Monday, October 5, 2015

A Healing Journey to the Land of Fire and Ice

I'm very excited to share that a story I wrote about one of my Icelandic adventures has just been published by elephant journal, along with some of my photos from the trip.

Here's a little preview:

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” ~ Mary Oliver

Nearly a year ago, in October of 2014, I fell down some steps and sustained a severe spinal injury, including compression fractures in my thoracic spine, bruising in my sacrum and tailbone area, and whiplash in my neck.

Thankfully, my spinal cord was undamaged and I suffered no paralysis or permanent impairment (though I did lose an inch of height due to the compression fractures).

After many months, I have made a significant recovery, with the help of intensive physical therapy and countless other healing modalities, and yet the healing process continues. Though I have been cautious about over-exerting myself, a broken back can’t keep a good woman down, so this past June I ventured to Iceland, alone, heeding a call from somewhere in the depths of my soul.

I felt that my intuition was guiding me there, though I had no idea why.

In the Land of Fire and Ice, I experienced several everyday miracles, including a profound physical ordeal that pushed me to my limits, ultimately resulting in deep release and healing...

Click here to continue reading.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Sacred Journey to Goa, India

Originally published in the Shambhala Times Community News Magazine, July 8, 2015

In March of 2015 I had the opportunity to travel to Goa, India, with two Shambhala friends, Whitney Hall from Austin, and Harish Rao from Los Angeles. I met Harish, whose family is from Goa, during Shambhala Art Teacher Training, and we had been talking for some time about collaborating to put together a contemplative arts retreat or workshop in India. This spring, we were able to plan a trip together to visit and start laying the groundwork for a possible program in Goa.

As Harish recently explained, “I have heard Shambhala referred to as a place where path, practice, and community come together. I have often felt this way about my native Goa, India. This stretches back to its Portuguese roots; travelers of divergent faiths and cultural backgrounds have arrived through the years to create a unique melting pot and diversity of art, spirituality, and music. It has long been a place where people have come to discover aspects of themselves they may never have known and connect with people from around the world seeking the same. It is a balance of Indian and Bohemian integration that is hard to describe, yet easy to experience. Goa, in some ways, is an untapped, secret court of riches waiting to be discovered by those who venture into its historical landscape.”

For me, the journey held a quality of pilgrimage, with the anticipation of visiting a sacred land, not knowing exactly what I would discover or experience along the way. I’ve always dreamed of traveling to India, the birthplace of so many sacred traditions and practices, including meditation and yoga, which have deeply influenced my life’s path. In addition to my meditation and contemplative arts practices, I work as a writing and creativity coach, and I am pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology, specializing in creativity studies. My dissertation research will explore how contemplative arts practices, such as those laid out in the Shambhala Art and Miksang teachings, facilitate healing, insight, and resilience in workshop and retreat settings. So for me the journey also represented a synthesis of my academic, research, and spiritual, explorations.

To continue reading the article and see some of my photos from the trip, click here.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

On Pain and Healing

Five weeks ago, I slipped and fell down my side porch steps, plummeting down on my spine, and badly injuring myself. I sustained several compression fractures in my thoracic spine, as well as intense pain and bruising around my sacrum. The experience has been humbling and eye-opening, and quite an existential journey. I felt inspired to write a poem about it in an attempt to express my feelings about this twisted path of pain and healing. Here is what manifested:

Let the pain be your guide, they said.
So I opened my body and heart
to the curious sensations
of bones fractured, bruised and aching,
muscles clenching for dear life
to hold me upright--
keep me from succumbing once again
to the awful pull of gravity.

Some days the pain softened,
and I could move freely, make love,
even dance to the sweet sounds of gypsy jazz.
Other days my spine screamed in agony and
I simply could not attend to the basic necessities.
Found myself huddled
on the floor, in the pose of the child,
my nervous system frayed,
gasping for some reprieve.

But I discovered the pain was not so solid,
that my bones had become a barometer
of the cold front passing through,
the rains enveloping the earth,
of cruel words and tender acts of love,
all registering deeply within my marrow.

Walking the streets,
grateful for strong legs and supple flesh,
I drank in the vastness of the sky,
quivered with the cool caress of the wind
like never before.

Precious, precious gift, to be alive,
embodied within skeleton and tissue
that can sustain blunt trauma,
and yet heal, again to feel
the warm glow of sun on skin.


