Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lammas: Now the Dying Must Begin…

August 1-2 marks the mid-point between summer and fall. Known as Lammas, or Lughnasadh (LOO-ne-sah), it's one of the 8 "Cross Quarter Days" on the Wheel of the Year (the others are the Summer and Winter Solstices, Spring and Fall Equinoxes, Candlemas {Feb. 2}, Beltane {May 1} and Hallomas/Samhain {October 31}). Lammas is a celebration of abundance, the time of the harvest, and a potent moment to bring ourselves back into alignment with the natural world. Although it appears to occur at the peak of summer, in truth it's the first day of fall, and a time to embrace the dark.


An evocative description of this turning comes from a comprehensive mythology site with the delightful double-entendre title, Myth*ing Links, an annotated and illustrated collection of worldwide links to mythologies, fairytales and folklore, sacred arts and sacred traditions, loving compiled and updated by Kathleen Jenks, PhD.

"Lammas...is a hot, lazy, delicious time of the year. Bees buzz in the heat of the day, the air is still, and the force of the sun remains strong, even though its sway over the earth is slowly diminishing day by day. In the cooler nighttime, frogs and crickets keep us company. It is here, in the gloaming, when so many rituals begin...

"This is when the powerful gods of the grain harvests are honored. They are in their prime, sometimes generous, sometimes quixotic, and always aware with a bittersweet pleasure that their time will wane, as it always does, and they will die, as they always do, and yet nevertheless they will return to another delicious summer next year, as they always do, and have, and will, for this is the endlessly circling Wheel of the Year, and they ride it proudly.

"Yet there is a darker nuance, one that surprised me, for I had thought that this was a purely masculine god's festival. I learned however of Lugh's touching and loving devotion to his foster-mother, the royal Tailtiu, whose fate may be even more intimately woven into this season than his..."

Jenks quotes Parabola magazine author Mara Freeman on the further genesis of Lammas:

"...Lugh dedicated this festival to his foster-mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg, who died from exhaustion after clearing a great forest so that the land could be cultivated. When the men of Ireland gathered at her death- bed, she told them to hold funeral games in her honor. As long as they were held, she prophesied Ireland would not be without song. Tailtiu’s name is from Old Celtic Talantiu, 'The Great One of the Earth,' suggesting she may originally have been a personification of the land itself, like so many Irish goddesses. In fact, Lughnasadh has an older name, Brón Trogain, which refers to the painful labor of childbirth. For at this time of year, the earth gives birth to her first fruits so that her children might live..."

What needs to "die" so that the new can be born in your life?

Canadian astrologer and tarot reader Tara Greene says that Lugh's festival points Southwest, and resonates to the element Air. "Southwest represents the Place of Healing, of the Dreamer and the Dream. It is the place of both your Personal Dream and the Sacred Dream of the Planet. What is your Personal Dream? What is your Sacred Dream? The Sacred Dream is your Highest Spiritual Dream."

This August 1st, especially if you've never honored Lammas before, remember your relationship with the Earth and her cycles. Give thanks for the abundance of beauty, harmony, peace, love, healing, grace and balance you are inviting into your life and into the collective, and image-in your Sacred Dream.

The quintessential song for invoking Gaia's healing Sacred Dream came through John Lennon. Feeling deeply into these words now, there is a cellular resonance I've not been conscious of before, although I've heard the song hundreds of times:

Imagine

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Excess or Express?


I wanted three pieces of purple plaid wool clothing: the sleeveless thigh-length tunic, matching skirt, and pants. Mom thought two pieces were sufficient, but capitulated and bought all three. I ended up wearing the tunic as a jumper, traded off wearing the pants with a sweater — and never wore the skirt at all. My mother's wisdom was lost on me; at ten, I was already a master of excess.


It took years and a long dark night of the soul, when everything I'd thought defined my life was unceremoniously yanked from me, to begin to relinquish my reliance on acquisition as a means of identification, to begin to express rather than excess.

And mine was a comparatively mild case. How many people pile on the pounds to protect themselves from abuse, or to avoid having to face some other disturbing life circumstance? How many people buy 300 pairs of shoes, or a fleet of fast cars, to drown the call to awaken in excess, rather than express their true essence and risk ridicule? Much safer to blend in than stand out.

This is the moment to get real, in every sense of the term. The August issue of What Shines will focus on the theory of REAL-ativity, and how to become real so that you live from the depths of your power, passion, and purpose. Please subscribe, and let me know how the newsletter serves you on your journey to express the deepest truth of your being.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Sacred Geometry of Surprise


A few weeks ago I discussed why the people on the periphery matter a great deal in the overall scheme of our lives. I wrote that post from the perspective of influencer. Here's how it looks from the receiving end:

A healer who was recommended by a cyber acquaintance wasn't much direct help, though he did point me to a holistic tooth care company started by a woman whose children had never had a cavity. Intrigued, I began using Tooth Soap® in 2006, and over the years founder Gabriala Brown and I became friends across the (s)miles.

Fast-forward to 2010, when she acted as my dental angel for a mouthful of emergency. I wrote and published several articles lauding Tooth Soap®, but they don't begin to account for the magnitude of her gift. And for which I ultimately have Dr. Jim (now deceased) to thank. Following a thread that began with another acquaintance's book recommendation, to contacting him, to his Tooth Soap® referral, to Gabriala's suggestion of an innovative solution to and financial assistance with my dental crisis, created a tapestry of luminous cloth woven on life's loom.

We are each the warp and weft for those with whom we intersect, a sacred geometry of surprise the originators often know nothing about — akin to a sheepherder having no idea what happens to the wool once it leaves the land to be cleaned, carded, dyed, shipped to a knitting store, and ultimately purchased by a grandmother who will lovingly craft matching mother-daughter sweaters for her child and grandchild.

We weave in every encounter from the wool of our words and actions, seldom knowing how what we share or do may reverberate down the road. I feel this most acutely when I've been out of integrity: when I know I could have been kinder, or more patient, or listened more deeply. As a daily practice I'm helpful and informative, but sometimes that can tip over into invasive. Getting the Hang of It is an ongoing balancing act, often more challenging in these heady times as the world awakens, time wobbles, old structures disintegrate and tempers flare.

When we dress ourselves in the Love that we are, we wear threads that will never go out of style. The sacred geometry of surprise will take us to every connection we need to make along life's path. It's one math course in which everyone can excel.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The People on the Periphery — And Why They Matter


The other evening I was eating dinner at Whole Foods' outdoor café when a young woman turned around and looked at me as though she knew me. After a moment, I remembered. "Oh, you're the twins!" 

About a year ago, she and her sister, both 25, were scrutinizing the produce, wondering not just about organic vs. conventional but also the nutrient value of different fruits and vegetables. I found their interest in health refreshing, and we engaged in a lively dialogue. They told me a bit about their colorful pasts and how they were committed to taking good care of their bodies now. I congratulated them, and we spoke of "bad habits". I said, "Well, no matter what recreational drugs you may have used, at least you're not addicted to nicotine!" There was an uncomfortable silence. Then one sister admitted, "Actually, we both smoke."

Astonished, I said something along the lines of, "Why are you bothering about organic foods if you smoke?" Perhaps I was not quite so zealous, though knowing how I feel about cigarettes (can't abide them from 50 yards) I probably was. Then our encounter ended and I went back to my regularly scheduled life.



I was unlikely to have thought about these girls again. Yet here they were, with Rowan (both names have been changed) clearly itching to share.

"I stopped smoking two months ago!" she crowed. She quit cold turkey, and said even though she found herself craving a cigarette about a month in, she held to her resolve. When I congratulated her, saying, "Your lungs thank you, your liver thanks you, your whole being thanks you! And now you can taste food again!" she agreed, "Yes, you said we had it backwards by focusing on organic food if we were smoking."

"Did I say that? How rude," I apologized. But Rowan held firm: "No, you were right." Her sister Miranda still smokes, but I said with confidence, "She'll quit when she's ready."

As her sister reappeared from within the store, the pair got ready to leave, and Rowan's parting words were," It's the best gift I could ever have given myself!" I felt she was delighted to have the opportunity to share her win with me, to complete the circuit and receive my acknowledgment, because I don't think there are a lot of other older role models in their lives.

Honored, I reflected yet again on what I've come to call "the people on the periphery": those with whom we interact only briefly, perhaps once or twice in our lives and never again, yet who leave a lasting impact. A man who overheard our entire exchange said to me after the girls left, "You instigated that change for her." From my perspective it had just been one of the thousands of casual conversations I have with people over the course of a year. It's a great blessing to realize what we may not realize: namely, that every word matters, every action counts, even, especially, if we never see or learn the outcome.

Here's another example: I've had the same hair stylist for 17 years, though I only visit her seasonally and each cut lasts less than half an hour. But we cover a lot of ground in that time. Nora (real name) is also a hospice volunteer, and several years ago told me about a wonderful book called Deathing, which shows us another way to approach our final passage — including practices you can use, even at distance, to assist a loved one in crossing the threshold. I bought the book and absorbed its teachings. At the time, no one's death was imminent, though I have a 100+-year-old friend and my mother had serious heart disease.

When my Mom was close to the end of her earth journey this past January, I used the Deathing techniques with her. She was unconscious, but/and, hearing is the last sense to go, and medicine has demonstrated that people can hear what is being said even in a coma.

The next time I saw Nora she was telling me about a recent death workshop she'd attended, and how she was feeling she "didn't really know anything," compared with the other participants. I exclaimed, "That's not true! If it hadn't been for you I would never have known about Deathing or been able to use those tools with my mother! You're a blessing in my life." She was grateful for the mirroring.

Perhaps we have the most profound effect on those we see just once in our lives. Perhaps one wise word to a stranger changes the trajectory of their life. The periphery of the supermarket is where the fruits and vegetables are located. Maybe living at the edge (but not necessarily on it) is the healthiest place of all.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Solstice: Ego or Egg?


"Aren't we all just fragile eggs hiding behind bubble wrap and bravado?"
~ Manny on Modern Family

 
Ever balanced an egg on its end? On Summer Solstice, when day and night are of equal length, it's possible to do so, if we're very patient and careful. But we can only attain this exquisite balance twice a year.

It's a humbling thought. Can we learn from something better known as breakfast how to create balance in our hectic lives? Can we become as poised as an egg?

Time for another subtle shift: from ego to egg, poison to poise. Here in Caffeine Nation, it might be more challenging to transmute hubris to humus, and take an earth-centered approach to life. The lightest day of the year is an ideal time to contemplate our dark side. To dive deep. Roam the loam. We're still in Mercury retrograde, a pristine moment to dwell in the Aretha Franklin lyric and "re-re-re-re" our lives: respect (literally, to look again), reimagine, remember, reboot…

Whether we're cognizant of it or not, we're all renewable energy beings: living on Earth for a time, becoming cosmic compost, being recycled back into the collective. This midsummer moment can help us create an eggstraordinary state of renewal and joy.

In her book, Living In Gratitude, a 12-month plan for making gratitude the foundation stone of our daily life, cross-cultural anthropologist, teacher and author Angeles Arrien says, of June, "We experience equanimity, or a state of balance, when we are content with the way things are. We are neither striving nor holding back. There is nothing lacking or in excess. This balance, or sense of acceptance, is at the heart of equanimity. It opens us to the experience of gratitude and the sustainable experience of renewal that comes from being in balance."

So compost the coffee and let it be grounds for eggceptional openheartedness, and the fulfillment of your dearest dreams. Step out of the bubble wrap and shine your magnificence on those who seek the light. When you live with wonder and humility, your ego transforms into a good egg — and that makes a satisfying meal for anyone, in every season.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Do You Create or Maintain?


As I watched a woman in a well-to-do neighborhood open the door to her housekeeper and child at 8 a.m. on Friday morning, I mused, wouldn't we all prefer to be the one living in that house rather than coming to clean it? Perhaps. Yet Nature herself continually creates, maintains and destroys; that's the essence of the life cycle.

While I think of myself as primarily a creator, the world needs daily maintenance — not least because of the mess we bipeds tend to leave behind. I wipe down sinks in public restrooms and often have to clean off outdoor tables before I can sit to eat at places like Whole Foods; even the staff can't keep up with the detritus.

Daily life is one of maintenance, renewal. Poet and novelist Marge Piercy writes,

            "The work of the world is common as mud.
            Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
            But the thing worth doing well done
            has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident."

(excerpted from To Be of Use, © 1982)
           
Yet I find myself disdaining some whose work entails tidying up the universe rather than contributing something fresh. The maintenance manager at a local community center seems comically addicted to keeping the exterior doors locked and "undesirables" (read: homeless people) out. When I've sat inside to use their high-speed WiFi, I witness him check and lock the doors at least a half dozen times within a few hours. It seems almost a pointless exercise, because people stream into the center for classes, meetings and other events all day long.

Directly across the outdoor quad from the community center is a new senior wing. It's ADA compliant in every way — except the architects didn't take into account seniors' diminished upper body strength and agility. Several women have become trapped in the restrooms, whose heavy oak doors are almost impossible for someone using a walker or wheelchair to negotiate. So the community center's counterpart now has the additional responsibility of constantly making sure all eight restroom doors (two for each gender, at opposite sides of a long corridor in a 2-story building) remain stoppered open each weekday from 9 to 5. There's a poetry to this, and a bit of Divine humor as well.

Years ago, metaphysical teacher and author Louise Hay made many tapes accompanied by the musical group Alliance. One I listened to repeatedly was, "Doors Closing, Doors Opening," and while it focused on personal growth rather than physical structures, I find it amusingly applicable to the situations I've described. The main lyric went, "Doors closing, doors opening, doors closing, doors I'm opening. I am safe, it's only change. I am safe it's only change…"

Are you opening doors or closing them? Do you create or maintain? Does your life weave between the two, and if so, are you growing in ways that feed your soul? Mother Nature is always in motion. It's important to clean up our mess and keep the doors to possibility open. And maybe, unlocking what seems a necessary barrier will let in some surprising gifts that may change your perception and release a fresh flow of creativity.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Remembering Angeles Arrien 1940-2014

Yesterday I picked up the May/June issue of Common Ground, an alternative magazine I sometimes read here in northern California, and turned to the final page, Last Words. I found a quote by one of my great teachers, Angeles Arrien, and below her name, two dates with a dash between them. It took my mind several seconds to process what this meant. NO! Angeles can't be gone; she was only 74. She was in the midst of a teaching schedule for her newest book, Living In Gratitude. She's a pillar of wisdom. And now, she is an ancestor.

While so many have transitioned already this year, including my own mother, Angeles' death hits me hard, because it's out of the blue. Judging by the events planned for later in 2014, I imagine it must have been sudden. But though I've scoured the web, so far I've only discovered the date, (April 24th) not cause. Not that it matters. She was obviously complete here.

What a gift this woman was, and what a gift she had: the extraordinary ability to meld anthropology, psychology and comparative religions to help those of us privileged to study with her learn how to live a practical spirituality, or as she referred to it, to "walk the mystical path with practical feet."

I took her Four-Fold Way Foundational Training at Esalen, on the ruggedly beautiful California coast, in January 1994. I'd read her book, The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary the previous summer, and the talk I attended then convinced me she had much wisdom to share. I enrolled in the weeklong training, though by the following winter I was deep into my awakening odyssey (disguised as serious illness), and could barely function on the physical plane. Nevertheless I made the 5-hour journey, and my emerging state of unreality probably enhanced my absorption of her teachings.

What I learned is how deeply Angeles embodied what she taught. The tenets of the Four-Fold Way are:

Warrior: Show up and choose to be present
Healer
: Pay attention to what has heart and meaning
Visionary
: Tell the truth without blame or judgment
Teacher: 
Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.

I internalized these truths into a little sing-song: "Show up, pay attention, tell the truth and let it go!" It's a credo for living that serves us well throughout our lives.

What Angeles brilliantly modeled transcended the personal growth community. Her books and practices have found a place in corporate, academic and medical milieux, as well as the non-profit sector. When I think of her, some of the words that come to mind include authenticity, generosity of spirit, wholeheartedness. And joy.

Heaven has gained another angel, so aptly named. Thank you for shining your Light in my life, dear one. In boundless gratitude, blessings.