As the clock winds down 2013 it might be helpful to revisit the lessons learned during the past year. Only you can determine exactly what it is that you gleaned. Some of the lessons will be obvious to you; others may be more subtle or elusive. Direct your attention to teachings that gave you insight, uplifted you or healed you in some way. Notice how you may have grown. Include those harsh instructions modeled by others and ourselves about how not to be. Count all of these classrooms as equal. Take all that you have learned and walk forward in gratitude.
One of the many tidbits of interesting information that I received from a Native American friend was about LOL; that’s Laughing Out Loud for the less tech savvy. Basically, she was telling me how her Native American family never took anything too seriously. Apparently, there wasn’t anything that was too solemn or intense for a joke. In fact, the more grave it seemed, the more likely it was that a joke would be made. Needless to say, this was a new concept for me because I was not raised with this understanding. Upon further discussion I learned that her tradition believed that when life becomes very serious we become constricted. I thought of this as being tightly scrunched into a little ball. Our energy is pulled in and we become out of balance. I don’t recall if those were her exact words but they are close. By contrast, I was told, laughter, especially laughing out loud, fully and deeply allows the energy to be cracked or shook open. This permits light to enter once again she said.
I thought about this understanding and the teaching around it that I received (thank you, sister!) for some time. I tested it out and guess what? It works!!! If you have been feeling shut down or constricted from all of the seasonal stuff or worried about something, try it out for yourself. Find a way to LOL/Laugh Out Loud. We could all use a bit more light coming in, don’t you think?
Did you ever notice the abundance of sacred holidays that take place this time of year? What marks this time of year as special? While I may not know all the answers, one thing strikes me as a prominent theme in each of them. Nope, it is not love. Although I will say that it may be one of the qualities contained in the holidays and ceremonies. It seems to me that the sacred element present is hope.
Folks throughout much of history have found some way to have a sacred service or ritual during this season. Understandably they were showing their awareness of the fragility of life, but they were also honoring life by affirming their belief in the return of the light which equaled life. They had hope that the light and warmth would return and that the fields and the game would be plentiful once again.
Many of the sacred holidays this time of year contain hope. Whether they celebrate remembrance of a time when light sustained them or look to something more ethereal to bring them light or inspiration, I believe they are hoping too. What is it that we are hoping for? Is it something better, a chance to feel connected, the return of a time of abundance, life or salvation? Perhaps it is all of these things and something more.
If you find yourself in the darkness at this time remember; that the light always returns, that what you are experiencing now will shift once again just as it has before. You are not alone even though it may feel that way at times. I am sure that those people whose very existence depended on the return of the light had some doubt and yet they celebrated, they offered hope in the face of the darkness. That speaks to me of faith. Hope contains faith. When we act on hope we show our faith that things will improve. Hope mingled with faith can return us to love. Let yourself find a spark of hope to carry you back to loving yourself. Hope is your guide.
This is for those of you who have been asking to read my books. I have decided to share an excerpt from one of my books or short stories as a gift to you. I may decide to post an excerpt once a month after this posting. The downside is that you will have to wait for publication to read it in its entirety. Enjoy!
Excerpt from “YOU’VE GOT THE MAGIC IN YOU” by Shelly O’Connell
This work by Shelly O’Connell, M.Div. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
We are pulled from our conversation with a polite but insistent little cough. Kim and I have been so engrossed that we failed to notice that the older lady with white hair and wrinkled face and hands has moved from her table and is standing at a slight distance from our table. We both look up as her second cough registers on our radar as a socially acceptable way to politely break in on a conversation.
In a voice weathered with age she humbly states, “Excuse me girls, well you’re not really girls anymore are you? Rather I ought to say excuse me ladies.”
While Kim and I recover from this honest truth the woman goes on to say, “I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about magic. Is there something specific that you wished to know?”
Kim looks at me and blinks and I think, “Exactly.” I look up at the lady and she is waiting expectantly with a little smile on her face and a twinkle. Yes, no doubt about it that is a twinkle in her eyes.
“Would you care to join us?” I offer.
She just grins and replies, “I think the question is, dear, would you care to join me?”
I glance across to Kim as the woman gracefully takes a seat. Can we say that shades of Alice now march across my head? I begin to think we have crossed over into a parallel universe where everything that we knew as certain suddenly changes in meaning. I do not have long to wait to see where this wormhole takes us. I look over to our new table guest and think, “Weird.”
The woman is staring at me with that knowing little smile. “Did she ask if we had something specific that we wanted to know?” is the thought that courses my mind as she nods her head. “Wait; was that an invitation to join her? Does she mean she is a Witch and that she is asking me to join her?” my mind is stumbling through this thought as I simultaneously remember that traditionally most people become Witches by invitation and initiation according to the research I have done on the topic.
Before I can really put these thoughts coherently together the woman smiles into my eyes and says, “Yes, dear, that’s’ right.”
“What’s right?” I ask.
Again with that smile! She takes a quick scan of the immediate area surrounding us, leans in conspiratorially toward me and states in a matter of fact tone, “It does mean I am a Witch and the invitation still stands.”
I feel my world tilting because she has answered the questions in my mind. The trouble I am having is that I did not utter them aloud. “Does that mean she’s in my head? Can she hear what I am thinking,” my mind queries?
“Yes I am and yes I can,” she informs me.
I look to Kim to throw me a lifeline. Surely some down to earth, no nonsense response from her can pull me from the sea of uncertainty that is threatening to take me under. Kim opens her mouth and I imagine the life preserver being tossed my way in the nick of time, my right arm begins to rise in order to grab on and stay afloat, but it is wrenched abruptly away as she speaks, “Don’t act so shocked, Gabs. So she knows what you are thinking, you do this to people all the time.”
That’s it! I am gone. I am tumbling and swirling, falling under the swell of a huge wave that captures you, spins you around and drags you along the ocean bottom. You are not sure when or if your next breath of air will arrive, you cannot see and have utterly no control over when or if the ocean will spit you out and give you back to the realm of land breathers.
I come up gasping for breath and coughing out salt water or in this case what is left of my chai latte. I am left feeling raw and vulnerable and still a bit shaky around the knees.
The woman whose name I don’t even know at this point reaches over and begins patting me on the back presumably to help me gain my equilibrium. She says, “Sink or swim, dear, sink or swim” with no expression of irony in her voice.
I shift my head to peer at her in amazement. I hear a chuckle that is attempting to be smothered; my head whips around as I recognize the offender to be none other than Kim. I level her with the full force glare she earned from ripping my lifeline away. I deepen the glare to include her traitorous chuckle. This only serves to encourage her to stick out her arm and offer her hand to the woman in greeting, saying, “Hello, I’m Kim.” Does she have no concept of the wrath of a betrayed pixie? Apparently not because she is smiling at the woman in complete delight, clearly anticipating what will happen next.
The woman reaches her hand across directly under my nose to grasp Kim’s outstretched hand, “So very nice to meet you Kim. I am Lillian, Lillian Dupree,” states our mysterious visitor.
“Pleased to meet you, Lillian,” replies Kim.
“Hey, we’re not at some tea party social you know! Anyone remember me? I am trying to figure out what happened here,” I retort angrily.
Lillian responds, “There is no need to raise your voice, dear. All we are doing is making introductions.” She gives a small sniff to indicate my rudeness in butting into the conversation.
“Pardon my manners,” I say somewhat sarcastically, “but I am trying to find my feet here.”
Kim jumps in, “That’s right. She is trying to learn what magic is and what???” Kim fades off as she realizes that she has perhaps revealed too much. Plus my expression has caught her eye and she decides finally to be silent.
“That is ok, dear, remember I came to your table with the intention of talking about magic. Your friend hasn’t let the cat out of the bag,” says Lillian.
I take a deep settling breath and attempt to clarify, “First off my name is not, dear, my name is…”
Lillian interrupts me, “I know who you are, dear.”
This has me slowing down, “You do?”
With the gentle smile this time, she replies, “Oh yes, dear, your name is Gabrielle Cara Worth.”
I am mollified into submission and complete silence. I can only stare at her as Kim’s eyes grow ever wider. We both openly stare at this woman before us who calls herself Lillian. I am peripherally aware that our waiter has arrived with our lunches. Interestingly enough, I am not surprised to see him place Lillian’s order in front of her although she has been at our table only moments. It is as if he knew all along that she would dine with Kim and me.”
Nature is our greatest teacher of how to be in relationship with the world and with our selves. On this solstice day let us consider the gifts contained within the season of Winter. During this season of dormancy we are reminded to slow down, to go within so that we may reflect on our lives. It is a time to renew our resources and ourselves. In doing so we heal many things that are out of balance in our hearts, bodies and minds.
