Thou Shalt Respect The Free Will of Others

Once upon a time, a long long time ago I was super peed off that others did not respect my free will and kept imposing upon me and pressuring me into what they wanted of me. Oh my Word! Did I have a lot to learn. As it turns out, I was doing the same thing to others. Life was mirroring back to me my tendencies. I saw this flaw clearly in others. I saw the speck in their eye. But I sure missed the plank in my eye/i that was protruding out of me so much so that I was almost walking lop sided. I too had become masterful at subtle coercion. I liked it when I could steer others in my direction, but I sure hated it when others steered me in their direction with a look, a tone, a hint, a gift, a compliment, an implied comment. I could administer the medicine but I did not like it being administered to me.

That is until Mudryk, my feline sojourn companion really showed me just how disrespectful, wrong, and hurtful such behavior is. Some many years back, I was about to head out to Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David, AZ for a silent retreat. I love that place. It is holy ground. And its holiness has brought me and others many insights, shifts, comfort, and profound healing. It is an oasis in the desert for the Body, Mind, Heart, and Spirit. It is a resting and refreshing place in the journey of life.

The gates and the hostility of the Monastery are open to all peoples and all faiths.

The chapel at the Monastery with the bell on top.

It has about 150 acres and there is much space to roam both with the feet and the mind. I thought that it would be wonderful for Mudryk to have a change in scenery and experience the sights and sounds of the monastery. I asked him if he wanted to come. He sent me a clear and strong “NO” message. He said that he preferred staying at home and going about his routine and his business as he saw it best. He also said that the three hour car ride is very stressful on him.

I heard that but I did not listen. I imposed upon him. Because I knew best. And oh how very sorry I was.

When Mudryk and i became conjoined i was well on my “as i am” journey – being in alignment with the Will of God instead of people’s expectations, and being a God pleaser instead of a people pleaser. I also wanted others to respect me “as i am” as opposed to them respecting me only if I was “as they wanted me to be”. At this point of my journey, I knew that if I wanted the Gift of Respect from others, I first needed to offer that gift to myself, and others. Then I will see and feel the same respect in my life. That is the Law of Karma. That is the Supreme Law of the Universe. God respects our free will. God lets us choose even though God sees that our choices may not always be the best for us. It is an insoluble offense in Cosmic Consciousness to impose our will or pressure someone into doing something or being someone outside of what they would choose for themselves, outside of who God made them to be. Always remember that. Always live that so that you may have a more peaceful and graceful journey yourself.

Even though i knew all of this, i still went the bad way. i understood this concept intellectually. i knew this concept experientially, but it was not until i felt it gutturally that I really “got it”. It became visceral. It became part of my flesh.

Just like on a few previous retreats, I forced him to come with me to the Monastery. The three hour auto ride was very stressful on him. His breathing was heavy and at times he panted. He kept roaming thru the vehicle trying to find a place to calm down. Most of the time he ended up on my shoulders, nudged up against the seat, with his head and front legs hanging over my arm. He did not look comfortable nor feel at peace. I kept thinking that he will overlook my transgression once we got to the Monastery where he could go on his own exploratory adventure. I kept thinking that he would be grateful to me after we arrived for forcing him against his will to join me on my retreat, my calling, my journey. That’s how I justified my transgression. That’s how I condoned that the ends would justify the means.

Upon our arrival early in the afternoon I took him to our room so that he knew where “home” was. The Monastery calls it St. Bernard Hermitage. I call it, “the house on the hill”. It is a duplex situated on the downward slope of a hill. At the top of the hill is the chapel with the cross as it’s crown. In between our house on the hill are the cemetery, a portion of the stations of the cross, and a pond. It is very comforting and soothing to me when I look out the window or sit on the porch that I can see and be so close to the Tabernacle where He resides. When the chapel bell is rung signifying prayer time, it is like heaven’s chimes beckoning me to His Holy Presence – a taste of heaven here on earth. Furthermore, in the pond outside our door there lives a bull frog. When he bellows his deep throated bass song to the Universe the lyrics of “Redeemer” by Nicole C. Mullen flow through my Thoughts and Heart: “All of creation testifies ~ This life within me cries ~ I know my redeemer lives”. I AM in heaven.

St. Bernard Hermitage, or as I like to call it, “the house on the hill”.

Mudryk on the porch overlooking the pond where the bull frog lives with the chapel in the background.

The first thing that Mudryk did was lie on the floor and breathe. Then he sought some comfort by going into his “cave” to get grounded and get away form me. In this instance the cave was the small space underneath the La-Z-Boy recliner. I let him be while I settled in myself too. When I would peer underneath and ask him to come out, he would not even look at me, let alone listen to my plea. Eventually he did come out of is cave and went out to roam and explore the grounds. I was relieved. At times we go on walks together with him leading the way. At times we meet up as we are each on our own journey. The retreat had begun and I myself went out to commune with Nature and with God.

The sun was beginning to lean toward the horizon, and dusk was approaching. Mudryk had not come home yet. Worry was beginning to creep into my thoughts and Heart. I went out looking for him calling his name. He usually shows up and appears when I call out to him. This time though, no Mudryk. I searched and searched and searched. Then I felt or thought about the culvert underneath the gravel road that was nearby. There he was crouched in the center with his back to me and not wanting to look at me nor come toward me. I tried calling him with my sweet voice. I begged. I pleaded. I cried. I tried telling him how much I loved him. I thought about using my angry and authoritative voice, but then decided against it. After all, he was in the right and in this scene he was the one in control. The tables had turned. He was the dominant one now. He had me in the palm of his paw.

The culvert where Mudryk hid out for a day and a half to boycott me because of my transgression.

“I know”, I thought, I will lure him out with treats. He loves treats. He gets them as often as he wants and as many as he wants. At “home home” I have them lined up in the bottom cupboard. He points with his nose to signify to me which he fancies at the moment. Then he eats them out of the palm of my hand. He has done a magnificent job in training me in how he wants to be loved. I gladly comply. Sometimes I think he has more treats than normal food. Perhaps all of life is a treat to him. I got up off of the dusty ground and went to get his treat bag. I came back to the culvert and enticed him by shaking the treat bag. He barely nudged a whisker. I kept at it. On and on and on. By this time, the sun had gone down and it was getting darker by the moment. He did get up, he did come closer to the opening, but not within arm’s reach. He was still hurting from my imposing.

As the earth kept rotating, it was officially night. The land was dark. By this time my voice was getting frantic for him to come out and come home. The Monastery is in the desert and in the wilderness. There are all sorts of larger creatures that come out at night looking for nourishment. And I was helpless. Eventually in the night it dawned upon me to just let him be. This was not his first trip to the Monastery and he knew his way around. He knew where our home was. He knew I would leave the window slightly open for him. I told him I loved him and left.

Back in the room, I had a lot of work to do. I had to pray pray pray for his safety and reflect upon what I had done.

When our lives, Spirit’s, and Hearts conjoined I had a really hard Heart wrenching decision to make. Was I going to keep him indoors at all times, or let him out and explore. Phoenicians had told me all sorts of stories about the wildlife in the city of Phoenix and advised me to keep him indoors. But in the depths of my Being I received another message. He was a Gift from God to me and I to him. He is in God’s hands. Let him live in accordance with his Heart and his Soul. Even though his Heart and Soul are in a feline body, he also has his own journey of growth and evolution here on earth. This almost set me into panic mode as I myself had seen coyotes in our neighborhood. As he was growing up I did my best to teach him to “stay away from the streets and moving vehicles”. I observed that he himself was very aware of his surroundings and that he knew the importance of being alert. Because he loves the outdoors so much, it would not have been a life for him if I kept him indoors. It would nave been and offense against him, his Heart, his Spirit, his life’s purpose and the Universe had I not let him go out and kept him cooped up on the inside. Just like me, he too needs the freedom to be, to grow, to breathe, to explore, to live his life. My job was to love him, let him love me, and let him live in accordance with the whisperings of the Holy Spirit in his Heart, and  to praypraypraypraypray that he makes wise choices and that the Angels watch over him and keep him safe. Nevertheless, every time he goes out the door, I send him off with a blessing and a prayer.

Thus, this contract between his Soul and mine came flooding back to me as I headed back to the hermitage for the night. My Heart was heavy with worry, deep regret over my decision to force him to come, and sorrow at the grief I caused him. All I could do was send him love from my Heart to his and praypraypray that he would be all right and that he would come home soon through the open window I left for him.

It was a semi-sleepless night. Every time I awoke I checked to see if he had come back. He had not. The more time passed the more somber I became as I reflected at what I had done unto him. The sun arose and still no Mudryk. I dressed and rushed out to the culvert, and there he was where I last saw him last night. I greeted him with elation and treats, but he just stayed squatting on the ground looking at me with those eyes. Those eyes told me he was still feeling betrayed, imposed upon and disrespected. I heard those thoughts. I felt those feelings wash over me. I who loved him so, was the one responsible for his pain and sorrow. Knowing and feeling this was like swallowing a twirling double edged dagger and have it burrow into my Heart and Being. Every time I breathed it tore more flesh. I was feeling my offense against Mudryk and the Cosmos.

I apologized and was sorry to him like never before, but still he did not budge.
All day he did not come out. All day I simmered my regret and offense.

Day two, and once more around 6:00 pm the sun set over the horizon, night two, and Mudryk was still in the culvert. By now, I knew better – no cooing. I went to the culvert, looked inside, told him I loved him and that I was deeply sorry, and went to our room.

And then at around 10:00 pm a miracle. He came in through the window, and spoke a “meaow” like I had never heard before. It was a humble, reconciliatory, and loving “meaow” – a peace offering. I on my part ran to him and hugged him like I had never hugged him before. I showered him with kisses and held him close to my Heart and apologized like I had never before. I learned my lesson. He had been my teacher. His boycott of me imbued my Spirit and my Heart with the Cosmic Law of Free Will.

Mudryk leading the way on one of our walks.

By the Grace of God, i pray that i always have the humility and reverence toward others and their free will of choice.

In reality it looked like i adopted Mudryk. But in truth, he chose me. His soul recognized mine from previous journeys. We already knew each other and were reuniting once again. He is and has been one of my greatest, gentlest, and most loving teachers.

Abundant Grace, Wisdom, and Blessings,
Irena As I Am & Mudryk, The Wise One

Is Christianity Really Monotheistic

Is Christianity really a monotheistic religion? That is the question that has been swirling around in my mind for quite some time now and not giving me peace. Not my Heart though, my Heart is at peace about my relationship with the Divine in its many forms, manifestations and expressions. It’s just that my mind needs a definitive, cut and dry, black and white definition. It needs a tidy answer and not one with loopholes and variations.

Christ Himself spoke about and to Abba, the Father. He also spoke about the Holy Spirit or the Ruach Elohim or The Spirit/Wind/Breath of God. Jesus, Yeshua also said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25. There are the three, the Trinity. One body, different parts. I get it. I accept it. And, I live it.



Theotokos (God Bearer) / Mother Mary

Having been born into the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic faith/religion, (Ukrainian = national church of the Rus/Ukrainian peoples, Greco-Catholic = orthodox faith originating from Constantinople which is in communion with the bishop of Rome, the pope), and having been a very ardent participant in it for most of my life there are other entities to whom I/we had prayed to. One of them is the Theotokos, Mary, the God Bearer. Yes, I know that technically we don’t “pray to her, but ask her to petition the Son, her Son, our Son, the Son of Man/Woman” just like she did at the wedding of Cana and He listened and responded by turning water into wine.This is an explanation and maybe even a justification for reaching out to her and praying to/through her with the Rejoice*/Hail Mary.

It is very comforting at times reaching out to a feminine version of the Divine. It is as though sometimes in life we need the gentle, loving, and nurturing embrace of a Divine Mother. On earth we came through a masculine and feminine, a mother and father. Both provided a different kind of support and comfort. It is balanced between the male which is analytical and strong with female which is feeling and gentle. Both of these qualities and energies are in each one of us. Thus, why would they also not been the Divine Realm in whose “image and likeness”, Book of Genesis we are made.

Now, I am primarily a practicing Roman Catholic. When I made the switch I felt I was turning my back and being unfaithful and adulterous to my “mother church” and my spiritual mother. But it was she who kept pushing me out of her nest and every time I went back, she made it very uncomfortable and uneasy for me. She said, “Go. Leave. There is nothing for you here. Spread your wings. Grow spiritually. Savor, learn, and nourish yourself with other faiths, traditions, and understandings of the Divine.” I did, even though it broke my Heart and tore it to pieces to do so. But mother knew best. She was right. In hindsight I realize now that I worshipped her and her traditions more than I worshiped the Divine. My religion had become my golden calf. Had she not pushed me out of the nest, I never wold have fallen in love with the Divine. My love affair would have remained with religion, the earthly vessel to the Divine, instead of the Divine Themselves.



In both the catholic and orthodox faiths there are saints. Whatever your quest, query or quiver may be, “there’s a saint for that”. The technical term is “venerating” the saints as opposed to “praying to” the saints. Serious saint followers are ardent around saint relics and objects. It is a sight to behold – much significance and power is projected onto the items. Or maybe, subconsciously it is a practice in raising and attuning the vibration of one’s own energy to that of the saint.

I myself have at times have called upon and called in the Spirit and energy of certain saints. Growing up, Saint  Nicholas was one who was near and dear to me. I sang to him a lot. But I’m not so sure that I listened to him. At that point in my life, it was one way communication with the Divine. I had not learned how to listen yet. Then there was a period in my life when I was in a serious battle, a battle for the essence of my life, and Saint Joan of Arc and I, it felt as though we were One. Her strong, bold, courageous, determined and single minded trust in The Voice and Its message of ‘we can beat the odds and drive out the long-standing invaders’ energy was all around me, within me, and running through me. I do not think any of these saint connections were conscious choices but something that rose up from within me.



In both the Hebrew and Christian texts there are stories and accounts of Angels. We each have been assigned a guardian angel or two. There are rote prayers to angels which we recite either at bedtime or in the morning.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here; Watch over me throughout the night, keep me safe within your sight.


Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.

A times I find great comfort in reciting these prayers, either in my Heart or out loud. In my journey of delving into the Divine realm, I learned that just like with saints, there are angels for different needs in our lives, and that there are different levels of Angels. Now, I call upon specific angels for specific assistance.

I’ve also learned how to look out for their signs and methods of communication. They may use numbers, feathers, pennies/change on the street, songs, feelings, dreams, persistent thoughts, coincidences… to get our attention and direct our steps.

Angels are always in our midst. All we need to do is ask for assistance.

Icons & Statutes 

I like having visual aids and reminders in our house of the Divine Realm. I like seeing Them and being surrounded by them. They are reminders to me that I am never alone on either the earthly or the spiritual realms, regardless if a person is next to me or not. They raise my thoughts to the heavenly realm and remind me to “take the higher road” in my thoughts, attitudes, speech and actions. I do not think that I worship the icons and statues, but they do assist me in my worship.

Mother Mary, or The Theotokos, The God Bearer

The Fourth Commandment 

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20 (NIV)

Every religion and every faith and even the way of spirituality has Divine “tools” and customs – even the Shamans. If the Divine is Spirit, then any and all Divine writings, paintings, statutes, traditions, trinkets, amulets, talismans are technically in violation of the Fourth Commandment. The Spirit is always flowing and always in a graceful dance with the Divine leading The Way without the need of any props or objects. Thus, are we all not in violation of the Fourth Commandment? Will we all be summed to the jurisdiction of the Divine Supreme Court of the Fourth Commandment? If God is Spirit then any material representation is a “no-no”.


Divine Hedonist or Divine Expressionist 

And yet, I do it. I bet you do too. Even atheists do it when they attach a certain meaning toward  any object  – even if that object is themselves or their intellect. We use the objects and traditions as a vehicle or a tool for worship, focus, grounding, centeredness.

I know this is taking it to the extreme. I am a purist though. I like to swing with the pendulum to both sides. It is in these extremes that I then can find my “just right” middle of the way.

By turing to all these different God “forms”, am I on course or am I off course? Am I being a Divine hedonist by indulging in all these Divine Expressions? Why don’t I just pray to God? Period. Or, are all these Divine forms nuances of that which is non-explainable, non-shapeable, but rather EXPERIENTIAL. In our life path and journey we encounter variety in everything. In life we need to be both fixed and malleable. Just like in relationships, cooking, painting a wall, or fixing a lawnmower, we need a variety of tools with which to approach the situation and get the job done, with Love.

Perhaps the fourth commandment may be all right with us having Divine “props” for our human nature. Perhaps the fourth commandment is telling us to not let anything that is earthly come in-between our relationship with God, be it work, relationships, hobbies, goals, ideals, religion, spirituality, tradition, and even objects.

Perhaps, at this stage of my journey, I am playing with the notion that Christianity may not be a monotheistic religion. Or maybe I am just not at the stage of my development, where my practice of Divine Worship is monotheistic. The road ahead will tell.

And on that note, let us remember what God said in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make wo/man in our image, after our likeness”.

Abundant Wisdom for All,                                                                                             Irena As I Am                                                                                                      03/12/2018

*Rejoice/Hail NOTE:                                                                                                        The term “hail” was a greeting used by Roman soldiers. The more accurate translation of the Angle Gabriel’s greeting to Mary is “REJOICE”.

We Are Messed Up

His name is Maverick. He is a dog. He lives with his human companion in our neighborhood. I think about him quite often even though I have had only several brief encounters with him in the past five or so months. Normally, most dogs when out on a walk are very friendly and looking to be lavishly loved upon by any willing passer by. But not Maverick. Every time I have come across him he growls viscously, bares his teeth, charges at me, and barks like he means it. It is not an honorary “I’m doing my job” dog bark, but rather, he barks like he wants to sink his teeth into some flesh. He barks like his life depended on his bark warding others off.

After a couple of these encounters, before I knew his name, I asked Maverick’s human companion who had a tight grip on his leash, whether Maverick was friendly or not.

The man holding the leash replied,                                                                                 “We just got back from Iraq from a tour of duty.                                                           We’re messed up.”

“Oh. Dear God”, I thought. And, I was so caught off guard by that TRUTH and the depth of its emotional repercussions, that I did not know how to reply. I think I said something that I hope that they both realize that they are in a different place and space, that they find peace and calm, and that they realize they are in peace and calm.

