Blog Post: The Mystery of Love


We are coming very close to the day when my best friend, Jim, dropped to the ground from a massive heart attack last year and was without oxygen for ten minutes . My body is remembering. I’m tense, a little anxious, wanting to see him, just to be sure he’s okay. It’s irrational. I know he is fine, back to work, taking care of his mom who now has dementia, and his awesome dog, Francesca. He’s sailed on Great South Bay. He drives again. He calls me and texts. He’s okay.

That day though, for a split second, I think my heart might have stopped with his. The shock caused my hair to fall out a month later. It’s amazing what sorrow can do.

But we got that miracle. God is good. She hears battle cry prayers and I sure prayed them. And then when I knew Jim was clinically too far gone to come back after nearly a week-long coma and a grim prognosis if he managed to live, I had a chat with him while sitting on my bedroom floor. And I told him I loved him and if he needed to that it was okay to go. And I cried.

Two hours later he came out of that coma and wiggled his toes on command. No one expected this. Doctors had no explanation.

Jim’s journey back to health took months. But by September he was back in the classroom teaching social studies.

Miracle Boy.

Last night I had this beautiful dream of him (the first dream ever, actually), painting the most magnificent landscape of Sedona. I was in awe and hugged him tightly and said, “Could you always paint?” And he said “no, this happened after my heart attack.” I asked, “No classes or lessons?” And he said, “Nope.” And kept painting, despite me not letting go of him and crying with pure joy.

So much in my life has changed since that bleak week. I’m pretty sure I’m not even the same woman. I love a lot more fiercely since almost losing Jim. I have a way deeper relationship with my Creator. Perhaps the most important people I’ve met in Colorado have walked into my life. I see how infinitely blessed I am. Life might never be Party Perfect. But there is always love, I tell you. There is always the mystery of love. Don’t ever take it for granted. Don’t ever underestimate it. And don’t ever miss an opportunity to share it.

Because to boil it down to its essence, my friends, God is love. Which means we should never, ever fear it.

Blessings and peace on your journey,

Maria Mandarino

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Blog Post: Honoring your Boundaries and Your Sacred Place in Creation

This past weekend was not an easy one. My fourteen year old little dog, Kira, had a serious cardiac episode. She’s been a cardiac patient for nearly two years now and we’ve had some episodes of syncope from which she’s always recovered quickly. This time she came into the house from a brief walk, coughed a few times, walked to her bed, sat and looked at me with a slightly dazed expression, and then her nose crashed into the bed and she didn’t move again. I picked her up. Her body was eerily light. Her head flopped lifelessly against my shoulder. I wasn’t scared so much as I was in disbelief. I held her against my heart, stunned that a vibrant life could extinguish so fast and without struggle. There’s a great sadness and also a blessing in being able to depart like that. I held her this way for what felt like a good minute, but probably was less.

Then, slowly and miraculously, her rib cage began to expand and she was breathing again. She still couldn’t lift her head. And so I kept holding her, not sure if she was making a momentary return, only to leave for good.

She surprised me. She lifted her head and looked around. I checked her gums. They were a mix of grey and lavender — hypoxia — and the first sign I’ve seen of it since her cardiac disease began. I looked into her eyes and they seemed to register. She gave me a look that I swear said, “If you can do this, I can.” She was straining to breathe, but she was in there and seemed to have an interest in staying. So I grabbed a blanket, wrapped her in it, and kept holding her.

I called a friend who is a hospice nurse and we decided that it was wise to give her a homeopathic for anxiety and her cardiac herbs, all of which she happily chewed (you have to love a dog who has a palate for Chinese herbs). A timid shade of pink was returning to her gums. I felt her energy sink deeper into her body and she had more of a substantial feel to her. In Chinese Medicine, we would say the Shen (the Spirit) was rooting back into the body. Slowly but surely (over a period of about 90 minutes), she returned to her old self, walked around, stood in front of her empty dish, looked at me with an expression that said “Are you gonna do something about this?” And I fed her, sitting on the floor next to her, never so grateful to watch that little creature eat.

