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You’ve asked for it, and it’s finally here. My WGN podcast “I’m Spiritual, Dammit!” has launched. Please listen, share, and enjoy the conversations. The maiden voyage is with the lovely Kelly Standing.. author, mother, public speaker and over all cool chick who has survived 7 near death experiences that we know of!
I’ve gone through a handful of transitions over the last couple of months – between work, home and my personal life, everything has changed. Some of these were expected, and others, not so much. But over the past few days, I’ve been getting some signs and signals that revolve around fire that I’m finding hard to ignore.
It started last Friday when I had to call the fire department because my carbon monoxide detector alarms went off. Eventually two fire trucks arrived, and five of Evanston’s finest (all TOTALLY HOT I might add) strolled down my driveway wielding axes. I felt safe as they roamed the premises with detectors and concern, and came to the conclusion that a nearby sewer was releasing gas that had entered through my garage, thus sounding my alarms.
Three days later, I find out I’ve been cast again to be on another episode of “Chicago Fire.” In this particular episode, a homeowner calls the 9-1-1 because her carbon monoxide detector goes off.
While on set shooting my scene where I play a reporter, I discover the crew will be filming the rest of this episode ON MY STREET in a few days.
What are the chances?
Then, on my way home from shooting the “Chicago Fire” episode, my son calls.
“There are 5 fire trucks in front of our old house, Mom!” he said with great concern. “It’s on fire!”
Several texts from neighbors and friends confirm that the home I’d sold in December was now up in flames.
Apparently the house, which was bought by a builder, was being used as a training ground for the Evanston Fire Department before it was to be demolished.
What’s with all the FIRE??
I decided to do some research on “The Symbolic Meaning of Fire” and here is what came up:
“This symbol signifies upward mobility and forward motion. To move into the energy of fire is to be utterly consumed, transformed and lifted out of limitation. It is a symbol of positive action, sexual prowess, passion, warmth and positive direction. As an oracle this symbol indicates a blossoming of understanding that will light the way for new adventure. It also indicates winning and success, and is a symbol of victorious warriors.”
You had me at “Lifted out of limitation” and “sexual prowess”!
I went on to find that in Tibet, fire is a tool for “declaring love, taking right action, and moving through blockages.” The Chinese speak of fire as a symbol of “clarity, independence, and transformation.”
Today, I decided to drive past my old house to see the fire ruins for myself. While this was by no means my “forever” home, it was the place that hugged me after my divorce. It propped me up when I felt I couldn’t do it alone, and was a respite that enabled me to provide for my son, and re-connect to my soul. It was where I lived, laughed, cried, and loved for the past 5 years.
As I pulled up to my old address, a bulldozer was tearing down what was left of my charred 1876 farmhouse.
Standing in front of the wreckage, I was shocked at how sad I felt watching that truck fill a dumpster with what used to be my foundation. The bulldozer took crumbles of my past (and parts of my beautiful oak floors) into its’ jaws like a shark effortlessly eating a meal.
I picked up the phone and called a friend as I tried not to cry on the street.
“What are you up to?” I asked as he answered the phone.
“I’m at a funeral reception,” he said.
That’s ironic. So am I.
I then called another friend and mumbled something into her voicemail through my tears about my old house being destroyed and asking if this was symbolic for my whole life.
She texted me back:
“It’s symbolic in a good way. You’ve evolved from that temporary landing pad and now you’re on a launching pad…in time you will see that you have grown and matured and found harmony in that space when you needed it, but now it’s time to move on, literally and figuratively. You’re shedding your skin and it’s pushing you into the universe in a way in which you will grow and expand and find your place…So keep your head up. Good times await you in all aspects of life!!”
As I read her text, I kept hearing part of a song from the 1936 movie “Swing Time” in my head, sang by Ginger Rogers to Fred Astaire:
“Nothing’s impossible I have found, for when my chin is on the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again…”
Onward, Jen. It’s time to launch.
I have this theory that in order to get answers, we need to keep asking questions. We never have all the answers. We only know what we know at the time.
