In Search of Adventure and Ongoing Discovery

Windows of Time © 2014 Bo Mackison

Windows of Time © 2014 Bo Mackison

The best way to promote growth and healing is to take a trip, to go in search of  adventure. Travel through space, whether by land, sea, air, or mind, is the universal metaphor for change. The hero(ine)’s journey creates new futures. New patterns and possibilities emerge.

Many cherished beliefs come into question. New strengths, insights and talents unfold.

When the journey is over and you return to where you began, you are faced with new beginnings. You are at a turning point, a place where new paths make themselves known.

If the journey is successful, you return a changed person, a hero(ine) in your own eyes.

~ Jeffrey Kottler

Failed Relationships – How to Survive and Then Thrive

Cactus Border

The Cactus Boundary © 2014 Bo Mackison

Knowledge is learning something new every day.  Wisdom is letting go of something every day. ~ Zen Saying

I sometimes rehash the rupture of a treasured relationship.

I still see this person on occasion. And the conversations on these occasions often include barely concealed criticisms – and I choose to take those wounding words to heart.  I accept them. I own them as truths. With pain and shame and thoughts of “what could have been, if only I had . . .”.

These infrequent contacts lead to intense shame — it’s all my fault, I should have ____ (fill in the blank). Why am I so crazy, intense, sensitive, blind to my own faults? I engage in obsessive thinking, sleepless nights. I indulge in over-reaction.

I know this is not the preferred reaction, the healthy reaction, the reaction based on self-love. I know it is not about me, and yet I once again swallow the hook, line and sinker. And the worm, too. Don’t forget the wriggling worm.

This morning I read a blog post on Susan Piver’s website entitled Buddhism and Heartbreak: How to Heal and Live in Love. Every word struck a chord. In fact there were so many striking chords, it sounded like a symphony chiming in my head.

Susan wrote of three ways of addressing failed relationships, all reasonable and doable, and although they require persistence and awareness, they also offer a way to refocus and return to full life living. I read Susan’s blog post carefully, took notes on how I could adapt her wisdom into my routine, and then I decided they were worth sharing. Surely I am not the only one who gets embroiled in haunting, failed relationships. So here is my take on Susan Piver’s thoughts on relationships.

1. Assert control over monkey mind.

Instead of trying to devise ways to change what has already happened, or embarking on a “program of change so I will magically become acceptable,” I can choose to practice feeling what I feel. Not only during my timed meditation practice, but throughout the day. And at night, too, when dreams and thoughts of failure awaken me from my sleep.

As Susan Piver explains, sitting with the feelings, as in the Buddhist tradition, is a “more expeditious way of metabolizing sorrow”. The pain does not disappear, but at least there is the offer of healing and moving on.

Along with meditation, I find it helpful to journal and create art dealing with the experience of “feeling the feelings”.

2. See the pain of the lost relationship as a lesson in attaining wisdom.

Even Susan admits this can seem ludicrous. There are constant reminders of what used to be; there are glimpses of what might have been. There is magical thinking; there are comparisons. There is loss.

A visit to a special garden, a place of shared memories, evokes feelings. A favorite book evokes feelings. A restaurant, a work of art, a song on the radio – these all evoke feelings. Long after the ending of the relationship.

I can allow these feelings to evolve into feelings of unworthiness, sadness, longing. Or . . . I can steer these feelings into a practice of openness and the opportunity to offer loving kindness to others.

That is the key — not how do I replace love lost, but how do I send love out into the world.

Susan promises — yes, she uses the word promise — that when one gives to others, the effects of loving kindness rebound and heal the self, too. She also reminds us not to take her word for it, but to try it out, and see the results. Yes, indeed!

3. Accept that all is impermanent and that life is change.

This is the hard part. All relationships are in flux. Living a full life is living with constant change. Susan advises “letting heartbreak transform one into a warrior god/goddess”. Know that every relationship is impermanent, but is also precious and worthy, a life-sustaining source of learning and connection.

Here is the important part. Be willing to love anyway, accepting the possibility of loss, taking the chance to love and connect. Risking all, because of the preciousness of love. As Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his poem In Memoriam, composed in 1850:

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.



6th Annual Photo Alphabet – An Exploration of 2013 – Arizona to Dreams

Welcome to my Holiday Tradition – my Annual Photo Alphabet.

Today I begin posting my photo alphabet in six parts, culminating on December 31st — just in time to welcome the New Year 2014!

Please join me during the next 6 days as I explore adventures, travel, learning, and change in 2013.


A is for Arizona and Arroyos.

Cold Front Sunset

Arizona © 2012 Bo Mackison

Hello, Arizona. My adopted state.

When I first visited Arizona, I stayed a week. It only took seven days for me to fall madly in love with the desert. The second year I rented a condo for 8 weeks — my “Bo goes Solo” experience — the first time I’d lived on my own since my college days. The third year I joined the Snowbird Migration, and Sherpa and I made Quail Condo our very own.

Backyard Roadrunner

Arroyo Visitor © 2012 Bo Mackison

There are dozens of reasons I love our casita in Arizona.

The sunshine is a major factor. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and now I enjoy the winter months instead of braving my way through cloudy winters and even cloudier moods. I love the arroyo in my backyard – wild and thick with cacti, mesquite, and acacias.

There are always birds in the trees and at the feeders – several kinds of hummingbirds, orioles, tanagers, vermillion flycatchers, woodpeckers. Gambel’s quails scramble on the ground, rushing from one bit of cover to the next. Occasionally a road runner struts past.

Coyote and bobcats prowl in the early morning hours. I’ve even had a javelina – a kind of wild pig – poke its nose onto my porch, sniffing for a handout, although I let him know he was not invited to dinner!

And most of all,  I love hiking in the nearby Sonoran Desert, camera and journal in hand. Exploring, Listening. Connecting.


 B is for Bridge.

Misty Bridge

Bridge in Fog © 2009 Bo Mackison

Bridges are connections.

Some days they are shrouded in fog. The iron trusses may be slick with ice. Some of the wooden planks may be missing, or weakened. But when the goal you want to reach is on the opposite shore, it’s time to assess the risk associated with crossing the bridge.

Life stories are bridges, too.

They connect the past with the present and affect the future. I can choose to let my past affect my choices, the risks I am willing to take, the work I accept. Or I can test the bridge, take each step with caution, but maintain forward movement.

My favorite message from this particular bridge photograph is this — even if you can see land on other side, there are no guarantees that what you think you see is what you see. The fog is a reminder that, clear or foggy, we travel across many bridges, and life does not adhere to rigid plans, no matter how well scheduled or executed.

Surprises – such as fog on the bridge – add an element of wonder, challenge, and plenty of opportunity for serendipity!


C is for Changes, Choices, and Celebration

Seisomgraph Station

Measuring Changes © 2013 Bo Mackison

Don’t you love this vintage seismograph station?

It is located in the heart of Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. Although this 90-year-old station has been replaced by a more modern facility, the building stands, testimony to those who monitored the volcanic activity in the park around the clock.

The building is tiny, only space enough for the delicate equipment that measured tiny changes in the movement of the earth.

I once had my own internal seismograph equipment.

It was very sensitive, able to detect change in a millisecond. My change detector was a warning system for me.  Change! Alarm! Beware!

But change is a constant – there is always change. I now make a conscious choice to embrace change.

I no longer need my own seismograph recorder.

Sumac Flags Flying

Celebration of Sumac © 2013 Bo Mackison

And that is something to celebrate.

Celebrate the present while looking forward to the possibilities of tomorrow. This photo, a close up of autumn’s orange sumac leaves, reminds me of prayer flags, gently waving in the breeze, celebrating the changing of the season.


D is for Dreams, Details, and Decisions.


Dreaming © 2013 Bo Mackison

I dream in technicolor.

Dreaming is one of my favorite activities, be it night dreaming, lucid dreaming, or day dreaming. Dreaming lets me explore many options, turn them over in my mind, fiddle with the details. Visualize.

When autumn arrives in Wisconsin, it adds new colors to the gardens. I spend mornings walking garden paths, admiring the yellows and oranges. As an added bonus, I always delight in seeing the movable garden art.

I work in the garden surrounded by art and nature.

How inspiring to sit on one of the benches tucked in a quiet space, and journal or photograph the botanicals in the changing season.

CCC Picnic Area - Saguaro National Park

Desert Office © 2013 Bo Mackison

I work in the desert surrounded by art and nature, too.

The colors may be different. The desert’s greens and browns still inspire. And often I bring my work and settle in one of the covered shelters scattered throughout Saguaro National Park. These remarkable buildings, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), provide a shady place for me to set up a temporary desert office.

What a dream come true –  taking photographs, writing, and working in the desert.


Tomorrow’s post: Elephants to Highways.

Plans, Changes – and a Discussion with My Inner Gremlin

Yucca - Boyce Thompson State Arboretum

Yucca Tree © 2013 Bo Mackison

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. ~ Lao Tzu

Recently I’ve been working with change.

This season is already a bit too hectic for a hardcore introvert, with the approaching holidays and much anticipated visits from relatives traveling to the Midwest from “sea to shining sea.” After the holidays, there will be whirlwind packing, cross-country travel, and then a transition from snowy Wisconsin to sunny Arizona. (Yes, though I am looking forward to Arizona, it is still change, and even a much wanted change requires time for adaptation.)

And if this wasn’t enough for a busy December, I also chose to take big steps in my business. I launched my new website, one that feels in sync with who I am, and what I want to offer. I announced my intentions for the coming year – Focus Sessions, workshops, and a Desert Wisdom Retreat.

And then I heard my inner gremlin say, “Just what the heck do you think you are doing?”

It was a perfectly understandable question from my gremlin. (Her name is Miss Patsy, by the way, and she is a re-incarnation of my third grade teacher who had very high standards, never to be met in this world or the next.)  Yes, this was a typical response to lots of changes, to stepping up my game, but it caught me off guard and threw me far off-balance. I felt as if I were staggering everywhere I walked.

Eventually I stopped and took a great many deep breaths. Then I invited my inner gremlin to join me at a local coffee shop, pen and paper in hand, and I began to free write, letting Miss Patsy take turns when she had something to say. While Miss Patsy kept flinging words at the paper, like “imposter” and “too big for your britches”, I explored my present, where I have been, and where I want to go. And finally, my inner gremlin quieted. And so did I.

I re-affirmed that I am on the right path. This is indeed my journey. I will journey on my own timetable, but I will journey.

And as I squirmed in my seat and got myself comfortable, I settled into the changes. It felt just right.

I discovered new energy and creative determination, and yes, a lot of excitement and grand anticipation, as I take my next steps, one baby step at a time. Hope you will be joining me!

Last Rose in the Garden

Last Rose

Last Rose @2013 Bo Mackison

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” –A.A. Milne

Today is a day of endings and a day of beginnings. It seems the above quote is the one I need to keep in my mind today, as a reminder that even when doing what is difficult, facing problems head on is the solution, and doing the necessary work with kindness and love and compassion.


Bo Mackison is photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Today I am also a daughter-in-law helping my mother-in-law make a change none of us are ever quite ready for.