Then, as they went their way and I mine, and we passed by each other within a few feet, I FELT them. I felt their emotional struggles, their pain, and their fears: the fear, stress, and strain of always being “on guard”, the constant fear that their safety is never a sure thing, the fear of watching every step, the fear of not knowing if the ground below is safe to step on (IED -improvised explosive device), the fear of who or what may be around the corner, the fear that at any moment a  bullet may come from any direction, the fear that everyone they meet may be “out to get them”, the fear they may be killed and not live to tomorrow. Even though they were out of Iraq, Iraq was still not out of them. Iraq was still in their mental framework. The constant hyper-vigilance was still in their system and aura.

The Bunker Effect                                                                                                            A couple of years ago I attended a one day seminar with Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert*, author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Magic (and other books too) at Los Angles’ Wanderlust. At one point a lady in the audience spoke about a period of about 10 years in her life  where there was much chaos and tumultuousness. However, she was now in a peaceful and calm place, but because for such a long time she was always on edge and tense waiting for “the other shoe to drop” that she could not relax and calm down. She was still always on edge. Rob Bell called this “The Bunker Effect”. The war is over on the outside, but on the inside the person is still in hyper-vigilant mode. Then he gave her some tips on how to relax, calm down, and settle into this new reality of peace.

The Soldier and Maverick were in this phase of healing The Bunker Effect, or as is commonly known PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. That’s just part of the emotional exchange/download that I felt or experienced when we passed by each other. There were also all the images that they had seen and that had been imprinted on their Beings. The images of poverty, abuse, bombed out buildings and streets, and children and people with scars, wounds, and missing limbs. The images and experiences of their cohorts – some of which may have not come back. All of this, and more I am gathering was in their being, their sphere, their aura.

As we passed each other, I did not  actually “think” all those above things, it is only now in writing about the encounters that I am conceptualizing/articulating the flooding of emotions I felt  upon passing by them. In the most recent encounter I was heading toward my vehicle when I came upon them and that is when The Soldier told me why Maverick was so vigilant and constantly on offense mode. We spoke for not even a minute before they went on their way, but as I sat behind the steering wheel, the effect of that brief encounter triggered a flood of tears out me. I sat and cried until the tears stopped flowing. I have learned it is much better and healthier to let the flow of tears take their natural course as opposed to opposing and suppressing them.

Here Come the Tears                                                                                                        I cried and cried and cried. I cried with them. I cried for them. I cried for the soldiers, civilians, birds and animals. I cried for all of humanity. I cried for peace. And, I cried for myself. My tears were my prayer and my offering. My tears were my urgent plea for greater Grace and Healing  in the Minds and Hearts of suffering men and women. My tears were for the softening of Hearts and the opening of Minds. As I write this, again i am crying for Maverick, The Soldier, All, The Birds and Animals, and me. The suffering of one is the suffering of all (and vice versa too). Thanks to them, I soaked several tissues.

This is one soldier and one dog on their new path of healing their past journey and memories. As I begin to extrapolate this couple to all the soldiers, dogs, civilians, animals around the world that are or have experienced such trauma in their lives it overwhelms me. If I harp on it too long, it paralyzes me emotionally. This is why I can no longer read or watch the news. I had asked for the Gift of Feeling, since for a large portion of my life I suppressed and oppressed my feelings, and I received that Gift, abundantly. Little did I know that in The Gift of Feeling it not only attuned me to me, but to the Oneness of us All. With everything there are two sides of the coin, a blessing side and a side of responsibility in living with and managing the blessing.

I also saw and felt the bond and closeness between Maverick and The Soldier. I felt the deep love and trust they had for and toward each other. I saw how Maverick, who was an Iraqi native and was found and trained and served with and then brought to the USA by The Soldier, was wholeheartedly devoted to protecting his friend, family, and companion. I saw how The Soldier was fond of Maverick and that the canine’s presence was soothing and comforting to him.

They kept each other safe, sane, together and composed as best as they could. Their love gave warmth and comfort to their Hearts and lives. This side of their relationship was a Gift to behold.

And then I thought, maybe they are my mirrors. “They say” everything and everyone are a reflection of some accept of ourselves. My fears do not revolve around actual bombs, bullets, snipers, IEDs, and ambushes. But there was a long period in my life where I too had been in constant hyper-vigilant mode. We all have those periods where “We’re Messed Up” or where we come out of “The Bunker”. Then a new season comes in and it then takes an enormous amount of awareness, humility, and energy to let go of one season and embrace the next. Alone, this is not possible. With Grace and with The Gift of Others whom God places in out lives, this is very possible and doable. All we need do is invoke God’s Wisdom and Grace in each and every day, hour, moment  of our lives.

May God grant us all the Grace and Humility in being present and trusting to and in each season.

God Bless You,                                                                                                                  Irena As I Am                                                                                                           03/08/2018

*NOTE about Elizabeth Gilbert                                                                                           In the weeks and days leading up to this seminar, I really really really wanted to see Elizabeth Gilbert in person, outside of the seminar. And lo and behold it came to pass. It was outside the restroom. I walked out of the restroom and there she was in the hallway waiting in line. I knew the Universe set this up for the two of us. We had a brief chat and then exchanged a warm hug**. Her books have had a profound effect of my life and thus, seeing her in person and expressing my gratitude was a Gift beyond joy.

**NOTE NOTE about hug with Elizabeth Gilbert                                                                  The chat was going really really well and we were connecting, Soul to Soul, and then my ego stepped in and asked if I could take a picture with the two of us. At that point she closed up and the conversation ended very shortly after that.  Ah!

Not Too Thrilled About It

Confession that is. Or, as it is now called, reconciliation. But I still go anyway because my Soul yearns for it, needs it, and nudges me toward it. Sometimes the nudges are gentle, and sometimes they are persistent, imploring, and demanding. Either way, the Whisperings of the Holy Spirit in my Heart can be like a bear for me to go and bare my soul to a man whose vocation is the priesthood. And when I do go, afterwards, a deep inner and profound peace both descends upon me and rises up from within me.

Yes, I know that technically I don’t need an “intermediary” between me and God. I know I can speak with God on my own and present to God how I could have done better or how I have “missed the mark” (sin definition). I know I can whisper it to God in a quiet moment when I am reflecting upon my day. I know I can speak it out loud while praying privately, driving, walking, or stretching my body. I know I can even yell it out loud, and I have, if it is a particularly disturbing feeling. I know I can cry it out of me when I am feeling profoundly moved by my shortcomings. I know I can journal it out of me and lay it down on paper which came from a  tree. I know I can then light a candle and burn away my indiscretions and turn them into a burnt offering.

I have done all these things, and more.                                                                           But it is not the same as an in person confession with a priest.

The entrance to that Sacred Space and Place where one bares their soul and relieves their conscience: a confessional.

These days, where things are more in the open, one has the option of a face to face confession (door with a window), or if one prefers there is the private confession where one is in a separate room with a privacy screen between the priest/confessor and the confessed. It is all a matter of personal preference and the promptings of the Holy Spirit in one’s Heart.

I have also worked with a variety of healers and healing modalities – reiki, hypnotherapy, reflexology, polarity/cranial, EFT/tapping, acupuncture, kundalini yoga, numerology, intuitive healers, books/CDs, angel cards, shamans – where we have worked on and through my blocks and misconceptions. I am eternally grateful to and for all the healers that have helped me identify, move through, process and heal my lower karma. The transformations have been miraculous and eternally altering. The healers have been Heaven sent. Without them i never would have made the progress i did. But it never felt quite complete. It always felt like there was one more piece, one more element missing in the completion and closure in the healing journey of a certain issue. I always felt like I had to bring it to Jesus through one of His anointed, appointed, and ordained representatives, a Priest at confession. When I do and after I do, it is like I am “washed clean”. My being, my Heart, my spirit, my whole essence feel lighter. It literally and figuratively feels like tones of weight are lifted off of my shoulders. I walk with less heavy weight on me and in me.

It is an unloading in a Holy Space and Place. Time is non-present and eternal in a confession/reconciliation. All of time is there and none of time is there. The ground, the earth, the building where the “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7, take place is blessed and holy with the tabernacle holding the Holy of Holies near by, The Eucharist. Yes, I know all of earth is blessed and holy for it is God’s Creation, but just like Sedona, AZ has its vortices of intensified energy, certain sites are appointed as extra special or holy because of their intended purpose. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20. Thus too when people, priests, bishops gather, bless and proclaim a certain piece of land or building as a place of worship it holds that energy of its blessings, intentions, and the sum of all the worship energy that has taken place there. By taking the time, energy, and effort in our lives to go present ourselves before a priest in a tabernacle designated for the offering of our guilt, shame, fear, shortcomings, anger, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness, sorrows, pain, unworthiness, struggles… one is partaking in a sacred act of humility before God. One lays their ego down before God. One acknowledges their human frailty before God. One asks for the Grace to continue on with even deeper Grace, Wisdom, wholeness, and holiness.

Just like doing yoga at home is not the same as practicing yoga in a class with a guide/teacher/instructor, so too is a “home made” confession/reconciliation not quite the same as one in a church/office with a priest. Just like watching a ballet performance or sporting event at home on tv, or listening to a symphony on the radio, is not the same as being at the event in person, so too with the bearing of one’s burdens before the Lord is a much more profound and healing experience when done in person before a priest. Just like Jesus’ lineage is traced back to King David, the lineage of the priesthood is a vocation that through apostolic succession flows back to and from Christ, Jesus. Just like Jesus worked with the humanness of his apostles and disciples (male and female), so too does He work with and through the humanness of His current day priests and priestesses (Anglican Church). The words spoken in the Holy Space and Place of a confessional or reconciliation room, I have found for me have been mirrors, guide posts, soothing and calming, sometimes provoking (opened up another area for healing), and always liberating. It is one of God’s wonderful Gifts which bring us closer to God, in greater alignment to God, and deeper holiness and wholeness with God.

