Tag Archives: Spirituality

The Lesson of the Blue Jay

Forward:  Interesting.  Today I discovered that a group of Blue Jays can be called a “Charm,” a “Party,” a “Band,” or a “Scold.”  I think any of those terms could apply in relation to my story but Scold or Charm seem most appropriate 🙂  This article is bit longer than my usual posts at about 2140 words, but I hope you enjoy the read.

Publication Credit: It’s with great pleasure I note that my article was published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018, under the title of: “The Lesson Of The Blue Jay — How To Live Your Spirit Walk.”  If you’d like some great, uplifting reads on spirituality, imagination, soulful purpose and magic you should check out the Howl.

***

I heard what I thought was a Red Shouldered Hawk.  I was in one’s territory, and it would frequently make an appearance when I hiked this trail.  I once saw it on the ground and thinking it was injured I approached.  Instead, it quickly mantled the prey it had just caught, trying to conceal the now lifeless mole from me.  It showed no fear and I knew better than to try to get closer.  I said my hellos and continued on the path. But this wasn’t the hawk I was hearing today.

These last days of October felt like November, those days when it seemed a shade had been pulled over the sun, now hibernating until March.  It was one of those autumns where the conditions just hadn’t been right.  The moisture, temperature, sun light and the wind simply weren’t cooperating. Instead of the full spectral range of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks, mixed with the remaining traces of green, the leaves had rapidly browned out, and the wind hastened their descent to the now dormant ground.  Like charcoal drawings on canvas, the bare tree trunks and their branches silhouetted the gray, cloud-covered sky.

Although it wasn’t raining you could taste the humidity that thickly hung in the air.  That heavy air filled my lungs as I listened to my footsteps.  It was unusually quiet for this time in the woods.  It seemed all of the wildlife was napping, and then I heard it again.

I scanned the trees and located it in the lower branches of a bare hickory.  It was a Blue Jay mimicking the Red Shouldered Hawk.  The naturalists of old are said to believe that the Jay took delight in this deception.

But then they came.  More and more Blue Jays, and they were landing on both sides of the trail.  I found myself surrounded by an entire flock, all squawking at me.  Scolding me.  I had never seen so many Jays in a group before, perhaps twenty or more of them.  No other animal was in the woods.  No human other than myself.  I knew it was time to pay attention to the message being sent.  The Source was not going to let me ignore it.  And this message came at a particular time when I needed it.  I was sort of at a half-way point and needed to make that decision to push forward.

Once you do, there is no going back. The world will not be the same.

Blue Jay in Flight

For those of us believing in a more natural order in the Universe, there is a lot of “bird medicine” surrounding us.  And the Blue Jay has a particular lesson to teach, regardless if you subscribe to bird medicine or not.  But before we get there, we have to make note of the rising awareness that religion or spirituality is shifting in its definition and form.  It might be said that belief systems are returning to more tribal values and, perhaps, those are more valid and powerful because for many these systems hold more respect for the Earth and all life upon it.

I recently read the results from a study from by the Pew Research Center concluding that the American public is becoming less “religious.” Of course, being religious in this country is usually measured in terms of being a Christian, and my personal experience has taught me that many professing to be religious are living far from religious lives.  But I don’t think true believers and practitioners were screened out from the professors of religiosity in this study.

Putting mythological error, I mean methodological error aside, Pew surveyed over 35,000 “adults” (a topic for another day) and determined that a growing minority say they do not belong to any “organized faith.”  The overall Pew conclusion, which was partially attributed to the Millennial generation, was that: “Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated, also called the “nones,” now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.”

“Nones.” What a strange term to apply.  While I understand the concept Pew was trying to capture, I think the terminology is off.  “Nones” implies non-spirituality and I believe many of these people are probably quite spiritual and probably much more faithful to their beliefs than many professed Christians, Muslims or Jews.  I just think spirituality is actually returning to its roots.  And there are many roots upon which spirituality grows.

The New Yorker recently published a piece about Anthony Kronman’s latest book titled: “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing this guy’s book, I haven’t even read it, doubt that I need to, but he is supposed to be smart guy – a Yale Law School professor with a Ph.D. in philosophy.  If you want to check out the article, you can find it here.

What I think is important are the thoughts behind this work.  Basically, people are combining philosophy, metaphysics, theology, law, biology, and history, along with their own unique experiences to compose a set of beliefs that is “spiritual.”  After all, “spiritual,” at its most basic level, simply relates to the spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

And some fundamental and universal themes apply, like it’s not a good idea to go around senselessly killing living creatures.  This means all creatures as they all possess spirit.  There is also a common belief against raping the planet. It too, and every speck of dust upon it, possesses spirit.  It is alive, struggling under human kind’s relentless desire to exploit and poison it, but the Earth, and every part of it, is a living spiritual being.  No need to have someone wearing a special colored robe to tell us that, or to propagate the falsehoods that one creature is superior to another, or that particles of awareness exclusively belong to humans.

Being “pagan” is not some foreign concept, and maybe “born-again” doesn’t capture its increasing emergence in modernity.  It’s been around a long time and anyone can tap into that which is, ad lib. Being a “pagan,” minus all of the connotations applied by those whom might feel threatened by anyone not subscribing to their own particularized religious theory, means simply: “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions” – the “Big Three.”

So yes, there is becoming more of an ad hoc, hodgepodge, create your own, make it up as you go along, system of “unorganized” spiritual beliefs.  And one can draw upon the Big Three, or Far Eastern religions that were around for centuries before the Big Three, or more native customs passed on through storytelling or apprenticeships.  I’m all for it because I believe that intuitively people know what it means to have a personal relationship with Great Mystery (just one term for the “Source” of all spirituality and life) than any one dogmatic doctrine could capture.  The more one gets in touch with and in tune with nature, the more one will touch, hear, feel and see the Spirit Source.