She went on to play with her toys and look out the front door and bark at the dogs that walked by. Today she was even better and her energy levels seemed to be improved beyond what I’ve seen in her in weeks. She spent the day soaking up the sun as it streamed through the house, my job being to move her bed around so she could continue to sunbathe. (I am quite certain she was Cleopatra in a past life).

I am waiting on some labs this week and will then review options with my holistic vet, who is the only vet who has ever really understood Kira (or me, for that matter). And we will talk about maybe introducing a cardiac medication along with her herbs. I’m not sure yet how I feel about that.

There is an energetic component here too (isn’t there always?) and Kira is a sensitive dog. Less has always been more with her and pharmaceuticals have always held a price. So I’m not necessarily convinced that integrating meds will be right. But I am open. For now she is doing well, she is happy and playful, demanding as ever, and there is some seriously good Shen in those soulful brown eyes. She amazes me.

Kira has been my teacher since that early November day in 2002 when she ran across a basement room, crashed into me, wrapped her paws around my ankle and chose me. We have journeyed through so much together: divorce, three interstate moves, three businesses, the magic of holistic medicine, new loves, lost loves, two academic degrees, friends we’ve met (human and canine), friends we’ve lost far too soon. When I was scared and alone and had no one to count on, she forced me to get up each morning to take care of her. And in doing so, she made me believe in myself. God had entrusted me with this tiny life that was reliant upon me. What was God thinking? Through my panic and fears of inadequacy, Kira made me laugh and forget the terror. She astounded me at how smart such a tiny creature could be (she understands three human languages, plus sign language). She inspired me to give up cable because she was such an incredible puppy, all I wanted to do was play with her, watch her grow, and study for exams with her sleeping on my lap.

Two years ago, when she became old overnight with no clinical explanation and lost her hearing completely, she taught me how to be present to the unexpected. She also taught me about the grace of aging. Her muscular body was now thin and frail, her once thick and shiny coat had thinned and had become dull, but her spirit never wavered. She even barked louder, just like an old person who was hard of hearing. Her body might have gotten old, but she still knew how to get her point across.

Perhaps this past weekend was the best lesson Kira ever taught me though: sometimes it’s not only okay, but it’s absolutely necessary to put yourself and your own needs first in order to take care of those you love and who are truly are dependent upon you. She woke me up to the fact that living like this is part of honoring the sacred in yourself. I urge you to live this way, if you don’t already. As one whose vocation renders me a caregiver (and on-call most days), it’s a requirement to know when I am dangerously low on reserves. If I have nothing to give, I am not much use to others. Still I tend to give more than I wisely should. I don’t believe our Creator desires us to give everything.  What creator who loves her creation would? Honoring your boundaries is not selfish. It is a way to honor your sacred place in Creation and in the end, serve others better.

This honoring of boundaries in my life will be a new normal for a lot of people around me. But it’s healthy behavior and it’s what I need to do — for myself and for those I love. A lesson well-delivered by a 13.5 pound little dog with one great big spirit and a very determined heart.

Blessings and peace,
Maria Grace Mandarino

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Meeting God in the Patterns

090Last night someone at church had mentioned she made a church decision based on logic. Turned out logic was not the right choice.

I joked with her that logic is way overrated anyway.

It turned out the decision should have been made based on tradition. And tradition typically involves following a certain order and a patterned way of doing things, which isn’t often linear or logical.

Years ago, when I was a student observer in the acupuncture clinic, our supervisor, Dan Bedgood, had mentioned to a senior intern that a student had complained to the dean about his teaching style. The complaint? He did not teach in a linear fashion.

I could not help myself.  I blurted out, “But this isn’t a linear medicine.”

Student observers are meant to do just that: observe. They are not expected to speak. And if they are foolish enough to do so, it is assumed they do not have much to share worth listening to.

Dan’s head went up and he stared at me from across the table. It was probably the first time he heard my voice and possibly the first time he even noticed me. And I think we were very close to pointing a finger at each other as if we suddenly recognized something in the other,  about to say, “Atlantis, right?”

The truth is Chinese Medicine is not at all linear. It is based on patterns. Patterns that need to be observed, respected, and honored.  It works like this: if this happens, then that happens. BUT if THAT happens, then THIS happens. Or… if the wind is blowing, then THAT happens. But if it’s damp and cold, well then THIS happens. And if it’s dry and hot, well, look at what happens then! And let’s not even talk about whether you are standing on the sunny or shady side of the mountain, because that can uncover a whole other set of patterns.

It’s a story of patterns of potential. Not of a narrow and limited road.

Chinese Medicine is a medicine that always made more sense to me than Western Medicine for this reason. Seek the pattern and you are led to the answer. Pull the piece of yarn and watch the pattern unravel; each time you tug, a new skein of possibilities.

As a writer and a poet (and as someone who crafts with yarn), I have always interpreted life through metaphor. So of course I grasped the language of this ancient medicine easily. Once you figure out the patterns in Chinese Medicine, you have the key to everything: physical pain, emotional pain, organ disease. Find the pattern, find the key. Find the pattern, find the language of the Divine.

Think about it. God is not linear. How dull would that be? This has to happen before that can happen in order for this to happen. Wait and get on line and until you reach the destination point, it’s pretty much a process of drudgery. Kind of like the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Look at the universe and tell me it’s linear. You can’t. God is a creative God. And She speaks in patterns. In the patterns and cycles of life, in the patterns of our experience, in the patterns of the people we meet, in the many synchronous gifts and mysteries that come into our lives. Linear thought says you have to go through 24 other letters to get from A to Z. With God, it’s possible to get there in a heartbeat. There’s no logic in that.

What are you on line waiting for? What are you expecting might take ten years and not ten days? What do you think needs to happen before the next thing can occur? Does God need that thing to happen, or do you need the logic of that thing happening first? How might life look if you shifted that view and let go of your brain’s need for reason? And control?

How might life look if you decided to not limit God to a linear process, and instead opened yourself up to the infinite patterns of Divine Mystery?

Blessings and peace on your journey,

Maria Mandarino

 

Stop Playing it Small and Start Being Your True Self

Today my friend and fellow healer, Toni Krahling, and I got to have some live fun and with the help of our friend and channeler, Daniel Sonntag, who took care of the technology piece and moderated a spirited chat about why at this very point in history we all need to stop hiding our light, to quit playing it small, and claim the gifts God has given us.

For many people, this is a frightening proposition. But I assure you, your gifts are no more coincidental than the pattern in a maple leaf. God made each of us the way we are, with something special to celebrate and share. As Jazz singer, Ethel Waters said, “I am somebody ’cause God don’t make no junk.” And so it is our obligation to the Eternal Artist to cultivate and use our gifts to heal the planet and those who walk on it. Or to paraphrase Daniel Sonntag in our talk today: Change doesn’t begin with prayer. Change begins with each of us doing something different.

Click on the link below to hear more about why we all need to stop playing it small:

Or for those who prefer to listen on audio:

Getting Real About the Questions

 

 

I’ve not done much with this blog for a while. Part of the reason is I’ve been struggling with some questions: “Just what am I doing with this blog?” and “Who am I and what do I bring?”

I am a writer. I have been this for as long as I can remember.

I am a teacher.

I am an acupuncturist.

I am a massage therapist.

And I am a deeply spiritual and faithful person.

But this isn’t the whole story. It’s the easy and somewhat evasive part of the story.

Part of my conflict was I had no accurate name to hang on what I do. And I didn’t want to call it the wrong thing.

I am an intuitive. That’s a relatively easy word to use. But it’s also not completely accurate, or at least that’s what people who know me well have said. My spiritual director says we are all intuitive. But she says what I do is well beyond being just intuitive.

I have tested the label Medical Intuitive, since when I talk to people I seem to know where in their body their issue is logged. I just know where it resides.

But the term Medical Intuitive has always made me uncomfortable. It’s that word “medical.” I’ve never liked it. No matter what it was attached to. It’s just too clinical, empty, and cold.

