Author Archives: JoAnne Dodgson

Listening with the Eyes of the Heart

Listening with the Eyes of the Heart

As I walked out of my office after a session with a client, I smelled cigar smoke. How could that be? No cigar smokers lived with me. I opened up some windows, trying to get rid of the smell. But even with the flow of fresh air, the distinctive smoky scent lingered.

I walked from room to room, searching for the source. The burning sage? Was it on my clothes? On my dog? Suddenly it dawned on me: my dad. He had smoked cigars. Though it had been about a year since his death, his sense of humor lived on. I’d been getting to know him as a vast spirit being and was all the more aware of how our earthbound father-daughter relationship had boxed both of us in. So here he was in spirit with some kind of magic generating a tangible fragrance to call to my attention. I greeted him, so curious why he’d shown up.

Within a matter of minutes, I received an email from my mom letting me know about the challenging circumstances that were unfolding in my brother’s life. The puzzle was starting to piece together. My dad had come to let me know he was with us, aware of his family, and offering his support around the happenings in his son’s life. I felt an insistent nudge from my dad to reach out to support my brother, in the physical 3-D ways of expression with words shared across the miles.

Listening. Learning to listen. To all kinds communication. To the vast web of our connectedness. These gifts of our human-ness are readying to wake up.

Our senses have been numbed. Our voices have been silenced. It’s hard to hear our own hearts, and what’s living in the hearts of others, when there’s so much distraction and noise. Our human-based world is stuffed to overflowing with harmful words, with warring, with efforts to divide and conquer, with threats, condemnation and fear.

To wake up our awareness, we’ll need to quiet, find the stillness, and turn our attention within. And listen. Really listen. To all kinds of ways our inner knowings are calling to our attention. To be seen. To be felt. To be expressed. To take root. To have ample space to grow.

From that inner space of connection, when our eyes and ears, our minds and hearts are open and undistracted, we can more fully listen to what others are sharing. We don’t have to resort to the habit of making judgments or jumping to conclusions about what they’re trying to say. We can stay in the mystery just another moment longer. We can explore how it feels to see others in their wholeness, to be curious about who they are ~ other humans, the rivers and trees, the ocean-dwellers, the four-leggeds, the winged ones, our ancestral spirit guides.

Listening is a gift of respectful connection. An openness to learning. This is not about forcing agreement or sameness. Listening is about noticing, feeling, hearing, sensing the differences, the distinctions and uniqueness of each and every being.

And everyone and everything is in connection and communication with everyone and everything else in every moment.

This awareness of the immense beauty and magic of life itself, the natural capacity we have to see and feel and listen and share in a universe of respectful connections, has somehow gotten lost.

So it’s the time for our remembering. How to listen with the eyes of our hearts. How to feel and sense with the whole of our beings. How to weave fibers of connection filled with love and awareness within ourselves, with those seen and unseen, and on and on and on through the extraordinary web of life.

Opening Our Hearts

Opening Our Hearts

As we move through the shifting seasons with Solstice and the beginnings of a calendar year, we’re opening into new cycles. Such an intricate web of connections – each of us, our life passages, the new cycles connected with one another. Countless endings and beginnings weaving within us, between us, and all around.

New Year’s resolutions are a popular custom. Often the resolutions grow out of a sense of not-enoughness or failure. We make long lists of “shoulds” and “to-dos” tinged with hardship and struggle, trying to force the changes to take place. When our promises get broken, when we don’t measure up, we’re flooded with even more judgments than when the new year began.

Somehow, as humans, we’ve conjured up this notion that beating ourselves up, judging ourselves and others, make growth and healing happen.

So how would it be if we change the way we make changes?

What if we simply listen to the callings of our hearts?

This is what the Seeds do, resting beneath the soil until it’s time to dig roots into the earth and reach toward the sun.

Trees drop their leaves and Snakes shed their skins without any judgment of what has been.

When Baby Birds make their way out of the egg, they are leaving behind the entire universe they have known up until that moment in time.

Bears enter their winter hibernation and emerge again in the spring. Nothing better or less about any aspects of these passages in their lives.

When Whales and Sandhill Cranes migrate, they are moving toward what’s beneficial for their well-being now. It’s not expected that all others should be following the same path. The guidance, their choice of direction, comes from a knowing carried within.

We are part of this web of life. We, too, are constantly moving in an organic flow of transformation.

Where are you now? Where are you heading? How do you want to go about getting there?

It’s through our everyday choices that we build the whole of our lives.

What do you really really really want – for your life, for the earth, for the generations to come?

Let the passions of your heart be your guide.



Solstice Gift ☀️ Dream a New Dream

Solstice Gift ☀️ Dream a New Dream

Wherever we are on the planet – and whatever our politics or religion or economics or homeland or race or gender or age or native language – we are being touched by the Solstice and Full Moon (December 21 & 22).

The rhythms of the earth, the dance of the sun and moon, the shifting of the seasons touch each and every one of us, shaping us, and weaving us together in a vast, diverse, interconnected web of life ~ humans, rivers, wildflowers, bobcats, hawks, stars, tree frogs, polar bears, bumblebees, whales.

May this Solstice season be a time for remembering what is true to our hearts, for feeling our connectedness, and untangling from the out-of-balance patterns that harm, judge, and fight against nature (even our genuine human nature).

Here’s to dreaming new dreams for heart-centered ways of living, for creating together a heart-centered world.

I’d love to share this gift with you to inspire you to dream!

DREAM A NEW DREAM (free pdf download) – Enjoy!

Manaole U Manaole,

from my heart to the heart of the mother earth to your heart,





Coyote & Raven

Coyote & Raven

My Journey to Canyon de Chelley, Part 3

(If you missed Part 1, read here. For Part 2, read here)

It was time to head back to my camp. The air was getting frosty as the sun dropped low in the west. I hiked along the canyon rim, following the flow of the rocky ridges, returning the way I’d come.

The deep quiet was tangible, velvety rich and nourishing. I breathed in as much of the beauty as I possibly could – it was boundless. The red rocks. The vast opening of the canyon to the depths of the earth far below. The juniper and sage. The expanse of the sky stretching from horizon to horizon. The adventure of being on an adventure. The sweet belonging and feeling at home.

I walked along pondering the dream that had drawn me to Canyon de Chelley (read here, how it all began). The dream was a vivid memory of a world, a life, a people, filled with harmony and love. I stopped in my tracks, my heart thrilled by the discovery just ahead. There were sun-bleached, weathered bones nestled in the soft ground beneath a juniper tree. The skull of a coyote. The wild dogs of the desert. My beloved four-legged friends.

Coyote is a powerful teacher about perseverance, about flourishing and thriving against great odds. For many generations, humans have judged, harmed, and tried to eliminate coyotes. The coyotes didn’t accept this agenda for their lives. They didn’t give up or give in. Coyote continued going about being Coyote – genuinely, ingeniously, purposeful in their pursuits. Coyotes flourish and thrive in all kinds of climates and terrains.

I sprinkled tobacco as an offering to honor the spirit of the wild dogs. I listened, asking if this skull could come home with me. I wondered about the life of this particular coyote. What was it like to live wild in these wild lands? To be part of a pack? How had the bones, these sacred elements of life and death, come to rest under this particular tree?

As I picked up the skull, a pair of ravens rose up from the interior of the canyon. The ravens spiraled through the air, dancing in the sky. Their sleek midnight wings glistened in the softening sunlight. I marveled at the ease of the ravens’ spiral dance, their graceful pairing, their intimate connection with the canyon through the eyes of their flight.

And here we were again – the four-leggeds, the winged ones, and me. My mind flooded with memories of my encounters with coyotes and ravens. This was part of everyday life when my dog, Jasmine, and I lived in the red rock mesas of Abiquiu. Coyotes chasing Jasmine. Jasmine chasing coyotes. Watching a mama coyote guide a river of pups across the mesas. Coming nose to nose with a wild dog as I hiked to the top of a ridge.

And then there was Raven. A pair of ravens often followed us through the arroyos on our walks. I watched ravens teaching their young how to fly. And helping themselves to Jasmine’s bowls of food. And feasting on the bones she left behind. And showing me how to stay attentive and aware in the here and now, because this is where life is lived. This is where the magic will be found.

As the memories came alive, I sensed Jasmine’s spirit with me in the canyon. And my dad, in spirit, joining me here – it was his birthday. With both of them, I’d been a midwife through their dying, witnessing and supporting their passage through their very last breath.

I looked over the vastness of the red rock canyon, wondering about these threads of my life weaving across time and purpose and place. The canyon. Coyote medicine. Dance of the ravens. The places I’ve called home. The sacred passages of death. My beloved Jasmine, in spirit, still part of my pack. My dad as a spirit guide, always watching over. Becoming a lineage carrier of an ancient ceremony with the bones. Learning to stay true to my heart.

I wrapped the coyote skull in my bag, feeling grateful and a sense of wonder. I continued on my way, heading back to my little hut and the golden warmth of the fire.

Full Moon setting in the west on my journey home the next morning.


Manaole u Manaole,
from my heart to the heart of the mother earth to your heart,

Grandmother Spider

Grandmother Spider

Grandmother Spider – part 2 of my journey to Canyon de Chelley
(If you missed Part 1, click here)

The miles passed by as morning flowed into afternoon. The spacious landscapes of rural New Mexico never cease to enchant me, even on this cold and cloudy day. My spirit soared and my mind quieted, content and curious, leaving far behind the usual list of to-dos.

Crossing into Arizona, I entered the lands of the Navajo Nation. I offered my gratitude and asked permission to visit. This kind of honoring can occur anywhere – in the city, along the highways, in the wilderness – respecting and listening to the spirits of those who live in the places we’re passing through. My destination was Canyon de Chelley and Spider Rock campground. I’d reserved a hogan to sleep in for the night.

I still travel old school – paper maps, landmarks, getting lost to find the way. And it began to dawn on me that I didn’t know exactly where the campground was located. I started to wonder if I’d need to conjure up a Plan B. Then I saw a sign indicating I had ten miles to go. Almost there. It’d been a long day on the road and a long journey that started last spring. And this time, this season, this second quest to see Spider Rock, I was finally going to spend time on the lands that had come to me in a dream. (here’s how it all began in March 2018)

As I drove deeper into the canyon, the sunshine and blue skies emerged from behind the clouds. In the view from the road along the canyon rim, the red rock mesas and sheer canyon walls were compelling. I turned into the campground’s driveway and found the office. On the door was a chalkboard with a handwritten message stating that the host would be back soon. My name was listed next to the assigned “small hogan.” I loved this simple, trusting approach to life. I glanced around the deserted campground. Where was my little home for the night? I was really looking forward to sleeping by a warm fire inside the sacred geometry of the octagonal one-room house.

I was surprised to hear a friendly “hello!” The man greeting me pointed the way to my hogan. What I saw wasn’t translating. It didn’t mesh with the pictures in my mind. This little hut didn’t look like the hand-built wood-beamed structures shown on the website. This wasn’t like the other two hogans just across the driveway or all those I’d passed by on my travels today.

The small hut looked haphazardly built, wrapped with tarps to block the wind. The thought passed through my mind to drive away. I could camp in my car. I had plenty of blankets, I reassured myself.

I paused long enough in my run-away reaction to take a deep breath and take a few steps closer. I peeked inside the hut and noticed the earthen floor, the curved tree branches creating a dome over the platform bed, the fabric wall-hanging, the pile of firewood beside the woodstove.

I really wanted the warmth that woodstove would offer. That’s what convinced me to stay. And after all, this was an on-the-road Gratitude Ceremony, a sacred journey. I wanted to keep my focus there, appreciating the gifts and staying open to the magic beyond what in this moment I could (and couldn’t) see.

As I built a fire, the crackling flames and golden warmth melted away my worries. I was back in the adventure of it all. Bundled up in sweaters, scarf, mittens, woolly socks and hiking boots, I set off to find Spider Rock. I sprinkled tobacco as an offering for the land spirits, the canyon, and Spider Grandmother. She is known in Navajo and Hopi traditions as a creator, protector, and companion of humans. The towering rock formation, Spider Rock, is understood to be her home.

I followed the cairns across the mesa, down a hill, and to the rim of the canyon. The scent of juniper trees floated by on gentle winds. There were horses grazing wild and free.

The immense beauty of the canyon is simply beyond words. I walked along the canyon rim, marveling at the flowing shape and diverse colors of the rocks, the immeasurable depth to the earth far below. What would it be like to live inside the canyon? As humans? A herd of elk? An owl?

I explored the trail along the canyon until the sun was low in the sky in the west. I kept nudging myself to go a little further, certain Spider Rock would be just around the next bend. But it was getting late and I needed to return to my camp. How could I have missed an un-missable destination?

With some kind of magic, so it seemed to me, Grandmother Spider had crept away into the crevices. Apparently it wasn’t time for us to meet.

I sensed the way of a spider who’s weaving a web. Thread by thread. Intricate. Purposeful. By sacred design.

So I’d savor my quest. And soak in the richness of each and every step, gathering information bit by bit.

So I’d hold the remembering of the visions in my dream, hungry to learn more about this land and Grandmother Spider, her medicine and our connection.

So I’d open my arms even wider to embrace the mystery and magic. If and how and when I’d have the whole story wasn’t only up to me. The web was being woven collaboratively.

I stood near the edge of the canyon, watching the shadows of wispy clouds and soft sunlight dance around the red rock walls. I already knew that I would be coming back.

(to be continued…Part 3: Coyote & Raven)

Callings of My Heart

Callings of My Heart

The canyon keeps calling me back. I decided to return to Canyon de Chelley during the holiday when many people gather for turkey feasts. It was my late father’s birthday. I sensed that in spirit my dad and many others were nudging me on for the adventure.

Once the inspiration for a roadtrip came alive in my heart, there was no turning back. I couldn’t not go. I began packing a bag with sweaters, woolly socks, cozy blankets, and ceremonial items. I looked forward to creating an on-the-road Gratitude Ceremony, returning to the canyonlands that had shown up in my dream.

The vivid dream had come last spring. I was surrounded by towering red rock walls. There was a shimmer, like starlight, in the rocks. Immersed in the awe-inspiring beauty, I felt within me and all around a deep contentment and aliveness, a peaceful, thriving existence. The clarity of connection, the pure crystal clear love, was tangible and stayed with me as I opened my eyes.

I wanted to stay in the world in the dream. This dream was a remembering that held what I wanted. For my life. For our life. For our earth. For us. The wildly diverse us. The community of humans all around our planet living in harmony with ourselves, one another, all life.

This wave of awareness spiraled through me in a matter of seconds as I made the transition from asleep to awake. And I heard: Window Rock, Arizona. That was perplexing. Never before, during a dream, had I been given the name of a place on a map. Curious, I did some research and discovered this place actually exists.

In the heart of the Navajo Nation, this area is known by the ceremonial name, Niʼ Ałníiʼgi. Translated into English, this may be understood as the “Center of the World.” These are sacred grounds for traditional Water Way Ceremony. There are stories of a great serpent who lives here. A memorial honors the Navajo Code Talkers.

These pieces of information were more than plenty to wrap my mind and heart around. Then I found pictures of Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelley, the traditional homelands of tribal peoples prior to colonization. Instinctively, I recognized these red rock canyons as the place that had shown up in my dream.

Spider Rock, in Navajo stories, is described as the home of Spider Grandmother (Na’ashjé’ii Asdzáá). Spider Grandmother, in Hopi and Navajo traditions, is known as a creator, protector, and companion of humans.

So last spring, inspired by my passion to learn more, I went on a roadtrip to find these sacred places. Funny thing is, I never made it to Spider Rock. (In case you missed it, here’s the story about that journey.)

And here I was now, in late November, even more intent on visiting these sacred lands. I felt pulled by an unshakeable calling, weaving the present with the past and the future, the seen with the unseen, the dreamtime with everyday life.

While I packed food for my journey, a spider crept out from her hiding place. I watched her crawl across the floor, following whatever she was following to find her way. She stopped underneath a basket of elk bones I’d recently collected in the mountains. Elk, in my Bone Throwing ceremonial bundle, is a Council of Grandmothers who bring elder wisdom and teach about honoring the feminine.

Spider. Grandmothers. Making their presence known in my home in the early morning hours as I prepared to visit the home of Spider Grandmother in Canyon de Chelley.

Grandmother Spider was making it very clear that she was with me, watching over, as I followed whatever I was following to find my way. She wanted me to remember that I, too, was a weaver of webs, creating fibers of connection with every step along my path. With deep respect and gratitude, I gathered the spider in a jar and set her on the ground outside. She was free now to roam the land too.

The sky brightened with the sunrise and I set off on my journey, driving down my bumpy dirt road. Before I even had a chance to sip the warm cacao elixir I’d made, the cup slipped out of my hand.

The entire cup emptied, a tsunami of cacao splashing onto the floor beneath my feet. A cacao blessing. An unexpected initiation for my journey. Showing me again that the adventures of life, love and awakening may be messy. Yet every drop, every moment, is sacred.

I tried to mop up the pool of cacao with a few crumpled tissues. It was futile. So I continued on down the road, laughing. Because just a few minutes before, as I’d walked out the door of my house, I’d ignored the suggestion that passed through my mind to bring along a roll of paper towels.

Okay, I told the Spirits. I’m listening. To every little thing.

(…to be continued…here’s Part 2)



Unleashing Love

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A Gift For You!

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