Saturday, January 31, 2009

Moving, Friendships and Our Evolution

I have noticed that throughout my life, friends change as I change, and that seems to me to be just a natural part of our evolution.

The fact that so many of us have moved so many times in our lifetime contributes to this.

My own spiritual evolution got a jump start simply from the fact that many years ago when the company I was working for moved me to a different part of the country where I had no friends, no relatives, nothing but my job. So as I looked around for things to do, I was completely free to try new things, and that is how I got introduced to new people and new ideas.

Yes, I missed my old friends, but earlier in my life my main entertainments were going to bars, going to baseball games, playing basketball, playing guitar and partying a lot. I was no longer involved with the church I was raised in, but I had not taken up anything new or different, either.

I am sure that moving opened up new worlds for me. I am sure that the people I used to go barhopping and partying with and would have thought that I lost my marbles if I would have suggested going to a psychic fair, a sweat, a firewalk, personal growth workshop, an alternative healer, a drumming circle or a full moon ritual.

So although I missed my old friends, new ones came into my life and my experience of the world kept expanding.

We have lived through changes that are so profound that sometimes we do not even recognize them.

My mother, for example, has lived in the same house all her life, has had some of the same friends since high school, has gone to the same church all her life. She has added new friends over the years, but she could not understand when me or my siblings moved, usually for work related reasons. She thought we all ought to live the rest of our lives in or near the city where we were born.

In earlier generations, people spent most of their lives within 20 miles of where they were born. So the whole idea of moving and changing friends was a radical idea for the first generation to move from home.

New friends with whom I have shared part of my spiritual evolution were invaluable, and it is inconceivable to me that they would have been the same individuals at all times and in all situations.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Skilled Trades

When I began high school, they decided to discontinue shop courses (wood shop, electric, auto repair) because they thought that we all should take college prep courses. At that time, I thought it was a flawed decision, and since I had not planned on majoring in shop courses, anyway I went ahead and took the college prep courses. Yet, the realization was plain as day to me that we will always need people who have those kinds of skills.

Why bring this up now? You can find part of the answer in debates today about how to improve our education system. In that debate, you can hear rational voices that say that we should have a greater focus on trade schools, because we always need people with skilled trades and not everyone wants to work in an office. I mean, have you heard anyone complaining about our country having too many good auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, nurses or other skills? No, I haven't either.

Later on in life, after I had many different jobs that resulted from my BA in Writing/English, including freelance writing, advertising, and magazine editing, as well as several years with a major corporation, I happened into a job as a picture framer for an art gallery. And it was one of the jobs I enjoyed most in my whole life.

For a brief interlude in my life, for about a year and a half, this was the perfect job for me. I enjoyed the satisfaction of making something with my hands. I enjoyed working in the shop with the man who was my boss and my teacher. He taught me how to fit the moulding and canvas together, how to cut glass and mats, how to calculate the best way to hang them.

The shop was a converted garage set back from the road a bit. It was peaceful with big old trees all around. The gallery was a separate building toward the front of the lot. Customers went into the gallery. Just the two of us worked in the back shop. We talked, we listened to classical or popular music while we worked. I enjoyed looking at the reproductions of classical art as we framed it, and we talked about the art and artists. Then there were old family photos and shadow boxes for retirees, and other special things we framed.

It was tight quarters in that old garage. We had a space heater in winter and a window unit air conditioner in summer. We had to fit in stacks of lumber, panes of glass and all the other materials along with the necessary machines, like a chopper, a joiner, a cutting board and a fitting table. It was very peaceful just focusing on the pictures, listening to music, talking. Since much of it was handcrafted, the workshop was rather quiet. There were some pneumatic tools, but still, a lot of the work did not demand a high level of noise.

When work was done, either customers would come in and pick it up or we would pack it and ship it. When they did see their finished pictures, they were always pleased at how well they looked and could not wait to get home and hang them up where they could look at them. Much lasting joy and pleasure went into people's lives because of the pictures they added to their places.

While I was working as a framer, I did not need an appointment book. I had no appointments to rush off to. When I went to work there were jobs on the shelves for me to do. When I locked the door to the shop at night, I didn't spend my evenings rehashing the events of the day or trying to plan a strategy for the days ahead. It was peaceful, not stressful. Scrap wood was brought home to be used as fuel in the fireplace. When I got home I could simply relax with a book or a movie and in the morning I would be happy to do it again.

When I moved out here, there was no opportunity to continue in the framing business, so I ended up in a corporate office job.

There are many people who would feel far more satisfied doing the manual labor, and skilled trades will generally pay well enough so that you can live decently. I think we have been missing something by not encouraging more people to discover the joys of working in a trade rather than encouraging so many to go to college and then end up with a degree that doesn't really help them work in the subject field they studied. A person who can make things, or fix things, will always be needed and appreciated. What if our education system gave them more emphasis?

It was the same kind of satisfaction I got from my many hours of gardening. I know that the times I have spent as a gardener and a picture framer were very satisfying, far more pleasurable ways of making a living than working in a cube farm. There is much to be said for how moving around while you work, making things or fixing things, enhances your physical health and your mental well being.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Into Spring

As the earth turns slowly, we have more sunlight now than we did at Winter Solstice. Weather goes from hot to cold and back again, as we expect around the time of the Storm Moon. The earth is still cold, but little by little, it is making its way back toward spring. Of course, this is the story that Groundhog Day is all about.

If we are sensitive to the changes in the earth's cycles, we can see the slight differences in signs of life as things begin to thaw, slightly, but still, the warming is gradual, and the light is lingering longer before sunset, the winds are not so cold as they blow around us. Have you noticed any songbirds returning yet?

Of course, in different parts of the country, the seasons change at a different pace, and in different ways. If you think that this is too early to look for signs of spring, take a good look and notice if there are any buds anywhere, any signs of life returning from its slumber. Yes, in Georgia, they have daffodils in bloom right now, and here in Colorado, we don't get our spring plantings going until Mother's Day. So, yes, there are regional differences.

Still, if we take a good look at the world around us, we are just now turning the corner from Winter Solstice, heading into Spring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meditations on Music

While we are thinking about music, take a look at how certain types of music affect us. Are you aware of how you feel after listening to certian types of music? Have you noticed how certain sounds feel very uplifting, and others leave you feeling chaotic and out of sorts?

Back after WW2, when therapists were working with veterans who had brain damage, they discovered an interesting fact. Those who had lost the ability to speak were still able to sing along with familiar songs. What that revealed to them was that spoken language was stored in a different part of the brain than lyrics contained in music.

That is part of the reason why music can be healing. Singing can be soothing and comforting even if other parts of our thought process are disturbed and we are anxious, stressed, injured or ill.

This same fact allows music teachers to use vocal sounds to help people remember patterns of instrumental sounds. People learning to drum, for instance, practice by using vocal sounds to help them practice beat patterns. People learning an instrument like guitar, flute or piano can find the right notes to play if they remember how a song or melody goes in their head. In other words, musical memories can help guide the body.

Even though music and life have become ever more technological and complex, the simplest forms of music are still very powerful tools.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

All Stars

Once upon a time in America, people would get a job with a company and stay there a long time, maybe even until retirement. Some people really enjoyed their jobs and took pride in doing it well. In return, some companies showed their appreciation for employees by giving them raises, bonuses, parties at big holidays and benefits like insurance and pension plans. But that was a long time ago it seems.

Even in situations where a person might not stay with a company for a lifetime, there were still situations where a person might be really good at something, enjoy their work and stay for a number of years. Maybe they did not get all those benefits but they were paid well enough so that they could afford to take time off for vacations and buy their own health insurance. But those types of situations are getting harder to find unless you are in a very specialized profession that still has a lot of slots to fill.

So how is a person to cope with this changing landscape?

With the way business is going these days, it is almost like we all need to be stars in whatever we do. It looks as though major corporations have decided to view those who work for them as parts to be swapped out whenever convenient, which doesn't inspire a person to do more and better things to contribute to the company or be loyal or regard it as any kind of extended family. Organizations that choose to operate that way are very short sighted because those who have experience and knowledge will only contribute so much if they do not feel appreciated.

So the solution for the motivated individual is to seek satisfaction by starting your own business, and if you don't really want to do that, take up a hobby or activity that you can really put your energy into. We need to feel our energy being put to good use or at least put into action in a way that makes us happy. One way or another, we have to apply our energy in a way that stimulates our life energy for the better. In that way we can create associations with others who share our joys, visions, goals and loves.

Being happy will help boost your immune system and keep your sense of humor intact. There used to be corporations where you could count on being part of the corporate family for a long time as long as you did a good job, and lots of people got pride and satisfaction from that. But as that outlet diminishes in today's world, we have to become stars in our own world.

This reordering of priorities is simply a necessary survival skill. If you haven't been thinking that far outside the box, take a little reflective time every morning and give it some thought. Mull over your dreams. Take a walk. Enjoy just being alive and looking around. We have to be the stars in our own lives, and that means we write the play and cast the characters. Life is not a rehearsal for what comes next. This is it. Enjoy it. Be the star in your own production.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jazz, Blues, Improvisation and Rootwork

Jazz and blues always find a place in the hearts of public radio fans, and so there is always a jazz watering hole for those thirsty for this flavor of refreshment. Sometimes they share the same station, with classical music, sometimes not. And I am always glad that I have these available.

Now these stations might be community supported stations, but not necessarily NPR, and some of those are great stations too.

Jazz is good for stretching music to very elastic forms, exploring all sorts of variations in a melody, and exposing rich veins of listening experience that you can only get from mining the lode from a variety of angles. Jazz musicians are some of the most creative around, improvising new takes on classical music, popular music and world music.

Blues is what gave birth to jazz, and blues has feeling and mood thicker than honey. Great for dancing and letting off some steam. Relax after a tough day with some blues. Cut loose on the weekend with somebody you like to drink and dance with. Blues doesn't just encourage you to let your hair down, it encourages you to let it all down. It's potent stuff, and that's why lots of stations are prone to program a good dose of it on Friday nights and Saturday nights. Of course, the diehards say that every day is a good day for the blues. Blues is roots music. It reaches you right at your roots.

Kind of interesting how the two styles of music relate. Jazz can reach up into etheric realms, and it can be relaxing, yet in the hands of some players, it can be chaotic sounding and aggressively paced. It has a great range that way. Jazz has a longer history of integrating world music influences into its repertoire, creating some amazing combinations. In recent years, there have been some wonderful collaborative recordings between blues musicians and African musicians, rendering a sweet, earthy mix.

These two forms of music are unique to America, and without blues there would have been no rock n roll or hip hop. Those roots grow deep. One of the beauties of both is their encouragement of improvisation. The very forms themselves seem to nurture invention. Next time you are hungry for something a little deeper than the current flavor of pop music, check out some jazz and blues.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mineral Hot Springs

Spent the day at a mineral hot springs today. It is wonderfully healing. After a few hours enjoying the hot mineral water, my whole body just feels good. There is such beauty and simplicity in the joy of a hot springs. All you really have to do is be in it.

Be prepared to feel a bit tired at the end of the day just from the minerals soaking into you your pores and helping to detox and heal your body. If you just take one day to do this, you can come back feeling like you are on vacation.

Slow, gentle movements in the pool will do the same as water aerobics to let you feel limber and mellow, and get a little exercise. Swim a little, walk a little, float a little. Take turns lifting your partner or your friend and moving them around in the water.

If there is a mineral hot springs anywhere near where you live, check it out. Once you experience it you will know why people all over the world value this simple form of natural therapy. It is one of nature's gifts to us.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tools As Friends

Did you ever think of the tools you use regularly as your friends? Like your favorite tarot deck or your favorite drum? You use them all the time and they give you reliable results. Do you feel energy starting to stir when you pick them up to use them? Do you have a pocket knife that you carry that you feel comfortable just having in your pocket, even when you are not using it? Why? you know that when you take it out, it will reliably cut food, or a piece of string, or rope, or cloth, or turn a screw, or carve your initials into a candle, or clean under your fingernails or a hundred other tasks. Familiarity means that you can ask your pocket knife to do all sorts of things, answer all sorts of needs. Same as your cards. Your old friend can answer all sorts of questions. Your favorite drum can make music, induce trance, help clear and bless a house or a room, assist in creating a meditative state.

There is a relationship to the things we use regularly. The herbs we plant in our garden are another example of that. When we give some of our own energy in the care and feeding of our garden, when the time comes that we need help healing, the herbs we have grown will give more back to us.

People have remarked that the herbs from my garden work for them better than herbs they bought from the store. Have you ever felt you could play better on the drum you use most of the time? Yes, you get a feel for all the nuances of sound it produces and the best way to hold it to get those sounds. Same way for your cards. You know that there are always certain meanings in certain combinations of cards. Certain images speak to you as an old friend, whispering secrets in your ear that you are to convey to the person asking for the reading.

If we boil it down to the tools we use most, we find that they are our most reliable. And out of everything we own, these few reliable things will work with us for a lifetime, yielding reliable results. Steadfast friends.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Fabric of Interwoven Realities

Tarot cards are amazing tools. Even after you have familiarized yourself with your deck and thought about all the possible meanings of all the cards, different levels of consciousness envelop you when you work with them.

It is very magical the way on one level, you can look at a card and get a wealth of self teaching out of the picture, asking yourself: what lesson can this card hold for me today?

On another level, the art may stir something undefinable up inside you, something that hints at deeper meanings, profound lessons, and realizations that emerge out of the fog an darkness.

Then there is the level of communications from spirit, where all of a sudden there are cards out there and what you feel prompted to say, what comes into your mind, may or may not exactly fit any picture. Cards are gateways to magical senses of reality and when we are reading, we are in a zone that electrifies our senses. There is a quickening and excitement of suddenly getting a flash that lets us see in a different way.

It is in this way that Celtic knotwork interlaces different levels of reality at all times. It is this way that when we read, we are really doing much more than reading. We are opening to these messages that we need and want, whether we asked for them or not. Sometimes we are asking questions that we did not know we were asking. It is magical to be in this zone.

There is an aphrodisiac quality to it all, to be in love with life to be able to go beyond the immediate to the other currents that swirl around us and energies that flow through us. There is a beauty to the way art opens the soul and touches our core. There are images that somehow connect with our dreams, even though they did not look like that, but there is something substantially the same in the inherent patterns. Sometimes there is humor as the meanings unravel themselves, and sometimes there is sadness at the changes yet to come. Whateer the specific answers to specific questions, there is always a mystery to the process as we unwrap these gifts from spirit.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jokers, Fools and Magicians

The evolution of the Fool and Magician cards contain a deep insight that is useful to understanding the true meanings of the cards.

The Fool was a traveler in the broader sense of the word. More the shaman who could travel between the worlds, rather than a foolish person. The Fool was not merely someone off on a lark, but rather someone who could communicate with spirits. The imagery of this card also originated in a time when most people stayed close to home and venturing farther out in the world was really a big event that many people would not even consider. His journey may been fraught with danger as well as excitement. The Fool was living on the edge, out there in the general mix of strangers, thieves and wanderers. In other words, rootless people who survived by their wits and had knowledge and abilities that seemed magical to those who spent their whole lives staying close to home. In another context, the shaman is said to be able to walk between worlds communicating with the spirit world as well as this physical world. The older model of the Fool might have been more of the trickster, or the jester, incorporating more of a spirit of Loki, Manannan Mac Lir, Hermes, Krishna, or Coyote. The Fool is always pictured as being on the road. He is one who crosses boundaries. It is when we cross boundaries that we find out what our real capabilities are, and we are encouraged to go beyond our comfort zone. In the old game of tarot, the Fool was a card that gave a player a pass: no gain and no penalty, just one free turn. The Fool is the one card from the major arcana that survived the transition into the playing card deck as the Joker.

The magician was changed into more of a ceremonial magician when Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith redesigned the tarot about 100 years ago. At the beginning, if we look at the design of early decks, the Magician was more like today's stage magicians, the entertainers, carnival hustlers, showmen. In another guise, in another era, he would also be the troubadour or the bard. He could make magic happen in other ways than the ceremonial magician. He was a smooth talker, a medicine man, like in snake oil salesman, or today's financial con men. It is about creation, will power and desire. The magician is about the uses of power, both good and bad. The magician can make things happen, but what is it we want to happen? The adage, "be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it" comes to mind.

Interesting to consider then, how the symbol of the Fool was more powerful in the oldest decks, but newer versions would seem to favor the Magician as the more powerful person. If you are looking for a key to differentiate, consider this. Both have power and skill. But which is the greater skill, the ability to manipulate things to amaze audiences, or the ability to walk between the worlds?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Much Can We Get Out of One Deck?

I have quite a number of decks, but I have found that my readings always work best when I return to current favorite, Old Path, which I have been using consistently for several years now.
Before that, I had other favorite decks, although Rider Waite is still my baseline for teaching and reading. I have had a practical reason for my choices. Since I read at a lot of festivals and events, my cards get handled a lot and I found that I was needing to buy replacement decks frequently.
So if you have a real collectors item, a deck that would cost a hundred dollars or more to replace, you are reluctant to use them in that kind of situation.

It is my experience, as others have mentioned, that if you work with one all the time it really speaks to you. When you have an ongoing dialogue with this deck, it really becomes a personal tool and it really works. You no longer struggle to figure things out, meanings, insights and responses just flow.

I think there are two main reasons why we always are drawn to new designs.

One is that we are always interested in the originality, expression and creativeness of artists, and we enjoy looking at new art that brings various mythologies and concepts to life. This is very much related to our taste in art. If we find the art of a certain deck really repulsive, we will not be able to work with it. We really need to have a deck that we enjoy looking at in order to want to take it out and work with it every day. Having several decks is also like having your own art gallery that you enjoy visiting. It is the same principle as buying prints by various artists and photographers and hanging them in your home.

Two, I think that we often find that decks that we like a lot always have something about them that bothers us, like for example, we do not like the way certain images in the major arcana are portrayed. So when a new deck comes out that offers an image that we like better, we try switching. Oddly, although we may like some of this new imagery better we feel like we are not able to read as well with this deck. That is something that can probably be remedied over time simply through dedicating more time to work with it.

My experience is that I will always have a few more decks than I need just because I love the art, although I have one that I use most of the time. One of the other useful aspects of even having more than one deck is that by comparing the art, our understanding of our decks becomes illuminated. When we lay several decks side by side and note the differences in the ways various artists have created their visions, it can help deepen our appreciation of the symbology and meanings that are part of every deck.

The utilitarian part of me notes that I really only need one deck, but that is sort of like only needing one drum. I enjoy playing one drum most of the time, but it is also very refreshing to try different drums on different days, just to hear and feel the different sounds. Some days we just may feel moved to read with different decks. And sometimes in teaching new people to read, it helps bring the lesson home to take the same card from different decks and look at the way different artists have expressed the same idea.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Drums and Meditation

There are many ways to use drums as a part of a spiritual practice. Some people need a way to bring themselves into a meditative state and they are not good with just sitting quietly. One simple, powerful technique is this. There are many recordings available which feature a steady, simple drumbeat designed to be a sonic driver. In other words, the steady drumbeat is not musical, but rather monotonous.

The purpose of this beat is to drive out distractions. Once the drumbeat has your attention, then the next step is to let it be a stairway or ladder to allow you to climb into different chambers of consciousness.

You can set an intention before beginning to meet with a spirit guide, for example, or to ask for help solving a problem, to meet with an ancestor, or to ask for clarification of a dream. Or you could just let the beat wash over you and bathe in its sound and go wherever you feel like going.

If you would prefer the sound of a rattle, that will work just as well. I prefer laying on the floor when I listen to this type of meditative drumming.

You can also be the drummer or rattle shaker and do the meditation standing up and moving around. The key is to keep the beat steady, not to play songs.

Try it. See how it works for you. If you have ever been antsy with the traditional sit down and be quiet type of meditation, this may open the door for you to a profound new experience. There are many ways to get into a meditative state. In my experience, this is a good one.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pattern Recognition # 9 - Are We Geared for War or Peace?

Back before Daddy Bush invaded Iraq the first time, I knew he would do it. In the years after the Vietnam war, they spent lots of money developing weapons for fighting in the desert. Vietnam stuff was engineered for fighting in the jungle. Would the military and their suppliers spend billions of dollars developing a new generation of tanks, hummers, drones, lasers, GPS and more and not find a place to test them out?

If we look at the history of inventions, we see a pattern. When new inventions are created, one of the first customers for them are the military. This is not just hardware either. Remember when we discovered that the CIA was using psychics? If we know that the military labs are researching anthrax, what else are they researching?

They would never spend all that money developing a new generation of weapons and not use them. All that stuff, like laser guided sighting and targeting systems, GPS directed weapons, new tanks, etc. So now we have lots of people looking at the military as a steady paycheck. They will put them to work somewhere.

Interestingly, I just ordered a new documentary from Netflix about this subject. I am curious to see what kind of information is in there. I suspect from the blurb I read that it is about how over many years and generations, wars have been used to perk up the economy.

Check out today's headline in the New York Times

More Americans Joining Military as Jobs Dwindle As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training. The last fiscal year was a banner one for the military, with all active-duty and reserve forces meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals for the first time since 2004, the year that violence in Iraq intensified drastically, Pentagon officials said.

Maybe the time will finally be right to shift our economy to focus more on peaceful applications of technology and peaceful employment of our people. We can dream, can't we? What will it take to make it real?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Light Touch for Heavy Lifting

The array of healing techniques that people use is as varied as your imagination. I have had many amazing experiences and seen other healers use techniques that I had doubts about when I first saw them, but later found them to be quite good.

Among the amazing, I would easily include John of God, the Brazilian healer who does psychic surgery. However, he also heals with a simple touch of the hand. There was another Brazilian healer, Mauricio Panisset, whose touch sent a jolt of electricity through me. I had a white light flash right on my third eye. The room itself would strobe when he was chanting and channeling energy.

The more subtle, but still amazing experiences would have to include my first experience of reiki. I was prompted to find out about reiki simply because I heard so many other people talking about it. So one day I decided to find someone to teach me. When I had my initiation into level one reiki, I felt very light, very spacey and definitely felt a flow of energy moving through me. It was a wonderful introduction to reiki and the difference I felt was very strong and clear. I felt like I was floating, yet there was nothing in my previous experience to explain it. The healer simply touched me lightly. Who would have thought that such a simple thing would have such a powerful effect?

Aromatherapy is another wonderful technique. The application of tea tree or lavender to the skin can soothe and promote healing in very short order. Inhaling eucalyptus is a familiar scent that opens breathways. A bit of various scents inhaled can somehow stimulate the immune system. Who would have thought that smelling various scents whether in the air or applied with another material, like a lotion or oil, could stimulate the body's healing faculties?

We are used to buying over the counter medicines that pack a quick punch, yet when we look in our kitchen we find thyme and make a cup of tea with it, and our upper respiratory tract immediately feels some relief. We can make a cup of oregano tea to fight infections. Mint tea to soothe stomach or headaches, or comfrey compresses to help mend skin and bones. These beautiful, simple things work, all of them from the herb garden you can grow in containers just outside your door. Yet how many people recognize the potential of the things they simply think of as flavorings for certain foods?

Touches, scents, teas. We can add to this list, the sound of beautiful music soothing our souls. Perhaps it is not surprising that soft music can do such wonders for us. After all, who does not come out with a smile on their face after having a massage, and all of the massage therapists I have known have used music to help create a healing environment. There is another aspect too. Sometimes the simple vibration that instruments produce, as well as their sounds do the work of helping to release muscles, negative thoughts, toxic juices produced by emotional imbalances and stresses. Sounds simple, I know. Yet it works.

So many of these things are subtle. If we just relax and allow these subtle things to work, they are amazing. It does not always take a strong touch to do the heavy lifting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What's Next?

So if we tie yesterday's train of thought back to the personal, what do we have? We looked at the free flow of ideas in the news concerning big events, but is there a free flow of ideas in our life?

When we get to a point where we realize that we need to change careers, do we insist on continuing to try and find a job in our former field, or do we look around to see what else is possible? I know that there was a time in my life a few years ago when I was frustrated at not being able to find another job as a magazine editor, even though I had many years of experience in that field. After sending my resume and letters into the black hole of internet submissions and not even getting a reply in most cases, I finally did a mental housecleaning and decided that it was time for a new chapter in my life. I thanked my spirit guides for having given me that wonderful life and career experience and then acknowledged that that experience was not firmly in my past and that my future direction had to be something different.

So at that point, I decided that it was time to make strides toward changing my career to being a reader, healer and teacher full time. This takes time, of course, so it is important to realize that the day job will still be necessary for a while until my schedule fills up with clients and events.

I am realistic about the fact that the transition takes time, grateful that I have a day job until the other flourishes, and look at this as developing my next career, which is something I have wanted to do more of for years anyway.

There is a great freedom in letting go of what was, and working to make a reality out of what we want to have. I experienced a solid and lasting change of energy as I no longer was disappointed at opportunities lost or jobs not offered, and devoted my energy instead to making the kind of life I want to live.

In your life, have you been able to let go of what was in order to work on creating what's next?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Free Flow of Ideas

How freely do we exchange ideas? How freely do they flow? Remember just a few months ago when the media was telling us that a financial catastrophe was inevitable unless we gave the banks, brokerages and insurance companies $700 billion?

Do you remember any discussion of what else we might have done with that much money to boost the economy? Did anyone propose setting up some kind of agency to disburse those funds to prevent foreclosures of homes? Did anyone propose using that money to provide start up funding for new businesses? Did anyone suggest helping finance the construction of more cost efficient, more energy efficient homes? Did anyone really debate if there was any better way to use that money?

Why would it have been so bad if they companies who squandered their capital had folded and other, better run banks and brokerages took their places? Why is the wisest move to give the money to fix the problem to the ones who created the problem? How do we know the problem is fixed?

You can find articles and documentaries about other ways to build more cost efficient and energy efficient homes if you scour the internet and read alternative publications. But you won't see these ideas that present solutions to some of our problems featured in special TV shows or news programs. Why not?

When people ask what happened to all that money that those bankers and financial companies were given, we do not get an answer as to what is happening with that money.

In order to build a world that works, we owe it to ourselves to research all the possibilities and consider all the solutions. It is a shame that the major media does not serve us better in that way. TV, daily newspapers and radio would have been a suitable forum for presenting and examining issues from all angles. Those are the big voices that permeate our environment. Instead, what we got was a drumbeat of blabber that said that we needed to hurry up and give Paulson and his buddies $700 billion, because we had no other choice.

So when people say that if you do not watch the TV news that you will not know what is going on and you will not be well informed, that is not correct. You may become better informed without them. Just ask yourself. Instead of the scary stories they have been presenting us, when was the last time they promoted other possible solutions to the problems?

Ideas could flow much more freely than they do. You do not have to be a conspiracy theorist to note that the range of options the major media presents us is limited. In order to create a world that works well for us, we really do need a free flow of ideas.

The internet is millions of websites and blogs created and maintained by millions of people. It is simply a fact that if TV stations today were to broadcast a show or series of shows about how to strengthen our economy, it would reach a lot more people than a blogger or even a handful of bloggers, or people with their own websites doing the same thing. We can start the ideas, and hopefully they will make it into the larger consciousness and conversation.

Ask yourself if you feel that we really have a free flow of ideas. If not, how can we help to increase that flow so that we can shift consciousness?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How Do We Define Success?

