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.
“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.
Most of us have heard the Native American term “it is a good day to die.” It was usually said in the movies by a Native warrior as he rode off into battle. But how often do we think about what that really means? Do we live as though each day is a good day […]Continue reading
Do you think God is male? Think again.
If we go back to the original words spoken by Jesus Christ, God was not male; God was “Abba” or parent – non-gender specific.
God is not male. The world needs to accept that. And soon. Because the belief that God is male has caused more tragedy on our planet than perhaps any other notion.
Women are still struggling their way up from the subjugation caused by this male-oriented concept.
After spousal/child/animal abuse and bullying, nothing gets me more irate than hearing God referred to as “He.”
“The Lord’s Prayer” is a particular pet peeve of mine because it is not even close to what Jesus Christ would have said.
Before you get upset with me and stop reading, hear me out. My evidence goes back to the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus Christ.
When the great Lakota leader Crazy Horse was getting ready to go into battle, he would review his warriors and, if any were full of anger, he would tell them to stay behind.
Only when they had conquered their anger could they rejoin him.
That’s surprising, isn’t it? One would think that such a dedicated and successful warrior on behalf of his people was motivated by anger, but apparently not.
Anger can point us in the direction of what’s important to us, but anger often controls the person instead of the person controlling it. And that’s where the trouble starts.
Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha
DO YOU CONTROL YOUR ANGER OR DOES IT CONTROL YOU?
There’s nothing wrong with anger provided you use it constructively. Wayne Dyer
Use it to motivate you to make change.
But if it twists your heart into knots and makes you vindictive and out of control, it hasn’t served you. You have served it. I believe that’s the kind of anger Crazy Horse didn’t want in his warriors.
I learned a lot about being a woman from the 1982 Dustin Hoffman hit, “Tootsie.”
The reason it was a learning experience is rooted in the phrase, “Been down so long it looks like up to me.” That line is not in the movie, but the fact is that women have been so subjugated and derided all our lives that we don’t even see it any more. We just comply to get along.
But when an out of work actor masquerades as a women to land a role in a soap opera, we get to see the world of being a woman through his eyes, and it’s a wake-up call.
When I purchased my first house over 15 years ago, I was pretty darn excited. About everything, even weeding.
I do know that, in the bigger picture of things, weeds are simply plants that we don’t know the use for. . . yet.
But sometimes they grow where we don’t want them. And what’s to be done, but … weeding!
Being in Southern California, I studied drought resistant plants and took pride in doing all my own landscaping.
I remember a friend being over one day and as we sat on the patio I saw a few weeds in the flower bed and reached down to pull them out. She made some comment about weeding and I said, “Yes, I’ll be weeding the rest of my life.”
We laughed at the time, but it was an off hand comment that was truly prophetic.
So what does it mean to be weeding for the rest of our lives. I’m not going to go into the esoteric teachings of removing negative thoughts and habits from our lives, though that is a good analogy.
I’m really going to talk about weeding an outdoor garden and how to make the best of it.
If you’re like me, I was taught in grade school that the U.S. Constitution was based on ancient Greek democracy. This is quite a stretch, since ancient Greece government was not democratic.
My research into what children are taught today about the origin of our government is also disappointing.
Apparently the founding fathers simply created it out of thin air, or were influenced by European governments. This depute the fact there was no democracy anywhere in Europe at that time.
THE TRUE HISTORY OF THE U.S CONSTITUTION
The truth is that the U.S. Constitution is modeled in both principle and form on the Great Law of Peace of the Native American tribe known as the Iroquois.
This is absolutely, unequivocally historical fact.
Do you know how to listen? I meet new people all the time through my work and travels and I’m amazed at how many of them just don’t listen to anyone else.
Having been taught good manners by my parents, and being Irish, who are a hospitable people, I always attempt to strike up a conversation when I meet someone new.
I ask their name, and where they’re from and what they like to do. Whatever it takes to build rapport and learn something about them.
But I have noticed how many people just talk about themselves and show no interest in learning about me. It’s astounding to me how many people just don’t seem to know how to listen.
Read on to find out what can be learned from listening and how to do it.
Native American youth were taught the power of observation from an early age. Good observation can have many benefits in our life, as demonstrated in this lesson from Muskogee Creek Elder Bear Heart in The Wind Is My Mother.
“As part of my training, one of my teachers had me spend an entire day doing nothing but observing from early morning to evening. I had to sit in a field all day long without moving my body — he told me to just move my eyes very slowly from side to side.
“What was I observing? What direction is the wind coming from? Does that cloud seem to contain any large amounts of moisture? Is it dark on the underside and light on top? If so, perhaps it’s going to rain.
“If you see birds flying, are they circling or going in a straight line? Are they water birds flying to where there might be some water? If you’re looking for water, perhaps you should head in that direction.
“There didn’t have to be any particular significance to all the things I observed — the point was not to let anything escape my awareness, to master the difference between looking and seeing.