Update - 9/2/15: I am pleased to share that this poem has been published in the new compilation "Capturing Shadows: Poetic Encounters Along the Path of Grief and Loss" edited by Louis Hoffman and Michael Moats through University Professors Press. "Capturing Shadows" is now available on Amazon:

About the book: "Long before contemporary approaches to helping people face death, loss, and other life transitions, poetry was used by many cultures to assist the grieving process. Today, it remains an important healing art. Capturing Shadows is an original collection of poems about actively engaging one's grieving and loss with a purpose. The poems were written by therapists, counselors, educators, and others who understand and have experienced the struggle of leaning into one's pain...Whether wanting assistance with one's own grief and loss, a deeper understanding of the grief and loss, or a resource to help others in their journey, Capturing Shadows is a wonderful resource for all touched by death, loss, and other difficult life transitions."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Love

"You shine like the sun," he said, and then...
Dreams of coming and going;
the tension of messiness and imperfection.
The old, old wounds we carry around
into every new connection...
I love you, even in your pain and your untidyness,
and I'm grateful for your love.
Terrifying as it is,
the will to open,
to love and be loved
overcomes all objections in the end.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Musings from Eastern Europe

I recently returned from a trip to Eastern Europe with my friend Jake Lorfing. We traveled to Prague and Poland to start laying the groundwork for a possible contemplative arts retreat focusing on the Holocaust. We spent time in the old Jewish quarters of Prague and Krakow, visited the former ghetto / concentration camp of Terezin in the Czech Republic, and spent three days at Auschwitz, where we stayed at the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer.

For me, it was also something of a roots journey, as my Jewish side of the family came from Poland, the Ukraine, Lithuania, and Austria, but I had never visited these places before. To be honest, in some way I viewed this part of the world as the heart of darkness, the place from which my Jewish ancestors fled. And certainly it was, for a time. But it is also a place like any other, full of good people living their lives, with a complex and tragic history, with a rich culture, and a living present...We spent a lot of time walking the camps and contemplating the enormity of what happened there. It's impossible to put it into words, of course, but I did take a lot of photos, and found myself scribbling out this poem high above the Atlantic during the long flight home:

Riding the edge of twilight
Chasing the setting sun

Above the clouds, below the sky
Five hundred miles an hour
An arctic haze of pink and blue
Is this limbo, or just another never-ending transatlantic afternoon?

Your kiss still lingers
Even as it fades.
In fits of sleep,
I dream another universe
But awaken to my breath,
The beating of my heart.

I saw grace etched in stone
In the epic streets of Prague
And despair rendered mute
In Birkenau's rusted barbs.
Only the trees, those elegant trees,
Bear witness now.

How to return and not to forget?
To honor these few borrowed breaths
With a resounding yes
That trumps all instances of no
A love that suffuses darkness and light,
As the soft overcomes the hard,
Melting into night.

-- Melinda Rothouse

Click here to view more photos from the journey.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What Inspires You? Introducing Syncreate

I'm so pleased to share my newest venture, Syncreate, a partnership with my colleague Charlotte Gullick. We founded Syncreate to offer creativity coaching, consulting, retreats and workshops, mentoring, international study, and storytelling services to enhance creativity, foster communication, collaboration, and community, and nurture compassion. Our main areas of focus are creativity studies, writing and storytelling, public speaking and singing, and end-of-life issues.

We recently help our first half-day workshop, "The Art and Science of Creativity: Exploring the Path and Expanding Your Tools," in Austin. During this event, we explored the neuroscience of creativity, how to facilitate the creative process, and concrete tools to foster dynamic, creative learning and leadership.

One of the first questions we asked participants to think about was "What engages and inspires you?" After the workshop, we blogged about our experience and some of the exercises we explored together. Click Syncreate Blog: What Inspires You? for the full post on the Syncreate blog. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tahitian Dreams

I flew a quarter-span of the globe
to the middle of the South Pacific,
tracing the balms of coconut and vanilla
back to their island roots

I saw the Southern Cross for the first time
and I understood...
Tahitian dreams made real,
rendered in shades of aquamarine
no artist's palette could conceive...

Tiny rippling waves
greeting the sandy beach ~
a quiet meeting of land and sea.

I woke at dawn
as if summoned
to greet this precious new day.

The sun rises slowly
behind a huge bank of clouds
making a masterpiece of the sky.

Earth meets sea
and sea meets sky
the sun sets the water ablaze
as the wind caresses my tender skin.

All photos by Melinda Rothouse, Copyright 2013. For more images of my adventures in the South Pacific, please visit this link: