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Posts tagged ‘Ancient Practices’

Life’s Little Surprises

Once in a while life will send you little surprises. They take you unaware and by doing so have the potential to transport you. The unexpectedness of these little surprises brings you more fully present, if only for a moment.

We have experienced such occasions here in Northern California. In fact, they have all taken place in less than a week’s time. Nope, it’s not what you might think. The little surprises have been rain! On three separate days it has rained. Granted they all were gentle showers that lasted a few minutes tops. Still it was rain!

For those of you unfamiliar with our climate in this locale, this may not seem a big deal. You may live in a place where you are accustomed to thunder showers taking place almost daily this time of year. Not so where I live.

To put it in context for you, the first year I lived here this happened: I said, “It looks like it might rain.” This brought laughter from a local (see: person who has lived in this area all their life). They promptly put me in my place by informing me (see:  upstart, translation – not local=no idea what she is talking about), “It is Not going to rain. It NEVER rains here in July.” I took them at their word. Living all of your life in one place does give you some insight and authority, at the very least, on the weather that takes place there.

I know this because I too was once a local. I grew up on the East coast. I learned all about the weather and could read the signs in nature with the best of them. Some of the signals that rain was on the way included: observing the sky, an up kick of wind, but also a feeling in the air and the smell of rain on the breeze well before actual rain fell. I’ve been known to say, “It smells like rain.” Now that statement may sound strange to you, but if I ever said it on the East coast it would indeed rain.

Late last week I was in the house when I “smelled rain”. I let the thought pass right out of my mind because the signs for rain are different here and I thought I did not yet know them. Imagine my astonishment when a few minutes later I heard the splatter of raindrops on the balcony. I exclaimed, “Is that rain?” When I rushed outside, sure enough, it was rain!

That time and each time it has rained over the weekend and today, I have stood outside with my face upturned soaking it in and offering gratitude. I am saying thank you for the rain, which is well needed here. Honestly though, I am wickedly delighted to have received and interpreted the signs of rain in this place correctly! To me that means though I may not be a local, nonetheless, I am someone able to commune with nature in this area. It means I am more solidly a part of the whole in this home. I once again belong.

These little surprises of life have brought me great celebration and joy! The rain made me fully present while restoring a vital piece of my being. The gift was being connected to nature in a way that I took for granted when I was a local. The rain showed me that life still holds surprises no matter where we happen to be.

Wishing you the blessings contained within life’s little surprises!

Summer Solstice: the Seat of the Fire

Welcome Summer! Summer is many things and there are vast teachings about this season. Today I wish to honor the fire. Fire burns but it is also brings transformation and renewal. Fire represents Spirit and the elemental spark within all of life. Fire helps us to remember the intensity and passion present in life.

Take a moment to light a small flame or a large one if your location and responsible behavior allow it. Take whatever you wish to release or transform to the fire. It will be forever changed when you give it to the flames. Know that new life is coming, rejuvenation is on the way.

Let the fire teach you of passion and of life-force unleashed. Fire is a complex teacher. You will learn respect in working with it. This is important because it is powerful and it is sacred. Just as you are, my friend. Fire will help you to learn this truth.

Fire is the beacon that gathers the people back to living fully and honestly. Through its teachings we walk a Sacred Road. I offer my gratitude to the Spirit of Fire. Aho.

 

 

Offering Thanks Restores You to Beauty

A Native American Elder once told me, “If we would remember to say thank you, we would never need another ceremony.” I’ll never forget him telling me this because it was also an instruction. I knew that at the time. We were sitting inside the tepee before the prayer ceremony began. It was just the two of us. He looked across from me and offered his statement about saying thank you.

I pondered this for some time. Over the years there were many traditional ceremonies that I was fortunate to attend. Actually, that is not accurate. Those teachings and ceremonies changed my life and that of my family deeply. We were all enriched. This reality was part of what prompted me to look hard at what I had been told by this Elder. There were people from all walks of life who came to the ceremonies. They prayed about themselves, their family, the tribe & they prayed for peace in the world.

Did this mean that people’s lives, including mine were a mess because we forgot to say thank you, I wondered? Was the lack of peace in the world and within ourselves related to our ineptitude in offering thanks? Could the answer be this simple, I wondered?

He undoubtedly sensed my struggle to understand because he went on to say, “In the beginning the people, the Native people, looked around. All they saw was beauty. Everywhere they looked they encountered beauty. They thought about how to express to Creator what they thought and felt about being gifted with beauty everywhere. After much thought and discussion they decided that all the could say that was, thank you.”

I thanked him for sharing this with me. I’m sure he knew that I would continue to work with the concept of saying thank you and the critical value it has on keeping life in balance. I looked long and hard at prayers and ceremonies. I saw the people requesting them or participating in them and their suffering. It opened me to compassion for them and myself. I have a practice of offering thanks many times throughout each day. Doing so has me discovering or rediscovering some of the beauty that those original people knew was imbued in all of life. I still have the opportunity to attend ceremonies and pray. When I get to do this I remember to say thank you, for the teachings, for the love, for the well-being of all the children of life yet to come.

The practice and remembrance of saying thank you may seem small but I have found it to be powerful. Offer thanks from your heart, from the wholeness of your being, from your Divine internal spark, as I imagine those Native ancestors did. Maybe one day we will gather only to offer thanks because all we see, feel and experience is beauty everywhere. Never underestimate the value of saying thank you. Let it restore you to beauty. Aho!

1000 Years

The majesty of Redwood Forests in California never fails to impress me. It is what lingers long after my visit that has me pondering the feeling they impart. If you had occasion to walk among these ancient ones it may be that you felt it too. There is a gentleness that is combined with strength or solidness that permeates not only me but the entire forest in which they dwell.

I am finding difficult to express in words something that can only be experienced. Here among trees, that have lived for longer than we can imagine, a serenity fills the air. Some of these giants have been here for 1000 years or more. The sensation of their presence and their lifespan has me reflecting on the relatively short lifespan of humans. It seems that we are continually busy, nearly always reactive and wound up in swirling emotions.

If you stand in one place for a 1000 years maybe something happens that gives life to what I feel when I am with these old trees. For sure some things fall away. Striving toward some goal, even the light, is a moot point when you’ve been in the heavens for so long. The push and pull of life, the reactions and emotions, give way to being. Maybe that’s what I feel with the Redwoods. A deep presence of being. They seem to just be and in that being I wonder if they are connected to all life, past, present and maybe even future. Oh sure, there are teachings throughout the world that instructs us that we are all connected in this way. The difference I think is that the ancient Redwoods know it and live it. Does it take 1000 years to learn to be? I plan to spend more time with these sacred beings to discover all I can.

RED TENT MOONLODGE GATHERING: SUMMER TEACHINGS

You are invited to join me on MAY 31, 2014 at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, Children’s Chapel from 12:30pm – 4:30pm (PDT) for Red Tent Moonlodge Gathering: Summer Teachings! The church address is: 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94549. Register via Eventbrite: http://redtentmoonlodge.eventbrite.com

Women of all ages come to rest, renew and remember your sacredness. Join Shelly O’Connell as she shares Traditional Women’s Teachings with you. We will dance, drum and join together on a journey to embrace the true radiance within each woman.

Shelly received the Traditional Women’s Teachings from Native Elders. “These teachings completely changed and enriched my life!” she writes. Come and learn the original teachings regarding women, their “Moontime” and their importance within the tribe or community. Shelly says of the teachings, “Following the Traditional Women’s Teachings centers you and allows you to step into your wisdom.” Are you ready to step in to your own wisdom?

Women ages thirteen and older are invited to attend. Workshop participants will bring one symbol of yourself as a woman to place upon the altar which we will create together. Include a journal for notes and homework. Suggested attire is comfortable clothing; long dresses or skirts, if you like, to remind you of your femininity.

This will be a four hour workshop offered each season, on or around the full moon; Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter with teachings related to each season. You may attend one workshop, a few or all, it is up to you. This workshop may be offered each month. Suggested donation of $25.

Book Excerpt-Second Installment

Okay here is the long awaited second installment book excerpt from “You’ve Got the Magic in You”. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Creative Commons License

This work by Shelly O’Connell, M.Div. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

… No longer questioning how a professionally made business card carries a personal message for me, or how Lillian knew that I would become her student, I pick up the phone to give her a call. I am in the process of locating a pen and paper to write down directions for our meeting location tomorrow when she answers. After my greeting and introduction she speaks, “Oh, it is you, dear. I am so happy to hear from you! How has the rest of your day gone?” I briefly relay my day including the reflection in the park and my conversation with Scott. “So he is on board then?” she asks. I confirm that this is true. Lillian remarks with a smile in her voice, “Let him know that I am not a wacko would you, dear?” I let her know that we had that conversation and he is open in trusting my judgment. “Well, I knew that you had faith in me, dear. It is certainty nice to hear you say that you did and I wanted to hear you say so out loud,” she states with a giggle.
“This is going to be fun,” I think.
Lillian clears her throat, “Well I should certainly hope so, dear. Life would be pretty dull without incorporating a bit of fun.” Indeed! My mind aligns with her statement. I carefully take down the address and directions Lillian gives me to her home. We confirm the meeting time as six o’clock tomorrow. I ask if there is anything else she needs or would like me to bring. She leaves me with a cryptic, “You will know, dear …

A Red Tent Moonlodge Gathering

You are invited to join me on MARCH 1, 2014 at Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church, Children’s Chapel from 12:30pm – 4:30pm (PDT) for A Red Tent Moonlodge Gathering! The church address is: 55 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94549. Register via Eventbrite: http://redtentmoonlodge.eventbrite.com

Women of all ages come to rest, renew and remember your sacredness. Join Shelly O’Connell as she shares Traditional Women’s Teachings with you. We will dance, drum and join together on a journey to embrace the true radiance within each woman.

Shelly received the Traditional Women’s Teachings from Native Elders. “These teachings completely changed and enriched my life!” she writes. Come and learn the original teachings regarding women, their “Moontime” and their importance within the tribe or community. Shelly says of the teachings, “Following the Traditional Women’s Teachings centers you and allows you to step into your wisdom.” Are you ready to step in to your own wisdom?

Women ages thirteen and older are invited to attend. Workshop participants will bring one symbol of yourself as a woman to place upon the altar which we will create together. Include a journal for notes and homework. Suggested attire is comfortable clothing; long dresses or skirts, if you like, to remind you of your femininity.

This will be a four hour workshop offered each season, on or around the full moon; Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter with teachings related to each season. You may attend one workshop, a few or all, it is up to you. This workshop may be offered each month.

Expectation and Exasperation

I am discovering how expectation and exasperation are joined. It is not the I wasn’t previously aware of the relationship between these two, I was. The difference is now I am noticing how frequently I have expectations. It is happening pretty much ALL the time lately!

William Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” He is not alone in this thought. There are ancient texts from India that tell us, “when our expectations are not met we experience suffering.”

I understood these concepts intellectually; they made sense to me. Now I am living them. I never really get the lesson nor the freedom and healing it brings until I begin to move away from the intellect into living the teaching. My Native American friends call this, “Walking the talk.” In this instance this means if only half of my expectations are met then I have exasperation the other times that they are not met. Believe me, my expectations are not realized even half of the time. That translates to me being in a state of exasperation most of the time! I don’t know about you, but I find that a tense and difficult reality.

What to do? The easy answer is let go of expectations. Be present to what is happening without expecting anything. Sounds completely achievable, right? Why then is it a challenge? Maybe it has to do with living the teaching rather than intellectualizing it. My plan is to surrender fully to the lessons of expectations and exasperation. I have no doubt they will show me the way.

Hearth & Home

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.