Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fall, The Most Spiritual Season

Here, at the beginning of September, we begin the most spiritual season of all. As the leaves fall from the trees and the foliage turns color, the harvest season comes to its conclusion and our thoughts turn to deep inner yearnings as the seasons turn from fall into winter.

September-December brings a concentrated number of holidays and holy days that are invested with significant meanings and social traditions. From Fall Equinox to Winter Solstice, the days grow darker and colder. This is the time of the year when we celebrate our bounty and all the good things we have in life.

It is the season when some cultures and spiritual traditions take time to remember those who have died during the past year and wish them well on their journey into the next world. It is the time of year when we stock up to prepare for winter with extra supplies in the house in case of a severe storm.

It is the time of the year when a cluster of the most popular holidays of the entire year form a constellation of social events where we literally and figuratively invite light into our lives and our homes by not only lighting our fireplaces and candles and turning the heat on, but also bringing light into our lives by inviting our friends and family over to share in laughter, music, singing, dancing, storytelling, food and drink. Our hearts are opened as our homes and our selves are opened.

This is a time of year when there seems to be a great stirring in the soul, when we contemplate at least for a moment our own adulthood and our own mortality. As we gather to pay tribute to those who have gone, we gather to give thanks for what we have, we gather with traditional melodies calling forth memories, and costume parties that let us display aspects of ourselves that are liberated with costumes and masks, we gather with those we care about, we pause in these times to reflect on who we are, where we are, and how we got here.

After celebrating and showing our appreciation for others, we look forward to the increasing sunlight and the ideas about what we want to do differently from now on.

It is during this part of the year that I crave sitting by the fire with a glass of red wine, classical music that features the violin, and plenty of night to do the inner work that presents itself between the celebrations.

When the flames reflecting in our eyes reflect the stirring in our soul, this is the time to explore the mysteries, and savor the season.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rocking the Runes

In the last post, I mentioned the Runes. This is one of the lesser known metaphysical tools, which I found appealing as soon as I was introduced to them. They are simple symbols, all made of staves and chevrons. As far back as the 5th century, they are found carved on stone. They have also been found designed into jewelry, furniture and tools.

Runes were a development of the Germanic and Norse people. Some people say that they are an ancient alphabet. This is true, but they also contain more meaning than that, in the same way that Chinese characters or the Hebrew alphabet do. So while a character could stand for a letter of the alphabet, it could also stand for home, and another could represent, wealth, health or justice.

There are 24 signs in the most commonly used set. People who read with them can get answers to the same kinds of questions as you would with a Tarot deck. Using 24 pieces of wood, stone, metal clay or other material, the set is held in the hands while focusing on your question, and then cast. The reading is done from the way the set lands on the table or ground.

Since there are only 24 signs in the set, there are less different individual parts to learn than a person learning Tarot, which has 78 cards. The signs all have layers of meanings and lore that go with them. Plus there is another advantage to the student, and that is that the signs are so simple that anyone can draw them and make their own set.

The signs can be used in many ways, from feeling the energy in your body from making the shapes and holding them, similar to what you would do in Tai Chi or Yoga. The signs are also easy to incorporate into other media, from candles to markings on jars of herbs or oils, to jewelry or just about anything else you would like.

You can draw one a day to meditate on as a way to learn them, and as a good way to draw on a bit of wisdom to help guide you through your day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Movement as Medicine

Many people over the years have advocated exercise for strengthening and maintaining health, so that in itself would not qualify as news. Everyone knows that something as simple as taking a walk every day is a tonic for the body.

However, some lesser known things have gained a much greater audience in recent years. For example, Tai Chi has grown in popularity because it does not require great physical skill or special equipment. Starting with standing postures and gentle, flowing movements, anyone can participate if they choose. In fact there have been studies done involving older people that demonstrated that Tai Chi helped older people regain flexibility and stamina. The deep breathing and meditative quality of the movement brought steadiness and calmness as well as contributing to mental clarity. These days it is not hard to find a teacher. And if you prefer to purchase an instructional DVD and work at your own pace at home, there are many of these available too.

Yoga, of course, has been booming and blooming all over the country, so much so that you can find a yoga studio in malls and shopping centers as well as both free standing studios and chains. There are also many instructional DVDs available in this modality as well.

Both Tai Chi and Yoga have many variations, so there is not just one way of doing it. If you prefer to be in a more strenuous, advanced class or a gentle beginner's class, there are all types of teachers and studios.

A lesser known system of meditative movement is that of the Rune Stances or Rune Postures. The Runes are an ancient alphabet of symbols that date back to about the 5th Century. These signs can be made with your body, and in so doing, you draw energy in through you by becoming the symbol. The runes are well known as a set of stones that you hold in your hands and then cast to do readings. So you can decide to choose certain postures for your workouts on certain days to address aspects of life that you wish to focus on.

Finally, another way of incorporating movement into your life for health is dancing. One proponent of a simple direct approach is Gabrielle Roth. She has a number of of CDs and DVDs out, as well as two books that talk about and demonstrate how free form dance to instrumental music which uses a lot of percussion and drums can be used to create a meditative state. Of course, at the same time, you get aerobic exercise, and she gives you plenty to think about as you contemplate the differences you feel when dancing to different rhythms. Since most of us think of dancing as fun, it would be easy to enjoy working up a sweat while we increase our strength, stamina and aerobic ability.

Keeping our bodies limber and supple through movement can be easy and enjoyable. All of the methods I have mentioned can be done at home without any special equipment, and only a modest investment to learn.

Don't struggle, enjoy. Movement can be great medicine, done alone or with others. Tune up your body, mind and spirit all at the same time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tarot as Entertainment

When I used to work in the Renaissance Fair, Tarot readers were classified as entertainers, along with the musicians, actors, jugglers, dancers and clowns. That did not offend me. I love to meet people and read for them in any circumstance, and if it is a festive one, that is fine with me.

Over the years, I have also been hired to entertain guests at parties in people's homes, at company events, as well as festivals and fairs. I am not offended at all if people want to think of Tarot as a form of entertainment. After all, their is pretty convincing evidence that Tarot originated as a set of playing cards with the part of the deck containing the more obviously spiritual references added some time later.

Today, Tarot and playing cards are considered two different things, although there are readers who can read with playing cards, and some people who play games with Tarot. It is fine if people want to be skeptical about what they get from a reading and it serves as a conversation starter among a group of guests. That still serves a useful purpose. And more than one skeptical person has come back to me later to confide that something that came up in a reading that they thought was irrelevant or incorrect later turned out to have a lot of validity.

Just like the court jesters, sometimes truth is easier digested when the reader mixes it in with an adventurous story, a dash of humor or some beautiful art.

After all, are we not the main characters in our own stories, the stories of our lives? Wherever certain events and characters fall on the scale of things between happy, sad, tantalizing or heroic, looking at the possibilities is always entertaining. Bear in mind that some people may prefer scary entertainment, erotic entertainment, foolish entertainment and mysterious entertainment as well as mythic and adventurous entertainment.

It's all in the cards.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Time for Thyme

One of the old standbys of herbalists is thyme. It has long been known to help heal ailments of the upper respiratory tract, and a cup of thyme tea will bring relief for coughs, colds and flu.

In fact, its principal ingredient, thymol, is used as an active ingredient in well known commercial preparations such as Listerine, Pertussin, and Vick's VapoRub. It helps to loosen phlegm and relax the lungs. At the very least, the success of these products testifies to the wisdom and power of the use of thyme in healing. As an antifungal and antibacterial, an infusion of thyme can be used as a wash help get rid of athlete's foot. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, it was used to medicate bandages. Also makes a great ingredient for an aromatic, healing bath. It is also known to help fight intestinal parasites. Plus, it contains a lot of iron.

Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans made good use of this versatile and pungent herb. They burned it as an incense for purification, used it to flavor cheeses and liquors, and has long been used in cooking meats, soups, stews, and goes well with lamb, eggs and tomatoes. It keeps its flavor and stores better than many other dried herbs, yet in cooking you might say it plays well with others, adding to the flavor mix without overpowering. It is a component in the mix known as Herbs of Provence and bouquet garni and adds its touch to the cooking of people of the Mediterranean, both the European and Middle Eastern, and when some of those people settled in the Caribbean, thyme was one of the herbs that made its way into their cooking too.

In Medieval times, people made sachets of thyme to put under their pillows to protect them from bad dreams, and ladies gave them to their knights for courage. Try some thyme in a bath for strength and healing.

This is a good time to harvest thyme and dry some for the winter. From now until fall you can gather it, then the plants withdraw their energy into the roots for the winter before coming back next spring.

Personally, I only use the varieties thyme, English thyme, Summer thyme or Mother of thyme. Today you can find garden shops carrying lavender thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme, caraway thyme and other varieties, but I feel that they dilute the experience and potency of true thyme flavor.

As a hardy wild plant that can take root and flourish between crevices in rocks, it is also an important source of nectar for honeybees.

If you only had a few herbs around the house to be used for cooking, healing and spiritual strength, thyme is an excellent choice for your short list.

Take time to appreciate thyme. You will be glad that you did.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pan Visits Las Vegas

Frequent visitors to this blog no doubt noticed that there were no new posts for a few days. That is because it was time for a little vacation. Pan loved it in Las Vegas. For a vacation to be truly restful, I do not check email or do any kind of work when I vacation. It was all fun & games.

Yes, I played a little blackjack and my luck turned when I won a couple of goddess themed tokens at a casino called the Four Queens, an older casino in the old downtown. Of the newer fun places, there is much to like about the art and design of the Venetian and the Luxor. Next trip, I want to see Caesar's Palace. I played a little at the really upscale places like Bellagio, but won the most at the Hooter's Casino. Drinking, dancing and groups of partiers cheering each other on around the gaming tables gave some of the rooms quite a festive atmosphere.

Of the shows, there is one to heartily recommend: Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity, a show that revels in bawdy humor, and featuring stunningly beautiful acrobats, all in celebration of sexuality and sensuality. In a less well known show featuring up and coming performers, there were some excellent magicians, acrobats, jugglers and comedians in a variety show called V. The Cirque group is quite prolific. They currently have five different shows running.

Walking was a great way to see all these things, since much of the entertainment area is clustered together. The streets are always thronged and of course, being Vegas, you see some very interesting people.

One surprising thing is the lack of solar panels on the roofs of all those huge buildings, and there are many more under construction. The middle of the desert would seem to be a perfect place to transform some of that sunlight into energy to power all the adult amusement parks.

That one observation pertains to our country as a whole, it just caught my attention because there is such a beehive of activity there. If we really put a lot of planning and creativity into developing alternative energy, our quality of life can really improve by making ourselves more energy self-sufficient with sources like wind and solar power generation. Not only are they abundant and easy to access, they are also non-polluting. All it would take is some modifications to the current grid system. If the politicians will demonstrate the will to source more of our power this way and facilitate cooperation, the engineers can easily upgrade our grids.

Vegas was a great place to have fun for a few days. Illusions are the specialty of the whole town, from the magicians to the elegant replicas of ancient cultures as theme parks to the opportunity to make a lot of money playing games, it was a great place to simply play for a while.

Notice how many landmark casinos have themes and designs that evoke mythic periods and places of the past? Camelot, Venice, Rome, Paris, Egypt, Monte Carlo, New York. There were even a couple of indoor malls that had the ceilings painted like the sky, and it was done so well that it looked real. A very soothing illusion when it is 107 degrees outside and you can see blue skies with wisps of clouds in air conditioned comfort.

Look at all the beauty we can create when we decide to focus our energy that way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From the 60s to the New Age

Those of us who are of a certain age have one constant memory. For most of our lives, we have lived in a continuous swirl of energy. During the 1960s, we set things in motion by demanding change. And it has been nonstop ever since.

After years of demonstrations, we finally stopped a war that we did not need to be in. After years of demonstrations and social upheaval, we were able to alter the way race relations were handled. After years of social unrest, we changed the way we related to women.

During these years came the first recognition that environmental cleanup was necessary. Then came the recognition that we did not have to stay in marriages that did not work for us, that we had opportunities to try again to have better relationships. Inner change and outer change.

At the same time came the realization that our working lives would probably be far different than our parents working lives due to new industries, a willingness to relocate even more than our parents, and the fact that we just did not want to do one job all our lives.

Out of this whole ferment of social change came the New Age movement, the plethora of personal growth workshops, and our openness to explore everything from spiritual traditions from around the world to music from around the world to every possible way of imagining the progress of the world. Conspiracy theorists could make the case for all kinds of events, especially ominous ones. People claimed to be speaking for beings from other times and places, and some kept hoping that the UFOs would land all over the place and take them for a ride.

Simultaneously, there was a new fascination with ancient cultures. People vacationed in Egypt to see the pyramids, Peru to visit Macchu Picchu, Britain to visit Stonehenge, Mexico to visit Mayan ruins, Ireland to walk on Tara and Newgrange, Rome to visit the Coliseum and other exotic locales just to experience the feel of what people must have felt thousands of years ago. People now vacation to do rituals with hallucinogens with shamans, kayak along the ocean shore and hike through jungles to visit volcanoes, ruins and view tropical wildlife. They also bicycle on old back roads and stay in bed and breakfasts.

Couples examined ways to enhance their relationships with tantra and couples workshops, individuals sharpened their intuitive abilities with Tarot, I Ching and other tools. Every kind of meditation technique from The Silva Method to the Maharishi to Zen were available for anyone who cared to try. Interior designers, architects and home builders got interested in feng shui, while airlines, hotels and retail stores got interested in aromatherapy. Now, even mass marketed commercial shampoos say that they are made with herbal essences.

Ancient methods, like Shamanism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Witchcraft, Native American traditions, African traditions, Yoga and Tai Chi, all came back for further examination. Everything from making our own entertainment with drums, dancing and singing to creating our own spiritual rituals to taking an active role in our own health and healing. Now every mall seems to have a yoga studio, health food, herb shop or massage studio. Belly dancing classes seem to be everywhere as well.

Every so often, humans need to stir things up, but during these last 50 years, we have constantly stirred things up. We now have more choices for living, and one movement has given birth to another. We have more choices and more opportunities. It was not such a great distance from the 60s to the New Age. And now there is ever more on the horizon. What do you see out there?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Laughter: The Shortest Distance Between 2 People

One of the things I do at my day job is to circulate jokes. I also make use of humor when I teach or do readings for people when it seems appropriate. Work can be stressful and demanding, so lightening things up a little bit helps produce a few smiles all around. A small joke emailed to a colleague working under pressure could be just enough to let them connect with you through a little chuckle, or better yet, a hearty laugh, and then resume their work with a refreshed attitude.

Why do you think that the medieval and renaissance courts always included jesters? They could say things to the kings and queens in the guise of humor that other people could not say openly. Their wisdom was respected, and their humor insulated them from harsh rebukes, because the sovereign might be smiling as they mulled over what was said. In other words, the quick wit of the jester could cover a greater distance in a short time than other courtiers might with long and roundabout approaches to a delicate topic. Excellent examples of this abound in Shakespeare's plays.

Research into healing has also shown that laughter releases endorphins and stimulates the immune system.

When meeting new people isn't a joke always a good way to increase the positive energy?
Here's an interesting observation. How many authors can you think of who write books that can make you stop and laugh? Probably not nearly as many as you can name who write mystery or crime novels, romance novels or science fiction and fantasy novels.

Yet one of the most enduring entertainment forms is standup comedy, which are the current court jesters. Every city has comedy clubs that feature these people.

Hearty laughter is good for the heart.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Holidays and Holy Days

Everyone needs time to rest and rejuvenate. That comes from love. Love for ourselves and love for others. Having more time for your spiritual practices, more time to socialize with family and friends, more time to simply do things you enjoy without being on a schedule. Granted, there are some people who enjoy their work so much that they would rather do that than take a day off to go hiking or have a late brunch with their spouse, lover or friend. But since I also work in the corporate world, I talk to people every day who are carrying cell phones, beepers, blackberries and laptops with them everywhere because their employer demands that they always be available, and clearly, some comply reluctantly. They live with the fear that if they are not always willing to be on call, then they will be replaced by someone who is.

Once I worked for a man who said that holidays were nothing more than an interruption in the normal flow of business. I quit working for him when he decided to have Saturday sales meetings so that we could devote ourselves to selling Monday through Friday. I decided that having my weekends free for my own enjoyment was more important than working for him. Of course, he was right. Holidays are meant to interrupt the normal flow of business.

Holidays and holy days are meant for us to take a break. Civic holidays are universal in that regard. Whatever kind of religion or spiritual path you follow, there are also special days that are meant for us to take time out from regular activities to savor and appreciate life, and all that means to us, from a deeper perspective.

We need our holidays and holy days. These days are important for us to simply relax, laugh and then come back to work with a fresh eye. Some of the most inspired ideas come from those moments when we are simply resting or playing, rather than working hard. And those fresh ideas later serve to make our work better. We might have periods in our lives when there might be some critical tasks that need to get done and we work through those emergency periods, skipping holidays and holy days. But if our lives are always like this, perhaps it is time to look at whether there are different life and work choices that would allow us a more balanced schedule that includes holidays and holy days.

Holidays and holy days serve everyone. Rest, rejoice, rejuvenate, recharge your batteries. Then return to your work activities with a renewed vigor. Use those time outs to reflect on all that you are thankful for in your life and reflect on what that might mean for the rest of your life.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Letting Go

When trying to let go and de-clutter it might be helpful to remember that we have to clear old energy out to make way for new energy to come in.

I have had periods of my life when I accumulated stuff, but I have also let go of a lot when making moves.

Two and a half years ago, after I got divorced, I moved across the country and started over fresh. I left my old place with nothing but my car and what would fit in it.

That may seem shocking to some, but by just bringing a small number of books that I really wanted, plus my personal papers, computer, some CDs, clothes, and a few other items, I started my whole life over again.

In furnishing a new place, the only things I bought brand new were a bed frame & mattress and a few kitchen things. Everything else came from yard sales. Amazing how abundant the universe is, and it was fun finding what I needed that way, not to mention debt-free.

I discovered that all the stuff I no longer had simply does not matter. It did not stop me from starting a new life, getting a new job and making new friends. Yes, once in a while I might wish that I had a particular book, decorative item or something, but I noticed that after I thought about it for a little while that the feeling passed, and I discovered that what I had was just fine for whatever I needed.

Sometimes having a lot of stuff holds us back. We have to mess with taking care of it, and it takes up space that could be used for something else. Some people have so much stuff that they rent storage units year round to keep it all in. I personally could not imagine having so much stuff that I could not live with it. And the storage rent could easily be used for a more productive purpose. I have taken books I am done with and trade at used book stores. Donate old clothes to charities. Give other things away to people who can use them.

De-cluttering feels good in another important way too. Notice how when you have half done projects laying around you feel a little guilty for never getting around to doing them? I don't know about you, but old sports equipment left over from sports I no longer do always made me feel more sad than happy. Getting that stuff out of our way clears the space for us to take on new projects, and if we keep things clear, we can focus on them and complete them, which will give us more satisfaction.

I would go so far as to phrase it this way. Really Clearing and de-cluttering can be as much of a shamanic challenge to some people as fasting, walking on fire, or camping out with only water, a blanket and a small fire. When you let go of the old stuff filling up your living space, what does that leave room for you to do?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Deja Vu This Time Too

Have you ever met someone and had the distinct sense that they remind you a lot of someone else you have known in this lifetime?

Deja vu is a concept that is usually applied to a spontaneous past life recall, but it can also happen within the same lifetime. When meeting someone whose personality, character, look or behavior strikes you as familiar, have you ever thought that this is another opportunity to balance the karmic scales?

Haven't we all had times when we thought that if we had an opportunity for a do-over? Perhaps a relationship or an event over that we would have handled differently if we had known then what we know now? Like magic, the opportunity appears when we are not expecting it, and in the similarity of what we are presented, we see the opportunity to handle it better this time.

We do not always need to have more and more reincarnations to learn our lessons. Perhaps if we find ourselves presented with the same lesson at another time, we are really facing the opportunity to learn our lessons faster. Perhaps even the recognition that this is a lesson at all, or that it is karmic, is the lesson in itself, no matter how it resolves, no matter how we handle it.

Of course, part of growing wiser through our years and experience is learning to recognize situations and people and apply our strength, knowledge and abilities in ways that serve all.

Yes, there is deja vu in this lifetime too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Fable of Inner & Outer Space

In a recent interview, Jim Lovell, one of the astronauts who went to the moon noted that "The early astronauts were all living on the edge. When Apollo ended, NASA was like a ship without a rudder. People got frustrated. It happens a lot. People climb a mountain, they make a great name for themselves, then suddenly it stops. You've achieved it, and now what? It never occurred to me that 40 years later, no one would go back to the moon. With what we'd accomplished, I thought the momentum would continue. But I guess evolution goes two steps forward and one step back.

What an incredible perspective! What would our world be like now if we had focused on venturing further into space, exploring other planets? Apparently the early visionaries were thinking that way.

How often have we experienced something like that in our lives, where we achieved something great and then did not follow up on it to continue growing, expanding, and exploring? Sometimes in our own development, we take one step forward and two steps back.

Come to think of it, that is a nice dance step. Try it with a partner. One more step and you could make it a moon waltz.

Drumming Away Stress

Drumming is one of the simplest, most effective ways to relieve yourself of stress and anxiety and get into a meditative state.

If you prefer the sound of rattles, those will do the same job for you. It is the simple percussive sound that commands attention. Studies have shown that it only takes three beats for the mind to become entrained, which means that the vibrations induce a change in your brainwaves so that you can open up to the sound. Once you start following the sound, that becomes your focus and the problems you have been facing today simply melt away. Of course, you will return to normal consciousness sometime later after you quit drumming, but the state of peace that it brings to you will ease your burden and let your mind have a little quiet time.

Yes, there are many methods of meditation, but drumming offers the quickest way in. It is hard to sit and be quiet and try to empty your mind of thoughts. It takes people time and discipline to learn these methods. But people all over the planet have known since early history that the beat of a drum can bring you back in tune with the beat of your heart, the beat of the planet.

You do not have to study for a long time or have great musical talent in order to use this tool for self empowerment.

Don't take my word for it. Try it. Take any drum or rattle and just stand around doing this for a few minutes and see if you do not feel better. In fact, after a time you may even feel like dancing or singing.

This is not an expensive thing to try. Most drum or music stores probably have rattles or tambourines in stock for something like $25 or less. If you do not have a drum or rattle, they are easy to improvise. Did you ever see Stomp? You can use a plastic bucket, a couple of old broomstick or mop handles, plastic food containers, popcorn, beans or rice in an empty jar. Want a sound like a chime? Tap a metal carpenters ruler or square with a hammer. The possibilities are endless.

It is so easy to enjoy the meditative state and put a little more joy and life into your life. Go ahead, drum away your stress, anxieties and worries.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Writing Your Own Life Story

We always have to keep in mind that what we have done is only what we have chosen to do, or needed to do, so far. It is not all that we can do.

Especially those of us who have had more than one career or more than one marriage, we may have changed many things over the years, from our friends to our spiritual path, to our exercise habits to our tastes in art, music and food.

We have many opportunities now to create new careers, explore new interests, and the inspiration to do so. It is interesting to reflect on such things, and birthdays of course, are a natural stimulant in that way.

We remember all the love and the fascinating people we have met. We remember all the unusual experiences we had. When we make a list of the important influences, changes and events in our lives, there are patterns that are revealed that indicate something about us. How those patterns are interpreted can tell different stories.

Have you ever attempted to write a version of your life story. It does not have to be a book. It could be just a few pages. Just enough to hit the highlights and see the patterns.

