Monday, December 02, 2013
I was blessed to have an exacting, exciting English teacher in high school who loved language as much as life itself, and was on a mission to see as many students as possible embrace it ardently. His work could have been called, "Extreme Literacy." I earned highest accolades for penning a 7-page essay without once using the word "thing" in lieu of a specific noun.
Those of us who signed up for Mr. Boyce's Advanced English class worshipped his precise pedagogy. One of the enduring expositions he shared is Leo Rosten's The Power of Words. I rediscovered this luminous learning in a file today and want to share it with you:
The Power of Words
by Leo Rosten
They sing. They hurt. They teach. They sanctify.
They were man's first immeasurable feat of magic.
They liberated us from ignorance and our barbarous past.
For without these marvelous scribbles, which build
letters into words, words into sentences, sentences
into systems and sciences and creeds, man would be
forever confined to the self-isolated prison of the cuttlefish or the
"One picture is worth ten thousand words," goes the timeworn Chinese
"But," one writer tartly said, "It takes words to say that."
We live by words: Love, Truth, God.
We fight for words: Freedom, Country, Fame.
We die for words: Liberty, Glory, Honor.
They bestow the priceless gift of articulacy on
our minds and hearts — from "Mama" to "infinity."
And those who truly shape our destiny, the giants
who teach us, inspire us, lead us to deeds of immortality,
are those who use words with clarity, grandeur, and
passion: Socrates, Jesus, Luther, Lincoln, Churchill.
Give thanks for words' endless riches.
Monday, November 04, 2013
I spent the first year of a three-year healing hegira in New York State, in an altered state. It was a homecoming at a higher level along life's spiral: although I'd grown up just over the border in northern New Jersey, being in New York in 1994 was time out of mind, sacred space in the deepest sense, even as I was remembering what that was, even as my severely ill body brought me to places where my soul rejoiced at finally being unleashed to embrace my purpose this lifetime. Stripped raw, connected only to Spirit, I followed a divine thread to my healing destiny.
During an extended stay at one country home, I heard about a performance that was to take place soon at The Widow Jane Mine, an underground chamber where the audience would sit on hay bales. It sounded intriguing, inviting, essential. I had to go.
I did not yet know who Layne Redmond was. When the Drummers Were Women, her definitive book about the ancient art of frame drumming, was three years in the future.
At the event, I purchased her first CD, Since the Beginning, entranced by her rapturous visage on the cover. Then I entered the mine, and opened to the unimagined.
I can still hear the invocation as their voices reverberated, reaching us before the candlelit raft bearing the drummers floated into view. "Ah, ah-ah-ah, Ah, ah-ah-ah, Ah, ah, ah ah, ah ah ah, ah ah AH!" This was primordial sound; the drum is the sound of our Mother's blood, the first sound we hear in the womb, and the sound of Gaia's heartbeat as well. It entered me.
I found myself at night for weeks, months afterward, singing this incantation as I remembered the stars, felt the Moon inside my being, began to heal/whole into the truth of Oneness. I was never so joy-filled as during this awakening time.
I was stunned last week to learn that Layne made her transition just before Hallowe'en/Samhain, on October 28th, a time when the veils between worlds are thin. I was more shocked to realize she was just five years older than me. In 3D she clearly had much left to do; she was in the midst of continuing to expand her global work. But her soul knew a different timetable. Her soul felt her work here was complete.
I am blessed to have witnessed this master of the frame drum and her Mob of Angels in New York in 1994, and again in California in the late 1990s. Layne Redmond played a pivotal role in my awakening journey, though she did not know it. In this moment when all the timelines are merging, as solar cycles and planets dance us awake en masse, I say a humble thank you. Thank you for drumming me to consciousness, for your generous heart, for sharing your manifold gifts as manna for us all.
Blessings, Layne Redmond, now adding her joy to the Music of the Spheres…
Monday, October 28, 2013
In the U.S., Halloween is all about costumes, trick-or-treating, and occasionally, mischief. But on the Celtic calendar this day, known as Samhain, ushers in winter and the mysteries of the dark. October 31st precedes Day of the Dead/All Soul's Day on November 1st, a paean to the ancestors. The dark side — that which is hidden from view — calls us to remember our transpersonal soulscape.
As mythologist Kathleen Jenks writes on Myth*ing Links, this is an excellent time to explore what is ending or "dying" within our own beings. What do you need to release in order to move forward in your life? Now, when the veils between worlds are thin, is a ripe moment for each of us to embrace personal and planetary transformation.
And the souls of those who have gone before can still share their wisdom with us, if we invite their collaboration. Visionary activist astrologer Caroline Casey likes to say, "We cannot live through the dead, but we can invite the dead to live through us." What gifts are asking, aching to be brought forth through you in this quantum moment, when the entire world is awash in tremulous rebirth?
The real treat of Samhain is the opportunity for quantum growth. The trick, perhaps, would be turning your back on those inner voices begging you to shine your brilliance and step fully into your aliveness, passion, purpose and service.
It's time to remove your mask, and step fully into who you came here to be.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Several times today I felt my clothes attack me. Once when I was out walking this gorgeous autumn morning. I plucked at the label on my shirt, and went on. An hour or so later I felt the stab again. The label didn't seem that rough, but it certainly was bothersome. I moved it and thought about cutting it out later. Then I visited my favorite consignment store, where I tried on both pants and shirts (hence removing all my clothing, and getting dressed again.)
Driving to the library, I felt that stab again. Perplexed, sitting at a red light I reached carefully to the point of pain and to my astonishment withdrew…a needle and thread! I burst out laughing. How is it possible that my pants (for this is the color the thread matched, though I don't recall mending them recently) made it through a wash and dry cycle, onto my body, then off and back on, all with a needle intact?
It's another example of Spirit's delicious sense of humor. At first I thought, "needle in a haystack," though no resonating images came to mind. But when I wondered what might be "needling" me, I had to smile. There are so many irritants vexing us these days, as Uranus and Pluto square off in the heavens and we face our underworld demons and rebellious, quixotic, breakdown/breakthrough events here on earth.
The key is to follow the thread to magical, mystical moments in positive expectation, unattached to outcome, unafraid. It's a tall order, and one we are all capable of stepping up to and into. We're swinging wildly between connected, congruent, 5D transparency and understanding, and 3D anger, disappointment, overwhelment. It's OK; it's all good. When life needles you, find out what you need in that moment, and thread your way to the next adventure. Haystacks have baled. We can, too: bundle with your besties, and carry on…
Saturday, October 05, 2013
Spiritual humor is delicious, and the transparency of now makes it all the more helpful, if we just keep surrendering, surrendering, surrendering:
Two days ago I took my ancient Toyota in for service. Yesterday, satisfied my trusty little car was again in tip-top shape, I drove around town in near-triple-digit weather (the air conditioner died years ago) doing Friday afternoon errands. At my second-to-last stop, I parked, turned off the engine, and the car was dead. Not even a click.
After I phoned AAA, I watched myself spiral into negative mind chatter, amused that this is still my default setting after all the self work I've done. Like many of us, I've been balancing a lot lately, from a family health crisis to a broken crown that created a spike in my mouth, to a plumbing emergency and someone reneging on a verbal business agreement after I'd completed my half of the exchange. So a minor glitch like a dead car battery (I surmised) shouldn't have made much of a dent in my composure. But I had perishable food in the car in the blazing sun, and suddenly it was the proverbial straw.
I turned to a woman loading her car two spaces away and began spouting frustration, and once she realized I wasn't on a cell phone she came over and held the space for me in an extraordinary way, not only validating what I was sharing but matching it, point by point (e.g., her vehicle, the same age as mine, had failed the day before; her husband is facing surgery, etc, etc). Her equanimity brought me back to center as I explained the car issue wasn't a big deal at all; I just needed a break — and some support!
The tow truck team was fantastic. Eric popped the hood, moved the battery cable a millimeter and the car started up fine. Perhaps the connection came loose during the repairs, or going on and off the lift. I was good to go in about a minute and profoundly grateful. I completed my errands and drove home with the radio on. And this is where the spiritual humor enters in.
KZST in Santa Rosa has a daily game called "Drive o'clock trivia" where, at 5 pm, the DJ asks a question and callers who think they know the answer call in. It's almost always about numbers. Yesterday's question was, "One in 10 people use this business daily. What is it?" And of course I knew. I called and said, "Is it a towing service?" He exclaimed, "It IS a towing service!" I added, "And I know this because I just called them, 90 minutes ago." He said, "Well, I'm sorry that's why you know the answer!" But it was perfect.
This is happening in every realm now, the immediacy and synchronicity of instant return, often in a humorous fashion. It's a good way to stay grounded. Another example: I was discussing with my family member why fall/winter is not an ideal time for surgery, because it's the season of contraction, a time for rest and reflection as Nature releases the old and prepares to go into a dormant state. An hour after the call, I received an email with the subject line, "Honoring the Natural Rhythm of Autumn", which speaks to the mysteries of life and death and how this month is a great time to remember our ancestors as we approach All Souls Day/Day of the Dead.
We are always being answered. The Universe is ringing with love and compassion the moment we have ears to hear. I'm grateful for these Spirited reminders of the wisdom and support that's always available, usually liberally laced with humor. As our journeys continue to heat up, as the whole world awakens in an explosion of confusion and joy, remember the help that is here for us. And be as kind to yourself as you can.
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
I was one of the unlucky ones. Born with just a smidge of melanin, I can't pass for coffee or any type of tea; just a distant cousin of pink grapefruit juice. In cultural parlance, I'm Caucasian. And even though I've never been persecuted for it (except one time in New Mexico, but I'll get to that), I can appreciate how the amount of melanin in one's skin affects who they'll become.
Consider the Melanin Megastars: people with skin so black it's almost blue. They're melanin rich, whether they reside in a poverty-stricken African country or in the United States. Then there are the Melanin Middlin': people whose skin color may be a toffee brown or other shade that reflects a blended heritage. Those who hail from the Mediterranean, India, Latin countries, and Native Americans generally fall into this category.
But the melanin-deprived are a vast group, spread across the globe. We don't talk about being Melanin Midgets; it simply isn't a subject for polite discourse. But it rankles. Why can't our skin glow with the bronze hues other ethnicities take for granted? To assuage our privation, some of us may occasionally use an epithet to describe members of one of these privileged groups. It's an attempt to camouflage our sense of inferiority.
Perhaps this is what happened with Paula Deen, who made headlines recently because she admitted to using the "N" word in the past. Ms. Deen was promptly and roundly punished for her error, losing both face and finances in a very public way. It was a temporary slip, long ago, she says. But as Oprah so trenchantly observed, we're not yet ready for a "real conversation" about racism in today's world.
One of my few direct experiences of racial prejudice occurred nearly two decades ago, when I lived in northern New Mexico, an area whose inhabitants are a mix of Latino, Native American, and Caucasian, living an uneasy cultural détente. In the midst of a labyrinthine healing quest from chronic illness, I was also opening to Spirit, not working except on myself, and living on savings.
Shopping in a local pharmacy for personal care needs, I observed that my cashier appeared to have a cold. Solicitously I asked, "Are you sick? Maybe you should take a few days off." She flared, "Look, Lady, I gotta work! I don't have no sugar daddy!" Obviously, since it was the middle of the day, she assumed I was a woman of leisure. I understood her rage, and that it wasn't directed at me personally so much as at her life situation. It was nonetheless shocking, because it was new to me. Yet this is what melanin-endowed people experience perhaps every day of their lives.
What will it take to begin the conversation? What if melanin was valued instead of money? African Americans would be wealthy beyond measure; Caucasians, not so much. Just because people of minimal color may be Melanin Midgets doesn't mean we have to be mental midgets.
We have bigger issues to resolve that affect us all, regardless of the amount of pigment in our skin. Let's grow beyond the Melanin Wars. We've transcended the apocalyptic drama of 2012. Surely we can do this.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
You know how to talk. You've been doing it for decades. But are your listeners hearing your intended message?
Learning to speak in the language others can hear is a critical task many of us never master, because it requires putting yourself in the receiver's role and asking if the way you're presenting your information makes sense to this particular audience.
For example: if I began a talk on personal growth by saying, "When I emerged from the womb after my dark night of the soul, I felt reborn, and ready to give my gift to the world," many people might completely comprehend what I was trying to say — but there are many, many more whose eyes would glaze over in confusion.
But what if I started with, "After a long illness during which I began to question the purpose of my life, I began anew with a deeper understanding of who I am and what I'm here to do." Is this clearer? I'm expressing the same thoughts, but for two distinct audiences. Sharing the second introduction with a group more attuned to the first message would be as ineffective as the reverse.
I grew into this awareness of learning to speak in the language others can hear slowly. One terrific though unwitting resource was my brother. When he was deep in the throes of his awakening, I eagerly sent him a book that had been given to me at a pivotal time in my own growth: Louise Hay's classic, You Can Heal Your Life. I've read it hundreds of times over the years and integrated her teachings into my life in numerous ways.
My brother added my offering to "the pile": books he'd already been given by well-meaning friends. Clearly, it didn't speak to him.
Not long afterward, I attended a weekend workshop on personal mastery. The trainer highly recommended a book that imparted spiritual principles through the lens of basketball, Sacred Hoops. I made a mental note to check it out.
As I held the book in my hands and glanced through its pages, I couldn't imagine why I'd want to read it. Basketball doesn't interest me in the slightest. Plus, I was already familiar with much of the content from other sources. Then I realized with a grin and an "Oh, duh!" that I was supposed to send the book to my brother, who loves basketball and, in his forties, continued to play at every opportunity. I bought the book and mailed it special delivery, without a note.
Less than a week later I received a four-page letter (this man is not a letter-writer! And this was before we were all on daily email), saying the package had been waiting when he'd come home from work that Monday evening, "after the worst weekend of my life." He wrote, "I can't put it down, I'm already halfway through it and I wish it was 1,000 pages long." I nearly wept with joy and gratitude that I'd been guided to send him exactly what he needed, at exactly the right time. All I had to do was get my own preconceptions out of the way, and speak in his language — in this case, basketball.
Actress and playwright Elizabeth Fuller calls this awareness, "The Velcro Factor": being so specific with her examples in a performance that audience members can recognize themselves in what she and partner Conrad Bishop share. Thus, the message "sticks."
Sending my brother Sacred Hoops was a Velcro Factor experience for me. Choose what you use, learn to discern. Communicate in the language your audience can hear.