For me personally, this means an eclectic mix of Buddhism, Native American, Meso-American and Aboriginal teachings, and my own naturalistic contact with the Universe.  There are affirmations coming from nature constantly if one only pays attention and learns to interpret the language.  And this brings us back to animal medicine and particularly bird medicine and more particularly the Blue Jay.

Native cultures will teach that each living entity possesses its own personal power and the power described is frequently in terms of symbolism.  It is also symbolic in the cycle of life that if one species consumes another for survival, it absorbs or acquires the inherent power from that other species.  Symbolism is paramount, as with all religions and religious artifacts.  The symbols will differ, and so will their meanings and interpretations, but symbols are powerful.

If you think the Cross is a powerful symbol, you should take a ten-mile hike in nature and try to see and interpret all of the messages being delivered to you.  Some can be affirmations that you are on the right path, others warnings, others general lessons, many about recognizing true gifts and having gratitude.

Of course, having an “unorganized” system of beliefs leads to the criticism of “who gets to decide what means what?”  I’d say it’s up to the doctrines a person subscribes to plus that individual’s intuition, with one caveat, one must be “authentic.”  It’s not for others to decide for anyone else what someone should believe, but once a person decides what path, or combination of paths, they wish to follow, they should follow it (or them) and not constantly attempt to change the “rules.”  Master the doctrines or personal beliefs.  Don’t engage in a half-hearted horoscoping, cherry-picking and manipulating symbols to fabricate a self-aggrandizing prophecy of spiritual attainment or self-actualization.  Not all spiritual messages will be glossed over, ultra-positive, or rose-colored intoxicants.  Pursuing spirituality is hard work.  This is exactly what the bird medicine of the Blue Jay teaches us.

Interpreting symbolism can be a subjective endeavor, so drawing upon historical roots can be beneficial.  Personally, I like the work of Ted Andrews in his book “Animal Speak,” because he discusses historical and cultural interpretations of symbols and ties the common threads together to form a cohesive way of deciphering meanings; translating the language of nature.  His interpretations also seem to match my own personal experiences.  So, while some might say the Blue Jay signifies boldness, clarity, vision, truth, faithfulness, and solidarity, Mr. Andrews observes that this totem (an animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance) brings lessons regarding the “proper use of power.”  I would throw in the word “authenticity.”

Tracking the Latin and Greek origins of the word “Jay” and the symbolism of the bird’s markings and behaviors, Andrews notes the jay has the ability to “link the heavens and earth, to access each for greater power.”  While the Blue Jay can be fearless, the problem it presents it that it dabbles in both worlds, instead of becoming a master of either.  The Blue Jay is also a mimic.  So, when this animal totem brings its bird medicine message to you, it is time to decide if you are actually mastering ability in the psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual world, or if you’re dabbling.  Mimicking enough knowledge to give the impression of having mastered it.  As Mr. Andrews concludes:

“If the jay has flown into your life, it indicates that you are moving into a time where you can begin to develop the innate royalty that is within you, or simply be a pretender to the throne. It all depends on you. The jay has no qualms. It will teach you either.”

Blue Jay in Flight 2

Now this is taking a spiritual message and teaching it with authenticity.  It’s not all “feel-good” metaphysical-pseudo-religion, it is challenging you to take responsibility with the direction you take with your own spiritual path, regardless of what that may be – truly master it or mimic it, your choice.  It’s not a horoscopic prediction of finding your soul-mate or twin-flame.  It is saying that it’s time to get real.

Thus, the problem with the Pew study.  They didn’t measure authenticity.  If they had screened out the mimics, they might have found the majority to be less religious than believed, and the “nones” perhaps much more so.  That being said, I don’t wish to discredit any form of spiritual practice.  Regardless if you are a follower of one of the Big Three, or any of the Far Eastern Religions, or if you’re a Born-Again Pagan, if you can derive hope, kindness, and generosity from your practice; if you can demonstrate gratitude, tolerance, and compassion; if you can give unconditional love to every part and parcel of the spiritual creation, then you can become your authentic spirit.

At times, it may seem like we are always at a halfway point.  We’ve acquired knowledge, dabbled, and seem to be waiting for something to happen to us or for us.  I was at that point when the Blue Jays descended upon me.  Signaling it was time to decide.  And I did.

What we need to do is experience.  Practice what we believe to be the means to the spiritual path. It’s not about reciting, waiting, or even dreaming.  It’s about doing.  Doing will make you authentic.  Live your spirit walk.

If you want to talk, you can find me hiking through the many biomes, getting out of that comfort zone, exuding my unconditional love for all of life’s forms, taking a risk that this walking meditation will place my spirit in a place to confer with the Source.  There is no looking back . . .

***

Published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018.

Photos: I found these pictures on the Internet in the public domain.  It appears the feature photo was on flicker.com, although I could not replicate the search.  I was unable to track down a definitive source for the other two images.

Note: All weblinks are subject to link rot.

Warrior for Love

This is one of those quotes that kind of sticks with you once you discover it.  We battle for those things with the most meaning.  We can get lost searching for them.  But it’s worth the journey to find true love.

 

Photo: Tromping around somewhere in ancient mountains.

Morning Coffee

I can’t really explain time.

Right now, I know I’ve let days slip away without posting to my blog and it’s time to start writing.

Writing is sort of an addiction.  I love it.  And I am writing in my mind all the time.  But some days there are simply other things I need to do with my time, either to keep up with the mundane parts of life, or to find inspiration to bring stories to life.  Or maybe I should say, bring life to stories.  Creative time.

Of course, it’s not “my time” to begin with.  How could we possess something so ethereal?

Time has a way of standing still yet slipping by at the same time.  Especially when I’m with the people I love, or when I am taking time out in nature.  Time’s simply gone or was time there to begin with?  The true measure of time never really existed.  It is artificially set.  Having no more substance than turning hands on an arbitrarily numbered dial.

While time is an arbitrary concept, at least in the physical world, time is limited for us.  So, sharing that finite time with others is perhaps the greatest gift we can give.  Maybe we’ll have infinite time to share in the spiritual world.

For some reason we decided to define time by motion.  One day is equal to the time for the Earth to complete a full rotation on its axis.  To do that, the Earth is moving, rotating, at approximately 1,040 miles per hour.

In addition to its own rotational speed, the Earth is zipping around the sun at about 66,660 miles per hour.  A full rotation around our star takes what we’ve defined as a “year,” some 365 days in double rotational motion, more or less.

What’s more, the sun and our solar system are orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy at somewhere around 450,000 to 500,000 miles per hour.  This galaxy is huge.  It takes our sun about 225 to 250 million years of motion to complete that journey around the galaxy’s center – that’s called a “cosmic year.”

And if that’s not enough motion or time for you, our galaxy is moving in relation to other galaxies and is on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy.  These galaxies are moving toward each other at the rate of 252,000 miles per hour!

Are you dizzy yet?

And while time is an artificial concept based on motion, I can’t even tell you where I am at any given moment in time.  For I, and all of the atoms in my body, are in constant motion.

You see, under particle theory in quantum mechanics, anything, including us, have multiple probabilities of being in multiple places at the same time.  It is not until a measurement of some kind, often an observation of effect as opposed to seeing the actual subatomic particle, is taken that a “real” and yet temporary placement of anything or anyone can be defined.

My new goal is to be unmeasurable, so no one can place me anywhere at any given point in time.  I will remain in eternal motion.  How could I not be?

Actually, I’m really just having my morning coffee 😊

***

Photo:  My morning cup of coffee catches the first rays of the rising sun.

An Oil Painting for the One I Love

Sitting in the quiet,
contemplating the nothingness that surrounds me.
Imaging a different world,
one with color, with fragrance, tasting, touching.

An oil painting for the one I love.

I see the greens, yellows, oranges, and reds of autumn.
An old farm road, slightly overgrown, bending gently with the breeze, contouring an old barn, faded wood, peeling paint.

The character of a grandfather with aged wisdom.

A Great Horned Owl sings in the distance,
a soulful melody that echoes across the nearby lake.
It repeats at a slightly higher pitch.

A pause, an answer – this one lower and softer.

The synchrony begins as they call, urgency growing.
Powerful yellow eyes take flight and the couple unites,
the tone softens, is warm, in harmony, complete . . .

***

Great Horned Owl - 6 - 25th Nov + Crop

 

Photos:  A Midwestern sunset on the fly – one-handed, while driving with the cell phone.  And a Great Horned Owl sits majestically, the master of this territory, calling to its mate.

Published !  So grateful to have had this poem picked up in the Fall Issue of Halcyon Days.  If you have haven’t seen this online magazine, you should really check it out.  It is beautifully done!  

My Intuition Tells Me . . .

I bet you can complete this title.  And how many times has your intuition been correct? But just what is intuition?  Is it something instinctual?  Or simply a regular cognitive process? Is it rational to trust our “guts?”

I don’t know about you, but I continually try to tune into my intuition, and I believe it has saved my hide a few times.

I recently read a neuroscientist’s perspective on intuition.  To sum up her point of view, intuition is sort of a “predictive processing framework” whereby our brains are constantly taking in sensory information, comparing that information with accumulated knowledge and experience and then making a spontaneous decision based upon how these data “match” or align.  The process is said to be automatic and subconscious.

Intuition supposedly can be a sloppy process that can fail because it is based on outdated information.  However, analytical thinking, based upon more current information, can be too slow to allow a timely response and can also err when we over-think a problem or a situation.  These two types of “thinking” are theorized to work in concert giving us a good balance.  And there are times we use analytic thinking to make a post-hoc justification for a decision based on intuitive thinking.

That all sounds like a bit of over-thinking to me.

The neuroscientist says we can trust our intuition if we follow this thought algorithm:

“Thus, for every situation that involves a decision based on your assessment, consider whether your intuition has correctly assessed the situation.  Is it an evolutionary old or new situation?  Does it involve cognitive biases?  Do you have experience or expertise in this type of situation?  If it is evolutionary old, involves a cognitive bias, and you don’t have expertise in it, then rely on analytic thinking.  If not, feel free to trust your intuitive thinking.”

But none of this gives me a true understanding of how I just “know” I’ve hit my turn around point on the trail.  My gut tells me there is some danger out there if I continue and it’s time to go home.  As I leave, I hear a hunter’s shot ring out and a deer runs out of the underbrush and passes by me.  Or a large tree branch falls where I would have stepped next.

How about, when I walk into a business and I just get the vibe that something is about to go south there so I turn around and leave.  Then, I read in the paper the next day that there was a fight that broke out in that establishment and someone got shot.  Or the place was robbed just moments after I left.

Or I see a vehicle pass me on the road and just “know” something is amiss.  Then I later pass it as it sits a contorted mass, in a deadly embrace with a semitruck.

What about the times there is no danger?  But I “know” to follow a butterfly who leads me to a wonderous discovery.  An overlook into a canyon that was off-trail and thoroughly hidden. Inspiration and beauty, I would have walked right on by but not for my gut.

Or I meet a person and within seconds I’m sure they have a good heart.  As time passes, this assessment proves to be 100% accurate.  People seem to have that intuitive trust with me too, and often just open up to me and share very personal information before they know anything about me.  I can’t tell you how many times this has happened, and the person says to me, “I don’t have any idea why I’m telling you all of this.”

None of these situations appear to involve past or present sensory input that could lead to a predictive outcome.  It is merely a feeling or my “inner voice” that I have listened to.

As the Universe would have it, the same day I read the neuroscientist’s article I would be directed to another about the topic of what it means to be “clairsentient,” or to be someone who feels things very deeply.  Notice, this is not the same as being clairvoyant. Not the same as being able to “see clearly” or predict the future.

The author of this article lists out 25 traits that may accompany being clairsentient.  And I don’t want to oversimply a complex topic, but suffice it to say such a person is extremely tuned in.  Not only to their own feelings, but to the energy fields surrounding everyone and all things.  This hypersensitivity allows for acting on senses without necessarily having any discernable information.  Or it allows a different level of accessing and analyzing information to make predictive outcomes.  To act purely upon a subconscious process where we are fed information.  It is almost as though that information comes from an outside observer who has clairvoyance.

Or maybe that is precisely what this is.  Being hypersensitive may just mean being in tune with all of the spiritual energy surrounding us.  This allows for lightening fast decisions based not upon historical data accumulated in our brains, but on real-time or even future-time data coming from external sources.

Imagine that.

And since we are talking about the subconscious, let’s talk about consciousness for a moment and what that means.  To be conscious means we are presumably awake and aware of our existence, our sensations, our thoughts, and our surroundings.  The subconscious mind concerns “the part of the mind of which one is not fully aware but which influences one’s actions and feelings.”  While on the other hand, the unconscious mind is said to be “the part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behavior and emotions.”  And being unconscious, well we all know what that means; lights out and nobody’s home.

But these are not the end descriptors of consciousness and subconscious processes because we also have “collectives.”  The collective conscious is “the set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society.”  The “collective unconscious,” in Jungian psychology, is “part of the unconscious mind which is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious.”

Now that’s a lot to wrap your brain around.  And maybe the collective unconscious could provide a source of data for our intuitive responses.  But how do we get that package of ancestral memory jammed in our heads?  Is that knowledge carried in our genetics?

Well, I have a different idea about the collective minds, or perhaps “energies” is a better word.  What if the collective unconscious was not ancestral memory?  What if the subconscious or unconscious minds of all were collectively linked, 24/7, in the present moment?  What if we could, through “intuition” or other means, tap into all that data and awareness?  What if being clairsentient meant exactly that, being tapped into this collective energy?  Wouldn’t that allow you to be extremely empathetic, to sense another’s innate qualities and characteristics, to perhaps perceive disruptions in the energy fields that tip you off to events unfolding?

I don’t know.

A number of years back I built a bridge.  It spanned a 22-foot, water-filled ravine that fed a lake on my property.  I arched it slightly and it had no supports underneath it to resist gravity or to support its own weight.  It was the biggest carpentry project I undertook, and I did it with virtually no experience or knowledge.  I drew the design out on a brown paper bag.  I was no engineer.

Each night before bed, I would formulate a question in my mind with regard to part of the project.  Usually a problem that needed to be solved.  And each morning I awoke with an answer in my conscious mind.  An answer that worked.  Now where did this information come from?

I had no inherent knowledge in my mind to process in my sleep with regard to bridge building.  Could it have come from some ancestral memory, really?  Or could I have tapped into a real-time collective of conscious, subconscious, or unconscious minds, or energy fields, that provided the answers.  I have no idea, but that bridge is still standing 22 years after I built it.

Bridge - 3 Winter
And it’s a nice metaphor too.  Bridging between conscious and subconscious and unconscious dimensions 😊

Of course, I don’t know that words can ever adequately describe such a process.  And you can call me crazy if you want to, but I do know that the times I didn’t listen to my inner voice were the times that I got into trouble.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to tune-in.  Tap into all that is out there.  And trust what my inner voice is telling me.

Pleasant trails, keep listening, and trust your gut.

***

Photos: I built this bridge in the summer of 1996 – winter and summer views.

Links: Here are links to the articles I read.  All links are subject to link rot.

Is it rational to trust your gut feelings? A neuroscientist explains

25 Signs You May Be Clairsentient — Someone Who Feels Things Very Deeply

Quotes: And here are a couple of nice quotes on Intuition:

“Intuition is seeing with the soul.”
― Dean Koontz

 
“The material world is simply an expression of the mind; that’s what so many fail to see. We’re so dependent on what is before us that we discount our intuition. Yet if one dismisses instinct, how can one understand or believe in a world that exists beyond one’s sight?”
― Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

 
“Intuition comes in several forms:
– a sudden flash of insight, visual or auditory
– a predictive dream
– a spinal shiver of recognition as something is occurring or told to you
– a sense of knowing something already
– a sense of deja vu
– a snapshot image of a future scene or event
– knowledge, perspective or understanding divined from tools which respond to the subconscious mind”
― Sylvia Clare, Trusting Your Intuition: Rediscover Your True Self to Achieve a Richer, More Rewarding Life

 
“Situations produce vibrations. Negative, potentially harmful situations emit slow vibrations. Positive, potentially life-enhancing situations emit quick vibrations. As these vibrations impact on your energy field they produce either resonance or dissonance in your lower and middle tantiens (psychic power stations) depending on your own vibratory rate at the time. When you psychic field force is strong and your vibratory rate is fast, therefore, you will draw only positive situations to you. When you mind is quiet enough and your attention is on the moment, you will literally hear the dissonance in your belly and chest like an alarm bell going off, urging you from deep within your body to move in such and such a direction. Always follow it. At times these urges may come to you in the form of internally spoken dialogue with your higher self, spirit guide, guardian angel, alien intelligence, however you see the owner of the “still, small voice within.” This form of dialogue can be entertaining and reassuring but is best not overindulged in as, in the extreme; it tends to lead to the loony bin. At times you may receive your messages from “Indian signs”, such as slogans on passing trucks or cloud formations in the sky. This is also best kept in moderation, to avoid seeing signs in everything and becoming terribly confused. Just let it happen when it happens and don’t try looking for it.”
― Stephen Russell, Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior

Red Coral – To Feel is to Heal

I hike into the canyon and I am marveled by what surrounds me.  It’s Fall.  Greens, golds, reds, oranges, pinks, a rainbow of leaves held tightly by the trees while others, released from that grip, float softly through the air to blanket the ground.  Painting abstract portraits.  Pastel pathways.

There are majestic mountains, and underground streams.  Dry stream beds until the elevation is ripe for the water’s emergence.  It trickles, then flows, then forms small falls over rock out-croppings.  A Damselfly lands on a Horsetail Reed.  Metallic green, it’s wings shine in the sunlight.

This land I walk, used to be on the bottom of the ocean.  Fossil remnants confirm its history.  Bivalves and crinoids and coral.  Once a shell inhabited by an animal, or symbiotic pairings of algae and invertebrates forming exoskeleton metropoles.  All forms of calcium carbonate taking on infinite designs.  All now limestone.  And eventually dust, from which something new will rise.

The silence is broken by the cry of a Hawk.  Its flight interrupted by a Raven that dive bombs it.  A battle ensues in mid-air.  And the Hawk acrobatically rolls onto its back.  Inverted in flight it claws back at its interceptor.  I’ve never seen a Hawk fly upside down.  Never.  I’m amazed at its agility.  What a true gift this vision is.

I am surrounded by life.  I hear it, feel it, taste it, smell it, touch it.  I perceive it.  Enter it intuitively.  And yet I walk alone.  Connected, yet separated.

Night time comes and I’ve returned to shelter.  And I think, how much better the day would have been could I have shared the experience.  To have gazed through more than my own eyes.  To share laughter and surprise.  A warm smile, shining eyes looking back at me.

Being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.  Tonight, I feel alone.

How nice it would be to hold someone in my arms.  Just hold them and feel their touch.  Infinitely.  Hear their breath.  Their heartbeat drum.  Feel their warmth.  Their fire.  Their love.

We all want answers to the big questions.  They usually start with the word “why?”  Why am I walking alone?  But then “where?”  Where do I find the answer?

My inner voice silent.  I look outside into the darkness.  The Coyotes synchronize their howls.  The Crickets, high-pitched chirping.  An Owl joins the chorus.  Life surrounds me in my solitude.  Why?

We all have places or entities to where we direct these questions.  Consult the ancient texts?  Cast stones or charms?  Read cards?  Deep meditation?  Extrapolate from dreams.  We find affirmations from the world around us.  Intuition is valid.  These sources nourish it.

Tonight, I pull a book.  Sacred Path Cards by Jamie Sams.  I draw an accompanying card for a daily reading.  “Coral.”  Some people might call this mysticism, paganism, or even heretical.  But isn’t it strange how these ceremonies end up being spot-on.

Coral speaks to the absurdity of my question.  It tells me to cut the “I am the only one” refrain.  We are never alone.  As the Seneca would say (Ms. Sams’ tribe), we are continually surrounded by “All Our Relations.”  It’s time to reconnect with All.

To paraphrase Ms. Sams:

Coral symbolizes the blood of Mother Earth.  It acknowledges that all “two-legged” have the need to be nurtured from their own kind.  But it reminds us who our true “Mother” is.  Red blood runs through every creature.  Water, the oceans, symbolize the blood of Mother Earth.  And Red Coral, arising from those waters carry that representation.  The “Water Nursery of Creation” gave birth to all life and Red Coral, and its connection to the sea water of its own origin, symbolizes our birth and the connection to the “Mother Of All Things.”  Every life form, “All Our Relations,” is sustained by Mother Earth.  Using Coral can allow us to reconnect to our own blood and the waters of Mother Earth.

Once we reconnect, we can “develop a communication with our physical form that is not based upon addiction, compulsion, fear, gluttony, or selfishness.”  We can recognize that our physical body is our vehicle for connecting with our spirit and our needs.  We, therefore, must learn to respect and care for our bodies.  All nurturing is dependent on our ability to recognize our feelings and needs.  And if we don’t know what we need, how would we identify the needs of others to give comfort.  “To feel is to heal.”

It is time for self-nourishment.  For reunion with the Planetary Family.  To listen to All Our Relations and acknowledge we are never alone.

While I ponder the message, I think back to today’s hike.  I fumble through my backpack and produce a stone I found.  I wipe it with vegetable oil and it comes to life.  Patterns emerge.  Skeletal patterns, flower-like shapes, concentric circles.  It’s fossilized coral. Coincidence?  I quit believing in coincidences a long time ago.  Why did I pick up that particular stone for the later discovery?

While I was on top of the ridge, and while I was down in the bottom of the canyon, I was standing on the ancient ocean floor.  The sea, the blood of Mother Earth, once flowed here.  The many connections I made today with my “Relations,” why did I try to separate myself from them?  They all visited for a reason.

The Damselfly with the power of light.  The Hawk with its visionary power, the guardian. The Raven, the magic shapeshifter.  The Coyote, the balance of wisdom and folly.  The Cricket, the bearer of luck and success.  The Owl, it’s silent wisdom, the visionary of the night.  And even the ocean creatures frozen in time.

While it’s true, I seek connection with another “two-legged,” I have that connection as I share my story of the struggle.  Like the hawk and the raven, we internally battle.  Visions versus fleeting images.  Mirages and echoes.  Our self-deception.  The denial of our eternal connections.

Others can experience what I have, see it through my eyes, brush my hand with theirs, share the joy.  I wasn’t alone, and I can be nourished by nourishing others with my words.

We are never alone.

***

Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  The link accompanying it tracked back to a New York Post article titled: “Forcing Coral to Have Sex Could Save the Great Barrier Reef.”  As with all web-links, this link is subject to “link rot,” and I can only say it is valid at the time I posted this article.

Attribution to The Urban Howl:  On June 18, 2018, this article was published by The Urban Howl under the title of “The Unmistakable Message Of Red Coral: To Feel Is To Heal.” I am honored to be a part of this wonderful publication.

The Dream by Don Miguel Ruiz

I have read two books by Don Miguel Ruiz.  The first was “Beyond Fear: A Toltec Guide to Freedom and Joy” and the second was “The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book.”  In both books he included the passage below.

In Beyond Fear, he presented it as an exercise for us to dream.  In The Four Agreements, he included it as a passage titled: “Prayer for Love.”  The version in Beyond Fear was slightly different, I think better written, so I’m posting that one.

The author uses the word “Christ” near the end of the passage.  But as I have said before, I believe you could substitute whatever entity or title you wished, your own belief in what constitutes the “Source,” and the message still rings true.  Enjoy.

***

In this dream I find myself in the most beautiful forest at mid-day.  I am completely comfortable surrounded by beauty.  I see the sunbeams lighting the trees and the flowers.  I see butterflies, and I hear the sound of a river.  I walk to that river where an old man sits beneath a big tree. With his white beard and his strong, kind eyes, the man emits a radiant aura of beautiful colors.  I sit in front of him and wait until he feels my presence and looks at me.

I ask, “How can you send out these beautiful colors and can you teach me how to do it?”

He smiles at me.  “Your request brings back memories for me because one day I saw my own teacher doing the same thing and I asked him the same question.  As an answer, he opened his chest and he reached in and pulled out his own heart.  From within it he took a radiant flame.  He opened my chest and put that flame inside my heart.  From that moment on, everything changed inside me because that flame was unconditional love.  I felt the flame of that love and it became a consuming fire.”

“I shared that love with, and gave unconditional love to, every cell in my body.  That day I became one with my own body.”

“I decided to love my mind.  I loved every emotion, every thought, every feeling and every dream.  That fire transformed my mind completely and my mind loved me back so much that the fire grew even more and I had the need to share my love even more.”

“I decided to put my love in every tree, in every flower, in every blade of grass and all the plants in the whole forest.  They reacted to my love and they loved me also and we became one.”

“But still my love grew more and more so I had an even greater need to share my love.  I decided to put a little piece of love in every rock, in the dirt, in every metal on the earth, and they loved me back.  We became one.”

“My love still grew.  I decided to put a little love in every animal that exists, in the birds, the cats and the dogs.  They loved me back and they protected me.  We became one.”

“My love still grew and I decided to love the water.  I loved the rain, the snow, the rivers, the lakes, the oceans, and I became one with the water.”

“When my love continued to grow, I decide to love the atmosphere, the breeze, the hurricane, the tornado, and we became one and they loved me back.”

“My love did not end there.  It grew even more and I turned my face to the sky where I saw the sun, the moon and the stars.  I decided to put a piece of my love in them and they loved me back and we became one.”

“Again, my love expanded and I decided to share it with every human, with the elders, with every man, woman and child, and we became one.”

“Now wherever I go, I am there waiting for myself.”

Then the old man opened his chest with his hands and took his heart out before my eyes.  He took a flame from his heart and he opened my chest and my heart, and he put that flame in my heart.  When I awoke and opened my eyes, I felt that flame become a fire.  Now I share my love with you.

At this moment, I open my chest and in front of your eyes I open my heart.  I take a small flame and I open your chest and your heart.  I put that flame in your heart.  That flame of my love is the flame of Christ.

And that is the dream.

***

Photo: This is a great shot of my woodstove with a particularly expressive fire.  I can see a swan in the flames to the left.  Others have seen the devil in the middle and a woman in the flames to the right.  What do you see?  The flame of unconditional love?

 

 

It’s Really About Outnumbering

Disclaimer: This piece is not intended as an attack on any religion.  What it tries to point out is how groups try to control and manipulate power.  I’m all for anyone who seeks spiritual awareness in any context.

***

There has been a lot of controversy swirling about the new administration’s policies on immigration. And while the words “terrorism” and “extremism” have been thrown about as justifications for issuing unconstitutional, blanket bans on specific target groups, I do not believe this is the real reason behind such actions. And guess what, there has been no dramatic influx of radical terrorists without the unconstitutional ban.

It’s really all about “outnumbering.” Backtracking to an earlier time in this country, we can look at the history of abortion laws. How is this related? Well, it’s like this. Over a hundred years ago abortion was legal in this country and you didn’t need a doctor to perform it. Salons sprouted up offering these services. Two opposition groups developed. One was doctors, they were upset that they were not getting a piece of the pie. The protestants, the second group, were upset because white, middle and upper class, protestant woman were now getting frequent abortions. The original outlawing of abortion had to do with doctors wanting money, under the guise of controlling anything they would deem to be medical, and the fear the protestants had about being outnumbered by the Catholics. The Catholics weren’t as worried, abortion was strongly against their religious tenants and the obedient posed no threat, they were out there being fruitful and multiplying, even where the children could not be fed.

You see, religious leaders longed for the days when religion dominated government. In Republics, like ours, this was eliminated, but the easy solution was to outnumber other religions – control the populous. That way, the majority of elected officials would share your belief system and the laws would be shaped to reflect and enforce that singular religious set of values and morals over any other set. Americans, and their elected officials have, for a few centuries now, been dominated by white, European Christians. This has now changed because of immigration. And in another 30 to 50 years, for the first time in this country, white, European Christians will be in the minority. Not surprisingly, we see an increase in white, nationalist Christians wanting to solidify their powerbase, and the only way to maintain control for the long-term is to limit immigration. And what better way to package and sell this idea than FEAR. After-all, those in power don’t want to admit they are really opposed to other religious beliefs.

I don’t think the real fear is rooted in Islamic Extremism. I think the fear is that Muslims are growing in number world-wide, and growing in populous in the US. And those in control don’t approve of Muslim values and teachings – they are still fighting the battle of proving their God is the best and superior God – instead of actually acquiring any spiritual awareness. Terrorism provides a convenient excuse for other agendas, like “othering” an entire group of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion to purposely discriminate and eliminate if possible. For example, terrorism has been an excuse used by the Russians to invade in the Ukraine and involve itself in Syria. And “fake news,” just like the label of “terrorism,” will now be used to discredit any source in opposition to any agenda being propagated by those in control. Almost all of the terrorism that has occurred in this country has been from home-grown terrorists – good white Christians. They all had their justifications.

People can choose not to act from the basis of fear and make intelligent and lawful choices, but will they? People are easily led by fear-mongering.  A couple of quotes come to mind:

“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear–kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor-with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it …” — General Douglas MacArthur.

“Of course, the people don’t want war…that is understood. But voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Hermann Goering.

Next year, will there be too many Germans, Italians, or Chinese in this country? That’s why our forefathers designed the Constitution the way they did – to prevent all forms of discrimination and one of the primary means for preserving this country’s freedom has been to keep religion separated from politics.

Good luck playing the discrimination game, two generations from now this country will look a lot different than it does now. In another 500 years we may only have one race – what will the racists and bigots discriminate against then – oh yeah, there is still religion : – )

 ***

Photo:  This photo was found on the Internet in the public domain.  I’ve been unable to find any other attribution for its source.

Gray Days

In November, long before the Winter Solstice, we will experience the first of many “gray days.”  The trees now bare, having shed their leaves, draw charcoal lines across an infinite sky of nothingness.

Gray is considered to lie exactly between white and black and is actually called “achromatic,” which is a contradiction in terms – to have a colorless color?  It has also been described as refracting light without spectral color separation, or as having zero saturation and no hue.  And while we might struggle to find words to convey the absence of something, there are certainly plenty to describe the feelings that are aroused by these gray days.

As if they may be called “days,” residing, instead, somewhere between the light of day and darkness of night, a sort of twilight time.  An extended boundary between the birth and death of a day.

Simply stated, these gray days are depressing.  But that word is far too vague to instill a true sensory perception.  Drab, ashen, somber, leaden, stone cold, cineritious, favillous, worn, anemic, pasty, melancholic, sallow, blah, sullied, faded, dreary, muted, gloomy, caliginous, tenebrous, bleak, washed out, dismal, and uninspired.

These are the days that suck the spirit right out of you.  Drab, as in lacking brightness; somber, as in humorless; leaden, as in a weight too heavy to bear; ashen, as in the color of death.  And they come, one after the other, after the other . . . trampling the psyche.

Uninspired. Cold. Despairing.  Why would one bother exiting a warm, soft bed on such a day?  The coffee will taste burnt.  Cream putrid. The muffin, singed.  Butter rancid.  Life pales when Grandfather Sun fades, when he retreats to the southern hemisphere.

The winter months are described symbolically as representing death before the season of rebirth – spring.  But there is surely beauty lying within the bleak, even if buried or hibernating in the heart.

It can be unveiled in the snow. Crystalline water sparkling like diamonds.

It’s exhibited in the cedars.  Their healing ever-green luminescence.  Their balsamic, terpenic perfume.

It’s manifest with the birds.  Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Chickadees, and Finches, even in their winter cloaks, radiate brilliant color and warmth.  They hang in the branches like dazzling ornaments on a Christmas Tree.

It’s uncovered when a doe emerges from her winter bed with her fawns.  Shy and diminutive, alluring brown eyes, graceful as they glide over the snow-covered terrain.

Even the cold, biting wind on these days has balmy stories to tell.  If we listen.  It whispers the legends of wolves on the hunt, devouring their prey to feed the fire burning in their bones.   It speaks of the silent flight of the Owl through the forest.  Their yellow eyes of the night, penetrating the hidden aspects of the soul.  Their tufted ears, hearing with clairvoyance.  They see and hear all.  You cannot hide.

The gray is really a dreamscape.  A blank canvass upon which our minds may paint surrealistic animations.  Silhouettes of structures.  Wild beasts and sensuous lovers.  Warm glows emanating from woodstoves and candle light.  Reflections as old as time.

This artistry, this imagery, burns brightly in our consciousness.  A fire in our hearts that can never be extinguished.  We are the keepers of this eternal flame.

As Thoreau observed:

“There is a slumbering subterranean fire in nature which never goes out, and which no cold can chill…. This subterranean fire has its altar in each [person’s] breast, for in the coldest day, and on the bleakest hill, the traveler cherishes a warmer fire within the folds of [their] cloak than is kindled on any hearth. A healthy [person], indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter, summer is in [their] heart.”

Yes, why would someone roust themselves from their slumbers on such a bleak, gray day?  To write about it, of course . . .

***

Photo:  I caught this scene early one December morning.  The humidity and cold created “ice fog.”  This fog lifts, having painted the trees with a coating of ice.  The ice lasted about fifteen minutes before the air had become warm enough to melt it.  The world of images, ever transient.

** If you are wondering about the bracketed words in the quote, I replaced all of the male oriented pronouns with gender neutral ones.  The writers of old, while quite eloquent, often wrote as though women didn’t exist.  I don’t particularly care for that.

 

 

 

 

Paint Me a Masterpiece by Gordon MacKenzie

This is an excerpt (the last chapter) from the book called: “Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace” that was written by Gordon MacKenzie.  While MacKenzie uses the word “God,” I believe you could substitute whatever entity or title you wished, your own belief in what constitutes the “Source,” and the message still rings true.  Enjoy.

Paint Me a Masterpiece

In your mind, conjure an image of the Mona Lisa.  Visualize that masterpiece’s subtleties of hue and tone as clearly as you can.

Next, shift to the image of a paint-by-numbers Mona Lisa.  Envision the flat, raw, colors meeting hard-edged, one against the other.

Now let me relate a fantasy about masterpieces, paint-by-numbers and you. It goes like this:

Before you were born, God came to you and said:

“Hi there!  I just dropped by to wish you luck. And to assure you that you and I will be meeting again.  Soon.  Before you know it.

You’re heading out on an adventure that will be filled with fascinating experiences.  You’ll start out as a tiny speck floating in an infinite dark ocean, quite saturated with nutrients.  So you won’t have to go looking for food or a job or anything like that. All you’ll have to do is float in the darkness.  And grow incredibly.

And change miraculously.

You’ll sprout arms and legs.  And hands and feet.  And fingers and toes.

As if from nothing, your head will take form.  Your nose.  Your mouth.  Your eyes and ears will emerge.

As you continue to grow bigger and bigger, You will become aware that this dark, oceanic environment of yours – which, when you were tiny, seemed so vast is now actually cramped and confining.  That will lead you to the unavoidable conclusion that you’re going to have to move to a bigger place.

After much groping about in the dark, you will find an exit.  The mouth of a tunnel.

“Too small,” you’ll decide.  “Couldn’t possibly squeeze through there.”

But there will be no other apparent way out.  So, with primal spunk, you will take on your first “impossible” challenge and enter the tunnel.

In doing so, you will be embarking on a brutal no-turning-back, physically exhausting, claustrophobic passage that will introduce you to pain and fear and hard physical labor.  It will seem to take forever.  But mysterious undulations of the tunnel itself will help squirm you through. A nd finally, after what will seem like interminable striving, you will break through to a blinding light.

Giant hands will pull you gently, but firmly, into an enormous room.  There will be several huge people, called adults, huddling around you, as if to greet you. If it is an old-fashioned place, one of these humongous people may hold you upside down by the legs and give you a swat on the backside to get you going.

All this will be what the big people on the other side call being born.  For you, it will be only the first of your new life’s many exploits.”

God continues:

“I was wondering.  While you’re over there on the other side, would you do me a favor?”

“Sure!” you chirp.

“Would you take this artist’s canvas with you and paint a masterpiece for me? I’d really appreciate that.”

Beaming, God hands you a pristine canvas.  You roll it up, tuck it under your arm and head off on your journey.

Your birth is just as God had predicted, and when you come out of the tunnel into the bright room, some doctor or nurse looks down at you in amazement and gasps:

“Look!  The little kid’s carrying a rolled-up artist’s canvas!”

Knowing that you do not yet have the skills to do anything meaningful with your canvas, the big people take it away from you and give it to society for safekeeping until you have acquired the prescribed skills requisite to the canvas’s return.  While society is holding this property of yours, it cannot resist the temptation to unroll the canvas and draw pale blue lines and little blue numbers all over its virgin surface.  Eventually, the canvas is returned to you, its rightful owner.  However, it now carries the implied message that if you will paint inside the blue lines and follow the instructions of the little blue numbers your life will be a masterpiece.

And that is a lie.

For more than fifty years I worked on my paint-by-numbers creation.  With uneven but persistent diligence, I dipped an emaciated paint-by-numbers brush into color No. 1 and painstakingly painted inside each little blue-bordered area marked 1.  Then on to 2 and 3 and 4 and so on.  Sometimes, during restive periods of my life, I would paint, say, the 12 spaces before the 10 spaces (a token rebellion against overdoses of linearity).  More than once, I painted beyond a line and, feeling embarrassed, would either try to wipe off the errant color or cover it over with another before anyone might notice my lack of perfection.  From time to time, although not often, someone would compliment me, unconvincingly, on the progress of my “masterpiece.”  I would gaze at the richness of others’ canvases.  Doubt about my own talent for painting gnawed at me.  Still, I continued to fill in the little numbered spaces, unaware of, or afraid to look at, any real alternative.

Then there came a time, after half a century of daubing more or less inside the lines, that my days were visited by traumatic events.  The dividends of my noxious past came home to roost, and the myth of my life began horrifically to come unglued.  I pulled back from my masterpiece-in-the-works and saw it with an emerging clarity.

It looked awful.

The stifled strokes of paint had nothing to do with me.  They did not illustrate who I am or speak of whom I could become. I felt duped, cheated, ashamed – anguished that I had wasted so much canvas, so much paint.  I was angry that I had been conned into doing so.

But that is the past.  Passed.

Today I wield a wider brush – pure ox-bristle.  And I’m swooping it through the sensuous goo of Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson or Ultramarine Blue (not Nos. 4, 13 or 8) to create the biggest, brightest, funniest, fiercest damn dragon that I can.  Because that has more to do with what’s inside of me than some prescribed plagirism of somebody else’s tour de force.

You have a masterpiece inside you, too, you know.  One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be.

And remember:

If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece,

it will not get painted.

No one else can paint it.

Only you.

***

Photo: This masterpiece was painted by Claude Monet and is called “The Japanese Footbridge.”  Oil on canvass – 1899.  I took this pic when the portrait was on display in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.