Roses to Honor Bereaved Mothers on Mother’s Day

©Jane A. Simington, PhD.

Mother’s Day is celebrated annually as a tribute to mothers, motherhood and the influences of Mothers in society. Although the origins of the holiday date back to ancient Greek and Roman times, the modern forms of this celebration take place in many countries during the month of May.

Holiday celebrations such as Mother’s Day tend to include family gatherings and the sharing of traditions and “Remember When” stories. Such events can be emotionally difficult for the bereaved. Mother’s Day can be particularly difficult for Mother whose child is no longer living.

Throughout my years as a bereaved mother, I learned that the best way to navigate the waters of grief that become more turbulent during holiday times, especially during the celebration of Mother Day, is to allow myself to acknowledge both the Down and Under and the Up and Out aspects of my grief. 1 The following celebration strategy which implements both these aspects of grief and grief counseling has worked effectively for me and for many of the bereaved mothers I have supported as they moved through the emotionally charged days prior to, and during, the celebrations of their Motherhood. If you are a bereaved mother, I believe you will find this activity to be empowering, emotionally releasing and therapeutic.

Purchase, or ask your family and friends to contribute, one rose for each year of your deceased child’s life. For the number of flowers, write on a beautiful small piece of paper, the things you miss about being a mother for the child who has died. This acknowledges the Down and Under aspects of your grief. On a second piece of the same lovely paper, write one of your most beautiful memories of being a mother for that child. This action will acknowledge the Up and Out aspects of your grief and your grief process. When both aspects of your grief have been acknowledged, attach one of the Down and Under messages and one of the Up and Out messages to each of the roses. During the process of tying, I encourage you to write your feelings about the process and/or to verbalize with a trusted friend or counselor your written expressions and the feelings attached to those expressions. This will help you to release the emotional load of the Down and Under messages and allow you to relive and re-enjoy the Up and Out messages. After Mother’s Day, when the roses have wilted, I would suggest that you have a small burning ceremony with the wilted roses and the Down and Under messages. Place in a special container your Up and Out messages. Also after Mother’s Day, for each of the remaining days in the month of May, I encourage you to each day, read one of the Up and Out messages and to create an affirmation around that message that will acknowledge your goodness as a Mother.

 

 

1). Carkhuff, R.R. (1987). The Art of helping 96th Ed.). Amherst, MA: Human Resources Development.

 

Christmas and Helpful Communication In Times of Loss

©Jane A. Simington PhD.

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December is upon us and during this month, many will spend time with loved ones for whom Christmas does not bring joy but instead exaggerates their grief responses. While we tend to associate grief with the death of a loved one, there are actually four major types of losses that those in our workplaces and personal lives may be grieving. These are: the loss of meaningful relationships and include losses resulting from death, separation, divorce, abortion, or of children taken into foster care. Losses of meaningful objects are the second major category and include the losses of a home or treasured objects; and can result from a house fire or relocation such as what happens when someone enters a long-term care facility and can take only one box and one suitcase of possessions. A loss of context is the third major type of losses and includes losses of routine and the familiar; these losses can also include losses of goals and dreams and a loss of a sense of one’s past, such as happens when a parent dies, or a loss of a sense of one’s future, as what happens when a child dies. The fourth major category is losses of parts of the self. These losses include sensory losses, loss of a body part, a loss of identity, or a loss of a sense of self, self-worth, or dignity. These major categories of losses are not mutually exclusive, for many who experience a significant loss in one category will subsequently experience losses in another or even in all the other categories.

Many who desire to be helpful, struggle with the best ways to communicate with a griever, especially with those who are in the early stages of grief, or with those who are experiencing a renewed rawness of their grief and of all the memories of what they no longer have and will never again have. A renewed rawness of grief is often triggered by an anniversary reaction, such as what happens at Christmas time. The following points on helpful ways to communicate and not-communicate with a griever can allow a caring person to become one who is capable of knowledgeable caring:

  • Create opportunities that allow the griever to speak about the losses or about the person who has died, since a great fear for grievers is that their loved one will too soon be forgotten. Relating any positive life events and memories of your experiences with the griever or of their loved one who has died can boost the griever’s self-worth and help them to know that their loved one or their contributions are not forgotten.
  • Be comfortable with tears for they are a normal part of grief and can help grieving persons release deeply felt emotional and soul pain. It is also okay to shed a tear as you listen to the griever’s tear-filled stories. Remember however, that crying and weeping are not the same things. When we have a tear in our eye, grievers can sense our empathy. When we weep however, we have altered the relationship for we are no longer able to support the griever for something about what they have said or done has triggered unresolved feelings within us and the griever may end up comforting the one who should be providing the comfort, but is no longer capable of doing so.
  • Remain focused on the griever and on the griever’s experiences. Many people have a difficult time remaining “other-focused.” The moment a griever attempts to describe a portion of their grief experience, a listener that is unable to be other-focused for more than a few moments, will piggy-back on the griever’s story and interject into the conversation, a life narrative of their own grief. To do so may make the griever feel that the listener does not hear the significance of, nor really care about, the griever or about what the griever is attempting to communicate.
  • Allow the griever to describe their beliefs about their life circumstances rather than offering “false reassurance.” False reassurance is delivered in expressions such as: “It was for the best.” “It was God’s will.” “Something good will come from this.” While these phrases may seem comforting, they are considered by grievers as the least helpful words spoken to them. Expressions such as these come from the speaker’s belief system and may not match the beliefs of the griever. False reassurance has been shown to increase anger at God as well as at the conveyor of such expressions, and thus interferes with the therapeutic relationship.
  • Offer the griever undivided attention. A griever’s life and sense of self have been destroyed. Grievers deserve the full attention of their listeners. To give full attention that conveys care, support and empathy, turn your entire body toward the person, make direct eye contact and drop everything else you are doing as the grieving person is speaking. My youngest daughter taught me the power of facing the speaker and making eye contact while listening. One afternoon, while I was busy at the stove and she was excitedly relating her kindergarten day’s events, she stopped mid-sentence to retort. ”Mom you are not listening!“  “Oh yes I am,” I replied, and repeated some of the things she had said. “But,” she cried! “You’re not listening with your eyes.” My child’s honest expression made me remember that the eyes truly are the windows of the soul and to make eye contact when someone is attempting to share deeply with me communicates that I am emotionally and soulfully present to them.
  • Keeping our eyes connected also keeps our eyes and hands off technology devices, such as phones or iPads. Focusing on devices when another is relating their feelings indicates in numerous nonverbal ways that we are more interested in what we are doing on the devices than we are with the person who at this moment needs our undivided attention.
  • Encourage the griever to create a nonverbal signal that communicates when they are becoming overwhelmed in a situation where they may not be able to tell you this in words. The nonverbal message can be anything from pulling on their left ear lobe to rubbing their right knee. Once the nonverbal communication strategy is established, it will then be an indication for you to find a way to excuse the griever from a situation in which they are becoming physically and/or emotionally exhausted.

Christmas is for many, a time of family gatherings. Contained within such gatherings are often reflections of the joys and family gatherings of past Christmases. These reflections, the season itself and all it contains, including the expectations of what it should contain, can add to the emotional emptiness felt by grievers. Many of us will, over the holidays, spend time with one or more persons who are experiencing grief. While we may not be able to make their lives joyful, we each can communicate in ways that convey care and support, knowing that feeling cared about is a first step in regaining a sense of hope that may one day lead to inner peace, the true gift of a joyous Christmas.

Depression Resulting From Spiritual Distress

Depression Resulting From Spiritual Distress
©Jane A. Simington, PHD

 

Depression short

Some time ago I supported a young man seeking help for depression. His response to my initial questions inquiring about the origin of his depression was, “When I started that meaningless job.” His reply caused me to ponder if, since finding meaning in our lives and in what we do, is a major spiritual need; and since finding meaning is closely associated with the spiritual need of feeling that our life’s purpose is being fulfilled, I suspected that the cause of his depression was rooted in these unfulfilled spiritual needs. As a way to determine how to help him begin to live a more meaningful and purposeful life, I asked, “What would you like to be doing?” He replied, “I am a musician, and a very good one, but there is no money to be made as a musician, so I work as a mechanic.” His answer moved us away from an exploration of how to manage his emotional responses. It led us into considerable dialogue around spirituality, the spiritual needs and how when our spiritual needs are unmet, the feelings of spiritual distress surface. These intense discussions allowed him to describe the soul pain he experienced each day while doing a job that was unfulfilling; and therefore opened the doorway for a treatment plan for his depression that included helping him meet his unmet spiritual needs. This meant enabling him to identify numerous ways in which he could use his musical gifts and talents in volunteer efforts as well as in monetary ways. Within a year, he was receiving income from playing in one orchestra and two bands, and he was regularly volunteering and sharing his musical gifts at a rehabilitation hospital. His love for his work at the rehabilitation centre led him to a university program in music therapy. His mood lifted and other treatment approaches were gradually decreased and soon were no longer required.

While it is necessary to acknowledge that depression can cause serious difficulties in people’s lives resulting from a neurochemical imbalance that may require medication, it is also valuable to recognize that thoughts and attitudes affect the neurochemical balance. The troubling thoughts of those who are experiencing the soul pain that results from their intense inner search for the spiritual meaning in their experiences and the constant mental and soulful struggles of attempting to find and fulfill the purpose for their lives can also alter the neurochemical balance. This knowledge should direct helpers to inquire as to the origin of the depression; to listen for indications of the spiritual distress that results when someone is attempting to live with unmet spiritual needs; and, to gain knowledge of spirituality and the skills to apply strategies to meet, not only the emotional needs, but to also address the spiritual concerns of people seeking help from depression.

Seeking Happiness

Bloom, bloom, bloom where you’re planted.

You will find your way.

Bloom, bloom, bloom where you’re planted.

You will have your day. C. Landry

 

©Jane A. Simington, PHD.

 

New Years’ resolutions often include a desire for things we believe will bring us greater happiness even though, at a deeper inner level, we are aware that our frenzied and constant search for more and better things to bring us happiness rarely results in the feelings we desire being sustained. Sadly, too, what makes us happy in one instance often creates its own unhappiness because things that make us happy tend to only offer happiness for a while, and then we are off once again seeking the next thing.

 

In Bloom Where You’re Planted, Landry reminds us that unhappiness in our present situation will not likely be remedied by any amount of success or the accumulation of things, for true happiness is not an external thing; it is a state of mind and soul. True happiness is inner peace. The search for inner peace, the search for true happiness, must begin with a journey inward. The following three processes provide forward movement along the journey leading to the doorway where inner peace and true happiness can be found.

 poppy on stairs

Be still: The soul loves tranquility. Noises of the outside world are out of sync with the frequencies of things of a spiritual nature, and thus, interfere with our abilities to connect with spiritual wisdom. When we fill each moment with cell phones and other technologies, we all but obliterate our abilities to perceive soulful messages and receive inner guidance. Being faithful to some regular quiet times, such as a morning meditation or visualization, a morning walk or jog without a headset so as to be totally present and in awe of the sights and sounds of nature, or driving in the country with no radio on are all actions that gently and quite quickly reestablish connections with the spirit worlds.

 

Develop a happiness mindset: It is not possible to be happy if we constantly tell ourselves how miserable we are. Thoughts create attitudes; attitudes, describe the world to us. Attitudes create behaviors; behaviors describe us to the world. Thoughts create neurochemical responses which move through every synapse of our nervous system. Thoughts of unhappiness produce dis-ease in our physical bodies. Considerable research supports that as high as 80 to 90 percent of physical symptoms have their roots in unresolved emotional and spiritual concerns.

 

Thoughts are not tangible things; they are energy vibrations. The vibrations created by thoughts not only affect us, they radiate beyond us, affecting others. Therapists recognize the need to protect from the effects of vicarious trauma resulting from the projection of difficult emotions by grieving and traumatized clients. The same is true in all relationships. Thoughts and emotions of happiness are constantly exchanged with those around us, as are thoughts of misery and lack. We really never need to tell another our feelings about them, for at a deep soul level they know this long before we have the cognitive ability to formulate thoughts into words. I like to refer to this exchange of thought energy as soul to soul communication. When we desire to bring more happiness into any relationship or any other life situation, we must begin first by making alterations at the thought level. Changing thoughts of resentment and disappointment to those of love and understanding will directly result in a change of attitude toward the other. This will have a direct impact on the behaviors we display toward them. In turn their behavior toward us will automatically alter in a more positive direction.

 

Evaluate your Purpose: Any turning point can cause us to renew our search to find the deeper meaning in our lives, our work and our relationships. If during this examination we discover we are unhappy with where we find ourselves, we begin to search for more moments when we feel fully alive and excited and passionate about our personal relationships and our work lives. John of the Cross referred to this time of inner searching as the Dark Night of the Soul. He noted that, while extremely uncomfortable, if we endure, this time of inner anguish results in tremendous spiritual growth. Others who wrote about his work indicated that the way out of the inner turmoil is to take advantage of whatever will help increase personal and spiritual growth. This, I believe is why, as we move through this difficult time, many feel guided to return to school to obtain the additional knowledge and skills required to become what will bring their lives more in line with their purpose. Others, however, find the inner turmoil too uncomfortable and continue to obliterate the inner silence in ways described above; some, too, attempt to run even harder and faster toward the next thing that promises moments of external happiness.

 

As we enter 2015, a year that is predicted to be a year of tremendous spiritual growth and transformation for many, let us each find ways to turn inward and experience true short and long-term happiness. Let us find ways to bloom where we are planted.

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.

Fathering Continues Beyond The Grave

©Jane A. Simington, PHD, 2014

My last visit with my Father began three days before his passing. I had known him as a man of few words, so the intensity and depth of the conversation we shared about the life we spent together marked me indelibly. He emphasized that he wished he “had been able to do more [for me],” “to give [me] more.”

My simple response, “Daddy, you gave me life; you gave me my education. I could ask for nothing more,” affirmed the roles that he played in my life. I left my father’s room that evening believing I would never again converse with him, or receive his help or guidance. My first realization that this assumption was not true occurred just days after his death.

Because of the time spent with him during his dying, and the time I spent with my mother following his funeral, I had limited opportunity to fulfill my role as a choir director. I spoke to my Father about this dilemma and asked that somehow he offer assistance. To my relief and delight, the choir’s performance that Easter Sunday morning was outstanding, and during most of it, I could distinctly sense his presence.

Awareness that my Father’s assistance continued beyond his grave became increasingly real during my Mother’s final illness. My instinctive response to the news of my Mother’s passing was to seek solace at the water’s edge. Upon arrival there my attention was immediately drawn to the magnificence unfolding before me. Mesmerized, I gazed as a large white bird elegantly lifted from the water, to be followed by another of its kind. In a splendorous display of graceful ease the pair ascended upward and eastward until they were gently immersed in the golden radiance of the morning sunrise. Stillness followed, and in its glow, awareness. The powerful symbolism revealed in those extraordinary moments imprinted upon my soul a knowing that a sacred union was unfolding in front of me. My Father had come to accompany my Mother and guide her journey homeward.

The night my Mother died I was privileged in a dream to witness my Father walking toward her. Both were dressed for travel. My parents entered a large, gothic-style building and moved forward to the far end of it where together they entered a tunnel-like opening. Although I did not witness any vehicle of travel, I knew they were leaving via some mode of transportation that would take them on to the next phase of their journey together.

In the years since my Mother’s death, my Father has, on numerous occasions, especially during times of distress, shown me that his presence and support continues. Just recently, during a time when I was unconscious and near death, my Father again arrived. This time he carried me across a bridge and placed me back into a bed in the intensive care unit where I was being treated.

As I recall these visitations from my Father since his death, I am reminded of the words inscribed on one of the stones that make up a small stone circle in the courtyard of St. Mary’s Church, in Rydal, England – a little stone structure William Wordsworth had been instrumental in building.

What is it to cease to breathing
But to free the breath from its restless tides
That it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered.

 Standing stone breath white

A Time for Renewal and Transformation

©Jane A. Simington PHD, 2014 

This morning at dawn,
prodded by a magical stirring in the air,
I wandered a wooded area
to capture signs of spring I knew would be there.
The Geese are back, the Robins too;
Pussy willows? I saw a few.
Wild things need no temple; they need no bells to ring.
The breezes coming from the South
have told them it is spring.
In this outdoor cathedral, standing on holy ground
I marveled at the lessons of rebirth that I found.
The unborn beauty beneath the earth
again reminded me,
That life renews with joy, and peace, and immortality.

My time in nature always brings a deep sense of awe and gratefulness for the many lessons gleaned from seasonal changes. The metaphoric similarities of the repetitive cycle of birth, death and rebirth bring promise of renewal. Since ancient times, spring festivals have been based on this theme and those still held in sacred circles around the world continue to honor our Human-Earth connections. Such ceremonies acknowledge how the external reminders of spring parallel a rekindling of light and warmth in our inner world. In Aboriginal cultures, the metaphor of the movement from cold and darkness into warmth and light is that of the journey of the Great Bear from the cave. Hibernation is brought to an end, by the warming rays of the Eastern sun. Hungry and eager to ingest the goodness and warmth of spring, the Great Bear leaves behind the cave’s cold and darkness.

Springtime can be any time when the light increases in our mind and in our spirit, for anytime this occurs, an increase in our sense of freedom follows. A butterfly’s process of metamorphosis and release from the entrapment and darkness of the cocoon is a common symbol of the transition from darkness into light and freedom.

geese Jane's lakeSpringtime and all of its reminders of renewal provide a great opportunity for recognizing that difficult life experiences have two separate aspects: the destructive aspect and the transformative aspect. During the destructive aspect we feel robbed and stripped of what we once had and have no longer. We grieve and we mourn. Yet, our long days of darkness, our times in the caves, times in the cocoons, change us, transform us. When we emerge from the caves, when we crawl from the cocoons, we know we are not the same beings that entered.

As spring replaces winter, I hope that the seasonal changes awaken for each of us a renewed hope in the cycles of life and death and transformation. May the increasing hours of sun deepen our recognition that every year spring brings bare earth to bloom. May the seeds we have sorted during our long winter days and nights, and selected for planting, be fertile and sprout with many new leaves in the light and warmth of the spring sunshine.

 



Celebrating Magic: Welcoming New Beginnings

January brings a fresh new year, a blank canvas waiting for creation, a phenomenal opportunity for investing in new opportunities.

The ancient Romans dedicated New Year’s Day to Janus, the God of gates, doors, and beginnings. Janus had two faces, allowing him to look both backwards into the old year and forwards into the new one. His image reminds us that at the beginning of a new year we have an ideal time for both reflection and creation.reflection

Reflecting on the past year

As I reflect on the year that is ending I find great value in pondering how some of the events that have occurred in 2013 have impacted me both personally and professionally. The following reflection questions have helped me gain deeper insights into the overall significance of these events. I hope they also help you process more completely the impact on your life of some of the happenings of 2103.

1) What are the two most significant events that touched my life during the past year?

2) How did each of these events impact my life, both positively and less than positively?

3) What short term and long term learning did I glean from each event?

4) What images, emotions, and learning do I want to incorporate into my life and bring into the New Year?

5) What images and emotions do I want to release and leave behind as I enter this New Year?

I have found great value in taking the time to reflect on the above questions and to then journal my reflections. When I decided which images, emotions and learning I wanted to retain I began to create a collage on which I placed pictures to depict them. For the images and emotions I did not want to retain I wrote a detailed letter describing the reasons I did not what these aspects to be a part of my life in the New Year. This letter was burned in a simple fire ceremony. As the letter burned I prayed “May the Fire Spirit burn from me these unwanted images and emotions. As the smoke of this burning ascends to Creator may I receive in exchange a powerful blessing that will open many new doors.”

For one of the more difficult emotions attached to a disconcerting image I found it necessary to do a cord cutting exercise. For this I used the cord cutting imagery from my CD Releasing Ties, but during this imagery instead of cutting ties with a relationship I chose instead to name the emotions and images I wished to release.

The above exercises provided me a sense of completion and a feeling of closure to all that had been in the year that is ending. I share my experiences trusting that you too will find them beneficial. If you are a group facilitator you might also like to use these activities in a group setting.

Creating Opportunities for the New Year

Once the activities for bringing closure to the old year are completed it is time to begin the process of creating the new. Here are some suggestions of activities to help each of us step into new opportunities.

1)      Take a daily walk and purposefully walk into the East. On the Great Medicine Wheels of the World, East is considered the direction of new beginnings. Many people, on a healing journey, find that each time they begin an outdoor walk they are instinctively drawn to walk in an easterly direction. This was true in my own life during a time of great healing and I now pay attention to this soul urging each time I have a need to ponder what is next in my life.

2)      Increase the use of the color yellow. Yellow is associated with the East and therefore with dawn, with clarity, illumination and with new beginnings. Add yellow clothing to your ward robe; use this color in decorating and in creative activities. When someone I am working with begins to use a lot of yellow I know they are ready to step more fully into a new beginning.

3)      Complete a collage depicting everything you want to bring into your life in the coming year. Once you have completed the collage mark it off in twelve equal portions. These divisions will represent the coming months. Place the completed collage where you view it each day. At the end of each month review your progress. I find the act of reviewing my monthly progress to be very motivating. If I have successfully completed what is set out for that month I reward myself in some small way. If I have not achieved that goal I write a few short term goals to help me move more steadily in that direction. This year I am using the collage I began last week. That collage contains images representing what I want to bring along from the past year. On the remainder of the collage I will paste pictures to represent all that I want to accomplish in 2014.

4)      Pay attention to the guidance being offered in your dreams. Dream symbols of death can inform us that something must die before the new can come to life. Symbols of death most frequently announce that a change is happening or needs to happen.  Dream symbols of keys, gates and door often announce that we must use a particular key of knowledge or wisdom to unlock the doors and gates that open to new places and new opportunities. Many of these dream symbols have folklore and ancient practices attached to them to remind us of their symbolic messages. One such story is of the door.

In medieval England the New Year began with a custom called ‘first footing.’ At the moment January 1st began people waited behind their doors for a visitor who carried a piece of coal, some bread, some money and some greenery. The coal symbolized that the house would always be warm, the bread that there would be enough food. The money symbolized there would be enough wealth to meet the needs, and the gift of greenery was symbolic of a long and peace-filled life. The visitor would then take a pan of ashes from the house, to signifying departure of the old year.

5) Create a symbolic ritual or ceremony to depicting the ending of the old in your life and the welcoming of new opportunities. I like the symbolism and symbolic actions done in the practice of ‘first footing.’ Our souls long for symbolic food such as this. I have on occasions found that externalize my desires in a ceremonial way increases the chances of achieving the goal.

6) Many astrologers believe the best time to begin a project is at the times of a new moon. The first New Moon of 2014 occurs on January 1. Resolutions made at this time can receive a dynamic boost and since there are several planets in Capricorn the resolution will be provided a stable structure to ensure manifestation. A second New Moon occurs on January 30, giving us another opportunity to get our projects off to a great start.

7) Embrace the magic of the New Year and acknowledge that there is a power available now for you to harness. The universe awaits your decisions and when your choices are made and you commit to those choices the universe will support you and provide you with all the resources you need to make your miracles happen.

The month of January is definitely about launching the new. It is about planting seeds that will soon become seedlings, then bud and bloom so we can reap a grand harvest by this coming autumn. May 2014, be our best year yet.

 

Igniting the Spark of Inner Peace

poppy

 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