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“Be careful what you pretend to be; you are what you pretend.”
– Kurt Vonnegut


It is the nature of people to take in what they see and emulate it. There are myriad reasons for this: survival by blending with the environment, fitting in with a group, a sense of belonging, so on and so forth. But we need to recognize that it’s not always the safest thing. For proof of this, put several teenagers together and see how quickly things turn to drama and angst… or better yet, just remember high school. We want so much to be understood that we will try to turn ourselves into something already known, just to have that connection.

But what is known is no place to be. To maintain a status quo is to become stagnant, while embracing change allows for growth and development at an amazing pace, keeping us younger, stronger and saner. It keeps our ions vibrating and regenerating, rather than just farting around, decaying like old men on park benches, wondering why we smell like cheese and complaining about the price of… well, everything. How can we expect to better our lives and our spirits, if we don’t take the risks that deserve taking? In the words of a master, “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the centre.”

In saying that, there’s risks to being open: negativity swarms into open places like lightning to a rod. If not cleared out regularly, it can fester and rot, just like any other organic material. Often that negativity stems from others, but more often than not it stems from ourselves. We all fall victim to the blues – the ultimate luxury in a depression is just wallowing in the darkness like a warm milk bath. We get good and fraught, taking each worst-case scenario and bringing it to glowing technicolour in our brains. But by doing this we teach ourselves to not visualize the positive potential, simply because dreaming about it would make the reality too painful. By viewing the negative, we can convince ourselves that the reality isn’t so bad, and therefore protect ourselves.

I used to think of myself as a fairly optimistic person – I never could really let go of hoping things would change… turns out it’s not so much that I’m optimistic, more that I simply expect things to be out of my control, and therefore it’s not anything I was doing, but rather what the universe was doing to me. By not owning my own outlook and perspectives, how could I learn to adapt them? The Learned Optimism Test from Dr. Martin Seligman’s book, “Learned Optimism”, at Stanford’s website, breaks down some of our learned behaviours and as G.I. Joe liked to remind us, “knowing is half the battle.”

Dr. Seligman also lists how to train yourself to be more optimistic using what he calls the “ABCDE”s:

ADVERSITY: Name the adversity, or problem.
(For example: “I didn’t get a call back after my job interview.”)

BELIEFS: List your beliefs.
These are your initial reactions to the problem. (“The interviewer saw right through me. I don’t deserve that position. And he could probably tell I don’t believe in myself. I’m sure the other applicants are smarter, younger, and more qualified than I am.”)

CONSEQUENCES: Identify the consequences of your beliefs. 
(“I’m going to quit my job search so I don’t have to suffer through this feeling of failure again.”)

DISPUTATION: Formulate a disputation of your beliefs.
Pessimistic reactions are often overreactions, so start by correcting distorted thoughts. (“I probably didn’t feel confident because that position wasn’t the best fit. It’s only a matter of time before I find an opportunity that’s right for me. And now that I’ve had practice, I will be better prepared to present my best self.”)

ENERGY/EMPOWERMENT: Describe how energized and empowered you feel now. 
(“I’m more motivated to keep looking for a job that makes me happy. I won’t let fear stand in my way.”)
Practice this exercise as often as possible, and when you can, take time to write out the ABCDEs. Eventually, the sequence will become a habitual thought process. Seligman found that his subjects were still using the technique four years after he taught it to them.

So for now I choose to be in the unknown: I will take my worries, process them, place them in my Goddess jar, and give them to the universe to sort out. Let the chips fall where they may, I will hope for the best. I will learn to understand that “If it’s meant to be, it will be” and let the universe flow into my life like clean water filling up the holes in my darkness.

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“The more adept we become at cultivating an altruistic attitude, the happier we will feel and the more comfortable will be the atmosphere around us. But if our emotions fluctuate wildly and we easily give in to hatred and jealousy, even our friends will avoid us. So even for people with no spiritual beliefs, it is important to have a peaceful mind.” – Dalai Lama


Galloping Goose, Sooke, BC
A Peaceful Path…

“Learn peace.” So easy to say, so difficult to learn. Peace is a subjective term – what is peace to one person can be chaos for another. Peace is a momentary thing as well – fleeting, we often don’t realize we have it until it’s gone. So what can be a good general concept for peace?  Type it into Google, and it’s defined as “Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.” OK… so when does that ever happen? I somewhat disagree with that definition. Sure, quiet and tranquility, but can we obtain peace without having to get rid of our daily stresses, our worries and concerns? I believe so. You can have a mortgage, depression, a list of chores to do, and still find time to be peaceful.

Personally, I think it’s a choice: Misery or Peace? If I need to feel peaceful, I simply stop, sit and think of my bounty. Even the poorest person has some good in their life if they choose to focus on it. It may be harder for others than some, but to simply look at my home, my life, my family, my friends, and my faith I gain a sense of tranquility that allows me to release all the tension and pressure of the day to day. It might be for only 5 seconds or 5 minutes or 5 hours, but that peace is available whenever I want to take the time for it.

GoddessI think Peace is a similar term to ‘Transcend’ – to find it, you must go above the physical, to find that place where your heart beats in time with your soul, where you can look through the eyes of your higher self and feel love for everything, including yourself. I found this point, recently, and am still buzzing from the high.  Separate from me, yet a part, my own Holy Trinity of understanding and a benevolent view of my foibles, faux pas and flaws. The Goddess saw me, found me within herself and showed me myself through her eyes. I understood how the Catholics say that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are three but one, for finding the divinity in myself, I found that my physical, my mental and my spiritual self are bound to something so much greater than my own petty wants and needs. In there was peace, and it’s a gift to anyone that chooses to claim it. We might not always remember it, but it’s always there when we need it, by whatever name we choose to apply… and it doesn’t even require drugs.

Forgiveness

“Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them.  Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time.” – Sara Paddison


Forgiveness

Forgive & Release

Forgiveness is a concept I struggle with daily. Pride and faith in the general justice of the universe make it a hard pill to swallow. I believe that people get balance in their life, for good or ill, whether they try or not. Good things do happen to good people, and deceptors often sow the seeds of their own destruction… it just unfortunately never happens on my schedule, and when it does happen, I’ve often already moved on, forgiven them in my own time, and take no joy in their fall.

To look at the nature of forgiveness, we must look to the nature of the victim. Do we forgive and forget? That seems folly – we should learn from our actions. But do we forgive but tread cautiously? That leaves still a burden, a link to our pain that we must drag around. Instead, forgiveness must be released as well – never to be brought up again. We may not treat the transgressor the same, as our perception of them and what we feel free to share will have changed. However, we shouldn’t tiptoe around them, and we shouldn’t ignore them. To forgive and release is to understand and recognize their transgression, but to not allow it to prevent you from moving forward, to let yourself grow. Only then can you feel truly free of the action, and no longer be a victim.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes

Age of Aquarius

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Sometimes when I look at the world, I weep. I am an Orchid, I crumble at the slightest shame, shrink at the smallest perception of threat. Man’s ability to deny, dominate and destroy his fellow man has always been the most terrifying thing – our capacity to inflict rather than encourage, to torture rather than nurture, is unheard of in any other species on earth.

I look at my niece, my godson and wonder – how do we go from these innocent, lovely, giving beings, filled with light and enlightenment, to the dark pathways of pain and anguish? Why do so many roads in life lead to this agonizing one of missed chances and bitter regret?

When I read the quote above, I understood. We stopped the internal struggle to grow, which is the focus of any life, and redirected our pain outward. Then we stripped away God, or added Him as a justification as the case may be, drew battle lines, found enemies and decried any opinion that didn’t fit ours, labeling them wrong and therefore corrupt. Any attempt to share or spread power was stamped out and we no longer respected our fear – we fought it, tooth and nail.

This life is to be lived whole: with love, respect and yes, fear. Without fear, we never overcome. Without hardship, we never flourish. Stagnant waters lead to unhealthy environments, and in our fear of the unknown, we have stopped. Where is our Spiritual Revolution? Where is our Renaissance? We lose our Gandhis, our Lincolns, our Kings to violence and oppression, and stand lost, wondering where to go now.

Share the Flame

Share the Flame

But a good idea only need wait until it catches fire to spread. The idea of peace – a realistic, plausible concept of peace – has been smouldering now for decades, waiting for Science to find it. This new revolution is not born of fire, however, of bombs and bloodshed. Instead, it is born of energy, of cellular direction and flow, of quantum physics. The idea that we make our own reality and that, in fact, our reality is ONLY what we as a people perceive, forces us to share the power for only in sharing is the power made manifest. This, if nothing else, proves in my mind of the existence of a Higher Power, and of its divinely beautiful wisdom and humour.

We are each a flame, a small candle in this modern Dark Ages of Science. Brawn has not ruled successfully, nor has Brain. Now it is the Spirit’s turn to shine, and in return, to bring moderation to a conflagration and teach us the meaning of Brotherhood, of Balance and of the reality of Truth: it is what we make it. Brawn and Brain have their place, but only with Spirit can they be allowed to sustain a equal balance.

Today I am in the midst of a hormone storm… I am not a happy camper by any means. But for today I will follow one of Master Usui’s Reiki tenets: Just for Today, I will not anger. I will not let violent emotion rise up in me to blind me – I will forgive each transgression and will collect no ill will… hopefully, if enough of us do that, tomorrow will be better.

Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide (includes CD)
by Sandra Ingerman
ISBN: 9781591799436

Back cover:
Shamanic Journeying is the inner art of traveling to the “invisible worlds” beyond ordinary reality to retrieve information for change in any area of your life — from Spirituality and Health to Work and Relationships. In Shamanic Journeying, Sandra Ingerman draws from over 20 years’ experience as a student and teacher of shamanism to share the core insights of this transformative practice.  Join her to learn the traditional role of the shaman in indigenous societies; how to meet and work with your “power animal” and other spirit teachers; and the keys to successful journeying in our modern culture.  With fascinating accounts of the powerful results of shamanic journeying and answers to the questions you may face as you begin your practice. Shamanic Journeying includes everything you need to explore the visionary worlds of the shaman.


My Review: ♦♦♦♦♦

I won’t lie, this is a tiny book. But some of the best things come in small packages, and this is so far one of my favourites. For what it claims to be, it fulfils all obligations, and then some.  As a first introduction to Sandra Ingerman, she charms, welcomes and envelops you – she is warm, inviting and open, joyous and free without any of that ‘fluffy bunny frou-frou’ that you so often see in New Age titles (yes, Silver Ravenwolf, I’m lookin’ at you).

This book is an open and honest look at the world through a shaman’s eyes, seeing the doorways, pathways and darkways that we should be aware of any time we decide to go wandering. You may finish the book with more questions than answers, but those questions will be well thought out, informative and probing. My world went threefold upon reading this book – starting to understand the astral space around me at all times, I found I was never afraid, and thanks to the security I felt in exploring the up and down worlds, it was  one of the best meditative/travel experiences of my life.

If you’re interested in Shamanism and wondering where to start, this is a short and sweet way to start your journey. But don’t go in expecting a concise history of Shamanism in the world, or even a detailed description of the purview of what Shamans do today… this is not that book, and to be honest other authors do it better, such as Michael Harner and Tom Cowan. But to explore your own power and feel if this is the path for you, this book is an utter gem.

Thankfulness

Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.” – Albert Schweitzer

Being that Thanksgiving recently passed here in Canada, I thought I’d take a moment to reconnect with it. Recently things have been crazy in my world – new house, no money, birthdays, gardening, seemingly a million things that all clattered and clamoured for my attention from sun up to sun down. Finally, on Sunday, I took a moment to sit down, look at the room I’d now rearranged for the fourth time in six months… and felt a wash of warmth, gratefulness and peace wash over me. The house felt as good about it as I did – my sacred space had become manifest, and I felt awash in my blessings.

Mindfulness, for being the de riguer word of the year, is a tough cookie… we all feel we need to be perfect, and when we aren’t, we beat ourselves up more than any wronged person could – our failure is a punishment far beyond due. Ironically, by trashing ourselves for being imperfect, we further distance ourselves from the acceptance we so crave.

So take a moment and be thankful for the small things: health, love, the clothes on your back. Then thank yourself for the wisdom to be able to recognize the need for thanks – that in itself is worth half the battle.