If we were to write versions of the story of our life, how would we tell it? Just for fun, think about rewriting it so that it could be interpreted into alternate versions. How would you tell your story? It is a fascinating lesson in how we see ourselves and what shapes our visions. It makes us aware of our desires and lets us view the outcomes.

All of this can be a valuable tool for focusing our energies on the next phase of our lives. Try it. If you would like to talk with me about it after you are done, I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Belief and Knowledge

How many of our ideas are based upon belief, rather than knowledge? That may seem like a strange question, but consider this. When we say that we are going to go to a store by driving down a certain street, we don't just believe we will get there, we know we will get there.

Yet, when people say that they believe that life after death works like this or that, what they are expressing is an opinion based on someone else's opinion, not their own knowledge.

How many people have held a belief that people of some other race or ethnic group are a certain way, but then changed their minds after meeting people of that race or ethnic group? That is one of the meanings behind the expression that travel broadens a person.

Look at how people's actions are influenced by a belief in concepts such as sin? What if a person did not believe in sin? Would that mean that no one would act decently toward other people? No.
Not every religion or spiritual path believes in sin.

But we know that when someone steals from us that we feel bad, so we know that is not a good thing to do from experience. If we do not like it when it happens to us, our knowledge would tells us that it is not good to do it to someone else.

Different religions have different beliefs about God. How do we know which one is right? We do not know. We just choose to believe one story or another.

How would our lives be different if we did not believe anything, and just acted on what we know that works?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Acting from Knowing

If we were to act from our experience and base our knowledge on what works and what does not, our world would look much different. For example, if we have heard about Reiki, but never experienced it, all we have to go on is what we have read or heard about. We only really know about it if we have experienced it. A person could be satisfied with the results of a Reiki session without really understanding exactly how it works. Skeptical people have also tried Tarot readings when they were at a turning point in their lives or just felt like they needed another insight or opinion. And even frequently they come away with some useful input, even though they do not understand how this reader could have come up with it.

We know what sorts of foods and what sorts of exercise feel good to us. How? By simply tuning into our bodies. We know the difference between consuming an amount of alcohol that feels comfortable and an amount that feels uncomfortable. We know the difference between a meal that leaves us feeling good and one that leaves us feeling like we need to loosen our belts and take a nap. When we make choices based on something other than our feelings, our firsthand knowledge gained from experience, then we do not get our best results.

So why do we ignore how we feel and instead substitute some belief? And a belief is by its nature something that we do not know.

Our world is full of beliefs. We choose actions on what we believe to be true about money and love. We choose actions on what we believe to be true about all kinds of things.

What would happen if we only acted on those things that we know to be true from first hand experience? How would our life be different if we only chose to do those things that made us feel good and we knew to be good for us? What if we were open to trying new things to experience them?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Keys to Imagination

Recently I watched a movie that was quite faithful to the book as I remember it when reading it. This is unusual. Have you noticed that from your own experience?

The intersection of movies we have watched and books we have read is quite disappointing. Times when I have seen a movie based on a book that I particularly liked, I most often regretted seeing the movie. Why is this?

One explanation is simple. Writers use a careful construction of words to create images in the mind. It is that interaction between the words that the writer has chosen and the engagement of the reader's imagination that lets a person create images in their mind that enables them to see, hear, smell, taste and feel the story. In other words, it is a way of knowing.

What happens in the making of a movie? Actors love to improvise and add their own touches to characters. Directors look for ways to make things visually appealing. The selection of a composer makes a difference in a movie as well. And, of course, there is the script writer, whose job is more attuned to dialogue than description. So by simply doing what they do best, they may take a different approach to making a movie than the author did writing the book.

Years ago, I was teaching a writer's workshop and as an exercise in getting their creative juices flowing and getting them started writing one evening, I told them to close their eyes and we would do a visualization exercise.

One of my students was a fundie who said that visualization was not allowed by her religion because it was the work of the devil, along with meditation and yoga. I asked her if she could use her imagination. She said that was OK. They really are just two different words for the same thing, so we were able to proceed. She commented that she only wanted to write Christian stories. I informed her that it did not matter what religion a person is because a good story is a good story, and that is all that matters to a writer and the people who read them.

Imagination is a prime tool for helping us to know things, to picture ourselves in the shoes of another person, or to sense what our life will be like when it changes. Imagination is creativity,
passion, enlightenment, vision and inspiration.

Our imaginations are powerful tools. If it helps you to go back to using this familiar term from childhood, by all means use it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Love, Fear and Walking

The simplest, easiest, least expensive way to exercise is to walk. Other exercise fads come and go and promise dramatic results, but walking is the one thing anyone can do without investing in special equipment or needing any kind of special facility to do it it.

Walking is about love. Love of the outdoors, the opportunity to meet people, the opportunity to build up your stamina and aerobic power at whatever pace is natural for you. It is an opportunity to stop and really notice what kinds of plants are growing, how people have worked to improve and beautify their homes, an opportunity to get some fresh air in the sunshine or the moonlight.

Over the years however, an element of fear has falsely been introduced into walking. After watching tens of thousands of hours of TV shows and movies in which we have watched people get murdered, raped and robbed, some of us have come to believe that these crimes are much more common that they really are. So in recent years, many new housing developments are in gated communities, with walls around them, limiting the ability of anyone to walk through the neighborhood who does not own a property there.

There have been other cases where private citizens have managed to buy land that was formerly accessible to the public and put fences across it in areas such as beaches.

This mentality has been extended to vacation areas as well. Consider "all inclusive resorts" where vacationers are encouraged to spend their entire time in one hotel facility and do all of their eating, drinking, socializing and activities without ever venturing out and seeing what the people and place surrounding them are like.

Walking is a true freedom. The ability to simply wander about at our own pace and explore our world, speak to our neighbors and get some good exercise that will help us live longer and healthier, is something that we can treasure and enjoy.

Let go of fear. Change your choices in entertainment. Savor life. Walking is a very safe activity. Not only do people not usually suffer serious injuries simply from walking, they also rarely get attacked simply while walking. There is also a very positive side to walking. As with other forms of exercise, it stimulates the body's healing system and our endorphins, those agents of pleasure that elevates our mood and our spirit. A recent study revealed, not surprisingly, that neighborhoods built with pedestrians in mind had less obesity. Walking, then, is an act of loving yourself, by keeping yourself healthy and happy.

Act from love, enjoy life, and take advantage of one of the best things you can do for yourself for free. You will gain a new appreciation for many things, and perhaps meet interesting new people.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Love, Fear and Ethnicity

One of the aspects of ethnicity is that from a love perspective, good things are learning to appreciate the differences in cultures and savoring the contributions each has made to humanity.

One of the aspects of the fear perspective is that when people whip up too much animosity over this subject, we have violence between ethnic groups.

Having pride in one's roots adds to the richness of our culture and our individual lives. When we have too much of it, that's when problems occur.

Each time when we look at a conflict between races, ethnic groups, or nationalities, we find an economic problem at the root. If we look to find a solution to the economic problem, we see the larger evolution of humanity, and find ways that work for everyone. Old jealousies, biases and hatreds must be worked out of our system if we are ever to have a more peaceful planet. Always be suspicious of those who play on those prejudices and stereotypes to inflame attitudes in an unhealthy, unproductive and violent way.

Always look at what is happening and ask if this developement comes from love or fear.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Are Nationalities Obsolete?

When looking at the stories of world events, it is impossible not to notice the role nationalism plays in violence.

For example, the stories of the arrest of the Serbian leaders wanted for the genocide in Croatia in the 1990s. Also the conflict in Albania & Macedonia. Tibet/China. Afghanistan/Pakistan border (Tribal leaders) The genocide in Rwanda (Tutsi & Hutu). Sri Lanka (Tamil). Sudan/Darfur. Ethiopia/Somalia. Turkey/Iraq (Kurds). Look at any place where there are wars or serious unrest around the world, and you will find disputes that have something to do with nationalities and ethnic groups.

Even today in a peaceful and prosperous country like Belgium, there are people advocating the separation of land between the people of Flemish descent and people of French descent. There is also unrest among the Roma people in Bulgaria and Italy.

All of us have probably enjoyed the pleasure of attending various ethnic festivals at one time or another, and enjoyed discovering different foods, music, and folk customs. This is part of what makes our experience of this world an interesting place. It is the biggest reason why people go on vacation to different countries.

So what is wrong with this picture? Maybe economics. Look at it this way. Right now there is a lot of unrest in parts of th U.S. about the rapidly increasing number of Latin American immigrants in this country. It was not as much of an issue when our economy was strong but now that so many people have lost their jobs and have trouble finding other jobs, when they see newly arrived immigrants willing to work for less, there is a feeling that this makes it hard for them to make a decent living.

At the root there is some element of this in all these other struggles. Although nationalistic or ethnic pride may be invoked when rallying people to a cause, at the root will probably be either a sense of economic injustice or the other group is wanting to take over another country or territory in order to gain an economic advantage.

One of the great strengths of America has been that as various people have come here, eventually there is a great deal of intermarriage so that the traditional ethnic groups gradually become interwoven with other ethnic groups and nationalities. People still want to come here more than any other place in the world for the economic opportunities and personal freedoms they can find here.

Perhaps it is time for identification with nationality and ethnic groups to become obsolete. We should acknowledge these roots as part of history and heritage and evolution. It would appear that our larger identification as humans who live on this planet would encourage more cooperation, and acting from love, rather than fear.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Return of the Wolf

One of the causes I have supported over the years has been the restoration of wolves to the U.S. We know that it is an error to think that trying to exterminate an entire species is a good thing. In the cycle of life, everything has its place.

Since the wolves were reintroduced to the U.S. from Canada in the 1990s, they have been repopulating and resuming their place in nature. There have always been opponents to them. Probably the most extreme example right now are the people in Alaska who think of themselves as hunters.

I have been a hunter myself, but I have not in many years now, simply because other things are more important to me to do. I don't really think it can be classified as a sport when people chase down the wolves in helicopters and then slaughter them. Actually, even if not wolves, I wouldn't call it a sport to go after any animal that way.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, in one of the latest such incidents, the gunners after killing the wolf parents got out and put a bullet in the heads of each of 14 pups.

Hunting is a part of human history because it is part of how we have managed to feed ourselves. Throughout most of history it has been a simple, straightforward proposition. Kill an animal, feed your family and friends with the meat. Use the skins for clothing, shelter, drums, bags, and so on. Killing wolves in this way is certainly no great accomplishment to brag about.

In fact, I would rank it right there along with that shameful chapter in American history where so-called sportsmen simply rode trains past buffalo herds, shot them from the moving trains, and left the carcasses there to rot.

It may look like fun to the people using animals for target practice, but these actions will not produce any good effort in the long run.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Big enough to be seen while driving by, wild sunflowers are a visual gift. The very sight of them makes me happy.

As I drive down the road to my day job, I see them. The mountains are always a backdrop to all this, and they are majestic, but the little sunflowers on either side of the road are the bright spots that seem to smile and say "good day" to all who pass.

Perhaps they stand out more now because of a shift in consciousness on my part. I used to not like my day job that much because it was not in my field and only offers modest compensation.

Over time, I have come to accept that I need to simply be grateful for having this source of income until other opportunities open up. I have learned to do the job well, and who knows how long I will be there, so I simply thank the universe for providing this stream of income, and just keep doing what I need to do.

My field keeps shifting. Once I decided that everything is alright, and simply stay in the present with doing the job, then I seemed to notice more sunflowers everywhere.

When clients come to me for healings, readings, and classes in the evenings and weekends, it is another form of pleasure that comes from the work.

Sometimes the shift in consciousness is simply to accept the present, and feel the smiles from all the sunflowers.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Why Celebrities Are Important to Us

Just out of curiosity, I googled Google to see what are the top search subjects. You may or may not be surprised to discover that they are dominated by celebrities. TV & movie stars, pop music stars, models and athletes typically dominate the searches.

Stories like earthquakes, high heeled Crocs, presidential candidates, weight loss pills, faddish foods, astrology, and bizarre news stories spice up the mix.

I find that I am unfamiliar with most of these celebrities. I have to look at the links to get any idea of who they are. Probably because most of them are not in movies or TV shows I have watched or in music that I listen to, and since I don't watch sports, few of the names ring a bell.

But what does this fact tell us about our culture? It is simply about th power of storytelling. Many people find stories about how the economy really works or trying to understand politics to be too stressful and complicated. So the story of some girl becoming a famous actress and marrying a handsome actor is easy to follow. So is the story of the downfall of a celebrity, especially if they were busted or embarrassed by something we really enjoy doing ourselves. When a star gets drunk and makes a fool of themselves, we can relate, because most of us have done that at one time or another. When a star is seen in serial marriages or affairs, we can relate to that too, because half of all married people have also been divorced people.

Of course, there are always those fake stories, like stars who pose for photos that they know will be controversial just to get publicity. Or saying outlandish things just to get publicity. But then we always know that storytellers also embellish and exaggerate for the sake of a good story.

You might think it is sad that more people care about what or who a pop star is doing than what the financial markets are doing. But there is a sensible explanation for that.

For example, I have always thought than any financial deal that is hard to explain and hard to understand is meant to be deceptive. In other words, they do not really want you to follow the story line. Take, for example, the terms stated on your credit card accounts. Or try to follow the story line of derivatives, options, short selling, interest only mortgages, and a few other modern financial creations that ultimately influence the price of what we buy, own, lease or rent, in other words, our cost of living.

How much easier it is for us to follow the story of an actor who suddenly makes lots of money and ends up in a downward spiral of drug and alcohol addiction with revolving stints in rehab. Or the fabulously rich girl who gets off on going slumming. Or the athlete who gets millions of dollars a year to play ball and somehow managed to waste it all and end up broke. We also follow the upbeat stories of stars who use some of their celebrity and wealth to help orphans and starving people, or help build houses for poor and homeless people. We enjoy the stories of those who are still productive and aging gracefully, but these are not as exciting as the spectacular crash and burn stories.

Just like we all know stories from mythology because we see the gods and goddesses with both greatness and flaws just like we have. I may not be up to date on the most contemporary stars, but I do know some stories.

People google over pop stars for the same reasons that people have enjoyed mythology and fairy tales for generations and centuries before there was an internet.