For example, we used to think it was healthy to smoke. So much so, that this PSA from 1949 shows a doctor asking “What cigarette do you smoke, Doctor?” as he lights up his cigarette.
I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years — from award winning authors, scientists and journalists, to medical intuitives. I am a firm believer of gathering information from a variety of belief systems. Then I share that information and tell people to decide for themselves whether they embrace those theories.
So after all these conversations, what do I believe? In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d share some of those now. Not because I want to scare off my co-workers, but because even if one of my beliefs seems odd to you, that doesn’t mean it’s “wrong.” (There was a time when nuclear bomb watching was a spectator sport in Nevada, OK?!)
So here we go:
I believe that we all have intuition, especially when we are children. Our radar and negative thoughts turn that skill off over time, but it can be rebuilt and strengthened, just like a muscle.
I believe people can die and live to tell about it. When I interviewed Dr. Mary Neal (an orthopedic surgeon who died in a kayak accident and wrote the best selling book “To Heaven and Back”) she told me, “I was without oxygen for almost 30 minutes. I’m a woman of science. I know I shouldn’t be alive, let alone talking to you right now. It’s a miracle.”
I believe Jesus tried to spread love to all who would listen, and he wasn’t interested in ratings or resumes. He loved all people for all reasons. (We seem to forget this when we kill over race or religion.)
I believe there are other dimensions. According to some who study metaphysics, there were at least 11 that have been proven to exist. That means there could be 10 other versions of you out there somewhere. (Woah!)
I believe our thoughts can make us physically ill. When you’re miserable in the head, you are miserable in the body.
I believe in energy healing and acupuncture. I’ve studied reiki and seen how it stops babies from crying and relieves back pain. Cultures have embraced these practices for thousands of years, yet here in the West, they still aren’t fully accepted. I think that’s a shame.
I believe in angels and saints, because it’s more fun than NOT believing in angels and saints. (If you’ve never prayed, “Dear Saint Anthony, please come around, something’s lost and can’t be found” when you lose your wallet, give it a try and get back to me. It works every time.)
I believe that we have to send love — even to those we hate — because in the end, love is the only thing that will stop the hate. Deepak Chopra told me that when people stage a loud protest, even for peace, they are often sending hate-filled energy out to the world. You can demand justice through love. (Think of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. They created change without throwing chairs through glass windows.)
So remember this as you go through your holidays — while there may be times when the world seems to be going to hell and a handbasket, you can still make a difference in your immediate surroundings. You can spread love and not hate in your home and your office and at the grocery store. You can open your mind to the possibility that you really don’t have all the answers. You can stop judging people who may believe in things you don’t completely understand.
When I was a kid, nobody wore a seatbelt because someone in charge told us we didn’t need to wear a seatbelt.
We need to keep asking questions so we can evolve as a species.
And thankfully, “What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?” isn’t a question that anyone will be asking these days.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, a tragic thing happened to actress Molly Glynn a couple of weeks ago. She and her husband Joe Foust were riding bikes in a forest preserve when a storm came through, knocking down a tree that killed Molly.
I found out after the accident that Molly used to have a fear of riding bikes, having gotten hit by a car when she was younger, so Joe promised to only take Molly on paths where cars weren’t allowed. Joe and Molly rode bikes more than most, loving every minute of it.
So the person who conquered her fears of riding a bike gets killed by a tree while riding her bike.
What’s the deal, God??
I went to college with Joe, and while I only met Molly a few times, she was genuine and loving. When her organs were donated to give life to others, Joe said “Her heart was so big, I’m surprised it fit in anyone else’s body.”
A few days after Molly’s death, I was told of another terrible accident– my friend Lisa got hit by a cab in the Loop that was going 35 miles an hour. She was knocked clear out of her shoes, landing flat on her back in the road. One would think after such a blow, that she too would have died. While emotionally, Lisa’s a bit rattled, she escaped the accident with only a few bruises.
So why does one story end in tragedy, while the other seems miraculous?