One of the problems we are witnessing right now is the limits of acceptable behavior in pursuit of success. Perhaps we had to go to extremes to test our own sense of right and wrong.

Consider, for example, some of the execs at Enron, the mortgage companies, the junk bond dealers, the unethical investment bankers, Bernie Madoff and a host of others. They wanted to be rich. Lots of people want to be rich. Who wouldn't like to have so much money in the bank that you can go anywhere you want, do anything you want, have anything you want?

But then we saw people become super wealthy by ripping off their own employees and their own employees' pension funds. We saw people getting super wealthy by taking money out of the company in huge chunks while their company was losing money. We saw people getting fabulously wealthy by making deals with customers that they knew were bound to fail. We have seen people defraud charities and doctors who would defraud government funds for the elderly. We have seen execs lay off employees to increase profits, so that they can collect bonuses, only to have their successor try and repair the damage done to the company. We have seen HMOs and health insurance companies that increase profits by denying members care and claims. We have seen people put out false financial reports to inflate the value of their company.

We agree that making money is why we are all in business. But is there any limit to what is alright to do in order to make your fortune? We have lived through a time when it seemed like being a big success was all that mattered, no matter how the person got there.

Having seen the downside of these extremes, we can now address the question of how much does it take to live the good life?

Perhaps if some of these people didn't have such extreme definitions of the good life, they would not have done such extreme things to be able to finance it. And then everyone would have been better off.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chop Wood, Carry Water

After all these years, I know nothing. I know that it may sound strange for me to say this, because I do readings for people, healings for people, have written books, edited magazines, taught classes of all kinds. Yet when I do a healing on someone or a reading for someone, I cannot say exactly how or why it worked. I just know that I helped to facilitate it. Being open to facilitate this flow from spirit is all I can do.

What comes to mind is that old Taoist saying. "What do you do before enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water. What do you do after enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water."

We just do what is in front of us to do, but we do not always know the ramifications of it. There are times when I have done what I thought was best to do, only to have someone either compliment me for doing so, or disparage me for doing so. So what do I do? I do what I think best.

One time, I called a person to ask them if I could use them for a referral on a job application. They told me that they were looking for someone, and asked if I would like to work there. I took the job and enjoyed working there until it was time to move on.

Sometimes we just have to be open and we will get what we need. Sometimes when we do what we need to do, unintended results happen. That's why I say that after all these years, I know nothing. I do what I need to do, and what happens after that can be surprising.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Classical Music to Start the Day

This morning I woke up gently, listening to The Afternoon of the Faun by Debussy. Quite a soothing piece to my ears. Classical music has always been special to me. As a child, I loved the evocative power in music, although I would not have used those words then, but I noticed how music could not just underscore but signal what was happening in a movie. Classic music was also used in cartoons. There was a transcendent energy in its ebb and flow. I actually took violin lessons for a while before I quit and moved on to other instruments.

As I got older, I noticed how many great pieces of music had themes drawn from mythology as their source of inspiration. If you were to make a list of all of them you would have quite a retrospective of the literature of the Greeks, Romans, Celts, Norse, Finnish, Russian, and others beating at the heart of our greatest symphonies, operas and ballets. For a person who really listens, symphonies contain references to every thing from the sounds of nature to the sounds of city life, from the dance of life to the mysteries of life after death, from ecstatic love to the magical adventures of the gods and goddesses. Classical music is timeless.

One beautiful fact is that although popular music forms like rap, hip hop, country, rock and talk radio dominate most of the airwaves, in every city around the country, there is always a little pocket of public radio that continues to broadcast classical music. The following is not the largest, but there is always enough of a base of listeners to support the continuation of this part of our culture. I am glad that this is so.

For me, having a cup of tea and listening to a little classical music is a gentle, reflective way to get my day started before I wash up and drive to work. If they don't happen to be playing a piece of music that I like, I will turn to NPR news or the community station that plays a variety of alternative news or the one that plays jazz, but the eternal energies of a good piece of classical music will always be my first choice. To me, it is important to have that transitional time between waking up and starting to go anywhere.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wolf Moon

Folklore tells us that a common name for this full moon is the Wolf Moon. Some say that name originates from the idea that this is the month of the year that is coldest and hardest to find food. So the wolves are all about, howling and searching for game.

This year, this could also be a reflection of our striving for financial strength. People are hunting for safer investments, extra income, worrying about the stability of their jobs. Hunting in the cold dark month.

Last night was the night for actually celebrating the full moon, although this night is still good too, if you are just thinking about it now. As we look up in the sky right now, the moon is large and beautiful, closer in its orbit than other months.

That might also be an underlying reason for New Year's Resolutions and the appetite with which we look forward to the new year. We are hungry for what the new year will bring.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Lemon Balm, Violets and Persistence

When things get tough, it helps to look around for models of persistence.

The back patio is made of stones, but there is gravel between them rather than concrete, so weeds sprout up there between the stones. I clean them out every so often.

But then there are the wonderful surprises. Last year, a bunch of violets grew up, and they were as beautiful as anything you would buy at the florist, so of course, we let them grow.

Then there was the lemon balm. I had a pot of lemon balm setting there by the fence and I watered them every day, but the sun was too intense and one weekend when we went away, they were burn to a crisp. So I emptied out the pot and started over in a different place, with a different plant. A couple months later, there, where the pot had been, an explosion of lemon balm pushed its way up between the stones. That patch was just as fragrant and robust as any I have grown.

Looking at how nature finds a way to survive, we are reminded of how just a little encouragement and grounding gives us a fresh start.

