Soul Path Sanctuary

A place of pause, renewal, and connection for seekers


Summer Solstice Meditations: Gratitude, Joy, Illumination, and Evil


For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

Gratitude, joy, and connection are the qualities to cultivate during the Summer Solstice’s height of light. Both the Sioux elder and the scientist agree.

Okute of the Teton Sioux is remembered as saying:

All living creatures and all plants derive their life from the sun. If it were not for the sun, there would be darkness and nothing would grow – the earth would be without life.

Mathematician Brian Swimme writes in Heat of the Hidden Cosmos:

So for four million years, humans have been feasting on the Sun’s energy stored in the form of wheat or sheep as each day the Sun dies as Sun and is reborn as the vitality of Earth. And those solar flares are in fact the very power of the vast human enterprise. And every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: she is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy.

The Rider Waite Smith Sun card shows us a world where, yes, all is arranged so that a child’s face shines with joy and gratitude flows.


Sun card by Pamela Coleman Smith from a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley

We want to follow the child into this place of joy, but this Solstice we here in the United States find ourselves facing children being taken from their parents, children fleeing violence being met with violence, children being used as pawns in political games.

At Solsticetide with the sun overhead, we humans cast almost no shadow. The shadowy parts of ourselves have nowhere to hide so they must emerge into plain sight. This year the evil of our immigration policies in the present and out of the past is illuminated.

So then then can we celebrate the Solstice with gratitude and joy?

Since we are in a time of extremes, we must turn to other extremes to find an answer. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl survived the concentration camps of Nazi Germany to write Man’s Search for Meaning. When I first read the book, I remember being astounded by his reports that prisoners still experienced joy and sought out beauty. Once, exhausted prisoners roused themselves to go see the sunset and one said, “How beautiful the world can be!”

These moments gave meaning to their lives and helped them to survive with their humanity intact. To keep our humanity we must have gratitude and joy in our lives.

And this gratitude and joy in times of extreme can even expand us beyond even the physical boundaries that we think separate us. Frankl shares a powerful story of “talking” with his wife from whom he was separated (she was killed in the Bergen-Belsen camp):

I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious ‘Yes’ in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood on the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miserable grey of a dawning morning in Bavaria. ‘Et lux in tenebris lucent’–and the light shineth in the darkness. For hours I stood hacking at the icy ground. The guard passed by, insulting me, and once again I communed with my beloved. More and more I felt that she was present; that she was with me; I had the feeling that I was able to touch her, able to stretch out my hand and grasp hers. The feeling was very strong: she was there. Then, at that very moment, a bird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on the heap of soil which I had dug up from the ditch, and looked steadily at me.

We are connected and moments of transcendence open us more and more deeply to this state of being. The Summer Solstice qualities of gratitude and joy are the keys transcendence. And the fruit of all these feelings is Love – the love that compels you to act for the good of the Whole, for the good of yourself, for the good of a child.

So here is a meditation the Summer Solstice to cultivate and share gratitude and joy beyond boundaries. It is inspired by my (limited) experience with the Buddhist practice of Tonglen, which has you take in and release suffering of yourself and others. This meditation modifies that idea to connect with gratitude for the sun and share the positive energy out into the world.

The meditation moves right into a Tarot/oracle reading so you may want to have cards handy (or if you don’t use cards just skip this part).

Doing this meditation outside at noon on the actual Solstice day of Thursday, June 21 would be optimal but it could be done anytime and anywhere you want to connect with and share gratitude.

The Steps:

#1: Settle your body. You may already have a way you do this. If not, you can focus on the in and out of your breath. Then feel the floor or earth below you supporting you. Relax into that support. You might imagine you have roots that connect you deeply to the earth.

#2: Connect with the sun. You may be outside on a sunny day so this will be a felt experience. Or you may have to imagine the sun as a orb of glowing light above you if it is cloudy or you are inside. Let the sun’s rays enter into you through the crown of your head and flow through your body.

#3: Bring to mind a gift of the sun in your life. The options are limitless here. You may want to choose something sensual – say food or flower – and remember how you communed with it. You could also have something handy to eat or gaze upon and include this as part of the meditation. Offer words internally or said aloud that express your gratitude for this gift. Tune into the positive energy that flows from this gift of the sun.

#4: Let yourself bask in the positive energy and joy of the gifts of the sun.

