Easter: A Time to Weave an Intergenerational Fabric Made of both Sacred and Secular Threads

© Jane A. Simington PhD, 2017

Easter is a time for resurrecting from the old; it is a time to honor the good that has been a part of our past and to consider how we can use that good as fertilizer for the new seeds we will plant during this particular springtime of our lives. Reflecting on the good that has been a part of past Easter celebrations can help decrease the emotional responses we may experience related to any anniversary reactions that might surface as we plan for and participate in Easter celebrations.

Anniversary reactions triggered by this season are reminders of what we once had. The memories that surface surrounding the events of family gatherings and Easter traditions and celebrations can stir emotional responses of loss, ranging from feeling mildly distressed to more extreme reactions including significant mental health and/or medical symptoms.

My life experiences related to anniversary reactions surrounding my own grief have taught me that the best way to manage these symptoms is to spend time in reverie; focusing on the many experiences of joy and happiness I have experienced during the Easter Seasons, both prior to and following my losses. In doing so, I now recognize how my positive memories of childhood Easter celebrations were interwoven into the ways in which I celebrated Easter with my own children and how I now do similarly with my three grandsons in the hope of solidly braiding them to intergenerational ties of goodness.

Celebrations of Easter during my childhood were strongly connected to church feast days, yet my Mother sprinkled her own flavors of mystery and magic on each of our family activities. One of my favorite recalls happened in early life. Mother directed my older sister to bring to her a large kettle for boiling the eggs that we children would all later take part in decorating. My sister was then asked to remove the lid and fill it with water. As she did so, to all of our amazement, out jumped a young rabbit. After capturing the rabbit and freeing it to the outdoors, we children in our excitement were easily convinced that this was the Easter Bunny and that he was hiding in that kettle listening to our Easter celebration plans and deciding how he could be a part of them. Now as an adult I am sure my Father had found the young rabbit when he was doing early spring field work, but the logic of that remains lost within the magical memory I can easily recall.

As a mother I modeled my Mother’s abilities and infused my Easter celebrations with my own touches of beauty and playfulness. One favored memory is how my children splashed onto the remaining snow, the dyes left over from the coloring of their Easter eggs, and how we would then examine the snow, for any Easter shapes the dyes had made on it. Sprinkling our Easter Celebrations with magic has and continues to be a rich part of my Grandparenting. In preparation for each Easter, their Grandfather Bill and I examine our photograph albums of the Easter joys we have witnessed of our grandsons’ experience. One photo that always brings us delight is of our oldest grandson at about three years of age, standing in the box of his Grandfather’s truck, proudly displaying a blue Easter egg he had just discovered there during our outdoor Easter egg hunt.

I believe that by keeping alive and bringing into our present practices those from our past that have brought joy and happiness help us and those who follow behind us to acknowledge the special gifts and traditions of our families. In doing so, we strengthen the awareness of how our family’s particular blend of spirituality is woven together in a fine fabric made of both sacred and secular threads.

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.

Depression Resulting From Spiritual Distress

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

 

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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.

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.”

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