I’ve interviewed a lot of spiritual folks who claim to have answers to some of life’s biggest head-scratchers. I had to go back into my “woo-woo” rolodex to gain some wisdom after these two back-to-back incidents. The story that seemed to help the most was this blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago when I found out my college friend Marla was killed by a truck after dropping her daughters off at school.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
In that blog post, I wrote about a woman I interviewed named Dr. Mary Neal who not only died in a kayaking accident and came back to life to talk about it, but she also had to bury her son when he was just 19. Since then she’s been on “The Today Show”, CNN, and every network you can think of talking about her brush with death and her book “To Heaven and Back”.
“I’m a pragmatist!” She told me. “I couldn’t make this stuff up if someone put a gun to my head.”
And then she said something I will never forget:
“I can’t tell you how many times over the last 13 years where something terrible has happened where someone says ‘Isn’t that terrible about that boating accident?’ and I think ‘No actually, it was a great gift.’”
“A tragedy is a great gift?” I asked.
“If you think about ‘bad’ things — think about Jesus — he was betrayed, he was arrested, he was beaten, humiliated, and he was killed. That’s bad. By all accounts we should look at that and say ‘That’s the most horrible thing you can imagine.’ But look what came of it. For more than 2000 years people are remembering his story and using it to heal and love. So can you look at that and say it was horrible, but I look at the affect it had on the last 2000 years and it’s incredible. He brought a covenant of love. You can look at every bad thing that happened and almost always there are incredibly good things that come of it. You know change doesn’t happen when things are easy. Change happens when things aren’t easy and when you are pushed. So I would say there is no such thing as good and bad. It just is. And we may not understand it.”
I’m not sure I can get to the place where I’m thinking, “There’s no such thing as good and bad.” I see bad things happening every day through the text alerts from this job – death, fires, accidents where a friend’s wife gets killed by a tree. All these things seem pretty bad from my lens.
But I’m trying to do the best I can to embrace Dr. Mary Neal’s philosophy – because even with all that is bad, we have miracles too. My friend Lisa escaping with only a bruise after being plowed down by a cab is indeed a miracle.
One thing I do know is this — these incidents were wake-up calls. Life is too short to spend any time with people who don’t appreciate you or treat you with respect. Get rid of those people you loathe and hold onto those that you love, because you never know when that person you just talked to will no longer be there to answer the phone.
And as Joe said on his Facebook feed, “Be kind. Love hard. Remember.”
I’ve been seeing hearts lately – in just about everything. From crumbs to smudges of dirt, they are showing up in the most bizarre places. Even the fringe of my rug isn’t safe.
If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you know what I’m talking about. I started noticing them when I was finishing my third book, which is a humorous memoir about my divorce (if there can be such a thing.) I thought it was kind of a cruel joke.
Show the divorced lady all the hearts…
But for a year and change, they have been everywhere. Even the toilet paper on the floor of the Tribune bathroom had a heart shape the other day. (I couldn’t make this shit up!)
It’s gotten to the point where I see so many throughout the day that I’ve stopped taking pictures. (It’s annoying to squat down in the middle of the sidewalk to zoom in on every piece of heart-shaped gum.)
So of course, after all these hearts, it leaves me wondering-
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
I posed the question to best selling author Judith Orloff who has written a couple of my favorite books including “Positive Energy” and her latest which is fantastic, “The Ecstasy of Surrender”. Here is what she said about my heart-o-rama:
“Hearts are powerful symbols that Awaken people to the love that is possible. There may be angels all over everywhere that want to help us awaken into love. Their messages can come to us in the most whimsical ways. Seeing hearts places is the way that love can be communicated. I suggest you let go of your rational critical mind and be like a child again to accept all the loving Messages around you and just surrender to them.”
After I emailed Judith, I went to lunch and saw this on the sidewalk.
I’m not kidding!!!
So I will keep sharing and keep surrendering.
Do yourself a favor and do the same. You might be amazed at what you see.