There have been periods in my life where I have gone once a week to confession and sometimes even more – after a Daily Mass, private office confessions, and once even on a bench under a tree. Had it not been for these confessions, I would still be stuck in some metal mental state of confinement. With each confession, a bar or two or more would melt away in my mind and opened me up to a life yoke of greater Light and Love.

A times I have seen these encounters as confessions and other times as reconciliations. In the confession paradigm is when I know I have fallen short and transgressed against, God, myself, and my neighbor –  all one and the same as we are all one of the same Source.  Confession is when I feel have done something offensive –  a sin of commission. I have been at the mercy of my ego, my lower self. On the other hand, I feel that I am in reconciliation  when I know that there is a different way of being and of living, but it is still vague and in vapor form for me. It is when God is asking another version of me to rise up but I am either afraid or unaware of the Divine Truth and thus am fumbling around in the darkness, or stalling.  This is omission and I am asking for Grace to help me reconcile myself to God’s version of me. Just like we reconcile our checking accounts to that of the bank, so too I feel I am reconciling myself to God’s best account of me.

These days one has two ways that one can partake in the Holy Sacrament of Confession / Reconciliation. There is the traditional confessional booth where the confessor, priest / priestess is in one room and the confessed, me or you in another room with a privacy screen in-between the two.  Or, there is the new way in which the confessor and confessee sit in the same room facing each other. The latter takes a whole lotta more gumption, or Grace. I’ve done both versions, including office and impromptu out door confessions. The Holy Spirit will let you know which is best for you in each circumstance. I have spoken my confessions from my Mind and Heart as in the Flow of the moment. I have also spent much time reflecting upon what I would like to bring to Jesus and thus have written out my confession and then read it to the confessor. Again, the Holy Spirit directs each encounter and healing session.

If you have not been to confession at all, why not try it this lent, before Resurrection Celebration (Easter) and see what it does to your Heart, Mind, Spirit, and body. A lighter conscience will lighten the body and help you move forward in life. If it has been some time since you have  been to confession, perhaps this article is your sign and “nudge” that it is time. It is a very humbling act. It is also very rewarding and liberating.  It will help you breathe easier and be more relaxed.

Abundant Grace , Wisdom, Humility, and Peace,                                                          Irena As I Am                                                                                                      03/05/2018

Born 100 Years Too Late, Not

Once upon a time, a very very long time ago, in the era of my teen years, I had this unsettling feeling that I was out of time and out of place. I enjoyed living in the modern world, the modern era, the modern way of life, but I had this deep yearning from within for simplicity. This yearning for simplicity had its vision imprinted on me, and even though I could not see it, I felt it had to do with the earth and with animals. My natural inclination was to conceptualize and name this feeling. It was the word “FARM”. We need to give names and shapes to the vapors that are within us. Just like our Soul needs our body to navigate this world, so too with the Divine Whisperings in our Heart. These Divine Whisperings start at the ethers, and hopefully with our cooperation culminate by becoming form in the material world. These Divine Whisperings, when heeded take us through the syllabus of our life’s lesson plans, growth, and evolution.

Even though I had this feeling and this urge, I did nothing about it. It was a time in my life when I had deeply discounted my feelings and their relevance to the quality of my life. They were just there, but it was my mind that had ruled supremely and definitively. ‘Who needed feelings anyway?’, was how I lived my life. Oh my Word! How did I make it through that period my life? Very stubbornly! Today, I would honor that feeling and visit a farm, spend some time on a farm, and maybe even live on a farm. Nevertheless, I am quite certain now that somewhere from deep within me a radio feeling frequency signal was being emitted that said F •A •R •M. I should also point out that the first eight years of my life were spent on a farm. They were glorious years indeed. Eve though I did nothing about this                F •A •R •M desire, The Heavenly Realm was busy organizing and arranging my path toward F •A •R •M experiences. It was through the F •A •R •M experiences that I received joy, clarity, and eventual peace.

The first lesson on the F •A •R •M syllabus was a young gentleman whom I had met at a dance. He was an “aggie”, an undergrad student in the Faculty of Agriculture and was slated to take over his father’s farm, who had inherited it from his father. The farm was an entire section, or six hundred and forty acres.  It was both a cattle ranch and a harvesting farm.  That was a chunk of land and a chunk of responsibility.

I on the other hand was a business student who was going down the accounting path, because my mind told me that was the safe and logical way. People always needed and paid for accountants. Had I followed my Heart, I would have chosen a marketing major instead. I had also been drawn to psychology and considered it, but commerce had the strongest pull. Ironically, after I graduated and because of the economy, it took a while for me to find an apprenticeship  job in the accounting industry. Meanwhile, one summer break I had apprenticed as a marketing director with a restauranteur who had four Italian restaurants/lounges in the city. He was so pleased with the events and their success that I had planned and executed, that he had offered me a job once I graduated one year later. What did I say, “NO”. Why? Two very logical reasons: one, I wanted a professional accounting designation because I wanted the prestige of having “letters after my name”, and two, I was very rigid and had blinders on. As it turned out, a couple of years down the line, I had a falling out with the accounting path. Oh my Word! Lord have mercy on my stubbornness and please gently  remove my blinders. Amen and Thank You. Meanwhile, others had strongly urged me to go down the education path because of its stability and long summer vacations. That did sound appealing, but partly (well honestly, mostly) out of rebellion, i negated that path, because I wanted to choose and not be told which way to go! So there! There is that ego again. Another family member suggested I consider psychiatry, but the thought of being in school for years with all those science classes just did not sit well with me. In hindsight, all these paths and vocations amalgamated and have been developed, either in personal study, the situations I found myself in, or me eventually listening to my Heart and following my bliss.

Back to the aggie undergrad bachelor and the dance. We danced. We went out a few times. He was sweet, gentle, and kind. Then Easter break came along and he went back to his family and the farm which was a couple of hundred kilometers away.  But on Eater morning when I opened the front door I was de-lighted, surprised, and frightened. There was a box of chocolates, a stuffed bunny, and a sweet card with sweet words. He and everything was so sweet and gentle. Looking at these gifts, holding these gifts, feeling these gifts, eating the chocolates, and reading the words, did something to me. Even though I was not aware of this consciously, some deep part of me felt his intentions and his envisioning me as his his wife, co-cattle-rancher, and harvesting the land partner. It is like my deeper and subconscious self said, “we are taking over from here”, and I immediately shut down and distanced my self from him. It was not a conscious decision, it was me acquiescing to something greater than me and my logic. In hindsight my deep inside vision was not in alignment with his vision and our journey ended immediately. But I still was not at total peace on the inside that F •A •R •M was not the path for me. It was not yet a closed case nor a completed syllabus. Thus, I received another F •A •R •M Gift.

The next experience on the F •A •R •M course syllabus was something I never could have dreamed up of myself. I got a summer job at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in central Alberta whose website describes it as “an open-air museum where costumed role-players recreate the life of early Ukrainian pioneers that settled in east central Alberta from 1892-1930” ( Various original  buildings (farm houses, churches, stables, granaries, school houses, blacksmith shop, town shops) have been transported to and restored at the museum site. The role players represent the actual personages of the buildings. I was “randomly assigned” the role  Mrs. Anytsia Slemko, a woman married to a farmer by the name of Hrytz Slemko circa 1910. They had six children. They lived in a one room  wood and clay house with a thatched roof, a dirt floor, a clay oven, a wood burning stove, and a table like bed padded with a straw mattress upon which everyone slept together, all eight people. Great care was taken to recreate authenticity, and historical accuracy and integrity –  down to the black lace up ankle boots, long black wool skirt which showed just a little bit of the ankle, white plain bloomers, white button up blouse, and a head kerchief which all the married women wore.

For five to six days a week from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm I was a role playing married farm wife with six children – there was a role playing husband, but no children though – living in a clay house with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or a bathroom. We did have two real cows, several pigs and a small garden. We were literally transported back about one hundred years. Beyond amazing was this setup! I had a pretend husband. I hauled water in. I cooked on a wood burning oven. I made bread in the clay oven. And, once a week, on Saturday’s usually so that the house would be fresh and clean for the Lord’s Day, I made a manure mixture (cow manure mixed with water) in  a bucket and then spread the potion with a broom over the clay floor in the house. It kept the dust down and believe it or not, the flies out. I loved watching people’s faces, especially the children when they saw or heard of this ritual. Sometimes, I even asked the visitors if they would like to go with me to pick out the best cow manure pies! A common question that many visitors would ask with a wink was how we had the time and privacy to “make” six children if everyone slept together on the same bed in a one room house. We would pretend blush, be very shy about it, grin, and say something vague about meeting in the barn or that I would stay longer when I carried lunch and water out to Mr. Slemko on the field. Everyone would chuckle. It was clean and simple education and entertainment. Some would ask about my formal education, and I would reply back in very broken English that “Skul not for woman. Woman have house, children, husband, farm to take care of. No time for skul. Too much work learn to read. Husband read.”

Me as Mrs. Anytsia Slemko outside my/her one room for living clay house with a thatched roof. (Upon the entryway there was a cold room for food storage.)

Since the open air museum was about a half hour ride outside the city, the Alberta Government provided vans for group transportation. Our van had a Hawaiian Day theme. For the privacy of others, I covered people’s faces.

Even tough I had alternate husbands, there was one in particular who stands out in my memory and with whom I had “interesting” dynamics. He was an “authentic” Ukrainian, and not the second, third, or fourth generation watered down assimilated kind. He was a “real” Ukrainian. He was a veterinarian in Ukraine and had just emigrated to Canada. This was his first job and a way to acclimate before he took his Canadian veterinary certification exams. He was about ten years older than I and he teased me, a lot. He took the role playing to the extreme and would often say, “Wife make me some pyrohy. Wife, I want borscht for lunch. Woman, there is no water in the house. Go fetch me some water.” Or, “Woman sweep the house.” Oh & arrgh! This would send my blood curdling since I had been a flaming feminist at that time. So much so that when a gentleman/stranger opened the door for me, I would purposefully not go through that door, but open myself the other double door, go through it, and say to him, “This is the eighties/nineties, us women can do it ourselves.” Oh my! Lord have mercy, times three, on me and all those kind souls that I had been so cruel to.

One time this teasing “husband’s” comments sent me into such a huffy puffy inner dirt devil storm that I huffed, puffed, and stomped out of “our” little clay one room house with only two windows**. I fumed down the gravel road, raising the dust behind me and  not knowing where in particular I was going. Anywhere where he was not. Coincidentally enough, I found myself in one of the many churches that are on the grounds. I walked in and the church was empty. I had God and God’s Ear all to my self. I vented to God. I told God just how unreasonable, chauvinistically pretentious, and demanding my pretend husband was. After I calmed down, God said to “Go back. Your life lesson and semester are not over yet.” I listened to God. I obeyed God. I made peace with my pretend husband. I completed my role as Mrs. Anytsia Slemko to summer’s end.

I wanted the F •A •R •M life. I wanted life one hundred years back. I got what I wanted, and I realized didn’t like it. After the aggie gentleman encounter and the summer job as Mrs. Anytsia Slemko circa 1910, I was at peace on the inside that the Universe had indeed not made a mistake by letting me incarnate in the wrong era. Nothing was off course. Everything was on course. All was well. Now I could relax, be at peace, and fully embody my present place and state in life. How great and wonderful is that. It was a Gift beyond measure.

May you too find peace and joy in your journey of growth.                                          Abundant blessings,                                                                                                         Irena As I Am


**NOTE**                                                                                                                        The reason the house had only one window which faced west for sunlight and warmth was that in their former homeland of Rus, current day Ukraine and under the Austro-Hungarian Empire there was a tax on windows. The more widows a house had, the higher the taxes. The new immigrants, not yet fully knowing the British laws of Western Canada thought the same taxation rules applied and thus minimized the number of windows. Governments are so creative when it comes to taxation.

That Porsche Guy

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, my eyes used to roam and scan a room for eligible bachelors, men without a round ring. One fine day, as I was pulling up to church for daily mass a Posrche wheeled in too. “Interesting”, I thought. As the driver got out, I thought, “very very, very interesting”. The driver was a handsome man, dressed in a stylish button up shirt semi-loosely hanging over his trendy jeans. “Oh my!”, I thought, “this is more than very very very interesting.” As usual, I played it cool, very very cool. I’m good at that. Naturally, I did not say anything to him. Why would I? If anything at all, I was even the more reserved. After all, I was there to pray. No distractions allowed. He on his part, remained in his world.

An automobile called Porsche. (Image from Motortrend.)

He was not a regular daily mass attendant but showed up fairly frequently. Each time I noticed him I  was impressed that someone who had the external appearance of wealth and success was also spending time with the Lord during the week, and not just on Sundays. I did “happen” to notice that his ring finger was bare.  When I spoke of him to my friend I referred to him as “That Porsche Guy”. I imagined his coming to church was to pray for or about  some big upcoming business deal he was working on. This was a period in my life when I had so many work projects on my plate that just the thought of getting involved with someone felt heavy and burdensome. Thus distance was perfect and ideal. But I did enjoy seeing him at mass and imagining what the rest of his life was like. That was enough for me. Any more time, energy, and effort would have buried me.

And then one day, everything changed. The plot twisted in a way, that I bet you, Dear Reader, – and I’m not the betting kind – probably would never guess. It was something, that I never could have thought up myself.  One day, he came came to church with three other people. This day he was wearing a wedding band and so was the beautiful woman who walked in with him. “Oh, I thought, he is married after all. I guess not everyone wears their band on a daily basis, I realized. Good thing I just kept the imaginary relationship to just imagination and sight.” But then, what I saw next made my Heart feel compassion, shame, humility, and tenderness toward the family, “That Porsche Guy’s” family. He and his wife had a beautiful daughter about age eight and a son who followed them in, in an electric wheel chair. It was evident by his mannerisms, face and hands that he had down syndrome. The son appeared to be in his early teens.

All through mass all I did was process my thoughts and feelings while sending the family compassionate energy. I thought about myself and observed myself and what my attitude had been toward him based on his outward presentation. Does anyone else out there do that – make a judgement call about a person based on how they look, what they are wearing, and the wheels they are driving? It did it not even dawn on me to scan the state of his Heart at the beginning. Had I done that I might have “seen” him differently. I would have gone from seeing him with my material eyes to that of the Heart vibe. Thus, here is where I began to judge and scold myself for being so “materialistically oriented”. I thought about what this non-experiential encounter had taught me about myself. This was shortly after my Heart had been awakened and I was working on seeing more with the eyes of my Heart. Clearly, I got a big red “F” on this assignment. More assignments and encounters were needed for the sharpening of my Heart Sight.

As the daily mass was carried on by the priest and congregants, my whole focus was on this family. Every time I glanced at the father, mother, daughter and son gathered there before the Lord, I could not even begin to fathom the joy, the love, and the daily struggles of every member. My Heart went out to them. I wished them strength for the journey and peace in their Hearts. I wished that an abundance of grace fill their path.

I wished that deep internal joy be an integral part of their daily lives. And now, about a decade later, I also thank them for their example of love in a family. I also am grateful for witnessing their togetherness and commitment to each other. Lastly, I learned much about myself based on my internal dialogue that was triggered by my initial sighting of him.

I realized that in my initial instantaneous assessment of him and the entirety of his being, I had reduced him down to an automobile breast plate. Um, does this qualify me as being superficial and materialistic? Two hands down, eyeball to eyeball honesty: YES! In writing this story, I thought more deeply about this topic: me and materialism. I realized that materialism is something that I both am attracted to and simultaneously repelled by.  I like it, yet I also shun it because I live very simply, borderline asceticism. Clutter of any kind is draining to me. I realized that I have a very complicated relationship with wealth and material goods. I realized that  I like nice things and enjoy the feeling of having and using something that is of value. I realized that when there is quality and integrity in a product it adds value and surety to my life. By surety I mean to say that quality in a product gives me peace of mind and the mind space to focus on other things, other than things.

It’s about finding that narrow path where one has the discipline to only have the things that one needs for peace, comfort, and ease in their life. On the flip side, it means saying “NO” to things that may be nice to have but would add undue stress and responsibility. It is about nourishing our lives with material things that add to our GDP – gross domestic (inner and outer) peace”, and not weigh it down to the point of them being burdensome. When one is at peace, one can be a person of great value to this planet.

It takes awareness, and self-observation in knowing what adds joy and value to our lives and what drains us of energy. It then takes practice, commitment, and discipline to remove or let go of the items that are distractions in our lives and that take away our joy and peace. But with Grace and humility toward the Holy Spirit’s Whisperings, anything is possible.

Lastly, we don’t even need to engage and encounter with each other to learn and grow from each other. Sometimes, just the presence of someone in a room can trigger a metanoia experience. Stay open, receptive, and responsive to the workings of the Holy Spirit in your thoughts, Heart, and life.

Abundant Grace, Humility, and Blessings,                                                                        Irena As I Am                                                                                                          02/26/2018

Monthly Pilgrimage

Heavenly journey of delicious, nutritious, and conscious  joy

Once a month I make a pilgrimage to Delux Burger in Phoenix. I’ve been doing this for years and years now. It satiates my red meat cravings and my body’s nutritional requirements. When I first started going there for my burger craving satiation I was not fully aware of why I was led there. But in time it became clear to me. They use meat from conscious cattle ranches. I am quite sure they have other meals on the menu but I only and always get the same dish: Delux Burger, medium rare, lettuce wrap it please (occasionally, I’ll bun it up), sweet potato fries, and all aioli sauce, (hold the ketchup – why would anyone want ketchup when the aioli sauce is so delicious – i could drink it as a milkshake – not quite, but almost), please. I have tried other burger places, but I always gravitate back to Delux.

Initially, I ate, consumed, enjoyed the burger mindlessly, not fully aware of what I was doing and the ripple effect I was creating from a simple act of feeding myself one meal – well in actuality two for me. That is until  I started becoming more and more sensitive to my purchasing decisions, to the animal spirit world, and to energy. This awareness and Gift opened up a whole world of blessings and HUGE responsibilities. The blessings came in the form of me choosing food and personal care products which were clean, conscious, and Love based. The responsibility came in the form of now that I knew better, I could no longer in good conscience not do not better. The double negative said another way is that  in knowing and feeling the energy of what I was eating or putting on or in my body, I could no longer choose food and personal care products that were not made with integrity and love.