So for months — years really — I’ve chosen to call it nothing and instead just hide. Some days I honestly even hoped that whatever it was that I did would just go away. It didn’t though. More recently I’ve explored the label “Healing Intuitive.” And I discussed it with a former teacher of mine. I asked him what he felt the difference was. He said a Medical Intuitive knows where the problem is. But a Healing Intuitive knows where the problem is and has the capacity to help change it.

When I was a student in the massage clinic 15 years ago, I remember going in with a terrible headache one autumn morning. The left side of my neck also hurt. My first clinic patient was a former massage therapist who saw me regularly. She came in and reported that she had left sided neck pain and a headache. I couldn’t help but blurt out, “You too?”

I knew her pretty well and so we chatted a bit about this weirdness of mine that none of my classmates seemed to ever experience and my teachers couldn’t — or wouldn’t — explain when I asked them. It seemed to be happening more and more often as I got further into clinic. I knew that some people in the healing arts are empaths who absorb other people’s pain after the fact. I don’t experience that though. I feel the pain before I meet the person. Not a fun way to live, honestly. And in the beginning, it felt like a terrible punishment for wanting to help others.

My clinic patient that day seemed to know something that no one else was willing to talk about though. She simply said to me, “If you do this right, we can both get rid of the pain.” I thought she was a little flaky, but in the absence of anything else to go on, I decided to be open to the possibility.

Here’s the interesting thing. That’s exactly what happened.

We didn’t talk further about it after that. But my school put a lot of focus on the internal physical arts: T’ai Chi, Qi Gong, and Yoga. This was to teach us centering and intent. And when I worked on people, I always worked with these principles. And so I knew what she meant when she said “If you do this right, we can both get rid of the pain.” Addressing the situation was all in my intent. I knew that was true of treating patients. What I hadn’t grasped until then was that it was also true of moving my own energy and getting myself out of pain. In this medicine, your patients will often become your teachers. And this woman was the first of many more to come.

So my experience as a healer (a word I am only just now learning to own, and it is still uncomfortable for me), is that within a 48 hour period of experiencing pain, the person with that same pain almost always walks through the door. And I get to work. And we both get out of pain.  This is true of physical pain, by the way, as well as emotional pain.

Because I knew the pain from the inside, I intuitively knew where to go to address it in them. Oftentimes, the source of the problem was rooted in the emotions and we’d have to talk about that. As an acupuncturist, this experience continues and it helps me to diagnose. And I get better results than most. Results I can’t often explain. While most of my former classmates and colleagues rely on what the textbooks say about patterns in Chinese Medicine or origins and insertions of muscles, more often than not I begin my work by checking in with my body, what I’m intuiting, and what I’m hearing patients say between their words. And then I go from there.

There’s much more to this story and how it unraveled. But for now, as one of my teachers used to say, “Teaspoons. Not tablespoons.”

And so more will be coming in the next blog post.

Peace and healing light,

Maria

Poetry Post: West 52nd

“West 52nd” is my first serious poem and was published in the poetry journal, Poetry Bone.  It describes an encounter with an old community theatre friend at the stage door after his Broadway performance in Smokey Joe’s Cafe.  I didn’t have my camera with me to capture the moment.  As I rode home, images in the form of words came to me. This poem is the result.

©1997 MG Mandarino

                                               

West 52nd

The March wind

impaled me.

Thirsty eyes

drank me in

and returned a gift.

He spoke of visions,

dreams, trust, and faith,

love, even.

 

A leather jacket ghost

spoke of years,

a lifetime gone,

suspended

in the moment,

again eighteen.

I’d touched the face of

God

in the shadow

of the lights of

Broadway.

-Maria G. Mandarino

Poetry Post: Leaves

“Leaves” is another one of my early poems.  This one was published in Capper’s in 1998.

Leaves

Remember when we romped in brittle leaves

And I’d select perfect samples

In a brown bag for a Thanksgiving collage

To be proudly displayed on the front door

That said “a child lives here,

Love lives here.”

Remember how we’d bury ourselves in the leaves,

The scent of mold mixing with firewood burning in the

distance,

Forgetting time and tomorrow’s homework,

Not feeling the chill of autumn’s setting sun

Till our names were called for Sunday dinner,

Savoring the moment,

Thinking it would never end.

–Maria G. Mandarino