Archive for August 2018

Back to School Learning For the Rest of Our Lives ll Lora Cheadle

Back to School Learning For the Rest of Our Lives

By Lora Cheadle

      When we think of school we tend to think of kids going back to school, whether it’s elementary, middle, high school or even college, the phrase. “Back to School” provokes images of backpacks, yellow school buses and red apples for teachers.

Although I’ve never really know a teacher who wanted an apple…

      But why not make back to school season something for all of us? There’s not a person alive who couldn’t benefit from a bit of learning or education in at least something! Whether it’s cooking or car repair, computer programming or finances, there’s always something we can learn! And as I’ve talked about in previous blog posts, learning is good for us! It keeps our brains young, it increases our self-confidence and self-worth, it keeps us engaged in the world, and it makes us more relevant as human beings.

      Here’s why: If we want to stay healthy, happy and feel good about ourselves and our place in the world, we need to stay connected. Connected to other people individually, but also connected to society collectively, as a whole. It makes no difference what we think of the people around us, or what’s going on the world, whether we love it or hate it, unless we have updated knowledge and skills, we have zero chance of impacting or world or the people in it.

      Additionally, whether we want to impact our world or not, if we want to stay happy, connected to our families and friends, we need to continue to update our knowledge. For instance, none of the population who is currently over 50, grew up with computers, cell phones or the internet. Although many of the people in the 50-70 age category are still working and have adapted to the use of computers and cell phones, many of the people in their 80’s and 90’s have not.

      While you might be thinking, “Who cares? They don’t need to stress themselves out learning how to use cell phones or paying for expensive internet plans!” think how this population could benefit from things like Uber, Lyft or other ride sharing apps. People unable to drive would no longer be home bound if they could use their smartphones. What advances might happen when you are in your 80s that you might want to take advantage of? Do you think it would be easier to learn how to use the tools slowly along the way, or to suddenly have to learn them when you have a need?

I find slow learning over time to be much less stressful!

      It doesn’t matter if it’s learning how to use a smart phone, learning a new computer program or learning a new skill, it behooves us all to continue to learn. Learning positively stimulates our brain, it makes us feel good about ourselves, and it makes our lives easier!

      While the focus so far has been on technology, learning new things is not exclusive to technology! Cooking, crafts, knitting, crocheting, needle point or sewing are all new skills that can be learned. Card games such as bridge, learning to play chess, picking up a musical instrument or learning a foreign language all stimulate the brain in new and important ways.

      And then there is the wide variety of interpersonal skills that we can all benefit from, such as learning how to actively listen, or to validate someone without agreeing with their position. And then there is all the personal stuff that we can learn! There is so much that we can learn about ourselves, our personalities, the way we think or process new information. We can literally learn so much, all the time!

      And with such endless possibilities, why would we not continue learning, throughout our whole lives? It’s good for our brains, for our self-esteem, for our interpersonal relationships, for our professional relationships, and for the entire society in which we live.

So with that, what are you going to learn this back to school season?  

 

FREE BONUS LEARNING MEDITATION:

Watch and Listen HERE!

     Regardless of what you choose to learn this school year, I have a challenge for you! Actually, I have three challenges, and those three challenges all have to do with your best year in school. So, take a moment to remember your best school year, no matter if it was preschool or grad school. OK, now that you have that memory, begin, by tuning into the excitement of that year. Whether it was a new outfit, new shoes, the smell of new school supplies or a lunch box with your favorite super hero on it, take a moment and tune into all the possibilities that that year held. Endless possibilities of friends, food, field trips and learning.

     I want you to see if you can bring back that sense of possibility into your life right now. What are you looking forward to? What exciting things might you expect? Who might you meet? What might you learn? If you are financially able, what small thing might you treat yourself to? If you don’t want to spend money, what fun, free thing can you treat yourself to? A movie on TV, a book at the library, a walk around the lake? What free groups are in your area that you might join? The world is filled with people, places and things, all for you to take advantage of and enjoy! Embrace the possibilities!

     Second, tune into your favorite teacher and what he or she did to make you feel special. Was it the way he or she smiled at you? Gave you personalized attention, really heard you and understood your needs? What was it about this person that made them so special? What can you do emulate these qualities, or what qualities that you have that could make others feel like you did about your teacher? How can you be someone’s hero?

Today is the day to be that superhero, to truly touch someone else’s life!

     Lastly, take a moment to focus on content. This might sound silly, but I want you to think about some of the things you learned that year. Whether it was learning to multiply, divide, read music or diagram a sentence, what was some of the content that you enjoyed learning, and why? The world is literally filled with content! You can learn from books, from TV, from movies, from other people, from on-line classes, you name it, you can learn it. Craft stores have classes, community centers have classes, and nursing homes are filled with people who have skills they’d love to teach someone like you! Delve into the magical, never ending world of content, and see what lights you up. Music, language, board games, strategy, history, arts, crafts, movement, dance, what kind of content are you interested in learning? Seek something out today!

When the Path Dries Up ll Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA

When the Path Dries Up
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

Why does it happen that sometimes one’s church/spiritual home/path doesn’t fit anymore? Self-blame is a first reaction when the path dries up: “What am I doing wrong? What do I need to do get things back to where they were?”

You work harder at whatever your spiritual practice is. You read more books, go to more conferences.

But in many cases, you’re just growing up and your chosen spiritual institution won’t let you.

I dwelt in the land of spiritual conundrums while living in Islamabad, Pakistan, about 20 years ago. In those days, English-speaking counselors were as rare as finding gold in my backyard, books ordered through the mail from the United States to Pakistan rarely arrived, and it would be years before Google answered questions.

Islamabad’s Our Lady of Fatima Church ministered to the Catholic population and had a library that carried English-language books. Although the French-speaking priest serving the oppressed Pakistani population had scarce time for what he saw as a privileged, white, middle-class American woman—and I understood this—he had limited time and limited resources—he didn’t forbid me the use of the Church library even though I was not a Catholic.

Hence I came upon, in Fatima’s dusty library of a select few English books, guarded by that stern, elderly French priest, God of Surprises, authored by Gerard W. Hughes (Note 1).

Catch the irony there?

And surprised I was, as Hughes nailed it for me.

Hughes draws his ideas from the writings of Friedrich Von Hügel, in his The Mystical Element in Religion.

Von Hügel develops his work from the three main stages of human development—infancy, adolescence, and adulthood—outlining the principal needs and activities which characterize each stage. He believes all religions must tend to and consider the needs and activities of each stage: an institutional element corresponding to infancy; a critical element corresponding to adolescence; and a mystical element corresponding to adulthood (Note 2).

Von Hügel says there is a constant threat that one element will be emphasized to the exclusion of the other two, or two will be stressed to the omission of the third, thus stifling the religious development of its adherents. Hughes writes from a Roman Catholic perspective, but extrapolates his findings to all Churches, whereas von Hügel says this is true for all religions.

While the needs and activities continue throughout each stage, they should cease to be predominant if we are to continue into the next stage of spiritual development.

Stage 1: Infancy, an Institutional Element

When I discovered Hughes, I had been immersed in Christian evangelicalism and was versed in its institutional tenants and moral imperatives. My journey into this faith began with my rejection of Roman Catholicism at the age of 13, continued into my late teens when I joined the Jesus Movement, and ended with non-denominational Protestantism in my early 20s.

Following von Hügel’s pattern, upon entering this religious vein—and coming from a Catholic background unfamiliar with Protestant dogma—this church versed me in the institutional element, my “baby” steps: “This is what we believe and why; this is how it is manifested in one’s life.” It’s like little children learning from their adult caretakers.

Stage 2: Adolescence, a Critical Element

But when I moved into an adolescent stage of my faith—just as in human development—I began my questing. Why, when Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “Give up all your wealth and follow me,” was that an unpreached sermon? Why do we so senselessly destroy God’s creation in our consumer-oriented society? Why do only men get to sit in the big chairs up on the altar? Why does this church only have men as elders and pastors? What is meant by the word “soul?”

And while I was a leader in my profession—I was elected president of the state chapter of a national construction association—I couldn’t be a leader in my church. Consequently, I had a disconnect between the male-centered, consumeristic teachings of the Church and my everyday experience. Women could lead governments but couldn’t lead in the church. Christ led a life where “he had no place to lay his head” but that wasn’t modeled by Church leaders.

Hughes says that,

“A Church isolated from our human experience can only survive as long as it can succeed in forbidding its adherents to ask questions and think for themselves. It must lay heavy emphasis on the importance of obedience to religious authority, obedience being understood as unquestioning acceptance of whatever is presented by the teaching authority, and by making it sinful for its members to criticize, or to read or listen to anyone who may propose any contrary teaching (emphasis added) …. If the critical element is not fostered, Christians will remain infantile in their religious belief and practice, which will have little or no relation to everyday life and behavior” (page 17).

Around the topic of women in leadership, the Church leaders barely tolerated my questioning. I was told that I had to “speak nicer if I wanted the [all-male] church leaders to listen to me”—which I never did achieve. The counseling pastor called me “ornery”—i.e., “ugly and unpleasant”—as he shooed me out of his office (Note 3). He expected a Stage 1 response from me: “…unquestioning acceptance of whatever is presented by the teaching authority,” making it “sinful” for me to criticize or question the teaching authority. Time ran out for any further discussions with this pastor; I was returning to Pakistan. Although not familiar with Hughes’ book at that time, I did have enough sense to withdraw my membership.

But reading Hughes later on handed me an “ah-ha!!” moment, the lightning bolt hit: My church had fostered an infantile spirituality. And in the process, it became irrelevant to my everyday life.

And as von Hügel says, all religions have this tendency. While living in Indonesia, the stricter Islamic clerics issued a fatwa (religious edict) forbidding all Indonesian Muslims from practicing yoga, saying it would lead them astray from their true faith (Note 4).

Stage 3: Adulthood, a Mystical Element

By the time I discovered Hughes, I had been a global citizen for years, living and working alongside people from all religions, cultures, and countries. I encountered life’s mysteries in myself and in my world, primarily through suffering. My suppressed inner life bubbled out all over. I related to earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. I had spent years dwelling in John of the Cross’ via negative, the way of darkness, and following and knowing the Divine in that darkness. Through quantum mechanics, I became aware of an interconnected world, one with potentialities and possibilities—at least at a subatomic level, and no one knows how that plays itself out on a macro level.

Life was full of enigmas and mysteries within myself, others, and in the cosmos. I studied models and metaphors of God, how God is referred to Biblically as a mother hen, a suffering servant, a woman looking for a lost coin. But I’d walk into Churches and hear the Divine spoken of with certainty and exclusively as “He, Father, King, and Lord,” and “this is what He wants you to do.” I’d cringe at this idolatry and make good my escape.

And what is “mystical?” I’ll discuss that further in next month’s blog, but suffice it to say it includes vision, gazing, and attention to our inner lives.

If we go down into ourselves, we find that we possess exactly what we desire.

Simone Weil, French philosopher, mystic, political activist and author

In adulthood, if we allow ourselves, scary stuff can arise from within, from “an examined life.” What arises doesn’t fit into a tidy, enclosed, and infantile institutional box. But this inner space is where we encounter our deepest selves, this is where we connect to and unite with Ultimate Reality/Divinity, however we define it. We welcome our inner life into our consciousness. People House believes that, “Developing our ability to be conscious is the key to an increasingly meaningful life.”

Based on von Hügel’s analysis, what has been your own experience of a spiritual institution? Has any one or two elements dominated to the omission of the other one? Does it help you understand how hostilities and divisions develop between various institutions?


Notes & Sources:

1.) Hughes, Gerard W. God of Surprises. Darton, Longman, and Todd Ltd. London. 1985.

2.) Note these are MAIN stages; these three stages are broken down by various human development experts into further categories.

3.) I found out many years later from an elder serving at that time that the male church leaders had assigned one of its pastors to scholarly research the role of women in the church. This pastor concluded, that from a Biblical point of view, evidence supported both sides: installing women as church leaders and not installing women as church leaders. The male leadership decided to maintain the status quo of no women in church leadership. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said: “The truth is that male religious leaders have had–and still have—an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter” (emphasis added). I was so deceived; I thought these leaders were truth seekers!

4.) http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1874651,00.html


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.

 

 

Relational Awareness (Part 2) Mirroring Unresolved Wounds ll Dorothy Wallis

Relational Awareness (Part 2)
Mirroring Unresolved Wounds
By Dorothy Wallis

 Make sure you read Part 1!

Did a ray of sunlight enter your life and suddenly a radiant being appeared in your midst that invoked a magnetic pull?  What attracted you to your partner in the first place?  Did she have a smile that melted you?  Did his enthusiasm and playful nature capture your desire for freedom and fun?  Did you admire his or her humor, assertiveness, confidence, or intellect?  Did she or he possess a savvy adventurous spirit?  Did you share similar interests or concordant life paths?  Perhaps it was charm and kindness that felt like a comforting hug.  Did you feel safe?  Maybe you experienced your partner intently absorbed and interested in you.  It felt so special.  To be truly seen fulfills a longing to be known.  

Knowing we are accepted just as we are gives us a sense of deep belonging.

Initially, attraction is coupled with the external qualities of a person including their physical appearance, their lifestyle, job, interests or demeanor.  At the same time, there is the indescribable euphoric attraction called “chemistry.”  You fall into a magical wonderland of being “In Love.”  You are on “Cloud 9” and literally may not touch the ground for a while.  The gravity of the biological magnetism invites you to move past the outer characteristics and behaviors and to move into relationship.  At around six to eighteen months, the intensity of the infatuation diminishes.  No longer blinded by overwhelming attraction and desire, you begin to see other parts of this person.  Underneath the allure are many internal layers of deep discoveries to mine.  Relationship is more than cohabitating together to provide you with the means to survive and procreate; it is actually a journey into the richness of finding the deeper truth of who you are.

Does that peak your curiosity?  The timber and tone of your voice, your behaviors, your values, attitudes and moods, how you handle change, crisis, emotions, and how you respond or react to every part of life is mirrored back to you through relationship with “another.”  The mirror reflects their response to your energy, how it is received and how it impacts them.  Your kindest most benevolent qualities as well as the gritty gnarly rough bits are seen.  You may have been unaware of disagreeable or undesirable traits within yourself.  You may not have acknowledged parts of yourself that push away relationship rather than attract connection.

Magnetic Attraction to Heal

An even stronger energetic attraction than the sexual or outer physical characteristics has been engaged from the start.  There is a familiarity about this person that is captivating.  There may be aspects of your partner that remind you of your parents, caregivers or someone that had a major influence on your upbringing.  Harville Hendrix coined the term, Imago, which is a Latin word describing our unconscious attraction to a composite image of what we perceive constitutes love.  It includes both the positive and negative qualities of our caregivers.  The Imago is the energetic signature or blueprint that magnetically pulls you toward a romantic partner.  Unconsciously, you look for your “Imago Match” in order to heal your childhood wounds.

No person goes unscathed in life.  Whatever dysfunctions occurred in the households of your childhood and adolescent years had an impact on you.  Your partner will enact aspects that “trigger” the unhealed or unresolved parts of you, which brings them to the forefront.  Relationship invites you to heal the childhood attachment and developmental wounds that keep you from wholeness.  You can no longer hide or keep hidden the sacred wounds of the past.  They pop up whenever there is a similarity between something in the present and something that was hurtful from the past.