In an earlier HerStory article of mine called “It’s Very Complicated”, I shared how difficult it became for me to eat meat. I began knowing and feeling the Oneness with everyone, animals, nature, and inanimate objects. I began seeing animals as my soul brothers and sisters. It repulsed me to eat meat of any kind because I felt like I was eating my sister or brother. That’s how sensitive and attuned I got. Many people are experiencing these shifts in these days. There were times when I saw others eating meat that I wanted to throw up because it was so revolting to me. During this period I visited the Biosphere 2 in Oracle/Tuscon, AZ. There I learned that the human inhabitants became so close to their animal companions, which were supposed to be their protein food source that no one could do the “deed” (slaughtering). Thus they became vegetarians for the duration of the experiment and the animals were spared. Life was mirroring back to me my inner and outer journeys of what I was struggling with and working through. Although I was not raising any animals, but because I became so sensitive, such an empath, that I felt them and was at one with them. I did not want their blood on my hands. I did not want to be responsible for their slaughter. I was not going to be a cannibal. I would live without eating my brothers and sisters. Or so I thought and so I tried.

Over a period of three to four years several times I went vegan. Each time I lasted about thirty to forty days. Each time I almost made myself sick because I felt so depleted in the nutrients provided from meat. Each time when I went back to eating meat, I would crycrycry and then cry some more, feel tremendous guilt, and apologize profusely to the sacrificed animal, my sister, that I was eating her. In this phase I would tell people that I outsourced or subcontracted my killing or murdering. Oh yes, I dragged others along on my inner guilt trip. On one such occasion, the person responded back by saying that “cows are delicious”. This statement haunted me for years. Yet, on the other hand, I also felt much better after I did eat meat, I felt like life was coming back into my body. I felt strong again in ways that plant, legume, and nut proteins could not fulfill. It was a heavy duty catch twenty two. If I ate meat, I felt selfish. If I did not eat meat, I felt the life force leaving me and me becoming weaker and weaker. That’s what happens when you become closer to feeling and knowing Oneness with all of Creation. You feel deeply every one and everything that enters your orbital sphere.

As always, Grace came riding in on a white horse sweeping me out of my emotional quagmire, my mental conundrum, and my energetic dilemma. Grace showed over time through various books, conversations, and insights how it does not have to be an either/or stance, that it can be both. It can be an “and” way of life. Grace rescued me from me.  Grace eased my mental and emotional anguish and showed me how to make wise, loving, gracious and gratitude based choices. Grace showed me that everything and everyone is a gift, a blessing, and a sacrifice. We are gifts to each other. We are a blessing to each other. We also offer ourselves as a sacrifice to each other. The sacrifice looks different for everyone. Each has their own path, their own mission, their own passion.

Passion = pass + i + on. We pass on the “i” of us to others and thus to God. We pass on our i or eye or essence to Creation. This passing on of ourselves nourishes others and is our redeeming gift and privilege.

With this shift and insight, my burger eating experience took on another dimension. I became deeply and profoundly grateful for the nourishment and the joy in the journey of my nourishing . I went form being a mindless consumer where the end justifies the means to a grateful participant in the entire circle of living life on our earth biosphere bubble. Now, when the hamburger is presented to me and before me, I don’t dig into it. I stop. I take a breath. I think of everyone involved with getting this burger on the plate. There is first and foremost the Holy Spirit of the Cow which was sacrificed; there is the farmer and all her/his helpers; the veterinarian; the people who helped build the barns and the fences around the pastures and the suppliers of the barn and fence materials; there is that person who did the “deed”, or the person who invented the machine that is doing the “deed”; there are the people, knives, packaging, and electricity it takes to then dismember, package, and refrigerate the sacrificed cow; then there are the trucking companies and drivers and distributors; then there are the restauranteurs with their art and helpers of creating a delicious meal. It takes the whole village to keep the village going. The globe is the village. Lastly and most importantly, there is God for sending sun and rain and grass and the Gift of the Cow. Now I can begin eating and enjoying my hamburger, consciously, gracefully, graciously, and gratefully.  I now know just how many people it takes for something simple to appear: many, countless.

Just like the Native Americans used to thank the Buffalo Spirit in advance of their hunt for offering itself up to them, we too need to take a moment to practice mindfulness and gratitude before a meal – especially if there is meat in it.

I still remember the first time I consciously ate a wild caught salmon. I had been purchasing my fish from regular food stores but in this awareness journey I began purchasing some of my nourishment at Whole Foods. They have a fresh fish department whose focus is on sustainability and they will cook the fish for you. Since my kitchen is primarily for display purposes only (very basic cooking is what I do), I loved that they prepared the fish. I was so excited to bring home and eat a salmon that was not farmed but one that had roamed the wild seas. The night that I ate the wild caught salmon I had a dream. I dreamt that I was in the ocean swimming with the salmon and then I and the salmon merged – our energy became One. We became One. We/i swam in the cold waters off of the coast of Alaska. The sense of freedom was wonderful. The feeling of the freedom entered into my blood, my veins,  and my energy. It was after this meal and this dream that I realized that we absorb and we become the energy that we eat. “Irena, now that you know this, be VERY MINDFUL of how you nourish your body.”, was an imprint onto my being. I am and will always be grateful to the Holy Spirit of that Salmon that gave me that Gift of merging with him.

The opposite is also true. If one eats the soul&spirit of an animal that has been raised in tight cruel quarters, that energy will also merge with theirs.

I have come full circle in my meat eating journey.

Take Charge of your life, nutrition, and experiences,                                                      Irena As I Am                                                                                                        02/21/2018


24 hours: no food, no water. The result, major detachments.

Want to get on the fast track to spirituality, then go on a fast? Fasting will turbo charge your spiritual progression in ways unimaginable. When you progress and deepen spiritually, all other aspects of your life benefit.

The most obvious, common, and traditional association to fasting is food. All the religious paths embody it, promote it and encourage it. On this practice the religions are all unified. The duration of the fast can be anywhere from a day, to a week, to a month, to forty days. If one marries religion with spirituality then the fast can be extended to a quarter (three months) or longer, or even a lifetime. When flowing and aligning with the Divine Spirit, then one listens and responds, or joyfully and lovingly obeys the ebbs and flows of one’s path/energy as it is riding on Love’s Current. A this point one rises from the letter of the law to the Spirit of Love. The letter of the law prescribes how to fast, when to fast, and when to stop. This religious approach to fasting is like spiritual training wheels. Since life requires much energy and time to keep up and stay up, most people do not have the time nor energy to devote to spiritual learning and practices. Thus, the religious calendars and holy days are very beneficial and act as an aid or guideline for followers to incorporate into their lives. But it also creates a unified force or unified field when all the participants are focusing their mental, emotional and physical energy unto fasting, unto something greater than themselves. It is like a world love-in joined together by the outflow of all the Heart Intentions. Since “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” and when members of a religious group fast throughout the world, it raises the spirituality frequency of Love, Light, and Healing of the entire planet. Whether we practice a certain religion or not, we all benefit when the Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists… fast as a community. Everything is energy and energy raised through prayer, meditation, or fasting, affects everyone, positively.  There have been scientific studies that have measured and recorded a lightening up and healing of the earth during such events. Fasting within a religious group is a commonality bond that builds community and unity with its members.

The fasting from food/beverages can take on many forms. It can be as simple as not eating or drinking the “indulgent” food or beverages: i.e. sweets, candy, chocolate, cake, dessert, ice-cream, alcohol, coffee. Another and more involved level of fasting is when we abstain from a certain food group: i.e. anything made with traditional white flour (no nutritional value), sugar (sometimes referred to as “the cocaine of the masses”), processed food (which has zero nutritional value), high fructose corn syrup, dairy, meat. The terms vegan and vegetarian are the vernacular terms and practices that have grown in popularity and population as people are taking it upon themselves to deepen their  personal relationship with themselves and the Divine. As personal spirituality, development/growth, and  self-help have grown in popularity so has information, products, food, and services related to supporting the masses on their inner and outer journey. As the masses are taking back their personal power, they are thinking for themselves and acting in alignment with their Hearts. As the masses are taking personal responsibility and accountability for their thoughts, attitudes, feelings, words, actions and how they spend their time, they are strengthening their channel, communication, trust, and chord to the Divine Realm. These people are called “mystics out of monasteries” (term used by Carolyn Myss) . They are living (eating, reading, speaking, watching, entertainment, hobbies) and eating clean because they feel compelled to do so and because they know that their actions not only affect them, but the whole world. Many and inconspicuous are the mystics out of monasteries.

Just like in sports, in fasting too there are the extremes. One such extreme fast is that of no food and  no water for 24 hours, or sundown to sundown – modeled after the Jewish Yom Kippur, The Day of Atonement fast. Another is where one only drinks water, and that is their only form and source of nutrition and hydration for one day, three days, or seven days (and some even go longer). These require mental preparation in advance of the fast as the mind will RESIST and SCREAM  as to why this is not possible, plausible, nor a good idea. It is easy to fall prey and victim to one’s mind when preparing for these fasts. It is easy to quit before even trying when such thoughts flood one’s being. This mental preparation stage is an integral part of the fast for the success and completion of the fast.

I have done many times the “Yom Kippur” fast of no water/food/beverages for twenty four hours. Only once thus far have I done and been called to do the three day water only fast. What I have discovered is that by following through and completing these fasts is that afterwards I feel much lighter with my attitude and outlook. I feel stronger. I feel like I can trust myself. I am self-trustworthy. I feel like I can rely on me to keep my word to me. Thus, I respect myself. In addition, after each fast or cleanse, I have noticed that by my detaching or abstaining from food temporarily, my ego is humbled and subdued, and I detach on the inside from something that no longer is of Divine Service. In this widow of the taming of the ego or opening myself up to Divine grace and humility, an unhealthy or shadow emotion, notion, or attitude is released. Or said another way, I am freed from a notion, emotion, thought pattern, or attitude that has been unhealthy, a lower vibration, a stronghold, or had a stranglehold on me. It is a shift to a higher gear of Light and Love. It is truly miraculous.  And then when I do return to food again, I see it with different eyes, I am more grateful for it and have a greater joy in eating it.

Outside of the above two extremes there are more gentler options such as juicing, cleanses, oil pulling, detoxing, herbal teas, and one fruit food for x days. The juicing can be done exclusively for day(s), or as a single meal cleanse/detox. I’ve heard of people eating one fruit only, such as  bananas or watermelon for a number of days. Herbal teas made for a specific purpose are powerful when sipped with focus, intention and feeling. Oil pulling cleans the mouth – and a clean mouth affects the entire body. It should be done twice a year for forty days each time. In between these bi-annual cleanses, one can do it several times a week. The Master Cleanse is a favorite of mine. I have done it off an on for about twelve years. The duration has varied from one day to fourteen days. Each time I am in awe as to how many internal “masters”  or task masters, I am  liberated from. Lastly, the other favorite is the Liver & Gall Bladder Cleanse. This one tunes up the gall bladder by gently and naturally pushing through and passing out the stones. It resets the digestive system and intestines by emptying them out completely. In Chinese medicine the gall bladder is associated with anger. Stones are seen as the hardening of built up anger. Thus, by passing the stones, one is releasing the anger from one’s body. Oooh yes, get that toxicity out out out!

In addition to the traditional understanding and practice of fasting which revolves around food and using the body as the vehicle toward purification through abstinence, we can also think of fasting as an inner abstinence: For instance, try fasting from

1) Shadow Attitude

2) Complaining

3) Gossiping

4) Criticizing

5) Noise

6) Jumping to Negative Conclusions

Easy. Right. Watch you, your life and your situations change when you are Divinely called, decide, and commit to a practice of fasting. It is work, but it is well worth it and the dividends are amazing in improving your quality of life, both inner and outer.

Sometimes, when people face a major health issue they make radical nutritional and lifestyle choices. Don’t let this be your impetus for clean living and eating, choose it on your own accord.

May Abundant Grace and Wisdom guide you,                                                              Irena As I Am                                                                                                      02/12/2018

D+Anger = Danger

D(enial) + Anger = Danger

The denial of anger could lead one to danger.

“The anger of a friend toward a friend, and the anger of parents toward their children – and of God toward men – is not a storm that uproots the tree, but a wind that strengthens the tree, and rids it of rotten fruit, so that the healthy fruit will increase in number and beauty.”  St. Nicholai of Zica

This is a very interesting perspective on anger. This anger journey I have taken, or rather, The Flow of Anger, took me on its journey. It was like getting into a river raft boat and heading down into class five rapids where one gets tossed about and tossed out. But, I did not even know I was angry. That is the scary part. I was so unaware of the deep deep deep underlying seething anger that I just plodded along on life’s path by covering it up, running from it, and dealing with it in two ways: being a super-being, and being a passive-aggressive being. The super being me showed up being as super positive, super congenial, super people pleasing, super accommodating, and, in super denial. That is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin my anger came out by my being passive aggressive. I would be angry on the inside, pleasant on the outside, but my actions  revealed my true inner state. Rather than facing and expressing my feelings, or god-forbid, me discussing my feelings, I would counteract with my stubborn stance. It was subterfuge. It was a veiled protest.

Even though I was a married adult woman and a co-partner in a successful business, underneath it all I saw myself as a girl, a little girl. This inner little girl, about five years old was the real person showing up in the adult life. She did not know how to stand up for herself, speak up for herself, and provide for herself. This little girl had to maneuver and navigate in an adult world and in her adult body, even though her emotional developmental age stood still and had not progressed past her tender five year old self.

She did not see nor feel herself as an adult, nor the successful businesswoman everyone said she was. But rather, she saw herself as this little girl pretending to be an adult. It was a scary high tight rope she was on. She was tip toeing on egg shells. She was doing her best to please the adults and their expectations. Like a duck is drawn to water, this little girl had two imprints on her that dictated her attitude and behavior. The first being – little girls are to be seen and not heard – thus, stay quiet, keep quiet, and, the corner is your place of abode. The second being – little girls do not get angry – it was a big No.No.No! The expression of anger was not allowed, it was shut down, it was frowned upon, it was not the way sweet little girls ought to behave. They must be sweet at all times.  (Note: “Must” is a word that i disdain now.)

Oh my! Dear Lord have mercy! Abundant mercy at that! Not just a dollop scoop of mercy. Not just a bucket full of mercy. Not just an ocean full of mercy. But the Eternal Mercy of the Cosmic Consciousness of Christ.

Interesting Side Note: Since I grew up this way, observing more that speaking, my observation skills became laser sharp and super astute. I became a masterful surveyor of human interactions, nuances, and intentions. I also became an accomplished listener. I was the go to therapist for adults and strangers. In this respect, I advanced well beyond my years. See, there is always a blessing in everything, even though we do not know why at the time and even though it may seem  like an injustice. God always uses the clay of our lives to make something beautiful, in time and with patience. Then there is the deeper and more eternal perspectives of Soul Contracts, Karmic Debts, and lessons needed for growth. These were some of the other reasons for why I was set up the way I was by the Cosmos in my journey. Deep deep deep are the layers.

Add to the above formula or imprint the Christian mentality that was in my head: turn the other cheek, forgive forgive forgive – seventy times seven hundred, and anger is not a Christian virtue. Oh no, not anger – a good Christian girl/woman does not get angry, let alone display anger – no no no, a big ‘NoNo’ at that. Oh yes, I would on occasion point to Jesus turning over the tables in his anger, but then I would quickly retract and laugh, out loud. It was my way of putting my toe in the water of anger, but not actually swimming in it. I did not think that it was acceptable, nor did I even know what that would look like. I had to learn how to express my anger.

Now I am not saying that I never got angry or expressed anger, because I had. But it was superfluous anger, not working with and through the real source of it,  and it was projected at people and things that were irrelevant to the truth of my anger. It was at small slights. It was at world events. It was at politicians and leaders. It was directed at things, events and people who had nothing to do with the cause of my anger and were not even in my life.

Meanwhile, deep within me, like a volcano, the anger fire was building and rising slowly to the top being stoked with each occurrence. It was dormant for a long time just hovering at the surface but not exploding or boiling over. YET!

Volcano boiling over after stewing a long time. (Image:

I now see the expression anger as a basic human function and necessity, like going to the bathroom. Who in their right mind would deny themselves the gift (and joy) of the relief and release of going to the bathroom.  Emotions are just like that too. The two are analogous. We have a life experience. Likewise, we eat a meal. From each meal our body savors, processes, digests, absorbs the nutrients, and lastly releases the leftovers, the waste. No one would even think of holding it in for days, years, let alone decades. If it does not come out, it becomes toxic and lethal. Likewise with emotions. We have a  life experience. It can bring us joy or heartache. Joy, laughter, and the rainbow emotions are very socially acceptable in their expressions. It’s the shadow ones that are shunned, shut down, and discouraged. We the people are very uncomfortable when someone has or is expressing the shadow or the moon emotions. We try to distract ourselves and others. We deny them. We ignore them. We stuff them down deeper with food, substances, sugar, work, sex, and obsessions over gossip, sports, politics, hobbies and other people’s business. We runrunrun from  them by being busybusybusy. But that does not erase them nor negate them nor heal them. Healing them is by feeling them. Healing them is by stopping to look at them, acknowledge them, name them, and express them in a safe manner that does not harm others.

I know. I’ve been on both sides of the coin: the denial and the healing. In 2008 I  was in a marriage counselors office when the counselor said to me a most preposterous and false (I thought) statement and question,

“Why are you angry at your parents (and a number of other people).”

My knee jerk response was,

“I’m not angry at my parents (and a number of other people).”

(Note: The stronger the denial, the deeper it is buried and suppressed.)

Oh my! Lord have mercy! Mercy on me! Mercy on the heavens! Mercy on all the people in my life! Mercy on the next TEN YEARS of my life.He not only opened a can  of worms or a Pandora’s Box with that question, he opened up a cistern full of toxicity and set the tone and theme for the next ten years of my life. Such a simple little question did that.

Just the awareness and then the acknowledgment of anger, or any issue, is, I feel half the way to healing. One can not heal or work toward wholeness if one is not aware nor willing to admit that there is a hole that needs the Love and Light of God. But once one says, “oh yes, I have a booboo” and then if one invites and invokes  Divine Assistance in healing the pain, the prayer will be answered.

The journey of anger and working with it and through it was
HEART WRENCHING, emotionally taxing, physically exhausting, and
humbling humbling humbling humbling. I thought it would only be a few months or so, but it ended up being YEARS. When there is decades worth of built up anger, When the anger was not in my awareness, When the anger was suppressed, oppressed, ignored, denied, covered up, not socially acceptable to bring up or discuss or work through,


the Healing also had to be radical to get me to acknowledge it and then have the courage to work with it and through it, until it was all out and healed.

I also realized, or rather it was shown to me, that I did not want to (and that it would not be wise to) live or go through life with that “toxic energy” in me and worse yet, seeping out of me onto those I encountered and loved.

This was all done with an ABUNDANCE OF GRACE.                                                           i am Humbly Grateful,                                                                                                                          irena as i am                                                                                                             02/08/2018

PS                                                                                                                                    Now, my encounters and engagements with the other(s) is MORE AUTHENTIC, grace filled and LOVING because there is not this ball of “uckyicky stuff” between us. The communication lines & channels are more clean and more authentic by the Grace of God.

How i processed and dealt with that anger…well, that is another story for another day.

I Almost Quit!

At the beginning of January 2018, I received a strong impression that I needed to detox. I needed to cleanse my body and in cleansing my body I would also cleanse my thoughts, spirit, and my being. The Universe was telling me it was time to do some internal spring cleaning. There were a lot of dust bunnies that had accumulated in the corners and the attic of my mind and Heart.

It was time to pull back the curtains, open up the windows, get the stale and fatal air out, and bring in some fresh air. It is stale and fatal thoughts, notions, and emotions that keep us stuck, spinning our wheels, and frustrated. It was time to do an internal sweeping, dusting, polishing, and tidying up. It was time to make room for some new thoughts, notions, and emotions.

Said another way, it was time to go into the garden of my mind and Heart and pull up some old old weeds that had become overgrown and were suffocating the flowers and the fruit. It was time to get the hoe out and dig deep so as to pull out the weeds at the roots and not just trim them at the stem.

“Okay”, I said, “I’m game. Show me the way. Help me say yes. Help me stay committed. And help me follow through to the end. Thank You and Amen”

I have found that prayers of petition that revolve around being faithful, reverent, and obedient to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit are prayers that are filled with abundant Grace because they bring us into deeper Divine Alignment.

Within about an hour, I was led, in my thoughts and then I followed through with my actions to a hot yoga web site. Initially I did not make the connection that this was one of the Divine Prompts and Answers, but I bought a package of fifteen classes that had to be used within sixty days. I had tried hot/Bikram yoga many years ago and abandoned it due to the headaches I was getting the day or two  after a class. I was not able to rehydrate and replenish my electrolytes in proportion to the radical and profuse loss in the sweating. I was not able to reestablish my internal balance and equilibrium. After a hot yoga class most people look like they just came out of a pool. Upon the suggestion of a seasoned hot yoga instructor, I had tried replenishing with blackstrap molasses. I also added mineral drops to the beverage. But this did not help. (Note: I am not a fan of Gatorade – the artificial coloring and the high fructose corn syrup do not appeal to me or my “clean, delicious and nutritious” mantra.) I also found myself eating more bananas. Even though I remembered this past non-positive experience, I still felt drawn and compelled  to sign up for this class. Divine Promptings are like that: sometimes the guidance we get in this leg of the journey is totally opposite and contradictory to the guidance we have received in an earlier leg of the journey. The Gift of Right Judgement helps us discern in Divine Alignment.

After the second class, I was ready to quit. I was thirsty for days after a class. I had a slight headache in the back ground. I dreaded going to class. “Who needs this?”, I thought. I wanted to quit. I wanted to bail out. I was going to call and see if I could get a refund, but life was happening so fast that I did not get around to it. In the meantime, articles from New Age sites on my Facebook feed spoke about  when we shift or release toxins or are in the process of raising our vibration there is temporary discomfort. One of these symptoms is headaches.  I did not connect the dots right away. But by the end of the week, I realized what was happening. I realized that I needed to continue going to hot yoga. I needed to continue with my purification. I needed to trust that the head discomfort was only temporary and will bring me to a higher place, eventually. And so I did keep going and it is getting easier. I also added coconut water to my post class replenishing ritual. I now see these classes as wonderful opportunities for peaceful and graceful healing. How blessed and fortunate am I! It was all by the Grace of God.

Interesting Coincidence Side Note:

As I was processing the above,  two conversations that arose in passing with two different people were on the topic of sweating – they brought it up, not me, but since I was working with it in my life, the Universe mirrored back to me others in the same boat. Both people spoke about the “not pleasant” side of sweating and body odor. They said how unpleasant and embarrassing it was. Yes this is true especially when we are in close proximity to one anther. But, when our bodies are detoxing, the body odor that arises, or is released, is a good thing, a really good thing. It means that the body is releasing toxins, icky yucky stuff. Let it. Don’t stop it. It is healthy for you. Instead of buying antiperspirants, buy deodorants. Since our body absorbs into her/him everything that we put on him/her, please buy the clean (health food stores) and gentle animal friendly kind (not tested on animals – no animals had to suffer or be pained in the process of making the product).

But that was not all. There was another angle to my detox journey. The yoga is the physical but I also needed a mental house cleaning. About two months ago a friend mentioned to me that she was listening to Hay House Podcasts. Louise Hay and Hay House authors, speakers and seminars have been integral in my healing and wholeness journey. But I had “forgotten” about this tribe of healers and forward thinkers. But this tidbit of info triggered something in me to go and check out the podcasts. In doing so, I listened to Jessica Ortner and Nick Ortner’s separate podcasts. Their relation is siblings and not marriage. Their healing modality is Tapping or EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique (see/read “TapTapTap•TapTapTap•TapItAway” Article  at•taptaptap•tapitaway/  ).                         It is something I had “stumbled” on to, or more accurately, was led to about 10 years ago and had used extensively, but over time I had filed it away. In listening to their podcasts I tapped along but I spoke out loud things/issues that I was working on releasing and transmuting.

As I tapped on this issue, it led to that issue, which led to another issue. It was like a string or a series of knots that were being released and untangled. In tapping through the issues/knots I felt my body get lighter and easier to carry. That old stuff was being released from my meridians, from circulating in my body, from radiating in my energy field and from my mental paradigm and constructs. I also journaled to get it all out. Remember the adage – things/thoughts untangle themselves from the lips and through the fingertips – meaning speak and write it out, right out of you.

It was like a brain and energy unloading and dumping. This too is Grace in Abundance at work in my life. Again I say, how blessed and fortunate am I! Grace is at work in all of our lives. Have eyes that see and a Heart that is humble, responsive, and grateful.

Then, when I was at my dental cleaning appointment in early January, the dentist again mentioned to me the practice of “oil pulling” and that it should be done two times a year, for forty days each time. The last time I did it was in the summer. Thus it was time. Again, The Universe was telling me here is another opportunity and avenue for you to detox and clean house. This means that I need to get up half and hour earlier to do oil pulling: twenty minutes of swishing in my mouth organic coconut oil, followed by a salt water home made rinse, and completed by brushing my teeth. The dentist also mentioned that oral health and cleanliness is a good indicator of over all body health. Message received. And again and again I say, the Grace of God is eternal and in our simple every day lives it blesses us with an abundance of opportunities for healing.

The last angle has been my usual cleaning and cleansing method: tears, tears, tears, and more tears. I’ve become a professional crier. When I feel them arise, I let them flow. It could be while I am driving, on a restroom break, on a walk, in church, mediation, journaling, or… Most of the time the tears know we have lives and they do come at convenient times. But not always. Honor them. Let them flow, and they will bless and heal you, and those in your midst too. When I first began this healing journey I was petrified, mortified, embarrassed, and felt like a weakling that I cried so much. Oh how wrong and off the mark I was! I now see tears as a Great Blessing. They cleanse. They purify. They release. They give relief. They restore joy, strength, and dignity. They are a Gift of the Holy Spirit. They are gentle healing. Let them flow. Don’t hold them back. Don’t hold the Holy Spirit back. Let Her heal you  gently, gracefully, peacefully, and graciously. Yes, that is what I found out in my journey: tears are gentle medicine.  You know the Holy Spirit is at work within you when you experience three things: tears, warmth/heat in your body, and deep peace.

It also just so happened that January’s full moon was particularly strong and intense in Her tide. Her powerful yin magnet drew out of me (and others as I listened and observed) and to the surface deep mis-alignments or mis-Light-terpretations (interpretations) for me to feel, process, work through, transmute, and lastly transubstantiate into wholeness or holiness.

I almost quit hot yoga because I was feeling uncomfortable. But by the Abundant Grace of God, I received tremendous assistance and support along The Way. I am so grateful that I stayed faithful. The Universe is always setting us up for success!

Had I quit, I would have missed out on some massive shifts. But Grace kept me in the game.

I pray that God’s Truth, Wisdom and Healing blesses you abundantly.                                 I pray you say yes. I pray you stay committed to the end. Amen                                   Irena As I Am                                                                                                           02/05/2018

Warrior One Pose. I call it Peace Pilgrim Pose One. I journey in peace with myself and all. I look up to the Heavens for guidance, support, and confirmation.

Half Lotus Prayer Pose. Eyes are closed – looking and listening deep within.

Child’s Pose. The head is below the Heart. The head/mind is bowing to the Heart.