#5: Direct your positive energy toward someone you know is suffering or facing a challenge. This could be a family member or a friend. Imagine them surrounded by the positive energy. Perhaps you give this energy a color or a scent or a speed.

#6:  Direct your positive feelings toward someone you don’t know who is suffering. There have been many images of the children and parents in anguish at the border. You might call one specific image to mind. Imagine them surrounded by the positive energy. Perhaps you give this energy a color or a scent or a speed.

#7: Image your positive energy spreading out like a gentle wind. It is moving from the suffering person out to those around them, perhaps other children, perhaps guards or others in the system. You are recognizing your connection to all of them. Let the energy keep spreading out, flowing over whole towns, whole states, the whole country, perhaps even out into the atmosphere over the whole of the earth. Imagine it mingling with the positive energy of others.

#8: Come back to yourself, reconnecting with your gratitude for the gifts of the sun.

#9: Take up your Tarot or oracle deck and pull one to three cards to show you what is most important to pay attention to from this gratitude meditation. Contemplate the cards.

#10: Connected to the flow of gratitude through you and inspired by the cards, commit to something that you will do within the next 24 hours to serve the good of the Whole. Follow through with joy.


Note: If you are looking for inspiration for action specifically around what is happening at the US border, there is a clearing house listing on The Praxis Project site.


To the Graduates


For Seekers

I went to my nephew’s college graduation and the adult speaker was, well, uninspiring. I didn’t entirely disagree with his advice about taking small steps. But he didn’t place his message into a wider context of working toward anything larger. It got me thinking: What would I say? So my speech to the graduates follows. I am addressing these remarks to those graduating from college or high school, but when we adults attend such events, we, too, are invited to renew our belief in the possible and take up the charge of emerging new into the world. So these words are for us oldsters, too. This piece is dedicated to my nephew Ian Smith.

To the Graduates

What to say to help you claim the now into which you emerge? What will inspire you to shape the now to your visions? I pause because the now we see in the news – the news that streams from our devices and lights up all 24 hours of the day – seems so unshapable, so broken.

But there is news – vital but unseen – to share with you. An ancient sensibility out of the Celtic tradition invites us to see the world with different eyes. With these eyes, we perceive the mountain behind the mountain. This second mountain is immaterial but essential. It gives the mountain of rock its soul.  When you look deeply into the mountain and sense that soul, your spine tingles with the power emanating from beyond.

The daily news barrage is like a physical mountain blocking our view into the greater power of this day.

Because something amazing happened this morning. The sun rose – even if behind clouds. A lip of light pressed itself to the horizon: an illuminating kiss to wake the day. The sun spread and moved its rays over the earth touching tree leaves reaching into the sky. The green canopy drank the light into itself, making its morning breakfast of the sugars necessary for all cellular processes. Each tree sent nutrients not only into its own trunk and roots, but also through the soil, to be shared with its neighbors. The forest, even in its silence, is a place of great collaboration.

And as a leftover from this morning feeding, the trees released the oxygen that entered your sleeping lungs. This breath helped fire the more than 37 trillion cells within you that shifted as you turned to rise and dress, perhaps – depending on how late you slept after last night’s celebrations – to dash to this graduation ceremony.

It is a miracle you have all made it to this moment. It is a miracle we all have made it to this moment.

This moment made possible by the sun and the trees, the turning of earth, trillions of cells working together, teachers who enlightened and tested you, friends who cheered you in success and carried you in disappointment, the parents and the grandparents, your whole family, and the long line of ancestors streaming behind you. An enormous net held you through your education – and will last beyond it.  The net will change, but it is resilient. Broken strands – the people who leave your life – create opening for new supports to enter. The net is constantly renewed.

So the news behind the news is that each day is a miracle. Yes, you are miracle.

Remind yourself about your miraclehood as you go through your life. You might pause – even if only for 30 seconds – each day as you awake to let yourself remember and sense the miracle of the day, of your breath, of yourself.  

Let this morning infusion be the soil out of which your visions grow. Dare to imagine a world aligned with the highest values: Justice, Beauty, Love. Dare to reach for your heart’s desires. Dare to seek change so great and beneficial to the planet that it may not even come in your lifetime.

And when you go out into the world, do what you can to realize the vision. The vision will be big, but the steps toward it on any given day may be small – and sometimes even backwards. Progress is rarely a straight line. And an expansive vision exists beyond the boundary of a day, a week, or even a decade. You build the vision over time.

As you reach toward the vision, remember that each person you meet is a miracle. This may be easier with the ones you love, but you must also extend this recognition to those who challenge or disagree with you, those who seem different. They may not see you as a miracle – they may not see themselves as a miracle – but we are all in this boat of miracles together. Listen. Learn. Hold on to the possibility of connection.

Even as you recognize the connection to those who challenge you, don’t get caught in their visions – or lack of vision. Rather seek out those whose vision is similar or overlapping to yours. These will be your collaborators. These collaborators could be your co-workers, but also lovers, friends, and others: someone you meet in the subway or the supermarket; a wisdom figure that visits you faithfully in dreams. Perhaps you’ll even see how a tree or a mountain collaborates with you. The natural world, after all, has been 4.5 billion years in the making and knows a thing or two about surviving and thriving.

You and your collaborators have great work to do: to bring the miracle visions into this broken world. So you will have to go beyond the usual suspects, to be curious beyond your field of study, to work outside your comfort zone. Maybe bring together bedfellows as strange as:

  • Theater and Community Planning … because a wonderful town needs both the basics like street lights and the social elements like singing that create community.
  • Design and Religion … to create meaningful experiences of the numinous for technology-driven times.
  • Business and Meditation … because the mind needs direction to meet both the mystical and the practical possibilities of life.
  • Neuroscience and Divination … to open our eyes to the patterns underlying the functioning of our world.
  • Criminal Justice and Culinary Arts … because food, so necessary to feel secure, binds us to one another when we eat together.

Yes, these are weird combinations. Yes, I am suggesting that what seems weird now may be the way through these times we live in. You can learn from tradition, the generations past, we oldsters who are giving you graduation advice, but we know the world as it has been. You are emerging into the world as it will be. Perhaps the world is not so much broken as broken open and waiting for you to take the fragments remaining to create something even better out of the rearranged part – something we of older generations wouldn’t even have imagined.

This graduation is your threshold. The door is open to your future. As you stand in the in-between place today, I invite you to put on a mantle of miracle. Feel its power and possibility settle upon you. Keep this garment close to your skin for protection, for inspiration. Wear it long after you taken off today’s graduation robes. Know that it can not be taken away from you. Your mantle is within you, renewed with each breath, fired by each cell. Your mantle of miracle is you.


Wisdom Wanders


For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances – Tarot

The freedom in walking lies not in being anyone; for the walking body has no history;  it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial time. Frederic Gros

seeker spread full verticle

Wisdom Wanders support you to attune to elemental wisdom and within the context  of the Walking the Ways of the Summer Light seasonal retreat support you to gather the questions that matter most deeply to you now.

There are no rules for a Wisdom Wander, but this flow is offered as a jumping off point for your own designs. But remember to follow your feet, your heart, and where ever your senses lead you.

Selecting Your Place: You don’t have to go anywhere special for a Wisdom Wander. Your backyard might provide all the wonder you need.  But to vary your views, you might seek out places that put you in touch the weekly elemental focus. A place where you can touch bare ground or stone for Earth. A hill or mountain top to feel the Air and be close to birds, and a windy urban avenue could do the same. If you can, traveling to a large body of water or the ocean for a Water Wisdom Wander would be appropriate, or just wander on a rainy day. The Fire week of the Walking the Ways e-treat comes during the period of longest days so anywhere on a sunny day will do, or build a bonfire to contemplate its flame.

Separating From the Everyday: You may want to enact a small ritual of leaving behind all your responsibilities, worries, and cares. You could visualize putting them into a box. If any critical voices start to speak, just assure them you’ll be back; you are only going for a walk.  Can you leave your cell behind? Or at least put it into airplane mode.

Travel Light But Bring What You Need: Remember to take care of you body: water? sun screen? good shoes?. Remember any ritual or creativity needs: tiny notebook and pen? drawing materials? camera? And, of course, cards from your Tarot or oracle deck.  Bring it all on one Wander. Bring nothing on another.

Set an Intention: An overall intention of the Walking the Ways Wisdom Wanders is to seek out and be open to the questions that speak to our souls. One of those questions collected will focus the more directed pilgrimage journey that is part of the final week of Walking the Ways.

