Taming the Paper Dragon: Again

I’ve written before about the challenges of dealing with paper clutter in the house. Well, the last several weeks of gloomy-time meant that I’d been letting all the mail pile up again in a big way — aside from those few essential bills I’d pull out and handle as soon as they arrived. So a big project for me this past weekend and the last couple of evenings has been to once again try to tame the paper dragon.

In addition to handling the most immediate paper accumulation from the last couple months, I also emptied out a couple boxes of longer-term paper accumulation. You know, the kinds of paper piles that built up in other busy times during the last year, but then got shoved into a box in some last-minute cleaning frenzy before an anticipated visitor’s arrival.*

And, after this accomplishment, I am now turning my analytic attention to the other main source of paper influx, aside from catalogs.

My overabundance of magazine subscriptions.

Continue reading “Taming the Paper Dragon: Again”

Dreaming of Readers

Today’s assignment from Blogging 101 is two fold:

publish a post for your dream reader, and include a new-to-you element in it.

So without further ado, let me get part two of the assignment out of the way post-haste by admitting that, ever since I saw the phrase “Dream Reader,” this has been stuck in my head.

The dreaded earworm strikes again!

Continue reading “Dreaming of Readers”

In Medias Manifesto

Because I have decided that 5 hours of sleep per weeknight is just too much of a luxury, I have decided to enroll in another challenge over at WordPress’s Blogging U. Blogging 101 is intended for individuals right in the start-up phases of bloggy creation. This invitation to register articulates the deliverables in this fashion:

On Day 30, you’ll have six (or more!) published posts and a handful of drafts, a customized theme that reflects your personality, a small but growing audience, a good grasp of blogging etiquette — and a bunch of new online friends.

So, considering that I first founded JALC some 5 years ago, and revived it more than 6 months ago, I am either well behind the times or way ahead of the game on this one. Still, I think it’ll be a good exercise for me.

I’ve been in recent conversations about the value of design thinking, and the ways that taking the time to step back and question your automatic habits and questions can be a good way to unlock a more intentional creativity. I see the Blogging 101 container as a way for me to foster that sort of intentionality here on JALC.

So, here we go…

Continue reading “In Medias Manifesto”

Self-Care as a Political and Spiritual Act

I had a birthday not so very many days ago. Mr. Mezzo had rather the thoughtful and aspirational gift for me: a bathtub tray. You know, one of those things that allows you to have a glass of beverage (wine, water, pick your poison) and a book propped up while soaking in the tub?

My unfolding internal study of this object and its meaningfulness to me is, if nothing else, a nice capsule example of the ways I am — for better or for worse — so often deep in the study of my life, even down to its tiniest details.

Continue reading “Self-Care as a Political and Spiritual Act”

On Self-Rejection and Synchronicity

With one breath, with one flow
You will know
Synchronicity

A sleep trance, a dream dance,
A shared romance,
Synchronicity

A connecting principle,
Linked to the invisible
Almost imperceptible
Something inexpressible.
Science insusceptible
Logic so inflexible
Causally connectible
Yet nothing is invincible.

~ The Police, Synchronicity I

One of the reasons The Cruise was such a treasured experience was that it gave me a chance to touch into the energies of my ancestral lands, at least a little bit. I’m Scottish on one side and Lithuanian on the other, so this trip to the Baltic states was my first-ever chance to explore the Lithuanian side of my heritage.

During our time there, one of our tour guides shared stories from his childhood — both his own experiences growing up as well as myths and folktales that were told to him during his early years. One such story was about the rooster.

Now this caught my attention especially. You see, I was born in the autumn of 1969, which means my animal in the Chinese zodiac is — you guessed it — the rooster.

———-

Chinese astrology isn’t ever something I’ve studied. Actually, let me just say I’ve never really studied astrology at all. (End of sentence. Full stop.)

Still, somewhere in my childhood I saw the list of animals and years and matched my birthdate to the rooster.

Oh, let’s be real. The self-proclaimed online guide to the Chinese zodiac puts things this way:

Most people’s understanding of Chinese astrology and the Chinese zodiac doesn’t extend beyond what they see on the paper placemats that cover the tables of their favorite Chinese restaurants.

Yes, that was me. I can see it in my mind’s eye: a red paper placement with a ring of animal pictures and their associated years around the border. And there was Mr. Rooster sitting at 1969.

rooster-cockerel1I remember being generally dissatisfied with that match-up. At the time, I don’t think I knew the slightest bit about what types of personality traits were associated with different animals/astrological signs. I was just making a visceral, childish comparison: there were cool animals (dragon, tiger, snake), strong and useful animals (horse, ox, sheep) and lovable animals (rabbit, dog). And then there was the rooster. But at least I wasn’t the rat.

My dissatisfaction with being “a rooster” was so instinctual and unreasoning that my guess, looking back with these decades of perspective, is that I would have disliked whatever sign matched up to me. The habits of comparison and finding myself less-than were just so strong back then, the degree of self-rejection so total, I don’t see myself as being satisfied with any sign that was mine, however glamorous the associated animal.

‘Cos ultimately, I just didn’t want to be me.

———-

So when our tour guide started talking about how the rooster was an especially treasured animal in Lithuanian folk tales, my ears, they perked up. According to his telling, roosters were treasured because they were the one animal not afraid of the devils or demons — in fact, the rooster’s voice was believed to be the one noise that could drive the demons away.

I haven’t found much online to further illuminate or corroborate this snippet of folklore our tour guide mentioned. The closest I’ve found is an entry on this website about different pieces of folklore regarding protection against witches:

During the Middle Ages, the cock was an important Christian symbol of resurrection and vigilance. A rooster represented God, goodness, and lightness. Cocks’ places were earned at the top of buildings, domes, and church steeples. They crowed at the birth and death of Christ, and they herald the dawn, “which brings light to the sins of the night and rouses men to the worship of God.”

Witches Sabbats were dispersed, and enchantments were dissolved, by the crow of a rooster. The rites of Satan ended because the Holy Office of the Church had begun. The 4th-century Christian Latin poet Prudentius sang, “They say that the night-wandering demons, who rejoice in dunnest shades, at the crowing of the cock tremble and scatter in sore affright.” In the time of Saint Benedict, Lauds and Matins were recited at dawn and became known as Gallicinium, or Cock-crow.

Now, as a card-carrying witch myself,* there’s a bit of disconnect between this interpretation and my own beliefs about who needs protecting from whom. But, knowing how often Pagan folklore was folded into medieval Christianity, I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to imagine one of my Lithuanian fore-mothers, a wise women and a witch, standing against the demons with a rooster on her shoulder.

After all, if Baba Yaga’s hut has hen’s legs, and the goddess Gabija sometimes chooses the form of a rooster for her earthly visits, why not an ancestress with a rooster familiar?

Amazing how a piece of synchronicity can give you a perspective shift, turning an old source of dissatisfaction into something to embrace. To claim.

* Okay, not card-carrying. I’ve lapsed on my membership dues.

———-

Image credit: http://danielmackie.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/rooster-in-various-mythologies/

 

A Test of Spiritual Maturity

So, my next retreat weekend is in two weeks. Yup: very close in time to my return from The Trip, so I’ll admit I’ve been wrestling a bit with the decision of whether to go or not.

On the practical side of the scale against going is the fact that I just got back from a big ol’ trip and I’m not really loving the idea of getting in another plane and missing more workdays so quickly after the big vacation. It’s also true that I’ve come back to the office in time for a couple intense projects, which makes me even more uncomfortable about skipping work. Especially since one of the projects coming to deadline during this fortnight is one that I’m particularly excited and inspired by.

On the practical side of the scale towards going is the value I hold for this work, and the ways I know to my bones that it has helped move my life and my soul’s mission forward.

So, looking rationally, there’s not a super-strong weightiness towards either choice on the should I stay or should I go? see-saw. Which at some level, isn’t surprising. My life at work and at home here in Massachusetts are sufficiently rich that I bet I could always come up with a list of reasons to blow off a particular retreat weekend.

But I don’t ever skip the weekends. Like I said last time around: the weekends are always hard work, but I have never regretted going. In fact, I have always felt the gratitude and benefits of going.

And so, a week or two before The Trip — well after my usual 5-6 weeks ahead of time discipline in buying plane tickets and making travel arrangements — the fact that I hadn’t been able to bring myself to make time off and travel arrangements had me really curious. Some part of me, some strong identity, was really not wanting to go to this particular weekend. And the resistance was stronger than anything I’ve felt before.

I mean, I’ve had times where I contemplated skipping a weekend — there was one right after we moved into the house here, and I remember taking a good long look at whether it made sense to be on a plane so soon after moving. But the temptation to skip was never this strong this far into the game, so I really began to wonder if maybe the soul-centered decisions this time around was to stay in New England after returning home from Europe.

So I was putting a lot of reflection to the question. Like, a spinning myself into a panic level of reflection. After talking to a couple friends and classmates, I realized that, being as the source of my resistance was in the energetic/instinctual/emotional realm — and quite frankly, being that the primary value I hold in the work is similarly energetic and instinctual (though probably energetic/instinctual/spiritual rather than emotional) — this was not a decision I was going to be able to think myself to. I can make all the pros and cons lists I could possibly wish, but that sort of rational tool isn’t going to help me make what is ultimately a soul-based decision.

So I let go of the question and prayed to Spirit for a sign. A nice, clear, brick to the face kind of sign.

Nothing pertinent showed up during The Trip itself. (Not too surprising: there was so much to see and learn on other fronts, what room was there in the days for a message about this particular question?) So, Friday morning, I used my normal journal-writing time to pull cards on the question.

And the cards were as clear as they could possibly be: it is in my best and highest good to go down for the retreat weekend.

spiritual-disciplinesAnd I have enough spiritual discipline and maturity to follow through when the signs are as clear as this one was. So my plane tickets are purchased, and I worked with my teachers and the Center to create a somewhat-modified schedule that will allow me to balance my responsibilities to work and then take the last flight out of Boston Thursday night.

But I’ll say this much: it’s a hell of a lot easier to follow Spirit’s guidance when the cards are telling you to do what you already want to do. In this case, when the the ego-identities and emotional body are still running strong with resistance and rebellion? It is a veritable challenge to hold centered in that.

At some core, mature soul-centered place, I know I’ve made the right choice. (The sign in the cards was that clear. Really and truly.) Now I just need to hold the ego-identitites and fear-selves with a mixture of compassion and discipline. I know you’re scared. I’ll keep comforting you, and I’ll be here the whole time. But we’re going. Together, we’re going.

———-

Image credit: http://sportsandspirituality.blogspot.com/2011/11/personal-inventory-sports-spirituality.html

25 Songs, Day 4: In Praise of the Divine

(Part four of my exploration of the 25 songs in 25 slightly-more days blogging challenge — a way to bank and pre-schedule a few posts for JALC while I’m off a-travelling.)

25-songs-25-days

Day Song 4: A song that calms you down

I am not really much of a meditator. You might think, what with all the ways I talk about my consciousness work and my striving for spiritual awakening, that I’d be exactly the kind of person who had a regular meditation/mindfulness practice — but that’s not the case.

Well, that’s partly the case. If there is a type of person to have a meditation practice, I daresay I would be that type. I understand the value of such a practice, and I sometimes give thought to the question of how best to establish a regular sitting practice. But right now, for better or for worse, my regular reflective practice is my morning journal-writing

Even though it’s not a regular practice for me right now, I have had a sitting practice for short stretches of time during the last 6 or 7 years. During those times, I was much better able to focus my attention using mantra meditation and chanting than with silent meditation. Which brings me to today’s song: the Gayatri Mantra as sung by Deva Premal.

essence_180I believe I came across Premal’s work early in my attempt to learn more about Eastern religions, about meditation and about chant. I’d started with Krishna Das and the Ravi Shankar/George Harrison collaboration Chants of India. Wonderful, uplifting, heart-centered works, all of them, but as I listened, I was aware of a deep longing to hear a female voice to model my own baby-bird chant-croakings after.

So I bought Premal’s album, The Essence. And when I put it into ye olde CD player and started the first track, her singing of the Gayatri Mantra entered my heart and soul.

Om bhur bhuvaha svaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

Praise to the source of all things.
It is due to you that we attain true happiness on the planes of earth, astral, causal.
It is due to your transcendent nature that you are worthy of being worshiped and adored.
Ignite us with your all pervading light.

I still listen to this mantra now and again. At work or at home, as a centering background in the midst of some stressful task or another. Every so often, to sing and chant along with Premal. Sometimes I listen just because it’s beautiful and I love it so.

———-

It wasn’t until I went to the CD booklet to type the lyrics and translation into this post that I was reminded that the Gayatri Mantra has a deep, personal connection for Premal as well. This page paraphrases the story told there:

My father has been on the spiritual path since the 50’s. . . . He taught himself Sanskrit and began chanting mantras. When my mother was pregnant with me, their welcome was to sing the Gayatri Mantra throughout the pregnancy. . . . As I grew up we continued to chant the Gayatri Mantra together regularly before sleep. I didn’t really know what I was singing… and why. I just did it because I was told to. It wasn’t until much later that I came to appreciate these precious times. . . .

One day I heard the Gayatri Mantra being sung by a friend in England. It was a different version to the one I had grown up with, and knowing the text so well, I was touched and excited by what I heard. I felt re-connected. This time I could feel the power of the mantra as never before, the strong effect it had on me, and the sacredness of it.

We began featuring it in our concerts. At last I had found my song! I had found something that felt like ‘mine.’ I felt at home with it, and I watched as it touched people night after night. I began searching out more mantras and before I knew it, I soon had enough for my first album! We recorded it in my mother’s flat–the same one I was born in, where the Gayatri Mantra had been sung to me all those years before.

The page ends with a shot postscript describing the death of Premal’s father in 2005:

I feel so grateful that I could be there until the moment of his death. We were singing the Gayatri Mantra to him until the end and so the circle is complete: He accompanied the beginning of my life with it and I the ending of his. I am also very touched by my family…how they were all joining Miten and I with the singing for him and how we are totally in tune with each other about how to deal with everything now…

I am deeply moved to discover the depth of authentic feeling Premal has for this mantra. I am sure that authenticity has imbued the recording, and that it is part of why this recording of the song has come to be so precious to me.

Not only does it calm my restless spirit: it opens my heart.

———-

Image credit: http://www.devapremalmiten.com/deva-premal-and-miten-information/articles/my-journey-with-the-gayatri-mantra