Yikes…you thought you were free of past wounds and here you face them again.  Your task is to heal these wounds through learning how to have a different response, owning your “stuff,” regaining the truth within you, and integrating the past so that it no longer has a hold on you.  In other words, freedom is found through personal growth and learning how to be relational.

Myth:  Partnership and relationship will give me the Unconditional Love that I never received, which will heal me.   Grip Yourself….

The Truth is that you will not receive Unconditional Love from Your

Partner, nor will You Give it.

 Power Struggle

You merrily go into relationship with an unconscious belief that this person will give you what you missed growing up.  You have found the person that will understand you, give you security, support you, accept you, share with you and basically give you the unconditional love you crave.  It is a fantasy to think that unconditional love occurs in adult relationships.  How shocking when your partner jabs you with the same dysfunctional stuff that you experienced growing up.  Once again you find yourself with someone criticizing you, neglecting you, dismissing or invalidating you, being unsupportive, or being irresponsible, or withholding, withdrawing, abandoning, or perhaps venting their anger and frustrations on you, or having addictions.  The list goes on.  Whatever touches your deepest vulnerabilities and sensitivities will show up in the characteristics and behaviors of your partner.  Suddenly, you are in a power struggle with your partner and the experience of being wounded all over again.

Your Partner does not know all of Your Wounds and neither do You. 

They will Inadvertently Activate those Parts of You that need to be Healed.

 When you were a child, you were dependent on your parents or caretakers.   You had to cope with painful situations the best that you could.  As much as those coping strategies helped you get through those times, in its wake you were left with wounds to your heart. These are your unresolved issues that surface in relationship.  You may have experienced feelings of powerlessness.  A parent’s job is to unconditionally love their child.  Yet, no parent can do this perfectly.  In essence, your desire is to be re-parented to receive unconditional love and your partner has this underlying desire as well.  Yet, you are not in relationship to parent your partner, nor is he or she there to parent you.  Your love is conditional.  Think about it.  Will you stay in a relationship under any circumstance?  Will you stay if you are abused or your children are harmed?  You have “conditions” which are important for your safety, your values and integrity, and for your personal growth.

Your Relationship is a Crucible for Growth

 The “Love Bond” (in Relationships Part 1) can be a container for your growth as well as your partners.  Honoring and having reverence for your relationship as a living structure for Healing and Growth changes your perspective.  When both of you agree to value the life of your relationship, you agree to be willing to touch the pain you hold and support your partner in their pain.

Being Present to Disharmony

When there is disharmony, be aware of the potential for growth individually and for the relationship.  This is an opportunity to not only repair but to heal.  One or both of you may be experiencing a disruption.  Instead of ignoring the disturbance, you move towards the pain.  Is your partner upset?  Are you upset?  Be aware of what your first natural reaction or response is when you are triggered.  This is known as your “First Consciousness.”

First Consciousness

Your limbic system energizes when it senses threat.  A disturbance in the harmony of your relationship will activate your defenses, which is your “first consciousness.”  In what way do you defend or protect yourself when you are “triggered?”  Do you get angry and attack your partner with blame, shame, verbal abuse or physically threaten them?  Do you believe it is your partner’s entire problem and so you do not take responsibility for your part?  Do you defend yourself by explaining your intention(s) without acknowledging the pain your partner is experiencing, which does nothing to assuage their hurt?  Do you silence and withdraw?  Do you run away?  Do you counter their thoughts and feelings by dismissing them as not valid or wrong?  Do you sulk, stonewall, or become a victim?  Since all of these reactions are defensive, they push your partner away, nothing is resolved, and you have not dealt with your own uncomfortable feelings and pain.

Looking in the Mirror

What is your pattern when you are embroiled in an emotional trigger?  It may be different with acquaintances and friends than with your partner.  You may not project anger or walk-out on your friends or at your job but you may spew your anger or walk out on your partner.  This shadow part of you arises because you allow yourself to shut out your partner, who is familiar and known and unconsciously reminds you of the one(s) that wounded you in the past.

Your psyche reacts from the impulse to protect and defend using non-relational adaptive strategies of the ego.  Unfortunately, defense only escalates disconnection and is not concerned with repair.  The mirror your partner holds up is a powerful and very useful aspect to show you the behavioral stance you use to protect yourself.  Terrence Real brought forward four basic patterns of behaviors that your ego uses to defend and protect.  The ego will either use power and control to “puff up” and feel Better than others, 1 Up, or contract and diminish and go, 1 Down, to be Less than others.  It also defends by either not containing afflictive energy, which is a form of attack, or will retreat in containment and disconnection.  Notice which of these stances most often emerges when there is conflict in your relationships.

The 4 basic Patterns of Non-Relational Behavioral Stances

1 Up and Boundaryless and Uncontained: 1 Up is the sense of being Better Than and above another person.  It exemplifies a grandiose, superior stance.  You see your partner as less than you in some way.  Being boundaryless, you control the situation in order to defend and protect yourself.  You do not contain your emotions; you project onto others often with anger.  You may nag, vent, blame, shame, be verbally and emotionally abusive, shout, rage, or have uncontrolled outbursts.  You may be narcissistic and entitled.  You may become physically abusive.
2 Up and Walled Off and Contained:  1 Up is the sense of being Better Than and above another person.  You feel a sense of righteousness and superiority.  You contain your emotions by being indifferent to your partner.  They are not worth your attention.  You feel contempt and Wall yourself off from them and are Love Avoidant.  You disconnect, retreat and withdraw even if you are in the same room.  You may silence the other and punish them by not connecting.  You may be mean spirited and passive aggressive.
3 Down and Boundaryless and Uncontained: 1 Down is the sense of being Less Than. You see yourself as a victim.  You are hungry for affection, which may show up as insatiable neediness.  You do not like being alone and will cling to your partner.  You are Love dependent/addicted with a fear of being rejected.   Insecurity, helplessness, dependence and desperation are hallmarks of this stance.  You may use seduction and manipulation to get what you want.
4 Down and Boundaryless and Contained: 1 Down is the sense of being Less Than.  You withdraw from life and contain your emotions.  You feel small with no energy.  You are downtrodden with depression, resignation, and futility.  “Why bother?”  You feel defeated with no “fight left” or energy to express your thoughts, emotions or to take any action.  You retract inside yourself and may be suicidal.

When you find yourself behaving in any of these ways, know that this is a reaction to pain.  You are feeling emotionally hurt.  Your self-esteem has taken a hit.  Ask: What is underneath the surface pain?  What is it mirroring for you?  Notice if you ruminate or cannot let go of the disturbance.  If your reaction is extreme then it can be a clue that the hurt is more than the present interaction and is catalyzing a deeper wound.

Awareness is your friend.  Knowing your pattern of reaction when you are triggered is the first step in being able to come back to a healthy state of consciousness.  When you find yourself in a non-relational behavioral stance be aware, breathe, and wait until you feel calm and centered before communicating with your partner.

Holding up the Mirror to yourself reveals the truth of your pain.  When you push away or disconnect from your partner, you are literally disconnecting from your own discomfort and pain.  This may sound great but it never works to resolve the inner wounds and it keeps you from having healthy, loving relationships.  Compassionately connect with the truth of your hurt and from this place you will find relief.  Discovering the core of what ails you and reconnecting with yourself allows you to move towards connection with your partner.  Remember that shining light when you first met your partner?   That ray of sunlight was for you all along to shine a light on your wounds releasing the old hurts of the past and when you do, you connect with yourself and Open to Love. 

 


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.

As a leader in the field of emotional consciousness and the connection to mind, body and spirit, her compassionate approach safely teaches you how to connect to your body, intuition and knowing to clear emotional wounds and trauma at the core.  The powerful Heartfulness protocol empowers your ability to join with your body’s innate capacity to heal through holistic Somatic, Sensory and Emotional awareness.  www.TheDorWay.com and www.Heartfulnesspath.com

Lughnasadh: Harmonizing with Mother ll Rev. Mary Coday Edwards

August 1, 2018
Lughnasadh: Harmonizing with Mother
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

“Where are all the elephant carcasses?” wondered mystified conservationists managing Sri Lanka’s coastal wildlife preserves.

The 9.1 magnitude undersea earthquake of December 26, 2004, set off a series of tsunamis along the coasts of countries bordering the Indian Ocean. About 280,000 people died or went missing in 14 countries, and waves up to 100 feet high swamped coastal communities. Indonesia was hit the hardest, following by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

I was living in Jakarta, Indonesia, at the time, along with my husband and 15-year-old son. The epicenter was off the coast of Aceh, Sumatra, one of Indonesia’s sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, located 1,500 miles northwest of Jakarta. It’s estimated that up to 220,000 Indonesians lost their lives or went missing.

Like the seas, my soul roiled in anger at this revelation of fleeing animals: Anger at how clouded humanity’s mind has become. Anger at how we’ve bathed ourselves in hubris, so confident in humanity’s ability to rise above nature, to conquer it, to force it to our will. Anger for all the tied up and penned in domesticated animals who panicked with fear and couldn’t flee. Anger at our leaders: the scientists, monotheistic religious leaders, economists, politicians, and educators who shame indigenous groups who practice a different form of spirituality, those who still have eyes to see Divinity in nature (note 1).

And anger at how we talk about “dumb animals”, meaning of course, anything who isn’t of the human species. But yet who went running out into the receding seas, gathering up “God’s abundance” in the millions of stranded and flopping fish, only to then be swept out to their watery graves by the next 50-foot wave? It wasn’t the flamingos, they had long ago flew the coop to higher trees.

It was humanity.

Not the smartest beasts in the room

Survivors spoke of how their dogs refused their routine morning walks on the beach, and how elephants trumpeted in fear when their handlers pushed them toward the dangerous beaches.

The tsunamis hit after the earthquake. In Aceh, humans had 15-20 minutes to grow in awareness. The “dumb animals” sensed the change and responded. And, OK, so we’ve lost our sense of interconnection with our planet and its energies, but at least we could have recognized we weren’t the smartest beasts in the room.

Fortunately, lone human voices still cry out in the wilderness, brave souls willing to buck the status quo. Sensitive to their own needs for interconnection with forces greater than our accepted religious, cultural, and political institutions, these creative and courageous individuals still cry out, “Wait! The Emperor has no clothes on!”

Terryl Warnock joins those voices in her book, Miracle du jour, inspiring her readers to become a part of the enchanted world rather than a part from it (note 2).

Lughnasadh: It’s all about the light

The Northern Hemisphere harvest calendar traditionally places Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-na-sa) on August 1 or 2. But Terryl, grown sensitive to the energies present in nature around her, celebrates the sacred day by an easily missed and subtle seasonal change.

“Lugh is the god of light, skilled in all the arts, and taken as sacred from ancient Celtic religious traditions by contemporary pagans. It’s all about the light,” she says.

Terryl, a contemporary, solitary pagan/witch, celebrates “Lughnasadh when the light of the high summer sun—acute, blue-white, and unforgiving—first blunts itself, ever so slightly, against the oncoming fall season. The light of day begins to soften. The punishing Summer Solstice warrior sun begins to age and mellow a little. The Great Goddess, His mate, is heavy and gravid, brought to term and ready to be delivered of Her abundance. The goldening of the light brings with it feelings of plenty and satisfaction.

“Lughnasadh is the first of three autumn harvest festivals for pagan folk. It tends to be a particularly light-hearted celebration, even by the standards of today’s conspicuously light-hearted pagan religious observances. It is harvest, but it is first harvest, skimming the cream and taking the first cutting.

“Lughnasadh feels like the last, sacred summer weekend to goof off. The capital-H Harvest draws nigh and as the days get shorter and the light more golden, the heavier work of Harvest approaches. Although few of us now live in cadence with the agricultural cycle, fall is still a busy time of year for most: the kids have to get back to school, houses and vehicles must be winterized, there’s canning and filling the freezer to be done and, of course, the holiday season is now unavoidably out there on the horizon. It’s time to start getting in and putting by for winter but, for this blessed moment of first awareness it’s still summer, and still too hot to work very hard. In ancient times people harvested the first cutting at this time and baked special braided loaves of bread with it to celebrate. In this spirit Lughnasadh is also known as Lammas, festival of loaves, and witches more poetic than I have called this sacred time ‘yeasty’ (note 3).

“But I am yeast-impaired in this lifetime. You could build a house with my loaves. So the ritual meal for my Lughnasadh celebration is a stew of freshly-harvested and roasted green chili with homemade tortillas.

“Traditional Lughnasadh celebrations also involve weaving corn and wheat into Goddess symbols, such as dollies, little corn dolls made out of husks and tied with wheat stalks. It is also a time to be exuberantly physical. We can feel the arc of the zenith. We are ‘unbearably animated’ in our bodies as in our lives, as we hike a mountain or take a nice, long bike ride (note 4). The funereal aspect of Lughnasadh is the knowledge, for certain now, that these glorious long summer days are numbered as the sun god marches inexorably to His inevitable winter death and resurrection.

“My father, who was more pagan than he knew, always started saying ‘we’d best get to work on our wood pile for the winter’ at about this time of year. It was too hot to do the seriously heavy work of wood gathering, though, so we’d take a family picnic to go scouting, as he called it. We’d break a couple of hatchet handles trying to throw them and stick them in stumps, plink a few tin cans with the .22 (cleaning up the woods scrounging trash for our targets), and see who could get to the top of the ridge first to get the best vantage. As a token effort, we’d chunk a piece of firewood or three in the bed of the truck. We were out there to play and to enjoy life for its own sake.

“Harvest, even detached from agricultural cycles, offers all of us the opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the bounty in our lives. It is a time to feel our riches, to enjoy them, to celebrate where and how our lives are whole, to look at what we have, rather than to yearn after what we lack,” concluded Terryl.

The stream of life that dances in rhythmic measures

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and
of death, in ebb and flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this morning (note 5).

These days, I’m not near so angry, but sorrowful. I mourn the loss of species, fauna and flora, as well as humanity’s loss of intuitive ecological interconnectedness. We’re reaping what we’ve sown. We pump a stream of violence into our culture as we poison our land, our waterways, and our air. Our bodies then carry this violence within them as we commit violence against each other.

But we can return. Mindfulness practices can move us into an awareness of that stream of life surging through Mother Nature. We become conscious of the rhythms of life, of that powerful energy that drove the elephants up to the hills.

This Lughnasadh, watch for that “subtle change in light.”

And to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere—Happy Imbolc!

______

Notes & Sources:

1.) I am simplistically dividing spirituality into two groups: those whose view of god emphasizes the immanence of divinity—the closeness of divinity that is within creation—vs. the transcendent idea, which emphasizes divinity outside of humanity, watching over us. Again, our cultural institutions push us into an untenable either/or position, when in reality, it’s and/both. For example, I feel a deep, intuitive connection with the natural world. This same energy/spirit flows through the universe, and so I intuit my connection with all that is and I know that at a deep level within my soul.

2.) Terryl Warnock, author of The Miracle du jour, MoonLit Press, LLC. Published Summer Solstice 2017. For more on Terryl, see my June blog

3.) https://marcietelander.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/celebrating-the-very-first-harvest-and-lughnasad/

4.) Spirits of the Sacred Grove: The World of a Druid Priestess. Emma Restall Orr writes that the Summer Solstice has deepened our understanding of power and how we might access it. The cross-quarter day of Lughnasadh, between high summer and the red skies of autumn, asks what we will do with it.

5.) Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali, No. 69

_______

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.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth