It’s been snowing for weeks here in southwest Michigan. And while dangerous to be driving in it, the snow itself is beautiful, bringing to mind the term “winter wonderland.”
What also comes to mind is the Native American teaching about winter, snow and making new tracks:
“The white of snow represents purity, and when snow comes we say it covers your path. If you have had difficulties in your life, all that’s covered up – you begin to feel good and sound again, and you can make new tracks.” Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian and leader in the Civil Rights Movement who was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
This past Monday in the U.S. commemorated his life and Facebook was full of quotes from him.
Frankly, I hadn’t heard many of them before, and they are very inspiring.
If you subscribe to my blog, and received my thank-you gift of “What Lies Within You; Inspirational Quotes to Lift Your Spirits”, you know I am passionate about inspiring quotes.
Often just a few well-phrased words can be deep with meaning and advice.
We can never get too much inspiration, so I felt a post filled with his words would both honor Dr. King and be the best inspiration I could give my readers this week:
I heartedly encourage you to take some of these words into your heart as guidance to live by.
How is your breathing? Did you know good breathing may be a key to the Fountain of Youth?
It doesn’t take particularly great psychic powers to guess that you might be sitting in a chair as you read this, and it’s likely that you’re slouching or perhaps leaning in over the desk.
And it’s also a good bet you’re breathing shallowly.
And all that is not so good for your health!
Sitting up straight and doing deep, slow breathing is one of the healthiest things you can do, yet few people do it!
In fact, most people need lessons in how to breathe correctly!
Children breathe fully and naturally until about the age of seven. That’s when they start to take on stress and awareness of what adults are doing and they lose their natural ability for healthy breathing.
My post for last week was: “It’s a new year. Are you getting better or standing still?” Here’s another piece of advice on how to avoid standing still: live like you were dying.
Country singer Tim McGraw sang a great song on the subject called, “Live like you were dying. “
The song tells the story of how someone dealt with getting a diagnosis of a terminal illness. Here are some of the lyrics:
I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
When a moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays
Talking ‘bout the options, and talking ‘bout sweet times
I asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end
How’s it hit you, when you get that kind of news?
Man, what’d you do?
Most first week of January posts deal with goal setting or resolutions or turning over a new leaf or letting go of what no longer serves us.
I’ve written such posts in the past and you can find one of them here.
But I want to write about just one thing on this first day of January, 2014:
Are you getting better, or are you standing still?
In Mutant Message Down Under, author Marlo Morgan reported that Aborigines of Australia celebrate birthdays much differently than we do here in the west. The birthday person will announce how they have transformed or grown in the past year so that the whole tribe can celebrate together.
If there was no improvement, there is no celebration!
What can you celebrate today? And what do you want to celebrate a year from today?
Winter Solstice is the day when light is reborn out of the darkness of winter. Our days start to become longer and lead us back to the beauty of spring and the warmth of summer, stretching towards their peak at the Summer Solstice.
Most ancient cultures celebrated this return of light and life with feasting, music, light and fire, and for many, it was the true beginning of the New Year.
It was so important to the pre-Celt ancients of Ireland that they spent over 30 years building a monument to the returning sun: Newgrange.
Older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza, it was designed so that on the Winter Solstice, the rising sun shines directly along the long passage into the inner chamber and for 17 minutes illuminates the chamber floor and the symbols etched on the back wall.
WHAT DID THE ANCIENTS KNOW THAT WE DON’T?
It’s hard for the modern mind to imagine spending 30 years building something to celebrate a three-day event. Yet, that’s how important the Winter Solstice was to the ancients.
There are still traditional cultures around the world today that believe that the ceremonies they conduct on a daily, monthly and yearly basis keep the earth spinning on its axis. I share their belief.
Cicero, the 1st Century Roman orator once said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
The U.S. Holiday of Thanksgiving took place last week, but hopefully we’re not expressing thanks just one day of the year. Daily gratitude is a key to happiness, health, success and balanced living.
So I get to write about it again.
Sometimes people get dejected, or have suffered great loss and find it difficult to find anything to be thankful for.
One of the best spiritual practices I know is to list at least 5 things you are grateful for every night before you go to bed and every morning when you wake up. That can help lift our spirits no matter what is going on.
Thanksgiving prayers are common to most religious groups. Native Americans had entire ceremonies just for the purpose of expressing thanks – sometimes these ceremonies last for days.
This Thanksgiving Prayer comes from the Seneca Nation and is at least 500 years old.
It is traditionally done around a fire, with spiritual food on the altar. I have adapted it to be used as a Thanksgiving Prayer on our national holiday:
SENECA THANKSGIVING PRAYER
And now we are gathered together to remember the Great Mystery’s first instruction to us: to love one another always, we who move about on this earth.
Learning to see with the eyes of a child might be the best way to bring the magic back into your life.
This past weekend I went to visit my two and a half-year old nephew and spent as much time watching him as playing with him.
He’s at the age where he’s discovering his likes and dislikes and clearly expressing them. The age known as the “terrific twos.”
THE “TERRIFIC TWO’S” IN ACTION
Connor’s vocabulary is increasing week by week, but it seems his favorite word is, “No!”
“Connor, do you want to sing the ABC song?”
“Would you like to show Aunt Molly how you can count?”
“Do you want Aunt Molly to read you a story?”
And so it went.
A devastating typhoon in the Philippines has left tens of thousands dead, injured or homeless.
Current U.N. and Philippine government estimates indicate over 9 million people are affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda] across the country.
620,000 have been displaced from their homes and communities. Many thousands are without food, water, shelter or electricity and have been for days.
The feelings of grief and helplessness on the part of those of us who read about this tragedy are palpable. The world is mobilizing to send humanitarian aid; the U.S. Navy is sending aircraft carriers equipped for disaster relief.
What can we do?
This Veterans’ Day post first appeared November 7, 2012. I felt it deserved a repeat.
To me, Veterans’ Day, celebrated this Monday November 11, just isn’t enough to honor what our veterans have done for this country.
Although I am a pacifist, and was an active anti-war activist during the Vietnam War, I was ashamed of the way our veterans were treated when they returned home.
And I am still deeply saddened by the lack of support and care our veterans receive today.
Yes, war is horrendous, and perhaps if women were running the world there wouldn’t be any wars. But those who did their duty and fought for us deserve better than one day to celebrate them.
THE CURRENT CRISIS IN OUR MILITARY CARE
In 1998, prize-winning conservationist Lawrence Anthony purchased 5,000 acres of pristine bush known as Thula Thula in the heart of Zululand, South Africa.
He then transformed what had been a run-down 19th Century hunters’ camp into a wild animal preserve and a center for eco-tourism.
In 1999, he was asked to take in a herd of “rogue” elephants from another game reserve. These wild elephants were going to be shot if another home was not found for them!
Knowing he was their last hope, and against all odds of success, Anthony took them in.
The story of how Anthony rescued and rehabilitated the elephants by winning their trust, becoming their friend, and learning to communicate with them is described in his best-selling book, The Elephant Whisperer.
But the most remarkable part of his story may be what happened after Anthony died.
Autumn is in full swing here in the northern U.S. And the colors are spectacular.
They are also a wonderful reminder of the circle of life, the passing of time, and how the earth always renews itself.
Indigenous peoples didn’t use a linear calendar; the year didn’t start with January 1 and end with December 31. And there wasn’t an old man carrying a scythe and hourglass to symbolize the gloom of another year over.
Native people noted what’s going on in the natural world by the change in the landscape around them and the movement of the sun, moon and stars.
And that in turn helps them remember the circle of all life; everything dies and returns.
“What you focus on expands.” Most of us have heard that phrase. It’s the principle of the “law of attraction.”
Sounds so easy. Yet it’s also easy to forget.
Years ago when the film “The Secret” was all the rage, a friend of mine said she refused to watch the film because she’d known about the Law of Attraction for years and years.
