Archive for December 2017

Light and Dark: Living a Seasonal Mythos ll Mary Coday Edwards

Blog 21
Light & Dark: Living a Seasonal Mythos
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA

     Like a light dusting of snow covering a bleak industrial landscape, our religious leaders cloak crass and frenetic Christmas consumerism with a barren literal religiosity, embedding the Christ mythos into the Santa mythos in order to sanctify our materialistic voraciousness.

     For those of you who barely endure this season, can you scrape off that corrosive disdain and turn your gaze to a mythos of promise, perhaps through your own faith? Or instead mythologize these days through contemplation of the long nights and the returning of the sun/light, a mythos that gave succor to our ancient ancestors?

“If professional religious leaders cannot instruct us in mythological lore, our artists and creative writers can perhaps step into this priestly role.” Karen Armstrong

     A beautiful word, mythos, and infuses our lives with significance when understood in its original meaning. Myth is rooted in mythos, but it has come to mean a lie, a falsehood, or an untrue story.

     As defined in Karen Armstrong book, A Short History of Myth, myths contain universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our lives. They provide narratives that remind us of what it is to be human, narratives that are reinforced through ritual. Our Western, enlightened society asks, “Did that actually happen?” while pre-Modern cultures were more concerned with what an event meant.

     Physicist-turned-theologian Ian Barbour in his Myths, Models and Paradigms, says a myth provides a worldview or world picture by endorsing particular ways of ordering experience and acting in daily life.

     We are a meaning-seeking species. At some point in their lives, most people will engage in mythological thinking: “It just wasn’t my time,” someone says, after barely escaping a calamity, not quite sure who or what might be controlling what’s going on behind the scenes, but only seeking to make sense of that avoided tragedy.

     In my late teens I let a rock star define my mythos. I lived out Paul Simon’s lyrics: “I am a rock, I am an island. I touch no one and no one touches me.”

     As an 18-year-old freshman at university I ate soybeans as a paid experimental guinea pig for a month so I could travel alone to the UK for three weeks: “I don’t need people,” I told myself.  Navigating a new culture at 18 where strangers compassionately came to my rescue more often than I cared to admit, I was lonelier and more miserable than at any other time in my life. I returned chastened.

     I took Simon’s song literally and isolated myself, whereas Simon’s universal truth/myth relates to being grounded inwardly in who we are, vs. being tossed about like a rudderless ship based on our perceived notion of others’ opinions of us—and therefore being under their control. One hour we’re up—“She said nice things about me! I’m so together!” and the next hour we’re down: “No one ‘liked’ my Facebook post. I am such a loser.”

     Unknown to me at the time, that traveling and insecure 18-year-old was living out other universal and timeless truths/myths, which Joseph Campbell names in his hero/heroine’s journey (Note 1).

     As an initiation from childhood to adulthood, the protagonist leaves the comfortable nest, experiences the road of trials with its tests, enemies, and unexpected allies, and returns wiser.

     I did return wiser: humans function best living in community. But because I was miserable, I wrongly concluded that I was incapable of making good decisions and jettisoned the entire adulthood effort and crawled back into childhood. I joined the Jesus Movement which soon morphed into an authoritarian hierarchy controlled by the patriarchy.  I regressed to the “father” controlling my life.

     And because—for those of who are mentally capable—adulthood/maturity is our destination, this mythos, too, would be rearranged. But that’s a story for another day.

What mythos informs your holiday season?

     When celebrating this season, many find themselves around the middle on a continuum with “Everything Non-Religious” on one end, and “Everything Religious” on the opposite—which this year includes Christianity, Judaism, and Paganism/Wiccan.

     Jesus may be ONE of the reasons for the season—but not THE reason. December 25? Fake news: Pope Julius 1 in the 4th Century officially designated it as Jesus’ birthday in order to Christianize the Pagan festivities already occurring around the Winter Solstice, OR the god Saturnalia, OR Mithra’s birthday the Iranian god of Light, OR the unconquered sun god of the Romans Sol Invictus, OR Egypt’s god Ra—take your pick. Most Christian historians and scholars believe Jesus could not have been born in the winter months of December, but MAY have been born in March. But look deeper: What’s the mythos embedded in this story? Titled the light of the world, Jesus calls us to be imitators of him. For those who follow Jesus, what does that look like for you?

     This year Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, began Tuesday, Dec. 12 and ends Wednesday, Dec. 20. Hanukkah centers around the lighting of the nine branches of the menorah, commemorating the successful Jewish revolt against their Greek-Syrian rulers in the second century B.C. The story goes that in rededicating the Jewish temple by lighting the traditional seven-lamp menorah, they found only enough uncontaminated ritual oil for one day. The one-day oil lasted for eight—thus Hanukah’s eight-day celebration. The menorah itself stands for light, wisdom, and Divine inspiration.

     Unlike other Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Jewish scriptures.  Is this mythos? Not necessarily an untrue story, but a story based in an actual event which contains universal truths for how Jews make sense of their world, truths that give meaning to their lives.

     Pagan and Wiccan celebrations of the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice remind us that the sun will return. It’s the promise of light returning to the world. Pre-Christ astronomers observed that at a certain point the days began to get longer—the season of starvation and pestilence was winding down. To ward off death and disease, centuries before Christianity the Scandinavian Vikings believed their sun god Balder particularly favored evergreens and hung them up to court his favor, while other Pagan cultures believed evergreens warded off evil spirits. Festivities sprung up, honoring what’s now called Winter Solstice.

     Advent means the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. Pagan cultures prepared for their Advent—the return of the sun—by honoring the night, a time of rest and restoration for the land and its many creatures. Of course, minimal resources to spend on candles or torches encouraged this withdrawal into their caves—and perhaps into themselves, where stories, songs and poems spring from.

     During this season of Advent peace settles over me as I sink into the deep rhythms of nature and that transcendent Energy flowing through all life.

     Can the seasonal drift toward the coming light infuse your spirit with hope?  What symbols within your mythos resonate within you? Can you lift beauty from the core mystery of what remains? Can you be a light-bringer to those around you? Can you sit with the dark, the night—symbolic often for suffering—and contemplate what life holds for you?

     If any words in this blog pinged your psyche/spirit, sit with them mindfully: paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, and nonjudgmentally (Note 3).


Notes & Sources:

1.) On myth: Maureen Murdock’s The Heroine’s Journey, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Carl Jung’s map of the soul, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes work on fairy tales, and Ian Barbour and John Polkinghorne on the intersections of science and religion.

2.) “Where did Christmas Come From?”; the author uses excerpts from various documents.

3.) Kabat-Zinn, Jon. The founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, calls this practice mindfulness.


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

The Lost Art of Patience: an Antidote to Stress and Chaos ll Dorothy Wallis

The Lost Art of Patience: an Antidote to Stress and Chaos

By Dorothy Wallis

     As the year winds down, you may still be feeling the intensity of the tumultuous changes that have been taking place in your life and in the world.  The Chaos discussed in October’s blog continues.  For many it has been a stormy and uncertain time not knowing what it means for the future of the children and upcoming generations, the economy, the environment and the human species.  On a more personal level, you may be anxious about your own future.  There is a heightened sense of concern about matters that were once taken for granted or ignored.  Major upheaval in the world is challenging to your sense of safety and security. 

     Anytime your safety or security is threatened there is an urgency to act.  Action may mean shutting down or protecting yourself in ways that create distance rather than connection.  The current challenges are pushing you toward both an internal and external purifying catharsis beyond primal reaction.  The opportunity presented is for you to realize your ability to choose.  You get to decide how you will respond.  You can move through the initial “whoosh” of dread, fear and anger by staying present to all of the physical and emotional sensations arising and allowing them to just “Be” without acting upon them.  You can choose to be with “what is” happening in the moment.  Having choice enables you to move from feeling helpless, powerless and at the mercy of your experience to one of knowing you are capable of going through it.  It gives you strength and authentic empowerment.  Staying present requires a commitment to being aware of your experience and patient with yourself.  

     Patience is a skill that takes practice.  It is easy to fall back into judging your ability to be still before acting or to not distract yourself from your experience.  Nothing in our culture reinforces patience: quite the opposite.  Being still, not talking, stopping before making a decision, contemplating, slowing down, daydreaming……any and all of these are not generally encouraged in our fast paced culture that rewards output and productivity.  When were you told that it was okay for you to take your time?  Just listen to our language about doing nothing: laziness, idleness, indolence, sluggishness, lethargy, dragging your feet, dawdling, dilly-dallying, procrastinating and even more demeaning indignations ad infinitum.  Being called a daydreamer, deadbeat, slug, bum, slacker, loafer, lazybones, airhead, procrastinator…or any variation of these, brings with it a blast of shame.  If you are not actively doing “something,” you are judged as “wasting” time or being indulgent and self absorbed.  Doing nothing is socially reprehensible.  We shame others and we shame ourselves.  Just notice your inner critic when you are “not doing.”  The closest we get to a socially acceptable mode of “not doing” is “Chilling out” and that usually happens when you are so overwhelmed or “burned out” that you have to stop doing or become ill.  Meditating is an exception because it is thought of as an activity.  Meditation is an intentional action, which is an excellent way to develop the stillness in patience.

     Patience is not your first response to stress or chaos.  Your first reaction is to quickly and as soon as possible get rid of the stress and calm down the chaos.  What usually happens is more stress and chaos from impetuously reacting to external events with alarm and drama.  It is an enormous task to subdue disturbances outside of yourself.  The idea of calming down the external chaos is a clue to the real antidote, which is to calm down your inner experience.  This is done through skilled Patience. 

     In order to have patience, you first have to be okay with the whole idea of being patient.  Instead of feeling guilty or pressured for taking your time, not acting quickly, and being thoughtful, you must know that there is great benefit to being patient.

The Benevolent Benefits of Patience

The stillness of patience calms the chattering mind.  Your parasympathetic nervous system quiets and composes the body into a harmonious rhythm.  Your mental, physical, and emotional health all improve through the friendly cooperation of a tranquil and balanced physiology.  When your body is working together in harmony and alignment, it functions better.  You think more clearly and are able to perceive what is actually happening around you.  Your ability to be informed from all of your senses is sharper.  Your intuition is heightened as the higher functions of the brain engage and connect with the compassionate wisdom of your heart.  Decisions you make use the entire scope of your knowledge and senses while extending your awareness to limitless dimensions.  Patience opens the gateway to creativity.  It is in the stillness that you are able to touch the deeper level where source wisdom resides. 

It is in the stillness that you are able to touch the deeper level where source wisdom resides.

     Patience is practical.  You make fewer mistakes with forethought and planning.  People skilled at patience are nice to be around; they are easy-going, even-tempered and generally unflappable.  They respond with attentiveness to others needs and so reach out with kindness and generosity.  The kindly atmosphere of patience extends to your personal well-being.  Stress and depression are diminished, as you are able to face annoyances and disturbances with less anxiety, frustration and despair.  You become more tolerant and forgiving of discord.  As your tolerance increases, you are able to persevere through difficulty and hardship, which enhances your ability to meet and achieve your goals.  

The Artful Practice of Patience

     Patience means “Being With” whatever is in your field of experience.  It is calmly waiting in times of adversity without the need to do or act.  There is an art to practicing the skill of patience.  It is both mindful and heartful.  A profoundly powerful way is to lovingly and quietly connect with your body while observing and feeling whatever is moving inside of you.  Your focus turns inward.  Instead of judging your experience with your thoughts, you are present to the physical sensations in your body while being equanimous with the feelings that arise.    

     Patiently staying present to the sensations and feelings increases your emotional resiliency as well as your ability to regulate your emotional reactions.  Emotional resilience is the “magic elixir” that increases your ability to handle stressful situations.  You are able to adapt to crisis and adversity without lasting issues.  Remarkably, this patient adaptability to crisis can allow a person to experience horrendous traumatic events without contracting PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

     Through the practice of waiting and observing, you develop a greater level of self-control and discernment.  Your thoughts do not jump to conclusions and you are less likely to automatically blame, project onto or dramatize outer events.  A calm mind and heart allows you to experience the subtle joys of life.  You see life as an ever-changing fluid terrain of impermanence.  Wonder and curiosity return and you experience with good humor, the mystery of life’s challenges and opportunities.

Patience is Felt and is a Gift for Everyone

     The current human and planetary crises can be seen as a “wake up call” and on an even grander scale seen as an advantageous design to raise the level of human consciousness.  Seen in this light, instead of contracting into isolation or allowing frustration to overwhelm you into destructive habits, with patience, you can skillfully expand into what is present and determine actions and behaviors that are beneficial for you and others.  You decrease the stress and chaos in the world through your patience. 

Giving the Gift of Patience brings Peace and Harmony into the World

      As you gather with friends, co-workers, family or are just “out and about” in your neighborhood during this holiday season, take time to stop, breathe and appreciate.  You make a difference in the world by practicing patience.  Each day take in the beauty of life, observe the hustle and bustle with delight, say a kind word to the cashier at the counter, slow down and allow the car merging into traffic to go in front of you, listen patiently to your partner, your child, your friend and to those you do not know and notice how your patience influences those around you.  Take time to give the Gift of Patience.  It will bring you an abundance of contentment and joy.

     Dorothy Wallis is a former intern at People House in private practice with an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She is an International Spiritual Teacher at the forefront of the consciousness movement for over thirty years grounded in practices of meditation, family systems, relationships, and emotional growth.  Her work reflects efficacious modalities of alternative approaches to healing based upon the latest research in science, human energy fields, psychology, and spirituality. and

Life’s Interconnection, Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem ll Kate Heartsong

Blog # 3. Due Dec 1 2017

Life’s Interconnection, Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem

     Have you ever experienced walking into a room where the tension was so thick you thought you could “cut it with a knife”?  Or, how about when you’re suddenly thinking of a loved one, only to have that very same person call you shortly afterwards?  And how about the phenomena of birds turning exactly in unison while flying together?

     What explains all this is the concept of life being interconnected, also known as Oneness. There are many scientific studies proving that, at our most elemental basis, we’re all energy, and this is what causes the oneness/interconnectedness of life.   Lynn McTaggart, internationally known author and researcher, stated: “At our most elemental (level)…… human beings and all living things are a coalescence of energy in a field of energy connected to every other thing in the world.”

     I love this quote from John Pierrakos, a physician and psychiatrist:  “Energy and consciousness are in a continual state of interaction: energy is shaped and directed by consciousness which is itself driven by energy.”  What this means is how we feel about ourselves and how we show up influences those around us, because we’re all energy. 

     So, what does all this have to do with self confidence and self-esteem?  Everything!  For when you raise your self-confidence and self-esteem, not only do you feel better but this positively effects those around you.  When you feel confident, love yourself, and realize your gifts and skills, then you’re better able to show up more authentically with those around you. By doing this, you’re actually better able to give to others!  (And by the way, being self-confident and loving yourself is NOT egotistical.  It’s only being egotistical if you think you’re better than someone else!)

     Think about that! Yes indeed, you’re better able to give to others and also offer higher quality service.  And you’re a happier human being.

Wow, what would that be like, to be happy and to show up more fully for others with more joy and authenticity?

     So, are you beginning to see just how vital it is for you to build your self confidence and self-esteem?   It all starts with you! One person at a time! Yes, you can make a difference in your own life by raising your self-confidence and self-esteem, and in doing so you’re also making a positive difference  to those around you; in your work place; your home; along with your community and the city you live in, and……. also in the world.  This is because we’re all interconnected and we have a collective consciousness.    

     My invitation to you is to read my two previous self-confidence blogs and read books on this subject, google self-confidence articles, take workshops ( I have one coming up February 20th at People House), and take the journey of raising your self-esteem and confidence!  You deserve to live in joy.

Here’s to your confidence, joy, empowerment and fun!

Kate Heartsong is the “Confidence Coach”, motivational speaker, workshop facilitator, author and Reiki Master/Teacher.  Her passion to serve others comes from her personal journey of transformation.  Kate’s audiences and clients gain self-confidence and new heights of self-appreciation and also reduce their stress, through her deep wisdom, expertise, caring, and the Psychology and Business degrees she holds.

Kate Heartsong

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth