Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Becoming Aware of Our Layers

 “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
C.G. Jung

As we grow through life we gain more and more layers. There is a richness in this and a beautiful complexity, but we can become blind to older layers that still play a role in our lives.

An old layer of mine is fear of abandonment. My parents left me with my aunt for a week when I was just six weeks old. My mother’s mother passed and she needed to take care of things far away. I always had this fear of being left and so was a bit clingy as a child. I thought I’d grown out of it, but I found, through deep spiritual work that it was still there and it was affecting my life in a myriad of ways.  I found that my people pleasing stemmed from this fear as well as my inability to get truly close to most people. Becoming aware of this layer and its subsequent layers has allowed me to find self-acceptance, a stronger core and to become more open.

Peeling back our layers to discover more about ourselves helps us to understand where any particular layer may be getting in the way of our best life. Through meditation, contemplation and other spiritual practices we can see the richness and complexity of who we are. And once we see it, we can then realize we are more than those aspects. We can realize that for all the beauty that is found in the combination of our many selves, even more beauty is contained in our ability to consciously choose who we become.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What We Do Matters

May I do good work with my hands worth remembering.
~ Normandi Ellis, Awakening Osiris

What will you leave behind after you’ve transitioned from this world? We all want to do worthy work that will live beyond us, work that matters. I wish to leave words that inspire and make people think in my wake. I want my work to matter to people.

This morning I was wondering, what does it mean when we say something matters? Perhaps it means it has been condensed into something solid, tangible, present in form. That’s what matter is right? The scientific definition is that which has mass and takes up space. We also speak of the matter at hand, the idea or situation that is to be or has been discussed.

I think it means all that and more. What is something that matters? When we use matter this way we mean something that is important to us. Why it matters is subjective. That something we create matters to someone beyond us makes us feel as though we have contributed. We feel that our existence has meaning.

The thing is, everything we do matters. We exist and therefore new ideas, things, ways of seeing, etc. exist. We turn much of what we are into form, whether it’s an idea made manifest or a thought turned into a gift or a feeling given expression. We make that which is invisible, visible. To me, matter is condensed light. We are condensed light. We are Spirit made flesh. We are matter and we do matter. Everything matters.

There is no need to worry about whether or not you will leave something behind that matters. It all does. If you approach life as if everything you do is important, which is to say that you infuse all that you do with presence and love, it will be remembered by those who experience it.

Go then and make of the world something beautiful, set up a light in the darkness.
~ Normandi Ellis, Awakening Osiris

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Power of Mortality and Immortality – How Knowing Both Brings Balance

Last week I went to my own memorial service and gave my own eulogy. The service was actually for me and six amazing women that are my friends and classmates. We are all on a journey to become Licensed Religious Science Practitioners and the memorial service was an exercise for the class.

At first none of us wanted to do it, but in the end it was an amazing experience. It was an opportunity to reflect and get to know one another better. A big bonus was that many of the people we invited from the church got to know us in a deeper way as well.

Though I was hesitant at first I’m glad to have had the opportunity to write my own eulogy and read it in front of people. One personal benefit was that I realized I was more comfortable on stage than I thought I would be. And not only did it get me thinking about my death, it also got me thinking about my life.

When I think about how I will only be here as this particular person once, I think about how precious my time and life are. My mortality creates a deadline for me and urges me to live my life to the fullest. I’m not entirely sure what I believe about reincarnation, but even if I come back I won’t be Joanne. This life is it as this particular expression of the Divine.

Mary Oliver asks in one of her poems: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” When faced with my mortality this question becomes even more powerful.

But sometimes I start to think about how I’m now in my forties and haven’t accomplished very much yet. I begin to rush things sometimes; I am trying to beat a deadline after all.

Fortunately, that deadline isn’t real. This is where my knowledge that I’m also immortal comes into play. When I know that my very essence is at one with the All That Is Everything then I can relax. When I know that some aspect of Joanne continues even after I’m done here as the particular incarnation I can release my anxiety over having to accomplish it all now.

I am both mortal and immortal and this is great news! My mortal deadline helps me stay focused on what it is I’m here to do and knowledge of my immortality lets me relax about what it is I’m here to do. Too much pressure brings burnout and being too relaxed diffuses focus. Knowing both brings balance and hence fulfillment into my life.

Though we may get to continue our work in some other form, our lives here and now have a limit. I will make the most of it, but if I don’t accomplish everything that’s okay, too.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Healing Power of Poetry

This is a paper I wrote for the Science of Mind class called Mind/Body Connection in 2012.

Poetry is not just words on a page nor is it a code to be deciphered. Former Poet Laureate of the U.S., Robert Pinsky says, “…poetry is a vocal, which is to say a bodily, art. The medium of poetry is a human body: the column of air inside the chest shaped into signifying sounds in the larynx and the mouth. In this sense, poetry is just as physical or bodily an art as dancing.”

Kim Rosen says, “Poetry was created to be experienced in the body and spoken aloud. Made of breath, sound, rhythm, meaning, and silence, a poem is a physical event. It needs a human body to give it life.”

Ted Andrews shares in “Toning for Health” that Pythagoras understood the therapeutic power of human speech. “He treated diseases through the reading of poetry. He taught his students how a skillful, well-modulated voice, with beautiful words and pleasing meter, could restore balance to the body and soul.”

Studies have shown that reading poetry out loud has physical benefits:

“When patients read or recite poetry, the rhythms have been shown to improve the regularity of their heart and breathing rates.” Indeed, a study published in the International Journal of Cardiology showed that when volunteers read poetry aloud for 30 minutes, their pulse rates were slower than those of people in a control group who engaged in conversation.

“Porter didn’t have to completely understand the poems in order to love their sound and force. Indeed, doubters often believe that to appreciate poems you must decipher their obscure messages. Actually, much of a poem’s power lies in the simple elements of imagery and rhythm. ‘The content isn’t always so important,” Campo says. “Poems can enter us through visceral channels that don’t depend at all on cognitive processes.’ ”
~ Ann Japenga, Balancing Act—The Poetry Cure

Shamans have employed poetic devices such as simile and metaphor in creating healing chants and incantations. “…the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria uses the concreteness of the simile to clarify a direct command: ‘As the river always flows forwards and never back, so your illness will never return.’ ”

“The Navajo employ patterned songs and antiphonal singing (call and response) during curing sessions. “First the sing-doctor pleads: ‘His feet restore for him, his mind restore for him, his voice restore him.’ The patient responds: ‘My feet are getting better, my head is feeling better, I am well all over.’ ” 
~ Abraham A. Blinderman, Ph.D., Shamans, Witch Doctors, Medicine Men and Poetry

Chants like these create a hypnotic effect leaving one more receptive to the words or commands in the chants.

Gila Cadry, a healer who uses sound says, “The sacred writings, the psalms and the prayers, are encoded. Through sounding these words with intention, we can move into altered states of consciousness and avail ourselves with insights and healings at all levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual.”

This all ties into the practice of Science of Mind since the tools it employs such as prayer treatments and affirmations use the voice and words.

When doing treatments we become connected to or remember our Divine Source. When we reach that place our speech often turns to verse. Phil Hine says, “The Deep Mind often speaks to us in verse. Cross-cultural studies of the vocal patterns of people in the throes of possession show a striking similarity, that of a rising and falling intonation at the end of each phrase, with each phrase punctuated by a pause or groan. This pattern emerges regardless of native language and cultural background. The English version of this rhythm is known as Iambic Pentameter.” Iambic Pentameter is a commonly used metrical line in traditional verse. The da-DUM of a human heartbeat is the most common example of this rhythm. Ben Crystal says that “iambic pentameter is the rhythm of our English language and of our bodies – a line of that poetry has the same rhythm as our heartbeat. A line of iambic pentameter fills the human lung perfectly, so it’s the rhythm of speech.”

Perhaps we could employ this rhythm in our affirmations as well as other poetic devices to make them even more powerful.

Kim Rosen says, “You see, poetry is actually the most ancient form of prayer or affirmation. So when you read a poem you love, especially if you read it aloud and really take it into your heart, it will actually harmonize all levels of your being—mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. And it’s not only about the meaning. The poem is a medicine that literally comes into your body and can affect your very biochemistry. Literal physiological changes happen through what I call the “Shamanic” elements of the poem: the rhythm, the sound, the shape and, of course, the meaning.”

The following early Irish poem employs repetition and metaphor. It is a powerful piece on the page, but take note of how you feel when you hear it read out loud. Later try reading out loud yourself. Read other poems, meaningful to you out loud to learn more about the healing power of poetry.
By Amergin GlĂșingel

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am a wild boar in valour,
I am a salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a word of science,
I am the point of the lance of battle,
I am the God who created in the head the fire.

Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon?
Who teaches the place where crouches the sun?
(If not I)

-- Trans. Douglas HYDE

Amergin GlĂșingel ("white knees") or GlĂșnmar ("big knee") was a druid, bard and judge for the Milesians in the Irish Mythological Cycle. He was appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland by his two brothers the kings of Ireland. A number of poems attributed to Amergin are part of the Milesian mythology.

Erik Goodwyn, MD, Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist says:
Irish Theologian John O’ Donohue, in his Anam Cara adds “This ancient poem reverses the lonely helplessness of Descarte’s ‘I think therefore I am’”.

I couldn’t agree more.  The lesson of the Poem of Amergen is that we are not isolated minds floating about the universe like billiard balls.  We are interconnected with everything.  We have within us the land, the sea, the gods, the sun, and everything within the world.  The ancient Celts and Norse both viewed the world in a non-dualistic fashion–they saw everything as interconnected.  That was their genius and their contribution to the understanding of the soul.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What's your world look like?

My world isn't the world it was two months ago, before I started this journalism gig. I've been trying to figure out how blogging fits in or fits back in. The direction of this blog needed to change. What I really need is a place to think and wonder and direct my life to the place I really want it to be.  And I no longer feel able to come up with pieces of advice when I'm not sure what I'm doing or where I'm going.

So I'm going to examine how it is I'm creating my world by simply putting it before my eyes. Why use a blog? I'm very conscientious and will make myself write because I hate not updating this.

What's my world look like? Well, its filled with days of thinking up and writing stories on the LA Pagan community. I interview people, I visit occult shops, I attend events and then I sit down and pen their stories. Then I work on marketing the column. It is fun to get to know people. I'd like it even more if the pay was better. I'd like it even more if it didn't take time away from the real writing, the writing I love. I miss writing fiction and poetry. I do a little of it, but not enough to get something into publishable shape.

So I ask myself why am I taking all this time on something that doesn't pay well and isn't the dream job? I do it as a service to the LA Pagan community. I want them to all know one another. I want the larger world to know us Pagans are fun, interesting, and not so different from the them. But why can't I let it go enough to do the work I'd rather be doing or at least work that pays a lot more money. Maybe I'm afraid to do the creative work. What if my dream job doesn't pan out? And I know I'm avoiding the work that pays more because most of that isn't what I want either.

I guess I have to ask myself what do I really want and what do I really need? I need money and I want satisfying work that I love; work that isn't work. Where do I begin? Maybe I begin again. Maybe I sit here and think and write and avoid the chores that I'd usually do on a Saturday morning. Maybe I get out there before it gets to hot and think while I sweep. Either way, at some point I start consciously creating the world I want to live in.

After the meditation, the yard work. (I did laundry on Tuesday.)

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I’ve been drifting away from this blog for weeks. I started a new project which has taken up more time than I thought it would. Starting something new always takes more time. And before you know it, things that you thought were important have drifted to the background.

Now I didn’t forget about this blog, it is still important to me. I had written a few rough draft blog entries, but never got around to posting. It seemed like too much work on top of what I was already doing.

When our attention shifts we drift in the direction it’s pointed. Our energy is used for our new project and for moving to another kind of focus. The ease or difficulty of the shift depends on what kind of attention is needed for certain projects. Is it loose and open or intensely focused attention? Think of the energy needed to shift from writing a poem to accounting.

My attention is not only on something else, it is on something that is using a higher level of energy than I use for writing blogs, novels, or poetry. Energy usage is heavier and moving back and forth takes more energy. I’m doing journalism which is a type of writing that is detailed and research oriented. Now using this type of attention may be easy for some, but it’s not for me and it’s also new to me.

So think about what you want to accomplish. Then look at where you put your attention. Are you moving toward what you want in your life or are you seeing that shore you don’t want to land on loom ever larger? If you don’t like where you’re heading shift your attention. Use it to steer your life toward what it is you do want and you’ll find yourself getting ever closer to your goals.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Heart the key to the reality of your dreams

“It is frightening to think how many things are made and unmade with words; they are so far removed from us, trapped in their eternal imprecision, indifferent with regard to our most urgent needs; they recoil at the moment when we seize them; they have their life and we have ours.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke from “The Wisdom of Rilke”

Do we rely too heavily on words? Last week I talked about how we use words to create concepts that can become walls. This time I wonder about the words themselves and how they can’t really express exactly what is in our hearts.

This is where poetry and metaphor come in; they can get at the essence of our desires. Metaphor rises above mere words. But we are still using words and making concepts from them.

Creating our reality takes more than words. Feeling is the key. As we saw last week, forming concepts about what we want gets in the way of manifesting that desire. That’s because concepts are created by imprecise words as well as the fact that our focus goes to the concepts and not the true desire.

But we can feel, in this moment, the way we want to feel in the reality of our choosing. We can feel right now what it would be like. Words can be a guide. They can help us figure it out; know what it is that we don’t want so we can get to what it is we do want. But it is the feeling that actually takes us there.

Words, like Rilke says, “are so far removed from us.” Expecting words alone to create what is in our hearts is foolish. Don’t get me wrong, words are a very powerful tool, but they are just that, a tool, an imprecise one at that. That is why Rilke is frightened by the fact that so much is made and unmade by them. They don’t create or uncreate what’s in our hearts, only what is in our minds. The mind without the heart is willing to do anything.

What we need to do is to consciously put our hearts into the process, to marry heart and mind. When we express ourselves from the heart, wonderful, moving pieces of art can be brought forth. The life we had only dreamed of can be manifested as well and we can begin to live the reality of our dreams.