Heart Leaf by Cathy Ulrich


I knew I had forgiven you

when you came to me

in a dream.

It had been four years

since your passing.

And for the first time, ever, you came


to see me.

You wanted to know

how my life was.

What was important to me.

Who I had become.

You told me you were proud

to know me.

That you wished that you had tried

to know me

when you lived.

But from the other side

you saw.

Only when I had forgiven,

could you come

to me

and tell me

that you loved me.

©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Stress, Rescue and Confidence

Two Trunkfish by Cathy Ulrich

I have a long-standing policy about diving. That is: I don’t dive where it’s cold and I don’t dive where I can’t see. Last weekend I did both.

Peter and I completed our certification for Diver Stress and Rescue on Saturday. It’s a class that we’ve wanted to take for a long time but never seemed to get around to. We could have done the training on one of our vacation dive trips, but unlike the Deep Water Diver or Night Diver or Boat Diver Certifications, you don’t really get to do much diving.

Stress and rescue training encompasses recognizing stress in divers, preventing stress situations from turning into panic modes, and rescuing divers when panic or accidents do happen. So when Peter asked me if I wanted to schedule the course while we were in the Caribbean, my answer was: “No, I really don’t want to spend my vacation repeatedly fishing your butt out of the water!”

Given those constraints, we decided to do the training here in Fort Collins at our local dive shop, High Plains Scuba. We got our course manuals a few weeks before the class, read them, answered all the study questions and started with classroom work on Thursday. Friday was the pool work – four hours of it. The three of us in class – me, Peter and Tess – learned how to recognize stress in divers and we reviewed basic and advanced dive skills to help us be even more confident in the water.

Greg, our instructor, started the pool class by reviewing things like taking our masks off underwater and recovering our regulators (the device you breathe through). Then we progressed to new skills. We had to take off our masks and breathe through our regulators while our dive buddies guided us in an underwater lap around the pool. Then we learned how to breathe from a free-flowing regulator. This happens when the breathing device gets stuck in an open position so air is surging out so hard that you can’t keep the mouthpiece in your mouth. I had to hold the mouthpiece to the side of my mouth and breathe the large bubbles coming off of it. Again, it was intimidating, but after I got the hang of it, I realized I could do it. All of the skill exercises we did were designed to build confidence and practice in case of an equipment failure.

As the pool practice progressed, we learned how to tow a tired diver to safety, how to subdue a panicked diver, and how to rescue an unconscious diver. Finally we learned how to do search patterns to find a missing diver.

Then the big day came, the open-water part. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post? So, when I dive, here’s what I like to see:

Swim Through by Cathy Ulrich

On Saturday, here’s what I saw.

Okay – by Cathy Ulrich

Not that I mind seeing Peter giving me the “Okay” sign, but this shot was taken about eighteen inches from his face!

Yes, we did our open-water training in our local lake – Horsetooth Reservoir – where the visibility is less than two feet and the water temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Good luck finding anything in there – much less a missing diver. And just so you know, most of the places where we dive in the Caribbean boast visibilities of 120+ feet and water temps of 85 degrees or higher. We had to borrow wetsuits from the dive shop because ours were not nearly enough protection for the cold water. Our tropical weight suits are 3mm thick so we wore those and then put a long sleeved 7mm suit over them. I felt like the Michelin man. This much neoprene makes it extremely difficult to move! Ok, enough whining.

Greg took us out to into the lake about 50 yards from shore where he had placed what he called a platform – really it was a long PVC pipe attached to buoys and augured into the bottom of the lake. We were to descend down to 15 feet and practice all the skills we had done in the pool the night before. Visibility here was just crazy-bad, but we all three passed those tests. Then we practiced all of the rescue skills on the surface.

Finally, Greg’s assistant Monica (who is training to be a Dive Master) descended to the bottom of the lake and each one of us had to go get her, bring her up and then lead a rescue operation. A funny aside here – we were told not to shout, “Call 911.”  Instead, we just gave a nod to Greg. Apparently a couple of years ago, some people on the beach by the lake heard one of the students say this. They called 911, and by the time the student had gotten the mock victim up from the bottom of the lake, there were multiple emergency vehicles and a helicopter sitting on the beach. Fire Rescue was not amused…

These are just some of the highlights of our training. It was an invigorating day (even with effectively 10mm of wetsuits), but very well worth the time and effort. By learning how to recognize stress in myself, Peter and other divers, it may be possible for us to prevent a dive accident on a future trip. And by practicing rescue strategies, I have a greater sense of confidence about what to do in the case of an emergency. As in any sport that carries risk, the more skill and awareness one learns, the more able one can be to make safe and effective choices.

It’s like life, really. The more I can be present, aware and conscious, the more I can make choices that serve myself and those around me.

And for you landlubbers, here’s a photo of the lake on that beautiful Colorado day.

Horsetooth Reservoir, Fort Collins, Colorado – by Cathy Ulrich



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

Tig! I’m it!

My friend, Clare Flourish, tigged me almost two weeks ago. My apologies, Clare, for taking so long to get to this. Excuses aside, I finally have some time to devote to it. I’ve decided to ignore most of the rules of the tig, and do it my way (as Clare says, “So sue me! An appropriate comment from a former Solicitor – Clare, that is). I’m just going to answer her questions. But if you’re curious, you can go to her site and read the rules here.

Clare, part of the reason I have taken so long to write this is that your questions were very open-ended and I needed time to decide how to answer them. I know, you probably wanted a spontaneous answer – oh well…

1. Tell me something I don’t know.

Well, coming from you Clare, I’m not sure there’s much that you don’t know. I’m not kidding! Your intelligence astounds me and I have a pretty high intellect, myself. But, I think you probably meant something you don’t know about me. Hmmm, something you don’t know…I played classical guitar for over ten years, still have my beautiful guitars and if I ever quit doing bodywork, will probably get back to playing (fingernails and bodywork just don’t mix).

2. Tell me who you are.

I am a child of the Universe, continually unfolding, growing and  – honestly, these days, just learning how to be me. Which sometimes isn’t all that easy…but getting better.

3. Tell me what you love.

I think being born a 5-time Scorpio (Sun, Moon and three planets) I’ve come to realize that I love all the vibrations that my senses can show me – food, music, exercise, color, art, writing, reading – drinking in the sensual experiences of this world.

So there you go!



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

I Channel Hikes…

Red Tailed Hawk

I have an innate ability to find great hikes. Granted, I live in one of the most stunning places on earth – Colorado. But I seem to be able to look at a trail map or hiking book and pick the perfect terrain, distance and views given a small amount of information. I set my intention for what I want to experience on a hike and then let my intuition take over. And yesterday, I discovered that I could  manifest new trails.

Peter and I decided to go up to one our favorite parks – Red Mountain Open Space. Just 25 miles north of Fort Collins, this land was once part of a large ranch bordering Colorado and Wyoming in the area called the Laramie Foothills. When the land went up for sale several years ago, three municipalities – Larimer County, The City of Fort Collins and The City of Cheyenne – raised the funds to purchase it and turn it into Open Space Lands. The three adjacent parks host many miles of connected hiking/biking/horseback riding trails and the terrain in each park displays its own personality and flavor. Red Mountain is owned by Larimer County.

Peter and I have been to Red Mountain several times and love the area, but there was one place in the park that I so wanted to see, and there was no way to get up there other than bushwhacking – which is a no-no. So last year we hiked other places, including the park next door – Soapstone Prairie (which by the way houses a famous archaeological site containing artifacts that date back 12,000 years!).

When we got to the trailhead at Red Mountain – we checked the information postings and noticed there was a new map of the area – and guess what? In the year that we had been away, the rangers had built a new trail right up into the canyon that I so wanted to visit! Named the K-Lynn Cameron Trail, it meanders west into a series of sandstone canyons and up onto a ridge overlooking the entire open space.

Here’s a trail map of the area.

While we ate a decadent picnic of fried chicken and cole slaw at the trailhead, a Larimer Park Ranger rode by on his horse, Diesel. We saw him several times on the trail. Here he is herding cattle away from the creek. Larimer rents some of the space to neighboring ranches for grazing and it’s not unusual to walk right by a herd on the trail.

You can see why it’s called Red Mountain.

When we crossed Sand Creek and headed west on the K-Lynn Cameron trail, we encountered the ruins of an old homestead. We see these scattered all over Colorado. Can you imagine what life would have been like here in the Winter?

Here I am almost at the top of the canyon overlooking the valley. This is the spot I’ve been longing to visit, but couldn’t until this year when the trail was finished.

And here are a few shots of Box Elder Canyon, our last stop before heading back to the car.

Yesterday was one of those magical days when I got to appreciate the beauty of the land here in Northern Colorado. I had to pinch myself to believe that I got to hike into a place that I had been so wanting to see for several years. But then again, I guess on some level, I created it! Thank you to my LargeSelf and all those who participated!



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012


Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons – Some rights reserved by Department for Culture, Media and Sport

For the last twelve days, I have watched more TV that I usually do in a year. And it happens every two years when – you guessed it – the Olympics are on. I enjoy watching the coverage of sports that I don’t get to see often – gymnastics, swimming, diving, track, beach volleyball. I like the nationalism of the athletes, the mostly good natured competition and the camaraderie.

Then there’s the part that I find somewhat disturbing. That is, when in certain sports, the athletes cry or pout when they win a silver or bronze medal instead of gold. Yes, I know – they have spent their entire lives training for their sport, but in some of the popular olympic sports, like gymnastics where the athletes come in expecting to win gold and they don’t, they’re devastated. Nothing is good enough except that gold medal. Where many are simply thrilled to be able to compete in the Olympics, these athletes cannot accept anything less than being the very best. Well, I think this is the good side and the bad side of competition.

Since humans have been on this Earth, we have been competing – for mates, food, territory, recognition. It’s in our nature. And the modern Olympics is a perfect example of how winning that gold medal can bring all of the above and more to a successful athlete.

Sports is about competition. It’s a metaphor for life. Or at least, we think it is. Sports teach us that when someone wins, another loses. And it reinforces our belief that there isn’t enough to go around. When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I competed in middle-distance running events as well as cycling road races. And I mean – I competed. I trained hard and won many awards in both sports. And it brought out the best and sometimes the worst in me.

I would train hard and, especially in foot races, I competed against myself. Shaving off a few seconds in a 10K was something I really enjoyed. And if I had a bad day, I just chalked it up to not being “on.” Cycling, on the other hand, is much more of a team sport and at the level that I raced, was far more competitive. I remember more than once being pushed off the side of the road, run over or yelled at by other riders (especially when the “big girls” came to town – those high-level amateur women who rode full-time), and these incidents were some of the reasons I quit. Still, I find myself competing even now. Maybe it’s in my nature, maybe it’s in everyone’s nature but I share it as a way of laughing at (and with) myself. Just so you know who you’re dealing with…

Last Saturday, Peter and I decided to ride our bikes to the Larimer (Colorado) County Fair. It was a beautiful day and much cooler than it has been for most of the summer, so the 32 mile round trip was really heaven. When we got to the fair, we locked our bikes and walked through the exhibit halls which included buildings with 4H animals – rabbits, goats, sheep, cows, horses, alpacas and everything was being judged. There were blue, red and yellow ribbons everywhere.

In one hall, people had submitted crafts – baked goods, quilts, photography, even vegetables and all of those categories had been judged. As we walked through the vegetable section, Peter said: “Your herbs look better than those with the blue ribbon!”

I looked at him and replied, “Yeah, I should find out where to submit my herbs next year.   I could beat all these people!” As we rode home, I started thinking – “Really, Cathy? You want to compete in growing sage???? It’s not like you have anything to prove – at least in that department. Or like you have much to do with how they turn out except just planting, feeding and watering them.” So I gave up on that idea and told the competitive gremlin to settle down.

Competition sparks us to do our best. And yes, the Olympics is about bringing together the best athletes in the world. It creates national pride and awareness of the excellence that can be achieved with hard work as well as natural talent. But it has become such an iconic goal for many athletes, that not winning the gold somehow negates everything they have done up to that point. And that feels sad, to me.

I often say that we are human beings, not human doings. Competitiveness says that one has to be the best. But viewing our experiences – whether we’re competing on a playing field or anything else – as the energy of doing our best rather than having to be the best is healthier, I think.



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012



While you can’t keep your heart from getting broken, you can stop breaking your own heart…once you realize the difference between what you can control and what you can’t, and that it’s far, far more fun to lavish all that attention on your own self-worth.

—  Leigh Newman

I found this quote on Oprah’s “Thought for Today” newsletter. And while it really needs no further explanation, it got me thinking about worthiness.

What would our world be like if everyone felt true worthiness? Not entitlement, not narcissism, not selfishness, but worthiness? When I went to the 5-Day Silent Retreat in January, 2010, one of the things that Lola Jones said that I remember most clearly was this (and I’m paraphrasing): “Unworthiness is one of biggest barriers to enlightenment.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but it makes sense.

Unworthiness represents separation from the Divine. It means that we are not worthy of love. And if the Divine is Love and we are drops in the ocean of the Divine, then we are also Love. It’s about understanding that our Beingness and not our Doingness is what makes us worthy.

Where does unworthiness come from? It comes from people pleasing, judging our own actions, believing that we need to earn Love – living our lives where love is given and received conditionally (and I use the lower-case love intentionally here). These patterns often come from childhood – parents doing their best, but loving conditionally. Friends and teachers setting standards that encourage us to “fit-in.” Peer pressure, performance anxiety, loving ourselves and others conditionally – and the cycle continues.

What if the year 2012 is not about some cataclysmic destruction of the Earth – but a change in consciousness where we set aside unworthiness and begin to be that Love that we truly are? That we break that cycle and start a new beginning? What if we really are worthy?

I welcome your thoughts.



©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012