A reader sent me a link recently to a really lame blog post. The guy claimed that Billy Corgan lost his mind because he spent several hours on his synthesizer playing to an audio book of “Siddhartha” back in February. I was pretty amazed at the moronic reactions that came of this event when it first happened – both by people who call themselves “journalists” and by the local media. Seeing this blog post just made me more frustrated by the fact that too many people are missing the point. Anyone who went to this knew it wasn’t going to be a concert where Billy would bang out “Today” to a crowd of 40.
I went to the tea house on that cold night in February. There was a long line outside when I arrived so I ducked in through the back door. I met a man from New York and a woman from L.A. who had come in just to see Billy be Billy.
“How has this experience been so far?” I asked the man.
“Really interesting,” he said. “It’s just so intimate. I love the feeling in here.”
He was right. The mood inside was as if we were hanging out in Billy’s living room. It felt like we were all getting a big warm hug.
“I don’t know what he’s doing but I love that I’m here watching it,” the woman from L.A. said.
Anyone who is an artist knows that if you do something that inspires you, it is a good thing. Even if an eight hour jam session to an audio book gets Billy one line of a future song, it’s worth it. He had been playing his synthesizers for months at home prior to bringing them into ZuZu’s. They took up a large chunk of his living room, so he figured, why not let people come into his living room, but move the living room to his tea shop?
The media ripped Billy for not letting in a reporter to cover the event. I say, if you know someone is probably going to tarnish the “good vibe” of a space by being a jerk and writing mean things, then by all means, don’t let them in your living room. Those who bashed this event before it took place, and then after it happened, are really showing their lack of understanding to the creative process.
I’ve had the pleasure of being Billy’s friend, and he’s smarter than most people I know who have several degrees. He gave some great insights for my third book and has had enough success where he really doesn’t need to write another song for the rest of his life. But he has two albums coming out in the next year, so there are likely to be more creative jam sessions at the tea house. Writers who have nothing better to do will probably take cheap shots with their columns or blog posts. My hope is that people who can think for themselves will avoid believing things written by people who bash creative types just for sport.
If you want to read a really smart, well written article on all of this, check out this piece by Mark Guarino. He sums it up quite nicely.
And if you’re in Highland Park, by all means stop by Madame ZuZu’s. Not only is the tea fantastic, but the pickle sandwich is the best I’ve ever had.
Last night, we celebrated Christmas dinner at my step-mom’s house. It was a nice, intimate meal with just a few immediate family members.
One way I contribute to the meal each year is by making homemade gravy. My step-mom texted me to bring some flour over since she didn’t have any, yet somehow I missed the text. We agreed that a turkey with gravy was much better than a turkey without, but the chances of anything being open on Christmas day were slim to none.
I set out in the snow on my “flour adventure” hoping for the best.
I drove by three grocery stores and everything was closed. I tried calling some stores too. I had remembered a White Hen in the area, and went to find it, all to realize it had been torn down and replaced by new condos.
How did I miss that?!
Then I started texting people I knew who were cooking that day who might be able to assist with my flour needs. Nobody answered. They were busy enjoying appetizers and drinks with their loved ones rather than checking their phone.
This snow is getting heavy!
I remembered that my step-mom had suggested a quick mart close to her home, so I made my way there, and thankfully they were open. As I pulled up, the guy behind the counter was about to close the doors.
“It’s been so slow,” he said. “I want to get home to my family.”
I told him about my silly flour drama and we had a laugh. We chatted as I paid for my goods. I smiled as I thought of taking the turkey drippings and blending them into the flour, creating just the right texture for my gravy…
As I was getting ready to leave, I saw a very sad man walk into the quick mart. I watched as he went to the cooler — his face tired and lonely. As he went to pay for his drink, he grabbed a large bag of Dorito’s.
That was his dinner. Diet Pepsi and Dorito’s.
I’ve been alone on Christmas and I’ve been sad on Christmas. But even during those low moments, I’ve always been invited somewhere for a nice Christmas meal.
To think, I was worried about whether or not I would be able to make gravy to slather over our large turkey filled with stuffing while this man will be feasting on MSG and fizzy chemicals.
Your problems tonight are “Princess problems”, Jen.
I got into my car and wondered how many other people were having crappy Christmas dinners. Then I started to pray.
Please God, help that man feel the love of the Universe. Help all those people who are sad and hungry and malnourished on this blessed day. May they feel love and feel whole and feel full with your love. May they know they are loved by something bigger. Give them hope and help.
If you have air in your lungs, food on your table and love in your heart, you have all you need.
And if you’re blessed with more, pray for those with less.
Because that is the spirit of Christmas.
Last night I was putting away a necklace and I noticed everything in my jewelry box was tangled. The size of this metal ball of knots had been slowly growing over the years, so I decided to face it head-on. Not many tasks are more tedious than taking the knots out of small, delicate chains that could break with one wrong turn.
Just blow it off, Jen.
I looked at the pile and saw about 6 necklaces, two bracelets, and a couple of rings. The thought of “getting all the knots out” seemed symbolic to me for some reason. Not because I’m obsessive-compulsive, but because we all have things that we put off. This particular thing was not a priority. But if I took the time to deal with it, perhaps some other things in my life might straighten out too. This became an exercise in alignment.
I got a pair of tweezers and my reading glasses, and went to town. After ten minutes, my first necklace was released.
It was a gold chain with a cameo pendant that I haven’t worn in a long time – mainly because it was trapped in my jewelry box for about three years. I put it on my dresser in a straight line, and went back to the pile.
The next item to be untangled was a heart-shaped pendant I got while traveling in New York City. I remember feeling super nausious as I chose it in a case of an antique store in Midtown. I found out when I got home the reason I almost tossed my cookies was because I was pregnant with my son and didn’t know it.
I always loved that heart…
15 minutes went by and I’d successfully placed all of the items on my dresser untangled. I was pretty proud of myself for doing this so quickly, but when I looked down, there was a small bump on one of the chains. At first I tried to smooth it out.
No knot can be that small…
But when I got out my magnifying glass, I realized it was indeed the last knot in the jewelry box.
At first, I debated just throwing the necklace out. It was something I got when I was a teenager – a very thin chain I haven’t worn since I was 22. It didn’t have a pendant and I doubted I’d ever use it. But the thought of throwing it out felt like all the work I’d done on the previous chains would be for nothing. Either I get all the knots out or none of the knots. I decided that even if it took me hours, I would fix it.
The clock ticked as my neck and back felt the strain of being hunched over. I alternated between holding the chain and putting it on the vanity, tweezers in hand, picking and prodding. I tried several different angles, jaw clenching with each failure. I seemed to be making no progress at all, which made me try harder. The more frustrated I became the tighter I held the tweezers and the bigger the knot seemed to get.
And then it hit me.
I had become a ball of tension curled up on my bathroom floor, and I was getting nowhere. I started to wonder what would happen if I completely gave up control of this situation and tried to shift my energy from one of pushing and forcing, to that of “opening, allowing, receiving…”
I loosened the grip in my hands and visualized light coming down into the room.
Open. Allow. Receive.
I looked at the clock and it was 11:11. I had been working on this one particular chain for 45 minutes.
I took the tweezers and pictured them making progress in an instant, as if they were now a magic wand.
Just let it flow, Jen. Relax.
And then, the makings of a small circle started to form – a sign that the knot had actually come loose.
I extended the chain and checked it for damage, figuring the 45 minute struggle would have left a mark. To my surprise, it was perfectly fine. I looked at all the necklaces now lined up without any kinks or tangels, and felt a sense of accomplishment. I took the one in hand that caused me the most trouble, and smiled. It was the least attractive chain in the bunch, yet it now seemed to have the most significance. Rather than putting it back in my jewelry box, I put it on.
I just touched the necklace as I type this to remind me of this lesson.
Open, allow, receive.
Life comes with its fare share of knots. When we decide to “let go and let it flow,” we can get back to the smooth, untangled path we all deserve.