As we persist in building our business, looking for a job, getting our exercise, and doing the other things we need to do, it mahy serve us well to remember that if we persist in our efforts we will also blossom.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Impressionism and Perception

While I was watching a film about the Impressionist painters, I recalled the exact moment when I came to appreciate them most. Monet was being interviewed by a reporter about his life and his work when suddenly he came into the room to talk with the reporter, and he was carrying a bouquet of flowers. He stuck them in the younger man's face. "What do you see?" he asked. "Purple and yellow and pink flowers," he replied. Monet told him to close his eyes and open them and immediately asked the question again. The third time he did this, suddenly the reporter responded "swirls and balls of purple, yellow and pink, indistinct shapes, vibrant colors." In that moment Monet knew that the reporter was capable of seeing like he saw. When reporters wrote about one of the art exhibits that Monet, Renoir and their friends put on, the concept of Impressionism gained its name.

I had seen a number of their paintings in museums and loved the colors and the movement of the light, and the way they brought their subjects to life without being too precise.

One day I was hiking in the mountains in California with some friends from the Sierra Club. The forest was dappled with light because there were lots of big trees where we were, and a stream ran near the trail. It was overcast, and we would prefer to finish the hike before the rain. Everything was green, brown, gray, delightful and peaceful, patches of moss like velvet cloaks on the trees. Then suddenly, we rounded a bend, there was an opening in the clouds, and spread before us was a shimmering array of wildflowers, spread out over the valley in vibrant shades of red, purple, orange, yellow, violet, white, pink so overwhelming that my eyes could not focus, and all I could perceive was this cascade of color.

After a while, my eyes adjusted and I could see individual shapes and the mystery was fading rapidly. But in that instant of recognition, I knew and I could feel what the Impressionist painters were seeing, and I could feel the beauty and joy wash over the whole world at that moment when my vision suddenly opened up and shifted, and after that moment, I always had an extra ability to see. We have more than one way to see the world. Most of us are not used to changing at will so that other levels of reality are revealed. Impressionism is a magical way to open up our other ways of seeing.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Magic of the Voice

There is a magic to the human voice. That is why the sound of it soothes a baby, even though the baby has not yet learned words. It is also why healing prayers and chants are as universal as healing herbs. The sound of the voice alone carries power. It is also why in all forms of magic and ritual, the sound of the voice is important. When a group of people sing together, a room full of people who do not know each other can begin to feel a common bond.

It is the sympathetic vibration, the principle of like attracts like, that forms this bond as we sing with other people and create harmonious vibrations with our voices. The joining of the sounds heralds the joining of the spirit.

I have sung sacred chants in a number of different languages and there is a difference between singing them in the original language or English. You will find the same thing if you were to sing Indian chants in Sanskrit or Gregorian chants in Latin and then see how they feel translated into English. A totally different feel.

There is a certain musicality in the way each song or chant is composed. When a person is putting words or phrases together, they have a sense of what flows together. For example, there are different words that mean the same thing, and each certainly has a different feeling sung. A native speaker has a feel for what word will fit into a phrase smoothly and melodically.

Rumi's poetry became popular in the US and got a larger audience in many countries because of Coleman Barks' new interpretations of them for a similar reason. Coleman will emphasize to you that he is not a translator. As an interpreter, he took the English translations from someone who was a translator and then found the English phrases that seemed to fit the meaning best.

A great way to get some experience of what it is like is to sing sacred chants in different languages is by participating in the Dances of Universal Peace, which I used to participate in a lot.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Musings on World Peace

Have you ever thought that lots of tribal skirmishes in third world countries escalated into wars simply because the industrialized nations sold more advanced weapons to them?

Some of the battles between rival tribes were fought with clubs or machetes until somebody sold them M-16s or AK -47s or Uzis. The arrival of the new weapons made the killing more efficient. If the speed of killing could have been contained to club and machete level, fewer people would have died before someone could have negotiated a peace treaty.

I have no idea if this is true, but I have often wondered why the Russians ever cared about taking over Afghanistan. My thoughts are that they wanted to control the opium poppies. Yes, 90% of the world's opium poppies are produced there. The sale of those finance both the terrorists and the government of Afghanistan. If the Russians could have controlled that country, they could have controlled the opium trade. Quite a lucrative way to finance the Russian government. If we legalized drugs, all that would be worth much less.

And that leads to other thoughts. We put the Shah in power in Iran. He was overthrown by the militants who did not like us for that reason. Then we armed Iraq to fight with Iran. And we see how all that turned out. Just like we provided weapons to the Afghans who fought the Russians, who in turn became the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. They didn't like the Russians and they don't like us either. What if we had let the Russians become poppy merchants and then pulled the rug out from under them by legalizing heroin as a recreational drug?

So many of the conflicts around the world are about various tribal peoples wanting their own homeland. Palestinians (Israel), Tamils (Sri Lanka), Kurds (Iraq & Turkey), Hutus & Tutsis (Rwanda), Georgians (Russia), Chechnya (Russia), Africans and Arabs (Sudan), Serbs & Croats (the former Yugoslavia), Serbs & Albanians (Kosovo and Albania), Basques (Spain). These are several well known examples.

Not all of these tribes or ethnic groups have the ability to economically thrive as their own country. If they all got their own place on the map, eventually they would have to make peace with their neighbors simply for practical reasons. Countries that cannot sustain any kind of agriculture or industry cannot also feed and arm an army. Human nature would probably tend to make stronger countries want to grow by taking over weaker countries, but if peace treaties could hold this aspect of behavior at bay, the majority would have to open trade relations with one another for survival. You can only subidivide down to tribal levels so far before the territories and survival possibilities become unsustainable. Eventually they would have to cooperate with their neighbors for survival.

There is no country on earth that was not at one time inhabited by, and run by, some other group of people besides the ones who are there now. Unless we want to wake up every day to news of some war somewhere, for the rest of our lives, we have to encourage peaceful solutions to these conflicts. Are we asking the questions about how can this be possible?

Monday, January 5, 2009

What Will the New Year Bring?

This year might bring a real awakening of our search for values. With all of the upheavals in the markets and financial losses people have suffered they may finally look at things in a way that is heart focused. Sometimes we have to lose some things in order to appreciate life more fully.

Just ask someone who has faced a serious illness like cancer or heart attack and survived. Once you have faced the possibility of dying, priorities change. Suddenly there is time for the things you have been putting off, or the changes you hesitated to make.

If you thought you had a pretty good nest egg, but saw it shrink, then you have to reconsider what you want to spend that nest egg on. So maybe this is the year when you add another tool to your set, whether it is learning tarot or the runes, or tai chi or yoga, or write a memoir or maybe try your hand at fiction, or pottery, drawing or painting.

What will happen out there? Perhaps these scandals have taught us to look at more solid investments and more solid things we should be creating as a society, such as an energy grid powered more by renewable energy sources than not. Or more energy efficient homes.

Will there be peace in the countries where we now see war? Hopefully. Of course, in each place where there is war, there has to be a way to really reduce the source of inflammation. We need leaders who will not pander to racial or ethnic animosities. We need more changes in a real way, so that the trouble spots do not keep flaring up. Is it possible? Yes. Each place where there is war will require a different sort of breakthrough. It is possible to change the big picture. We have to look for the key to change and then encourage those who can to implement it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Greeting the Annual Cold & Flu

Yes, I know that title will sound weird to some of you. But each winter as a cold or flu seems to grip me, it seems easier to simply give in to it. Take the medicines. Eat the soup, let the fever and aches run their course, along with the congested sinuses and stomach ache.

It seems inevitable, same as the onset of cold weather in winter. And when you get done with it, it feels like whatever needed to be sweated out of drained from your body is gone.

The bubbling of the hot air humidifier, is as soothing as sitting by a waterfall or a bubbling brook. Then a few days later, as suddenly as it began, it is over, and I feel like I have a fresh start again. It seems so foolish to wish that no such thing existed. It is here and the body's immune system fights it off, with help from medicines.

Then we start fresh again. Sort of like the purging fire we need at times to burn old papers.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pattern Recognition #8 - The New Old Age

The fact that we are living longer now presents us with a whole different set of perspectives on living. Things have changed rapidly in a short time.

For example, a good friend of my mother's had a heart attack last week and needed open heart surgery. He is 88.

When I think back to my own grandparents, strokes and heart attacks spelled the end for them when they were in their late 60s. People used to think about retiring by 60 or 65 because they wanted to have a few years of relaxing after their hard working life. And they at least wanted to enjoy some leisure time before checking out because not so long ago, life expectancy was shorter.

My mother is 83 and still leads a very active life. She does water aerobics, yoga, swims and walks. She goes places with her friends and does volunteer work in the community.

During the last century our life expectancy grew significantly. Life expectancy for Americans is now 78. In 1900, the world life expectancy was approximately 49 years and in 1985 it was about 62 years.

The other day someone was talking about midlife crises and I mentioned that I hadn't had one, and probably wouldn't. They looked kind of puzzled and I said that I expect to live to be more than 100. These days it is not so far fetched.

For a long time, when people asked me about retirement plans I told them that my retirement plan was to keep busy doing something until I drop dead. The old model of retirement where you just sit in the rocking chair and watch TV or you go golfing or hang out by a beach is just not interesting enough for me.

It helps when we look at history with this in mind. People had to do things by the time they were 20-30 because life expectancy might only have been 30-40. During the Roman Empire, 25 was the average life expectancy.

So take a look at the new old age. Many people are aging very gracefully and staying active far longer than our parents and grandparents or great grandparents. And that means we have a lot more time for whatever it is we want to do.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Getting to the Essence

Each time we take a good look at ourselves and the things that we do, we are peeling back a layer to get to our true essence. Perhaps earlier in our lives we were focused on becoming the next corporate manager, officer or vp. Perhaps we were concerned about being successful, famous or wealthy. But now, at a later stage, we can be happy to just be. What we have done so far, we have done. Now we can decide that there are other goals or activities that deserve our attention and that these actions are appropriate for us now.

At various times in our life, we get busy with so many projects that we don't have the time or patience to just relax with one of them. So now we can focus on one business activity we want to excel in, or one charity that we will choose to support. Certain friends and relatives who we want to keep in touch with, leaving room for new friends and acquaintances, but letting some old ties dissolve.

As we pare back the layers we do not really need, we get down to the things that are really important to us. Perhaps that is why as we gain experience and wisdom, we come to cherish certain relationships and experiences even more. We choose to study with an eye toward what is meaningful. We choose to do things that we really care about doing.

While earlier in our life, we may have been about accumulating, later, we become more about letting go. When we let go, we get a renewed appreciation of what is left when there is just us.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dreams & Desires Now

If you are thinking today of making or revising your plan of action for the new year, how much of your heart is really in those plans? How strong is your desire? What will propel you to keep going if you hit some difficult patches?

Do you continue to put off your dreams and desires because they are not realistic? Do you still tell yourself that "one of these days" you will get to do what you really like? Why not now? Why not this year?

Yes, there are a lot of businesses having a hard time this year, but there are also businesses doing well. If you did not put an action plan into place to create your dream job back when business was booming, then it was not the economy that is the real factor.

Why not make a commitment to yourself to make this year your year? If you do not achieve your goal, at least make significant progress towards it. There is never any better time than now.