Do you feel like you are missing something regarding this concept? I believe that is because we have been conditioned to think that we must be ever busy. If we are not striving or continually at some task we may feel unproductive. I disagree! When we constantly are in motion we begin to lose our ability to rest, to renew and to heal. There is immense value in learning about and living the season of Winter. It is productive in a different way. In a way that restores us.
Spring follows Winter seasonally, but how do we expect to arrive at Spring and the gifts contained there without taking time for Winter? There can be no renewal without rest, no new birth or rebirth without time to gestate or nurture those concepts and dreams that we want to birth in the coming Spring. The seasons build upon each other in their gifts and teachings for how to live in balance within ourselves and with all of life. If we don’t make use of them we become stuck and stagnant. This is where disease and dissatisfaction arise.
Slow down! Go within. Look to nature and what is happening out there, then bring those concepts into being for your self. Things withdraw in Winter, trees pull their sap down deep inside. Many animals become less active or hibernate. The weather becomes colder in many locales. It seems as though life doesn’t exist, but it does! It has just taken on a different form. It is resting, preparing, dreaming, and incubating all of the necessary things for life to emerge again in the Spring.
Winter gives the chance to reflect and ponder what is happening with you. It is possible that you may connect with a higher guidance. These are some of the gifts of the Winter. There is great beauty in the Winter, sometimes it seems ethereal. Don’t let it pass you by.
Today marks the last day of the Fall season. Tomorrow we welcome Winter. My thoughts move toward the distant past when people moved more fluidly with the seasons. They understood that Nature and the seasons offered reflections of ways to be that were beneficial to their well-being. To that purpose it might be interesting to visit some of the traditions as we say farewell to Autumn and turn our attention to Winter.
Did you ever wonder when people gather in homes what it is that causes them to gravitate toward the kitchen? Even today at some point in our gatherings we end up crowded into the kitchen. The hearth was the center or heart of the home primarily because food was prepared there. It also served the purpose of heating the home. Stories were shared around the hearth that contained teachings about life for all who gathered there. Often there was music and laughter. It was a place to tend to family and it built community. Can it be that the hearth has been replaced by today’s modern kitchen? It is entirely possible in my mind.
So what did the ancient ones do at this time? My ancestors began preparations for this shift by attending to hearth and home.They knew that the time of the dormant dark was arriving. This meant that everyone would be indoors much more frequently. In preparation they readied the hearth and the home. The home was swept clean and the hearth received a thorough scrubbing. They laid in preparations of food and wood earlier and checked again the stores of these items. They were preparing to hunker down with their extended family, friends and/or clan.
Envision that taking place today. As I do my sweeping and cleaning in preparation I plan to imagine that I am sweeping away past arguments, resentments, judgments and hurt feelings. I picture the house being swept clean energetically with the dust that gets pushed out. While cleaning the hearth, my modern version of it, I visualize all of the meals prepared and shared here that have sustained us. I give thanks. When I am done cleaning I begin to lay in my preparations. They include inviting a spirit of harmony to dwell with me and all who share my hearth and home for the Winter season. Laughter, shared meals and stories shared are items I hold in my mind as I prepare for tomorrow. Music that uplifts me will play in the background as I attend to hearth and home. I turn my face toward the coming season. Welcome Winter, I am ready.
The true nature of any spiritual journey is one that leads to the self. This essential goal is often elusive. How does one find the self, that inner place of infinite stillness, silence and connection? There are many paths and modalities that guide one toward self-discovery but how do you know which to choose? That is part of a process of finding the self. Does that sound like a riddle? It is not meant to be one. All of this points to the starting place.
Most of us don’t embark on a journey to find our self because we want this above all else or because our life is going so great. Quite the opposite is true. The search may begin as a result of our life falling apart; everything known has been removed or morphed into something foreign and scary. Or it may be that we are carrying a weight on our heart, mind or emotions. In short, what we have been doing is not working to bring us peace. We are desperately unhappy and likely overwhelmed.
This is a critical time! If you find yourself in any of these places or a similar place don’t give up since this is the very time that avenues to finding the self begins to present themselves. They are not always readily apparent because during this time we are absorbed with is happening to us rather than noticing what about us is unchanging. Don’t worry; the Universe is sending us things designed to capture our attention. These are the prompts to follow as they direct us to a path that can assist us with finding the unchanging inner part of our essence that is the true self.
The prompts may arrive in a multitude of ways. Perhaps you have a dream that shows you doing something that you have never done before like yoga, or you receive mail for a meditation class, a friend asks you to attend a workshop or spiritual gathering with them, a book falls off of a shelf in front of you, the radio plays a song or advertisement that gets your attention. The possibilities are endless. What is important is that you take the initiative to investigate, follow up and show up for these offerings. For example; if a book does fall off of a shelf in front of you, READ IT! Don’t put it back on the shelf; it is without a doubt meant for you to help you with what is happening in your life and within you. Consider these happenings as guidance from the Divine to lead you to finding and loving yourself.
With so much information coming into our senses each day it is important to know what to act upon. This is true for many aspects of our lives but it is imperative in the quest of discovering our true nature or self. Proceed with the understanding that the prompts from the Universe have a different feel to them. They cause you to notice and if you pause for just a moment you will likely feel something within you that connects with whatever the prompt happens to be at the time. This is how you begin to cultivate awareness. Over time the simple act of pausing, listening and responding to this assistance offered by the Universal Divine will guide us unfailingly to our true self.
Equilibrium has arrived as my new teacher. This really ought not be a surprise to me given all that has taken place in recent weeks. And yet, I am still somewhat hesitant to delve into following this particular instructor. I’m sure you can relate; some teachers you gravitate to because you feel lifted up, others you avoid because they challenge you. Well, my friend, equilibrium is a complex teacher.
On one hand I know that mastering this teaching will bring me deep inner strength and calm whatever life brings. It is sort of like being the eye of the storm, perhaps the eye is always there, perfectly still, even when the storm has passed and the sun shines brightly. I don’t really know because as I mentioned before, this is a new teacher to me. Which brings me to the second hand. I am candidly aware that this teacher places unequivocal full ownership of the storms raging in my life squarely at the doorstop of my heart and mind. Isn’t there a part of all of us that wants to believe that if “those other folks” got it all together then our lives would be so much smoother? Professor Equilibrium drives home the teaching that it is up to me and me alone to determine how I sail on life’s seas.
In this classroom I am given tools to assist me in finding equilibrium. I learn to cultivate stillness within me and practice being non-reactive to the changes in life and people around me. In a sense I am developing peace. Trust me this is not easy for me which means that this is the true teacher for me at this time. Life is full of irony it seems. I will keep you updated on my progress and what I learn.
The moon is said by various sources to rule over the oceans’ tides, the cycles of women and our emotions. Different phases of the moon can give us the opportunity to access specific elements of our nature. As it happens today is a full moon. Consider for a moment what might happen if you gave yourself permission to stand in the radiant light of the full moon tonight. Perhaps you would experience a bright blessings of the moon. It could be that your emotions open up. If that took place then the worry or stress you have been carrying might be set free making room for something incredible to arrive. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Whether you call the moon, Grandmother Moon, still think of The Man in the Moon or have no opinion regarding the moon’s title or essence, give yourself the chance to play a little. Stand in those gentle rays of light. See what happens.
In this busy sometimes hectic time season it is easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed out or frantic. My mind is pulled back to a workshop I attended this summer where the teacher talked about needing a pause. Let’s explore a bit deeper this concept of pausing. It means slowing down, suspension or taking a break, a hiatus but it also means silence or gap. This sounds like the perfect antidote for any anxiety, or stress related to the holiday season! A shift of focus can take place when we take time to pause. We learn to breathe again and move forward from a different place.
We have lost the art of pausing. Most of us live very high task, always striving types of existence. Pausing is a way to reintroduce equilibrium. It can be as simple as taking a deep breath when we feel stressed out. I would challenge you to think beyond just little moments of breath. Are there other ways that you can create times to pause in your life? For me being in nature always moves me into times of pause. I am able to center and take in the beauty that surrounds me. I become calm and feel free to receive life rather than constrict away from things. Sometimes my husband & I put on music at home and dance. We end up laughing. It breaks up energy in the body and emotions. We feel amazing after dancing!
Today my pause will be to take my china teapot, teacup and saucer down from the special occasion shelf and use it for me alone. There really is no need to save these special things for people other than ourselves. I am quite looking forward to this planned pause…I may incorporate more of them in the future. Find ways to pause that speak to you. Be creative! I’d love to hear what you did to pause!!! Feel free to leave me a comment.