Spirituality

Solstice Reflections

Posted on June 21, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

It occurs to me as I contemplate the summer solstice that I’ve had a rather unconventional life so far. Most people start their public life attending some sort of school; then some sort of other higher education; get some sort of job; perhaps partner up; maybe have a family. Me; I’ve been a wanderer, sometimes physically, sometimes metaphorically.

The solstices for me are times of reflection, more so than other natural religious holidays. The summer one, particularly, is a time of feeling full; and I am! Not so much with food…although I like food…but with reflection; a personal reckoning. I feel as if I’m about to burst: With ideas; with disclosures; with life-changing revelations.

At Solstice time, not TOO long ago, I changed my life, again. It was shortly after the journey written about in this post. I had realized I would not be able to live within a traditional religious community and stay connected to my authenticity, so I sought elsewhere. I really hadn’t expected to get involved with the next community, either, but the end of a tumultuous relationship was nigh, and I found myself about to be homeless.

On this occasion I was not inclined to live alone, and as I was limited in funds, I also was looking for somewhere inexpensive and beautiful. Keep in mind that I was in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time: Beautiful=pricey.

A good friend told me there was a room available in his house. I knew him well enough to know he wasn’t speaking of a traditional family home. He lived with some people in an “intentional community“, whatever that was. I knew it was sort of spiritual, but in a tradition unfamiliar to me. My friend invited me for dinner, to “check us out”. It was in the most beautiful, woodsy, incredible area north of San Francisco; somewhere I’d always wanted to live, but felt I couldn’t afford. The rent was reasonable: For the same price I could have gotten a small snarky apartment in a bad neighborhood in San Francisco; here I’d have views of mountains and be walking distance from a peaceful lake.

There was just one thing. I would have seven roommates. Seven! Those of you who come from large families may think nothing of that, but I’d never lived with more than three people in my life, and those three were my family members. Seven. People. Six of whom I did not know.

I’m not generally an extremely outgoing, social person. I like to keep to myself a great deal; although I can share deeply in small groups, or one-on-one. What would it be like to live in a house full of vaguely hippy-ish spiritual seekers? Did I have to eat celery and wheat grass? Would I be required to chant and have a guru? Were there orgies every weekend? I agreed to dinner, as my friend was cooking that night. (They took turns cooking dinner, and ate that meal together; breakfast and lunch were on your own.)

Next: Let the interrogation begin! I didn’t quite realize I was being vetted. When I look back on it, of course they were interested in how I would fit into their household. It was an intimate setting, after all, and as I was not of their spiritual practice, they were even more wary of me. It turns out that they weren’t able to find “one of their own kind” to occupy their vacant room, or I’m sure they would have preferred that person over me. There was another “outsider” living there, but she was the girlfriend of a long-term resident, and lived with him in the garage apartment. I was somewhat relieved at this. I would not be the only one.

I parked my car. Took a deep breath, and since I was early, walked around the neighborhood a bit. I knew that this would be a temporary situation for me, until I “got my bearings” (still waitin’ on that one!) 🙂 and told myself that I could live here; it would nurture my soul. I wondered what the potential housemates would be like.

Gathering my wits about me, such as they were, I knocked on the front door. After what seemed like a long while, a young man—I’d guess a couple of years older than I—opened it. “You must be Muse“, he said. I admitted this was the case. “Well, if you’re going to live here you should know that we don’t lock the door, you just walk right in.” (!)

Wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I’d lived in a city. I locked my doors there. He led me through the lounge into the kitchen, where my friend greeted me and waved a spatula in a friendly way. As my friend was busy cooking (had I known then that the only person I knew in this household would be gone in two months; off to live with his girlfriend, I might never have braved this scene) my potential new friend allowed me to sit and began to ask questions:

Why would you want to live here? What kind of food do you eat? What is your feeling about alternative religion? Have you ever lived in a community before? Why do you want to do it now? Do you have a lot of stuff?—this last, because the room he’d showed me was fairly small. Plenty of room for me, though, I can tuck myself away into a nice corner and be content. It had the most important feature of a room for me: A door. I’ve been like this my whole life; wherever I’ve lived, in relationship or out of it, I must have my own space, however small. Those times when I did not were not good for me or the person with whom I lived.

