Transformation Produces Abundance

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. 2017

Today, while gathering the abundance of an August harvest, a multicolored butterfly landed on my overflowing vegetable basket. The butterfly’s colors and how its wings became one with a carrot top reminded me of a clay Kachina I had once molded during an art class, and of the symbolism related to it. A Kachina is a supernatural being who controls nature and has the Spirits of living things such as animals and plants within it. The Butterfly Maiden is a Hopi Native American Kachina responsible for a fertile beginning leading to a transformation that produces a bountiful harvest. She is often pictured as a young Native American woman dressed in, and surrounded by butterflies. One teaching associated with her is that similarly to how each morning, the harvester searches for the ripe corn cobs that have burst forth from their husks, each new day offers abundant possibilities for stepping from our cocoons, spreading our wings and discovering the beautiful butterflies within; and that the best way to make progress in this direction is to reconnect with the symbolic messages reflected to us from nature’s perennial rhythm of fertility, growth, harvest and decay.

During times when our inner wisdom is quieted by the pain we feel, a daily venture out-of-doors can help us regain our foothold upon the Earth. Mother Nature’s cyclic rhythm of promise can help us regain hope for the future, and thereby rekindle our desire to continue to tread among the living. As we move through our daily lives, which are sometimes filled with hurt and fear, chaos and challenge, may Mother Nature daily provide one item to symbolically brighten the darkness of our personal cocoons, laid down to protect us from the harshness of the world, and from within that Light, may our beautiful butterflies emerge.

 

Grandfathering Strengthens Intergenerational Bonds

©Jane A. Simington PhD.

 

Parents who have had a child die often feel that they have lost a huge part of their future. All the goals, dreams and aspirations they had for that child and for their relationship with that child are gone, and in their place is a deep sadness and a longing for what will never be.

As a bereaved mother I know that while my son Billy can never be replaced and that the dreams we had for him will never be achieved, I have come to recognize that within that knowing is tied a deeper recognition of the cycle of life and of the value of meaningful relationships.

Each day, I marvel at my husband’s parenting and grandparenting. Now that Bill is mostly retired from the world of paid work, he rarely misses a morning phone call to our youngest daughter asking if she needs any help that day with the “boys”. His strong bond with our three grandsons, created from being so frequently present to them and involved in their activities, has helped him fulfill in so many ways some of the unfulfilled dreams he had for Billy and for his relationship with him. The positive effects of Bill’s grandparenting has increased my understanding of how when a family tragedy happens, each member of that family must assist in healing the family wounds and also of how when that healing takes place, the strengthening of relationships becomes like a glue to cement intergenerational bonds.

The family surname creates a substantial link from one generation to the next. Since Billy was the only male heir, upon his death that link was lost. Recognizing the grief her father experienced around that loss, our youngest daughter hyphenated the surnames of each of her three sons. Now, on occasion, to fit the backs of their hockey sweaters, their hyphenated names are shortened to reveal only Bill’s surname. While this may seem insignificant to others, to Bill and me it not only provides momentary joy-filled reminders of how proudly Billy would often turn his back to reveal for his dad his surname and number; it is also for us a knowing that by hyphenating her sons’ names, our daughter contributed to healing our family wound and helped to increase our grandsons’ understanding of their belonging to an extended family, where each family member contributes in both great and small ways to the establishment of bonds of healing, love and family support, that will extend these same strengths into their generation.

Both Bill and I are conscious of how involvement with our grandsons has helped to fill the empty spaces created by our inability to see Billy live to his adulthood; yet we are also keenly aware of how enriched our grandsons’ lives are because of Bill’s frequent involvement with them. It is difficult to say who gains the most from experiences such as when, under his Grandfather’s watchful guidance, our oldest grandson drove for the first time, his Grandfather’s red Camaro convertible; or when his Grandfather did not win any of the car races at Speeders, between him and his middle grandson; or when the youngest grandson urgently ran back home from school, to get the Coonskin hat his Grandfather has previously bought him, so that he could be appropriately dressed for his school field trip to Fort Edmonton.

While it impossible to say who acquires the most from such experiences, Bill and I both acknowledge that the giving and the receiving across these generations has increased our awareness of the fullness of the cycle of life and of how each of us contribute on a daily basis to the turning of that wheel.

From Inner Peace to World Peace

© Jane A. Simington PhD.

 

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The month of November calls us to gratefully reflect on the freedoms we are privileged to experience as a result of sacrifices made by the family members who, as veterans, served our countries in the maintenance of peace and liberty. Yet despite their sacrifices, the search for peace continues among nations, within families, between individuals, and within the emotions and spirits of the individuals who fought for our freedoms.

My recent involvement with a colleague’s family member, who had completed his course of duties in a war zone and received honors for his services, amplified my knowing that there are really no winners in war! As we dialogued, I heard the intense pain this man was experiencing. He spoke of the guilt he felt about being a part of what he had been personally involved in, as well as from what he had witnessed and heard about from his colleagues. He described feeling judged and shunned, especially by those who had seen him as a hero, for not being able to “just get over it,” and how their inattentiveness to his need to voice his remorse added to his sense of shame.

His dialogue revealed an incremental soul searching examination of every event, every word he had spoken, every command he had received or given, and every action he had taken or not taken. He wept when I asked if this intense search was a search for answers, or was it a search for the parts of him that had remained at the scenes of the traumatic events he had experienced and witnessed.

 

Indigenous peoples from around the world hold a common belief that the soul pain experienced at the time of a traumatic event can cause soul parts to fracture off and remain within the energy of that time and place. As I listened to his soul pain and heard his soul-longing for wholeness, I felt extreme gratefulness to have the knowledge and skills to help him. And while it was not without intense emotion that he reclaimed those parts of himself that had remained as if frozen at those numerous soul fracturing events, it was with incredible joy that I witnessed his look of anguish dissolve into one of deep peace and stillness as he reintegrated his fractured soul parts.

 

As we move into November and ponder ways to thank and honor our veterans let us be mindful of the value in acknowledging their personhood. Let us recognize that perhaps the best way to honor, especially those veterans who are family members, is to listen to them with open minds and hearts, and remaining ever aware of how the horrors of war can damage a human psyche. Even though listening to their narratives may be difficult for it can stir our own unresolved pain, their need to reexamine, in order to heal the horrors they experienced, may be great. When we are able to listen and respond at the depth they require, we do our part in helping them find inner peace and thus one person at a time, we add to a collective movement toward world peace.

Solstice Nights Offer Winter Dream

©Jane A. Simington, 2014

Those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere will soon be experiencing the longest nights of the year. While interpretation of the ever-increasing darkness surrounding the Winter Solstice varied among ancient cultures, archeological findings indicate our ancestors believed that during the Winter Solstice the Earth is more closely aligned with cosmic forces and thus prayers made during these times are more likely to be responded to than are those made at other times of the year.In many cultures, during the winter festivals, symbols of the Great Bear were used to depict the Earth’s closeness to the cosmos and the appeal for the rebirth of the sun. Like the bear going into its earthen cave to hibernate and to digest during the long, dark nights what was previously ingested so it can burst forth hungry for newness when the sun again shines brightly, we, too, with the lengthening darkness spend longer hours in deeper sleep. For many of us, the longer hours of deeper sleep result in an increase in dreaming.

 winter sunrise

Dreams have been a topic of fascination and intense study throughout history. Carl Jung, the first psychotherapist to view dreams as soulful messages noted that a dream that is not interpreted is a letter from the Gods we have not bothered to read. Today, dream therapists recognize that the dreams which capture our awareness during the long winter nights are frequently those that hold symbols of change. The need for change is often symbolized by dreams of death. To dream that you or someone you know is dying rarely announces a physical death, but usually symbolizes that something is dying (or must die) so something new can be born.

Our Winter Dreams often come in three parts. In the first portion the dreamer is generally provided an overview of what has been. The second part symbolizes what needs to change so that, with the return of the sun, we, like the Great Bear, can charge forth from the darkness of our inner cave into the dawn of a new beginning. The third portion of a dream gives us a glimpse of what will happen if we take action on what is being symbolized by the middle portion of the dream.

The fading light causes us to acknowledge that this dormant time allows us to amass energy for our next great movement forward. Being thus connected with the seasonal changes in our own lives, as mirrored by the cyclic changes in nature, we bless the darkness knowing that it is always darkest just before daybreak, and that very soon a door will open through which the returning light will stream.

Join me on Friday evening December 19 as I lead a Winter Solstice ceremony to open the workshop, Exploring Our Winter Dreams taking place December 20 and 21.

 

From Inner Peace to World Peace

Jane A. Simington, PhD., 2014

The signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 was a declaration to end all wars. As I ponder the reasons for the lack of peaceful outcomes that many believed would follow the signing of the Armistice, I recall the words of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who throughout Living Buddha, Living Christ, reminded us that Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world. People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.

We each view the world through a framework carpentered from the religious, cultural, political, and educational systems into which we have been indoctrinated. We all have powerful priests, teachers, elders, parents, and friends who continually reinforce our initial teachings. And yet regardless of our indoctrination, our unique take on the world is a process of filtering our experiences. We examine every word we hear, every action we view, and we attach judgment in the form of a thought. In turn, those thoughts become our reality. We decide whether the event is good or bad, right or wrong. Shakespeare reminded us that our reality is a product of our thinking. Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

flying birdIn Ageless Body, Timeless Mind Deepak Chopra emphasized that our cells are constantly eves dropping on our thoughts. The neurochemicals produced by our thoughts move through the synapses and biochemical exchanges of our nervous systems and thus, because each muscle cell has an axon, the tail of a neuron attached to it, our thoughts affect our bodies. Our lives, are therefore today, a product of the thinking we have done. Because of the processes of electrochemical exchange, when we change our thoughts, we change our lives. By changing thoughts of, “this is bad,” “this is wrong,” to affirmations of “I love…,” “I value…,” we alter the neurochemicals moving throughout our bodies. While overnight, we will not make complete changes in these exchanges, when we practice daily to change any negative thought to more positive ones, in a short time we will notice alterations in our attitudes. Because thoughts create attitudes which result in behaviors, and behaviors become who we are, any changes in behaviors must always begin with changes in thinking.

Thoughts are energy, and because of that they are free-floating and radiate from us affecting others. This process is similar to what takes place when we throw a rock into the water. The impact made by the rock moves from the point of insertion, rippling eventually throughout the pond. Relative to the Critical Mass Theory, if enough of us increase our thoughts of peace, love and goodness, so as to out-weight the energy of the thoughts of war and hatred, the critical mass of peace will be reached and in turn that will be the outcome. When we truly recognize the connections between our thoughts and their outcomes we comprehend more clearly why it is often said that world peace being within.

 

Marcus Aurelius noted that, “He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”As November 11th approaches and as we near the end of 2014, there is a great need to hear and respond to that wisdom and to heed the Great Cry to find harmony within, and to live in harmony with others. We must once again acknowledge as Chief Seattle did: All things are connected – like the blood that unites one family. What befalls the Earth befalls the sons and daughters of the Earth. We did not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

 

To transform in the direction of inner peace is to acknowledge that healing ourselves and working toward world peace is the same work. It is to affirm that the “Earth is Christos, is Buddha, is Allah, is Gaia.”

Summer Fire Ceremonies Heal and Transform

 Jane A. Simington PHD (2014)

     What is it about the camp fire that mesmerizes? What is stirred within? What dormant memories are awakened?
     Fire on most of the great Medicine Wheels of the world is the element associated with the South. Sacred teachings connected with the South are about summer; about growth and productivity. These reflections from nature, the sun-filled days and the long evenings of summer sunlight, are metaphoric reminders that the energies of summer also provide us with opportunities for growth in productive and fruitful ways.
TRC fire ceremony 013     The Hawaiian Goddess Pele is a summertime Goddess. As the Volcano Goddess, Pele prompts us to recall the power of the fire within us and how it can sometimes take a major eruption before our fire can burst forth in all its fullness. As a Fire Goddess, Pele reminds us that the ashes from fire eruptions create new soil, fertile for new growth.

     Ancient teachings such as those of the Medicine Wheel and of Goddess lore remind us that the fire energy that penetrates all living things, even the burning core deep within the earth, also burns within us . We are a part of the Life Force of the Creator and of all that has been created.
     And yet, as William James noted, “Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.”1
     The long evenings of summertime offer many opportunities for gatherings around a fire. Campfires can, with a few minor adjustments, be used as ceremonial fires for healing and transformational purposes. During Fire ceremonies the Spirit of the Fire is called upon to burn away that which is no longer providing the rich fuel needed to turn our glowing embers into full blown flames.
     When I conduct a Fire Ceremony, I begin by having each participant write a letter to the Fire Spirit naming the things they are requesting to be burned away. As the fire is lit, an offering of tobacco or other medicine considered sacred by the group members is offered. Members of the group are then invited to hang a colored ribbon in a nearby tree in each of the directions. A red ribbon is hung in the South to represent fire. As this ribbon is hung we pray that the fire burns away what is no longer of growth potential. Next, a blue ribbon is hung in the West. As the blue ribbon is hung we pray for healing, since the West on most Medicine Wheels represents the place of healing. A white ribbon is then placed in the North and as it is hung we pray for strength and endurance. A yellow ribbon is used to represents the East. As the yellow ribbon is hung we pray that the element of air, which correlates with the East, blows newness into our lives.
     Following the hanging of the colored ribbons, to the beat of the drum and the rhythm of rattles, one by one we approach the fire, offering our letters. As the papers burn and the smoke ascends, we pray that our Creator take from us what is no longer working and in exchange provide us with what we need to support our new growth in the most successful and abundant ways
     Each time I conclude a fire ceremony I am reminded of the words of De Chardin. “Someday when we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. 2

References
1). James, W. (1958). Varieties of Religious Experiences. NY: New American Library.

2). De Chardin, P. T. (1984) On Love and Happiness. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Igniting the Spark of Inner Peace

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 As we enter the month of November I am drawn to reflect on the freedom we are privileged to experience as a result of sacrifices made by the family members who, as veterans, served our countries in the maintenance of peace and liberty. Yet despite their sacrifices the search for peace among nations, within families, between individuals, and between individuals and their environment continues.
Spiritual masters remind us that world peace begins within each of us. A number of years ago on a visit to Westminster Abby, I felt drawn to descend into the Crypt beneath the cathedral. The words on a particular tomb, apparently written by the Anglican bishop buried there, emphasize the need for each of us to start with our self.

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.
But, it too, seemed immovable.
As I grew into my twilight years, in one more desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.
And now as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: if I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country and, who knows, I may have even changed the world.

His epitaph reminds us that when we transform ourselves we transform everything around us. When we live in peace we radiate peace. Marcus Aurelius noted that “He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.” To transform in the direction of inner peace is to acknowledge that healing ourselves and working toward world peace and Human-Earth ecology is the same work.

As we move into November, the month when we honor in a formal way those who have sacrificed so much for the freedom of our land, let us remember and celebrate them and let us also remember and celebrate the land. To celebrate the land is to remember the transformative aspects of the landscapes and the elements. It is to honor that the Earth is Mother to each of us. Her Rocks, Water, Fire and Air are for each of us, belong fully to each of us and are within each of us. Her Water is our blood. Her Air is our breath, and her Fire is our Spirit.

As we ponder ways to thank and honor all veterans and their families, especially those veterans who are or were a part of our own families, may we also ponder our part in making sure that those who have sacrificed and died for this cause know that we have taken up the torch. May each of us radiate so brightly that our inner torch ignites the spark of inner peace for multitudes, regardless of race, culture or religious beliefs.

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. (Oct. 30, 2013).

Honoring Our Veterans: A Discovery of Inner Peace

©Jane A. Simington, PhD. (Oct, 2012).

 In countries around the world, every November 11, citizens stop and ponder the freedom they experience as a result of the sacrifices made by those who have served their country in the maintenance of peace and liberty. November 11th honors all living and dead Veterans for their patriotism and willingness to serve, and often despite great personal costs. In Canada, the day of honoring our veterans is known as Remembrance Day; in the United States it is Veterans Day. In many other countries this day is referred to as Armistice, for it marks the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I.

It was believed that the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 at 11am (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) was a declaration to end the “War to end all wars.” Sadly, the positive predictions for that day have not been the reality.  

For many of us the search to find ways to end war and conflict has turned into a search for world peace. Peace symbols such as those of a dove carrying a green branch and the brilliant red poppy remind us of this quest.poppy

The red poppy which is now closely associated with November 11th symbolizes the peace brought to the world by the veterans who served during WWI. These poppies bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders; their brilliant red color was thought to represent the blood spilt during the war.
The tradition of wearing a red poppy to commemorate our veterans on November 11th began when a Canadian medical officer, John McCrae wrote this famous poem (1915).

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.”


His poem was published in Punch Magazine and by 1918, it was well known throughout the allied world. An American woman, Moina Michael, added her response.

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

 

Yet despite the poetry and symbolism, the search for world peace goes on. Continue reading