Invite / Select / Welcome your Way Showers / Inquisitors / Guides for the Day’s Wandering:  Because the language of nature and the elements is not immediately apparent to us humans, we can ask for help from the Tarot or oracles – or if you know more about natural processes, those observations can you learn more about Tarot.  You may have a relationship with a wisdom figure(s) represented on a Tarot or oracle card and want to select it.  You may let who ever needs to come emerge from a face-down draw. Spend some time meeting the one(s) who emerge to travel with you. I often work with 4 or so guides / cards in a wander.


  • Be open to whatever draws your attention and spend time there. Pause. Look. Listen.
  • If you would like to engage with an area or a plant, greet it, ask its permission to approach and receive its response. If allowed to approach, do so respectfully; engage your sense to receive the messages and questions offered.
  • You might select one of your guides – by chance or choice – to come and be with you in the places of pause and contemplation. Consider how the place and the guide fit together.
  • When you have finished, don’t forget to offer gratitude before you move on.  You might leave a strand of your hair as a gift. Or perhaps you have planned ahead and brought a small natural object to leave as a sign of gratitude.

Be Open to Creative Urges: The earth is busy creating in cooperation with the summer sun.  How might you mimic this creativity to learn its magic? Bring out your notebook or artists tools. Gather loose elements of the earth (rocks, fallen petals, twigs, feathers) and arrange them purposefully. Your guides might like to be placed within your creation. You might want to document with a photo that becomes your memento… and then let all the elements return to lie on the earth as they were.

Return:  Notice when and where you are passing from your place of wandering into the more human world. You might pause, offer some gratitude, or say a prayer at this point.

Reflect: You may want to just sit or to journal or draw.  Let the experience seep into you.  Let some insights emerge.  Connect with your guide; have a chat about what you experienced together.

Gathering Questions: While on the Wander or just afterward, you might just blurt out or free writing all the questions that surface.  Spend some time with your guides listening with your imagination to the questions they would ask you if they could speak aloud. Contemplate your memento as if it were a Tarot card and let it offering you questions. Sometime later in the week, you might want to hone and shift through your questions.  This can be like the process of creating questions to take to a Tarot reading. Here are the prompts I send to people ahead of my Tarot consultations to get their questions percolating:

  • Questions that yield the most freedom and possibility most often include HOW and WHAT. For example:  How can I ….?  How have I ….?  In what ways ….?  What do I most need to pay attention to now?  What will support me to …?
  • Questions that can be fruitful in specific circumstances often include WHY, WHERE, and WHO. For example:  Where in my life have I ….?  Who can best support me in doing …?  Who is challenging me ….? [Be open to the answer not being a human that you know!]  Why am I really doing this (i.e. what is underneath the surface)?
  • WHICH limits you to particular options already determined. If you are still in an early stage of decision making, it is probably too early for a WHICH question.  If you have been working seeking an answer for a long time and feel clear that a decision rests between a set number of options, then WHICH may be fruitful.
  • YES / NO questions are not generative. But if you are burnt out on generating ideas and are ready to trust the message that comes through the cards, this just might be the kind of question that you need.

Cultivate Patience: Each Wisdom Wander is an invitation to step out of the demands of time, and the whole flow toward the Solstice extends an invitation to be free of knowing the answers but instead opening to the questions. The words of the poet Rilke cheer us in this work:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved

in your heart and try to love the questions themselves

like locked rooms and like books that are written

in a very foreign tongue.

Acknowledgements:  This process is most directly influenced by my work with Joanna Powell Colbert and her Gaian Tarot and Mellissae Lucia and her Oracle of Initiation. James Wells’ wisdom on question generation inspired the question asking prompts.

Registration is open for the 2018 e-retreat of Walking the Ways of the Summer Light where you can receive daily inspiration and support for cultivating the essential energies of the summer sun: growth, movement, sensuality, creativity, delight.


Walking the Ways Mini-Retreat: Pilgrimage Illumination


For Seekers – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Seasonal Observances

Each season flows with its own gifts and challenges, rhythm and mystery.  When we tune our awareness to the offerings and energy of the season, we can better receive its wisdom and be supported to tend our souls.

Around the Summer Solstice, we are invited to meet the sun and respond to its exuberant invitations of growth, movement, sensuality, creativity, delight. The fiery sun also invites us to rise up against injustice and reach for our visions of a positive future.

In this mini-retreat day on Saturday, June 30th we will connect with the energy of the sun, the stirring of the wind, and the land and waters of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, MA to find the wisdom that speaks to our souls at this of light’s abundance.

This mini-retreat complements and concludes 2018 Walking the Ways of the Summer Light e-retreat in everyday life. Taking the e-retreat is good preparation for the day, but not a requirement.

In our time together, we will …

  • Commune with the sun. If good weather, we will be outside and active much of the time. If rain, our experiences will be more imaginal and meditative.
  • Identify a question which you will seek to find an answer to through Tarot/oracle card connecting, nature observing, and creative ritual.
  • Have a mini-pilgrimage experience, including Standing at the Threshold, Making a Journey, Seeking the Center, and Returning,
  • Create a Sun Mandala and share your experiences in an Illumination Circle.
  • Leave with a commitment to an action step around your question/vision.
  • Eat a delicious lunch of local foods (vegan, gluten-free friendly)

You are invited to bring any, all, or none of these things:

  • Clothing appropriate to the weather and shoes for walking around on well-laid out trails. Even if it rains, we will attempt to be outside at least a bit.
  • A journal, drawing pad, piece of paper, pen, and/or colored pencils.
  • A Tarot or oracle deck.  If you don’t have one, there will be decks for sharing for use at the retreat.
  • An image or object that connects you to your positive vision for the world. This could also be collected during the day.
  • A camera for contemplative photo receiving.


To be held 10am to 4:30pm at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, MA on Saturday, June 30th

Fee is $85. Pre-registration required by Tuesday, June 26th so we can plan how much delicious food to make.

Payment options:

Pay with credit card/use PayPal.

Or send a check to Carolyn Cushing, 1 Cottage St., Box 33, Easthampton, MA 01027. Good idea to send me an e-mail if sending a check so I can hold a slot for you.

Fees are refundable minus $5 up to 3 weeks ahead / June 9th. After that they are not refundable, but are transferable to another Soul Path Sanctuary offering.


Oracular Write-A-Torium: An Open Space Retreat


For Writers

gaian 9-hermitA container to support writing, shaping, or editing of a project with Tarot-inspired processes to tune into your intuition and learn more about your own process as a writer. Group sessions at the end of each day provide structure to the weekend while most of the days are open for participants to work on their own projects.

WHO is it for: Writers who are working on a project and want to move it to the next level. Participants will come with a body of work that would benefit from some concentrated time and attention. We won’t be doing craft work so the genre doesn’t matter. No Tarot experienced needed; we’ll be working with our intuitive responses to images and special meaning keys I’ve developed from writers. The group is always small with no more than 8 people.

WHEN: Held periodically, we start with a session on Friday night from 5:30pm to 8pm and conclude with a session & optional reading on Sunday at 3pm. The next Write-A-Torium is May 11 – 13.

WHERE: Easthampton, MA in our meeting room for sessions but at other times you can write where it will be most productive for you. The coffee shops, shops, and natural beauty spots around the Valley might be the places to inspire you.

HOW does it work?:

#1: You write RETREAT on your calendar for that weekend, and when people ask you to do something then, you reply, “Oh, drats, I can’t I’m on retreat that weekend.” And you smile.

#2: You prepare to arrive with a one sentence statement of what your work is about, and also some reflections on these questions:

  • Why am I compelled to write this work?
  • Why I am I the one who is right to write this work?
  • Who might this work best serve / inspire?
  • What stage of work am I in?
  • What do you know (if anything) about what works well for you when you at this stage of writing?

#3: Gather on Friday at 5:30pm with snacks to meet each other, share an overview of our work, do a Tarot Mandala to get advice for focus for weekend (I have decks for everyone), and leave with an intention set for what to accomplish over the weekend and on Saturday.

#4: Write wherever you want. My studio in Easthampton will be open selected hours for those who want to write here in companionable silence with others.

#5: Gather in from 5pm to 7pm on Saturday (more snacks) to share our progress and receive tarot support for working with the demons and angels who help and hinder us in our writing.

#6: Return on Sunday from 3pm to 5pm for a reading (7 minutes max per person), structured/brief feedback, assessment of progress, and next steps. All with Tarot support.

What will it COST: $120 plus a snack assignment. 

Secure your spot with a deposit of half the fee / $60. (Deposits are not refundable, but are transferable to another service if an emergency gets in the way of attending.) 

Pay the full fee/$120. 

Checks also accepted; send to to Carolyn Cushing, Box 33, 1 Cottage St., Easthampton, MA are also accepted. Just send me an e-mail when you pop it in the mail so I can hold your spot.


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