Thursday, November 27, 2014

Keeping Thanksgiving




This year, some retailers have announced that they will be opening at 6 am for Christmas sales on Thanksgiving Day. I think that this is a horrible idea.

We should simply enjoy the day with our family and friends.

Everyone who wants to do Christmas shopping still has plenty of time to do it, beginning with the three day weekend after Thanksgiving.

If we discard the concept of Thanksgiving to make it just one more shopping day, we would be scrapping a really beautiful concept. And what about all those people who will be scheduled to work instead of relaxing with their families and friends?

Holidays serve a valuable purpose in our lives. Let us simply enjoy this one day just for the simple pleasure that it provides us. We will all benefit from taking the time out for a day just to express our gratitude for all that is good in our lives.

I will not work or shop on Thanksgiving. I will be spending the day with family and friends. This is a tradition I will always keep.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Masking and Unmasking, Part 2

 
 
Here we are at Halloween, a beautifully dark fall evening. It began as a Celtic holiday, Samhain, for remembering our dead and wishing them well on their journey into the next world, and the name Halloween became the most popular name for the day when the church began celebrating All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day the day after. So the name is a contraction for the Eve of the All Hallowed. The Celtic word Samhain means summer's end, and the day after marked the new year on the old calendars and the first day of winter. So you can see how they got the idea for saying farewell to those who died by facing into the coldest, darkest part of the year.

Interestingly, it is also celebrated by Mexicans as The Day of the Dead. Two different cultures, half a world apart, yet at the heart of the holiday is exactly the same sentiment. The Longmont Museum features a special exhibit every year at this time, when people create altars in honor of those who died this year. There are also related exhibits that explain the aspects of the holiday. For example, they always decorate with marigolds and burn copal, a strong, pleasant incense that is a tree resin, like frankincense or myrrh. In both traditions, a place is set at the table with the person's favorite food and things they enjoyed while alive are displayed, such as if they liked playing cards or guitar, reading novels, or other things that they liked. In both cultures telling stories about that person and offering them one last meal and visit before wishing them well on their journey into the next world. The marigolds and copal are to help guide the spirits on their journeys, road markers for the place in between here and there.

There is another holiday specifically for remembering those killed in war, but this one is a time to say farewell to anyone we know who died this year. We speak our appreciation for those who we remember and acknowledge that part of the cycle of life, the ending of this physical reality as we know it.Halloween is a time when kids go trick or treating, wearing masks and costumes. It is a time when adults go to parties dressed as characters they wish they were or want to be.

It is fun watching all the little kids in their costumes continuing the tradition, even though they do not know yet the roots of the traditions they follow, that of the soul cakes and the dumb supper. They celebrate the harvest of candy, and it is a great holiday for kids as a fun time to dress up and get treats from their neighbors. In earlier times, the soul cakes were the precursors to the trick or treat tradition. It actually has a very similar root to the tradition of Christmas caroling. In a Celtic town, people would go from house to house and say prayers for those who had passed. In appreciation then, the host or hostess would offer these sweet cakes to thank them for coming by and praying. The Mexican tradition also includes sweet breads and cookies in the shapes of skulls which are treats when people gather to honor their dead.

Falling leaves signal the shift in seasons with more certainty every day, as less leaves are on the branches and more on the ground. We celebrate all that we have harvested this year as well, and we have some food on our shelves for the winter and we work and look toward the future, pulling a card for the year.

Spirits always dance on this fall holiday, and we dance with them.
When we dress in a mask and costume, we can mingle with people we know and yet be a mystery. When people see us out of context in real life, they are sometimes stumped, like the person you see at the office of a company you do business with, but then you see them having a beer at a concert, and they only look vaguely familiar.
Now add another layer to the mystery. You are deliberately dressed in a mask and costume, and no one knows who you are. You can say or do anything, because they do not know it is you. For this interlude, you are invisible in your costume.
Add another layer to the mystery and you are at a party where everyone is in masks and costumes. They don't know who you really are and so you play with their persona. You play along with the man or woman dressed as the famous movie star, author, artist, musician, politician, athlete or monster. You come up with witty remarks that flow with their theme. And they do the same with yours.
For a moment, you can be anyone you want to be. For an evening, you can be as brave as Braveheart or as sexy as Marilyn Monroe. You can be as witty as Robin Williams or as manic as Martha Stewart. For one evening, you could dress up as the Phantom or the boys from Stomp! You could be as spicy as Emeril or as nerdy as Bill Gates. You could be as outragiously sexily costumed as Lady Gaga or as sultry as Sophia Loren. Be as clever as Shakespeare or as wickedly hot as a vampire. You could be as cranky as Frank Lloyd Wright or Picasso. You could be demented as an ex president still running for election or a market researcher surveying party goers about the new invention, the Orgasmatron. Or maybe you are trying to get everyone to drink one of those crazy new drinks you brewed. For one evening, you can try on that personality and strut your stuff, doing whatever you want to do, and saying whatever you want to say.
Be crazy. Get it all off your chest. It is a day out of time. There were other holidays throughout history where masks and costumes were used, but today, our greatest costume holiday is Halloween. Certainly, people throw costume parties at other times of the year, but this is the one everyone is in on.
Costumes and masks can reveal our alter ego, or our other personas. For one evening a person can pretend to be famous, rich, beautiful and handsome, crazy, musical, funny, charming, lecherous, evil, dastardly, daredevil, talented, romantic, poetic or foolish.
In real life, a person may be simply known as the salesperson, cook, bank teller, the waitress, the mechanic, the nurse, the call center agent, the accountant, the bartender, the grocer, the dry cleaner, the real estate agent, the copy center clerk, delivery man, the barista, the librarian, the vet's assistant or the maid. But for one night everyone can be a star. For one night, everyone can be who they want to be. For one night, everyone's dreams can come true. For one day out of time, it is permissible to make our dreams come alive, and act out our desires in the safety of anonymity.
For one night, everyone has an opportunity to see how it feels to walk around in someone else's skin. And for that same night, we can see how it feels to be on both the giving and receiving sides of that other person's skin. It can be an eye opening experience to see and be seen in a whole new light.

On this fabulous festive occasion, you can see how it feels to reinvent yourself.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Masking and Unmasking

 
 
 
Costumes at Halloween are always intriguing. Of course, people have costume parties throughout the year, but Halloween is probably the biggest holiday across the board for people to host or participate in costume parties.
 
Masks and costumes can reveal part of a person's personality and secrets that usually stay hidden. A costume bestows an opportunity to live out a fantasy, even if only for a little while one evening. For that brief event, a person can be someone they have always wanted to be, and that can be an exciting experience.
Wearing a costume or a mask can encourage a person to expand their ambitions in life to become more of who they want to be.
Of course, masks and costumes will not affect everyone that way. Some will simply put it away in a closet and regard it as a silly little dress up event they did at a party for fun.

Notice how at a party where people are wearing masks, and we are not certain who is behind those masks, we find ourselves guessing and then when we find out who it is we may feel totally surprised.

The whole process is rather illuminating if we think about it. For example, a person whose life appears to be very predictable and routine suddenly appears at a party in an adventurous, erotic or outlandish costume that would appear to be the opposite of the personality they normally present to the world. Does that radical departure signal a secret desire to really have a life different than the one they have, or is this simply an elaborate way to have fun pulling everyone's leg this evening? You see, even at this milder level of interpretation, there is a loosening up when a person who normally expresses themselves in a very dry or subdued manner suddenly displays a whip snapping wit. Perhaps what is revealed is that this person really does have a great sense of humor and a larger view of the world,  but we never usually experience it because our usual interactions with them make them appear to be a very narrowly focused person.

There is another aspect to masking and costumes that goes way back to the ancient Roman holidays when the costumes might indicate a role reversal for the holiday. Although there is an obvious appeal to humor in such arrangements, costumes could also reveal a person's real desire to have a different life and be a different person. The question we pose to ourselves even in this limited situation, is if we could make important life choices over again, how would we choose differently? Or would we?
How does the process of selecting a costume start? By entertaining ideas of what you would like to be? Interesting, isn't it?
What might that suggest about future directions for you? Or, for that matter, about our present state of mind?

Masks and costumes provide a kind of freedom while we are in them, to experience life from a different perspective, and many find this to be very exciting. That is one of the reasons for the immense popularity of role playing games among a variety of people.

In tribal traditions, masks were often intended to portray a spirit entity in rituals, and they were also used to convey messages by virtue of the animal or bird they represented. Indeed, some of our costume inspirations may come from the same sources. It may all depend on the theme of the party if the host or hostess has announced one.

Consider how surprised some of us are when a dance partner at a costume ball is revealed to be someone who we didn't even know could dance, and they turn out to be a splendid dancer. It reveals another whole previously unknown aspect of that person.

Masks offer us an experience of what it means to us to be human as we engage in the imaginative experience of being transformed into someone else during the time we are wearing the masks and costumes. We then have the opportunity to get a fresh perspective on our life when we return to our existence without a mask.


People may see us differently at different times in our lives. We have all had that experience of being caught off guard at times when we fail to recognize someone when they are "out of context." In other words, when we are seeing someone in a way we do not usually see them or a place we do not usually see them, we relate to them differently. This same thing happens on a larger scale when we change careers or relationships or change our look with a different hair style, facial hair or style of clothing. These things cause us to see a person differently and it changes our experience of them.

For some people this is all just a temporary, entertaining experience, while for others, it can be a life changing experience. How will it be for you?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Water Stones


Whenever I hold a water stone in my hand, there is not only a sensation, but an instant reminder that comes to mind. Water stones are simply those that have been worn smooth by the flow of water.

If you were to ask a person, what is the stronger material, stone or water, many might say stone, but over time, water will wear down stone, but stone will not wear down water.

How many times have we found ourselves holding a firm position only to find that somewhere down the road we need to soften it?

How many times have we worried about something only to find out that if we had not worried about it, it would have turned out fine anyway?

Have you ever noticed how many meditation recordings include the sound of moving water, either stream or wave sounds? That is simply because the sound of water is one of the most appealing sounds to people.

It is the soothing sound of change that comes in invisible, but inevitable currents. Like the water finding its way between rocks, the tiniest opening can eventually become a torrent, the tiniest grains of sand and pebbles that are swept between rocks wear the edges of bigger rocks smooth.

Perhaps this is the underlying source of peace in the water sound. We know that change is inevitable and that going with the flow will make us mellower.

Water can carry us over rough rocks so that we can reach our destination.

Stones smoothed by water can make excellent healing stones and also divination tools. For me, found objects are just as welcome a tool, and just as effective, as tumbled gemstones.

Notice how the element of water works in our lives. In tarot, the water suit is usually called cups, caldrons, or chalices. It is about emotions and emotional connections. Most people immediately make the connection with love and romance, but it also rules friendship, acquaintances, associates and other connections that have an emotional heartfelt quality to them.

Notice how all of our emotions express in water. Blood, sweat, tears, taste, orgasms. The water flowing between us smoothes our rough edges and shapes us in ways that allows us to fit together better, whether we are looking at just two of us or a bunch of us as the many stones in a riverbed. Letting the water flow lets us all fit together better, and takes some of the edge off as we allow the energy to move us.

How old is a late bloomer? Maybe it is never too late to bloom.

When we delay doing something we really want to do, and the time comes that we finally have an opportunity to break free of our restraints, all that power and desire that have been bottled up finally get put to use with a pronounced speed and efficiency.

If there were things we thought we wanted to do with our lives, but we never got around to it, if the desire wanes or shifts to another subject, that bottled up energy will dissipate.

We also have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge that some things we will never do and take them off our list. Then we can turn our attention and energy to those things we really will do. Sometimes fads catch our attention and maybe we think about doing something because it seems like a great idea, but if that idea is not powerful enough to move us to action, then it is best to simply let go of it.

Some people are extremely focused. For example, a person who wanted be an airplane pilot from the time they were little, then went on to get the kind of education and training they needed until they became a pilot. Some people followed a similar tightly focused path until they became a chef, hairdresser, artist or realtor.

But most of us are less focused, and by no means am I saying that one way is better than the other. In fact, I always find it amusing when adults ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up. I certainly remember those young years when all that was on my mind was getting to be a better softball player or basketball player and being totally bamboozled when people asked me what kind of career I intended to have when I grew up.

We may have gotten into one field because that's where the opportunity was, but then after a few years we decide that we would rather do something else. It used to be that people might spend an entire career working for one company, but that is less and less the case both with the way corporations are being run and also what suits people's tastes. I have known some people who have completely changed careers and found happiness not simply working for a different company but doing something totally different than what they used to do.

Coming unbound, unwound, like a spring coiled tightly. That second wind we get when we finally break loose is refreshing. Some people are late bloomers because it took them a while to get their courage up, or until they got fed up with whatever else they were doing, and now everything changes, everything opens up.






Sometimes the universe may have held us back simply to give us time to gain the right amount of life experience before prompting us that it is time to cut loose.

Because people are living longer now, we are seeing more of this. More people because of the changes in the economy are looking at their lives and deciding to go for it now, whatever "it" is for them, rather than delaying until some unknown time.

Not so long ago, people wouldn't live a lot longer than the retirement age, but now with many people living into their 80s and 90s, many people retire from one career and then start another. Sometimes, they really need the cash flow, and sometimes they just really want to be doing something that interests them and they get paid for doing that.

Now is the time to declare your freedom from whatever was holding you back. Now is the time to focus more intently on bringing our dreams into reality. All of that energy you have been storing up, thinking that one day you will do this, all of that energy is begging to be released. All of that energy can be used to propel you toward that end. And as you move in that direction, more energy will be created to assist you.

No matter what age you are, if you have been postponing moving in the direction of your dreams, you are a late bloomer. Why not open up and blossom now?


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Binge Watching Videos



Binge watching is a funny term that has come into use lately. Adding the word binge in front of eating or drinking, for example, implies something negative, such as it is bad for us to consume excess amounts of food and drink. Relative to our health of course, it would be correct to think of this behavior as one that brings negative results.

However, I think that binge watching videos is a good thing. I think of it like I think of reading books. Do people say that it is bad for you to binge on reading books? Of course not.

My experience of watching the entire series of The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Treme, The Tudors, The Borgias, Rome, Pillars of the Earth or any other excellent series has been enhanced by being able to watch chapter after chapter in succession. Doing it this way, watching a one hour show minus commercials means that I can see the episode in 40 minutes, which is a much better use of my time. Watching one episode right after another allows us to see what is going to happen to these characters or where is this story going in a natural progression without having to wait until next spring to see the next installment and then trying to remember where the story left off or how this other character figured in.

To me, it is exactly the same as reading a good book. If we are reading a book we really enjoy, do we only want to read one chapter today and then put the book away until next week and read another chapter then? Of course not. If we really like it, we might stay up half the night reading it, or continue to read it for several days or a couple weeks or whatever length of time it takes us to finish it.

Actually, I think that the technology that companies like Netflix have put into play is a great thing because it allows me to make better use of my time. If a subject interests me, I don't have to watch one chapter a week for the next few years and sit through one third of that time watching commercials to see how the story develops. I can look it up and check out the story in a concise time frame and follow it through from beginning to end. I like it.

Why So Much PTSD?

There is so much in the news about the difficulties returning soldiers have with PTSD, and also the record setting number of suicides among veterans.



No doubt this is a complex issue and one that our VA system must treat and find more ways to help.



However, another perspective has come to mind. We have seen this problem grow increasingly since the Vietnam War and then after both of the Iraq wars and Afghanistan.



After WWII, the general consensus was that we needed to fight in that war and we used all of our resources to win it. There was general agreement that we needed to win that war, and that it was a good thing to do. Returning military personnel were greeted with great parades and congratulations on a job well done.



By comparison, this component is wholly missing from our recent wars. After many deaths and crippling injuries, our veterans return to face the realization that all that effort was not universally supported and when the question is asked about what did we accomplish by having those wars we get disappointing answers.



After many deaths and injuries, what was the result of the Vietnam War? Today they are run by a communist government, but they are one of our trading partners and Americans go there for vacations. So why did we fight that war?



It is truly sad to watch documentaries about returning veterans and hear some of them say that we needed  to invade Iraq because of 9/11. We all know that this is not true, so does this mean that someone was lying to them to get them psyched up for combat? Or simply that some of them choose to believe wrong opinions because it is the only way they can feel like the effort was justified?



So again, after many deaths and injuries, a veteran could become dispirited looking at the news, wondering what their efforts were really all about.



The only recent battlefield in which there is justification is Afghanistan, and that is because the Taliban government supported terrorist training camps there, and they deserved to be demolished. Once they are rooted out and a new government is in place, our job is done there.



I have long believed that we should never go to war except in self defense. That was true of WWII, and everyone felt good about the effort and the outcome. When we go into wars for false or contrived reasons, we never feel good about the whole process or the outcomes. We know when we have done good things and can be proud of it. And we also know that efforts and lives expended in bogus wars will not bring good results. In my opinion, we should always choose peace, except in cases of self defense. Then when we did take action, everyone would be happy about it and proud to have played a part.