My Pets

 

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Osprey Family

I have lived in the country for nearly three years and sometimes I wonder if I’m going to catch farm fever. That someday I will wake up with a desperate need for chickens or goats or a pumpkin patch. At any inkling of such an idea I usually sit down and let it pass and flood my self with the idea of cold winter mornings and coyotes and I come quickly to my senses.

Everyone else is enamored with chickens and tomato vines why not me? Then I think about 2 high energy children, 3 giant dogs with health problems, 5 cats with bathroom issues, 4 elderly parents and an old house and I know that I have done all the care-giving that I can for now and freedom calls me.

So I’ve decided to enjoy ‘no care’ pets instead. I still have my cats Persy and Timmy but they only take about 30 seconds a day to feed and a good vacuuming of the carpets weekly. The thought of any more work than that send me into shivers. So luckily the countryside comes with all the no-care pets I desire. Let me tell you about my menagerie.

Right now my great joy comes from chopping vegetables and looking out the kitchen window to see my precious birds. Titmice, chickadees, hummingbirds, wrens, doves, cardinals, gold finches—-so much joy from such tiny creatures. They flit in and out of the near-by bushes and drink from the old birdbath. They are so close I could touch them through the window. I love their colors and beautiful voices, fluffy feathers and little spats over seeds. All these joyful moments from just filling the bird feeders every few days.

Now on to my turkey friends. I see them almost weekly, on their own, in a cluster or a big gaggle walking down the road. I’m so happy to hear their chattering and see their awkward walk. One even came up and was eating the bird seed under my kitchen window. One summer, “turkey friend” would check out what I was reading by flying into a nearby tree to see the cover of the book. They know that they will never be a holiday meal as long as they live on my land.

My beautiful deer love to skirt the edges of the yard coming in twos in the evening or wandering across the ridge right outside my bedroom window. I see hundreds of deer every year and I still catch my breath as though they are the most exotic animal on earth. I think about that darling fawn I rescued a couple of summers ago.

How about the raccoon mama and her three babies when I forgot the garbage was on the back porch. What a sight to see the skittish adolescents eating cantaloupe rinds, so unbelievably darling. I did shut down the raccoon buffet the next day after a massive cleanup but it was worth it to see their antics up close and personal.

I drive two miles down the road to walk in a neighborhood by the lake and that is where my other wild friends live. Recently a fox has made friends as he hunkered down to give me a good looking over right where I park. Then, a few weeks later he was showing me his swiftness as he headed toward a thicket near the water. I always take the magic the fox brings since they are “crafty” creatures and are a symbol of alchemy.

The Canadian geese know how to pick a good spot and a large group have made their home by the lake and turn the road in to a bit of an obstacle course with their droppings. But one of my favorite times of the year is September when the fog is coming off the lake and I hear the call of the geese as they fly through the mist calling to each other to keep the V perfect. At the last minute, they come into view and I hear their beating wings. A pure mystical moment.

There are also herons on the edge of the lake. I don’t get too close to them but I love the long thin bodies standing still, waiting for a fish and their distinctive crook neck as they fly. The last wonderful wild friends are the local osprey family. Each year they choose a different chimney to nest in. They build big stick nests and make a mess all over the roof. Soon after they are done I hear the little chicks start to make chirping noises. Mom and Dad swear very loudly at me as I walk by, making sure that I don’t get near their babies nearly thirty feet in the air. I reassure them that they have babies so ugly they are cute but I’m happy to admire them from afar. In the end, the babies are kicked out of the nest and the nest destroyed making a mess of pick-up sticks for the lucky home owner.

I’m in love with my animal friends. They don’t always know about me but they bring me daily joy. All the fun of pets and none of the work. They restore my soul without requiring anything of me but admiration. They are ordinary wildlife but extraordinary gifts.

10 Books and a Bonus

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The Christmas decorations are back in the basement, the house is cleaned up, and the extra chocolate hidden away. Alexandra is back in California and Caroline is getting ready for her final semester and I’m left with the happy memories of a beautiful Christmas with 27 dear relatives and many friends. It is hard to go back to a quiet house in these cold days of winter so I’ve turned to some of my dearest old friends to keep me company by the fire. I want to share with you some of my favorite books from my library. Some may be familiar to you too or some might start a new thread in your life. This is the time to plant new seeds for the year.