Noises began to be heard in other parts of the house. Roommates were returning from work. This was a rambling house, with several additions seemingly stapled on from necessity without regard for aesthetic sensibility, with at least five entrances.  Nevertheless, it had a pleasant feel.

I heard barking from below. There were dogs here! Soon, an intelligent-looking woman emerged from the staircase off the kitchen. She was the non-spiritual girlfriend of the fellow that had been questioning me. She said not to let them intimidate me, and told her partner to leave me alone and not ruin my dinner.

Part two: Dinner and Beyond coming soon to a blog near you. 🙂

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This is How I Lived, then.

Posted on June 7, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality, Travel |

Awake, I slowly stretch, and look about the small room under the eves that is my home. I make my bed; I wash; I dress—quickly, as the world awaits. I’ve worn a thick sweater against the morning chill. I stop at the small station outside the main kitchen and fill my mug with fresh-brewed organic coffee, and walk about.

Most of the others don’t stir outside before breakfast, so I am pretty much alone. I don’t disturb the brothers working inside the kitchen. I begin my daily visit to those that are awake with me: several cows, two horses and some chickens. “Hello, Cow”, I say to one. She looks at me, only mildly interested, but it is enough.

I continue on my walk. There are acres to explore, should I wish to do so. I hear the bell. I slip into the chapel for the morning meditation. Then, it’s breakfast time, and my world is suddenly noisy. There are residents, visitors, and staff. I choose a table and try to blend in. I help to clean up. I don’t like to sweep the floors, but I don’t mind sorting the silverware and putting it into the powerful industrial-strength dishwasher.

It has warmed a bit. I take off the thick sweater and stretch; the remaining two shirts feel light and free. I spend the rest of the morning writing and reading; there will be a music class later this afternoon.

My next job is to chop vegetables. Apparently, we’re having vegetable soup for lunch, along with a variety of sandwiches. I’m very hungry, and lunch is very good. We have a quiet time after lunch. It’s one of the few places in California that actively observes Siesta, in my experience. I stay quiet, write letters…some days I fall asleep.

Now for the class: This week, there is a music camp here. The clear air and the beautiful rolling hills seem to inspire the singers to give it their all! After: shall I take a dip in the pool? Perhaps attend the Tai Chi class? Go for a really long walk? I try to move around every day; I like to stay fit. I extend myself, physically, in some way, and then have a nice refreshing shower.

The sun begins to lower in the sky. Evensong. I like the name. I’m not, totally, aligned with the belief system presented, but I am able to experience Evensong at the level of intention. My song this even’ is one of joy! I feel cleansed; purified, in a way I had not felt often in my secular life in the city. I amble over to the kitchen to help with dinner. This might actually be my favorite time of day.

In the evening, if there is a group, there is usually a party. I am an individual resident, neither a part of the permanent community, nor of the visiting group, but I linger on the fringe of the activity, sometimes worming my way in. There might be a movie, a dance, a lecture or a book discussion. If it’s not for me, or if there is no group this week, I am invited to join the residential community for television. They are warm and welcoming. I feel privileged to be included. If there is no group, we “say compline” right in the living room; otherwise we trudge over to the chapel.

Then, it’s bed time. I snuggle in; it’s gotten cool again. I read; write; contemplate. I actually go to sleep at a decent hour—unlike me these days. I love this life. This time, in that place, is one of my very cherished memories. Now, when I wish to capture the essence of at-one-ness, I remember how I/it was, when I lived among those who knew.

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Look up…and dance!

Posted on May 3, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Music, Philosophy, Spirituality |

This is unusual for me. I went to attend a meditation at a spiritual center (OK, that part is not unusual) and it was a lovely evening, and several people had come early, including myself, and they were dancing on the lawn!

They invited me to come over and join them. We were in a secluded area (yes, this was of importance to me) and so…I did! It was free-form dance, to the sort of ethereal music coming from the center. It was wonderful. I was reminded of such moving meditation practices as Tai Chi Chuan, or Ecstatic Dance. I’m just not generally a body-oriented person, and I dislike couple dancing, although I like line dancing or ethnic dancing.

It’s kind of bizarre to think this, but in moving my body, I became less conscious of it, and almost out of it all together. It is a great practice, and I suggested we have a dance meditation once a month. Me! Suggesting that!

Of course, sacred dance has been part of spiritual practice for many centuries. When I lived in the “hippie commune” 😉 some years ago, I was introduced to the film Meetings with Remarkable Men, about the life and quest of Gurdjieff. Although dated, and, well, “Man”-centered, it still is a remarkable film, and changed my viewpoint profoundly at the time. Here is a short clip of one of the dance sequences:

I was just always kind of shy, dancing this way, and until tonight, I no longer had anyone to dance with. I will leap about in my living room from time to time, but it’s not the same. 😉 If the clip intrigues you, the entire film can be found here. It’s about more than dancing; it’s a deeply personal and fascinating spiritual journey through rather remote and esoteric mystical communities.

I looked up, looked beyond…and danced! 😀 National Blog Posting Month

Image from EDHawaii
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Look up: Party Time

Posted on May 2, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Games, Musings, Spirituality, Travel |

I went to a party today. An organization I work for holds a party for its members twice a year. It’s location a little hard to find, so they say:” “Look for the Balloons!” in the invitations.

How did balloons come to be associated with parties? Why are there balloons, at all?

I don’t like these parties all that much. They are very noisy, and it’s not my favorite way to meet strangers. I’m not supposed to only talk to people I already know, either. I’m meant to “circulate”.

“The first rubber balloons were made by Professor Michael Faraday in 1824 for use in his experiments with hydrogen at the Royal Institution in London.” See? I knew I liked balloons for a reason! They’re meant for physics experiments!

The way I “circulate” at most parties is to stay in one place, and people come and go around me. I don’t run around the room saying “hello” to everyone I know. I don’t take official leave. I’m kind of rude, socially, actually.

“Balloons made from animal intestines have been known of throughout history.”  Sure! Let me blow air into a piece of wildebeest gut, and send it soaring!—Well, one does what one can for entertainment.

Still, people seem to like me well enough at these events; I don’t lack for conversation. I’d rather not yell the whole time, but it’s only for a couple of hours. And then there’s the food. There is usually great food.

There are two sad things about balloons. One is when they POP and scare little children (and unsuspecting adults). Worse, though, is when I see a child holding onto her balloon by the string, and she inadvertently lets go, and it goes floating away. I want to cry along with her!

Our organization is all about lectures and seminars and discussions about science and consciousness. Exciting, but, at the same time, rather dry. It is thought by some members of the governing committee that it’s a good idea to allow our attendees to socialize; to “let their hair down.” I take a look at three people busy letting their hair down. I giggle to myself. All three happen to be bald.

And there’s the “other” kind of balloon, too; the kind that humans can ride in a basket under! The first time I saw that kind of balloon was while watching the Wizard of Oz float away in one, leaving poor Dorothy and Toto behind! For a definitive and accurate history of ballooning, I refer you to Monty Python’s excellent series on the topic

The thing is, I don’t really understand parties. There are a lot of things I don’t understand, and this is one of them. Why are they fun? Granted, one gets to see people in a different context than usual. Perhaps see some people one hasn’t, for a while, or meet some interesting new folks. But, drink in hand; stories flying high–does this sort of social engagement really promote friendship? or business “networking”? Or–what?

My neighboring state, New Mexico, has a balloon fiesta each year; one of the largest and best known. It’s quite a sight! Look at the photos. And then, look up! You might just see one float by. Find your own story. Let your thoughts grow lofty with the air currents. Who knows? Perhaps balloons carry our wishes and desires to the gods!   National Blog Posting Month

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How are you? –Don’t want to know *

Posted on April 11, 2010. Filed under: Culture, EFT, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

One of the reasons I stopped being actively involved in a spiritual organization some years ago was because of the emphasis on helping people. Yes, you read that right. You many ask “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? When we see suffering in the word, aren’t we meant to help alleviate it?”

I believe this as much as most people do. I had a role as a compassionate listener.  I was supposed to “know the truth” for the person, to know that in spite of how things looked, and despite the tale they just told me of suffering and woe, all was really perfect.

The thing is, I do believe this. The perfection part. What I’ve come to understand, at least for myself, is that the perfection is not “in spite of” their troubles, it is along with them. My stance now is that people have difficulties (myself included) because of a block in their energy somewhere along the way. It could have been caused by something that happened this morning, or 30 years ago, but it really doesn’t matter “when”. It doesn’t even matter “why”. What matters is that I, or a person that has consulted me,is feeling held back in some way from all they sense they could be. And our job, together, is to release the energy from the block as quickly as possible, which has the effect of allowing the opposite circumstance—something that IS wanted—to flow into the space where the block had been.

This has several advantages. It doesn’t require therapy, counseling, reliving past trauma, or prayer, all of which I have found slow-going over the years, and frankly, kind of boring after a while.

I know I have “entertained” sympathetic friends in the past by telling them why I am the way I am. “If only” I’d say, “my mother had done ‘X’ instead of ‘Y’, it would have been so much easier for me to do ‘Z’. ‘They’ hurt me, therefore how would you expect me to be fully functional?”

I think that the majority of us have had some mistreatment at one time or another. And, granted, for some it was truly horrible, whereas for others not as much. Factored in must be our own personalities and coping skills—some people bounce back relatively well from severe trauma, where others can be devastated by what looks to an outside observer a small event.  I believe it is best not to judge others by their reactions to things. As the saying goes, we do not know their path, neither have we walked in their shoes. All I can do as a facilitator, or a friend (including to myself) is to recognize what wants to be changed, and be thankful that I know some techniques that usually quickly and efficiently allow us to let go of the unwanted residual energy. My favorite technique is described here, but there are others I use and that other people have found. I no more want to give a method; a technique, the status of “guru” than I do a person.

It is my opinion that if someone repeats the same story about how awful it was and how they got “done to” over and over—even if it was really awful, perhaps particularly if that’s true—they end up spending more time in all that unpleasantness rather than moving forward. There are some recent psychological studies that indicate that dwelling on past trauma in effect re-traumatizes the client, when there is no method provided to release the emotional block. **

We love to tell our stories. We love to have, or provide, a sympathetic ear. I no longer see it as my job, though, to “counsel” people, either professionally or personally, as a friend. In the work that I do in this area, I will listen, compassionately—for a while. Maybe ten minutes if the person is new to all this. Then I gently ask, “Would you like to feel better?” —“Yes, but I haven’t told you all the details, ramifications, and consequences yet!”  —“I know, but I’ve already heard three things we can work on right now, in order to help to release that-which-is-unwanted and bring more joy into our lives. How about we a couple of things, and then we can talk more…”

Usually, that works. But it’s not so much about the client’s issues (actually these days, I only facilitate groups, I don’t see individual clients), but to cut through all the story and get right to feeling better. This fits my philosophy as a pragmatic relativist. The “pragmatic” part means I want results, quickly, here on the earth plane. The “relativist” means that i also have my head in the clouds, wondering about the meaning of it all—most enjoyable. 🙂

For me, “counseling” people doesn’t work any more, for my own peace of mind. If someone wants that, there are people to go to other than me, and I have a referral list at the ready. For me, again, “counseling” implies there is something wrong, needing to be fixed. Whatever my ideals, or spiritual beliefs are telling me, it is difficult for me not to want to make things better or nicer for another person, when in “counseling” mode. Not my job.

When I first learned about Buddhism, I heard a story that, I admit, shocked me at the time:   “A disciple comes to the Buddha and asks ‘Master, how do I become enlightened?’ The Buddha replies, ‘None of your business!””

What? What kind of answer was that, from someone known for compassion? What do you think he meant? I’m certainly no expert at interpreting Buddhist teachings, but after I got over my initial shock at the answer, I learned that life is not about “attaining enlightenment”, or anything else, as a goal. This would be looking to a rather self-aggrandizing future that may or may not happen. Everyday enlightenment comes upon us gradually by letting go of hurt and disillusionment, and embracing joy. One day, whether it be in a dramatic flash of insight, or just quietly, noticeably, we’ll realize we are enlightened, if that is our path. But to strive or reach for it, or want it to the exclusion of living in the now will put it further and further out of reach.

Therefore, I no longer try to make things “nice” for people. I do not inquire into their motives. None of my business. I do try to live as authentically as I can, because by this, when I’m connected to my all-ness, and live from there, I will be of most use to the world.

