs multi-tasking and how they can sometimes co-exist. Now that we have had an overview in mindfulness let’s move onto meditation. That is setting aside an amount of time to contemplate or reflect. What are we contemplating? Why would I do this? Why do I care? That depends.

Meditation can be done for a variety of purposes and there are a variety of methods that can be used to achieve your purpose. Some of the reasons to do meditation:
Mental health such as anxiety and depression (always consult a health care or mental health care professional for guidance. I am not a health care provider),
Spiritual well being to align oneself with the Universe, God, Goddess, Great Spirit or whatever your personal view is,
Decision Making,
Contemplation,
Stress Relief.

This is far from a complete list of reasons to meditate, however this should give you some beginning ideas for why people are drawn to meditation. Do any resonate for you? Do you have another reason to meditate? I’d love to hear.

Often the term meditation will bring to mind a person sitting in some crazy cross legged pose in silence. That is just one way to do this; crazy pose optional. There are a variety of types of meditation:
Quiet,
Moving,
Guided,
Visualization.
Again this isn’t a complete list but starting categories. Do you have a favorite way to meditate? Have you heard of a technique that you are curious about? Please share.

In my experience I find that mindfulness and meditation both have a place in my life. Mindfulness helps me with frustration and anger. It helps me not feel so overwhelmed with the chaos and demands of life. Also, it helps me recognize when I am feeling angry, frustrated, defeated, overwhelmed, or other negative feelings.

Just by tuning into the fact I am feeling this way I can take steps to figure out why, remove blocks and get back in flow with the Universe. Bonus, as a mom of three young kids sometimes it just tells me my personal wells (more later on this) are empty and I need a break.

Meditation aids me when I feel overwhelmed, need to make a big decision or feel disconnected from my spiritual path. If I feel very rushed and overwhelmed I make time to do this. Something I have fallen away from lately and I notice the difference in myself since I haven’t made time for it. We all slip in our practices. The key is to dive back in when you realize you have slipped.

Children. Do they need this? In my opinion yes. Mindfulness is a great way to teach them how to focus on what they are doing or the chore you have been begging them to do. Meditation is something great for when they are overwhelmed and overexcited. Another day for tips and tricks for the kids.

We are just at the beginning of this journey together. I hope to hear from you and look forward to growing and learning from each other.
Blessings,
Irisa

Do you ever feel like everything is going wrong?

Sometimes it feels that no matter what we do everything goes wrong. All of our plans go astray. Unexpected financial expenses come out of nowhere. Frustrations seem to pile up. It seems the harder you try the more resistance you find.

You cannot help but think of all the hard work you are putting into yourself. Whether it is changing behaviors, habits and self expression. Attitude. Aligning with Universal abundance. Conscious guardianship of your finances. Healthy lifestyle and habit changes. Whatever you are working on so you can better Know Thyself and create the life you adore is just going as wonky as possible. I empathize so much.

For decades I have remotely discussed my dream of being a writer and speaker. I have given workshops when time allowed, but didn’t make the time for this focus. I dabbled, sound familiar? Finally, I have been making space in my life to prioritize this dream.

I took the necessary steps to cultivate creativity. Lots of art was made. Writing prompts have been used and contests entered. Daily journaling. Telling my family I want time to work on my writing career … consciously using the word career to make that energy and attitude shift. Joining a writers group with a time commitment to projects. Telling family and friends my goals … the scariest one!

Next to this I am working on health and nutrition. Aside from the dietary changes I bought a bike. Third ride, I crashed. I am talking twisted wrist and ankle, major bruising and road rash on my leg and arm, seriously damaged fingers (typing hurts).

It certainly does not feel like the Universe and I were working together. It would be so easy right now to say this was a sign to not move forward. Instead, I took a breathe and meditated.

Opening myself to the Universe I realized that aligning doesn’t just happen with a snap of the fingers. Myself and the Universe are checking each other out to see how we best mesh for this new phase of our relationship. It isn’t unlike dating someone and a major change happens in that relationship. You both need to see where you are currently, input the new information and determine the next steps to line up your individual life goals. Sometimes things get a little weird at first and there are misunderstandings.

This down time for resting these bones has given me more time to contemplate, plan and evaluate how to achieve my goals. I’ve done a map of how I hope August will go. Then I worked on some outstanding projects to clear them up and create more space for my primary focus.

A setback is often just that. If Murphy drops by for a visit and totally mucks with your plans, don’t let yourself think the Universe doesn’t want to align with you. Offer Murphy a drink and let his weird wisdom wash over you. Talk to the Universe. Open yourself to the bigger picture. Evaluate and adjust, but don’t give up.

Blessings,
Irisa

Know Thyself – A Journey of Self Discovery

One of the most important things to know about yourself is that you grow and change. Know Thyself is not a destination, it is an ever-changing journey. I have spoken with many that believe they cultivate an idea of who they are and they become married to that self-image that they fear acknowledging any changes (internal or external). This leads to misery, for you and anyone who shares your life.

Google the phrase ‘journey off self-discovery’ and you will find articles, blogs, web posts and quotes aplenty. Knowing who we are and our life purpose is central to a persons need to fit in and find a place in the world. I believe it is why we are obsessed with labeling ourselves and others. We need things to make sense and fit together. This gives us a sense of control in our lives.

Control starts with knowing you, truly and honestly knowing you. The you in your heart that you do not speak about to anyone. The one who is afraid of being made fun of for liking XYZ. That is the you. That is the person you need to know and cultivate to have a life you adore.

First, embrace the fact that we grow and change by both internal and external factors. External factors are more easily recognized. They are things such as school, career, partner, friendships and societal expectations. Internal factors are more difficult because they are often emotional. Changes in relationships, physical or mental health, and our thoughts, feelings and desires based on our life experiences and choices.

Externally, my life changed when I left home to go to college. It was a time of absolute freedom from another controlling my decisions; however, I was wrestling with my familial expectations versus what I wanted at that point in my life. Given lack of life experience, new situations and people I made a lot of choices that I learned from; some of the lessons were very harsh and life changing. However, I lived, experienced and chose. Without these experiences I would not have been led to the person who introduced me to meditation and encouraged me to pursue my love of art and writing.

This situation and the choices I made at age 17 put me on the path of self-discovery. My love of philosophy and mythology led me to the greek maxim “Know Thyself”. Decades of study, contemplation and reflection on this maxim have led me to believe in this as one of the foundation blocks of the healthy self. It has also led me to believe that you cannot embrace yourself as a stagnate discovery, but a mutable journey.

Think of it as weaving a beautiful tapestry full of light and dark colors. If you solely focus on the light, the brightness is overwhelming and seems gaudy and unreal. Focusing only on the dark is depressing and tragic. However, woven together they create a balance of beauty. A connecting web of a life fully lived.

Often, we allow societal and familial expectations to overshadow our self desires and expectations. This leads to imbalance in the body, mind and spirit. These imbalances can cause anger, depression and physical illness (just to name a few).

Have you ever thought: “I have no right to feel unhappy or dissatisfied with my life because everyone tells me how lucky I am? Yet, this isn’t what I want. I know I should want this, but I don’t?”

That is living for expectations that are not for you. One persons ideal is another nightmare. My ex-husband wanted to live in a certain style house with a certain type of friends, no kids, no pets and work corporate jobs at a certain income. I was dying on the inside to the point I was physically ill and seriously depressed. Each day I went to a career I hated, over-shopped trying to fill the void of the family I wanted and became more and more depressed as people told me I was ungrateful for the life I had.

I wasn’t ungrateful, I was living a life that was not for me. I was living a lie that my soul knew. The more I worked on Know Thyself, the more I understood this. I tried to make it work in that life situation but the fact was we each had different truths for what we wanted for life and those truths were incompatible.

Not everyone will come to extreme life realizations. I did and had I not, I would have lived my life unhappy. Instead, I had the courage to find my own path. For me, this path includes a partner who is my best friend with three kids under 8 and two dogs.

Know Thyself looks different for every one of us. There are many paths to get there. I personally love writing, as such journalling is one of my primary resources for gaining personal insight. Meditation is an amazing way to slow down and start the connection process. Mindfulness is a fantastic way to slow down and stop constantly multi-tasking. Music (composing, playing, listening) is soothing and can assist us in connecting with our thoughts and feelings. Art is great for mindfulness and connecting, as well as expressing emotions. These are just the tip of the ice-berg.

Going forward we will be discussing the paths to Know Thyself. Subscribe to further explore this topic.
Blessings,
Irisa

Why Sass?

I have gone back and forth on why I am driven to write and what I want to share. The answer is that it is a need. When I do not write I feel totally lost and out of touch with who I am. As for what I want to write, a blog is the perfect place for the variety of topics that interest me.

At this juncture of my life, I am involved in self-exploration, understanding and all the components related to the Greek philosophy “Know Thyself.” During my youth I dug into this topic for my own well being. I had to heal from life choices and experiences.

Now, I continue to dig into this topic because my reasons for wanting to be the best version of myself has expanded and is larger than myself. It has to do with three loving, kind and impressionable human beings. I owe them my best self every day of our lives. After all, they did not ask to be brought into the world. The least I can do is make their beginning a good foundation.

Sassy is defined as “lively, bold, and full of spirit” this is in alignment with my spirit and in direct opposition to the way I was raised. There was a lot of children should be seen and not heard, along with “good girls don’t”, and those are boys interests … just to name a few. As I have journeyed to Know Thyself I have learned that who I am, desires and interests are valid. Speaking my mind is not being disrespectful, but being true to myself and the situations that I find myself in. I believe life should be passionate so a sprinkle of sass fits my just fine.

Outlaws, Pirates, Browncoats and Vikings have long held my interest. People living on the edge, not being held back by their fears and insecurities. As a youth, the romance of story books and movies certainly filled my mind and spirit with longing of courage and freedom. I understand the realities of those peoples and lives were not romantic or easy, but the lore of self-knowledge and personal freedom certainly appealed.

Mama speaks to my nurturing soul, tribe-building and love for my littles that gives me the strength to move through my days. It sheds light on my love and connection to the Earth and its creatures.

Can a title sum up anyone or anything? Not really, but we do our best to use them as a guidepost. I am a firm believer in self-evaluation, self-knowledge and passionate, meaningful living. However, what that means for me is going to be completely different than what it means to you.

I have been fortunate enough to have many adventures and journeys during my lifetime: student, teacher, daily worker, corporate professional, private business owner, dreamer, writer, mama, caretaker, and so forth. Not one of these identifies who I am. Each piece has added to the beautiful tapestry of my life. Fortunately, my tapestry has more light than dark this last decade.

We all have a variety of things that keep us going:
Along the way we develop faith in things,
have and lose hope,
learn about self care and what that means for us,
get feed societal information based on our location, economic status, race, religion and age,
have life experiences that we either do or do not learn from

Living our journey to the fullest, being passionate about what excites us, Communication, tribe building, family building … all of these are the things that excite me. Add in homesteading, working with my hands, wood-working and more all bring me joy. Now, to have enough hours in the day to pursue all that I enjoy and am passionate about, as well as dedicate the time on each of the relationships that I hold dear and I will have managed to find bliss. As for my lifespan, if it is judged by the amount of books still left for me to read I have hit immortality.

Be Sassy. Stay Sassy,
Irisa

Red Skies (short story)

You remember standing at the bay window, cup of coffee in hand, birds chirping and a lovely breeze coming through. The security alerts issuing an all clear for the moment. Reassured by the combination of the security alert, cerulean blue skies and sound of the animals you sit down to enjoy the rare moment of serenity.

While enjoying the sound of birds singing, chipmunks chirping and dogs barking an instantaneous silence makes you sit bolt upright. Turning to look out the window the sky has turned red and what you can only describe as a golden thunderstorm filling the air with ball lightning now replaces the serene skies. The world looks transported with the red and gold skies so thick the view outside is obscured. Silence is replaced with the sounds of winds so loud that it seems as though the world is roaring, whether in pain or triumph you could not say.

Dashing to the security radio you press the alert button knowing that your location will be reported to the command centers and the alerts issued. Families and loved ones will hold onto each other while they await their fate. People no longer run that has been proven useless as these storms track you. You have prepared for this day and grab your emergency backpack, provisions and weapons bag. Now, you wait to see if the storm has chosen you.

The storm outside starts to pick up speed and for the first time a golden circle begins to form mere inches from you. As you feel a pull from the portal drawing you in, you know this is it and pray to the Gods for safety and strength to face the unknown. No one knows what happens to those that disappear through the portals. These anomalies are far from understood. You only know that they appear briefly leaving destruction in their wake. The tracked individuals disappear never to be seen again.

The golden light seems to envelop you, drawing you in like a gentle caress. This is totally unexpected giving the raging storm around the portal. The force of the portal is hypnotic and inviting. You find yourself walking forward deeper into the blue light. Shaking and scared you try and calm yourself with steady breathing. Suddenly, the storms are behind you and the skies before you are a breathtaking purple with a golden glow that reminds you of a sunset. 

Looking around you find yourself standing inside a small pavilion in the middle of a large meadow of flowers. The pillars holding up the roof remind you of the architecture found in Ancient Greece. As you slowly turn to take in your surroundings a gentle breeze caresses your skin and a sweet floral scent mixed with rainwater envelopes you. From beside you hear “Welcome Traveler, please come this way”. As you turn, there is a young boy dressed in simple blue tunic with light brown curly hair and golden eyes. He does not appear armed or dangerous, in fact he is smiling and seems welcoming.

“Where am I?” you ask him. He replies, “You are in Elpida. If you come with me my mistress will be able to give you the answers that you seek.” With that he simply turns and strides away as if he expects you to follow him. As you do not see any better options or sense immediate danger you follow him.

Scanning the horizon for potential destinations you notice a tree in the distance. This tree is unlike any you have ever seen. Saying it is enormous does not do it justice, but you do not know any other word for it. As you travel towards this tree you realize that it has beautiful golden apples. 

Moving among the tree are female figures that seem to be made of the tree, yet they are themselves. “What are they?” you whisper to your companion. He replies, “Maliades, protectors of this tree. Their lives are entwined in each others care. Some people call them tree dryads, but that is far too simple a term for these particular ones.” 

Enthralled with what you can only describe as the care of a mother with her child, you watch the Maliades glide and twine around every branch, leaf, bud, bloom, and fruit with harmony and grace. Before you can ask any more questions you find yourself at the base of this tree. How did that happen? Are you losing time or did you stare longer than you realized?

As if reading your thoughts you hear the whisper of a female voice “Time is different in the sacred places of the world. Shifts in thought, perception and reality happen as you strip away the protections of everyday life and walk in the truth of who you are. The longer you stay, the easier this will be.” Looking around for the source of the voice, you hear laughter and see a small brown, green and gold childlike tree dashing to the trunk. “Who are you?” You ask, but your companion answers “she is a child of the sacred tree.”

As she touches the trunk of the tree a golden archway surrounded with vines appears. Turning, she simply says “follow me” and dashes through. Your companion follows. The fact that you seem to have a choice in this is almost more frightening than the scenarios of violence and unrecognizable aliens that have haunted your sleep since these portals appeared twelve years ago. Curiosity begins to creep into your consciousness and you decide to step forward into the archway.

Stepping out of a smaller apple tree you find yourself in an orchard of these golden apple trees. Subtle movements, laughter on the wind, female voices overlapping tell you that each tree is tended by Maliades. Your guide continues forward and you realize that you must follow or be lost to the orchard.

Winding your way through the orchard you observe blue and purple skies, hear songbirds and laughter seems to flow on the winds. Attempting to gather information you try to engage your guide in conversation. He simply tells you that his mistress will answer your questions. After walking for some time you come out of the orchard into a simple meadow. 

A fountain is a short distance away with a picnic blanket and food laid on it. At you approach the guide goes to a small basin on the side of the fountain and washes his hands and face. He then indicates that you should do the same. Following his instruction you then see him sit by the food. An array of fruit and bread is on the blanket. He hands you a plate with an assortment and helps himself. The drink seems to be a lavender honey wine. Starving you partake and as your body begins to feel refreshed you also find a calm coming over you.

Thanking your host for his generosity, he smiles and rises from his seat stating it is time to meet the mistress. You gather your belongings and go with him. Not far from the fountain is a temple. The architecture reminds you of the Ancient Greek temples studied in art history.

Entering the temple you find yourself in a room that is alabaster in color with golden accent running along the wall. Was that called Greek Key? Candles and lamps adorn the entire pavilion giving it a warm, soft glow. In the very center of the room is a large circular fireplace. The flame inside is hypnotic, as is the woman sitting next to the flames. She is the perfect picture of serenity and contentment.

“Welcome to Mount Olympus,” she says smiling warmly in your direction. Suddenly, you feel the warmth of love and the smell of baked bread and roasted meat surrounds you. Behind the woman you notice huge hearths. Are these the source of the divine smells?

“Mount Olympus? You mean the home of the Olympians?” You say in a shocked voice. Bell-like laughter carries on the wind. “Oh, dear child, we are so much more than stores. Come this way and let us speak of where you are from and why you are here. I am Hestia.” 

“Hestia!?” you repeat. Shock and awe course through your veins. “Hearth keeper of Mt. Olympus? First and last to be honored among the Gods?” you manage to ask. 

Her laughter fills the air. “Yes, that Hestia,” she replies. “Now, come with me and together we will find why the sacred portal chose you as the latest traveler of Olympus. When the sacred storms choose it is usually to find an Oracle, Wise Woman, Healer or Hero. Trials of the heart and hearth will tell us which you are. Then we can help you fulfill your divine purpose. Too bewildered to speak you continue with Hestia further into the Temple.” 

Waking from a deep sleep, you turn on the light beside your bed and open your laptop to a new page. This dream is the perfect beginning to a story. As you happily type on the keyboard a sudden alert comes across a radio you do not ever recall owning. Glancing out the window you see red skies with golden lightning. Before your mind can fully register this; a golden portal opens before you. Is this the dream or was your dream the dream? What is your reality? 

Suddenly, you are on a pavilion in a meadow. A voice from beside says “Welcome back. I trust your travels were good?” Looking at the source of the voice you see the boy from your dream.

Irisa MacKenzie (copyright 2020)

Inspired by Reedsy weekly writing contest

Hope for 2020 & Beyond

There is despair all around the world.
Fear of tomorrow resides within my heart.
Worries over health, safety, civil liberties, and economy play in my mind to the tune of “What if?”
My tools are information, (un)common sense, daily awareness, and prayers to fan the flames of hope.
Hope for humanity to find decency and love.
Hope for equality, civil liberties, social justice, environmental healing, and economic stability+opportunity for all.

Irisa MacKenzie

Are you part of the problem or solution?

I have begun writing this post numerous times and I am at a loss. The thought that keeps crossing my mind is that the world is going mad. However, the reality is the world has long been mad. The virus and quarantine forced a quiet on the world that made it impossible for people to continue to submerge themselves in their daily lives to the point that they could ignore the madness that surrounds us.

As we looked to social media, news, podcasts and such to alleviate the boredom associated with quarantine. An awareness occurred. I know many people that were not aware of the racism and injustices that occur constantly in our world. People can no longer say that these issues do not exist. People can no longer say this doesn’t happen. Racism is real. Injustice is real. Fear is real.

My children want me to explain why this happening, so I did. After telling them the events that have occurred and watching news and videos they again asked me to explain why this is happening and not because they did not understand what we told them. They asked me to explain why one person would hurt another because of their skin color. I have no answer for them except some people are broken and they make the world broken.

They want to know how we fix things. How we make their friends safe. How they stay safe. We have begun conversations on using our voice and our vote. That is just a beginning. They are looking to me for answers that I cannot give. A fix that I do not have.

Today, my oldest and I went to a peaceful protest. We read signs, listened to speeches, observed and talked. We marched, chanted and regrouped. Both of us were emotional. At one point she was overwhelmed with emotion and saw I was too. We discussed how this should be emotional. We should feel things during this. Then she asked me if the world would always be this way. Would there always be a virus? Would there always be scary times?

My answer. I don’t know what the future holds for you and your brothers. I don’t know what crisis and fights will remain as you grow up. What I do know is that the world needs changing. People and society need to change. All I can do is learn with you, walk with you and do my best to help change the world for the better for you and with you.

What I do know is that if I do nothing I am as guilty as my parents for allowing and supporting racism. My parents taught racism with the slurs used to describe the neighbors based on their ethnicity. Stories of encounters with black co-workers and neighbors were never favorable. The N word was dropped by my grandmother and grandfather. No one corrected the people in my life. No one stood up to them. When I felt uncomfortable with the conversations and questioned them I was told I was naive and didn’t understand because I had no life experience.

I wasn’t naive. I was a person who listened to their heart and soul and knew what was being said around me wasn’t right. It felt uncomfortable to hear people spoken of in that vile manner, especially when we were never hurt by anyone of any color.

I remember being 10 and making myself peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. As I went to sit outside on the steps to eat I looked to the end of my driveway and saw two homeless people going thru my trash cans for food. I made more sandwiches and took them to them. I remember them tearing up when I brought them food and told them they deserved to not have to go through trash cans for food. They were kind to me and went about their way. I went inside. When my parents learned what I did I was punished for months. As an adult I know what happened was gaslighting, but I never understood why I was punished. Shouldn’t all people have food? Shouldn’t all people have a place to live?

I’m one of the lucky ones. I did not succumb to generations of racism and ignorance. Easily, so easily I could be an even bigger part of the problem. However, I did succumb to fear. Fear of speaking out. Fear of using my voice for change.

We are all affected by racism is some way. There is no equality while there is social injustice. End racism. End homelessness. End child hunger. The list continues. Make changes for the better. We cannot have peace until we erase fear. Doing nothing is being complicit.

Sassy Viking Mama