gratitude, parenting, philosophy, spirituality, thanksgiving, writing

Everyday Gratitude

The Attack of the Turkeys.  I’m not kidding.

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Tennessee Valley is one of my favorite places to walk; a two mile valley that runs east/west to the beach just north of San Francisco.   There’s a side path that goes through a horse pasture to an overgrown pond where I like to go looking for things to photograph.  On this occasion a few months ago, as I was passing the horses, five very large, very angry turkeys blocked my way.

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Ignorant of the ways of turkeys, I charged on through them thinking, mistakenly, that they’d back down, instead they surrounded me and with wildly, and incredibly strong beating wings, proceeded to beat me up.  With nothing but the jacket I carried, I swung at them.  However, I was also intend on documenting the event and continued to take photographs.

 

 

 

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Above is some unknown part of the turkey as it was beating me with its wings which are incredibly hard and strong.

Since they were intend on blocking my path and would certainly do me harm, I was ready to give up and turn for home, when a ranger came and drove them off.  They were guarding a nest of babies.

Tomorrow millions of people will eat turkey, myself included.  A delicious bird that has come to symbolize our gratitude for the abundance in our lives.  After more than 200 years of being prey on this day, it’s no wonder the creature is feisty.

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I’m glad that there is a day assigned for giving thanks.  I really do appreciate the gesture, however, each day we’re alive to experience the unfolding of life on this gorgeous, fragile, powerful, multi-faceted planet, is a day to celebrate.  No matter what one believes about life after death, once dead, wherever we go from here, we will no longer be a part of life on this planet.

So I thank the turkeys for showing me something of their power and their willingness to put themselves at risk for the sake of their off spring; to remind me that

all life is moved to protect new life.  It is how the creation assures it’s survival.  It is a life force, not unlike gravity or time or space.  It is called Love.

 

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inspiration, parenting, psychology, spirituality, writing

everest21.jpgFirst it’s about Human Rights.

The first step on the long climb is to recognize that if you are unable to allow freedom to others, you’ll never have it yourself.  If my individual freedom encroaches on yours, that is not it.  That is bullying.  If I think freedom is doing as I please, I haven’t taken the first step but remain in a childlike mentality.  It has taken us several thousand years to arrive at base camp; the oxygen hasn’t even begun to thin.

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Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Ring any bells?  That was 2000 years ago.  How high have we climbed since then? It took the western world another 1800 years to take that first step and acknowledge the rights of others.  And in many parts of the world today, there has been little or no progress in that regard.

When I acknowledge your need for freedom is as important as mine, I have begun to climb.  It is not easy. Our brains are hardwired to be selfish; unless our early lives teach us to care for others, we won’t.  Research on brain development is clear on this point; we are not naturally empathic, in fact it’s hard work to teach a child that the toy his friend has should not be taken from him.  There will be tantrums, sulks, and continual efforts to get what they want, no matter what mommy and daddy say.  Until months, and sometimes years later, the child learns that sharing is good.  It has payback.  The parents are happy with their child and the friend might even give the child what they want once the power struggle is over.

When we teach our children that they are the only ones, but are not the only ones who are the only ones, we help them take that first important step toward a free world.

Freedom is an attitude not a given.

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It is a willingness to keep going up; to strive harder when it feels your lungs will burst;  Paris bombing, Beirut bombing, Malta bombing . . . The second step requires us to be patient, be kind, be empathic, not just for our own but for those who’ve hurt us.  When we want to strike back, as Gandhi said, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  

Until we’re all free, none of us are.  The age of terrorism is showing those of us who’ve lived in countries that profess freedom for their citizens that the illusion can be wrested from us.  It isn’t even very hard.  Just shoot a few people in a country that believes it’s free and suddenly, no one in that country can live with the illusion any longer.  The borders close, the army comes in, and individuals are restricted in their movements.  All gone freedom.

Freedom is not something one can have while another does not.  Freedom is an attitude of inclusion, lacking that, the word is incorrect.

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We must be still; stop our animal brain, breath and grieve.  Trauma research among animals has shown that when an animal is hurt or shocked they sit still for awhile.  Psychologists have integrated this information when working with people who’ve experienced a trauma and have found that by being still, even just for a few minutes, the individual is able to process the crises and move on.

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Understanding those who’ve violated our freedom.

Moving on up the mountain to the freedom promised at the top, means understanding those who’ve threatened that freedom; to bring our intelligence to bare on what is outside of our reality.  Like the problem of the child who wants someone else’s toy, some people have never learned the first step, so are handicapped and trapped in the reptilian brain of pain and selfishness, they take freedom from others.   Ignorance is not an excuse but it is a reality.

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For those of us still climbing toward the goal, meeting and sharing with others of like mind is a relief and a support.  To sit in the crisp clear air and share our stories, our challenges, and our failures, gives courage to continue.

Humanity need not go the way of the dinosaurs and other species who failed to adapt. We are, however, awfully close to the brink of our own extinction.  We must wake up, keep climbing, and prove we are worthy of living on this glorious planet.  But for that to happen, we must learn to cooperate.

As the Buddhists say: No single person gets enlightened.  Until we all go, no one goes.  We are One.

 

 

 

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art, beauty, hope, inspiration, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, writing

Love in the Time of Terrorism

It’s about staying light; about believing in hope, goodness, love, connection, and finally, finding humor.

What does it mean to stay light?

In the Mahabharata, Krishna advised Arjuna on the day of battle and after a terrible betrayal, to not let his heart get hard.  A soft heart does not mean we’ll get run over. (Krishna did win in battle that day.)  It means to keep believing in the good that you’re fighting for.  No matter how dire the outlook.

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Maintaining hope in the face of adversity,

means that you find what goodness there is in the situation; that you avoid the trap of going over and over the terrible things that happened, but rather that you mourn the tragic and look for the small and beautiful within the landscape of tragedy; the heroes and heroines, the saved lives, the things learned, the actions taken to recover and protect against the next bad thing that is inevitably on the horizon.

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There is so much goodness to be had in a time of tragedy.

Whether it’s war, or famine, or acts of nature, or terrorism.  ( the 21st Centuries kind of war) difficult situations tend to bring out the best in humanity; we rise to the occasion and deal with it, and in that, we find goodness all around us.

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Our connection to others becomes obvious in crises.

In our everyday lives most of us move robotically, passing others on the street and barely acknowledging them, being too busy to phone a friend or family member.  Contained within our self center, we’re disconnected from life swirling around us.

 

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Not so in crises.  By its very definition, crises means that the norm has been broken, and when it breaks, the bubble we’ve been walking around inside, breaks open and suddenly we see one another; reach out to help if help is needed, offer a hand, feel empathy, feel all kinds of emotions depending on the situation.

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Humor is the life saver; the heart saver, the hope, love and connection saver.

 

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Without humor we harden, and Krishna did warn against such a course.  It doesn’t mean we don’t feel sad, or mad, or frightened, but what it does mean is we can and must lighten the situation to maintain our humanity. With humor we can return to light, hope, goodness, love, and connection. Like the flip of a switch, what was intolerable, unconscionable, unacceptable, inhuman, etc., etc., etc., shifts from a dark perspective to one with, at least a little, light.

 

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art, beauty, hope, inspiration, life, writing

Paris; Love, Beauty, Inspiration, Joie de Vivre, Will never be beaten down.

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saw Paris, I fell in love.  In many consequent trips, I continued that love affair; always a little different, but never less thrilling.  I wrote an historical novel: the Nobility of the Robe, about a real woman who was the abbess of Port Royal Abbey in 17th Century Paris that allowed me to return several times.  I’d planned to return this spring, for no other reason than to remember myself as a french woman.  My mother was french, and I had discovered that heritage was very much alive in me; i walk differently on the streets of Paris; I breathe and sigh more passionately, I am more fully feminine.

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I took up the habit of writing poems on napkins in the cafes as I ate my croissant and listened to the melody of French conversations at nearby tables. On that first mad, divine, trip with no paper to write on but the napkin on my table, the waitress smiled when she saw me and said, “For your great novel?” We both laughed and I knew I was home; home to the creative artistic spirit that is the quintessential attraction of Paris.

Though I traveled alone, I never felt alone, never felt at risk walking at night, often in the rain, carrying my heavy photographic equipment.  Paris is even more wonderful at night in the rain.

When I returned from that first trip I created a photographic show of the images from that time.  They’re still some of my favorites.  All of the images in this post are from Paris.

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This one from the Luxembourg gardens is a normal sighting of those who spend time there.

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The wedding dress image was a surprise.  I was walking along the Seine and shot the display in the store window.  I didn’t know until the film was developed how much more had been captured.  I’m dating myself by admitting to film.  It was a while ago!

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In the Rodin Museum, another surprise moment caught my attention.

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Outside Notre Dame, I was fortunate to come upon an unusual mime that I felt captured the spirit of Paris completely; whimsical, musical and melancholic.  What I’m saying, is that my artistic spirit is so moved in that environment, things just happen.  There is nowhere else in the world where I have been so free..

That said, I am saddened far beyond these words can express by the assault on Paris this last Friday.  Will any of us who love, and, or live, in that magical city ever experience such freedom again? Will the dark overcome the light?

The answer is a resounding NO; say NO to fear, say NO to worry, say NO to doubt, say NO to the pain others cannot help but inflict on life, love and beauty.

        Say NO

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inspiration, life, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

Connect With Your Creative Muse; for fun, for help with a problem, even for Directions.

There are so any times, and so many reasons, we need help from a source greater than ourselves.  As 12 step programs say, we need to understand what is in our control and what is not.  However, when it is not, that’s when I make the call.  Jungian Psychology names that force: the anima or animus; the contra sexual part of the psyche that supports the ego when it is at its wits end; when we need to know what we don’t know.

The best examples in my life have been when I’m traveling. greece3

 

I was alone in Greece doing research for my novel, Echo the Ancients, and had rented a car to drive to Delphi from Athens.  If you’ve ever driven in Greece, you’ll know what an adventure that is; the signs are all in Greek.  After a magical day and night at the site, I was faced with the daunting task of finding my way back through Athens to the car rental agency.  I was definitely at my wits end, and so, had a tearful conversation with my animus to please get us there in one piece and without getting lost.  I hate to get lost.  Maps would do no good, as the street map of Athens is a labyrinth of twisting turns, one way streets and streets that end with no warning.  I knew that there was no choice but to drive, and hope and believe that my unconscious would do its job because I’d asked for help.

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You might call it, being on auto-pilot.  Within minutes of arriving at the city limits I drove directly to the rental car agency.  I called it a miracle then, and still do.

That was not the first time or would it be the last that I found the help I needed when traveling alone. For those of you who are like me; intrepid lone explorers,I know you’ll understand; when we have companions we turn to them for help, when we’re alone, we turn inward to a power far greater than ourselves.

The fun part of relationship with the Muse is on creative projects.  My favorite example is when I was in love with a place: The Yucatan.  My first trip was with my daughter and friends to Isla Mujeres: The Island of Women off the coast of Cancun.  On our visit to the archeological Mayan site at Tulum, I went alone into a cave and envisioned a Mayan girl who’d gone there to be alone.  That was the beginning of 20 years of research about the Maya, of 12 visits to the area, of several newspaper and magazine articles about the place, and my novel, The Jaguar’s House.

Several years into my intoxication with The Yucatan, I went alone to photograph images and capture the magical spirit of the land.  I’d taught myself how to photograph in a way that part of the image was transparent; that would represent the spirit.  It was the most fun I’ve ever had.  I went to each of my favorite places; the beach at Isla, Cenote Azul off the coast, Tulum, of course, and the inland archaeological site at Coba.  Using my new technique, I played with the land and the spirits that lived there. The following images are from that time.Ruins 4 Cenote 5

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I was never alone, but always with my dearest love; my animus, my muse.  Whatever name I call that force, it is with me always and most evident when I’m alone.  At home in everyday life, it arises when I’m sad, or especially glad and in need of inspiration.  I believe that at root, it is inspiration; an uprising from the unconscious of something that wants to come into being.

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childhood, health, life, parenting, psychology, spirituality, story, writing

How Stories Can Facilitate Psychological Health

greece13Many years ago, when I’d been working as a therapist for several years,  I came upon an ancient Greek tradition where people suffering from an illness (whether physical or mental) went to healing caves for a cure.  At the site there were caves where the patient slept and then healers aided their patients in interpreting their dreams.  A healing dream is a story that speaks in the language of symbol to directly impact the conscious mind. The key to the cure is that it is the unconscious that heals.

The greater part of my work with clients was working with their dreams, so this ancient process had great appeal for me.  Excited to learn more, I literally went in search of the places where this had occurred and found the best example on Crete where the Minoans had once lived from 4000 to 1500 BC.

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Thus began my 20 year fascination with a culture that appeared to have been amazingly balanced between the masculine and feminine principles.  The Minoans are considered matriarchal but my research has shown me otherwise.  Most scientists who’ve come across them have automatically classed them matriarchal because most cultures in that time period were.  They hadn’t the vision to realize that everything in their art spoke to a highly developed consciousness.  It was not one-sided.

once heard that if we haven’t seen something before, we can’t see it at all.  An example given was that when the first ships arrived on the east coast of the United States from Europe, the indigenous population couldn’t see the ships; they were invisible to them.  It was the shaman who revealed these odd new forms to the people, which he could do since he traveled in the unconscious on a regular basis.

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I knew by then that simply telling someone something goes in one ear and out the other; it has no real impact on the psyche, but stories do. Many great and small teachers over the years, realizing the powerful impact for change in parables, myths, fairytales and stories of all kinds, have used these tools to create a change in the point of view of the listener.  There is no erase button in the psyche but there is an add button.

Keeping in mind that a story is a waking dream, I set out to tell the story of how a young girl was healed by her encounter with this culture that was based on feminine values; love, nurturance, connection, play, art, and beauty.  I created a situation where a young person with a ‘bad’ mother was renewed and given hope for her life through her exposure to the ‘good’ mother.  Her mother’s dark world was all she’d known, now she could see what had previously been invisible.

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As a healer my job is to show people what they haven’t seen before.  My favorite method for doing that is to tell them stories.

My novels, Echo the Ancients, and The Jaguar’s House, A Mayan Tale, were written with this in mind,.

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