Namasté; Peace; Salaam; Shalom.

* I really do care how you are. ♥ Beingness is the most important thing about you, and I do like hearing about your day, and the events in your life–fun, or not as much. The title is just intended to make a point.
**Articles cited here are not presented as conclusive or comprehensive, just as examples of an ongoing discussion.
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I once had a Blog.

Posted on March 31, 2010. Filed under: Health, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

Image from ToothpasteForDinner.com

I once had a blog: I’d expound and expose,
uphold and uplift, consider; propose.
I’d give my opinion and take it away.
I’d see it as real as light of the day.
My blog cared for me; it’s where I would put
my life and my arguments, all drenched in soot.

I once had a blog on which I’d complete
those thoughts, to their places confirmed and replete
with certainties; principles; though I’d deny
my way was the best way, and others’ were why
I continued to blog, without reference or past;
I must be illumined, created, and massed.

I once had a blog where my thoughts were as sound;
my take was appropriate; feelings profound.
Today, I just wonder, as, though I convince,
my wisdom, my surety must make me wince.
I cannot know for you, nor her; even me!
Persistence; illusion; conclusion to be:

I write to release, I write as I care;
without some expression I might wander, where?
To doldrums of wishes and rooms full of dust;
and forthwith I channel my thoughts into lust
for silver-clad truth I continually seek,
which doesn’t exist, making value seem bleak.

I once had a blog that relieved me of conscience,
that fed me with substance, that helped define nonsense.
But now that it mocks me in silence and shame;
I soothe its poor ego with words not to blame,
but let it evolve as it must and it might:
I once had a blog that was free, but not quite.

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Compassion, Acceptance, and Grace.

Posted on March 12, 2010. Filed under: Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

So, I was in a spiritual discussion with some lovely folks earlier today, and I fear I got a bit snippy at one point. I don’t do a lot of counseling anymore, and am kind of out of practice. I tend to think that “people ought to” just get over themselves, live in the moment, and quit whining about the past. This does sound harsh, does it not? I was reminded several times, both by myself 😉 and by another participant, that things we think of others are really about ourselves. I realized I was thinking that I “ought to” get over myself!

What do I mean by that, exactly? (I wish you’d tell me!) I’m feeling a mixture of things in my life at the moment, including feeling a bit stuck regarding some circumstances, while, at the same time, excitement abounds because of a couple of new projects involving my online life.

{Digression alert!} Sometimes I wonder if I’m a little bit too in love with being online. I have several friends who tell me that they look at a computer screen all day long, and when they finally get home, the LAST thing they want to do is turn on their home computer. I am not like that at all. I roll out of bed in the morning, turn on the beastly machine (it’s a lovely beast, really!) and alternate “real” work, volunteer work, and self-created projects all day long. I can multi-task with the best of them! I’m often still typing away at the machine well after midnight (like now!) I do make sure I turn the computer completely off for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and that I get out the door for a walk every day. I do have SOME perspective. The fact that I work largely from home (when I’m not out causing trouble at the events I work on) 😉 just adds to the confusion.

So, back to the topic at hand: I was interacting with a few people, and even though I’d had some time to meditate and calm my nerves, I wasn’t feeling too compassionate with myself. It turns out that one of the people I was talking to was dealing with issues of impatience–coincidence? I think not!

I was reminded of something I read in a self-help book long ago (I just LOVE self-help books!): “Be gentle with yourself.” We so often beat ourselves up over things that, in the scheme of things, won’t matter a jot. After the conversation I also was reminded to ask the question “What if you loved that person? How would you respond?” It’s a curious thing that the moment I ask “What if…” I begin to love them immediately! The question takes the pressure off. How often are we admonished to “love our fellow wo/man”? But, to ask, “What IF I loved them?”, tells me I don’t have to if I don’t want to! I might just choose to act compassionately towards them, anyway…

And to me as well.

In love & peace. ♥

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Healing ≠ Recovery

Posted on February 25, 2010. Filed under: Culture, EFT, Health, HowTo, Philosophy, Spirituality |

We tend to believe that the word “healing” means “recovery” from illness or injury. This need not be the case. I’ve been led, lately, to contemplate our concept of healing. As far as I can tell, the common, default view is: either one is sick, or one is well. If one is sick (or injured) the goal is to get as well as one can as soon as possible. In most cases, I would agree that this is the most desirable outcome. But, I would not be quick to dismiss illness merely as “something to be got over” without looking at its greater ramifications.

I had been used to posting here, in my beloved blog, several times a week. Lately, this has not been the case, and I regret I have lost some companionship because of that. I started this year by falling *splat* on my face, whilst crossing the street to fetch the mail. (Not from skiing in Aspen, as I would have preferred to tell people.) 🙂 I am still, seven weeks later, recovering from those injuries. My poor right knee will never be the same. It has turned funny colors, and mocks me when I bathe. I’m not sure how I’ll react to “shorts season” this summer; I’m not much for shorts anyway, though.

Then, about two weeks ago, I contracted a nasty bit of stomach flu, (NOT the dreaded virus you hear about in the news, and I’m not contagious on the blog here, so you can keep reading!) one symptom of which allowed me to become nauseous just LOOKING at the computer monitor—much as I felt while watching Avatar in 3-D. Hmmm.

My first reaction, when having experiences such as this, is to ask what their message is for me. For instance, with the fall, I examined the street I’d crossed hundreds of times before, and found no new ruts or unusual bumps. My question: How, or to what, am I not paying attention? With the flu-ish-thingy, I asked “What am I holding onto that really ought to be expelled?” (This could be physical things, ideas, or even people!) The questions, and the answers will be different for each of us, and, for me, will come before or after meditation.

During all the healing involved I’ve managed to slow down. Really. How many times have we heard that “illness is signal that the body and spirit need some rest” or some such phrase? I’m learning more and more to listen to the wisdom of that. Generally, I spend more time in front of the computer monitor than with any other object, even loved ones (or the mirror) 🙂 and feeling worse when looking at the screen has been rather disconcerting.

On the other hand, when I have “gone online” recently (Where do I really go when I go online?) I’ve made judicious use of my time, and I’ve had some wonderful, serendipitous and even startling experiences. (Report coming up in the next post!) I’d learned some time ago not to “fight” illness. I don’t want to fight anything, really. During the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent hours reading books instead of typing here or visiting virtual worlds. And found, once again, that spending time reading, in my favorite chair by the window with the view of the mountains, helped me along in a way that mere “information” could not.

On the other hand (How many hands do I have at this point?) I’m obtaining the idea, from some of that reading, that what we are, really, is information itself. Our bodies are simply receptors for that information. What do you think of that?

It is very tempting, particularly amongst the people I spend time with, to either “feel sorry” for someone who is ill, or, conversely “blame” them, because if they were aligned properly with their creative source, the illness would not happen. I used to sort of believe that last, and perhaps still do, a little, but I’ve become more able to look for the “gift” in any situation, even when not immediately apparent. There are reasons the body does what it does, and they all go back to decisions we make along the way. None of us set out to “get” an illness, or injury, but if we can look upon such events as situations rather than annoyances, we might be able to get through them easier.

Next time: Serendipitous Synchronistic Random Excitement!

(image from University of Canberra)
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Many Celebrations; One Heart

Posted on February 13, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Music, Philosophy, Spirituality, Travel |

Together we can heal the world. Continuing on the Path of the Heart, I was pleased to discover that two holidays I celebrate every year occurred on the same day this year; namely Chinese New Year, and Valentine’s Day. I have participated in cultural activities in my area for Chinese New Year including providing back up choral singing for the largest CNY celebration in Arizona! What a treat it was to be part of this.

Chinese Year of the Tiger begins on February 14, 2010 and ends on February 2, 2011.

The Tiger is the third sign in the cycle of  Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 animal signs.  It is a sign of courage. This fearless and fiery fighter is revered by the ancient Chinese as the sign that wards off the three main disasters of a household: fire, thieves and ghosts.  On New Year’s day itself, it is beneficial to celebrate, to be happy, to have smiling faces, and to refrain from scowling, quarreling, or criticizing anyone.

Generally, as part of my personal Valentine’s celebration, I spend some time remembering fondly all those whom I love. When I get well-entrenched into that heart-space, I then attempt to love everyone else. Not always easy, but always worthwhile. 🙂

♥ ♥ ♥ English eighteenth-century antiquarians Alban Butler and Francis Douce, noting the obscurity of Saint Valentine’s identity, suggested that Valentine’s Day was created as an attempt to supersede the pagan holiday of Lupercalia.

Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love. ♥ ♥ ♥

I’d already decided to post on the “coincidence” of Valentine’s and CNY falling on the same day, when I received emails from two different sources asking for support in spreading even more love; the first in Peru.

The Incan and Ayamara elders selected Feb. 14th (Valentine’s Day) for the ceremony to Activate the Solar Disk at Lake Titicaca. The cosmic ceremony heralds the physical re-emergence into the earth’s atmosphere of those called The Children of the Sun.


We ask you to join with us on Sunday, Feb. 14th in your services, your meditations, your practices, or in groups and hold sacred this day. Using the imagination, see yourselves entwined with thousands of us at Lake Titicaca. See the sacred fires being lit as the many elders and shamans perform ceremonies that call in endless blessings of spirit for the entire planet. See the web of humanity opening heart centers to the Source of All. Feel divine wisdom and love pouring through the portal that is being opened. Imagine all of us holding sacred space and activating loving joy into our own heart centers. See an infusion of love and joy releasing and eradicating the fears and anxieties that have burdened us for so long. See our heart centers anchoring Universal Love and Light into all the people of earth. See the global family finally soaring to its perfect spiritual state of joy and happiness.

My love of music allowed me to be extra pleased to receive the following. I try to put love into musical performance all the time. Chanting is a special form of healing, meditation, and music which amps it up even further.

WORLD PEACE TONING AND CHANTING: A SONIC MEDITATION FOR PEACE ON EARTH

Join thousands throughout the planet for the 8th Annual WORLD SOUND HEALING DAY on Sunday, February 14, 2010. At 12 noon Eastern Standard Time (EST–New York Time), sound forth for 5 minutes with the “AH”, created and projected with the energy of compassion and love, sending a sonic valentine to Gaia, our Mother Earth. At that time, please go to templeofsacredsound.org to enhance the vibratory effect as we sound together for planetary peace and harmony.

♥ Thank you for joining your heart to mine today and all days. ♥

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Subtle Discrimination: Cases in Point

Posted on February 11, 2010. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Music, Philosophy, Spirituality |

A slight teeny tiny warning: This is one of my rare semi-ranty posts. I’m publishing it because a dear friend told me his awareness and sensitivity changed because of my expounding on the following issue in conversation. Sometimes we’re not aware of our own assumptions until someone else holds a mirror to them. In that spirit, and having looked in many mirrors myself, I offer this:

Life events have conspired to put a topic much in my mind. First occurred a recommendation from *B&T bud Deirdra to read this post on “The Default Human.” Very pertinent and provoking. I’ve spent much of my life pondering the notion of the default person; only it wasn’t until reading this excellent article that I had a specific name for it.

In my country, and many in the western world, the “Default Human” is “white”, i.e. **”Caucasian”, and, often (even though they make up less than 50% of the population), Male. The “default” conception tends to further assume age: mid-twenties to mid-forties (old enough to convey some authority, but not too old to be “past it”), and economic status: middle class to upper middle class, and educated. Also assumed, of course, is his heterosexuality. When one applies all these filters, one is left with, really, a smallish fraction of the population of the United States; nevertheless, the persons contained within that fraction are who many of us think of as a “person”, without other qualifiers.***

This is understandable, to a large extent. After all, our “Founding Fathers” fit this classification. Yet, when I look around, other than at the “suits” on the television, this is not who I see. As a matter of fact, I believe American television, so voraciously consumed by much of the planet, contributes to the myth.

The notion of the “default person” can express subtly. Here are a few examples in my own life.

  • I recently attended a group discussion in which a participant asked if there was a “larger meaning” of the earthquake in Haiti. The discussion leader rambled on for a bit–after all, who can really know?–and at one point made the rather trite observation that “They’re just like us” [First of all, who is “us”?] and, here’s the punchline: “Race doesn’t come into it.” [!] No one had said anything about race! The questions were about a tragic situation happening in a specific location, not to a specific “type” of people. But the “us” in “They’re just like “us” implies, at least to me, that “us” is the default person referred to above. There were people of color in our discussion group. Are they “us” or are they “them”? And how are they supposed to feel about that?
  • I had the honor of participating in a Chinese New Year festival over the weekend. I was part of a group of backup-singers for a huge musical program, with an orchestra and its conductor. The conductor is originally from another country, but is now an American citizen. Generally a very open-minded person, he made a couple of references that disturbed me. My group was singing along with a “Chinese Choir”—and I have that in quotes because I must explain that the Choir was not made up of just Chinese people, although most of them were. The “Chinese” in “Chinese Choir” meant that the group mostly sang traditional Chinese music, used Chinese teaching methods, and sang mostly in the Mandarin language. So, back to the conductor: “American singers, please listen to the Chinese singers for the correct pronunciation.” –not TOO bad, really, but…many in the “Chinese” choir were American citizens, of Chinese descent. Then, the kicker: “Chinese people, please sing this passage for the White people.” …What? Was he LOOKING at us? The implication that we were either “Chinese” or “White” was, I felt, inadvertently insulting. There were several “White” people singing in the “Chinese” choir, but, more obviously, in both groups there were also other people of color. We have African-American people, Indian-American and Hispanic-origin people in the group. We also have two Japanese Americans. What are they supposed to think? Furthermore, the way this was phrased put us into two distinct groups: “Default” and “Other”.
  • This one has been pointed out to me by myself, on numerous occasions. I read many novels, as well as much nonfiction. Most novels I find in my library are written by a “default human” (as defined above). So comfortable are they with their “defaultness”, they assume that we assume that every character is “one of them” unless defined otherwise. The “hero” of the book might be described as “tall and gangly”, but almost never—White. Whereas an African-American neighbor is described as just that, while his Hispanic lawyer also must be delineated. Once most authors add a character out of the “default norm”, qualifiers are used. This includes those pertaining to the female gender, i.e. the “beautiful ambulance driver” where her beauty, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with the story. The relative attractiveness of the male characters is generally not given much ink, except in Romance novels. [But that’s another discussion.] One can’t help feeling (at least this one!) that the token neighbor of color doesn’t address the deeper issues.

The challenge with all this (actually one of many) is that the “Default” group, as intimated above, is only a portion of the actual population in my country, yet we have taught the world to default to that image. I have been attending a discussion group on “Racialism” of late, and it has put some new thoughts into my head. For instance, I’m told that the concept of “Race” is common in the US, but not as much elsewhere, even in Europe. It seems other countries don’t tend to label people by supposed racial characteristics as much as by country of origin. A group member wondered why we divide people into races by skin color first, asking questions later. Why not consider all “Tall” people another race, or “Green-eyed” people, or something? It seems obvious that a person’s color is the most obvious thing about them, but, as I’ve learned from the discussions, we are often mistaken in that. I am considered “White” by most in my society; I appear that way, but I have little tidbits of other things in my ethnic makeup. Even though those are a fraction of who I am, ethnically, I no more wish to deny them than I do the German or Scottish larger pieces of my ethnicity. I’ve begun to think of myself as a “European-American”. It’s more in line with “African-American”; as there are many countries in Africa which have shared their populations with the US (willingly, or not), and even the non-Caucasian ancestors of mine were immigrants to Europe, so, that’s fair, I suppose.

Going back to the Chinese New Year festival, I found it meaningful and enriching to participate. I’d missed the large celebrations we had in San Francisco, where I grew up, as I’ve posted elsewhere. When a cultural background is used to facilitate both cultural identity—which gives one a sense of comfort and belonging—and education for those of different backgrounds—which brings diversity into the mainstream—then, perhaps we can incorporate diversity rather than “default” to the norm.

The year of the Tiger begins most auspiciously on western Valentine’s Day this year. I follow the path of the heart as I combine celebrations in my personal practice. ♥ Peace to all who read here.

*Blog and Twitter

**Caucasian: Of or being a human racial classification distinguished especially by very light to brown skin pigmentation and straight to wavy or curly hair, and including peoples indigenous to Europe. —The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

*** Image from Origin68. You can get this on a T-shirt!

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