This weekend heralded the Fall Equinox here in the Western Hemisphere. In my world, that means acknowledging the seasonal changes by gathering with kindred spirits at the home of my friends Stephen and Kathy Redding at Happy Tree Farm in rural Pennsylvania. As an arborist, I think of him as being like The Lorax who “speaks for the trees” and to the trees that dance in the wind, and stand steadfast like guardians of the sacred land on which his family (including his wife and 3 of his 4 adult children) has lived for many years. At Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice as well, they invite folks to come over, camp out (I only live 25 minutes away and prefer my comfy bed and shower:), bring food to share, instruments to play, stories to tell, spiritual insights to offer, love to scatter. The theme this year was “The Secret of The Bloom”, the title of which came from what Stephen thinks of as a visitation from a flower that sprung up between rocks recently and also had shown its pink and white face a few years ago. It stayed a day or so and then disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared. We are encouraged to look at such experiences as expected miracles. The day was spent lounging in the sun, swimming in the lake (I got nibbled by fish who thought I was a snack), taking necessary time to veg without agenda. As the sun was setting, we were treated to a fireworks display across the lake. We expressed our delight in the pyro-technic language of ooohhh and ahhh~ Within moments after the last sparkly light spiraled into the water, the towering bonfire was built from dead trees on the property. The word ‘equinox’ was carved into a wooden plaque and placed in the front of the teepee shape. Many of us sat around the fire on carved topped benches or folding chairs, enjoying the radiance and warmth. Some had brought drums and serenaded each other and the flames; noticing that they dance in time with the pace of our percussive motions. The sparks flew to the sky, at times appearing to be stars and at others, like the fireworks moving upward, rather than downward. A carved tree stood next to it that served as the perfect perch and vantage point to watch the show.
Long about 10 pm, I meandered home, with the pungent aroma of woodsmoke wrapped around me and tumbled into sweet sleep, ready to head back out the next morning. We held a Sunday afternoon service by the lake, the temps considerably cooler and a blustery breeze dancing off the water. This time, the focus was:
Flower Where You Are “How Intention sets the bud from which we bloom.” I had the joy of assisting with my friend Rev. Glenda Smith as well as welcoming others to step up and share their wisdom and insights in poem, prayer and song. My sharing was about intention setting as a dream in progress, and passed around a bowl with wildflower seeds appropriately called ‘cosmos’. I asked those present, while in meditation, to hold the seeds and place their hands on the parts of their bodies where they felt how it will be once their intentions come to fruition as we had explored earlier in the service. I could already see the wheels turning, seeds taking root and growing. I asked that when we came together again at the Summer Solstice, that they share what had transpired in the meantime and how their gardens had blossomed.
I look at my intentions on a daily basis and more often these days, am a willing participant in growing my own wild flowers as I allow myself to be those outrageously hued petals that once upon a time were just buds; pure potential, to be abundantly harvested.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVi0UvFu8Yo Harvest Moon-Neil Young
Thank you, danke schoen, gracias, gratzie, merci, tak, toda rabah, pan parius, Go raibh mile maith agaibh ….I discovered a list of ways to express gratitude that if layed out end to end would likely surround the room I am sitting in as I write this blog entry. Although I express gratitude throughout my day, 365 days a year, September 21st was named World Gratitude Day. Its origin came through spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy who has since passed. In 1965, he was sitting at a Thanksgiving dinner table in Hawaii and invited those assembled to acknowledge their blessings. They agreed to do so each year on this day. Twelve years later, the United Nations Mediation Group designated the day as well.
They declare it as a “holiday for all peoples, a day of meditation for all religions, a day of celebration for all humanity, united by knowledge of simultaneously shared emotion, a day when triumph of the spirit can make a world community.” I like the idea that we are united by a common desire for peace, to feel a sense of belonging and that ultimately we matter and can make a difference. Although we may think we are separate, at our core, we really are one. That is the basis for all religion.
Some ideas to celebrate the day could include:
1. Making a gratitude list, naming all of your blessings.
2. Taking note of all of the people you are grateful to have in your life by writing their names and then saying them out loud.
3 Contact as many of them as you can either in person, by writing to them or calling them.
4 Send thank you notes.
5. Say thank you to the person in the mirror.
6. Pay it forward by doing a good turn for someone else.
My own gratitude list includes love in all forms, dear family and friends, vibrant good health, financial abundance, limitless opportunity, communication skills, all of the blessings showered on me, a beautiful home, the tools to do my work, including this laptop on which I am typing at the moment, freedom of choice, my Jeep that gets me where I need to go, always being at the right place at the right time. An atty-tood of gratitude feeds the blessings.
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. Gilbert K. Chesterton
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. – Albert Schweitzer
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Melody Beattie
http://youtu.be/ZRe339H4Iwg You Inspire Me, A Song of Gratitude by Skye Dyer
As joyful as the image on the cover, “This” is the newest creation by Mantra-Pop Artist Robin Renee. With four previous CD’s to her credit, her style is alt-rock-pop-celtic-folk-kirtan. Her voice is both deep and soaring, stretching the sound spectrum. An Eastern and Western multi-instrumentalist, Robin plays harmonium, guitar and keyboard. My first listen was in the car which carried me along winding roads with the delightfully sing-along-able pieces.
And so it begins… with the light and airy Keshava which is an homage to one of her devotional deities; Krishna. It has a James Taylor-esque feel with the opening chords which is no surprise since she acknowledges J.T. as a long time musical influence. It felt like being wrapped in sunshine as I chanted along, helpless to resist its appeal.
Funky Bhagavate ushers the listener in with chimes and percussive rhythms that beckon hip shaking, eyes closed to take in the lyrics: OM Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya ; one translation is: ” OM and salutations to the Indwelling One, substance of the Divine“.
Kali Ma Potluck Singalong has a fuller choral sound with guitar strums and playful drums that honors the Goddess Kali, whose appearance is fierce, but her power to destroy can also be used to rebuild.
“Hail to the supreme Lord, the auspicious one who brings happiness and joy, who dwells in the hearts of all!” is the English translation for Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho that has a tribal dancing around a fire sense about it.
A benediction that blends Robin’s Pagan and Hindu spiritual practice comes in the verses of Blessed Be, Namaste. “May intentions for tomorrow, hold you gently in today.”
Leaving Space is the only piece on the CD without lyrics as it incorporates chimes, ting-sha bells, rain stick, drums, sandwiched in between silence. Defintely a close your eyes, feel your heart beat and immerse yourself in it number.
Om Mane Padme Hum sounds as if it was recorded in a Tibetan monestary; with the sacred chanting of the words that mean “praise to the jewel in the lotus.” The final chanting of the word om brings this ideal accompaniment for yoga, meditation, dancing and simply being to a peaceful close.
Background vocals are offered by Isitri Om Kati Brennan and Angela Cavallaro whose call and response sweet soundings enhance the CD. Producer Jack Walker and Karttikeya provide percussion, keyboard and bass accompaniment.
Debbie Ford posed this question on Facebook and I felt called to respond: “Why is it that so many of us hold on to experiences from our past, refusing to let them go? Is it because we don’t know how to let go and move on?”
I answered: “Perhaps fear that what awaits won’t be as fullfilling as the best parts of our past or or even more challenging than the worst parts.” By the time one has reached my age (53, about to turn 54 in a few weeks), they have accumulated, not just baggage, but a steamer trunk of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, some that serve us and others that sabotague us. Lately I have been sorting through mine, for so many reasons. With the multitude of changes that have occurred over the past four years, with the passing of my parents, the sale of their home, the publication of my book, leaving a full time job that I had for 11 years, launching my writing and speaking biz, I have come face to face with my fears and have been letting go of my limiting beliefs. I wonder if I have been holding on to them or they have been holding onto me and I haven’t had the courage or willingness to dislodge them. I remember seeing a poster of a kitty cat hanging from a tree branch with the quote “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” that was attributed to the brilliant and emotionally disturbed writer David Foster Wallace who committed suicide in 2008 after years of treatment. Clearly a man who was holding onto a great deal of pain.
Back in the 1980’s when I saw the poster, I was taking a training at a drug and alcohol recovery center. I was initially amused by the image, but then the impact hit home that for so long, I too had been carrying self deprecating thoughts, hard judgements about myself and my abilities, fears that I wouldn’t meet the sometimes overwhelming expectations I had for myself. Fast forward all these years later and I am still clinging to that tree branch at times. This past week, I tumbled into a swirling whirlpool of not-enough-ness, the strong current of which threatened to sweep me away. Loving and even stronger friends reached out their hands, for which I grabbed and they pulled me out, wringing wet but more resilient for the experience.
So this letting go thing….when I gaze over my shoulder at the wonderful experiences to which I want to hold on, I smile and the memories warm me. I know that they are absorbed into the all-that-I-am. When I look back at the painful goings on, and I have, of necessity, been facing them lately, see that they too had their purpose, since, if not for them, I wouldn’t have had the aforementioned strength and resilience to swim ashore.
What is your tree branch?
http://youtu.be/0jsw_r0hILQ I Can See Clearly -Jimmy Cliff