2 Old Friends

One of my best gifts from my teachers is an introduction to the classic spiritual writers. These older book aren’t well known but hold beautiful teachings that stand the test of time.

The Path of the Soul: The Great Initiations by White Eagle. A channeled book first published in 1959 this book describes the four initiations all seekers must take along the path, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. In my last post on the Magic Flute, our hero takes two of these initiations on his path of love.

The Thunder of Silence by Joel Goldsmith.  Joel Goldsmith was the founder and teacher of The Infinite Way, a path of practical mysticism. His style is a bit dated but the truth his speaks is timeless. All of his books are gems.

2 Great Stories

We can all use a compelling story in the middle of winter to inspire us. These are both true stories.

The Mystery of the White Lions by Linda Tucker.   I wrote about this book on my post The Ultimate Grand Supreme. This book has some twists and turns that help unravel a deep connection to our ancient past and our closest star Sirius.

Omm Sety’s Egypt by Hay el Zeini and Catherine Dees.  I bet you can’t put it down. Omm Sety was a very mysterious English woman who lived simultaneously in modern and ancient Egypt.

2 Guide Books

Everyone’s path is unique but the road signs and obstacles are the same so here is some help.

Barefoot on Holy Ground; Twelve Lessons in Spiritual Craftsmanship by Gloria Karpinski.  A well written book by a great spiritual teacher. Honest and useful tools for the road ahead.

Entering the Castle; An Inner Path of God and Your Soul by Caroline Myss. My favorite book by a favorite author about my favorite Saint, Teresa of Avila. My favorite quote “Enlightenment is the only authentic path…everything else is a detour.”

2 Stern Teachers

Sometimes we need to do something besides play on rainbows with unicorns so here are some books to make sure we get our work done and keep moving forward up the mountain. If you want a game changer check these out.

Truth Vs Falsehood; How to Tell the Difference by David Hawkins.  A must read for all spiritual seekers because discernment is as vital as water and air on the path. Then read his other books, not easy but important.

Halfway Up The Mountain; The Error of Premature Claims of Enlightenment by Mariana Caplan.  It is so easy to get too eager and run up the easy slopes and then there is no energy for the hard climb. This book must go in your backpack along with your pick ax and oxygen tank for the snowfields.

2 Study Guides for Graduate School

Spiritual Power; How it Works by Llewellyn Vaughan Lee. After you have gone through some initiations and realize you know absolutely nothing then you are ready for the GRE into graduate school. You will never make it if you don’t understand spiritual power so get studying.

The Emerald Tablet; Alchemy for Personal Transformation by Dennis William Hauck. My poor copy is warped, marked and worn from reading by the pool, in the car, on a train, in a plane. No seriously, one of the best books on Alchemy and even readable. You know how I love Thoth and the Emerald Tablets.

Bonus Book. 11 is a master number so I had to add an extra.

The Spiritual Reawakening of the Great Smoky Mountains by Page Bryant. This book is by my dear friend and teacher and about the magical place on earth I’m lucky enough to call home. Page is a master of earth and star energy and she has written the guide book to the wisdom of these ancient mountains.

 

 

 

The Magic Flute

 

It was time for a change. For many years my holiday celebrations always included Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. I’ve seen them both many times. When I hear the Nutcracker music I can practically dance the choreography. I can now quote whole passages from A Christmas Carol. So instead of The Nutcracker I spent a delightful afternoon watching a very fanciful version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute thanks to the Metropolitan Opera in HD broadcast. Next week I’m going to see The Sound of Music performed by a touring Broadway company. Neither of these productions you would call Christmasy but I like them and they are joyful and fun.

I’ve loved opera for many years now and I go to the Metropolitan Opera HD live broadcasts regularly. http://www.metopera.org/Season/In-Cinemas/ It is kind of a hobby that doesn’t take up room in my house. I also get to see operas that aren’t possible for our local opera to stage. Opera takes all of the arts and combines them into one amazing expression of the human condition. The talent and dedication it takes to stage an opera combine with the genius of the composer, making it a brilliant presentation of our highest potential. OK, I know in grand opera the heroine must die in the end. That is the rule but fortunately there are happy of operas like The Magic Flute. No Kleenex needed for the final scene.

The music of The Magic Flute is spectacular, the sets and staging in the Met’s current production are phantasmagorical. There are some of the most famous arias in all of opera. But here is what makes it so fun for us pilgrims: it is an Egyptian initiation opera, I bet you didn’t see that coming. I was so shocked the first time I found out many years ago. Mozart was a Freemason and he put many of the ideals and symbolism of Masonry into his work.

First there is the clash between light and dark, the Queen of the Night and the High Priest Sarastro represent this polarity. It is hard for the hero and heroine, Tamino and Pamina to even find out who is telling the truth. Ultimately they end up in the Temple of the High Priest where he prays to Isis and Osiris to protect them on their journey through fire (courage) and water (endurance) initiations to make them worthy of love. Three spirits guide them on this journey advising them to be patient and courageous in the quest for truth and love. The magic flute that Tamino is gifted by Sarastro helps guide him and keeps him in harmony with his quest. In the end truth and love prevail and the Queen of the Night is conquered.

The delightful bird catcher Papagano is Tamino’s sidekick through the story and represents our more sensual nature. Papagano is not so interested in Truth and Virtue, in fact he has a bit of trouble with embellishing his story. He is preoccupied with food and finding a cute lady bird catcher. Sarastro gifts him magic bells to help harmonize him with his more earthly destiny. Papagano finds his ideal partner in Papagana and they plan their life together which includes lots of little chicks.

Truth, love, virtue and perseverance are all essential tools our magical characters need for their journey, the same essential tools for our initiation to a life dedicated to our sacred path. The magic flute and bells reminds us that we need to harmonize yourself with these ideals and that will keep us on the path that is taking us to our more enlightened selves.

 

 

The Scary Cards: The Tower

 

The Tower

I thought I had it covered. Everything was safe and sound but it only took a few words from someone I didn’t know to make me feel like I had been struck by lightening. I spent the next week panicked and rushing to fix my mistake. I called lawyers and banks and signed papers and lost sleep. In the end I got my problem fixed but what if lightening hadn’t struck my “secure” tower and sent me tumbling and scrambling. I could have had so much more trouble and would have fallen out of a bigger tower.   It would have hurt so much more.

Our two friends are having a rough time in this card. They have build a big beautiful tower on a hill to protect themselves. They think they are safe in their special world. Look at their fancy clothes and one even has a crown. The tower has a crown because they make their ideas, status, theology, philosophy, politics king and they don’t need to see anyone elses’ point of view or experience. As Dr. Phil would say “How’s that working for you?” From the looks of it not so good.

If you look closely the tower is built on a tall hill that is eroding, There is no door to exit or escape ladder. The only way they have to leave is to fall out the window. When you put yourself or someone else on a pedestal and are sure of your position or block yourself from other possibilities then a correction is coming. You have a ways to go on the path to enlightenment and you can’t go any further stuck in an ivory tower, with your monumental ego. So the universe gives you a swift kick in the pants with a bolt of lightening to straighten you out.

But if you look around our falling heroes you see the little pieces of flame all around. Those are yods, the tiniest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. In the Tarot they represent blessings, God’s omnipresence. And in this card there are 22 little blessings, one for each of the major cards. Even in the terrifying moments of life there are blessings all around and the blessings will be there when we pick up the pieces of our humiliation.

The three scary cards have three different messages we need to heed and three hard lessons we have to learn on our hero’s journey through life. Death says it is time to transform and leave behind what is no longer serving you. The Devil is about facing your shadow, unlovable side and breaking free from unconscious bondage. The Tower is about a correction to bring our lives into alignment with our true self.

Every morning this week I’ve been reading a chapter from Thomas Moore’s book A Religion of One’s Own. In it, he reveals the true purpose of the tower experience: “Breakdown becomes breakthrough. The ego structures fall part and divinity once more comes into view.”

The Scary Cards: The Devil

The Devil

Every Christmas my family likes to see a wonderful production of Dickens’ Christmas Carol at the University of Tennessee theater. It doesn’t feel like Christmas with out some ”bah-humbug” from our favorite curmudgeon Ebeneezer Scrooge. Early in the play is the scariest part when his dead business partner Jacob Marley comes to visit Ebeneezer with a dire warning. Jacob is gray, dirty and exhausted for he is caring a huge chain around his neck that trails after him, making loud clanging noises. Jacob delivers the memorable line “I wear the chain I forged in life, I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” Jacob goes on to tell Ebeneezer ”the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full and heavy and long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have labored on it since. It is a ponderous chain.”

Ebeneezer and Jacob

On the Devil card the man and woman are wearing ponderous chains attached the devil’s perch. Like Ebeneezer they have forged these chains with their own poor choices, selfishness, addictions and ignorance. We saw this couple as the Lovers in card 6 where they were happy and ready for adventures together but by card 15, The Devil, they are in big trouble and have work to do to get back on the path of enlightenment.

When we first encounter this card the Devil is the overwhelming scary creature we have been taught to fear. We were told that he controls us and tempts us to be cruel and self-absorbed, vindictive and manipulative. But the poor guy, he is just a personification of illusion and we have made him ugly so we can forget he is ourselves. He is our shadow, the part of ourselves we don’t want to see or own. It is time to stop making him the scapegoat for our misdeeds. How many children have been scared by threats of the devil when he is a caricature of adult’s control issues.

So let’s put this scary beast in his place by first kicking him off his tiny platform and get these poor lovers to take off their chains which are loose around their necks. But you can see by their tails they have given into their animal nature. They must face their fears—fears of losing money, status, relationships. They must face their shadow—power, bigotry, manipulation, shaming, vindictiveness, domination, stubbornness, greed, jealousy. They must face their addictions—-control, substance abuse, materialism, gluttony.

When we cling to these self-defeating desires and patterns we feel we are owned by the Devil but it is our lower self running the show. This bondage to the dark side or our nature doesn’t bring us happiness or contentment. It just brings sorrow and pain to ourselves, our loved ones and the world. So much of the suffering in this world we have brought on ourselves by allowing “the Devil” in our nature allow us to lead unconscious lives.

So take time and ponder your ponderous chains, look at your shadow and see what you can bring into the light of your consciousness and leave behind. Fortunately Jacob Marley gave Ebeneezer the antidote for his misery and fate:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge… “Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

So take Marley’s sage advice and get down to the business of mankind and begin to heal yourself so that you can get on with the business of being kind to man. And I don’t know about you but I’m terribly afraid of ghosts and I’d prefer none visit me in the middle of the night to get me to straighten out my life.

Resources on the Shadow

Owning Your Own Shadow    Robert A. Johnson

Romancing The Shadow    Connie Zweig and Steve Wolf

Meeting The Shadow–The hidden power of the dark side of human nature

Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams

The Scary Cards: Death

My in-laws never threw anything away. It was all in the basement, 50 years of their life preserved in an underground crypt, all covered with a fine layer of mouse droppings with an aura of mold. I spent several years, on and off, untangling their past to find the essentials. One summer I made a big push to finish the process, it was a monumental task and I started to say to myself “I’ve found everything but the body, I’ve found everything but the body.” As summer turned to fall I was helping my father-in-law clean up his home office when I looked in a drawer and had to stifled a scream. There it was, THE BODY. My father-in-law happily picked up a real skeleton of a human hand, squeezed it several times and told me he used it to teach Radiology residents. I calmly requested that it be put in a box and set in a corner where I wouldn’t accidentally come across it again. The first week I lived in the house I asked one of the movers to take the hand away.  I could just imagine it coming to life and scurrying around the house like “Thing” on the Addams Family. Totally creepy.

When I first look at the Death card in the Tarot, I have the same reaction, “take it away now, I want nothing to do with skeletons or death.” But the great wisdom of Tarot says that death is a necessary part of life and we must face this scary card. When Tarot is used as a tool for wisdom, Death is never about our physical death so lets look at why we need Death as part of our enlightenment journey.

Death is a skeleton, the physical part of our bodies that is buried deep in our skin. We can’t touch our bones. The skeleton is the part of the body that survives, our essential self. Death is wearing armor, he is invincible, no one has triumphed over death. He rides the white horse of purity. Death is the ultimate purifier, carrying the banner of the white rose which is the desire for Truth. If we want the Truth of the universe the we must die to our lower nature, our immature beliefs, old worn-out stories and insecurities.

Death takes no prisoners. All the good intentions, positive thoughts, bargaining and good luck charms won’t stop his march across the land when your life needs to change. The woman won’t look at Death. She is in denial. The Bishop is praying to be spared but death is the great equalizer and money, fame, power and prestige can’t keep us away from our appointment, Death has a job to do and a schedule to keep. Only the innocent child is unafraid and looks at death as a part of life.

The river Styx, the gateway to the Underworld, is flowing to the ocean, from our individual experience back to the great mysterious universe. Charon, the wounded healer, serves as our ferryman across the river to help us understand that our loses and wounds are part of our journey in life. The sun rises between the twin towers of knowledge of universal law, and reminds us of daily rebirth and the soul’s eternal life.

As scary as this card seems, it signifies a moment of transformation. The old has outlived its usefulness and must fall away and make room for new insights, experiences and people. Death is an instrument of progress. What part of your life is finished? We can’t keep progressing on the path to Enlightenment clinging to what no longer serves us. We are moving along our journey and we need to see the bigger picture of life and accept it as it unfolds. If we don’t do this willingly and consciously, Death will help us along for we won’t be able to ignore him as he sweeps through our life.

Sometimes Death takes us by surprise and we are shattered into pieces. Take your time and mourn the loss, gather the pieces and re-member what you experienced and learned. This is an initiation, a time of expansion and emotional growth. These experiences are never easy. Change never is, but resistance just brings more sorrow to the process. This is a new beginning, a new era, time to plant new seeds.

As I was in the crypt of the house discarding the old, I was cleansing the house and the family on many levels of life. I made room for air and light to fill the dark spaces of our lives. I let go of the sad memories and worn-out experiences and remembered the happy times and uncovered the meaningful objects. We now can find what is truly important, Alexandra is enjoying a wonderful old typewriter, Caroline loves the vintage cameras. Hamilton has his grandfather’s workbench and I have order. The mice and the skeletons have found new homes.

Shaker Village

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For most people visions of heaven include pearly gates, streets of gold and jewel encrusted mansions but not in my world. All I have to do is go to Kentucky to find my version of nirvana and it is called Shaker Village. After our lovely time at the Serpent Mound, Val and I fortified ourselves with a latte and retraced our path back to Lexington for the night. I had one more essential pilgrimage stop to make the next day. I needed a Shaker Village fix.

These days I live in my in-law’s home which is decorated in a style I would call High Ostentation but in my heart I prefer a style more like Early Convent. My Taurus/Virgo soul longs for a tidy house with white walls and simple furniture. The Shakers perfected this style and brought it to a high art.

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So who were the Shakers? They were a branch of the Quakers who came to America looking for religious freedom. Lead by Mother Ann Lee, the first communities were started in the late 1700’s and formed around 20 utopian centers with 6000 members at the peak of popularity. These communities were founded on principles of equality for the sexes and races, celibacy and pacifism. Men and women lived separately but worked together and the congregations grew by recruitment since procreation wasn’t allowed. In the early 1900’s the communities stopped taking members and were eventually closed

Spiritually they believe God was both male and female and the imminent second coming of Christ. They worshiped in stark meeting rooms with narrow benches and no pulpit. The service consisted of singing, dancing and ecstatic states of shaking and shouting thus they got the name “Shakers”. They wrote many songs for their worship and the most popular tune is Simple Gifts, immortalized in Aaron Copeland’s work Appalachian Spring.

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The communities were self-sustaining farms and invented many new labor-saving devises. The Kentucky Shakers were know for their brooms and high-quality seeds as well as furniture and weaving. Hard work was important to them so all the communities thrived. They believed that beautifully made simple furniture was an act of prayer. Each building and room was perfectly planned for simplicity, practicality and order and ideal which has had a lasting influence on American design.

Shaker Village in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is like stepping back in time. On this perfect September day the buildings glowed in the sun with a back drop of purple/blue sky. Pumpkins and corn stocks decorate the stack stone fences and there is just a hint of color in the trees that line the lane; translation—-pure joy. I wandered the buildings looking at the magnificent worn furniture, craft demonstrations, amazing circular staircases and stark perfection. We wandered into the dinning room for corn pudding and buttermilk pie, headed down to the old barn to see the friendly ram and horses and felt the gentle grace of this place frozen in time. During a past visit I sang Simple Gifts in the meeting hall where that song has reverberated thousands of times and I’m thrilled to sing it for myself.

After having our joy quotient filled by two beautiful days in Kentucky. Val and I head back to Tennessee. We don’t have far to go and on the way home we have a long discussion about beauty. We have been bathed in beauty and sacred vibration for two days which has left our hearts singing and our spirits cheerful. Our quick pilgrimage had all the joys of any exotic journey with no jet lag or expensive tickets. So this Fall find a place to pilgrimage close to home and bring beauty and joy to your soul.

http://www.shakervillageky.org

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