Yet she didn’t practice it! She was someone who always focused on the negative. And when you focus on the negative, you just get more negative stuff happening to you.
Because what you focus on expands. Period.
Applying the principle to relationships:
“I was Crazy Horse in a past life.”
No, that’s not me saying that. But it’s a statement I’ve heard several times from people I’ve met through my years of walking the Native American spiritual path.
Sometimes they say they were Sitting Bull or some other famous Native American Holy man, but never a shepherd or pony boy or woman.
It’s not my place to judge whether they’re right or wrong, but I always have the same thought when I hear it: “But who are you in this life?”
Because that’s the only thing that’s important: who are you now.
Not, what’s your title or job. Rather, what is your character?
Do you ever look up at the night sky and feel a longing? A familiarity? As if perhaps you came from the stars?
Whenever I look at the Pleiades I feel a calling to home. And there’s a reason for that.
We come from the stars. The carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms found in all life on earth, including humans, was produced originally in stars billions of years ago.
That is scientific fact.
The universe is in us. The universe is us.
Stars that collapsed, exploded and scattered over the universe became part of gas clouds and formed the next generation of solar systems.
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.
“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.” Carl Sagan, in the 1980 PBS series “Cosmos.”
When people are full of joy because they’ve succeeded or won an award, do you celebrate with them?
Or is there a part of you that’s resentful and jealous?
I hope you answered yes to the first question.
This is on my mind because Sunday night I watched the Emmy Awards [for excellence in television] here in the U.S. And even though I watch so little television that I had seen only a fraction of the nominated shows, I enjoyed it. And I was happy for everyone.
For me, joy is infectious. And celebration of achievement inspires us.
Every one of the winners was once an unknown who struggled, possibly starting out barely able to pay their rent or buy food. But they stuck with their dream and succeeded.
This is an excerpt from The Wind Is My Mother about learning how to think. Bear Heart speaks:
Native American children got a very well-rounded education from our elders. We didn’t just learn about hunting and legends.
One elder once sat down three of us boys who had just reached puberty and asked a theoretical question: “Suppose you were married and your wife and child were about to drown in the river. Which one would you save?”
One answered, “I’d save my wife.”
“Why?” He had to give a reason right there.
“The child is innocent and in its innocence it can go on. My wife and I could always have another child.”
Then the elder turned to another. “What about you? Which one would you save?”
“I’d save my child.”
“My wife and I would already have had our life together and the child needs a chance to live its life.”
“What about you?”
I answered, “I love my child in a very special way and in another special way I love my wife. We might all drown together but I’d try to save both.”
None of these answers was right or wrong. What this elder was doing was teaching us how to think, set priorities and give reasons why.
Sleep gets short shrift in our society. Health advocates promote the importance of diet and exercise, but sleep is seldom mentioned.
Yet it’s the third leg of the health tripod.
We spend over one-third [36%] of our lives doing it. So if you’re 90 years old, you’ve spent 32 years asleep. Sobering, isn’t it?
The latest research shows that sleep is a bit of a miracle drug and we should all be taking it more seriously.
I’ll admit that I have spent a fair amount of time in my life fantasizing about how much more I could get done if I had more waking hours. I’ve even written posts on how to be more productive.
But no less a power player than Arianna Huffington, in her TED talk, sang the praises of getting enough sleep. That’s a position she moved to after fainting from exhaustion, hitting her head on her desk, and breaking her cheekbone requiring five stitches on her right eye.
Getting enough sleep improves your life in so many ways that it could be considered a key to success, in spite of Margaret Thatcher saying sleep is for wimps and Thomas Edison’s proclamation that it’s a criminal waste of time.
If you’re like me, you often think, “oh, if only there were more hours in a day, or another day in the week, then I could get it all done.”
Even if there were, I probably wouldn’t get it all done.
We don’t really need more time, we need to make better use of the time we have.
The trick is not to get more done. The trick is to decide what you really need/want to be doing and eliminate the rest.
Successful people know how to focus their time and energy. Being productive relies on the ability to distinguish between tasks that move you closer to your goals and tasks that don’t.