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.
THE MYSTERY
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

Drifting

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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Words can become walls

“According to the Buddhist tradition, the spiritual path is the process of cutting through our confusion, of uncovering the awakened state of mind.” ~Chogyam Trungpa from The Essential Chogyam Trungpa
So how do we cut through our confusion? One of the things we can do is let go of the words. In the same book, Trungpa refers to an aspect of the ego, “The Lord of Speech refers to the use of concepts as filters to screen us from direct perception of what is.” Our words can get in the way of directly experiencing our life.

I’ve done a lot of writing about how we use words to create our reality. This is true, but sometimes our words can become walls. Perhaps we need to empty our mind and take a look without all that stuff blocking our view. All those ideas and concepts that fill our minds are just thoughts and sometimes we take them too seriously. We may start to believe our way is the best or even the only way.

The way to prevent closing ourselves off is to ask questions. Questions punch holes in our walls. But you must not grasp for answers to those questions. Live with the holes in your concepts and ideas. Holes in your walls let the air in so you can breathe and be inspired.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
Ok, you have holes in your wall, now what? You need to wait, be open. For example, you may be looking for love and not having any luck. Instead of having an exact idea of what you want, try asking questions, but don’t try to answer, wait. While you’re living with your question you might have an idea or desire to learn French. Follow that desire. Perhaps that class will go to France where you meet the love of your life. Letting go of the reality you were trying to create can free you up for insights.

We think we know how to create our world and forget that we are co-creators, not sole creators. The Universe will conspire with us if we’re open to it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to Cast a Spell over Yourself

Speak words of power and the life you want will magically appear.

Is it as simple as that? Can we just use some power words and have all those circumstances we don’t like be replaced by ones we love? Well…

We can certainly become more aware of our self-talk which will enable us to replace those words that leave us feeling less than powerful, but this takes time. Our culture has us trained to want quick fixes. Getting the life of your dreams will not happen overnight.

So, now we’ve been speaking our words of power for a few weeks, but the spell doesn’t seem to be working. Now what? Are you listening? Have you replaced all those words that aren’t true? Words you direct toward yourself like, hate, stupid, can’t, tired, and so on? My guess is that you’re not catching all of those negative words and phrases. It takes time. But what takes the most time is believing that these new words apply to you and your life. You may ask, “Am I really smart, good enough, enthusiastic?” Are the words you’ve used to replace you’re old vocabulary true of you? Think about this. You need to find words that ring true for you. Then it’s just going to take time to convince yourself that they are true of you. The more you’ve been conditioned to believe negative, untrue things about yourself, the longer it’s going to take for the spell to work.

Spell:

• Find your words of power, your fire words (empowering words that speak of the life you want and the person you truly are). Remember, these are words you’re going to use to create your reality and not the reality your mother wants for you.

• Pay close attention to how you talk to yourself and what words you speak during your day. Anytime you catch yourself using a disempowering and untrue word replace it with one of your words of power.

• Do this for the rest of your life. (No one is perfect, but you will get better at it.)

• Watch as your life begins to resemble the one you envisioned.